Several pillars of light dazzled the room. Within moments, several Lords of the Land appeared before Qin Ye, bowing deeply with great reverence for him.
There were ten Lords in all. Qin Ye glanced around his office, only to realize that it was somewhat small for an audience with ten Lords of the Land. At once, he got to his feet, “Secretary Wang, bring them to the conference room and wait for my arrival.”
Ten minutes later, Qin Ye entered the conference room on the fifth floor of the city tower. It was a room that could easily accommodate a meeting of over twenty people. Naturally, an audience of ten Lords of the Land left them with plenty of room for comfort.
Naturally, not a single Lord dared take their seats before Qin Ye did.
Instead, they all stood around like stone sculptures, before bowing in unison as soon as Qin Ye entered the room, “Your humble servant greets the esteemed King Yanluo of Hell. May King Yanluo reign forever.”
“Take a seat.” Qin Ye nodded casually and raised his hand in an inviting gesture. He took his seat first, and then the Lords of the Lands soon followed suit, subconsciously angling their bodies towards Qin Ye with body language that spelt enthusiasm.
Qin Ye got straight to the point, “You’re all Lords of regions situated along the Cathay-Rus borders. I’d like to know if there’s been any movements with the Russian underworld in recent times.”
The Lords of the Lands immediately exchanged baffled glances, before shaking their heads.
Qin Ye frowned. The only way Rus could gain access to Daehan would be through the three eastern provinces. If the Lords of the Land detected nothing amiss, then this could only mean one thing - and that is the fact that there has been no large-scale mobilization of the Russian Yin soldiers. In fact, their messengers probably weren’t even at the rank of an Infernal Judge.
That’s good… Qin Ye secretly heaved a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, he took delight in the fact that his appointment as the King Yanluo of Hell had in fact come with a sizable intelligence network in the form of the Lords of the Land.
“Your Excellency.” Just then, one of the Lords stood up and bowed deeply, “It is true that there’s been no changes in the netherworld, but… there are some incidents in the mortal realm that may be noteworthy to you.”
“We’ve recently seen an influx of Russian citizens, especially residents of Vladivostok, to the border cities, almost as though… they’re running or hiding from something. We understand from our informants in the mortal realm that this is because the situation in Vladivostok is spiralling out of control with a terrifying supernatural incident.”
Qin Ye’s eyes flickered, “Tell me more.”
Vladivostok… the southernmost tip of the Muravyov-Amursky peninsula. Otherwise known as Haishenwei, it used to be under Cathayan rule during the Qing Dynasty until the Convention of Yan Capital between Cathay and Rus, when Vladivostok, together with the Ussuri River east of the territory were all annexed to Rus. In Russian, Vladivostok means ‘Lord of the East’.
This location… is incredibly close to where Daehan is located!
A thought suddenly struck Qin Ye.
The process of casting myths would necessarily entail the fabrication and emergence of a supernatural incident, before the evil ghost is purged or seized, and the entire situation is resolved by the lord of the underworld. This was how the existence of Yin spirits could fortify the foothold of a god in the hearts of Man. That said… it was a long-drawn process.
Something like that would easily take a few years. In fact, the more peculiar the Yin spirit, and the longer the period of gestation and manifestation, the more it is likely to leave an impression in the hearts of all affected human beings. Then, when the time finally comes for the protagonist to take center stage, the harvest of faith would naturally be commensurate to the extent of influence of this story.
Liu Yu definitely has no clue that such a function is unique to the lord of the underworld. After all, it hadn’t been more than a year since the Hanyang underworld had declared its independence from Hell. That said, the fact that the god of death acting behind Liu Yu was able to nurture something that seems ripe for the harvest in such a short time tells me that he’s definitely not a trivial existence by any means!
Although the Second King Yanluo hadn’t described any of the ‘special means’ in detail, Qin Ye could tell the rate of growth in this regard was far beyond any ordinary means!
There might even be the possibility that the evil ghost responsible for the supernatural outbreak might have been personally groomed by Tsar Arturo for the purposes of developing faith in himself, only to bestow it upon Liu Yu as a gift of goodwill. And the fact that it was a Yin spirit groomed and nurtured in the Russian underworld probably means that even if Liu Yu is to purge it at the end of the day, Arturo might still stand to gain from it.
Besides, there’s no denying the fact that the supernatural outbreak seems to have its source in Vladivostok, a part of Arturo’s underworld!
Tap… tap… Qin Ye gently tapped his fingers on his desk as he contemplated these things. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any evidence. The only thing going for him right now were the fact that the timing happened to coincide, and everything seemed to fit within a cohesive narrative. Qin Ye frowned and turned to glance at the Special Lord of the Land, Liu Changhe.
Springlight County City was located in a special place along the border of three countries, namely Cathay, Rus, and Daehan.
“What’s the latest on the Daehan Peninsula, especially Daehan?”
Liu Changhe paused for a moment, “My Lord, there are indeed some developments… but…”
“Speak.” Qin Ye responded impatiently.
“Yes.” Liu Changhe stood up and cupped his hands respectfully, “This concerns Hanyang, a city located near the border between South Daehan and North Daehan. This news might sound like a joke to you but… over the last three months, we’ve begun to hear of sightings of Hanyang-bound trains carrying carriages full of what appeared to be living corpses, as they ran straight from Pusan to Hanyang. It was a phenomenon more commonly known as the living Train to Pusan…”
He silently stole a glance at Qin Ye, before going on, “But there’s hardly any news of the same online. Everything has been censored real-time, leaving nothing more than a few seemingly unrelated stories drifting about in the sea of information out there.”
“Firstly, there’s the story of third tunnel in Gyeonggi Province which claims that if anyone switches on a light source at midnight, they’d be able to see the shadow of a pregnant woman holding a child. The pregnant woman would wander about the source of light, while the child would sing songs. Anyone who could hear the song would soon have their eyes gouged out, while anyone who sees the shadows cast by the light source would have their ears cut off. My Lord, this appears to be an extension of the ending to the movie, Train to Pusan. There are even rumors that the final location of that movie was shot at the very same location! The officer receiving the report thought that the party reporting it was spouting nonsense, so he didn’t escalate matters.”
Qin Ye looked at him silently, and then smiled, “You’ve been keeping with the times.”
Liu Changhe bowed and smiled bitterly, “Well… I’m taking on a fleshly identity, so I’ll naturally have to blend in a little…”
Qin Ye nodded, and then his voice grew cold and stern, “Then you’d do well to remember this--...”
“I’ll be the one to determine whether it’s a joke or not! Who gave you the right to overstep your boundaries and prejudge matters?!!”
At once, all Lords of the Land immediately shot to their feet with fear and trepidation, and cupped their hands respectfully, “We wouldn’t dare!”
Liu Changhe was so frightened that his legs went limp. He swiftly kicked away his chair and knelt to the ground, “Please forgive my iniquity!”
Qin Ye swept a cold gaze across the gathering of Lords. He may be the new King Yanluo of Hell, but he was still merely an Infernal Judge, and he possessed no means of establishing a network of city gods right now. Thus, he had no choice but to rein in the Lords of the Lands and whip them into shape. Otherwise, his network of intelligence would be too lacking for his purposes.
Spare the rod, spoil the child.
“I’ll gloss over your iniquities this once.” Qin Ye lifted his hands, “Get up. Remember to report everything factually in future. Everything else is outside the scope of your responsibilities. Understood?”
“Yes!!” The ten Lords of the Land responded in unison.
“Sit down. Lord Liu, please continue.”
“Yes…” Liu Changhe heaved a sigh of relief. He was truly terrified of Yanluo Qin right now.
He cleared his throat and continued, “Secondly, legend has it that the residents of Gyeonggi Province have gone crazy and begun to flock towards Hanyang. Some accounts even report residents approaching the border separating North Daehan and South Daehan, almost as though… something terrifying had occurred or emerged in Gyeonggi Province. Few dare remain in Gyeonggi Province.”
Qin Ye nodded slightly. If his guess was right, then the source of their fear in Gyeonggi Province was none other than a large-scale supernatural incident brewing on the horizon that was to catalyze their faith in Liu Yu.
Train to Pusan, huh… Who knows? Perhaps this might truly be the living occurrence of the Train to Pusan…
“That’s all for now.” Qin Ye shut his eyes and muttered, “I want you to closely monitor the Yin energy fluctuations in Rus and the Daehan Peninsula. Report any unusual developments to me at once.”
The Lords of the Land vanished at once, leaving Qin Ye to his own thoughts. Qin Ye sighed.
Wang Chenghao promptly walked forward and offered him a cup of tea. Then, after glancing at the ugly expression on Qin Ye’s face, he probed with caution, “Andropause?”
“It’s the age of rebellion!” Qin Ye rolled his eyes, “How would you like to take a trip overseas? You’ve not been on one yet, have you?”
“Awesome! Is Hell finally going to engage with foreign underworlds on the international stage?” Wang Chenghao couldn’t contain the excitement in his heart, “Where to? Nippon? I didn’t manage to get a reservation in a proper sushi restaurant the last time. Daehan isn’t fun! Hanyang and Lotus City aren’t too different. Siam, on the other hand, is pretty good as well. The things there are cheap, and the landscape is also--...”
Bleep-bleep-bleep… At once, Qin Ye developed the urge to give the reveller two tight slaps across the cheek!
Aren’t you supposed to be expressing your gratitude for such an opportunity, rather than pick and choose where you’d like to go?! I’m the one who hasn’t been out of the country before!
Bloody hell… Don’t make me smash your face in!
Wang Chenghao was overflowing with excitement, at least until he discovered several seconds later that Qin Ye was staring at him with a frigid gaze. At once, he shut his mouth sensibly.
“Go on.” Qin Ye picked up his cup of tea and took a sip placidly, “Weren’t you still in the midst of bragging?”
“Haha… What do you mean? I was just… offering my suggestions! That’s right, I was just offering my suggestions!”
“Go make the preparations. We’ll be making a trip to Daehan shortly.”
“Oh--...” Wang Chenghao scratched his head, and then blurted, “Daehan?”
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing…” Wang Chenghao frowned for a moment, before looking up with a grave expression, “Brother Qin, don’t you know? Something’s brewing in Daehan right now! Everything’s spiralling out of control! It’s been that way for approximately half a year now!”
Without missing a beat, he went on, “Hell’s government has assembled an elite task force to reap souls. Last month, they managed to reap a bunch of souls, including an exchange student from Daehan. He’s… rather strange.”
“He definitely didn’t die a normal death. He was on exchange at the Martial City Medical University. But when he arrived…” The Lord trembled profusely, “He appeared no different from a living corpse…”
A living corpse?
Qin Ye’s gaze flickered. He couldn’t help but be reminded of the Train to Pusan once more.
What a coincidence…
“Where is he from?”
“Gyeonggi Province, Gwangju City.” Wang Chenghao responded with pouted lips, “You weren’t there to witness the horrific sight. It was almost as though his sanity was completely gone. All of his joints were completely twisted, and he looked no different from a zombie! Saliva dribbled out of his lips and flowed to his chest. Every part of his body was covered with blood and riddled with bullet holes. It was hideous! It was vile beyond belief!”
Zombies were in fact a variant of Jiangshis. However, as far as zombies were concerned, they’d still have the three fires blazing above their shoulders. According to the Second King Yanluo of Hell, nobody in the entire world has been able to uncover the root of the problem, and it still remains an unsolved mystery to date.
Gyeonggi Province again?
Train to Pusan… Gyeonggi Province… One thing’s for sure, and that’s the fact that Gyeonggi Province has experienced a supernatural outbreak. Furthermore… it’s clear that the government has completely suppressed all news about the outbreak.
Wang Chenghao continued, “Arakshasa took it upon herself to purge that Yin spirit. That said… we discovered some messages that were of interest in the student’s cell phone.”
He took a deep breath, “One month ago, his father bought a ticket to travel from Pusan to Gyeonggi Province. But… three days ago, the student received a text message on his phone.”
“The message said - ‘Save me… I’m suffering…’”
“The sender… was his father.”
2. Wikipedia: Seong-kyeong and Su-an are forced to stop at a blocked tunnel just before Busan and walk. At the tunnel's exit, military snipers prepare to fire until they hear Su-an sob singing of "Aloha 'Oe". They then realize that the pair are human, and quickly help them to safety. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Train_to_Busan