Chapter 46 Playing to Death 02
Zhang Qiudao shared Mr. Qian’s case with Ma Shanfeng, who was tasked with preparing a report for the Daoist Association and the head office. Other people, with nothing to do, also listened to this story and sighed one after another. “He was a devout believer, praying fervently to the Buddha and Bodhisattva. Who could have thought that by worshipping malevolent creatures, innocent children would suffer? Mr. Qian is really pitiful.”
Kou Xuanling objected upon hearing these words, “I wouldn’t call her devout believer, but foolish. If she truly had sincere faith, how could she not know about the compassion of Bodhisattvas? How could she justify sacrificing innocent lives for her own gain? Authentic Daoist deities and Buddhist deities never recklessly harm the blameless.”
Mao Xiaoli: “While it’s true that even Buddhism has wrathful deities like the Fierce-Eyed Vajra, and divine beings including the Yakshas and Rakshasas, Bodhisattvas, in their great compassion would not indiscriminately kill the innocent.”
Zhang Qiudao: “Indeed, the Buddha has wrathful deities like the Fierce-Eyed Vajra, but they too refrain from wanton slaughter. Divine beings have cannibalistic Yakshas and Rakshasas, but once they take refuge in the Buddha, they no longer devour the innocent. They would never harm those who dutifully worship them, except for impure spirits, malevolent creatures, and evil gods born from twisted origins.”
Mao Xiaoli pondered for a moment, finding agreement with Zhang Qiudao’s statement. “The southern regions have the Five Prosperous Gods, and the north has the Furry Ghost Deities. They are worshipped by many in hopes of acquiring fortune, but their temperament is unpredictable, often bringing misfortune to the families who offer them sacrifices. It’s bewildering how people would still respectfully invite and enshrine these statues of evil gods in their homes.”
Zhang Qiudao: “What’s so hard to understand? It’s a desperate pursuit of wealth.”
Chen Yang brought a plate of fried small dried fish and placed it on the table. In no time, a mountain of flesh suddenly materialized on the table and swiftly snatched the small dried fish. Chen Yang, thoroughly engrossed, continued to play with Chonky while others chatted and casually extended their hands. Chonky raised a sign to block everyone else’s view: “Payment in silver and goods,” signifying that whoever treated it with the fried small dried fish could claim ownership of its body.
Chonky, with its slanted eyes, glanced askew at the group of misfits, who hesitated for a moment before withdrawing their hands. They attempted to offer an explanation, but its massive and aloof body rejected their approach. Chen Yang was the exclusive recipient of Chonky’s body, thoroughly relishing the experience.
Ma Shanfeng remained calm and composed. “Fortunately, it’s just like hugging a body pillow. Xiaoli, turn on the TV and watch the news segment.”
The remote control was closest to Mao Xiaoli. She glanced briefly at Ma Shanfeng, not saying a word, and switched on the television, tuning it to the news channel. Among the group, only Ma Shanfeng had an inclination for the news section, even Du Shuo, who shared similar tastes, didn’t particularly enjoy it. Mao Xiaoli turned her head and caught sight of Chonky, its gaze fixed unwaveringly on the screen. After a moment of silence, she felt it was appropriate to include Chonky in their conversation.
Initially, the others had intended to disperse and attend to their own matters, but they were captivated by an urgent news report. It happened to be a news piece about a car accident, a rather commonplace occurrence that scarcely evoked surprise. However, what set this news apart was the strange occurrence: a victim of the accident, whose head had been severed upon impact, abruptly rose to his feet and walked several meters before collapsing lifeless once more.
The sight of a headless body standing up and walking sent shivers down the spines of many onlookers. Subsequently, the news broadcasted surveillance footage captured at the roadside, the faces blurred for anonymity. Although the video only spanned a brief ten seconds, it vividly depicted the scene at the time. A speeding truck hurtled along the road when a man suddenly darted out, colliding with the truck head-on. His head became trapped beneath the wheels.
The bystanders erupted into startled exclamations and chaos, then witnessed the headless body trembling as it endeavored to move forward, walking a few meters before ultimately collapsing. The scene proved both eerie and bone-chilling.
Chen Yang looked up and noticed something amiss. He took out his phone and searched for the recent car accident on Baidu, quickly finding news articles, including videos. He clicked on a video and watched it repeatedly, the suddenly pressed pause. “Come over and take a look, there’s a woman in red here.”
The group gathered around to look and noticed a woman in a red dress standing by the roadside, drawing particular attention amidst the crowd. Chen Yang clicked play, and the next second, the woman in red disappeared. He rewound the video, paused again, and said, “Look, the deceased suddenly ran onto the road and got hit by a car. It seems like this woman in red covered his eyes from behind, whispered something in his ear, and instigated him to run onto the road and get fatally struck.”
It was evident that the woman in red was a malevolent ghost, obstructing the deceased’s vision and leading him to the road to cause his death while searching for a scapegoat. The eerie aspects of this video quickly spread across major online forums and discussion boards, being screenshotted, analyzed, and fervently discussed. However, the video shown in the news report didn’t include the woman in red, leading some to believe it was fabricated, while others thought it was a later addition to gain attention.
Ma Shanfeng scrutinized the woman in red and said, “I feel like I’ve seen her somewhere before.”
Mao Xiaoli: “Has Uncle Ma seen her before?”
“Yes,” nodded Ma Shanfeng. “Unfortunately, I can’t recall it at the moment.”
Chen Yang said, “No need to rush, if you remember, let us know.” He looked up and noticed Zhang Qiudao’s peculiar expression. “What’s wrong? Do you also know that woman in red?”
Zhang Qiudao shook his head. “No. I saw a news report about a mother and daughter who jumped off a building in the hospital. It seems that two young children in their family passed away due to the negligence of the adults. Overwhelmed with guilt and grief, they couldn’t bear it and took their own lives. This mother and daughter were surnamed Li, the wife and mother-in-law of Mr. Qian, the employer from yesterday.”
“That’s truly unfortunate,” sighed Chen Yang, feeling deep sympathy for the Qian family. “But with all their loved ones gone, can Mr. Qian bear it?”
Zhang Qiudao’s expression remained complicated. “I’m afraid he won’t even have a chance to be happy.”
Chen Yang: “What do you mean?”
Zhang Qiudao pointed to the car accident video in Chen Yang’s hand and said, “The onlookers crowded the road, and next to them, there’s a luxury car with the window rolled down. The owner of the car is Mr. Qian. And sitting next to him is a young and beautiful woman.”
Mao Xiaoli: “Maybe she’s his secretary or a friend, a relative or something. It’s better not to falsely accuse people without evidence, especially considering that Mr. Qian’s entire family has passed away. It wouldn’t be fair.”
While talking, she leaned in to watch the video. After Zhang Qiudao identified the individuals in it, she fell silent as well. After a moment, she said, “If there’s no affair involved, I’ll be the first one not to believe it!”
When Mr. Qian rolled up the car window, the woman in the passenger seat leaned over, pressing against his arm in a highly suggestive manner. It was hard to believe anyone who says it was innocent. Mao Xiaoli wore a disgusted expression on her face and said, “He’s truly despicable. His wife, mother-in-law, and even his two young children have died, yet the very next day, he’s getting intimate with another woman. I mean, is there absolutely no connection between their deaths and him?”
The expressions of the others weren’t any better, especially Zhang Qiudao. He became irritable at the thought that he might have saved a scumbag. Ma Shanfeng frowned, as it was he who referred the client. They would investigate the actual situation, but if it involved the privacy of the employer, they couldn’t dig too deep. Besides, the request did fall under the category of a two-star assignment, and the Daoist Association had not made a mistaken judgment.
If Mr. Qian was truly involved in something, it only showed that human nature was scarier than ghosts.
Ma Shanfeng: “Mr. Qian married into the Li family, which is considered one of the upper-middle-class families in the city. They’re involved in e-commerce businesses. Mr. Qian’s mother-in-law and wife were both the only daughters in their family, and they have adopted the tradition of having a son-in-law join the family through marriage.”
Mao Xiaoli: “Marriage of convenience?”
Kou Xuanling: “A snake won’t devour its own offspring. If Mr. Qian is truly guilty, then it’s truly terrifying.”
Zhang Qiudao’s expression darkened. “I’ll investigate Mr. Qian’s case, and if it’s confirmed that he killed his wife, children, and mother-in-law, there will be no mercy for him!”
“It won’t be easy,” Chen Yang said. “If we report it to the police, his wife and mother-in-law’s deaths will be considered suicides, unrelated to him. When the two children died, he wasn’t even in the city, and there’s evidence to prove his absence. Even if we consider supernatural events, the wooden-carved Bodhisattva was obtained by his mother-in-law, completely unrelated to him.”
Everyone felt a chill run down their spines. Did that mean even the Court of Great Yin couldn’t hold him accountable?
As a celestial master, one could understand the impartiality and fairness of the Court of Great Yin. The crimes committed by any evil person would be recorded, and they would face punishment after death in the Underworld. But if someone could escape the scrutiny of the Court of Great Yin through such cunning and deceitful means, it was truly terrifying.
Chen Yang: “This reminds me of Dong Hong.”
“Brother Chen, what are you talking about?” Mao Xiaoli asked curiously.
Chen Yang shook his head. “It’s nothing.”
As the evening approached, Ma Shanfeng slapped his thigh and said, “I remember who the red-clothed woman is. She’s the woman who was dismembered in several consecutive murder cases before.”
The others urged him to provide more details. Ma Shanfeng asked them to search for keywords on their phones. “You should read more news from the society news instead of just playing games or scrolling through Weibo. There were several cases of female murders before, all committed by the same person due to the consistent modus operandi. The last victim of the murder spree was the red-clothed woman. I remember her distinctly because her death was the most gruesome. Not only was she murdered, but she was also tortured and dismembered alive before being thrown into the river.”
They looked at the news and saw the appearance of the red-clothed woman when she was alive. She was a beautiful and delicate girl, identical to the red-clothed woman in the video.
“Could it be revenge? Is the perpetrator actually the victim?” Chen Yang looked at Du Shuo.
Du Shuo glanced at the video and said, “I’ll ask around and find out.”
“Alright.” Chen Yang stared at the photo of the red-clothed woman for a while, then closed his phone and set the matter aside for the time being.
Early the next morning, Zhang Qiudao went out to investigate Mr. Qian. Kou Xuanling took the wooden-carved Bodhisattva statue to a nearby Daoist temple, asking them to purify and bless it. Mao Xiaoli continued going to school, while Ma Shanfeng stayed in his office, sipping tea and tending to the flowers and plants in the courtyard during his free time.
Chen Yang unexpectedly became the least busy person in the entire branch office. He decided to read and learn from the book “Book of Ghost Spells.” During that time, the Witch Tribe’s Chief Witch, Yi Fusheng, called him to discuss the possibility of collaboration.
“The case of the deserted village in Nanyue has been hanging on the app for a while. The Daoist Association initially misjudged it. Later, it was corrected to a four-star difficulty level, which is quite challenging. The Daoist Association suggested that a few vice presidents take on the case, but I took it instead. I wanted to ask if you’re interested,” Yi Fusheng explained.
Chen Yang: “You can send me the information, and I’ll take a look.”
“Sure. After you’ve reviewed it and if you’re interested, you can contact me. We plan to go there in August,” Yi Fusheng said, before expressing his desire to invite Chen Yang to visit Sichuan Province and meet fellow practitioners.
“If the case in the deserted village is resolved, I can come over.”
“That’s great,” Yi Fusheng immediately responded. “It’s settled then. Don’t change your mind.”
“No,” Chen Yang replied with a smile, glancing down at the book in his hand. He hesitated for a moment but decided not to mention it. It wasn’t until after he hung up the phone and Du Shuo returned that he spoke up. “Chief Witch Yi asked me to visit Sichuan Province and meet fellow practitioners. After giving it some thought, I agreed. It would also give me a chance to see the place where my witch grandpa used to live and meet his fellow practitioners. Additionally, I plan to hand over the ‘Book of Ghost Spells’ to Chief Witch Yi so that it can be printed and distributed to disciples who have lost the ancient witchcraft. Do you agree?”
Although “Book of Ghost Spells” was a prize given to him by Du Shuo, it ultimately came from the mouths of some old ghosts in the Underworld. He needed Du Shuo’s consent. If Du Shuo disagreed, he wouldn’t hand over the book. After all, Du Shuo was the closest person to him.
Du Shuo gazed at him, easily understanding his thoughts. With a smile, he said, “The way you handle the gift I gave you is up to you.” He paused and added, “But I don’t recommend printing it into a book.”
Du Shuo sat down and held Chen Yang in his arms. “Let Chief Witch Yi assess the disciples, and let the disciples internally assess the inherited knowledge. The book is meant to teach how to communicate with ghosts and command them. If someone with ill intentions learns this book, it could bring about great calamity.”
Chen Yang was conflicted. “It sounds dangerous.” He hesitated about whether to hand it over, but he couldn’t bear to let the knowledge be lost.
“It’s okay to hand it over. Not everyone can learn from the book.”
Chen Yang flipped through the pages of the book. “I find it quite easy.”
“For most people, it’s as incomprehensible as an ancient scripture.” Du Shuo took the book from his hands and said, “If the knowledge is lost, it’s because the art of commanding ghosts goes against the natural order. Only a few individuals recognized by the heavens can learn from the book. Even if you print it and display it on a stall for everyone to see, I’m afraid no one will be able to understand it. So there’s no need to print it into a book. First, people won’t be able to learn it, and second, it ensures that only those with natural talent and a sense of justice will have access to it. At least they won’t cause chaos that others have to clean up.”
Chen Yang: “You make it sound like if there’s a big mess, it’s your job to clean it up.”
Du Shuo: “It’s indeed my job to clean it up.”
Chen Yang cupped Du Shuo’s face and said, “You’re talking big. Even if the sky falls, the tall ones will hold it up. Where do you come in to clean up?”
Du Shuo, with a calm expression, said, “You’re wrong. When there’s a big mess, even the lowly pawns must step forward.”
Chen Yang kissed Du Shuo and said, “If a big mess occurs, I’ll face it with you.”
Du Shuo: “Really?”
Chen Yang: “As a couple, we go together.”
“I’m deeply moved.”
Chen Yang laughed. “You can be moved, but don’t get carried away.” He caught Du Shuo’s mischievous hand under his clothes and added, “You’ve been quite mischievous lately, you need to restrain yourself.”
Du Shuo: “This is only natural. Why restrain ourselves?”
Catching his breath, Chen Yang said, “Without restraint, our kidneys… our bodies won’t be able to handle it, um!”
Du Shuo laughed softly. “You’re talking nonsense. Yangyang, you’re quite formidable.”
Chen Yang rolled his eyes. In the past, whenever he tried to avoid exercising by claiming his body was too weak, Du Shuo would say something like, “your body is too weak, run another lap,” but no matter how much he pleaded, it was futile. Chen Yang wrapped his arm around Du Shuo’s shoulder, silently grumbling while allowing him to do as he pleased.
Early in the morning, Du Shuo got up, finished washing up, and pulled Chen Yang towards him. “Last night, I found the woman in the red dress from the video and asked her a few questions… Are you listening?”
Chen Yang couldn’t even open his eyes properly. He hummed a few times and buried his face in Du Shuo’s chest, continuing to sleep. Du Shuo chuckled and lifted him up, but Chen Yang abandoned his embrace and turned his head to dive back under the covers, pulling them over his head to continue sleeping.
Du Shuo pulled the covers down and looked at Chen Yang’s sleeping face. He kissed his bare shoulder and then picked up his phone before heading to the bathroom. Inside the bathroom, he recorded everything he wanted to say and then returned the phone to the bedside table. He tore a piece of paper and wrote down some reminders before leaving.
When Chen Yang woke up, he turned his head and saw the note stuck to the bedside table. He picked it up and read it, then clicked on the voice recorder on his phone to play the recording of Du Shuo’s voice.
“The deceased in the car accident, named Yang Hong, was a murderer. He had brutally killed seven women over the course of two years. The woman in red was originally intended to be killed directly, but during the assault, Yang Hong encountered Dong Hong. As a result, the woman in red was sadistically murdered by Dong Hong.”
Dong Hong? He was involved too!
Chen Yang unconsciously furrowed his brow, shocked by the connection between the two. Yang Hong had been evading capture for two years, traveling across the country, using black plastic bags to suffocate the heads of vulnerable women and causing their deaths. His methods were efficient, but during the abduction of the woman in the red dress, he coincidentally ran into Dong Hong, who had a sadistic tendencies.
Dong Hong stumbled upon Yang Hong, who had the woman in the red dress bound in his house. Evil thoughts arose in Dong Hong’s mind, so together with Yang Hong, they tortured and killed her. The woman in the red dress saw the faces of both Yang Hong and Dong Hong during the torture, which was why she haunted Yang Hong in the mortal realm for seven days, seeking revenge. However, she only managed to kill Yang Hong and couldn’t exact her revenge on Dong Hong.
After exacting her revenge, the woman in the red dress returned to the Underworld and, upon hearing someone inquiring about Yang Hong, decided to divulge everything she knew. She mentioned that Yang Hong seemed to be part of a mysterious organization with significant power and secrecy.
Participants in the organization followed orders and found ways to carry them out. The instructions ranged from minor tasks such as theft initially, gradually escalating to more serious offenses, including murder.
Yang Hong was originally an ordinary person from a village, without a wife or children. He led a solitary and quiet life. Initially, he was instructed to steal women’s clothes from the village, but a failed attempt at assaulting a widow led to accidental murder. As he continued to flee, he became engrossed in killing, all while following orders. Those instructions seemed to cater to Yang Hong’s deepest desires, enticing him into a spiral of obsession and corruption.
The details of Dong Hong’s situation were not entirely clear. The woman in red only had a rough idea. The organization was also her speculation, and as for names, locations, contact information, and members, she had no knowledge of any such details.
The organization was highly secretive. During her torture and when she haunted Yang Hong in the mortal realm, she witnessed the organization contacting him twice.
Chen Yang got out of bed and fetched pen and paper. He wrote down the names of Yang Hong, Dong Hong, and Meng Xi. He used symbols to represent the mysterious organization mentioned by the woman in red. Assuming this organization issued instructions through a special means of communication, the three individuals were commanded to carry out those instructions.
If the initial instructions were insignificant, it would create a psychological illusion of playing a game, gradually making people adapt and completely ignore reality, losing their humanity. They would perceive themselves as playing a game while indulging in the instructions that catered to their inner desires, becoming hopelessly addicted.
Now that both Yang Hong and Dong Hong were dead, their actions seemed to have caused a significant impact on people’s hearts. Their deaths appeared just and inevitable, a result of karma and self-infliction. However, when connecting their behaviors to the instructions and examining the outcomes, it felt as though they were led step by step towards their own demise.
Chen Yang circled the words “mysterious organization” and mentioned the matter to the others in the branch ofice. Kou Xuanling suggested, “Why not report this to the police? It feels like a murder game, using psychological factors to lure them into killing. The manipulated individuals project their guilt and fear onto the instructions and this murder game, causing them to become addicted to it, dependent on the instructions, and never willing to resist.”
“It’s like some kind of suicide game, using psychological attacks to lure underage children into taking their own lives. This falls within the jurisdiction of the police. Their investigative abilities surpass ours, so we should report it. Let Uncle Ma handle it. He’s better at writing reports,” Zhang Qiudao suggested.
Chen Yang: “Aren’t you supposed to investigate Mr. Qian? Have you found anything?”
Zhang Qiudao replied, “Mr. Qian married into the Li family, and their two children bear the Li surname. Mr. Qian doesn’t have the best relationship with his wife and mother-in-law. He spends most of his time working outside and isn’t particularly close to his family. He has been discussing the idea of having another child, but it has been rejected. Feeling disappointed, he met his current girlfriend, who recently became pregnant. Mr. Qian initially planned to rush back home and discuss divorce with his wife, but then the wooden Bodhisattva incident happened, so he didn’t get a chance to bring up the divorce with his wife.
“These things aren’t exactly secrets and can be easily investigated. Mr. Qian has been quite open about it, and there aren’t any speculations from others. Moreover, his wife, children, and mother-in-law’s deaths are indeed unrelated to him. People witnessed his wife and mother-in-law jumping off the building. The sudden illness and death of his two children occurred when he was in another province. He’s completely clean, with no doubts.”
Furthermore, people generally have the impression that “a tiger doesn’t eat its cubs”. Mr. Qian valued his heirs greatly. If he were truly after the Li family’s fortune, he wouldn’t have harmed his own children.
“The problem lies in the fact that the deceased children were not Mr. Qian’s biological offspring. When Mrs. Qian was pregnant, she discussed marriage with Mr. Qian. He knew the truth but still willingly married into the Li family.” Zhang Qiudao shook his head, his gaze icy. “Honestly, I don’t believe it has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Qian.”
Upon careful consideration, the night before, Mr. Qian repeatedly emphasized the importance of the Qian family in front of Zhang Qiudao. If he didn’t attach special significance to it, why would he keep stressing it? There were several loopholes in his statements. For example, if he genuinely liked children, even if they weren’t his biological offspring, they had lived together for seven or eight years. How could he insist on discussing business matters when the two children were seriously ill?
Furthermore, Mr. Qian’s composure seemed excessive. When faced with the evil that had harmed his entire family, he remained exceptionally calm, without a trace of indignation.
Zhang Qiudao had to admit that he had been played.
Chen Yang comforted him, “No one could have anticipated the truth. Even Mrs. Qian and the others were kept in the dark until their deaths. They might have even been grateful for Mr. Qian’s unwavering support.”
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