Qin Ye smiled faintly and took in the sight as the citizens’ clamorous voices filled the skies. He lowered his head slightly and whispered, “How was it? This political show of mine wasn’t too shabby, was it?”
Arthis’ voice echoed back through his mind, “It’s that, and more. I’d even go so far as to say that you’re a man born to thrive in politics. You were completely different from your usual self.”
Qin Ye smiled and withdrew his gaze.
That’s right… It really wasn’t bad. But… I still don’t think it’s enough!
There’s still one final act to this show of mine!
“Everyone.” His voice thundered through the skies once more, “Silence. Now, we proceed to the final item lined up for you in the divine artifact induction ceremony of ours.”
All of the Yin spirits quietened down in an instant, and they looked intently at Qin Ye with eyes ostensibly filled with great expectations. The induction ceremony had filled them with confidence and assurance, and they were more than eager to discover what else Qin Ye had in store for them. They couldn’t wait to find out what kind of earth-shattering impact the next item would bring to Hell.
Qin Ye allowed the citizens to stir slightly with anticipation before he finally continued, “Hell presently covers a very small area of approximately five square kilometers. That said, Hell’s domain is a variable that can be changed. Whenever we retrieve one of the major divine artifacts of Hell, or when Hell attains a certain level of development, it will automatically undergo a great transformation and expansion.”
Yin Xiangnan’s heart thumped wildly as soon as he heard this. Was Hell’s present domain considered large at all?
Perhaps it was, if it were made for the purposes of a single Yin spirit. But if it were to fit a hundred thousand Yin spirits, it would easily be considered far too small, and far too plain.
Yin Xiangnan had initially thought that this was it - there was nothing more to Hell as it stood. Hell’s style would stagnate like this forever, covered by the canopy of the dark skies, filled with spots of netherflames that drifted about the air endlessly and aimlessly, and buffeted by roaring nethergales that swept through Hell from time to time. And then, his worldview on this was shattered by a single statement from his all-too-reliable King Yanluo.
So… should I be hoping that Hell would soon transform so much that I could even hope to travel to different localities in future?
Would there be idyllic sceneries like mountains and rivers, or areas that provide an incredible vantage point over large plains of Hell?
He wasn’t the only one whose thoughts immediately wandered to these things. After all, most young people bore a certain inclination to adventure and predisposition to exploration, and their eyes naturally lit up as soon as they heard these news. Several of them looked up and gazed into the distant sky.
Qin Ye understood the bright glint in their eyes in an instant, and he promptly turned and nodded to Arthis, tacitly indicating that she should elaborate at this point in time. After all, such questions should be left to professionals with a wealth of personal experience under their belts.
The huge head floating in the sky nodded slightly and turned to the crowd, “Mortal realm Cathay has a plethora of sights and sounds to offer. So does Hell. Different cities have different sights, sounds and even unique cultures of their own. Where we are right now is merely the temporary capital of the new Hell. It’s presently located in the nether regions of the City of Salvation. As Hell expands, so will the number of cities under our central government, each of which occupies a place that corresponds to a different part of Cathay. Sights and sounds that you cannot even begin to fathom will soon appear in Hell, one by one. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ so much as it is a matter of ‘when’.”
Then, as though ruminating about the past, she gazed into the distant sky and continued, “When the old Hell first expanded into the region of Qufu, ten thousand plaques emerged from the ground naturally, all of which were formed by rolls of bamboo scrolls. At that time, the second King Yanluo of Hell personally named the region the hometown of Confucius, and it eventually came to be known as the East Mountain Province’s most famous sight - the Bamboo Court of Confucius. The entire sight spanned an area as large as fifty-thousand square feet.”
“Then, when the old Hell expanded into the Southriver Province, a lake spanning a million meters across from length to length appeared from nowhere. There were even mountains extending out of various parts of the lake, while the rest of the majestic lake appeared so still and tranquil that it looked no different from a massive mirror. It was named the Mirror Mirage. It was a mystical realm altogether, something that one could never see back in the mortal realm.”
“... And when Hell expanded to the Yellow River basin, the ground quaked violently, and five massive rifts appeared in the ground, each layer sinking lower than the other, forming a thousand-meter wide cascading waterfall that spanned a height of three hundred and forty-two meters altogether. A five-tier cascading waterfall as grand as that can never be found anywhere back in the mortal realm. Even Infernal Judges who stand in front of such a cosmic sight would feel as insignificant as a speck of dust.”
“... And when Hell expanded into the reaches of Jiuzhai, it actually created… a fairyland in Hell. It was paradise - the only place in Hell that resembled the most idyllic scenery back in the mortal realm. There was a nine-coloured lake where nine-coloured divine deers lived and pranced about. Each mountain in the region had a slightly different hue of colour from the other… And this is not to mention the valley located in Rich Province known as ‘Nineteenth Abyss of Punishment’, Southskirt Province’s ‘District of Three Realms’, and the famous ‘Immortal Ice’ of the three eastern provinces… The sights and sounds, and specialty produce of each area of Hell would be completely different from that of the mortal realm.”
The breaths of the Yin spirits below grew hot and fiery in an instant.
Man feared the unknown, yet they also enjoyed mulling over the possibilities as well.
Arthis paused for a moment, and her voice grew somewhat stern and somber, “Right now, the induction of the first divine artifact of Hell also marks the first great expansion of Hell! Everyone… don’t be alarmed. This might well be a sight which you might behold only once in your entire afterlife… not even I had the privilege of personally witnessing it back then…”
Everyone was silent.
All that was left was the rapid, ragged breaths of Yin spirits around, because they all saw it - just as Arthis was wrapping up, the entire new Hell trembled softly, and a line of mysterious golden Sanskrit scriptures suddenly ran out from her body like a ribbon that swiftly sped to the Book of Life and Death that was perched right above Hell’s Gate, where Ming Shiyin was. In that instant, the borders of Hell that used to be sequestered by walls of dense Yin energy suddenly began boiling!
“Haa--!!” Arthis cried out softly, and the Book of Life and Death instantly erupted with a great explosion of incomparably dense Yin energy. Qin Ye whipped his head around in surprise, only to realize that the density of this wave of Yin energy was so thick it was practically mind-numbing!
Not because it was copious, but because of the sheer quality of Yin energy that was pouring out!
Thus far, the strongest source of Yin energy he had experienced was that which flowed from the body of the Harken. Yet, to think that the quality of Yin energy that flowed from the Book of Life and Death was even purer than that of the Harken - and by a mile at that!
Ka-ka-ka-ka-ka… A deafening buzz could be heard from the borders of Hell. And then, slowly but surely, the walls of Yin energy began to recede. Then, a second later, the Book of Life and Death suddenly erupted with a golden light that was brighter and more dazzling than ever before. In fact, it was so bright that it simply forced all of the Yin spirits to close their eyes.
If one were to say that the brilliance of the Book of Life and Death earlier were akin to the rising sun in the east, then the explosion of light right now would be akin to the intense light energy bursting forth from the singularity when the big bang occurred. It was on a completely different level!
The dazzling light was fleeting. But when the light faded away, and Qin Ye slowly lowered his hands from his eyes with a deep breath, he soon discovered that… the only sight that he could see was completely pale in colour.
It was as though he had opened his eyes, only to discover that he was the only one remaining in the entire world. His surroundings were filled with roiling clouds of Yin energy that slowly swirled and sloshed about like an ocean tide. Thunder rumbled in the distance, as though something were looming far away from him.
“Don’t be nervous.” Arthis’ voice resounded in his mind, “The divine light from the Book of Life and Death will sweep through Hell and breach the Yin energy barriers that demarcate the borders of Hell. The entire process takes approximately twenty minutes. Then, as Hell grows in size, from a county to a city, and then to the size of a province, each expansion can take longer periods of time, ranging from a few days to possibly even a month…”
Just then, both Qin Ye and Arthis abruptly paused and looked up with great astonishment.
No… Something’s not right!
Something in the black mist… is staring intently at us!
Just a moment ago, when the Book of Life and Death erupted with brilliance, they sensed something awakening… albeit with great difficulty. Furthermore, they could tell that this entity that had just awoken was staring intently at them.
“This Yin energy… This is… this is…” Even Ming Shiyin couldn’t prevent his teeth from chattering this very instant, “This is… Lord Harken?!”
“Oh shit…” Arthis gasped as her hair stood on end, “Lord Harken would only awaken if it senses the presence of high-quality Yin energy… It must have detected the return of the Book of Life and Death, and it must have done everything he could to arouse from its deep slumber…”
Qin Ye could feel his scalp go numb in an instant. How terrifying was the Harken?! Having faced it once, he never wanted to face it ever again. Yet, to think that he would suddenly awaken now, of all times!
Its Yin energy signature was all too familiar to him. It was overbearing, almost as though it bore a sense of invincibility. And yet, it was clear that the Harken hadn’t quite detected their presence just yet. It was simply searching frantically!
“What’s it trying to do?” His throat felt parched, and he fidgeted about uneasily, bracing himself to return to the mortal realm at a moment’s notice, “Is it… attempting to confront us?”
Clearly, nobody was watching him right now, so there was no reason to keep up with the pretenses and maintain a calm appearance at all!
“Do you think you’d be able to escape?” Arthis sneered, “We’re currently seizing Lord Harken’s Yin energy. Based on our previous estimates, he should only have reawakened at least five hundred years later, or even eight hundred years later if we’re lucky. It’s definitely mad at us. So, rather than run, why don’t we confront it directly?”
“... Sorry, I just recalled that I’ve got some stew that’s boiling on the stove at home. Unfortunately, my home isn’t covered by insurance, so I think I’ll have to make a move first…” With that, Qin Ye began to operate the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal in his hand.
But before it could even take effect, a series of golden eyes suddenly appeared in the black fog around without any warning. If not for the fact that they were staring intently at him, he would’ve thought that they appeared no different from the bright stars in the sky.
“There’s no escaping now.” With a sigh, Arthis’ hair shot out of the roiling black fog and bound Qin Ye up, “The gap between us and Lord Harken is far too great. If Lord Harken is willing to pay the price for it, he’d still be able to squash us like ants even if we were hiding back in the mortal realm. Death would occur in the blink of an eye. Besides… we’ll have to trash things out with Lord Harken sooner or later, so why don’t we bite the bullet and deal with it now? After all… the risk is far lower right now.”
“You call this low-risk?! Not by my standards! Dear, please hear me out… if you can’t beat them, then there’s nothing better to do than to run like the wind--... Holy crap! What are you doing?! You--...”
Before he could finish speaking, the hair that was wrapped around his body tugged hard at him, and his entire being sank straight into the depths of Hell.
He wasn’t even given the time to curse out loud. Violent wind rushed past his ears as he sank straight into the abysses of Hell, almost as though he had descended through the eighteen levels of Hell in just an instant. Then, when he finally stopped, he was already back in the space right below where Hell was located.
“I’ll be damned! You’re going to be the death of me one day!!!” Qin Ye’s spine was numb with a frigid sensation. He gritted his teeth and cursed at Arthis as he glanced nervously about his surroundings.
There wasn’t any fog of Yin energy around him.
A plot of dark and dreary land that was ostensibly the new Hell hovered right above his head, while the endless wisps of Yin energy that rose from below and were assimilated into Hell like the convergence of multiple streams into a massive up-falling waterfall.
Countless streaks of netherflames surged through these streams of Yin energy like ribbons of light, painting the up-falling waterfall in brilliant colours. From time to time, the illusory figures of Yin spirits would peek out from the surface of these streams, moaning and groaning as though they were suffering in pain. The entire space they were in looked no different from the deepest Abyss of Punishment. It sent chills down Qin Ye’s spine.
Yet, perhaps what was most terrifying was the fact that a murderous gaze immediately locked right onto them the moment they appeared. And then, it was followed by a soft rustling sound, almost as though someone were jangling its armor.
But Qin Ye knew better - it was the rustle of Lord Harken’s scales…
He gulped nervously, took a deep breath then looked down with great trepidation.
It looked like an ocean of Yin energy below, except that the Harken lay sprawling in the middle of everything, almost akin to a majestic dragon. Its body would emit copious amounts of Yin energy from time to time, most of which would end up being absorbed by Hell, which lay above it. The Harken had already awakened from its slumber at some point in time, and it was presently staring intently at Qin Ye and Arthis with its golden eye.
Qin Ye could feel his throat dry up even more. He plastered a flattering smile across his face, and then he waved stiffly at the Harken, “Hi?”
ROAR!!! The Harken responded with an infuriated roar, causing the ocean of Yin energy below to quake violently, scattering Yin energy everywhere like a chaotic volcanic eruption. Innumerable spots of netherflames flickered and even went out in an instant. But, immediately following that, the Harken coughed violently, and its body which it had painstakingly propped up earlier crashed straight into the ground once more.
“ARAKSHASA!!!” A domineering voice thundered with fury as the Harken glared murderously at them, “You’re an Infernal Judge of Hell! How dare you sneak up on a divine beast of Hell like that?! Aren’t you afraid of being punished by King Yanluo himself?!”
2. Referring to an idyllic location in China called Jiuzhaigou. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiuzhaigou