After leaving the Ethnic Minority Street, Qin Ye went straight to the hospital.
Wang Chenghao had regained consciousness and attempted to call Qin Ye earlier.
He stayed at the best ward in the hospital. The entire room was white as new and devoid of any trace smells of disinfectant. There was even a wall-mounted TV in the room. Qin Ye didn’t bring a gift.
“My condolences.” Qin Ye sat at the edge of the bed, and pretended to be his old, cautious self about Wang Chenghao.
Wang Chenghao remained silent, yet continued to stare at Qin Ye. After some time, he suddenly burst out laughing.
He laughed and laughed so much that he even began tearing. Then, wiping off his tears, he gazed meaningfully at Qin Ye once more as he quipped, “Just… who exactly are you?”
Qin Ye blinked his eyes innocently, “I’m your classmate, Qin Ye. Don’t you recognize me anymore? Weren’t you the one who had called me over on your phone?”
“Do you still intend to keep up your facade?” Wang Chenghao grit his teeth and tossed his phone over. Then, he hung his head low and kept silent.
Qin Ye picked up the phone and took a look. It was a video. The video didn’t show his figure, yet it evidently showed that instant where Qin Ye’s Moon Fang Heaven-Piercer was released. This video clearly showed the battle between two unknown entities.
Qin Ye was wearing his Hell’s Emissary uniform, wielding his zanpakuto in his shinigami state at the material times, so there was no way his appearances would be visible to the mortal realm.
“What’s this?” Qin Ye asked curiously.
Wang Chenghao looked at him straight in the eye and abruptly raised another notion, “Do you know… I’ve got plenty of surveillance cameras placed all around my home.”
Wang Chenghao was in poor spirits. His disposition was pale and weak, yet he grabbed tightly to Qin Ye’s hands, “Believe me. I’ll never betray you. I only want to know… how many more of these awful things are there in this world right now.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“You do!!” Wang Chenghao grew agitated abruptly. His grip tightened, and tears suddenly filled his eyes, “Qin Ye, my parents have already perished to these ghosts and unclean things! You’re the only one I can talk to! We’ve been classmates for several years at any rate, haven’t we? Can’t you just be honest with me?!”
“I’ve got money! I might even inherit tens of millions worth of assets from my parents! You must be having a hard time running your shop! I can fund your living expenses! All you have to do is let me tag along with you and let me see exactly what’s going on in this world!”
Sir, you’ve managed to get my attention. But what’s with that demanding tone of voice?
Qin Ye couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Just as he was about to shake off Wang Chenghao’s grip, Wang Chenghao muttered, “Even though the surveillance cameras can’t see you, I still know it’s you, because… the cameras don’t just monitor images, they also capture the voices around.”
“I… swear that the voice I’d heard was none other than yours. I haven’t told anyone about this. Not even the police when they interviewed me. Qin Ye, believe me.”
I’ll be damned… Qin Ye could no longer repress the nauseating feeling welling up within. I knew I should never have trusted the advice from an old lady like Arthis. People can’t see me, but what about the gods of surveillance?
“Can these devices actually do such things?” Arthis was similarly taken aback, “Modern society is far too dangerous. How does he possess the eye of the heavens?”
Heavens my ass! Can you quickly pick up the pace and get back on track with the pace of societal development? How can I possibly trust you now?! You don’t even know what a laser sight is, you dumb shit!
“You must’ve been mistaken?” Qin Ye’s heart was filled with vexation, yet he managed to maintain a baffled look all over his face. He couldn’t help but praise himself for his excellent acting skill as he continued to display his flair for performance arts, “I’ve been at my shop all of last night. What are you talking about?”
Wang Chenghao was just about to retort, but Qin Ye had already stood up from the bed, “That’s right. Our teacher has asked me to bring you the textbook. I’ll bring it over for you later. I’ll take my leave first.”
Thud. The door shut. Arthis softly remarked, “Speaking of which, you’ve lived in the mortal realm for some time now. Don’t you have a human friend or two? Even I had a couple of human confidantes from the time I was stationed in the mortal realm.”
Qin Ye responded gloomily, “Sure, but when these acquaintances of yours finally sport a whole head of white hair, while you continue to present yourself as a sprightly youngster replete with pimples on his face, wouldn’t they want to slap you until your face swells up?”
Arthis responded rather matter-of-factly, “They wouldn’t dare.”
That’s true… Qin Ye was stumped by Arthis’ response. The early autumn wind was still rather warm and stifling, and Qin Ye flicked his bangs to the side. After some time, he finally replied, “Truth be told, I’ve got several mortal friends… but I’m not sure whether they’ve already passed on or not. That said, none of them are living in Westriver.”
His face twitched for a moment, before he continued with gritted teeth, “It was then that I’d learnt that… for a select group of people… one should keep all of their belongings, even their diapers from birth…”
“Eh? Is there a story here that I should know about? Something that made you as unhappy as this? Pray tell of the story that might bring delight to me!”
Qin Ye drew a deep breath, “Back in those days… when I first came to Westriver, I got to know a man named Zhang. He didn’t enjoy anything much apart from painting. I think he called it the ink wash paintings… It’s a pity that I have no talent for painting. Back then, I’d even drank under the moonlit skies with him… Then, it was only after several decades that I finally discovered that that fool’s landscape paintings were worth tens of millions!”
“Bloody hell… do you know how much I wanted to die at that time?! Do you know that I don’t even dare to peddle coffins at any one place for an extended period of time?! Can you even understand how painful it’s been to hit and run like this?!”
Arthis grew silent for two seconds, “Although I can’t say I can empathize with you, I can see the extent of suffering you’ve been through from your bitter tone and hideous expression--... one, two…”
Before she could finish speaking, both of them froze where they were and cocked their heads towards the end of the corridor.
“One… two… three… A total of five people.” Qin Ye squinted his eyes as he murmured.
“Cultivators?” Arthis asked.
“Three of them are cultivators… one of whom has a rather familiar scent, while another… seems somewhat stronger than the rest. His abilities are approximately on par with mine.”
Just then, the crisp sound of pristine leather shoes echoed down the corridor. Five men turned the corner and appeared in their line of sight.
Qin Ye lowered his head and didn’t even make eye contact with them. He simply pretended to use his phone, intending to brush past them inconspicuously.
“Hang on.” Just as they passed each other by, one of the men suddenly spoke up. Qin Ye pretended not to hear anything. It was only when a hand tapped on his shoulder that he turned around with a look of bewilderment in his eyes, “Were you calling me?”
He quietly tightened his fists in the moment they locked eyes. It was a particular peculiar lineup of people in the group.
The man in front of him was the same policeman from before. But right now, he had already changed out of his policeman uniform and donned a black suit instead. Of the five men, two wore black suits. The person standing on the leftmost of the group was a middle-aged man with dark skin. He carried a smoking pipe around his waist, and his fingernails were cracked and yellowing. He wore a short chinese buttoned-up jacket, and his head was wrapped up in green cloth. A bundle was tied around his calves, and he wore a pair of straw shoes.
“Shaman.” Arthis muttered, “He’s from the Miao ethnic group.”
The person on the right was a man with white hair, leaning on a cane. His fingers seemed somewhat bony and crooked, and he wore a faded tunic. This man was thin as a bag of bones.
Yet the thing that stood out most to Qin Ye was the incomparably thick corpse energy that surrounded this man’s body! “He must have been in close proximity with corpses for years on end. This man must be a corpse driver from the Westbrook region.”
Two other types of underworldly craftsmen had just showed up at the same time. Given their age, it would also seem that they were experts in their fields to boot. That said, the true commander of this peculiar troupe was most certainly the middle-aged Taoist priest standing in the middle of the pack.
“A cultivator that is at the level of an Operative-class Emissary of Hell… this must be a true cultivator from one of the reputable mainstream sects in the world.” Arthis was unusually serious about this, “Kid, you’ve encountered a bright shining star. It wouldn’t be wise to attempt to muddle your way through these people.”
“What are you doing here?” The policeman asked in a low voice.
“I’m here to visit a classmate. What’s wrong?” Qin Ye appeared baffled.
Just then, his pupils constricted slightly. It was now afternoon. The sun shone in from the window, casting a long shadow behind each of the five men that faded only some distance away. Yet, the shadow of the Taoist priest seemed to extend slightly more than the others. The change was incredibly slight. Simultaneously, a wave of true energy belonging to the cultivator shot straight towards Qin Ye like an arrow.
Qin Ye didn’t look away. Just as the bolt of true energy made contact with him, it suddenly dissipated into the surroundings like a wisp of smoke.
“Visiting your classmate?” The policeman looked straight into his eyes and pressed the issue, “Didn’t you earlier say that… you can’t help but wish he’d die?”
This was a difficult question to respond to. Therefore, Qin Ye chose not to respond to it. Instead, he simply glared at the policeman with a rebellious attitude that was typical of hot-blooded teenagers. The meaning was obvious - it’s none of your business where I go!
“Greetings.” Just as the tension between one adult and one teen filled the room, the Taoist priest finally smiled and interjected, “I wonder how I should address this young fella?”
Qin Ye blinked and remained silent. Instead, it was the policeman who leaned over and whispered into the Taoist priest’s ears. The Taoist priest smiled as he flicked his sleeves, “So it’s Mr Qin… It must be fate that we’ve encountered each other. I’ve noticed that thick Yin clouds seem to be casting a dark shadow over this benefactor’s head. It would be wise to remain careful these days.”
He paused for a moment, before adding meaningfully, “Yesterday, a D-class supernatural incident was reported in Lotus City. It was said that this perverse serial killer is targeting Clear Creek County next. Since this benefactor’s luck wouldn’t be too good lately, you would be prudent to remain cautious at all times.”
Qin Ye’s gaze had the word “psychopath” written all over it. He glared once more at the Taoist priest, before turning and walking away.
The policeman motioned to follow after him, yet the middle-aged Taoist priest’s easy-going expression suddenly turned somber. With furrowed brows, he shook his head gently.
The policeman stopped.
“Sir, he was the last person to have made contact with Wang Chenghao, and they even experienced an E-grade supernatural incident together. I suspect that there might be something wrong with him!”
The priest didn’t respond immediately. Instead, he cautiously reached into his robes and pulled out a necklace.
It was a silver necklace. A thumb-sized pendant hung from it. It was a trigram mirror that was covered in splotches of green copper rust.
“This is called the Eye of the Ichthyosaur.” The priest explained sternly, “My master gave this to me before I descended from the mountains. As soon as I encounter something that can potentially threaten my life, it would immediately alert me.”
Clink… As soon as he finished speaking, the entire trigram mirror shattered into several pieces!
“This…” Everyone gasped in horror.
They knew full well the priest’s true identity. He wasn’t exactly a low-ranking official in the Special Investigations Department. If he could threaten the priest, and even shatter the trigram mirror, that means that kid…
“I’ll immediately call for reinfor-...” “Stop!”
The priest bellowed before the policeman could finish speaking, “Do you want to die?”
“It shouldn’t be possible for this kid to possess that level of cultivation. There’s always the possibility that the evil ghost haunting the Wang family hasn’t been completely purged yet… but then again, from what I can glean from the traces of that evil ghost’s handiwork, it couldn’t possibly threaten me to this extent. What in the world is going on?”
Meanwhile, just around the corner, Arthis muttered in displeasure, “I don’t know what blow he’d delivered earlier, but it wasn’t very comfortable.”
Qin Ye didn’t respond. Yet he didn’t leave either. He simply leaned against the corner and muttered with a glint in his eyes, “Arti, wouldn’t you say that our luck has been particularly good these days?”
“Look. An elite shaman and even a corpse driver from Westbrook have come all the way here. Why?”
“... Don’t you know? Superiors hate it when their subordinates act like smartasses and attempt to whet their appetites with such nuggets of information.”
Qin Ye licked his lips and leaned his head round the corner as he smiled satisfactorily, “Who could possibly mobilize these people? Who’s the most convenient person of choice? Who, in recent times, has been granted the authority to summon these experts? What are they here to do?”
Arthis deliberated for a few moments, “The Yin energy here is incredibly dense. After all, we’re talking about a ghost that had control over the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal for a period of time… They should have noticed the dense Yin energy in this area and thought that the evil ghost hasn’t been completely expunged, and they’re here to summon its spirit to determine just what happened last night. Unfortunately, Wang Zemin’s soul has already completely vanished, and it’s not possible for them to summon it any longer… As for what their identity is…”
She paused for a moment, before gasping in realization, “That priest… is none other than the host of the phantom market?!”