Rustle… Dark-skinned fingers ran across the cowhides. A slightly chubby man wearing a red robe with a pipe in his mouth carefully cleaned up the cowhides hanging in the air.
This was a house constructed out of stone. It wasn’t small by any means, and it sat on a plot of land of approximately 400 to 500 square meters in size. Furthermore, the roof of the house was surprisingly ten meters tall. There were numerous cowhides hung inside, all of which appeared rough, but practically translucent. It looked no different from a tailoring workshop.
The man held a small knife in his hand as he forcefully trimmed the cowhide. From time to time, he would exhale a mouthful of smoke, filling the already-hazy room with even more smoke. Just as he was about to proceed with the repair works to the cowhide, there was suddenly a sickening crunch.
He had pinched the knife a little bit too hard between his fingers, and the excessive force caused his finger to twist at an inhumane angle.
“Tsk, this body has already been dead for 30 years now…” The man sighed softly as he gently straightened out his broken finger, “It’s about time I replaced this old bag of bones of mine. But where am I supposed to find the money to replace these bones with the meagre pay I receive from the work here at the gate to the underworld…”
Just then, he heard a tinkling sound come from the roof of the house. There were numerous bones strung together with a red string hanging at the top of the roof, jangling like wind chimes as the gentle breeze swept by.
“It’s that time again, huh…” He sighed softly, set down the knife in his hand and folded up the cowhide. Then, he walked towards the door.
As he drew closer and closer to the door, the Yin energy emanating from his body gradually grew denser and denser, from that of a Netherworld Operative, to that of a Soul Hunter, and then to that of an Anitya Hellguard! The netherflames in his eyes also began to pulsate wildly.
As he plodded along the path, he would pass by other Yin spirits who would hand him his spear, and then adorn him with a bone necklace, headgears of gold, thick golden neck rings, and all other kinds of accessories. By the time he arrived at the door, that simple red robe of his had turned somewhat majestic and ostentatious because of the jewelry and accessories that he wore.
Unlike the refined flair of regular jewelry, his accessories emanated a rougher and wilder flair about it. That said, it wasn’t in the slightest bit less opulent or magnificent in any way.
There were already two Yin spirits waiting at the ten-meter tall gate for him, and they promptly opened the gate as soon as he arrived.
Creeeaaak… He was momentarily blinded by the light. However, it wasn’t light from the sun. Rather, it was light from the torches around. As though long accustomed to this, the man drifted out of his abode an inch above the ground.
It was an amazing sight outside.
He was situated on an island.
An isolated island in the sea.
That said, this was a massive island measuring several hectares in size. At the heart of the island lay a beautiful grotto temple with strong Aegyptian flair and colours. A vivid, carved statue of a cobra was erected at the top of the temple. Both sides of the grotto temple were flatlands covered with hundreds of stone platforms, each of which were carved with the designs of various animals.
An Alkebulan lady would sit in front of each one of the stone platforms, dressed in variegated bright garments. That said, all of them sported long hair that extended straight to the ground, and they held a thick bone needle, while their hands moved furiously. It appeared almost as though they were furiously sewing something on the stone platforms.
And if one looked close enough, they would see that each of the stone platforms… were covered with countless corpses!
These were all corpses wrapped in cowhide!
Meanwhile, each and every one of these ladies had their own long hair running through the eye of the bone needles, and they were furiously seaming up the cowhides with their own hair! This bizarre sight, coupled with the brightly lit human-height candle stands all around the stone platforms made the surroundings eerie and chilling to the extreme!
And what’s even scarier was the fact that the waters around the island were densely packed with corpses!
They had their arms crossed in front of their chests as they lay in the middle of their own cowhide. Everyone had their eyes closed and an expression of peace and solace written all over their faces.
Hundreds of dark-skinned men dressed in animal skin and wielding long, sturdy spears constantly patrolled the shores. Meanwhile, numerous corpse fishermen would drag the corpses out of the sea in an orderly fashion and place them neatly by the shore.
This was the mouth of River Styx!
“How many corpses were sent over today?” The man dressed in red garbs walked from the grotto temple up to the shore and asked in a deep voice.
“347 corpses, Lord Mopti.” A man clad in multicoloured feathers who had clearly been waiting for some time responded respectfully.
After pausing for a moment, the man continued, “But… at 5.00 a.m earlier, we detected an extremely powerful source of Yin energy at the Sanctuary of Ancestral Spirit, probably one that was at the same level as the deputy chieftain.”
“Impossible.” Mopti turned back, “We didn’t receive any reports of a powerful ancestral spirit crossing over to the underworld today. At present, the strongest Ancestral Guardian here in Malagasy is no more than at the level of a Defender.”
“Would you like me to record this?”
“No. It has to be an error. Don’t bother the Mythic Spirit and the top Ancestral Guardians with such matters.”
The door to the grotto temple opened up, and Mopti walked back in.
“This damned job…” Mopti sighed softly as he massaged his temples.
Despite having perished for decades now, he was still relegated to menial work at the entrance to the underworld. So long as things went without a hitch, it would be impossible for him to return to the Sanctuary of Ancestral Spirits.
The work here was easy. All he needed to do was to count the number of deaths in the mortal realm, and then extradite the souls of the dead into the kingdom of the Mythic Spirit. Nothing could possibly go wrong here. Day after day, he faced the exact same repetitive work, and there seemed no end to this humdrum of life.
Thus, he’d begun to pursue his own hobbies, such as leather tanning. Naturally, most of his work pertained to cowhide tanning, as well as in small measure some sheepskin tanning.
He shook his head and sighed softly. He felt no different from the bird in the cuckoo clock. When it was time, he would pop out and ask for a report, before shrinking back into his abode to mind his own business. The only thing that made him feel remotely useful was the respect given to him by the soldiers guarding the gateway.
He habitually removed some of his jewelry and raised his arms towards his servants so that they could remove the rest of his accessories for him. However, just as he was about to undo his neck rings, he suddenly froze.
There was no one.
The entire grotto temple, including the public officials who had previously assisted him with all of his accessories and adornments, had all vanished into thin air. All that remained were the burning candles around the room, that cast deep, dark shadows around the room. A lonely depression suddenly arose in his heart, followed quickly with a feeling of extreme fear.
It was almost as though he’d just entered the tiger’s den, and something was staring at him through the layers of cowhides.
The silence was deafening. He could practically hear the sound of his own heartbeats. He gulped nervously and glanced about, before slowly raising his hand back towards the door, “Andulu?”
Still no response. The netherflames around him crackled softly.
His pupils narrowed and shrunk to the size of mere specks - Every single Yin spirit in the grotto temple has vanished completely. The Yin spirits who had just helped me with my accessories and adornments have all vanished completely.
Emptiness. As the corpse’s clothes swayed about slightly, an intense sensation of fear gripped his heart, and his entire body began to tremble wildly.
Something’s here! Something must be around here!
And it’s watching me!
He slowly turned around, and then abruptly reached for the door and pulled as hard as he could!
But unfortunately, it didn’t move in the slightest bit.
Ting-a-ling! Just then, the skeletal windchimes in the temple suddenly began to jangle madly as they knocked against each other. And then, the heavy corpse’s clothes slowly began to flutter!
No, in fact, they shifted in an orderly fashion, almost as though something were moving through the middle of the cowhide that was being tanned!
Just then, the candles in the room suddenly flared up with intense flames that were several meters high, and then turned blue in colour!
“Men… MEN!!!” Mopti desperately turned back and hammered on the wooden door, “Enemy attack! This is an invasion of the Black Mamba Underworld! Inform the Chieftain at once!!”
“You’re quite the skilled tanner.” Just then, a young voice remarked placidly from behind, “These pieces of leather can probably be sold for a nice little paycheck back in the mortal realm. It might even be passably considered old luxury goods.”
Haa… An electrifying sensation surged from the base of Mopti’s spine and straight through his mind.
How long has it been?
How long has it been since I’ve experienced a feeling like this?
This feeling of absolute suppression. This feeling of absolute terror… It’s just like when I first encountered an underworldly emissary.
The Yin energy warning earlier wasn’t an error! It had actually accurately detected the presence of a powerful intruder! I’ve been too careless!
He turned around with great trembling, and his teeth chattered, “It doesn’t matter who you are… As soon as the Chieftain discovers your intrusion, the Black Mamba Underworld will--...”
His voice trailed off.
He blinked vacantly as he stared aghast at the figure in front of him. Meanwhile, the intruder was merely admiring the corpse’s clothes for its quality tanning, and didn’t even care to glance at Mopti at all.
His Yin energy signature…
It was at that moment that Mopti suddenly recalled a rumour that he’d heard some time ago.
It was a rumour that he’d heard from one of the warriors.
Before Mopti passed on, there used to be four top underworlds in the netherworld, otherwise known as the Four Permanents or the P4 underworlds, and each of them was a regional leader. But several decades ago, the Cathayan Underworld had for some strange reason abruptly locked itself off from the rest of the world. Everyone was therefore watching them intently.
“Greetings to the esteemed Emissary of Hell!!!” Without much thought, Mopti immediately lay prostrate on the ground, “The angels of the East have descended upon us. Apologies, I didn’t receive any notice of your arrival, and I ask for--...”
“It’s fine.” Qin Ye waved his hand casually, “I’m here for a private visit. It’s only natural that you’re unaware of something like this. Stay here and don’t make any sudden movements. Abra.”
A figure slowly crept out from behind Qin Ye. Abra had somehow lost his ability to walk ever since entering the underworld.
“Babulu…” Abra gasped as though it took him all his might to communicate, “Contact my ancestral spirit… His name is Babulu! He told me that if I wanted to find him, I should enter the Sanctuary, wrap myself with a corpse's clothes, enter the lake island of the undead, and say his name, and he will know what’s happening at once!”
“Babulu…” Mopti froze, and then his body shuddered violently.
BOOM! As he spoke, the candle flames in the room suddenly turned black and red, and countless flaming butterflies began to flutter wildly out of the flames, before dancing wildly in the wind.
Meanwhile, streams of Yin energy slowly began to converge from every direction, before transforming into a ten-meter large vortex of Yin energy that continued to swirl madly atop the grotto temple. Furthermore, a terrifying source of Yin energy erupted from the heart of the vortex!
Whoosh! A terrifying black shockwave rippled throughout the entire island. Yin soldiers had already begun to converge at the location of the grotto temple. But before they could even speak, they were washed away by the powerful shockwave. In the blink of an eye, only Mopti remained, lying prostrate on the ground as he shivered wildly.
He… finally remembered.
Babulu… was the name of the deputy chieftain of the Black Mamba Tribe, and also the first Yin spirit to pledge allegiance to the Mythic Spirit of Malagasy! Babulu was also known as the Mythic Spirit’s tail!
After decades of being a bottom scraper, Mopti had finally found the change he’d always wanted. Unfortunately… the change that he got was far more than he’d asked for.
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