Chapter 459: The Shepherd of Souls (1)

“Do continue.” He nodded at Wu Wenqing, who promptly pointed at another location, “The next incident happened at this place. Callidy KTV, located in Wanda Plaza, just south of where Bright Avenue first leads into the city.”

“1407 hours, An old man was discovered hanging from a drying rack inside a six-story low-rise building along Chongming Road. A resident who was hanging up his laundry noticed him. Upon closer inspection, he discovered the old man to be nothing more than… dangling human skin.”

As Wu Wenqing spoke, Secretary Ma tilted his head slightly, and another secretariat walked forward to hand out information sheets to everyone.

Qin Ye picked it up and scanned through its contents. Credit where it was due, the city government had acted with incredible speed. Within the span of merely a few hours, they had already managed to gather all related information, including details pertaining to the resident’s relationship with his neighbours, full particulars of his children and their whereabouts, and so on and so forth. Their inferences and conjectures were also done up neatly and cogently.

The LED screen played a video captured from a nearby surveillance camera, revealing a regular rooftop area of a residential building, decorated with a variety of items, replete with a number of cardboard boxes that were stacked neatly on the side. However, their focus all lay on the left corner of the video footage, where the complete set of human skin remained intact on the drying rack, fluttering softly with the wind.

The pale old man still wore a creepy smile on his face, and his entire skin appeared to be shrouded in darkness. It was a startling sight. One could hear from the audio of the recording that there were a number of dogs barking incessantly, almost as though they were desperately warning their owners of the impending dangers.

“We won’t find anything at the scene of the incident.” Qin Ye set aside the materials in hand, “Evil ghosts who possess the ability of dawn voyage would never leave any obvious traces behind. Let’s move on.”

The captains sitting in for the meeting desperately jotted down notes for themselves. One of the men leaned over to the side and asked softly, “Evil ghosts who possess the ability of dawn voyage would never--... Hey, what comes after that? I need to record these details. This is likely going to be used in the upcoming examinations.”

Wu Wenqing glared at the investigators under his charge. He was used to their lackadaisical response whenever he gave a lecture in the past. Today, they clearly had a ‘guest speaker’, but even though he was also discussing the latest, most cutting-edge information pertaining to Yin spirits, the investigators were acting completely differently!

Did something go wrong somewhere?

Wu Wenqing had no choice but to reflect on his own teaching style. By the time he had come to the realization that the problem lay with the speaker, the rest of the meeting had already come to the third supernatural incident in the recent spate of incidents.

“1520 hours. Wild dogs were spotted barking madly at a dumpster. Policemen were called in to investigate and clean out the dumpster. It was only then that they uncovered… literally, skin and bones! It was actually skin and bones! If one even mishandled the bones in the slightest, it would undoubtedly puncture the skin and emerge from within.”

“Having conducted a DNA test for verification purposes, we discovered that the deceased was a retired teacher. He had gone out in the afternoon for lunch, but never returned. Cause of death was the same as the last incident, but there were no other similarities as far as the victims were concerned. Thus, this incident was also classified as a supernatural incident.”

“1603 hours. Three elderly people died at the same time after looking into the mirror at a home for the elderly. According to the attendants, they had earlier exclaimed that they… saw a reflection of themselves when they were young in the mirror.”

“1711 hours. A male physical education teacher who had just joined the city’s second middle school jumped off a building to his death.”

“Next up--...”

“Hang on.” Qin Ye was somewhat taken by surprise, “Someone who jumped to his death was also listed as a victim of a supernatural incident?”

Wu Wenqing smiled bitterly, “Jumping off a building is nothing. What’s bizarre is the autopsy report.” He drew a deep breath and continued, “This male teacher… was determined to have died three hours ago, and his body was already covered in livor mortis spots at the point of death. We’re talking about… a corpse jumping off the roof of a building. Furthermore, we couldn’t find any traces of fingerprints belonging to any others on his body at all.”

Qin Ye frowned.

Evil ghosts capable of dawn voyage truly have a plethora of means when it comes to disposing of their victims.

But he could tell that these details were leading him nowhere.

“That’s fine.” Qin Ye furrowed his brows, “Let’s zoom out on the map a little.”

The staff operating the map immediately zoomed out on the map. The screen was previously depicting the map of particular districts where the incidents occurred, but that wasn’t enough for Qin Ye’s purposes. It was only when the perspective was sufficiently macro to reveal the entire city that Qin Ye finally sighed.

“It all started with Bright Avenue, and then Wanda Plaza some distance south of where the first incident occurred…” Qin Ye picked up an electronic pointer and made some red markings on the screen, before going on, “And then, we move on to the Loquat Mountain Neighbourhood, which is approximately three kilometers south of Wanda Plaza. Next up, the Dayang Neighbourhood, which is located below the Pipa Mountain Neighbourhood. By this point, we’ve already crossed almost half of the city.”

Everyone’s expressions immediately turned somber. Earlier, they were all still filled with the excitement of witnessing a Judge with their very own eyes. But now, they were filled with the amazement of understanding what the Judge was alluding to.

Wu Wenqing looked at the red markings on the map and pondered aloud, “What do you mean?”

The screen revealed a line drawn straight through the markings starting from the top right, all the way until it arrived at the heart of the city.

Qin Ye asked placidly, “How long has it been since the last supernatural incident?”

“An hour… Are you saying that, given their modus operandi, the next supernatural incident is going to take place soon?”

Qin Ye nodded, “And if my guess is right, then the next place…”

Tap… He pointed at another neighbourhood, “The Southbrook Neighbourhood!”

Silence.

Nobody said a word.

Several seconds later, Secretary Ma queried, “Have you… seen the reports?”

“Why do you ask that?”

“Because, just two hours ago, the spate of supernatural incidents have spread to the Antai Neighbourhood, which is located right above the Southbrook Neighbourhood.” Wu Wenqing continued, “Mr Qin, did you pick up on something?”

Qin Ye stood up, “They’re fleeing.”

“Fleeing?” Everyone immediately looked up in shock. It was a concept that was foreign to them.

It’s a Yin spirit that we’re talking about… Are there even things that they fear to begin with? Unless we send a cultivator that is stronger than the Yin spirit in question, we’d generally need two to three cultivators of the same cultivation rank in order to dispose of a single Yin spirit. They come without warning, and leave without any traces. They’re secretive and invisible, and most of the stronger Yin spirits even seem to possess more experience than any of the cultivators we have.

Something like that… can actually sense fear as well?

None of them did anything to conceal their shocked expressions. Qin Ye sighed softly. There was still another month or so until he was supposed to meet with the leader of the mortal realm for further negotiations again. But, even then, these were matters that the mortal realm needs to know on an urgent basis. Otherwise… the number of innocent lives that would be lost in the interim would be far too many to count.

Yin spirits did feel fear. In fact, they were terrified of many things.

He had already published a revolutionary paper on the evolution of Yin spirits, but the mortal realm clearly hadn’t extrapolated much from it. If Yin spirits grew by devouring one another, how could they not be terrified of encountering a stronger Yin spirit?

“This is the only explanation for their behaviour. Something terrifying to the Yin spirits is currently hot on their tails.” He pointed to the screen and continued, “Martial City is where the Yellow River runs into the sea. The ocean sits on the north, and Stalwart City sits on the south. The city of ironwood lies to the east, while Stillmound City lies to the west. These Yin spirits must have come fleeing from the east, even bringing a whole host of Yin spirits alongside them. Everyone…”

He paused, before propping his hands up on the table and staring straight them all, “Something invisible to us must be pursuing these Yin spirits. This is the only possible explanation for their behaviour.”

“Then, why don’t they go directly to Stillmound City?” One of the captains couldn’t help but interject with a question, “Doesn’t Stillmound City also border Martial City?”

“It’s all because of the terrain occupied by Martial City.” Wu Wenqing responded on Qin Ye’s behalf, “Martial City is rectangular. Heading westwards through Martial City would take far more time than going south into Stalwart City.”

He paused for a moment and lit up a cigarette, but left it completely untouched. Two minutes later, he shook his head despondently, “But why would they pause along the way to kill human beings? It doesn’t make any sense!”

“If they’re escaping from something, where would they find the time to orchestrate and trigger supernatural incidents? Besides, wouldn’t leaving traces of their handiwork be tantamount to disclosing their location?”

“No.’ Qin Ye shook his head, “My perspective on the matter is the exact opposite. This, to me, is the telltale sign that they’re currently on the run, and that there is indeed something terrifying that is hot on their tails.”

“Because… everything points to the fact that they are seriously wounded!”

The implications underlying that statement immediately jolted everyone out of their reverie and right back to their senses.

One of the investigator slapped his thigh and exclaimed with great realization, “That’s right! Of course! It’s only when they’re so severely wounded that they have no choice but to constantly devour human flesh and blood. Unfortunately… unfortunately… the citizens of Martial City aren’t aware of what’s going on at all!”

“And the fact that they’ve still been going strong at it tells me that they haven’t recovered from their wounds as yet!” Another investigator chimed in.

Suddenly, everyone began to look at Qin Ye in a completely new light - Is this an Infernal Judge? How did he manage to analyze all of this from the scant clues we have? It may sound ridiculous, but if we break it down bit by bit, this would actually be the best postulation we have to date!

“Well, then. Leave this matter to me.” Qin Ye chuckled, “It’s just as well, because I’m personally quite curious as to what could possibly cause three Hellguards and such a large pack of Yin spirits to flee for their lives.”

He glanced up and looked out the window, “Ah, what a befitting night for some investigation work. I imagine that the Yin spirits must be enjoying their hike around the city, aren’t they?”

Wu Wenqing was just about to respond when he noticed everyone’s looks of eager anticipation. And then, he held himself back.

A Judge is personally going to make a move!

We’re talking about something that we could only pray for on the forums!

In fact, Wu Wenqing could sense that everyone was hopeful that they could personally witness him in action as well. Unfortunately, everyone knew better.

After all, this was an incident involving three Hellguard-class Yin spirits. If they tailed alongside Qin Ye, they might well end up being a cumbersome deadweight. Wu Wenqing chuckled bitterly and cupped his hands, “Then I suppose we have no choice but to entrust this matter to Mr Qin.”

“Not at all. I’m just going to exterminate Yin spirits. Isn’t that our primary function to begin with?” Qin Ye smiled genially, before soon vanishing into thin air.

……………………………………………………….

Limbo.

Coastal area.

A massive mound bobbed on the surface of the endless, dark waters of Limbo.

There was nothing else on the surface of the sea, because it was practically impossible to stay afloat on the surface of the waters. Anyone who entered the waters would end up being dragged into the waters and perish in its depths.

The only exception was the Yin beasts in the ocean.

That said, there was one gigantic island that had appeared on the surface of the seas. The peak of the mound was surrounded by endless clouds of Yin energy, while countless skeletal crows flew across the surface of the island. The crimson netherflame that filled the sky covered the lands with a sinister scarlet hue, making it look no different from a terrifying demon that was emerging from the depths of the abyss.

It looked no different from a hellish existence.

In fact, it looked almost like a magnificent palace seen in the glory days of the old Hell. Furthermore… it was still moving!

To be more precise, one could vaguely make out a colossal shadow underneath the magnificent palace that was shifting about. The presence below spanned approximately ten kilometers in size, and revealed only parts of its black carapace. That said, it was clear that the behemoth was only swimming this slowly because it was afraid of shaking up the contents of the palace on its back.

Furthermore, it wasn’t the only creature that was swimming in the ocean!

In fact, there were about a dozen other creatures swimming in the ocean just around it. The palace on its back spanned thousands of meters across in size, but… everything was formed entirely out of paper!

Scarlet flames danced about the paper palace, while skeletal dogs roamed its compound freely. Someone stood right at the top of the paper palace, gazing out into the distance without any emotion in his eyes at all.

The coastline of cliffs was situated right ahead, and there were likewise countless spots of netherflames arrayed against them.

“My Lord.” A humanoid paper effigy walked over, “It’s time for your medicine.”

The figure which lay right behind the green veil remained silent.

The humanoid paper effigy didn’t dare to say more. The only thing separating him from the figure within was the thin green veil that was fluttering with the wind. And yet, he didn’t dare to even look up at the figure laying on the bed. The eyes of the paper effigy were obviously painted on, and yet they still trembled with great fear.

“You’re afraid.” After some time, a hoarse voice finally spoke from behind the veil, “What are you afraid of?”

“I was the one who created you, and I naturally have every right to take your life away.”

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