Lee Jung-sook clasped her arms together with unparalleled devotion in the middle of the ancient temple.
“Ma’am!” Just then, the door flung wide open, and a bodyguard barged in with cold sweat percolating all over his forehead, “Please hurry--...”
“Get out.” Lee Jung-sook didn’t even bat an eyelid, “Nobody is to enter without my permission. Have you forgotten?”
The bodyguard hesitated, but nevertheless responded with gritted teeth, “Ma’am, you’ve got to get away! Something unfathomable is happening outside! And under broad daylight! It’s simply unbelievable!”
Whoosh!! Just then, a gust of icy wind swept right into the temple, causing all of the prayer flags to flutter wildly. Lee Jung-sook’s hair was sent scattering everywhere in an instant, just like a crow spreading its wings.
She could tell that this was no ordinary wind.
After all, not even in the coldest of winter months would the wind feel so… lifeless. It felt almost as though the wind was pouring right out of the abysses of the underworld. It was blood-curdling, and marrow-chilling.
Have they already come? How quick…
Yet Lee Jung-sook appeared absolutely calm. She stared intently at the statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, but it didn’t move in the slightest.
Then, she suddenly spoke, “I’ve experienced far too much in this little life of mine.”
The roar of the wind was laced with harsh cries of folks of all ages, whether young or old, male or female. It was almost as though hell was rushing right to the mountains. Even then, the seemingly simple statement that she made appeared to have a calming effect on her bodyguard.
After all, her calmness in the situation meant that the bodyguard had a pillar of support to lean back on.
And to that end, Lee Jung-sook’s heart had already become stoic as a rock after the years of refinement through fire and brimstone.
“I’ve seen far too many unbelievable occurrences in this lifetime of mine, and I know about this unseen kingdom that coexists with us far better than any of you do… and so I’m aware that…” Her voice grew cold and frigid, “Our destiny is always in our own grasp.”
“One must keep fighting, and never give up until the very end.”
“Guard the gate well. You have permission to fire your weapons in the event you sense danger… although I’m not sure how much that would help. Every single one of you who survives this ordeal would be rewarded with 10 million won. Don’t fret about the consequences. I’ll sort things out with the government. And if you should die, I’ll personally see to it that your families have nothing to worry about for three generations to come.”
The bodyguard froze for a moment, and then drew a deep breath, “Yes, Ma’am!”
Thud… The main door shut again, leaving the entire hall shrouded with a tense silence. Lee Jung-sook shut her eyes and began to chant softly once more. Then, less than a minute later, she heard the sound of violent gunfire and screams from outside.
They were screams of abject terror before death, and the despair of witnessing the onslaught of a living hell. And these were sounds that Lee Jung-sook was no stranger to.
Ignoring these sounds, Lee Jung-sook wrapped a string of yellow Buddhist beads around her hands and began to chant slightly faster.
Three seconds later, the door to the main hall burst open once more. But this time, they shattered into pieces and scattered everywhere.
Kkkrrr… A terrifying wind began to coalesce at the entry to the temple behind Lee Jung-sook. Meanwhile, Lee Jung-sook slowly rose to her feet with disheveled hair.
“I see that not even my Yin spirit was able to impede your advances… You truly are worthy of being called one of the oldest ghosts in Nippon.” She combed through her hair unhurriedly, almost as though she’d just gotten out of bed, “Unfortunately, everything about you two have already been erased from all written records, and all that is left are but two mysterious names… What happened to my bodyguards?”
“Haa--... Delicious…” A hoarse voice responded from right behind her, “You’re… truly… bold…”
“Are you really trying to incite fear in the heart of a person who has already died seven times before?” Lee Jung-sook sighed and stared intently at the statue of Ksitigarbha, “The greatest fear known to Man is simply death.”
“Haa… That’s true…” Boom! Crow Tengu took a heavy step forward. Simultaneously, a soft click was heard right in the heart of the temple.
The temple door right behind Lee Jung-sook had been completely blown apart, and Crow Tengu stood right at the door. Even then, his eyes narrowed briefly, and he gasped in shock, “What sound was that?”
Then, there was another click.
“Haa--... Lee Jung-sook… Turn around right this moment!!”
Crash!! The infuriated cry of an Infernal Judge instantly reduced everything in the temple to dust and debris, leaving only the statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva completely intact.
Lee Jung-sook stood right in the middle of the temple that had been reduced to ruins. Dressed in her perfectly fitted suit, she turned around elegantly with her hair scattering wildly about, almost as though she were a goddess in the movies.
A goddess who held a gun to her own chest.
“You…” Crow Tengu shuddered and subconsciously retreated several steps.
“I wouldn’t kill myself if I could help it either.” Lee Jung-sook responded placidly, “It still hurts to die. I don’t think that’s something I’ll ever get used to. That said, do you dare pit your speed against my trigger finger?”
Crow Tengu gently shook his head and took another step back gently.
How ruthless! I’ve never expected a human to act so ruthless to herself!
“This life has been well to me, and I truly don’t wish to die either. But I dare you to try me.”
Crow Tengu took a third step back.
By now, it had already stepped out of the empty shell of the temple.
Just then, the shadows right underneath Lee Jung-sook’s feet suddenly shifted! Then, almost as though they had a life of their own, two dark hands suddenly reached out from behind and gave the back of her knees a violent push!
She cried out in surprise, but her knees still buckled, and she fell backwards helplessly.
Damn it. Lee Jung-sook shut her eyes. She knew that she had only one shot at suicide in the face of such monstrosities. Once bitten, twice shy. They would never give her a second chance at doing something even remotely close to suicide.
“Hoo…” Crow Tengu’s eyes gleamed brightly as soon as Lee Jung-sook’s knees buckled. At once, it vanished from where it was and reached out to Lee Jung-sook with a vicious smile on his face, ready to catch her.
However, he didn’t manage to touch her.
Because just as he was about to do so, a layer of dazzling golden light suddenly erupted from their point of contact. Lee Jung-sook immediately opened her eyes and glanced down with great astonishment.
Within moments, what started out as an eruption of golden light soon blossomed into a five-meter large golden lotus flower that gently supported Lee Jung-sook before she fell to the ground!
“Is this--...” She froze, and then jerked her head back. Crow Tengu was likewise dumbfounded as he turned to look right behind Lee Jung-sook.
They were both staring right at the statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. The statue had at some point already opened its eyes, and it was looking at Lee Jung-sook with a soft, compassionate gaze.
Have I succeeded?
She couldn’t believe her eyes.
Have I… actually received a response?
While Lee Jung-sook reacted with great consternation, Crow Tengu instead recoiled with immense terror in his eyes. At once, he motioned to transform to a stream of nethergale and escape as far as he could. But just as he was about to do so, countless talismans suddenly materialized out of nowhere and remained suspended in mid-air. These talismans were all written with Nipponese words.
Moments later, Black Yaksha appeared right behind Crow Tengu, where he also gazed intently at the statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Then, without any hesitation, he clasped his hands together and caused all of the illusory talismans in the air to transform into countless ghosts that promptly dissipated into the surroundings.
Lee Jung-sook froze for a moment.
Then, a terrifying premonition rose from her heart, and she immediately whispered, “Save me! The Hungry Ghost--...”
But before she could even finish making her plea, a massive black spider lily bloomed from the ground. Countless Yin spirits danced within it, while dazzling bolts of jade-green netherflames darted about menacingly. A paw covered in white hair reached out from the heart of the flower and grabbed hold of Lee Jung-sook, before promptly vanishing from where they were.
Whoosh… Lee Jung-sook could sense that her entire being was cloaked in Yin energy, while her surroundings whizzed past her. A minute later, she appeared where her car was parked. With a soft thud, she was placed right back in the driver’s seat, where she was held down tightly.
“What gall...” She could hear a voice speaking through gnashed teeth from behind her, “Anyone else pulling the same stunt would have died a million times over by now… Don’t test our limits. Otherwise… I’ll make sure you come to realize that death is but a reprieve.”
Lee Jung-sook sat calmly in the driver’s seat, completely taciturn.
She remained that way for a long time, sorting through her own thoughts. And then, she finally picked up her sunglasses and placed them on, before starting her engine, “Don’t worry. I’ll be more careful next time.”
“That said, I’m rather curious as to how you’d managed to get me out of there? That was the renowned Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.”
Yet her query was met with a cold chortle, “Do you really think that was Ksitigarbha?”
“Don’t kid yourself. It was merely a Cathayan Infernal Judge who responded. You can think of communications with the supernatural as reaching out through a channel. You make a request by opening your channel to him. When he responds, he naturally also has to open his side of the channel. Should either side shut this ‘door’ of communication, then both sides would no longer be able to communicate with the other.”
“That said, there are powerful Yin spirits around who can prevent the other side from closing the ‘door’ of communication. This is how many foolish human beings end up being possessed by evil spirits after messing with the supernatural. Unfortunately for you, I happened to be around while the channel was open.”
“So, that’s how it is.” Lee Jung-sook adjusted her sunglasses, “It looks like I’ve still got more to learn about these things.”
Her supercar roared forward, while Black Yaksha stared intently at Lee Jung-sook through the rear-view mirror at the front of the car. Some time later, he spoke telepathically to Crow Tengu’s mind, “Make sure you keep a close watch on her. This woman isn’t simple. Do not underestimate her or treat her as you would any other ordinary human lady. So long as we even give her an opening, she will most certainly seize it and make the best of it. Her absence would make our capture of the Cathayan Emissary of Hell completely meaningless, because we would never be able to escape without her!”
Crow Tengu gasped softly, “Hungry Ghost Festival… The gates of the Cathayan underworld would be open… Hoo… You’re really intent on acting, aren’t you? Are you seriously nuts?”
Black Yaksha nodded and sighed wistfully, “Do you think I really don’t want to return to Nippon as quickly as possible?”
“Unfortunately, I’ve already thought things through.”
“First of all, Oda Nobunaga’s soul has been seized by the Cathayan Yin spirits. In all likelihood, this might well have been related to the incident involving the Book of Life and Death, one of the three divine artifacts of Hell. More importantly, is there anyone who dares force Hell to disgorge Oda Nobunaga’s soul? Ever since time immemorial, there has always been an unwritten rule between underworlds that all who find their celebrity spirits seized by a foreign underworld can only attribute it to their own rotten luck. Not even Cathay would say anything about losing their Yin spirit to a foreign underworld, much less Nippon itself. So, we’ve got to act clandestinely.”
“Secondly, only Emissaries of hell would know where Oda Nobunaga’s soul is right now. And the only chance to capture an Emissary of Hell is during the Hungry Ghost Festival, when all Yin spirits come out to play. And that’s exactly when we’ll incite a great Yin spirit rebellion to cover our tracks.”
“Finally, the truth about Hell’s lockdown could likely be tied to the change of dynasty. Who is the new King Yanluo of Hell? Is he a dove, or is he a hawk? There’s not a moment too soon to learn of these things. In fact, the credit to be gained with such news would most certainly be greater than bringing the whole Oda Clan back to the Nipponese underworld!”
He looked intently at Crow Tengu, “So, regardless of what happens, we absolutely have to act during the Hungry Ghost Festival on 15 August. And Lee Jung-sook is the key to our escape!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter