Chapter 49 Playing to Death 05
Chen Yang asked, “Where is that sanatorium?”
Kou Xuanling replied, “It’s in a small town called Changhe on the outskirts.”
Mao Xiaoli and the others looked surprised upon hearing this, as if they had heard something about that healing center before. Chen Yang asked, “Is there something wrong with this town?”
Mao Xiaoli explained, “Changhe Town isn’t really a town, it’s more like a charity house. In the past, they had a problem dealing with many unclaimed bodies, so they stored them all in the charity house.”
The charity house was originally meant for ancient families to provide a place for their members, with schools and ancestral halls. It also served as a storage area for unclaimed coffins. In recent times, due to wars and conflicts, it became a place to store bodies, and it was where wandering spirits and ghosts were often seen.
Changhe Town, also known as Changhe Charity House, had long been abandoned and only occasional rumors of haunting would circulate. There weren’t many nearby residents, but quite a few young people would go there for adventures. They were often frightened and ran away, but no fatalities had been reported. However, a few years ago, there was an explorer who, in the middle of the night, saw a terrifying ghost painting on the third floor of the charity house and got so scared that they ran out.
In the corridor, they discovered a person hanging from the ceiling. The explorer got so scared they fainted, and the next day they spotted the hanging body above and immediately called the police. After the authorities investigated, they found out the deceased was a homeless man who sought refuge in the charity house. His cause of death was blood loss, leaving him dry like a mummy, with two holes in his neck.
The police officer in charge of the case was a seasoned veteran who swiftly kept the information under wraps and reported it to the Daoist Association. The Three Caverns Celestial Master of Baiyun Temple, the head of Luzu Temple, and a senior monk from Dafosi Temple in the capital city heard the officer’s account and immediately suspected the involvement of a zombie.
The three of them embarked on a mission to subdue the zombie, but sadly, they underestimated its power. As a result, the two disciples they brought along met a tragic end. Filled with sorrow and remorse, the three Celestial Masters made the solemn decision to eliminate the zombie, even if it meant sacrificing themselves.
“They sacrificed themselves?” Chen Yang asked, “Was that zombie really that formidable?”
“It was a Flying Zombie.” A type of zombie that remained intact without decay even after a hundred years. They were categorized into different levels based on their cultivation. The lowest level was the Shadow Zombie, an intermediate stage between a corpse and a zombie, while the highest level was the Flying Zombie. Rumors say that Flying Zombies could practice for thousands of years, were immune to sunlight, and possessed expertise in magic.
Corpses didn’t rot for a hundred years. When a corpse decomposed but the bones remained intact for thousands of years, they were called Unrotting Bones. Similar to zombies, they could absorb moonlight for cultivation and transform into wandering corpses known as Flying Night Demons.
The skeletons they encountered in Miyun Haunted House were Unrotting Bones. If it weren’t for Chen Yang’s timely intervention, they would have likely transformed into Reclining Corpses. Unrotting Bones that remain intact for a thousand years eventually turn into Reclining Corpses and, by absorbing the essence of the sun and moon, become Flying Night Demons.
Zhang Qiudao pondered, “Later on, within the premises of Changhe Charity House, there were both Daoist spells and prayer flags, and Buddhist scriptures. The structure of Changhe Charity House combined the Daoist Eight Trigrams with the Buddhist pagoda. Although outsiders may assume that Buddhism and Daoism are incompatible, they do have distinct boundaries in certain aspects. When it comes to the Charity House, there is no record of who built it in the available information, but historical records indicate that it was established during the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties.”
Changhe Charity House was originally a fusion of Buddhism and Daoism, coinciding with a period of fluctuating relations between the two during the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Chen Yang said, “So, Changhe Charity House was a joint effort between Buddhism and Daoism to suppress that Flying Zombie?”
Kou Xuanling responded, “Based on subsequent in-depth investigations, that is the most plausible scenario.”
“What happened to Changhe Charity House afterward? And why did the address of the sanatorium appear there?”
“That’s the question,” Kou Xuanling said as he moved the mouse and opened the profile of the Ye sisters, revealing their volunteer experiences. He continued, “It describes how the Ye sisters admitted their mentally unstable foster mother to Changhe Sanatorium—yes, later it was renamed Changhe Sanatorium, built on the site of Changhe Charity House. Due to their limited funds to cover the costs of their foster mother’s stay, they worked as volunteers at the sanatorium to reduce the expenses.”
He clicked on another photo. “This is an image of the original site of Changhe Charity House. After the transformation into a sanatorium, the exterior hasn’t changed much. However, the internal conditions are unclear because access is restricted. Moreover, after the Flying Zombie was killed and with the presence of Buddhist and Daoist artifacts for suppression, ordinary evil spirits dare not approach, and the Celestial Masters didn’t pay much attention to it. I don’t know how the relevant authorities discreetly approved the conversion of Changhe Charity House into a sanatorium, but it’s understandable that ordinary people can be deceived by spirits.
“This sanatorium has remained low-key, so much so that no one noticed anything unusual in the outskirts of the capital for five years. It was perceived as a normal sanatorium. However, during these five years, unknown sanatoriums started popping up in various provinces, employing various methods to kill doctors. When the police questioned the relatives, none of them could recall the names of the sanatoriums because it falls within the scope of secrecy. Even if they caused a scene at the sanatorium, they wouldn’t know its name. But if the investigation leads to the previous workplace of the deceased doctors, the sanatorium was called Changhe Sanatorium, located at the original site of Changhe Charity House in the outskirts.”
Chen Yang pondered, “So, is it possible that the mysterious organization behind all this is actually within this Changhe Sanatorium?”
“We can investigate this sanatorium by submitting volunteer applications,” Kou Xuanling suggested.
Mao Xiaoli questioned, “Will they agree? If it’s truly that so-called mysterious organization, they won’t simply approve volunteer applications.”
“They will agree,” Chen Yang confidently stated, leaving Mao Xiaoli puzzled. Chen Yang explained, “Their target is us. I think I now understand Meng Xi’s motive—do you remember Meng Xi?”
Mao Xiaoli nodded. Chen Yang continued, “I thought he wanted to divert our attention and allow Dong Hong to carry out the killings smoothly. But now I realize his goal is the red string on my wrist.” He toyed with the ancient copper coins on the red string. “If my artifact were the red string instead of these coin, then my red string would have been deceived.”
“There’s definitely a conspiracy. However, with so many Daoist temples, Buddhist monasteries, and the headquarters, why did they target us?” Mao Xiaoli’s eyes widened, displaying her anger. “Do they pick on the weak?”
At times, Chen Yang wasn’t sure whether he should be pleased with Mao Xiaoli’s self-awareness, which surpassed that of anyone else. But he couldn’t deny that she was right. Among the numerous Celestial Master sects and the headquarter in the capital, they specifically targeted a branch consisting of only five members, with the highest rank being a third-grade Five Thunders Celestial Master. It left a bitter taste in their mouths.
In the midst of their conversation, Du Shuo and Zhou Qi entered the room. Chen Yang noticed them immediately and waved them over. Kou Xuanling stood up, making space for Du Shuo. Du Shuo sat beside Chen Yang and glanced at the video and document materials before him. With a quick scan, he grasped the progress of their investigation.
Chen Yang understood Du Shuo’s gaze and expressions better than anyone else, even when Du Shuo appeared expressionless or remained silent. After all, they had known each other for nearly seven years and had been married for almost five years. Their husband-to-husband relationship had long been intimate, allowing them to understand each other’s intentions with just a glance. So Chen Yang asked, “You’re not surprised at all. You knew beforehand?”
Du Shuo replied, “A day earlier than all of you.”
Chen Yang instantly became alert. “Do you know who is behind all this?”
“What is it?”
Du Shuo changed the subject and brought Zhou Qi into the conversation. “He’ll go with you.” Seeing Chen Yang’s puzzled gaze, Du Shuo explained, “Because this incident falls under Zhou Qi’s jurisdiction, it’s appropriate for him to handle it. Besides, I trust him to accompany you.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?”
Du Shuo pinched Chen Yang’s neck and gently touched his earlobe, using it as a form of comfort. “I’m too busy, can’t get away.”
Chen Yang felt a slight confusion but restrained himself from asking further, mindful of the others present. He turned to Zhou Qi, who nodded and wore a serious expression. “Elder Sister-in-law.”
Chen Yang smiled and casually took out a gold ingot to give to him. Zhou Qi accepted it and, disregarding the indifferent gaze from the Great Emperor, respectfully referred to Chen Yang as his sister-in-law. The rest of the group looked surprised. They had assumed Zhou Qi was human, but it was only when they saw Chen Yang burn the gold ingot and place it in Zhou Qi’s palm that they realized he was actually a ghost envoy.
Zhang Qiudao said, “Zhou Qi is Director Du’s subordinate.” Both he and Kou Xuanling had guessed Du Shuo’s identity as the Director-General Du Bei. In the branch, they had referred to him as Director Du multiple times during their conversation. However, Ma Shanfeng showed no surprise, and Mao Xiaoli seemed unaware, allowing them to casually refer to the Director without reservation.
Kou Xuanling and the others were surprised. They knew that Director-General was secretive and might be a Supreme Clarity Celestial Master. They never expected that he could directly recruit a ghost envoy as subordinate. But considering that Supreme Clarity Celestial Masters were said to have one foot in the realm of immortals, capable of commanding celestial soldiers and effortlessly conjuring troops, it made sense for them to have control over underworld ghost envoys as well.
Upon hearing Zhang Qiudao’s words, Ma Shanfeng felt a flutter in his brow. He had thought Zhou Qi’s name sounded familiar but dismissed it as a coincidence. After all, it wasn’t an exceptionally unique name. However, upon learning that Zhou Qi was a ghost envoy, his strong intuition grew even stronger, prompting him to carefully observe Zhou Qi’s appearance. He bore a striking resemblance to the image of the Five-Faced Ghost Emperor with his long, rugged beard.
Ma Shanfeng then noticed the level of respect Zhou Qi showed towards Du Shuo, as well as Du Shuo’s accustomed attitude towards him. He had a rough idea in his mind, feeling as if he had secured a significant backing in this branch. Their bureau director had connections with the entire Fengdu Underworld. Throughout the Celestial Master realm, no one else could possibly have such a background.
The astute Ma Shanfeng met the piercing gaze of the Great Emperor with an expression as if he saw through everything. While serving tea to the Great Emperor, he silently conveyed that he was just an old man with a peaceful demeanor. Du Shuo lifted his teacup and nodded at Ma Shanfeng. Their interaction seemed ordinary to others, who only saw Du Shuo as Ma Shanfeng’s contemporary, aside from their differing appearances.
Zhou Qi brought his hand from behind his back to the front, holding Chonky with limbs spread out like a pancake, looking utterly dejected. Chonky’s neck was gripped tightly, and its flabby body sagged in a circular shape. Zhou Qi shook it, causing the waves of fat all over its body to create a rhythmic “duang duang” sound.
Chonky figure appeared even more hopeless. Zhou Qi said, “I saw this cat spirit sneaking around outside the door, crawling on the walls.” In reality, Zhou Qi just wanted to test if Du Shuo was present or not.
“He’s just here for a free meal,” Kou Xuanling stood up and picked up Chonky, giving it a slight weigh. Frowning, he said, “Chonky, you must weigh at least fifty catties.”
Chen Yang glanced over and also thought he had gained weight. He said, “How about it, Chonky? Have you considered trying to lose some weight?” In an instant, Chonky felt as if the whole world was bullying him, the poor soul.
Ma Shanfeng had Kou Xuanling place Chonky next to him and remarked, “Not bad.” He carefully examined him for a moment and continued, “You’re not fat, at most, you’re prosperous. Being prosperous is good. It brings good fortune.”
Ma Shanfeng smiled warmly, observing the crowd’s prolonged scrutiny, finally confirming that he genuinely believed Chonky was merely prosperous and had spoken the truth. This must be a generation gap. As Kou Xuanling submitted his volunteer application to Changhe Sanatorium, Zhang Qiudao received a call from Mr. Qian. The voice on the other end sounded extremely humble and filled with fear.
After offering a few words of comfort, Zhang Qiudao hung up the phone. He said, “The Ghost Face Pustules behind Mr. Qian has started devouring his flesh.” This indicated that the Ghost Face Pustules. on Mr. Qian’s back had matured and was now capable of speaking and eating.
Chen Yang was puzzled and asked, “Didn’t he feed the Ghost Face Pustules?” Generally, as long as the Ghost Face Pustules was well-fed, it wouldn’t devour flesh.
Zhang Qiudao replied, “He did feed it. He hired someone to feed it constantly, twenty-four hours a day. However, the slightest negligence would result in the pustules devouring his flesh.”
“It seems Mr. Qian has no remorse.” The Ghost Face Pustules grew on Mr. Qian’s back but could also sense his fluctuating emotions. The Ghost Face Pustules only required regular feeding, and in a case like Mr. Qian’s, it was highly likely that he had provoked the pustules without a trace of remorse.
Chen Yang further inquired, “Are you going to pay him another visit?”
“Yes.” Zhang Qiudao stood up and went upstairs to fetch his own backpack. “I’ll see if I can pry something out of him. I reckon Mr. Qian, being greedy and afraid of death, will probably speak up when his life is at stake.”
The rest of the group busied themselves once again with their respective tasks, while Ma Shanfeng engaged in a conversation with Zhou Qi, building a rapport. He anticipated frequent future interactions, so Ma Shanfeng spoke with a hint of familiarity. Mao Xiaoli returned to her room to draw symbols and practice her techniques. Lately, she felt a faint awakening and realized that her magical powers were insufficient, necessitating diligent cultivation.
After closing his computer, Kou Xuanling went to offer incense and pay respects to his Ancestral Master before sitting cross-legged for meditation. Zhou Qi, quite surprised, asked Ma Shanfeng, who replied, “He’s attempting to enhance his connection with his Ancestral Master, hoping for more communication and interaction.”
Zhou Qi grew even more surprised and then looked at the portrait of the Ancestral Master. “Is he the successor of the Northern Tianshi Sect?” he asked Ma Shanfeng, who nodded. Zhou Qi continued, “Then Celestial Master Kou should offer his reverence to the patriarch or at least to the Three Pure Ones. Why isn’t he doing that?”
Ma Shanfeng was taken aback. Despite seeing Kou Xuanling making offerings to the ancestral deity every day, he had never carefully examined the portrait. He knew that Kou Xuanling did not offer reverence to the portrait of the Three Pure Ones and assumed it was the Ancestral Master of the Northern Tianshi, who founded the sect. Now, upon hearing Zhou Qi’s words, he was equally surprised. He asked, “Then whom does he offer his reverence to?”
Zhou Qi examined the portrait carefully. Of course, the portrait of the Ancestral Master wasn’t a depiction of a real person. He discerned the identity of the Ancestral Master by observing the ritual implements and hand gestures held by the priest in the painting. “He is also a priest of the Northern Tianshi Sect, indeed a high-ranking one,” Zhou Qi confirmed.
They didn’t delve into further details, and Ma Shanfeng wasn’t that curious either, so he didn’t inquire further. The two shifted the topic and continued their friendly conversation.
Chen Yang and Du Shuo entered the room. Du Shuo took a seat while Chen Yang paced back and forth in front of him. Du Shuo grabbed him by the arm. “Stop walking around. It’s making me dizzy. Sit down, and if you have any questions, just ask.”
“If you’re unwilling to disclose the identity of the mastermind behind the scenes, then I won’t ask. I can investigate it myself. However, you must tell me if that mastermind has been involved in any other activities, disrupting the Fengdu Underworld.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Du Shuo denied, but upon seeing Chen Yang’s piercing gaze, he sighed and said, “An evil spirit escaped from hell, twenty years ago. Surprisingly, no one noticed until a few days ago when a ghost in Wangsi City suddenly regained consciousness and cried out for justice. As soon as I took charge of the investigation, more vengeful spirits began clamoring for justice, nearly inciting a riot in the Wangsi City. I went to suppress the unrest, and upon ordering an investigation, we discovered that an evil spirit had been on the run in the mortal realm for twenty years.”
“If the underworld guardians failed to fulfill their duties, how will Fengdu handle the punishment?” Chen Yang asked.
Du Shuo’s expression turned cold, and he replied, “Collective responsibility. All underworld guardians and subordinate ghosts involved in the negligence will be punished.”
Worriedly, Chen Yang inquired, “Will you also be punished?”
Du Shuo’s face softened slightly as he tightened his grip on Chen Yang’s hand. “No, I won’t,” he said. “I’m from Fengdu’s side, not involved with the underworld. It’s just that Wangsi City was on the brink of a riot, and there’s an escaped evil spirit from hell. We have to conduct a new trial, so I can’t accompany you.”
Chen Yang shook his head and reassured him, “It’s alright.” Then he asked, “Is the escaped evil spirit related to the mastermind behind the scenes?”
“There’s some connection,” Du Shuo replied.
Chen Yang nodded, a sense of certainty forming in his heart.
At first glance, Zhang Qiudao almost mistook Mr. Qian for someone else. Mr. Qian’s appearance had deteriorated significantly, his thin frame exposing prominent bones as if about to pierce through his skin. He hunched slightly, his face filled with pain and exhaustion. Sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a patient’s gown, he seemed to have intended to find a doctor to remove the two Ghost Face Pustules.
Mr. Qian said, “It failed. As soon as the surgeon’s scalpel touched me, even with a high dose of anesthesia, I would still wake up in agony. I know that once the ghostly sores are cut off, I will suffer unbearable pain. Celestial Master Zhang, please save me. I was wrong. I truly regret it. I have prayed for them, performed acts of kindness and virtue, even held a religious ceremony for them. I beg you to let them depart.”
Zhang Qiudao said, “Mr. Qian, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
Mr. Qian revealed to Zhang Qiudao the truth about how he had plotted the murders of his two children, his wife, and his mother-in-law. Zhang Qiudao coldly gazed at him and said, “I don’t see any sign of remorse from you.”
Mr. Qian was taken aback and grasped Zhang Qiudao’s hand, repeatedly claiming that he knew he was wrong and had already begun to feel remorse. Zhang Qiudao pushed his hand away, took a seat, and said, “Then please answer some questions for me, Mr. Qian.”
“Certainly, ask your questions. I will answer them without fail.”
Zhang Qiudao continued, “Who or what was behind your actions? Who orchestrated those deeds?”
Mr. Qian paused, feigning ignorance. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” he chuckled nervously.
“Mr. Qian, neither you nor I are fools. We have discovered more than what you believe. Do you think that by following the commands of that thing, you could recklessly manipulate others? Have you ever considered that you yourself were merely a pawn being manipulated?” Zhang Qiudao said, his tone stern.
Mr. Qian fell silent.
Zhang Qiudao continued, “Mr. Qian, you lost your son, and the building project collapsed, didn’t it?”
This statement struck a nerve with Mr. Qian. He tore away his facade of righteousness, his eyes reddened, and he said, “I can tell you about that… that thing, but I want to see Chen Yang. I need to meet him. Only when he arrives will I reveal information about the person who manipulated me.”
Zhang Qiudao looked at him coldly, stood up, and walked toward the door. “Whether you speak or not, no one is forcing you to do so.”
Mr. Qian gasped for breath, the pain in his back nearly driving him to madness. He shouted, “I won’t say a word unless Chen Yang comes. Even if you can help me get rid of the ghostly sores, once I reveal the information, I won’t survive! You make him come, and I’ll tell you everything!”
Zhang Qiudao hesitated for a moment, then went back and finally decided to inform Chen Yang about the matter. “Director Chen, are you going?”
“Yes, I’ll go.”
“I have a feeling that he has a plot. Why else would he insist on you going? His behavior clearly shows that he recognized you long ago, but when we went to see him last time, he pretended not to know you. Moreover, it was your first meeting back then. Now his behavior makes me think that that organization is planning something against you.”
“I know he must have recognized me long ago. His expression was off when we met last time. But this indicates that the other party indeed intends to harm me. In that case, it’s even more reason to go and find out.”
Chen Yang really went to see Mr. Qian, who burst with excitement upon seeing him. He called out to Chen Yang, asking him to come closer and closer, his face filled with insatiable greed.
Chen Yang stood three meters away from Mr. Qian and said, “Mr. Qian, now tell us what you know.”
Mr. Qian grew displeased and said, “Come closer.”
Chen Yang gazed at him calmly, and Mr. Qian felt a hint of fear, reluctantly accepting the distance between them. “What do you want to know?” he asked.
“What is the name of that mysterious organization? Who is the mastermind behind it? How do you communicate with them?”
Mr. Qian smiled and replied, “There is no mysterious organization, only believers and the god. The mode of communication is through divine revelations, naturally appearing in our minds and hearts, guiding our actions.”
“Be more clear,” Chen Yang demanded.
Mr. Qian explained, “We are all believers, and it is the Blissful Bodhisattva. As long as we sincerely believe in it in our hearts, even without making offerings, it will bestow divine revelations upon us, resolving our problems through dreams. It allows us to find peace and joy.” Even in such circumstances, Mr. Qian’s face and eyes were filled with piety and faith when he mentioned the Blissful Bodhisattva, showing great reverence towards the deity.
“I don’t know what wicked creature emerged from nowhere, pretending to be a Bodhisattva, teaching you how to do evil deeds and luring you into committing murder. Does that make you believe? Blissful Bodhisattva? Are you feeling blissful and joyful now? Why doesn’t it cure the ghostly sores on your back?” Chen Yang retorted.
“Because I disappointed the Bodhisattva. I could have executed everything flawlessly, without neglecting the two children and allowing them to uncover the truth, giving them someone to seek revenge on. I was too arrogant and complacent, disappointing the Bodhisattva. But it’s okay, I will make amends!” With that, he suddenly sprung up from his wheelchair, holding a small knife and viciously lunging at Chen Yang. “I’ll kill you as an offering to the Blissful Bodhisattva! It will forgive me and save me!!”
Chen Yang coldly evaded the attack, stepping on Mr. Qian. Due to Mr. Qian’s sudden twisted mentality, the ghostly sores on his back relentlessly gnawed at his flesh, causing him to scream in agony once again, pleading for Chen Yang to save him.
Chen Yang dialed the police and had Mr. Qian sent to prison on charges of attempted murder. Bankrupt and unable to afford a lawyer, tormented by the ghostly sores, Mr. Qian endured several years of suffering in prison before finally succumbing to his affliction.
Chen Yang felt that this trip had yielded some results. At the very least, he now knew the name of the mastermind behind it all. He planned to investigate further upon his return to uncover more information.
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