“Why are things like that?” At lunchtime, Qin Ye was already standing in front of the silicone doll, questioning her with an ashen look on his face.
It had been one hell of a morning. He even had to maintain a perfect, pristine smile on his face when it was finally announced that he was ranked fifth in the Faculty of Combat. It couldn’t have been more heartbreaking!
Arthis was watching the horror movie, Ju-On, and her eyes didn’t even shift from the screen as she responded, “What kind of a man are you? Don’t you know your own limits?”
“Didn’t… didn’t you say that Emissaries of Hell possess the ability to naturally suppress opponents at the same level as they are? I didn’t even face a single bit of pressure when expunging those Hunter-class ghosts, so why do these acclaimed geniuses of the mortal realm fight as though they’ve been possessed by the god of spring? And each one of them looked stronger than the other to boot!”
“This ghost… is an incarnate revenant… how did an incarnate revenant appear in Nippon?” Arthis furrowed her brows at Kayako, and then finally responded after several seconds, “You’ve got to listen to me carefully. You possess the ability to naturally suppress ghosts at the same level - not humans.”
“Then how am I supposed to continue pretending to be happy in front of them in future?”
“Idiot.” Arthis yawned and discovered that she had a message on QQ. She opened it, “Ur the only 1 I have in my <3. Would u lyk to m33t up?”
Qin Ye’s nerves immediately tensed up.
Arthis’ rubber fingers flickered across the surface of the screen as she typed, “Get lost.”
Bloody hell. She’s improving at light speed… how can she understand such internet slang and learn to respond to it so quickly…
Qin Ye had a bad premonition in this regard. Arthis closed the chat box and muttered placidly, “Simple.”
“The core purpose of the First Academy of Cultivators has always been to slay evil ghosts. Didn’t you say that you’re in the Faculty of Combat right now? Then you’ll have plenty of relevant assignments in future to do just that. As soon as the academy sees your track record in that regard, nobody would be able to even point fingers at you any longer.”
“But it just doesn’t feel right always putting on a pretense in front of the academy…”
Arthis slammed on the keyboard in exasperation, “Your main goal now is to survive, understand?! You’re a husky hiding among a pack of wolves, so can you please be more conscious of your status? What are you doing drawing attention to yourself? Aren’t you afraid of standing out a little bit too much? If you ask me, I think you’ve done a swell job today.”
Qin Ye was somewhat annoyed, “It’s not like I want to stand out either. But, the present ranking could very well be related to the eventual distribution of resources and allocation of students. We’re about to head into Mount Tai City for further studies, and then the first semester will start shortly after that. There’s not much time left!”
Arthis finally lifted her eyes from the screen and thought for a moment, “Well, it’s not as though there’s no way out of this conundrum…”
She looked at Qin Ye, “Earlier today, I’d broadly familiarized myself with some of the societal conventions, especially with regard to schools and academies. You have to bear in mind that even though you’re hiding among the cultivation world right now, the First Academy of Cultivators is still a school when all is said and done. As long as it’s a school, the grading and assessment system would naturally go beyond that of simply combat.”
“Over time, they will naturally get to know you better… including your track record against the ilk of ghosts. But before that happens, the academy will probably also implement other methods for their own grading and assessment purposes. For instance… by mockup classes.”
Qin Ye’s eyes brightened.
Arthis tapped lightly on her keyboard, “None of you are teachers or instructors by profession. Even if you’ve undergone some measure of training before, how could the academy possibly feel at ease entrusting their students to you? They’re bound to engage in some classroom observations like ordinary training institutions for you. It’s not that I don’t trust the instructors. It’s just that given the mortal realm’s abilities right now, there’s probably still a whole host of evil ghosts they haven’t even heard about yet.”
“For instance, a parasitic spirit.” Arthis explained, “It is born with a Yin vein and lives in the land of nine Yins. As soon as ghosts possess these parasitic spirits, they will even believe that the parasitic spirits are kindred spirits and continue to live together in the body of their host. Everything would be well and good while they remain hidden. But as soon as something triggers an outbreak, these parasitic spirits would at least be at the level of a malevolent ghast! When I was in office, I saw three such instances of outbreaks, each of which were ghosts at the incarnate revenant level. As soon as they appear, the village that they were in was completely obliterated, turning the surrounding area of a hundred mile radius into a nest of evil ghosts instantly.”
“Another example is the intergenerational spirit. The odds of its appearance is even rarer. One of the preconditions to its appearance is that a matriarch ghost must have birthed a ghost child just before she had become a ghost. Several generations later, there will be a possibility of one of her offsprings mutating into a ghost given certain trigger circumstances. The level of the resultant ghost is just as high. At the very least, it will be a malevolent ghast that is at the level equivalent to an Anitya Hellguard!”
“And then there is the mother-and-child spirit, the nightmare spirit, etc. As long as you toss out some of these topics at random for discussion, you’re bound to take the top spot regardless of how much flair the other instructors perform their classes with.”
There’s such an option available?
Hang on… Isn’t your level of comprehension simply astonishing as well… Qin Ye gazed deeply at Arthis, somewhat regretting having ever opened the floodgates of the internet to her.
“But is this the time for you to be caring about such matters?” Arthis continued placidly, “Doesn’t the commencement of the sparring competition also mean that Hell’s initial expansion is already complete? Don’t you want to take a look at your new territory?”
Of course I do!
Qin Ye didn’t do much in the afternoon. He didn’t want to remain around the poisoned chalice that Arthis was, so he asked Wang Chenghao out for a walk, and they watched two movies together. By the time he was back, it was almost about time.
“Hold the other shard of King Yanluo’s Seal in your hands. As long as you think about it, you’ll immediately be able to enter the new Hell.” Arthis held his hand in a natural fashion.
Qin Ye glared at her, “Let go.”
“I won’t be able to enter Hell if I let go now! Do you think I want to do this?” Arthis glared viciously back at Qin Ye.
In his disdain, Qin Ye compromised by allowing Arthis to hold onto a corner of his clothes. He pulled out the other shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, took a deep breath, and everything went black. By the time he came to his senses once more, he had already appeared in the center of a vast expanse of land.
Whoosh… A powerful whistling gale swept across the sky. Rolling Yin clouds that looked like an imposing tidal wave could be seen in the distance. They were pure black and dense.
The land was approximately three square kilometers in size. The tan-coloured ground was covered in cracks, and jade-green netherfire continuously spewed out of the cracks from time to time. It even emitted the faint traces of the mournful cries of Yin spirits. Black trees with scarlet leaves swayed gently on both sides, forming a scarlet forest.
And right at the end of the path formed by the scarlet trees, there was a majestic building.
It was a palace.
The palace covered an area that spanned approximately one thousand meters across. A four-pronged cauldron stood stoically at the door. It was three meters wide and six meters tall, and pale white incense candles burnt from it, emitting gloomy green smoke to the surroundings. The richly ornamented palace building was covered with white coloured spirit flags, while Hell notes could be seen being swept across the palace premises from time to time. The palace had a black-tiled roof, pure white walls, and tiled eaves that overhung the building that were set with intricate sculptures of the xiezhi unicorn everywhere.
It was an ancient palace with ancient doors and windows. Looking through the windows, one could see that the inside of the palace was illuminated by candles from lamps shaped like the Aurogon. More intricate sculptures of yakshas, rakshasas, Anitya Hellguards of the Black and White, Ox-Head and Horse-Face, were placed everywhere in an orderly manner. A table that was more than a hundred meters long sat squarely at the entrance of the palace, and there were over one hundred black coloured chairs placed behind the same. The table was covered with a long white cloth, and the front of the table was separated into over a hundred columns by black coloured wooden railings.
A massive sign was affixed just over the main entrance to the palace. Two words were written in an imposing yet majestic font across the sprawling sign - Hell’s Gate.
A pair of couplets was affixed vertically just underneath the sign.
The first couplet read - Sins of three lives in the mortal realm are accorded to thee.
And the second couplet read - Hath Hell spared any since ages past.
A final statement was written horizontally - You’re finally here.
“Heh…” Arthis gazed at the couplets emotionally, “It’s been a long time… since I’ve seen these couplets.”
“Kid… you hold great authority in your hands now. Unbelievably, unimaginably great. But, no matter what you do… don’t lose yourself to it.” Arthis gazed deeply into Qin Ye’s eyes, “Otherwise, I’ll be the first one to take your life.”
Qin Ye’s expression turned somber as he sincerely gave a palm-and-fist salute to the pair of couplets.
This was the true meaning of Hell.
It didn’t matter what kind of heinous crime one has committed, whether causing hurt or swindling and cheating others. It didn’t matter that one was a sixty years-old man that was exempt from the reaches of the laws. It didn’t even matter that the police wanted to keep things under wraps and settle the matter privately.
Notwithstanding any of these things, everything that a person has been guilty of would already have been recorded in the Book of Life and Death.
Either live a life that is beyond reproach, or suffer the consequences in the Eighteen Abysses of Punishment.
With a long sigh, he turned to look at the railings at the front of Hell’s Gate, “What’s this?”
Arthis responded, “This is the first thing you’ll see when you enter Hell. It’s commonly known as the Yin Pass. All Yin spirits, regardless of who or what they are, would invariably have to pass through this gate. Do you see the doors on the sides of the palace hall? That’s an exit that is only for Emissaries of Hell. Apart from this place, there is no other way of entering or leaving hell. This is an immutable rule of the Heavenly Dao.”
Qin Ye thought to verify this. He walked around the entire palace, looking for an entrance. Unfortunately, he found none.
It was as if he were blocked by an invisible wall, and he was simply unable to pass through it.
Arthis continued explaining, “These railings and partitions are where the Yin spirits would enter Hell from. The seats behind the table are where the Censor Magistrates, or Censors for short, would sit. The mortal realm refers to the Censors as Death Inquisitors.”
“Ox-Head and Horse-Face summons spirits, and the Emissaries of Hell guide them. As soon as the Yin spirits arrive in this place, their names will again be cross checked against the records of the Book of LIfe and Death to verify whether any Emissary of Hell has committed malfeasance by reaping the spirit of one who wasn’t slated to die.”
Qin Ye was startled, “There are Emissaries of Hell like that?”
“Naturally.” Arthis replied affirmatively, “Emissaries of Hell… are no different from evil ghosts who have unlocked their capacity for conscious thought. You’re the single exception. Apart from you, every single other Emissary of Hell is a ghost! In turn, ghosts who have unlocked their capacity for conscious thought are no different from human beings. Naturally, some of them will develop their own ways of thinking.”
“Every year, the administration of Hell would look at the Book of Life and Death in the palace of the Yama-Kings and make a copy of the names of people who were meant to die that year, and when exactly they are to die, down to the exact minute and second. But some Emissaries of Hell are unable to complete their assignments, either because they were late or tardy, or because some souls experienced an unexpected mutation and transformed into an evil ghost or the like. Unwilling to expend additional resources enlisting the help of others, some Emissaries of Hell end up reaping the wrong person.”
“When the souls of the dead arrive at this place, they would immediately regain their sanity and start lining up to enter. After that, they would traverse the Yin-Yang road, cross the skeletal bridge, until they arrive at the location where the ferryman awaits.”
Qin Ye nodded his head thoughtfully. Then, his eyes suddenly lit up, “Then… why aren’t there any souls here yet?”
It shouldn’t be like this.
Hell has already opened its doors, so there should definitely be souls arriving today. So why was it still empty?
Arthis sneered, “Even though this little plot of land has every right to be considered the new order of Hell in its entirety, its dominion only extends to an area the size of a village within the City of Salvation. How often do people die in a single village? It’s absolutely normal if you don’t see a single soul for several days on end.”
Qin Ye nodded as he stared wistfully at Hell’s Gate. There was an incredibly long table and numerous chairs behind it, yet there was hardly a single person waiting in line. He could only imagine how spectacular Hell must have been in its glory days, when hundreds and hundreds of Emissaries of Hell would wield their brushes and pens as they updated the census of Hell; while on the other end Netherworld Operatives and Soul Hunters would escort groups after groups of souls in and out of Hell. How majestic would the sight have been!
Yet I… could I really start by plundering the corner of the Special Investigations Department’s treasury… and eventually rebuild such a magnificent realm that Hell used to be?
As though he suddenly remembered an important detail, he turned to look at Arthis, only to realize that Arthis was already smirking at him. With lips trembling, Qin Ye muttered, “Speaking of which… where are the other civil servants of Hell?”
“Oh, have you finally realized it?” Arthis covered her mouth and lightly giggled, “There’s naturally… none.”
“Bloody hell!!” Qin Ye nearly jumped at the statement, “You’re not going to ask me, a revered King Yanluo, to do the menial tasks of a civil servant, are you?!”
Arthis revealed an incomparably sinister smile on her face. She leaned back on the table, gently flicked the hair on her head, and then revealed an innocent smile on her silicone face, “Little Comrade Qin… it seems like you’re still quite oblivious to the state that Hell is in right now…”
“First of all. Even though Hell’s domain of influence extends to the size of only a single village, the reestablishment of Hell is nevertheless something that all Yin spirits can sense. It is part of their instinct; it is a part of the Heavenly Dao. Therefore…”
Qin Ye looked at the sky in despair, “A large wave of Yin spirits is currently en route to Hell?”
Arthis nodded affirmatively, “All-out attack! Pulverize them!”
3. The xiezhi unicorn is a chinese mythical beast that is known as a symbol of justice and law. Legend has it that it is often used in criminal proceedings when in doubt, and the animal would immediately know the innocent from the guilty, butting the latter with the horn on its head.