Time appeared to come to a stand still in that very instant.
Qin Ye’s heart skipped a beat. This attack probably wasn’t able to kill him, but… it could undoubtedly send him flying thousands of meters away! The consequences of that could be potentially unthinkable!
He stared at the Yin soldiers below. There were only a couple of thousands remaining. If Lai Junchen had something else hidden up his sleeves, then there was a good chance that Hell would no longer be able to seize the Mythic Palace of Reflections altogether! When that happens, Qufu’s army will converge once more, and the entire situation would reverse again!
Just then, Qin Ye noticed out of the corner of his eye that Yang Yanzhao appeared to be shouting something… Eh?
Qin Ye paused.
Where’s Yang Yande?
A split second later, a man appeared right beside Qin Ye and shoved him away from where he was standing. Simultaneously, a brilliant light erupted from the Peach Blossom Lantern, causing great distortions in the air. Then… Shk. A large building located tens of thousands of meters away was blasted into smithereens.
“Fifth brother!!” Yang Yanzhao’s eyes blistered with rage as he roared at the top of his voice. But just as he was to rush forward recklessly, he caught himself and gritted his teeth as he held himself back. His chest heaved greatly with every breath he took.
Qin Ye’s heart soured in an instant. But he knew better than to address his mind to such needless emotions on the battlefield right now. He pulled back his spear softly, and then plunged it straight through Lai Junchen’s shoulder.
I can’t afford to be distracted now!
“AHHHHHH!!!” Lai Junchen cried out with a heart-rending scream as he was pinned straight to the altar with a single strike. He clutched at his shoulder, writhing in pain, yet he wasn’t able to break free no matter how hard he struggled.
Qin Ye glanced past Lai Junchen and looked directly at the massive mirror located right behind where Lai Junchen was. And then, he promptly turned to look beyond the mirror, and at the lands below. In an instant, he took in the full view of the entire city of Qufu. It was an astonishing sight.
It was an idyllic, picturesque sight of hundreds of thousands of households in a neat city surrounded by walls.
The houses were constructed mainly from wood, and they were designed with an ancient Cathayan flair. They were all neatly arranged alongside broad roads for ease of access and to minimize congestion. The entire city was clearly well planned out. In fact, it almost resembled the time of the Han or Tang Dynasties, when the splendour of the city declared the prosperity of the nation.
It was also in that instant that Qin Ye understood why powers and factions in the mortal realm have always been inclined towards war and conquests.
It was because in that instant when a general or king stands at the peak of the world, glancing down at his lands and subjects that were bowing in submission to him, it would completely fill their hearts with an unquenchable feeling of achievement.
It was the romance of war.
This war had lasted all of but twenty hours, yet how many brave souls had perished in this short span of time? Qufu City… He slowly scanned the entire city around him, glancing greedily at the millions of Yin spirits who were stealing glances at him from the safety of their abodes. And then, he turned his gaze right back to the Mythic Palace of Reflections.
It dazzled with a brilliant light, almost like the sun that ruled over the nine heavens. Its radiance spread far and wide, across hundreds of miles. It was gorgeous and boundless.
“And now, it’s mine!” Qin Ye shut his eyes and allowed his clothes to flutter softly with the nethergale as he drew a deep breath.
It was the feeling of power.
He could sense something within his body fusing completely with him. It was a light and fleeting sensation, yet palpable at the same time. He tried to recall when he had felt something like that before, but he simply wasn’t able to put a finger on it.
Whoosh! Just then, Yang Yanzhao finally rushed to the top of the altar, gasping for breath. The rest of Hell’s forces continued to yell valiantly at the top of their voices as they continued their upward charge as well. Qin Ye was abruptly jolted back from his brief reverie, and he immediately lowered his head to look at Lai Junchen’s limp body that was laying right in front of him.
No… I’m still a single step away from all that.
I have to seize the Mythic Palace of Reflections and become the Lord of Qufu! Then, I’ll use Qufu as a launching pad to unify the rest of the southeast district of Cathay!
Calm down… calm down… He fervently repressed the stirring emotions in his heart before turning to Yang Yanzhao, “Where’s General Yang Yande?”
“My Lord!!” Yang Yanzhao’s eyes flickered wildly, and his chest rose and fell heavily, “That’s not important for now! Qufu’s practically in the palm of our hands right now! But… we simply cannot afford to let this man die!”
Qin Ye nodded, before turning to look at Qufu once more.
In the distance, hundreds of thousands of Qufu Yin soldiers were rushing back to the inner city with wanton disregard for Hell’s forces that were hot on their heels. It was almost as though a sea of netherflames were rushing straight back to the inner city from all directions.
It’s time to end everything…
He retracted his gaze and turned to the Mythic Palace of Reflections once more. There was a sculpture of the Harken tussling with a xiezhi unicorn located at the base of the Mythic Palace of Reflections, and the claws of the two beasts held up the magnificent mirror. In fact, the sharp claws of the two beasts appeared to be puncturing holes straight through the surface of the mirror.
A ferocious river of Yin energy poured into the Mythic Palace of Reflections through the claws of the two divine beasts. This was the source of energy that was sustaining the Mythic Palace of Reflections.
Everyone knew that Yin artifacts had to be powered by a source of Yin energy, including Yin spirit stones, and this was exactly the channel from which the Mythic Palace of Reflections was receiving its power.
Qin Ye’s once again imbued his spear with his Judge-class Yin energy. Then, with a mighty thrust, he struck the sculpture, causing it to crumble and collapse with an explosion of dust and debris. Boom!! The delicate mechanism feeding Yin energy to the Mythic Palace of Reflections was revealed at once, together with… a heap of Yin spirit stones as large as a small mountain!
In fact, what lay hidden beneath the facade of the entire altar was all Yin spirit stones!
Clatter… Just then, the Mythic Palace of Reflections began to dazzle once more.
Buzz… The Yin energy in the surroundings trembled violently, and the entire Qufu City began to flicker and fade between reality and illusion. Then, seconds later, not only did the bright lustre from the surface of the mirror not fade away, it even transformed into a vast, boundless radiance of green that flooded the world!
The entire world around them was instantly engulfed in a green hue. The Mythic Palace of Reflections had lost its source of Yin energy, and yet rather than fizzling out, its radiance even turned more demonic than ever! In fact, rows of red talisman had now begun to surface on the surface of the mirror, almost as though someone were slowly drawing them up on the surface from within. Furthermore, there were only a few rows of talismans left to draw up before the entire Mythic Palace of Reflections would be completely covered in talismans.
“What’s this?” Qin Ye frowned at these talismans. Intuition told him that this couldn’t possibly be anything good.
Just then, Qufu City trembled violently once more. And then, Qufu’s outer city walls drifted up from the ground, before slowly disintegrating into a world of black butterflies that scattered into the surroundings. It was almost as though the entire city had entered the final countdown to its end!
This was… the collapse of Yin energy!
He wasn’t the only one who froze at the sight. In that instant, practically the entire Qufu, including their remaining hundreds of thousands of Yin soldiers and tens of millions of citizens, froze in horror.
Rustle… The Qufu Yin soldiers who were desperately rushing back to reinforce the inner city immediately paused and glanced at their surroundings in horror. They could sense their entire city going up in smokes. It was such a horrific sight that they simply couldn’t ignore it!
What do we do?!
Back in the streets and alleys, countless ghostly citizens of Qufu also drifted out from their homes, staring in great astonishment as they saw the entire city that they have lived in for decades now transform into black butterflies and drifting into the dark skies. The entire city was now trembling in the light of an eerie green hue.
“What’s going on? Is it an earthquake?” “Is Qufu… vanishing?” “Look! Look at the outer city walls! Black butterflies! Yin energy butterflies! What the hell is going on right now?!”
Unfortunately, nobody had any answers to these questions.
Just like a prelude to destruction, the Yin energy on which the entire city of Qufu was built slowly peeled away, wisp by wisp, before transforming to countless black butterflies that soon scattered into the surroundings. It was almost as though the entire city was proclaiming the end to its era.
“What the hell have you done?!” Yang Yanzhao stamped heavily on Lai Junchen’s chest, causing him to cough up copious amounts of Yin energy. Lai Junchen lay sprawled across the ground, panting hoarsely, “Die… die with me!! Qufu has fallen… Lord Kong would never spare me for this… I’m dead anyway… so why don’t I drag you all to hell with me?! Hahaha!!”
Whoosh… Qin Ye pressed his spear onto Lai Junchen’s throat, “Stop it at once, and I’ll bestow upon you a swift and easy death.”
“Ahahahahaha!!!” Lai Junchen threw his head up into the sky and cackled madly for a long time. And then, gasping and sputtering for air, he heaved back, “Dream… on!”
It was only a natural response. When people were pushed off the precipice of reason and rationality, they would naturally act in an uncharacteristic fashion.
For instance, Lai Junchen had never expected Qufu to collapse in the first place. Yet the cognitive dissonance between his expectations and reality had pushed him right over the edge, filling him with denial and disbelief of reality and invoking a manic response from within his heart.
“This is the Curse of Reincarnation Privation.” Just then, a majestic voice that was interlaced with some measure of ostensible weakness resounded at the top of the altar.
Lai Junchen’s eyes instantly shrank as he looked around in horror. His entire body was practically trembling right now.
Qin Ye froze, “Harken?”
The enunciation of a single word caused Lai Junchen to stir madly once more. He tried desperately to get up, only to be forced back to the ground by Yang Yanzhao again. His lips were trembling profusely, almost as though his entire world was collapsing right now. Lai Junchen turned to stare at Qin Ye, and then began to speak with a drifty voice, “No… that’s impossible… Lord Harken is still around? That’s impossible… that’s absolutely impossible!!”
“Lord Kong has ascertained that Lord Harken has ceased to be in existence in the underworld! Hehe… haha… I get it… you’re trying to trick me! You’re trying to deceive me!!”
“I’m indeed not in the underworld. Besides… who does Kong Mo think he is? How dare he even speculate about my existence?” The Harken snorted coldly, “Mythic Palace of Reflections, huh… I’ve not seen that in a long time. Haah… it’s not difficult to gain control of it. Earlier, I sensed that both the heavenly realm and the underworld have approved of your status as the future King Yanluo of Hell. A Yanluo is in charge of everything in the underworld. All you need to do is to drip a drop of blood onto its surface, and it will immediately recognize you as its master. Once you do that, I’ll take over and help you break all of these restrictions placed upon it.”
Qin Ye continued to listen to the Harken’s explanations intently.
“But before that, you’ll have to find a way to remove the Curse of Reincarnation Privation. Sigh… Although Kong Mo hadn’t handed his lackey the full reins of controlling the Mythic Palace of Reflections, he did hand him the means of destroying it. You’ve got another five minutes at best. Otherwise, as soon as the entire surface of the mirror is completely filled with talismans, it will clear the entire Qufu City of all Yin spirits within. At that time… I’m afraid you might be the only one left alive.”
“Fortunately, breaking it can be simple as well. All Yin artifacts must have an ‘entrance’ of sorts. This entrance allows it to draw Yin energy from external sources for the Yin artifact’s operations. From my assessment, the curse has been triggered by the sacrifice of a nascent Hellguard-class Yin spirit. So long as you sacrifice another Yin spirit that is stronger than that, I’ll be able to break the curse for you.”
Lai Junchen listened to everything that was said with a stiff expression on his face. And then, he suddenly began to lunge towards Qin Ye with his mouth wide open.
He had gone mad.
No… it shouldn’t be like this… Why… why did Lord Harken suddenly appear like that?
Not even the heavens are on my side!
Qin Ye mulled over Lord Harken’s words, while Yang Yanzhao began to glance about worriedly - Where are we going to find a Hellguard on such short notice?
There were indeed Hellguards located in Qufu’s outer city, but they wouldn’t be able to rush there and back in the short span of five minutes!
He glanced at Arthis, only to realize that the black sphere of hair was still as solid as ever. He tried calling out to her, but received no response whatsoever.
What are we supposed to do?
The Mythic Palace of Reflections was like a time bomb with only five minutes remaining on the timer. Even if they win this battle, they would still lose the war!
They would have expended most of the assets in Hell’s possession, only to realize that they would not gain a single cent of profit from the war! How long would Hell take to recoup its losses before it can embark on its second war for expansion after this?
“Lord Qin…” Yang Yanzhao was at his wits’ end. A minute later, he gnashed his teeth and turned to Qin Ye once more, “Lord Harken didn’t say that… it has to be an enemy Hellguard.”
Qin Ye turned back to Yang Yanzhao with a great look of horror, “You’re not suggesting to do this yourself, are you?”
“This is the only way!” Yang Yanzhao blurted back without any hesitation. But before he could go on, Qin Ye suddenly shook his hand dismissively as he turned back to Lai Junchen, “What are you talking about? Isn’t there someone far more suitable than you are over here?”
Yang Yanzhao instantly drew back in silence.
He must have been hidden right under my radar… No wonder he would react with such madness earlier…
“Mr Lai, you used to be a famous and cool official serving under the Tang Dynasty as well as Wu Zetian’s Zhou Dynasty. In fact, you were the one who inspired the saying, ‘invite the gentleman into the urn’. What an inspiration… I wonder if I might now have the honour of inviting you to enter the urn?”
Qin Ye smiled and patted the dust off his clothes, before making a gesture of invitation, “Mr Lai, please.”
1. This is quite an interesting one. From Wiki - That year, a famous incident involving Lai and fellow secret police official Zhou Xing occurred. Earlier that year, the general Qiu Shenji (丘神勣) had been accused of crime and executed, and subsequently, there were secret reports that Zhou was involved with Qiu's crimes. Wu Zetian had Lai investigate, without Zhou's knowledge. One day, Lai and Zhou sat down to lunch, and Lai asked Zhou the question of, "Many of the accused are not willing to confess. Do you have an idea on how to get them to confess?" Zhou responded, "That is easy. Take a big urn and set a fire under it. Put the accused in it, and surely he will confess everything." Lai had a big urn brought and a fire set underneath, in accordance with Zhou's instructions, and then rose and stated to Zhou, "I had received secret instructions from Her Imperial Majesty with regard to you, my brother. Please enter the urn." Zhou, in fear, knelt and confessed. Wu Zetian did not execute Zhou but exiled him, and on the way to his place of exile, Zhou was killed by his enemies. (This incident inspired the Chinese proverb "invite the gentleman into the urn" (請君入甕, qing jun ru weng), now used for the concept of putting a person into a trap that he himself or she herself had set.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lai_Junchen