Not that Lan He knew how other ghost officials would solve this kind of matter, but he highly doubted Old Bai's old-fashioned style of doing things. It's either that he wouldn't care or he'd bring the thief straight to the Netherworld for a round of threatening.
But in Lan He's opinion, it'd still be better to let that person be sanctioned by the law. As well as to prevent such a thing from happening again in the future. Stealing other people's tombstones was too discourteous of an act after all.
Because he was busy with work, and also didn't wish to disclose his relationship with this thing—including to that long-gowned ghost, he decided to use his Impermanence identity to find... the police.
As for how to find them, we'd have no other choice but to mention the conventional skill of the Netherworld: Dream Visit.
Wang Lili was an ordinary police officer of the Capital City. He'd carefully and conscientiously report to work every day, do overtime once in a while, and go back to the dormitory to sleep afterward. He usually slept very well. After he went to sleep tonight, however, he had a dream. A dream that was both very absurd and real.
A ghost official, who wore an attire very much like those in the ghost movie, had his face covered while standing in front of him. He asked him, "Do you manage thievery cases?"
"If it's in our jurisdiction, of course, we have to manage it. Who are you?" Wang Lili had a faint awareness that he was actually dreaming, so he didn't have any feeling of fear. So much so that he could naturally follow the conversation without doubting this strange scene.
"You and I can be said to be of the same profession, just that I work for the Netherworld. I specifically came here to report. There's a clue for a thievery case," said Lan He.
Wang Lili was agitated, "What clue? Does it even need cross-boundary law-enforcing?"
Lan he read the address he had copied down. "This place's owner, someone surnamed Chen. He usually steals tombstones, then remakes them before selling them out."
For it to be taken more seriously, he added, "It has a terrible influence on the Netherworld!"
"There's still someone who steals tombstones? Wow, that should be a major case on your side, right?" Wang Lili also felt strange. He read the address again. "This place is in our jurisdiction. I have some impressions."
Major case? Not quite.
Lan He said, "Anyway, sorry to bother you, but you must conduct an investigation. He remakes tombstones and sells them to others. This caused a lot of trouble. One of them was a ghost named Xu Gui who had suffered because of this, hoping to retrieve back his tombstone."
After finishing these words, he then embarrassingly asked, "Oh, by the way... can I borrow some paper from you?"
Wang Lili was pondering this ‘Xi Gui’ or something.
"Some paper? What paper? Why?"
"The paper of you guys, the living world's policemen, has both vital energy and baleful energy. It is of much help to my job." Lan He said, "I was thinking: since I'm here already, can I borrow some?"
Wang Lili's sight immediately shifted above his head. He was very impressed with these four words. Since it's here already, eh?
The other party very courteously thanked him, then he strongly urged him again to please be extra sure to solve this theft case to help Xu Gui and other ghosts who had met this bad luck.
When Wang Lili woke up from his dream, those words were still ringing in his ears.
He had some kind of unbelievable feeling. Although this was a dream, it was unlike the dreams he had had in the past, which would be over and directly forgotten once he woke up. On the contrary, this dream felt particularly vivid.
Moreover, he was very calm in the dream. He wasn't too scared, neither was he baffled by the fact that a ghost official had 'Since It's Here Already' written on his hat and wore a mask. But now that he thought of it, he belatedly realized that the image was quite weird.
He even clearly remembered the address of that 'suspect' and the name of the victim.
Wang Lili turned over to get out of bed while feeling quite surreal, planning to freshen up. But then he saw the book he'd placed atop the table was spread out. This notebook was issued by the unit. He mainly used it to note down details of cases, meeting notes, and the likes, and this one had only been used half.
But at that moment, those half a book of empty pages had neatly been torn away by someone unknown.
"The... /fək/?" Wang Lili picked up the book and flipped it over. He suddenly thought of what happened in that vivid dream. The ghost official asked him whether he could borrow some paper.
Wang Lili's whole body was covered with goosebumps in an instant.
He regarded himself as someone who's rather brave in normal times, but when encountering this kind of thing, he'd still be scared nonetheless. Especially when he checked and found out that the door lock hadn't been broken, and he was the only one who had the key...
Nope, what he meant to say was, even if it was broken, can there be someone who'd steal things yet still steal them from the police dormitory? and only stole half of your book at that?
Then he also happened to dream of a ghost official asking to borrow his paper? How big a coincidence this must be!
After he flusteredly washed up, Wang Lili simply went to look at the surveillance. Who knows, maybe there really was such a one-in-ten-thousand coincidence? But the outcome was, there truly hadn't been anyone who came.
I've met a ghost. I've really met a ghost!
Wang Lili was clueless as to whom he should talk to about this kind of thing. Who would even believe him, ah!
Suddenly Wang Lili thought of the address that the ghost official reported to him. His heart surged abruptly. That ghost official was very polite. He also didn't scare him but just requested him to investigate a case. The paper was really being borrowed, then, did that mean the case really exists?
How many people on earth are able to experience this? What is this called, a cooperation between the Yin and the Yang? Although the case isn't a big one, the title alone is already awesome, right! What a Heaven's Chosen I am, ah! Investigate!
Wang Lili, who had changed into casual clothes, ran to that address for a look. There was no shop front, only a single-story house with its entrance wide open. There were a lot of stone products placed on the inside. Overall, it looked very crude. But, that's just right. For a person who wasn't even willing to buy raw materials, why would he rent a shop front?
When he looked at how the shop was operated, his heart became even more certain, that dream was right.
He pretended to browse through the goods. Then, taking advantage of the boss' lack of attention, he strolled into the inner manufacturing room. "A friend introduced me to this place. Are these all that haven't finished processing yet?"
The boss didn't scrutinize him in the slightest. "That's right. Mine here are cheap. What do you want to order? I'll engrave the words for you."
"I'll take a look at the quality..." He squatted down and scanned around with his eyes. He then noticed among them a stone tablet with words on top that seemed to have not been completely ground off. He could vaguely see traces of words such as 'The Tomb of', 'Here Rest', and so on.
My dream was true! A ghost official really visited me in my dream!
Wang Lili was well aware of the situation. He endured his excitement, standing up to say, "They seem a bit thin. I'll look around elsewhere first."
—It was originally a stolen tombstone after all. Of course it'd be thinner after grinding off the words.
The boss curled up his mouth, "Ours here are cheap, ah. It's only a tad bit thin, that's it. You should take a look around, there'll be none as economical as this. Oh, yeah, do you also want to buy other things?"
"No thanks." Wang Lili cursed him for being wicked inside his heart then just left.
"Oh, hell. You slept like the dead last night. A shout couldn't even wake you up." Cheng Haidong spoke with a yawn, "Last night, I woke up to drink water. I tripped then smashed on you. I asked if you're okay or not, but you didn't even make a sound."
But he was actually very drowsy. Lan He didn't answer him. So he just went back to sleep after the water was drunk. Now that he recalled, he was thinking whether or not it was a bad thing. If by any chance, Lan He had fainted, how could he not be aware of it?
"I was exhausted. So I slept a bit heavily." It's not like Lan He could answer that at midnight he was... practicing yoga?
During the day, Chen Xinyang told the matter about the inkstones secretly to the next-door production team. The other side also stealthily investigated for two days. They looked at the surveillance, but, as one can imagine, no footage of someone hiding the inkstones was found.
The inkstone was indeed found, but they didn't dare to use them again. When they were pondering whether to conduct a seven-days ritual or not, the police came.
The policeman stated that they had solved a case of tombstone stealing. The perpetrator polished off the words carved on the tombstone before circulating it in the market again. Occasionally there would be some stone that was of good materials, so they remade it into other objects to sell.
Today was the day they contacted the victims, namely both the family of those who had their tombstone stolen and the ones who had purchased the goods.
Based on the account book and the confession of the perpetrator, among those were the few sets bought by the team for props.
After hearing this, all members of the team were stupefied.
It's no wonder, ah! They said how these inkstones were fishy, always being haunted. There were even some people who said it was the deed of a refined ghost, who took a liking for old inkstones. This sentiment turned out was due to them having been made out of tombstone, ah!
The prop master who was in charge of safekeeping the inkstones wished he could faint. Didn't that mean he had been staying in the same room with other people's tombstones?
The one who came was precisely Wang Lili. He noticed something was amiss from the expressions of the team's members, so he asked.
"After I speak it out, please don't think that we... are deceiving you." The other party hesitantly said, "A few days ago, our team's inkstones constantly went missing. Later, we found out that they had inexplicably arrived inside one of the hotel's cabinets. The surveillance, however, couldn't find the person who had placed the inkstones. In addition, on the footage from the shooting, the inkstone was even seen moving by itself."
Wang Lili: "Oh."
It was the team members who went blank instead. How could this comrade policeman be so calm and collected, ah?
Wang Lili had even been visited by a ghost official inside his dream. He didn't feel this was strange at all. If it wasn't for the duty on hand, he even so much wanted to say: What do you guys count as? Look at me! Even my notebook is being borrowed by a ghost official!
Of course, these words certainly can't be said.
Wang Lili coughed, "This... anyway, I'm still taking these inkstones away. As for the money problem, after we're done handling the case, we'll contact you guys to see how much can be refunded."
"Good, that's good. No problem." They were just debating on how to resolve these inkstones. Everyone said how the policemen were full of righteousness. If they can't keep it in check, then no one can. However, since they found out the whole story, it's still best to invite someone to sweep away the vile air. This kind of thing really made people feel chills after all.
Getting back to Wang Lili. When he was leaving, he was attracted by a flock of pigeons.
Or to be precise, it's by a flock of pigeons that were flying away to avoid a male actor.
They seemed to be filming something and the actor needed to touch the pigeons. But the pigeons had always avoided him, they couldn't enter the same frame at all. The director was shouting to get the actor to move more quickly and seize the time when the pigeons were inattentive to take a shot with them. The male actor was all speechless, saying: how can I be faster than the pigeons, ah!
Wang Lili watched in amusement. That side had already made use of false-positioning to shoot the scene, and the actor exhaustedly took some water to drink.
Wang Lili was just standing by the side. There were many people on the scene, so no one cared about him being here.
I'll watch a bit more, ba. Wang Lili only felt that the actor seemed somewhat familiar. Mainly, it was his eyes...
At that moment, the actor also looked up. Their two pairs of eyes met.
Wang Lili hesitated, he asked, "Hello, you..."
The actor quickly interrupted him, "Are you asking for a group photo?"
Wang Lili let out an 'ah', then he muddleheadely said, "Yes, yeah."
He took out his phone right away to take a group photo with the other party. He thought of it, familiar? Probably because I had seen this actor's drama before. He looked so handsome. Should be popular currently, right? Quite approachable too.
However, he was a little embarrassed to ask him for his name. Wouldn't that be awkward?
"En, thank you, ah!" Wang Lili didn't want to be exposed, he vaguely said, "... Love you so much, b-big brother."
Lan He: "..."
Police Officer Wang, there's no need for that. Really, there's no need for that..
Lan He separated his soul from his body again and went to find Xu Gui.
Xu Gui had already changed into a set of new clothes. Lan He had burned him a long-gown based on what he's accustomed with, only that now it looked more neat, bright, and beautiful. When seeing Lan He, he immediately said with deep gratefulness, "Thanks a lot, Lord Lai, for redressing my grievances!"
"No problem. It's mainly the living world's police who did the work." Lan He said, "They will erect a new tombstone for you. I reckon the production team on that side would also hold offerings for you. What are your plans for now?"
Xu Gui obediently replied, "I'm a wild ghost. What plan can I have..."
Lan He mulled it over. "Although you don't have your bones, thus, have no way to reincarnate, you can go stay in the temples, taoist temples, or similar places and listen to their scriptures. Sometimes, they may even give out food for the hungry ghosts. Like this, you may still have some chances to be freed from your suffering."
Xu Gui hung his head low, "I know. But, Lord, my ghost power is scanty. I can't leave too far from my place of death."
He's the small ghost among the small ghosts. A lot of skills were outside of his ability. His range of activity also wasn't that big. If the inkstones had been sold in a farther place, I'm afraid he wouldn't even have a chance to do little tricks like he did previously.
"Is that so?" He pondered if he still had time. "I'll bring you along to the Juehui Temple then."
Xu Gui kneeled and was about to kowtow when Lan He stopped him, "This stuff is too ancient!"
Speaking of, at first, it was really because Lan He felt Xu Gui was too annoying that he came to notice Xu Gui. Yet after he handled the ins and outs of the matter, he also sympathized with Xi Gui's bad luck. Helping a ghost should be helped thoroughly. Lan He led him to the direction of Juehui Temple.
They arrived shortly. Lan He saw a red lantern from afar. Aware that it must be his colleagues, he went forward for a look. Turned out it was still an acquaintance, "Yan San-ge!"
"Uhm?" Yan San looked back while drowsily rubbing his drunken eyes. "It's... Xiao Lai, ah."
Lan He saw the long file of ghosts strung together by the Soul-hooking Rope in Yan San’s hand. It’s obvious that he’d just finished being busy and was taking the ghost back to the Netherworld. It’s just that the alcohol odor on him could be smelled even from afar.
“Hic. Today… I consumed too much wine. I still need to rush back to report. Sorry we can’t chat much.” Yan San was in extreme hurry. After greeting each other, he just waved to Lan He before taking the ghosts along to float away in haste.
Lan He watched on as Yan San’s figure quickly disappeared. He turned back to Xu Gui. “Wait a minute. I’ll go to the temple to see if there’s food. If there are, let’s eat together then. I’ve long heard that the vegetarian dish of Juehui Temple tastes good.”
Xu Gui: ”...”
He was honestly waiting at the original place when he noticed a ghost figure slowly emerged from the side. That ghost held a wine pot in his hand. He was nervously trying to leave by walking on his tiptoes.
Xu Gui was stunned when he saw the ghost: ”Eh, aren’t you…”
Isn’t this one of the ghosts that the other Netherworld Official Lord was pulling just then? He might not be capable of others, but his memory was still working. It hadn’t been that long since they separated, so he naturally recognized him.
“Shh!” That ghost with an elderly appearance smiled secretively, “We’re all ghosts. Don’t alarm that Netherworld Official!”
Xu Gui inwardly thought ‘How can that work? I must report to Lord Lai.’
The old ghost saw his expression was off, so he pulled him and said.”Wait, do you want to be reincarnated?”
Xu Gui briefly paused.
Having noticed the change in Xu Gui’s expression, the old ghost said again,”Hey, if you don’t report, I’ll teach you how to catch up, using my quota. Although you can’t immediately reincarnate, you can still be separated from the bitterness of the world. Looking at your dim form, the days haven't been good, right? Each one of those Netherworld Officials rely on power to bully people. The only thing they do is raking up wealth. Why bother helping them? We, these ghosts, should unite together!”
Ghosts have ghost ambition. He is unwilling to go to the Netherworld. To Xu Gui, however, being able to go to the Netherworld was actually an excellent thing in itself.
Xu Gui wore a struggling expression. He hesitated for quite a while. “Well...”
The old ghost’s eyes flashed with craftiness. If this wild ghost really substitutes his name, aside from inability to reincarnate, he could very well also be punished. Who knows if this could free him from the pursuit, but it will at the least delay him some time. “En, then I’ll teach you--”
He hadn’t finished speaking when Xu Gui, who took advantage of his inattention, grabbed his leg tightly. He shouted, “Lord Lai! There’s an escaping ghost over here!”
“You!” the old ghost was furious, “You bootlicker! You think you can reincarnate by licking till the end, hah?!”
Xu Gui merely clutched on him tight, “What do you understand! Lord Lai represents justice!”
Lan He heard Xu Gui’s shout. His heart muttered, ‘What escaping what?’. He turned for a look. Xu Gui was clutching an old ghost tightly without letting go. He was being kicked so fiercely by the other party that even his ghost form turned so faint beyond description, yet still yellingly reported that this was a ghost that had escaped from Soul-hook Rope of the Yan San just then.
Lan He was shocked. He hastily took out his own Soul-hook Rope to hook the other party. That old ghost immediately stiffened, only his mouth was still cursing Lan He. Eyes scarlet, he howled from the depth of his chest, “My fate is up to me not up to the Heaven---”
Lan He smashed a punch over. “/fək/! You’re so noisy!”
He inwardly said, ‘This is bad. Yan San is about to report, and he also drank so much--which from the look of it was also deliberately made drunk by this guy. If he realized that he had lost a ghost only after arriving in the Netherworld, wouldn’t he receive punishment?’
Lan He swiftly burned a letter. Yan San was intoxicated, however, and no response was received after a long time passed.
“You stay in this place to wait. I have something to do!” said Lan He to Xu Gui. He hastily grabbed the old ghost, who had been so pummeled by him that his head was still dizzy and vision flowery, to run.
Xu Gui cheered on from behind, “Lord Lai The Mighty!”
Lan He took the old ghost on the Nether Road and headed to the direction where Yan San went. But he then belatedly remembered a thing:
He… don’t know the way, hey!
Half of the roads of the Netherworld were superimposed to the road of the living world. Their two spaces were criss-crossed so that even ghosts were likely to get lost. They were collectively called the Nether Road. If one wants to go to the underworld, however, then they still have to set foot on the legendary Huangquan Road, or calling it as the main road of the Netherworld was possible too.
When Lan He first reported to work, he had reached an agreement with Lao Bai. So he basically hadn’t done that much field work. For soul-hooking, this kind of job, he also had only done it once, or it might even be said a half.
Moreover, it completely didn’t matter even if Lan He had done so. This was because a problem that has been passed over from history, so that the majority of the departments in the Dongyue Netherly Office were still operating underneath Dongyue. The one Yan San went to is The Kingdom of Underworld, their routes were just different from the start.
Then, how does he go to hell?
Lan He was anxious. He raised his hand and grabbed a wild ghost, who looked of considerable age, from the roadside.
The other party had no time to escape. He shiveringly said, ”L-L-Lord! I don’t have money, ah!”
“I don’t want money!” Lan He said, “Sir, I want to ask. How do I get to the HuangQuan road?
The wild ghost: ”???”
Really, ‘The longer you die, the more you’ll see’. It was his first time hearing such a question. Besides, the questioner was a Netherworld Official??