The next day, the sunlight gave Cheng Haidong courage and he told everyone about his experience while exaggerating the circumstances, emphasising that if it weren’t for the courageous Lan He waking him up, he would not know what could have happened instead.
Everyone was chilled after knowing that he experienced the “Ghost sitting on the bed” phenomenon while sleeping in the deceased old man’s house. Very quickly, the news that a cameraman had met a ghost had travelled throughout the filming crew.
The director’s actions of cancelling the night shoot did not induce many waves last night, but today the story changed and people said that the director had a keen sense and had already known there was something afoot early on. Yantang village’s quaint atmosphere, within a night, had become an atmosphere thick with strangeness in their eyes.
The director was extremely unhappy and felt that the village’s actions were immoral, going as far to rent the deceased’s house to them even though they had shown respect to the deceased. Thinking that there weren’t many days left, he called Cheng Haidong over to comfort him, and arranged for them to be moved to a house next to him.
The production team had hired the villagers to make meals for them and even act as extras so the news had quickly spread from the team to the whole village, and it was unavoidable that the villagers would gossip about this.
After meeting a ghost, Cheng Haidong’s complexion became less lively, but he still insisted on participating in the gossip, “The villagers are spreading the news about the banner that you mentioned- the gold and silver banner. Apparently it was crudely made so it was unable to be erected. The old man hasn’t left because of this. Say, if he was at odds with his family, he should look for them, what good would it do for him to look for me, did he really take me as his grandson….”
Lan He did not find it strange, and instead had a realisation. Yesterday when he lit the incense for the old man, there was a musty smell beneath the fragrance.
Additionally, the paper money was made with yellow paper. Nowadays, there are a lot of paper money that are printed on recycled paper, but there are still people who use the traditional paper money printed on yellow paper, this was not surprising. However, he noticed that the marks on the paper were blurred and it seemed like they were roughly made.
What kind of mark? For traditional paper money, it’s necessary to use a special seal, hit it with a hammer and stamp the yellow paper to produce the image of coins.
In ancient times, craftsmen were hired to go to the homes of the family to make them, and there was a special profession called “Money chiseler”. Nowadays, you can buy or do the stamping by yourself, as long as there is a mark, it can be considered as paper “money”. Otherwise, it would be like a document without an official seal, just a useless piece of paper.
Therefore, a large proportion of the burnt paper money was just normal yellow paper, and could not be used even when they reached the Nether World.
Lan He did find it strange previously, since they were willing to buy the gold and silver banner, why would they be stingy with the incense and paper? Now he knew that the gold and silver banner was made without care, their actions made sense and were in line.
Because of what happened to Cheng Haidong, there were many discussions within the crew. That night, they ended work after 8 and were still discussing tips to ward off evil, such as putting things like knives or money under their pillow.
Even though they stopped work at night, it was by no means a rest. Everyone still had to communicate and prepare for the next day’s work. Cheng Haidong followed them to the big boss’s room, and Lan He was in his own room preparing for his scenes the next day.
Lan He only heard Cheng Haidong returning to his courtyard at around 12 midnight and it was unclear who he was talking to in a low voice.
The house did not have any kind of sound insulation, after Lan He heard the sound of people talking, he did not hear the sound of the door opening next door even after a long time. He initially thought that Cheng Haidong went to the toilet, but he felt that it was not right, and went out to take a look.
Only to see Cheng Haidong sitting on top of a step in the courtyard, back facing the entrance, head lowered while doing something unknown.
“Dong?” Lan He shouted while walking forward, but Cheng Haidong had no reaction. When he walked close, he smelt the familiar scent of burnt joss paper. Hurriedly, he turned Cheng Haidong around, only to see his two dull eyes, almost resembling a piece of wood.
Lan He cursed softy. Looking left and right, there’s nobody in sight, so he supported Cheng Haidong into his room. He can walk, it’s just that he had no consciousness of his own. It was as if he lost his soul.
Within the fragrance of the joss paper, Lan He could smell a familiar hint of decay. Perhaps his soul was taken away by Old Man Song. Cheng Haidong had just experienced the “Ghost sitting on bed” phenomenon yesterday and already had low Yang, so today, his soul was directly taken away.
Lan He’s grandfather was a clothing tailor who had opened a paper banner shop meant for the dead - the “clothing” here collectively refers to all the paper objects meant for the dead. They could be as large as the gold and silver banners, paper weapons, paper people, even as small as paper money, he made them all.
Being in this line of business, it was inevitable to deal with the matters related to ghosts and gods. People often considered it as making money from the Nether World, as their trade was related to the Nether World.
Lan He had been influenced since he was a child, he knew that if he did not manage to retrieve Cheng Haidong, Cheng Haidong would be a fool from here on out.
Lan He had always upheld the belief that humans and the supernatural should not intersect, and if there was no need, he would ignore the affairs of the Nether World. But Lan He could not sit by and watch idly while his brother lost his soul, and quickly looked through the room.
Nearing the Qingming festival, many villager houses had prepared joss sticks, paper money and related items. Lan He found a stack of yellow paper, it was just that they were unstamped. His fingers moved quickly and folded the yellow paper many times. When he opened them again, they formed a full ingot.
Lan He and his grandfather got along well and would help each other with chores. Being extremely familiar with handiwork, they could form a few thousand paper ingots in a day. Even though it had been a long time since he had to, it did not take long for him to accumulate a small pile.
After piling the paper ingots, he found white paper and folded it into paper clothes. There was also coloured paper, but it was necessary to make the paper clothes of the newly deceased with white paper as the new ghosts did not dare to wear coloured clothes. Since he was folding for the newly deceased Old Man Song, he naturally used white paper.
He folded a paper person as well and wrote the name and birth date according to Cheng Haidong’s identity card.
On another piece of envelope, he wrote the old man’s full name and the year he was born in as well as the year he passed away - when he lit the incense for the old man, he saw the information on a notice pasted on the coffin. Writing their name would be the only way to ensure that the deceased would receive it.
Lan He threw all of the things out, gathered the ingots, paper clothes and paper person and piled them on top, his hand holding on to Cheng Haidong’s lighter.
Burning the paper person was to provide Cheng Haidong with a substitute body, so that it would be easier to call him back. The ingot and clothes were because Lan He remembered that the old man’s family, like assholes, did not burn anything good for him.
With these, the old man would have an easier existence.
Lan He pressed the lighter and the small flame swayed into existence. The light was reflected in his pupils.
A hundred mountains of gold and silver, would become ten thousand pieces of Nether World currency, aiding the deceased in passing through the Nine Springs.
Lan He’s pupils constricted. The ingots were being incinerated too quickly. In a flash, they all caught fire and he did not even have time to put the envelope in. If this went on, there would be no way to ensure that the ingots would be going to the deceased.
Additionally, horizontally blown ashes were the sign of the deceased receiving the offerings. It was said, if the wind was blowing upwards……
—A chilly wind seemed to be blowing at his nape.
There was a sour, bloated feeling in his bones, as if the sinister wind had cut straight into the gaps in his bones.
Late at night in the Qing style ancient courtyard, there was only a cool moonlight spilling downwards and there was no sound or colour. Other than the fluttering paper butterflies, there was only the sound of light breathing, as if it were within reach, as if it were….. It was….
Lan He slowly breathed out, steeled himself and turned around, fully facing a face with a grey-white complexion and ink black pupils. A cold breath was exhaled onto Lan He’s face.
Lan He’s heart constricted wildly, and only managed to maintain his calm by using his fingers to put pressure on his palm.
The distance between them did not exceed a metre. Lan He met eyes with him, and felt the thick odor wrap around his whole body.
Unexpectedly, after meeting eyes for two seconds, the other party’s face came even closer, as if testing Lan He, who had no initial reaction. His black eyes were filled with scrutiny.
“....En.” Lan He slowly pinched the envelope, fanned the wind a little and looked straight at the person in front of him. “I’m rather hungry.”
The other party looked at Lan He suspiciously and maintained his distance, looking at Lan He with a dead stare.
If it were any other person who was being stared down like this, they would probably have lost their minds.
Lan He looked at the situation clearly, the man was clothed in white, wearing a tall hat which had “One Look Produces Talent” inscribed. There was a red lantern in his hand, which had the words “Dongyue Underworld Official” on it.
This was…. Bai Wuchang?
In the Nether World, this was one of the most well-known government officials. He was the Grim Reaper and the Impermanent of the legends, and everyone in the country knew who he was.
People said that malicious ghosts were the most terrifying, but it was evident that the entity with the responsibility to wrangle malicious ghosts would be similarly terrifying. An Impermanent is still a ghost, even if they had a kind nature, after doing his duty so many times, he exuded an aura of malevolence.
Even malicious ghosts would be afraid when they saw him, not to mention the people who lived in the Over World. It was said that if they met him accidentally, they would be seriously ill.
Lan He had, for the most part, only theoretical knowledge. The joss paper flew high, and it was indeed the sign that they were taken by a spirit in the Nether World. It was just a little strange, the Bai Wuchang in the legends was an elder in the Nether World, the ambassador of the Nether World’s government officials who specialised in capturing malicious ghosts. For an ordinary person, the chances of seeing him would be very low.
He was indeed so “lucky”, for Bai Wuchang to come and steal his ingots? Also, according to legend, Hei Wuchang’s hat would have “World Peace” inscribed on it and Bai Wuchang’s hat would have “One Look Produces Fortune” inscribed, how come this Wuchang’s hat had “Talent” written on it?
Lan He was a little suspicious, but he continued looking at the other party with a relaxed face.
This was the quality of an actor: Even when he was making eye contact with Bai Wuchang, he could still pretend as if he did not see anything.
He just wanted to save Cheng Haidong, he did not wish to have to deal with another world.
Only to see Bai Wuchang stare at him for a long while, before walking two steps to the side. He scooped up the ingots to scrutinise, and his voice that was so cold and dark that it seemed like it could produce iced water, but with genuine glee, said, “Good, good quality!”
The more he looked, the more he liked it, and asked Lan He coldly, “Where did you buy this from?”
Lan He turned a deaf ear to him, the ingot mountain had already been completely burnt so he took a broom and began sweeping the ashes.
Wuchang did not get an answer, with a hum, his doubts dissipated slowly and he stuffed the ingot mountain comfortably into his seemingly bottomless pockets. He even picked as his nostrils.
Lan He: “.....”
As if nothing had happened, he walked towards his room, only to hear Bai Wuchang’s cold voice ring out, “Ordering Lan He to enter the 72nd generation of the Dongyue government as an official!”
…… D*mn, how did he know my name? Lan He felt his body becoming light, and automatically closed his eyes.
When he reopened his eyes, his feet had already slightly left the ground. Lowering his head to take a look, he saw that his body was collapsed on the floor, not like Cheng Haidong who had only lost his soul, Lan He’s body without both his soul and spirit, seemed like it was dead.
Bai Wuchang stared at him in shock, his hands holding a piece of official document, said, “You’re Lan He? Just now, I thought that you could not see me!”
Lan He: “......”
Bai Wuchang: “......”
Lan He: “............”
This was a little awkward.
Bai Wuchang was so bewildered he laughed, “You would even lie to ghosts? Good, that’s good, little brother, you have potential. I’m telling you, from today onwards, you’re going to be a general of our Dongyue Government.”
Lan He said woodenly, “You’re saying, I’m going to be a part-time worker.”
He had already come to terms with what had happened. The Nether World was busy, and if Wuchang could not cope, he could acquire someone from the living world to be a government official for him, helping him to capture souls, and after he finished work, he could go back.
This kind of errand was known as “Impermanence”, “Yin Walking”, and the people who did them were called “Impermanent”. Because they’re living humans who correspond with the impermanent ghosts.
Of course, using modern slang, it was called being a part-time worker in the Nether World government.
But Lan He did not know how he got onto this name list and became forcibly entered into the team.
“It’s up to you what you call it.” Wuchang laughed, “Recently, the underworld lacks manpower, if you follow me and do your job properly, I won’t treat you badly.”
Lan He had to try. “Sir Wuchang, this isn’t what I’m meant for…”
Perhaps witches and magicians would look forward to building connections with the underworld officials. But Lan He had a job of his own, and he did not wish to become a part-timer. Additionally, making money in the underworld was not really that great either.
Bai Wuchang rubbed his own face and even had a hint of happiness. It was just that his face had the heavy aura of death, so it looked a little strange. “Oh, but I’m not Lord Xie, you’ve recognised the wrong person. Of course, Lord Xie is my role model…… You can just call me Old Bai.”
In the legends, Bai Wuchang’s real name was Xie Bian, Lan He realised that this was a normal government official who was not the real Bai Wuchang. It seemed that he idolised Bai Wuchang so he dressed himself up like this. “Oh, no wonder, the word ‘Talent’ in ‘One Look Produces Talent’ on your hat is written incorrectly.”
Old Bai: “That’s a homophone.”
Lan He: “......”
You…… Lan He endured it, saying, “I’ll go to resign, asking for Sir Bai to accommodate my wishes.”
He really did not understand how he got chosen, but when the Nether World forcibly acquired living people’s spirits, they never cared about the wishes of those they had taken. It was completely forced and arguing with them was useless, one could only deal with it the best they could.
“That’s funny, who would dare bargain with spirits and gods!” As expected, Old Bai shouted, “All the living souls transferred to us have to fulfil at least 12 years of service to qualify for resignation.”
Lan He: “Previously, those ingots and paper clothes were folded by me.”
Old Bai’s dead face immediately lit up with a different kind of expression, so it was like this……
In the nether world, which kind of person could prove whether paper money was real or fake? There’s no way to go to the bank to ask, and it’s not that every burnt piece of joss paper fulfilled the requirements or were of good quality.
As there was a large amount of paper money that was not of high quality that reached the nether world, the paper money that were inferior were unable to be used as actual currency. After reaching the nether world and gaining a mountain of useless money, people would throw them away and the inferior paper money was so numerous they formed mountains.
The ingots that Lan He folded were not the same. Old Bai had not seen such high quality ingots in a long time, even if the material was the same, not everyone had this kind of skill.
Old Bai’s words took a sharp turn and he said reservedly, “Alright, I’ve seen the sincerity in your heart…… But you still need to fulfill 12 months.”
Money can move the supernatural, after Old Bai’s discount, 12 years became a year.
A year is still long, Lan He said unwillingly, “Then can you arrange a paperwork job for me?”
An Impermanent did not only have to be a Grim Reaper, they could also do other jobs.
Old Bai also replied unwillingly, “I’ll try my best.”
“Many thanks.” Lan He finished haggling and answered mournfully.
Old Bai took out a uniform from his pockets. It included a tall hat like his own, as well as a necklace and a fan, “Here, this is yours, it’s a complete replica of Hei and Bai Wuchang’s original uniform, it’s just that the words on the hat have to be written by yourself.”
…… It seems like these Nether World officials really respected their bosses. Lan He picked up the hat and pondered for a while.
Old Bai pulled out a pen for him, “Do you want to write ‘One Look Produces Fortune’ or ‘World Peace’?”
Lan He asked, “Am I only allowed to choose from these two?”
Old Bai looked at him strangely. “No…… but everyone basically chooses one of the two. Hei and Bai Wuchang are one of the most famous people in both the Nether World and the Over World. By copying their way of dressing, it’s equivalent to borrowing the brilliance from the two, when malicious ghosts see it they would at least be a little scared.”
Lan He understood what he meant. “I’m going to be doing paperwork so this doesn’t concern me.”
He said nothing and without waiting for Old Bai to restrain him, he wrote four words on the hat casually: Since I’m Already Here.
Old Bai: “???”
“Right, my friend lost his soul, can I use this to bring him back?” Lan He said while pinching the fan. Wuchang’s two tools, the scythe was for reaping souls, while waving the fan would allow spirits to return to their body.
“Of course, that’s a small issue.” Old Bai looked at Cheng Haidong, “However, today, you have to help me reap the soul of someone called Song Qinmin, the local City God reported that he was loitering in the human world, unwilling to leave, and wanted your soul to help.”
Song Qinmin, wasn’t that the name of the newly deceased Old Man Song?
Lan He: “Then I probably know where he is.”
Lan He, in his Impermanent state, brought Old Bai to float over to Old Man Song’s house. From a distance, he could see both Old Man Song and Cheng Haidong at the door, he wanted to pull Cheng Haidong into the house, but Cheng Haidong clutched at the door frame and refused.
As expected, he was taken away by Old Man Song……
Lan He thought about it and lifted his fan to cover his face.
“What are you doing?” Old Bai asked.
“I would like to wear armour.” Lan He said unhappily.
He was forced to do this part-time job but he did not want to make a name for himself to prevent any trouble from happening after he fulfilled his obligation in a year.
Furthermore, even if Old Man Song had not seen any shows that he had acted in, he could have seen him in the village. Cheng Haidong, of course, knew him well, and if he saw him dressed like this, wouldn’t he be so scared that his soul would scatter? It was better to be camouflaged.
Old Bai smiled. It was strange, people who got requisitioned by the Nether World all wanted to be famous so that it would be easier to earn money in the Over World, but Lan He behaved in the opposite manner.
He looked again at Song Qinmin, once he glimpsed their red lanterns, he immediately hid inside the house.
Cheng Haidong breathed a sigh of relief and sat on the floor, only to see two ghosts floating towards him wearing tall hats, on the hats were four words that were separately written, one was ‘One Look Produces Talent’ and one was ‘Since I’m Already Here’. They were holdings chains in their hands and one of them was even covering his face.
Cheng Haidong was horrified, not only did he see a ghost today, he even met ghost officials!
It’s just that these ghost officials had strange words on top of their head…….
Cheng Haidong was brought here in a daze by the old man, that old man said that he wanted to drink tea with him. Once he reached the door, he suddenly realised that he was there.
Impermanent ghosts had a strange aura, ordinary people who saw them would be seriously ill, while ghosts who saw them would tremble with fear. Even though Cheng Haidong did not recognise them, he was deeply afraid and stuck to the wall while sitting down with tears welling up in his eyes. “I don’t want to die…”
He was shaken by the one with the hat that said ‘Since I’m Already Here’, he was afraid that he would say, “Since I’m already here, if the ghost refuses to come with us, I’ll just take you away.”
Luckily, the ghost official only said faintly, “This boy’s Yang life has not reached its end, Lord Bai would bring you back home.”
Cheng Haidong was wild with joy, “Thank, thank you big brother……. Lord Bai.”
He saw that the official with ‘Since I’m Already Here’ did not make a sound, so even though he could not see the official’s face, he was extremely flustered. “Also, also thanking this official…..”
Old Bai said, matter-of-factly, “Lord Lan!”
Lan He could not stop him, shaking his head under the fan, he could not reveal his real name, it would only provide hints to his identity.
Fortunately, Cheng Haidong did not think of his good friend, he only revealed a dazed expression, muttering to himself, “Bai…… Lan… Lan Bai Wuchang? I’ve only heard of Hei and Bai Wuchang, does the Nether World have a navy too?”