Chapter 281: Laying Out the Cards

The plane flew across the sky, across Eastsea City, Stillriver Province, and it soon arrived at Mount Tai airport, where they transferred to the next domestic flight. Within a few hours, Qin Ye and crew found themselves once again standing in front of the First Academy of Cultivators.

The First Academy of Cultivators was still the same as ever before. It was quiet and peaceful. If one looked only at the exterior of the building, they wouldn’t be able to tell that this was the heartbeat of the Cathayan cultivation world. Summer vacation had already started, and they could see many people carrying around little pet-cages or pedaling leisurely on their skateboards. It appeared no different from any other university out there.

Humans were often forgetful and complacent.

It was only half a year ago that Cao Youdao made waves across the entire City of Salvation, and yet, just half a year later, everyone was already going about their own business as though that was a thing of the distant past. Qin Ye understood that the First Academy of Cultivators had decided to open the doors to the public during the period of summer vacation so that the other citizens of the City of Salvation could get up close to the cultivators and interact with them. After all, it was one of the longstanding objectives of the cultivation world to normalize the existence of cultivators, and not have them be treated as entities to be mythologized or demonized.

That said, what made it slightly different from other universities on summer vacation is the fact that several students could still be seen in the vicinity, going about on their bicycles, each of which had a particular emblem on it.

“Eh, hang on.” Su Feng waved at one of them, and the bright-eyed student immediately came running over, “Good day, instructors!”

“Didn’t any of you go back home?” Su Feng asked curiously, “What’s going on?”

“Ah, it’s like this. The academy reminded everyone that none of the students are allowed to return home during the summer vacations. However, we are allowed to sign up and undertake internships at various cultivation units across the City of Salvation. There are close to four hundred cultivation units that have set up a satellite base in the City of Salvation over the last six month. They’re all located in the newly-minted cultivation district in the western part of the city. You can take a look around there.”

So that’s how it is. The three of them returned to the school, called Li Tao, Zhou Xianlong and Tao Ran to report back, and then returned to each their own room to continue with their cultivation.

Qin Ye leaned back on the bed, still somewhat sore and weary from being seated throughout the plane ride back. Then, he pulled out his phone and tapped on the ‘Slay’ app, where he caught up with the latest ongoings in the cultivation world. There wasn’t much news. In fact, the talk about the City of Salvation had dwindled substantially, and it was their publication that was still making waves throughout the cultivation world.

“Instructors from the First Academy of Cultivators, namely Qin Ye, Su Feng and Lin Han, have been invited to Eastsea for an academic exchange to discuss their publication on the evolution and development of Yin spirits. You may watch the full video of their discussions below. All rights reserved.” “The ten largest research institutions across Cathay intend to establish their own research facilities in the City of Salvation.” “The SRC’s findings on the latest insights on the evolution and development of Yin spirits are set out below…”

The last article must have been the work of Li Tao.

It was soon 6.00 p.m. Qin Ye’s stomach was just beginning to growl when his eyes suddenly shifted slightly.

It was now July. The weather couldn’t be considered at its hottest, and the early summer breeze was still somewhat cool and pleasant. However, despite the soft breeze, the windows suddenly slammed shut at the same time. Immediately following that, the lights in the room immediately fizzled and flickered, and then went out completely. Then, almost as soon as darkness engulfed the room, countless spots of netherflames flared up in the surroundings.

It was as though he had been transported to a pitch-black tomb in an instant, only to be surrounded by innumerable evil ghosts.

Then, a wisp of black smoke began to billow out of thin air, and a burning scent wafted about and lingered endlessly in the room. Qin Ye silently switched off his phone. But before he could even sit up, a snow-white blade light cleaved straight down towards his skull!

Yet he didn’t move a single muscle.

Arthis was playing games right beside Qin Ye all this while, and she didn’t even deign to look up from her screen - not even when the intense blade light swept past her hair and scattered it all over the place.

Shiing! The blade light was white as snow. In a flash, three katanas were pointed straight at Qin Ye’s chest, followed closely by the revealing of three dark figures who were standing around his bed.

Murai Sadakatsu, Mori Ranmaru... and the one in the middle was none other than Oda Nobunaga.

They no longer looked like the evil ghosts back at the battle on the Strait of Tsushima. Each of them had already reverted back to their former appearances in life. Apart from the two spots of blazing netherflames in their eyes, it was practically impossible to tell that they were evil spirits.

“Lord Nobunaga, what’s the meaning of this?” Qin Ye sighed softly. He knew it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

By his estimations, it wouldn’t take him more than a week to discover that something was amiss.

Why would Justice Bao’s messenger have to fly back to the City of Salvation in a plane? And then take a car to get to his destination?

Why doesn’t he simply take the mode of transportation used by Yin spirits, rather than ride the relatively less efficient modes of transportation of the mortal realm?

Moreover, he wouldn’t have encountered any Emissaries of Hell along the way. None of Hell’s forces would have appeared to obstruct his way or even verified his identity. Everything indicated that something was amiss. The fact that he was able to endure the peculiarities for such a long time without speaking a word of it was already somewhat commendable.

Whoosh… Oda Nobunaga’s katana bore an aura of frigidity. It hovered about dangerously across QIn Ye’s chest as Nobunaga spoke, “Give me one good reason not to kill you right now.”

Qin Ye smiled as he boldly pushed away the katana with a single finger, “You never had an intention of killing me, did you?”

“Hmm?”

“Because if you’d really wanted to take my life, you wouldn’t have done it in front of an Infernal Judge. That would be far too foolish. She would be able to raze you and your thousand remaining men to the ground without any issues at all. That said… and considering the circumstances, I accept your aggression.” Qin Ye stood up as though nothing had happened. As soon as he did, Mori Ranmaru and Murai Sadakatsu immediately backed off in unison, allowing Qin Ye to straighten his clothes and explain himself, “I do owe you an explanation. I was intending to tell you tonight at midnight, but… I suppose now is as good a time as ever.”

Oda Nobunaga slowly withdrew his katana, running his finger gently across the cold, gleaming blade as he smiled grimly, “How certain are you that I won’t kill you?”

Qin Ye chuckled softly, and didn’t even bother to respond to him.

Oda Nobunaga had nowhere else to go. As soon as he fell prey to Qin Ye’s trickeries, he was already dancing in the palm of his hand. No matter how dilapidated and rundown the new Hell was, it was undoubtedly still his only hope right now.

Qin Ye knew this. Furthermore, he knew that as long as he was able to convince Oda Nobunaga of his sincerity and show the prospects of growth in the new Hell, Oda Nobunaga would never hold it against him. In fact, Nobunaga would even do his best to help him fortify and consolidate the forces within the new Hell.

“Arakshasa.” Qin Ye nodded at Arthis, “Didn’t you say that we should make a visit to the old Hell? How does today sound to you?”

“I don’t see why today would be a bad day to go to Hell.” Arthis shut down her computer and gazed deeply at Oda Nobunaga, “You’re astute.”

“Had you shifted your blade even a millimeter closer to Qin Ye, you would’ve been dead by now.”

Mori Ranmaru and Murai Sadakatsu’s eyes flickered wildly, and they immediately motioned to brandish their katanas once more. Fortunately, Oda Nobunaga stood in front of them and held them back. Thus, they stood in silence and held their ground as the netherflames in their pupils blazed threateningly and intently.

“I’m a man who hates deception.” Oda Nobunaga stared at Arthis and licked his lips with a menacing smile, “Azai Nagamasa has deceived me, and that’s the reason he was put to death. If I find out that you’ve deceived me as well, I wouldn’t mind risking everything - even eternal death.”

He glanced out the window and scanned the vast campus grounds, “So, this is what you would call a private school after four centuries, huh… I can tell that you’re rather committed to this place right now. I wonder how this place would become if I just… gave the command for the rest of my Umamawari horse guards to ravage through these grounds…?”

Arthis’ body remained motionless, and yet her head tilted stiffly at a ninety-degree angle as she smiled at Oda Nobunaga with her black hair scattering about wildly, Yet, Oda Nobunaga simply smiled right back at her.

Talents… Qin Ye lamented - Perhaps all talents have the ability to remain unfazed even if Mount Tai collapses right in front of their faces. To think that he wouldn’t even flinch when confronted with the overbearing might of an advanced Infernal Judge. The sheer amount of courage and boldness he possesses is commendable.

Naturally, Qin Ye was also willing to extend a greater measure of indulgence to talents.

“Arakshasa.” He called out, “We’re all future colleagues over here. There’s no need to cause too much friction. Rather than to explain it with words, I think it would be best to let Lord Nobunaga see it with his own two eyes.”

It was only then that Arthis turned away with a sneer, and she began to make a series of quick hand seals. Within moments, a vast pressure abruptly permeated throughout the entire room, and a pitch-black crack suddenly appeared in the void in front of them. A lonely, desolate and broken wind swept out from the rift, incredibly eerie, and chilling to the marrows. Qin Ye took the lead and walked straight in.

His head spun for several moments. When he finally came to his senses, he discovered that his surroundings had changed, and it was completely pitch-black all around him.

It was a bleak and dreary darkness around him. Everything appeared to be an endless fog, and death and decay surrounded him, and even appeared to close in on him. The oppressive silence was stifling and heart-stopping.

It was like drifting about in the vast oceans endlessly.

It felt no different from walking through a boundless cemetery under the intent gaze of countless evil ghosts in the shadows.

“The Yellow Springs Road…” He looked at the roiling black fog that lingered endlessly in the area and sighed wistfully. It had been a year since he had last come here, and he never expected everything to still be in place, just as it had been before.

Whoosh… There was a soft, rippling sound beside him. Arthis, Oda Nobunaga and his two retainers had finally crossed the rift and arrived next to him.

“What terrifying Yin energy…” Oda Nobunaga drew a deep breath and closed his eyes, “But… the Yin energy contains no fluctuations whatsoever. It’s almost as though… it’s no different from a pool of dead waters?”

He opened his eyes wide and stared at the fog around him with great incredulity. And then, he gasped, “Could it be… that something has happened to the Cathayan underworld?!”

“Ssss…” “That’s… impossible…” Mori Ranmaru and Murai Sadakatsu exclaimed at the same time. As far as they could remember, the Cathayan underworld was the strongest underworld in their times. Every nation would bow down to the great banners of Hell, and Hell was known as the lands blessed by the gods! How could something have happened to an underworld as powerful as that?

Qin Ye looked at the Yin energy that surrounded him with a complicated gaze in his eyes. It was strange. Anxiety was the only emotion he experienced the last time he was here. Yet, to think that he would feel a hint of sadness and sorrow this time.

The glorious fires of Hell that had blazed for thousands of years on end had been extinguished by the fulfillment of the great promise of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Weren’t Buddhas supposed to be selfless? Or was it simply that… the end had finally come?

Whatever the case might be… it feels like a waste to me…

Just then, a bright luster suddenly erupted from his chest, and the Book of Life and Death suddenly flew above everyone like a bright lantern in the darkest night. The black-and-white light from the divine artifact glowed radiantly, and it immediately cleared away every bit of fog within a fifty-meter radius!

“Ah…” “This is…”

Ssss!! As the dark fog retreated, it revealed a handful of massive hill-sized figures that looked like insects that were scraping its sharp joints on the ground as it moved about. The sounds emitted were hair-raising.

“Echoing Worms.” Arthis explained indifferently, “They might look big, but they’re only Soul Hunters at best. You could consider it a Yin beast of the old Hell that is formed through the congealing of ten thousand souls. It’s incredibly sensitive to the existence of Yin spirits. As soon as it discovers the existence of an isolated Yin spirit, that Yin spirit is most certainly going to be devoured. Incidentally, it’s also one of the peripheral defense mechanisms of the old Hell.”

As soon as she finished speaking, her hair shot into the dark fog and promptly dragged out an Echoing Worm that was dozens of meters tall.

It looked like an arachnid, except that its upper body was shaped like a human being. Countless twisted and contorted Yin spirits were wrapped up with thin threads like cocoons and hung all over its body.

“Whenever a Yin spirit attempts to traverse the Yellow Springs Road, the Echoing Worm would always call on their names. As soon as they respond, they would immediately be dragged over by a thread of the Echoing Worm and rolled up into a cocoon, where it would be slowly digested as food and thereafter fuse with the Echoing Worm as part of its body. The records of the old Hell would reveal that there have been Echoing Worms as tall as fifty-two meters that have even begun to awaken their spiritual awareness.” Arthis’ voice deepened, “As far as these things are concerned, we can either completely destroy them, or transport and transplant them into the new Hell. Where we are standing is only a hundred meters away from the boundary between Yin and Yang. It would be a huge problem if these creatures were to escape from the old Hell and venture into the mortal realm…”

Just then, Qin Ye waved his hand. He was ostensibly surprised as he walked up to the Echoing Worm, “Do Echoing Worms… devour each other?”

“No… why do you ask that?” Arthis was somewhat baffled.

Qin Ye gasped, and then glanced warily about, “Then, tell me… where has the latter half of its body gone?”

“There’s… someone else around here?”

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