Qin Ye chuckled, “There’s a place like that? Why haven’t I heard of it before?”
The Second King Yanluo smiled, “Indeed, it’s true that there wasn’t such a place before, but… who knows? Perhaps things might be a little bit different now.”
As he spoke, the Second King Yanluo snapped his fingers, and they vanished in a flurry of ripples. Moments later, they found themselves magically transported to the sixth floor of the city tower back in Ashmound City.
What used to be an empty room containing the Mythic Palace of Reflections had apparently undergone a massive change. There was a glorious golden throne located right in the middle of the room, a meter and a half wide, and two meters tall in height. The dragon that adorned the back of the throne wasn’t the usual dragons of the mortal realm either - it was the Aurogon, or the Torch Dragon.
The left armrest was shaped like the Harken, while the right armrest was shaped like the xiezhi unicorn. A two-meter-long golden table was placed right in front of the throne. Everything was majestic and exquisite.
The beams in the hall were now decorated by luxurious soft veils. Huge pillars carved with an image of the Eighteen Abysses of Hell rose from the ground and right to the ceiling. A series of copper braziers shaped like Rakshasas brightly lit the imperial hall, while a series of tables and chairs were neatly arranged before the throne like an ancient imperial court. Seen together, everything appeared to exude an air of sepulchral opulence.
Qin Ye paused for a moment, but didn’t reveal any traces of surprise. He was hardly in the mood for that right now. Instead, he turned his head and glanced out to where Spider Lily Island was located.
They seemed unaffected.
Everyone appeared to be enjoying the grand opening of the amusement park, just like how things had been before he left.
The revelry was slated to go on until midnight tonight. The night of the Hungry Ghost Festival was when their loved ones would burn paper offerings for them.
He watched the carefree citizens indulge themselves in the festivities for some time. Nobody rushed or urged him to turn his gaze away.
After some moments, he finally shut his eyes and sighed softly.
“Do you finally understand? This is your bedrock - one that would remain the same for the ages to come.” The Second King Yanluo walked up beside Qin Ye and spoke softly, “If you treat it poorly, it, too, will treat you poorly. One thing I can be sure of - if you don’t change your attitude towards Hell, then what awaits us in 150 years is certain destruction of the Cathayan underworld, and all Yin spirits in it.”
“You will die, together with all Yin spirits who have served you faithfully all this while.”
Qin Ye nodded and opened his eyes.
Perhaps an ordinary person might have the latitude to act willfully and with wanton disregard to his duties and responsibilities. For instance, students or the employees of regular jobs might throw caution to the wind and resign to play, or act on their whims and fancies with little to no implication to the rest of society. But as the King Yanluo of Hell, a single moment of abdication of his responsibility would cause the mountain of paperwork to collapse under its own weight.
And this was not to mention the early start to each day and the endless late nights.
He couldn’t afford to be the bottleneck causing the stoppage of the flow of information any longer. The one who wears the crown must bear its weight. It was a tall order, and anyone who answered this calling would have to first be able to deny himself.
It wasn’t too late to come to his senses right now.
Just then, Qin Ye asked softly as he continued to watch the revelry on Spider Lily Island, “What does it mean to be the King Yanluo of Hell?”
The Second King Yanluo retracted his smile and mulled over the question for a few seconds, before finally responding with great profundity, “To see to it that no evil goes unpunished, and to assure all that the good and virtuous shall be rewarded.”
Qin Ye nodded, and then turned around.
Arthis and the Harken were located on both sides of the throne. At once, they knelt to the ground with reverence.
Qin Ye glanced past the two, and allowed his gaze to follow the plush red carpet on the ground until it landed right on the golden throne at the end of the hall. Then, he slowly walked over.
Countless images surfaced on his mind with each step that he took.
He had started his journey from the tiny Clear Creek County. That was when he first encountered Granny Meng and the terrifying supernatural incidents. He’d even been scared witless at that time. And yet… to think that he would finally sit on the throne as the King Yanluo of Hell.
Hell once used to be no larger than a village. Yet, with great boldness and audacity, he summoned the twelve envoys to an imperial court meeting, and then paved the way towards the surrounding provinces where he would seize control of Qufu and become the lord of over 20 million Yin spirits.
He once used to have only Arthis under his command. And now, he had an entire government of talents working like clockwork under his charge. Ksitigarbha had personally made the trip to see him, while the Second King Yanluo returned from afar to pass down his legacy. Even the daolord of the asura which he once feared intently was now waiting on him outside the Imperial Palace, cowering in fear and submission.
Qin Ye stood right in front of the gilded throne and gently ran his finger along the armrest of the seat, sensing every bit of its exquisite carving with the stroke of his hand. It’s been two long years. I… don’t deserve this throne.
But he still sat down on it without any hesitation.
Buzz… Something felt different. It was almost as though... the heavens and the earth were all bowing their heads, and the ethereal harmony of boundless music was playing with great elation. The realms themselves appeared to be congratulating the succession of the Third King Yanluo of Hell.
“The Third King Yanluo.” The Second King Yanluo stood right in front of the imperial throne and cupped his hands with great respect, “Henceforth, you are charged with the official functions of the King Yanluo of Hell. You hold the authority to all life and death in your hand, bear the burden of maintaining the balance between Yin and Yang. You shall be one of the signatories to the laws of the three realms. You are Hell. May you reign with boldness and decisiveness, and may your kingdom prosper for all eternity. Have you thought things through?”
Arthis and the Harken both watched on with fervor in their eyes. At once, the flaming braziers in the Imperial Palace flourished with intensity.
As soon as he said that, the Second King Yanluo held out his hand, and caused copious amounts of Yin energy to coalesce into an ancient black wooden box that fell gently into Qin Ye’s hand.
It was bound tightly by a red rope. Qin Ye tried tugging to it, but the rope appeared to be tightly bound, as though by a magical force. It appeared impossible to open.
That said, the inscriptions on the wooden box made its contents patently clear.
King Yanluo’s Token!
If King Yanluo orders a man to die, who is to say otherwise?!
The Second King Yanluo continued, “Henceforth, you live and die together with Hell. Hell is honoured by you. If you should betray Hell, I’ll personally see to it that your actions don’t go unpunished. But if you shall walk with your subjects and aim for the stars, Hell shall not be destroyed for all eternity. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Qin Ye bowed deeply. It finally dawned on him just how naive he had been all this while. He finally realized how unworthy he had been to be calling himself a King Yanluo of Hell.
He should have known that it was impossible for Hell to have recognized him as the King Yanluo of Hell simply by virtue of the fact that he possessed a meagre shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. It came with a long, arduous trial, personally invigilated by the gods and deities unseen.
And the feedback at every stage was received directly from the countless Yin spirits in Hell, together with the billion or so mortals living back in the mortal realm.
It was only when he finally passed the trial that everything would finally come to an end, and he would ascend the throne with an indispensable ceremony.
He would now properly succeed the throne and be henceforth known as the King Yanluo of Hell. He would be enthroned in the presence of his predecessor, the Second King Yanluo of Hell, a divine beast of Hell, and one of the last remaining officials of Hell.
With his affirmative response, two scrolls suddenly appeared in the air before him, shining with a brilliant lustre. One of them flew to the table in front of him and slowly unfurled.
“Records of the Three Realms - Hell?” He stared at the words written on it that were written with exquisite calligraphy. The strokes were powerful, and the writing seemed to exude an otherworldly air of life.
From there, a series of shocking names appeared!
The first was… Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva!
And his name was followed by sixteen names, including Jiang Ziwen, Li Changde, Lu Shuwen, Bao Xiern, Xue Shengde, Zhao Zilong, Ran Yongzeng…
These were the names of the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces, together with the Sixfold Ghost Kings!
And there was an empty row right above all of these names, right underneath two other names that had previously been written.
Is this… the space left for my name?
I’ve only heard of these people in legends and myths… Who would’ve thought that I’d one day be given a chance to etch my name in a place higher than their names…
“The Records of the Three Realms. Write your name on the empty space above.” Fate automatically flew to the top of the scroll as the Second King Yanluo spoke, “You… shall henceforth be ranked among the immortals and enjoy the offerings of both the mortal realm through shrines and the netherworld through their temples. Henceforth, you shall be known as the lord of a realm!”
Qin Ye drew a deep breath and held Fate gingerly.
The golden soul that formed Fate’s core spun wildly, screaming and cheering as though this was a moment it had been waiting for the longest time. Then, just as Qin Ye was about to etch his name onto the Records of the Three Realms, he suddenly paused, and then looked up to the preceding two names.
He wanted to know the names of his predecessors!
At once, two scarlet names revealed themselves to him. The First King Yanluo of Hell… was none other than Bo Yikao! 
He glanced at the name with great astonishment. At once, countless thoughts filled his mind, and he sighed deeply.
Bo Yikao… Born to Ji Chang, King Wen of Zhou, he was appointed one of the true gods. His name was… none other than the Great Arctic Emperor Ziwei!
Just then, he recalled that the second King Yanluo of Hell had always been known to be a nameless entity. Legend had it that the Great Arctic Emperor Ziwe was still the King Yanluo of Hell. Other sources stated that the Second King Yanluo of Hell had been reincarnated three times. In his first life, he was born as Liu Bang, otherwise known by his courtesy name of Han Gaozu. In his second life, he was known as Liu Xiu, otherwise known as Emperor Guangwu of Han. And the third time, he was known as Li Shiming… otherwise known as Emperor Taizong of Tang!
Of course, these are all but myths and legends. And the truth… was written right in front of Qin Ye at that very moment!
He took a deep breath, and then turned to look at the name of the Second King Yanluo of Hell.
However, to his great surprise, the name of the Second King Yanluo… was actually blurred out!
He couldn’t make out the name of the Second King Yanluo no matter what he did. It was as if the three realms didn’t even dare to disclose his name.
After several attempts, Qin Ye finally looked up, “Who exactly are you?”
The Second King Yanluo chuckled, “My name isn’t important. What’s more important is that this scroll can only exist for a hundred breaths of time, and that only successors to the throne are able to perceive the existence of this scroll. So… don’t you think you should make the best of your time right now?”
Qin Ye sighed, and then began writing with Fate.
Whoosh… As soon as he inked his name down onto the scroll, the Records of the Three Realms blossomed with a brilliant golden light. At once, Bo Yikao, the Second King Yanluo and Qin Ye’s names shifted slightly, and then overlapped with one another. Qin’s Ye’s heart was awash with complex emotions.
Is my name… truly considered in the same ranks as these legendary existences?
Fwip… The red string once again flew into action and tightly bound up the scroll once more. And then, just like a cloud of smoke, the entire scroll simply vanished into the void.
The Harken had already shrunk down to the size of a meter. At once, he lay prostrate on all fours and kowtowed to the ground with a mighty bellow.
“Your humble servant, the Harken, witnesses the succession of the new King Yanluo of Hell. May the glories of Hell last from eternity to eternity.”
Arthis gently lifted the hem of her skirt and spoke with unprecedented solemness, “Your humble servant, former Infernal Judge of the Province of the Great Heavens, witnesses the succession of the new King Yanluo of Hell. I live and die for the glory of Hell.”
Finally, the Second King Yanluo of Hell cupped his hands respectfully and bowed sincerely, “The former King Yanluo of Hell henceforth steps down from his duties, and hands over all title, authority and responsibility of Hell to the new King Yanluo of Hell. I, too, have witnessed the succession of the new King Yanluo of Hell.”
It was the formal ascension of the new King Yanluo of Hell!
Witnessed by the Second King Yanluo, a divine beast of Hell, and one of the last surviving officials of the old Hell!
There weren’t many witnesses, but the identities of the witnesses more than made up for the lack of numbers!
Just then, a golden light from the heavens burst straight through the roof of the city tower, engulfing Qin Ye and all that was within a ten-meter radius of him. With his heart awash with emotions, he glanced at the other scroll that had appeared before him.
So this is what it feels like to be the King Yanluo of Hell.
The earlier scroll was the Records of the Three Realms. So… I wonder what this is?
1. He’s apparently the son of King Wen of Zhou, who lived from 1112 BC to 1050 BC. I guess that makes Hell only approximately 3000 years old? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Yikao