Chapter 404: Sky Lantern Punishment

There was dead silence everywhere. Oda Nobunaga nodded and slowly raised his hands. Just then, the female jiangshi suddenly shrieked at the top of her voice, “Let me go… let me… go!!!”

“I can tell you… where he is… I-I didn’t have any choice… He told me that he would kill me if I didn’t do as he said! He’s an Infernal Judge as well… please let me go… I-I don’t want to die just yet!”

The other sentient ghosts in the area also kowtowed to Qin Ye, pleading for their lives. Although most of them weren’t completely sentient beings just yet, they could all feel it in their bones that everything they did right now might very well spell the difference between life and death.

“My lord… please spare us!” “We’re willing to tell you everything we know!” “I don’t want to die… I don’t want my soul to disintegrate into nothingness!”

Hmph… Oda Nobunaga snorted coldly and swept an icy glance across all of the Yin spirits around, “There can be no mercy for all who have consumed blood and flesh in Valley County. As for the rest of you, the mere fact that you reside in the same locality and did nothing about it makes you complicit in these crimes. Save your regret…”

With that, he swung his hand down violently. A split second later, everyone who was watching this scene intently immediately gasped deeply.

An invisible ripple instantly swept through all of the Yin spirits, turning all of their bodies somewhat illusory for a split second before quickly reverting back to normal. Following that, all of the Yin spirits unwittingly opened their mouths, and a little glittering soulfire began to burn from within their lips.

“Unnngghhh…. Aarrrrrgggghhhh!!!” The female jiangshi shook her head, desperately trying to scream at the top of her voice, yet all she managed was only a muffled groan.

She regretted everything. She regretted boarding the bandwagon of the other evil ghosts. Life back in Valley County used to be completely stable. Faced with the compulsion of the Judge-class Yin spirit, she could always have left the county. Yet, she chose to comply with his directions and execute his instructions to the tee. This was especially when he had dangled the carrot of telling her how to advance to the ranks of an Infernal Judge as soon as she completed her task.

Yet what she regretted most was the fact that she was unable to kill that cultivator in the first place! Otherwise, how could things possibly have come to this?

She didn’t want to die. She wasn’t willing to die! But unfortunately, she could only watch as her soul was slowly but surely being burnt away by the sky lantern punishment.

WAAARRRGGHHH…. UNNNNGGHHH!! A wail of utter terror filled the entire county hall. The skies were still dark, and yet there were now the glittery lights of soulfires illuminating every corner of the plaza and roads around the county hall altogether. Everything cast a silvery white sheen on the county hall, almost as though it were a holy mountain that stood erect in the center of the county - bright and radiant.

It was incredibly spectacular. The blazing soulfires of over a million Yin spirits was more gorgeous than the glow of fireflies on a warm summer night. Even the Judge-class expert upstairs couldn’t help but sigh in exclamation at the sight, “Even the ugliest of humans have souls that burn with the same silvery white sheen. How poetic.”

Tak… Oda Nobunaga snapped his fingers, and the soulfires immediately flourished in unison and became meter-tall flames! The whimpers and groans of the Yin spirits around grew even louder and more intense. They could all feel their souls burning out and departing from their very own bodies. Even the millions of unsentient wandering spirits could tell that this was undoubtedly going to be their moment of demise.

Oda Nobunaga drew his katana once more and tightened his hands around the hilt, before finally swinging it around with a perfect circle.

Buzz!!!

A shockwave of Yin energy visible to the naked eye immediately swept out across the entire Valley County. With this mighty slash, all soulfires blazing from the mouths of their masters were instantly severed from their bodies. And then… they began to slowly drift over like fireworks, right to the entrance of the county hall!

Whoosh… It looked no different from a beautiful meteor shower. The bright soulfires hurtled through the sky, leaving a long trail of light in its wake, and they all gathered together like the dance of a million light dragons converging on a single location. A moment or two later, and with a bright eruption of light, the convergence of soulfires promptly transformed into a meter-high ancient lamp that blazed right at the entrance of the county hall!

Meanwhile, countless streaks of soulfires were still pouring over. The ancient lamp initially started out with a weak and feeble flame. Then, as more spots of soulfires poured into the lamp, the flame within slowly burgeoned into a soft flame, and then finally… a massive sky lantern that blazed with a flame almost ten meters tall!

This was the sky lantern punishment - the most severe form of punishment recorded in the annals of Hell. It was akin to the death penalty of the mortal realm… no… in fact, it was far worse than the death penalty, because the souls within the sky lantern would not immediately perish.

Instead… they will continue to burn and suffer in the great conflagration of souls for the next hundred years, before they finally perish. And until they finally perish, they would continue to experience every moment of pain in their souls - unquenching, undying, and unrelenting.

With the sky lantern now complete, the empty shells that once used to house the souls of these Yin spirits remained on the ground as though they were no different from clay sculptures. A soft wind swept through the lands, and they instantly disintegrated into ashes that were carried away with the wind.

Everything is over… Back in the county hall. One of the human Judges opened his mouth slightly and stared at the incredible sight below with great disbelief. Everything is finally over… Valley County has truly become the first land to be liberated of the forces of the netherworld ever since the incipience of supernatural outbreaks!

Even if this were but a single county, it was still an incredibly significant event!

Suppressing the stirring excitement in his heart, the Judge asked softly, “Did you manage to record it?” A civil servant behind responded immediately, “Every last bit of it. We’ve used SRC’s latest imaging technology. Although the technology isn’t fully developed yet, we can still record the appearance of Yin spirits for twenty minutes straight.”

The Judge-class expert nodded his head, and then opened his eyes suddenly to reveal a bright sparkle within. He turned to his compatriot, “Yu Guanzhu, what do you say we personally make contact with this Kui Wood Wolf?”

“Certainly.” Yu Guanzhu continued to gaze intently at Qin Ye, “This is the first ever recorded sighting of an Emissary of Hell. We can’t let this opportunity go to waste at all!”

While everyone was focused on the events taking place right in front of the county hall, something else was brewing softly at a place just five kilometers away. It was a construction site. A middle-aged worker was dressed in camouflage uniform, hanging upside down from the ceiling, staring intently in the direction of the county hall with his bulging eyes.

He wasn’t a dead man, but his entire body was trembling. Seconds later, he fell from the ceiling with a soft thud and lay prone on the ground just like a spider, “Is this what a genuine Emissary of Hell is like? Is this the so-called law enforcement of Hell that Lord Kong was telling us about?”

“That’s frightening… I’m afraid not even Lord Kong is aware that Hell has their own army! Didn’t he say that Hell has most likely collapsed in the last hundred years? Without any Emissaries of Hell, there can’t possibly be any Yin soldiers either!”

“It’s a good thing that Lord Kong left me around to keep watch over this predatory zone. No… this is something that I must immediately relay back to Lord Kong… Hell has Yin soldiers… I’m afraid this is going to affect our plans in the future!”

He placed a golden leaf into his mouth, and it immediately masked his Yin energy and even caused his body to emit a soft aura of Yang energy, no different from a regular human being. With that, he promptly transformed into a nethergale and vanished from the ground.

……………………………………………….

Back at the county hall. Qin Ye’s gaze flickered softly as the empty shells of the Yin spirits slowly began to vanish. He could sense two sources of true energy no weaker than his own erupt from the upper floor of the country hall.

Moments later, two figures promptly appeared right next to him.

Are you finally here? Qin Ye’s eyes narrowed. Judges of the mortal realm… This was the first time he was meeting other Judge-class experts apart from Zhou Xianlong. He had already displayed what Hell was capable of. The ball was naturally in the courts of the mortal realm right now.

“Brother Qin… Are you really going to deal with the government? Weren’t you… always cowering from them?” Wang Chenghao asked softly. The citizens of Cathay were always somewhat afraid of their government.

After all, they were a mysterious body of centralized power - at least, this was the impression that most Cathayans had of their government.

“Times have changed…” Qin Ye sighed wistfully. He, too, would like to act in moderation. If he could have it his way, the best time to deal with the government was still a long time away on the horizon. Unfortunately… time wasn’t on his side.

It was imprudent to wait for the netherworldly warring states era to unfold before finally dealing with the mortal realm. These were the nascent stages of the formation of a new era, and it was best to strike while the iron was hot. He would have a frank and honest discussion with the mortal realm right now, so that when the conflict grew red hot, they could build on the foundation of trust that had already been established and capitalize on each other's strength!

Perhaps it might take another decade or even a century for the netherworldly warring states era to go into full swing. However… Qin Ye couldn’t wait any longer. He didn’t want to have to do what the first King Yanluo of Hell had done.

Within moments, the two figures promptly revealed themselves. A slender old man wearing a taoist robe cupped his hands respectfully and introduced himself, “I’m Yu Guanzhu, an intermediate Judge-class expert. He is Chief Fang, the branch chief of the Special Investigations Department located in Echo City. He’s also the head of the human resources department of the Special Investigations Department. Greetings to you.”

With that, he turned to the crowd of humans around, where a camera was already filming the proceedings.

Over the last few hours, they had all received their instructions from the upper echelons of the organization. At this moment, over twenty Judge-class experts and even the legendary Prefect-class expert of the Special Investigations Department were currently gathered in a conference room back at Yan Capital, watching intently as mortals and Hell finally made contact with each other for the very first time!

Their every action and word were transmitted and played directly on the monitors in the room, while the audio was relayed to them through earpieces on a need-to-know basis. In fact, even the other two legendary experts from Dragon Gate Grotto on Greencity Mountain were staring in the direction of Valley County with great disbelief!

The three pillars of strength located across all of Cathay, and the upper echelons of the government were all awake at this very moment right now.

The mortal realm had far too many questions that they wanted to ask! None of them wanted to pass up the perfect opportunity to do so!

Qin Ye nodded softly, putting on a convincing front of a dignified and cold persona.

“I know what you want to ask.” He responded placidly, “But… Yin and Yang are primarily distinct existences. There are certain things in Hell that I simply cannot tell you about. That said, I can give you my word that Hell is in the process of recovering from the damage it has suffered, and will soon be in the position to trade mutual benefits with the mortal realm. We will soon restore Hell to its former glory and end this strife once and for all.”

“How soon is ‘soon’?” Chief Fang found his multitude of doubts summed up in a single question. This was the core question on everyone’s minds.

Qin Ye shook his head with a soft sigh, “Unfortunately, there isn’t much that the mortal realm can help with Hell’s restoration efforts. The upheaval in Hell is beyond what the mortal realm can possibly fathom. If the stars are aligned, we would never shy away from asking the mortal realm for help. After all, Yin and Yang are like two sides of the same coin. None can exist without the other.”

Qin Ye’s manner of speech immediately stemmed several follow-on questions before they could even arise, and even precluded any depths of discussions altogether. Nevertheless, Yu Guanzhu was unwilling to let up, and he immediately pressed further, “So is there anything we can do to help right now?” 

Wang Chenghao was puzzled. Why is Brother Qin saying this? There are plenty of places that Hell needs help with right now! Isn’t it good to be frank and upfront with the mortal realm in this regard?

“Hell is currently in a state of complete disarray. There are in fact many things we will need to purchase from the mortal realm, but we’re still searching for the appropriate modes of communication. Perhaps…” Qin Ye paused, before continuing enigmatically, “In the near future, we might just set up a proper phantom market to facilitate trade between the mortal realm and Hell.”

The two men nodded with a placid expression in their eyes.

Qin Ye stared intently at them for the next few seconds, before slowly retracting his gaze, “Apart from that, starting two years later, I hope that you’ll be willing to allow the caskets of all talents who perish in Cathay to stop by Martial City for a single day.”

The two men waited for several seconds, before asking with great disbelief, “Is that all?” 

Qin Ye nodded.

Wang Chenghao tugged softly at Qin Ye’s sleeves, only to be ignored completely by him.

Why?!

Wang Chenghao stared accusatorily at Qin Ye, but nobody could see the look in his eyes underneath the mask that he was wearing right now. He was incredibly bewildered. Have you done so much only for the opportunity to say these few words to the mortal realm? They were practically offering a blank cheque to you, so why did you only put forward these few simple requests?!

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