“What’s the meaning of this?” Qin Ye asked with a faint smile on his face.
“Nothing much. I’d like to be given the chance to know your name, but I’ll first need to know that you’re willing to stand by my side.” Cao Youdao smiled faintly back, “Look, all you need to do is to give your saber a light swing and destroy his soul. It’s simple. The fact that I’m not killing him doesn’t mean that you can't.”
Of course it was simple.
Killing Zhang Baoguo was tantamount to declaring war against the government. He was the deputy attorney general after all… Regardless of how magnanimous the government was, there was no way they would stand idly by as their authority was challenged like that.
“You’ve got five minutes to make your decision.” Cao Youdao sat down, picked up his wine glass and swirled its contents leisurely.
Qin Ye was silent.
Killing Zhang Baoguo was the most reliable means out of this predicament. The potential price to pay for any other answer was simply too large.
As soon as he revealed the slightest trace of the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal in his possession, there was no doubt that Cao Youdao would never rest until he had finally seized it for himself!
No… quite apart from whether he disclosed the existence of the shard in his possession, the moment he rejected Cao Youdao’s offer would be the moment that they shed off all pretension of cordiality with each other!
All eyes were on Qin Ye right now. As time trickled by, Cao Youdao’s expression slowly grew cold and frigid.
“I don’t understand.” Cao Youdao sighed begrudgingly at the four-minute mark, “It’s just a mere mortal. I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with him, and I don’t understand why, given the limitless potential ahead of our partnership, you’d even consider the life of a mere mortal with such hesitance.”
Four-minutes and thirty seconds in, Qin Ye finally spoke up with a faint smile on his face, “Senior, do you know something? Even die-hard otakus have their bottom lines…”
“For instance, the lacewear from Ladies vs Butlers, or their Hatsune Miku bolster - if you ruin these things, even otakus would throw caution to the wind and fight you with all they have…”
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand the references you’re making.”
“Hah… I’m just saying.” Qin Ye scratched his head, and the tension in his smile eased up somewhat, “I’m generally quite an easygoing, adaptable person, not quite the same as the run-of-the-mill Emissaries of Hell you might have encountered. There are even times when I don’t mind betraying my friends here and there. But when you put the soul of a confidante of decades of standing and tell me to take his life, you really put me in a spot.”
Cao Youdao stopped smiling, yet he continued to swirl the contents of his glass about, “So?”
Before Cao Youdao could even continue, a gale of Yin energy began to rush towards Qin Ye. A silver light flashed with a dull, resounding thud. In an instant, Cao Youdao’s hand was pinned firmly to the table in the room.
The hook ran straight through the wooden badge on the table.
Simultaneously, a massive tidal wave of Yin Energy engulfed Qin Ye’s body and swept straight towards Zhang Baoguo’s soul.
Rumble! Yin energy was so vast and boundless that the ordinary ghosts around were immediately incinerated and reduced to dust. Qin Ye was already clothed in his Hell’s Emissary uniform half a second later. His large saber flickered quickly, and the two humanoid paper effigies restraining Zhang Baoguo’s soul were instantly sliced apart and reduced to ashes!
By Hell’s dictum, all rabble must disperse!
“Let’s go!!” Without ascertaining whether Zhang Baoguo’s soul could respond to his cry or not, Qin Ye grabbed hold of him and rushed straight towards the entrance like lightning.
Back on the second floor, Cao Youdao stared at his own hand, completely stupefied. The soul shackle extended out of the void, piercing straight through his hand and nailing it down onto the table below. Unfortunately, not a trace of blood seeped out, and the only thing that continued to flow was the boundless Yin energy from his body.
“I poured out my heart to the moon.” He shut his eyes and sighed wistfully, “Yet the moon shines only on the ditch below.”
As soon as he finished speaking, the second floor quaked violently and collapsed altogether, and a massive tsunami of Yin energy that was ten times greater than that of Qin Ye’s filled the entire area!
All of the Yin spirits trembled in fear and prostrated themselves in the ground. A dark figure emerged from the heart of the roiling Yin energy and shot straight towards Qin Ye, leaving a trail of dark light behind him.
He wore an asymmetrical black robe embroidered with three round black-and-white patterns and a black fretwork chinese skullcap. Wisps of visceral nether energy continued to pour out from the seven apertures on his face. The only difference between Cao Youdao and Qin Ye was the fact that Cao Youdao was carrying a sword on his back instead of the demonhead saber.
“By Hell’s dictum, all rabble must disperse!!”
With a furious cry, he swung his sword gently and instantly reduced all of the Yin spirits around him to nothing more than wisps of smoke.
This was the furious pursuit between two Emissaries of Hell.
In fact, this was probably the first time since the establishment of Hell that a Soul Hunter was going after the life of a Netherworld Operative.
Qin Ye fled desperately. He knew just how powerful a Soul Hunter was. If he was caught, death would almost be certain. The only way out at that time would be to activate the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. But even if he did that and got away this time, he would still have revealed his possession of the shard, and there was no doubt that Cao Youdao would come after him no matter what the cost!
After all, Cao Youdao’s survival of Hell’s collapse must have been a result of his possession of one of the shards of Hell’s primordial treasures.
Since that was the case, was there any possibility that Cao Youdao would spare Qin Ye after learning of the shard in Qin Ye’s possession?
As soon as he learns of this fact… the entire vortex of evil ghosts that permeated every corner of the City of Salvation would immediately arise from their hiding and shift their focus onto Qin Ye!
Therefore, he must never activate the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal unless it was absolutely necessary!
Faster. Faster! All of the ghosts in the long stone corridor were momentarily taken aback when they saw Qin Ye charge straight towards them. However, in the very next moment, they roared madly and rushed straight towards Qin Ye.
Whoosh whoosh whoosh… The lights along the entire corridor were extinguished one after the other. A massive wave of Yin energy followed closely behind, and the cold gleam of the tip of a blade was pointed straight at Qin Ye’s back. It was as though Death itself had stepped out of the darkness and was hot on Qin Ye’s tail.
“Scram!” Armed with a saber in hand and Zhang Baoguo’s soul in the other, Qin Ye’s flurry of attacks blossomed like a flower at night. None of the Yin spirits stood a chance against him, and he shot into the elevator without skipping a beat.
Hurry up… His eyes were somewhat bloodshot as he hammered hard on the mirrored wall. With a dull buzz, the number ‘-6’ appeared faintly on the mirror once more. The door shut promptly, and the elevator began to ascend quickly.
-5, -4… Yet before Qin Ye could even catch his breath, the lift suddenly paused at -3.
“Naive.” Cao Youdao’s voice echoed from all around the lift, “This place is my territory after all. Don’t you think that it’s far too disrespectful to leave as and when you wish, without giving a proper account?”
Haa… Qin Ye was on the verge of handing over Zhang Baoguo’s soul to Cao Youdao. Qin Ye had always been under the impression that he was an incredibly selfish person, and he hardly had any qualms with betrayals, even if the target of betrayal was Wang Chenghao. Yet, despite all of that, he had still rescued Zhang Baoguo’s soul on impulse.
That said, even if he were given a chance for a re-do, he would probably still have done the same thing.
“It seems that the core values of socialism have already pervaded the netherworld as well…” With a bitter laugh, Qin Ye’s grip around the hilt of his demonhead saber tightened once more. In the very next moment, the lights on the roof of the lift suddenly changed into a miserable, jade-coloured hue!
The temperature in the elevator suddenly dipped, and a bone-chilling gale began to blow. If a human were around right now, the bizarre events in the elevator would most certainly cause him to scream at the top of his lungs and break out with profuse, cold sweat.
Just then, a crimson-red blood mark slowly appeared on every panel of mirror around.
It was almost as though a ghost were drawing these marks with a brush, stroke after stroke. What was initially nothing more than an ordinary mirror reflecting his image suddenly transformed into a long, endless corridor that was devoid of any sources of light apart from the miserable jade-coloured glow of netherworldly flames. Black clouds of Yin energy continued to billow menacingly like a growling beast, Just then, a figure appeared in every panel of mirror around, shooting straight towards him with something aimed straight for Qin Ye’s throat.
It was a sword.
In the very next moment, Cao Youdao’s clearly discernible figure appeared in every panel of mirror around. Qin Ye’s heart skipped a beat, and he swung his demonhead saber horizontally with wanton disregard as to whether he struck anything or not. Shortly after that, he immediately felt an excruciating pain surge from his shoulder.
Everything went dark for just an instant.
Qin Ye didn’t even have time to care about the blood that was now flowing profusely from his shoulder. Cao Youdao’s appearance in the mirror was simply incredible - he stood upside down on the ceiling, and he appeared to be hidden in the realm of mirrors.
“Don’t you know… this is why they say that you will be able to see your past life if you comb your hair in front of the mirror at 2.30 a.m.” Cao Youdao lifted his sword and held it vertically in front of his chest, “Since time immemorial, mirrors have been one of the main mediums connecting the netherworld and the mortal realm. And I, standing where I am right now, can incidentally see your next life.”
“Your future… is completely non-existent.”
Before he even finished speaking, the tens of Cao Youdao’s reflections in the panels of mirrors around stabbed straight at Qin Ye’s head once more. The talismans on the mirrors fluttered wildly, and the netherworldly flames overhead flickered unstably.
I can’t avoid it…
Qin Ye felt an immensely powerful source of Yin energy weigh down on him as soon as Cao Youdao made his move. The difference between their levels was far too wide. An Operative was equivalent to a village official, while a Hunter was akin to a county official - they were hardly entities on the same planes of existence.
WHOOOSH! The Yin energy arrived before the sword. Qin Ye’s uniform fluttered wildly, and the void around him even began to crack. Gritting his teeth, Qin Ye no longer hesitated. The shard of King Yanluo’s Seal erupted instantly!
A wave of violent black light erupted, causing the entire lift to quake violently for a moment. Seconds later, the talismans on the wall settled down, and the blood-red number in the mirrors began to rise once again.
-2. -1… 1!
Ding dong… As the elevator doors opened, Qin Ye hobbled out, gasping for breath. He could finally heave a sigh of relief. All of the mirrors in the elevator-room were completely shattered in pieces, revealing an ink-black wall behind them.
As the remnants of what used to be talismans scattered into the surroundings, he continued to fight back the excruciating pain from his shoulders and released Zhang Baoguo’s soul, watching it wistfully as it drifted into the air.
Meanwhile, back at where -6 was located, Cao Youdao stared blankly at his sword, before turning his equally blank gaze into the empty elevator shaft in front of him.
A mere Operative-class Emissary… has actually eluded me?
No… that’s not important. What’s important is the frightening energy that erupted from his body just before he escaped. That energy is… incredibly familiar.
“Shard of a primordial treasure!” His arm wielding the sword trembled vigorously as he growled hoarsely, “This is one of the shards of Hell’s primordial treasures!!”
“He actually has a shard on him!!”
“No wonder… no wonder he had the guts to enter this place to begin with. And here I was, wondering how exactly he survived Hell’s collapse too! You may have escaped today, but do you really think you’ll be able to escape from the City of Salvation?”
Cao Youdao shut his eyes for a long while. When he finally opened them once more, the bulging red vessels in his eyes had already faded. Even as weak residual wisps of Yin energy continued to linger about him, Cao Youdao had already reverted to his original form, bearing the appearance of a successful businessman. He snorted coldly, “Like I’ve mentioned before… we’re the only two who can see each other.”
“I will find you, even if I have to go to the ends of the earth!”
Qin Ye had already reverted back to his human form. He was originally wearing a white T-shirt, but half of it was now dyed red with blood. He glanced at his phone and learnt that it was still 3 a.m.
“I told you… that it wasn’t wise to mingle with humans for too long…”
“To think that you’d even acted on impulse just to save a human… Comrade Qin, things have just gotten incredibly dangerous for you…”
“The first principle of survival is to learn to turn a blind eye to things around you. How could you have entertained such dangerous thoughts?”
Qin Ye continued to mutter aloud, castigating himself for all that he had done. Old Man Liu was seated at the desk on the first floor. He was already asleep with a smile on his face. Qin Ye slowly dragged his heavy legs upstairs.
Old Man Liu was no more than a medium.
Second floor… Third floor… As soon as he arrived on the third floor, an unknown student suddenly cried out at the top of his voice, “GHOST!!” Following that, the student immediately turned tail and dashed away.
Qin Ye chuckled bitterly and examined himself - his clothes were covered in blood, the lighting around was dim, and he even dragged his feet, walking as though he had a limp on his foot. He truly looked no different from the ghosts portrayed in modern horror films...
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