Martial City, inside a seaside villa.
Secretariat Jiang of the municipal party committee paced around the front of the door. His forehead was gleaming with sweat. Two men dressed in Cathayan tunic suits stood behind him, emanating faint traces of Yin energy from their bodies.
It was now 10.00 p.m. Logically speaking, they should be hearing an endless repetition of the usual public broadcast announcements about supernatural events, and all homes should still be brightly lit at night. However, the residents along the entire row of seafront villas had long since moved out. Even the neighbourhoods in the vicinity were completely abandoned and dark at night.
What remained were the soft buzzing sounds of flickering street lamps. The roads were so dim that they may as well not be lit. Gentle sea breezes swept through the lands from time to time, eerie, cold and chilling.
“Secretariat Jiang, let’s return.” A plump man standing behind sighed softly, “You’ve already been waiting for six hours now. You haven’t even had your dinner. Mr Qin must be at a crucial juncture of his breakthrough. After all, we’re talking about breaching the ranks of an Infernal Judge…”
With that, he glanced at the dark villa with profound emotions, “If he succeeds, he would be a 19 years-old Infernal Judge. That’s practically unprecedented in the history of Cathay…”
“Can he succeed?” Secretariat Jiang raised his head, revealing his bloodshot eyes, “He promised to be done in four months, but it’s already been close to half a year! Do you think I’d be so anxious if our situation here weren’t urgent?! Unfortunately… things here are truly critical right now! If he still doesn’t emerge from his closed door cultivation by midnight tonight, we absolutely have to write to Qizhou for assistance!”
It wasn’t that he was unwilling to seek help.
Rather, having been a secretariat for such a long time, he already knew the mindset and inclination of the leaders around.
When it comes to seeking assistance, it should either be done expeditiously, or not at all. After all, calling for assistance expeditiously would allow them to swiftly nip the problem in the bud. Conversely, tardiness would most likely beget failure and losses. To this end, no matter how sudden the exigency, there would always be symptoms leading up to the problem. The failure to notice such symptoms would naturally reflect the incompetencies of the ruling government in the city.
Therefore, Martial City had thought to consult Qin Ye at the earliest possible time.
Just then, Secretariat Jiang’s cell phone rang. It was Secretary Ma Donglai, the top municipal party secretary, “How is the situation?”
His anxiety could be felt through the short phrase he had spoken over the phone.
“Mr Qin hasn’t emerged from his closed door cultivation…” Secretariat Jiang gulped with unease.
He wanted to say more, but found himself completely lost for words. After all, he knew that the emergency in Martial City was raging like a wildfire right now. There was no place for platitudes and words of comfort.
There was silence over the line for several moments, before Secretary Ma finally spoke once more, “Midnight.”
“If he doesn’t come out by midnight, I’ll be firing off my request for emergency assistance. You have to return by then, understand?”
With that, Secretariat Jiang hung up and glanced at the villa once more. Had this been any other time, there would have been a welcoming party eagerly awaiting the day when a new Infernal Judge emerges from his closed door cultivation. The Special Investigations Department would also be here, prepared to report back to the upper echelons the results of his attempt at breaking through. After all, even the director overseeing operations at the Eastmount Province was only a Judge-class expert. In other words, Judges are revered experts across the entire nation!
Unfortunately… they simply didn’t have the manpower to accord Qin Ye such respect right now!
Besides… can he even succeed?
Secretariat Jiang lit up a cigarette, took a deep drag, and then watched on wistfully as the smoke he exhaled slowly disappeared into the night sky. Then, he sighed.
The ember of the cigarette bud glowed softly in the night sky, almost as though flickering like the wavering anxiety of his heart, “Old Zhou, Old Yu, do you think… Mr Qin can actually succeed?”
Several seconds later, the plump man sighed as well, “It’s going to be difficult. Incredibly difficult. Nigh impossible.”
“You might not be aware of the organizational structure of the Special Investigations Department. But, here’s the thing - even the deputy directors of Yan Capital are only Infernal Judges. The directors overseeing operations at each province are Infernal Judges, but they are generally also the only Judge-class expert across the entire province they are stationed at. At best, two Judge-class experts may be deployed to a single province if that province is plagued by extremely serious supernatural outbreaks. We have just under 200 Judge-class experts across the entire Cathay. To be exact, we currently have 176 of them. Does that sound like a lot to you?”
He chuckled bitterly, “We’re talking about 176 across more than a billion people. If the three pillars of strength across Cathay refuse to move, these 176 Judge-class experts would already be considered the strongest battle force across the entire nation. They’re existences akin to the provincial governors of the nation.”
Secretariat Jiang paused for a moment, and then nodded softly.
The other man also sighed as he added, “In fact, a Judge is no different from these provincial governors or general secretaries, in that they are for all intents and purposes the top of the food chain. Getting there is just about as difficult as rising through the stiff competition in civil service and becoming a provincial governor. I recall a report I’ve read states that the average age of all Infernal Judges across Cathay are aged 70 years-old. The journey there requires the accumulation of life experiences, together with an unceasing determination to push one’s cultivation to the limits. Making such a breakthrough at only age twenty… is practically an impossibility.”
“It’s just like how a scientist cannot possibly rise through academia and make godly discoveries from a young age. They would first have to set the foundation of mathematics, physics and chemistry, and then slowly delve further into the discipline of their choice. It doesn’t matter how talented one might be, because even child prodigies aren’t born scientists. The process of accumulation of experience and knowledge has to happen at some stage in his or her life.”
Secretary Jiang leaned against the wall and sighed softly once more.
Are you not even going to give me the consolation that I’m trying to find?
But, alas, I guess it’s true. If it weren’t a tall order, why would he have taken five months and ten days when he had earlier promised to be done in only four months?
Something had obviously gone wrong… That said, regardless of what the outcome might be, the fact remains that we’ll at least have a Hellguard helming the operations here in Martial City! I’m looking forward to the stability he can bring!
“Let’s wait a little longer…” Hope was slowly fading from his heart, yet he continued to look at the villa with a bitter smile on his face, “No matter what, we’ll have to extract a response from Mr Qin toda--... to--... to…”
He suddenly straightened his posture and began to stutter as he stared at the villa. The two other officers from the Special Investigations Department also paused for a moment, “Secretariat Jiang, what’s wrong?”
Secretariat Jiang’s hands were trembling as he slowly pointed to a location in the distance, “Look there… Isn’t the window up there… open?”
One of the men took a glance, “It is. So what about it?”
Then, he immediately caught himself, and a grave expression crept up his lips as he glanced about warily, “Have the supernatural occurrences followed us out here?”
“Impossible. The protection set up over this area can even stop Hellguard-class evil ghosts dead in their tracks. They cannot possibly have crept up on us like this.” The other man scrutinized the villa with great vigilance.
But a split second later, before any of them could even go on with their speculations or postulations, the ground floor lights of the villa came on.
Everyone was stunned.
They froze for three seconds, before ecstasy immediately swelled from the innermost depths of their hearts!
He’s out… Mr Qin is finally out!
Secretariat Jiang drew a deep breath, and began to run straight towards the villa. But, just then, the villa’s windows and doors immediately flung wide open at the exact same time, and an immense wave of majesty like that of a god descending upon earth immediately filled the entire coastline they were on!
Secretariat Jiang felt a gust of wind rush out from the door to the villa, and his clothes and hair were immediately sent flying everywhere. That said, the blast of wind only lasted for a moment. He blinked his eyes vacantly, before abruptly turning back, “Old Yu, Old Zhou, d-d-does this mean he’s succeeded?”
His voice came to an abrupt halt.
Right behind him, Investigator Zhou and Investigator Yu were trembling profusely, so much so that they weren’t even able to stand properly on their feet. While Secretariat Jiang had felt a blast of wind, the two investigators behind him had instead felt a tyrannical aura pour out from the villa like a ferocious tiger that was released from his shackles.
They were obviously staring at the villa of a mere mortal, but the sensation reminded them of the very first moment that they stood in front of the entrance to the headquarters of the Special Investigations Department located in Yan Capital. The air was filled with the same measure of magnificence and sobriety.
It was overbearing as a result of its qualitative difference. There was apprehension surging from their hearts that arose from facing a force so colossal and unpredictable as a mortal faced the elements of nature.
It felt no different from a human standing at the top of a cliff and taking in the vast, starry skies and the boundless oceans out there.
It was no different from a man standing on top of a mountain, watching the magnificent sunrise emerge from the fog in the east. It was the feeling of being small in the presence of the great.
They felt incomparably small.
These were the only two words that came to mind as soon as they sensed Qin Ye’s aura.
Only a Judge-class expert could give off such immense pressure. It’s completely different from when Mr Qin first arrived in Martial City! In fact, this is no different from the sensation we get when we return to the provincial capital and report straight to our director!
It was silent, yet boundless.
“We congratulate Mr Qin on becoming an Infernal Judge!!” The two investigators subconsciously spoke at the same time. What followed immediately after their momentary shock was immense ecstasy that filled their hearts. Even their voices had turned hoarse as they screamed at the top of their voices in adulation of the new Infernal Judge in Cathay.
Secretariat Jiang froze.
He knew that Judge-class entities were close to the peak-level cultivators in the mortal realm, just like provincial governors in the administrative governmental structure. Has… he actually succeeded?
“Are you certain?” He asked with a quiver in his voice.
Is he really a Judge?
Are you sure you’re not mistaken?
The veracity of this news will determine the future of Martial City! Secretary Ma is still waiting for my response!
“I’m certain! I’m absolutely certain!!” Investigator Zhou stared at the villa with a fiery gaze in his eyes. Although he wasn’t able to see anyone within the villa just yet, he still continued to cup his hands in the direction of the villa in a most courteous and polite fashion. He didn’t even bother to straighten his body as he eagerly awaited the Judge, “This is definitely a Judge… Only a Judge would be able to give off such pressure! Something like that simply cannot be feigned!”
“Who would’ve thought…” Investigator Yu added hoarsely, “I was almost certain that it was impossible before this. But now… I’ve witnessed the impossible with my own eyes! I’ve witnessed the birth of the youngest Infernal Judge in the history of Cathay!”
“This is unbelievable!”
19 years-old… An Infernal Judge at such a young age… Both investigators exchanged a tacit look, only to reveal a bitter smile on their faces. They weren’t able to hide the longing in their eyes. Were they even Operative-class experts when they were his age? Perhaps they hadn’t even heard of what a Judge-class expert was back then.
They had just declared it to be impossible a moment ago, so who could have thought fate would come right around and give them a tight slap in the face the very next moment? Yet, even then, they didn’t find it painful; it even felt somewhat good to be proven wrong in such circumstances. In fact, if being slapped in the face could give rise to such results, they wouldn’t mind being slapped repeatedly, even until their entire face becomes swollen!
“Are you guys… certain?!” Secretariat Jiang tightened his grip around his cell phone and asked the investigators again.
Both nodded their heads promptly, before pointing to the coastline that wasn’t far away. Secretariat Jiang glanced over, and immediately narrowed his eyes. After a protracted pause, he finally gasped in horror.
The tides… were now rolling backwards!
Waves were supposed to move in only a single direction, and that was to crash repeatedly against the shore. But now… they appeared to be flowing backwards, almost as though they were terrified of something and escaping from its presence. To that end, the cascading tides even formed waves that were more than a meter high that continued to crash back into the depths of the sea!
Under the dim moonlight of the night, this was an incomparably bizarre sight!
Gulp… He couldn’t help but gulp nervously. Just then, a voice spoke softly and cut through the tense silence, “Pardon the tardiness. I’ve managed to break through the shackles of a Judge ten days ago. I’d merely been trying to get a hold of my newfound abilities. Apologies.”
“No… there’s no need to apologize! It’s… it’s fine!!” Investigator Yu immediately took a step forward and spoke with a flushed expression, “Mr Qin! Congratulations! We’ve now added one more to the list of 176 Judge-class experts across Cathay! The emergence of another Judge-class expert… is far more important than preserving the entire Martial City itself!”
“I-I’ll immediately report this to the top brass! Infernal Judge… We’ve now got a new Infernal Judge in Martial City! They’ll be sending someone down to verify your breakthrough shortly! I-it’s my honour to have witnessed the emergence of a brand-new Judge from his closed-door cultivation!”
Even though Qin Ye hadn’t even revealed himself yet, his voice was already trembling out of control, and his palms were already soaked through with sweat. Then, panting slightly with excitement, he turned to Secretariat Jiang, “What are you still waiting for?”
“Immediately call Secretary Ma!”
“Tell him that… Martial City has the honour of an Infernal Judge helming its operations!”
“Apart from Qizhou, the provincial capital of Eastmount Province, there is now another city with the presence of an Infernal Judge!! Oh, that’s right! Notify the First Academy of Cultivators… as well as the network of cultivators! Never mind, we’ll do the latter! Oh, I’ll also contact Cultivators Fortnightly for you! Something as special as this will immediately become an overnight sensation!!!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter