Qin Ye’s eyes suddenly darkened.
You commit a crime and then seek to lead me on a wild goose chase?! How arrogant can you be? Do you really not give a damn about Hell’s existence?!
Fury surged from the innermost parts of his heart and shot straight through his prefrontal cortex in an instant. He drew several deep breaths to calm himself down. And then, he began to scrutinize every detail in the carriage slowly.
There aren’t any words written in blood. They must’ve thought that doing something like that was far too ordinary… He continued looking around for dozens of seconds, before finally chuckling bitterly.
The dismembered bodies on the ground look like they were haphazardly strewn about. But if one looked closer, it would be apparent that the body parts actually formed a Nipponese text.
“To the Emissary of Hell who assassinated our colleague: We shall repay you blood for blood, a hundredfold!”
“How much must the Cathayan underworld have regressed for you to act from the shadows like weak cowards? You best hide well. Otherwise, I assure you that your soul shall burn for the rest of eternity in the depths of Yomi-no-Kuni.”
Qin Ye generally preferred to live his life with passivity, going along with the path of least resistance by acting strong and firm with the weak, and laying low in the face of strength and authority. But, that said, the message of the Nipponese emissaries communicated through dismembered bodies triggered an instant eruption of murderous intent from the depth of his heart.
“Eh? Killing intent?” Ming Shiyin communicated through his thoughts, “You’re actually… displaying a palpable sense of killing intent? And a pretty decent showing of killing intent at that?”
“I can even sense your conviction… But, why? This isn’t like you at all.”
Qin Ye didn’t respond. Instead, he stood in the middle of the carriage and addressed the others around, “Master Bai, please bring Grandmaster Chu back to the hotel. I’ll come look for you after thirty minutes.”
“Ah? Oh! Alright! Yes!!” Bai Yishan immediately agreed. He was more than happy to allow Qin Ye to take the reins from here.
They promptly left, leaving Qin Ye in the carriage alone. Qin Ye surveyed his surroundings, and a wave of memory surged from the depths of his heart right back into his mind.
“Mr Ming.” Several moments later, he finally addressed Ming Shiyin, “You might not be aware of this, but those who have consumed the fungus of aeons are also blessed with vivid memories of the past.”
Dong… The carriage door silently shut, and Ming Shiyin flew out silently.
Ming Shiyin could tell that Qin Ye’s emotions were still surging, and there was no need for its response as yet.
Qin Ye continued with a stiff voice, “Well, are you aware of when I’d consumed the fungus of aeons?”
Ming Shiyin shook slightly, indicating that it didn’t know.
Qin Ye swept a gaze calmly across the entire cabin of the carriage, “When I was two years old.”
“Times were hard back then. My granddad brought me up to the mountains to look for root vegetables to fill our stomach, and we chanced upon the fungus of aeons. We each ate half of it for survival. In the end… I survived, but he… vanished.”
Ming Shiyin didn’t respond. Qin Ye made it sound simple, but Ming Shiyin knew better - those who consumed the taisui fungus would either live, or transform into living monsters. Qin Ye had never mentioned anything about his grandfather before. He had always presented himself living a lonesome life in this word, barely scraping by and coming out on top of the wars back then, before seeing the establishment of modern day society. One could only imagine how rough his life must have been back then.
Not everyone had the kind of luck he did.
Qin Ye’s voice grew distant as he glanced at the Nipponese text formed by the dismembered bodies, “And they’re the ones who had started it all!”
1938. The years just before the Second World War - a prelude to blood and fire.
“It’s not as though I haven’t killed someone before.” Qin Ye continued flatly, “In fact, most of the people I’d killed back then happened to be Nipponese invaders.”
He chuckled to himself, and then turned around to face Ming Shiyin, “It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Even I find it hard to believe it myself…”
Ming Shiyin finally responded, “No.”
“I believe you.”
It sighed, “The longer humans live, the more polarized they become in their demeanor. The first kind would assimilate fully into the society that they’re part of and become one of the old and wise. The other would instead frolic and laugh and do as they please precisely because they’re old enough to have gained the latitude to do so. Not everyone becomes the typical, well-considered old man who only speaks words of wisdom. Just like the case of Benjamin Button, the older they get, the younger they get. But it arises out of an expansion of their perspective. The breadth of one’s perspective causes the rules and regulations of the world to fade away. They no longer see a need to hold the same measure of reverence and concern for these rules, nor do they take themselves as seriously as before. Thus… they set themselves free.”
Qin Ye chuckled, “That’s a nice way of putting it.”
Ming Shiyin snorted and turned to Qin Ye, “You’re just like the second type of person.”
“Furthermore, you’re one of the rare kinds who remains just as youthful as ever in their heart.”
“You’re adaptable enough to keep with the times so that you’re not rendered obsolete with the effluxion of time. And you’re just like the exuberant and carefree communities of elderly who don’t shackle themselves with the concerns of this world. It’s impossible to assess what their true personality is like, and whether their actions are a mere pretense, or whether they come from the innermost part of their being.” It sighed softly, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots. But it doesn’t prevent itself from concealing its appearances.”
“I’ve heard Arti mention that you hardly hesitated when you purged the female ghost haunting the Wang Clan, as well as resolved the hunting zone incident plaguing Mount Tai City. Thus, we guessed that you’ve seen your fair share of conflict and tension when you were young. Then… as time went on, you buried that part of you deep within the recesses of your heart and chose instead to live a carefree life. But that didn’t prevent you from peering beneath the surface of pretension in this world and uncovering dark minds where necessary. Otherwise… would a naive and innocent person truly be able to live passively for such a long period of time?”
“Did you really think we were following you just because we had no other choice? Admittedly, there’s some correlation between the fate of Hell and your soul. But what about Arthis and I? We’ve lived long enough to witness three eras of prosperity in Cathay, and we have a wealth of experience under our belts. Do you really think there’s no other option here? If that’s what you think, you might have underestimated the power of Infernal Judges in Hell. We would never allow Hell to fall to the hands of a good-for-nothing Emissary.”
“But you’re alright.” It concluded, “Therefore, I sincerely believe that you’ve seen blood on your hands back in those days.”
Qin Ye’s expressions faded away, and he indulged in a rare showing of the marks left behind by the vicissitudes of life, “That’s right… as times changed, I, too, realized that these days are no longer the same as those days of conflict and tension. In fact, I had long forgotten about this part of me that had been relegated to the recesses of my heart… at least, until today…”
The killing intent in his voice flourished palpably, “They’ve drawn it right back out.”
“How dare they hide under the cover of their invisibility to mortals and invade Cathayan soil like that! And to think that they have the gall to send me a gift purchased with the lives of over seventy mortals!”
“I accept this gift of theirs.” He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. And then, he abruptly opened his eyes and stared at the carnage of the carriage with fierce determination, “One day, I’ll personally lead an army and jog their memory of the bygone eras long forgotten about.”
With that, he waved his hand, the carriage door opened wide, and he left without turning back anymore.
There were times when promises didn’t have to be declared at the top of his voice.
He could tell that the secret ninjas of Renpu had left a long time ago, and it was pointless staying here any longer. Thus, he made a beeline straight towards the hotel where Guardian Auctions were putting up at.
Security here was tight as a fortress.
Guardian Auctions had booked out an entire floor. Qin Ye took the stairs up, and he noticed along the way that everyone standing guard were cultivators and experts in their own rights. That said, they immediately made way for Qin Ye as soon as they sensed the pressure of a Hellguard emanating from his body.
He pushed open the door, only to see Bai Yishan and Grandmaster Chu leap up to their feet right away. Qin Ye sat on the sofa naturally, and nodded his head at them as though he were the owner of the premises, “Take a seat. There’s no need to be so formal with me.”
The two men sat down compliantly.
They didn’t have a choice. A Hellguard-class expert was an existence equivalent to that of a provincial supervisor of the Special Investigations Department. Someone like that was no different from a god to them.
“The culprits who attacked the train are evil ghosts of the Hellguard level.” Qin Ye got straight to the point, “And they hail from Nippon. Are you certain you still wish to go ahead with the auction tomorrow? Are you really certain you’ll live to see the auction through?”
Grandmaster Chu gnashed his teeth. His heart was filled with regret. Who would’ve known that a simple broken bowl had such power of attraction to cause Nipponese ghosts to travel far and wide just in order to claim their lives? Nevertheless, he regulated his breath, and then continued with a bitter expression, “Sir… the auction of the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl… must go on.”
“Not everyone here has the same outstanding talent and strength as you do. We…”
He chuckled bitterly, “Everyone knows about the upcoming auction of a national treasure. We’re nothing more than a group of low-level cultivators. If we break our promise and lose the trust of our clients, I’m afraid that… it might become far more difficult for us to gather cultivation resources in future.”
It was hard to get off a tiger’s back.
Qin Ye tapped his fingers on the table gently, and nobody touched their teacups.
He was well aware of the current conundrum faced by Guardian Auctions. It all started when they dug up the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl. In their elation, they broadcast the news of it to the entire world in an attempt to stir hype for their upcoming auction. Unfortunately, they also drew the unwanted attention of the Nipponese emissaries who traveled across the seas to reclaim what they deemed was theirs to begin with. Guardian Auctions was still underestimating what the bowl truly represented. And they had thought to cancel the auctions, but they were already riding on the tiger’s back - it was difficult to get off.
The only silver lining was how they did in fact draw the attention of several heavyweight clients, and it was through them that they finally understood the estimated value of the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl.
For instance, they drew the attention of the famous clan of Onmyojis, the Kamo Clan.
And for further instance, they also drew the attention of the Mitsubishi Corporation who wanted to reassemble the pair of bowls.
Guardian Auctions would have to count their lucky stars that they drew the attention of these groups because they were the ones who had provided Guardian Auctions with the X-magic box to safekeep the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl to be auctioned. Otherwise, not a single person on board the train tonight would have been left alive.
Qin Ye sighed wistfully. This was truly a series of unfortunate events for Guardian Auctions. If not for the existence of the X-magic box, he would have had a 50% chance of seizing the bowl without spending any money at all. That said… there was an equal chance of the bowl landing in the hands of the Nipponese emissaries.
Without the X-magic box, the Nipponese emissaries would have a license to kill indiscriminately. In other words, the box had somehow ended up becoming a life-saving measure to Guardian Auctions. After all, the Nipponese emissaries would never cut a deal with Mitsubishi Corporation or the Kamo Clan in order to gain access to the box. Thus, as the weakest party around, Guardian Auctions would do everything they could within their abilities to protect their one and only lifeline right now. Naturally, who else could they call on for assistance but Qin Ye?
Ignorance wasn’t a crime; only those with covetous gazes would be treated as a criminal.
This was the first time he had encountered a conflict of such magnitude. He wasn’t sure of the depth of forces Yomi-no-Kuni had gathered at the East Cathay Sea, but this was undoubtedly still the largest-scale supernatural clash he would be participating in. Qin Ye’s eyes grew distant, and he remained taciturn for some time. Several moments later, he finally opened his eyes and muttered, “Are you… really unafraid of death? Are you truly confident that the X-magic box is foolproof?”
Grandmaster Chu didn’t respond.
He would have responded affirmatively without hesitation before this incident. But he wasn’t sure anymore, after seeing the kind of monster he was truly facing.
After all, Yin spirits could never be measured by human standards.
“Sir.” He drew a deep breath and gazed intently at Qin Ye, “What if… we invited you to lend us your assistance? What do you think if we offer you 10% of the auction price of this bowl?”
Qin Ye took a sip from his teacup to hide the bright gleam in the depths of his eyes. After some moments of deliberation, his eyes met with Grandmaster Chu’s expectant gaze, “Alright.”
“How long is it till we depart for the high seas?” Qin Ye asked placidly.
Three days, huh… Qin Ye gently sipped his tea.
In other words… I’ve got only three days to conclude my negotiations with the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven!
The high seas would be the location of the final showdown! It was still unclear to him just how many regiments of Yomi-no-Kuni’s legendary forces were laying in wait. If he didn’t do everything he could to rally his forces on this end, what awaited him might well be the carnage that would clip his wings before he could even spread them and soar!
1. This is a reference to the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sino-Japanese_War