Several instructors bowed their heads in shame.
“Alright, Old Zhou.” Li Tao saw that the point had already been driven home, and he stood up to play the good cop, "As mentioned earlier, we’ve given you the lowdown on what has occurred. The bottom-line is that you don’t need to concern yourselves about these things. After much deliberation, the academy has come to the conclusion that we cannot afford to go on sheltering the students like this. After all, a belly-full of knowledge isn’t going to save them on the battlefield.”
“We have to prepare their hearts and their minds as well. All theoretical knowledge is only as useful as their practical application. Yin spirits can show up at any time and in any form. The academy’s leadership has concluded that we’ve gone too easy on everyone over the last teaching semester.”
He took a sip of his tea, “However, we, too, are figuring our way out as we cross this river together. As soon as we discover mistakes, we correct our methods and continue to forge forwards. In future, I’d like everyone to consciously imbibe these students with the duties and obligations of becoming cultivators, and share with them more on the thoughts and emotions running through your minds at the earlier stages of your career, as well as drop hints on the current situation plaguing the rest of Cathay… I can almost guarantee that after the supernatural outbreak at the three eastern provinces, the situation is only going to get worse.”
“Let the country deal with its citizens' outcry and thoughts. All you need to think about is how to impart the students with a firm foundation of solid theories, immovable conviction, and a powerful cultivation.”
He cleared his throat, “With that, I shall now announce the assessment conditions for the second phase of the instructors’ evaluation. The coming phase shall determine the number of associate professors to be appointed at the end of the two years’ course. Do take note that the assessment conditions to be announced will also be applicable for the next year and a half. During this time, unless one is able to produce and publish a paper that attracts widespread attention like the one Instructor Qin did, everyone shall strictly be assessed in accordance with the conditions I am about to disclose.”
This was the position of Associate Professor - one that gave rise to the substantial privilege of a 30% discount on all transactions! The teaching credits I have... Although Qin Ye had already embarked on his road to riches, he still couldn’t help but smack his lips at the thought of such immense wealth that accompanied professorship.
I can’t afford to stick out too much in the upcoming semester… One final push, complete these two years in an uneventful manner, trade in all my teaching credits for resources, and run like the wind… That said, I can’t help but feel like the Albatross Division will eventually come onto me… Qin Ye’s heart was plagued by a series of conflicting thoughts.
Li Tao looked at everyone and continued to announce in a deep voice, “Moving forward, all students graduating from the First Academy of Cultivators shall be classified in grades ranging from A through to D. The assessment of instructors will take place shortly before their graduation, and shall be dependent on which faculties have the most A-grade students, the overall performance of the individual instructors, as well as how the students view their instructors.”
“Your usual performance will also be graded by the students. The points accumulated will be considered bonus points that will also be taken into account during your final assessment.” Zhou Xianlong waved a form in his hand, “An instructor may be stellar, but as far as we’re concerned, he is only as good as he is an effective teacher. Therefore, the second phase of the assessment is largely student-oriented. An instructor’s individual performance is going to be only of secondary importance. Any objections?”
Of course not!
Many instructors couldn’t help but turn back to glance enviably at Qin Ye. None of us can hold a candle to Qin Ye when it comes to an instructor’s individual performance after all…
Qin Ye’s lips felt incomparably dry. Bloody hell… why does it feel like they’re reading my thoughts?!
He had started the first semester with a bang because he had wanted to secure an insurmountable lead for himself on this road to riches. But now, it was clear that the change in rules once again endangered his plans to squirrel away the treasures of the Great Dipper Vault for himself!
That said, it was a good thing that Qin Ye didn’t need any resources urgently right now. Otherwise, the two principals would have completely destroyed him with this sudden change of plans.
Just as his heart began to thump wildly, Xu Anguo suddenly interjected with a sonorous voice, “Instructor Qin, do you have any objections?”
“Huh? Not at all. I fully support the academy’s decision.” Qin Ye responded with a helpless look on his face.
Then, he suddenly sensed a gaze sweeping over his entire body.
It was fleeting, but… deep.
Fast like a gust of wind, but incisive like a sharp blade that penetrated his marrows.
“Since there aren’t any objections, then this meeting is adjourned.” Li Tao stood up, “Everyone, I imagine you’ll have to rejig your lesson plans a little to provide some further guidance on the points earlier raised. I’ll make an announcement later to push back the start of the incoming school term slightly. The next semester shall officially start the day after tomorrow. Work hard, everyone.”
With that, everyone departed.
And since everyone departed, naturally nobody noticed Zhou Xianlong walking towards a door located at the side of the lecture hall.
The door was unusual. There was a curtain drawn over the door, and the door directly faced the entire lecture hall. As soon as Zhou Xianlong drew the curtains, it revealed that there was actually another man standing right behind the curtains.
He was a short man, with an unattractive appearance. In fact, he appeared so ordinary and unassuming that there was simply no better way to describe him.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the legendary Albatross Division in action.” Zhou Xianlong sighed with great emotion, while the other man smiled genially as he pulled a thin face-hugging mask off his face, “Not quite.”
“Oh?” Zhou Xianlong raised an eyebrow, “Then, at least I’ve seen your figure. That’s something that can’t be--...”
Before he could even finish speaking, the man’s bones suddenly clicked, and his arm suddenly elongated itself. The man’s voice even changed from that of a mature man to a young boy, “It’s bone shrinkage skills yo~! Something I’ve been practicing since I’ve been a kid~.”
Zhou Xianlong shook his head with resignation and applauded that man. After some time, the smile on his face faded away, and he got straight to the topic at hand, “Are you certain?”
“Not really…” The other man sighed, “The only thing that I’m certain about is that the man in the photograph resembles Instructor Qin. However… I didn’t detect any remnants of his true energy on the entire cruise ship at all.”
Zhou Xianlong furrowed his brows, “Then, doesn’t that prove he didn’t...”
“It doesn’t prove anything.” The man responded indifferently, “If he was indeed on the cruise ship, and there wasn’t a single trace of true energy about him, then… that would be most frightening indeed.”
Zhou Xianlong was slightly taken aback, and then his expression grew grave and somber.
“Speaking of which, I do find him somewhat out of the ordinary.” The man rubbed his chin, “The arts he practices are very peculiar. I’ve never heard of something like that before. Furthermore… a Soul Hunter at the age of eighteen is truly out of the world. And what makes that all the more frightening is the fact that he’s simply a rogue cultivator. This… borders on impossibility.”
The man continued, “But… he still has a shadow about him.”
Zhou Xianlong nodded.
The man spoke in a deep voice, “And that’s what puzzles me the most. If the man in the photograph is truly Instructor Qin, then what exactly does that make him? If not for the fact that the eruption of Yin energy at the Strait of Tsushima was so important, the Albatross Division would never be investigating a living human being, no matter how suspicious he might be.”
“After all, it’s an ironclad rule that the Yin and the Yang can never coexist. No living person would possibly be in cahoots with Yin spirits.”
Zhou Xianlong grew taciturn as he considered the facts before him. After some time, he probed, “Then, what about you guys?”
“Guardian Auctions’ grandmaster of the house and second-in-charge are already in the sights of the Albatross.” There was a cold gleam in his eyes, “Unfortunately, their memory was altered by the Incense of Paramnesia. No, rather, the memory of all who were present on that ship that day have been altered by the Incense of Paramnesia. Furthermore, all of the surveillance cameras have been completely smashed to smithereens. There are even traces of Hellguard-class Yin spirits on the ship. To make matters worse, I’ve never seen Hellguard-class Yin spirits as strong as these. And they’re not even Cathayan Yin spirits to boot. The entire cruise ship was nearly destroyed by these Yin spirits.”
“That’s a major setback.” Zhou Xianlong frowned deeply, “It’s going to take at least four to five years to reverse the effects of the Incense of Paramnesia. And if we’re unlucky, it might even take ten full years.”
The man shook his head and swept his gaze across the empty tiered lecture hall in front of him with a bright gleam in his eyes, “Mr Zhou… The fact that the Incense of Paramnesia was used means that someone is trying to hide something. The question is… who?”
“The fact that he was able to compel the lighting of the incense without proper authorization from the authorities means that this man possesses a special identity - one that is so special that he would even go so far as to break the law just to conceal all truth about it.”
The man paced up and down as he continued speaking, “Guardian Auctions have conducted an auction on the cruise liner. According to their website, the auction involved the national treasure known as the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl. The bowl went missing after the incident. Furthermore…”
He took a deep breath, “There were forty-seven main seats placed in the auction hall, while only one seat’s owner wasn’t on board the cruise liner at the material times!”
“When we received the distress signal from the cruise liner, and the search and rescue team finally arrived on scene, we found only forty-six members who would have qualified for these seats!”
“The missing person… must have been among the VIP black card members of Guardian Auctions. Otherwise, he could never be provided a seat at the auction that was conducted.” The man’s eyes narrowed as he continued, “He must have been the one that compelled everyone to light the Incense of Paramnesia… In other words, he was the only one who wasn’t affected by the incense, and who had retained his memory of the entire incident! He’s the only person who can tell us what happened at the Strait of Tsushima!”
Zhou Xianlong pondered for a moment, “Wasn’t it said that there are still three others who have retained their memories?”
The man chuckled bitterly, “The three other persons are completely out of our reach. Mitsubishi immediately sent over a nascent Judge-class expert to rebuff our attempts, while approaching Mount Koya… would be completely overstepping the authority extended to us. Besides, they won’t tell us anything. They’ll simply dismiss our questions by saying that they don’t know, and that they had fainted at the material times.”
“Otherwise, did you really think that I would be desperate enough to make the trip down to the First Academy of Cultivators to investigate Instructor Qin?” The man sighed as he pulled out the picture and scrutinized it once more.
The photograph in his hand had been captured by satellite in the early parts of the morning.
It was an image of a room, revealing Qin Ye’s face as he peeked out of the windows and watched the sunrise over the seas.
All it showed was a partial view of his face in the slit between the curtains. However, everything that was shown looked to be an exact match with Qin Ye’s facial features.
“And what about the Strait of Tsushima? Have you guys sent anyone to check out those parts yet?” Zhou Xianlong looked at the photograph with a complicated gaze in his eyes.
“We’ve sent people. We should be hearing from them today.” The man put away the photograph. Then, before he could go on, his phone suddenly rang.
“Speak of the devil.” He waved his phone in front of Zhou Xianlong, “I’ll apprise you of the results in a little while.”
He turned around, plugged in his earbuds, and answered the call.
However, a second later, his expression suddenly went blank.
Moments later, he suddenly pulled out his earbuds and rushed out of the room. Zhou Xianlong’s eyes flickered, and he immediately held the man back.
“What’s going on?”
“Something’s happened.” The man gritted his teeth, “Mr Zhou, please keep a close eye on Instructor Qin. I must make a trip to the Strait of Tsushima myself… And if there are still no leads by next semester, I’ll personally make the trip down again.”
Strait of Tsushima.
An eerie nethergale swept across the surface of the waters, right over where innumerable dead fish were floating and drifting about endlessly. Even though it had already been a month since the battle at the Strait of Tsushima, the entire strait still appeared to be a forbidden zone for the living. Any fish that unknowingly swam over would immediately flip over and die, while all passing ships would instantly turn into ghost ships. All surrounding nations have already labelled the strait as a forbidden zone for the living.
That said, that didn’t mean that the sea was completely desolate and devoid of any beings.
The time now was 6.00 p.m.
The setting sun cast a stifling, golden sheen across the surface of the waters, while countless scarlet netherflames suddenly lit up in the roiling clouds of Yin energy drifting about the waters. Immediately after that, countless skeletal hounds with turquoise netherflames blazing from within their bones and scarlet pupils appeared as mysteriously as the sweeping nethergales as they began to scour the entire district for signs.
It was impossible to commit a deed without leaving any traces behind.
It didn’t matter whether the deed was a good or a bad one. As long as it had been done, there would indubitably be traces. Everything that happened from now on was completely outside of Qin Ye’s control. The butterfly effect was slowly beginning to unravel.
The might of Justice Bao’s display of authority and the presence of the Book of Life and Death were each on its own sufficient to shake up the entire East Continent.
Sniff… sniff… The skeletal hounds spread across the surface of the waters like a tide, growing larger and larger in number by the minute. They emerged from the Strait of Tsushima, and slowly expanded their search in the direction of Nippon and Daehan. But just as they were about to reach the Pusan waters, a ghostly netherflame suddenly erupted, instantly reducing all of the approaching skeletal hounds to dust and ashes.
“Which daolord approaches? Don’t you think you’re undermining the authority of I, Liu Yu?” A faint voice echoed through the dark surroundings, accompanied by a chorus of endless ghostly cries. Soon afterwards, the surface of the seas began to stir violently.
Whoosh… An endless nethergale picked up and blew in the direction of Pusan. Likewise, a massive cloud of Yin energy surged from the heart of Pusan and drifted over in the direction of the Strait of Tsushima. Within moments, a cacophony of horse neighing echoed throughout the desolate surroundings, and thousands of Yin soldiers wearing ancient Cathayan armor and riding bone horses began to emerge from the roiling dark clouds like a grand tsunami.
All of the soldiers were skeletons.
Completely intact skeletons, with their hair tied up in an ancient Cathayan bun, and wielding long spears in their hands. Gradually, they rode into formation and formed a massive wall of Yin soldiers, before finally stopping on the sea, directly in front of where Pusan was located.
After an inordinate amount of time, a voice finally rang out from the darkness behind, “So… it’s actually Emperor Wu of Song…”
“It seems like Lord Ksitigarbha didn’t whisk you remnant feudal officials off to paradise after all… But it’s just as well. It’s always easier to correspond with an acquaintance…”
“Liu Yu, do you remember me? I hope I didn’t scare you back then, when I was screaming and wailing under the path of the asura.”
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