Plop… The talisman-sealed ball shook several times, before rolling over towards Qin Ye’s side. The instakill had taken place in no more than three seconds, and the intense Yin energy that surrounded Qin Ye’s body began to dissipate into the surroundings. Five seconds later, Qin Ye had reverted to his original appearance, complete with his Hell’s Emissary robes.
“This is the might of the Sixfold Ghost Kings?” He stared in astonishment at his own hands. Just a few seconds ago, he had still been under the impression that there was no way he could have defeated Arakshasa at all. Yet, mere seconds later, he had actually defeated her with his own two hands? The chasm between their strength was far too vast. In fact, it had been so vast it was over before he knew it had even begun.
This... was like catching a mere Pikachu with a Masterball. That was way too easy…
Qin Ye bent down to pick up the talisman-sealed ball. Shortly after picking it up, a resentful voice immediately echoed in his ears, “Kid, even though your body was possessed by a Sixfold Ghost King, you would never be able to defeat me with your meagre strength! I... have a proposition for you. If you let me go right now, I’ll forget that anything ever happened today.”
“Haha.” With a curt, inconclusive response, Qin Ye placed the talisman-sealed ball within his pocket indifferently. Releasing her was an impossible proposition. What would happen if Arakshasa came back to life once more? Wouldn’t he have to spend the rest of his life in the mortal realm cowering in fear? He could be a bandit for a thousand days, but how was he to protect himself from bandits for that long?
Even though it was dangerous to bring the ball back with him, he would nevertheless be in the best position to keep it in check and know if any changes occurred to it. To put things bluntly, he was simply afraid of dying.
Anyone who gets in the way of this young master’s survival are heretics!
Without any further interference from Arakshasa, the black butterfly that had initially been shattered and scattered into the surroundings coalesced once more and formed a black whirlwind, carrying Qin Ye straight back into the mortal realm.
Several hours later. Two people sat frozen like statues at the table. Granny Meng’s physical body suddenly disintegrated into ash and dissipated into the surroundings, leaving nothing more than the ancient oil lamp that she had used for the netherworld odyssey. Shortly thereafter, Qin Ye’s body trembled, and he opened his eyes once more, gasping for breath.
“Haa…haa…” Like a victim of drowning who had just regained consciousness, Qin Ye touched his chest and checked that his heart was still beating. His limbs were cold and chilly. It felt as though he had just resurrected from the dead.
It seems like he should never visit the netherworld with his current abilities. Otherwise, he might not even make it through the skeletal bridge…
Cockadoodledoo!! He was back within the county, and a neighbour’s chicken had just crowed. As the rooster declared the onset of daybreak, a golden sheen of light shone softly through the window. Dawn had just covered the lands with a warm golden sheen.
Qin Ye could feel the warmth of life creep back into his body. However, he lay where he was, gently massaging his temples as he delved deep into his own thought.
It’s changed. Everything has changed.
He had already changed, while the rest of the mortal realm was on the brink of a great upheaval. He had already found some answers to the questions bogging down his mind. Why did the school make such announcements? Why were the forums filled with posts reporting supernatural activities? Yet, despite the answers he already had, the road ahead was still fraught with uncertainty. He knew that the first thing he had to do was to organise his thoughts and be clear-headed. Otherwise, he would only become more and more susceptible to external influences as the chaotic changes around began to buffet him.
“First of all, I can’t expose my identity.” He poured himself a cup of herbal tea as he muttered to himself, “The evil spirits of Hell are hiding out in the mortal realm. In other words, they are now no different from mere criminals. And what are criminals most afraid of?”
The answer was self-evident: The law.
He tossed his head up and looked despairingly at the roof, “And I am none other than an agent of the law; the embodiment of justice. As soon as my identity is exposed, I will most certainly be doomed to die a horrible death. Furthermore, my greatest source of security, the Sixfold Ghost King Summoning Scroll, has already been expended. Yet the only thing I got in return is a stupid, useless pokeball! Which I don’t even dare to discard!”
No matter how he looked at the situation, it seemed completely hopeless to him. He had been enjoying life with wanton abandon and little preparation for the future. Yet, that beautiful dream of his had just been shattered to pieces in the span of a few days.
I’m really walking along a tightrope here… But all of this doesn’t take into account the fact that I can’t die…
“Perhaps...I could just ignore these things after all? Granny Meng has departed, so the three-day limit has already been written off. If I simply ignore it... would I be able to live on as I’d done before?”
“Fool.” Arakshasa’s cold voice echoed within his ears. “Even someone like Granny Meng isn’t able to determine when a person’s life draws to an end. Life and death are part of the natural order of things governed by one of the three primordial treasures, the Book of Life and Death. Even if Ksitigarbha’s enlightenment has shattered the three primordial treasures into innumerable pieces and weakened its abilities, death would only be delayed, never abolished.”
“... That’s a rich statement coming from you.”
Arakshasa gnashed her teeth as she continued, “Your records show that you have only three days left within the mortal realm. Hell’s collapse would affect people like you with ‘dual-citizenship’, as your existence straddles both realms. The netherworld represents Yin, while the mortal realm represents Yang. As soon as either realm falls out of balance, your existence would immediately be threatened, even though you name was not originally in the Book of Life and Death.”
She paused for a moment as she attempted to calm her voice, “Kid, my earlier offer still stands. If you release me right now, I’ll teach you how to avoid your certain doom. In fact, I can even help you locate a shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. With a shard of one of the primordial treasures protecting you, you’ll almost certainly be able to continue living forever…”
Before she could finish speaking, the ball containing her was... immediately tossed under Qin Ye’s bed.
“How dare you gnash your teeth when you’re begging me? Take a look at yourself and what kind of fool the author has portrayed you to be. Even your micro-expressions are awful.” Qin Ye thought for a moment, before picking out a book entitled “How to be an Actor” and tossing it under the bed after the ball, “You’re welcome.”
The string of swear words emanating from underneath his bed fell onto deaf ears.
Qin Ye glanced at his watch. It was now 5.10 a.m.
There are two periods of time everyday known as the demonic hours when supernatural activities surge - five at dawn, and six at dusk. These are periods of time where Yin and Yang overlap, and humans who possess relatively higher concentrations of Yin energy or dabble with special techniques would be able to see and perceive certain unclean objects.
He furrowed his brows slightly. Dawn was here, and there was no longer any way to summon Wang Zemin’s soul. In any event, he was not learned in the arts of summoning a spirit either. Three days. He didn’t think that Arakshasa was joking in the least bit with this. In other words, he had to locate the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal within three days’ time! Otherwise, it would be game over.
Sighing, he walked reluctantly to the other side of his bed and lifted the pillow. A yellowing book sat squarely on his bed. “Is this what the old granny left behind?” Qin Ye was incredibly dissatisfied. Given the current circumstances, wouldn’t a secret manuscript imparting an impeccable set of cultivation arts be far more useful?
He flipped open the first page, “Little one, if you’re reading this, it means that you’ve already learnt about the truth of it all, and I…”
Qin Ye flipped the page with hardly any expression on his face.
Nuh-uh, none of that. Do you even know what kind of situation I’m in right now? I’ve just been forced into a corner by you, yet you want me to commiserate with you? Not happening!
What I want is a secret technique! A secret treasure! A magic beast or a genie! I don't give a damn where you've gone off to!
The second page. “This old bag of bones expects you to treat me coldly and ignore the first page. Therefore, this old bag of bones is going to repeat myself once more: Little one, if you’re reading this, it means that you’ve already learnt about the truth of it all, and I…”
Qin Ye flipped the page without any expression on his face once more.
The third page. “Don’t repeat the same mistake again and again. This is the last time this old bag of bones is going to say this. I’m going to miss this world and the job that I’ve been doing for the last few thousands of years. Little one, if you’re reading this, it means that you’ve already learnt about the truth of it all, and I…”
Pak! Qin Ye immediately closed the book with one hand. After breathing deeply and regulating his emotions, he finally looked at the book once more - again without a single expression on his face - as he flipped to the fourth page.
She’s finally getting to the damned point! Why do some authors like to repeat text over and over? Is she just trying to pad the word count?
His expression grew somber. As the old saying goes: knowledge is power. What he was reading was going to be the foundation and building blocks for his survival as a rookie Emissary of Hell.
In fact… He secretly hoped that he would be able to find a loophole allowing him to escape from certain death within three days so that he could continue living life under the radar right here!
The fourth page finally got to the point. It led straight in with the header - “Grading system of Hell’s Emissaries and Ghosts.”
“All of Hell’s officials are also referred to as Emissaries of Hell. The lowest grade of these are known as ‘Netherworld Operatives’ or simply ‘Operatives’, and these govern the affairs of villages. The next grade of Hell’s Emissaries are known as ‘Soul Hunters’, and they govern the affairs of counties. They are considered a low-grade Emissary of Hell.
“Middle-grade Emissaries of Hell are differentiated into two separate tiers: those who govern affairs at the city level are referred to as the ‘Anitya Hellguards’ or simply ‘Hellguards’, while those who govern affairs at the provincial level and oversee affairs at the city level are referred to as the ‘Infernal Judges’ or ‘Judges’.”
“Upper-grade Emissaries of Hells are also further distinguished by two separate tiers: those who govern district-level affairs are known as the ‘Abyssal Prefects’ or ‘Prefects’, while those governing affairs at the national level are known as ‘Yama-King’.”
“When someone has served in his station as Yama-King for more than five hundred years, he may be elected King Yanluo by a referendum among the citizens of the netherworld. In all of netherworld, there are a total of 1,200,000 Netherworld Operatives, 240,000 Soul Hunters, 35,000 Anitya Hellguards, 1,200 Infernal Judges, 90 Abyssal Prefects and 10 Yama-Kings. The ten Yama-Kings are also known as the Yamas of the Ten Palaces. No census has been conducted on the Emissaries of Hell under the grade of Operatives. Based on our last estimate, there are approximately 10 million of them.”
“Separately, there are also the Sixfold Ghost Kings, namely, Zhao Yun, Ying Bu, Yang Gun, Fan Kuai, Ran Min and Bai Qi. These are special investigators who wander the lands. As soon as they locate a high-ranking evil spirit, they have the authority to execute them on the spot.”
“Take heed - no Emissary of Hell is allowed to interfere with the affairs of the mortal realm. Anyone who flouts these rules will suffer the punishment of the natural order of the world, also known as the Heavenly Dao. Although Hell has collapsed, the Heavenly Dao remains! You would do well to take heed in this regard.”
Qin Ye’s hands paused momentarily. Having read the contents of the fourth page, he finally had some level of understanding of the hierarchy in Hell. At the same time, he finally realized how terrifying an existence Arakshasa was. She was a governor of provincial-level affairs, one of the 1,200 Infernal Judges of Hell. In other words, of the billions of spirits in Hell, she was among the top 1,200 spirits!
Yet, right now, this governor was simply lying miserably underneath his own bed…
This can’t do. Once I find the opportunity to do so, I’ll have to rid myself of this calamitous existence.
He continued to read on.
“Hell’s ghosts and spirits are also divided into six grades, from S-grade through to E-grade. The lowest E-grade refers to newborn, five-year old ghosts. Fifty-year ghosts are D-grade ghosts. Hundred-year ghosts are C-grade ghosts. Three-hundred-year ghosts are B-grade ghosts. Five-hundred-year ghosts are A-grade ghosts. Finally, millennial ghosts and Ghost Kings are known as S-grade ghosts. With your current abilities, you should flee immediately as soon as you encounter D-grade ghosts.”
“When these ghosts have been subdued by you, they will automatically become sealed within soul spheres…”
Qin Ye’s eyes shone with understanding. Soul sphere...so that’s what this pokeball-like device is called?
He continued reading, “The soul spheres cannot be opened by anyone else apart from the person who sealed them. Every hundred years, these soul spheres are personally sent by an Abyssal Prefect to Ksitigarbha to be incinerated en masse...”
In that instant, a fleeting thought flashed across the bottom of his mind. He tried to latch onto this thought, but to no avail. Qin Ye furrowed his brows for some time, but he was still unable to recall that fleeting thought.
Shaking his head, he continued to read on. Strangely enough, the contents of the book appeared to have burned itself into his mind even though he had only been skimming through it. After flipping through several pages, his hand paused once more.
1. These are all very famous historical Chinese figures. For example, Zhao Yun was one of the top generals under Liu Bei in the Three Kingdoms, while Bai Qi is considered to be one of the 'evil genius' generals of the Warring Kingdoms period, who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of prisoners.