Chapter 253: Book of Life and Death

Darkness.

A sea of death.

Screams of terror reverberated through the captain’s cabin. A monstrosity stood in front of them, while a faceless corpse of what used to be their captain sat behind them, as though he were observing their every action and every move. Their minds were set abuzz with terror, while their backs were soaked through with cold sweat.

Sssss! SSSS!! The Kappa stood at approximately 1.5 meters tall, and it licked its lips greedily, almost as though the human beings standing right in front of him were no different from a delectable meal. The bodyguards immediately stood in front of Nishino Mio like a stone wall. They tightened their grip around their guns with trembling as they whispered with great urgency, “Miss, we’ll hold it back. Please run while you still can...”

“Why should I run?” Nishino Mio’s face was ashen, but she stood tall and courageous, “Hold it back. I’m fine. It wouldn’t dare do anything to me. Why do you think I do so much charity work on a regular basis? Do you think it’s because I’ve got too much money to spare?”

She turned around and grabbed the intercommunications device on the captain’s table, “Hello, this is Nishino Mio. Please respond immediately. Alternatively, please transfer me to the auction house’s line right away. Hello? Hello?!”

No response.

“Can’t--... Can’t get through?” One of the bodyguards queried.

His cowardly response was understandable in the circumstances. After all, the boundless seas around them had already caused him to feel a stifling sensation of being alone and helpless. To make matters worse, a mythical creature of the depths had just appeared, and it was baring its fangs right at them! The fact that they were able to stand their ground like a wall of flesh  in front of Nishino Mio was already something commendable.

“It’s not that we can’t get through…” Nishino Mio gritted her teeth, “Rather, I can only imagine that the ship’s communications hub is experiencing the exact same situation we are.”

Their hearts sank.

What were these creatures trying to do? Legend has it that a Kappa was the incarnation of a grievous soul that had perished by way of drowning in a shallow water body. Its natural instincts led it to gore and eat the innards of little children. These were legends that had been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years, yet who could’ve expected them to have surfaced so suddenly, and even control the ship?

Shk… Just then, the Kappa that had been leaning on the door of the captain’s cabin all this while suddenly shifted. Its scarlet tongue flicked about menacingly, licking its scaly skin as it slowly crawled towards them.

“Back off! Stay alert!” The leader of the bodyguards instructed, and everyone retreated slightly. But how much space did they have in the captain’s cabin? After moving back only one foot in distance, they promptly found their backs leaning against the console.

Meanwhile, the Kappa left a trail of water marks on the ground wherever it passed. The silence was deafening, broken only by the soft sound of a gurgle.

It was the sound of the Kappa swallowing its saliva.

Then, just like a turtle, it slowly but surely began to crawl over to them. Three meters… two meters… The leader of the bodyguards drew a deep breath and whispered to the rest, "Its movements are slow. This is probably because it’s on land right now. Prepare yourselves. As soon as it comes within one meter of us, immediately--...”

SSS!!! But his words were quickly cut off by a shrill shriek from the Kappa. A red shadow flickered through the air, and then the leader of the bodyguards suddenly stopped moving.

“Ahh--!!” “My god!” “This is… t-this… this…”

Everyone stared at the leader with horror. Even Nishino Mio couldn’t help but scream at the top of her voice as she took several steps back instinctively.

The leader of the bodyguards blinked vacantly, and he slowly lowered his head like a stiff robot as he stared at his own stomach with disbelief.

The Kappa’s tongue had plunged straight through his stomach in an instant.

Gurgle… A revulsive sound came from the leader’s sternum, and his body convulsed violently. His eyes rolled back, and his tongue hung out limply and loosely from his mouth. That said, the most frightening thing was the fact that his entire stomach was deflating incredibly quickly, almost as though there was an industrial pump sucking out his internal organs with a powerful suction force.

“Uhh-uuhh…” The leader made a peculiar whimper of despondence as a series of distinct bulges ran through the Kappa’s tongue. It was obvious what they were - his lungs, his liver, his heart…

“Monster… MONSTER!!!” Another one of the bodyguards was completely dumbfounded. Overwhelmed with fear, he instinctively cocked his pistol and pulled the trigger like a madman, “MONSTER!!! GO TO HELL!!!”

Bang, bang, bang! Bullets pelted down on the Kappa, only to ricochet off its body with a soft clinking sound. Outside the captain’s cabin, the gunshots sounded no different from small beads of pearls falling and striking the base of a jade plate. A dark figure shifted in the room ten seconds later, followed quickly by large splatters of blood everywhere amidst a chorus of miserable cries. In that instant, the captain’s cabin was no different from hell on earth!

………………………………………………….

“Hello?” Meanwhile, the staff in the auction hall also detected that their intercommunications devices weren’t working.

“Dear guests, please don’t be alarmed. This is probably a system malfunction.” Bai Yishan immediately reacted with great professionalism to control the situation. After placating the crowd, he turned to his assistant, “Ma Zhongqin, I want you to go to the comms room immediately and see what’s going on. Our communications devices began to malfunction ten minutes ago, and now it’s completely broken down. We cannot afford to let this happen in front of so many esteemed guests! This is a disgrace to Guardian Auctions!”

“Yes!” Ma Zhongqin was a cultivator in his early twenties who hadn’t even reached the level of an Operative just yet. He was overjoyed to have been given the privilege to participate in such a prestigious major auction. Naturally, he responded with a pep to his step and made his way out promptly.

“Mr Qin?” Master Kamo, Iwasaki Kyouya and Grandmaster Chu were all present backstage, and they could barely make out everything that was happening back on stage. That said, none of the members of the audience were able to see them. Thus, none of the audience members were aware that Qin Ye had already become a little bit distracted since a moment ago.

Mr Iwasaki’s call jolted Qin Ye back to his senses. Qin Ye frowned, “Are we supposed to be anchored in place?”

“That’s right. We’re approximately a hundred nautical miles away from the end of the East Cathay Sea. Is something wrong?” Grandmaster Chu was slightly puzzled at Qin Ye’s query.

Qin Ye wasn’t even looking at the X-magic box right now. Instead, he tapped his finger lightly on the handrail and whispered back, “Do you guys feel the ship… moving?”

“No.” “Why would we? The ship has been anchored for well over a day!” The other two replied at the same time.

Qin Ye turned to gaze at Ma Zhongqin’s silhouette. For some strange reason, he was overcome with a bad premonition of what was to come.

It was almost as though… he were approaching something terrifying. Something no different from a nautical hell.

Just then, his eyes suddenly flickered, and he abruptly shot to his feet. With his eyes still trained on Ma Zhongqin’s silhouette, he suddenly blurted to the rest, “I’m making a trip to the restroom.”

Then, without waiting for another response, he promptly took his leave. The three men exchanged awkward glances with each other and shrugged their shoulders ignorantly.

Qin Ye made a beeline straight towards the restroom.There was only a skylight here. He quickly shed his outer coat and spoke to Ming Shiyin, “Did you see that?”

“Wha--?” Ming Shiyin appeared to have been asleep.

Qin Ye drew a deep breath, “Just a moment ago… I saw a strange line of blood-red characters appear on… Ma Zhongqin’s back.”

“It read - time of death: 10 minutes, 21 seconds.”

Whoosh! Ming Shiyin immediately flew out and exclaimed with a quiver in its voice, “No way… That’s impossible!”

Qin Ye immediately pulled it back down and made a shushing gesture at Ming Shiyin, “What the hell is that supposed to be?!”

Ming Shiyin hovered about everywhere in the tiny space of a toilet cubicle in an ostensibly flustered fashion. Seconds later, a black figure suddenly shot out of the surface of the mirror and rushed straight towards Ma Zhongqin. In the meantime, Ming Shiyin finally spoke up with great trembling.

“Kid… listen up.” Ming Shiyin gulped nervously, “If you really saw what you saw, then it means… haa--... that we… are currently approaching the location of the Book of Life and Death.”

“The Book of Life and Death!!!” Qin Ye couldn’t help but exclaim aloud. Someone from the next cubicle thumped against the cubicle wall, ostensibly displeased with the racket Qin Ye was making, and Qin Ye and the mirror immediately calmed down. Nevertheless, their hearts continued to thump wildly.

This was one of the three primordial treasures of Hell, the Book of Life and Death!

It defines the Yin and the Yang, and it governs over the longevity of Yang entities in the mortal realm. One could say that Hell wouldn’t be complete without its presence!

“Are you sure?! How is that possible?!” Qin Ye made a grave expression, “But we’re about to leave the Cathayan territorial waters in no time. How could the Book of Life and Death possibly be here?”

“I’m certain! And it’s possible!” Ming Shiyin’s voice had already turned drifty by now, “Don’t forget that the great collapse of Hell was accompanied by a cataclysmic tremor! It’s perfectly normal for the Book of Life and Death to have been propelled all the way across the East Cathay Sea! Furthermore…”

It paused abruptly, and then a string of scarlet letters appeared on the surface of the mirror, “The Book of Life and Death already has a master…”

“How is that possible?!” This was the second time that Qin Ye was asking the same question, “Only emissaries are qualified to be the master of the Book of Life and Death! Where would we find emi--...”

His words trailed off, and he froze with a sudden realization.

That’s right… there really are emissaries around these parts.

The Strait of Tsushima was just a short distance away, and that’s where a great number of Nipponese emissaries lay waiting for us.

“So, can we assume that the Nipponese underworld has already secured the Book of Life and Death?” Qin Ye’s voice trembled.

“I don’t know… but that could very well be the worst case scenario. That said, they wouldn’t be able to use it even if they have it. It’s a Cathayan primordial treasure! All who are on the brink of death would have their exact times of death revealed in scarlet letters as soon as they enter the domain of the Book of Life and Death. That’s right, you should’ve seen the popular modern comic, Death Note, right? This… is essentially… a book that is a thousand times more terrifying than the Death Note, and there’s no limit on the number of times it can be used!”

Ming Shiyin drew a deep breath and continued, “I understand everything now… If what you’ve seen is really true, then the Nipponese emissaries must truly have obtained the Book of Life and Death. Do you still recall the supernatural incidents of late in the East Cathay Sea that have resulted in the appearance of a number of ghost ships? It reeks of the Nipponese emissaries testing out the functions of the Book of Life and Death!”

“Didn’t you just say that extraterritorial emissaries can’t use the Book of Life and Death?!” Qin Ye’s eyes were bloodshot.

“What I meant was that they wouldn’t be able to use it against us Cathayan emissaries! I’m sorry for not being clear earlier, alright?!” Ming Shiyin barked back in exasperation, “If it’s true… then it might be too late to even summon Arthis for help right now! I’ve just sent out a tracking wisp of energy to Ma Zhongqin. His image should be appearing in the mirror in no time. Well… there we go! Take a good look at the time of his death! If our speculations are right… I damn sure wish we aren’t right this time though!”

Ma Zhongqin wasn’t aware that he was already being watched from a mirror right now.

He had been walking for several minutes by now. The cruise ship was large, and it would take a normal person approximately ten minutes to walk from the auction hall to the communications room. However, given his tall build and long legs, he arrived in eight and a half minutes.

“Master Liu.” He knocked on the door. Having received no response, he pushed open the door, only to see Master Liu, a man in his fifties, leaning back on his chair, ostensibly tilting his head back on his seat and resting his eyes.

“Master Liu, could I trouble you to check on the communications equipment? The entire intercommunications network seems to be down. Are we on the wrong frequency? Have the circuits been shorted by the seawater?” An intercommunications malfunction wasn’t a big deal, and this could be considered no more than a little errand. He was also on good terms with Master Liu, so he naturally approached Master Liu’s side desk with the intention of pouring himself a glass of water for a drink.

However, just as he passed by Master Liu, he abruptly froze, almost as though a bolt of lightning had struck him out of the blue.

Dead.

Master Liu… is dead!

His eyes were gone, leaving two horrific holes where they had originally been. His facial features were scrunched together in a grotesque fashion, and his mouth had been ripped wide open. A stream of blood was still pouring from it. The horrific sight appeared as though… an evil spirit had entered his body through his mouth and was devouring his internal organs from within!

“Haa--... hurrrgghh!!!” The shocking discovery caused him to stumble back and fall to the ground with a dull thud. Then, he immediately turned around and scrambled for the door before he could even clamber back to his feet, “Somebody… help!!! Please! Somebody’s dead!!!”

But the door slammed shut right in front of his very eyes.

Bzzt!!! The lights flickered wildly, and then fizzled out in an instant.

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