Chapter 49: Forbidden Zone

He’s mad…

Qin Ye stared into his wine glass. The tension in his heart was now blazing at one hundred and twenty percent of its maximum capacity.

Lunatic… he’s a sober lunatic. A rational lunatic…

Arthis' words echoed in his ears right now - All Emissaries of Hell are Yin spirits of Hell who have been kept in check by the natural orders of Hell. And now that the natural order of Hell has completely fallen apart, these Emissaries of Hell… would become tens or even hundreds of times scarier than the average ghost!

For instance, Cao Youdao.

“If I were to be straightforward and blunt about things, you’re only a Soul Hunter, and I’m only a Netherworld Operative. And I’ve… already seen cultivators in the human world who possess abilities beyond that of a mere Hunter-class Emissary.” Qin Ye picked his words wisely as he explained himself.

Cao Youdao laughed.

Laughing gleefully, he placed his pale and cold hand lightly on Qin Ye’s arm, “That’s why I say we’re the only two who can truly understand each other in this world.”

“So what if these cultivators are Hellguard-class or even Judge-class?”

He patted Qin Ye’s arm lightly, “The only ones who can see an Emissary of Hell is another Emissary of Hell.”

“Who cares if they’re Judge-class, or even Yama-class? None of them can perceive our existence at all! We’re the only ones who can see each other. In other words… even if I’m standing right in front of their faces, there will never be a time when humans can detect my presence.”

“We will always be different from the riffraff that you see down there.”

Qin Ye withdrew his hand without a word and smiled faintly back, “But the government will still move in to suppress these ghosts as soon as they detect the ghosts’ presence. As long as they deploy the right amount of manpower and firepower, they’ll be able to clean out the ghosts as soon as they appear…”

Yet before Qin Ye could finish his sentence, he was interrupted by Cao Youdao’s wagging finger, “No. Newbie, you seem to have forgotten one important detail.”

His gaze grew deep and menacing, and it was even laced with some measure of fiery compulsion, “You’ve forgotten… that there are hundreds and billions of Yin spirits standing right behind us! These are the countless souls that were washed right into the mortal realm when Hell collapsed!”

“So long as we nudge these spirits in the right direction, it’s only going to be a matter of time before they all turn into malignant spirits or even evil ghosts. How many people do you think the Special Investigations Department has at their disposal? Do you think they’ll be able to cope with such an outbreak?”

“All Yin spirits will begin to congregate at the City of Salvation as soon as they sense the aura of an Emissary of Hell. And we’re only in the lower levels of Hell’s official’s ranking system right now. When we become Judge-class Emissaries, or even Prefect-class Emissaries…”

His entire body began to tremble with excitement, “All of the Yin spirits from the surrounding regions will swarm this place. Think about it - when ten billion Yin spirits flood this place, even if none of them are evil ghosts, this place would practically become a forbidden zone for the living!”

He gazed into Qin Ye’s eyes once more, “Put differently, at that time… this place would become Hell’s paradise once and for all.”

Qin Ye drew a deep breath.

Ordinary lunatics weren’t generally scary.

Rather, the ones that were truly fearsome were the highly intelligent and rational ones.

And this man before his very eyes didn’t even know that he was a lunatic!

Qin Ye understood every hidden implication in Cao Youdao’s spiel. Although he had been vague and ambiguous with his words, his ambition stood out prominently. Cao Youdao… was trying to reestablish Hell!

And if he just continued to plough ahead as things were, the fruition of his plans was only going to be an eventuality! The only thing he needed was time. But, given that their names were already excluded from the Book of Life and Death, was time truly of concern to them?

Qin Ye’s silence was perceived by Cao Youdao to be a moment of deliberation. Cao Youdao stood up, tapped gently on the glass walls and continued huskily, “Newbie, I’m not the only one. Currently, every single ghost that has survived the collapse of Hell is doing exactly the same thing.”

“You haven’t been appointed for long, have you? A hundred years? You must’ve encountered the collapse of Hell before your name was even registered in Hell’s records. That would explain why you weren’t taken to paradise by Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. It naturally follows that… you haven’t interacted much with your other colleagues, and you clearly don’t know a thing about modern society.”

His finger depressed a button. Immediately, rippling light waves shone and projected the entire map of the Insignia Province overhead.

The City of Salvation was the largest red dot on the map. Apart from that, there were four other red dots at various other places. Even though the other red dots appeared more intensely red, their rate of expansion was still far slower than that of the City of Salvation.

“Do you know what these things are?” He glanced placidly at Qin Ye as he slowly attempted to whittle down Qin Ye’s defenses, “These are called hunting zones.”

“Over the last hundred years since Hell’s collapse, I’ve travelled far and wide across the southeastern portion of Cathay and noticed that every province and every city sees the exact same developments. The ghosts that are fortunate enough to remain alive would slowly carve out territories of their own, called the hunting zone. In turn, each hunting zone would contain at least one evil ghost that possesses abilities equivalent to an Operative-class Emissary of Hell. However, these ghosts had largely laid low, slowly biding their time because they were afraid that Hell’s Emissaries would come crashing down on them like a tidal wave. However, the effluxion of time ebbs away at the fears in their hearts, and unrest has begun to mount over the last few years. Some of these ghosts have gotten impatient.”

“Now that the oppression of Hell’s natural orders no longer exists, the day when the mortal realm clashes head on with the netherworldly forces in an all-out war is already faintly on the horizon. I’d give it a maximum of ten years’ time. When that time comes… where are you going to hide?’

“Ghosts would be at every corner of the roads regardless of where you go. Are you going to cling onto your function as an Emissary of Hell and continue to purge and expunge evil ghosts? It’s not that I’m looking down on you. Rather, do you really think that a meagre Operative-class Emissary of Hell is going to be able to control the entire escalating situation?”

“While there aren’t many Hunter-class ghosts that survived Hell’s collapse, they can’t be considered few in number either. In fact, I’d even vaguely detected the presence of a Hellguard-class ghost when I earlier travelled to the Pearl River Delta. Its presence emanated from right underneath the Pearl River itself. Hell has collapsed, and there’s no longer any means for you to be promoted and increase the abilities at your disposal. So, where are you going to stand when the war between the netherworldly forces and the mortal realm finally breaks out?”

Cao Youdao turned around and looked teasingly at Qin Ye, “To the mortal realm? That would violate the rules of Hell. After all, Hell is not allowed to interfere with matters of the mortal realm to begin with.”

“Or, will you stand on the side of the netherworldly forces? That still necessarily means you’ll violate the rules of Hell. After all, Hell existence necessarily complements the existence of the mortal realm, and assisting the netherworldly forces would naturally mean opposing Hell.

“So… where will you stand?”

Qin Ye remained silent. Cao Youdao slowly walked towards Qin Ye and continued with a deep, booming voice, “Newbie, do you finally understand? I’m not doing this to satiate my own desires. Rather, the present times simply call for a leader to take the reins and reestablish Hell.”

“Yin spirits can never be completely purged from the face of the world. As long as Hell remains as it is, it’s only going to be a matter of time when the netherworldly forces will overwhelm the mortal realm. Right now, the only ones who hold the power to reestablish Hell are me…”

He gently prodded Qin Ye’s chest with his finger, “And you.”

“Only two of us possess the mandate to stand above the rabble of netherworldly forces. We’re beings of a completely different plane of existence.”

“Can you, as an Emissary of Hell, tolerate the prospects of those riffraff that we ordinarily trample underfoot rising up and becoming the lord of all evil ghosts?”

It couldn’t be understated just how eloquent Cao Youdao was. Even Qin Ye almost fell for his rhetorics.

That said, the keyword here was ‘almost’.

“But without the existence of Hell’s records, how are you going to become an Infernal Judge?” Qin Ye probed further, “And if you’re unable to become a Judge, your authority would never expand beyond the realms of a single province.”

Cao Youdao laughed again.

He stood up and gently ran his hand along the glass wall, “Do you see that thing over there?’

He was referring to the object hidden in the depths of the three-meter pit behind the stage.

Qin Ye nodded his head.

“That is the exact reason why I say that Hell’s collapse left me with a prime opportunity…” Cao Youdao’s voice was now laced with a touch of escalating fanaticism that was quickly suppressed once again, “Of course I’ve got my means.”

But he didn’t go on with his explanation. Instead, he turned around to Qin Ye, “Alright. Give me an answer. I’m sincerely inviting you to stand on my side - to stand on the side of Hell and reestablish its order and return it to its former glory. Newbie… don’t disappoint me…”

Qin Ye gently swirled the contents of his wine glass, “And if… my answer is ‘no’?”

Cao Youdao smiled faintly, “Do you know why I still haven’t asked for your name?”

“It’s because… dead people don’t need names.”

Qin Ye finally took a sip of the wine. To his pleasant surprise, the wine was mild and easy on the palate, yet incredibly aromatic.

Despite that, the air in the room was so tense it could be cut with a knife.

A single misstatement right now would spell bloodshed.

Seconds later, Qin Ye finally set down his wine glass with a smile on his face, “Then, what reason do I have to refuse?”

Clap clap clap! Cao Youdao burst out into an uproarious laughter as he applauded in joy, “I knew you would make the right decision.”

He pulled out from his pocket a badge that was exquisitely carved out from wood. The badge emanated faint traces of Cao Youdao’s Yin energy.

He set the wooden badge down on the table and placed two fingers on it and raised his eyebrows at Qin Ye, “You’ll be able to see all of the hunting zones within the City of Salvation with this. As long as you have this badge on you, you’ll even be able to command the Yin spirits around. After all, the strongest of the Yin spirits within the City of Salvation are only at the Operative-class level. None of them would dare disobey my will and command.”

Qin Ye reached out, but discovered to his dismay that he was unable to take hold of the wooden badge.

“Friend… there are occasions when lip service is insufficient…” Cao Youdao had a cryptic smile on his face, “So… shouldn’t you show me an expression of your conviction?”

“Prove to me that we both stand on the same side of rebuilding Hell? That we both share the same ideals, hmm?”

Qin Ye smiled, “What kind of proof do you want?”

Cao Youdao continued to smile faintly as he walked to the window and snapped his finger. Suddenly, the tempered glass wall parted, allowing the pounding beats of the music below to rush into the room once more.

Qin Ye noticed that the song playing right now was ‘Faded’...

Incidentally, Qin Ye had also already discreetly activated his shard of King Yanluo’s Seal in the instant that the glass wall parted.

That’s right. He was only ‘almost’ convinced.

He would never stand on the side of such a lunatic.

There was no particular reason for his decision. He simply couldn’t stand Cao Youdao.

He had his own philosophy of life after all. What held true for him in the past continues to hold true to him today. Granted, they had both seen their fair shares of all forms of society and the different faces that human beings were capable of. However, it still remains a fact that Qin Ye had been living among humans all this while - his experiences were completely different from all of the other Emissaries of Hell!

On the other hand, Cao Youdao had ruled over the world from his high pedestal. Their starting point was already fundamentally different.

Qin Ye was far more human than Cao Youdao was. Qin Ye was lazy, and he was hardly motivated to fight for dominion. It was true that he loathed the hypocrisy and avarice of Man. But at the same time, he loved their friendliness and honesty as well.

Emotions were core to his understanding of life.

Without the complexities of emotions, life would be absolutely meaningless.

Why on earth should I stand with you?

“Gentlemen.” Cao Youdao called out modesty, yet the entire dance floor quietened in a span of ten seconds’ time. All of the ghosts looked up towards him with a passionate gaze in their eyes.

Cao Youdao cleared his throat and began his speech, “Tonight, we may be welcoming a new colleague with us. He possesses the same goals, and the same ideals as us. That said, things are still very much in the air right now.”

“There’s no weight in verbally pledging his allegiance to us. Thus, I’ve personally prepared a special induction ceremony for such an occasion.”

“Bring it in.”

Qin Ye continued to observe the ambitious man with interest. However, his gaze soon froze, and he stood up quietly and stared at the entrance with abject disbelief.

As the crowd of ghosts below parted ways, two humanoid paper effigies dragged a soul into the spotlight.

The soul presented himself with disheveled hair. It was clear that he had put up a struggle just before this, and his soul force fluctuated powerfully. He was restrained with a pair of handcuffs. He sported a square, chiseled face and wore a Chinese tunic suit.

This… was in fact the soul of Zhang Baoguo!

“Look. As soon as you cleave this man in half, you and I would undoubtedly be standing on the same side.” Cao Youdao smiled faintly at Qin Ye, “You should know him, right? After all, the first thing you did upon entering the City of Salvation was to go looking for him. But did you also know that he’s a hateful person as well?”

“The Special Investigations Department is an existence that stands in the way of our great ideals. And this man is one of their lap dogs. The reason I haven’t killed him to date is because it’s not yet the time to wage war on the mortal realm. So, I’d simply been keeping a close watch over him all this while. Incidentally, it’s through him that I’d discovered you, my one remaining colleague.”

So that’s how it is…

Qin Ye smiled faintly in response, “What’s the meaning of this?”

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