Chapter 23: Vestiges of the Next Shard

His perspective continued to travel further and further. He saw the familiar Clear Creek County, the highways extending out of it, and then the vast plains in the suburbs… His perspective followed the winding highways leading out until a miniscule toll booth fell into view. A large word was engraved on it.

Rivergorge.

The prefecture-level city that Clear Creek County was directly subordinate to. This was the toll booth belonging to Rivergorge City! However, the vision hadn’t stopped moving. In fact, it was still rapidly shifting, travelling deeper and deeper into the city, through the downtown district, into the suburbs, before finally stopping in front of a monstrosity of a compound.

It was gloomy and stifling. Ten meter high steel-grey walls stood around the perimeter of the compound. Oppressive, bright searchlights installed above the walls continued to shift around vigilantly. Traces of an electric fence could be seen in the shadows as well. The oppressive aura about this building made it appear like a monster prowling about at night.

"This is…" Qin Ye pressed hard on his temples. Innumerable traces of blood stains had been left on the walls, while countless men could be heard moaning and groaning from the other end of the compound. His god's view zoomed in on the compound. Within moments, he began to notice some gritty details, including iron handles covered in rust, and blacked, weathered stairs… Then, in the very next moment, a pair of blood-red eyes opened widely, staring straight through the walls and right at him.

Qin Ye saw him as well.

Their third eyes confronted each other squarely despite hundreds of miles between their physical bodies.

Yin energy. It was Yin energy far stronger than that possessed by the female ghost which he had just delivered. In fact, this entity's Yin energy was so strong that Qin Ye could perceive it despite the vast distance between them.

Three seconds later, the entire image vanished into thin air. However, just like gladiators, each of their auras had already been etched and imprinted on the other's hearts.

"Why didn't you tell me that as long as I'm holding onto the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, the owner of the next shard would immediately be able to see me?" Qin Ye gnashed his teeth at the soul sphere.

That's right. Even though it had been mere seconds' worth of direct confrontation, he immediately knew exactly what it meant. The endless cycles had just begun their rotations. And the end game was that only the one who managed to secure all of the shards of King Yanluo’s Seal would be able to live on.

"Must've slipped my mind." Arthis responded with insincerity, "In any event, holding onto the shard is the only way to leave this place. Or would you like to also dispose of the four men waiting for you outside?"

Qin Ye revealed a wry smile as he massaged his temples, "And I finally thought that I could begin to trust you as well."

Arthis murmured, "Is that so...such a pity…"

Before she could finish speaking, Qin Ye had already kicked off with his foot and charged straight towards the glass walls that surrounded the roof.

CRASH!!

The four men surrounding the building were immediately taken aback. To their eyes, the glass panels had exploded into millions of fragments, while a man wearing a long black robe shot straight out of the building like an owl at night. He wore a tall, pointy cap with the words "world peace" written on them. His face was almost ghastly pale…

"This is…" The four men paused for a moment before exclaiming in unison, "An Anitya Hellguard of Black and White?!"

Whoosh… None of them bothered holding onto their umbrellas at this moment, and each of their four umbrellas were swept into the heart of the pouring rain. Simultaneously, the rain around the four people began to contort slightly as well. What should have landed on their bodies instead skirted around them as though they were boats coursing through a body of water. At the same time, their clothes began to flutter about without wind.

That said, the mysterious man hardly waited for the four cultivators to make their move. In fact, he didn't even pause for a single moment. Instead...he simply soared into the sky just like a goshawk!

Whoosh! The four men who had been poised for battle were instantly petrified. The mysterious figure quickly soared past them. Seconds later, as they slowly recovered from their astonishment, they continued to stare at the sky with abject disbelief.

Rumble! A bolt of lightning shot across the sky, yet any traces of that mysterious figure was long gone by now.

Nobody spoke a word.

Nobody moved a muscle.

The raindrops were no longer avoiding their bodies by now. Instead, they splattered all over their faces. Yet, almost as though they hasn't realized that much, the four men continued to gaze into the distant night sky where Qin Ye had shot towards.

"Flew…" Several moments later, one of the men dressed in suits finally opened his mouth with trembling, "Flew? He really flew? Was I mistaken?"

"No…" The man who had first been tracking down Qin Ye, AC-285, also spoke with a shaky voice. His hands were trembling as though he had just seen a ghost, and he shook his head with resignation, "He's really taken flight...he really has…"

"B-but how is this possible?!" "Even the Chief Investigator can't do this!" "Could that man really be an esteemed Anitya Hellguard of the Black and White?!"

What happened to the tacit agreement that this would be no more than a meeting of the weak? It's as though everyone had been playing innocently in a small, isolated pond, when a man suddenly arrived saying that he had reserved it for his personal use. What was the meaning of that?

"What's the reading on his energy level?!" The man who first broke the silence, AC-276, finally returned to his senses and he immediately hollered at the others, "Quickly! What's the figure?!"

The three other men had already whipped out their trigram boards before AC-276 could finish speaking. However, as soon as their eyes landed on the boards in their hands, each of their pupils immediately constricted.

"E-error...impossible to ascertain…" AC-285 gasped as he stared in bewilderment at the needle on the board that was spinning madly, "I-it's already beyond the maximum possible reading…"

Ding-a-ling… Just then, AC-276’s cell phone suddenly rang. His body trembled, and he immediately answered the call. A voice echoed out from the other end of the line, “Sir! The eastern encampment has detected an immeasurable supernatural force! Do we open fire or not? Please advise!”

His voice was played out on the phone’s loudspeaker. Before he could finish speaking, the four men immediately responded in unison, “No! Don’t!!”

Are you kidding me?! This was an entity that was well beyond their comprehension. An entity that could fly... was probably an authentic Anitya Hellguard of the Black and White! If they fired upon it, the consequences could be immeasurably dire!

“Notify the military headquarters immediately. City... no! The provincial military headquarters! Tell them that the Special Investigations Department requests satellite access! No... no, this isn’t a mere request! Tell them, no matter what means we have to take, we absolutely have to track down the location of the man that just left this place!”

“Yes!” 

After hanging up, the four men looked at each other sheepishly once more, not knowing what else they could say to each other.

This experience was far too outrageous. It had completely shattered any notions of “power” in their minds. Is this the true power of the Anitya Hellguards of the Black and White?

Deeper concerns also sprung up in their hearts. The massive changes that Cathay was experiencing was no secret to the upper echelons of the government. In fact, Cathay had already begun rolling out a series of countermeasures decades ago. But now...had legendary existences such as the Anitya Hellguards of the Black and White finally also begun to appear?

Rumble… Another peal of thunder echoed across the lands. AC-276 gazed into the distant sky with an ostensible trace of worry lacing his expressions. Gritting his teeth, he commanded, “Contact the military personnel stationed in Rivergorge CIty. Request authorization for an emergency mobilization of all troops to move into Clear Creek County. I want all personnel...regardless of rank!”

“AC-285, tidy up your previous incident report about the series of cases pertaining to the supernatural entity specialized in subduing evil ghosts and submit them all to me. Contact the city-level investigators and request backup in Clear Creek County pronto. I want a report as soon as possible.”

“Yes.”

Naturally, Qin Ye was not privy to these conversations and commands. Boundless Yin energy continued to enshroud him, sending him across the sky with a streak of black energy trailing behind him. It was a fortunate thing that it was pouring so heavily today. Otherwise, there was no doubt that Qin Ye’s movements would be a spectacle in the sky, to say the least.

Then, when he had put about three hundred meters between him and the Hyatt Corporation building, he suddenly noticed that over two hundred armed policemen in camouflage suits had emerged around the three separate streets leading towards Hyatt. Some were armed with sniper rifles on the roofs of buildings nearby, while others were holding up riot shields and standing in formation facing the Hyatt Corporation building.

Qin Ye sighed in relief. Even if he had managed to dispose of the four men in suits unharmed, it was still hardly a good idea to go up against the second wave of policemen comprising innumerable loaded guns like that.

In fact, what stirred him the most was the fact that right in the center of the formation of armed policemen stood an unassuming black shrine covered with yellow talismans and tied up with iron chains. That said, the shrine seemed to emanate an aura of penetrating sharpness to it. 

“What’s that?” He asked softly as he shot through the clouds.

Arthis pondered for a moment before responding, “If we say that the supernatural perimeter is like a condom, then that thing is none other than Jissbon[1]. It’s the source of Clear Creek County’s protection, and it is also the heart of the formation array that detects any supernatural occurrences in Clear Creek County. Do you understand it now?”

Understood immediately.

But what the hell is this?

“It looks like the entire government has been mobilized…” Qin Ye murmured as he sighed wistfully.

This was not a good sign. The operation of any country’s state apparatuses[2] necessitated the ability to probe into any affair or incidents occurring within its territory. As the occurrences of supernatural incidents increased, there was bound to be a day when the government would deal with the issue openly and publicly.

And that day... would naturally mean that the entire country would come under tightened surveillance, making it more and more difficult for Qin Ye to conceal his own identity.

“Let’s take things one step at a time.” Shaking his head, Qin Ye’s figure finally disappeared into the horizon. Seconds later, he reappeared within The Afterlife.

The only silver lining about the nationwide curfew was the fact that as long as a person dared to go out at night, nobody would ever find out about what he did. This was especially true in an undeveloped county like his.

Swoosh… The lingering Yin energy about his body quickly dissipated, revealing his original form and appearances. Feeling completely drained, Qin Ye collapsed onto the couch. He had first battled a female ghost, and then ran for his life and escaped from the scene of the incident. It had truly been an eventful night.

Desperate for rest, he quickly shut his eyes and retired for the night. Unfortunately, sleep eluded him. When he next opened his eyes and glanced at the large clock in the room, he noticed that it was only 6 a.m.

“Aren’t you going to rest a little bit longer?” Arthis asked.

Qin Ye shook his head. Something was plaguing his mind, and he knew he would never be able to rest properly until he came up with a satisfactory solution. After washing up, Qin Ye plonked himself down in front of his computer and began typing rapidly on the keyboard.

“What are you doing now?” The soul sphere floated up and watched Qin Ye curiously.

“GPS positioning - a type of satellite based navigation system that takes into account a multitude of factors, including weather and time differences. It is a low cost solution that can generate highly accurate information pertaining to three-dimensional position, velocity and timing. It basically measures the distance from each satellite to a specific receiver’s position, combines the data and churns out data pertaining to the receiver’s exact location…”

Arthis was taken aback, “It sounds very profound, yet you’ve somehow managed to condense everything to just less than a hundred words. That said... I still have no idea what you are doing.”

Qin Ye pressed the “enter” button, and rows after rows of pictures immediately showed up on the screen, “When exactly did you go to prison?”

“...Kid, please watch your language. I merely complied with our 'reformation through labor' policies. It’s not as bad as you make it sound…” [3]

Qin Ye glanced at the soul sphere as though he had just seen a ghost - Isn’t that the same thing as going to prison? Here was a provincial-level governor of Hell that had been sent to the depths of Hell’s abyss to reflect on her mistakes, yet she still had the cheek to attribute it to labor reform policies? I guess it’s yet another old fogey who treats the need to keep up with appearances greater than life itself...and her desire to live is already so strong…

The soul sphere coughed lightly, “I can’t remember the exact year it was, but I do know that that was a year in which I had killed relatively more people. Back then, I was still contemplating how to explain myself in the annual review when a meteorite entered the earth’s stratospheric layers. I grabbed at the meteorite, thinking to mess around with a meteorite transport technique to make my great escape. Unfortunately, my strength was lacking, and the meteorite veered off course and smashed straight into Beiping[4]... I think the emperor back then referred to the incident as an apocalypse.”

What the hell?! You call that messing around?!

Qin Ye paused; his eyelids were twitching, “So...your tomfoolery was the cause of one of the great, unresolved mysteries plaguing Mankind - the Wanggongchang Explosion[5]?”

“What do you mean tomfoolery? This is nothing more than a functional deployment of resources in a reasonable fashion. You should read up more. How could you call formal netherworld operations 'tomfoolery'?”

“Yet things still got out of hand?”

“... There are times when reality isn’t quite one and the same as one’s hopes and expectations…” Arthis noticed that she was slowly being pushed into a corner, so she coughed lightly, “It wasn’t too far off anyway… It was just a few thousand miles…”

Qin Ye was silent.

Seconds later, he slowly massaged his temples once more, “There are still a few centuries-worth of generational gaps between us.  Let’s put it this way - computers aren’t only used for banal forum posts, they can also be used to check everything I’ve just been looking at. I saw the owner of the next shard of King Yanluo’s Seal the moment I grabbed onto the shard, and he naturally saw me as well. If I narrow the scope of my search using the various elements about his location I’d earlier observed, there’s a good chance I’ll be able to pinpoint his exact location. Wait, hang on. Let me ask you something. How would an old lady like you, who doesn’t know a single thing about computers, even understand my references to Arthis and other forms of pop culture?”

“Hmm? Are you discriminating against older ladies?”

Qin Ye couldn’t be bothered with her anymore, and he began to trawl through the pictures that had showed up in his search results. Since both parties had already noticed each other, the situation was clear - even if he didn’t go about looking for the next shard-holder, the next shard-holder would still come looking for him. Qin Ye was naturally unwilling to give up the first-mover’s advantage. 

If a confrontation was unavoidable, then there was no reason to avoid it at all! From his memory, the next shard-holder was in a compound surrounded by ten-meter high walls, searchlights and an electric fence. To his mind, there was only one type of place that met this requirement. 

A prison!


1. Jissbon is a brand of condoms founded in 1998 and headquartered in China.

2. This is part of a theory of ideology propounded by Marx and Althusser that essentially posits that social formation is required to essentially, continuously and perpetually reproduce the productive forces, ie labour. It’s quite a mouthful, but state apparatuses essentially refers to a system set out by the state in order to rule over its people. In turn, the system naturally requires the ability to probe into any event or incident so that it may retain control over its people in some way or other. In other words, the author is essentially saying here that the supernatural events fall outside of the surveillance of these systems and the reigning back of control by these nations would require them to step up surveillance.

3. Here the author is mocking China's old 'reformation through labor' system, which nominally no longer exists and was replaced by the penal system.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laogai

4. What Beijing used to be called in the Ming Dynasty in 1368-1403

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