Lin Han gazed deeply at Qin Ye.
Emotional, affectionate and steadfast… just like the two dolphins in the drama serial “At the Dolphin Bay”.
Oh… but there weren’t any dolphins in “At the Dolphin Bay” to begin with.
“Couldn’t you just shift your disgusting gaze away a little?” Qin Ye had the look of a bodhi on his face as he drew something on some paper in front of him. He continued with a deep, unwavering voice, “I’m a straight man, thank you very much. Ramrod straight. It doesn’t matter what position you use or whether you attack me with the Durex KY Jelly lube. I’ll still refuse your advances.”
“... I’m surprised a self-professed straight man would know so much about these things…” Lin Han couldn’t help but exclaim as he whispered back, “What’s with the dark rings around your eyes anyway? That’s the typical look of a man overindulging in debauchery… I gotta hand it to you though. We haven’t even had the chance to irrigate and nourish the flowers around, and yet you’ve already managed to pull the first card with just your looks?”
Qin Ye’s stoic expression faded away, and he immediately grew displeased, “I don’t like what I’m hearing - what do you mean by ‘just your looks’? I’ve always been the benchmark of attractiveness before you came along, alright?!”
Lin Han was inexplicably delighted.
Qin Ye couldn’t be bothered to pay anymore attention to the hot commodity in front of him that was a ramshackle of muscles, and he subconsciously twirled the pen in his hands. There were several sheets of paper in front of him right now, each of which depicted the facades of several buildings of Hell. He was currently drawing up the buildings of Hell with the aid of his limited drawing abilities.
It had already been five days.
It had been five days since he had delved into the topological map of Hell. Over the last few nights, save for three to four hours of sleep a night, Qin Ye had been painstakingly recalling and recording the specifications of every building and structure he had seen in the village of the old Hell. His eye bags were so large that present appearances were no different from that of a panda.
The diagram he was currently working on was one of the most fundamental and essential buildings of Hell. It had a loft that resembled an ancient pavilion. Each corner of the overhanging pavilion was tethered with a string of copper coins hanging along a long red thread. The external facade looked at best only slightly peculiar. That said, the inside of the building were etched all over with tadpole script. And this was particularly apparent in the center of the structure, where the tadpole script appeared to converge towards a blank space that was approximately one meter wide.
Soul induction platform.
This was the most important entrance to Hell. It served two purposes. Firstly, when the Yin spirits arrived in Hell, they would forget everything that had ever occurred in the mortal realm, become fully cognisant of the fact that they were dead, and also be filled with awe and respect for the authority of Hell.
Without this, there was simply no telling how much obstruction Emissaries of Hell would encounter when they reaped souls in future. Few people, if any, were willing to leave the mortal realm of their own volition, especially when they have just passed on. After all, who in their right mind would be willing to be strung up with rope and led to Hell like a row of ants? If one or two of Yin spirits end up escaping, or if an Emissary of Hell fails to arrive on scene in time, the consequences could well be dire.
Secondly, the soul induction platform enabled Hell to attract special Yin spirits.
Some Yin spirits, such as the spirits of cultivators, become too powerful after death. These special Yin spirits are able to remain in the mortal realm for a protracted period of time, or even awaken from their stupor and regain their consciousness as soon as they reach the entrance to Hell. These Yin spirits might even develop the notion that they shouldn’t go down to Hell. Whenever something like that happens, the soul induction platform would have to be activated in order to forcibly drag these Yin spirits down to Hell.
What a joke… Why wouldn’t Hell need talents? Does Hell not need any construction efforts? What happened to the notion of contributing towards the Four Modernizations?
“And what makes my balls ache is the fact that the soul induction platform draws its power from the six paths of reincarnation. It’s almost as though the six paths are the mainframe, while the soul induction platform is merely an extension of it - it would be equipped with certain functions of the mainframe, but it could never compare with the mainframe at all.” Qin Ye nearly broke the tip of his pen in frustration, “The soul induction platform is supposed to be able to suppress the memories of the Yin spirit until they arrive at the Naraka Bridge. But as things stand right now… its power will last for one full day at best…”
And that’s where the problem arose.
Should he still construct the weakened version of the soul induction platform?
Qin Ye elbowed Lin Han, “Can I ask you something?”
“Uh-huh?” Lin Han grunted with a stern, no-nonsense expression, as though he were seriously paying attention in class right now.
“What if - and I mean what if - you want kids, but you don’t want them now. Would you and your partner buy a pack of protection and deal with it that way, or would you simply abstain?”
Lin Han stared back at Qin Ye as though he’d just seen a ghost, and yet there was also an expression of “been there, done that” written all over his face, “I can’t believe you’ve got such an antiquated mindset…”
Qin Ye felt his temples throbbing. Why does everyone around me have their minds in the gutter?!
“I’m saying ‘what if’! Don’t you know what ‘what if’ means?”
“I understand.” Lin Han responded with an enigmatic expression, “There was a time when I used to be shy about these things as well, and I used to preface my queries with the exact same phrase as well… Just like you, I would repeat my ‘what if’s’ twice, and then state my query as though it were purely a hypothetical situation. This is the most hackneyed display of making something more obvious by attempting to conceal it… Alright, put down your pen, and let’s discuss this properly…”
He coughed lightly, “Although I’m not sure which college girl this is, the first thing you’ve got to know is that it’s simply irresponsible to have a child while she’s still in college. We’re as good as agents of the law, and it’s not right if we know the law yet break it… What the hell, where did your saber come from? Put it down, dear, let’s talk things through nicely…”
After thinking for some time, he probed further, “Tie it up? But extract some sperm and freeze it beforehand, so that you’ll have access to it when you need it in future?”
Qin Ye was so annoyed by how ludicrous Lin Han’s responses were that he became tickled by it instead. He should have known better than to have broached the issue with such a silly analogy. Qin Ye sneered coldly, “Why didn’t you get a vasectomy?”
“How painful would that be?!” Lin Han glared at Qin Ye in horror, “Why should you cause yourself pain when you could live vicariously through others?”
How did you even pass the Special Investigations Department’s test and interviews to begin with?!
“... With such straight-shooting responses… I firmly believe that you’ll never be able to find a girlfriend for yourself…”
They were clearly operating on different wavelengths, so Qin Ye gave up this line of inquiry with Lin Han. His eyes fell back onto the exercise book in front of him. After a long time, he sighed once more, and crossed out two of the three buildings drawn on it.
The soul induction platform, and the oblation receptacle.
The oblation receptacle was something that enabled the offerings made during the three major ghost festivals to pass directly into Hell. And get this - they went straight to the government, and not into the possession of their intended recipients!
Simply put, this was an extension of Hell’s national treasury. Tributary oblation receptacles would be set up in city centers, satellite oblation receptacles would be built in the provincial capitals, and the main oblation receptacle would be located right in the heart of the Fengdu Necropolis. Whenever the mortal realm celebrates each of the three major ghost festivals and burns offerings of paper money, cars, horses, as well as more peculiar artifacts such as limousines or blow-up dolls, all of them would immediately be transported into Hell’s national treasury through the various oblation receptacles around. After that, these offerings would be charged a 10% oblation tax, before the said offerings are redistributed to each Yin spirit residing in Hell.
This was completely outrageous.
And just what kind of sum are we talking about? Arthis had been in office for approximately two hundred years. As a rough gauge, the amount of wealth she amassed during this time enabled her to construct a palace right at the foot of Skydragon Mountain, the idyllic, premium, five star tourist attraction in the Province of the Great Heavens…
And mind you, this was an extremely lavish palace to boot, replete with proper pavilions and beautiful wall murals. Word even had it that the main palace gate was completely gilded with gold, and the tiles were all handcrafted glazed tiles. The technique for making such tiles was practically a lost art…
Even though he was uncertain how exactly the old Hell structured its tax and financial system, the thought of giving up such a potentially huge sum of money made Qin Ye’s hands shake uncontrollably as he struck out the drawing of the oblation receptacle.
“I’ll admit your brilliance when it comes to profiteering from the dead…” Qin Ye sighed with resignation as he turned to the final building in his notebook.
Spirit scouring altar.
This building had only one purpose… and that was to detect the possibility of mutations in the Yin spirits within its vicinity!
As soon as any possible mutations were detected, he would be able to send out a response team of Emissaries of hell to immediately slay these potential problems!
This was Hell’s radar.
Yet, after three minutes of deliberation, he still chose to cross out this building.
“The City of Salvation is extremely safe, and there’s simply no need for this building at this point in time. It’s never too late to build it later on when I’m developing the next city of Hell. What’s most important now is to focus on settling the ghostly citizens in proper lodging, and then giving them something to do. Establishing a small community would kill two birds with one stone. Everything else… can be set aside for now.”
When the dismissal bell rang, Qin Ye looked at the exercise book in front of him and sighed deeply.
How vast were these reconstruction works of Hell? It could practically be described to be one of the greatest projects in the history of the world! In fact, it was simply impossible to estimate at this stage the amount of space they would have to set aside for future plans, or the specifications or dimension of the other special structures and buildings of Hell. All this while, it was as though he were treading precariously on thin ice in the dark. And yet, this moment of clarity felt like a brief moment of respite, like an autumn morning breeze sweeping away the gloomy darkness!
What to build; and what not to build. How to execute his planning works; and how not to execute his planning works. After five days of enduring persistence, he’d finally sorted through the mires of information and clinched a glimpse of where to begin.
“Everything has now been sorted out. All we need now is for the east wind to blow in our favour.” He leaned back on his seat and immediately felt a tide of weariness surge straight into his body. His entire body felt like it had finally been loosened from its tightly wound state, and every single one of his cells cheered with elation at the moment of reprieve.
He didn’t even return to his dorm room, and he fell into a deep slumber in the lecture hall instead.
“Our Cathayan words have inked five thousand years of history, the world shall know…” A phone’s ringtone resounded. Qin Ye rubbed his reddened eyes, yawned loudly, and immediately answered the call without even checking who the caller was, “Hello?”
“Hello, Mr Qin. I’m calling from the Soaring Dragon Developers. I’m Chief Sun’s secretary. You may call me Secretary Wu.”
Qin Ye’s sleepiness immediately dissipated like smoke, and he wiped his face with his hands, “Have you managed to procure the construction equipment?”
If one were to say that all the preparation for the commencement of works in Hell had been completed, and all he was waiting now was for the east wind to blow in his favour, then the present call was precisely that favourable east wind he needed!
“Yes. Do you want to inspect the goods now? They’re currently held in 231-4 Clearspring Street, where the former cable factory was located.”
“I’ll be right there!”
Humans are strange creatures. Previously when there was no goal for him to work towards, Qin Ye would be so lethargic and laid back that he would constantly invite the finger from those around him. Yet as soon as he fixed his eyes on a goal, his body instinctually moved with incredible vigor.
He looked at his phone and noticed that it was already 9 p.m. He quickly hailed a taxi to bring him to the agreed location. However, it was only after getting into the taxi that he realized the destination was in the far reaches of the suburbs. This was a place where nobody would generally visit to begin with, simply because it was too far away from every other place around.
One hour later, he finally arrived at the entrance to the factory. A man in his twenties was already waiting there for him with more than a dozen people around him. As soon as he saw Qin Ye’s arrival, he immediately extended his hand politely, “Mr Qin, Mr Sun has instructed us to serve you well. This is why we have mobilized our staff and the representatives of various companies to explain everything to your satisfaction.”
Qin Ye didn’t bother with any platitudes. He was already dying to see the opening ceremony of Hell. Thus, after shaking hands, he immediately walked towards the building behind them. The ex-cables factory was surrounded by towering walls. However, the three-meter tall iron gate was already open, and its contents were displayed for all to see.
These premises had already been abandoned for some time now, and the factory installations had already been razed to the ground. It was evident that the remaining buildings had been regularly maintained by someone else.
The ground was completely flat, and there wasn’t even a single trace of any broken tiles. The premises were approximately the size of a football field, and several large pieces of engineering equipment were arranged inside in an orderly manner. Neatly stacked construction materials were placed just beside the equipment. The bright glow of the light fixtures made the placement of these equipment appear like a jungle of steel shining radiantly in sunlight.
Zhao Prefecture Industries, Tai Prefecture Instruments, Mistriver Steel… His eyes swept across the row of towering steel behemoths, and his heart immediately burned with passion as he looked at the names of the somewhat familiar heavy industrial groups. These were all names which he had heard of before.
He had come a long way - from denial, to acceptance, and to his present state of embracing initiatives. This tall order had even assumed centerstage as the core ambition of his life! It had taken several months, and there was a mountain of things to be done, but was finally on the road to being restored to its former glory right now!
Although this was just the beginning, and although this was incredibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, this undoubtedly still represented the beginning.
It was a brand new start!
This was the prelude to a new era of glory that would cause the entire Cathay to tremble!
1. This is a variety of ancient chinese seal scripts. The name comes from the tadpole-shaped characters with big heads and tails. These scripts appeared after the Han Dynasty (202 BC-8 AD), and was rarely seen after the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD).