Eventually, the sky darkens.
Chu finishes his job, and stands on the rooftop with hands in his pockets. The north wind howls and blows his hair up. Guo suspects that he might be whipped up by the wind the next moment; Chu really is too skinny, so much that he appears malnourished.
Guo doesn’t dare to move; beneath his feet is a rooftop covered with cinnabar powder.
Chu used the rooftop as a big piece of yellow paper, and drew a gigantic “talisman” with cinnabar powder. Then, he used black stones to mark eight positions. Guo, standing at the centre of the “talisman”, instantly feels a change of atmosphere. The night breeze comes with some kind of special odour; he can’t describe it well.
The smell is sticky, humid, not putrid, but mixed with the scents of mud and blood, and a touch of elusive bitterness.
Guo is pumping his nose, puzzled, “Brother Chu?”
“That’s the smell of grudge.” Chu doesn’t turn around. He looks down into the darkness. They have set up an elaborate trap, and in the gloom, Shen wears a light grey coat; especially outstanding. He is standing right on the spot of the capturer. Chu shakes his head, “Who is Chief Zhao involved with this time? Shen… I’ve never heard of such a figure before.”
This instant, Shen looks up, but it’s too dark so Chu can’t make out his expression. The next moment, he vanishes from where he stood.
Chu’s face tenses up, “It’s coming.”
Guo says, “Ah?”
“Ah your head!” Chu rushes towards him, and like treating psoriasis, sticks a yellow paper talisman on to his face, “Shut your mouth! Don’t make any sound.”
The special smell grows thicker and thicker. Lin puts away his phone after taking selfies, and in the northeastern corner, he opens the bottle with a stern face. A filthy cloud of black smoke ascends; Lin looks up, holds with his hands a Mudra Mahabala, his face incredibly solemn. And yet, he doesn’t kill it as Zhao ordered, but begins chanting transcendence scripture.
This used to be a living soul, born within the Heavens and the Earth, and from the essence of Nature. Perhaps it’s a new soul, or perhaps it’s one that had reincarnated countless times. Lin cannot bring himself to execute it so violently, unlike Zhao.
And yet the bellowing chant has as much effect on it as music does on an oblivious ox. The grudge will not be appeased, and the repetitive babbling only causes it to grow larger mid-air and spread out like a colossal monster. It howls towards the sky, and the moonlit night is quickly shrouded in darkness.
The next moment, three gunshots pierce through the silence of the night. The small fragment of grudge shatters into pieces, and in a short while, dissipates in the air.
A window on the sixth floor is open. Lin can see a flickering light, and he can almost imagine Zhao’s expression, as he looks down, frowning, and says “stupid monk chanting scripture” with discontent.
Not everything in this world is capable of transcendence. If that were the case, the Guardian Order and the SIU wouldn’t have to exist. Maybe you’d like to help him cross the river, but he wouldn’t even budge a step.
A screeching howl comes from afar. Lin holds his palms together, bellows a mantra, and somersaults on to a branch of a withered and leafless tree. An enormous sphere of black smoke crashes like a bomb on to where he stood just a moment ago; the bricks on the ground are instantly shattered, and pebbles fly out into the air. A humongous figure arrives with a whirl of gust, around four, five metres tall, with only the upper body, and all that’s left of the legs are bones; black blood drips as it walks, and every droplet sizzles on the ground, melting rocks along the way.
“You’re not letting anyone stand in your way at all, so it seems.” Lin laughs bitterly, but his legs are not hesitant. Like a giant spider, he leaps on to a window of the second floor, and with bare hands he ascends the hospital
building, climbing up the windows and cracks in the wall; he moves even faster than an elevator. The black shadow follows behind persistently.
Lin mounts up to the sixth floor, and shouts towards the black cat by the window, “Catch!”
Da Qing pounces out like a black meatball, and six bells hung in several corners ring together. With the sound of a woman’s shout, a giant serpent slithers out from a corner, forked tongue rolling, and a cloud of black smoke is sucked in.
The black shadow tailing Lin thrashes about. The ringing grows more and more intense, and clouds of black smoke are being sucked into the mouth of the giant serpent. The half figure is shrinking down.
Then suddenly, the shadow floats in the air and from within the clear face of a man emerges. It’s the man Guo saw: white-haired, red-eyed.
Zhao puts out a cigarette on the window sill, “Zhu Hong, dodge!”
At the same time, the six ringing bells are stuck, and are muted simultaneously.
The black cat pounces on to the serpent, and as they fall to the ground, the serpent transforms into a woman again. The windows on the sixth floor are all shattered, and the half-bodied man swells up a few sizes.
Zhao bends down and helps Zhu get up. He then stands by the window, just a few metres away from the grudge floating mid-air.
“Guardian Order.” He says, like it’s only standard police business, “So you died and didn’t enter reincarnation properly. It’s almost New Year, and you decided to start poisoning people?”
The words “New Year” seem to have aggravated the grudge, he extends his ginormous hand and tries to seize Zhao’s neck with an endless swirl of black smoke.
The Guardian Order morphs into a whip and grows like a living vine, sliding out of the man’s sleeve and wrapping around the giant hand. Man and ghost are in a deadlock standing on a bunch of shattered glass.
Zhu pushes Lin hard, “Are you blind, go help!”
Lin was just chased after by the grudge and played Spider-Man for a while, his fingers are still hurting, and he has yet to catch his breath. He wears a bitter face, “Help? He… help with what? Do you see how big this thing is, what do you think I can do?”
“Chime your bell! Aren’t monks supposed to chime bells every day!?”
She shouts into Lin’s ear, which begins to buzz. He says helplessly, “Good madam, please calm yourself down. I’m a Shaolin disciple, we don’t chime bells all day! Besides, may Buddha have mercy, mercy on dark and evil souls. This one used to be a human, the bell wouldn’t have much effect anyway; and you couldn’t even swallow the grudge, you think my crappy bell will work?”
“I don’t care, think of something!”
Lin looks towards Zhao, and sighs miserably, “May Buddha have mercy… mercy on my face and make me more handsome.”
Then, he takes out a small pot, about the size of a hand; he opens the lid, and a smell of lamp oil oozes out. Lin very reluctantly looks inside, and is about to put his hand in, but Zhao waves towards him, like he can see sideways, “Save your lamp oil, I don’t need your help.”
The next second, the grudge wriggles out of the Guardian’s whip, which swirls into the air and retracts into his sleeve. The grudge roars and rips out the window frame; a massive cloud of black smoke squeezes inside, almost bursting open the wall.
At the same time, Zhao stands back, both hands straightened out in front, fingers spread out, holding a dagger in his right hand, and silently slashes open his left palm. Bright red blood flows into the fuller of the blade, then stops moving as if solidified.
A smile emerges on the man’s face.
Da Qing sees it, and its fur stands upright, pouncing away from him and into Zhu’s arms. That smile does not look like Zhao in the slightest. In that moment, his eyes are incredibly hollow, his gaze menacing, the silhouette of
his nose casts on to half of his face, and his mouth curves up with chilling diabolism.
For a moment, none can tell which of the two is the actual ghost.
“Depths of Hell, heed my call,” The voice doesn’t seem to be Zhao’s either; deep and inexplicably coarse, it cuts ones ears like a blunt saw, “blood as oath, cold iron as proof, borrow thy three thousand soldiers, men and gods, none shall survive…”
The last few words were uttered slowly, one after another; indescribably eerie and berserk. The blood on the blade turns black, and countless empty armours burst through the white wall behind him, riding on skeleton war horses, towing rotten blades, charging forward with the force of crumbling mountains and devastating tsunamis. The grudge is forced outside, and one of its hands is quickly slashed off.
Zhao stumbles backwards, as if fatigued, and leans on to the wall, falling to the ground amidst the horrified gazes of the others. He lowers his hand, from which blood keeps on flowing, and says, puffing and panting, “Fuck, it’s all over my sleeve, can dry washing clean this up?”
Da Qing walks forward and a little closer to him, testing the waters; it stops around half a metre away, and asks carefully, “Yunlan?”
Zhao raises his eyebrows, “Hmmm?”
Black cat is familiar with this look… it’s familiar with all looks that make a cat want to paw, and so it does not hesitate to slap him across the face, and roars, “What the hell was that just now!? I never taught you this kind of dark magic!”
“Humans read, stupid cat.” Zhao says boastfully.
Da Qing almost loses it, climbing on to his body, it stands on his legs with its front paws on his upper arms, “What book did you take from the library!?”
Zhao pats it on the head with his uninjured hand, “Book of Souls. Don’t worry, I was just trying to clarify something, and accidentally came across this. Just now I happened to think of it. I’m not plotting anything, do you not believe in my integrity?”
Black cat roars, “Do you have integrity at all!?”
Zhao has an entire face of cat saliva.
But the black cat eventually jumps down from Zhao’s shoulder, and barely accepts his explanation. It can somewhat believe in Zhao’s judgment, but it still says with discontent, “If you want your ugly ID card picture to be posted on Hell’s arrest order and passed around for everyone to see, then I have nothing to say.”
As it finishes, Zhao pushes it on to the ground, and scolds, “The picture on my ID card is handsome, cool, extraordinarily good-looking and captivating, you’re just jealous, you cake-faced pig-fat cat.”
Chu calls on the phone from the rooftop, overflowing with excitement, “Was that Shadow Blitz? Who the hell did that? That was totally insane! That was too motherfucking awesome, alright?”
Zhu can’t help it; she snatches the phone and hangs up.
Lin feels compelled to ask, “Shadow Blitz? Catalysed with blood?”
“Blood and iron serve as channels.” Zhao catches a breath, crawls up from the floor, pats off some dirt from him, and heads outside, “The true catalyst is malice. From malice comes brutality, I guess this counts as fighting evil with evil.”
Zhu hesitates; as she follows him out, and asks, “You have malicious thoughts?”
“Of course, am I not human?” Zhao smiles, and candidly admits, “I have a lot in fact… I actually think that Shadow Blitz should not be classified as dark magic, I think it’s quite nice: spiritual yoga, detox; you come out of it refreshed and relaxed.”
Zhu has nothing to say.
Da Qing jumps on to Zhao’s shoulder, and punches his nose.
“Ouch! You fat fuq!”
The grudge is being cornered by the Shadow Troops, it realises that this is a losing battle, and decides to run for it.
Chu’s two layers of ‘net’ are instantly triggered. Actually, they didn’t expect the evil ghost to be so powerful. If Shen weren’t in the guarding position, as the grudge is almost defeated by Zhao, it might escape.
A lightning strike, having accrued for long, comes crashing down from the sky. The grudge is being held in place by something invisible, and the Shadow Troops on its tail vanish suddenly. It struggles frantically, and the entire area around the hospital is quivering; those outside of the protected zone must think it’s an earthquake.
Chu shouts from the rooftop, “The bug is on the web, spider don’t let the prey escape!”
Having vanished for long, Shen suddenly appears behind the grudge, and claws in the air; the grudge’s neck is seized by an invisible hand, and the black smoke shrouding its body disperses until a legless man remains, glaring at Shen with contempt.
Without much movement, Shen’s fingers tighten. Like a piece of paper, the grudge is squeezed into a sphere. Flash, and it evaporates in Shen’s grasp.