Back in Limbo. Fate erupted with a dazzling light, causing all of the words written by it to transform into boundless ink waters that flowed right back into the tip of the brush.
It was over. Everything was over.
Click… There was a soft sound of a seal clicking back in place. The Second King Yanluo of Hell gazed into the sky and smiled faintly, “The admonishment of the heart is always a painful process. You’ve done well.”
“Nobody en route to becoming the lord of an entire realm should expect the journey to be a smooth-sailing one. Life will always have its ups and downs, just like how one must tide through the bleak, harsh winters in order to see the first fruits of spring once more. Only in dreams can things remain constant and stagnant. And I can assure you that you would never be able to cope with the true functions of being a King Yanluo of Hell in that previous dream-like stupor of yours.”
“You’re now more qualified to sit in the throne than before…” He lowered his head and gently beckoned. At once, Fate flew into his hands, and he stroked it with some emotions, “It’s about time you found a new master…”
With that, his body vanished in a cloud of smoke that quickly dissipated into the surroundings, “And with that, it’s about time for me to hand over what I can to my next successor…”
Back in Ashmound City. The citizens of Ashmound who were all reveling in the amusement park looked up at the sky in the very same moment that the Second King Yanluo of Hell vanished from Limbo.
“Light?” One of the Yin spirits gasped as he gazed into the distant sky. A split second later, he screamed at the top of his voice, “Everyone! Everyone, look there!”
He wasn’t the only one. Every single Yin spirit could see for themselves the countless radiant beams of light that were emerging from the skies and casting a bright golden sheen across the entire Ashmound.
“My god… what is this?!” “That’s unbelievable… T-t-there’s actually light in Hell?” “Is that… the sun?” “No! The light appeared to be shrinking back!”
What initially started out as a seemingly round source of light that peeked through the dark vault of the skies had in just a few seconds transformed into a sea of light that filled the lands with lustre. But, within moments, the diffuse light soon gathered together and engulfed the entire city tower that stood in the heart of the entire city.
Whoosh! A ring of golden shockwave swept across the entire Ashmound City, followed closely by the faint sounds of indistinct music that emerged from nowhere. Chimes, flutes and even multiple guzheng were playing a soft, lilting tune that spread everywhere throughout the city.
Dong… A mellifluous chime sounded. It was soft, but the sound nevertheless penetrated the borders between the three realms and rang straight through the portals of Hell’s gate itself.
Back in the mortal realm. A soft nethergale swept by, and countless wisps of Yin energy coalesced and took shape. A moment later, Qin Ye stepped out of the cloud of Yin energy and looked towards the gates of Hell.
There was nothing else in the Lush Garden Acres site apart from the towering Hell’s gates.
The mountain of Yin spirits had already vanished without a trace. The previously wide open gates of Hell had been tightly shut, and a figure stood right in front of the closed gates.
Everything around him appeared to be hazy and fuzzy, yet Qin Ye could see his appearances with pristine clarity.
It was a man who stood at 1.85m tall. He wore imperial robes, but his robes were adorned with neither the Harken nor the xiezhi unicorn. Rather… it was adorned with the Aurogon, otherwise known as the Torch Dragon.
The Aurogon was holding a lamp.
His robes were tightened around his waist by a yellow belt, and he wore a matching imperial crown on his head. The man was incredibly handsome. His brows were sharp as a knife, and he sported angular, chiseled jawlines. He exuded an air of sharpness and incisiveness about him.
Both Arthis and the Harken were kneeling on the ground in worship behind him.
Qin Ye made his way over and slowly sized up the man’s appearances. After a long time, he murmured, “Second King Yanluo of Hell?”
“What makes you so certain?”
“The Harken is a proud beast. There aren’t many people who can make the Harken willingly bow in respect. So… what brings you here?”
“Apologies are best done in person.”
Qin Ye nodded softly, and then glanced at the ruins around him, “Did you do this?”
It was a vague question. It could’ve meant ‘were you the one who helped me close Hell’s gate’, but it could likewise also have meant ‘were you the one who orchestrated these things’.
Even then, there was only one answer to the question.
“Yes.” The Second King Yanluo of Hell pulled out a golden brush from his robes. There was an exquisite design carved onto the brush, and its radiance made it seem as though it were harbouring a radiant golden soul within.
“This is called Fate.”
“It’s my imperial brush, and it is also known to be the next best Yin artifact after the three divine artifacts of Hell. It possesses the abilities to orchestrate coincidences, weave them together, and also… sharpen a person’s heart.”
Just then, his eyes twitched, and his body moved reflexively. However, his conscious thought soon took over his body’s reflexes, and he forcibly suppressed any movements.
Thud! A dull punch struck him across the face a moment later. Arthis and the Harken gasped in horror, and they were about to say something when they suddenly heard the Second King Yanluo of Hell speak directly to them, “This is none of your business.”
“This is a matter between the King Yanluos of Hell.”
In other words, you’re not qualified to interject.
Arthis and the Harken gritted their teeth and remained knelt in place, staring at the scene panning out in front of their eyes with great fear and trepidation. The usually cowardly Qin Ye had rushed forward like a ferocious tiger, punching and striking the Second King Yanluo’s body with all of his might. Although his blows weren’t imbued with the force of his own Yin energy, they could all easily tell that he wasn’t pulling any punches. Three full minutes later, Qin Ye gnashed his teeth and kicked the Second King Yanluo squarely across the chest. With a muffled grunt, the Second King Yanluo stumbled back several steps.
“Satisfied?” Wiping off the trickle of blood from his lips, the Second King Yanluo spoke with a soft gasp.
Qin Ye took a deep breath. With the flick of his fingers, his faux Judgment Pen appeared in his hands, and soon transformed into a mighty spear that pointed its tip straight towards the Second King Yanluo.
“Tell me why!!!” Qin Ye barked through gritted teeth, “Otherwise… I’ll plunge this spear through your body, by hook or by crook!”
“And then you can find someone else to replace me! I’ll quit right here, right now!!”
The Second King Yanluo sighed softly, and then his entire body vanished in a mist of Yin energy. When he reappeared, he was dressed in camouflage uniform, military books, and sporting a slightly messy appearance.
“No matter where I’ve been, nobody has ever dared point a weapon at me.” He placed a single finger on the tip of the spear and gently pushed it aside. Qin Ye mustered all of his force, only to realize to his dismay that it felt as feeble as fighting against the weight of mountains upon mountains. They were clearly of different classes of strength.
“But, I don’t blame you.” He pushed away the spear and lowered his hand. Then, turning his gaze to the distant skies, the Second King Yanluo continued, “I’m sorry.”
The Harken’s eyes twitched. Here was a man who was touted as the strongest across all three realms, and yet he would stoop so low as to apologize to a newly-minted King Yanluo of Hell?
Not even the mightiest forces of the netherworld combined would be a match for this man, and yet… he would actually apologize to Qin Ye? And with such sincerity to boot?
“I don’t want to hear any apologies!” Qin Ye muttered coldly, “I want to know the reason!”
“Why did you have to do this?!”
“Because I’m about to leave.” The Second King Yanluo responded wistfully, “I can only remain here in this realm for a limited period of time. Right now, I’ve got at best another two months.”
“What’s that got to do with me?!”
The Second King Yanluo glanced at him, “I’m leaving for good.”
Qin Ye paused abruptly and looked at the Second King Yanluo in shock.
“My strength has already exceeded the upper limit of what this realm can contain. To put it more illusively, it’s the will of the universe that I should leave. Perhaps you might have been thinking that so long as I’m around, then nothing would happen to Hell 150 years later when the Array of the Nine Gods collapses. Unfortunately… I won’t be around by then.”
“There are many laws and rules governing the existence of these three realms, yet the ones who truly understand these rules are few and far between. And as far as the Cathayan underworld is concerned, nobody knows these laws and rules better than Ksitigarbha and myself.”
“What rights does a King Yanluo have? What exactly is his real function? You’re the first one in the history of Hell to succeed the throne as abruptly as this. Even I spent 200 years understudying the previous King Yanluo of Hell before finally taking over. These aren’t matters that would be written in records, because knowledge in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing. Instead, they are to be passed on only through word of mouth from predecessor to successor. This is one of the reasons for my appearance in Hell right now.”
Qin Ye remained silent. He understood that being the King Yanluo of Hell was akin to being the lord of a realm. There were many secrets and mysteries that cannot be disclosed to outsiders. He couldn’t risk transmitting the priceless legacy of Hell through written means.
It was clear that the Second King Yanluo was here to say his final goodbyes.
At the same time, he would also pass onto his successor everything he needed to know about being the next King Yanluo of Hell. Incidentally, the Second King Yanluo was probably the only person who could come and go from the three realms as he so desired.
“What does all this have to do with me?” Qin Ye asked icily.
“I can understand how you’re feeling right now.” The Second King Yanluo looked Qin Ye right in the eye, “But in life, one much first sow the seeds, before he can reap the harvest. If possible, I’d have done it a different way. Unfortunately, time isn’t on my side.”
“Ksitigarbha has no way of returning to Hell. Once I’m gone, you’d be left entirely to your own devices. Your mentality and means would influence the lives of billions of Yin spirits in Hell! The balance of Yin and Yang would even affect the lives of over a billion mortals in Cathay! If you weren’t able to pass this trial of mine, I was prepared to forcibly erase your memories and have you released back into the mortal realm.”
Qin Ye’s eyes flickered wildly as he picked up on a certain keyword, “Trial?”
The Second King Yanluo nodded, “Did you really think that the conferment of a single shard of King Yanluo’s Seal was going to make you the next King Yanluo of Hell no matter what happened?”
“Do you think the uniqueness of your identity automatically qualifies you to become the next King Yanluo of Hell? Granted, it might help smoothen the path, and it might even cause you to become the most unique King Yanluo, but that in itself hardly suffices.”
“The might and authority accompanying the title of King Yanluo cannot simply be conferred upon any other person. Think about it - how many years of trials does it take for a person to become the prime minister of a nation? They’d have to start from scratch by becoming the most humble and insignificant of civil servants, slowly climbing their way through the ranks of a county governor, a city mayor, a provincial governor, and so on and so forth. How many obstacles do you think they’d encounter on this long and arduous journey? One can never qualify for the top spot until they show that they can earn the respect and approval of all below them.”
“No matter how broken Hell might be, it’s still an underworld backed by thousands of years of heritage and legacy. Do you know just how many pairs of eyes are watching you from the heavenly realm with each day that passes? The old ministers of Hell who have all ascended into heaven are listening to every single word you speak and scrutinizing every move you make. I’m here to put you through the trial that all of them have prepared for you. It’s only by passing this trial that you’ll finally be qualified to succeed the throne as the next King Yanluo of Hell.”
“And to this end, you’ve done well.” The Second King Yanluo’s voice softened slightly, “Nearly everything that you’ve done over these last two years has been perfect. The only shortcoming you’ve had is the manner in which you’ve conducted yourself after having taken Ashmound City. If time were on my side, I’d have preferred to gently nudge you in the right direction, rather than roughing you up like this.”
“Again, I’m sorry.” He gazed sincerely into Qin Ye’s eyes, “That said, I regret nothing. Everyone has to undergo a period of growth in their lives. A single misstep on your part could potentially result in a calamitous end to the entire nation. We can’t take any chances like this. And neither can Cathay. Therefore, I hope you can understand where we’re coming from as well.”
Qin Ye remained silent. Sure enough, Qin Ye could understand where they were coming from. However, understanding wasn’t quite the same as accepting it.
He knew full well that what the Second King Yanluo had done was all for his own good. But he still couldn’t accept the fact that it had been done.
Perhaps his perspective of the matter might change over the next few years. Perhaps he might even think of doing the same thing to his successor in future. But, right now, he couldn’t accept it.
This was only to be expected. Only a saint could find it in themselves to accept something like that so quickly.
Qin Ye didn’t feel like talking about this any longer. In fact, he didn’t even feel like speaking a single word. There was a tense silence, but the Second King Yanluo soon spoke again.
“This is called Fate.” The Second King Yanluo placed it in front of Qin Ye, “Its primary function… is to cause anything that is written down to come to fruition. Its effects are closely intertwined with the strength of its holder. Now, it’s yours.”
“Apart from that… Haven’t you thought about going to the places that a King Yanluo of Hell should go?”
Qin Ye responded placidly, “For instance?”
“For instance… the Imperial Palace?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter