“Ms Lee, it’s been a while.” A Cathayan senior executive immediately went forward to receive her with a smile, “We didn’t expect the honor of having you attend the inspection in person. I’ll be showing you around tonight. We’ll take you to the restaurants that serve the most authentic Eastmount cuisine later!”
“Thank you. I can’t wait.” The shades concealed her bloodshot eyes due to the lack of sleep last night. With a faint smile, she strode right into the arms of the welcoming party and marched off with them.
The large gathering of people immediately separated into two groups as soon as they entered the factory. Lee Jung-sook took the lead, while four men followed closely behind her. The rest fell behind, allowing the top executives space to do what they needed. By now, her smile had already faded away, and she wore a frigid expression on her face, “How’s the situation right now?”
“Not good.” A middle-aged man behind her glanced around and responded with a hushed voice, “We’ve already dismissed our communications executive because of the poor manner in which they’ve handled the situation. However… what’s done is done. What’s more important is to salvage the situation.”
Another lady in her forties chimed in promptly, “Ms Lee, this crisis has sparked a wave of discussion across all of Cathay. Put bluntly, Samsung’s sales have slipped to rock bottom. If we can’t tide through this crisis, then I’m afraid… this might mark the twilight years of our empire.”
Lee Jung-sook drew a deep breath and sighed softly, “I didn’t expect things to come to this either. We’ve already recalled the general manager in charge of the operations here. I want us to issue a sincere apology in three days’ time.”
“Would three days be far too long? There’s a lot of buzz going about on the internet right now, slamming Samsung.”
Lee Jung-sook shook her head, “First, we’ll have to locate the source of the problem. I’ve looked through the design drawings. The model in question implements the most cutting-edge technology publicly available, and there aren’t any issues with the design in theory.”
“And if that is the case, then the problem has to lie with the parts used and the assembly factories…” She glanced at the sprawling factory buildings ahead of her, “In any event, what’s more important right now is to show the Cathayans Samsung’s sincerity. Do you think the citizens are that easy to fool these days? One wrong move, and the keyboard warriors out there will come back even stronger than before. Have the mayor and general secretary of Azurewaters City taken any stance on the issue?”
The lady glanced around warily, before taking two steps forward and whispering softly, “He hopes that we’d be able to settle the issue as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he won’t be able to suppress the tide of public opinions much longer.”
Lee Jung-sook sighed and glanced at her phone, “Apologies, I’ll need to use the bathroom for a quick moment. Nobody’s inside, right?”
“Don’t worry. Nobody’s there.” The lady bowed respectfully, “As you’ve requested, we’ve already put up a maintenance sign on the door.”
Lee Jung-sook nodded, and then turned to leave.
She was an extremely disciplined lady.
Although she was merely heading to the restroom, she still walked with a steady pace and graceful poise no different to that of a top model. Every step was enchanting, evocative, and practically flawless.
The restroom was extremely clean. There were white tiles, and a faint scent of sandalwood filled the entire area. As soon as she stepped into the restroom, she immediately bit down softly on her lips, “Do you really have to watch a lady do her business in the restroom?”
She didn’t head into the cubicles.
Ten seconds later, two pairs of eyes suddenly opened up where her shadow was, snorted softly, and then silently slipped away.
“Lee Jung-sook, you’d best not try anything funny.” Crow Tengu cautioned with a hoarse voice, “Do what you must with your exploding cell phones, and then get the hell back to Daehan immediately! Otherwise… I’ll personally see to it that you return in pieces!”
Lee Jung-sook remained silent and paused for another three seconds before she finally entered the restroom proper.
She made her way straight into the innermost cubicle, drew a deep breath, and then… knocked softly on the partition separating her and the next cubicle.
Knock, knock… The knocks were light and soft, but these simple actions of hers appeared to have completely drained her of all her energy. She bit down on her lips and stared intently at the partition.
Knock, knock… knock… Just then, two long knocks and one short knock responded on the very same partition wall.
Lee Jung-sook’s eyes flickered softly. Then, just as she was about to speak, a soft whimpering sound came from the other side.
It was incredibly faint, almost as though someone had buried their face in her hands, biting her lips hard and sobbing because of excessive fear.
“Sister Jung-sook… please, spare me… I can’t do this anymore! T-this is a crime which attracts the death penalty!!” A voice from the other side of the partition lamented to her. Lee Jung-sook gritted her teeth and drew several deep breaths to calm her heart and mind down.
Then, mustering the calmest voice she could, Lee Jung-sook responded, “9.30 a.m. You’re bang on time.”
“One million. I’ll credit it straight to your account.”
There were no other sounds beside her apart from the intermittent whimpers and sobs. Lee Jung-sook sighed softly and glanced up at the ceiling with the utmost patience, “At Samsung, nobody can do a thing to you unless I give them the nod. Don’t worry, I, Lee Jung-sook, have never been the sort to burn the bridge after crossing the Rubicon.”
“Sister Jung-sook!!” The voice from the next cubicle hissed, “But… but we’re practically sabotaging ourselves! We’re causing the Samsung phones manufactured to combust and explode on their own! W-what are you trying to do? Isn’t Samsung a business you’ve built up from scratch?!”
“Huizhen.” Lee Jung-sook shut her eyes and cut her off summarily, “I’m in a very precarious situation right now, and the only person I can trust is you - the one and only true friend I’ve grown up with. If you don’t want to see me perish, then do as I say.”
Her voice appeared to soothe Huizhen’s roiling emotions.
“Do this for me, and I’ll see to it that you become a director of the company.”
“After all, I’ve got the final say when it comes to the appointment and removal of directors in Samsung.”
Three seconds later, the voice beside her whimpered softly, “Then… what should I do?”
“Continue.” Lee Jung-sook, “Continue until the problem is uncovered.”
With that, Lee Jung-sook left without looking back.
She couldn’t afford to stay for too long. After all, suspicions would grow if she did.
Whoosh… Water rushed out of the faucet as Lee Jung-sook silently washed her hands. Just then, her reflection in the mirror… suddenly looked up!
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?!” Lee Jung-sook barked through gritted teeth, “Crow Tengu and Black Yaksha are out there right now! They can easily summon an entire army of Yin spirits out of nowhere. We’re talking about evil ghosts that have been notorious in Nippon for thousands of years, second only to Izanami who emerged into prominence a century or so before they did. You’re bound to be killed as soon as they discover your presence!”
The reflection promptly lowered her head, and there was a moment of tense, awkward silence between them. However, the reflection soon spoke up, “Have you gone mad?”
“Are you deliberately allowing defects in the parts just so that you have a reason to come to Cathay? We’re talking about a market comprising 1.5 billion people! Why do you have to do this? Didn’t you say you were unafraid of death?”
Lee Jung-sook wiped her hands dry as she murmured back, “You seem to have misunderstood something.”
“Sure, I might not be afraid of death itself, but that’s on condition that I’m the one seeking my own death. The situation would be completely different if others are plotting against me.”
“Do you know how they stare at me back in Daehan, even when I’m eating? Given their presence across the entire East Continent, the only countries that they wouldn’t dare make a move against me would be Cathay and Hindustan. I’m willing to give up on the entire Cathayan market if that means preserving my own dignity and pride. The competition here is too stiff anyway.” After drying her hands, she opened her cosmetics bag and gently traced lip gloss over her lips again, “I recall that… the Hungry Ghost Festival is coming up again soon?”
The reflection nodded, and then gasped softly, “The gates of hell are going to be opened again and the lands will be filled with countless Yin spirits… Are you--...”
“Think about it…” She packed up her cosmetics bag and slowly sauntered to the exit, “When Yin spirits come out to play, only to be greeted by the presence of two Nipponese Infernal Judges, how do you think the Cathayan Emissaries of Hell will react?”
“You want their lives?!” The reflection screamed, “Hey! Come back! You--... don’t you forget that you’re just an ordinary human being! Even if you can see things of a different realm, you’re still a far cry from being a cultivator!”
Unfortunately, Lee Jung-sook had already walked away from the mirror by now. The mysterious presence manifested on her brooch and continued to holler madly, “Are you sure you’ve thought things through?! That’s the Crow Tengu and Black Yaksha that we’re talking about! Existences that have ravaged Nippon for centuries on end! Their names can be found on every record of Nipponese legends and myths! They’re even older than Oda Nobunaga! How could you smuggle them into Cathay like that?! And without suppressing their abilities to boot?!”
“How many Yin artifacts would they have at their disposal? And what kind of arts and techniques have they mastered? And… if they truly die here, how are you going to account for their death back in Nippon?! You do know that the Nipponese god of death would go crazy on you, right?!”
Lee Jung-sook’s heels clacked against the white tiles of the restroom as she responded with a voice that was as calm as ever, “Don’t worry, these are all evil ghosts that have only experienced death once anyway. Besides, who is to say that my life experiences are any less than theirs? I’ve done my fair share of time in the mortal realm after all…”
Two weeks later, Martial City.
Qin Ye slumped back into the sofa in the apartment allocated to him. 120 square meters of living space in a high-rise building. It was an exquisite, turnkey apartment that didn’t require any payment of rent.
It was everything he could have asked for, save for the companionship of a hostess.
He held a cup of tea that he bought from the shops below and heaved a sigh of relief. The last two weeks had taught him what it truly meant to be dog-tired.
Who could’ve imagined that there would be so many things to be done in the mortal realm after becoming an Infernal Judge? He had an appointment with the representatives of a website today, while his schedule tomorrow was completely blocked out for a series of media interviews. In short, his schedule was absolutely packed. In fact, as soon as news got out of his ascension to an Infernal Judge, he had received a multitude of solicitations from all over the world by various means - including even requests for his cell phone number.
But how could such sudden fame possibly get to a man who was concurrently lord over more than 20 million ghostly citizens in Hell?
“Speaking of which, what reason is there for me to remain in the mortal realm?” He stared blankly at the ceiling and wondered aloud, “Hell can already hold its own by now. Rather than struggle to earn merit points back in the mortal realm, why not devote all of my attention to Hell instead? Besides, it’s not as though there’s no benefits in setting about my business back in Hell. In fact, all ground-breaking achievements in Hell come with commensurate benefits! So what the hell am I still doing here?!”
He couldn’t figure out just what was holding him back. Unfortunately, every time he was about to take the plunge and simply vanish from the mortal realm, something deep within his heart would hold him back.
Just then, his cell phone buzzed.
He switched it on, only to notice a video call coming through the Momo app. It was Local Bully.
“Hurry up!” He answered the call, only to be greeted by the bare-chested body of Local Bully. He had evidently just emerged from the showers, “I’ll forfeit my surname if we don’t stomp some pub games today!”
His weariness immediately vanished like a wisp of smoke. Qin Ye rolled over and picked up his iPad, “Come! Let’s go!”
With that, they immersed themselves right into the arena of summoners. 
They played five rounds straight, but lost everything. Yet, even then, everyone was gleeful and raring to go. Their squad consisted of Qin Ye, Lin Han, Su Feng, Ye Xingchen, as well as the all-too-elusive member of the Blaze Squad, Zhuo Qinfen.
Time flew by in the blink of an eye, and it was soon midnight. Qin Ye stared at the series of losses on his record of games, and he couldn’t even bring himself to cuss and swear at anyone.
Would you believe that Lin Han had picked Karthus as a jungler, and died three times to the neutral monsters?
And he would even foil his teammates plans to gank the enemy forces!
On the other hand, Zhuo Qinfen would always be living in his own world, rushing straight into the enemy forces, thinking he can launch a counter-attack all on his own. Unfortunately… he got pwned.
“Bloody hell… you guys are trash… When the hell can I get out of the silver mire…” Qin Ye slumped back onto the sofa with great despondence. Fortunately, the fact that he was now a Judge meant that he no longer needed food or sleep. This meant that he had essentially gained far more time to work with at night.
As he stared into the ceiling, a smile slowly crept up the corners of his lips.
“Perhaps it’s these people that are holding me back right now…” He sighed softly as he pulled out his phone, staring at the group video call involving several people who were still brimming with energy. Qin Ye yelled, “You guys are pieces of shit!!!” And then, he couldn’t help but smile once more.
People were herd animals.
This is a rather… fascinating feeling…
“Forget it. I’ll take each day as it comes.”
With that, Qin Ye shelved his thoughts. But just as he was about to march into the showers to freshen up, a voice suddenly echoed in his ears.
“Lord Harken would like to meet with you.”
It was Arthis’ voice.
The Harken has awakened?
Has Three Lives, Three Worlds worked?
He blinked his eyes vacantly, before promptly vanishing from his room with a swift rush of Yin energy.
Then, three seconds later, he reappeared in his room once more, picked up a sack of catnip, and then vanished again.
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