Chapter 535: The Living Dead (1)

25 September.

An airplane soared across the sky in a beautiful arc. It had departed from Eastsea, and its destination was none other than Hanyang.

“Sir… are you feeling alright?” A stewardess asked a man who sported unbelievably pale complexion.

Oda Nobutada responded, “I’m fine. Thanks.”

The stewardess continued to size him up for another moment, before asking softly, “Sir, would you like a cup of hot tea, or some hot coffee?”

Oda Nobutada shut his eyes and shook his head.

The stewardess pursed her lips. Then, just as she was about to press further, another stewardess walked past with a knowing look, and promptly shook her head. It was only then that the first stewardess bowed gently and walked away.

“Sorry, coming through.” These were all Daeian stewardesses - tall, leggy, and spot-on with their makeup. As far as Daehan was concerned, it was hard to tell whether anyone had undergone plastic surgery to improve their facial features. That said, it didn’t change the fact that they were all eye candy in their own right.

The stewardess strutted along the aisle in her bright red heels until she arrived at the staff lounge. There weren’t any other stewards or stewardesses around apart from one man dressed in a black suit seated in the lounge.

If Qin Ye were present, he would be able to sense at once that this man’s body was overflowing with true energy that set him well in the ranks of a Soul Hunter.

“Senior Kim.” The stewardess shut the door with a look of concern plastered all over her face. She rubbed her fingers in front of her body, anxiously tugging her clothes, “Earlier this month… Daehan Air issued a notice to all stewards and stewardesses, directing that all sightings of slurred speech, slumped postures and loss of mental capacity aboard our flights should immediately be notified to the special agents.”

Mr Kim looked up placidly and set down the newspapers in his hands. He was currently reading Daehan Times, the most widely circulated English press in Daehan. It covered all news, ranging from politics, finance to societal issues and others.

The headlines read - The President sends his condolences to the disaster-fraught region of Gyeonggi Province experiencing the widespread proliferation of an unknown virus. All citizens are to take the necessary precautions. The most severely-affected city of Gwangju City in Gyeonggi Province may soon be put under complete lockdown. Meanwhile, there are reports that the Usonian virologists who have arrived in Daehan a month ago might have hit a breakthrough in their research…

“What’s the matter?”

The stewardess gently bit her lips. It was peculiar that Daehan Air would suddenly require all flights to and from Daehan to include an “observer”. Furthermore… she had previously heard rumours that some airplanes that had reported incidents… simply vanished without a word.

All in all, she felt incredibly uneasy.

“I’ve noticed that… the passenger seated at H32 doesn’t look too good. His complexion is unusually pale. I wonder if Senior Kim would mind taking a look?”

Mr Kim got to his feet at once, “I’ll get changed at once. Then, I’ll trouble you to take me there immediately.”

………………………………………….

Qin Ye sat in his seat, staring blankly out of the windows at the fluffy clouds that were drifting aimlessly in the blinding sunlight. There were a multitude of thoughts running through his mind.

It’s far too troublesome to even take a plane right now… I’ll need to get Hell’s transport network going as quickly as I can…

Naturally, he hadn’t used his own identification card for the purposes of these travels. His own identification documents had probably already been circulated to every major security agency in the mortal realm. That said, his office came with a full suite of benefits. All he had to do was to simply locate the parents of the man who owned the airlines, have them reach out to their child through the auspices of Hell’s blessings, and… voila, three tickets were served up to Qin Ye on a silver platter. Meanwhile, the art of possession enabled him to put on the perfect disguise. This way, nobody could ever identify Wang Chenghao or Oda Nobutada simply by their appearances.

Even then, the process was absolutely tortuous.

Travelling through the mortal realm was something that Qin Ye had planned since a long time ago. It was only September. His intention was to find a place to settle down in Daehan for some time, so that he could go about doing all that was necessary. Firstly, he would have to map out the situation pertaining to the Hanyang Underworld as best as he could. Secondly, he posited that a few days in Daehan wasn’t going to be sufficient if he were going to learn anything about casting myths and fabricating miracles. He needed time to delve deeper into these disciplines and skills.

And then, once crunch time arrived and his identity was exposed, everything that he did would necessarily be subject to the scrutiny of all stakeholders around. He would never be able to achieve his ancillary purposes thereafter, much less make contact with Lee Jung-sook to return the favour.

Qin Ye was seated together with Wang Chenghao and Oda Nobutada, and he casually asked, “Have all the arrangements been made? Did you pass down my orders as I’d instructed?”

“It’s all done.” Wang Chenghao had been well-trained as Qin Ye’s personal assistant. He was now dressed appropriately, replete with a thick pair of squarish glasses as he responded with pride, “At last month’s general meeting, every single department reported that there’s been a surge in the new initiatives in Hell, and it would be good to give people some time and space to process and digest all of the new information. Everyone’s still trying to work their way through these changes, so it wouldn’t be good to overwhelm them with even more.”

Qin Ye nodded. It was only when he properly took the reins that he was finally faced with indecisiveness arising out of a tension of interests.

These were obviously good policies, but should he proceed with its implementation? He hadn’t even managed to gather feedback on the success of the existing policies on the ground right now. Should he roll out more policies right away, the failings of the earlier policies might easily roll over into the latter policies, leading to a chain collapse of policies implemented thus far! Thus… it was only at this moment that he truly appreciated how short a span of time 150 years was when it came to matters of governance.

Ideally, every single policy implemented thus far would require an observation period of least six months. As far as Hell was concerned, their first observatory period would naturally be for the purposes of fine-tuning their prevailing interest rates, as well as to allow their citizens time to adapt to the new currency that Hell had just implemented.

“What about the matters to follow-up on?”

“They’ve already started.” Wang Chenghao explained, “Ashmound City’s Frontier Brigades will be ready to roll out in end-October. Each brigade will be accompanied by three Hellguards and twenty Soul Hunters. All others are regular ghostly citizens. Lord Harken has already taken a look around the region and confirmed that the monarch beasts in the near vicinity have already scattered into the distance. We estimate that pioneering efforts will easily take at least one year or more.”

“Additionally, Hell’s Media Group has already begun to lay out the groundwork for conscription of Yin soldiers moving forward. To that end, the old generals have already rolled out a welfare scheme for the veterans. Everything in Ashmound City that needs to be done has already been done. What’s left is for us to let it run on its own, and give it the time and space for resource accretion. Every ministry has their own tasks to follow-up on, and we’ll be receiving periodic reports on a monthly basis. We’re still within Cathay’s territory right now. Would you like to take a look at these reports?”

Qin Ye shook his head.

So long as the foundation was laid properly, cities were meant to run on their own with clockwork precision. The officials in charge of each city had two roles. Firstly, they were to keep oversight of the machinations undergirding the city. So long as a problem arises, they have to deal with it swiftly so that things can continue to run as they always have. Secondly, they were to think of new ways to replace the working parts so that the machinations of the city would run with greater efficacy.

And this has been the case throughout history as well. So long as the rulers had set the right framework and direction for a city’s development, they would simply continue along the course that had been charted out for them. All that was left for them right now was to wait.

They would wait for Ashmound City to grow from strength to strength, until it was finally time for the next great expansion!

“What about intercity infrastructure?” Qin Ye asked.

Wang Chenghao thought for a moment, and then responded softly, “We’re currently facing a serious shortage of Yin soldiers. After what happened at the last Hungry Ghost Festival, we’re left with just enough resources to send out some freshly-trained agents to Breakwaters Province, Fulling Province, and Insignia Province for scouting missions. To this end, I’m afraid that we’ll only receive updated intelligence on these regions six months later. Let’s hope that we can see some returns on the groundwork laid by Hell’s Media Group, and we’ll have more troops to send out by then. Speaking of which, Brother Qin, Li Jixi doesn’t have an official conferment of title just yet. Shouldn’t we--...”

“We’ll speak more about that when we’re back.” Qin Ye rubbed his brows. He sincerely could use a proper intelligence network right now. The unexpected situation in Daehan had triggered a profound realization in his heart that developments on the international arena waited for no one.

That said, he was keen on reviewing Li Jixi’s role in Hell.

He glanced at Wang Chenghao, “Speaking of which, your death was practically caused by that man, and yet you’re still speaking up for him right now?”

Wang One Tail paused for some time, before slowly returning to his senses, “Ah… right… I’m already dead…”

Doh…

With intellect like that… how can I possibly entrust him with more important things in future? Speaking of which, why haven’t those more reliable folks such as Lin Han, Su Feng and Zhou Xianlong kicked the bucket yet? Even the Book of Life and Death is slowly becoming dumber as a result of existences like Mr Wang One Tail…

Just then, they all froze at practically the same time.

A doctor wearing a white lab smiled as he approached them along the aisle.

The doctor might have thought that his facade was perfect, but the true energy pouring out of his body was as glaring as the sun to the trio from Hell.

“Kim Sang-woo.” The man approaching them smiled faintly as he bowed slightly, “I’m a doctor. The stewardesses have informed me that there’s a passenger on board that didn’t seem to be well.”

Not really…

Oda Nobutada couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the statement. It’s not that I’m feeling uncomfortable… Rather, I’m just afraid you might be scared witless if I truly let loose right now…

Wang Chenghao elbowed Oda Nobutada discreetly - We’re on the plane. Don’t attract any attention.

“I’m alright. My blood sugar was just a little bit low.” Oda Nobutada smiled back.

“We’ve got chocolate aboard this flight. You can give that a shot.” Kim Sang-woo squatted down and grabbed Oda Nobutada’s hand, “Mind if I do a quick check?”

The man secretly heaved a sigh of relief as soon as he made physical contact.

He could tell that there was blood coursing through Oda Nobutada’s veins, and he didn’t detect any other abnormalities either. His eyes weren’t bloodshot. His facial muscles and limbs weren’t rigid from rigor mortis, nor did any other parts of his body reveal any traces of bruising.

No signs of a zombie. Excellent.

Qin Ye watched on silently. Just then, he suddenly heard a soft knocking sound beside his ear.

Is there… something right outside the window?

He didn’t notice anything amiss at first. But a split second later, his pupils suddenly narrowed.

We’re on a plane…

We’re on a plane that is just about to pass Cathay’s territorial waters!

We’re thousands of meters high in the air, and yet… something… appears to be out there, knocking on our window?

He took a deep breath and glanced to the side, only to do a discreet double take at what he saw.

It was a pen.

An ordinary looking ballpoint pen.

However, it exuded the aura of an Anitya Hellguard!

The pen was tattered and worn, while the breath of the Anitya Hellguard residing in the pen was clearly shriveled and weak. Yet, with difficulty, it desperately wrote on the window - “Take me with you…”

It was written in the Cathayan language.

The spirit of a pen? Qin Ye furrowed his brows - What’s a spirit pen doing on board a plane?

And what’s it doing looking for us?

Qin Ye pretended to glance out the window, leading immeasurably close as he whispered across the thin glass panel, “Who are you? And how did you find me? Speak.”

Qin Ye also discreetly released a wisp of Judge-class Yin energy through the glass panel. At once, the ballpoint pen trembled fearfully. Several seconds later, it wrote back, “Lee Jung-sook…”

Qin Ye’s eyes brightened. At once, he placed his hand on the glass window.

No sudden movements were made.

By the time he slowly removed his hand from the window, the ballpoint pen was already in the palm of his hand. The writing on the window had also mysteriously vanished, as though it had never appeared before. It was only then that he leaned over and asked softly, “Who are you?”

The ballpoint pen promptly wrote, “I… am Lee Jung-sook’s guardian spirit. I’m a spirit pen, and I happened to answer Lee Jung-sook’s summons back when she was dabbling in these things. I… wanted to control her, but then soon discovered that she’s a being that transcends the mortal realm. Rather than controlling her, I ended up being trapped in her body, having no choice but to remain boarded in her! I was there during the Hungry Ghost Festival as well. Please, I beg you… take me back to Daehan. I… will perish if I’m not reunited with her…”

Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed brightly, “You can locate her?!”

“Definitely!” The spirit pen responded at once, “We can’t be separated. I’d lost all hope when I first discovered that I was trapped in Cathay and unable to return to Daehan. Who would’ve thought that I’d serendipitously run into you… You’re practically like a godsend to me!”

You’re pretty good at buttering up, aren’t you? Qin Ye wrapped his hand around the pen and tucked it neatly into his coat pocket. But, just then, the pen struggled softly and promptly scribbled another message, “My Lord, please be careful!”

“There’s something wrong with this plane!”

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