It was so quiet that one could hear every breath and every beat of a person’s heart.
The withered, corpse-like monks and taoists revealed a look of astonishment in their eyes for the very first time. Dozens of gazes landed straight on the figure at the end of the corridor wearing multicoloured garments.
Emissaries of Hell haven’t appeared in a hundred years, and yet… one actually showed up at the entrance to the Great Dipper Vault today?!
Qin Ye and A32 leaned back against the counter, and Qin Ye’s mind raced rapidly - Who the hell is this? What would it take for Arthis to throw caution to the wind and reveal her true appearances in this place? Wouldn’t she have assessed that this opponent is someone that she absolutely must expunge, even if it means risking detection by Zhou Xianlong?
“Go on.” Qin Ye tried to raise his head several times from behind the counter to take another look, and yet the only thing he accomplished was to straighten his back and loosen it repeatedly. Thus, he whispered to A32, who by now had curled up into a tight ball, “Get up and check on the situation.”
A32 stared at Qin Ye as if he had just seen a ghost, “Why don’t you do it instead?!”
“I’m scared!” “I’m scared too!”
After staring at each other for some time, Qin Ye finally resigned himself to his fate, and inched his head up from the counter. He silently revealed a pair of eyes like a spy surveying an army behind enemy lines as he murmured, “What kind of a person are you anyway… How could the gatekeeper of the First Academy of Cultivator be so afraid of death? Whatever happened to the valor and duty of the Fourth Hokage who sacrificed himself to seal the nine-tails…”
A32 fervently suppressed the urge to jump up and give Qin Ye a flying kick. He gazed into the sky, “That’s right… I’d never expected one of the core members of the First Academy of Cultivators who are expected to act as the vanguard and shield of Cathay’s citizens to cower so much in the face of danger… How intense must your will to survive possibly be…”
Both men hurled a vicious glare at each other, before promptly retracting their gazes disdainfully.
Both had confirmed that the other wasn’t of a desirable character.
Nobody cared about the fact that Qin Ye was peeking out from behind the counter. Arthis shook her soul-spurring bell gently in the otherwise deadly silent corridor. With each jingle of her bell, the golden symbols on the ground glowed with ever increasing exuberance. And then, they even began to tremble like a miniscule earthquake.
Qin Ye had already invested everything he had into his 120% defense. Qin Ye even grabbed tightly onto A32’s clothes despite A32’s look of disbelief.
He had personally witnessed Arthis’ fight with the Harken after all. If she went all out, he would most certainly have to divert all of his attention into considerations of escape.
“... Yo, might I ask what you’re trying to do? Is it as I’d imagined… that you’re attempting to use an innocent civilian as a meat shield?” The veins on A32’s head throbbed uncontrollably as he asked.
“... How can that be? … Ah-hahaha…”
As the jingling sounds grew louder and louder, rings of black waves began to ripple through the void in the air. With each ripple that radiated outwards, forty-nine eerie netherflames appeared in the air, accompanied by a chorus of howling and wailing ghosts, as though they had surfaced from the depths of the Eighteen Abysses of Punishment.
Qin Ye’s gaze darkened. Given Arthis’ personality, he knew full well that she would never hesitate to act as soon as she had decided on a certain course of action. She didn’t even hesitate when facing the Harken. Yet now, she was clearly dallying in an uncharacteristic fashion.
Whoosh… whoosh… Yin energy flooded the area and thrashed about wildly. The entire corridor felt increasingly stifling and oppressive. The ghostly shadow on the ground appeared to be torn asunder by thousands of invisible ghosts, and it began to tremble more and more vigorously.
The dark passage contained a figure dressed in colorful, resplendent garments and thirty or so withered, corpse-like men on the sides. A wailing nethergale swept through the area, while the ghostly shadow trembled vigorously. The atmosphere was incredibly oppressive and stifling. Just then, Arthis boomed, “Exterminate.”
Boom!! With a loud tremor, the innumerable netherflames that had earlier been hovering throughout the air like an illusory lotus platform hurtled towards the ground like a torrent of sharp swords. The ghostly shadow cried out with great disbelief, and the shadow immediately scattered from the ground. Within moments, what was earlier a projection of a black cat’s shadow actually transformed into… the shadow of a human being!
It was impossible to see the person’s appearances or its gender, because its head was covered with a black veil. A voice finally responded through gritted teeth, “... Infernal… Judge… How can there still be a living Infernal Judge…”
“And it’s an authentic… soul-spurring bell…
A loud bang resounded before it even finished speaking, and the ghostly shadow that affixed to the walls and the ground suddenly rushed up into the sky like a reverse waterfall!
It was clearly invisible, and yet it caused light and darkness to shift about as though the world were flowing in reverse.
It was an indescribable experience - almost as though one could see the effluxion of time and the intersection of light and darkness with the naked eyes. It was incredibly bizarre.
“Trying to escape?” Arthis chuckled sardonically, “You’re not even a Hellguard. Do you think a Judge is going to let a mere Hunter-class spirit leave just like that?”
A split-second later, the remaining netherflames around exploded and transformed into countless Yin spirits that frantically clung onto the reverse waterfall of dark shadows. The retreating ghostly shadow was stopped dead in its tracks, and it gnashed its teeth audibly.
“Kneel before me.” Arthis made a swift pressing motion with her hand, and the countless Yin spirits clinging onto the shadow cried out with a shrill screech as they began to tug at the shadow in unison.
But just then--...
Clack. A soft sound could be heard amidst the deafening cries of the Yin spirits.
A look of astonishment replaced Arthis’ otherwise calm expression for the very first time, “This is…”
Before she could even finish speaking, the ghostly reverse waterfall suddenly cracked wide open like a torn piece of paper, and a tsunami of Yin energy poured out of the void within.
It was dark and miserable, like the darkest night sky before the wake of dawn.
Ka-ka-ka-ka-ka… As the Yin energy continued to pour our, the entire corridor resounded with an overwhelming wail. Qin Ye gasped as a chilling, electrifying sensation surged straight from the base of his spine into his mind. He crouched down reflexively. Simultaneously, the entire corridor was swept into chaos by the formidable Yin energy. It was as though a massive hurricane had swept through the area, leaving only desolation and chaos in its wake. Finally, the entire corridor was devastated by an earth-shattering bang!
It was so deafening that the world around appeared to have lost its voice.
Qin Ye and A32 only felt the ground shake violently before a terrifying force that they had never experienced before erupted from behind them, as though they were in the epicenter of a nuclear bomb explosion. None of them were given any time to react as they crashed into the racks behind them.
“Shit…” Qin Ye saw stars. The world was spinning around him, and he nearly lost consciousness. Qin Ye gnashed his teeth and forced himself to open his eyes even as the excruciating pain surged straight through his mind. And then, he gasped.
He wasn’t sure what exactly transpired at the exact moment of the explosion.
But right now… he saw that the monks and taoists on both sides of the corridor were maintaining their stances, completely motionless, while the corridor itself… had collapsed entirely! The beams on the roof had collapsed together with other debris, sending smoke, ash and dirt scattering everywhere.
A massive crater appeared on the ground in a chaotic fashion, radiating outwardly from where the ghostly shadow had been as though an atomic bomb had struck the earth. Yet all traces of Arthis and the ghostly shadow had vanished completely from the heart of the crater. In fact, even the counter that they had previously been hiding behind had been reduced to nothing but dust and ashes. There wasn’t a single part of the corridor which remained intact. The golden runic symbols continued to shine brightly in the sky, keeping the spread of damage to the surroundings to a minimum.
Qin Ye drew a deep breath and stood up as he surveyed his surroundings with great vigilance. All this while, he had kept his hands by the side of his waist so that he could materialize and use his demonhead saber at the shortest notice.
What’s going on… no… is it even possible that something with the capacity to clash head-on with Arthis is only a Hunter-class spirit?
What did it take for Arthis to decide she has to expunge it at all costs? What’s the end result?
Qin Ye had no answers to these questions weighing heavily on his mind. He furrowed his brows as he glanced back at the entrance. He could clearly sense that Zhou Xianlong and close to a hundred powerful auras had just arrived at the same time.
There was no need to look any further. The periphery of the basketball courts had evidently just been cordoned off.
Just then, he noticed that someone was tugging at his clothes.
“It’s that thing…” A32’s eyes were shut, and his chest was rising and falling heavily with every heave of his breath. He continued murmuring as though he were trapped in an endless nightmare, “It’s that thing… it’s that thing! It’s here…”
A32 gritted his teeth and gazed into Qin Ye’s eyes, “Even though you’re a avaricious man who’s afraid of death… but, you’re the only hope I’ve got right now… Do you recall when I said earlier that I’ll tell you a great secret if you save me - the top secret that is hidden underneath the First Academy of Cultivators?!”
Qin Ye nodded. A32 took a deep breath, gulped nervously and continued, “But it seems like… you wouldn’t be able to hold out long enough to save me unless I tell you right now… I’m not sure whether it’s targeting you, or whether it has simply followed you in here, but… I don’t want you to die…”
He clutched at his chest and fervently repressed his palpitating heart, “There is something… unclean hidden within the academy.”
“I can feel it! The Yin spirit within me is incredibly peculiar, and yet I can only sense a trace of it from time to time. Instructors like you, no… even the regular wandering spirits aren’t able to sense its existence!”
“Have you noticed any strange phenomena around the academy lately? Or witnessed any bizarre incidents around?”
Qin Ye frowned.
He already knew.
That night, when they were turned out of bed for an emergency drill, he had already noticed the arrival of a peculiar Yin spirit in the First Academy of Cultivators…
Hang on… As though a notion just surfaced on his mind, Qin Ye abruptly looked back up and straight into A32’s eyes.
“Did you say that… there was something unclean within the academy?”
A32 nodded vigorously.
“No… rather, there is something unclean within the academy.”
Rumble… Just then, a muffled rumble reverberated throughout the entire corridor, and the massive boulders from the collapsed corridor shifted away as though with the assistance of an invisible giant hand.
Zhou Xianlong had arrived.
And he was removing the obstacles blocking the passageway.
The two men glanced at each other, and A32 gritted his teeth, “It’s not that there was, but there is! There’s something! And it’s still ongoing right now!”
“It’s… currently here, hiding in some unknown corner and watching all of you silently. I don’t even know why Head of Faculty Zhou isn’t able to detect its existence with his level of abilities. It’s completely unfathomable!”
Qin Ye grew taciturn.
In other words… the bizarre Yin spirit from that night… is still here in the First Academy of Cultivators? And the current Yin spirit is the same as the one from that night?
What audacity! What skill!
But… didn’t Arthis just say that it’s not even a Hellguard-class spirit? How could a Hunter-class spirit possibly dare to wreak havoc under the noses of two esteemed Judge-class entities?
A terrifying bolt of lightning crashed through the corridor before he could follow that train of thought any further. Yet, almost as though everything were calculated to perfection, the bolt of lightning didn’t affect them at all, and it only blasted away all of the boulders obstructing the passageway. Everything else was reduced to dust by the powerful blast.
True energy was spewing out of Zhou Xianlong’s seven apertures, and his entire body was wrapped up with snaking lightning bolts. Zhou Xianlong appeared in front of them with a bang, like a valiant war god descending from the heavens. He had traversed the entire length of a hundred meter corridor in less than a tenth of a millisecond!
Two rows of figures wearing zodiac masks and long, flowing robes followed closely behind him. All of them hovered one feet above the ground as they held a buddhist whisk in their arms. As soon as A32 noticed the appearance of these men, his entire body trembled, and he ducked behind Qin Ye’s body reflexively.
“Purgatory troopers.” He muttered with a quivering voice before Qin Ye could ask anything, “They are the mortal realm’s most fearsome force when it comes to expunging evil ghosts… they’re just like the special forces in the ordinary mortal world…”
Qin Ye nodded lightly. Indeed, he could sense a cloud of thick and dense Yin energy emanating from the bodies of these troopers. He could also tell that the energy wasn’t innate. Rather, it was something that the troopers had been tainted with after exterminating countless Yin spirits.
The depths of their strength was simply unfathomable. Qin Ye couldn’t even tell the extent of their cultivation levels.
And it was only behind them that the other instructors poured in with a grave expression on their faces.
The Great Dipper Vault had just been riddled with Yin energy. The fact that something like this can occur at the entrance to Cathay’s most important and most prized vault was tantamount to giving the First Academy of Cultivators a tight slap across the face!
“Everyone involved is to undergo a full inquiry separately.” Zhou Xianlong’s face was ashen. He tilted his head, and the purgatory troopers behind him immediately marched forward and stood beside Qin Ye and A32. Meanwhile, Zhou Xianlong crouched down slowly and made a grasping motion in the air, before bringing it to his nose and taking a whiff from it.
One second later, his gaze gleamed and flickered brightly.
“Infernal Judge?” He chuckled coldly, “Then… I wonder who it was up against?”
“Why… can’t I detect its scent?”
1. A Naruto reference! For those who don’t know, the Fourth Hokage was the head of the village of ninjas, and Naruto’s dad. When Naruto was still an infant, he gave up his life to seal a powerful demon, the nine-tails, into Naruto’s belly, which is where the source of chakra is.