This was Limbo. A coastal city of Eastmount Province lay right above their present location. If they were in the mortal realm right now, they should be able to see bright sunlight, sandy beaches, beautiful women and glorious waves. But, here in Limbo, there was only a large mountain range formed out of massive rock formations, as well as an endless sea that extended well beyond those reaches.
If one looked close though, they would be able to see innumerable spots of netherflames hovering about atop the mountain range. Massive tents stood stoically at the top of the ridges, while countless Yin spirits were seen coming and going from its midst. Massive ballistas were erected along the edge of the coastal ridges, and there were even large machines resembling Yin beasts that appeared to be stationed around the vicinity in strategic locations.
Countless spots of red dots hovered right above the surface of the seas, staring intently at the magnificent fortress. There were even several massive residences drifting along the surface of the sea like a colossal ghost ship.
There was a lamp hanging in the middle of each tent, powered by a pitch-black crystal rock and emitting a dim light. The largest tent was located right in the middle of all the other tents, and there was a wreath of human skulls hanging from the lamp that burned with a cold, red flame.
There was only one person located in the main tent right now. He wore an ancient-styled robe and sported a thin frame. His skin was dry and covered with cracks. In fact, there were several parts of his body where even his bones could be seen. Evidently, there wasn’t any subcutaneous tissue underneath the shriveled and crackling skin of his. There were two gaping holes right where his eye sockets were located, and it was only when he raised his head that one could see a bright red dot hidden in the deep darkness within.
It was so grim that it almost looked like a demonic scarlet star in the middle of the night sky.
That man was currently staring at a scroll, while a map of the vicinity hung right behind him. Just then, his eyes flickered, and he promptly picked up a wooden plaque and took a look at it.
There were twelve spots of soulfires blazing atop the wooden plaque. But one of them had just fizzled out a moment ago.
He stared intently at the soulfire that had gone out with great disbelief. Then, after a protracted period of silence, he finally gasped coldly, “Has the Lord of Darkriver perished?”
“How is that possible?” His shriveled hand tightened its grasp around the wooden plaque, “He was tasked to guard Qufu with three other evil ghosts. How could he possibly be dead?”
Did something happen to Qufu?
He immediately shot to his feet at such a thought. However, he soon flopped back down to his seat again.
The bones in his legs had clacked and clattered, before instantly shattering into pieces and crumbling into dust, leaving two sets of loose skins hanging limply where his feet used to be.
The Yin spirits outside heard the commotion in the room. At once, an attendant dressed in likeness of a Tang Dynasty official immediately drifted into the room, “Lord Kong, it’s time for you to change your clothes again.”
“I’ve been too busy lately.” Kong Mo sighed softly as he pinched the baggy skin around his legs, “Bring me my change of clothes, and lower the veil after you.”
The Tang Dynasty attendant left and then returned in no time. However… what he brought wasn’t a change of clothes at all. Rather, it was a living person!
The person had already passed out a long time ago. The attendant promptly lowered the veil after him, while a bloodthirsty smile soon crept up the corners of Kong Mo’s lips. Then, he pulled out a pair of scissors.
These were scissors made of pure silver.
Without any hesitation, he plunged the scissors into the human being’s belly button, and then began to cut open the man and strip him of his skin as though he were doing arts and crafts!
“Fresh human skin still feels the best…” Kong Mo sighed softly. The skin was now split right down the center, and it soon peeled open into two halves like a jumpsuit. Then, a skeleton walked out of its old, crackling skin and slowly made its way into its fresh new clothes. A thread and needle soon sewed up the new skin from within, all the way through to the seams of the head.
The lamp in the room flickered softly. Ten minutes later, Lord Kong called out to his attendant once more, “Come in.”
The Tang Dynasty attendant drifted in once more.
Nothing seemed different about the tent, save for another human skull that had ostensibly been added to the wreath of human skulls. Lord Kong’s appearances were now completely different.
“Sha Xiangzu is dead.” Kong Mo lifted a wine glass and poured in a red liquid from a carafe nearby. The two red dots in his eyes had clearly narrowed from before.
“How?!” The attendant gasped in horror, “I’ve not received word that Qufu is under siege. It’s safe to say that they’re not facing any situation right now! The daolord of the asura has also been kept at bay by our forces over here, especially given the high-quality Yin artifacts at your disposal right now. So, who could possibly kill the Lord of Darkriver?!”
Kong Mo twirled the wooden plaque in his hand for some time, before finally responding hoarsely, “No, there’s still someone who can.”
He raised his eyes sharply and gazed deeply into the eyes of his attendant, “Sha Xiangzu and his army of a hundred thousand were decimated in an inordinately short amount of time. If there’s someone in this world that can do something like that… then, it has undoubtedly got to be them…”
The two evil ghosts stared at each other, and a sudden chill filled their hearts.
Are they finally coming?
Is Hell finally going to regain control of the underworld?
But… who’s even supposed to be considered Hell at this point in time?
Only those who survive deserve to be called Hell! Otherwise, they’re nothing more than a name to be tossed around in vain!
“Are you thinking that Hell might be gathering Yin spirits under its wings once more? Or perhaps… that they even know of the existence of Qufu right now?”
Lord Kong furrowed his brows deeply, “I want you to take 200,000 troops and return to Qufu right away.”
“Yes!” The attendant responded affirmatively, but he couldn’t help but worry about this location, “But, what about here?”
“Don’t worry. That old fogey would never be able to take the high ground for some time to come.” Kong Mo chuckled coldly, “Having spent the last few centuries with him in Hell, I know him all too well. He’s easily suspicious of others, small-minded, and doesn’t know how to use his people to his own advantage. The only thing he cares about is power, strength and authority. I can’t help but wonder what it was that triggered him to turn against the mortal realm in the first place.”
“Anyhow, I want you to take my tiger talisman with you. If you should discover that someone has turned traitor against us, I give you the authority to purge them without question. But if everything still seems peaceful back in Qufu, then you must inquire exactly how and where Sha Xiangzu died, and then go to the scene of the crime immediately to conduct the necessary investigations. I want a detailed report.”
With that, the Yin spirit went away.
Lord Kong sat in his tent, staring out into the dark canopy of the skies in Limbo. Some moments later, he chuckled softly to himself, “I refuse to believe that the old Hell hasn’t collapsed. You can’t even seize Yin spirits from us any longer. I wonder where this phony so-called ‘Hell’ has emerged from? Do you think you’re Hell just because you call yourself as such?”
“By Hell’s Dictum, all rabble shall disperse. These aren’t just words, you know…”
Sss… All of the Yin soldiers that had surrendered themselves gasped in horror when they witnessed the execution of Sha Xiangzu by way of the sky lantern punishment.
Sha Xiangzu is dead. The tyrannical Lord of Darkriver is burning in a sky lantern right in front of our eyes. Innumerable spears, and projectile weapons were all pointed at the Yin spirits that had earlier been rounded up. Not a single one of them dared make any sudden moves. No. They couldn’t. Their entire beings were paralyzed with an intense fear that permeated the depths of their hearts.
The Yin spirits had been gathered up at an open plaza within the Darkriver City. Two Judges hovered overhead with their hands in the air. An otherworldly pressure bore down heavily on them, and not a single one of them dared lift their heads to the sky to even see what the Judges were doing.
Crackle… crackle...The stifling sound of the sky lantern punishment weighed heavily on their hearts. The atmosphere in the area was still and heavy. Ten full minutes later, Qin Ye finally stepped forward and addressed everyone.
“Hell has existed since time immemorial. It’s the orthodox kingdom of the Cathayan underworld. Sure, there might have been some minor changes in Hell over the last few decades which prevented Hell from its duties back in the mortal realm, yet to think that the traitor Kong Mo would actually make such a bold move in our absence.”
He spoke without any haste, “You were a part of Kong Mo’s army of insurgents. Logically speaking, you should be executed for your crimes.”
When he said this, he deliberately paused for a moment and swept his intense gaze across the kneeling Yin soldiers. Several Yin soldiers couldn’t help but look up at him expectantly with a shiver running through their bodies.
“But the heavens have eyes as well. You’ve been deceived by Kong Mo and his lies. The ignorant shall be spared. Therefore, I’m willing to give you a chance to make amends for your crimes.”
Having learnt of the extent of Qufu’s army, Qin Ye would never pass up on the Yin spirits that were kneeling before him right now! The 30,000 Yin soldiers could still be contained and controlled by his own forces. They would be divided up and separated to be assimilated into various platoons to be especially overseen by the commanders of Hell. So long as they weren’t given the opportunity to collude, making such arrangements would naturally only increase their military might right now!
In order to quell any lingering embers of resistance and snuff out all possible sources of rebellion, all officers of the Alliance of Darkness had naturally been executed together with Sha Xiangzu. Otherwise, how could the sky lantern be blazing so vigorously right now?
This had nothing to do with ruthlessness. Rather, it was all borne out of necessity in the circumstances.
The heavy atmosphere in the plaza loosened up slightly as soon as Qin Ye gave them the low down.
“Have you already decided to recruit them since a long time ago?” Arthis quipped with curiosity, “You seem almost certain that they would accept this offer of yours.”
Qin Ye responded calmly, “That’s a given. Don’t forget that these are Yin spirits who have perished in recent years. None of them possess any of that foolish loyalty of bygone eras. These days, people are only loyal to their own country. Bring up the fact that we represent the orthodox Hell of the nation, label them as traitors and spare their lives, and they naturally would take a certain course of action.”
He sighed softly, “People these days… are truly afraid of death…”
Arthis glared at him fiercely - Aren’t you just talking about yourself?!
Qin Ye ignored her. Instead, he turned his gaze to the 30,000 Yin spirits below once more, “Those who still wish to follow the Lord of Darkriver can stand to my left. I give you my word that you’ll be granted a quick and painless death. But those who wish to make amends for their mistakes can stand to my right. We’ll use the sky lantern as the dividend line. You may make your decision right away. We’ll tally the numbers in ten minutes’ time.”
Naturally, not a single Yin spirit stood to Qin Ye’s left at all.
“Wise decision.” Ten minutes later, Qin Ye waved his hands in mid-air, and a massive book immediately appeared right in front of all 30,000 Yin spirits, “Now, I’d like all of you to write your name, place of origin, date of birth and date of death into this book.”
The Yin spirits did as they were told. Qin Ye watched as the number of names within the Book of Life and Death slowly increased, and he fervently repressed the surging joy in his heart. He kept a placid expression on his face as he continued to address the Yin spirits, “Everyone. First of all, welcome to the new Hell. Hell is the orthodox underworld of Cathay. Everything else that exists apart from Hell is heretical, and cannot be condoned. You may treat the eastbound expedition that we’re on as a test of sorts. Once we succeed, you will be treated the same as any other citizen of Hell. You’ll be given benefits and jobs, and everything will be reminiscent of life back in the mortal realm.”
He glanced around, only to realize that there wasn’t much of a response.
Can’t be bothered about these things?
That’s fine… Qin Ye continued, “At the same time, you’ll be able to access the facilities and amenities that only Hell can provide, including relaying dreams to your loved ones, and even reuniting with your family and friends in death. All of these benefits are exclusive to Hell because we are the only entity in possession of the Book of Life and Death!”
As soon as he said these things, countless Yin spirits immediately looked up at Qin Ye with great astonishment.
“Naturally, should you dare to defect after settling back in Hell… then let me make this clear - your loved ones might pay the penalty for your crimes. After all, rendering punishment is as easy as striking out names on the Book of Life and Death.” With that, Qin Ye drifted away.
He was content to leave all other arrangements to Yang Yanzhao.
Yang Yanzhao was already waiting for him as soon as he landed on the ground. Qin Ye raised his eyebrow softly, “How’s the preparations?”
“Your Excellency needn’t worry. Everything has already been prepared. All Yin soldiers will be broken up in pairs and separated from the rest of their forces. There’s no way any chaos can ensue this way.”
Qin Ye nodded, “Then… do you have any thoughts about Qufu?”
Thoughts about how we are to attack Qufu!
The intelligence extracted from Sha Xiangzu meant that it was only right to go back to the drawing board. After all, the Shanhai Pass was one of the most famous passes in all of Cathayan history. It should never be taken lightly.
Fortunately, Arthis had been to the Shanhai Pass of the underworld, and still had some impression of it left to work with.
Yang Yanzhao tightened his fists, “There’s nothing concrete… My Lord, the only way forward is to march full speed ahead! There’s no other way to make any concrete plans until we finally arrive at Qufu itself!”
“How big is the city? What are the strategic choke points? What spell arrays are there? Are there any traps? It’s going to be practically impossible to take down such an indomitable pass unless we have intelligence on all of these things!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter