Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 1: Power Outage
Changling Road, Xizhao District, Haigu.
It was Wednesday, half past four in the morning. The heavy rain was pouring down, and the street lights flickered as if they were about to die. Another red lightning bolt struck, causing all the streetlights to finally go out in unison.
In an instant, the entire street sank into darkness.
The scope of the power outage included 018 Changling Road, in the Haigu’s Mental Health Facility.
It was built in the 1960s and was regarded as the oldest building on the outskirts of Haigu. When it was first built, it was also called “Haigu Psychiatric Hospital”, but later it was changed to a relatively subtle “Mental Health Facility”.
The fourth floor of the mild-case area.
Old Man Zhang jumped up from the hospital bed, tugged at the mattress for a while, and found the long-hidden keycard. He changed into his slippers, pulled the front lapel of his hospital gown, and straightened his back.
The buildings and equipment were old, and the emergency power supply system hadn’t been connected to the mild-case area. Although access control was equipped with a battery, the surveillance would fail, so this opportunity was now or never.
He would be forcibly discharged from the hospital today to surprise his son and daughter-in-law.
Lao* Zhang didn’t think there was anything wrong with him. At most, he was confused from time to time and would consider himself an immortal who had come down to earth to experience a tribulation. But who didn’t have delusions of freedom? If this was a disease, half the elementary and middle school students in Haigu would need to come here to be cured.
*Old (老) When used in front of a name conveys feelings of a close relationship.
The unusual sky tonight was a sign of Zhang Shangxian’s* return home.
*The Xian (仙) in his name refers to an immortal, god, fairy, ect. This is referencing his mental disorder where he thinks he’s an immortal. Often times these immortals need to go through a tribulation in order to ascend or “level up”, for those unfamiliar with the xianxia genre.
Zhang Shangxian’s children were willing to spend money, so Lao Zhang had a single room in a good location. It was adjacent to the emergency passage that was adjacent to an empty ward that had been converted into a utility room, which was perfect for sneaking away.
Lao Zhang put his ears on the door of the room and listened with bated breath for up to five minutes.
Making sure that there was silence outside, he spit on his palm and twisted the door handle carefully. Victory was close at hand. Old Man Zhang was so excited that his hands and feet were icy that he couldn’t even feel how cold the metal doorknob was.
However, as soon as he turned the knob, a sharp noise suddenly sounded nearby.
The sharp sound of metal friction was followed by a stagnant sound of a door shaft turning. The noise was extremely harsh, as it ripped through the thunder of the heavy rain, leaving behind a long echo in the empty corridor.
Lao Zhang, who was pushing the door open, froze in place.
The door of his room was well maintained, so it shouldn’t make such a harsh and loud sound. It seemed that the sound came from next door.
The ward next door had been empty for more than a decade. There wasn’t even a mouse there. Could it be that someone came to the utility room to get something? However, he didn’t hear any footsteps just now. Lao Zhang took a deep breath and put his ears on the door of his room again.
A few minutes passed, and there was no sound coming from next door; only the dull booming of thunder was left in the corridor.
Perhaps he was too nervous and his ears heard something wrong. Lao Zhang gulped and drew a protection charm. Then he slowly poked out half his head and looked next door.
What the hell. Lao Zhang almost screamed…
There was also half a head sticking out next door.
Lightning struck, lighting the corridor. Two dark eyes, like burnt charcoal that was about to go out, were on the opposite side, glowing an ominous dark red. The face stared straight at Lao Zhang and his dangling long hair was hanging menacingly by his side.
Lao Zhang was numb. He wanted to shrink back into his room, but his legs were like noodles and wouldn’t listen to him. Seeing that the thing hadn’t moved for a while, Old Man Zhang had no choice but to break the jar*.
*(破罐子破摔) Metaphor referring to letting things run its course without making corrections after having shortcomings, mistakes, or setbacks.
“Where on earth did you come from? How dare you not worship me after seeing an immortal!”
Who knew that the opposite side really bought his act.
Those eyes widened slightly. It—he thought for a moment, slowly stepped out, and saluted Lao Zhang. “It turns out you’re an Elder. Pardon my rudeness.”
The voice was quite nice, with a strange accent. Lao Zhang couldn’t think of which dialect it was.
Another flash of lightning lit up. This time, Old Man Zhang took a real look.
The opposite side was a young man in his early twenties. He was wearing a hospital gown and had sharp and beautiful facial features that were more prominent than any celebrity he had seen. Although the young man was as pale as a ghost, he was still breathing, which meant he was a living human.
It turned out to be just a patient.
How troublesome. There was a curfew, so no one was allowed to go out at night. If this kid runs out and tattle-tailed on him, his great plan would be immediately ruined. He must try to contain the situation as soon as possible.
Lao Zhang instantly regained consciousness in his leg. He coughed twice into his fist. “I have no impression of you. Did you recently come here?”
“Seeing the current situation, are you trying to escape too?” He decisively pre-empted.
“Sort of.” The young man’s expression was a bit wary, but he didn’t seem to be lying.
“I see. There are no cellphones here to play with, so it must be even more unbearable for young people.” Old Man Zhang breathed a sigh of relief. “Do you want to escape together?”
The young man thought for a while, then nodded. He smiled, and the coldness all over his body suddenly almost completely dissipated.
Seeing that the other party was quite honest, Old Man Zhang was no longer worried, and his fear also dispersed. The mild-case area was just a recuperation ward. The more aggressive patients were all in the sealed off ward. This man was just young and fashionable; there was nothing to be afraid of just because he had long hair.
Old Man Zhang closed the door to the ward, put his hands behind his back, and held himself up like an esteemed elder. “You came to the utility room in the middle of the night to find something to pry open the door, right? So simple! Nowadays, it’s all high-tech. You need a keycard to get out.”
After the power outage, the corridors were filled with darkness. When the heavy rain hit, the unique smell of dust and paint on an old building mixed together. The stairs were as narrow as a monster’s esophagus, washed by blood-red electric light from time to time.
Old Man Zhang grasped the handrails tightly and slowly walked each step one by one. The young man followed him with light footsteps.
Perhaps it was because the scene was too scary that Lao Zhang decided to make conversation. “What’s your name, young man? Since we had a fateful meeting, you can call me Uncle Zhang.”
This time, the long-haired young man was silent for a while.
Lao Zhang’s conjecture was just about to change from “He couldn’t think of a name” to “Suspected amnesia” when the young man slowly opened his mouth.
“Yin Ren.” Lao Zhang wasn’t sure what the young man thought of, but the long-haired young man laughed. “Yin from ardent, Ren from blade*.”
*Yin (殷) from ardent [yin qie] (殷切), Ren (刃) from blade [dao ren] (刀刃). So combined would be like an ardent blade/sword (which is why Lao Zhang makes the next statement).
Accompanied by the rumbling thunder, Lao Zhang lowered his voice. “Waa, this name is very powerful. Does someone in your family also don’t want you to be discharged? What’s the problem?”
“I’m not quite clear… Maybe they think I’m too dangerous. If they leave me alone, perhaps I’ll kill someone or set fires.”
Speaking of which, the two of them were about to reach the corner of the stairway.
Yin Ren stopped and looked out the window at the unusually heavy rain. Lao Zhang didn’t know if he was seeing things, but it seemed as if the scarlet lightning was flashing more frequently. The dark clouds looked like burnt skin, and the darkness was dripping full of red.
Yin Ren retracted his gaze. His expression looked bitter. “Look, they all want to arrest me and lock me up.”
Oh, this kid probably has delusions of being murdered. Lao Zhang knew it.
He couldn’t figure out if the “look” was addressed to him, so he glanced out the window and pretended to agree. “Yeah, I’ve been here for decades and I haven’t seen this kind of weather. Truly vicious. There must be a great evil being born.”
Lao Zhang talked nonsense while gauging Yin Ren’s reaction. He didn’t know if it was intentional or not, but Yin Ren seemed to avoid his gaze for the first time.
Walking to the third floor, Yin Ren suddenly said, “Elder, what’s going on in the metaphysical world today? I’ve been listening to the ‘Daily News’ for more than 40 days and haven’t heard any news.”
“Oh? Oh, this great immortal doesn’t get involved in those things, so I don’t know.” Lao Zhang paused his footsteps and looked around. “Xiao* Yin, don’t you think it’s a bit cold here?’
*Little/small (小) When used in front of a name, it’s an affectionate/friendly way to call someone who’s usually younger than you.
“…” Yin Ren glanced at Lao Zhang’s feet and shook his head slowly.
Fortunately, he didn’t continue to ask about the “metaphysical world”. Lao Zhang breathed a sigh of relief.
Having said that, Lao Zhang really felt that this section of the ward was cold to the bones. He didn’t know if it was because of the heavy rain, but the stairs seemed sticky when he stepped on it, as if someone had spilled a sweet drink here. He couldn’t help coughing twice and chalked it up to global climate change.
The two chatted nonsense and soon reached the emergency exit on the third floor.
The exit door was still in the old style, with wooden doors painted green with windows. When the thick night soaked on them, the entire green layer dimmed, looking a bit like the skin of a corpse.
The door glass was stained with water, and the other side of the glass seemed to be inked, completely black.
Lao Zhang stopped and stared at the door nervously, and his breathing slowed. Even Yin Ren’s face tightened cautiously.
The next moment, a cold white beam of light pierced the darkness and swept around the door.
Lao Zhang gasped for breath and dragged Yin Ren back to the corner of the stairs. The rain pounded on the corner of the window like crazy, creating a series of crackling sounds.
“Ah, ahem, that’s Lao Liu on duty. We have to change our paths!”
Yin Ren glanced at the escape door on the third floor, then turned to look at Lao Zhang.
Lao Zhang didn’t understand his complicated gaze; at most, it seemed to look melancholy.
“You’re new here, so it’s normal that you don’t know. Lao Liu has been on duty for 15 years, so he’s especially good at catching people… Damn, this old guy doesn’t know how to be lazy in the middle of the night…”
Lao Zhang squatted down on the steps and gasped for breath.
He was well aware that plans weren’t as fast as changes. As long as they camped here for a while and took advantage of when Lao Liu paced to the other end of the corridor…
“Elder… Uncle Zhang, since there are inspectors and guards, it’s better to find another way.”
He didn’t know why, but after Yin Ren finished speaking, the corridor became a lot colder. The rounds of rain in his ears were becoming clearer while Yin Ren’s voice was becoming blurred. Lao Zhang couldn’t help but turn his head.
“What are you talking about…”
Lao Zhang almost bit his tongue before he finished speaking.
Yin Ren was floating out the window at that moment.
He hung ghost-like in mid-air, a full meter away from the windowsill. The guardrail outside the window had disappeared without a trace, and the heavy rain poured in through the open window and splashed under Old Man Zhang’s feet. The night wind rushed into the corridor, emitting a low, weeping sound.
In the night, Yin Ren’s long hair, which was waist-high, was dripping wet. Behind him was endless darkness and blinding lightning. Under the nightmarish lightning, those eyes were even more red. A fierce aura swept across Lao Zhang’s face, suppressing him and making him unable to breathe.
“Uncle Zhang, come on.”
Yin Ren stretched out his hand. His handsome face was illuminated by the lightning.
“Your dao* seems to be suppressed. This junior will give you a ride.”
*(道行) Basically, refers to one’s cultivation. Think of it like “mana”. The higher the dao, the more powerful the immortal.
Old Man Zhang knew that Yin Ren was abnormal, but he never thought “abnormal” was to such a point. This was a mental health facility. It was okay to lose his mind, but too much to lose his body.
After all, this was the third floor! Where was this kid going to take him? Not to mention, at the moment, Yin Ren’s hospital gown was being drenched by heavy rain, and in his right pocket there was a dubious outline that looked like a knife.
This visitor isn’t good!
Was “give you a ride” what he thought it meant?
Old Man Zhang clung to the wall, shaking his head slowly in horror.
“Stop, stop, stop. I, ahem, this great immortal, suddenly remembered that there are still important things to do. Little friend, you go on first.” Lao Zhang choked for a second before replying weakly, “Don’t worry about me—”
“You’re too polite! No buts!”
This time, Lao Zhang didn’t bother covering up, so he immediately shouted back. He didn’t dare wait for a response and scrambled up the stairs with his hands and feet, rushed back to his room, closed the door, and got under the blanket in one go.
After wrapping himself into a silkworm cocoon, Old Man Zhang took a dozen deep breaths before barely stabilizing his heartbeat.
“God have mercy. God have mercy… haa.”
He would return the keycard tomorrow and seriously renounce his actions. His son and daughter-in-law were right. There was something seriously wrong with him, so he should take a good rest.
Hell, the hallucination was too real.
Yin Ren put his feet on the ground and let out a long sigh.
It was a pity. Uncle Zhang was really kind to him, so he wanted to help the old man down the stairs.
As the saying went, everything was hard in the beginning. As the fiercest thing in existence, his entry into the world was almost a near-miss. To be honest, just now, when Old Man Zhang said “a great evil”, Yin Ren thought he had seen through his identity.
That was until he ran into a grieving spirit in the corridor.
The spirit was lying on the stairs of the third floor, the size of two adults. It was mumbling with its face down and had spider-like limbs at its side. Its dirty long hair covered the steps, tangled into a sticky mess.
The grudge it held wasn’t aggressive. When the two of them passed the steps, it politely moved aside. The poor ghost had intended on avoiding them, but the old man still stepped on its head and crotch, obviously unaware of its existence.
Even if his dao was sealed, a cultivator wouldn’t miss a spirit.
Mortals on earth were uninspired, making a fuss about levitating. The “daily news” didn’t mention anything about the metaphysics world while two factions in the sky were fighting fiercely, desperately summoning themselves.
The metaphysical world was still there, but most likely had become a shadow of itself.
A peaceful and prosperous world like this; there was no place more suitable for “a great evil” to hide.
On the dark street, Yin Ren opened his arms in satisfaction and felt the rain pouring down.
The summer rainstorm brought a bit of warmth, dissipating the gloomy cold brought out by the seal. A good life was close at hand. Yin Ren was just about to take a few more deep breaths when a sharp sound suddenly exploded from very close by.
There was a sharp sound of friction that had never been heard before, followed by the sound of wheels sliding across the ground.
The sound was particularly harsh. It ripped through the thunder in the heavy rain, leaving behind a long echo in the empty streets.
This subtle sense of familiarity.
Yin Ren slowly folded his arms and turned in the direction from which the sound came.
There was the breath of a living person over there.
Happy Halloween. As a big fan of Nian Zhong I have decided to pick up another project by her. I was going to release this a little later but given that it’s Halloween and the story matched the theme so well, I decided to release the prologue early.
This is Nian Zhong’s latest work and is still ongoing. Most likely by the time I catch up, the novel will be completed. For those unfamiliar with the author, you can check out her others works I’ve done: Happy Doomsday and Stray.
The title of the novel is (凶人恶煞) which is referencing the idiom (凶神恶煞) which refers to a great evil deity, but now used to refer to an evil/wicked/ferocious person. The author replaced deity (神) with people (人) in the idiom. This is most likely purposeful in two ways as Yin Ren is supposedly a great evil, but is now pretending to be human, so it’s a reference to both meanings of the original idiom.
I’ve struggled to make a proper translation and had asked many for help but in the end I settled for Evil As Humans.
Second note: A salted fish is a metaphor referring to someone who wants to be lazy and has no great ambitions.