The breaking news was just like an assassin’s shiv that had emerged out of nowhere and slashed right at Qin Ye’s jugular.
Even then, Qin Ye maintained the placid expression on his face, “Is it possible to bring it forward?”
“Why?” Mo Changhao frowned slightly, “Is the date… inconvenient for you?”
How would such a date possibly be convenient for me?!
At once, Qin Ye broke out in cold sweat.
The 15th was Hell’s grand festivity in celebration of the Hungry Ghost Festival - the first one in a hundred years! It would be a declaration to Eastmount Province that Hell was in charge once again!
The eyes of all 20 million Yin spirits in Hell would be fixed on the festivities ahead.
This was the first festivity to be presided over by their new government as well. Its significance was tantamount to the first national day celebration since the founding of a new nation!
Furthermore, their guest of honour would be none other than the daolord of the asura himself!
And they would even be implementing their new system of currency!
Everything that was to take place in Hell would hinge on the upcoming festivities in celebration of the Hungry Ghost Festival. Therefore, it had to be something so grand that it would be the event to be talked about for decades to come! Hell would have to show the daolord that it had in such a short span of time managed to completely win over the hearts of its citizens, and even rolled out its monetary policy without any obstacles at all. Hell’s future was practically riding on the upcoming festivities, and it was something that Qin Ye absolutely had to be there for!
But now, he was suddenly thrown a curve ball and told that the excavation was going to take place on the very same day, on 15 August itself. Where was he going to find the time to return to Hell? How could an Infernal Judge be absent when they were excavating a site suspected to harbour an incarnate revenant?
He was suddenly posed a choice between the Yin and the Yang, and it was a choice that he had to make here and now.
“As a matter of fact, that is a rather inconvenient date for me.” After deliberating for a moment, Qin Ye smiled, “The 15th is also the death anniversary of my only relative, my grandfather. He passed away on the day of the Hungry Ghost Festival itself, and I simply must pay my respects to him.”
Qin Ye had never brought up his grandfather who had eaten the taisui fungus together with him as an excuse before.
Half of those who consumed the taisui fungus would gain eternal life, while the other half would transform into a monster. Back then, both he and his grandfather had consumed the taisui fungus at the same time, but he was the only one who survived the ordeal. Since then, he had always believed that it was his grandfather who had ceded the chance to survive to him. Had the present circumstances not forced his hand, he would never have wanted to bring up this grandfather of his as an excuse.
He wasn’t being forced at knife point.
Nor was anyone overtly threatening him or placing him under duress.
However, Qin Ye couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was some invisible force that seemed to be nudging him towards the edge of the precipice, and he was completely helpless to this irresistible force.
“We can’t afford any delays.” Mo Changhao smiled, “Don’t we usually pay our respects to our ancestors during the Qingming Festival instead? That said, I guess I can understand the reason for your choice to remember him on this day… But it matters not. How long would paying your respects take? When the time comes, I’ll help to hold the fort for a moment while you go do the needful.”
Qin Ye lowered his eyes with great vexation.
He hadn’t forgotten the image revealed by the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal depicting Mo Changhao making a move against him.
Emissaries of Hell are a tyrannical force when it comes to Yin spirits, but Mo Changhao is the living Infernal Judge presiding over an entire province. His strength definitely belongs to the upper middle among all Infernal Judges in the mortal realm… Qin Ye’s mind spun for several moments, and then he finally chuckled, “Actually, I was hoping for the opportunity to have some more time with my grandfather. How about this - why don’t you hold the fort for me from midnight till five in the morning, and I’ll take over from you after that?”
“Mr Qin.” Mo Changhao took a sip from his cup of tea, “An incarnate revenant… isn’t something that a single Infernal Judge can deal with alone.”
“You should be keenly aware that Yin spirits employ a variety of bizarre techniques, and I’m afraid that a single Infernal Judge wouldn’t be able to handle the situation if indeed an incarnate revenant shows up.”
Shit… Qin Ye cursed in his heart. These were matters that he hadn’t considered.
Unfortunately, he knew he shouldn’t continue to maintain his position for the third time.
It wasn’t that it was taboo. Rather, it would simply invite more queries if he said anymore.
What exactly did he have on? Why did he need to take leave of absence on the night of the 15th? And why did he have to conceal his intentions from everyone? He was a public officer. Posed with a choice between the self and public service, he should naturally be inclined towards the latter. This was part of his duty and obligations after all.
Resisting for the third time would be highly inconsistent with his office as the Infernal Judge of Martial City.
Sigh, forget it. I’ll have no choice but to take an hour off my duties back in Hell. I hope Arthis and the Harken can forgive me for my absence… Besides, there’s still 7 days. Perhaps I can still try and find a way out of this bind somehow…
His heart was suddenly awash with a sense of urgency, but he knew better than to say anymore.
“Then, it’s decided.” Mo Changhao slapped the table decisively, “Director Fang, I’d like you to send to Mr Qin the full particulars of the team that will be arriving, including their biographies and experiences, as well as the proposed plan of action. We’ll have to keep a close eye on all who are to come into close proximity with the incarnate revenant. Apart from that… Martial City.”
Wu Wenqing stood up, “We await your instructions.”
“I want you to work with Mr Qin and mobilize all personnel to set up a containment zone of 10,000 meters radius within the next three days. All of them would have to be armed to the teeth. Furthermore, you are to ensure full civilian evacuation from these zones.”
Qin Ye shut his eyes and took a deep breath.
Damn it… Are there seriously that many things to be done? Can’t I get a moment to catch a breather here?!
These were all plans that he would have to vet through and review carefully. However…
There were only 7 days left until the Hungry Ghost Festival! The layout of the amusement park, the placement of the facilities and amenities, and even the various security measures to roll out were likewise waiting for his review and approval!
If only I could be at two places at once!!
“Mr Qin?” Just then, Mo Changhao called out to him, and Qin Ye instantly snapped out of his stupor and shook his head bitterly, “Sorry. I got lost in my thoughts for a moment.”
“That’s fine.” Mo Changhao shrugged it off, “Then, shall we begin?”
Qin Ye raised an eyebrow quizzically, “Begin? With what?”
“Planning, naturally. We’re talking about a containment zone of 10,000 meters radius. That’s a total of 10,000 households or two complete neighbourhoods, not to mention the mobilization and distribution of manpower. These are all things that we’ll have to personally oversee.” Mo Changhao sighed somewhat sympathetically, “Ordinary Yin spirits in the vicinity aren’t a match against us. But it’s precisely so that we’ll have to personally shoulder the burden of ensuring the safety and security of all citizens around.”
He gazed at Qin Ye with meaningful eyes, “What do you say?”
Qin Ye responded numbly, “Agreed.”
Qin Ye wasn’t aware that he was being closely watched right now.
Zhou Xianlong sat in front of the sofa, watching the images on the screen calmly. After some time, he remarked, “Tell Mo Changhao that he should do his best to keep Qin Ye busy over the next 7 days. Don’t give Qin Ye any free time apart from his usual sleeping hours.”
There wasn’t any overt response save for the rapid tapping of fingers on keyboards.
Then, Zhou Xianlong shut his eyes and sighed wistfully, “I’d like to hear your analysis of what you’re seeing thus far.”
“Is there a point to that?” One albatross turned back and spoke coldly, “You’ve already made a judgment in your heart, but you refuse to go along with it. You’re not seeking an analysis right now. Rather, you’re seeking our consolation. You want to validate your thoughts and suspicions. You want to be affirmed of your point of view. And with all due respect, Deputy Director Zhou, there’s nothing wrong with what you’ve been doing all this while.”
“It’s all borne out of your duty to the nation.”
Zhou Xianlong didn’t say much else. Instead, he simply held his teacup tightly in his hands.
“But if you really must hear it, let me preface it with a warning that it’s not going to be nice.” The albatross sighed and turned back, “First of all, let’s talk about the Hungry Ghost Festival. Ever since the uptake of supernatural incidents, we’ve been witnessing Yin spirits running rampant across every corner of Cathay during each of the three major ghost festivals. The Hungry Ghost Festival is when Hell’s gates are supposed to be opened once more, and we’d all have to be mobilized for a period of three days in order to keep things orderly, safe and secure.”
“To that end, there is an ironclad rule in place that no investigator is to leave their post, regardless of the pretext or reason. I refuse to believe that Mr Qin is unaware of this regulation. Sure, he might not have attended the mandatory course for all Judges, but that doesn’t absolve him of his duty to familiarize himself with the rules and regulations that are easily accessible online. Yet, even then, he chooses to go out in abdication of his duty.”
His words were sharp and incisive, and it cut away the last straw of hope that Zhou Xianlong was clinging so desperately to, “It’s going to be a night of a thousand ghosts. If he’s truly related to evil ghosts in any way, he would definitely choose to make a move on this night. There’s no other reason for his inclination to leave his post. I mean, we’re talking about the absence of one of the core pillars of Cathay’s forces against the supernatural during one of the three major ghost festivals! That’s simply unjustifiable!”
“That said, sir, let’s wait for the results.”
“We’ve already come so far with our investigations, and there’s simply no reason to give up now. The death of a fellow officer is at stake, and even the top brass are eagerly expecting the results of our investigations. If indeed a human is found to be in cahoots with the Yin spirits, then there’s simply too much to be gleaned from him. We’re only responsible for tracking his movements and delivering the results of our investigations. We can leave all judgment to the top brass. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that an investigator’s loved one has transformed into an evil ghost. But, even then, one must never abuse their office for personal gains.”
With that, the albatross turned back to his screen and got right back to his duties.
After some time, he heard a sigh from behind, and a firm, determined voice, “Naturally.”
“Carry on as planned.”
“At zero hours on 15 August, we shall execute the ‘Scales’ plan without any delays. There’s no room for failure!”
Night. The city was already well lit when Qin Ye finally dragged his weary body out from his office.
They were just done with their protracted meeting concerning tens of thousands of households, the evacuation of residents, and the deployment of their personnel. The last few hours of planning had only culminated with a skeletal plan at best.
Things are going to be hectic over the next few days… Qin Ye massaged his throbbing temples as he pulled out his phone. Then, he chuckled bitterly.
It was already half an hour past the time he had previously indicated to Arthis.
He rushed straight home and activated the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. In an instant, he appeared right back in his office in the netherworld.
Arthis and Wang Chenghao were already waiting for him.
“It’s fine.” Arthis interrupted him, “We’re already used to it.”
Wang One Tail opened his mouth, but didn’t have anything to add.
“This is the draft speech prepared for you by your secretary. You’ve got about half an hour to familiarize yourself with it. By hook or by crook, you’ll have to address the entire city by 9.00 p.m.”
Qin Ye received the draft speech with great reluctance. For some strange reason, he couldn’t help but sense that Arthis was getting increasingly colder and more distant to him.
No… That’s not coldness or distance. If I had to put a finger on it… it would have to be a sense of weariness stemming from a deep-seated resentment at how I’m behaving.
But he knew better than to concern himself with these matters right now. Within moments, he shelved his thoughts and delved right into the heart of the speech. Half an hour later, he nodded to the two. At once, their Yin energy erupted and filled the entire city like a tidal wave.
Qin Ye’s tall, illusory image was projected high into the sky, as though he were holding up the heavens. He stood right in the midst of the swirling tide of Yin energy, while countless spots of netherflames darted around him. He was visible from every corner of Ashmound City. At once, the citizens of Ashmound who were just going about their own business and daily affairs dropped what they were doing and looked over in shock.
Life in Ashmound City was at best only a little bit better than what it was back in the City of Salvation. After all, they had neither electricity nor substitutes for candles. All they could rely on was the faint illumination of netherflames to light their path in the darkest of nights.
Thus, it was a common sight for neighbourhood committee leaders to host get-togethers around a single source of netherflame, almost as though they had gone back to the days of ages past without the presence of electricity. To this end, the lifestyle associated with urbanization seemed ever so far away.
Qin Ye swept his gaze across the five major urban areas in the city, from which countless netherflames were blazing brightly like constellations in the milky way. One month ago, Hell’s government had issued its first Official Decree of Hell, dividing Ashmound into five major areas, namely, the northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast and central districts, each of which were to be governed by various satellite offices on the ground.
This is my kingdom… I’m the master of the underworld, the ruler of the kingdom of the dead!
His blood stirred and boiled. Not a single one of the citizens dared look at each other under his intense, watchful gaze. Everyone kept their heads bowed low.
“Now, I shall announce the Official Decree of Hell No. 002.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter