Chapter 218: Connection (1)

Where have I smelt something like that before? He furrowed his brows and thought for some time, but he just couldn’t make the connection.

It should have been a recent incident. Furthermore, I can tell that the stench is rather fresh, almost as though the cause of it had just occurred yesterday. Lin Han was unable to sense it only because he wasn’t a Hellguard. After all, the stench was incredibly well concealed among the Yin energy of the dead. If not for the fact that Qin Ye was already a Hellguard, he wouldn’t have been able to detect it either.

“You’re not going to tell me that there are evil ghosts present here, are you?” Lin Han glared at Qin Ye with an incredulous look, “Get it right. This is the City of Salvation. We’re only slightly over ten minutes away from the City of Salvation by car, and there are innumerable cultivators patrolling there around the clock. Nothing can possibly go wrong over here.”

With that, Qin Ye shelved his thoughts and attributed it to mere overthinking on his part. He pointed at the gate, “Lead the way!”

There was a several-meters long table that was placed right under the gate leading into the mountains. Several silhouettes were seated behind the tables and taking records of entrants, while more were waiting patiently at the steps below.

“The Special Investigations Department has taken over all phantom markets ever since a few years back. All entry and exit to and from the phantom markets must be registered. So if we want to enter the market, we’ll need these.” Lin Han waved the special permits in his hand, “Follow closely.”

With that, he quickly made his way to the front of the queue.

Qin Ye was scared witless by Lin Han’s conduct - Holy shit can you show some restraint?! Do you think everyone here is blind? These people must all be cultivators, aren’t they? How can you so brazenly cut the line like that? Do you want to be expelled from the academy before we even get a chance to revel in the glory of an academic exchange?

But it was already too late. Lin Han had dashed forward like a wild boar that was out of control, forcefully cutting the line to the front of the queue. Then, he turned around and beckoned to Qin Ye with a valiant wave.

Suppressing the rage in his heart, Qin Ye hardened his heart and strode all the way to the front, bracing himself to make a quick escape as soon as their mischief was discovered.

They queued behind a stooping Yin spirit wearing a tengu mask. There were approximately seven individuals wearing camouflage uniforms bearing the crest of the Special Investigations Department who were seated at the table. The one in the middle was a man in his early thirties with a glorious beard. He picked up the Yin spirit permit and furrowed his brows after a single glance at it, “You’re going to have to renew this permit soon, eh?”

“And you’re trying to use a permit issued in the Eastsea Province here at the Insignia Province? Did you get a temporary entry permit? No? Then what are you still waiting for? Your permit will only last you another two days. Are you trying to get arrested as a black spirit?”

The hem of the Yin spirit’s robe drifted up like Marilyn Monroe’s skirt, only to reveal that there were only wisps of Yin energy where his feet would have been. He rubbed his hands and smiled pleadingly, “Good sir, this is rather urgent. I’ve just arrived, so I haven’t had the time to process the paperwork… do you think… you could look the other way?”

He placed a box openly on the table just as he spoke.

The bearded man opened the box and took a quick glance at its contents, “There shall be no exceptions next time. Move along.”

I’m lost for words… Qin Ye rolled his eyes. This scene was strikingly familiar… I must punish such rotten pests in Hell next time! How dare you seize the money of the dead when this King Yanluo is already poor as a pauper?!

The Yin spirit nodded with gratitude and quickly drifted in through the entrance. The bearded man tapped the table, “Next.”

Qin Ye drew a deep breath and tightened his fists involuntarily. He desperately prayed that the Local Bully’s preparation work was reliable.

Fortunately, that appeared to be the case.

The bearded man checked his identification, processed the registration and allowed him access in no time. In fact, the checks went so smoothly that Qin Ye was still in disbelief when he cleared the access checkpoint.

“Isn’t… the government’s control over the phantom market a little bit too lacking?” He exclaimed, “Doesn’t this mean I’ll be able to visit the phantom market more frequently next time?”

Lin Han stared at Qin Ye as though he were an idiot, “What are you thinking? That’s my biological brother.”

In other words, “You’re a stupid ingrate!”

Very well…

Qin Ye swallowed back the multitude of words that were lodged in his throat, and then silently followed Lin Han up the mountain trail.

Neither one of them spoke a word after crossing the access checkpoint. There were quite a number of people at the phantom market. But upon closer inspection, he could tell that the amount of true energy drifting about this place was sparse and scant. Most of the human cultivators were largely Operative-class experts, while the rest weren’t even at that level. From time to time, he would spot a few Yin spirits zipping by at speeds far quicker than regular human beings.

Yet the rest of the pedestrians on the street simply turned a blind eye to this. Most would keep their distance as they slowly made their way towards the peak. The indifference amidst vigilance brought about a rare sight of harmony between ghosts and humans.

With their speed, the duo arrived at the peak of Mount Monarch approximately ten minutes later.

There were only a few scattered tombs at this part of the mount, but each of them exuded class and luxury. They were made with white marble, etched with carvings of beasts which not even Qin Ye recognized, and sequestered by railings. Altar lamps glowed on both sides of the tomb, while boughs of green pines and cypresses were cut down to form a finely crafted wreath.

Currently, there was a figure standing right on top of each of these luxurious tombs.

And there was a modest stall set up in front of each one of them, with small wooden plaques marking out the prices of their products. The rest of the market was filled with far larger stalls and booths that ran continuously. Each stall also had a lit candle placed at the front of the booth. Some of these candles were regular, ordinary candles, while others were actually lit with a green netherflame.

The night breeze swept by, causing the trees to sway and its leaves to rustle. The soft moonbeams shone on the cemetery, casting a pale sheen over the lands and bringing life to the chilling shadows hidden in the dark. It was as though ten thousand ghosts had gathered silently over these parts. 

Qin Ye’s phone suddenly vibrated, and he glanced at it. Local Bully had messaged him using a regular messaging app, as opposed to their usual Momo app, “Regular candles represent regular human beings. Netherfire candles mean that the stall owner is a Yin spirit. At 5 a.m. sharp, all candles will extinguish at the same time, signifying that the phantom market is closed. Don’t open your mouth to speak at all. There are all kinds of entities hidden underneath this surface of calm. It’s practically chaos. Take a look around. I’ll do the same too.”

Qin Ye’s heart felt warm and full. Credit where it was due, Local Bully was truly a good brother to him. After all, Lin Han readily agreed to help him get here without asking for much details. And now that they were here, he sensibly left Qin Ye  to go about his own business alone under the pretext of browsing the wares on his own.

Everyone wore different masks at different times. Lin Han would never achieve much if he only knew to fool around, even during the most crucial of times.

Qin Ye had already confirmed his arrival with the representatives of Guardian Auctions earlier this afternoon. Thus, he pulled out a red feather and pinned it to his shoulder, and then he began to browse the wares of the stalls with great interests.

The phantom market sold a variety of peculiar wares. Some of the more extraordinary items he saw included a jet-black wooden branch, a complete human skull with a long horn growing out of its forehead, a container of the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts that was sealed shut with talismans… That said, most of the other wares that were being sold were fragments of Yin artifacts.

Most of these possess only the slightest bits of energy fluctuations, but the level of these wares are far too low. He shook his head. Without even realizing it, he had already traversed the entire length of the phantom market. Just then, he felt someone tapping his shoulder lightly three times.

A man dressed in a long black robe was standing right behind him, wearing a Pigsy[1] mask. The man bowed deeply to him.

He’s here.

Qin Ye revealed a faint smile underneath his disguise. This was how they had agreed to meet. They would wear a Pigsy mask and tap him three times on the shoulder, while he would on the other hand pin a red feather to his shoulder.

Without speaking a word, the man dressed in black robes made a gesture of invitation, and Qin Ye followed his lead. All public cemeteries were the same. The lower few tiers were all filled with dense areas of wall tombs, monuments and plaques on a terraced platform. Mount Monarch was no exception to this rule as well. Just like that they continued walking down until they reached zone C8 of the third terrace. There, Qin Ye finally saw a little light.

There was a massive banyan tree growing in the corner of zone C8. It had massive overhanging leaves and branches, and the resultant shadow spanned well over ten meters in breadth. As they drew close to the end of the passageway, he saw the faint glow of a white lantern, as well as the silhouettes of two other persons waiting for him.

Very cautious… Qin Ye nodded with approval. This location gave them a good vantage point of everything around, and yet others couldn’t see them at all.

“Mr Qin.” A man stepped out from the shadows and stretched out his hand, “Your reputation precedes you.”

His burning gaze landed directly on the large box which Qin Ye was carrying, “This place is very safe. We’ve traveled far from Yan Capital and even risked our lives by venturing close to the edge of the City of Salvation. So… why don’t we approach this meeting with a gesture of good faith and honesty?”

His hands were incredibly fair. One could easily tell this man was well-fed and somewhat plump. Furthermore, there weren’t any traces of scars or wrinkles on his hands at all.

But Qin Ye didn’t reciprocate the invitation for a handshake. Instead, he leaned back casually onto the tombstone nearby, drew a deep breath, and then carefully set the box down, “How do you propose we do that?”

“Like this.” One of the men took off his Monkey King mask, only to reveal the appearances of a bespectacled young man in his early thirties. His appearances were fairly gentle and demure, “Bai Yishan, the second in command of Guardian Auctions, Yan Capital Headquarters. You may call me Master Bai.”

“We will eventually meet face to face if you’re looking to participate in the upcoming summer major auction in any event. Furthermore, since you’re the successor of a Premium VIP account holder, we will eventually have to collect more information from you so that we can serve you better. What do you say?”

Qin Ye looked at him with a faint smile on his face. With another soft sigh, he finally stretched out his hand, “Not bad.”

Then, Qin Ye suddenly tightened his grip right as they locked hands with each other. Before the other two men could react to the situation, Master Bai’s hand had already been dislocated, and he was already screaming out loud. A split second later, Qin Ye whipped out a small shiv from his sleeve and thrusted his palm straight towards the neck of the man wearing the Monkey King mask.

Everything happened in the blink of an eye, and nobody was able to react to the situation in time. The men in black shivered slightly. Just as they were about to move, Qin Ye muttered placidly, “Stay right where you are, and don’t move a single step. Otherwise…”

The blade was only a centimeter away from Monkey King’s throat. With great trembling, the other man slowly lifted his hands, and Qin Ye inched closer to him ever so cautiously, “Otherwise, he dies.”

“Mr Qin…” Monkey King’s voice trembled, “Why are you doing this? We’re only here to appraise your artifacts and to transact with you. You…”

“Appraisal, huh…” Qin Ye smiled faintly. The blade was already resting on the man’s throat, “Do you know why I took a deep breath earlier?”

Monkey King swallowed hard and shook his head blankly.

“Because I detected the stench of the living dead as soon as I arrived at the base of the mountain.” Qin Ye stared right into Monkey King’s eyes, “So, I’ve always kept a close look out for the source of this stench. And just a moment ago, I finally ascertained that this stench is in fact emanating right from your body. So, mister, can you tell me why you bear the stench of the living dead on your body? If not for the fact that you possess a shadow underneath your feet, you would’ve been dead by now.”

“Is this because you came into contact with something unclean recently? Or…” He grabbed the other man by the throat, “Because you are the unclean one?”

Qin Ye was truly overbearing against those who were weaker than him!

But when it comes to those who were stronger than him… cough cough… we all know how that goes.

Monkey King was completely flabbergasted. Seconds later, he gritted his teeth, “Mr Qin, there’s no need to do this…”

“Soul Hunter.” Just then, the third person who had been silent all this while suddenly spoke up for the very first time.

“He’s a Soul Hunter.” The other man’s voice was hoarse and husky, and he stared intently at Qin Ye, “And it’s not just any ordinary one at that… he’s far stronger than the average Soul Hunter you’ll meet…”

The third man walked out from the darkness for the very first time. His mask was still on. Furthermore… given that the other two were wearing the masks of Monkey King and Pigsy, Qin Ye thought that this man would be wearing the mask of Sandy. But, he was not.

It was… Tripitaka.[2]

1. The pig character in Journey to the West.

2. Also known as Tang Sanzang.

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