Chapter 409: Entering Martial City

“What about the mortal realm?”

The man chuckled bitterly, “We’re not sure why the evil ghosts are killing each other, and the mortal realm… still seems somewhat safe for now. But we know that this sense of security is only fleeting at best. Over the last few months, we’ve detected a surge of Yin energy in several urban areas, especially after midnight. Upon closer investigation, these sudden outbursts of supernatural activity are in fact caused by the clash between factions of Yin spirits. To date, we’ve recorded hundreds of such skirmishes, and their conflict only appears to be getting more and more frequent!”

Qin Ye furrowed his brows, “As you’d mentioned before… the situation does seem to be getting rather dangerous…”

“Indeed, it is.” The man’s voice quivered, “The mortal realm seems peaceful on the surface, but there are two locations in Eastmount Province where the gathering of Yin energy is already well beyond what Spring City is able to measure with the instruments available to it!”

Qin Ye’s eyes flickered brightly, “Where is that?”

“Weedflat City and Qufu City!” The south station was slowly pulling into view in the far distance ahead. Meanwhile, the man bit down hard on his cigarette butt and exploded with hatred, “Earlier this month, some personnel from the SRC headquarters arrived in Spring City, bringing with them the state-of-the-art instruments all the way from their headquarters. It was only then that we discovered… that the Yin energy reading in Weedflat City has already reached 21,470,000, while Qufu City isn’t far behind, with energy readings as high as 18,420,000!”

As expected, it’s Qufu.

Qin Ye abruptly turned around and stared at the man with great horror. Simultaneously, the man chuckled bitterly, “I’m not lying. This is why Eastmount is desperately recruiting right now. We’re trying to increase the strength across the board as far as possible. The citizens of Qufu and Weedflat have already been evacuated. If you take a trip around the city right now, you’ll see millions of makeshift housing where the refugees have been relocated. Mr Qin… you’re going to Martial City. That’s still some distance away from those damned cities. But… you’d still do well to be careful yourself.”

Qin Ye didn’t say anything. He was suddenly filled with an inkling that he was missing something important.

He had always taken the eastbound expedition with the highest level of seriousness. Unfortunately, it seemed that even that wasn’t quite sufficient right now!

And it was all because of one thing - the notion of Infernal Judges.

As an Infernal Judge himself, he was confident of taking down Kong Mo and the other Judge-class Yin spirits of the very same alliance. After all, it was a known fact that Emissaries of Hell were empowered to instakill evil ghosts of the same level of cultivation. He would even have ten thousand Yin soldiers, coupled with Yang Jiye’s reinforcements that would raze the opposing forces. Was there any reason he wouldn’t be able to take down Qufu itself?

Unfortunately, the crux of the logic that didn’t quite add up lay in an existence that wasn’t an Infernal Judge - it was an Abyssal Prefect. The daolord was undoubtedly an Abyssal Prefect, and such a mighty experience wasn’t something that Qin Ye would be able to deal with.

If that were indeed the case, then it wouldn’t be congruous in any way that the army of Qufu would be able to stand toe to toe against an Abyssal Prefect and his forces! In other words, his opponents possessed the ability to confront an Abyssal Prefect and even force the Prefect into a deadlock!

Doesn’t this mean that I’ll only be able to confront them if I were confident of dealing with an Abyssal Prefect in general, albeit one that might be somewhat weaker than an authentic Abyssal Prefect?

Come to think of it, the military formation and the Prefect-class Yin artifact might well be only a fraction of the cards they’ve still got hidden up their sleeves. There must be something more they have hidden that gives them the confidence to openly confront an Abyssal Prefect and his forces! He was slowly but surely gaining a deeper understanding of things in the underworld.

Twenty million Yin of Yin energy didn’t merely represent a quantitative rise in their abilities… there was also something qualitative about it altogether!

That’s right… If I delve deeper into the logic behind it, then everything makes sense. Emissaries of Hell are able to instakill Yin spirits of the same cultivation level as they are. At least, this is only the case in a mano-a-mano situation, or perhaps in a small skirmish involving few Yin spirits. If a single Emissary of Hell is able to take down innumerable Yin spirits of the same cultivation level as them, then what reason was there to groom Yin soldiers? Wouldn’t wars have historically been fought over whose cultivation was the strongest? Furthermore… Hell wouldn’t need to support so many Emissaries of Hell if that were indeed the case. A single Anitya Hellguard would be able to helm the operations within any given city. The entire governmental structure of Hell would be an incredibly lean one. However… this was clearly not the case!

The difference of over two million Yin in Yin energy readings reminded him of exactly what he was dealing with.

This is truly a reversion to the old warring states era. As soon as a monarch emerges among the rabble in a particular given territory, his power would quickly bloat and burgeon in the absence of any form of resistance whatsoever. If we don’t nip the problem in its bud right now, I’m afraid we might truly have to pay the price of our negligence later on!

Not even Kong Mo would have realized that his ploy to secure the first mover’s advantage for himself had instead ended up drawing Hell’s iron sights straight to himself.

How could others sleep soundly with a tiger right underneath their noses?

The world could be described as a fresh game of Go. Hell’s collapse had left a multitude of Yin spirits and ex-Emissaries of Hell alike out there, all of whom were slowly but surely feeling their way forward, placing game pieces down onto the board in complete darkness. It was precisely the embodiment of the dark forest theory - where any person that rears his head first would immediately attract the barrels of other hunters.

Screeeeech… Just then, the car screeched to a halt. A lofty building greeted them from behind the signboard that read ‘Qizhou South Railway Station’.

As Qin Ye alighted from the car, he could tell that the man still looked like he had something to say. Qin Ye smiled, “I’ve got to say that we’ve all got our own specialties. Having an investigator perform a task of persuasion and negotiation really isn’t the most effective ways to use your talents.”

The man smiled bitterly.

“Thanks for the offer, but at this point, our work is pretty much the same everywhere. Perhaps the only difference would only lay in the location itself.” Qin Ye waved his hands, picked up his luggage and walked into the train station. Just then, his eyes flickered softly, and he turned his gaze to a place where nobody was.

He raised his finger. The space where he was looking trembled slightly, and a messenger materialized out of nowhere and darted straight to his finger before landing on it softly. He leaned close to listen to the message.

The Yang Clan’s forces have arrived in full force!

It would be imprudent to have the messenger bird carry any more information than that. That said, it did the job. Qin Ye now knew that the Yang Clan’s forces had finally arrived. They were talking about six generals, sixty thousand Yin soldiers and four Yin beasts! Having learnt that his enemies this time were factions worth 20 million Yin of Yin energy each, these news were a breath of fresh air for him!

There’s just one final Beacon of Light to set in place… Qin Ye fervently repressed the desire to return to Hell and trudged on. The next leg of his journey was only two hours long, and he naturally didn’t want his desire to return to Hell to pose any problems for his own cover back in the mortal realm. Besides… he still had to address all potential issues that might arise within the mortal realm and allay any concerns of theirs before he could actually return to Hell and devote all of his mind to the eastbound expedition proper.

The train slowly began to depart. He drew several deep breaths to calm his mind down. I cannot rush things. What is most important right now is to keep calm and remain as objective-minded as possible. I’ve got to consider all possibilities and perspectives so that I can best deal with any exigencies which may arrive. Having come so far, I need to make sure that the last Beacon of Light is properly set in place. I cannot afford any slip ups right now!

As the train chugged on, Qin Ye made a courtesy call to the government of Martial City to let them know that he was arriving soon. Immediately, he could hear the joy and excitement in the voice of the government agent. They even insisted on personally picking him up from the train station as soon as he arrived.

Two hours passed uneventfully. It was already past 6.00 p.m. by the time the train finally pulled into Martial City. The public broadcasts of the supernatural announcements had already begun, and the crowds in the train stations had thinned out considerably. Even then, there were several men standing at the platform of the train station, waiting for him.

Are they not afraid?

Qin Ye was somewhat shocked, but then he soon chuckled softly. That’s right… they’re all Hellguard-class experts. What have they got to be afraid of?

The Martial City government agencies had already received his personal particulars well ahead of time. Thus, by the time he alighted from the train, everyone immediately huddled over excitedly, “You must be Mr Qin, right? I’m the secretary to Secretary Ma of the municipal party committee. You can call me Jiang. This is Mr Qian Jianjun, captain of the 856th regiment that stands guard across the city. This is Mr Gao Lin, the deputy chief of the city’s police department. Thank you very much for agreeing to take up this role. We’ll be in your care over the next five years. Come, Mr Qin, please get in. Secretary Ma and Major Ji have also prepared a special dinner to welcome you. I imagine the journey must have been long and arduous.”

After greeting everyone formally, he boarded the car that was prepared for him. Mr Jiang personally drove the car, while Qian Jianjun and Gao Lin followed him in another car that followed in the two-car convoy.

“He’s so young…” Qian Jianjun stared at the car in front as he sighed with great emotion, “Mr Gao, is he truly an Anitya Hellguard?”

“This information has been verified by the First Academy of Cultivators. It’s also reflected on the website detailing all records of Cathayan cultivators. There’s no faking it.” Gao Lin appeared equally amazed, “I’ve heard that he’s one of the youngest, if not the youngest Hellguards in all of Cathay’s history. Excellent… excellent! Martial City finally has a Hellguard to helm its operations! This way, we can truly rest assured.”

Qin Ye was naturally oblivious to the contents of their conversation. In fact, he didn’t even appear to be excited about the new office that was waiting for him. However, this was only to be expected. After all, his heart and mind were all fixed on Hell’s eastbound expedition to Martial City, and he simply couldn’t bring himself to rest properly until he could get everything sorted out back in the mortal realm.

Most importantly, Qin Ye knew that his actions here in Martial City were going to set off a chain of butterfly effects.

The cars soon made their way to the county hall. (TL: I don’t know why it’s a county hall and not a city hall. Perhaps they’re in a county within the city.) The so-called dinner was nothing more than dinner at the county hall’s canteen. But this was only to be expected. Ever since the outbreak of supernatural events, the Cathayan government soon reverted back to the old and practical ways of going about their business. Everyone could hardly care less about promotions at this point in time.

The threat of their enemies was staring them right in the eyes. There was no room for internal strife and such banal conflict. All who stood in the unified front of the government would be dealt with summarily and removed from their offices. This was a directive that had been explicitly passed down from the General Secretary himself, to be relayed to all major governmental agencies, including the Special Investigations Department and the SRC alike.

“Mr Qin!” As soon as he entered, a series of government officials who were qualified to know of Qin Ye’s identity immediately shot to their feet and walked over to him. The leader was a man in his fifties with a chiseled face. He grabbed Qin Ye’s hand and shook it with much enthusiasm, “You’re truly a beacon of light that has come in the darkness. Come, come, have a seat. Let’s not talk about these things for tonight. We’ll get to know each other tonight. Work can wait till tomorrow.”

How could a gathering of Cathayan officials be without alcohol? Unexpectedly, this was precisely the case today. Not a single bottle of wine or other form of hard liquor sat on the table. Even the dishes presented were merely the specialties of Eastmount Province, and not the usual luxurious delicacies that one would expect of someone of Qin Ye’s stature.

“Mr Qin, don’t frown upon these dishes.” Secretary Ma was clearly concerned that Qin Ye would despise the food, and he immediately smiled brightly and sought to lighten the mood, “This is an authentic Kong Clan feast. The dishes are all authentic local specialties! Come, Mr Qin, let me make a toast to you with tea instead of wine.”

Although there was no wine at the table, the old and experienced politicians at the table would never allow the mood to grow sullen or awkward. Just like that, time passed by quickly amidst boisterous laughter and wild, banal chatter. Meanwhile, Qin Ye tucked in straight into the delectable dishes that were placed before him. Granted, they weren’t the usual luxury cuisine expected of such meals, but Qin Ye was still pleasantly surprised by the food that was prepared for him. In fact, there was something special and unique about the dishes from this region, to the extent that he would place it well within the top few specialty dishes he had tasted before. They were tasty and aromatic, and yet not spicy like Westriver cuisine at all. The flavours were also pleasantly moderate, and they lingered and danced about the palate, bringing joy to one’s senses for a long time.

“Everyone.” When they were almost done eating, Qin Ye finally raised his cup and stood to his feet, “I hope I can live up to your high expectations of me. That said…”

Instantly, the entire cafeteria grew silent. All eyes were intently on Qin Ye as he slowly continued, “I might have to enter a period of closed door cultivation for the next four to six months.”

Silence.

After some time, Secretary Ma finally lifted his teacup and quipped back, “Mr Qin… could there be something urgent on your end we need to know about? Because… the citizens of Martial City are equally urgent as well.”

Qin Ye shook his head, “I guarantee that there won’t be any major supernatural incidents within Martial City over the next six months. The source of this news is absolutely reliable, but kindly forgive me if I’m unable to disclose any more than that. That said, after half a year, the entire situation in Eastmount Province will experience a great upheaval!”

The daolord of the asura would still be skirmishing with Kong Mo and his forces in the near future, and they would have neither the time nor the resources to wreak havoc in the mortal realm as well. But half a year later, the new Hell’s troops would finally arrive at Qufu and thereby inaugurate the very first national highway leaving from the City of Salvation to Qufu. At that time… Eastmount Province would be the stage where the Romance of the Three Kingdoms would finally pan out. Regardless of the strength and might of each faction at that time, the powerful clash of these factions would still send the mortal realm into chaos.

But before the rest could even respond to these news of his, Qin Ye promptly added, “Furthermore… I might be able to breach the bottleneck and advance to the ranks of an Infernal Judge in the next six months.”

A thin man abruptly stood up and stared at Qin Ye.

Infernal Judge…

Infernal Judge?!

“Y-y-you… D-didn’t you… j-j-just become an Anitya Hellguard?!”

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