With that, he swung his hand and sent Lee Jung-sook crashing straight into the door, and she slid back down to the ground, coughing in pain and gasping for breath.
“Let’s go.” Black Yaksha turned his back and began to head out. The dim light of the museum halls gently illuminated the Black Yaksha’s foreboding figure, causing him to look all the more like a hellish asura.
The likeness was uncanny.
Lee Jung-sook clutched at her chest as she got to her feet and slowly made her way out. Meanwhile, Black Yaksha gave one final look at the stone tablet, before muttering aloud, “I’d never expected to encounter something as significant as this in this journey. This alone has already made our trip to Cathay worthwhile.”
“Haa… haa… what do we do?” Crow Tengu’s unusually ragged breaths sounded from right behind him.
Black Yaksha remained silent for some time. Then, approximately three minutes later, he turned around muttered coldly, “Ms Lee… is a person who clearly knows what makes a person tick.”
“Do you know something? My heart was moved by her spiel for a moment there.”
“Do you know what kind of undertones there must have been in order to trigger a political change of dynasty? Even the slightest glimpse of a clue in this regard would enable Nippon to make substantially better preparations against what is to come. The implications of this might even outweigh locating Oda Nobunaga’s whereabouts.”
Crow Tengu’s eyes gleamed brightly for a moment, before the excitement in his gaze was promptly overtaken by the fear in his heart. He shook his head fervently, “Haa… We can’t! We can’t!”
“Cathay’s Emissaries… haa… are far too powerful…”
“Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces… Sixfold Ghost Kings… Numerous Abyssal Prefects… We can’t afford to cross any single one of these terrifying figureheads…”
“We should know our limits too…”
Black Yaksha paused for a few moments, before responding softly, “The Hungry Ghost Festival is one of the three major ghost festivals in Cathay. The gates of Hell would be opened, while Emissaries of Hell and Yin spirits alike would be free to roam the mortal realm. You know, it’s not as though we don’t possess the ability to capture one of the lesser Emissaries of Hell. Once we do so, we can immediately cease our operations and commence our extraction by having Lee Jung-sook ferry us back to the national borders.”
This time, it was Crow Tengu who grew completely silent. He had a palpably grim expression on his face, and one of his eyes couldn’t stop spinning around as though he were deep in thought. After a minute or so, he murmured softly, “Let’s… wait and see. Haa… I’m still somewhat reluctant to poke at the hornet’s nest and risk stirring the ire of the Emissaries of Hell. After all, this is one of the four top underworlds we’re talking about. Their military might is on a completely different level…”
“Then, let’s just keep an eye out for the right opportunity to act.” Black Yaksha retracted his gaze and glanced out of the museum hall, “We’ll return tomorrow night for another look. I can smell something brewing on the horizon...”
“Meanwhile, keep a close watch over Lee Jung-sook, especially when I’m not around.”
“The only person who can get us through the Array of the Nine Gods is someone who straddles both the mortal realm and the netherworld. Without her, we’re bound to perish here in Cathay. Entering without permission would be treated as espionage, and we’d do well to bear in mind just how Hell handles spies.”
Crow Tengu nodded firmly in assent.
The Harken lay silently in Limbo.
Fate remained suspended in the air before him. The Harken was the only one who was aware of exactly what was going on.
Countless coincidences had already begun to sprout up around Yanluo Qin, and a terrifying storm was clearly brewing on the horizon. Its role right now was clearly to keep the next King Yanluo of Hell safe as best he could.
Two days had already passed since the wheels of Fate began turning.
“Midnight of the 16th day…” The Harken’s eyes widened.
And as soon as it did, Fate began to move once again.
T minus 16 days.
A new name had appeared in the void, and this name was actually… the Harken!
To think that even I would be involved… Or should I say that it’s finally my turn to be involved? The Harken’s heart skipped a beat, but it soon calmed down once more.
It only makes sense after all. All creatures of the underworld save for the King Yanluo himself could possibly be involved, especially those whose lives are inextricably intertwined with the subject of Fate’s effects. The Harken shook his head and continued staring at Fate.
But this time, Fate didn’t write any new names. Instead, four names that were already written, namely Black Yaksha, Crow Tengu, Oda Nobutada and Qin Hui suddenly emitted a glaring red glow, before they unexpectedly came together as though they were being drawn together.
“They’re going to meet… And there’s going to be blood spilt…” The Harken sighed and lay down, before scratching its head in bewilderment.
What would make them cross each other’s paths?
But alas, Fate was unpredictable.
“Are you ready?” Meanwhile, Oda Nobutada, together with 20 Umamawari horse guards showed up at the entrance to Minister Zhang’s room.
“I’m ready.” Zhang Zeguang took a deep breath to suppress the burgeoning excitement in his heart as he nodded with determination.
“Then, let’s go.” Oda Nobutada wasn’t one for small talk. Truth be told, he couldn’t care less about escorting Zhang Zeguang back to the mortal realm. However, he had complied because the instructions had come directly from Yanluo Qin himself.
“Don’t worry, our travel time wouldn’t count towards the time you can remain in the mortal realm.”
With that, he pulled Zhang Zeguang up onto the back of his horse, and the twenty or so Yin spirits vanished in a bluster of nethergale.
Zhang Zeguang’s eyes flickered, and he soon found himself surrounded in a pitch-black passageway. His surroundings were filled with billowing fog formed entirely out of yin energy. From time to time, the image of a face with an agonized expression would surface with a soft moan, before soon fading away. Dark hands would also reach out from the clouds as though trying to pull them into the mires of eternal suffering.
Zhang Zeguang was scared witless by the sight. Fortunately, Oda Nobutada remained as stoic as ever. Without flinching one bit, he turned back and smiled faintly at Zhang Zeguang, “With Ashmound under our control, most of the Yin spirits still lost in Eastmount would already be able to sense the presence of the passageways leading to Hell. Naturally, there’s no longer any need for the Beacon of Light. This is also the quickest way back to the mortal realm. Where’s your destination?”
So that’s how it is… Zhang Zeguang couldn’t understand a good part of what was being said, but still nodded stiffly. Then, he responded with a bright smile on his face, “Azurewaters City! Rising Sun Area within the Silver Swallow Neighbourhood! It’s a compound for families with governmental ties. It’s easy to find!”
Oda Nobutada didn’t say another word. He flicked his reins, and his skeleton war horse instantly sped forward towards the Azurewaters City, together with the other Umamawari horse guards that followed closely behind.
The wind whistled ferociously past Zhang Zeguang’s ears, and he subconsciously leaned closer into Oda Nobutada’s cloak. Some time later, he lifted his head at Oda Nobutada’s soft prompting, “We’re here.”
Zhang Zeguang looked up, only to see a sprawling barren world ahead of him. It was devoid of all living things, be it the most resilient weed, or the Yin beasts that habitually roamed these lands. Instead, the only thing he could see was a ten-meter wide black vortex that swirled menacingly overhead, almost as though it were a vault to the heavens. Endless netherflames flared up around the edge of the vortex, while traces of auras ostensibly foreign to the netherworld appeared to diffuse from the depths of the vortex.
“This here is a rift.” Oda Nobutada explained patiently, “This rift will take us straight into Limbo. Lord Ksitigarbha’s ascension has caused many rifts to open up between the netherworld and Limbo, and this is but only one of them. There are numerous rifts that allow for travel between the underworld and Limbo, but none of them take us to the mortal realm. This is the only exception. Incidentally, we’ve only discovered its presence by going through Kong Mo’s records of decades of exploration.”
“Once we head up, we’ll wait for you right outside your house, and escort you back as soon as you’re done. Any questions?”
Zhang Zeguang shook his head even as he stared transfixed into the depths of the vortex, almost as though he could see the image of his family and grandson that he missed ever so much.
The only thought on his mind was simply to rush headlong into the vortex!
“One other thing. When you return to the mortal realm, remember not to board any objects. Lord Qin’s permission to you only extends to returning home. If you board any objects…” Oda Nobutada’s voice grew cold and chilling, “Then I’m afraid you won’t be able to return to Hell ever again. At that time, we’ll have no choice but to treat you like any other wandering spirit. Please bear this in mind.”
Zhang Zegaung drew a deep breath, “Will I be safe?”
“So long as you follow my instructions, I’ll personally see to it that you remain safe. Rest assured.” Oda Nobutada smiled and turned around, “We’ve surveyed these parts before. A museum has been built over the public cemetery that used to be your burial ground. That’s why you’ll be surfacing around those parts. I’ll give you further directions as soon as we emerge in the mortal realm.”
With that, the twenty or so horses charged straight into the reverse waterfall and got carried with the current straight into the heart of the vortex.
“Holy shit…” Zhang Zeguang cursed under his breath as copious amounts of Yin energy battered his entire body. He shut his eyes tightly, doing everything he could to hold himself together. And then, the pressure on his body was suddenly alleviated, and he couldn’t help but open his eyes once more.
The first thing that he saw was the moon that was hanging high in the sky.
His fingers trembled softly, and then he looked down at the ground.
It was a series of brilliant light - a sight that couldn’t be seen anywhere in Hell. He had a bird’s eye view of the neighbourhood below. There weren't the usual sounds of cars honking or the bustle of pedestrians, but he could sense the breath of the earth emanating powerfully from below!
His heart was awash with complex emotions. Ghosts have no tears, yet he still couldn’t help but choke up slightly, “I remember the way. Straight ahead, and then left at the fourth intersection…”
Unfortunately, the only response he got was the sound of a sword being unsheathed from its scabbard.
He looked back, only to realize that Oda Nobutada was already holding up his sword as he glanced around warily. Kiku-ichimonji gleamed coldly under the dim moonlight. Likewise, the Umamawari horse guards had all unsheathed their sabers and begun to gather about in a defensive formation.
What’s going on?
“Minister Zhang…” Oda Nobutada’s gruff voice echoed in his ears, “Later, I want you to run for cover as quickly as you can. But do not stray too far from me. Be ready to move at the moment’s notice!”
What the hell is going on?!!
His expression of joy had instantly turned into one of fear. Zhang Zeguang gulped nervously as he glanced at the oppressive darkness that seemed to bear down on him, “Evil ghost?”
“Not just any evil ghost… This is one that possesses terrifying Yin energy…” Oda Nobutada tightened his grip around his katana and held it horizontally right in front of his face, “This energy… is even more ferocious than what Lady Arakshasa can muster… It’s the most terrifying Yin energy I’ve encountered in my life! We’re undoubtedly talking about an Infernal Judge, and worst of all… it’s already detected our presence!”
It’s seen us?
Zhang Zeguang’s heart felt inexplicably stuffed, and his teeth began to chatter uncontrollably as he glanced about nervously.
And then… he saw it. The doors to the museum opened silently.
A frigid chill ran down his spine. It was supposed to be the door to the museum, but he couldn’t help but feel as though the entrance to the museum were no different from a portal to the deepest abysses of Hell!
Just then, a child’s hand peeked out from the darkness hidden behind the museum doors.
And then, a young child drifted out of its depths.
That’s right - the child was drifting. He glanced around his surroundings, before finally staring dead on at the entourage of Hell’s troops escorting Zhang Zeguang.
“Oh Emissaries of Hell…” Black Yaksha’s pupils narrowed in an instant. As planned, he had returned in the middle of the night to inspect the stone tablet. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find anything suspicious about it.
He was anxious to return. After all, he didn’t feel at ease leaving Crow Tengu to guard Lee Jung-sook all by himself.
But it was exactly then that he sensed a rather sizable fluctuation of Yin energy. He thought to leave, but as coincidence would have it, the visitors of Hell remained right where they were, almost as though they were waiting for his approach!
A murderous intent instantly erupted from the depths of his heart.
Should I kill to silence?
No… These are Emissaries of Hell served to me on a silver platter! What luck… if I capture them right now, wouldn’t we be able to elicit some news of the change of dynasty from the horse’s mouth? That said, I wonder if there are any reinforcements lurking in the darkness behind them? Would there perhaps be any Infernal Judges?
These were the first thoughts on his mind. Naturally, his eyes flickered with a menacing scarlet hue as he scrutinized Hell’s forces that hovered in the air above him. And then, he stared straight at the blade in Oda Nobutada’s hands, before glancing at the Yin spirits around him.
This is… a katana!
And if that’s the case…
“Oda Clan…” The child licked his lips and smiled innocently, “I’ve finally found you…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter