Arthis spoke with an incomparably grave expression on her face, causing Qin Ye to retract the smile on his face as well. His eyes instantly turned pure black, and he widened his eyes and took a closer look at the scroll, only to be struck by a wave of intense pain in his pupils, so much so that he recoiled back in shock and squatted down at once.
“Lord Qin!” Yang Yanzhao swiftly moved in front of Qin Ye and held up his hands as he glanced about warily. A spear formed from Yin energy instantly materialized out of thin air.
“It’s fine…” Seconds later, Qin Ye gnashed his teeth and looked up once more. His eyes were already back to normal, yet copious amounts of Yin energy continued to pour out from his entire body. Arthis spoke softly, “What did you see?”
Qin Ye wiped off the cold sweat that was beading up on his forehead. His heart was still thumping furiously, because just a moment ago, he saw… a majestic, towering figure!
It was incredibly tall, and indescribably majestic, almost as though it were the embodiment of the heavens and the earth. In fact, it wouldn’t even be an overstatement to describe the entity he saw as the centre of the universe!
It wasn’t a human.
He had once seen the illusory projection of King Song, Yama-King of the Third Palace. However… this figure he just saw was orders of magnitudes more terrifying than even King Song himself!
It was a qualitative difference. If King Song were described to be a river, then the figure that Qin Ye had just seen would be as vast as the oceans. At the very least, he could still see King Song’s entire back in his previous encounter. But now… he couldn’t even see where this figure began and ended at all!
How terrifying… He closed his eyes and placed his hand over his wildly beating heart. It took him several more moments before he finally managed to gather himself and speak up once more. Yet, even then, his voice was incredibly hoarse and filled with tremors, “Who was that?”
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Arthis who responded this time. It was Yang Yanzhao, “The Second King Yanluo of Hell.”
The spear in his hand once again transformed into a cloud of Yin energy that quickly dissipated into the surroundings. All this while, his eyes were filled with reverence - possibly even some measure of fanaticism - as he continued to stare at the scroll!
“This is a secret memorial, short for a secret memorial to the throne.” He explained immediately, “It’s a document that can only be tendered by Heaven’s Path, the secret guards of the Second King Yanluo of Hell. I only know the name of this organization, but no Yin spirit has ever seen them before. Nobody even knows the names of these Yin spirits. That said… back when the Second King Yanluo was in power, his occasional appearance in the imperial court was always triggered by the appearance of such secret memorials, which also tended to be a precursor to the occurrence of a catastrophe!”
“Hang on.” Qin Ye raised his hand, “Occasional appearance?”
“That’s right…” Yang Yanzhao chuckled bitterly, “The Second King Yanluo of Hell hated appearing in the imperial courts. Truth be told, he wasn’t willing to be the successor to the First King Yanluo of Hell either. Unfortunately, the First King Yanluo duped him into the role, and he had no choice but to accede to the succession. I know for a fact that this isn’t a rumour, because…”
He coughed dryly, “Whenever the Second King Yanluo spoke of the First King Yanluo, he would always lambast the First King Yanluo with a ten-minute long preface before getting into the meat of what he was going to say…”
What a retard… Qin Ye pursed his lips to stifle his laughter - Your cultivation prowess is through the roof, yet you still ended up being duped into submission by the First King Yanluo? You’re obviously all brawns and no brains… Eh? Hang on a minute… I seem to have been duped by the Second King Yanluo into accepting succession as well… Could this be the start of a fine tradition of Hell’s succession? No… Hang on a minute! Doesn’t this mean that I’m at the very bottom of this damn food chain of idiocy?!
After thinking things through, Qin-Dogballs-Ye immediately shut his mouth, and turned his mind to other things of greater importance.
Well, I guess that explains why this seemingly plain and simple scroll looks so immeasurably daunting. What’s unusual about it is the fact that this is a secret memorial that is directed straight to the Second King Yanluo of Hell!
The endorsement of the Second King Yanluo might well contain the words ‘read’ or ‘approved’, yet to think that these simple words could cause us to feel nothing more than a drop in the vast ocean out there. No wonder he dares to act so arrogantly towards the underworlds out there even after the old Hell’s collapse. He doesn’t care about the Heavenly Dao at all! If he did, he would never dare to call his own secret guards the ‘Heaven’s Path’. Holy crap. I’ll be damned.
“So this is a secret memorial belonging to the Second King Yanluo…” Qin Ye sighed softly, then promptly turned to stare at Arthis and Yang Yanzhao, “What is this secret memorial doing here?”
“For submission--...” Arthis was just twirling her hair about nonchalantly when she abruptly looked up and stared at the scroll. Yang Yanzhao did the exact same thing.
That’s right. What’s it doing here?
“Lady Arakshasa…” With his eyes still trained on the secret memorial, Yang Yanzhao blurted his thoughts, “The secret memorial… couldn’t have been leaked, could it?”
Arthis shook her head with the same measure of sobriety, “Impossible. All secret memorials are transmitted by Heaven’s Path from its source directly to the Second King Yanluo or vice versa, and then destroyed immediately after being read. We’ve never heard of a secret memorial being leaked before.”
“Then that leaves only one other possibility.” Qin Ye began to pace around slowly, “The Confucian Family stole this secret memorial."
Everyone grew silent.
Not a single one of them refuted Qin Ye’s conjecture.
It sounded completely out of the world, but the two who had formerly been part of the old Hell knew full well that this was indeed a very real possibility!
Qin Ye continued, “Extrapolating from this, it is patently clear that the Confucian Family is truly worthy to be called one of the greatest gentries to have existed in the old Hell. But from the manner in which you two have been portraying the Second King Yanluo, I daresay that not even the Confucian Family would dare to seize such a precious missive from his hands. Furthermore, you had earlier mentioned that these secret memorials would be transported from point to point, which means that once the Second King Yanluo gives his approval, it would have to be returned into the hands of the agents of Heaven’s Path…”
Yang Yanzhao immediately gasped and recoiled with great disbelief, “The Confucian Family… have managed to locate Heaven’s Path agents?”
The whereabouts of the elusive Heaven’s Path have actually been discovered by the Confucian Family?!
What kind of heaven-defying means must they have resorted to?!
“It might have been even worse than that. I’m afraid…” Qin Ye chuckled coldly, and his voice drifted off.
“Let me put it differently. Think about it. Why did the Second King Yanluo of Hell stand idly by and watch with inaction as Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva ascended?” Qin Ye walked over to the table and boldly ran his finger across the secret memorial, “Even if this secret memorial wasn’t the catalyst, it would most certainly have been one of the main fuses leading to the great collapse!”
It was well apparent just how rotten to the core Hell had been at the time of the great collapse.
To think that the secret memorial to the throne had ended up in the hands of a gentry of Hell!
Had this happened in any other dynasty, it would most certainly have been a telltale sign of the imminent collapse of that dynasty.
“Unbelievable...” Arthis sighed after some time, “I’ve always been located a great distance away from the Confucian Family’s base of operations, so whilst I’ve heard that they were a strong force to be contended with, I didn’t expect them to be this ridiculously powerful…”
“That’s not the point.” Qin Ye wagged his finger, “Haven’t you guys ever wondered what this might contain?”
“Why is this secret memorial located down here? The Confucian Family might be a force to be contended with, but why was it specifically entrusted to the hands of Kong Mo?”
This single statement rattled the other two like a bolt out of the blue that instantly dispersed the clouds of doubts in their minds.
“Kong Mo was an agent that was specially sent out on a mission by the Confucian Family?” Arthis’ eyes gleamed brightly as she postulated, “That’s right… that would explain why he has so many powerful Yin artifacts in his possession! Ah! That would also explain the Mythic Palace of Reflections! How else could Kong Mo have laid his hands on such a priceless artifact unless specifically bestowed upon him by the entire Confucian Family?”
Yang Yanzhao also snapped to his senses, “That’s not all. A single exile could never have been in possession of as many prized artifacts as would fill thirty of these chambers. It’s just not possible. Others from the Confucian Family must have been sent to assist him!”
“In other words, the Confucian Family were attempting to pursue a clandestine objective. That was why they had decided to ostensibly banish him to Limbo and cast him out of the limelight. Otherwise, the secret memorial could never have ended up here!”
Qin Ye looked up at the ceiling and nodded softly.
There was another strand of thought that had surfaced on Qin Ye’s mind.
It was a mere possibility, but a terrifying one at that. In fact, it was a thought that would in any other situation have been easily deemed absurd, but Qin Ye still wasn’t willing to dismiss it.
Here was his thought - Kong Mo had been exiled to Limbo precisely because of this secret memorial. This must have stirred the ire of the Second King Yanluo. But it so happened that Ksitigarbha gained ascension, and Hell collapsed soon after. It was the perfect opportunity to deal with the sleeping behemoth in Hell that was the Confucian Family, so the Second King Yanluo rode on the wave of destruction and allowed the Confucian Family to perish with all of Hell.
It was something that was completely absurd, and outside of anyone’s expectations altogether.
Something extraordinary must have occurred in order to stir the ire of the Second King Yanluo to such an extent. The Confucian Family must have screwed up somewhere, thereby alerting the Second King Yanluo to the rottenness of Hell. If this were indeed the case… one can only imagine how vitally crucial things must have been… perhaps so crucial that it was the precursor to the great collapse of Hell!
And this thing - or this incident - might possibly be recorded on the scroll in front of me right now!
Naturally, this was nothing more than mere hypotheses that were based on nothing more than the confluence of timings, circumstances and clues. With that, Qin Ye shelved these thoughts and immediately reached for the secret memorial.
No matter what the case was, the contents of the scroll must still be of great importance. Count Qin Ye’s curiosity piqued to the extreme!
Just as he reached out to grab it, he felt a massive wave of recoil come from the secret memorial itself, striking his hand so hard that it instantly went numb.
“A seal?” Arthis looked up with bewilderment. Two peculiar symbols appeared in her eyes as she scrutinized the scroll for some time, before finally nodding softly, “Fortunately, it’s not the seal of the Second King Yanluo. This is something that has been placed on the scroll by the Confucian Family. Although it might be a little bit more cumbersome, it’s not impossible to unravel and open it.”
“You can open it?” Qin Ye asked Arthis with some measure of suspicion. It wasn’t because he doubted Arthis’ statement. Rather, it was simply because the Confucian Family appeared to have a multitude of peculiar means hidden up their sleeves, and he simply couldn’t fathom Arthis possessing the same means to match an entire top gentry of Hell.
“I can’t.” Arthis responded matter-of-factly.
Then what’s the point of saying all that?!
Qin Ye’s diaphragm stirred with a slew of expletives crafted and directed straight at Arthis. But before he could fire even the first salvo of it, Arthis immediately continued, “But Lord Harken can.”
“Apart from Lord Ksitigarbha, Lord Harken is second to none when it comes to issues of Yin Talismanology.”
Qin Ye fervently repressed the cuss-words that were already on his lips. At this point, his curiosity about the contents of the secret memorial trumped anything he had to say to Arthis. What exactly was it that was worth concealing with such smoke and mirrors, exiling Kong Mo to Limbo, and even entrusting him with the Mythic Palace of Reflections?
Qin Ye understood that the matters contained in this secret memorial might well have become a thing of the past together with the old Hell.
That said… he was still incredibly curious about its contents!
Qin-nosy-Ye nodded and picked up the secret memorial once more. But instead of attempting to open it again, he simply tossed it to Arthis for safekeeping.
And it was only then that he suddenly discovered that there was something else hidden right underneath the secret memorial itself!
It was a black ball.
More specifically, it was a black bead that was embedded in the stone platform below. The ball’s existence had earlier been completely hidden by the secret memorial that was resting on top of it. Unless one lifted the scroll, they would never be able to discover the presence of the black ball below.
The bead was only as large as the size of one’s thumb. But as soon as Qin Ye saw it, he instantly heard the cries of countless grieving souls wailing and mourning at his ears, almost as though he had just been plunged into a boundless sea of suffering. A split second later, the black bead suddenly burst up from the offering table and flew straight out of the stone chamber!
“Is that… the Incense Bead of a Million Souls?” Arthis paused for a moment, and then immediately grabbed Qin Ye’s hand and rushed out of the stone chamber.
Whoosh! The black bead sank straight into the cloud of dense Yin energy below, leaving a trail of black light in its wake.
The falling of the black bead appeared to consume every measure of sound in the world. The entire surroundings became eerily silent, almost as though the softest of whispers would generate endless echoes in the surroundings.
“Our luck isn’t half bad…” Arthis stared avariciously at the cloud of Yin energy that was still rising from the depths of the pit, “I’d never expected Kong Mo to have something else hidden up his sleeves!”
“Kiddo, you’d better count your lucky stars. This is the real spoil of war!”
1. The Chinese words used for his secret guards are the same words used to describe the Heavenly Dao. That said, I thought it would be clearer if we ascribed it a slightly different name, as Heaven’s Path.
2. In ancient times, memorials to the throne are documents submitted to the emperor which are intended to surface the misdeeds of corrupt officials which might otherwise have gone unnoticed. In other words, they are channels for whistleblowing. But in this case, I think the author treats it more as a secret missive. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_to_the_throne