Qin Ye slowed down slightly as he listened intently to the Harken’s perspective of the matter.
He’d never expected the Eight Great Clans to be so powerful that they could even threaten the seat of imperial power!
The Harken continued softly, “And given their sense of crisis and danger in light of the tense equilibrium, don’t you think that… they might very well have made contingency plans in an attempt to leave themselves a way out?”
“They definitely will!” Qin Ye responded affirmatively, “At the very least, they would make plans to provide for their future generations.”
“That’s right. In turn, these contingencies can come in the form of goodwill with others and hidden clan members. More often than not, the more meticulous ones might even establish themselves some goodwill with foreign nations, such as through foreign ambassadors, dukes of other underworlds, and so on and so forth. But, most importantly, there is something more fundamental that every contingency plan would include, and that is material possessions.”
“As far as the Eight Great Clans are concerned, I think it is safe to say that they would all have made provisions such that, even if they were to be completely erased from the surface of the netherworld, their future generations would still be able to rise from the ashes and gain clout in Hell once more. They wouldn’t even consider establishing for themselves an empire overseas. This is their home, and their pride wouldn’t allow them to consider shifting out of these lands. Suppose, for instance, The Li Clan of the Tang Dynasty were completely and utterly crushed by the Second King Yanluo in a fit of rage, the descendants of the Li Clan would wait and bide for their time, rebuilding their power in a remote place for hundreds of years, until they finally have sufficient strength to make a resurgence in Hell.”
Qin Ye raised his hand and waved it about as though he’d thought of something important.
However, he wasn’t quite able to put a finger on it just yet. Thus, he simply continued where the Harken left off, frowning slightly as he continued with the Harken’s analysis, “And that’s not all, because rebuilding their strength would not only require a protracted period of time, it would even require an immense amount of resources. Was this what you’d meant earlier when you spoke of provisions and contingencies?”
The Harken gave Qin Ye a nod of approbation, “Go on.”
Qin Ye nodded and came to a complete halt. Then, he proceeded to pace about in the air with his hands behind his back, “As you’d mentioned earlier, these provisions may include contacts and resources… but over and above that, they may possibly even include armaments.”
The Harken chuckled, “The penalty for private production of armaments in Hell is death.”
Whoosh… The Harken’s words were like a bolt of the blue that crashed straight into Qin Ye’s mind, blasting all haze and doubt away. At once, he chuckled coldly, “But… that’s only limited to Hell.”
“I get it. If I were one of the clan heads, I would have considered the fact that the entire Hell is under the close scrutiny of the Second King Yanluo. And given his short-fuse… tsk… I would have shifted the armaments production facility to a place where the Second King Yanluo wouldn’t be able to see! In fact, whether production of armaments or mere contingency plans and provisions, I would’ve sought to conceal everything from the prying eyes of the Second King Yanluo!”
“And what’s the best place to do that?” He smiled brightly, “The Second King Yanluo may be the master and lord of Hell, but to pry into the affairs of another realm would clearly be to act beyond his authority. Besides, he’s a lazy old fogey, just like myself…”
“Let me interject right here.” The Harken’s expression stiffened, “Can you really live it down comparing yourself to the Second King Yanluo? Don’t you think it’s bad faith to downplay the Second King Yanluo, especially when he’s passed on into another place altogether? Are you really that thick-skinned?”
Qin Ye coughed dryly, “I mean… I just thought it was a suitable comparison… Besides, we’re quite similar with each other in many other ways…”
I mean, how else am I supposed to inflate my own ego if not by stepping on someone as amazing as him?
Would you know gratitude for what I’ve done for Hell if I don’t make such comparisons?
Besides, he’s already gone! Who cares what I say about him?!
Just like that, they stared at each other in deadlock for the next three seconds, before the Harken finally relented and lowered its head, “Fine. I concede that I’m hardly as thick-skinned as you.”
Qin Ye cleared his throat once more, “Well then, back to where I left off, there’s clearly only one place where the Second King Yanluo would never pry into.”
“And that is the mortal realm!”
“These clans must have set out their contingency plans in the mortal realm, haven’t they?”
“That’s right… That has to be the case. I was still wondering who it might’ve been who possessed such Yama-class might at their disposal. If the source of this power came from one of the Eight Great Clans, then that would explain everything. In fact, it would only make sense that they would employ such concealment techniques and traps. Otherwise, who knows whether the Second King Yanluo would incidentally spot their presence when he suddenly indulges himself in a leisurely stroll through the mortal realm?”
“Their concealment arrays contain both offensive and defensive measures. That tells me that it has got to be a top-notch formation array. These arrays generally don’t last long either, and would usually require some maintenance work from time to time in order to restore its effects. However, that’s not possible, because Hell has already collapsed for a hundred years, and nobody could possibly have restored its effects. Therefore…”
He licked his lips, and then transformed into a furious nethergale that dragged the Harken right along with it as it hurtled straight towards the mortal realm.
“This must mean that the contingency plans and provisions made by one of the Eight Great Clans has finally surfaced!”
“And it’s got to be in Chuzhou, right?” 
Whoosh! As Qin Ye charged forward at top speed, the Harken squinted its eyes, “Do you know… which one of the Eight Great Clans this is?”
“Of course!” Qin Ye responded with pride, “I’ve gained quite a fair bit of knowledge while I was scraping by back in the mortal realm!”
“To be more precise, we’re talking about the Fengyang County of Chuzhou City!”
“After all, Fengyang is the place where the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu Emperor, otherwise known as Zhu Yuanzhang, was born! And that’s not all. Fengyang County even hides the 2,600 years old ruins of the ancient, mysterious Zhongli State, as well as the 1,700 years old ruins of the ancient city of Haozhou! It even used to be the Linhuai Pass, the place where one of the Eight Immortals of the Taoist pantheon gained immortality. It was also the place where Hongwu Emperor had once spent two years as a monk, and he later personally honored it by giving it the name of Fengyang…”
The Harken stared at Qin Ye in great astonishment, and then suddenly lamented, “Do you know something? Sometimes, you dazzle with such brilliance that you even make me feel ashamed of my own brain.”
“What do you mean? Hasn’t that always been the--... Holy crap! Let go! That’s my butt! Don’t bite me! Bloody hell, can’t you find a proper resting place for your mouth?!”
Fengyang County, Chuzhou City.
This was a city with thousands of years of history under its belt, and that made it easily one of the top ancient cities in Cathay. They were also equally famous for their flower drums…
It was strange. Fengyang County was a place that contained immense spiritual energy. However, it also appeared to be completely untouched by the supernatural plague that was breaking out in every other part of Cathay. In fact, there wasn’t even a single Yin spirit around these parts. It was almost as though the Yin spirits had all completely forgotten about this place.
There was no explanation for this apart from the fact that Fengyang County was blessed by the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Naturally, the Longxing Temple was also brimming with patrons and incense smoke. In fact, the officials of Chuzhou City and the surrounding province even had a special incense burner that they used. Every year, the first incense offered in the temple was so coveted that it might not even be something that one could buy with only money.
And it was also precisely because of how unique Fengyang County was that there was only one investigator from the Special Investigations Department who was posted here. To that end, his task wasn’t to monitor the changes to Yin energy around these parts, but… to clean up the base of operations at Fengyang County.
After all, every single one of the contingency plans made by the Special Investigations Department had earmarked Fengyang County as the last bastion of safety in Insignia Province.
Therefore, in the absence of any further supernatural outbreaks, cleaning was the investigator’s main function, while surveillance was only his incidental job.
Click… It was 10.00 p.m. An investigator in his early twenties leaned his broom against the wall and lit up a cigarette. Then, he indulged himself in some banal chatter on his Momo app, before switching off his phone.
“When will this finally end…” He yawned lazily, “It’s already been three years since I’ve been posted here, and yet it’s only been half of my assignment?! I’m bored to death! At least send a researcher here to accompany me so that we can still play a game of chess or two… Do you really think it’s fun watching the empty surveillance monitors and sweeping the floor everyday?”
Just then, the surveillance monitor suddenly went off with a bright red light.
This was an alarm for a critical situation. However, the investigator did nothing more than sweep it a casual glance, before ignoring it again.
Fengyang is a blessed place.
Nobody would dare act brazenly around these parts.
And even if they did… Haha, these surveillance monitors only reveal a red alert when a Judge-class Yin spirit shows up.
Pfft. The First Academy of Cultivators is just a stone’s throw away!
He calmly flicked off the ashes on the cigarette butt and got to his feet. A split second later, a deafening alarm tore through the still silence of the night!
“Warning, warning. Ultra dense Yin energy approaching Fengyang County detected. Complete evacuation of all citizens recommended. Repeat, warning…”
Three seconds later, the investigator dashed forward and took a closer look at the surveillance monitors. At once, the map of Fengyang County appeared on it, together with a massive red blip so large that appeared to taint the entire vicinity, Fengyang County included!
Meanwhile, the number shown on the upper right corner of the surveillance monitor only continued to go up. He glanced at it, and at once, his legs went limp and numb.
It was in the realms of 10 million!
It was the descent of an Abyssal Prefect!
“H-how can this be?! Something’s gone wrong with the machine, hasn’t it?! This is Fengyang County after all - the place blessed by the spirit of Emperor Hongwu!” He grabbed his hair and yelled at the top of his voice. Then, a split second later, he mustered every modicum of energy he could and charged right out of the door, making his way straight towards the office of the county government.
Whoosh… It was a cold winter night. A frigid wind ravaged Fengyang County, causing all of the trees to sway and lean over in submission to nature. Thunder rumbled in the skies, while enormous black clouds slowly crept over across the horizon.
Unfortunately, those weren’t black clouds.
They were clouds formed from material Yin energy!
As an investigator of the Special Investigations Department, he immediately noticed the difference - a difference that clearly spelt trouble for Fengyang County!
It was the arrival of an evil ghost!
He stared blankly at the sky with his phone in his hand. Then, with an equally lost and listless expression, he raised his phone and dialed a number, “It’s me… Fengyang County, Special Investigations Department… Please put me through to Chief Mo Changhao… Bloody hell, just do it already!! Right now! Right now! This is a special emergency! Prefect-class levels of Yin energy have appeared in Fengyang County! Do you want to get fired?!”
The operator on the other end of the line was instantly taken aback. However, it didn’t take more than five seconds for him to patch through Mo Changhao, “Are you certain?”
“I’m… outside right now…” The Fengyang County investigator stared at the sky with a bleak expression on his face, “The sky is overcast with clouds of Yin energy, almost as though the Gates of Hell are opening right in the mortal realm. We’re definitely talking about a powerful Yin spirit! I don’t know if it’s just passing by, or if… if… it’s destination is here in Fengyang…”
Two seconds later, Mo Changhao made the call, “Protect Fengyang with your life.”
“I’ll head over right away. But it’ll take some time. You should contact the other branches of the Special Investigations Department in the meantime! The City of Salvation is closer to you!”
RUMBLE!!! Before he could even finish speaking, the sky immediately cracked with thunder, while a howling wind picked up on the ground, almost as though it carried the cries of thousands of ghosts with it.
A sudden dip in the ambient temperature… This is definitely the sign of the arrival of an evil ghost… The investigator couldn’t help but recall the telltale signs that he’d learnt from the expert investigators. Shuddering violently, he sat down helplessly on the steps of the entrance to the county government building and wrapped his arms around himself.
He didn’t want to die.
Meanwhile, dozens of Underworldly Craftsmen plying their trade in the heart of Fengyang County stopped everything they were doing.
“My god!!!” One of the owners of a coffin store immediately shut the door to his store, lit up all of the candles in the room, pulled out a thick stack of talismans and began praying desperately.
In another store selling talismans and spells on the second floor, an old woman trembled violently as she peeked out of the store for a glance. Then, with a shrill shriek, she immediately shrank back and locked all of the doors and windows to her store.
One by one, they all sensed the impending approach of what appeared to be a cataclysmic existence, and they locked themselves in their own rooms, trembling in fear. Unfortunately, a split second later…
BZZT… The entire city went dark.
A dark silhouette stepped out of the roiling clouds of Yin energy and stepped onto the lands of Fengyang County proper.
“Who would’ve thought that I would one day return to the mortal realm? Oh, I’ve missed you so…”
1. For those who want a better idea of the geography involved - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuzhou