"Aaaaah! I'm gonna kill you! I'm gonna kill you!"
"Dad, it's me! What's happening to you, Dad!"
In Bajiao 1 Village of in the suburbs of the capital city, a frightened man was running in circles around the courtyard of a farmhouse. Chasing behind him was an old man holding a kitchen knife who had bloodshot eyes and a savage look on his face.
The son's wife and child had locked themselves up in an inner room and were crying uncontrollably.
After much shouting and yelling, the neighbors showed up at the noise, and were equally frightened by the scene. A few young men moved closer first and restrained the old man tightly. One of the bolder men then struck the old man's arm, and with a "clank!", the kitchen knife dropped to the ground.
"I'm gonna kill you! I'm gonna kill you!"
Restrained, the old man was screaming all the more frantically as if that was not his own son, but some irreconcilable archenemy.
Someone had called the police a while ago and the neighbors had gathered around talking together in confusion.
The son was panting. "I don't have the slightest clue. Yesterday was the Ghost Festival 2 and we went to visit the grave. He was perfectly fine when we got back, but this morning, he was like that."
"Oh my, I don't think the old man has been sick or anything. Did something 'unnatural' get to him?" suggested someone.
"That's right. I've heard of quite a few cases over the news lately," chimed in another.
"Anyway, be careful these days. Some weird things are happening."
The crowd chatted on. It wasn't long until a police car drove into the village and stopped outside the farmhouse. The doors opened and four police officers filed out.
They made no inquiries, for the old man was still yelling at the top of his voice for anyone with eyes and ears to see.
"Take him!" The leading officer waved.
The other three went up to the old man, cuffed him, then grabbed him by both arms and swiftly escorted him into the police car.
The son would not have it this way and shouted, "Gosh! Comrade police officer! My dad is a little out of the line, but surely you don't have to do that? What is all this? You'd think he killed someone or set a house on fire or something!"
The leader gave him a look. "It's complicated. We're only following orders here. I apologize for that!"
With that, the four drove off without a second of delay, leaving behind the crowd of villagers with their utter bewilderment.
The area was 20 km from downtown—a distance making it neither too central nor exactly remote. It was the capital city we're talking about here. Anyone who could afford buying an apartment just outside the Sixth Ring Road would qualify as a "Tuhao".
"Make way! Make way!"
"Make way, please. We've got a new patient!"
With the hubbub, the old man was escorted into the hospital by four police officers, heading directly for the newly built "Unnatural Disease Research Center".
With his hand cuffed and a cord stuffed between his teeth, the old man was still struggling violently. They had no other choice. Such measures could stop the patient's senseless screaming, as well as prevent them from biting their own tongue—the hospital learnt the latter the hard way.
They made it to the third floor when two robust doctors came up to them and injected the old man with a powerful anesthetic. In a couple of seconds, the old man's eyes went vacant and his body turned limp. He was then carried to an isolation ward.
"Phew… luckily we got him here in one piece. One of our men got this elderly woman yesterday. He let his guard down for one second and she bit him on his chin—tore a chunk of meat off. Damn it! These people are like Abnormal Titans! 3 "
The leading officer sighed with relief and asked in passing, "Why, there must have been what, twenty of them already?"
"Yup, this one makes the twentieth. Thanks for all your hard work!" replied the doctor.
"Why, the same to you! Your job is no easier!"
After the police left, the director of the center called for a group consultation, where the usual procedure was carried out: drawing blood, running tests, full body examination… The results came back the same as before: there was nothing wrong with the man medically.
For a moment there, the doctors were all in low spirits. This helplessness was simply too defeating.
When exactly did all this start? Let's see… it had to be two weeks ago when patients with similar symptoms began to show up. They all had been perfectly fine before and went insane without any warning. The hospitals had been treating these people as mental patients when orders from above arrived a couple of days ago, ordering:
Firstly, all such patients should be resettled to Tangshan Hospital.
Secondly, it was not some mental disease. These people had "bumped into ghosts".
All doctors felt question marks were materializing out of their brains and floating around their heads. Seriously?! They were doctors and the most devoted believers of science. But now, the government itself was making it official: yes, they had bumped into ghosts.
The capital city, the HQ of the BIMAUP.
Mu Kun was sitting in his office, listening to his assistant's briefing.
"As of today, 1027 patients have been admitted to major hospitals in all thirty-six provinces, of which 269 have died accidentally. By accidental death, we refer to the sudden death that was without warning and that for which no reason could be found.
We have inquired Priest Jingyi of the Maoshan Sect who said that those possessed by ghosts would have their energy consumed very quickly. Some are too weak to withstand this invasion of ghostly energy and would die from exhaustion…"
"Ha, ha ha… cough! Cough!"
Listening to the report, Mu Kun began to laugh, which then turned into a violent fit of coughing. Various emotions all mixed together, which eventually took over him with the utmost helplessness.
After finish reading the report, the assistant asked tentatively, "Director Mu, what exactly do the bosses mean?"
"What else? Come up with ideas, report them, and wait for an answer!"
Reclining into his chair, Mu Kun rubbed his temples. He felt exhausted from inside out.
As early as several days ago, Wu Songbai of the Maoshan Sect had warned them, saying ghosts were making their way back into this mortal world. However, before they could come up with any countermeasure, the outbreak began.
This goddamn Zhongyuan Festival!
He cursed silently inside. For according to Wu Songbai, in order to show up in the mortal world, the ghosts had to enter either through certain ceremony, or the incident when people bumped into certain objects possessed by resentment. The Yin energy was the most powerful on Zhongyuan Festival, making it much more possible for the ghosts to cross over.
Keep in mind that the country had a population of nearly two billion and people died everyday. So there were bound to be plenty of deaths around Zhongyuan Festival.
The big cities did not have enough room for such ceremonies, but nearly all families in the vast rural areas followed their traditions, which was only heading for disaster. If there was a seventh day ceremony and the family members did not follow the rule strictly, something like Zheng Kaixin's incident was almost inevitable!
What could the government do but treat the affected as mental patients first—send them to a specialized hospital and summon Wu Songbai urgently.
Old Man Wu was very cooperative: coming hell or high water, we men of Maoshan would do everything we could out of kindness. When they arrived, the government was like: are you kidding me? You don't even have enough men to fill a dining table.
The entire capable ghost-dispelling force of the sect consisted of four people!
These four men had been dispatched to four cities most severely affected to ease the pressure.
Mu Kun wondered if the government was regretting their decisions from decades ago—at least he himself did, for back then when he first began his career, he had been on the task force cleaning up swindling Maoshan priests.
Karma was indeed a bi*ch. Finally, they realized the usefulness of the Maoshan Sect, but there was barely anyone to use.
Mu Kun heaved another sigh and looked dejected. Seeing this, the assistant said gingerly, "Director Mu, forgive my bluntness, but the current difficulty is not to catch the ghosts, but to find a way to explain it."
"What do you mean?"
"In fact, we are all mentally prepared for this: the spiritual essence has showed up; so have the Taoist skills. It was only a matter of time before ghosts made their appearance. The problem is, despite our warm-up for the new ideology, we are still not sure how the general public will take it."
"You are right. The difficulty lies in the explanation we will need to give to the people, as well as in that life will go on as more monsters show up, for which we will need to educate them with countermeasures…" Mu Kun remarked, as if echoing the other's point. However, both knew perfectly well that they were only scratching the surface. As for the real problem, neither of them were bold enough to discuss it loudly.
"Knock, knock, knock!"
Just then, there was a knock at the door and someone said outside, "Director Mu, the director needs you for a meeting. Instructions from above have arrived!"
"I see. I'm on my way."
Mu Kun winced a little, then rose to his feet and strode out of the office.
Shuffling footsteps echoed in the corridor as officials walked out of their offices and gathered in the room in the innermost corner of the building. Seeing this, Mu Kun couldn't help but ask, "Xiao Li, what's going on? Have the bosses agreed?"
"Not only did they agree, they have also…"—the man hesitated a little before going on—"they have also come up with an unexpected bold move. This incident is probably the entry point of explaining everything."TL/N: meaning "octagon" or "aniseed" TL/N: the alternative name for Zhongyuan Festival TL/N: referring to a type of Titans from the manga "Attack on Titan"