Old Man Yu laughed jovially, “No problem. You’ve helped us with this problem here. Mount Tai City isn’t too far from the City of Salvation. I can make the trip down.”
Qin Ye’s eyes lit up, “Actually, there’s no need to trouble you personally. It would suffice if you sent somebody down…”
“That’s true. After all, it’s just a public lecture in the First Academy of Cultivators…” Old Man Yu echoed with the same sentiments.
Argh! Qin Ye felt like giving himself a tight slap to the face, and he quickly fought to salvage the situation, “About that… I think it would still be the academy’s honour if you would personally make the trip down as well. The two principals miss you very much. Besides, you haven’t had the opportunity to see the First Academy of Cultivators, have you?”
Old Man Yu nodded his head, “That’s true. Well, then, give me a call when the time comes. I don’t have my phone with me, but you can ask for my Momo details when you get downstairs.”
The fish had finally been inextricably hooked.
Qin Ye heaved a sigh of relief in his heart. All of his preparatory work had finally led to this fateful moment.
How could there be any advantage greater than what he had just landed?
Since he was already ahead in terms of teaching credits, he may as well secure the lead and continue to stay ahead. What reason was there to forgo such a premium opportunity?
“I thank you in advance.” Qin Ye nodded and bowed respectfully, before slipping back downstairs to inquire about Old Man Yu’s Momo details. Afterwards, he headed straight into the limousine that had been arranged for him.
“Eh, something’s not right.” As soon as he got into the car, Qin Ye’s expressions turned incredibly pale, almost as though he had forgotten something of grave importance, “Holy shit… where’s my reward for completing the ‘Lost Tracks’ mission?!”
“I’d been so lost in the conversation with that old man… that I’ve forgotten all about my reward?!”
In his distraught state of mind, Qin Ye was completely unaware that someone had silently pulled aside the curtains in the building behind him. And it was only when the car had departed from sight that the pale, shriveled hand loosened the curtains once more.
The kind, amiable smile on Old Man Yu’s face had vanished completely, and it was instead replaced with a deep and abstruse smile. He gazed deeply out of the window and shook his head, “This kid…”
As soon as he spoke these words, a thin middle-aged man dressed in a chinese tunic suit holding a brush and a book slowly walked out from behind the landscape painting in the room.
Furthermore, this expert had been standing completely still behind the landscape painting all this while, and yet Qin Ye had failed to detect his presence altogether!
The man didn’t say a single word. Instead, he responded by quickly recording everything down on his book. Each word was written with beautiful penmanship, “January 16. Professor Yu Guohui met with an agent from the Special Investigations Department, registration no. S9527.”
At this point, his brush stopped, “Chief, what’s your evaluation of him?”
Old Man Yu leaned back into his chair, and he rapped his finger rhythmically on the armrest as though he were deep in thought.
After some time, he finally responded, “He has the makings of a man of clout.”
The middle-aged man clearly had his reservations, and he immediately furrowed his brows, “Chief, if I may, wouldn’t that be an over-assessment?”
Old Man Yu smiled faintly, “You have a different opinion?”
The man hesitated for a moment before responding with his reasons, “Yes… Please allow me to elaborate. This person… is far too slippery, like an eel. His personality and his heart are quite vastly different from that of other cultivators. He keeps his intentions well-concealed. Even though there was a great opportunity placed right in front of him, he chose to give it up. It’s not that he couldn’t appreciate this opportunity either. I sincerely believe that there’s more than meets the eye with this kid, and I would suggest keeping him under close observation.”
Old Man Yu didn’t say anything. He simply stood up and paced around slowly. After some time, he finally responded again, “Old Jin, the world has changed.”
“In today’s society, a cultivator cannot be out of touch with the times. Admittedly, there is something mercenary and slippery about this kid. But if you think about his profile, and how he’s grown up as an orphan, the existence of a slippery nature is quite understandable.”
“In these times, hunkering down and working hard in our own cultivation is no longer the best way to do things. Insight and experience are all equally important as well. If I could just put it bluntly, everything that he has said and done earlier reveals a sense of maturity far greater than any of his compatriots. People like him… will most certainly make their mark in the upper echelons of the Special Investigations Department in future. This is why I’m willing to extend him some goodwill and be a part of his debut.”
He smiled somewhat proudly, “Otherwise, the fact that he’s resolved the problem of this research topic for us... is still much too little to justify inviting me to the First Academy of Cultivators for his debut.”
“This is an investment.” The middle-aged man finally understood.
Old Man Yu nodded and snorted, “I’d failed in my previous application for the establishment of the Department of Yin Spirit Classification. Come to think of it, my recent focus on research has caused others to forget that I’m one of the three founding fathers of the SRC! Do I really need their approval for my decisions?!”
“Heh heh… to think that they dare discuss the issue of votes with me… Alright, since they want to play by the rules, then I’ll play by the rules as well. Give us a few years… or perhaps ten years… At that time, let’s show them who gets the last laugh!”
“They might have forgotten what’s mine, but I’ll make sure to give them a good reminder they’ll never forget.”
The middle-aged man grew silent.
Old Man Yu chuckled, “By the way, I’ve also made an unexpected discovery this time.”
“This kid… I’m afraid he’s got some decent backing.” He smiled faintly, “The docket says that he’s not affiliated to any organization, but I think that’s impossible. His understanding of Yin spirits is far too profound. And… incarnate revenant?”
“Even I have never heard of such a classification before.”
He squinted his eyes, “So… who’s come up with such a term of reference?”
He answered his own question, “The entity that has come up with this must understand Yin spirits very well. Furthermore, it’s quite likely that the entity is not a single person, but an entire organization. The term of reference ‘incarnate revenant’ must have been coined after having become a ubiquitous term within the organization itself. In turn, the only organization that might have such a profound understanding of Yin spirits…”
He paused for a moment, “Apart from us, there’s only one other place possible…”
The middle-aged man gasped, “Are you talking about… Hell?”
“That’s right…” Old Man Yu closed his eyes, “Hell is the one and only place that understands Yin spirit the best. Next to them, the SRC is practically a child. If not for the fact that it’s simply impossible for us to make contact with Hell, would we be attempting to establish our own system of classifications? As for Little Qin… I posit that there’s a seventy percent chance that he might very well be affiliated with Hell.”
“And the fact that his identity needs to remain concealed could very much be the real reason why he had refused to join the SRC as well.”
He smiled, “Likewise, this is also the other reason why I’d agreed to make the trip down to the First Academy of Cultivators to sit in for his debut lecture. If he’s truly affiliated to Hell, he would most definitely reveal something completely outrageous at his public lecture… just like the information he revealed tonight.”
The other man was silent for several seconds, “Sir, should we…”
“No!!” Old Man Yu immediately revealed his stubbornness as he cautioned, “Remember, one should never ask a hero where he comes from. A great enemy is at hand. We should never pursue our suspicions against a good seedling just because of certain remote possibilities! As long as he’s a human, he’s bound to stand on the side of humanity. Any concerns as to his affiliations no longer matter!”
The other man stopped talking altogether. He picked up his brush and recorded everything in his book fervently. After several moments, he set down his brush. He was finally done.
“Are the records ready?” Old Man Yu closed his eyes. He was truly drained, “You may take your leave. I’ll get some rest for now…”
Qin Ye was also knackered.
He hadn’t slept for two nights straight. Even though the constitution of cultivators and practitioners were far better than that of an ordinary person, they still needed rest. Arthis had informed him that it is only when he becomes an Anitya Hellguard that he could do away with sleep altogether.
According to her, the rank of an Anitya Hellguard was a crucial turning point for all Emissaries of Hell. Netherworld Operatives were akin to errand boys. Soul Hunters were at the level of record keepers, but their rank wasn’t high in the grand scheme of things. Ox-Head and Horse-Face were both Emissaries of Hell operating at this level. Beyond that was the rank of Anitya Hellguards, where they would finally be entrusted with the duties of governing an entire city of Yin spirits. This was when they truly became significant in the grand scheme of things.
Additionally, there was one important qualitative change when Yin spirits attained the Hellguard-class level - and this was the ability to roam the lands in the day, otherwise known as dawn voyage.
Ordinary Yin spirits are only able to traverse the lands at night. On the other hand, Anitya Hellguards that have assumed their Hell’s Emissary state are able to roam the lands in the day without having to borrow the host body of a normal human being, albeit not for extended periods of time. According to Arthis, those under the rank of Abyssal Prefects remain unable to stay exposed to the sun for the entire day, especially the midday sun.
Qin Ye was still unsure of how he would go about earning himself merit points for the promotion to the next rank. As a Soul Hunter, slaying Operative-class vengeful apparitions no longer earned him merit points. Besides, there were hardly anymore Hunter-class evil ghosts hidden in the depths of the City of Salvation. He would probably have to finish his two-year teaching stint first, and then be deployed to other cities and provinces before he could finally locate other sources of merit points.
That said, Qin Ye wasn’t in a rush either. Two years… these two years was time that he needed to amass his resources, build up his defenses, and subjugate his subjects. This was the path of a king.
With these thoughts in mind, Qin Ye slept peacefully that night.
“Holding the earth with the left hand and the sky in the right, lightning crackled from the palm in all directions… Eras bygone saw years and years, three thousand lifetimes passed in the blink of an eye…”
Amidst his drowsy stupor, a crisp and clear song swept across his ears. It was melodious and beautiful. He yawned and stretched, and rolled over in bed, preparing to fall back into a deep slumber.
However, just ten seconds later.
“A flower in my left hand and a sword in my right, a million years of snow falls from the lashes of my eyes. A drop of tear, ahhh ahhh ahh… This is I, ahh ahh ahh!!!”
“Bloody hell!!” The voice of a young hipster had suddenly transformed into that of an imperial woman. He was instantly transported from the peaceful Westriver basins to the high Tibetan plateau with the deafening blast of a powerful soprano. Qin Ye sat up like a floundering fish. His entire body was covered in cold sweat.
“I say…” Qin Ye was dressed in a black singlet, and he massaged his temples, “Can’t you spend your limited life on something that’s a little more meaningful? Do you know that in my eyes, you’ve already degenerated into an internet addict? Do I need to tell you about the god of electroconvulsive therapy, Yang Yongxin?”
“Who’s that?” Su Dongxue lay at the end of the bed, operating the computer in accordance with Arthis’ instructions. Arthis added without lifting her eyes from the screen, “Skip the first three episodes. I’ve watched those already… Hey, I’m talking to you. What are you looking at?”
“Oh…. ahh?” Su Dongxue quickly shifted her loving gaze away from Qin Ye’s body. Qin Ye could see a trace of regret in her eyes. His body trembled slightly, and he quickly put on his clothes, “What time is it now?”
“1.42 a.m. You’ve slept for well over ten hours.” Arthis glanced at the screen and added, “If there’s nothing else you need me for, I’m heading back to the City of Salvation.”
Qin Ye washed up, deliberated for several moments, and then nodded his head. There was truly nothing else in Mount Tai City for which he required Arthis’ assistance.
It was Sunday today. Classes began tomorrow for sixty days straight. Once that was over, they would return to the City of Salvation and begin the first semester of the First Academy of Cultivators proper. The only outstanding matter was to finalize the transactions with the Soaring Dragon Developers.
Although he had already obtained a pleasant surprise through his interactions with Yu Guohui, he hadn’t forgotten about his primary objective in coming to Mount Tai City in the first place.
“Alright. The wifi in this school is too bloody slow. I can’t follow my serials properly.” Arthis couldn’t be bothered with platitudes anymore. As soon as she finished speaking, she flapped her wings and shot right out of the window.
Qin Ye watched her fly off into the distance and scratched his head, “Why do I get the feeling like she’s forgotten something… what is it?”
After thinking for some moments, he was suddenly struck by a brainwave, and he immediately looked back at the room.
Arthis… had forgotten Su Dongxue!
However, there were no longer any traces of Su Dongxue’s figure in the room.
“My lord.” A coquettish voice resounded from under the soft quilts that Qin Ye had just gotten out of.
At some point, Su Dongxue had already gotten into bed and lay the blanket over her illusory body. Her fair thigh peeked out from underneath. She supported her sharp chin with one hand, and mischievously twirled a tuft of hair with her other. Her voice was tantalizing and alluring.
“The night is long, and we’ve both got no intentions of sleeping any longer. Why don’t we… do something a little bit more meaningful?”
She sensually took a deep breath, “You smell… so good.”
2. Yang Yongxin is a medical doctor in China who is the leading expert of internet addiction and the director of Linyi Internet Addiction Treatment Center. He’s notorious for his proliferate use of electroconvulsive therapy, and some of his methods considered to be various forms of psychological brainwashing of patients have been described as new age concentration camps.