Chapter 40.1 Red Embroidered Shoes 07
When Kou Xuanling came out, he immediately noticed the affectionate behavior of Du Shuo and Chen Yang. Unaware of their own intimacy, the pair seemed completely oblivious. Kou Xuanling stayed silent for a moment before taking the ancestral portrait and saying, “I’ll go to the neighboring dormitory.”
Chen Yang asked, “Do you have the key?”
Kou Xuanling gestured and said, “Qiu Shengmin can open the door.” Without looking back, he left and knocked on the door of the Qiu siblings next door.
As long as he had the ancestral portrait with him, Kou Xuanling didn’t feel alone. So, Chen Yang wasn’t concerned and proceeded to report the events of the past two days to Du Shuo, who listened quietly. Finally, Chen Yang said, “Kou Xuanling, Qiu Shengmin, and I all obtained red cards. Tonight, we have to play a game of “Count the Stairs”. I’ll leave the task of controlling the ghosts to you. Oh, and be aware that the lonely souls and wild ghosts here often masquerade as ghost soldiers.”
“Just destroy the Ghost-Taming Stake and summon the City Lord and the ghost officials to capture all the lonely souls and wild ghosts. There’s no need to engage in those ghost-summoning games.”
Chen Yang shook his head and said, “I saw a lot of skeletons in the vacant lot behind the mountain, probably dead for many years. The Ghost Gate Formation can easily breed malevolent spirits, so it’s okay if I don’t join the game. However, I can’t guarantee the safety of other students.”
Du Shuo showed indifference when mentioning the lives of others, calling it their own misfortune.
“Most of the masterminds behind the killing of Teacher Bai Yan have been eliminated, and the remaining bystanders have faced anger and violence. That’s the end of it,” Chen Yang didn’t agree with Teacher Bai Yan’s murder. It was wrong to stand by and watch, but it didn’t deserve death. “Moreover, by killing innocent people, Teacher Bai Yan would carry the burden of guilt.”
The Court of the Underworld, responsible for judging souls, evaluated their deeds and misdeeds, and calculated their years. It continues until the calculations were complete, and guilty souls were sent to Fengdu for judgment. Those who commited crimes on their own and had reduced grievances were left with the weight of their sins. After seeking vengeance, one must also seek redemption for the killings committed. Therefore, the more people Teacher Bai Yan killed, the heavier her guilt became. If the Underworld captured her and takes her to Fengdu, she would likely face punishment and seek redemption.
Du Shuo only judged the deeds and guilt of the spirits, and as long as it didn’t involve the rest of the underworld in Fengdu, he didn’t interfere. However, even though he didn’t intervene, the ghost officials and the Ghost Emperors do, as not everyone possessed the innate divine qualities of Du Shuo. Hence, they considered matters of injustice in the mortal realm with some consideration.
“Hmm,” Du Shuo leaned closer to Chen Yang’s neck and gave a gentle bite before letting go, slowly licking and soothing him. “As you wish.”
Chen Yang immediately smiled, pushed Du Shuo away and sat on him. “It tickles, stop licking.” But Du Shuo not only ignored his words but also held his hand in place and continued licking down his neck.
Chen Yang said, “Seriously, no more licking. We have to go out tonight.”
Du Shuo lifted his gaze, stood up, and gently bit Chen Yang’s lips. “I’ll just give a kiss to my Yangyang.”
Chen Yang didn’t leave the dormitory until evening, his legs still feeling weak. His cheeks were flushed, and there was a hint of mist in his eyes. Those who understood could tell what had happened with just a glance. Those who didn’t understand would naturally assume he had just woken up. For example, the Qiu siblings looked back and forth between Chen Yang and Du Shuo until Chen Yang personally introduced Du Shuo as his partner, and then they showed a sudden realization. Kou Xuanling saw them and didn’t notice anything unusual in their expressions. As he headed downstairs to the cafeteria for dinner, he sighed, “I was busy paying respects to the ancestral portrait this afternoon, asking for blessings to perform exceptionally well tonight. Unlike you, I didn’t rest well. I’m going back to sleep for two hours. Wake me up when it’s time.”
The strange gaze of the Qiu siblings shifted from Chen Yang and Du Shuo to Kou Xuanling. They asked Kou Xuanling if he didn’t know about the relationship between Chen Yang and Du Shuo. Kou Xuanling nodded affirmatively, but his expression remained unchanged as he mentioned that Chen Yang needed to quickly recover from his weary steps.
Chen Yang practically buried his face in the bowl, while his right hand, under the table, squeezed Du Shuo’s soft flesh mercilessly. They didn’t go all the way, but it was still thrilling enough. Du Shuo remained calm and composed, enduring the pain without saying a word, waiting for his little wife to vent and then soothingly comforting him. Du Shuo had no reservations when it came to Kou Xuanling, so he said, “Stop with the nonsense and burn your Ancestral Master’s portrait.”
Kou Xuanling’s eyes immediately widened. He would confront whoever dared to touch his Ancestral Master’s portrait. But as soon as he encountered Du Shuo’s cold and indifferent gaze, he timidly lowered his head, not daring to say a word. Burning the Ancestral Master’s portrait was a drastic action that Kou Xuanling couldn’t bring himself to do.
The Qiu siblings looked at each other and decided to eat their meal quietly, minding their own business.
At ten o’clock in the evening, Chen Yang and Kou Xuanling prepared their things and knocked on Qiu Shengmin’s room. The door opened, and Qiu Shengmin stepped out, followed by Qiu Shengming, who had an expression of indifference. “Can I come with you?”
Chen Yang shook his head. “You’ll be in the way.”
Qiu Shengming looked dejected. It was only in the evening that he learned Qiu Shengmin also obtained a red card to participate in the deadly game. He wanted to help but realized he had no ability to do so, which left him feeling even more discouraged and disheartened.
Qiu Shengmin assured Qiu Shengming that he would come back safely and instructed him, “Promise me, stay in the dormitory and don’t go out. No matter what happens, don’t leave. I can handle those things that I encounter, but if you come across them, it’s a one-way path to death. I don’t want it to end up with nothing happening to me and you getting into trouble.”
Qiu Shengming responded gloomily, “Understood.”
Qiu Shengmin hugged Qiu Shengming and said, “Trust me, I have a premonition that nothing will happen.” Her premonitions had always been accurate, but Qiu Shengming couldn’t help but remain worried. They were siblings and had been each other’s only family since childhood.
Chen Yang and the others reached the staircase and waited for Qiu Shengmin there. Qiu Shengmin patted her brother’s shoulder and then ran towards them. As they headed towards the academic building, Du Shuo watched them enter until Chen Yang and the others turned into the staircase. Then he turned around and looked at the mirror in front of him, which had a crack running through it. The reflection of Du Shuo in the mirror had a ghastly green hue, staring fixedly outside with a slowly emerging eerie smile, sending chills down one’s spine.
Du Shuo remained indifferent, extending his hand to grab the horrifying specter in the mirror, crumpling it into a small bead shape and tossing it into a bag. He then turned and walked towards the back mountain. On the way, he encountered wandering spirits disguised as ghost soldiers, so he casually crumpled them into small beads and threw them into the bag as well. It was ridiculous how these ignorant wandering spirits, upon seeing Du Shuo in person, tried to put on airs and interrogate him, attempting to lure away his soul. But by the time they were crumpled into small beads and tried to scatter, it was already too late.
The remaining wandering spirits were filled with terror, scattering in all directions and keeping their distance, too afraid to come near again. Du Shuo had no interest in capturing them, as he smashed the Ghost-Taming Stake to prompt the Underworld to take action.
Chen Yang and the others encountered Teacher Li, Cheng Dong, and Ling Hao on the third floor. Initially, the three were happy to see Chen Yang and Kou Xuanling. Relying on the presence of a Celestial Master ensured their safety. But as soon as they realized that they were not playing the same game, their expressions immediately changed. Teacher Li blocked their path and said, “Why don’t we exchange cards?”
“Can the cards be exchanged?”
“Sure. All three of you are Celestial Masters,” Teacher Li thought Qiu Shengmin was also a Celestial Master. “It’s your responsibility to protect us. Now that all three of you are in the same game while we are in a different one, who will ensure our safety? So, why not exchange cards? At least, each game will have a Celestial Master.”
Chen Yang: “Is that why you know how many people are participating in the death game? If one game seems easier, you want to swap cards with the other party. But it’s not that simple, is it? It’s a game where ghosts and demons toy with you. How could they tolerate you swapping cards? The cards we receive represent deceased students, and if the rule for exchanging cards is that one person must die—”
“How is that possible?” Teacher Li interrupted him. “We still need you to save us. Besides, if I were to swap, wouldn’t I die as well?”
Chen Yang: “What if the person who initiates the exchange dies? You seem to have a strong fear of death, but as long as you manage to survive, it’s all good for you. Other people’s lives or deaths don’t concern you, right? Just casually swap out one person and bring you in, and we guarantee your safety. The person who is swapped out dies, and the other team also dies as a result. Did I guess correctly?”
Teacher Li’s expression revealed that Chen Yang’s speculation was correct. Before this, nobody knew how many students he had deceived and caused their deaths, enabling himself to survive. Ling Hao and Cheng Dong stepped back, watching Teacher Li cautiously.
When the three of them reached the fifth floor and joined the others, Ling Hao and Cheng Dong couldn’t help but reveal what had happened. Upon hearing this, everyone became suspicious and guarded against Teacher Li. As a result, Teacher Li was accidentally killed, facing his retribution.
At this moment, Chen Yang asked about their game and who was participating. Ling Hao said, “There are a total of fifteen people. We’re playing the Ghost at the Door game. The Vice Principal and three department heads are also involved.” Ling Hao mentioned the Vice Principal and the three department heads with the intention of reminding Chen Yang and the others to consider their significance and prioritize protecting them.
Little did they know that when they heard the list, they realized that Teacher Bai Yan’s revenge had arrived. They became even more reluctant to go upstairs. Chen Yang nodded, indicating that he understood, and then said to them, “Time is running out, why don’t you go up?”
Reluctantly, the three of them made their way upstairs. Shortly after, two more individuals arrived, Director Jin and Teacher Liu. Both of them were surprised to see Chen Yang and his companions. Director Jin spoke, “I wanted to meet Teacher Bai Yan and ask her to stop. That’s why I picked up the cards of students who died unexpectedly, just like Teacher Liu.”
Chen Yang sighed. “I’m afraid even if you pick up the cards, you won’t be able to meet Teacher Bai Yan. Instead, you’ll sacrifice yourselves in vain.”
Director Jin and Teacher Liu were puzzled, so Qiu Shengmin kindly explained, “There are many fierce and malevolent spirits in Jinshui High School, most of whom are responsible for killing students in the death game. Teacher Bai Yan rarely acts personally. If it weren’t for us tonight, the two of you would have been killed directly. However, judging from the members listed in Teacher Li’s death game just now, Teacher Bai Yan will appear tonight.”
Director Jin and Teacher Liu seemed to grasp the situation vaguely and asked, “Should we start now?”
Chen Yang glanced at the time and replied, “We can start. Do you know how to play the Count the Stairs game?”
“Back when I was in college, students loved sharing these urban legends including the countless stairs in the academic buildings, where people would be grabbed by something underneath and buried within the steps,” Teacher Liu explained.
“Close enough,” Chen Yang remarked. “The horrifying rumors about counting stairs stem from the bodies found beneath the stairs. If you’re alone, stepping on the stairs and counting at midnight, you might wake up the corpse beneath the stairs and get dragged down.”
Chen Yang spoke casually, but Director Jin, Teacher Liu, and Qiu Shengmin all shuddered. Director Jin said, “Celestial Master Chen, you sure have a sense of humor.”
Chen Yang: “I’m not joking, I’m dead serious.”
The three of them wore expressions of fear.
Chen Yang handed them the talismans and said, “When you encounter those things, stick the talismans on them, shout for help, and run as fast as you can.”
“Celestial Master Chen, don’t you… don’t you protect us?”
“Only one person can count the stairs.”
Helplessly, Teacher Liu and Director Jin had to proceed to the fifth and fourth floors respectively. When it struck midnight, they began counting. As for Chen Yang and his companions, they waited directly on the third floor. Qiu Shengmin was puzzled, “Aren’t we splitting up?”
Kou Xuanling: “No, we won’t split up. Once those things appear, we’ll grab them right away. Compared to us, the things in the school are more likely to attack Teacher Liu and Director Jin.”
Qiu Shengmin was amazed. “Aren’t you concerned about the creatures in the vacant lot in the back hill? Aren’t you worried that other fierce and malevolent spirits will swarm us because we’re violating the rules of the game?” It was understandable for her to have doubts because Chen Yang and Kou Xuanling’s behavior earlier implied that they had to survive through the game, making her believe it was a necessity.
Kou Xuanling shook his head. “Of course not. The previous need to survive through the game was because we were unsure of the situation and couldn’t act rashly. Plus, we couldn’t break the Ghost Taming Stake. But now it’s different. The Director-General is here, so we don’t need to worry about the rest. We just need to lure those things out, catch them one by one, and give them a good beating.”
Chen Yang smiled, pursing his lips. “My Brother Du is really amazing.”
Qiu Shengmin silently observed Chen Yang’s modest yet implicitly claiming attitude, as if saying, “My husband is so talented, and he belongs to me,” while gently touching his heart, standing beside Kou Xuanling. Fortunately, she wasn’t the only single one.
The academic building was empty, with dim lights illuminating the corridor. However, the staircase area was pitch-black. Teacher Liu took a step down, holding a flashlight. The sound of her shoes hitting the steps echoed loudly in the empty corridor, as if entering another dimension. In the darkness, she was all alone.
Teacher Liu counted the steps as she walked, avoiding looking down for fear of seeing not the stairs beneath her feet, but decaying corpses. Each floor had two sets of stairs, totaling 24 steps. When he reached the 12th step, he breathed a sigh of relief, but suddenly heard a noise from above. Startled, her heart tightened, and without looking back, she hastily continued counting while running downstairs.
Upon seeing Director Jin on the fourth floor, she breathed a sigh of relief. Director Jin nodded at her, took a deep breath, and gathered courage to proceed downstairs. Though the fear lingered, the knowledge that people were both upstairs and downstairs made it somewhat bearable. However, when he reached the 11th step, he inexplicably turned his head and found the upper floor pitch-black, with no sign of Teacher Liu.
Panic surged within Director Jin, and he hurriedly stepped on the stair and called out, “12.” Suddenly, he felt something amiss under his foot. Swallowing hard, he looked straight ahead, attempting to move his foot, but a cold, slippery hand clutched his ankle.
Director Jin lowered his head, shining his flashlight downwards. He caught sight of himself standing on a corpse, and that corpse gripped his ankle, dragging him downward. Struggling to break free, his ankle got trapped in the step, and he was pulled inside. He began to struggle and scream for help, but the sound echoed in the corridor as if imprisoned in another dimension.
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