Chapter 470: Sculpture

“The emergency happens to be right here.” Zhou Xianlong appeared completely calm as he nodded softly and led them deeper into the city hall, “It’s my intention to keep it this way. How’s Little Qin?”

“There’s no issues. Sir…”

Zhou Xianlong looked up and shook his head softly, and Mo Changhao immediately fell silent. With that, the two men plodded along the corridors in silence, almost as though they were invisible to the rest, until they arrived in front of an emergency passageway. And then, they headed in.

They were already on the ground floor, and yet… there were still stairs within that led deeper down!

That said, neither of them appeared to be surprised by its existence. They marched through it and continued walking for approximately five minutes, until they arrived in front of an iron door.

“DS008. That’s the code that you’d fixed back then.” Mo Changhao sighed softly as he pulled out a keycard and tapped it over the keyhole of the door.

Strangely, the ancient-looking iron door suddenly spoke with a mechanical female voice, “High-level authorization detected. Please scan your iris.”

Bzzt… A small compartment on the iron door silently opened up, revealing the most cutting-edge iris verification instrument within.

Mo Changhao leaned in closer, “Verification complete.” The iron door clicked softly and opened up promptly, only to reveal a chamber within that was filled with high-tech implements!

It was none other than the headquarters of the Special Investigations Department, Martial City branch office!

“Chief, what’s there that we can’t talk about up there?” Mo Changhao couldn’t keep it within any longer, “And why did we have to put Mr Qin through a full body examination? It’s completely unnecessary! He’s got a shadow! Yin spirits can’t fool us like that! He’s undoubtedly an Infernal Judge!”

“Have you ever seen a cultivator advance so quickly?” Zhou Xianlong continued walking forward without even turning back. The corridor wasn’t long, and it soon opened up into a hall with countless devices that appeared to monitor every corner of Martial City. A number of investigators dressed in camouflage uniforms and white lab coats shuttled about inside as they busied themselves with their tasks and duties.

Mo Changhao shook his head, but remained adamant about his position, “So long as he’s a human being, I couldn’t care less about what secrets he’s harbouring. Chief, you know full well the kind of situation Cathay is faced with right now! That evil ghost terrorizing Eastmount Province might well be a thousand-year ghost, and he’s running rampant about! Is now really the time to be bothered about such trivialities?!”

“I agree.” Zhou Xianlong entered the hall. At once, everyone turned and bowed respectfully to him. He nodded slightly, and then led Mo Changhao straight to another room on the side.

It was a round room that was approximately 100 square feet in size. There was nothing noteworthy within apart from the beehive structures that ran along every part of the walls.

Whoosh… The door shut behind them, and it was only then that Zhou Xianlong finally turned around to look Mo Changhao straight in the eye, “But first, he has to be a human being.”

With that, he turned around and spoke loudly, “Bring up Docket 871.” At once, a mechanical sound began to whir in the ‘hive’ behind. Seconds later, a mechanical female voice responded, “High-level authorization detected. Deputy Director Zhou Xianlong, please hold on as your request is being processed.”

There was a period of silence as both men awaited what came next.

Mo Changhao furrowed his brows. Last night, he received direct orders from Zhou Xianlong to preside over Qin Ye’s promotion ceremony here in Martial City. He had never heard of such a request before! Historically, all Infernal Judges were to report directly back to Yan Capital for their promotion ceremony, enter the academy to further their studies for several months, and then hold a press conference before finally being given a new appointment after a year or so.

Mo Changhao knew about Qin Ye.

He knew about the instructor who authored the first ever thesis to be published by the First Academy of Cultivators. Thus, he had initially thought that all of this was done because the upper echelons of the Special Investigations Department favoured a young talent like him, and they wanted him to garner a little bit more experience here in Martial City before transferring him to other tasks. Zhou Xianlong had personally called because he was Qin Ye’s mentor back in the First Academy of Cultivators, and the promotion of a cultivator to the ranks of an Infernal Judge was a matter that clearly deserved his attention. But now… having personally seen the instruments and devices used earlier in the conference room, he knew that there was more than meets the eye!

He knew these instruments and devices.

They were SRC’s most cutting-edge detectors that were designed to pick up the most insidious parasitic spirits or symbiotic spirits. After all, such Yin spirits that boarded and lived within the vessel of a human body were most difficult to detect. And to that end, scanning a newly-minted Infernal Judge with such devices couldn’t be considered favouring him in the slightest!

Rather, it was suspicion.

Extreme suspicion!

With Judges around, it was impossible for Yin spirits to conceal their identities and pull a shade over their eyes unless they were Prefect-class Yin spirits. Coupled with the examination results, Mo Changhao thought that these suspicions would be snuffed out there and then. Yet, little did he expect things to go on endlessly like this!

Docket 871. Mo Changhao swiftly recalled the numbering system of dockets. It runs chronologically and sequentially from the smallest number, which means that this… must be one of the newest dockets?

And quite possibly one that was opened only in the last three months?

He recalled reviewing some of the dockets just over three months ago, and their serial numbers at all started with ‘86’.

Just then, one of the hive structures buzzed softly, and a small tablet was pushed out from the recesses of the hives. The screen of the tablet flickered softly, and then a video appeared on it.

It was the video of an excavation site that had excellent protective measures in place. A series of cultural relics were in the process of being excavated from the ground.

Mo Changhao wasn’t familiar with such artifacts. That said, he could tell from the way they looked that these artifacts were clearly hundreds of years old. They appeared ancient and dated, but he couldn’t tell from the style what dynasties they were from. More than anything, he couldn’t understand why Zhou Xianlong was showing him this video. After all, Zhou Xianlong had never struck him as one for cultural appreciation.

Could it be that these archaeologists would come to excavate an ancient coffin? Or perhaps a Yin artifact?

Alas, he was wrong.

This was one of the most ordinary excavation sites of cultural relics. The largest artifact excavated was nothing more than a stone tablet. Five minutes later, the video of the excavation came to an end, and the screen toggled to reveal each piece of artifact unearthed. Unable to fend off his curiosity any longer, Mo Changhao finally queried, “What’s all this about?”

Zhou Xianlong also hit the pause button at about the same time.

The video paused at one of the stone tablets that had been excavated.

The image revealed the front of the stone tablet. It was very old, and even covered with black decay marks. The entire tablet was approximately four or five meters from end to end. There was also an ancient relief sculpture atop the stone tablet depicting the image of a man, followed by two lines of words that ran down. One line was long, while the other was short.

Zhou Xianlong zoomed into the frozen image, and it became clearer and clearer. Mo Changhao could now see the two rows of words, and he couldn’t help but read them aloud, “King Qinguang, Bao Tianzi, King Zhuanlun… these are the names of the Yamas of the Ten Palaces…”

He continued to scan through the long line of text. If the long line of text was etched with the names of the Yamas of the Ten Palaces, then the short line of text would in all likelihood reflect the name of King Yanluo himself.

But as soon as he turned to the shorter line of text, he abruptly straightened his back and did a double take at the screen. Mo Changhao was a provincial governor, and yet even he wasn’t able to conceal the great astonishment in his heart.

“T-this is…” He shook his head with great disbelief. Even his lips were trembling uncontrollably, “This has got to be a coincidence, right? A coincidence…”

There were only four words on the next line.

King Yanluo: Qin Ye!

Mo Changhao muttered to himself, “He’s only 19 years-old. The fact that their names happen to coincide doesn’t mean anything…”

“But, is it really a coincidence?” Zhou Xianlong nodded in silence, and then tapped on the screen, “Then… this… must also be a coincidence, right?”

The docket revealed a photograph of Qin Ye taken from right in front of him.

Thick eyebrows, large eyes, pale skin and a faint smile on his face. He was charming, youthful and rather good-looking.

Just then, Zhou Xianlong booted up another software where he superimposed Qin Ye’s photograph onto the relief sculpture of the stone tablet.

In that instant, Mo Changhao’s heart skipped a beat.

The face on the stone tablet was wearing a Zhongkui headdress and the robes of an Infernal Judge, and yet… his facial features were exactly the same as that of Qin Ye’s photograph! They were practically two peas in a pod!

Thump, thump, thump… Mo Changhao’s heart was practically thumping out of his chest right now. He had experienced a multitude of peculiar things in his life, and yet this coincidence was so otherworldly that it felt no different from a dream right now.

Just then, Zhou Xianlong released the click of his mouse and allowed Qin Ye’s photograph to directly ‘fall’ onto the image of the stone tablet. At once, a series of numbers began to show up at the sides and corners of the screen, while a progress bar began to fill from the left to the right.

Dead silence.

Ten seconds later, with a soft ding, a mechanical female voice delivered the startling results, “Facial recognition scan completed. The results are as follows.”

“Distance between eyebrows: 2.2cm. Width of nose: 4.57cm. Philtrum: 2.87cm… The tilt and angle of all five senses are exactly the same. Image detected on the photograph is a 100% match to the image of comparison. Result: Same person.”

Silence.

Deathly silence.

Mo Changhao closed his eyes once more and immersed himself in the wild palpitations of his heart. His lips had grown completely parched by now.

Three minutes later, he muttered hoarsely, “When did this… happen?” 

“One month ago.” Zhou Xianlong crossed his arms and pinched between his brows, “Know how we found out?”

Mo Changhao shook his head. He didn’t know what to believe anymore.

There were too many questions lingering on his mind right now. King Yanluo… what a reverential figure…

King Qinguang, King Dushi, King Zhuanlun, and the other Yamas of the Ten Palaces can all be traced back to the mortal realm. King Yanluo was the only one who couldn’t.

He’s practically a nameless god.

But now… we finally have some evidence of his name?! By whose account?

That 19 years-old boy is none other than the King Yanluo of Hell?

No… Let’s take a step back. If he’s really the King Yanluo of Hell, then what’s he doing in the mortal realm in the first place? And how did this stone tablet appear? The fact that King Yanluo is in the mortal realm means that there is necessity for his presence. So why would a stone tablet disclosing his identity like this suddenly appear in the mortal realm?

A series of queries continued to surface on his mind just like bubbling, gurgling waters.

Zhou Xianlong leaned back on his chair and tapped his fingers on the table, “We were able to discover this because… in the span of a single month, 364 pieces of similar stone tablets were found to bear the very same line of text that says ‘King Yanluo: Qin Ye’.”

“Do you know something? It feels almost as though these stone tablets were all hiding and waiting for us to notice them at the exact same time. But is that even possible?”

“King Yanluo… If he’s truly the King Yanluo of Hell, then there would have been records of his identity across monuments, temples and other ancient steles. But there isn’t. Every single record alleging his identity as King Yanluo of Hell had only just suddenly appeared, almost as though… something… has approved of his office, and is doing everything it can to force our agreement!”

Mo Changhao grew somber and stern, “Are you suggesting that… a new god has appeared?”

He paused for a moment, and then continued, “Are you certain that… this isn’t the works of an evil ghost?”

Zhou Xianlong shook his head firmly, “No. That’s not possible.”

“The 364 stone tablets that I was referring to earlier weren’t all newly unearthed artifacts. It’s not possible to unearth so many new artifacts in a single month.” Zhou Xianlong cast a deep gaze at Mo Changhao, “Do you… get my drift?”

Mo Changhao furrowed his brows, and then suddenly gasped as he stared at the image on the tablet with a soft quiver in his eyes.

“Are you saying that… over three hundred artifacts relating to the records of King Yanluo… had all been changed overnight to reflect Qin Ye’s name?!” Even an Infernal Judge had limits to their composure, and the magnitude and implications of this occurrence had clearly exceeded that of Mo Changhao. After all, something like that… represented the change in the entire dynasty of Hell!

It was the ascension of a new king!

Zhou Xianlong stared intently at the screen as he continued softly, “All of our records about the King Yanluo of Hell, whether Taoism, Buddhism, or other ancient tablets or steles, appeared to be altered by an invisible hand overnight. The words ‘Qin Ye’ have been added to these records without any measure of concealment whatsoever. In fact… it almost feels as though that mysterious entity is… notifying us.”

With that, both men grew silent.

Who’s this mysterious person declaring the truth about the identity of the King Yanluo of Hell? Why would all signs be pointing towards Qin Ye?

Hell?

Impossible. If it’s truly Qin Ye, then the fact that he’s currently back in the mortal realm means that he’s got his purposes and objectives. How could Hell be attempting to blow the cover of its own head honcho?

An evil ghost?

That’s even less likely!

Would evil ghosts dare to blaspheme against the name of the King Yanluo of Hell? To date, we’ve not heard of Yin spirits even tampering with records pertaining to the Emissaries of Hell - even those pertaining to lower officials including Hellguards and Judges. And this held true even when the incidents involved incarnate revenants.

So… who the hell could this be?!

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