It was a very overcast day, and under the canopy of the giant locust tree, it was no different from nighttime in the Huang Clan's earthen building.
Qin Ye slowly made his way down to the first floor, and as soon as he appeared, everyone was rooted to the spot as they turned to stare directly at him.
"You're... still alive?" An elderly man who was situated closest to him made his way over to Qin Ye unsteadily while leaning on a cane. His voice was trembling, and his eyes were filled with astonishment. "It... It's been two days since you came here, yet... yet you're still alive!"
"This is impossible..." Huang Xiaoqing had also emerged, and she was holding the railing in a white-knuckled grip. "You've survived for two days? And you've even gone to the second floor?"
"How is this possible?"
"No one has ever survived for two days here..."
"How could this be..."
One villager after another made their way over to Qin Ye, who casually took a glance at his phone.
It was 8 AM.
"Nothing is impossible." He put his phone away before turning to everyone with a calm expression and said, "I want to know where Huang Jiansen is."
The commotion immediately died down as soon as his voice trailed off. After a long while, Huang Xiaoqing casually lit a cigarette, then puffed out a smoke ring before replying, "He's dead."
Qin Ye's brows furrowed tightly once again upon hearing this. His thought process was that Huang Jiansen was the village head and the one most familiar with everything in the village, so he was the likeliest candidate to be the irredeemably heinous soul.
If that were the case, then how could he be dead?
"How did he die?" Qin Ye asked as he cast an incredulous gaze toward Huang Xiaoqing. "According to the county records, he's lived for over 340 years. How could he be dead?"
"I'm afraid you're mistaken." An elderly man who had been lying on a rocking chair like a zombie this entire time finally broke his silence. "Huang Jiansen is a name that has appeared in the history of the Huang Clan's village a total of four times. You must've read about another Huang Jiansen. The first Huang Jiansen was the second village head, and the final Huang Jiansen was the current village head. Do you think it's possible that he's lived for over a thousand years?"
Qin Ye fell silent upon hearing this.
He raised his head to appraise everyone present before asking, "I want to know everything he did during his lifetime. Is there any way for me to find that out?"
The elderly man smiled in response. His gaze was very calm, too calm, as if he no longer cared about anything. Even though it was a cold winter day, he was still habitually fanning himself like a zombie and he replied, "If you had come at some other time, then there would be no way for you to find out anything, but it's currently very close to the Cold Suit Festival. A week before the Cold Suit Festival in 1999, Huang Jiansen hung himself in that room."
He pointed up to the second floor as he spoke. "It's room 204. If you're not afraid to die, then you can go and give it a shot..."
204, eh? Qin Ye nodded in response before making his way toward the second floor again.
This so-called game was presenting more and more mysteries, but also more and more leads. Having survived past the second day, he now had more initiative to work with.
204... Walking along the second floor, he finally caught sight of room 204. Not only had the windows of this room been boarded shut, the same applied to the door as well. Qin Ye punched through the wooden boards blocking the entrance, and the musty stench of rot and neglect immediately wafted toward him.
Up to this point, he hadn't seen any other living creatures aside from humans in the Huang Clan's earthen building.
The locust tree was massive, but there was not a single bird on it. It was like a giant tombstone that stood at the center of the earthen building. There also weren't any bugs or insects, and certainly no dogs or cats. In fact, he hadn't even seen any rats in these rooms.
The room was eerily dark even though it was still morning, and the dim rays of sunlight filtering in through the boarded windows illuminated the dust flying through the air. There was just enough light for Qin Ye to make out the interior of the room. There were fallen-over cupboards, chairs, desks, and all types of items used in everyday life strewn all over the floor, lying under a thick layer of dust. Everything in the room was in the class 80s to 90s style, and there was a washbasin in the corner that was full of junk. The room resembled a haunted house.
However, none of that was enough to catch Qin Ye's attention. What really sparked his interest was that yellow talismans were plastered over the entire room, including the door and the windows.
These talismans had already been here for countless years, and they were also covered in thick layers of dust. Qin Ye made his way over to the talismans on the walls, and his eyelids twitched slightly as he began to inspect them.
Faint wisps of true energy were emanating from these talismans!
It was impossible to tell when these talismans had been placed here, but it had to have been at least several decades ago. Furthermore, judging from this true energy, the one who had placed these talismans here had to have been a cultivator of his caliber!
That meant that an Abyssal Prefect had visited this place before!
He didn't tear off any of the talismans to take a better look. In a place like this, everything had to be done with the utmost caution. Thus, he carefully picked up a talisman and began to carefully inspect it.
The talisman was inscribed with elegant and flowing text. True energy and Yin energy were completely different systems of energy, so he had no idea what had been written on the talisman, but there was a mark of a seal on the bottom. He gently blew away the dust that had gathered on the talisman, thereby revealing the text on the seal, and he was stunned by what he was seeing.
"This is..." Qin Ye looked around with an incredulous expression before turning his gaze back to the talisman. "This is the seal of an imperial teacher?"
"An imperial teacher?" Kwon Kyung-ho's mouth gaped open in astonishment. "If an imperial teacher has been here before, then why didn't he capture that female ghost?"
Qin Ye couldn't help but burst into laughter upon hearing this. Chu Renmei was also an Abyssal Prefect, one that even an Emissary of Hell like him found to be very difficult to deal with. Humans were at a natural disadvantage against evil ghosts; how was the imperial teacher supposed to have captured her?
"The imperial teacher who came here was from the Qing Dynasty, and the first-ever imperial teacher of the Qing Dynasty, at that." Qin Ye set down the talisman as he frantically searched through his mind for information on the owner of the seal. Only after a long while did he continue, "I remember now, this is Imperial Teacher Guangci, who was given the title by Emperor Kangxi during the 45th year of his reign. Imperial Teacher Guangci served three emperors during his time as imperial teacher, and he was a remarkable figure."
"How do you know all of this, My Lord?"
Qin Ye replied in a calm manner, "All of the past imperial teachers were part of the National Divine Guardian Division with no exceptions. As a result, there are extensive files on them in the Special Investigations Department."
He swept his gaze across the entire room. The objective the imperial teacher had for coming here was very straightforward; it could've only been for the medicine of immortality. However, what had these talismans been placed here for?
Were they intended to seal something?
That couldn't be the case. Chu Renmei hadn't even been born yet in the Qing Dynasty and this was a forsaken land, so none of its residents could leave, which meant that there was nothing to be sealed in here.
Furthermore, he had become quite knowledgeable and experienced at this point, and he had seen many types of talismans designed to seal away evil ghosts. He couldn't shake the feeling that these talismans were all vastly different from the sealing talismans he had seen in the past.
The difference wasn't in the style of the talisman. Instead, it was the type of talisman. If talismans designed to seal evil ghosts were referred to as Cathayan characters, then all other talismans would also be a type of Cathayan characters; the only difference would be the different characters used. For example, one sealing talisman could bear the phrase "Seal All Evil Ghosts", while another could bear the phrase "Transcending All Malicious Spirits". Even if the characters used were different, one would be able to tell that the two talismans were from the same system.
However, the talismans here were written in the equivalent of an entirely different language, such as using morse code instead of Cathayan characters.
This was a new piece of the puzzle. He took out his phone and took a photograph of the talismans before tossing it to Kwon Kyung-ho. "Take this out of the earthen building. As an evil ghost, you shouldn't be noticed by the old lady by the entrance. Go to Anjing Village and release a messenger bird instructing them to send the most adept talisman master among the panel of scholars to come and see me right away. Tell them that I have an urgent matter to discuss with them."
The door was gently shut, and Kwon Kyung-ho departed. Qin Ye walked a few steps through the room before making a grabbing motion, and an incense burner appeared in his grasp.
He then turned to Ryu Changmin with a serious expression. "No matter what happens next, make sure to hold on at all costs."
Ryu Changmin gave a firm nod in response.
Qin Ye set the incense burner down at the center of the room, but he didn't immediately begin. Instead, he closed his eyes to rest, priming his energy, essence, and spirit to their peak condition.
According to the elderly man on the first floor, Huang Jiansen hung himself in this room a week before the Cold Suit Festival of 1999.
These were his exact words: "A week before the Cold Suit Festival in 1999, Huang Jiansen hung himself in that room... If you're not afraid to die, then you can go and give it a shot..."
The elderly man seemed to have grown tired of living long ago, and his words were very concise, but Qin Ye understood what he meant.
Give it a shot... What did he mean by that?
Huang Jiansen hung himself a week prior to the Cold Suit Festival, which meant that this day was within seven days of his death anniversary.
There was only one thing that the elderly man could've been referring to: evocation!
10 minutes later, Qin Ye opened his eyes, and his aura had become completely placid and restrained. He swept a hand over the incense burner, and the stick of incense protruding out of the burner was immediately ignited by a speck of netherfire.
The room was so silent that even the extremely faint sound produced by the burning incense stick seemed to be audible. 10 seconds passed, then 30, then 50... Right on the one-minute mark, a string of loud bangs rang out as all of the windows were suddenly shut, plunging the room into complete darkness!
Even though the windows had been boarded shut, they were still opened outward to allow some light into the room. However, now that they had slammed shut, all remaining traces of light were instantly deprived, and it was as if the room had been plunged into an abyss. In the next instant, a burst of loud rustling rang out from all directions, and the sound was only becoming louder and louder!
This was the sound being produced by all of the talismans flapping violently in unison!
The door and windows were completely shut, so there was no wind in the room at all.
"My Lord..." Ryu Changmin appraised his surroundings with a wary expression as he asked, "Did it work?"
"No, it's not him!!" Qin Ye was also inspecting the surrounding area with a cautious gaze. "It's her... Chu Renmei. So this is what the old man meant when he said 'if you're not afraid to die'... Hold on..."
His eyes narrowed slightly as he recalled that the starting scene of "A Wicked Ghost" had also consisted of a game of evocation!
Reality and the movie's plot were perfectly overlapping in this instant!
Whoosh! The flame of the incense burner suddenly erupted up to over a meter tall, and behind the raging flame, Chu Renmei appeared in the darkness in her dark blue robes with a twisted expression.
"Die!!!" As soon as she appeared, her facial features instantly warped, and she opened her gaping mouth as her hair surged forth like an inky-black flood. However, her target wasn't Qin Ye. Instead, it was the incense burner.
Rumble... Right at this moment, dark clouds appeared over the entire sky above the Huang Clan's earthen building.
The dark clouds were converging from all directions, forming a dense cloud vortex over 100 meters in size above the earthen building. Lightning was flashing incessantly and coming together as if it were being collected by some type of mystical force. After a span of no more than 10 seconds, a raging ball of lightning had formed, and it was flashing erratically.
"Don't you dare!" Qin Ye harrumphed coldly as a chain flew out of his sleeve before winding itself around the incense burner, dragging it toward him. At the same time, he quickly made a hand seal, and gusts of Yin winds swept through the room, upon which an indistinct humanoid figure began to take shape.
This was Huang Jiansen's soul!
In the instant that the soul appeared, Chu Renmei let loose a sharp screech, and her tidal wave of hair transformed into a giant hand that grabbed straight toward the top of Qin Ye's head. However, right at this moment, a dull thunderclap rang out in the sky, causing the entire earthen building to tremble violently.
Qin Ye looked up with a surprised expression, and he immediately recalled something that Tongtong had said.
There were rules here, and anyone who broke those rules would be punished by being struck by lightning.
This was the law of the forsaken land.
Thus, it could only be concluded that Chu Renmei had broken a rule here. He glanced at the incense burner hovering in mid-air in front of him, then cast his gaze toward Chu Renmei, who had drawn to an abrupt halt. Her face was twisted with fury, but she didn't dare to advance any further...
"You seem to have done something you shouldn't be doing." Qin Ye brought his palms together as he stared intently at the evil ghost before him. "You broke the rules here and invoked punishment by divine lightning. What did you do? It's not because you're attacking me. After all, this isn't the first time you've attacked me..."
He took a deep breath, and at this point, he had already completed the required sequence of hand seals. An indistinct spiritual body had already emerged out of thin air.
"It's because of Huang Jiansen, isn't it? The Heavenly Dao forbids you from meeting him, right?"Previous Chapter Next Chapter