“Little brother, wake up.” Qin Ye looked up in a stupor. He had just been awakened by a stewardess who was smiling faintly, “We’re arrived at the final station, Qizhou Railway Station.”
Have I finally arrived? Qin Ye rubbed his eyes and sat up. The sign boards outside clearly read ‘Qizhou’.
Qizhou, otherwise known as Spring City, was the provincial capital of Eastmount Province. Unfortunately, long gone were the stalls and vendors that once filled the train station. Passengers dragged their suitcases and made a beeline for the exits in a chaotic, yet somewhat orderly fashion.
It’s been five days since I departed from Valley County… Qin Ye glanced at his watch as he followed the streams of people while taking in the surrounding scenery.
His last stop was Anyi City, located on the border between Breakwaters Province and Eastmount Province. And the final leg of his journey had taken him straight to Spring City, the provincial capital of Eastmount Province. Yin and Yang have always had an inextricable relationship from each other. What happens in the netherworld would be reflected in some way or another in the mortal realm, and vice versa.
It was now noon. Qin Ye dragged his suitcase towards the exit of the station, right into the waiting arms of a team of armed policemen with fully loaded weapons.
There was clearly an undercurrent of tension underneath the surface of human interaction out there. The trains were still just as noisy, but what should have been a relatively noisy process of disembarkation of passengers was instead unusually silent and somber.
There were dozens of armed policemen out there, yet none were exchanging even a single word with the other. There were only two sets of voices that cut through the still silence of the platform.
The first was the security checkpoint. What was at the exit was no longer a machine used for the purposes of scanning for dangerous devices. Instead, it had been replaced with a never-before-seen instrument that would emit a soft ‘ding’ with each person that passed.
The second was an announcement that was broadcast across the platform. The voice wasn’t loud, but it was clear and distinct, “This is a gentle reminder to all passengers to ensure that they have all their belongings with them. Please proceed to the security checkpoint in an orderly fashion. If the machine rings, please do not be alarmed. We repeat…”
It looks like the situation in Eastmount Province might be worse than we imagined… Qin Ye sighed softly and shook his head. It was finally his turn to clear the security checkpoint. But as soon as he stepped through the machine, it immediately began to blare with an incredibly loud alarm.
An ear-piercing siren immediately shattered the austere silence around the platform. Everyone looked up in an instant, while the people located close to Qin Ye immediately squealed and retreated a good distance away from him while screaming in alarm. The surrounding armed police forces promptly raised their guns and stared at the teen sternly. Within moments, he was left all alone standing right in the middle of an encirclement of armed police forces.
Qin Ye sighed and remained helpless in place. The police forces parted slightly, giving way to a man dressed in a black knee-length trench coat who was clearly emitting Hunter-class true energy.
“Entry without notice? … And to think that you’re even at least a Soul Hunter...” He grunted as he slowly made his way over to the security instrument. But he was immediately taken aback by what he saw.
There was an abrupt silence. A moment later, the man jerked his head up and stared at Qin Ye. He even rubbed his eyes, before turning to look at the instrument once more. After a long time, he asked with great disbelief, “Hellguard?”
How could someone so young already be an Anitya Hellguard… This was the first thought that occurred to his mind.
However, Qin Ye could hardly be bothered with his astonishment at all. He swiftly produced his personal documents and handed them over for their verification. Then, it took all of three seconds before a radiant smile filled the face of the Hunter-class expert, “To think that it’s none other than the esteemed Mr Qin from the First Academy of Cultivators. This way, please.”
He immediately led the way, while the armed policemen sensibly lowered their guns.
Qin Ye’s first thought was to refuse him outright. After all, he had just reported his safety back to the First Academy of Cultivators, and Martial City was still eagerly looking forward to his arrival. But he soon had second thoughts.
I’d still need to transfer to the high-speed rail if I’m to arrive at Martial City. Why not take this opportunity to catch a glimpse of the situation plaguing Eastmount right now?
After all, the best place to catch wind of the situation across the entire province would undoubtedly be the provincial capital.
However… the experts of the Special Investigations Department stationed here should be relatively strong, so why does this young man seem to be currying favour with me? He’s obviously not here with the sole intention to receive me. Could he be… lusting after my flesh?!
The two men soon entered a military jeep. The man dressed in a trench-coat took the driver’s seat, “Mr Qin, would you be headed towards the high-speed railway station? We’re currently at Spring City’s north station. Unfortunately, the high-speed trains only connect to the south station.”
“Thanks for taking care of all these.” Qin Ye smiled faintly as he sank comfortably into the seat, “Is this how Spring City welcomes its guests? You even have the personnel to pick up and drop off agents?”
“Haha… you flatter us…” The man laughed softly and started the engine, before slowly making their way towards the heart of the city.
Eastmount Province was clearly a locality that was steeped in culture. As they made their way towards their destination, Qin Ye discovered that there were spiritual objects emanating true energy located everywhere along the way. They also came in all shapes and sizes, including stone tablets or rock formations in a small, quaint park, or perhaps even a sculpture that stood in a public square. These were all objects that were extremely well hidden in the landscape and architecture around, and they hardly stood out at all. That said, there was some order to their appearance as well - Qin Ye soon noticed that they were in fact placed methodically at a distance of two kilometers apart from each other.
Qin Ye stared out the window, while the trench-coated man kept stealing glances at him. Then, after ten full minutes, Qin Ye finally withdrew his gaze, and the trench-coated man coughed softly, “Mr Qin… what do you think of the security measures in Spring City right now?”
What a question. Am I, an outsider, really in the position to comment on these things?
Qin Ye smiled back at him with some bemusement in his eyes, “Not bad. At the very least, it's far better than most other municipalities and counties around. Is this your idea?”
“This was all done pursuant to regulation 107 that was passed down last month.” The man smiled and pulled out a cigarette, “One for you?”
Qin Ye shook his head. The man didn’t mind. He lit up his own cigarette and took a deep drag before continuing, “This is a nation-wide policy that is being rolled out as quickly as possible. We are commencing these defensive measures at the provincial capital, before slowly rolling it out to other cities in a radial fashion. Spring City may not be the best right now, but we’re undoubtedly one of the best next to the other cities around.”
“Moreover, the treatment here at the Spring City Special Investigations Department branch is probably one of the best, if not already the best. Our monthly salary is 150,000 RMB. We even get credited with two hundred merit points just by being stationed here, or a further 100,000 RMB in lieu of that. That much is entirely up to us. Apart from that, we even get benefits such as full reimbursement of all business trips, as well as overseas team-building trips. There are even bonus merit points to be earned from each festivity that passes.”
He exhaled a mouthful of smoke and continued with a bright smile, “The apartment provided is a hundred square meters, especially commissioned and built for us in the heart of the city. Each of us also gets a car worth approximately 600,000 RMB. If it gets destroyed in our call of duty, we’d even get a full replacement completely free of charge. We even organize periodic academic conferences in partnership with Yan Capital, Eastsea, and the other famous research institutes. Every year, our investigators are given the opportunity for a work secondment to other cities as well. Simultaneously, our duties are rostered on a rotational basis. It’s far better than the unpredictability that anyone would be faced with in other cities around.”
Are you perhaps…
Qin Ye finally understood what the man was trying to do. He stared at the man as though he’d just seen a ghost, “Is this your task?”
“Aha… What do you mean by mission… I’m just making small talk on a long, idle journey.” The trench-coated man chuckled dryly as he continued, “Anyway, if an investigator as powerful as you is willing to join us, the formalities can all be dealt with summarily and without any hitches. You’d even be placed in charge of a neighbourhood in the city. Ah, that’s right. Do note that I was only talking about Operative-class experts earlier. As for someone like you… Let’s just say that asking for half a million in monthly salary wouldn’t be an issue at all. But what is more important is that you can even get a monthly stipend of five hundred merit points!”
Brother, does Eastmount truly need people that badly? Are you all not even going to pass up on a Hellguard-class expert who is just passing through the region? And what if I reveal my true nature as a Judge-class expert? Wouldn’t you have to get on your knees and lick my feet?
Perhaps anyone else in Qin Ye’s shoes right now would have agreed to join in a heartbeat. But Qin Ye knew better. After all, only the brave would be rewarded by more.
And why be brave?
It was naturally because… the situation in these lands had already reached a state of white-hot tension!
They were… essentially trading money for lives!
Qin Ye stared intently at the man, before gently patting the man’s shoulder, “Brother… I’m on my way to Martial City to take on the position of branch head."
“That’s fine!” Unexpectedly, the man immediately responded, “We can always send them a missive, and Martial City would never say a single word about the change of plans. So long as you’re willing to stay here, we’ll do all the grunt work to ensure the results you want! If you even come so close to feeling dissatisfied at all, you’re always at liberty to go anytime!”
Well, well… Aren’t Spring City and Martial City supposed to be comrades in arms? Damn… Qin Ye no longer wanted to flog the dead horse, so he turned to look out the window once more as he queried softly, “Has the situation in Eastmount Province reached such a point where… even sister cities are beginning to seize talents from one another?”
He doesn’t have any intentions to join us… The man sighed and retracted his smile as he finally responded sullenly, “Don’t you know? Ah, right… you’ve been at the First Academy of Cultivators, where information about the outside world is embargoed.”
He snuffed out his cigarette with great exasperation and stared vacantly at the roads ahead, “Logically speaking, we shouldn’t be doing these things. But now… Spring City is on the verge of collapse. And as soon as we do, the entire Eastmount Province is going to be shaken up completely. After all, we’re the first bastion of defence in the supernatural perimeter across the entire province!”
There was an abrupt silence in the car that only accentuated the man’s increasingly ragged breaths. Qin Ye nodded softly, “Has it gotten that dangerous?”
“Yes…” The man gnashed his teeth and explained, “Earlier this year, Eastmount Province detected the arrival of an immeasurable source of Yin energy to Spring City itself. Branch Chief Liu immediately declared a state of emergency and called for support from those around. But before reinforcements arrived… another source of Yin energy erupted from elsewhere in Eastmount Province. Initial readings revealed that this other source of Yin energy was no less powerful than the first!”
“That said, the only difference was that the second source of Yin energy was more accurately described as a convergence of a dozen or so sources of Yin energy. They rushed straight towards Spring City and clashed head on against the first source of Yin energy within moments! Those who haven’t personally witnessed that moment of devastation would find it impossible to fathom altogether. The leaves of the trees immediately yellowed and turned black. Livestock perished instantly, while other wild animals around, be they rats or birds, or wild dogs and cats, died immediately. Take a look outside - do you see a single person with a pet right now?”
Qin Ye looked out, only to realize for the very first time that not a single person had a pet with them right now!
The man pulled out a second cigarette in frustration, but didn’t light it up this time. Instead, he simply bit down hard on the cigarette butt, “Those two sources of Yin energy tangled with each other for three full days and nights. During this time, the sun was completely blotted out from the sky, while Yin energy abounded. And immediately after that, supernatural incidents began to sprout up all over Eastmount Province at an alarming rate! In fact, certain locations have already begun to show signs of gathering of Yin spirits, clusters of hunting zones, and even… internal strife among Yin spirits themselves.”
Qin Ye was still gazing out of the window, yet his heart was already racing with several trains of thought.
The daolord of the asura had clearly crossed the straight and entered Eastmount. But what he hadn’t expected to see was the presence of an ambitious alliance of evil ghosts who did everything they could in order to stop the daolord’s advance. They mustered their Yin soldiers, and braced themselves for a fight to the death with the daolord of the asura. It was show of strength to warn the daolord of the asura of the difficulties he would be faced with in the time to come, in the hope that he would return to where he came from.
It was true that warlords thrived in troubled times. No matter how peaceful things seemed back in the mortal realm, the undercurrents of the netherworldly warring states era had already begun to stir.
Meanwhile, the daolord of the asura clearly had no place to return to.
His back was against one of the twelve envoys, Emperor Wu of Song, otherwise known as Liu Yu. A Yama-class existence, the nameless god of death of the Eastern Orthodox Church, was located right above him. And what lay in front of him was the great defense line helmed by Yan Capital, the capital of the entire nation of Cathay. Thus, the only place he had left to turn to was Eastmount Province. As soon as the gears of conflict were set in motion, it was impossible to stop them anymore.Previous Chapter Next Chapter