Chapter 5: I am a host

The question of whether ghosts existed in our world was much trickier than questions like which came first, the chicken or the egg.
After all, most people knew what chickens and eggs looked like, but very few had seen the appearance of ghosts.

Even professional researchers in the field of paranormal phenomena may not have been able to provide a definitive answer at this time, let alone someone like me, a third-rate detective who was born under the red flag and raised in the spring breeze.

But not fully understanding did not preclude one from providing an answer.
Many times in life, it was not necessary to give the correct answer, but to say what others wanted to hear.

As the masked man had said at the beginning, to become a host of the underworld show, one not only needed to be good at communicating with the audience, but also needed to learn how to protect oneself.

This question was actually full of implications, and the test started as soon as I walked in the door.

I was not fixated on whether ghosts really existed in this world but rather reorganizing my experiences from this night: the legend of the no-lights road, the old lady holding a doll on a rainy night, the interviewers with a paper face, and the five strange questions.

Everything seems to be designed to challenge common sense and prepare me for this final question.

They have laid so much groundwork, and the answer they want was actually quite obvious.

“I believe that ghosts exist in the world, and that is my answer.”

As soon as these words fell, applause unexpectedly broke out in the small room.
On the other side of the tribute table, the three interviewers stiffly clapped their hands.

“You answered four out of five questions correctly.
Congratulations, Mr.
Gao, you will be officially employed by the underworld show as a contracted host under our company.”

For various reasons, I had been rejected by countless companies in Jiangcheng, big and small.
The repeated failures had left me with psychological scars.
I never expected that this time around this specific interview would go so smoothly.
However, the awkward truth was that I didn’t feel any joy in being hired at this moment.

“Is it not too hasty to hire me just like that?”

“No, you are the most suitable candidate we have came across.
If you have no further questions, let’s sign the contract right here,” the person sitting in the middle slowly stood up.
He was about the same height as me, with a creepy paper-mache face, and we looked at each other across the table.

“Well, I do have a question, actually.
You have said that I answered four out of the five questions correctly.
Can you tell me which one I got wrong?” There should have been no mistakes in my deductive reasoning, especially for a detective.

“You don’t need to know right now…” The paper-mache mask emitted a chuckle.
“Because you will soon experience that kind of despair yourself, and then you will understand which question you got wrong.”

“Experience it myself? That’s a terrifying answer.” Anyone with a normal psyche would not want to experience the scenarios presented in those questions.

Gao, do you have any further questions?”

“No… ” Though I said that, how could I not have any? My mind was currently besieged by countless doubts.
However, these queries could not be voiced, and even if they were, the other party would not answer.
This could even lead to fatal consequences.

To make it through tonight unscathed, the most prudent course of action is to act subserviently on the surface, and once I leave here, immediately alert the authorities and cooperate with them to apprehend these “mentally ill” individuals.

“Alright then, let’s proceed with signing the contract.” He retrieved an old, yellowed, and weathered parchment from beneath the tribute table, and clasped my right hand, pressing it down onto the contract.

“It’s so cold…” This was my first physical contact with the masked man, and I was surprised to find that his body was unexpectedly icy, as if he were a corpse frozen in a morgue waiting to be claimed.

“What’s going on?” Before I could even recover, I saw a strange bug crawling out from under the floor, resembling a centipede, but with a horn on its forehead that was one or two centimeters long like that of a dragon.

It crawled along the table leg, onto the table, and moved quickly.

I wanted to dodge, but the masked man’s arm was like a pair of iron tongs pressing me down, unable to struggle, only able to watch the strange bug bite down on my wrist.

“Ah!” The intense pain made me scream, but it only lasted for a few seconds.
When I regained consciousness and looked down, there was a black, plum-shaped wound on my right wrist, staining the contract with blood.
The strange insect had lost its vitality and curled up, falling into a gap in the floorboards.

“Contract complete.
From today on, you are a member of the Underworld Show.” The masked man released his grip, his tone still emotionless as he brought out a leather suitcase from beside his chair.

“We will provide all your broadcasting equipment, and all you need to do is put on a good show and attract more viewers.” He opened the suitcase, revealing all the tools required for the live broadcast: cameras, mobile encoders, selfie sticks, tripods, and even a large-screen phone.
If it weren’t for the bloodstains still present on some of the items, I would almost believe that this was a normal company.

“We will directly publish your live streaming task to your phone, and you can choose your preferred way of broadcasting.
However, please remember to use the tools we provide once you start the live streaming, as only our devices can capture things that ordinary people cannot see.”

“After each live streaming session, we will rate your performance based on popularity and gifts received.
You can accumulate points, which can be redeemed for many unexpected rewards from us.”

“However, rewards come with penalties.
If your points are negative, you will disappear without a trace, just like Xia Chi, who brought you here!”

After hearing this, I could no longer maintain a calm facade.
The fact that someone could disappear without a trace so easily implies the existence of a large, organized criminal group.
What’s worse is that I seem to have unwittingly boarded the thief’s ship.

“All the details are written in the contract.
Do you have any questions?”

I picked up the parchment paper, which was soaked with my own blood.
There were numerous sections listed, outlining various terms and conditions, such as not disclosing the existence of the underworld show to outsiders and not refusing tasks assigned.

Of particular note was the points redemption table printed on the back of the contract.
The first line stated that one point could be exchanged for 100 grams of pure gold.

“You must be kidding me.
Gold is now selling for 250 yuan per gram.
One hundred grams is worth 25,000 yuan.”

“Continuing to read down, five points can be exchanged for a Thai Guan Tong (little ghost), seven points for Xiangxi Corpse Gu, ten points for the Huidi Taishui, twelve points for a hand-copied version of the Jade Maiden Xishen technique, fifteen points for the ability to open the eyes of the mundane and supernatural, twenty points for washing the tendons and mending the bones, thirty points…”

“What is all this even about?” The densely packed list of bizarre and twisted methods made me speechless.
It was like I was not even in the same world anymore.

As my gaze continued to shift downward, I saw the final line of the redemption table:

Prolonging life, one thousand points can extend your life for twelve hours.

Ten thousand points can be used to choose to exit, and everything returns to square one.

“There, you’ve finished reading it.
Keep the contract safe, and please familiarize yourself with the live streaming tools as soon as possible.
Your first live stream is expected to take place tomorrow night.”

“Can I refuse?”

“We do not interfere with your choice to participate, but your current point balance is zero.
If you choose to stop broadcasting once, ten points will be deducted.”

“Okay, I understand.
Can I leave now?” To be honest, I didn’t want to stay here for a moment longer.

“If you have any further questions, you can call me.
The phone in the suitcase can reach me.” The person supported the paper mask with one hand and waved the other, and the tightly closed door slowly opened.

Gao, I can tell that you’re a cautious and intelligent person.
I hope you take every live broadcast seriously and don’t joke around with your own life.”

“Don’t worry, I haven’t had enough of life yet.”

I picked up the suitcase and walked quickly towards the door, ignorant of how long I had been in the room, but my legs were numb and stiff, like they were encased in plaster.

Gao, I sincerely wish that you can stay alive…”

The words of the man behind the mask were lost on me, but I knew better than to expect anything positive from a deranged lunatic.
Without another thought, I left room 444 and sprinted up the stairs, not bothering to pay attention to my surroundings as I ran out onto the street.

After what felt like an eternity of aimless running, I finally caught sight of some headlights in the distance.
“A car!” I thought to myself, relieved.

“Where to?” asked the taxi driver, an elderly man with thinning hair.

“Take me back to the new district, Jiangcheng, east of the Ting Tong Road,” I said impatiently, pounding on the door of the taxi.

“The starting fare is 20 yuan, and according to the latest regulations, there’s an extra one yuan fuel surcharge,” replied the taxi driver.

“Stop talking and just open the door!” I exclaimed, still in a state of shock.
I didn’t care about the money at this point, and instead I was breathing heavily and holding onto my suitcase tightly.

“Young man, it’s not that I don’t want to take you, but it’s late at night and you’re all jittery, clutching onto a suitcase like that.
Who knows what’s inside? What if…”

“You’re overthinking it,” I said, opening the suitcase to reveal the camera inside.
“Don’t worry about it and just open the door.
I’m just a daring live streamer who likes the thrill.”


“Born under the red flag and raised in the spring breeze” is a Chinese idiom that means he has had a fortunate and good upbringing.

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