Qin Ye wriggled his tiny bum and promptly squirmed into the little nook hidden behind the Ksitigarbha statue.
Which idiot asked something as obvious as that?! Are you trying to name and shame me or discredit me?!
Why wouldn’t I hide behind Ksitigarbha if he allows me such an indulgence? Do you think I have the qualifications to disobey someone that is on a completely different plane of existence?
Do you think I’m afraid? I’m just being compliant! How could I disobey him and put him to shame?!
He cowered behind the strongest defensive tower in the game and waited as time slowly ticked by. Then, as soon as the clock struck twelve, the sound of a door opening resounded across all of Valley County.
It was obviously a soft sound, and yet it could strangely be heard in the ears of all living things in the vicinity.
Sss… aahhhhh… It was quickly followed by a cacophony of long, ghastly moans.
A second later, a clear and crisp sound emanated from right behind the niche where Ksitigarbha’s statue was located.
Clomp… clomp… The sounds were neat and uniform, and they were formed from objects both near and far. Qin Ye drew a deep breath, and peered beyond the niche for the very first time.
He had previously been so fixated on the stone statue in front of his eyes that he never quite noticed what lay behind the statue. Thus, for the first time, he realized that there was an ancient ancestral hall that stood right behind the statue some distance away.
It was completely dilapidated, and yet it still stood tall like a colossal giant that spanned an area of approximately one hundred meters. However, what was most astonishing was the fact that the weeds growing out of the cracks within the great ancestral hall were now swaying frantically, almost as though they were being stepped on by an invisible force. Furthermore, the damaged, tattered lanterns that hung feebly on the walls of the ostensibly abandoned hall abruptly all lit up in unison.
Something’s coming out of the ancestral hall right now… and they’re slowly making their way here…
“These are…” Qin Ye’s scalp instantly went numb, “The sounds of footsteps!”
“This is the sound of the march of Yin soldiers!!”
Prr, prr, prrrrr!! A terrifying trumpet blared in the distance, as though declaring the march of a valiant battalion. Meanwhile, the uniform sound of marching footsteps only grew louder and louder! In fact… Qin Ye could even hear the faint clanging of swords and spears against their sheaths!
His surroundings were shrouded in darkness, and he couldn’t see a single one of these Yin soldiers. And yet, the existence of such invisible terror was frightening enough to grip the human heart!
Clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp… The sound was slowly but surely getting louder and louder. Qin Ye’s thoughts spun rapidly. From the sound of it, he could tell that there was quite the number of Yin soldiers marching over. By his estimates, the number was well in the region of ten thousand soldiers! Notwithstanding the fact that he was an Anitya Hellguard, he wasn’t prepared to risk it all and make a move against the Yin soldiers without knowing everything he could possibly know about them, including what they were armed and equipped with.
That said, he slowly began to don his Hell’s Emissary state, and his eyes began to invert in colours. Just then, the stone Buddha statue whispered, “Don’t make a single move. As soon as you do, you’ll immediately be discovered.”
Qin Ye immediately shrunk back and leaned heavily on the stone statue.
Stone Buddha: ……
Friend… have you considered the fact that such an action of yours might be seen as rather inappropriate?
Clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp… The Yin soldiers continued to march in the dead of the night. A soft nethergale swept through the vicinity, and the temperature in the air dipped substantially. Qin Ye held the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal tightly, ready to flee at the moment’s notice. It had to be said that the First Academy of Cultivators was indeed paradise compared with the rest of the world. After all, nobody in the academy had to worry about what transpired at night, while the rest of the world outside… faced an entire multitude of horrors at every step of the way!
Clomp… clomp… The sounds were drawing closer and closer. Qin Ye clinched the seal in his hand tightly, while cold sweat beaded up on his forehead. He could tell that the Yin soldiers were now no more than five meters away from him, and they would soon be stepping right past his side.
Then, a split second later, he heard the even march of the footsteps engulf him completely, reverberating softly from all around him. His surroundings immediately became chilling and cold, while the trees and flowers, and grass and weed on the ground immediately turned black and withered as though the entire locality had transformed into the land of the dead! However… there weren't any sounds of weapons being unsheathed at all!
Is it because they can’t see me…? Qin Ye’s heart pulsed wildly as the uniform march of the Yin soldiers continued to stomp all around him. The steps were unceasing, almost like the rushing waters of the Yellow River. His imaginations ran wild, and he could practically see thousands upon thousands of fearsome terracotta warriors wielding spears as they marched forward at a uniform pace. A dense wave of Yin energy filled the surroundings, sweeping through the area like a passing tide.
What was invisible and unknown was the most terrifying thing. The uniform clomps of the Yin soldiers’ march resounded with a terrifying tempo. It was incessant, invisible, and inescapable. For the next twenty arduous minutes, Qin Ye kept his head held low, until the footsteps finally drew out into the distance. As their footsteps subsided, the air was once again filled with the sounds of fluttering talismans and spirit-warding bells. These sounds felt like a breath of fresh air to him.
Qin Ye lifted his head once more. He could see that the earth around him was now blackened and grim, ostensibly dyed black by the infusion of dense Yin energy that had just swept by. Fortunately, the receding tide of Yin energy also meant that the black spots were now fading away like a cancerous cell that was once again in remission.
He immediately pulled out his cellphone and began searching for the train ticket to embark on the next leg of his journey…
Bloody hell… the mortal realm is just far too dangerous! I’d better make haste with the Beacon of Light! Mummy… I want to go home right now!
“Master Qin.” Just then, a voice suddenly called out from behind him once more. Without hesitating, Qin Ye immediately materialized his spirit streamer out of thin air and lashed straight towards the source of the voice.
It was Zeng Shuai.
The spirit streamer stopped just one meter away from him, unable to go any further. Zeng Shuai had his palms held together, and he appeared unimaginably peculiar right now.
His entire aura had changed completely.
If one could describe his earlier aura as that of a budding practitioner who was filled with hope that Qin Ye would resolve all supernatural outbreaks that Valley County was plagued by, then the present aura that emanated from his body would could only be described as the feeling of the towering mountains, the boundless oceans and the vast skies altogether.
It was deep and unfathomable.
“Who are you?” Qin Ye tightened his grip around the spirit streamer and stared intently at Zeng Shuai.
“Amitabha.” Zeng Shuai lowered his head, “Haven’t we… already exchanged some words earlier?”
It was like a bolt out of the blue. Qin Ye’s jaws dropped slightly, “You’re… Ksitigarbha?”
Zeng Shuai remained silent. Instead, he simply lifted his head, revealing the fact that his eyes were now shining with immaculate radiance, while his pupils were marked with swastika symbols!
Whoosh! The Yin spirits within Valley County immediately cried out at the top of their voices as soon as he lifted his head… No, it wasn’t just Valley County. In fact, the strange phenomenon with the Yin spirits was seen across Breakwaters Province and Eastmount Province… Even the spiritually aware Yin spirits located in the Pearl River region paled in horror as they turned to look in the direction of Valley County!
Pearl River City. The city had a luxurious restaurant located at the very top of the television tower. The surroundings were exceptionally elegant, and it was designed with the most amazing European decors. One could even enjoy the view of the entire Pearl River City from up there. Crash! The coffee cup in a lady’s hand suddenly fell to the ground. A handsome man sitting across the table smiled softly and asked, “What’s wrong?”
The woman remained silent, and turned to gaze into the distance. Her eyes flickered softly, and gleamed with an abnormal shade of red.
“What happened...” The man could see the slight peculiarity in the lady’s eyes. She tilted her head softly, and the rest of the restaurant went silent.
“This is… Ksitigarbha? Lord Ksitigarbha?!”
Three seconds later, the lady grabbed her face with both hands and screamed frantically, “How is this possible?! Didn’t Lord Ksitigarbha ascend into paradise after fulfilling his great vow?! How could he have appeared in the mortal realm again?! Assassins… Where are my Assassins of the Underworld?!!”
Whoosh… Wisps of nethergale immediately rushed into the restaurant, before materializing into entities that were half-knelt to the ground. Majority were Soul Hunters, a third were Hellguards, and three of them were even advanced Judge-class Yin spirits! The woman clutched at her heaving chest as she ordered with trembling in her voice, “Investigate… Immediately investigate this occurrence! Tell me… what the hell is going on right now!!”
Whoosh! The nethergales vanished once more.
The entire restaurant, including all of its staff and diners alike, had been strangled to death and then diced up into countless pieces of flesh by the hair on the lady’s head.
It was a bloodbath.
Back in Valley County. Qin Ye glanced about his surroundings with great incredulity. The cries of the Yin spirit from afar told him that there was no need to doubt Zeng Shuai’s identity any longer. After all, such an incredible display of power… meant that he was undoubtedly the esteemed Lord Ksitigarbha!
“The underworld has its own destiny.” Zeng Shuai spoke without missing a beat, “What you’re seeing is called a god’s possession, made possible only by an ancient technique that is more prevalent in the northeast. This is the only way I can communicate directly with you right now.”
Qin Ye smiled.
“I never thought you’d actually return. Greetings, esteemed Lord Ksitigarbha. I look forward to your guidance.” Then, with that same dry smile on his face, Qin Ye turned around, “If there’s nothing more, pardon me as I take my leave first. There are a multitude of things to be done in Hell… A thousand apologies for the poor hospitality…”
With that, Qin Ye began to walk away. It wasn’t until Qin Ye had covered several meters in distance that Zeng Shuai finally sighed, “Master of the underworld, King Yanluo of Hell… Qin Yanluo, please understand that I’ve also had my difficulties. I know that your heart is plagued with grievances, but… please hear me out.”
“I’ve got nothing to complain about.” Qin Ye responded without even turning around. However, his voice remained placid and indifferent, “That said, shouldn’t you be explaining your difficulties to the 1.5 billion mortals that are still residing in Cathay right now? The ones who feel bitter and aggrieved are them, not me.”
Nevertheless, he still stopped in his steps and waited for Zeng Shuai’s response.
Whoosh… The night breeze swept by, gently tousling Zeng Shuai’s robes. He gazed deeply into the sky quietly for some time, before finally speaking, “The so-called great vow doesn’t account for a grace period as soon as it’s fulfilled. Myself aside, not even the previous King Yanluo of Hell, a man who was unparalleled across all three realms of existence, could ever have thought that… my ascension would be powerful enough to clear out all ghosts in Hell.”
“That said… he did possess the power to stop it all.” Zeng Shuai lowered his gaze and stared intently at Qin Ye’s back, “The second King Yanluo of Hell possessed strength beyond any of our imaginations. It wouldn’t even be a stretch to suggest that he even held the power to transform and reinvent the world as we know it. Even the Heavenly Dao had to cease its effects if he so desired. His word was literally the laws of the lands. But… even then, he chose not to do anything about it. Do you know why?”
“He watched as this venerable one emptied out all of Hell, and he resigned to a fate of being completely alone. Nobody knows which star or planet he’s gone to right now. That said, do you know why he was willing to forgo everything?”
Qin Ye finally turned around.
How is that possible… The collapse of Hell was something that could be stopped? The second King Yanluo of Hell… the man rumoured to be the most powerful entity to have existed in all time… had actually acquiesced to Hell’s great collapse?
What kind of hidden agenda did he have?
He’s finally willing to listen to me… Zeng Shuai sighed softly, “Because… without destruction, there can be no renewal.”
“Master Qin, have you ever considered that the Hell before yours was purely run on the notion of feudalism? Hell’s system of governance was modeled after the mortal realm. Having been in existence for thousands of years on end, how many powerful clans do you think have emerged in Hell? How many such warlords are there?”
“The Confucian Clan, the Zhao Clan, the Li Clan, the Liu Clan, the Aisin Gioro Clan… and the various lineages of emperors, including the warlords of the Sui Dynasty, the warlords of the Tang Dynasty, the warlords of the Song Dynasty, and so on and so forth. The forces of Hell are interwoven with the annals of history, and the sheer intricacies of dealing with these clans are far beyond what you can possibly imagine. In fact, it’s far beyond what anything the mortal realms have ever faced before! A single trigger could easily send waves of aftershock rippling through Hell! Do you really think there are only the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces to deal with? Wrong. At its peak, Hell had at least thirty Yin spirits who possessed strength equal to that of a Yama-King! All of these illustrious entities belonged to clans that were once illustrious and historically significant. They belonged to the greatest clans and dynasties of their times. So… how terrifying do you think each of these forces actually were?”
Zeng Shuai spoke hurriedly, almost as though he were afraid that Qin Ye would run away as soon as he stopped, “By the time the second King Yanluo of Hell took charge of affairs, Hell was in truth already at the point of no return. It looked glorious on the outside, but its internal affairs… were no different from the end of the Great Ming Dynasty. There were a thousand holes in the system, each of which were slowly expanded and pulled open with the effluxion of time. Innumerable members of the gentry and royalty slowly emerged from the shadows to become powerful forces to be beheld in their own rights. Even the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces ended up having to negotiate with them on the policies to be implemented. Only the second King Yanluo of Hell possessed the power to keep them in check.”
“Who goes to Hell; who gets to be reincarnated; and other similar questions aren’t things that King Yanluo of Hell should be dealing with on his own. Then, there’s still the issue of military rights, governmental policies, and so on. The second King Yanluo of Hell isn’t like you. He’s not adept in politics. All he cared about is getting by, and that people would listen and obey him whenever he spoke. He was naturally able to dictate the general scope and direction of his vision, and nobody would oppose these ideas of his. But as soon as it came down to the actual implementation of policies and ironing out of the finer details, the powerful gentry and royalty would immediately rise up in arms and protest against these things. Having come from modern day society, I imagine that you must understand the shortcomings of feudalism. It’s no more than an artificial social construct, and yet it has already been in force for thousands of years now.”
He gazed deeply into Qin Ye’s eyes, “Can it be changed?”
“How do we go about changing it?”
Qin Ye pursed his lips and grew taciturn.
He could only imagine the ramifications of such extended feudalism. Cathay… had the longest lasting feudal age in the entire world. It spanned over two full millennia, and there are still many lingering notions of governance that have yet to be changed. For instance, the nation is still inclined towards patriarchy in its governmental structure. And even then, Cathay as it currently stands was a nation that had been forced to a fresh renewal by the destruction of war.
And what about Hell?
Fengdu Necropolis has been in existence for over three thousand years. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the clans and powers that have been in existence since before Fengdu was established. The internal trauma of Hell… must have been completely torn apart by the rise of the gentries and royalties.
He, too, had once wondered where the emperors went in Hell, and what position and title they would be conferred. But everything was finally made clear to him. The old Hell… was not as perfect as it appeared on the surface. If not for the unparalleled existence of the second King Yanluo and his ability to overpower all insurgents, Hell would probably have been fraught with civil strife a long time ago.
Qin Ye had never expected such an opening from his encounter with the esteemed Lord Ksitigarbha himself. But… he finally had a better idea as to what happened to Hell now.Previous Chapter Next Chapter