Qin Ye raised an eyebrow quizzically at the brand new nomenclature.
That said, he immediately thought of the Assassin of the Underworld that he had previously encountered back in Clear Creek County. Back then, the Assassin of the Underworld clearly knew a thing or two about the seven underworldly craftsmen. The fact that they possessed such knowledge suggested that those who dabbled in such practices in life would never forget them, even in death.
Perhaps… the soul collector would come from one of them?
“Why are they trying to capture you? How do I locate him?” Qin Ye probed further.
Soul collector… If anything, I’m certain that I’ll be able to learn more about the war in Azurewaters City from his lips!
As long as Kong Mo remained alive, Eastmount Province couldn’t truly be considered within Hell’s control. After all, he would always have to look over his shoulders, wondering if the venomous viper hidden within his courtyard with a million troops in tow would one day strike back at him. How could Hell devote all its time and attention to its own development with such a potential threat dangling right over its head? How could the Frontier Brigades properly discharge their functions with such obstacles in their way?
But as for how to rid himself of this cancerous tumour… Qin Ye already had some thoughts of his own…
“I don’t know…” The old man gritted his teeth, “We don’t really understand them either. It seems to be almost a part of their identity. Just like how the deployment of the terrifying Yin artifact triggered the flight response in us, we also sensed the breaths of several Judge-class entities erupting as soon as we began to flee for our lives. These are Judges we’re talking about… Yin spirits we can’t even see on a regular basis…”
Qin Ye’s eyes promptly narrowed. The Alliance of Darkness was formed by a coalition of twelve Infernal Judges, excluding Kong Mo. Hell’s forces had disposed of three back in Qufu, leaving a balance of nine. That said, none of the remaining nine could possibly be the so-called soul collectors. Besides, Kong Mo couldn’t have sent soul collectors after fleeing Yin spirits, especially having just learnt the news of Ashmound’s collapse, and in light of the daolord’s boundless armies that were arrayed against them.
In other words, the soul collectors had to be a part of the daolord’s faction.
The Alliance of Darkness had twelve Infernal Judges holding control over the Eastmount Province and the Breakwaters Province. If the daolord had indeed come from the three eastern provinces, then it’s not likely that the number of Infernal Judges under his command would be less than that of the Alliance of Darkness! With the Abyssal Prefect helming operations at the frontlines of the war, he could certainly afford to send out Infernal Judges to pursue the fleeing Yin spirits.
Eastmount Province, huh… To think that there are actually over twenty Judges and an Abyssal Prefect gathered in a single battlefield. What a terrifying storm of conflict…
“As for how to locate him…” The old man gnashed his teeth morosely as he tugged at the lapels of his suit, revealing a chain running right through his chest.
The tip of the chain was shaped like a claw immolating with netherflames, while the rest of it sank deep into the body of the old man. The wrinkles on the old man’s body caused by the claw’s tight grip appeared just like a fanged face of an asura.
Interesting… Pleasantly surprised, Qin Ye flipped up the suit and looked beneath, only to notice that there was a gaping dark hole on the vest beneath, almost as though someone had hollowed out a portion of it. Wisps of Yin energy appeared to creep out of the gaping dark hole, while the black hole appeared to be slowly rotating. Yet, even then, the black hole appeared no different from a portal that led to a vast expanse of the void.
That said, Qin Ye could see an illusory chain rattling and clanging as it tightened from time to time. The chain ran straight through the portal on the old man’s chest, and appeared to vanish into the deep darkness of the void, almost as though it were tethered to an arcane location.
“I’ve got no idea what this damned thing is…” The old man neatened his clothes and gnashed his teeth once more, “I can sense that this chain is connected directly to my soul, while the other end of the chain is in the hands of the soul collector. He can vaguely pinpoint our location this way…”
“Our?” Qin Ye suddenly interrupted him. The old man responded respectfully, “That’s right… He holds more than one chain in his hands, and all fleeing Yin spirits that are at least Hunter-class or beyond have found themselves bound to such chains. I don’t know how he’s managed this, but the means of an Infernal Judge is well beyond me. So long as you grab tightly onto this chain, he… would end up coming after you.”
This is a technique that employs spatial knowledge in practice… This was a thought that had occurred to me some time ago when I first laid hands on the Qiankun Pouches. The netherworld and the mortal realm may appear similar, but the truth of the matter is that they’re worlds apart. If I could only master this aspect of knowledge, I’d likewise be able to forge a Yin artifact as amazing as the Mythic Palace of Reflections… Qin Ye rubbed his chin as he mused to himself - Yin Talismanology is truly a discipline that Hell is practically built upon. Just like atoms and cells, the mastery of such a discipline would undoubtedly be the key to unlocking the full arsenal of Hell…
He glanced at the old man once more. He could tell that the old man wasn’t concealing anything from him in the slightest. In fact, he could understand the thoughts of this old man. After all, if not for the fact that the soul collectors were after their lives, the old man would never have escaped to the far reaches of Martial City. And if he hadn’t done so, he wouldn’t have encountered Qin Ye. To this end, his hatred for the soul collectors was clearly palpable, and he wanted to do nothing more than to lend Qin Ye a hand to purge the soul collector from the face of the earth… or alternatively kill Qin Ye using the soul collector.
This would be his swan song, even in death.
“Send him on his way.” Qin Ye stood up and waved his hand. At once, the Spatial Spirit swallowed the old man in a single bite. His jaws once again bulged like a huge, fleshy sac. But this time, the Spatial Spirit drew a deep breath, and then tightened his jaws. Like a python wrapped tightly around its prey, the Spatial Spirit slowly but surely began to crush and digest its prey.
Countless wisps of Yin energy spewed out from his body, as though the vent of a pressure cooker had just been released. The old man wasn’t even given an opportunity to scream in the slightest as his soul returned to Hell.
Ding-a-ling… Ding-a-ling… The barely audible bell rang in the middle of an otherwise silent street, almost as though it were a prelude to midnight.
Two figures stood at the top of a 15-storey commercial building next to the downtown square, wearing camouflage uniforms that bore the insignia of the Special Investigations Department. One of the men inclined his head to the side and listened carefully for a few seconds, before frowning and turning back to his partner, “Did you hear that?”
“No.” His partner was a black-haired lady with soft looks. Yet the camouflage uniform seemed to imbue her with a sense of sharpness like the edge of a knife blade.
They had a vantage point over the entire downtown square. The trees in the vicinity danced wildly to the sonata of the howling night wind, ebbing and flowing like the waves of the sea.
The buildings were spread out between the trees, almost as though they were silent tombstones that stood in the dark, cold and lonely.
The man shook his head - Are my ears playing tricks on me?
It can’t be. I could’ve sworn that I heard the jingle of a bell cutting through the whimpering winds.
“An illusion?” The man shook his head and sighed as he glanced about warily.
It was a full moon tonight. A soft sheen was painted across the lands below, but the presence of light also begets darkness and shadows, from which countless hidden entities scrambled and stirred… No!
Just then, his pupils shrank abruptly. He finally discovered what was wrong! The shadows around the downtown square were receding rapidly! Just like an ebbing tide, darkness departed, leaving pale structures in the wake of their flow. Not a single one of the buildings had any shadows remaining!
Ding-a-ling… Ding-a-ling… But before he could even cry out in surprise, the goosebumps-inducing bells jingled again. In that moment, his heart was filled with terror. He could sense that something else was hiding amidst the world of lost shadows, and staring directly at him!
Alarm bells blared in his head, and he immediately yelled at the top of his voice without any measure of hesitation, “Run!!!” Unfortunately, he found himself completely rooted in place.
With a soft thud, a chain plunged right through his partner’s chest. Time seemed to slow down at that very moment, and he saw everything happen in slow motion - right down to the very details of the silver chain. The tip of the chain was shaped like a ghastly claw, and it had clearly been fired from hundreds of meters away like a bolt of lightning. His partner’s true energy wavered as she stared at her own chest in great astonishment.
A split second later, with a soft bang, the lady flew straight through the air, almost as though she were forcibly dragged back by a giant invisible hand! Her feet dangled loosely off the ground, her limbs recoiled forward, and her hair fluttered wildly to the rush of the wind. In an instant, the seemingly small and weak chain appeared to sustain the weight of thousands of pounds of force as she shot right through the air!
“Save me!!” A harsh scream rang out from the rooftop. The man rushed forward desperately, only to narrowly miss grasping onto his partner’s flailing hands.
Soon after, the lady’s figure vanished from sight, leaving only traces of a broken fence on the roof of the building.
T-t-t… Seconds later, the man felt his teeth chattering uncontrollably. Even fools would have realized what this meant - this was the emergence of a powerful evil ghost!
“Damn it!! How could something as powerful as that be here in the downtown district?!” Gritting his teeth, he pulled out his cell phone and began to punch in a series of numbers as he retreated towards the gate behind him. But as soon as he opened it, he immediately jerked back with a cold gasp.
There was a young man staring right at him with great indifference.
It was a foreign gaze. It was one that appeared to be completely devoid of any concept of life and death altogether. It felt almost as though he were staring at a dead person.
“You… you are…” He had a vague impression of who the young man was. But just as he was about to call out the identity of the young man, he suddenly felt a sharp pain on his neck, and then his vision went dark, and he passed out completely.
“Truth be told, the only difference between life and death is but a moment of pain. You don’t have to be so afraid.” Qin Ye leaned the man’s body against the wall, before turning to the rooftop once more, “But it’s not good if you choose to make mischief in the mortal realm after having already died once.”
“And this is especially the case for Yin spirits like you. Do you know how ugly you look as a skeleton, huh?”
As Qin Ye spoke, a pitch-black flower suddenly bloomed from the ground silently.
To be precise, it wasn’t a flower.
Rather, it was a black piece of clothing that was incredibly old and worn for wear. These were garments that had been buried for countless years on end. As it unfurled like a blooming black flower, the dust that had gathered on it slowly scattered with the wind, just as a nauseating stench of death and decay diffused into the surroundings. A limp figure slowly rose from the heart of the flowing garments, supporting himself on crutches.
He was thin. Abnormally thin, almost as though he were purely skin and bones. The netherflames in his eyes were also so dim that they could barely be seen. Dressed in a long black robe, he toted a lantern burning with netherflames in his arms. The handle of the lantern was connected to a series of chains that ran straight into the sleeves of his arms.
At least six or seven chains ran out the sleeves of the other hand, stretching well into the void until it vanished from sight.
The old man didn’t have any shadows.
There was only a soft smile on his face.
It was a dry smile. Ordinary people smiled with all of their facial muscles, but the old man did not. Instead, his lips simply cracked slightly as he extended his crooked finger and pulled on the chains.
Clatter… One of the chains rattled softly. One end of that chain ran directly into the old man’s sleeves, while the other end… remained tightly gripped in Qin Ye’s hands.
“You actually dare to hold onto a soul collector’s chain? There truly are many people out there who aren’t afraid of death itself…” The old man revealed a disgusting smile on his face, while his body began to clatter like the stiff joints of a zombie, “I am Shadowless, a Shepherd of Soul of the Assassins of the Underworld. My courtesy name was personally conferred by the daolord of the asura, and I’m here in his name to send you off to the afterlife.”
His voice was unusually shrill and piercing.
Qin Ye didn’t respond. Instead, he simply blinked vacantly at the old man. The circumstances prompted him to do a little bit of role-playing.
“Do you… know a black man named Lucian? Otherwise known as Obama?” 
“I mean… do you know that you cosplay just like the professionals? Are you wielding a scythe over there?”
It was a piss-poor opening line. Was this truly the conversation between two Infernal Judges?
“While I know not what you’re talking about, but…” The old man gently tugged on the chains, “I do know for a fact that the soul of such a young Infernal Judge of the mortal realm would be worthy of collection… I believe that the daolord would truly be pleased…”
Qin Ye smiled, “I think so too. However, there’s just one thing that I’ll have to remind you of.”
Qin Ye shut the door, and then glanced behind him, “Do you know why I knocked him out earlier?”
“Apologies.” Shadowless turned to look at the night sky, “I’m not one for small talk.”
Just then, he abruptly snapped his eyes wide open with disbelief and stared intently at Qin Ye with a fiery gaze.
He had just noticed the endless sea of Yin energy that was pouring out all around Qin Ye, while countless talismans had completely sealed off the surroundings!
“You’re… not a human?!”
“You bear the characteristics of a living human being, and yet your body gives off Yin energy?! And… such dense and pure Yin energy… Who the hell are you?!”
But Qin Ye simply ignored his barrage of questions. A dense vortex of Yin energy engulfed him completely as he continued where he left off, “I’ll let you in on a little secret. I happen to be a rather unorthodox living person.”
“Sigh… You evil ghosts of recent years truly don’t know a thing at all.”
“How dare you rob an equal-ranking Emissary of Hell of the opportunity to act all high and mighty? Are you tired of living already?!”
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