In the days that followed, Qin Ye immersed himself fully into his studies.
It couldn't be helped… Both he and Lin Han had become a thorn in Zhou Xianlong’s sights. As long as he sat in during classes for observation, Zhou Xianlong’s eyes would be transfixed on both Qin Ye and Lin Han. Before they realized it, they had each already been penalized with a deduction of approximately seven teaching credits!
Zhou Xianlong no longer broadcasted the ranking situation with the teaching credits. After some private discussions among the instructors, Qin Ye, Su Feng and the rest concluded that the organizing staff would probably keep mum about the ranking situation until the end of the two months. Qin Ye was currently leading in terms of teaching credits. As long as he didn’t sustain too many more penalties, he would probably end up among the top of the list.
This was the advantage of those who started off well.
Notwithstanding the lack of communication on the rankings during this period, the threat of dismissal loomed over the heads of the instructors like a sword of Damocles - especially those who didn’t think that they had sufficient points. It was tough. There were only that many extra-curricular tasks to go around. Qin Ye had previously asked around about these tasks as well, only to discover that the ones who didn’t manage to secure a task amounted to approximately half of the entire cohort! In fact, he estimated that the figures were closer to two-thirds of the entire cohort!
Therefore, there were countless instructors who arrived way earlier than Qin Ye for every single class at the Insignia University, all of whom bore the hope that Li Tao and Xu Anguo would take notice of them during their random checks, take pity on them, and award them a bonus one or two teaching credits. They would even take notes in an incredibly prim and proper manner. Such efforts eventually paid off as there were several instructors who managed to secure at least five bonus credits for themselves over the course of the two months at Insignia University.
Unfortunately, these bonus points did nothing more than to allow them to toe the passing mark at best. These points did little to allow them to compete with Qin Ye, who was well in the first place.
“I sincerely take pity on you guys.” Qin Ye smacked his lips as he glanced at the other students around as though he were the top student and they were slag. Qin Ye had arrived at the tiered lecture hall ten minutes before class. Today was the first lecture of an elective course taught by Professor Zhu of the Faculty of Computer Sciences. As soon as he entered the lecture hall through the back door, he noticed that the entire back row was already filled with nearly a hundred compatriots with grim expressions on their faces.
“It’s not a question of pity or not.” Local Bully was munching on his pancake and drinking soy milk as he sighed with exasperation, “Which of us here wants to be sent back empty handed?”
He slurped up the remaining contents of his soy milk, crushed the cup and tossed it accurately into the bin behind him as he lazily added, “Someone with a full stomach like you can never understand what us famished and deprived folks are going through. All of us here are elites in our own rights, no matter which province or city we hail from. Some are even deputies in their local branch office of the Special Investigations Department. What would they do if they are to return empty handed before the school term even begins proper? Where would they hide their face after that…?”
“... Local Bully, I find your current train of thought rather dangerous. You’ve been nothing but a bunch of sour grapes ever since I’d taken the top spot in the teaching credits ranking system, haven’t you?”
“... I’m sorry, it’s just… just… Hang on, who the hell are you calling Local Bully?!”
Just like that, time trickled by quickly. They had been sitting in and observing classes for over forty days now. As the moment of reckoning drew closer and closer, the less the instructors had the heart to interact with each other, and the entire atmosphere grew… tense and thick.
The question in everyone’s minds was no longer “I want to rank among the top of the class"; rather, the questions sprouting up in everyone’s minds were “Who’s my rival? How many more points do I need to secure my retention?”
With such enriching and fulfilling lives, they soon ushered in the fiftieth day of their stint at Insignia University. And it was precisely at 3 p.m. on this day that Qin Ye finally received a call from the Soaring Dragon Developer’s design department.
He immediately took a taxi to Soaring Dragon Developer’s office after class. Sun Kangliang wasn’t around, so Qin Ye made his own way straight towards the design department.
“Mr Qin, you’ve arrived.” As soon as he noticed Qin Ye’s arrival, Old Li immediately set down his work and came out with a bundled roll of drawings. There was even a stylus pen resting just over his ear. Both men made their way to the waiting room and sat down in one of the cubicles. Qin Ye asked expectantly, “Is it done?”
“It’s done.” Old Li heaved a sigh of relief. Designing a large ancient cathayan building was incredibly complex and tedious. If not for the fact that Qin Ye could only wait for two months, he would have taken at least four or five months.
He slowly unravelled the drawings in his hand, “Actually… Mr Qin, if you could wait and just give us another four months’ time, we would be able to complete every single detail in this palace to perfection. The drawing right now is at best a concept drawing. Those who can understand it would understand it, but those who don’t… Additionally, the rendering, as well as the design of the neighbourhood, could both use some further consideration…”
Qin Ye shook his head, “I’ll only be in Mount Tai City for another ten days at best. I don’t have the luxury of time.”
Old Li sighed and laid out the drawings completely, “Then, please take a look at this first. Furthermore, we can’t bear any responsibility for any design defects or construction accidents. There’s just not enough time…”
These were the least of Qin Ye’s concerns right now.
If such an incident occurred in the mortal realm, the deceased’s family would most certainly create a brouhaha, reporting it to the press in all forms, and the name of the construction team involved would be splashed all over the news. With such bad press, the construction team would never be able to land themselves another project ever again.
But in Hell… What? Construction accident? You won’t even lose a hair if you fall from the height of a hundred meters! Why are you complaining? A rebar through the stomach? Just pull it out and continue… A labour protest? Smoke break? I’ve got over two hundred Death Inquisitors sharpening the edges of their blades. I’m the master of my own realm!
Thinking about it this way… Hell does seem to hold an edge over the mortal realm in many aspects… If Hell’s manufacturing industry and construction industry were competing for the same market as the mortal realm, they would most definitely seize the title of ‘the world factory’ from Cathay…
Even if the building collapses, the workers in Hell could simply float out of the rubble intact, pat the ash off their bodies and continue working. Give them a year or two, and even those with acrophobia would be able to perform cordless bungee jumping from the thirty-first storey of any building around… Why wouldn’t anyone want a worker like that?
Qin Ye collected his thoughts and looked at the large, one square-meter drawing. The design on it was that of an ancient, luxurious neighbourhood.
It wasn’t designed like a palace. Instead, it was modelled after the ancient annex building, with the entrance leading to a central, rectangular courtyard with four-storey buildings on both sides.
Old Li was watching his expression all this while, and as soon as he noticed Qin Ye’s ostensible silence, he immediately explained, “Mr Qin, we’ve designed this building in a pseudo-ancient manner. The disadvantage of using wood is that they are materials with a limited shelf life. While cement is a viable alternative to this, the difference is quite visible. Instead, we’ve chosen to go with the technique of interlocking brackets. This technique is generally only used on large buildings, and it isn’t necessary on small buildings at all.”
Even though Qin Ye couldn’t really appreciate what was being said, he continued to listen intently.
“We’ve also employed the major-rafter minor-purlin system to support the structure throughout the entire building. The interior of these ancient buildings are rather large. Where multiple rafters are used, we call it a system of rafters. Each rafter is referred to by the number of purlins that runs through it. The seven-purlin rafter means that there are seven purlins attached to the rafter. The next number of purlins would be five, and then three…”
“The general layout of the building is also based on principles. For instance, an eleven-beamed building with a particular type of eaves would require them to be raised by a particular gradient. This is to give the eaves a smooth, soft curvature to avoid any striking edges that are more prevalent in foreign palaces. Our design here uses the most beautiful gradient of 9.5 degrees.”
Qin Ye did his best to remember everything that was said, while Old Li only grew more and more excited as he described every feature of the design that was made. After approximately one hour, he finally rolled up the drawing with some measure of regret, “Regrettably, I can’t leave my station here. Otherwise, I’d have loved to visit the construction site to see how an ancient cathayan city would have looked like. After all, most of the cities these days only have a pseudo-ancient street at best. Such a massive ancient cathayan project is incredibly rare in all of Cathay today…”
Qin Ye’s eyes suddenly lit up, and he immediately asked with enthusiasm, “Do you really want to take a look at it?”
Perhaps his gaze was far too striking, but Old Li reacted in the exact same way that Sun Kangliang did some time ago, and the impending sensation of danger caused him to instinctively swallow his affirmative response.
“I was just kidding… kidding… The design department is far too busy, and there’s no way I could abandon my station like that…” He chuckled in a contrived manner.
This man… is boring.
Qin Ye pouted in dismay. Didn’t you say that you were getting old? Rather than suffering from pain and illnesses, why don’t you let me grant you a peaceful journey into the afterlife? You’d be able to enjoy your final moments with your family before entrusting your life into my hands. I guarantee you a painless death. It’s as simple as shutting your eyes… what’s so bad about that…
“Are you sure you won’t reconsider?” Reluctant to let things go like this, Qin Ye probed further, “I’ve got many workers on site and tasks on hand, but I’m lacking a good leader to take charge of all the works. The position of director is still empty right now.”
“Haha… no thanks… no thanks…” Old Li picked up a piece of paper towel from the table and wiped off the sweat on his forehead.
Strange… it might be winter, but the heater is working well, so why do I suddenly feel a chill down my back?
Qin Ye stood up in disappointment. Sigh… people these days are just far too keen and crafty. It’s practically impossible to swindle these folks… He waved his hands casually as he bade Old Li farewell and took a taxi straight back to Insignia University.
He rested till midnight, and then picked up the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal eagerly. With a bright flash of light, Qin Ye arrived in Hell once again.
Rumble… A thunderous roar resounded as soon as he opened his eyes. There was neither day nor night in Hell. The skies were dark at any time of the day, yet the lands were strangely illuminated with a bright lustre.
“Greetings, my lord.” Su Dongxue lay prostrate on the ground. Qin Ye made a lifting gesture with his hand, and then walked out with a heart full of expectation.
All of the Death Inquisitors immediately stood up. They weren’t even qualified to kneel and pay their respects to Qin Ye. That said, their eyes were filled with a sense of awe, as though they had just seen a divine presence. Qin Ye didn’t mind this. He walked straight out of Hell’s Gate and quickly took in his surroundings.
The previously dark and gloomy Hell was now ablaze with heat! The deathly, chilling atmosphere in Hell was a thing of the past, and the rows of scarlet-leaf trees that lined both sides of the boulevard had already been razed to the ground. The closest scarlet forest that could be seen was at least a hundred meters away.
A logging machine roared to life in the distance, and thousands of Yin spirits were gathered close by as they scrambled to handle the felled timber. Dozens of Yin spirits would heft the heavy log onto their shoulder, chanting “hey-ho” in a rhythmic fashion as they gritted their teeth and drifted back towards Hell’s Gate.
A construction site had already taken shape on the left side of Hell’s Gate. Two sets of wood processing machines were running round the clock, spouting out an endless stream of wood shavings as it churned out piece after piece of treated wood. A pile of processed wood lay on the ground around the machines, and other Yin spirits would drop by from time to time to shift these piles into Hell’s Gate.
Two excavators entered the clearing sites behind the logging machines, followed closely by the bulldozers and road rollers… The sight of a prelude to modern construction was panning out in full view, right in front of the ancient Hell’s Gate.
A burning passion was burgeoning in the heart of eerie gloom.
The destitute state of Hell was beginning to reveal a glint of prosperity and a foreshadowing of glorious magnificence.
The first step was always the hardest - but Qin Ye had undoubtedly embarked on this long, arduous journey!
In this one glorious instant, Qin Ye suddenly felt like his painstaking efforts over the past two months had finally paid off. He was obviously exhausted and drained, but all he could feel right now was a pulsing sensation of excitement from his chest.
This was called fullness.
This was called a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s not been easy.” Arthis’ voice resounded by his side. Qin Ye didn’t turn around to look at her. She didn’t turn to look at Qin Ye either. Both of them simply took in the view of the hustle and bustle of Hell as Arthis remarked, “It’s been less than half a year, and yet the new Hell has already begun moving with vigor… You deserve all the credit for that.”
“Doesn’t it feel touching? Don’t you crave more of this sensation of satisfaction?”
Qin Ye didn’t respond. It was only after a long time that he nodded slightly, “It feels like I’ve returned to those days when I was in my twenties - those days when I’d experienced the whole series of ‘firsts’...”
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