A gust of nethergale swept across the lands, around where the Harken lay. The golden words written by Fate were still hovering faintly in front of him, and he was clearly just a few words short of completing his statement.
Everything was still and silent. Not a single Yin spirit dared approach such a terrifying divine beast. Just then, there was a soft sigh, and yet the Harken remained deep in its slumber!
Not even the soft rustle of the nethergale could be heard right now. Yet, despite that, copious amounts of Yin energy suddenly converged at a point directly above the Harken’s head like a majestic cloud of Yin energy. Moments later, the cloud was torn asunder, revealing a one-meter large rift from which a long hand reached out.
It was a man’s hand, bony at the joints, while a system of veins could be seen right underneath the skin. Calluses could be seen on the underside of the hands. These were a telltale sign of habitually handling weapons.
The man grabbed hold of Fate.
He did so right in front of the Harken’s eyes, and yet the Harken was completely unaware of his presence or his actions at all.
And then… he began to add to the golden words that were hovering in the air in front of the Harken.
Let Qin Ye become a competent King Yanluo of Hell!
As soon as the statement was complete, the golden words immediately erupted with a dazzling golden gleam. Moments later, a soft sound of gears falling into place was heard, and the golden words reverted back to its original state, save that… it looked more esoteric and more mysterious than ever. It felt almost as though the words had transcended the world.
Whoosh! Golden light filled the lands in the moment of radiance. The Harken trembled softly, and then abruptly shot to its feet, “Who is it?!!”
Boom!! A terrifying shockwave roared in all directions. The man’s hand was as tiny as an insect next to the Harken, and it naturally failed to detect its presence at the first instance. Instead, the Harken’s first thought was to turn abruptly to look at the words written by Fate.
Fate… had been activated!
“Who’s responsible for this?!” It’s earth-shattering roar resounded in all directions. The monarch beasts within a radius of hundreds of miles instantly shivered and shrank back to their nests, where they lay as low as they could, trembling in fear for their own lives. “The one who activates Fate must bear the consequences of karma! What audacity!!”
But before it could go on, a blurry figure suddenly appeared right above the Harken’s head and gently patted it.
Whoosh… The Harken’s infuriated roar came to an abrupt halt, and it froze in its spot as though it were a massive boulder. It blinked vacantly, and then suddenly revealed a flattering smile on its face as it began to wag its tail, “About that… I didn’t know it was you… When did you come back? Why didn’t you send word before you arrived? I could have received you properly.”
The blurry silhouette smiled faintly as he continued to stroke the Harken across its head, “I’ve come back because I’ve lost everything I had.”
“......” The Harken grew sullen, “What do you mean? I didn’t sense your presence in any of the casinos in the three realms here.”
“It’s naturally elsewhere.” The man responded placidly, “I’d say I’ve lost about a billion Yin spirit stones. I get the feeling that the fella seated opposite me called the Destroyer is cheating, but unfortunately I’ve got no evidence to back up my claims. Say, do you still have the key to Hell’s treasury that I’d entrusted you with? Do you mind if I… borrowed it for a moment?”
“......” The Harken felt crushed.
Those are public funds we’re talking about! Do you know what public funds are meant to be? Besides, do you really think there’s still a treasury to be exploited now?!
“I mean… Sir…” The Harken gulped nervously as it cautiously prompted with a reminder, “Did you forget? You remained passive while the old Hell was collapsing, and that’s why… everything is now gone.”
“Something like that actually happened?” The man’s voice responded with great surprise, while the Harken nodded fervently like a doll’s bobbing head.
“Then what about my debt--... I mean, does that mean there’s absolutely nothing left of Hell? Eh, I recall there’s still the divine molt left behind by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. That’s got to be worth at least a few billion Yin spirit stones…”
The figure promptly leapt down from the Harken’s head, only to held back by the Harken who tugged at the man’s sleeves as it pleaded desperately, “My Lord! My Lord! Please be kind and spare some thought for the remains of the old Hell!”
“Nobody complained when you chose to remain absent from imperial court meetings back then, but you absolutely cannot remove the divine molt from where it is right now! If you do, the blight vermin will almost certainly pour out to the rest of the world!”
Yet, despite the pleading, the tiny figure continued to plod on almost as though he weren’t being held back by anything at all. The Harken clung onto him desperately, leaving deep grooves in the ground as it did everything it could to hold the man back.
Buzz… Just then, a soft sound of an unlocking mechanism echoed through the void. The man and the Harken both looked over, only to realize that Fate had begun to write in the air of its own accord.
Seconds later, the Harken coughed softly, “My Lord, why were you so intent on completing that statement of Fate?”
The man continued to stare intently at the words that were being written by Fate as he responded, “The fact that he’s alive is one of the greatest weaknesses of Hell right now.”
Moments later, he retracted his gaze and continued speaking with sobriety, “I can’t deny that Granny Meng has found us a decent successor. However… it doesn’t change the fact that his life is currently too closely intertwined with the mortal realm.”
“His heart isn’t with his duties and obligations as the King Yanluo of Hell. However, the fact that he’s accepted the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal means that he will have to assume responsibility for this new office or appointment of his.”
“This is the process of growth. Growth entails retaining what is important, and discarding the rabble. And to that end, it’s about time that he cuts off his ties with the mortal realm.”
The Harken probed cautiously, “But wouldn’t this attract any unwanted consequences or response from him?”
The figure laughed, “Once the wheels of Fate begin to turn, it will set into motion occurrences that form the basis of causality. Everything would happen as though it were a series of coincidences, and there wouldn’t be any traces of human manipulation in the slightest. Besides, you probably won’t recover for the next thousand years if you were to bear the weight of karma for influencing the life of a King Yanluo of Hell.”
He sighed softly, “It’s all only because he’s going to be the Third King Yanluo of Hell. Otherwise, do you think we’d even resort to using Fate for any other man on the street?”
Then, he suddenly asked a seemingly unrelated question, “Do you know what being powerful means?”
The Harken’s response was simple, “You.”
The Harken chuckled, “Power could refer to both physical strength, as well as mental acuity. That said… anyone who doesn’t have a commensurately strong heart to set the stage for his display of strength would never accomplish great things.”
“And that’s just how he is.” The figure pointed down to the ground, “He’s an intellectual powerhouse. I’ve always found someone like that even more terrifying than a tyrannical brute. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a heart that is befitting of a King Yanluo of Hell. The conquest of Qufu is indubitably a point of inflection for the new Hell’s development, and yet he remains unwilling to let go of the mortal realm.”
“While I can appreciate his perspective, I cannot indulge in his actions.”
“He needs a strong heart. He needs to think like a King Yanluo of Hell, and act like one too. You did the right thing. If he’s not willing to set his heart in the right place, then he leaves us no choice but to do it for him. Perhaps he might hate you now, but he will most certainly come to understand your rationale in time to come.”
“The one who wants to wear the crown, must bear its weight.”
The figure stood up, “He says that he needs one year’s time to tie up all the loose ends. Unfortunately, Hell doesn’t have such luxury of time to keep waiting for him at this point of inflection.”
The golden light shone brightly once more, and a line of words appeared right beneath the statement of Fate that had earlier been written - ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’.
18 days to go.
The Harken breathed a sigh of relief as it chuckled bitterly, “That’s right. Do you know something? When I first met him, he was ridiculously weak, while the new Hell was a complete wasteland. It was difficult to even keep an eye on them. Back then, the first thought that occurred to me was to kill him, seize the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal and pick a new successor.”
“But with each time I woke up, I would discover to my pleasant surprise that Hell’s development had soared by leaps and bounds at dazzling speeds. His cultivation speed was also frightening. Then, I finally shelved the thought to kill him when the heavenly dao gave Qin Ye its unconditional nod of approval as the next King Yanluo of Hell.”
“And since he’s earned his recognition, then the next best thing I could do would be to act as his auxiliary. To this end, I saw nothing wrong with his means prior to taking Qufu. After all, Hell had nothing, and it was necessary to draw from the mortal realm in order to accelerate Hell’s growth. But things are now different after seizing Qufu!”
“Expand Hell, and set his sights on the rest of the world! That’s the only attitude that befits a King Yanluo of Hell! He needs both the right mentality and the breadth of perspective! Otherwise, any mistake on his part would result in the deaths of millions or even billions of Cathayan Yin spirits! The mortal realm might even collapse!” The Harken’s golden eyes flickered softly, “Heaven forbid that I should become a plaything to other nations after 150 years of time!”
The silhouette nodded, and then promptly vanished from sight, “Then protect him well. He’s not bad.”
“Fate brings about a confluence of coincidences, but nobody can say for certain whether any dangers lay hidden amidst these opportunities. In any event, the upcoming Hungry Ghost Festival is clearly when everything comes together.”
With that, the figure vanished, leaving no traces behind.
The Harken hadn’t asked about what he had to do for Qin Ye, because he knew full well that a King Yanluo of Hell had to be forged in fire. After all, it was only through difficulties and hardships that one built character.
Besides… nothing is insurmountable.
Whoosh… It turned around to glance at the three words in the sky again - Hungry Ghost Festival. The Harken couldn’t help but be curious - What coincidences would it bring? What’s going to happen during the Hungry Ghost Festival that would make him change his attitude altogether?
It stared silently and intently at the golden words in the air, completely lost in its own thoughts. Then, after an inordinate amount of time, Fate began to write in the air once again.
Another name; another coincidence.
The Harken frowned and thought for some time, but concluded that this wasn’t someone that it knew of.
Conference hall of the Mythic Palace of Reflections, Hell.
“Alright. I’ve made a note of everyone’s opinions and thoughts. Does anyone else have anything to add?” Qin Ye sat on the main stage and addressed the rest of the ministers. As he glanced around the room, he could sense that the atmosphere in the room was already different from before.
There was the smell of sparks of tension and ignition.
Under Qin Ye’s connivance, he had allowed the assembly of ministers to be factionalized into two camps, one of which supported war, while the other supported internal development. Truth be told, both perspectives were equally justifiable, and Qin Ye felt pressured as a leader for the very first time.
Just then, another voice cut through the tense silence of the room, “I’ve got something to add.” Everyone looked over.
It was Zhang Zeguang, the Minister of the Department of Ghost Resources, otherwise also known as the eleventh governor of the Eastmount Province.
He was one of the few who hadn’t taken sides just yet. Qin Ye nodded at him, and Zhang Zeguang picked up a document and cleared his throat, “Just like the Department of Human Resources in the mortal realm, the Department of Ghost Resources is in charge of the major districts of Hell and all neighbourhood committees. It’s the ministry that walks closest to the grassroots. And because of this, we have received word from the ground that the public have some requests, which to our minds, are rather reasonable.”
He set down the information and glanced at the ministers, “And that’s to have festivals.”
“Festivities are one of the things that remain constant throughout history. They both nurture spirituality, as well as act as a cultural carrier for Hell. Now that Ashmound is on the right track for growth, I think it’s about time to establish a few festivities for the people to celebrate.”
Qin Ye nodded. This is something he had never thought about. Festivities were truly when netherfolk deepen their sense of identity with Hell. And to that end, the notion of honour and the sense of community spirit and belonging are all built upon the fundamental sense of identity to begin with.
Besides, I’ve heard Arthis say in passing that these festivities are also an important pillar of support for the economy of Hell…
He continued listening intently.
“First of all, I would propose the institution of a national day.” Zhang Zeguang explained, “I believe that this is a festivity or a holiday that every Yin spirit should remember and celebrate. As for the time, I’d humbly leave it to Yanluo Qin’s determination.”
“Apart from that, it would also be important to establish other regular festivities. To my mind, I believe that it’s important to keep the festivities of the mortal realm distinct and separate. After all, many of the festivals of the mortal realm are no longer necessary or relevant here in Hell.”
“To that end, the most well-known festivities celebrated in hell are undoubtedly the three major ghost festivals, namely the Qingming Festival , the Winter Clothes Day, and… the Hungry Ghost Festival.”
1. That’s also called the Tomb-sweeping Day or the Ancestor’s Day, when people visit the graves of their ancestors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingming_Festival
2. This is the first day of winter in the Lunar Calendar, when the living would burn offerings of winter clothes to their loved ones to keep them warm. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Clothes_Day