Qin Ye closed his eyes and heaved a long sigh of relief. His immensely taut heartstring could finally loosen itself.
The only sound that could be heard in the ancient temple right now was the riffling pages of Hell’s Records. Qin Ye smiled, “Anitya Hellguard… after much sacrifice, I’ve finally joined the ranks of an Anitya Hellguard…”
“All that effort?” Arthis scowled, “Your face? Your image?”
Qin Ye glared right back at her, “How about all the times I’ve gone in and out of the memorial hall over the last few nights? And the life-threatening battles against the extraterritorial emissaries? Have you forgotten about those things already?”
“... Why do I get the feeling that there’s some level of embellishment and exaggeration there…”
But before Qin Ye could continue gloating, Hell’s Records suddenly trembled slightly, and then a buzzing sound rang out in all directions.
Promotion to Hellguard, begin!
A boundless nethergale had already begun to gather in the surroundings. The trees on Anhua Mountain rustled softly, as though bowing respectfully in the direction of the ancient temple. The broken ancient burial mounds scattered all around Anhua Mountain rattled vigorously, and their prayer flags pointed in the direction of the ancient temple and fluttered wildly.
“This is…” Qin Ye was startled. He looked at the tide of Yin energy that had gathered in his surroundings. The sea of energy began to pour into the dilapidated temple through its cracks and crevices, the broken window frames and the main entrance. It was like a great river, gushing endlessly. It was as though the ancient temple were the Yin energy node of a powerful Yin artifact!
Torrential rain continued to pelt down on the ground. The skies were still overcast, but for some reason, the moonbeams suddenly began to peek through the clouds, painting the lands with a gloomy, pale sheen. And then, just like a dam that had been breached, the Yin energy in the surroundings madly converged onto Qin Ye’s body!
WHOOSH! Layer upon layer of Yin energy enshrouded the dilapidated temple, forming a massive vortex of Yin energy so large that its menacing swirl could be seen even a thousand meters away.
Qin Ye could feel the Yin energy filling every vein, nerve, and bone of his body. And this felt completely different from his previous advancement. He could even see every muscle in his body twitching and squirming on its own! Some of the meridians on his body were growing, while others were waning. Even his bones had begun to be tainted black by the suffusion of Yin energy.
And the black hue hardly seemed ordinary at all. Rather, it bore a sense of exquisiteness, becoming obsidian black in colour and crystal clear in its appearance. It was like a work of art.
“What the hell is going on…” The chasm between a Soul Hunter and Anitya Hellguard was so great that he even began to feel somewhat apprehensive about the breakthrough right now. He stared uneasily at the dazzling clouds of Yin energy that had gathered around him, and for a split second there, he actually thought of walking away from all of this.
Yet, almost as though she knew the reservations in his heart, Arthis’ voice called out, “The promotion to Anitya Hellguard is one of the most crucial turning points in the ranks of Hell’s officials. This is when your authority extends to the farthest reaches of an entire city. With this promotion, you’ll be able to exert your influence across the entire City of Salvation and its five counties. All Yin spirits will naturally draw near you and pledge their allegiance to you. In other words, this is your display of authority.”
“Counties and cities are considered mere building blocks in Cathay. Yet, even between counties and cities, the number of Yin spirits under your jurisdiction increases vastly. Operatives may be able fill the position of a Soul Hunter, but Soul Hunters can never take on the role of an Anitya Hellguard! Those who attain the rank of Anitya Hellguard are therefore known as the pillars of Hell. And it is for this reason that all who are fortunate enough to reach the ranks of Hellguard will invariably receive an infusion of Yin energy - just like you are right now.”
“Don’t resist it, embrace it. Your body’s constitution will take the form most suited to purging evil ghosts…”
Qin Ye couldn’t hear what she was saying any longer.
As more and more Yin energy poured into his body through his seven apertures, he began to feel an increasing sense of bloatedness and swelling, almost as though his fleshly body was bursting at its seams. At the same time, a sense of drowsiness began to fall over his nervous system. It was cooling, and somewhat… hypnotic.
Arthis drifted out of the ten-meter large cocoon of Yin energy. The swirling ball of Yin energy was finally calming down. The paper crane abruptly glowed with a bright black luster, and the Yin energy around it suddenly twisted and contorted. Several seconds later, Arakshasa stepped out.
She carried a paper umbrella, wore a colourful robe, and her long tongue hung out of her mouth until it reached the ground. Innumerable strands of hair flowed out of her seven apertures like terrifying vipers. She turned around gracefully and walked out of the ancient temple.
The downpour was immense, pelting down on the leaves of the trees with endless pattering sounds. However, there was not a single sound coming from the road from which they had come from!
If one looked closely, it would be clear that not a single drop of rain had struck the leaves in that region. It was almost as though an invisible shelter had been set up in preparation for the arrival of a VIP - the raindrops… actually avoided this area!
“I knew I couldn’t hide things from you.” Arthis sighed softly, only to attract a thunderous response from the surroundings, “Emissary of Hell?! Infernal Judge?!”
It was Zhou Xianlong.
“You didn’t mistake me for an evil ghost. You’ve got a keen eye.” Arthis smiled genially, “Lend me the use of your land for a moment. I only need an hour.”
Whoosh… Countless wisps of true energy drifted out from the trees and quickly materialized into Zhou Xianlong’s physical body. He stared at Arthis, completely flabbergasted. Even his voice was somewhat trembling.
There were so many things he wanted to say, but he simply didn’t know how to begin.
What happened to Hell?
Why are there so many evil ghosts around right now?
Why did you cut off all contact with the mortal realm?
Why… can’t we locate you at all?
Why aren’t the Yamas of the Ten Palaces and the Sixfold Ghost Kings doing a thing, even though the mortal realm’s signal beacons have been lit all around?!
“Why?” Zhou Xianlong finally closed his eyes and muttered with a hoarse voice after a long, protracted pause.
Arthis sighed softly, “Hell… is no longer in existence.”
Zhou Xianlong opened his eyes abruptly. His eyes were somewhat bloodshot.
He could appreciate the ramifications of what she had just said.
Arthis continued, “Hell has met with an unexpected calamity. The Yamas of the Ten Palaces and the Sixfold Ghost Kings as you know it are all gone. And what roams the mortal realms now are three of the daolords of the six paths of reincarnation. Each of these daolords is a peak Abyssal Prefect.”
Zhou Xianlong’s Adam’s apple trembled, and he sighed in anguish.
He had never expected to hear of the harsh reality today. His heart wasn’t prepared for it.
“There’s no need for you to know about anything else. This is a matter for Hell itself. The mortal realm just needs to hold out. A new Hell will take its place in one hundred years’ time. We’re working on it right now.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to hold out for a hundred years?” Zhou Xianlong stared blankly at the canopy of chilling rain as he choked up slightly, “Do you know what the mortal realm is like right now, all because of your dereliction of duty?!”
He continued hoarsely without giving Arthis the chance to respond, “Everyday, countless people die in shock and terror. Do you think it’s very safe in the City of Salvation? Naturally. This is paradise. But if you go to any of the other provinces around, Mistriver, Song Peak… apart from their provincial capital, every single one of the counties and villages under their charge is practically no different from hell on earth!!”
“You don’t understand it… You have no idea what it’s like for parents to go to work, only to discover the bodies of their dismembered children when they return home. You don’t know what it’s like to have the entire family huddle together in bed at night, with each parent taking turns keeping watch in fear. You have no idea… how the villagers living in the mountains count themselves lucky with each passing day that they remain alive! You don’t know what it’s like for humans to be treated as livestock!!”
“And all of this is a result of your negligence!!”
Boom!! The surrounding trees were shattered and scattered about with a powerful wave of energy. Zhou Xianlong’s eyes twitched uncontrollably as he glared at Arthis with bloodshot eyes.
He was fuming mad.
He didn’t know where it all began to go wrong. Perhaps it was a dereliction of duty, perhaps the Special Investigations Department was simply incompetent, or perhaps it was those blood-soaked scrolls that he didn’t even dare to look at… Regardless of what it was, the only thing he knew right now was that his anger had burgeoned to the size of a monolithic mountain, and yet there was no outlet to vent at all.
Several minutes later, Arthis actually bowed slightly, “I sincerely apologize. We didn’t expect this either. I’d only managed to escape the great calamity by hiding in the depths of an abyss that one fateful day. But believe me - we’re doing all we can right now to rebuild Hell to its former glory. If you can just hold out…”
“Hold out?” Zhou Xianlong laughed sardonically, “Hold out with what? A heap of corpses and a line of human bodies? Forget it. The mortal realm will resolve its own problems. We’ll get through this crisis on our own, no matter the cost!”
Zhou Xianlong sighed, “Extraterritorial emissaries? That’s what you call it, isn’t it? What happened to them?”
“They’re all dead.” Arthis responded placidly, “An instance of infraction, a life of requital. Our darkfeathers will hunt them down across the Pacific Ocean even if we have to.”
Zhou Xianlong didn’t respond anymore. With a cold snort, he flicked his sleeves and motioned to leave.
Just as his body was transforming back into wisps of true energy, Arthis suddenly quipped, “No matter the cost… even if it means sacrificing the lives of Emissaries of Hell? With all due respect, every single Emissary of Hell now represents the hope of Hell’s subsistence. Their existence is immeasurably precious.”
“Even if it means sacrificing Hell’s Emissaries.” Zhou Xianlong’s figure abruptly transformed into wisps of true energy that began to drift into the woods, “Don’t you think you’re being too presumptuous? The mortal realm has nothing to do with Hell right now. The mortal realm might not even be able to hold out for the next hundred years. We will never pass up on any trace of hope, no matter what form it takes!”
His figure finally vanished completely, and the mountains were silent once again. Arthis stood guard at the entrance of the dilapidated temple for the next hour and a half. And then, a huge roar erupted from the heart of the temple, and the Yin energy around the entire mountain was scattered away in an instant.
The pouring rain was instantly sent flying with a massive shockwave that rippled out from the temple. And then, a dark silhouette slowly walked out from the heart of the temple.
He still wore a fretwork skullcap, but it was now much taller than before. Two words were written on it - ‘world peace’. His tongue hung out in front of him, and his hair was now jade-green coloured, almost as though it were blazing with an eerie netherfire. His face looked unusually withered and thin. He wore a white robe with xiezhi unicorn embroidery, while the demonhead saber in his hands… had actually transformed into a mourning staff!
As soon as Qin Ye stepped out of the ancient temple, the Yin spirits across all five counties in the City of Salvation turned to look at Qin Ye’s direction as though they had sensed it.
These Yin spirits could see that rolling dark clouds had gathered over the City of Salvation like a dark canopy, and a faint seal was even hovering softly in its midst. A single glance at the seal made the Yin spirits tremble all over.
One by one, the Yin spirits began to kneel to the ground in submission. Even the Yin spirits belonging to hunting zones in the region screamed madly as they scattered to the darkness and hid themselves with great trembling.
An Anitya Hellguard had just been inducted. Would any Yin spirit dare to create a ruckus under his watchful eyes?
“So, this is an Anitya Hellguard?” Qin Ye examined his hands. His nails were jade-green, while his skin was so fair it almost appeared translucent. Just then, his gaze flickered, and he grabbed hold of his dangling tongue as he stared back at Arthis in horror, “Can you please explain… what the hell you meant when you said that I’m taking on ‘the form most suited to purging evil ghosts’?!”
Yet Arthis didn’t even bother to look back at him. Instead, she simply stared at the curtain of rain, as she remarked abruptly, “Zhou Xianlong was here.”
Qin Ye’s voice immediately trailed off.
“I asked what position he would take if pacifying the mortal realm meant sacrificing the lives of Hell’s Emissaries.”
“His response was - ‘then that would naturally be the rightful course of action’.”
“I’d already guessed that the mortal realm would react with immense displeasure and frustration. Hell’s dereliction of duty had caused evil ghosts to flood the mortal realm. They’re innocent, and yet they’ve suffered way too much for our negligence. This is why you’ve been concealing your identity all this while, and why you’ll have to continue doing so for as long as you can. After all, we were never truly able to understand the full extent of the mortal realm’s discontentment, and we could only test the waters with every opportunity we got…”
“But now, there’s no longer a need for that.” She turned around and looked Qin Ye right in the eye, “Be a good husky. Given our strength right now, we’re simply in no position for negotiations with the mortal realm.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter