The roaring sounds of the furnace were hardly noisy. Rather, they even sounded somewhat orderly.
Just as everyone was gandering at the colossal furnace in amazement, the Harken sculptures on the walls of the cavern suddenly opened up their mouths, and long wooden tongues slowly extended outwards, landing precisely onto the stone tables. It was only then that they noticed a small relief sculpture of the taotie beast located at the head of each stone slat. The Harken’s long wooden tongue extended straight into the gaping mouth of the taotie beast, while the taotie beast’s tail opened up into a groove that ran along the sides close to the lesser stone tables.
“The idea is very well conceived. This maximizes the efficiency of the production line.” Gu Qing sighed. Just then, they noticed the Harken spitting out something that slid along the groove of the wooden tongue and landed on the stone slat right in front of them.
Qin Ye stared at the object with great disbelief. This is processed blight vermin carapace, isn’t it? It’s only been a while, so where have the rest of the body gone?
Indeed, everything else apart from the blight vermin carapace had been completely stripped off, removed and discarded, while the carapace had been left as intact as it could be.
“I can’t believe it…” He reached out to touch the blight vermin carapace in disbelief. But as soon as he made contact, the entire blight vermin carapace immediately came apart with a soft clatter. It was only then that it dawned upon him - not only was the carapace stripped out from the rest of the body, it had even been segmented in a neat and precise fashion!
The claws and wings were detached from the main body, while the rest of the carapace remained completely intact. It was almost as though an expert had stripped it from the body with masterful precision!
“How on earth did this happen?” He picked up a piece of the carapace and stared at the wall, “There are actually tens of thousands of Yin spirits hidden in that wall, isn’t there? How else could it be as perfect as this?!”
“You can open it up and take a look for yourself.” Arthis encouraged, “So long as you can put it back together later on.”
Of course I can’t do that…
Qin Ye sensibly repressed the curiosity in his heart. Whatever… so long as it works just fine. That said, I just can’t wrap my head around how it’s simply too good to be true!
“I’ll make sure to return with as many blight vermin corpses as we can possibly carry!” Oda Nobunaga drew a deep breath and stroked the carapace with a trembling hand, “It would be far too much of a waste to let such an amazing facility sit idle…”
“Then I’ll leave it to you.” Qin Ye suppressed the excitement in his heart. He couldn’t wait to see the entire facility roaring with activity as well!
This was the symbol of prosperity in Hell! It was a sign that Hell was thriving and growing!
He took another look at it, before wrapping things up, “Come, let’s go take a look at the second floor.”
Arthis revealed a peculiar smile on her face, “Alright. Just make sure you don’t regret it…”
What’s there to regret about heading upstairs?
The troupe of leaders were filled with anticipation. If the first floor is already that incredible, what would the second floor look like? What about the top floor?
Besides, wasn’t this the place where magic was created? The Soul-Launching Coffin, the Yin Conflagration Cannon, and the Netherflame Chain Crossbow? This was where divine weapons were created to deter the march of other underworlds against Hell!
Could there possibly be Yin nuclear weapons hidden above?
Qin Ye’s thoughts slowly drifted from one thing to another, only to freeze in horror as soon as they arrived at the second floor.
It was closed.
All of the doors were tightly shut. Furthermore, there were obviously Yin talismans plastered all over the bolts of the door, clearly indicating to them that they weren’t allowed to open it just yet.
“What’s going on over here?” Qin Ye asked in consternation.
“King Yanluo’s Seal.” Arthis got straight to the point, “As long as King Yanluo’s Seal isn’t complete, we’ll only be able to access the first floor of this building. A nation is built upon two prongs of foundation - its economy and its military might. Something as significant as this can only be unlocked with the power of the Yellow Springs.”
“Don’t you think you’re essentially asking why can’t Hell function properly without King Yanluo’s Seal?” Arthis chuckled bitterly, “Like I’ve said before, the energy that powers Hell can in certain circumstances be substituted by other sources of energy. But that necessarily also means that certain sources of energy cannot be substituted. This is one such place where the energy cannot be substituted. Neither the Book of Life and Death nor the Judgment Pen would do. It requires the energy that flows from the Yellow Springs. Therefore…”
She sighed, “Assemble all the pieces of King Yanluo’s Seal as soon as you can…”
Qin Ye chuckled bitterly.
That’s easier said than done… The shards of King Yanluo’s Seal are in the hands of the daolord of the beast. It’s like asking a weak carry hero at the start of the game to go up against a well-fed core of the enemy team - I’d be killed in an instant. On what basis are you asking me to seize these shards of King Yanluo’s Seal from them?
With my looks?
Well… that’s possible…
“I guess that’s that.” Everyone could sense the atmosphere of regret in the air. Qin Ye nodded at Oda Nobunaga, “Lord Nobunaga, I’m not familiar with military affairs, so I won’t be adding to the chaos in your battle against the blight vermin. I’ll await your good news back in Hell’s Gate.”
With that, Qin Ye’s body began to transform into a nethergale that quickly dissipated into the surroundings, “Meeting adjourned. I’ve got quite a number of matters to attend to over the next few days, including the handover and departure procedures back in the mortal realm. I won’t hold you guys back any longer then.”
He didn’t care more about where the others went. That said, he didn’t immediately return to the mortal realm either. Instead, he made a beeline towards Zhou Yu’s room and arrived in an instant.
Zhou Yu was very sensible.
He hadn’t even left his room once over the last few days. Instead, he waited patiently in his room for Qin Ye’s arrival. Thus, when Qin Ye arrived, he immediately heard the melodious sounds of a zither.
It was a luxurious melody, like cold jade, and it made him feel almost peerless in the world.
Unfortunately, I’m not really in the mood… Qin Ye sighed softly. Zhou Yu happened to be at the end of his piece, so he promptly set his zither down and lifted his head, before cupping his hands respectfully with a smile on his face, “Lord Qin had arrived more quickly than I had anticipated.”
“I don’t like to keep things around if I don’t have a firm hold on them.” Qin Ye responded almost philosophically, “Thus, I’ve asked Arakshasa directly about it, and I was apprised of exactly how dangerous the road ahead would be.”
Zhou Yu lifted his teacup and asked placidly, “So how does Your Majesty intend to deal with the things he doesn’t have a firm hold on?”
“Of course it would be better to destroy these things.” Qin Ye picked up the cup of tea offered by Zhou Yu and lifted its lid slightly, “Regardless, I sincerely thank Lord Tangming’s gift of the Karmic Fire Divine Crossbows.”
“It’s just a token gesture.” Zhou Yu’s expressions remained placid. Destroy? The entire East Continent is hanging in delicate balance right now. Do you really take Rus’ nameless god of death and Hindustan’s Yamaraja as benign, merciful gods that are passive and gentle? If push comes to shove, and the twelve envoys grow desperate, they might very well just end up pledging their allegiance to these other two powerhouses in the region. Lord Qin, where are you going to run or hide when that time finally comes?
Lord Qin, I can see beyond this farce of yours. As far as the twelve envoys are concerned, you can only tread the path of diplomacy, peace and civility. You’re no different from Formosa in the mortal realm right now.
It’s not that we aren’t loyal, it’s just that we all have our weaknesses and selfish ambitions. None of us had expected to see such a great upheaval in Hell, nor did we anticipate that the heroic passion in our hearts would be so stirred to action. Believe me, I’ve never wished for things to come to this. Everything happening right now is no more than a byproduct of the circumstances around us.
After a period of protracted silence, Qin Ye finally lifted his eyes and blurted abruptly, “Zhou Gongjin, if, one day, Hell truly opens its borders and reveals its banners flying high across its thirty or so provinces, where would you go?”
Zhou Yu’s gaze flickered, and he responded sincerely, “If that day comes, I might very well sincerely submit and return to the fold.”
“And if it so happens that I manage to conquer the Nipponese underworld before I open my borders?”
“The fact that you are able to defeat a longstanding underworld means that it would only be a matter of time before you open your borders. I believe I would still sincerely submit to you under those circumstances.”
Qin Ye finally opened his eyes and set down his teacup, “I hope you mean what you say.”
Nobody wished to see the twelve envoys and King Yanluo duking it out against each other.
After all, enemies take pleasure in witnessing the pain of civil strife.
The situation in the world was complex, but Hell would undoubtedly have to open its borders to the world in no more than a hundred and fifty years’ time. Incidentally, the twelve envoys and Qin Ye represented the only seeds of fire in Hell. Would they rather unite against their common enemy, or fight against each other?
Soon, Zhou Yu was the only one that remained in the room. After some time, he finally snapped his wrist and summoned a messenger bird, “Return to Tangming.”
“Truth be told, it would be nice if you could achieve all that.” He gazed deeply in the direction that Qin Ye had departed, “War has ravaged these lands for far too long. Quell the fire of unrest in those unruly feudal officials, and make them submit to you. Unite the forces and face the common enemies. Let’s return Hell to its former glory. But, alas, the road ahead is fraught with much difficulty…”
Is Hell… going to glow with that bright lustre from before?
Over the next few days, Qin Ye only returned to Hell at night, because he had to spend the rest of his waking hours guarding against the huskies otherwise known as Su Feng and Local Bully, who both had the propensity to burst right through his door from time to time. Oh, how he sometimes wished he could return to the peaceful times when he was in a comatose state. That said, despite treading around carefully for the next three days, he didn’t see either of them anywhere close by at all.
He was finally done packing his things today. He looked at the three large suitcases sitting in his room, before glancing out of the window with a wave of complex emotions.
He could see on the basketball court outside the silhouettes of Local Bully and several other students. Over on the boulevard, several curious citizens appeared to be asking a student some questions across the fence. The faculty buildings were also well lit, presumably filled with instructors who were burying their heads in treatises and texts in preparation for the lessons to come…
Qin Ye had done a lot for the academy, and it was finally time to say his goodbyes. Even though he had only spent one year in his stint here, he was suddenly swamped with a great sense of reluctance.
He was truly immersed and invested in the mortal realm for once, and his experiences here were naturally different from all of his past experiences on a qualitative level.
He experienced emotions and relationships. He experienced care and concern. He even felt a sense of achievement and accomplishment… and now, a sense of sourness in his heart.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve last experienced these emotions…” He sighed softly and patted his face. He had earlier today already submitted his handover report, and the approval would come over the next few days.
Just then, an old voice called out from the hallway outside, “Why are you sighing?” Qin Ye looked over and realized that Professor Tao Ran appeared to have been standing there for some time now.
“Every ending only marks a new beginning. You’ve got a bright path ahead of you. Besides, what lies ahead of you isn’t too bad at all.” He walked to the window with a cup of tea in hand. There, he patted Qin Ye’s shoulder and continued sternly, “Do you know how many people wish they could be in your shoes right now, to be posted to a place to make a fortune for themselves? And yet you still don’t appreciate what you have.”
Qin Ye wanted to laugh, only to realize he was unable to do so.
His years of escaping the world didn’t mean that he was devoid of all emotions.
In fact, he had always found it stifling and depressing. It felt no different from living in the darkness, and looking at the bright world outside; or living in Hell and gazing at heaven. Yet, from the day he consumed the taisui fungus, he knew that he was fated never to live a normal life like anyone else again. He could no longer live normally, make friends, get married or have children.
Instead, he simply continued to cruise along like a vagabond. His mind was aimless, and so was his heart.
That said, feelings weren’t things that would dissipate or dwindle. In fact, they would only grow richer and more profound as time went by. Qin Ye was already resigned to the fact that he was going to live the rest of his life simply cruising along endlessly and aimlessly. Yet, who would have thought that Granny Meng’s unexpected arrival would change everything for him?
“It’s been a really good year.” His gaze was incomparably complex, and he even averted Tao Ran’s gaze as he responded in earnest, “Thank you.”
His thanks were directed at all the people who had fueled his joy.
Whilst they were people whom Qin Ye would forever remember in his heart, he knew that it was unlikely he would ever contact them again. These cherished memories of his were fated to become a series of memorial plaques, only to collect dust at the back of his mind. He was going to continue living in the mortal realm, but he would have to find the right opportunity to fake his death, before reestablishing himself elsewhere all over again. Rather than deepen these relations and then hurt them later, he would very much prefer to draw the knife and cut off the branch before it grows any further.
“What are you thanking me for?” Tao Ran obviously wasn’t aware of Qin Ye’s innermost feelings. He smiled faintly, “You’ve given a lot for the academy as well.”
Qin Ye chuckled dryly.
“That’s right, when do you plan to depart?” Tao Ran suddenly asked.
“Probably tomorrow night.” Qin Ye responded softly. Since he had already decided to leave, then it was best not to delay his departure any longer. After all, the longer he stayed, the more reluctant he would become. These feelings simply weren’t necessary.
“Tomorrow?” Tao Ran patted him hard on his shoulder, “Have a good trip, then. I sincerely wish you great success in Martial City.”