Zhao Yunlan was initially stunned, not immediately saying it was impossible. After a moment, he asked, “What year is Renwu?”

“2002.” The black cat used its claws to calculate. “What were you doing back then?”

“I was struggling with the underground work of the Soul-Suppressing Token,” Zhao Yunlan recalled. “I was juggling between my main job and side job, almost dropping out of college to become a professional charlatan. My father stopped me. It was the year I proposed establishing the Special Investigation Department. Later, my father agreed and helped me as much as he could within his capabilities.”

Then, Zhao Yunlan furrowed his brow. “Speaking of which, at that time, was it really my father or…”

His trailing voice disappeared amidst Daqing’s puzzled gaze. The man patted Daqing’s head. “I’ll explain it to you in detail when I go back.”

Zhao Yunlan turned to the little girl in the grocery store and asked carefully, “I have another question. How do you determine the identity of the buyer here? It’s not like the buyers write it themselves, right?”

The little girl looked up, her stiff face revealing a profound and inscrutable smile—how she managed to make it, nobody knew. It was quite strange for a seven or eight-year-old girl to wear an expression resembling that of the Fairy of Heavenly Mountain. In other circumstances, it might have seemed comical, but in the gloomy Ghost City, it was downright eerie.

She said, “The accounts here are meticulously kept, just like the Book of Life and Death. The buyer’s surname, full name, and identity are all recorded. Do you have any doubts, Master?”

Zhao Yunlan nodded, without another word. He put away the book, turned around, and walked towards the exit. Just as he reached the door, he suddenly remembered something, turned back, and asked, “What did the ‘me’ who bought the book eleven years ago look like? Do you remember, Miss?”

The little girl gently curled up the corners of her scarlet mouth, implying something. She said, “Originally, I couldn’t recall it, but now that Master has mentioned it, I do have some impression… Looking at your appearance, I realized that the previous encounter was with a familiar acquaintance. If you hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have noticed. It has already been more than ten years.”

She was implying that the “Zhao Yunlan” who bought the book resembled his current appearance.

Zhao Yunlan lowered his head and pondered for a moment before saying, “Thank you.”

After speaking, he lifted his leg and walked out. Zhu Hong quickly followed. At that moment, the little girl behind the old counter softly called out to him. Her childlike voice was suppressed, sounding eerily low, “I’ll give you a word of advice. These days, the Master might encounter a bloody disaster. It’s best to be more careful.”

Zhao Yunlan hadn’t reacted yet, but Zhu Hong anxiously asked, “What? What bloody disaster?”

The little girl’s plastic-like black eyes stared straight at them, with a sinister smile. She fell silent. Just as Zhu Hong was about to step forward and ask, Zhao Yunlan grabbed her and gave her a warning look. “There’s no moral courtesy in the Ghost City, and sometimes there’s no logical thinking. You can’t measure the thoughts of the dead with the ideas of the living. Do you know why the Underworld confines them here? Remember, you shouldn’t owe favors to the dead.”

Zhu Hong fell silent for a moment after hearing that. Suddenly, she asked, “Why are you suddenly telling me all this?”

“I have few subordinates, and they are all rare creatures. These boys are all tough, masochistic idiots. They handle errands and deal with all kinds of freaks. Of course, I don’t want you guys to do that,” Zhao Yunlan lightly chuckled. “But I was also wrong. I didn’t expect that one day you would leave. If I had known… Remember, if you detach yourself too much from worldly affairs, even if you cultivate to the level of the Great Goddess Nüwa, you can only be a technical analyst under me. When you return to the clan in the future, you won’t be able to deal with those thousand-year-old tortoises and long-lived worms.”

Zhu Hong’s nose and eyes turned red at the same time.

“Hush, hold back your tears. Save them for when our department gathers and we have a farewell party. This isn’t the place to cry and make a scene,” Zhao Yunlan said, stopping in his tracks. He reached behind Zhu Hong and saw that someone was squatting on the stone road in front of the grocery store’s entrance.

He…she, or maybe it, had arms that reached the knees. When squatting down, it resembled a hairless baboon. Its neck was as long as an adult man’s hands when spread open, and the fingertips touched together. It was nearly forty to fifty centimeters long. Its head was hairless.

It looked up in the direction of Zhao Yunlan and suddenly cracked a smile, the corners of its mouth extending all the way to its ears. Then, it stood upright and abruptly stretched its neck, flipping its entire head 180 degrees. Its “occiput” turned to the front, revealing a face with the classic features of a ghost story, complete with green complexion and menacing fangs. It lunged at the two of them.

Zhao Yunlan had already drawn his gun, his finger on the trigger, but before he could pull it, the two-faced creature suddenly hit the brakes mid-air. It somersaulted and landed on the ground, and its reversible head turned back, grinning eerily at them, displaying two shiny yellow fangs with a gap in the middle.

It shook its head and scrutinized Zhao Yunlan, then suddenly burst into laughter, contorting its movements and sounding like a duck quacking, as if Zhao Yunlan had suddenly turned into Guo Degang.

Zhao Yunlan didn’t want to cause trouble in this place. He aimed his gun at the two grotesque faces, signaling Zhu Hong to go the other way, intending to keep a distance from the creature.

The two-faced ghost, seeing them about to leave, suddenly made a hissing sound in its throat: “Different paths for humans and ghosts, different paths for humans and ghosts…”

This sentence struck Zhao Yunlan’s heart directly. His face immediately darkened, and he turned his head sharply, staring at the smiling face of the two-faced ghost. His voice turned icy: “I care about face and don’t want to confront the Underworld, but you keep pushing the limits.”

The smile gradually disappeared from the two-faced ghost’s face. It tilted its head slightly and locked eyes with Zhao Yunlan, while Zhu Hong gently tugged at his clothes. “Chief Zhao, let’s go.”

Zhao Yunlan’s hand holding the gun tightened, veins bulging. Just as he was about to take a step, the two-faced ghost went off on a tangent again: “Do you choose the living or the dead? Do you choose the mortal world or the ghost path? Do you choose heaven and earth or the netherworld? You must choose one.”

Its voice grew louder and almost piercing, “You must choose one,” echoed from all directions, spreading along the desolate streets of the Ghost City. Countless ghosts and spirits emerged from broken bricks and tiles, peering with eerie gleams in their eyes, whispering and prying.

Zhao Yunlan, with some reservations, led Zhu Hong. Suppressing the discomfort in his heart, just as he was about to leave with her, the two-faced ghost’s head suddenly turned in a circle, with the green-faced fangs facing forward.

It opened its mouth and let out an ear-piercing sound, loudly proclaiming, “There are living souls here—there are living souls here…”

This sentence was like pouring water into boiling oil, causing a surge. Zhao Yunlan decisively pulled the trigger, directly shooting through the two-faced ghost’s head. The specially made bullet ignited upon contact with its skin, and soon the entire upper body of the two-faced ghost turned into ashes.

However, a large number of small ghosts had already gathered, their faces expressionless yet greedy, like starving wild dogs. Even the hissing black cat couldn’t stop them. The one thing this place lacked the least was lunatics.

Zhao Yunlan cursed under his breath and blew off the head of the frontmost small ghost with a shot. The dead spirit dispersed with a hysterical scream, but it had no deterrent effect. The ghosts crowding in paid no attention to their fallen comrades, their fear, caution, and reason completely obliterated. The previously desolate ghost street was instantly congested, and the ghosts that emerged from various unimaginable places swarmed in, arousing an intense fear of crowded spaces.

Zhao Yunlan came to investigate a mysterious incident and had no intention of staging an all-out battle. The bullets in his gun quickly ran out.

Zhu Hong transformed into her original form, a giant python appearing among the crowd of ghosts. With a single gulp, she devoured four or five souls. But it wasn’t enough; more and more ghosts quickly swarmed in. Some even climbed onto her body, and one bit into her scaled body with its sharp nails, ripping off a piece of bloody scale.

Then, a fierce gust of wind carrying sharp blades descended. The small ghost that held the python scale in its hand had half of its head cut off by a dagger that was a palm’s length.

…What was even more horrifying was that, as it rapidly dissipated in the wind, it still extended its neck in an attempt to lick a mouthful of fresh flesh and blood.

Zhao Yunlan, holding a knife, almost went crazy. “What kind of foodie spirit is this?!”

He grabbed the tip of Zhu Hong’s tail and gently pulled. “Shrink, quickly!”

As he spoke, he swung his knife, beheading a row of approaching ghosts with the skills of a Fruit Ninja. Zhao Yunlan quickly retracted his hand. In this moment of crisis, he inexplicably found a two-second gap, taking off his outer garment and holding it in his arms. It showcased his characteristic of being a daredevil who would sacrifice anything except his clothes.

Unfortunately, Zhu Hong couldn’t help but lose her smile when she remembered why he cherished this garment so much.

She transformed into a snake, as thin as a finger, and slithered into Zhao Yunlan’s sleeve, coiling around his wrist. Zhao Yunlan bent down, picked up the disheveled Da Qing, and swiftly produced a wind talisman. Using the last bit of magical fire from a lighter he had been reluctant to use, he ignited it.

Gusts of wind and intense flames immediately complemented each other, sweeping through the area. The Ghost City instantly lived up to its name, with ghosts crying and howling. Zhao Yunlan rubbed the three bloody nail marks left on the back of his hand and said irritably, “Didn’t expect a disaster to strike so quickly. That girl is a troublemaker.”

However, he couldn’t afford to waste any time. Taking advantage of the cover of the real fire, he quickly retreated.

They ran all the way to the city gate but suddenly realized that the gates of the Ghost City had closed at some point. Zhao Yunlan turned sharply and saw that the ravenous evil spirits were even swallowing the real fire. The little ghosts who swallowed it transformed into wingless bird-like creatures and flew into the sky, exploding. But it seemed to have no effect on the other spirits’ appetites.

They were like moths drawn to a flame, relentlessly rushing towards the real fire. The spirit of perseverance reached its limit—they even managed to bite through the fiery dragon.

Da Qing screamed, “Meow, what should we do, what should we do?” and absentmindedly hooked Zhao Yunlan’s hair with its sharp claws.

“Do you have to make so much noise?” Zhao Yunlan impatiently pressed down the cat’s head that was babbling in his ear. “We’re not even halfway through this mess, and my wife has already run away.”

Da Qing: “…”

Although it didn’t know what had happened, it suspected that Zhao Yunlan had been driven mad by Shen Wei’s provocation.

In that instant, Da Qing found a peculiar sense of relief on the seemingly calm face of a man. It suspected that Zhao Yunlan regarded this situation as some kind of extreme stress relief activity—after years of understanding, this bastard was capable of doing such absurd things!

As the power of the real fire diminished, the fiery dragon was completely severed. In the midst of the ghost horde, like a zombie siege scene, the first strike of the Soul Suppressing Whip fiercely cleaved through the stagnant air of the Ghost City that had endured for thousands of years.

Zhao Yunlan seemed to feel an unknown force surging through the hand that held the whip. Initially awkward, it rapidly became familiar at an astonishing speed… as if it had always been a part of him, as if something was rapidly awakening.

At that moment, someone forcefully rammed open the gate behind them, creating a human-shaped hole. A person entirely dressed in black emerged from the hole, walking with an upright posture. He supported Zhao Yunlan’s hand holding the whip, and the tip of the whip rolled back, winding around Zhao Yunlan’s arm. Zhu Hong, who was coiled around his wrist, took a bite.

The person produced a long knife and, with a single strike, swept through half of the Ghost City like a grim reaper. The ground trembled, and the countless resentful souls and ghosts became fragments under his blade.

Then, the person embraced Zhao Yunlan’s waist and practically dragged him out of the broken gate. They left the treacherous land of the Ghost City.

In a relatively safe place, Zhu Hong, both shocked and joyful, transformed back into her human form and exclaimed, “Senior Soul Reaper.”

Her savior, the Senior Soul Reaper, spoke in a stiff manner, “How did you end up here?”

Zhao Yunlan’s expression, eerily calm, finally broke. Exhausted to the extreme, he released his grip and let the fat cat Da Qing fall to the ground. Then, he walked over without regard for the situation, embracing the person in black, who was revered and feared by countless people. In a hoarse voice, he said, “Come back with me.”

Poor Zhu Hong had just transformed from a snake to a human, and her feet hadn’t even stabilized yet. Upon seeing the current situation, she was so scared that she sat down on the ground.

…It turned out that being chased by millions of resentful spirits was truly nothing.