The plane flew across the sky in the beautiful parabola, heading straight from the City of Salvation to Hale Province.
“Instructor Qin, you don’t look so well.” A voice called out from beside Qin Ye. He turned his head, only to realize it was Li Jixi.
Qin Ye discreetly shifted his body to keep some distance between them. His wealth of life experiences taught him to pick up information from the slightest of subtleties. Even though Professor Li was conversing with him very casually, he couldn’t help but intuitively feel as though Professor Li was slowly but surely drawing closer to him.
“Would you like some coffee to perk up your spirits?” Li Jixi asked with concern. This was a chartered flight, and they could call for service from the flight attendants at any point in time.
“There’s no need. I’ll be fine after some rest.” Qin Ye smiled faintly, and then closed his eyes to catch some rest. He wasn’t willing to say any more than that either.
Anyone who had spent an entire week learning a new technique from scratch without rest would naturally be just as tired as Qin Ye, if not more.
Fortunately, his efforts weren’t in vain. The gruelling week had seen his internalization of his very first Hell’s Arts, the Yoke of Five Ghosts.
The name of this technique sounded simple and basic. In fact, it was in some ways rather similar to the summoning technique of the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts. The only difference was that the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts required fostered ghosts, failing which the user would run the risk of being afflicted with a backlash of the technique. After all, it was part of a ghost’s innate desire to lust for flesh and thirst for blood, just as much as a human needed food and water. Pushing the ghosts too far would easily result in the ghosts turning against the user.
The second difference lay in the fact that the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts can only be given a single command - and that was to gather and bless the user with great fortune. On the other hand, there wasn’t any risk of backlash with the Yoke of Five Ghosts. As an Emissary of Hell, the ghosts would never turn against him to begin with. Furthermore… the five Yin spirits yoked would all be imbued with spiritual awareness, almost akin to a quasi-spiritual entity. As long as they remained yoked to Qin Ye, they would never devolve into the state of a mere wandering spirit.
And since the Yin spirits possessed spiritual awareness, they could be tasked to do a great multitude of things.
Lastly, the Five Wealth-Generating Ghosts were in fact incredibly inefficient in transporting money. The name itself might sound cool, but the truth of the matter is that they were only able to pick up about a hundred RMB a day or so. Furthermore, they could never seize the money of others, because that would entail picking up money that had changed hands several times and was tainted with Yang energy. The ghosts would dissipate into thin air as soon as they touched it.
Fostering ghosts was a process that required well over ten years, and yet the only monthly payout was no more than three thousand RMB?
The input was completely disproportionate to the eventual output…
The first thing I’ll have to do when I arrive at Hale Province is to pick out five Yin spirits. Qin Ye thought to himself.
Then, ten minutes after Li Jixi went silent, Qin Ye opened his eyes once more and began to look through the information available to him.
“The destination is New Hale City, one fo the localities with the highest occurrences of supernatural incidents, second only to the provincial capital when it comes to the number of refugees they have taken in. Our goal is to resolve twelve emerging hunting zones, D-72 through to D-84, as well as purge all other Yin spirits in the vicinity.” He adjusted his glasses and read softly to himself, “Accompanying students… Wang Cheng Hao, Ye Xingchen? What are they doing in there?”
“I don’t know any of the others…”
Seeing that Qin Ye was absorbed in his work, Li Jixi stood up, walked to the lavatory and shut the door promptly.
However, he didn’t need to use the bathroom. As soon as he closed the door, he pulled out a notebook and began to jot down some notes.
“Extremely vigilant and wary.” He thought for a moment, and then supplemented his initial impression, “Focus on subject Wang Chenghao. He should be the key to unlocking this puzzle.”
“It’s strange. From the records, it seems almost as though Wang Chenghao was the first person in the world to have met Instructor Qin. Prior to that, it seems that Instructor Qin had merely been running a coffin store back in Clear Creek County, and nobody can tell us where he comes from. Additionally, there are no records of Instructor Qin taking a train or a plane prior to his arrival at the City of Salvation. Conjecture: The purchase of train or plane tickets requires the verification of identity. Is… he covering his tracks?”
He paused for a moment and deliberated over what he had written. Then, he cancelled the statement “first person in the world to have met Instructor Qin”, and amended it to “first person to have been documented with Instructor Qin”. Then, he murmured to himself, “Ordinary human beings would generally prefer time and cost savings, but Instructor Qin appears to go against the grain of the norm. This was why there were no records of his existence until his ‘debut’ in Clear Creek County. He must have been deliberately avoiding all places that would leave traces of his existence. Yet, the fact that he has managed to keep such clean records all this while tells me that he’s no ordinary eighteen years-old teen…”
“The more I think about it, the more I’m certain that I’m on the right track. After all, you’re just far too incongruous with who you make yourself out to be…”
Whoosh! After several hours of internal flight, the plane finally landed and taxied into the airport. Qin Ye and Li Jixi were the first to disembark, followed quickly by the ten excited students who were all dressed in their camouflage uniforms.
After boarding the bus, Qin Ye glanced about the students with an eagle eye, “Let me reiterate this once more. I don’t want any casualties, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be blocking every single blow on your behalf. The academy’s intentions have been made clear to you from the onset - the strength of a cultivator is built on the foundation of spilt blood. Once we arrive in New Hale City, all who disobey the instructions of Professor Li or myself shall immediately be repatriated back to the City of Salvation. Is that understood?”
“Understood!!” Ten students dressed in their uniforms bellowed back with great excitement.
After all, how could they not be excited about the first proper mission that they had been entrusted with?
Qin Ye nodded in satisfaction, and then lowered his eyes to observe his surroundings.
His first impression was that the atmosphere was tense.
They had taken a special route that led them straight from the airport to the deployment area where their chartered transport was waiting for them. They were currently located at Hale Province’s capital, Triton City, while their destination, the New Hale City, was located at the easternmost part of Hale Province. Most of the personnel deployed to support Hale Province transited at the airport, so they could see more than a dozen jeeps parked in the distance waiting for them, and an endless stream of military personnel flowing to and from the special route they had earlier taken.
A single change in shift saw the exchange of dozens of personnel. This was testament to just how bad the situation at Hale Province truly was.
In fact, Qin Ye could see that many of these personnel plying the special route even bore the emblem of the Special Investigations Department, and even the SRC. There were even some who were wearing white lab coats, and had emblems that he didn’t recognize at all.
In fact, the number of emblem-bearing personnel weren’t small, and they accounted for approximately 20% of the stream of cultivators around. That said, the true energy in the region was very thin, and it was apparent to Qin Ye that most of the cultivators weren’t even in the Operative-class level. Naturally, given that Li Jixi and his cultivation were the highest of all present, they were instantly cast into the spotlight as soon as they got off the plane.
“That’s the United Medical Department, a newly formed division.” Li Jixi explained with a faint smile on his face, “It was only a few years back that the fate of all who were possessed by evil spirits was to slowly wait for death. But since then, with the aid of painstaking research, we discovered that evil spirits can only possess a person by extinguishing the three fires over the human body through the power of scaring, suggestion and intimidation. As long as a person remains impervious to these measures, the Yin spirits would have no avenue to take possession of a human body.”
He gently rolled up the window in their transport vehicle, “The purpose of the United Medical Department is to encourage the rekindling of the three fires of life through the power of psychological suggestion. It might seem ridiculous, but this solution is actually incredibly effective. It was founded earlier this year, not long after the inauguration of the First Academy of Cultivators, and its main focus is in the field of psychology. Following their establishment, most regular schools have now incorporated psychology as a part of their curriculum. The upper echelons of the government have also rolled out policies in order to support these initiatives.”
He rolled the windows back up and turned to Qin Ye with a smile, “Was Instructor Qin oblivious to all these developments? As a cultivator, it’s part of your duty to keep with the times.”
Qin Ye smiled back, and then promptly shut his eyes as though he were resting.
Is he suggesting that all practitioners ought to be concerned with the developments of the system around, and it’s not normal that I’m not as invested in these matters?
Zhou Xianlong should be the one leading the team, so why did Li Jixi suddenly come into the picture? Am I being too sensitive? Or is this person… truly interested in learning more about me?
They remained silent for the rest of the journey. The transport they were on didn’t enter the city directly. Instead, it simply got onto the national highway. Hale Province was filled with grasslands. The rolling hills and grasslands appeared to set everyone’s heart at ease. In fact, this was probably the first time seeing such rolling plains for many of the students, and they couldn’t help but gasp and cheer with exhilaration.
Several hours later, the vehicle finally pulled into New Hale City, and it didn’t take long before everyone began to glance around with a heavy look on their faces.
It was 7.00 p.m.
The sky turned dark earlier in the northern parts of Cathay, and there wasn’t a single soul in sight on the dimly lit streets.
The city was devoid of the usual vibrant neon signs in most other cities. In fact, even the restaurants, KTVs and shopping malls which would have been bustling with activity earlier in the day were now completely silent and still.
The largest landmarks and shopping malls were only lit by the dim glow of the street lights around. From a distance, the blockish buildings appeared no different from… a series of standing coffins.
Not a single soul could be seen in sight. If one listened closely enough, they might just be able to hear the sorrowful wind whistling along the grasslands, almost as though it were weeping.
Only the residential neighbourhoods in the city remained well-lit. But, even then, the stores in these neighbourhoods were all shut tight, while the doors to each residence in the area would invariably be decorated with things commonly used to ward off evil spirits.
And there was also the usual broadcast of announcements…
Everyone knew the drill by now. All cities that have seen a rise in supernatural incidents of late would naturally be on the receiving end of the publicly broadcasted announcement. In this regard, more than 85% of the cities in Cathay would hear the very same announcement being played in their cities right now.
Anyone who entered one of these cities at night would only feel a stifling oppression about them, almost as though the darkness were closing in on them. All cultivators would inexorably notice unclean entities suddenly flickering in the shadows. And even if they didn’t, they would still be able to detect unclean presences in the darkness, laying silently as they watched their prey intently.
It was no different from the silence of a graveyard.
If they didn’t know any better, they wouldn’t have guessed that this city was the home to hundreds of thousands of people.
Their vehicle turned the corner again. From time to time, they would see a group of five cultivators patrolling the streets in the dark. They were part of the supernatural police force established by the Special Investigations Department of every major city, and also the only living persons that would be seen in the streets of these cities as soon as the supernatural broadcasts began. That said, the sparse deployment of troops was hardly sufficient to maintain the order in a city occupying 145 square kilometers.
Their presence was nothing more than a feeble consolation.
The desolate sight tugged powerfully at Qin Ye’s heartstrings. He had never expected his short six month stint at the First Academy of Cultivators thus far would translate to such earth-shattering developments in the rest of Cathay. Everything happening right now… was indirectly caused by Hell.
After all, if Hell was around, there was no doubt that the New Hale City would still be revelling in song and dance as night-life continued to escalate to its peak. Restaurants would be filled with families, while friends would be singing at the top of their voices at KTVs. Even the schools would still be well-lit at night, filled with vibrant, youthful students who were catching up on their studies and homework in their classrooms.
But now, everything was silent and dead.
“Sigh…” He sighed wistfully and shut his eyes.
He didn’t want to see anymore.
Did he not wish that Hell could immediately expand to the size of the entire nation, and resolve all supernatural incidents once and for all? Unfortunately, dreams were different from reality.
Given the present rate of escalation, it wouldn’t be long before Cathay finally came clean to its citizens.
The three jeeps carrying them were all completely silent. Some of the students were filled with righteous indignation, while others simply gazed into the distance with tightly pursed lips. The muscles on their faces twitched slightly as they thought about the days they had spent back in the First Academy of Cultivators, when worry seemed to be a thing of the past, and the supernatural outbreak in Cathay seemed so far away.
“It is a cultivator’s duty to place others before themselves.” Ye Xingchen clenched his fists tightly as he gazed into the deep darkness outside.
“Soon. I’ll learn what I can, and then I’ll return to New Hale City!” Wang Chenghao gritted his teeth.
The front car’s dazzling headlights lit up the path ahead of them. Then, when they finally made the next turn, everyone’s eyes suddenly lit up.
Because they had finally entered a well-lit neighbourhood.
There were countless dazzling lights all around them, numbering well in the region of a hundred thousand! They had entered a zone that was no different from a beacon of hope in the middle of the night!Previous Chapter Next Chapter