Kim Tae-ji gazed intently at Qin Ye for a long time, before finally asking, “Can you promise that you won’t kill me?”
“Do you think you’re still in a position to be discussing terms and conditions right now?” Qin Ye responded placidly, “We’d earlier been prepared to discuss terms at arms’ length, but you’ve pushed us to a corner. That option is no longer on the table.”
Kim Tae-ji bit down hard on her lower lips.
Her heart was instantly awash with regret. Kim Tae-ji… you idiot! What the hell are you doing stirring the hornet’s nest like this? Not even the parish would be able to do anything to keep these monsters in check! Had I known these men didn’t belong to the mortal realm, I would never have made such a stupid decision!
But there’s no use crying over spilt milk… Are there still other options available to me right now?
It suddenly dawned on her that the lives of mortals were absolutely fragile.
After a long time, Kim Tae-ji finally took a deep breath and responded, “Ahn Jun-ho is dead…”
Ahn Jun-ho is dead?!
Qin Ye frowned - Have these last one and a half months been that eventful? I get it… To her mind, there’s no way I wouldn’t have learnt of Ahn Jun-ho’s death if I were truly someone under Lee Jung-sook’s charge. This is something that even Kim Tae-ji was apprised of after all. Besides, this is all borne out of wariness against the multitude of people who have and will always be after Lee Jung-sook’s life. But if that’s the case, then I suppose I can take it that she’s actually a faithful servant to Lee Jung-sook.
Not bad. Lee Jung-sook’s seven lifetimes haven’t been in vain. To think that she would even be able to convince a lady as shrewd as Kim Tae-ji to serve her this wholeheartedly. On the other hand, I’ve clearly got some ways to go… I mean… I can’t even rein in the other Infernal Judge under my charge. What a great disparity in our skills…
But before he could delve any further in his own thoughts, Kim Tae-ji jolted him right back to his senses with her next statement.
“He’s been dead… for 12 years.”
“More specifically, he perished in a car accident 12 years ago. Miss Lee and I personally witnessed his burial. It was gruesome. Half of his body was completely crushed as a result of the accident, and not even the best mortuary makeup artists in Daehan were able to conceal the gore that ensued. Miss Lee had to make a trip down to Usonia to hire a senior mortuary makeup artist in order to patch things up as best as he could. I’m pretty certain that this is one and the same person that we’re talking about!”
Her voice trembled softly as she delivered the bombshell news. Then, she turned and looked Qin Ye straight in the eye, as if to say - How did you encounter Ahn Jun-ho?
“That’s impossible!” The spirit pen exclaimed to Qin Ye, “I’ve personally seen Ahn Jun-ho with my own two eyes! He’s definitely still alive!”
Kim Tae-ji couldn’t hear the spirit pen’s voice, so she thought to go on. However, Qin Ye promptly raised his hand towards Kim Tae-ji as he sought clarification with the spirit pen with a voice that only the spirit pen could hear, “Are you certain?”
At once, the spirit pen grew taciturn. Qin Ye turned to stare at the dreary, dark skies outside as he continued softly, “My guess is that you had suspicions that there was an incredibly powerful expert manipulating Ahn Jun-ho, and it was for that reason that you didn’t dare check his pulse and breath with your Yin energy.”
The spirit pen went silent, as if Qin Ye had hit the nail on the head.
Qin Ye continued, “Without checking for his pulse and breath, the mere fact that he’s moving like a regular human being doesn’t tell us much. After all, there are a whole host of means that can enable such movements. Moreover, he’s already been dead for such a long time, while you’ve only been following Lee Jung-sook since the last three years. What was your basis for comparison? Lastly, you’d mentioned that there’s no Yin spirit within a ten-meter radius around him. But isn’t that only natural? Why would a Yin spirit be attracted to a dead person?”
“Are you saying that--...” The spirit pen’s trembled in response.
Qin Ye nodded softly, “I’m saying that over the last 12 years, Lee Jung-sook might well have been interacting with… a zombie.”
“Furthermore, it was probably a powerful zombie that was at least an Anitya Hellguard.”
The spirit pen gasped, “Are you certain?”
Qin Ye grew silent. He wasn’t certain. However, the timeline of events would suit his conjectures perfectly!
He was now 80% certain that Tsar Arturo had a part to play in these strange occurrences. Liu Yu was merely an Infernal Judge. Without the King Yanluo’s Seal in hand, there was simply no way he knew the true functions of a King Yanluo of Hell. He believed in Taoism and Confucianism, while Daehan’s citizens were largely Catholics! If he were to establish an underworld, he’d have no choice but to rely on the faith of the people and build it on the foundations of Catholicism as well!
How could he possibly sow the seeds of faith and cause it to sprout and be ready for harvest in a single year?
Things must have been brewing for a long time… Qin Ye swirled the wine in his glass as he began to expand his perspective to look at the bigger picture.
Liu Yu had already been contemplating independence for the longest time. Nippon wouldn’t help him on that, because they simply didn’t have the power to protect and shelter Liu Yu from Hell. But Tsar Arturo was different. Backed by the foundation of Christianity, it was one of the four major underworlds across the entire netherworld. They even had a multitude of elite soldiers and powerful generals under their charge, including two Yin spirits who were widely hailed as “the great”, namely Tsar Peter the Great, and Tsar Catherine the Great.
The Rus Underworld definitely had the power to shelter Liu Yu under their wings against Hell in its weakened state!
The Daehan Peninsula was located in an incredibly treacherous region. It was west of Nippon, east of Cathay, south of Rus, and just north of the Strait of Tsushima. Tsar Arturo had no reason not to be moved by the proposition. Previously, he might have been reticent because of Cathay’s might. But now that Cathay had withdrawn itself from the international arena and remained silent for decades, there was simply no reason for Tsar Arturo not to act on this proposition. After all, even if not an overt confrontation with Hell, it was the perfect platform for a probe at Cathay’s response!
“His interests are incidentally aligned with that of Liu Yu’s interests…” Qin Ye muttered to himself as he took a sip of the fragrant wine in hand. And then, he delved deeper - Unless the stars were aligned, casting myths and fabricating miracles is a protracted process that takes ages to complete. Tsar Arturo must have triggered these events through Vladivostok as a channel. He’s thinking of lending Liu Yu a hand in his declaration of independence. This must have been in the works for the longest time.
In fact… there’s a good chance that things have already been in the works since 12 years ago. His script is built around the theme of the living dead - powerful zombies that can remain undetected in the mortal realm so long as they refrain from human contact. The elements involved and timing of these conjectures all makes sense.
Finally, given Lee Jung-sook’s unique identity, they would communicate with and through her, allowing her to act as the active conduit between the mortal realm and the underworld. If I were Liu Yu, I’d have done the same as well. Mm… That leaves no stones unchecked. So, then, would Ahn Jun-ho still be moving about within Zion City Church?
This was his first key to unlocking the great mystery behind the situation that was unravelling before his very eyes.
Ahn Jun-ho was the next node of information that would tell Qin Ye all about the amazing script which Tsar Arturo had written - one that was so ingenious that even the Daeian government would deign to conceal it from the eyes of its citizens.
It’d be great if Tsar Arturo would just kindly extend a copy of this amazing script to me for my perusal… Qin Ye finally opened his eyes and turned back to Kim Tae-ji, “How does Miss Lee usually contact Pastor Ahn Jun-ho?”
“I don’t know…” Kim Tae-ji sighed softly, “I wasn’t aware that she’d… actually been communicating with a dead man over the last decade or so!”
The sheer thought of that gave her goosebumps.
We’re talking about a person that we’ve personally buried… and yet… she’s actually been in contact with him over the last ten years?! Who the hell has she been talking to?
Am I crazy, or is it the world around me going nuts?!
Qin Ye frowned.
“My Lord, is there a problem?” The spirit pen whispered, “Why don’t we… head straight to the church and catch him red handed?”
“Fool.” Qin Ye snorted coldly, “We’re on the cusp of the opening ceremony of the Hanyang Underworld. All of the main players involved in this would be tense to the extreme, and incredibly vigilant of their surroundings. Are you saying that we should risk getting noticed for something as trivial as this lead?”
“Ahn Jun-ho was chosen as a channel for communication between Lee Jung-sook and the man pulling the strings behind the shadows. Given the secrecy of these operations, this man must necessarily report directly to Liu Yu, or perhaps the upper echelons of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Moving recklessly can risk exposing our identity forthwith. You must’ve been living in Daehan for too long. Do you even know what a Yama-class entity is like? Do you know how vast the chasm is between an Infernal Judge and a Yama-King?”
The spirit pen paused, and then registered his rebuttal feebly, “But… I didn’t sense any Yama-class Yin energy from him…”
“Of course he wouldn’t be in Daehan right now. But that doesn’t mean that his cronies aren’t here either…” Qin Ye felt incredibly vexed - My word, people, what is with your level of comprehension? Is it really only possible to have a proper discourse with people like Lee Jung-sook? Look at these people under my charge… Perhaps I should start charging them taxes for their idiocy…
After a long time, he finally declared, “We’ve got to locate Ahn Jun-ho. But we cannot take the initiative. He’s got to be the one to do so.”
“There’s no choice. After all, only he would know how we can communicate in Daehan without alerting the surveilling eyes of the Russian Underworld and the Hanyang Underworld.”
“My Lord, how are we supposed to do that?”
Qin Ye grew silent. After some time, he looked up once more at Kim Tae-ji, “You’ve earlier mentioned that you’re not privy to the fact that Miss Lee has been in contact with Ahn Jun-ho. So… is there any place upstairs that she wouldn’t even allow entry to you?”
Kim Tae-ji thought about it for a moment, and then her eyes glistened brightly, “In fact, there is…”
“Come with me.”
Qin Ye followed Kim Tae-ji right out of the 24th floor. As soon as they emerged from the room, they saw countless bodies dressed in camouflage uniforms sprawled all over the ground. A dark figure emanating copious amounts of Yin energy was holding up his head as he respectfully waited Qin Ye’s further instructions.
Kim Tae-ji bit down on her lips, suppressing every desire to scream out loud. Tonight marked the night that she encountered something that she never wanted to see again for the rest of her life!
“Without orders from Your Excellency, your humble servant here would never dare kill indiscriminately.” Oda Nobutada responded with a respectful bow.
Qin Ye nodded with approbation. Then, turning a blind eye to the mercenaries around, he pressed the button to the 25th floor. Kim Tae-ji followed closely after him.
They soon arrived at the 25th floor.
The entire floor was decorated with a Cathayan flair. To be more precise, it was a massive room.
The entire room was discreetly elegant and luxurious. It looked plain and simple, but a closer look at all of the decor around would reveal the fact that they had been exquisitely carved, and that they were made out of wood or other materials that were incredibly expensive.
Unfortunately, neither one of them had the heart to appreciate these things right now. Kim Tae-ji turned the corner, walked past a few photographs, and arrived right in front of another tightly-sealed free-standing room within the apartment.
“This is the place.”
Qin Ye looked around. The room didn’t have any windows around it, and the main door was locked with a 9-rod Lu Ban Lock. 
Qin Ye was just about to reach for the lock when Kim Tae-ji immediately yelled, “Please hold on! This lock is connected to the master surveillance device within the room. So long as it detects fingerprints that aren’t Miss Lee’s, it will immediately destroy everything in the room!”
I see… Qin Ye nodded - Simple.
A split second later, his entire body transformed into a nethergale, and he slipped right through the crack between the door and the floor and entered the room. Kim Tae-ji gasped loudly as she backed into the wall some distance away.
Qin Ye could hardly be bothered with the shock in Kim Tae-ji’s heart. Instead, what intrigued him more was with the contents of the room.
Or rather, the lack thereof.
There was nothing in the room apart from a clean dresser located in the middle of the room.
It was an antique Cathayan dresser, similar to the kind that was used by the matriarchs of families in ancient times. A scarlet curtain was draped around the four walls of the room. Naturally, they hung limply because of the lack of wind in the room.
A candle was situated right in front of the mirror, but only half of it remained. There was also a white jade comb located on the dresser itself. At once, Qin Ye pictured a single lady sitting here in darkness in the middle of the night, combing her own hair under the dim illumination of the candlelight in the room. And then, out of nowhere, the curtains would begin to sweep about eerily, just like a scene right out of a horror film!
“What does she need these things for?” He opened the dresser with curiosity, only to learn that they contained nothing but dust.
Then, just as he was about to pick up the comb for a closer inspection, he suddenly froze.
This isn’t jade…
This is… a comb made out of a human bone!
Whoosh… He heard the rustle of wind sweep by as soon as he picked up the comb.
At once, the temperature in the room dipped drastically, and continued to go even colder and colder!
“What’s this…” He looked at the comb, and then the dresser and the candle on the table, and then suddenly, everything became clear to him.
“She’s communicating with the spirits.”
“She’s actually set up a semi-permanent summoning ritual in her room? Xia Jinse… I really learn new things about you every day… How many other secrets are you hiding behind that pristine facade of yours?”
“These elements tell me that this isn’t a ritual intended to summon righteous gods and deities of the orthodox underworlds. Rather, it’s intended to summon… evil spirits and grievous ghosts. You’ve lived for a long time now, so there’s no way you wouldn’t be aware of something like this. So… who might you be trying to communicate with using this seance of yours?”
Qin Ye sat down in front of the mirror, flicked on the lighter, and then lit the candle.
“I wonder if the evil ghost will be surprised to see me on the other side.”
1. These are unique mechanical locks that are akin to modern day lock-boxes with hidden mechanisms. http://wiki.china.org.cn/index.php?title=Luban_Lock