“My Lord…” One of the ministers in the conference hall couldn’t hold back any longer as he asked with a hoarse voice, “Can we really… return to the mortal realm?”
The first time they heard about the prospects of that was at the general assembly two weeks ago. However… nothing was quite like witnessing it with their own two eyes!
Back then, it felt like a distant prospect because nobody had any merit points, and the corollary was naturally that nobody could return to the mortal realm. But now… someone had actually been conferred sufficient merit points for such a benefit right in front of their very own eyes!
Their colleague, Zhang Zeguang, was about to be the first Yin spirit of Hell to return to the mortal realm!
Zhang Zeguang was showered with a baptism of envious and jealous gazes. Even the most elderly minister or the most accomplished minister couldn’t help but clench their fists tightly under the desk.
Zhang Zeguang showed no reaction at all. If this had been any other day, he would have welcomed any awards he had been conferred and then sit down gracefully. However, he simply appeared stunned.
He was absolutely dumbfounded.
Return to the mortal realm… Can I really return to the mortal realm?!
“What’s the matter? Too excited?” Qin Ye smiled faintly.
Excellent… It seems to be that so long as the Book of Life and Death remains in my possession, nobody would be able to usurp my rule over Hell. I mean, just look at Minister Zhang! The fact that a former provincial governor of the mortal realm is so astounded means these benefits are clearly well beyond his expectations.
“No… not at all!” Zhang Zeguang finally snapped back to his senses and cupped his hands with great respect and gratitude, “Thank you, My Lord… Thank you!!! Thank you!!!”
The excitement in his voice was palpable, and yet his voice sounded as harsh as a cat’s claw on a chalkboard. In an instant, everyone’s minds began to kick into high gear, contemplating what other needs Hell might need to address in the near future.
Qin Ye had unwittingly triggered the minds of the ministers to take the initiative. Fortunately, the ones seated in the hall right now were all high-ranking officials who were accustomed to maintaining their composure despite high-pressured situations. Otherwise, the entire hall might have broken out into a riot by now.
Zhang Zeguang couldn’t retract the bright smile on his face, “Can Your Excellency… truly send me back to the mortal realm?”
He knew that this question was clearly laced with doubt, but… he still couldn’t help but ask it.
“This is only something that can be done by the orthodox Hell.” Qin Ye casually jumped at the chance to school his ministers on the ideological and political front. Rewarding Zhang Zeguang in this manner was also to set a precedent and goal for the rest of them to follow. It was akin to telling the ministers of Ashmound City that so long as they pledge their allegiance to Hell, then only good things lay in wait for them. It was also a clear message to them, stating that so long as they worked hard, Hell would never shortchange their efforts!
Sure, so what if you’re dead? Would you like to wait until you’ve been reunited with your loved ones, before embarking on an all expenses paid trip to the most scenic places of the underworld?
Would you like a tour of the primeval forest? I can assure you that these places are so scenic that they would completely blow your mind!
And did we mention that we’ve even got tour packages to ghost cities in Daehan, Felipinas, and others? I mean… I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty sure I’m unparalleled when it comes to such crafty ideas…
Just then, Arthis spoke up, “A point to note is that there’s always a certain amount of risk in returning to the mortal realm. So long as your soul has been tainted by the energies of Hell, you’d almost certainly become a target for the wandering spirits out there. That said, you will be escorted by your own personal bodyguards during your trip out to the mortal realm, so you can rest assured.”
Zhang Zeguang drew a deep breath, bowed deeply to Qin Ye, and then finally took his seat.
Even though the meeting went on for some time thereafter, nothing registered in his mind.
The only thoughts that kept bouncing around the forefront of his mind were thoughts of - ‘Is my grandson already married? What’s my daughter-in-law like? Do they have kids? Have they been visiting my grave?’
The impact from Qin Ye’s bombshell had sent all of their minds reeling with shock. Qin Ye could tell that they were greatly distracted by what they had just witnessed, and it wouldn’t be too fruitful if he continued to force the issue. Thus, he decided to wrap up, “We’re 18 days away from the Hungry Ghost Festival. I want all departments to cooperate and work together leading up to that. Minister Zhang, I’d like you to form a committee that will take charge of the grand festivity, and then link up with me again. I’d like the list of people in this committee by tonight, and I’ll also want to see a detailed proposal of the itinerary for the festivity itself in three days’ time.”
With that, the ministers left the hall somewhat filled with regret. Several ministers even cupped their hands enviously at Zhang Zeguang before taking their leave. None of them were in the mood to remain behind and make small talk. All they wanted to do right now was to return to their offices and revisit the plans that they had come up with thus far.
Within moments, the entire hall was filled with silence. Qin Ye was just about to pack up his things and take his leave when Arthis suddenly quipped, “Can you handle the workload?”
Qin Ye stood up, “Yes.”
“You’re the one who voluntarily assumed responsibility for the grand festivity.” Arthis continued, “It’s true that you’re the most suitable candidate for the job. You’ll need to walk the grounds and visit every part of Ashmound in the 18 days leading up to the Hungry Ghost Festival so that you know what to do, and where each part of the itinerary is going to pan out. You’ll need to decide on the main focal point, and the facilities and amenities that will have to be prepared. You’ll also have to decide the overall theme of the festivity. Once the committee is formed, how are you going to oversee their work? Are you still going to return at night to visit their plans, before leaving your suggestions behind and return to the mortal realm in the day?”
“How are they supposed to notify you of their findings on the ground? I can already tell you that there’s going to be practical difficulties with such arrangements. Operational matters have to be resolved there and then. Are you sure you’ll have the time to deal with everything?”
“That might not necessarily be the case.” Qin Ye turned to leave, “As a high-ranking Judge-class expert back in the mortal realm, I should have a little bit more latitude with what I want to do with the time that I have. Therefore, I should be able to make the necessary arrangements to be around more often than not.”
With that, he vanished from sight, leaving Arthis rooted to the ground. She shut her eyes, and then heaved a soft sigh of resignation.
“Nobody has ever had such freedom with their own time.” She muttered faintly to herself, “What we do have… is our responsibilities and priorities.”
“And to this end, you’re clearly still lacking in many ways.”
“You know what you should do, and you clearly know your limits. It’s about time for you to find closure to your mortal life.”
“A King Yanluo of Hell cannot afford to be capricious.”
With that, Arthis vanished into thin air. When she appeared again, she was already standing in front of the Harken once more.
This was not to say that one could freely teleport between the netherworld and Limbo. Rather, it was simply because the Harken’s whereabouts could easily be felt in any part of Limbo.
She bowed deeply, and then remained silent.
“It didn’t work, did it?” The Harken snorted, “He might look easygoing on the outside, but the fact of the matter is that he’s got his own thoughts. Have you ever managed to convince him of your own thoughts?”
Arthis shook her head, “He says that… he’ll need a year’s time--… W-what’s this?!!”
Just then, she noticed the golden words hanging high in the air, while Fate hovered closely beside it, almost as though it were ready to write once more.
“You’ve… activated Fate?” She turned to look at the Harken with a startled expression, only to notice it shake its head, “It wasn’t me.”
“The Second King Yanluo of Hell returned just a moment ago.”
Arthis gasped deeply, and then glanced warily about before asking with great excitement, “Is the old man… still well?”
The corner of the Harken’s lips twitched at the mention of the Second King Yanluo of Hell, but it went on to respond reluctantly, “He’s doing pretty fine I suppose…”
It’s just that he’s still not changed in his old ways…
To think he’d even think of taking the divine molt for his own uses… I’m sure Lord Ksitigarbha would be horrified to learn of this…
“Did he--....” Arthis led into her next question, but promptly caught herself and shook her head.
She was just about to ask if the Second King Yanluo of Hell had ever thought about lending some help stir the development of the new Hell.
But she soon realized that there was no need for such a question.
The First King Yanluo of Hell had forged the empire of Hell by slaying all of his competitors in an arena of blood. The Second King Yanluo of Hell had established Hell on a global footing by singlehandedly fending off the concerted siege of several major underworlds all at once.
So on what basis was there to seek help for the Third King Yanluo of Hell?
There aren’t any other Yanluos vying for the same spot. Hell still has the Array of the Nine Gods, the Harken, Ashmound City and millions of Yin spirits to boot! It was in a far better place than Hell was in during the time of the First King Yanluo’s road to power. If Qin Ye still couldn’t succeed with a start like this, then perhaps he simply wasn’t the right person for the job.
In fact, Qin Ye had to rise to the occasion, and exceed expectations! He would have to let Hell stand at the top of the global arena once more! This was the responsibility of the Third King Yanluo of Hell!
She glanced at the golden words in the sky, and there was a soft flicker in her gaze.
Hungry Ghost Festival… Zhang Zeguang… These are all things that have just taken place! Has the wheels of Fate already begun to turn?
“My Lord, why does Zhang Zeguang’s name appear to be incomplete?” She furrowed her brows.
The Harken glanced at the words in the sky before responding, “That just means that there are future developments to be had as far as this man is concerned.”
“Fate works with a confluence of coincidences. A single person might not be involved with only one such coincidence. He could be directly involved in multiple coincidences, or he may be directly involved with one, and then indirectly involved with others. Zhang Zeguang might be involved in one of the opening coincidences, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the last of his involvement.”
“All of the coincidences will come together on the eighteenth day and thereby trigger his realization that… a King Yanluo of Hell must perform his duties and responsibilities.”
Just then, Fate suddenly erupted with another dazzling display of light as it began to write once more.
This time… it wasn’t just one name that was written.
Not only did Fate complete Zhang Zeguang’s name, it even wrote a second name afterwards… Oda Nobutada!
They were seemingly unrelated persons, but that was exactly how Fate worked. It was free to tie together anyone, even those who were unrelated to each other.
It was just like the notion of the butterfly effect, where a seemingly harmless butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the ocean could potentially cause a hurricane to blow on the other side.
Buzz… The appearance of both names caused a buzzing resonance that echoed throughout Limbo, almost as though it had just set into motion a series of irreversible events.
And then, Fate wrote down two more words.
“Fate will continue to count down to the day of reckoning, and each and every name written will form a part of the whole mysterious picture.” The Harken sighed, “Anyone and anything can be implicated, so long as they reside within Cathay. No wonder it’s known as the most terrifying artifact apart from the three divine artifacts of Hell. It’s ranked even higher than the Mythic Palace of Reflections. If not for the fact that Fate can only be used once every hundred years, I’m afraid it would already have been listed as the fourth divine artifact of Hell.”
“Let’s watch and see…” It gently shut its eyes, “The wheels of Fate have already begun to turn. Everything will soon come together…”
Zhang Zeguang returned to his abode.
Kong Mo didn’t build any fancy courtyard homes for his subjects, and everything was still as they had used to be in ancient times. Since Qin Ye hadn’t had the time to regulate the housing market, all of the high officials of Ashmound City lived along the same street for the time being. Zhang Zeguang naturally lived within a small home.
He had just ended work, and it was time for some rest and relaxation. However, he paced about the house frantically, unable to settle the frenzy in his heart!
He picked up some of the keepsakes he had at home. There were some photographs and rings, all of which were burnt offerings directed to him. He was contemplating which of these to bring with him back up to the mortal realm to identify himself.
But the more he thought about the prospects of what was to come, the more crept into his mind - What am I going to say when I meet them? Am I going to tell them what Hell looks like?
After a long time, he finally sighed and sat down by the side of his bed, “Forget it. Let’s shelve these thoughts for now. Yanluo Qin should be making the necessary arrangements. As for when I’ll go…”
His eyes gleamed brightly as he glanced at the pile of keepsakes. These represented all of his memories of the past life he used to have.
“I’ll head out tomorrow night! I can’t wait any longer!”
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
“Sir.” A middle-aged man walked in with a smile, “I’m Yanluo Qin’s personal secretary. You can call me Little Zhou. Yanluo Qin has asked me to bring over a list of things to take note of when returning to the mortal realm. Would you be minded to take a look at these materials first? Once you’re done with them, you can pick your preferred date for the return, and we’ll make the necessary arrangements so that you can depart at the arranged time.”
“Good…” Zhang Zeguang took a deep breath and immediately picked up the document.
The first line read - “Return to the mortal realm at your own risk!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter