Chapter 231: Treasure Escort

5 June. It was a starry night.

A green train chugged along the railroad leading towards the Eastsea City. The train looked worn for wear, and it was clear it had seen a fair number of years. Most of the carriages carried nothing more than cargo, and there were only a few passenger carriages. The train looked dated for modern times.

It was already uncommon to see trains that were over twenty years old still in use. Furthermore, in a society driven by class, image and reputation, who would even consider a rickety old train as a possible transport medium compared to more modern modes of transport?

Wooooooo! Tsssss.... With a long honk and a soft hiss, a city finally pulled into sight. It was none other than Eastsea and its Pearl of the Orient. The estimated time of arrival from the Eastsea North Station was approximately half an hour.

However, there was something different about this train.

It was dark - not the colour of the train’s livery, but this was more attributable to the fact that a thin veil had been drawn over the passenger carriages. With the windows tightly shut and the veils in place, nobody outside could see what was going on within the train.

Therefore, nobody noticed that the carriages were filled with men, women and children, all of whom were wearing a traditional Cathayan tunic suit.

Whether a young man in his twenties, a tough and buff man in his forties, or an old man well into his twilight years, all of them were dressed in a similar fashion in their traditional Cathayan tunic suits. Some of them carried caskets, while others carried a bagua compass, otherwise known as an eight trigrams compass in front of them. These people occupied all four passenger carriages, and not a single person spoke a single word as they travelled along in silence.

Furthermore, under the dim, yellowing lights of the carriages, one would be able to tell that… the passenger carriages had innumerable talismans drawn with striking red, vermillion ink plastered all over it - whether on the walls or on the roofs. The door of each carriage was even sequestered from the next by a string of ancient copper coins. The entire scene carried an otherworldly air about it.

Some of the passengers were playing with their phones, while others would simply gaze out of the windows. That said, everyone would turn to look at the end of the train once every five minutes. It was incredibly neat, yet completely unusual.

There was a completely enclosed carriage right at the end of the train with a grey shell, just like any other freight trains out there. In fact, this one didn’t even have a carriage number. The only entrance leading into the carriage was constructed out of refined iron, almost as though it was completely welded onto the train.

It looked just like a closed coffin.

Furthermore, the inside of the carriage was constructed out of 10-cm thick steel alloy walls and plastered all over with talismans of all sorts. The implements installed on the inside were cutting-edge and modern, including computer consoles, monitors, and everything else necessary for surveillance and monitoring purposes, so much so that every location within and even outside the train, including the toilets could be monitored closely from this carriage.

The lights within were brilliant and dazzling, illuminating the few cargo containers that sat in the middle of the room. A number of men dressed in camouflage uniforms and armed with guns sat around these containers. One would be able to tell at a glance that these were no ordinary military soldiers. After all, each of them exuded a palpably murderous aura like a valiant war hero.

They were mercenaries.

In fact, they were the elites among mercenaries.

But they were merely stationed on both sides of the containers right now.

There were seven men middle-aged to elderly men dressed in traditional Cathayan tunic suits who were seated in the middle silently. They looked almost like seven stoic statues.

The mercenaries couldn’t help but glance at the seven men in the middle from time to time with some measure of awe, because they could tell that the entire space within the train carriage fluctuated softly with each of these men’s breaths!

They were cultivators!

Furthermore, it was clear that they were reasonably powerful cultivators. At least, those who were able to influence their surroundings to such an extent must at least be Hunter-class experts. In fact, if one looked closely, they would even be able to see with the naked eye white wisps of energy that ebbed and flowed from the seven apertures of the two men seated right in the heart of the seven-men formation.

Abundant true energy - advanced Hunter-class expert!

And right in the heart of where everyone sat was a small, unassuming black box that was sealed on all sides. The lock used was so daunting that potential burglars would undoubtedly wince at its sight - not only was there a number lock, iris and fingerprint verification, there were even some other devices that were impossible to decipher altogether!

As the train hissed, the old man in the middle slowly opened his eyes and glanced about the surroundings. His hoarse voice finally cut through the stifling silence in the carriage, “Eastsea, huh.”

“Our ETA is approximately thirty-two minutes.” One of the mercenaries leaned in and spoke in a deep voice, “The receiver has already arrived at the station. Make sure the goods arrive safely.”

The old man narrowed his eyes and glanced at the surveillance monitors, “What about the operator’s report? Did they spot anything unusual at the north station? Have they evacuated the entire site yet?”

The mercenary shook his head, “We’ve travelled for thirty-five hours via the usual freight train paths, and our destination is the north station, which has the least amount of human traffic to begin with. Most people take the high speed trains these days. Furthermore, our time of arrival is in the dead of the night. There’s hardly going to be anyone at the north station.”

The old man nodded and sighed as he spoke with an imperceptible quiver on his lips, “How did you get yourself implicated in the national treasure of two nations… Grandmaster Chu, you’ve truly pulled out all the stops this time.”

The other Soul Hunter was an elderly cultivator in his sixties. He had a long, ruddy face, ostensible sideburns, and an unusually large frame. He opened his eyes when he heard the comments of his compatriot, “You can say that again. Guardian Auctions can do no more than to mobilize a single Soul Hunter. I wouldn’t have asked a favor of you if not for the fact that this bowl has such a nefarious reputation, and exuded such evil aura. Jing Laosan, I owe the Northeast Alliance of Cultivators a big one once our escort duties here are done. This is something that I’ll always bear in my heart.”

The old man nodded his head slightly. But just as they were about to turn their attention back to their escort duties, the two men abruptly lifted their heads at the same time and stared at the entrance to the carriage.

Thump, thump, thump… Their hearts began to beat wildly and frantically in their ears. Their adrenal glands soared, and cold sweat began to bead up on their foreheads. Despite the fact that they were both Soul Hunters, their teeth began to chatter uncontrollably.

They were suddenly stricken with fear.

They were immersed with terror.

It was as though Death itself had just swept past them, gently breathing down their necks as they did so.

“Level one alert!!!” With a loud cry, the two Soul Hunters shot to their feet and backed towards the wall of the carriage. Their hands were primed with a convenient seal, ready to detonate an array at the earliest sign of trouble.

Clatter clatter! No questions asked. The mercenaries in the carriage immediately raised their guns and half-knelt to the ground, steadying their stance as they hid behind their seats or the containers that were near them. They were no different from the most seasoned hunters. In an instant, dozens of purple laser sights were pointed straight at the entrance to the carriage.

They were equipped with the Barrett XM109 anti-material sniper rifle.

It was often hailed to be the strongest sniper rifle out there, with 30mm ammunition that was capable of penetrating at least 50mm of steel plates. Furthermore… the ammunition they were using were specially designed and manufactured by the SRC. It was the latest product they had developed.

Everything was silent.

There was only the slightest sound of breaths, the sudden onset of an air of murderous intent, and dozens of somber gazes that stared transfixed at the entrance.

One second… five seconds… ten seconds later, and everything was still as silent as it had been before. There wasn’t a single trace of change. The Operative-class experts in the room turned to look at the two Soul Hunters with some measure of astonishment.

But the two Soul Hunters didn’t appear relaxed in the slightest. In fact, goosebumps had appeared all over on their skin.

No… NO!

Something’s here… It’s not that we can’t detect its presence. Rather, it’s simply because they’re so strong that their presence has completely engulfed us in an abyss of terror!

Whoosh… Just then, the Operative-class experts gasped, and the mercenaries cocked their weapons at the same time.

There was wind.

An eerie wind had suddenly picked up within the sealed, enclosed carriage.

The talismans on the walls had begun to flutter and flap, and even the mortals among them felt as though they were being stalked by a fearsome predator. An intense sensation of dread and fear surged in their hearts.

In fact, it bore down on them so suddenly and with such great intensity that everyone felt their hearts stop beating at that very moment.

Something… was watching them.

Something was hiding in the darkness, staring menacingly at them.

“Evil ghost.” Grandmaster Chu bit down on his lips and fervently suppressed the goosebumps appearing on his skin as he whispered to Jing Laosan, “This is at least a hundred-year evil ghost…”

His body hunched over slightly, while his muscles began to swell so much that his traditional Cathayan tunic suit began to stretch to its limit, almost as though it would burst in the very next moment.

Bzzt! Just then, everyone gasped and turned to look at one of the surveillance monitors.

It had gone dark.

Shortly after that, a second monitor went dark, and then a third. Bzzt, bzzt, bzzt, bzzt! Every single one of the monitors had gone dark within the span of less than twenty seconds.

“Bloody hell…” One of the mercenaries in the room began to shiver uncontrollably as he tightened his grip around his gun.

His work had taken him to various places, including international conflicts, and yet a sight like that was still outrageously bizarre to him.

It wasn’t as though someone had destroyed the surveillance system all at once.

Rather, someone appeared to have rushed through tens of carriages in the span of several seconds! And this invisible force appeared completely unstoppable!

Here it comes… Something’s on this carriage right now…

A dark figure dressed in ninja garbs was currently crouching on the roof of the train as the whistling wind swept back the copious amounts of Yin energy emanating from his body. The figure looked almost as though he were an imposing god of death that had clambered out of the depths of hell.

“Summoning jutsu…” He made several hand seals in the blink of an eye and then thrusted his hands into the air in front of him, “Ghastly Sand Arachnids.”

Whoosh! A scroll imbued with a great deal of Yin energy shot out of his garments and unraveled in the air. In the next moment, a blood curdling shriek echoed out around him.

“You’re already using the Ghastly Sand Arachnids?” Another deadpan voice sounded out from the void, “What a waste.”

Whoosh… The scarlet pupils of the ninja gleamed threateningly, as though filled with hatred for the human world. He sneered, “Don’t forget how Scarlet 17 died… It reeked of a Cathayan emissary. Even though we know that Hell has undergone a massive upheaval, it would be wise not to underestimate them until we can ascertain exactly what happened to what was once the most powerful underworld of all time.”

There was a short moment of silence before a soft response echoed through the void, “But that was all in the past.”

“Even if it was in the past…” The ninja transformed into a nethergale, “Who can be sure this isn’t a warning from the Cathayan emissary? Don’t you forget that the previous batch of darkfeathers that had been dispatched to seize a soul hasn’t returned to date. And… do you really think Scarlet 17’s death is a mere coincidence?”

“We’re acting outside our own jurisdiction right now. Lady Izanami isn’t going to do much even if Cathayan emissaries kill us.”

His figure faded away, and a bird crawled out of the void and landed on the roof of the carriage.

If one looked closely, he would soon realize that… this wasn’t a bird at all!

Its body was completely decayed, and yet its eyes were just as agile and spirited as a human being’s eyes, save that it was bloodshot and filled with a murderous desire.

It stared at the East Cathay Sea in the distance, “So, should we refrain from acting in Eastsea?”

“But, how could we stand idly by and watch the soul of the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven fall to the hands of Cathayan soil?!”

“Anyone who stands in the way of the secret ninjas of Renpu shall pay with their lives!”

…………………………………………………..

Ma Yuankun turned his eyes away from the windows with a slight frown on his face.

He found this train journey incredibly boring.

He was in the fifth carriage. The train had a total of fifteen carriages, four of which carried passengers. They were among the most ordinary nascent Operative-class experts, and they had all been entrusted with a mission from Guardian Auctions. This mission was peculiar in that there were no mission details apart from a single requirement to “defend and protect when the need arises”.

Why am I on the train? No clue.

What do I need to defend and protect? No clue.

When would the ‘need arise’? No clue either.

But everyone felt very much at ease throughout the entire journey.

Although they assumed that the ‘need’ would probably relate to a supernatural incident, they felt assured because this was Eastsea when all was said and done.

This was the economic hub of Cathay. Even if every other part of Cathay was suffering from supernatural incidents, Yan Capital would do everything within their abilities to ensure the safety of Eastsea.

But just then, he suddenly did a double take in complete astonishment, and he looked at the window as though he had just seen a ghost.

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