“If they’re going to seize Gu Qing’s soul, they would most certainly have to take possession of the fleshly body of students! This is why Ye Xingchen was attacked in the first place! They were attempting to enter his body, but we arrived in the nick of time, just before they could do so! However, this naturally also means that some of the students in academy must already have had their bodies possessed by emissaries! It makes sense… Mr Gu had passed away as a result of an illness, and he must have left a will before he passed on. That’s how these emissaries learnt that Mr Gu would be buried in this place…”
Qin Ye squinted his eyes and swept his gaze across the academy grounds, “In other words, it’s rather probable that some of the students in here had already been possessed even before they’d matriculated. The emissary that had assaulted Ye Xingchen had only done so because he was late to receive the news and late to the party. That was the only reason why we’d been able to discover him.”
He was fortunate.
Qin Ye couldn’t help but sigh in relief as he thought about these things. If not for the late arrival of this extraterritorial emissary, he would never have realized the sheer number of emissaries lurking within the First Academy of Cultivators!
“Therefore, if they even make a single move, they would most certainly be discovered by Zhou Xianlong. But if they choose not to act, then I would be able to reap Gu Qing’s soul completely unhindered!”
Zhou Xianlong’s existence had always been like a sword aimed directly at Qin Ye. But at this moment, it was akin to the sword of Damocles looming over the heads of all underworld emissaries!
Anyone who made the first move in the presence of an Infernal Judge must die!
Furthermore, the inextinguishable fuse to the precarious situation would be lit as soon as any of the underworld emissaries makes a single move. The eruption of their Yin energy would instantly attract the attention of those around, giving him the perfect opportunity…
Qin Ye and Arthis looked at each other at the exact same time as they exclaimed in unison, “The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind.”
Not only was he going to reap Gu Qing’s soul, he was hell bent on making these extraterritorial emissaries leave their lives behind!
This was Cathay’s Hell. Even if it was newly reestablished, its glory must never be undermined!
“As long as you’re able to determine whose bodies these emissaries have possessed, I will ensure that none of them leaves this place alive.” Arthis laughed menacingly.
But Qin Ye shook his head and frowned, “That’s far too difficult. It’s not just the students. There will also be the secretaries and other civil servants forming part of the entourage of the visiting leaders. It’s impossible to discern among them all. That said… does all of this really matter?”
Arthis was momentarily taken aback. And then, she realized what Qin Ye was getting at.
“That’s right… it doesn’t matter.” She smirked as she gazed at the sunny campus grounds, “It doesn’t matter what they are, or where they’ve come from. All of them would have to reveal their true forms if they are to reap Gu Qing’s soul.”
She turned around, “Do you know why they’re here early?”
Qin Ye shook his head.
“It’s because… all of them want to set up their own formation arrays in the area. They must have realized the existence of the mortal Judge-class expert in the academy, and they’re doing everything they can in order to be completely prepared. That way, even if they end up giving up their lives in the final struggle, their partners or companions would be able to reap Gu Qing’s soul. This is why they’ve been so incredibly busy since last night…”
Qin Ye nodded, “Then we…”
“Are they trying to take advantage of our lack of manpower?” Arthis interjected, “I’ll draw up a formation array later. Then all we have to do is to walk around the perimeter of an area five hundred meters radius around the memorial hall. This would be sufficient to plague this group of fleas with a headache for some time.”
Qin Ye frowned, “You’re a Judge, and yet the only thing you can do is to plague them with a headache? Aren’t you being far too unprofessional?”
Arthis responded with some measure of indignation, “What do you know?! All formation arrays must be supported by the foundation of Hell. The old Hell is gone, and the new Hell is still far from what it needs to be. The fact that I’m able to plague them with a headache is already an achievement in itself!”
It’s still up to me in the end?
Qin Ye knew better than to pursue this line of inquiry, so he coughed lightly and changed the topic, “Then… when are you putting your plan to action?”
Arthis stared at him as though she had seen a ghost. Even her finger pointing at her own nose was shaking, “I’m going?!”
Qin Ye responded in bewilderment, “Who else?!”
Arthis’ response immediately poured out like a tidal wave, “Then what are you supposed to do?! Isn’t a Soul Hunter like you supposed to help an Infernal Judge like me with the grunt work? How could you expect me to personally take action? Is a Judge supposed to stand by the pond and fry up the fish you’ve caught like a servant?! Weren’t you just analyzing everything as astutely as Conan? How did you come to the conclusion that I was going to go tonight?! How could you even bring yourself to utter a suggestion like that? Ahh… I know. You’ve never even considered placing yourself in harm’s way from the onset, have you?”
Qin Ye immediately rebutted, “It’s like you’ve mentioned… Conan has always been the brains with his analyses, but have you actually seen him personally apprehend a criminal? No! In fact, he would always have a number of people at the scene to ensure the arrest. As a Judge, don’t you think you should act a little bit more like Uncle Mouri and protect the weak and frail King Yanluo that I am?!”
“Get lost!! Take it or leave it!!”
Qin Ye tutted back, “You piece of--... You know full well that it would be far quicker if you acted in my place. What if one of the emissaries sees me and kills me out of spite? Alternatively… would you happen to have any other solution to guarantee my safety?”
“Of course.” Arthis was completely exasperated, “Let me take over your body entirely once and for all. That way, you’ll suffer no diseases, and no pain for the rest of your life.”
This proposal is a little bit startling and very much irrational…
Arthis rolled her eyes, “Truth be told, there’s no need for you to be too concerned. As long as they’re not carrying any authentic treasures of their respective underworlds, they would never be able to reap Gu Qing’s soul. Given their current strength, the formation arrays that they’re able to set up are so flimsy that they wouldn’t even be able to withstand a simple blow. Last night’s skirmish was no more than a test of the waters, just to assess the abilities of the other factions contesting for his soul.”
“... And what if they have these authentic treasures?”
“Heh… you’ll feel your blood boil for three seconds… and then nothing more.” Arthis booted up her laptop nonchalantly, “I’ve got to say that the power of habit is quite the remarkable thing… I’d actually thought for a moment there that, ‘Ah… just like that. That’s how it’s supposed to be. That earlier upstanding and righteous disposition was so uncharacteristic of you…’”
The intro music from her drama serials began playing, and Qin Ye prepared himself to head out for lunch. Then, just as he unlocked the door, Arthis’ voice called out to him again, “Kid, you’re now the new master of Hell. Remember Hell’s tenet - an instance of infraction, a life of requital!”
Qin Ye paused and probed further, “And if… I fail to uphold this tenet?”
Arthis smiled faintly, “Then… you might fail to uphold your life as well.”
Bloody hell… I knew it would be something like that!
He slammed the door shut and rubbed his face in agony.
Things were getting dangerous.
Danger comes from the unknown. And the enemies this time were a completely unknown existence. They were of the same cultivation level, but they had the complete backing of their underworlds behind them, replete with their underworldly arts and even a plethora of Yin artifacts at their disposal. And to top it all off, Qin Ye still had to conceal his battle with the extraterritorial emissaries from the rest of the First Academy of Cultivators.
Give up Gu Qing’s soul?
It seemed possible. Gu Qing was merely one Yin spirit after all. Successfully reaping his soul might mean a great boost to Hell’s shortcomings right now. Compared with his life, this still seemed to be the lesser option.
However, doing this would very well spell a protracted, painful death.
Allowing the other underworlds to successfully reap Gu Qing’s soul for themselves would be tantamount to an admission that Hell no longer possesses the ability to resist your incursion; and that they are free to come and go as they pleased.
Just like the first opium war.
Both are battles fought on their own turfs. And neither can be considered significant in the grand history of Cathay. However, the effects of these battles were far-reaching because they would each mark the start of a dark age in Cathay.
Qin Ye was born in the 1930s, and he knew full well the history that followed. Therefore, he knew far better than anyone else how much seizing Gu Qing’s soul meant to Cathay. The implications no longer extended only to the development of Hell.
“Can’t you just leave me alone and let me slowly develop my economy in peace… It’s really annoying that you’ve been ganking me every now and then…”
But it was useless to complain. He could only blame it on the fact that Hell was far too insignificant right now. Therefore, when the clock struck twelve, Qin Ye appeared right outside the memorial hall once more.
He wore the First Academy of Cultivators’ camouflage uniform. However, there were additional bandages laced around his military boots. These bandages had some ancient, unrecognizable script scrawled all over them. When he arrived five hundred meters away from the memorial hall, every step he took began to leave an imprint of a weird text on the ground which quickly faded into the darkness.
This way, he was able to imprint these runic symbols all around the perimeter of the memorial hall as he jogged.
The other underworld emissaries were busy with their setups in the heart of the memorial hall because that was where they were going to make their move. On the other hand, Qin Ye was laying the groundwork five hundred meters away from the memorial hall because his intention was instead… to clip their wings!
It was quiet.
The previously dilapidated memorial hall had been cleaned out and refreshed within a single day. It was quite likely that some of the professors or perhaps even Zhou Xianlong had personally done all of the work. The weeds growing from the cracks and the moss on the bricks had all been cleaned out, and even the tattered windows in the hall were repaired and renewed. In fact, it looked so new right now that one would never have imagined the state it was in just a day ago. There were even crimson lamps hanging from the eaves and soft drapes dangling from the window frames, giving the entire hall an ancient feel to them.
Qin Ye didn’t enter the memorial hall, and he simply remained in the trees. Midnight had passed, and he didn’t want anyone to discover his presence. It was only when he had ascertained that the coast was clear that he began to lay his groundwork and set up his own formation array.
With binoculars in his hands, he leaned against the trunk of a tree five hundred meters away from the memorial hall.
The night skies were as dark as ink, dotted only with splashes of constellations. The night breeze swept through the lands from time to time, eliciting a soft, rustling sound from the trees and branches as though they were playing the grim reaper’s sonata. 12.30 a.m… 1.00 a.m… 1.30 a.m…
Then, just as the clock struck two, a gale swept through, and the lights outside the memorial hall suddenly flickered for a split-second, before returning to its usual bright state again.
Qin Ye tightened his fists and lowered his stance. He could clearly see that the silhouette of a person had stood up from the shadows in the distance.
“This is…” His pupils immediately shrank as he looked through his binoculars.
The dark figure had eyes that were emitting a jade-coloured netherfire, while Yin energy poured out of its body. However, it was… a wolf.
To be exact, the figure was that of a wolf’s head on a man’s body. There were wrapping around his head, and these wrappings were inlaid with gold and silver. His hands, ankles and neck were all adorned with bracelets, and he held in his hands a snake-headed staff that was similarly entwined with gold and silver.
“This style… is clearly Aegyptian. In other words, this must be a subordinate of the Aegyptian god of death, Anubis.” The figure’s eye-catching get-up allowed Qin Ye to immediately identify his faction and allegiance, “Nippon, Aegyptus, Argos, Europa… and me. We’ve already got five factions vying for the same prize.”
It suddenly dawned on him just how difficult it must have been for the old Hell to have maintained the status as the top underworld around.
After all, any ordinary person would never be able to appreciate what went on in the dark of the night, especially what kind of clashes and conflict the Emissaries of Hell must have had with the emissaries of other underworlds.
He held his breath and began to scrutinize everything visible from his binoculars.
That figure wasn’t the only one… In fact, two more figures emerged from the darkness after the wolf-headed man. They were as still as the trees, and they stuck close to the walls, gripping tightly onto the snake-headed staves in their hands. Then, shadows began to emerge and slither like snakes right under the eaves of the memorial hall. As their shadows extended around the hall, faint runic symbols appeared momentarily, before quickly fading into the facade of the building.
But, just then, a gleaming katana suddenly plunged straight through the chest of the leader of the wolf-men, pinning him right onto the wall behind!
The foreboding shadows had set the perfect scene for a night of carnage!
4. Alright, so the literal translation actually means something more akin to ‘offend Cathay and you pay with your life, regardless of the distance’. But I thought this sounded cooler and more succinct.
5. Where the immediate issue was a seizure of opium stock in an attempt to stop the banned opium trade. The underlying issue, however, was because the British wanted to maintain free trade so that they could obtain chinese luxury goods. Incidentally, this was what resulted in China ceding Hong Kong to Britain a long time ago.