“What’s the hurry?” The old man shut his eyes, “Let’s wait and see how the government cleans up the mess in the City of Salvation… This would give us an indication of their plans for the future. It’ll give us an insight as to the level of precaution they’re taking against us as well… move with caution… And tell her that if she doesn’t want to be locked up in the path of the hungry ghost, she would be wise to stay safe.”
There was an abrupt silence.
A few seconds later, a chilling voice spoke. It was incredibly dignified and elegant, a far cry from the voices that had spoken before, “We’ve been suppressed by the six paths for thousands of years now. I refuse to believe that there are existences in the mortal realm that are more powerful than us!”
The old man chuckled, “Have you already forgotten about that one from Clear Creek County?”
“Her?” The chilling voice sneered, “It’s not that I’m looking down on Infernal Judges, but she wasn’t even born when we were first subdued by the six paths.”
The old man ran his finger along his teacup, “A Judge isn’t scary. Rather, what’s scary is the prospect that others may be alive as well. After all, if a Judge can survive the great collapse of Hell, how can you be certain that none of the Abyssal Prefects that are our equals in strength haven’t survived as well?”
“Have you already forgotten the suffering we’d been put through under the subjugation of the six paths? Have you already forgotten the torment of being immersed in boiling oil or having ten thousand needles pricking our souls everyday? Do you want to be put through the same torment for another few thousand years?”
“Don’t forget that, with the resurgence of Emissaries of Hell, our fate will be sealed as soon as any one of them attains the same rank as us!”
There was silence once again.
The chilling female voice finally remarked once more, “It’s no wonder the prince in Westriver has suddenly grown silent once more, notwithstanding the fact that his preparatory works are all complete.”
“That’s right…” The old man’s eyes were somewhat listless, “Only we, the ancient old fogeys, know exactly what Hell represents… Those young ghosts these days don’t know anything at all… they don’t know where their limits lie…”
His entire body trembled slightly, “Hundreds of billions of Yin soldiers, Yamas of the Ten Palaces, Sixfold Ghost Kings… I’d rather not think about such dreadful existences anymore…”
The golden Buddha finally shut its mouth.
The old man grew taciturn as well.
Approximately ten minutes later, a cock crowed in the distance. The old man stood up and slowly walked out of the temple.
He welcomed the first rays of light of dawn.
As the morning sunbeams shone into the temple, it revealed… that the Hall of Great Strength was filled with a horrific splatter of blood that covered everywhere, from beams to pillars. The only place that was devoid of any bloodstains was the statue of the golden Buddha.
Due to the effluxion of time, the blood had already turned a dark purplish colour. Worst of all, a monk wearing his long flowing robes bleeding from all of his seven apertures hung morbidly from the beam just next to the pillar!
The sun had finally risen.
Qin Ye was relaxed. The knots in his heart had finally been unraveled. The precarious situation in the City of Salvation had also been resolved. Although the situation last night was witnessed by innumerable civilians, and notwithstanding the fact that the entire city had been left in a complete mess, these were hardly matters he should be thinking about in any event.
The roads were incredibly quiet today.
Quite apart from vehicular traffic on the road, one would have expected to see the hustle and bustle of morning traffic for those who were out and about for their breakfast. Qin Ye glanced at his watch - it was now 7 a.m.
But not a single soul could be seen.
In fact, there were still many traces of last night’s battle on the roads. There were even military vehicles that hadn’t yet been evacuated. When he looked up, Qin Ye noticed several people milling about within their residences, some of whom had even whipped out their cell phones to take photographs of the tragic aftermath of the roads outside.
“The army has begun to withdraw its forces, but the government has yet to put in place any security measures to bring order back to normal…” Qin Ye’s eyes quivered as he reacted abruptly and gasped in shock, “Is the nation… prepared to make everything public?!”
Revelation of the truth!
“That’s highly possible.” The wreckage on the streets created a solemn, desolate atmosphere in the air. Several places saw trees that had been uprooted and felled, while other places even had streetlights that were snapped into two. There was simply no way such an aftermath could be restored to normal in a matter of hours!
Besides… the outbreak of supernatural incidents had undoubtedly been witnessed by more than a sliver of the populace. In fact, the number of witnesses could very likely be in the tens of thousands!
If things can no longer be kept under wraps, then the nation may as well give full disclosure to the public!
Qin Ye had a particularly somber gaze in his eyes. If the Special Investigations Department intended to show their hand… then the City of Salvation would undoubtedly transform into a high-pressured environment filled with layers upon layers of surveillance devices in no time! He wasn’t aware of what exactly the Special Investigations Department planned to do, but he knew for a fact that he was going to be placed in a pretty delicate spot very soon!
There was no way he could hail a taxi. After all, not a single one could be seen on the roads. Thus, he immediately made a beeline for the hotel on foot. As he ran, he whipped out his cell phone.
His phone couldn’t receive any form of signal at all. He furrowed his brows even more.
There were no issues with his phone. In fact, he was almost certain it was the Special Investigations Department that was jamming the signal.
And the jammed signal was hardly a result of a mechanical malfunction. It was most definitely intended to prevent anyone in the city from disclosing the events of last night to the other parts of the nation.
At this moment, the only website which remained accessible was the official site of the City of Salvation.
However, there were no texts on the website. There weren't even the usual messages pertaining to the government’s work. The only thing that remained on the site was a notice that was written in huge lettering.
“Last night’s unexpected incident has already been contained. All citizens are to remain calm and not panic. The government will address all of your concerns and questions in three days’ time.”
A direct account?
Qin Ye could feel the corners of his eyes twitching.
No… survival has gotten even tougher… I’m practically standing toe to toe against an entire organization… it might be more prudent if I laid low on the side for now…
However, as soon as he turned the next corner, he immediately stopped in his step.
Love is just around the corner.
Love bears down like a rushing hurricane…
It was a small street that sat in the shadows between two buildings. A man wearing a ramrod straight suit with his hands behind his back was waiting right in the middle of the street for Qin Ye.
“Mr Qin.” The man smiled faintly before Qin Ye could even respond, “My name is Zhang Chenghai. I’m a special agent of the Special Investigations Department here in the City of Salvation…”
Before Zhang Chenghai could finish his introductions, he suddenly did a double take and exclaimed in surprise, “Hunter-class?”
“You’re… a Hunter-class expert?”
Arthis exclaimed in horror, “How’s this possible? How could he possibly recognize you? Your Yin energy has been masked as true energy by the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. And you’ve even changed your clothes and donned a mask… This would be considered a top-notch disguise just a few centuries ago…”
You have the gall to point out the fact that these were the standard a few hundred years ago?!
Qin Ye regretted everything. He knew deep in his heart that he should always have taken with a pinch of salt the advice of an ancient old granny who didn’t even know that copywriters have long become obsolete! How could she possibly have factored surveillance cameras into her considerations?
With a raging fire in his heart and a wry smile on his face, Qin Ye responded, “You must’ve gotten the wrong person. I don’t think we’ve met before.”
What kind of a joke was this? He was just about to call up Wang Chenghao to make their great escape from the city. The government was about to make everything public, and the entire city would soon become a den of wolves. How could a husky like him continue to hide among the wolves like that?
Yet Zhang Chenghai simply ignored Qin Ye’s comments. He sized up Qin Ye for several more seconds before exclaiming with emotion, “I’d never expected Mr Qin to actually break through successfully last night. You’re only eighteen years old, right? You must be the youngest person to reach the Soul Hunter level in the last century! Even some of the most talented individuals within the Insignia Province can’t hold a candle to you!”
“Dear, you’ve gotten the wrong person…”
Zhang Chenghai shook his head adamantly, “Mr Qin, you were truly hard to locate.”
Bloody hell… is a conversation even possible with you? Why do I get the feeling that we’re on a completely different wavelength, yet you still somehow continue to strike the nail on the head with everything you say?
Suppressing the nauseating feeling in his heart, Qin Ye listened to what Zhang Chenghai had to say.
“It was only after we’d pored through all of the surveillance footage last night in coordination with the help of investigators on the ground that we’d finally managed to ascertain your identity. Don’t worry. We mean no ill will.”
He looked at his watch, “Last night, we received a red docket from the upper echelons. The entire City of Salvation is going to experience a complete overhaul in three days’ time. There’s no need to contemplate leaving the city right now. After all, a talent like you would be worthy of a personal welcome by the Special Investigations Department no matter where you go. And even if you’re thinking of leaving right now… I’m afraid there are simply no means for you to do so.”
Then, before Qin Ye could even respond, Zhang Chenghai glanced at his watch again and pointed to the end of the alley, “There’s a pretty decent teahouse just in front of the city hall. It’s quite secluded, and it sports a good selection of teas. Do you mind if we adjourn the venue of our meeting? Incidentally, the breakfast there is also quite delightful.”
A black four-wheeler was parked at the end of the aley.
“It seems like you’ve got your fix on me.” Qin Ye chuckled bitterly.
Zhang Chenghai smiled silently.
“Let’s go then. It’s just as well that I’m feeling rather hungry now.” Giving up on any form of resistance, he followed Zhang Chenghai to the vehicle and both drove to their destination together.
They soon arrived at the city hall. The city hall had seen its fair share of years, and it wasn’t located anywhere along the bustling downtown region either. The surroundings looked somewhat remote. The only thing worth mentioning was the reasonably large public park behind the city hall. The green efforts were commendable, and the quaint two-storey buildings located right in the middle of the park added a lovely charm to the locality.
Few people visited the park due to its close proximity to the government. Furthermore, the park was not an entirely open concept. Instead, there was an iron picket fence built around most of the park’s perimeter. Zhang Chenghai parked his car at the back entrance to the park and led Qin Ye straight towards one of the small two-storey buildings.
The small building didn’t have a name, but it was built in an ancient style with a tasteful charm to it. The teahouse didn’t have a signboard either. Instead, a single word, “Tea”, was embroidered onto the curtains within the teahouse.
However, the teahouse didn’t seem to be open for business.
A tall, burly man stood in front of its closed door.
Zhang Chenghai walked to the door, took out a black card and swiped it. Beep. The wooden sliding door opened automatically.
“This place is actually built by the Special Investigations Department.” There was a reasonably wide corridor on the inside. Vermillion lanterns hung overhead, while exquisitely embroidered curtains hung on both sides. The ink landscape paintings were accentuated by red plum flowers that sat in beautiful gold lacquered vases. Zhang Chenghai explained as he led the way, “This was originally meant to be used as an area for our lunch break or for some more private discussions. But the chef was just too amazing. We ended up turning this place into the Special Investigations Department’s official restaurant-cum-council room.”
Qin Ye nodded his head. Calling it a teahouse was quite a stretch. That said, the decor was indeed vibrant and impressive, and it even carried with it a trace of luxurious magnificence. They plodded on, went up the stairs and entered a private room where an attendant was already waiting for them. Zhang Chenghai handed Qin Ye a menu, “Order what you’d like. This is a members-only area, and all members of the Special Investigations Department can dine here for free.”
Haha… do you think that this little bit of indulgence is enough to tempt me to join the pack of wolves?!
Even if I die… even if I’ve got to jump down from here, I’d never order a single dish from you!
“Alright, then let’s just have something casual… puffed pastry egg tart, spinach and wolfberry pork porridge, raisin cupcake, king prawn dumpling, steamed ribs in black bean sauce, steamed chicken feet, oyster sauce beancurd rolls, scotch egg, prawn rice rolls, fried tofu, hotpot, barbeque pork bun, and a portion of buttered bolo bun.”
1. This refers to the six paths of karmic retribution that lead to reincarnation, which are further subdivided into three good paths and three evil paths. More reference will be made to this later on in the novel.