Chapter 442: First Assembly of Citizens

The flames in Wei Youliang’s eyes flickered wildly, and he trembled as he tightened his grip around the newspaper in his hands.

These were paper newspapers, just like the ubiquitous kind back in the mortal realm. The quality of the paper was neither excellent, nor terrible.

He had heard news on the grapevine that this was one of the special products of Hell, and King Yanluo had only been able to transport it here through the use of a technique known as the Universal Grand Shift. Having worked hard for a month, the only thing they had all received in exchange were these millions of newspapers that were distributed to the various communities in their world.

That’s right. Community. It was a word that invoked deep emotions of familiarity in his heart.

There were a number of other Yin spirits around him who were also speaking loudly in turn. This was a community reading group - a society that was established pursuant to the orders of the so-called King Yanluo of Hell, who had ordered all who were keen to establish societies to submit their application forms and name lists within a three-day time period. Naturally, the objective of these societies had to cohere with, promote or complement the intentions of the King Yanluo of Hell, just like what they were doing now.

None of the other Yin spirits gathered around them spoke a single word. They were all regular ghostly citizens of Qufu City’s Shanhai Pass - the most ordinary, plebeian kind. After their death, they had unwittingly arrived in the heart of Shanhai Pass.

At that time, they were none the wiser, and they had naturally thought that they had arrived in Hell.

That’s right, with such a majestic, lofty and magnificent city from which millions of ghostly citizens came and went, how could this not be the fabled existence known as Hell?

They could tell it was powerful, because even the terrifying monarch beasts were unable to even come close within a three kilometer radius of the outer city walls of Shanhai Pass.

The city’s defenses were solid as gold. None of them had any doubts that this was indeed the First Pass Under Heaven.

But, just a month ago, they learnt for the very first time that they… were in fact part of a rebel force.

They weren’t living in Hell. Everything was an illusion generated by a mirror in the possession of an evil mastermind. And the true Hell… had actually mobilized its forces under the charge of the renowned General Yang to quell the rebellion that was Qufu City!

Ever since then, for one whole month, the entire city was put on curfew. What would previously have been a well-lit city even in the middle of the night became completely silent like a tomb as soon as the curfew kicked into force. Countless Yin soldiers of Hell would patrol the streets and the alleys at night, arresting all who were found to be breaching the curfew.

“Everyone… take a look.” He shut his eyes and began to hand out the newspapers to the ghostly citizens around, “It’s all written very clearly on it…”

“Let me add something.” A man among the crowd quietly stood up, revealing the fact that he was dressed in ancient armor. He spoke unhurriedly, “Lord Qin doesn’t pursue the past. He only punishes the evil masterminds orchestrating everything. You may be ghostly citizens, but… you’re also the ghostly citizens of Hell.”

“And as for why Hell is called Hell… you’ll soon find out.”

Wei Youliang sealed his lips tight and thought to himself - Oh… Speaking of which, I’ve heard that our King Yanluo is surnamed Qin… 

Word on the grapevine was that Yanluo Qin had personally instructed the foremen of each neighbourhood on their responsibilities in terms of the ideological and political work they were to engage in.

Concerned that he might give the citizens a wrong impression, the armored foreman smiled faintly and added, “Kong Mo is a traitor of Hell who has absconded to Eastmount after stealing Hell’s precious Yin artifact, the Mythic Palace of Reflections. He might have been able to protect you from external harm, but that’s probably all he could do for you.”

“Do you know when your loved ones are coming down to join you?”

“Don’t you want to relay messages to your loved ones through dreams?”

“These are the benefits that only the true Hell can render! We’re talking about the authentic Hell of the underworld, and not one ruled by a rebel leader!” With that, the foreman nodded, “This is a special edition newspaper disseminated by Hell’s Media Group. Take a good look for yourself. The causes and consequences that triggered the war have all been explained in detail. Apart from that… tonight at 6.00 p.m., Lord Qin will be personally presiding over the First General Assembly. There will be a live broadcast of it as well. I believe… the agenda to be covered will give rise to a paradigm shift in the way you view Hell.”

Ah… that’s right. There’s also news of the First General Assembly of Citizens. I’ve heard that Hell has randomly selected fifty participants from each neighbourhood to attend the proceedings in person. The rest will be watching it on live broadcast.

Wei Youliang glanced at the hourglass on the table. There was still approximately two hours before the commencement of the general assembly.

But he wasn’t the only one who was eagerly awaiting that moment. All eyes were staring at the clock slowly ticking down.

Even then, they continued to go about their duties, disseminating news of the general assembly as much as they could. It was naturally impossible to ensure that the entire populace of over ten million Yin spirits would watch the upcoming assembly, but the least they could do was to inform them of the same. In fact, operations to spread the word about the general assembly had already commenced three days ago, and this was the last neighbourhood that they were rostered to spread the news to. They were on the verge of fully discharging their obligations.

One of the plumper Yin spirits standing to Wei Youliang’s side couldn’t help but snatch over the newspapers as he read it with great excitement.

“Victory!!” A striking celebratory word was splashed across the headlines.

“Hell’s first war for expansion is otherwise known as the eastbound expedition. After an arduous nineteen-hour tussle with the rebel forces, Hell managed to seize control of Qufu City’s Shanhai Pass, Kong Mo’s main base of operations. The Mythic Palace of Reflections, one of the most prized treasures of Hell previously stolen by Kong Mo, was also returned to Hell, its rightful owner. The enemy forces saw casualties numbering more than half a million, while Hell’s forces sustained substantially lower casualties of over 60,000 Yin soldiers. This is the new Hell’s first victory since its establishment! Hell overcame all odds and claimed a miraculous victory!”

“Kong Mo is devious and crafty. Back in the mortal realm, the execution of his devious ploys culminated in the turmoil of the Confucian lineage, and he became notoriously known as the great sinner of the Confucian Family. Even after death, his heart continued to stray from the path of righteousness, and he continued to plot and scheme against Hell by stealing the Mythic Palace of Reflections from Hell. Incidentally, his escape coincided with the ascension of Lord Ksitigarbha and the great collapse of the old Hell. Yanluo Qin succeeded the throne of Hell amidst one of the greatest crises to befall Hell. But as a result of the multitude of other more pressing needs of the new Hell, he remained unable to pursue the retrieval of the Mythic Palace of Reflections. Thus, it remained lost to Hell for a hundred or so years.”

“But what goes around must come around. Revenge is a dish best served cold. One hundred years since Kong Mo managed to make off with the Mythic Palace of Reflections, Hell’s great army marched into Eastmount Province, trampled over Shanhai Pass, and reclaimed what rightfully belonged to it. The following is a blow-by-blow report of the great battle that took place…”

Rustle, rustle… Several Yin spirits leaned in closer to read the reported account of the war. Approximately forty minutes later, the obese Yin spirit heaved a long sigh of relief as he flipped the page.

What came next was a full account of the collapse of the old Hell, and the current status of the new Hell. Then, as the article delved into greater detail about Hell, including the provision of particulars pertaining to the Book of Life and Death, King Yanluo’s Seal, as well as the Harken, the Yin spirits reading the article couldn’t help but gasp aloud.

Only the true Hell could have access to such things!

Have we… truly been misled into being a part of the rebel forces?

The newspaper articles were incredibly detailed. It started right from the inception of transition, with the Ksitigarbha’s ascension, and set out in detail everything that transpired until Yanluo Qin took over as the third King Yanluo of Hell. It also described Lord Qin with such perfection that he was practically like a god incarnate - the kind that was so deviously charming that nobody would be able to resist… spreading their legs for him?!

Dead silence.

Everyone continued to read the news articles until they finally arrived at the last page.

It was a list with countless names written on it.

“This is a tribute to all who have martyred themselves in the eastbound expedition.”

“Hell’s pioneers: Mu Guiying, Yang Yande, Zhao Seven.”

“Cheng Zili, Wang Youde, Lei Ming, Tang Wenshan, Qi Xiangwu, Long Tiao, Wang Lun, Feng Rao…”

There were tens of thousands of names printed on the last page of the newspapers!

Everyone could sense some measure of sobriety fill the air, almost as though they were given a glimpse of the tragedies of war. After an inordinately long time, they finally returned the newspapers to Wei Youliang, who respectfully received it with both hands, before passing it back to the foreman behind him.

Then, just as the foreman received the papers from Wei Youliang, the sound of a lilting bell suddenly sounded in their ears.

Dong… Dong… The sounds of the bells echoed throughout the entire Shanhai Pass.

Everyone glanced at each other with a flickering gaze in their eyes, and their hearts immediately began to thump wildly.

This was the Bell of a Thousand Souls that was erected at the top of the tower that overlooked the entire city. Back when Kong Mo had rules over the city, he had mentioned that it would only sound at the most critical juncture. As long as the bell didn’t sound, the citizens could take it that their lives would be absolutely safe.

But… Qufu had fallen without the bell resounding even once. How ironic that it would sound now of all times.

Lord Kong can’t protect us at all.

Perhaps… it might be a good idea to serve the authentic Hell after all. That said, it would be prudent to see what kind of governance style they adopt. They can write what they want in the news articles, but us citizens have all lived and died once before. We’ve had our fair share of life experiences as well. So let us judge with our own eyes whether this is truly the authentic Hell, or whether it’s nothing more than yet another rebel force attempting to cast smoke and mirrors before us…

Once bitten, twice shy. They were only willing to trust their own eyes now.

With that, they opened the doors and slowly made their way towards the nearby plaza. After all, the instructions were that all Yin spirits should gather on the plazas as much as possible.

Creak… They opened the door, only to be momentarily dazzled by a brilliant radiance. That said, they had already gotten used to this by now.

Qufu City, Shanhai Pass. For the most part, it still looked like the original, save for the several new structures erected within the inner city now.

One of them was a huge white building spanning several kilometers and twenty meters tall. That said, all twenty or so meters of it comprised only a single floor. It’s grandeur and magnificence was on the same scale as any Athenian temple, replete with stairs that led up into the sprawling sanctum within. It also bore some semblance to the general assembly halls of citizens back in the mortal realm. A sprawling symbol of the Harken was etched onto the ground in the middle of the building, while the rest of the building was constructed in pure, unadulterated ancient-Cathayan flair, replete with carved beams and painted pillars. All in all, the entire building struck the perfect balance between splendour and majesty.

This is something that has never existed in Shanhai Pass before… Wei Youliang stared dumbfounded at the building. Just like how Shanhai Pass has suddenly appeared out of nowhere, the majestic structure which now stood in the heart of the inner city seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

He was located quite some distance away from the inner city, and could thus only see the very top of the building. Yet, even then, he was able to vaguely make out a couplet located along the top edge of the building. It was barely in sight, and yet the words of the couplet instantly branded itself directly within his heart.

Lights fizzle at midnight, snared by uncanny dreams.

Brilliance of darkness, writhing hearts in enchanting paradox.

The more Wei Youliang stared at the couplet, the more his hearts thumped with unease. He promptly turned his glance away towards the other buildings in the inner city.

The other building was just as lofty and magnificent. It stood seven storeys tall, and the eaves extending from the structure were all adorned with exquisite sculptures of the divine beasts of Hell. Likewise, there was a couplet displayed at the top of the building. He couldn’t really see the words written on them, but the words of the couplet were still somehow imprinted on his heart.

Yin and Yang, shadows born of light.

Realms of mortals and realms of ghosts, inextricably intertwined.

There were three other buildings in the vicinity. The inner city used to be Qufu’s military barracks, completely out of bounds to the ghostly citizens of the city. Yet it was now ostensibly different from before. There was something else noteworthy about the inner city.

It was a withered tree.

The tree was covered with peculiar fruits that bore the appearance of a man’s face. Countless spots of netherflames hovered eerily about the tree, and there was even a murder of skeletal crows perched atop the tree’s withered branches. These skeletal crows had glowing red spots for their eyes that appeared to be staring right back at Wei Youliang. They immediately gave him the chills.

Whatever!

Gritting his teeth, he drew a deep breath and marched on out.

The next few moments are going to determine whether I live or I die!

That said… this Lord Qin isn’t possibly going to slaughter all ten million of us Yin spirits, right?

He’s got to know that even rabbits bite back when push comes to shove!

……………………………………………..

Inside a tall building within the inner city. Arthis waved her hand casually and rolled her eyes at Qin Ye, “You seem rather indifferent. I mean… you’ve been so busy lately that you seem to have forgotten something.”

“We’ve finally managed to take Qufu, but what comes next is just as important. How do we settle the hearts of the citizens in order to quell any possible uprising? Yet, by summoning my presence now…” She surveyed her surroundings.

It was a room that was approximately one thousand meters wide.

The image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was etched on the ground and surrounded by the symbols of the eight heavenly dragons. They were located high above the ground, and they naturally had a good vantage over the entire city below.

“Have you finally begun to covet my beauty and lust after my flesh?”

Qin-Ipman-Ye instantly adopted his trademark battle stance, placing one palm before the other, “Cut the crap. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time!”

“Bring it on. I want to fight ten of you!”

Arthis glared dismissively at him, “What gives? Since when have you become so arrogant?”

“I don’t know…” Qin Ye began to stretch his legs, “I feel like I’ve evolved from a second-tier manga into a Shonen Jump worthy protagonist. There’s something boiling within me that tells me I can easily put you down now.”

Crack, crack… He cracked his neck and his knuckles as he nodded at Arthis. Mm. I’m in tiptop condition.

Then, he locked eyes with Arthis, “It’s time to settle the accounts!”

Arthis immediately responded with a pensive disposition, “That’s right, our ill-fated relationship has dragged on for over four hundred chapters now… What a mess it is…”

Whoosh… Qin Ye began to gather Yin energy about him in order to transform into his Hell’s Emissary state. But just as he was on the verge of his transformation, Arthis responded with great elegance, “I concede.”

And then, she turned around and began to walk away without even looking back once more.

With a flick of her sleeves, she left him in the dust once more.

What the hell?!

Qin Ye’s eyes widened in horror.

Bloody hell… How can you do something like that?!

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