So... does this mean that the next arc in this little play of ours is going to be a prison break? These thoughts sent Qin Ye’s adrenal glands flaring up with passion, and he couldn’t help but get excited. He had even begun to entertain the mischievous thought of where on his body he was going to tattoo the layout of the prison.
However, ten minutes passed. Twenty minutes passed. Thirty minutes passed. His brows were somewhat furrowed.
“Nothing?” He could hardly believe the lack of any results. Thus, he searched again. Yet, fifteen minutes later, he stared at the screen in utter dismay - his search had indeed turned up nothing.
Was I wrong? It isn’t a prison after all? He massaged his eyebrows. After another minute, he turned back to his screen and continued the search.
Psychiatric hospital. Nothing.
Military base. Nothing.
Arms manufacturing factory? Still nothing.
After almost an hour of failed attempts, Qin Ye’s eyebrows were now tightly knit together. It was as though the location that he had seen in that instant didn’t exist in reality!
Granted, there were undoubtedly mental hospitals and prisons in Rivergorge City, but they looked completely different from the ones that he had seen in his memory.
“If you were personally in Rivergorge City, that level of concentration of Yin energy would never be able to elude the eyes of an Emissary of Hell.” The soul sphere hovered about beside him. Arthis had already pretty much figured out what needed to be done, and she continued in a hushed voice, “But…”
“But there’s no way of accessing Rivergorge right now.” Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed under the computer screen’s illumination as he finished Arthis’ sentence.
Neither one of them was a novice. The old are wise, and he was like old wine in a new wineskin; when all was said and done, the core of him remained the same. He was fully aware that it was the incident earlier tonight that had triggered the mobilization of both the Special Investigations Department as well as the national army. To make matters worse, the manner in which they left the premises had been incredibly peculiar, and it was bound to result in a sweeping investigation across the entire Clear Creek County.
At times like this, the best thing to do in the face of absolute authority was to lay down quietly and remain as discreet as possible. It would be wise to refrain from doing anything out of the ordinary.
In other words, those who remained within Clear Creek County and left themselves susceptible to investigation would actually arouse less suspicion than those who left the county!
Why are you leaving the county at a time like this? Is it really just a coincidence?
Qin Ye knew that there was no way he could withstand serious scrutiny, given his identity. Most importantly…
“Actually, the massive investigation might give us some leads. This was something that occurred to me when I lifted the lid off the coffin on the rooftop yesterday.”
“What leads?” Arthis asked curiously.
Qin Ye licked his lips mischievously, “For instance… who exactly is responsible for moving the corpses here?”
“Anything done or caused by human hands would invariably leave traces of their interference. Incidentally, I’m aware of a group of people who specialize in such a line of work. These people are also the only ones, other than Emissaries of Hell, who possess the capacity to have dealings with the netherworld with the aid of ancillary objects.”
Arthis pondered for a moment before responding, “Pallbearers?”
Qin Ye nodded, “More accurately speaking, we’re talking about the seven categories of underworldly craftsmen - pallbearers, linkers, corpse drivers, coroners, executioners, effigy makers and shamans. Our mastermind has most certainly sought the assistance of a pallbearer in order to shift the corpse thousands of miles to this location.”
“In turn, I’ll be able to tell from the mastermind’s instructions to the pallbearer and their manner of communication and contact whether he’s already identified me as the person who knocked over his precious pot of fodder!”
Arthis deliberated for yet another moment, before responding with a deepened tone of voice, “Quite apart from that, the mastermind is most certainly going to send someone here regardless of whether he knows of your exact identity or not. What do you think is going to happen next?”
Qin Ye heart ignited with passion as he gazed directly at the soul sphere, “After what happened yesterday, I can almost guarantee that anyone who enters this place right now will most certainly be subject to the government’s scrutiny! I’ll be able to borrow the strength of the government’s military might to dispose of the mastermind’s eyes and ears! It’s almost like killing two birds with one stone!”
“Furthermore,” Arthis continued confidently, “... you’ll at the very least also be able to glean some clues about the identity of the next shard owner from the pallbearer who had been instructed by him. There’s no telling how many pots of fodder this mastermind has been brewing in Westriver by now. If you’re going to keep knocking these pots over, it’s only going to be a matter of time before he sets his sights on you, no matter how lucky you are.”
Her voice grew cold and frigid, “Those who managed to survive Hell’s collapse are by no means mere pawns. In fact, there’s a good chance that they’re the vilest of vermin that are locked away in the deepest abysses of Hell. Kid, identifying his identity is almost an imperative!”
Qin Ye nodded his head. A man and a sphere gazed deeply at each other, almost as though they were now confidantes.
Ah, my kindred spirit who treads the same path in life… The old granny that I traded my Sixfold Ghost Kings Summoning Scroll for is truly extraordinary… she’s pretty terrifying indeed…
“You’re finally beginning to show some of the self-awareness that all Emissaries of Hell should possess.” Arthis exclaimed aloud some moments later.
“I just don’t want to die.” Qin Ye made himself a cup of tea and added indifferently, “Back then, if I’d known that the search for the shards of King Yanluo’s Seal would be an infinitely endless cycle, I would never have accepted Granny Meng’s mission to begin with. That said… it’s a good thing that there are things to look forward to in this journey.”
“As soon as I manage to assemble King Yanluo’s Seal, I’ll finally be able to kick back from the comfort of my home, let loose and watch the dregs of Hell duke it out with the government in a battle for life and death… that would finally set my heart at ease.”
“Hah…” Arthis chuckled contemptuously, but she chose not to go on. Several seconds later, she got back to the topic at hand, “Where’s the pallbearer now? He’s the key to unlocking the mastermind’s identity.”
Qin Ye shrugged, “No clue.” His reply was so curt and crisp that Arthis couldn’t find the words to respond for several moments on end.
“Yet you’re still so filled with confidence, huh… Your disposition gave me the impression that you had everything under control. Yet, after all that conversation, you’ve finally revealed your true character. What was the point of padding the word count like that?”
Qin Ye gazed at the distant sky, “How could the eagles soaring in the sky ever be in the company of rats and snakes? With a heart like mine, how could I be bothered about these trivialities?”
Arthis deeply respected Qin Ye’s shamelessness.
“However… even though I’m not sure of the pallbearer’s exact location, I do know of a place where I would most certainly be able to find him!”
“And what place is that?”
“The phantom market.” Qin Ye smiled mysteriously, “Naturally, I don’t know where that is located either.”
Qin Ye suddenly furrowed his brows, as though slightly distressed, “Every large city has a phantom market. Furthermore, the nature of the phantom market is that it is nomadic, and it never remains in one place for a long period of time. If need be, I can always take a risk and pop by Rivergorge City to take a look. Some of the old methods are still pretty effective, when all’s said and done…”
This was the worst possible option. He would most certainly be discovered by the owner of the next shard as soon as he steps foot in the Rivergorge City. Yet, he wouldn’t even have an idea as to where the owner of the next shard is. What complicated matters even more is the fact that now was hardly a good time to leave the county. After all, he would at the very least have to bide his time and wait until the sweeping investigation across the county was completed.
Just then, a knocking sound came from his door.
“We’re closed. Go next door if you’ve got something to peddle.” Qin Ye responded casually. However, as soon as he finished speaking, the voice of an elderly woman echoed from the other side of the door, “Little Qin? Open the door. Someone from the bureau of public security is here. It’s business.”
Public security? Qin Ye put down his teacup and smiled. You gotta be kidding me… are they here to buy a coffin?
As soon as he opened the door, Qin Ye saw a man with a peaked cap accompanied by the 50-year-old Ms Zhao, who was also the committee leader of the funerary street neighbourhood committee.
Qin Ye’s body shifted imperceptibly when his eyes met with the policeman’s eyes. Arthis wondered to herself - Rising body temperature and tensing muscles. These are all signs of excitement. What’s going on?
“Here’s the situation.” The policeman’s attitude was humble and pleasant, and he gesticulated with a document in his arms as he explained, “Last night, a murder occurred in the house of Mr Wang, the richest man in all of Clear Creek County. Both husband and wife have been utterly dismembered, leaving only their child alive. The murderer is extremely ruthless, and his modus operandi is vicious. We suspect that he might be a serial murderer as well. Therefore, we’re commencing a county-wide sweep in order to preserve the safety of all civilians around.”
Are you freakin’ kidding me? I have no beef with you, but I’ll sue the hell out of you for slandering me like this! Qin Ye almost failed to keep his thoughts to himself. Do I really look like someone with such a conscientious work ethic? Dismembering the body after I’d granted deliverance upon their souls? Can you at least show some basic respect for the work of an Emissary of Hell?
I’m a public official, not a pervert! I’m not taking any of this lying down!
“Can we continue our discussions inside?” The policeman knocked gently on the door once more as he smiled.
Cough cough… Qin Ye coughed twice dryly as he turned around and walked into his home.
His expressions completely changed as soon as he turned around. With a faint smile on his face, he played with the soul sphere as he muttered, “Did you smell that?”
“... I can only perceive the changes to your body’s disposition. What happened there?”
Qin Ye licked his lips as he continued, “His body… is covered with the stench of a freshly disposed corpse… And it reeks so much of freshness that I’m certain it was no more than only an hour ago.”
Arthis muttered in a self-deprecating manner, “I may as well die. I can’t even detect such smells any longer.”
Qin Ye immediately pushed the soul sphere away from his body, “You seem to have developed a fetish for smells. And while most people with fetish enjoy the smell of sweatshirts or socks… you’re actually obsessed with the smell of fresh corpses? Stay away from me. I’m afraid not even the Blue Moon fragrance on my body is sufficient to remove those dark stains on your tainted heart.”
Arthis’ veins bulged and throbbed within the soul sphere, “... No… how do you know so much about these things in the first place? How many shameful deeds have you done over the last few decades of your existence?”
Such a wild imagination…
It was only when the three people sat down that the policeman realized to his dismay that Qin Ye hadn’t even served him a cup of water, much less tea.
Can’t you show some basic respect for a public servant like myself? “Ahem... Mr Qin, my documents reveal that you’re not a local. Where did you come from? When did you move here?”
Qin Ye propped his head up with his hands and answered lazily, “Pingjing Blessed Orphanage. Moved here about seven to eight years ago.”
“That’s right, dear policeman. Little Qin is a good kid. He even helps me carry my groceries and the laundry all the time. He can’t possibly be the murderer.” Ms Zhao threw in a good word for Qin Ye, “Even though our neighbourhood is somewhat off the beaten path, we neighbours have all lived here for at least five years now. It wouldn’t make sense for the murderer to come here or attempt to infiltrate us, would it?”
The policeman pressed down on his cap and furrowed his brows slightly, “What about last night? Were you here last night?”
“Of course! Why would I dare go out after 6 p.m.? Don’t you guys make those announcements warning us against it everyday?” Qin Ye looked at the policeman in surprise.
“What were you doing?” The policeman’s questions began to show traces of anxiety.
“Messing around with my outdated cell phone.”
“What were you messing with?”
“Reading tabloids and fake news.”
“Aren’t you afraid to run a shop like this all by yourself?”
“What, are you gonna provide for me?”
“... Alright, Mr Qin, I’ve got one final question.” For some strange reason, Qin Ye’s words seemed particularly harsh and curt, and the policeman found himself tongue-tied and unable to hold down a proper conversation. … Could this just be a delusion of mine?
He drew a deep breath before asking, “That man’s son is your classmate in school. Don’t you feel the least bit sorry for him?”
What thorough investigation… Hasn’t it only been a few hours since that incident? It seems that the power of the state apparatus is not to be underestimated.
Qin Ye sneered, “Why should I feel sorry for him? He bullies me everyday. I’ve already wished for his death a long time ago!”
The policeman stared at him for a full five seconds, before finally lowering his head, “Alright, Mr Qin, please contact me if you recall anything that might be helpful to the investigations. Furthermore… remember to come down to the police station in one month’s time for a review.”
“Take care on your way out.”
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