Although Chu doesn’t talk to Guo much, in the few times they’ve made contact, he always manages to show off what he can do. In the “small and young” heart of Guo, an everlasting impression is left.
Guo thinks, though the Chief is remarkable, he is usually a lot friendlier, and his jokes and pranks give him a more down-to-earth vibe. He is at most like a father or big brother, no matter how powerful he may be, there is not much mysteriousness.
But Chu is different. Brother Chu is totally an otherworldly “sage”.
Guo acts like he’s following the “Code of Conduct for the Newcomer at Work” online, he brings a small notebook with him, and follows Chu eagerly. He dares not say anything, and only jots notes on everything he sees.
The two enter the hospital, and they see a young policeman waiting at the door. They show their police ID, and get inside a room.
The one waiting for them is called Little Wang, who says while walking, “Our Chief is inside too, just now I briefly discussed with Chief Zhao. This incident is particularly severe, family of the victim called the police to report someone selling poisonous food. The victim is inside, till now, the doctors still can’t figure out what kind of poison it is.”
Chu asks, “Food poisoning? What kind of food?”
“Fruit.” Little Wang says, “The victim got off work last night, and didn’t have time for dinner; according to his family, he ate an orange he bought from a street vendor, and passed out immediately and ended up in hospital. I’ve heard of poisoned water or processed food with harmful chemicals, but never poisoned fruits.”
As he speaks, he pushes open the door to the patient’s room, and a burst of earth-shattering screams exlplodes. Guo is frightened, he tiptoes and peeks inside behind Chu.
A man in his late thirties lay on the bed, wriggling and quivering. The doctors and nurses hold him in place. There is a crying woman in the room as well, probably family of the patient.
The man on the bed clutches the hand of a doctor, almost tearing off his skin, and howls insanely, “My legs, my legs are broken… My legs! Ah! Ah!!!”
In wails and in screeches, the veins on his neck pump up.
“Help! Help me… my legs are broken… it’s so painful, help… it hurts!!!”
“Legs?” Chu asks Little Wang, “Didn’t you say it’s food poisoning? What happened to his legs?”
“Nothing,” Little Wang says. “not even a bruise. They scanned his legs and found nothing… which is why we’re clueless.”
Chu walks forward and pats a nurse on the shoulder, signalling her to move aside. He lifts up the man’s eyelids, and studies his irises. Then he examines the back of his ears, mutters something, and clutches a fist and pushes it forcefully between the man’s chest and abdomen.
The man suddenly stops struggling.
Chu asks, “Still painful now?”
The man catches a breath and gratefully looks at him, shaking his head.
The doctors and nurses beside all stare at them as if they were an evil cult.
Chu heartlessly releases his hand, and without a care for the resumed screaming behind him, he turns to Guo and says, “We’re done here, let’s go, we’ll head back to write a report.”
Guo is speechless.
Their job is done just like that! That… what just happened?
Shen’s elective course is at night, as he watches the last batch of students leave, he packs his stuff, and goes back to his apartment on Earth. On his way, he can’t help but keep looking at his phone… like he is really concerned about the time.
His phone has merely three functions: phone calls, messaging, and telling the time. The games came with the phone, and he never plays them.
Shen doesn’t like this gadget, he finds writing a letter more convenient. If it’s urgent you could write a quick note, if it’s not you can take your time and write a little longer. Unlike making phone calls, which is charged by the hour, whenever he thinks of that, he feels like someone is watching him talk on the phone, it’s very uncomfortable.
And opening a letter is a process marked with joyful anticipation, especially when the sender is someone special. Only their handwriting can trigger the deepest longing, and all their letters can be kept in a collection for a long time.
It’s a pity that Zhao never writes letters. Even when he’s signing for a delivery package he finds his name too long and just scribbles an illegible “Zhao”. To “Ghost Slayer”, he gives the messenger puppet a verbal message; to “Shen Wei”, he bombards him with instant messaging.
The cold fonts of the messages look no different from those sent by the telecom company to notify remaining values. Though Shen never deleted any of them, he isn’t quite used to it… but now there’s nothing for him to get used to, ever since they came back from the mountains, Zhao never disturbed him again.
Perhaps this is for the best, Shen thinks. A normal human can only live for several dozen years, to him, that’s like snapping his fingers. Men die like burnt-out candles, and everything from their lives no longer matter thereafter; by then, Zhao will forget all about him once again.
Shen pushes open the door to his bedroom that has always been closed. As it opens, the lights turn on automatically.
In the room, there is no bed, no table, and no chair; only a cluster of pictures on the wall. From the frames one can see that they are aged, and they are all paintings of a man: front, profile, back view; the paintings are arranged chronologically, as seen from his clothes, which change through dynasties and periods. And yet, it has always been the same person; even the most detailed expression in his eyebrows is portrayed scrupulously, and it never changes throughout centuries.
And after the ancient paintings come big and small photographs, some of his teenage years, others of his older years… smiling, frowning, chitchatting and fooling around; there’s even one in which a cat pounces on to his head, and he’s tilting his neck and yelling.
All are Zhao Yunlan. It’s always been just him.
Shen thinks, there are some things that only he has to know, only he has to remember. When the time is up, he will also disappear, alone. Better if no-one notices… after all, his very existence is a mistake.
Before that, the only thing Shen can indulge in is stealthily watching that person, without his noticing.
He would sneak into Zhao’s apartment late at night, but that man is very alert, so he can’t stay for long. Luckily, Zhao has been having a lot of dinner gatherings lately, and he usually arrives home half-drunken. Only then can Shen walk just a little closer
Coming without a sound. Leaving without a sound.
Shen affectionately looks at the wall full of paintings and photographs, and disappears in a cloud of black mist.
He speeds through the road to Hell, and beside the Bridge of Fate, the Judge is leading a crowd of Hell Guards, including Black Ghost and White Ghost, as well as Ox-Head and Horse-Face, all waiting for the Ghost Slayer.
The Judge is a pale-faced and plump middle-aged man; he wears a kind expression. As he sees Shen, he’s all smiles and incredibly polite, “Your Honour, the Ten Kings of Hell are expecting you.”
On the deserted land full of wails, next to the Bridge of Fate, Shen’s refreshing eyes seem a bit cold. He nods towards the Hell Guards, and without looking up, he says politely, “Thanks.”
The Judge watches his expression, and heedfully says, “Last time we sent the Guardian the Book of Life and Death, that was truly a mistake on our part. It almost revealed your identity, and we are incredibly sorry, Your Honour.”
Shen looks at him quietly. The Judge drips in cold sweat.
And so the old guy tries to brush things off, “But everything regarding Lord Kunlun has been wiped away, I can guarantee, nothing remains, not even the tiniest clue. The Guardian is now amongst the living, as long as that ghost face doesn’t spout, he will not find out anything. Besides, Guardian is noble and
pristine like the winds and moon, a filthy being like ghost face would not dare ‘awaken’ him.”
Shen laughs softly, marked with unspeakable ridicule. He doesn’t say anything… he really has nothing decent to say.
The Judge struggles to laugh dryly, and wipes off sweat with his sleeves.
He himself feels that sending Zhao the Book of Life and Death was indeed an all-too-apparent and idiotic move on the part of Hell, but what can he do about it?
It’s not like he calls the shots here.
There are ten big deities above him. The big guys even ordered him to secretly find out what the Ghost Slayer thinks, and which side he is on… though the Ghost Slayer rarely speaks, and always seems gentle and polite, his mind is clear as a mirror.
Nobody is stupid here. The old Judge really doesn’t want to try how fast Ghost Slayer’s blade is.
Besides, if that big god is really awakened, would he then agree to be on their side?
When he was banished all those years ago, wasn’t it due to defiance?