This was the first thought that occurred to Ming Shiyin.
The term referred to a phenomenon that would only occur to the souls of the strongest warriors and soldiers - those who have never suffered any wounds in their lives. In fact, this was a phenomenon so rare that it had only occurred once across the entire history of Cathay, to one of the Sixfold Ghost Kings, Zhao Yun, also known as Zhao Zilong.
The souls of these corpses would be imbued with such strength after death that they would quickly be propelled to the levels of an incarnate revenant. To be exact, Honda Tadakatsu wasn’t a completely undefiled corpse. In his old age, he did sustain a minor wound on his arm.
But that was already enough.
He was already imbued with such strength to make him practically unrivalled among all who were of the same class of cultivation. At the very least, it was sufficient to deal with an Emissary of Hell who didn’t have any Hell’s Arts at his disposal like Qin Ye.
In fact, such an opponent wasn’t a person that Qin Ye could deal with without awakening the power of his “Cosmos”.
Unfortunately, the world of Yanluos contained no access to “Cosmos” altogether…
Ming Shiyin looked up and saw a hand at the other end of the spear.
It was flushed with a red hue.
This was… the hand of a living person.
Ming Shiyin’s heart thumped heavily - that is, it would have thumped heavily if it actually had one.
It suddenly thought of a question. It glanced about its surroundings. It was on the deck of the cruise liner right now. Qin Ye was still holding tightly to his umbrella-shaped spirit streamer with a cowardly expression on his face. There were a number of slash marks on the ground as a result of Honda Tadakatsu’s earlier barrage of attacks. The fact that one could cause such damage to the deck of a modern ship with merely brute strength was simply terrifying.
However, this was brute human strength.
That’s right - his abilities weren’t imbued with Yin energy at all. This was completely different from a battle between underworldly emissaries. At the very least, their clash on the ship deck had been completely different from the great battle breaking out between the Umamawari horse guards and Izanami’s personal guards. The latter was clearly the battle between two great factions of Yin spirits.
Yin energy flourished and scattered with every clash that occurred, while great blazes of netherflames filled the skies. Each entity would present themselves with the form of a human silhouette, and yet the techniques which they resorted to were mysterious and hellish. Yin artifacts would come flying out from unexpected angles and directions as well. Yet… it was completely different from Honda Tadakatsu’s display of martial prowess that enabled him to dominate every part of the deck of the cruise liner.
He possessed an inhuman level of martial prowess.
But that didn’t make him an underworldly emissary.
He was a human - a living person through and through. The reversal of Yin and Yang bestowed upon him by the Book of Life and Death had filled him with so much self-confidence that it amounted to complacency. That said, the fact that he had reverted to his fleshly body wasn’t surprising at all. After all, any Yin spirit who got their hands on the Book of Life and Death would never hesitate to reverse Yin and Yang and obtain their fleshly body, much less Honda Tadakatsu who prided himself in the martial prowess that accompanied his great physical strength.
Ming Shiyin had come to these great realizations in the blink of an eye.
And right at that moment, Ming Shiyin could feel a hand wrap its fingers around it.
The hand trembled slightly. It was none other than Honda Tadakatsu’s hand. And then, he lifted off the helmet protecting his face.
He looked incredibly handsome.
His eyebrows were striking, while his nose was sharp and well-defined. The netherflames in his eyes had already vanished by now, and even someone as calm and collected as him couldn’t help but feel his breaths grow ragged.
“What’s this?” He asked hoarsely.
Qin Ye peeked out from behind the umbrella-shaped spirit streamer and explained respectfully, “The Mirror of Eminence. One of the greatest treasures among the Ten Abyssal Courts of Hell. I don’t know why you want it, but… this is the ace hidden up my sleeves in this expedition of mine.”
The Yin energy flowing from this is terrifying…
Honda Tadakatsu gulped with great excitement and sighed wistfully. He caressed the Mirror of Eminence avariciously, sensing with great joy the tide of Yin energy hidden within it. That said… he could sense that this was a damaged artifact, and it wouldn’t be able to unleash the full extent of its abilities right now.
“This is tantamount to casting pearls before swine…” Honda Tadakatsu licked his lips and glanced at Qin Ye.
He would never let anyone who knew his secret live to tell the tale.
Of course, that didn’t mean he couldn’t give Qin Ye a swift and painless death.
After all, there were many ways of taking a person’s life, and he happened to be proficient in the art of murder.
However, the more he caressed the mirror, the more somber his expression became.
No… something’s not right!
This isn’t the right feeling… The Book of Life and Death tells me that this isn’t the most powerful artifact in that man’s possession!
This ancient mirror might be powerful, but… its presence is nowhere near that of the Book of Life and Death!
The difference was only a hair’s breadth, and yet it was precisely this minutiae of difference that distinguished a divine artifact from a lesser one! In other words, the cowardly Cathayan Emissary… was lying to him!
“You’re courting death.” Honda Tadakatsu looked up abruptly and poised himself to strike once more. But, just then, Ming Shiyin’s surface suddenly erupted with an all-encompassing light!
Simultaneously, Qin Ye gritted his teeth and tightened his grip around the spirit streamer in hand. And then, the Yin energy surrounding him instantly converged to his body, and he charged straight towards Honda Tadakatsu!
“The one who’s courting death… is you!”
His white hair scattered about menacingly, while his white pupils stared intently at Honda Tadakatsu. Within moments, the spirit streamer in his hand transformed into a sphere and slammed heavily into Honda Tadakatsu’s body.
“Damn it!!” Alarm bells were blaring in Honda Tadakatsu’s mind right now. He hadn’t expected Qin Ye to launch such a sneak attack at him. He dropped the Mirror of Eminence and covered his eyes with one hand, and he quickly launched a flurry of thrusts with his other hand!
Shk shk shk! Afterimages of the spear filled the sky with even greater intensity than before! It was almost as though a multitude of spear tips had appeared all at once, forming a dense wall of spears that thrusted straight at Qin Ye all at once! If there was a limit to the martial prowess that was humanly possible, then this would undoubtedly be the limit!
Crack… crack… The deck of the ship began to crack and crumble under the great volley of spear thrusts. But this time, Qin Ye didn’t back down anymore. Instead, he stood valiantly against the wall of thrusts and dashed straight into the ferocious barrage of attacks that was pouring towards him!
I’ve only got one chance at this!
Ming Shiyin also knew full well that there wouldn’t be a second chance at this if his sneak attack failed.
After all, Honda Tadakatsu would never spare his life for what he did, and they didn’t know how long more Arthis would take to arrive on scene. Therefore, against a foe like this, Qin Ye would much rather stake it all on a single attempt, rather than passively await death.
Certainly, he was afraid of death, but he also knew full well when life presented him an opportunity even as he teetered dangerously on the edge of life and death.
“Scram!!!” Qin Ye cried out at the top of his voice, and his white hair scattered about wildly. The flurry of spear thrusts quickly turned his garments into rags full of holes. He gritted his teeth and forcibly held up his umbrella-shaped spirit streamer as he forged forward amidst Honda Tadakatsu's relentless attacks. Sparks flew everywhere in the wake of loud clanging sounds, and yet the Dragonfly Cutter was unable to penetrate the solid defenses of Qin Ye's spirit streamer! It was almost as though the talismans plastered all over the spirit streamer were made of impenetrable, solid steel.
This was the difference between the products of a mighty nation and a weaker one.
“You rat… You rat!!!” Honda Tadakatsu gritted his teeth in anguish. Never before… never before have I experienced such an embarrassing duel - ever!!
It wasn't the case that he had never faced a night insurmountable resistance in a duel before. Rather, it was simply that he had never faced such kinds of resistance from a person as cowardly and crafty as Qin Ye was!
It was a complete embarrassment! It was a great shame for any samurai to fall prey to such petty schemes of an opponent like this!
Buzz… Suddenly, the spear in his hands trembled violently, so much so that it began to grow completely illusory. Simultaneously, a murderous intent far greater than any before erupted from his body. Then, before Qin Ye could even react to the great change in the situation, a cold gleam of light appeared right in front of him, followed closely by the majestic spear. With a faint tiger’s roar, the spear transformed into a bolt of lightning and thrusted straight towards Qin Ye’s chest.
Qin Ye didn’t even see the attack coming. However, his primal instincts sensed the approach of extreme danger, and he immediately motioned to avoid the attack. Just then, a black-and-white luster abruptly gleamed brightly in the air. And then, he watched with bated breath as his spirit streamer charged straight towards the cold gleam and clashed directly against the oncoming attack.
Crash… The previously impenetrable spirit streamer was actually penetrated by the powerful attack. Furthermore, the attack that approached him wasn’t the tip of the spear at all. Rather, it appeared to be the blazing charge of a ferocious tiger.
Everything within a ten-meter radius was completely reduced to dust and debris with Honda Tadakatsu’s powerful thrust. In fact, the devastating impact caused a shockwave to extend beyond the ship deck, and it instantly kicked up great sloshing waves around the cruise liner! The air was filled with thunderous sonic booms. It was absolutely incredible.
Onlookers would have seen the figure of a man enshrouded with Yin energy, standing on the peak of the waves as he went toe to toe against a towering wall of illusory spears. And then, a split second later, a bright gleam of light would instantly bolt through that man’s body. Qin Ye let out a muffled groan. The spear stopped abruptly, and the Yin energy about Qin Ye dispersed as his body promptly materialized back to his human form. A great splatter of blood dyed the mast that was located dozens of meters behind Qin Ye.
“Hah…” Honda Tadakatsu’s teeth quivered slightly as he wiped off the tears in his eyes. He was still maintaining the exact same posture he did when he launched the flurry of attacks against Qin Ye earlier, except that he spoke with a hoarse, gritty voice, “Rat… now, you won’t be able to die even if you wanted to.”
The ship deck that formed their surroundings was now filled with holes like a tattered rag, so much so that everything located under the deck was now in plain sight. The surrounding railings were already bent out of shape by the overbearing shockwaves from their powerful clash of attacks. Furthermore, there were two deep gullies carved out of the deck of the ship. No… more accurately speaking, these were deep grooves on the deck that had been created when Qin Ye dug his feet deep into the deck of the ship after having been sent flying by the great impact of their clash.
“That’s right. I refuse to die today.” Qin Ye chuckled coldly as he struggled to his feet with the aid of the deformed railings. His entire black robe had already been stained with the copious amount of blood that was pouring out of his body. A fist-sized hole had been carved right out of his shoulder and his thigh.
And yet, he forced a vicious smile to his face as he stood crookedly, “Honda-kun, take a look… What do you think this is?”
Qin Ye held up an ancient book.
The pages of the book appeared yellowish. As the gentle sea breeze swept across the deck of the ship, it flipped the pages open, revealing the names of countless people written on it. The ancient book was shrouded with wisps of black and white energy. One would be able to tell at a glance that this was an artifact that was blessed by the heavens, the mortals and hell alike.
It was the Book of Life and Death!
Rustle rustle… The wind continued to riffle through the pages, until the ancient book finally flipped to the final page at the end, where a fresh entry was written… Honda Tadakatsu!
Honda Tadakatsu froze.
He looked down at his own chest with great disbelief.
There was now a gaping hole right in the middle of his armor, while the Book of Life and Death which he kept close to his chest had already gone missing!
How did he do this?!
I, Honda Heihachiro, have actually been put on the backfoot and subject to the mercy of this cowardly rat?!
“You didn’t expect this, did you?” Qin Ye chuckled softly, and then bit down on his finger and blotted out the name of Honda Tadakatsu on the Book of Life and Death. Then, panting heavily, he slumped to the ground and landed on his but with a heavy thud. Yet, even then, he continued to snicker coldly, “I didn’t expect it either…”
Whoosh… As soon as Honda Tadakatsu’s name was blotted out, his entire body instantly transformed into ash, and then slowly began to disintegrate and scatter into the surroundings.
“How did you do it?” His voice was surprisingly calm. However, he wasn’t able to conceal the immense shock in his heart as he stared intently at Qin Ye, “You at least owe it to me to let me know how I died.”
“It’s nothing much.” Qin Ye’s vision was fading away. This was the result of extreme blood loss. However, he knew that he couldn’t afford to collapse right now. The battle between Oda Nobunaga and Azai Nagamasa was still ongoing, and he would still have to remain standing in order to greet the victor at the end of their great battle.
After all, this was his pride and duty as the future Yanluo of Hell.
He panted like a bull and chuckled coldly, “I knew from the onset that I wasn’t a match for you. Thus, the first thing I did was to reveal my weaknesses to you, so that you wouldn’t be so intent on doing battle with me.”
“Do you know something… There was a point in time when I did truly consider handing over the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal to you… After all, death would strip away any meaning of retaining possession of the seal in the first place. Conversely, as long as I don’t die, I’d have plenty of opportunities in the future to retrieve that artifact. Cough… cough…”
Qin Ye covered his chest and wiped away the streak of blood trickling down the side of his lips as he stared coldly at Honda Tadakatsu. His lower body had already become completely reduced to ash by now, “But, I soon discovered something rather interesting…”
“And that’s the fact that you’re actually a living person! You’ve abandoned your identity as an underworldly emissary! I can understand why you would want to do that… After all, someone with such great confidence in his own abilities must most certainly desire a reversion to his fleshly, corporeal body. But… cough cough… did you know something…?”
Qin Ye held onto the railing and stood up with much difficulty once more, “The natural byproduct of the reversal of Yin and Yang, is that your name would once again appear within the Book of Life and Death!”
“Honda-kun, you’re a living person.”
“And that… was the beginning of your end…”
1. Reference to the Saint Seiya series. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Seiya