The building was by no means large. After all, Hyatt was not a large corporation to begin with. Right this moment, the corridor leading up from the third to the fourth floor of the building was packed with over ten spirits that were drifting about, completely obstructing their access to the next floor.
“Is this your undead army?” Qin Ye furrowed his brows.
“...Of course not, my troops are currently in Northre-… Hang on, why do I even have to answer such a stupid question of yours in the first place?”
Qin Ye noticed that Arthis’ disposition had somewhat changed. He had the urge to ask her what was responsible for turning a former high-level bureaucrat into someone less imposing than a little bird. Where was all her nobility and frigid charisma?
“These are familiar spirits.” Arthis explained with some measure of bewilderment, “It’s strange to see things like familiar spirits here. Have you heard of a saying, familiar to a tiger?”
“The saying speaks exactly of familiar spirits. Legend has it that a tiger would transform any human it devours into a familiar spirit of its own and use that to lure and draw in other travelers to the tiger’s den. Why would something like that appear here?”
Qin Ye furrowed his brows, “That’s not the point. What I want to know is just how strong these familiar spirits are.”
“Very weak. They practically have no offensive abilities at all. These familiars can create some illusions at best.”
As soon as she finished her explanation, Qin Ye shot forward like an arrow loosened from a bow.
Arthis’ lips twitched slightly. He was still gripping the hilt of his saber nervously when the familiar spirits’ abilities were yet unknown to him. But as soon as he discovered that these spirits don’t possess offensive abilities at all, he immediately shot forward like a horse with a fire lit up its ass. What kind of a person is this…
Shiiiing! Dazzling light shone wherever Qin Ye’s saber went. The demon’s head on his saber ignited with a gloomy flame, devouring soul after soul as they were cut down. Wherever the saber’s light went, the souls melted as rapidly as the snow melts in the warm spring sun. Waves of routed Yin energy surged towards him like tidal waves, only to be scattered by a simple cry on his part. Then, after one last flourish of his saber, the lingering Yin energy finally dispersed to the surroundings.
The revivification of Hell was finally underway. An Emissary of Hell had been dispatched, and the weak drifting spirits had encountered their natural predators.
Tsss… The corridor linking the third and fourth floors finally opened up. Qin Ye charged up immediately.
The entrance to the fourth floor of the building was a complete mess, as though someone had earlier been ransacking the place. The originally orderly office desks had all been knocked on their sides or overturned; computer accessories were scattered everywhere, and even the lights had all been shattered. As soon as Qin Ye made it up to the fourth floor, the doors and windows to the corridor were immediately snapped shut at the same time.
A crackle of thunder struck the window outside, causing everything to turn greenish-white momentarily. Qin Ye’s hands were still wrapped tightly around the hilt of his saber. He could tell that there was an existence on this floor of the building whose level of Yin energy was on a completely different scale than the familiar spirits. But he was uncertain just how much stronger this entity was.
It was probably still weaker than him, but it would nevertheless be wise to treat this opponent seriously.
This must be where That Amorous Affair’s true body is!
“So soon?” He muttered softly as he glanced vigilantly at his surroundings.
Arthis was similarly puzzled, “To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with her appearing already. She’s only just come into contact with the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal a few days ago, and it’s evident she hasn’t mastered its use yet. How many tricks do you think a piece of trash like her would have up her sleeves? That said… she was still able to capture Sledgehammer Wang in broad daylight, so the full extent of her abilities should still be hidden for now. At the very least, there’s no reason for her to reveal the full extent of her might at the moment.
Drip… Just then, Qin Ye felt an icy cold sensation on his neck. He touched it. It was blood.
Ice cold blood. Coming from just above his head.
“Urgh….uuuurrrrrgghhh…” A peculiar noise that was mechanically intermittent came from the ceiling just overhead. Despite the windows and doors on the fourth floor being completely shut, a chilling wind of Yin energy had begun to blow, causing Qin Ye’s Hell’s Emissary robes to flutter wildly. Simultaneously, the demonhead saber sliced through the air, drawing a magnificent radiant arc of light in the air.
With a muffled sound, Qin Ye retreated two meters. A crackle of lightning flashed once more, and Qin Ye finally managed to catch a glimpse of the true face of the ghost on the ceiling.
“This is…” Even though he was already mentally prepared, he still couldn’t help gasping in shock.
Even Arthis was taken aback, and it took her some time before she could remark, “So that’s how it is… I finally get it…”
The ghost wasn’t even in human form.
Ghosts generally maintain the appearances of its physical form just prior to death, regardless of their class or circumstances. Yet, That Amorous Affair did not.
Instead, she possessed an almost ethereal body. Her face was incomparably pale, as though it was completely devoid of blood. Her dishevelled hair hung loose, somewhat obscuring the demonically bloodshot eyes of hers. Her gaping wide mouth was filled with vicious, gnarly fangs, all of which were ink-black in colour.
She wore a black dress. Her body was as twisted and contorted as humanly possible. Yet, beneath that dress… was the lower half of a tiger’s body!
Furthermore, her body seemed rather incomplete - several dark and grisly holes the size of a finger’s width covered her entire body! It was reminiscent of one who had been sentenced to the ancient “Iron Maiden” punishment. Her entire body was riddled with holes. It was terrifying!
“Urgh....uuurrrrrrggghhhh…” The lower half of her body continued to cling tightly to the ceiling. What had just struck Qin Ye was evidently not her arms. Rather, it was her tail. Simultaneously, she was holding tightly to a foot-wide safe with her hands.
“Kid, I’m afraid that things aren’t as you’d expected.” Arthis' voice seemed somewhat distant, “Her form...I’ve seen it somewhere before.”
“Half-man, half-tiger, and escorted by familiar spirits. This is...a phenomenon known as the tiger fabrication.”
“The holes in her body represent the thousands of pointed verbal attacks that she had received prior to her death, each puncture leaving a deep, grisly wound in her body that lingers for the rest of time, even after death. The voice of Wang Zemin that you’d heard over the phone was probably also something spoken by one of her familiar spirits in an attempt to lure others to investigate the tiger’s den.”
“Unless one has an immense grievance with no viable outlet for ventilation, it’s practically impossible to inherit this form after death. Damn that CEO Wang… was he messing with us despite the fact that we’d summoned his soul for the final time?”
A grievous death? Qin Ye glanced at the vengeful apparition on the ceiling with some measure of surprise. He was instantly reminded about the post that he had seen - about how incredibly critical and harsh the anonymous voices had been in their accusations towards That Amorous Affair as soon as the verdict was passed.
It was overwhelming.
These were the anonymous voices of internet vigilantes who had abused the Hyatt Corporation on her behalf after hearing her account of the incident. Then, as soon as they perceived that they had been made use of, and their intelligence had been insulted, they doubled down on their abusive words and launched intense mud-slinging attacks on the one whom they were trying to help in the first place! It was their curses and marrow-piercing insults, and the immense tidal wave of humiliating words and threats that cut deep into her body and turned her into what she was today!
But… this was an old incident from five years ago. Was there still a hidden secret to it?
“Urgh...uuuurrrrrgghh…” The bloodshot eyes stared transfixed at Qin Ye.
At the same time, Qin Ye regulated his emotions and spoke with a low voice, “Regardless of whether you’d been maligned or not, the fact remains that you’ve murdered someone. There are rules to all things. Since you’ve committed the crime of murder, you’ll naturally be subjected to the commensurate punishment. Submit to me, and you may be granted mercy from the immeasurable suffering you might otherwise face. You… do you understand what I’m saying?”
“ROAR!!” With a fierce tiger’s roar, the apparition leapt down from the ceiling and pounced straight towards Qin Ye.
Quick. Incredibly quick! In fact, it was so quick that its strike had already arrived right in front of Qin Ye before he was even able to react to it or dodge its attack.
“You’re courting death!!” Since it was too late to take evasive measures, there was no point in attempting such trivialities altogether. With a battle cry of his own, the demonhead saber in his hand trembled. His clothes fluttered on its own, while the veins of his arm grabbing tightly to the hilt of the saber bulged violently.
BAM!! The Yin energy in his surroundings began to rush madly towards him. In an instant, the convergence of Yin energy transformed into a several-meter-large cyclone that raged from his feet! Just as the apparition arrived in front of him, the demonhead saber in Qin Ye’s hands finally shifted.
It was slow, so slow that it appeared to be completely motionless. But, this was a mere optical illusion that had only occurred because his actual movements were so quick that the naked eye was unable to track his movements. Thus, it simply appeared as though nothing had shifted at all.
Whoosh… Time seemed to freeze in that instant. The apparition’s dress and hair fluttered wildly before falling down again. Her bloodshot eyes were still gazing menacingly at Qin Ye. Then, the sound of a saber being sheathed finally broke the oppressive silence.
“Do you know…” Qin Ye gasped for breath. His expressions were somewhat pale, “The orders of Hell are on a completely different level from your meagre gathering of drifting spirits…
“Both the Hell’s Emissary robes and the subduing saber can be considered treasures of Hell, each of which are imbued with magical abilities that allow me to suppress ghosts on a level equivalent to mine. Ah… in the human context, it would be akin to how police are equipped with guns. Would that be a more easily understandable analogy?
“In fact, I’ve become fond of referring to my saber as a Zanpakuto. And this move… is officially called the phantom cleave. Me? I’d like to call it the Getsuga Tensho. Unfortunately, it’s an ability that I can only use once a day…”
The tiger claws formed by congealing the surrounding Yin energy had stopped approximately ten centimeters in front of him. It was unable to go any further.
Like a sculpture, the apparition trembled vigorously. Then, with a loud whoosh, her ethereal body was scattered by a powerful gust of winds, reducing her to nothing more than several spots of green light that continued to hover about and linger in mid-air. The safe which she had been clinging tightly to finally fell to the ground, and the door to the safe was knocked open.
As soon as the apparition vanished, the glass elements in the entire building were all blown out to bits! A sphere of minute slash marks expanded out in all directions, etching themselves into the walls and ceiling of the building. Qin Ye stood tall at the center of it all.
“I’m a person who never does anything he’s not certain of.” Qin Ye breathed out a long sigh of relief. Simultaneously, his proof of identity as an Emissary of Hell flew up from his bosom, and a line of writing was mysteriously added to its records.
“Granted deliverance to one vengeful apparition; maximum of 20 merit points granted.”
“Remaining points required for promotion to a Soul Hunter: 180 merit points.”
So this is the so-called merit system… Qin Ye scanned the words on his proof of identity, and he was about to shift his gaze away when he suddenly froze in place. Then, he did a double take at the records.
No… There’s a problem!
“Granted deliverance?” Having also noticed the same issue, Arthis exclaimed, “That’s not right… Hell is incredibly strict about it’s ranks and forms. And the merit system, which is the foundation that the rank system is built upon, is even stricter! After all, there are only a few billions of people in the mortal realm. But I’m afraid that the number of souls that have accumulated in Hell over time is well beyond this number.”
“Therefore, ‘expunging’ a ghost and granting ‘deliverance’ upon a ghost are completely different things. There is no way that the merit system will mix these up.”
She continued, “Expunging is when an evil ghost refuses to submit and ends up being destroyed by an official of Hell so that it would no longer do any harm to the world. Granting deliverance is quite something else altogether. Deliverance is when an evil ghost submits to conversion, and the Emissary of Hell has also fulfilled the ghost’s dying wishes. In other words, the merit system only grants more points to the Emissary when it detects that the evil ghost no longer has any lingering regrets or attachments.”
Qin Ye nodded his head. In other words, this was essentially the difference between surrendering and being arrested. The one who was arrested might go on to exact vengeance on society in future; but the one who surrendered had essentially done so out of contriteness and turned over a new leaf.
His situation was clearly the former. He had just killed the apparition, so why was it accorded to him as having granted deliverance upon her?
Moreover, the apparition had clearly exhibited a hostile intent towards him, so how did he manage to grant deliverance upon her so easily?
After pondering for a long time, he finally spoke again, “You’d earlier mentioned that resolving the source of a ghost’s obsession bestows true deliverance upon them. And this is an undergirding principle that is applicable to all ghosts.”
As soon as he finished speaking, both he and Arthis immediately turned to look at the now-opened safe. This was an ordinary safe. The door had incidentally been split open by Qin Ye’s earlier attack. Yet, he could tell that the safe was otherwise covered in claw marks as well.
But, those claw marks were not those of an animal’s. The claw marks were slender… almost as though they were caused by a woman’s nails when she dug and scratched at the surface of the safe.
“The only other thing that I might have done was to unintentionally cleave open this safe. In other words, her object of obsession might very well lay in the contents of this safe. Something of vital importance is hidden inside. Even after death, she had time and time again attempted to open it, but to no avail.”
“Safe to say, this is her source of obsession.”
1. The mandarin words here are 三人成虎, an idiom which essentially means that rumours become facts when repeated sufficiently. It’s a play on words, because 虎 also means tiger; the original story came from a wise minister who was worried that in his absence, the Emperor would believe lies about him from his political enemies. He asked the Emperor, 'would you believe it if one of your ministers told you that there was a tiger roaming the city?' The Emperor replied, 'Of course not!' The wise minister then asked, 'What if three of them told you the same thing?' The Emperor hesitated then said, 'Well, perhaps.' The wise minister nodded and said, 'Thus, three men can create a tiger.' Hence this is now a Chinese idiom that if untruths are repeated enough time, people will begin to believe them no matter how ridiculous they sound. It's surprisingly apropos given what's going on in the world these days, but we digress.