The fact that he didn’t know any better didn’t mean that Arthis didn’t know any better.
And even if Arthis didn’t know, the Harken would definitely know something about this.
With that, Qin Ye left the worksite and headed back out. Wu Wenqing immediately minced his way over and responded somewhat apprehensively, “Sir, are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” Qin Ye shook his head, “There’s something very strange here. Notify the top brass immediately.”
“Sir, what exactly did you find?” A young voice suddenly interjected. Qin Ye turned around, only to notice a young man cover his lips immediately and shrink back to the crowd.
Wu Wenqing glared fiercely at the young man, before turning back to Qin Ye with a soft smile, “Apologies. That’s Maverick, a greenhorn who doesn’t quite know the rules. Please don’t mind him. Anyhow, I’ll notify the top brass immediately. What other preparations do we need to undertake?”
Qin Ye found himself tongue-tied.
Preparations? What preparations?
This wasn’t supposed to be so difficult! Why does it have to be related to my identity and cover?! What kind of preparations am I supposed to make like this?
Seconds later, Qin Ye responded vaguely, “Do it in accordance with our usual protocol. I’ll personally keep watch in this vicinity until our headquarters send reinforcements.”
With that, both Qin Ye and Wu Wenqing departed, leaving the star-struck investigators to their own devices. Yet, little did they realize that the ordinary-looking young man who had interjected earlier secretly fell behind the rest of the pack of investigators. It was almost as though there was a veil pulled over his existence, and his presence was barely noticeable to others.
Soon, the young man left the vicinity of the worksite through a separate path. He ensured that nobody was following him as he rounded a corner and entered a car with tinted windows that appeared to be waiting for him.
He entered through the rear door of the car and took his seat, before bowing respectfully to the other man in the vehicle, “Deputy Director.”
The man seated right beside him was none other than Zhou Xianlong himself!
“How was it?” Zhou Xianlong shut his eyes as he held the cap of a black thermos filled with fragrant black tea.
“We’ll know once the surveillance footages arrive.” Maverick responded with a deep voice, “We’ve installed more than 20 non-reflective surveillance devices under the rebars, as well as 32 pinhole cameras around the wooden hoarding. It’s hard to say with any certainty right now, but… don’t you think his responses were somewhat different after he came out from the work site?”
“I listened to your conversations earlier.” Zhou Xianlong pointed at the Bluetooth headset that was clearly hanging from his ears, “I didn’t pick up anything suspicious, but I naturally trust your judgment more as one of the elites among the albatross.”
Maverick hesitated for a moment, “Well, I guess you can put it this way… Have you heard of the party game called Werewolf? It’s a little bit like how one might act when he discovers his identity as a werewolf at the start of the game.”
Zhou Xianlong nodded.
Only then did Maverick go on, “When a werewolf is selected, he would pretend to sleep at night, and then continue to convince everyone that he’s a good person through logic and reasoning. And then, from the second round onwards, he will start to push hard against others and forcefully direct the attention away from himself. And that’s exactly when we’ll call him out on the flaws in his logic. He’s undoubtedly the werewolf.”
Zhou Xianlong remained taciturn.
Maverick went on, “Coming back to the matter at hand, he’s taken the position that the situation is bizarre and serious. The Special Investigations Department has always acted on the basis that prevention is better than cure. Furthermore, he’d mentioned that he would personally keep a close watch over this area. Naturally, the danger level he’s detected is one that warrants the personal oversight of an Infernal Judge. In other words, it would be a Judge-class threat. Deputy Director Zhou, let me ask you this - how would you have acted in a situation like this?”
“Or should I say, how would you, along with 99% of the other Infernal Judges, acted in such circumstances?”
Zhou Xianlong responded without hesitation at all, “I’d make a remote inquiry of the situation, before immediately proceeding with all necessary action. The Special Investigations Department has the right to act preemptively. Besides… it’s always the case with supernatural incidents that the longer one delays, the worse it gets.”
Maverick redirected the focus to the topic back at hand, “That’s right. But what did he do?”
Zhou Xianlong finally opened his eyes, only to reveal a complicated gaze within. Truth be told, he, too, found something amiss with Qin Ye’s actions.
After all, suspicion was something that accumulated in the smallest drops, yet the impact of these droplets would disclose a raging tsunami brewing in the distance.
Maverick continued, “He didn’t respond in that manner. There’s nothing wrong with what he’s expressly stated. Rather, it was the context in which it was stated where the issue arises. He’s chosen to wait for his superiors to arrive before making his move. In my opinion, he’s simply trying to buy time.”
He glanced around meaningfully, “I’m afraid he must have detected something that puts him in a conflicted position. He wants to resolve it, but he daren’t do so. Unfortunately, his office in Martial City puts him in a spot, and shirking responsibility here and now would clearly blow his cover. Therefore, he’s chosen to delay matters so that he can think of a better way out. His approach isn’t problematic in and of itself, but his response in the context of the situation leaves much to be desired. Naturally… this is all borne out of a suspicion on my part.”
Zhou Xianlong grew taciturn. Seconds later, he picked up a docket from beside him and handed it to Maverick, “These are images that the ‘Queen of the Earth III’ rover picked up from within the abyss last night.”
“The camera it uses has been specially set up by the Lupin Group in order to capture the most inconspicuous of supernatural sightings. Take a look for yourself.”
Maverick picked it up, only to gasp deeply just five seconds in.
The statue of Qin Ye was patently clear.
Apart from that… they could see a tall, hazy building.
It was impossible to see just how tall or large it was. Yet what was certain was the fact that Qin Ye’s statue was located at the highest point of the building!
Maverick shut the docket and heaved a long sigh, “Deputy Director, have you ever wondered… what if… and I truly mean what if… these two people are one and the same?”
“So what if they are?” Zhou Xianlong responded with a booming voice, “What has Hell been doing this last ten years? Sure, the mortal realm could do with any help it can get, but we’ll still get by regardless of it.”
“His identity and how that affects the situation don’t form any part of our consideration. That’s to be assessed by the nation’s leaders. All I’m concerned about, and all the Special Investigations Department is concerned about, is who he really is, and what his purpose is! And it’s precisely because the plaque on the stone statue claims that he’s none other than the King Yanluo of Hell that I’m personally taking charge of these investigations!”
“We want results. Don’t you realize the implications of this? If he’s indeed one of the legendary Emissaries of Hell, then what does his presence here mean? Why does he have to hide among the mortals, and even slip into the ranks of the mortal realm’s solution to the problem just to fight against the Yin spirits? What kind of danger would this place him in? What would happen if his cover is blown? Why is he taking such risks to begin with?”
He sighed wistfully, and then shut his eyes once more, “Let’s keep digging.”
“We’ll dig and dig, and then dig some more, until everything finally comes to light! Don’t you worry, even if it so happens that he’s none other than the real King Yanluo of Hell, I’ll take responsibility for it all!”
Things at the Special Investigations Department got busy as a result of their investigations at the worksite. Wu Wenqing brought a number of documents over for Qin Ye’s personal vetting and endorsement, including their action plans moving forward. Their work took them several hours and straight through the evening. By the time Qin Ye got back to his apartment, it was already 8.00 p.m.
Fortunately, Infernal Judges didn’t need food or water for sustenance. Thus, Qin Ye immediately activated his shard of King Yanluo’s Seal as soon as he got back.
He appeared right next to the Harken. Without saying a word, he immediately dropped three large bags of catnip down like a carpet bomber, only to hear a cold snort from below, “What the hell?”
Qin Ye slowly drifted to the ground, before blinking vacantly at the Harken, “Have you been possessed by someone?”
“Who could possibly possess me?” The Harken snorted and turned away, completely ignoring Qin Ye.
That’s true… Qin Ye walked before the Harken and hugged the Harken’s head like a loving father, “Menopause?”
“You seek death?!”
Qin Ye instantly backed off from the Harken - I guess that’s got to be the case… He sighed in his heart, and then sighed wistfully before explaining everything that had transpired earlier that day, “So, what in the world was that supposed to be? How will it affect me?”
The Harken didn’t respond, but it appeared as though it was sorting through its thoughts.
Thus, Qin Ye waited patiently. Five minutes… ten minutes… fifteen minutes…
And then, he heard a blissful purr, and couldn’t wait to give the Harken a mighty kick to its butt!
“Ah… hmm? That’s it… that’s the spot…” The Harken rolled over ecstatically, before quipping with some measure of sarcasm, “It looks like you still know the best way to elicit a response from me…”
“You know, for a moment there, I thought you were just the titular King Yanluo of Hell, and you didn’t care two hoots about the things back here in Hell.”
Qin Ye stepped back sheepishly, “What do you mean… Am I not working hard enough everyday?”
“Cui Jue’s Law of Yin-Yang Coaction.” Qin Ye’s words were promptly cut off by the Harken.
“Haah? What’s that?” Qin Ye froze for a moment and searched through his memory for the answer, only to realize that his thoughts appeared to be completely covered in a thick layer of dust. He wasn’t able to peer beneath its surface, and his conclusion was naturally that it didn’t have anything to do with himself.
“What exactly do you mean?”
The Harken got up, cracked its neck, and then stared intently into Qin Ye’s eyes.
“You… seriously cannot remember?”
Qin Ye frowned deeply, and then shook his head.
“Ahh…” The Harken smiled faintly, “Then you may go. That thing isn’t harmful to you in any way.”
“Are you sure?” Qin Ye pressed the point, “Is there any way in which I could make this problem simply vanish?”
Tsk… This feels like the incipience of a messy situation… Then, with a soft sigh, Qin Ye motioned to leave for Hell.
Just then, the Harken spoke up once more, “Yanluo Qin, I’ll ask you one final time. Some time ago, when you were first recognised as a True Infernal Judge of Hell, I’ve personally explained to you that you’ll find changes to both Hell and yourself. Back then, I’d taken pains to explain to you about one of the two great laws of the netherworld, otherwise known as Cui Jue’s Law of Yin-Yang Coaction. Do you really remember nothing of this?”
Qin Ye coughed sheepishly - I do vaguely recall something like that, but I recall that I’ve already learnt a lot that day, and it didn’t sound like it’s got anything to do with me… So, how could I possibly still remember any of that?
“I didn’t manage to commit it to memory. I’ll take note for future reference.”
“Your heart clearly isn’t with Hell!” The Harken snorted coldly, “Then, go. Go on, and reap what you’ve sown.”
Qin Ye finally took his leave. Shortly after, the Harken spat out a small cloth bag and loosened the rope around its neck. At once, a fist-sized Harken leapt right out of the bag. 
“My Lord… why didn’t you explain it to him?” The miniature Harken that stopped out stared nervously at the larger Harken.
The larger Harken soon released copious amounts of Yin energy which all came together and transformed into a massive vortex of energy. Moments later, a man stepped out of it. That said, his appearance looked hazy and illusory at best.
“Fate is something that only I can stop.” he sighed and gazed deep into the void, “I’d even given him one last chance at that.”
“Unfortunately… he couldn’t even grasp what I was hinting at.”
The man slowly walked along the sea of flowers of paramnesia. With a casual wave, he caused the petals of the flowers to transform into various images in front of him, “Anyone who has lived long enough in the mortal realm would naturally pick up a habit or two from them. He longs to continue straddling both realms. But, alas, he’s no mere merchant. He’s… the King Yanluo of Hell - one of the rulers of the three realms of the world… and also my successor.”
“Yes.” The Harken’s body trembled and expanded once more. Then, it bowed respectfully to the second King Yanluo of Hell, “My Lord, what exactly is it that exists down there? I could see nothing apart from the sculpture, since these are matters pertaining to the King Yanluo of Hell.”
The man smiled faintly, “Have you forgotten? The Hungry Ghost Festival is coming right up. This is the first Hungry Ghost Festival that is being celebrated in the last century. Do you know how symbolic something like this is? Incidentally, it also coincides with Hell’s operations coming back into full swing, and also the recognition of the future King Yanluo of Hell as a True Infernal Judge. If I tell you that Cui Jue’s Law of Yin-Yang Coaction is in operation here, what do you make of it?”
The Harken’s golden pupils instantly narrowed, “Are you saying that--...”
The man promptly interrupted the Harken, “Keep watching. The start of a story usually sees the appearances of various seemingly unrelated characters, their backstories, as well as their character development. But once all that is done, their lives will begin to interlace and point towards a single direction… I’ve got the feeling that every character in the great play written by Fate has already been introduced…”
“And I, too, shall remain here until the curtains fall on the great theatrics. After all, I’ve got to witness firsthand the moment my successor transformed from a fledgling to a soaring eagle.”
“Besides, I’m also curious to see what twists Fate will bring us? What will Fate orchestrate that triggers in him such a massive change of heart in just the span of a single day?”
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