After finally completing the arduous journey to his dorm room, Qin Ye dragged Wang Chenghao out of bed. Wang Chenghao rubbed his eyes leisurely and stared at Qin Ye. Just as he was about to scream at the top of his lungs in horror, Qin Ye covered his mouth.
Wang Chenghao nodded blankly. Anyone who sees a bloodied person standing over him in the middle of the night would be scared witless. I’m definitely not a coward.
“We’ve got to go now…”
“Huh? Where are we going?” Even though Wang Chenghao was unwilling to leave, the sight of Qin Ye’s present appearance spoke volumes about the gravity of the situation. Any lingering weariness in his mind was instantly dispelled.
“Doesn’t matter where. The further, the better!”
Wang Chenghao nodded his head and began to pack their necessities. He didn’t even bother bringing their fresh bedding along. Ten minutes later, Qin Ye and Wang Chenghao hopped onto a taxi and began to make their way into the heart of the downtown district.
Qin Ye forced himself to stay awake as the car drove further and further away. After some time, the driver couldn’t help but shiver slightly, “What the hell. Why is it so cold today?”
“It won’t be cold if you drive faster.” Qin Ye responded placidly. He had already changed into a fresh set of clothes, and there were no longer any traces of blood on his body. Forcing his bloodshot eyes to remain open, Qin Ye continued to stare out of the window. Just outside, hundreds - perhaps even thousands - of Yin spirits were continuously drifting from the opposite direction, and heading straight towards where Qin Ye and Wang Chenghao had just come from!
Cao Youdao must be summoning all of the Yin spirits in the entire City of Salvation… Qin Ye clenched his fists. It’s almost 5 a.m. There’s no way he’s going to make another move tonight. But tomorrow… or the day after, the entire city is going to break out into chaos!
The City of Salvation’s still, harmonious front was soon about to be completely shattered.
All of the Yin spirits were toting a red-coloured lantern. Their feet didn’t move, and yet they continued to drift forward slowly. A single word “Cao” was written in blank ink on all of the lanterns.
They drifted over from everywhere, and their numbers were as vast as the sea was wide.
When the clock struck five, Qin Ye finally shut his eyes.
Recovering his strength was of the utmost priority.
After some time, he was awakened to someone shaking him. Wang Chenghao leaned in towards him with concern, “Brother Qin… how are you feeling? Do we need to send you to the hospital?”
They had already arrived in the heart of the city center. The time now was 5.30 a.m, and the sky was already gradually brightening up. Qin Ye shook his head, “No need. We’ll get a hotel room, and I’ll get some rest there.”
After getting a room, Qin Ye collapsed onto the bed and slept for eight hours straight.
It was already 2 p.m. by the time Qin Ye woke up.
He possessed a constitution that was vastly different from that of a normal human being, and he had already recovered substantially from his wounds after just one night’s rest. He leaned against the bed and muttered to himself.
What should I do?
There was no way that Cao Youdao would give up on the shard of one of Hell’s primordial treasures so easily. If possessing the first shard could allow him to survive Hell’s great collapse, then what would the second shard enable him to achieve?
Qin Ye had already crossed the Rubicon and burnt the bridge on their relationship when he revealed his possession of the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. It was almost a certainty that Cao Youdao would comb through the entire City of Salvation looking for him tonight!
That’s right. The amount of Yin energy at their disposal meant that there was still no way for them to remotely detect the other’s presence if they were in different parts of the city. After all, a Soul Hunter was only supposed to have charge over a county’s affairs. That said, this still didn’t change the fact that Cao Youdao had seen Qin Ye’s face. Furthermore, Yin spirits… possessed an ethereal body by nature.
In other words, it simply didn’t matter where he hid himself. Since the Yin spirits didn’t have a physical body, they would never be obstructed by the mere presence of a wall or other corporeal objects designed to keep in or keep out. Even if he hid in the closet, the Yin spirit would be able to pass through its walls with absolute ease.
There was simply nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide!
“What’s worse is the fact that this would inevitably cause a chain reaction of riots by the Yin spirits all across the world, forcing the mortal realm to go up in arms to suppress these revolts. And just how many citizens are there who would personally witness these supernatural incidents? And how much would the government have to step up their clean up and rectification efforts? The Special Investigations Department would have to have all hands on deck…” He sighed, “Not a single place would be safe.”
“Cough cough…” Just then, a weak and hoarse voice crept out of nowhere. Qin Ye was slightly taken aback, “Arthis? You’re awake?”
Naturally, there was no response.
Minutes later, Arthis' feeble voice called once again, “Do you know something…”
“I’m beginning to regret being tied up with you right now…”
Qin Ye was displeased, “This is your fate.”
The duo had already gotten used to the fact that their interactions were laced with hurtful, scathing words. However, this time was different - Arthis didn’t entertain Qin Ye’s response at all. Instead, she paused for several more seconds before continuing again, “Do you know about the antelope?”
Without waiting for Qin Ye’s response, she explained, “When preyed upon by a tiger, the antelope will fight back with its horns… cough cough… but that said, it will most certainly attempt to escape before its fight response kicks in.”
“Do you understand what I mean? Before things go out of hand, its first response is not fight, but flight… cough… that’s right… I can understand your actions. You’ve been hiding in the mortal realm for far too long. You’re afraid to get a real estate license or a driver’s license, or to even hold a photo ID… And whether it was the incident with the haunting of the Wang family, or the altercation with the Assassin of the Underworld, or even now, you’ve only ever considered fighting when you’ve got your back firmly against the wall…”
Qin Ye’s face felt somewhat warm. He didn’t know just when exactly Arthis had come to develop such a profound understanding of him. Yet the fact that Arthis had slowly peeled away the layers of pretension to reveal the deepest contemplations of his heart made him feel incredibly exposed and embarrassed.
Arthis didn’t continue expounding on Qin Ye’s innermost thoughts. Instead, she changed the topic, “Incidentally… do you know how Hell’s impressive reputation first came about? Do you know why the Assassin of the Underworld’s first reaction when he identified you as an Emissary of Hell was to retreat at once?”
Qin Ye didn’t understand why Arthis had changed the topic so abruptly. Regardless, he pursed his lips and shook his head.
Arthis continued in a placid voice, “Cough cough… Two hundred years ago, there was a rebellion led by the seven great evils of Cloudriver Province. Seven Soul Hunters and two supporting Anitya Hellguards were killed in the line of duty, yet none of them retreated in the face of death…”
“One hundred and thirty years ago, an incarnate revenant appeared in the mass graves of Southriver. Five Hellguards stationed at the cities nearby were killed in the line of duty. Even an Infernal Judge was hurt. Yet, none of them retreated a single step…”
“Back in those days, I’d even encountered a dread wraith while I was merely a Soul Hunter. If not for the fact that I’d been incredibly lucky, how would I possibly have had the opportunity to take charge over the Province of the Great Heavens…”
Qin Ye’s face grew redder and redder. Arthis' words were like flames that were gently licking his face, causing his face to burn and boil. Qin Ye shifted his gaze awkwardly and muttered, “It’s not as though I’d wanted to--...”
Arthis' voice rose sharply, “But you’ve still been branded by the seal of Hell’s Emissaries! This is the price you’ve paid for your life!”
Each sentence spoken was like a powerful bolt of lighting, cleaving apart the last of Qin Ye’s pretenses and revealing his innermost core.
“Every creature on earth has its own calling and purpose in life! And the duty of all Emissaries of Hell is naturally to support the mortal realm and promote its ordinary functions! Good and evil should be repaid accordingly, and the natural orders of the world should flow in an uninhibited fashion. Yet, ever since you’ve taken up the office as an Emissary of Hell, the only thing that’s been weighing on your mind is nothing else but your own survival!”
“Did I have a choice?!!” Qin Ye stood up abruptly. Having the deepest contemplations on his heart exposed bit by bit was akin to having a flame burning in his heart. Over time, even the dampest explosives hidden away in the deepest corner of his heart would ignite and explode violently.
He grabbed the soul sphere in a fit of anger and continued bellowing, “I’m just a normal human being! Sure, I might have eaten the taisui fungus and become immortal and even possess the right to endless cycles of resurrection. But death still hurts! I’m still afraid of death!! Every time I reincarnate, I would lose all memories of the past and start on a completely blank slate. Would I still be me?!”
“Run?! What else can I do but run?! Soul Hunters are on a completely different plane of existence than Netherworld Operatives! I’d already almost died back then in the Fenglai hotel!!”
“Have you ever taught me a way to increase my strength?!”
“Then did you ever ask me of your own volition?!!” Arthis boomed at the top of her voice before coughing vigorously. Wang Chenghao blinked his eyes awkwardly and attempted to steal away into a corner. Yet before Wang Chenghao could exclaim, “I’ll leave”, Qin Ye glanced over at him with his bloodshot eyes and chopped down on Wang Chenghao’s neck. Wang Chenghao immediately fainted and collapsed onto the bed.
What kind of person are you! Haven’t you considered how the cervical spine must feel?!
The soul sphere shook vigorously. This was the first time that the two had confronted the shortcomings of the other in such an intense manner, almost as though they were bullfighting. Qin Ye’s chest rose and fell heavily with his intense breaths. Arthis panted as she continued, “The only questions you’ve ever asked me about is how to resolve a problem. But… but you’ve never once asked me… how exactly you should get stronger at all!!”
“Cough cough… you don’t have the perspective, vision or attitude of an Emissary of Hell at all. If you continue like this, you’ll sooner or later find yourself cornered by an overwhelmingly powerful evil ghost… At that time when you finally brandish your horns like an antelope, you’ll realize that… your horns have long grown dull…”
“Hell has collapsed, and evil ghosts abound in the mortal realm… We’re only a few years away until the massive supernatural upheaval… cough cough… It’s not as though you can’t muddle on through and live merely for your survival… But that said, if you continue like this, you’ll one day encounter an evil ghost so powerful that it will tear you to shreds before you even know it!!”
“Even if you manage to escape from Cao Youdao’s grasp, you’ll soon discover Li Youdao or others that are similar. If not for the fact that our lives are inextricably intertwined with each other right now, do you think I could care less if you throw your own life away?!!”
One man and one sphere, staring straight at each other.
Neither was willing to concede any ground. The thoughts that were hidden in the depths of each of their hearts were now exposed to the other. Under the confluence of intense emotions of shame and fury, none of them spoke a single word to the other for some time.
Qin Ye heaved a long sigh as he sat back down onto the bed. With bloodshot eyes, he continued to gaze transfixed at the soul sphere and massage his temples. Then, after several seconds, he finally barked viciously, “Then, how do I become a Soul Hunter?”
Arthis' voice was feeble, like a candle in the wind, “Reach 200 merit points… cough cough…”
“Cao Youdao is going to comb through the entire city tonight. Do you have a way out of this situation?”
“Think for yourself!” Arthis gasped, “If you can’t figure a way out, then think of a way to leave the City of Salvation and find a reclusive forest to hide in and struggle for your own survival… I’ll find another host to pledge allegiance to - one that wouldn’t give me so many heart-stopping moments!”
“If you can’t even gather 200 merit points… you’ll never be able to live long enough to assemble all the shards of King Yanluo’s Seal!”
Her voice stopped abruptly.
The veins on Qin Ye’s head throbbed several times before he reluctantly called out, “Arti?”
Still no response.
“It’s easy for you to say.” Qin Ye snorted, “One vengeful apparition only gives me 20 merit points. And it’s not as though the gates of Hell are open once more for me to reap and harvest from a gathering of ghosts. I’d be old enough to have a full head of white hair by the time I gather 180 merit points!”
“Bloody hell… can’t you leave me some face over here? I’ve never encountered such a situation before after all. Don’t you know that you need to mentally prepare me for such things? People like you… must have been the target of torture in ancient times… You’re lucky that I’ve got a good temper to deal with your silly tantrum.”
Nobody spoke another word.
Arthis' words were harsh to the ears, and they even tore asunder Qin Ye’s layers of pretension and exposed the core of Qin Ye’s heart that he wanted to protect so much. But that said, Qin Ye had to admit that these were still the most poignant, life-preserving words that he needed right now.
The world was changing. If he chose not to discard his old habits and adapt to the situation, the world would leave him behind in no time.
He patted his own face lightly and took several deep breaths to calm his heart. Then, his eyes gleamed as he delved into a time of self-reflection and contemplation.
When Wang Chenghao came to his senses again, he was greeted by a peculiar image.
Qin Ye sat on the bed with a deep, abstruse gaze in his eyes. The gentle golden sunbeams poured into the room, painting a light golden sheen on his fair skin. Wang Chenghao rubbed his cervical spine and muttered, “The thinker?”
Qin Ye sighed sullenly, “I’m contemplating whether I’m going to take responsibility for you or not.”
Wang Chenghao recoiled in horror, “I’ve got something to--...”
“Don’t feel like talking.”
Wang Chenghao swallowed his saliva and muttered under his breath, “Bloody shit…”
He touched his own buttocks quickly to make sure everything was fine before finally feeling reassured once more.
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