Qin Ye nodded. That’s right… I just knew there’d be issues when Wang Chenghao died back then. That must have been when the government began to investigate me.
“So… have you always been an Infernal Judge?” Zhou Xianlong asked softly. It was evident that he didn’t want to believe the reality before his eyes if he could help it.
Lin Han and Su Feng stared blankly at Qin Ye. They had a multitude of words bottled up in their hearts, but they were unable to enunciate even a single word on their lips.
“No.” Qin Ye responded curtly. He wasn’t in the mood to talk. There were times when people were filled with epiphanies that forced them to mature and grow up in just a short span of time. He was in that state right now.
Zhou Xianlong nodded, “Then, if that’s the case, would you mind coming back with us for a cup of tea at the headquarters of the Special Investigations Department?”
“I’ve got no time.” Qin Ye sighed softly. Then, gathering his thoughts, he scanned the expressions of each investigator around, “Why bother asking? You probably knew my response anyway.”
Why cling onto the past?
Zhou Xianlong shook his head, “Not everything can be labelled with right or wrong.”
“Your existence is a massive variable. You might very well be the solution to the supernatural outbreak that Cathay is facing right now. And as long as there’s even a glimmer of hope, we have to pursue it.”
“Besides, it’s not as though we can simply let you off scot-free. Even murderers could be a good husband or son to their loved ones. The mortal realm can no longer afford to live with the uncertainties to your identity. ‘Who you are’, and ‘what are you’, are questions that the government will need full clarity on. We cannot afford to let such critical variables go unchecked anymore.”
“Everyone has their own responsibilities and perspectives. We’ll all have to see things through as best as we can. Otherwise… we’d be nothing more than a moving corpse that eats, sleeps, and takes command. We’re all doing what we must.”
Qin Ye sighed. That’s right. We’re all discharging our obligations and duties. Zhou Xianlong has set aside his relationship with his mentee for the sake of his overarching duties and responsibilities. Likewise, Lin Han and Su Feng are clearly also struggling right now.
There’s no community and society without the foundational existence of the nation. And I… have abdicated my duties and responsibilities and chosen myself before the nation.
To think that Zhou Xianlong would still be teaching me such a crucial lesson at times like these…
“I’ve got no time.” He responded with such indifference that he almost appeared emotionless. He didn’t want to talk about his own identity. After all… he needed to keep his cards close to his chest so that he could play them with the greatest efficacy at the appropriate times.
He’d already fixed the date of negotiations with the mortal realm to be in approximately two years time. At that time, Hell would already have several provinces under its control, and it would be far better placed to negotiate with the mortal realm than in front of Hell’s gate right now.
“Sigh…” Zhou Xianlong sighed wistfully, “Then… my deepest apologies.”
Qin Ye glanced at his hand, calmly sensing the slight warmth exuding from the heart of his palms, “Are you certain that you want to fight me?”
“Director…” Lin Han muttered with a tremor in his voice. But Mo Changhao soon cut him off coldly, “Instructor Lin, you must bear in mind that you’re first and foremost an investigator of the Special Investigations Department, and an instructor of the First Academy of Cultivators.”
Lin Han’s lips parted, but he chose to swallow his words.
Zhou Xianlong gazed deep into Qin Ye’s eyes, “Like I said, I’m only acting upon my duties.”
“You, too, would understand the weight on my shoulders when you go through the multitude of dossiers describing how families can’t sleep at night, and how infants and childrens are so terrified of the dark that they’d only fall asleep in the warm embrace of their parents.”
Qin Ye didn’t say a word. He simply stared blankly at the creases in the palm of his hands, allowing his mind to drift to the things of the past.
That’s right… I should have known that the mortal realm would never trust Hell.
Sure, we might have the same end goal in mind, but are we truly of the same mind in every regard?
Could the mortal realm truly accept Hell’s claims after hearing nothing from them for a hundred years on end?
Back when I first broke through to the ranks of an Anitya Hellguard, Zhou Xianlong had categorically stated that he would much rather rely on themselves than in something that had disappointed them time and time again. The mortals would much rather trust in their own diligence, and the tangible fruits of their efforts that they can see today.
Who would’ve thought that the very same people who welcomed me with open arms back then would one day stand before me, brandishing their weapons?
“How ironic…” Qin Ye shook his head, and then turned to leave.
Life was like a stream, and men are like the fish within, swimming along, wondering where the turbulent currents would carry them. Some would find their way into larger rivers, while others would enter a massive lake.
Having the same starting point doesn’t necessarily mean that one would see the same journey or arrive at the same destination.
He could tell that his life in the mortal realm was slowly drifting away.
There’s nothing more to look forward to in the mortal realm now…
I’ve long known that this day would come, but who knew it would come so suddenly and unexpectedly?
Mo Changhao immediately made his move as soon as Qin Ye turned his back.
His abilities had clearly fallen beneath the realms of an Abyssal Prefect under the effects of the demonic lady’s spell. This, coupled with the leaves of the peach tree that grants them vision of the unseen, filled the investigators with confidence to move against Qin Ye.
Mo Changhao rushed over like a bolt of lightning, and he sent a powerful palm strike radiating with golden light flying straight towards Qin Ye’s back. But just as his attack was about to land, Qin Ye abruptly turned around and met Mo Changhao’s palm strike with another palm strike of his own.
BOOM! Dust scattered everywhere, and Mo Changhao was sent flying back dozens of meters in abject shock. He turned back fiercely and bellowed at the top of his voice, “What are you still waiting for?!”
At once, several albatrosses armed with chains and bells rushed over, clanging their bells with a dizzying sound. With a soft flick of their wrists, they sent the chains flying straight towards the ground around Qin Ye, instantly setting up a prison of chains that sought to bind Qin Ye to the ground.
“Do it!” Zhou Xianlong boomed. Electricity arced from his seven apertures as he sprang into motion like the descent of a god of lightning.
Qin Ye didn’t want to take any action if he could help it.
There were many things on his mind right now, and he wanted nothing more than to find a quiet place where he could sort through his thoughts.
Things had been hectic ever since he took over as the King Yanluo of Hell, and he was starting to grow tired and weary.
Even then, the thought of Hell’s prospects reinvigorated him. He finally had some clarity as to the path he should be taking.
That said, he wasn’t quite prepared to make a trip down to the fabled headquarters of the Special Investigations Department located in Yan Capital.
Meanwhile, the investigators sprung into action. Mo Changhao boomed, “Be careful! He’s a true blue Infernal Judge. You can’t afford to grow complacent!”
“Don’t stray too far from each other. Talk to each other! To your formations in the Big Dipper Archfiend Array--… What are you doing?!!”
Mo Changhao suddenly roared in fury. Qin Ye glanced over coldly, only to realize that… Lin Han hadn’t made a move.
And neither had Su Feng.
“You… bastards!!” Zhou Xianlong gritted his teeth and cursed. However, he knew better than to pause right in the middle of the battle to berate his own students. The terrifying Prefect-class duel that took place just moments ago was still lingering in their minds. He couldn’t afford to take Qin Ye lightly.
“No. 72, No. 36, you’re in charge of their positions! Hurry up!”
Whoosh! Several artifacts plunged straight through Qin Ye’s body. Unfortunately, all that remained was no more than an illusory body composed entirely out of Yin energy. Just then, a soft sigh resounded through the air.
I’ve given it my all, yet you still remain adamant in your ways… Lin Han looked up to the skies with an incomparably complex gaze in his eyes. That soft sigh was filled with deep profundity.
It was a sigh of resignation. He’d completely given up.
It was also a sigh of enlightenment. He knew full well the path he should take.
Furthermore, it was also a sigh that told them he was finally cutting off all ties with the mortal realm. The next time they meet would naturally be during the upcoming negotiations between Hell and the mortal realm.
No… I don’t want things to end like that…
Lin Han’s lips trembled softly as he took a few steps forward. The memories that they shared during their time at the First Academy of Cultivators surfaced in his mind once more. Everything appeared completely dissonant next to the present sight of albatrosses desperately attempting to trap Qin Ye in the heart of their Big Dipper Archfiend Array. He knew full well that joining the fray was the right thing to do, but… his hands felt incomparably heavy. He simply couldn’t bring himself to lift his hands against Qin Ye.
Just then, the albatrosses suddenly let out a muffled grunt, and each of them were thrown back dozens of meters at once! Several wounds appeared on each of their bodies at once, each of which appeared to be tainted with traces of Yin energy.
“He’s leaving!” Mo Changhao shouted, “All who are still mobile are to seal off all paths of escape! This is an order!!”
“Take a look at the emblem on your lapels! Think about why you joined the Special Investigations Department in the first place! Don’t let yourself down!!”
Lin Han trembled. At once, both he and Su Feng rushed straight towards the nearest path of escape.
I’ll just block a random one… that should suffice…
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, copious amounts of Yin energy coalesced right in front of their very eyes as soon as they arrived at the path of escape of their choice. Lin Han’s jaws dropped as he stared at the young man who was standing in the midst of billowing Yin energy. At once, his lips went dry, and he revealed a bitter smile on his face.
Fate sure had its way with people.
Likewise, Qin Ye froze as well. He’d randomly picked the nearest exit, only to find himself standing directly across the people he’d least hoped to encounter.
“Stop him!!” Zhou Xianlong’s voice boomed from behind them. Su Feng and Lin Han’s bodies trembled as they began to summon the true energy from within their bodies. They each held a talisman that emitted an ancient, austere aura.
Formation arrays were formed by nodes built upon the foundation of the heart of the array. Zhou Xianlong was the heart of the array, while each of them were nodes that played an important role in their own right. If every node took the right position, and everything remained intact and complete, the entire formation array would become an enclosed space, and it would be impossible to break out of its domain unless the heart of the formation array was broken.
Whoosh… The talisman glowed with a silver light. A split second later, Qin Ye abruptly raised his hand and grabbed Lin Han with an arm congealed out of Yin energy.
Lin Han reflexively raised his hand. At once, a dense shield of tessellated hexagons erupted from the talisman and blocked Qin Ye’s attack.
Pak… It had been a year since the two last met, and the first thing they did was to exchange blows again. They stood less than a meter away from each other, and either could see the expression in the other’s eyes.
Qin Ye looked upon Lin Han with a placid and indifferent expression, just like how he’d been when they first met.
He didn’t think that Lin Han would actually attack him. That said, even if he did, he wouldn’t be surprised.
After all, Qin Ye understood full well that everyone had their own perspectives and duties.
That said… it didn’t change the fact that his heart was incredibly heavy right now.
One of the byproducts of having lived for such a long time was the fact that he knew the importance of cherishing relationships, be it love or friendship. These were friendships that he’d invested so much in, and yet… it all seemed to fade away when it truly mattered.
As expected… The mortal realm isn’t quite worth it.
There’s no meaning to remaining here. There’s no meaning in investing so much in the mortals. After all, only those who’ve consumed the taisui fungus can truly understand my feelings.
Many know that extreme sorrow brings about weariness. But few would know that heaping yet even more sorrow upon a weary heart would instead bring about peace and tranquility.
Lin Han gritted his teeth. The muscles on his face twitched wildly. Some things never change. He’d always been a bubbly extrovert who wore his heart on his shoulders, and right now, he was staring intently at Qin Ye with a pained expression in his bloodshot eyes. Just then, he made the difficult decision to lessen his flow of true energy to the talisman in hand. At once, the silver lustre faded substantially away.
Just like an artifact that had lost its source of energy, the tessellated pattern of hexes quickly dimmed as it flowed back into the heart of the talisman.
Time seemed to freeze in that very moment. Qin Ye gazed deeply into Lin Han’s eyes, “It doesn’t change the fact that you’ve attacked me.”
With that, Qin Ye vanished into a cloud of Yin energy that swept directly through Lin Han’s body. Just as Qin Ye departed, Lin Han suddenly looked up with bloodshot eyes, “Why?”
“Why did you have to hide all this from us?!”
“Aren’t we… friends?”
“Instructor Lin! What are you doing?!!” Zhou Xianlong and Mo Changhao roared at him from behind.
The stream of nethergale that was fading away appeared to pause for a moment, and then Qin Ye responded with a placid tone of voice, “Because everyone has their own duties and obligations.”
“Well then… farewell.”
Whoosh...Qin Ye vanished completely from the surface of the earth.
Farewell… It’s not even ‘see you again’... Lin Han slumped back against a nearby tree with a blank look in his eye. He could feel a lump swell up in his throat, rendering him completely speechless.
Just then, a hand grabbed him by the collar and pinned him heavily against the tree behind. Zhou Xianlong stared at him with a deeply resentful look, “Lin Han… do you know what you’ve done?!”
“After all the hard work that we’ve put in, you’ve… single-handedly put all of our efforts to waste! Where is your sense of duty?!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter