"The undying. Probability of occurrence: 1 in 100 million. It is an occurrence that is only seen when a person has consumed the taisui fungus, also known as the fungus of aeons. That person will gain a body known as the body of Nirvana.”
“When a person consumes the fungus of aeons, there is a 50% chance that he will lose control of his mind and become a mindless monster, and a 50% chance that he will gain the body of Nirvana. If a person is fortunate enough not to die after consuming the fungus of aeons, he will gain immortality, and he will automatically be subject to reincarnation every time he dies. He will not enter Hell. Instead, he will gain new life in a period of time that is anytime between ten to one hundred years in the future. However, he will also lose all memory he has ever had of the past.”
Qin Ye’s eyes were glued to the pages of Granny Meng’s records. There it is again... it’s the same feeling of enlightenment as before… It was as though the contents of the pages had imprinted themselves on his mind. Just like that, Qin Ye continued to read through its contents for a full twenty minutes, before he suddenly stood up. So that’s how it is!
Among the countless pieces of information left for him, there really was… there really was a method to circumventing the three-day curse of death, and the words of warning issued by the provincial-governor lying in the soul sphere under his bed!
“Since you’ve ruined my Sixfold Ghost King Summoning Scroll, you shall serve me as recompense!” Qin Ye did not set out and about his tasks immediately. Instead, he deliberated for another half an hour before crouching down and pulling out from under the bed the provincial-level bureaucrat that appeared to be preoccupied with learning how to be an actor.
“Kid... I wish upon you a horrible death! I’ll wait for you in Hell... as soon as you die, I’m going to sentence your soul to the sky-lantern punishment!” As soon as Qin Ye retrieved the soul sphere from under the bed, a massive outpouring of curses and swearing gushed out at him.
Qin Ye tossed the soul sphere into the air lightly as he spoke, “Granny Meng has left something for me.”
The soul sphere quietened down in that instant.
“I’ve just discovered what’s unique about people who have consumed the taisui fungus.”
Arakshasa remained completely silent.
“Furthermore, I’ve even learnt that the soul sphere will be delivered to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva every one hundred years to be incinerated and destroyed. I must admit - that’s not a bad national policy.”
“What are you trying to say?” Arakshasa muttered icily.
“Don’t be anxious. I’d like to explain my hypothesis to you. I’ll explain, and you can listen and let me know at the end whether you find such a hypothesis… interesting, shall we?”
Without waiting for Arakshasa’s response, he immediately continued, “Firstly, how many people in Cathay die every year? I remember one estimate pegged the figures at 5 million people. Then, what about the total deaths in one hundred years? That’s 500 million. 500 million soul sphere hanging on a single person’s body? Did such matters really need to be attended to by a Prefect-class Emissary of Hell? Do these Abyssal Prefects have too much time on their hands?”
Arakshasa remained silent. For some strange reason, a bad premonition began to creep into her heart.
“There must have been something else that would necessitate such extreme actions. What could it be? I contemplated the possibility of an issue, and that is…” Qin Ye smiled faintly as he glanced at the soul sphere, “Spirits perish on the Naraka Bridge.”
“I would even venture to guess that the Prefects are specifically tasked as such because Emissaries of Hell under the rank of Prefect have no way of even entering the Buddhist Kingdom established by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva! Isn’t that right? Even you, a spirit that was once Judge-class… tsk, tsk, tsk, you could only hide in the cracks of the abyss, far away from the Naraka Bridge, as you sought shelter for survival. In fact, even renown Emissaries of Hell like Granny Meng aren’t even able to cross the Naraka Bridge and enter the Fengdu Necropolis, right?”
“Is that nonsense all that your hypothesis entailed?” Arakshasa muttered coldly. Despite that, she failed to notice that her disposition had ostensibly softened somewhat.
“Nonono.” Qin Ye wagged his finger, “We’ll move on to part two of my hypothesis, which has to do with why I didn’t experience any sense of rejection on the Naraka Bridge!”
In that instant, Qin Ye discovered that the soul sphere in his hands had ceased to move completely. There was not even a faint trace of struggling. It was almost as though Arakshasa had suddenly died.
“Are you afraid now? I’ve just figured it out. Granny Meng had earlier mentioned this as well - a person with an immortal body like myself can come into contact with any objects, be they Yin or Yang in nature. Unfortunately for you, even though Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva can overwhelm you at any moment, he is of no threat to me whatsoever.”
“In other words, I have the capacity to make it all the way into the Fengdu Necropolis if I wanted to. Isn’t that right?”
“Hehehe… people have to learn to respect me when they speak to me. You’re something that I’ve traded my Sixfold Ghost King Summoning Scroll for. On that matter, that was my only trump card,” Qin Ye complained.
Suddenly, the soul sphere trembled as Arakshasa roared, gnashing her teeth: “Just what are you trying to say?!!”
Qin Ye’s smile faded, and he squinted at the soul sphere with scrutiny, “What I’m saying is… the soul sphere is going to remain sealed for as long as I am alive. And if I choose to embark on the netherworld odyssey once more and toss you at the feet of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, what do you think is going to happen to you?”
“Hmm? My dear, ignorant, ex-provincial bureaucrat?”
There was dead silence once again. Qin Ye no longer spoke. He simply continued to toss the soul sphere into the air playfully. Sure enough, Granny Meng was right - when he stripped off all the layers masking his true self, he realized that his heart was pretty darn tainted after all…
“You can try.” Several seconds later, Arakshasa sneered at him, “I’m a former Judge no matter how you look at it. Ksitigarbha doesn’t have the ability to purge me. Besides…”
She mocked contemptuously, “With your abilities? How dare a mere Operative like you dream of completing the netherworld odyssey? You would be shredded to pieces by the lingering spirits before you even make it past the skeletal bridge.”
As soon as she finished speaking, Qin Ye stood up abruptly and drew the curtains.
“W-what are you doing?” Arakshasa’s voice trembled slightly.
Without responding, Qin Ye silently picked up the ancient lamp that Granny Meng had left on the table and began to study it carefully.
If memory serves me well, all I have to do is to light this lamp, and I would be able to embark on the netherworld odyssey…
“What the Hell are you trying to do? It’s no use. You would never be able to complete the netherworld odyssey with your present abilities…”
There was still no response. After some time, Qin Ye breathed a sigh of relief as he popped open the lid of the ancient lamp.
“To be honest, there’s really no reason for us to be at loggerheads with one another. I’ll tell you the true purpose of King Yanluo’s Seal. No, I can even tell you why Granny Meng had actually gone out of her way to select and appoint a final Emissary of Hell! Don’t you find it strange? Hell has so many Emissaries, and there’s even the possibility of locating a few that managed to survive the great upheaval. At the same time, aren’t there also many skilled cultivators and priests in the mortal realm? Which one of them isn’t better than you?”
There was still no response. Qin Ye flicked his lighter and ignited a flame.
“Stay your hand!!!” Arakshasa cried out with a shrill, hoarse voice.
Qin Ye was just about to bring the lighter into the ancient lamp when he paused and glanced at the soul sphere with a grimace on his face. “Have you decided to put down your pretences? Didn’t you say that Ksitigarbha can’t purge you?”
This time, it was Arakshasa who had been silenced. The only sound she made right now was from the gnashing of her teeth.
“Do go on. It’s not very satisfying when you simply stop at that.”
“Shut up!!” Arakshasa’s voice trembled with contempt, “What are you trying to do? I’ll be honest with you - Ksitigarbha has the power to purge me in an instant. But what I said earlier is also true - you will most definitely perish before you even make it to the Fengdu Necropolis!”
“Alright, then we’ll just perish together.”
I #%&(@#($*&#[email protected]!! These were the words that Arakshasa wanted to explode with right now. She was feeling salty to the extreme.
Don’t you understand what I’m trying to get at? Why do you even want to perish? The world is such a beautiful place, yet you choose to be so grumpy and annoying. That’s not good.
Haven’t you ever thought of reining in and restraining your rectal-prolapse-like deathwish?
Haven’t you ever thought about channelling some of your energy for good and contributing to nation-building efforts?
What kind of a person are you?!
She took a deep breath and reordered her thoughts. The soul sphere shook slightly. When she finally spoke again, her voice was far more amiable than before, “There's no need to take everything to heart. We might have had some differences earlier, but that’s all due to some misunderstandings, isn’t it? Earlier, on the Naraka Bridge, I had only thought to give you a scare. In truth, I’m actually quite a friendly person…”
But not even Arakshasa was fully convinced of what she was saying.
Qin Ye finally closed the lid on the ancient lamp. An audible sigh of relief could be heard from the soul sphere. Then, Qin Ye finally took out the soul sphere containing Wang Zemin’s soul and shook it lightly, “My request is rather simple. First of all, I don’t want to die either. But don’t you worry. If we aren’t able to resolve this issue by tomorrow night, I’ll do everything in my abilities to bring you to Ksitigarbha.”
“Since you have destroyed my security blanket, you will have to work for me. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”
What kind of sense has your father been teaching you?!
A Judge of several hundred years would have to work for a mere Operative like you?!
Even my spit could drown you to death!
“Makes sense… of course it makes sense…” Despite her thoughts, Arakshasa found herself expressing a completely different opinion.
“Furthermore, in order to prevent you from scheming against me, I’ll at the very least have to hold onto a strand of your soul as security, don’t I? If I die, you die. It’ll be as though we’re family…”
“That’s not possible!” Before he could finish speaking, Arakshasa exploded in fury, “I’d rather die than give you a strand of my soul!”
“No room for negotiations?” Qin Ye opened the ancient lamp once more.
“... Haha… youngsters these days are far too impatient… It’s not that I refuse to give you a strand of my soul, it’s just that I’ll have to impose a time limit of a hundred years to it. I can assist you. However, if you aren’t able to attain the rank of Infernal Judge in that time despite the lack of competition, you will have to release me. We’ll take a blood-oath on this, governed by the natural orders of the world. No one can go back on their words.”
Why didn’t you just do this earlier? Why’d you have to test my bottom line over and over again?
Qin Ye glanced at the soul sphere, “You’ll beat up whoever I want you to beat up, and you must answer all my questions, alright?”
“That’s not quite possible either. As long as the soul sphere remains sealed, I won’t be able to help you in combat. The best I can do is to release my aura. That said, Hell has collapsed, and its clergy have departed as well. The aura I can exert is at best only effective against twenty-year ghosts. In fact, I’m not even sure just how effective that would be.”
“It’s fine. Then… we’ll just leave it at that.”
“... Deal. Take an oath together with me.” Arakshasa had practically forced herself to conclude the negotiations with the word “deal”.
Although she knew that Qin Ye would very likely perish during the netherworld odyssey, what if, in the off chance, he didn’t? What if… he really made it to the feet of Ksitigarbha’s statue?
As a former Infernal Judge, was she simply going to perish with a mere Operative-class Emissary of Hell? This was not even a choice to her. To her mind, her life was far, far more valuable than such Operative-class Emissaries.
After reciting a long string of ancient mnemonics, Qin Ye felt his surroundings tremble slightly. Then, he sensed a feeling of connection arising between their hearts spontaneously. He secretly breathed a sigh of relief. He had already anticipated that Arakshasa would never be able to assist him in battle. After all, that would necessitate unsealing the soul sphere. This was something he could never do.
What he coveted was the knowledge hidden in the depths of Arakshasa’s mind! Her experience! Nothing was more important than that! In fact, one could argue that this was even more precious than the Sixfold Ghost King Summoning Scroll itself!
One was a one-use, disposable destructive weapon, while the other was a tool that could aid him in the long run. He was like a newborn trying to survive in a mortal realm infested with malicious ghosts. Naturally, knowledge was power.
He secretly heaved a sigh of relief. I’ve finally found myself a little genie… That said, this little genie’s always going to be scheming against me… “Alright, now tell me, why exactly is this soul so important? How am I going to overcome this three-day ordeal?”
1. This is an ancient, cruel death sentence. A prisoner will be stripped naked, wrapped in sackcloth and soaked in an oil jar. Then, at night, he will be tied to a wooden pole, hung from height, and set alight from his feet. In other words, he becomes a human lantern in the sky at night. There is a slightly more modern reference invented by bandits in the Chuanxiang Area, where they would drill a small hole in the prisoner’s brain, pour lamp oil into the head, before setting it on fire. The prisoners die a horrific death in both instances.
I hope you guys are having as much fun as Minotauruz and I are having on this project; it's very different, but also very interesting for sure! - RWX.