The daolord of the asura instantly rebuffed the initial thoughts on his mind.
Hell’s great collapse had caused Fengdu Necropolis to be locked down entirely, and unless one used to be an Emissary of Hell, they would never be able to re-enter its premises. Naturally, the daolord of the asura hadn’t been able to do any more than probe around at its periphery.
That said, it remained an ironclad fact that Emissaries of Hell no longer roamed the surface of the mortal realm after Hell’s great collapse!
This meant that Hell no longer had sufficient Emissaries under its command. At least, this was the unanimous conclusion that the three daolords had all come to. But if this weren’t the case…
K-k-k-k-k… The daolord tightened his grip around the handrail, instantly digging deep grooves into it. If this weren’t the case… then wouldn’t I be digging my own grave right now?!
In fact… all three of us daolords would be digging our own graves…
Perhaps Hell simply didn’t have the time to attend to us for the time being. But if that were the case, what in the world would Hell have been busy with? … The change of dynasty? That’s right! Hell must have been busy handing matters over to the Third King Yanluo of Hell!
Meanwhile, sensing the fluctuations in the daolord’s heart, Zhang Zeguang put his best foot forward and continued with gusto, “Shanhai Pass is located in Martial City. There are currently 20 million Yin spirits residing there, and it’s guarded by a million Yin soldiers together with Lord Harken himself. Sure, Hell might have seen some minor rebellions in its recent history, but things in Hell are far from the disorderly and chaotic image that you have in mind.”
Crack! The daolord of the asura practically crushed his armrest, and his soul was filled with turbulence.
Lord Harken… The mention of this name instantly trigger the flight response in his heart. Unfortunately… where could he run?
Back to the three eastern provinces?
There, he would be sandwiched between Yan Capital and Skyford City on the one hand, and Liu Yu’s forces in the Hanyang underworld on the other hand. Yet if he remained within Eastmount Province, he would essentially be going against the Harken. The scale that was sent to him was clearly a warning shot to him. What was he supposed to do?
Are they telling me the truth or not?
His heart was in a mess right now. He had been on the run and hiding over the last hundred years, only to grow emboldened towards the end of the century of escape. That said, this single encounter with an Emissary of Hell had sent his heart spiralling back to where it came from. Their presence had drawn out the abject fear towards Hell residing in the innermost parts of his heart.
It was a familiar feeling. It was a feeling of fear and reverence for the immutable authority that was known as Hell. That said… he wasn’t fully convinced.
Even if the next King Yanluo of Hell had arrived in person, he still wouldn’t be fully convinced!
Because such claims would be no more than mere hearsay. Seeing was believing!
The daolord drew a deep breath and shut his eyes, “Take them.”
Back in the mortal realm. Qin Ye abruptly opened his eyes.
There was a video conference today that all Infernal Judges must attend remotely. He was seated right in the midst of the Special Investigations Department’s conference room, dialing into the conference call together with Wu Wenqing and the others at the same time. Naturally, he had his notebook opened on the table in front of him in order to keep up the pretenses.
Wu Wenqing was seated right beside Qin Ye, and noticed something amiss. Thus, he asked, “Mr Qin, what’s wrong?”
However, Qin Ye simply shook his head. Fortunately, it was breaktime, and Qin Ye promptly slipped out of the conference hall and made his way to the bathroom.
Six cubicles were occupied, leaving only one empty and available for his use. He entered the last cubicle and immediately sealed off his surroundings with his concealed Yin energy. Thereafter, he cautiously retrieved the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal from within his garments.
Buzz… The shard vibrated as soon as he touched it, and he stared intently at the shard’s unprecedented response.
The crystal clear shard was multi-faceted, and each facet of it revealed a particular image. But before he could even take a closer look, the image he was looking at quickly faded away, as though they had never been there before.
But he knew better. In that instant, he saw an image of two monsters surrounded by countless evil ghosts. He could tell that these weren’t even Cathayan evil ghosts, because the ghosts came from a completely different set of folklore, including succubi, spirits of snow, Nurarihyon, Ibaraki Child, Yamauba, Long-haired Seductress, and so on and so forth. All of the Yin spirits appeared to come together in a terrifying vortex of Yin energy, ravaging the mortal realm and leaving a trail of bloodshed and destruction in the wake of their passage.
“Voyage of a Hundred Ghosts?” He stared at the image with great disbelief as he murmured to himself, “Is this a foreign invasion of Cathayan soil? But that’s impossible! It’s already costly enough to any underworld to sneak Hellguards into Cathayan soil. An attack as powerful as that… tells me that these evil ghosts might be even more powerful than Arthis herself. This has to be as powerful as the elder shaman, Ner’zhul... I mean, wouldn’t this be one of the strongest evil ghosts of the Nipponese underworld?”
He squinted at the shard, before furrowing his brows even deeper, “That’s not right. We’re talking about the Voyage of a Hundred Ghosts in the mortal realm… The shard must be showing me an image from a psychological thriller anime, right? How else could we possibly explain something like that?”
He shook his head and turned to the next facet of the shard. At once, his spine tingled, and he broke out in cold sweat.
It was an image of Lee Jung-sook, otherwise known as Xia Jinse, aiming a gun directly at her own head and firing without hesitation!
How is this possible?!
Qin Ye abruptly shot to his feet as he stared at the shard in his hands - What the hell is going on?!
He turned to the next image on the shard. This time, it was an image of himself walking along a busy street, surrounded by brilliant lights. There was the silhouette of a person walking alongside him which he had never seen before.
It was a man dressed like a Song Dynasty official, with two specks of red where his eyes should have been. The man had a look of respect plastered all over his face. It looked like a calm and harmonious sight. And yet, Qin Ye couldn’t help but tremble in horror.
An indescribable sense of terror appeared to tear at his mind through the image displayed on the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, because it looked as though something were leaning right over his shoulder menacingly, and he appeared completely oblivious to that fact.
Then, just as he was about to turn to the next facet of the shard, someone in the next cubicle suddenly knocked on the wall.
“What is it?” Qin Ye immediately shoved the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal back into his clothes and cursed under his breath as he lifted the seal of his Yin energy.
“Brother… sorry to trouble you, but do you... happen to have any tissue paper to spare?” The man in the next cubicle spoke with great embarrassment. Qin Ye rolled his eyes as he passed a packet of Kleenex to the man from the gap beneath the cubicle walls.
What’s the big idea?!
Then, Qin Ye promptly sat back down onto the toilet seat with furrowed brows, mulling over the images he had just seen.
He couldn’t help but feel deeply unsettled by the images earlier, almost as though… the images he had just seen were incidents that were bound to occur.
Xia Jinse’s going to die?
Cathay is going to be ravaged by foreign invaders?
And who’s that terrifying existence that was following me?
He shook his head with much confusion as he unlocked his cubicle door and stepped out once more.
What he didn’t realize was the fact that all of the cubicles that were still locked right now were in fact occupied by men in black suits. They weren’t using the washroom proper. Rather, just like Qin Ye, they simply sat on the lid of the toilet bowl, silently glancing at a slim laptop that lay open on their laps.
As soon as Qin Ye left the washroom, their fingers immediately flew into motion as they typed soundlessly on the keyboards in front of them.
The interface in their screens displayed a software for communications. That said, it was neither Slay nor Momo. There were only slightly over ten people in the chat group they were in, each of whom were codenamed ‘A’ through ‘H’, as well as Zhou Xianlong, Mo Changhao, and the ID of the big boss who was also the administrator of the group.
“He’s left.” -- A.
“Detected true energy fluctuations. He wasn’t using the washroom. Instead, he sealed his cubicle with his true energy. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t dare attempt to peer beyond the domain established by an Infernal Judge for fear of alerting him to our surveillance.” -- C.
“Surveillance revealed nothing noteworthy. He was incredibly cautious. Something must have happened earlier. I asked to borrow tissue paper from him earlier, but he sounded frustrated by such a simple request. Such a response only occurs in one who was disturbed while they were deep in thought. Furthermore, it was clear from our surveillance that nobody had touched or prompted him in any way back in the conference room. He didn’t even receive any notifications on his cell phone. In other words, I suspect that he might have other means of communication, such as by way of telepathy.” -- B.
Zhou Xianlong finally chimed in, “Well done.”
“But bear in mind that he’s not made any moves that are adverse to human interest thus far. The only exception was perhaps only Li Jixi’s death. If possible, I’d like you to keep your distance and refrain from an overly aggressive approach. What we need right now is the perfect opportunity to arise. Chief, do you have anything further to add?” -- Zhou Xianlong.
Several seconds later, a single word appeared on the chat group, “No.”
This clearly goes to show that when a special agency with top secret clearance was determined to investigate a lead, they would be able to do so with the utmost secrecy and concealment. Not even Qin Ye could hold a candle to these well-trained professionals.
Naturally, Qin Ye was completely oblivious to everything that had just happened. Instead, he went straight to Limbo. The Harken could tell from a mile that he was coming, and it promptly tapped its finger and caused Fate and the words written by Fate to vanish into thin air.
“Something wrong?” The Harken glanced at Qin Ye, only to realize he didn’t bring any catnip with him. Instantly, he turned around and allowed Qin Ye to speak with his butt.
… How materialistic. Sometimes, I truly wonder why I actually tremble before the Harken. Qin Ye rolled his eyes at the Harken, before rubbing his hands with a flattering smile on his face, “Well, about that… the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal revealed a series of images to me earlier. Do you happen to know what this might mean?”
The Harken couldn’t help but praise itself for its prescience to have turned around just a moment ago.
No wonder it’s called a divine artifact of Hell. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s merely a shard, it could still sense that someone has manipulated Fate, and has thus revealed its suspicions to its owner? No… perhaps this has nothing to do with suspicions at all. Perhaps it’s just reminding its owner of potential dangers from time to time… That’s only to be expected of a divine artifact of Hell after all…
It furrowed its brows deeply for some time, before finally responding placidly, “I don’t know.”
“Don’t know?” Qin Ye raised his brows and glanced at the Harken. For some strange reason, something told him that there was something fishy about the Harken’s response.
“I’m neither omniscient nor omnipotent. The King Yanluo’s Seal is a divine artifact that I’ve never used before. Historically, only the King Yanluo of Hell is allowed to even come close to something like that. How could I possibly know of what you’re talking about?”
Qin Ye grew silent. He was once again reminded of the terrifying images he had just seen, and he was deeply unsettled by the fact that these were going to happen in the near future.
Qin Ye’s suspicions only grew stronger. It felt almost as though the Harken… didn’t want him around at all.
Over the years, Qin Ye had developed a keen sense for all human emotions.
“There’s still one thing.” Qin Ye massaged his temples and pinched between his brows, “The Hungry Ghost Festival is coming right now, and Hell is going to celebrate it with a grand festivity. So… there are some things that I was hoping to enlist your help with.”
Hungry Ghost Festival…
The Harken’s pupils narrowed.
Have the wheels of Fate already begun to kick into high gear?
It simply couldn’t wrap its mind around how Fate was going to turn Qin Ye into a more competent King Yanluo of Hell in just over ten days.
Impossible. As far as I’m aware, anyone who has consumed the taisui fungus could potentially appear anywhere in Cathay as soon as he perished. Things are still manageable if Lee Jung-sook dies, since Daehan only has a population size of just over 50 million. But Qin Ye’s death would require us to search through 1.5 billion people to locate him once more! That would be akin to searching for a needle in a haystack!
Thus, the Harken addressed its mind to the next best possibility, which was a change of heart.
But it’s just ten days… How is it possible to cause someone to have a complete change of heart in just ten days?
Even Qin Ye asked for a year because he knew he needed such a time to tie up all loose ends to transition to his duties in Hell. Yet this is just ten days that we’re talking about! How the hell is Fate going to achieve this?
And to that end, how many more stellar folks is Fate going to involve?
1. I’ve added some links here to the Nurarihyon, Ibaraki Child and Yamauba in case you might be interested to read more. They’re basically demons of Japanese folklore. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurarihyon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibaraki-d%C5%8Dji https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yama-uba