“The contemporary owner of the Mitsubishi Corporation.” Then, almost as though something had occurred to him, he leaned in closer to Qin Ye and smiled faintly, “Is Mr Qin also interested in the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl? I’ve come just to join in the fun and watch the auctions. Unfortunately, the Cosmos Group isn’t in a position to drop funds in excess of a billion for the artifact. This is something that only Mitsubishi, one of the largest conglomerates in the world, has the capacity for. Few others are able to cough up that much capital without feeling the pinch.”
Qin Ye drew a deep breath and stood up with a smile, “Pardon me, I’ve got some urgent matters to attend to, so I’ll have to take my leave first.”
As he walked out of the banquet hall, his gaze quickly turned somber.
I was wrong… My working assumptions are all in the wrong places. The Onmyojis aren’t daft. They’re indubitably here at this place. If I can’t locate them, and there aren’t any records of their names on the manifesto, then it must mean that they’ve boarded the ship together with the Mitsubishi Corporation. Guardian Auctions may be influential, but there’s simply no way they would be able to compel the Mitsubishi Corporation to hand over any information they’re not willing to.
“There’s no need to look for them any longer…”
He hurried back to his room, took off his suit and immediately instructed, “Lord Ming.”
“Locate Grandmaster Chu at once! And keep a close eye on him!”
Ming Shiyin immediately flew out of Qin Ye’s clothes. Without speaking another word, it immediately glowed with a bright lustre. The Mirror of Eminence was an artifact that was no different from a god’s eye. A great number of images quickly flickered across the surface of the mirror, until it finally paused on an image revealing Grandmaster Chu’s face.
He was not at the great hall at this moment in time.
His location looked unfamiliar. His surroundings were all white, presumably part of a cabin within the cruise liner. There were boxes of all sizes placed neatly within the room, each of which was secured by high-tech security measures including fingerprint and iris recognition technology, as well as a three-layer password.
These boxes weren’t stacked on top of each other like the regular cargo holds one would expect to see. Rather, each of these boxes had their own special zone, and were even marked with their own cargo registration number. There was no doubt that all of the goods to be auctioned were contained right here within this room!
Apart from Grandmaster Chu, there were three other Hunter-class experts around, as well as over a dozen Operative-class experts. They were all standing guard at the periphery of the cargo hold like stoic statues, together with dozens of gun-toting mercenaries.
There were even several surveillance cameras pointed at all angles around the cargo hold, monitored at all times on a great number of individual screens. The cargo hold could be described to be armed to the teeth. Not even a Hunter-class enemy intruding upon this space would be able to leave alive.
Unfortunately… the ones who were making a move against them were Hellguards.
Hellguards were generally any province’s strongest fighting force. Thus, these security measures were sorely insufficient in Qin Ye’s eyes. At the very least, he alone could raze everything to the ground in no more than five minutes.
And this was not to mention the fact that he was not the only Hellguard making a grab at the bowl this time.
Just then, a thin man wearing glasses entered the image and bowed respectfully, “[In Nipponese] Sir, the master of the Kamo Clan and Master Iwasaki will both arrive within an hour. Please be prepared.”
“What’s he saying?” Ming Shiyin asked.
Qin ye’s eyes gleamed, “Grandmaster Chu, the master of the Kamo Clan and Master Iwasaki will both arrive within an hour. Please be prepared.”
“I see!” Realization dawned upon Ming Shiyin, “They would need three sets of fingerprints and irises to open the box. In other words, Master Kamo and the current chairman of the Mitsubishi Corporation, Master Iwasaki, are both presently aboard the cruise liner as well!”
Qin Ye glanced at his phone. The time now was 2.30 a.m.
In other words, they would be doing the final verification as soon as the cruise liner was setting off.
“That’s not a bad time to do it. Most people would be resting in their room as soon as the cruise liner sets off. Security-wise, there couldn’t be a better time. However…” He drew a deep breath and lay down on his bed, “I’m not the only Hellguard who’s planning to make a move this time…”
“What can you and your litter of pussycats do against the secret ninjas of Renpu? Not to mention Master Kamo, who plans to witness his faction’s theft of the bowl with his own two eyes?”
This room was far more luxurious than the one which Qin Ye had been assigned. Ukiyo-e paintings adorned the walls. Soft tatami mats were placed all over the floor, while potted bonsai plants meticulously decorated with miniature artificial landscapes sat at the corners of the room.
The centerpiece in the entire room was an exquisite tea table that was surrounded by the tatami mats on the floor. Master Kamo, who had once crossed paths with Qin Ye, was presently dressed in his yukata, pouring tea into his cup with great elegance and refinement.
The crystal clarity of tea splashed about his teacup, sending wisps of steam diffusing into the surroundings, just like a miniature waterfall. Master Kamo lifted the sleeves of his yukata and picked up his teacup. Just as he was about to bring it to his lips, a swallow suddenly flew into his room through the window. As soon as it entered the room, black-and-white energy scattered from its body, and it transformed back to its original form of a paper crane, falling straight into Master Kamo’s palm.
The experts of every land had their own specialties, and the Shikigami were the expertise of Onmyojis.
Master Kamo opened up the paper crane, and the surface of the paper immediately transformed into a surface no different from that of a copper mirror, revealing an image depicting Grandmaster Chu and his surroundings. Unfortunately, the clarity of image was substantially more inferior to the image produced by Ming Shiyin.
“So-desune…” Moments later, he clenched his fist and reduced the paper crane to ashes. Then, he took a deep breath, stood up, and gazed into the distant night sky as he murmured to himself, “That idiot Kamo no Saizo was present when the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl was first excavated. But he didn’t appreciate its true value and nature, and it was under these circumstances that he allowed Guardian Auctions to take such a priceless treasure back with them for just a few hundred million. And then, having discovered its true value, Guardian Auctions naturally refused to return the bowl to us. Even now, we’d only managed to barely secure our participation rights in the present auctions by virtue of the contract we’d entered into during the joint excavation project. Otherwise, how could we have been put through so much trouble in the first place?”
He gritted his teeth, “The soul of the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven must never be allowed back in Nippon. If we don’t have the money, then we’ll have no choice but to take it by force! Dojin-san, Jingo-san!”
“Yes.” “Here.” Two voices responded calmly. If anyone else were around right now, they would most certainly be greatly astonished.
The two men were clearly present, but it was almost as though their presence had completely faded away. If not for the fact that they had spoken up, their appearances would be no different from that of two clay sculptures.
Furthermore, these two men were monks.
They were dressed in the garments of traditional Nipponese monks, wearing a hat and wielding a zen staff. Gentle ripples appeared in the surroundings with every breath they took.
And most certainly not nascent Hellguard-class experts to boot!
“Oda Nobunaga’s soul. You, who come from Mount Koya, won’t let him off the hook, will you?” Master Kamo turned around and gazed deeply at the two men.
“Of course not.” Dojin’s hoarse voice carried traces of lingering hatred, “Mount Koya and Mount Hiei are the homes to the two largest Tantric Buddhism monasteries, base of the formidable battle monks during the NIpponese Warring States period. Not a single soul dared to oppose us and make an enemy of the gods, save for this man… Oda Nobunaga!”
“Raising the banner of unification, he marched for us, claiming that he discriminates not between the north and the south, or the east and the west. And then, he slaughtered over three thousand in the wake of his march against us, having no regard for the weak and the frail and women and children! His titles of ‘Scourge of Buddha’ and ‘Demon King of the Sixth Heaven’ were forged with the flesh and blood of our people. Little did I expect that, after four long centuries, we would once again be presented with the opportunity to face the Scourge of Buddha once again.”
Jingo’s voice was equally filled with hatred, “Anyone who harbours such evil and stands in our way shall die! Oda Nobunaga is an executioner of all who practice Tantric Buddhism, but he will soon pay the price for his sins. Thank you for disclosing this piece of information to us and extending us the invitation. Buddha is merciful. Therefore…”
He lifted his head and squinted at the entrance to the room, “Let me make a gesture of appreciation by eliminating one of our competitors.”
His hands began to move as he spoke. They appeared slow, but they were in truth incredibly quick. As he formed his series of hand seals, the rings around his zen staff began to sway slightly. And then, seconds later, it began to make clinking sounds.
“Secret art, Dusk of the Phoenix.” As soon as he finished speaking, a golden light immediately appeared underneath his feet, spewing out brilliant Sanskrit words that quickly transformed into the figure of an asura that pounced straight towards the door!
But it quickly vanished like a rock in the ocean, and there was no sound from it at all.
“Hmm?” Dojin and Jingo stood up abruptly at the same time and stared at the door with great astonishment. Master Kamo froze in place as he probed, “Was… somebody there earlier?”
Without responding, Dojin rushed to the entrance and pressed his palm against the door. Instantly, the point of contact rippled slightly, and the one-way portal which appeared on the surface of the door revealed the silhouette of a person.
This was not the silhouette of a human being.
They could vaguely tell that the figure was wearing black, body-hugging garments, but ink-black Yin energy was pouring out of its seven apertures and every pore of its body.
Furthermore, the figure did not have the usual facial features one would expect of a human being. Instead, there was a deep crack on its chest where a person’s heart would usually be, and a blood-red eye peeked out from the depths of this crevice.
“Evil ghost?” Master Kamo gasped and lifted his hands into the air. In an instant, a great number of paper cranes shot out of the wide sleeves of his yukata, flew out of the window where it quickly scattered in all directions in the night sky.
“It seems like we’re not the only ones with plans tonight…” Dojin murmured, “Guardian Auctions will most definitely be conducting the final verification of the auction goods tonight. After all, they wouldn’t be able to return if they discover their mistake only when they’re out at sea. These hidden entities… are also thinking of acting upon this window to seize possession of the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl.”
“Lord Kamo.” Jingo spoke with a deep voice, “Everything will depend on your performance in an hour’s time.”
“Find us a way to slip into Guardian Auction’s cargo hold. Then, all you need to do is to open the box, and leave the rest to us.”
The door to A403 hadn’t been opened this entire time.
Therefore, they weren’t aware of what went on outside soon afterwards. Just ten minutes later, the lights in the entire corridor outside flickered abruptly. Then, innumerable wisps of Yin energy appeared to pour out of nowhere amidst a cacophony of ghastly wails, before quickly swirling together to form a massive dark vortex in mid-air.
Seconds later, a silhouette wearing ninja garbs stepped out from it. His body appeared to be composed entirely out of gas. With every action he made, copious amounts of Yin energy would leak from his body.
“Two Hellguards, huh…” He remarked with a husky voice right outside the door, before lifting his hand and caressing the door’s surface, “But… so what?”
“Only emissaries can slay emissaries.”
“Our luck hasn’t been too great so far. Scarlet 17 was murdered by a Cathayan emissary, while I inadvertently stumbled upon the room of Onmyojis at my very first attempt at possessing a human body. However…”
A scarlet eye lit up at his chest, “Even if we don’t succeed today, there’s still the Strait of Tsushima, where Azai Nagamasa-sama is eagerly awaiting Oda Nobunaga’s return. Indeed, he’s waited for almost four centuries for this moment… hehehe…”
“There’s no way that anyone would be able to return from the Strait of Tsushima alive!”
With that, he left the entrance of A403. However, the two Hellguards from Mount Koya were completely oblivious to his presence.
The scarlet eye scanned the empty hallway, “One hour’s time, huh? Well then, let’s see who would be so unlucky as to be picked by me…”
Takuma Asakura chewed his gum with some measure of irritation.
He was a tall man - most certainly a sight for sore eyes among the Nipponese who were generally of a far smaller build. Furthermore, the stiff suit which he wore did nothing to conceal the bulging muscles underneath. He was disallowed from smoking, and the only concession made was for him to chew gum. He was greatly annoyed by the rules, and he only grew more and more vexed as time went by.
This was a small room of approximately fifty square feet, without any luxurious adornments or decors. Another equally buff young man sat on the sofa in the room, reading the newspapers in boredom. The man sitting on the sofa looked up at the tall man who was scratching his cheeks, “Go smoke in the bathroom if you wish. We won’t tell Steward Fujiwara. But…”
He paused, “Our master’s room is just next door. As soon as they start stirring, you’d best not forget to snuff out the cigarette butt.”
“Thank you.” Takuma Asakura couldn’t resist the urge any longer as he dashed straight into the washroom.
The space here wasn’t large. It consisted only of a washbasin, a toilet and a small enclosed shower room. The contents of the shower room were obscured by its frosted glass.
Click… He flicked open his lighter as soon as he entered the washroom. Crack! Pop! Just then, the lights in the room suddenly went out!
“Damn it!” He cursed under his breath. Then, just as he was about to light up his cigarette, he suddenly felt a sharp feeling of terror surge from his spine right through his scalp. He immediately extinguished his lighter with another click.
There’s someone else here!
Earlier, in the instant where the lights went out and his lighter was still on, he noticed out of the corner of his eye a dark figure standing to his left. Furthermore, he could tell that the other man’s head was tilted in a manner that was humanly impossible. And the most terrifying thing of all… was the fact that this man was staring right at him with a single, scarlet eye!
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