“... Where’s your dignity as an Emissary of Hell?” Arthis was stunned for three full seconds before she spoke, “How could you be bought over with such a simple gesture of peace offering?”
Zhang Chenghai was also visibly stunned before he chuckled, “It seems like Mr Qin must be pretty famished.”
“Cough…” After three seconds of stunned silence, the attendant asked, “Sir, are you sure you’d be able to finish everything?”
“I’ll probably be eighty percent full after that.” Qin Ye responded with a calm and relaxed disposition. In his poverty-stricken life, the last time he had indulged in such Cantonese delights for breakfast was well over twenty years ago…
“You may proceed then.” Zhang Chenghai nodded his head. Very soon, dish after dish of delectable delights were served to the table.
Unexpectedly, Qin Ye didn’t eat like a ravenous ghost. Instead, he carried himself relatively well. His speed was incredibly fast, but it was just measured enough that others wouldn’t consider it snarfing and gobbling his food.
Qin Ye’s eyes curled up in delight as he indulged himself. The tender shrimp tumbled about in his mouth together with the silky egg and soft spinach. Freshly cut spring onions and sliced ginger accentuated the fragrance and freshness of the ingredients even more. As soon as he got started, there was simply no stopping him!
“That look on your face right now… It might not be an exaggeration to call it lewd and whorish.” Arthis couldn’t help but complain disdainfully at the disgraceful behaviour of the young master at the table.
“What do you know?” Qin Ye picked up a scotch egg and whispered, “This is simply a tribute to my grievous past…”
“... I’m sincerely curious to know what you’ve been through in the past… something tells me that your life must have been no different from that of a vagrant on the streets…”
Zhang Chenghai finished his porridge and waited patiently for the next twenty minutes. Finally, the dishes in front of him were completely polished off. Qin Ye wiped his mouth somewhat bashfully, “So… what would Mr Zhang like to discuss?”
Ahhh… A simple meal like that has even elicited honorifics from his lips?! Arthis shut her eyes. She had decided that she couldn’t bear to look at the least dignified and most shameless Emissary of Hell in history for some time.
Zhang Chenghai rang the bell on the table. As soon as the attendant arrived, he stared at Qin Ye in horror as he cleared up the dishes and tidied up the table. In his magnanimity, Qin Ye ignored his transgressions. The attendant served up two pots of fragrant tea, lit up some sandalwood incense, and then took his leave. The room was filled with silence for a moment.
“Mr Qin, are you bewildered as to why I personally attended to you today?” Zhang Chenghai lit up a cigarette as he slowly explained, “Firstly, it’s because you’re in the same realm as I am. Secondly…”
He leaned forward, “Because… I had a feeling you wouldn’t be able to get a cab.”
“The government didn’t in the least bit cover up the incident last night. Everything happened too quickly, and there was simply no time. Who in their right mind would be in the mood to drive a cab right now? Besides… starting this morning, all entry and exit from the City of Salvation is completely prohibited.”
“Why?” Qin Ye’s eyes quivered slightly.
Zhang Chenghai pulled out a leather file from his briefcase and set it on the table. Then, with two fingers pressing on the file, he explained in a low voice, “The City of Salvation will be under direct administration in three days’ time.”
This single statement immediately caused Qin Ye to tense up his spirits.
However, Zhang Chenghai didn’t give him the luxury of time to digest this piece of information. His steady voice continued to echo in the room, “The people have the right to know. So, rather than to stonewall information, why not simply go with the flow? After all, it’s only going to be a matter of time before everything comes to light. Take a look at this.”
He picked up a remote control from the table and pressed a button, and all of the curtains in the room were drawn shut in an instant. These were specially-made curtains that obscured every bit of light from outside. Then, a projector slowly lit up in the corner of the room and displayed a map of Cathay on the wall.
“What’s this?” Arthis exclaimed in surprise, “Television? No… it’s much larger than a television. A large computer?”
Qin Ye could hardly be bothered to deal with her.
“This represents the Yin reading across the nation ever since its founding.”
Qin Ye looked carefully. 1949. Most of the country was covered in green, and there wasn’t a single trace of red at all. Only the western edge and northeastern edge of the country, as well as some coastal areas, were orange in colour. Additionally, even though the edges of some cities weren’t green, they were only yellow in colour.
“There are three levels to the supernatural alert status. Green represents a safe situation, with little or no supernatural incidents. Yellow means that supernatural incidents are spreading unchecked. Orange means that the situation is severe. Finally, red means that the situation has become destructive.” Zhang Chenghai’s voice grew chilling towards the end. He drew a deep breath, clicked on the remote, and the projector revealed the next image on the wall.
This image revealed that several provinces had already been flooded with yellow. Furthermore… there was the appearance of the first red zone!
The Qin Mountainous Region!
It was completely covered in a striking red colour!
“Yin energy index… six million?” Qin Ye furrowed his brows at the numbers.
“This was the ‘60s.” Zhang Chenghai muttered soullessly, “Do you remember… the great famine that began in 1958 and ended in 1960?”
Qin Ye naturally did. More accurately speaking, he was a first-hand witness of the incident.
“After the bumper harvest in 1958, the production figures everywhere were misreported, causing great difficulty for the livelihood of peasants. The misreporting would not in and of itself have been a big issue if not for the grain tax. Back then, Cathay had a grain tax system, where the amount of grain one had to return to the nation was dependent on the amount of grain one produced in the first place. Everyone was reported to have produced in abundance; and this naturally meant that the grain tax was unimaginably high.”
“By the summer of ‘59, a massive drought struck Cathay on a national level, giving rise to the terrible famine we all know about.” Zhang Chenghai explained, “At least, that was what everyone thought.”
Qin Ye didn’t interject. He had the vague idea that something was amiss.
The image on the wall changed again. This time, it revealed a historical image that was replete with colour distortion.
“This is…” Qin Ye drew a deep breath. The picture revealed a dense dark forest. Right in the middle of the forest, there were innumerable staff, soldiers, and even some personnel wearing white lab coats that were standing around what appeared to be an excavation site.
The excavation site was massive. It spanned almost a thousand meters across. The site itself was filled with decaying skeletons and stone slabs with all sorts of demonic inscriptions and devilish etchings. But what stood out was the item in the center of the site.
A large scarlet coffin that was three meters long and one meter wide sat squarely in the center of the site!
Eighty-one oil lamps burnt brightly around the coffin. Furthermore… the wind wasn’t able to extinguish their flames!
“Sixfold Ghost Arraignment Array!!” Arthis exclaimed before Qin Ye could even react in surprise, “Why is there something like that on earth?!”
“What’s that?” Qin Ye asked in a soft voice, pretending to ask Zhang Chenghai when he was in fact responding to Arthis.
Arthis didn’t immediately respond to his question. It took her several seconds to calm down and explain, “These are things that I’ve only heard of and seen in the records. Legend has it that the Sixfold Ghost Kings would travel around the world, expunging evil ghosts that are of the incarnate revenant level or stronger. That said, there remain some evil ghosts that even the Sixfold Ghost Kings are unable to kill. These would therefore be dealt with by suppression.”
Qin Ye’s gaze grew contemptuous for a moment.
Someone here was instakilled when the Sixfold Ghost Kings took possession of my body… Truly weak…
“... What’s with the look in your eyes?! I’d been forcibly suppressed at the depths of the bottomless abyss for hundreds of years, stripped of my divine authority, and even lived through the great collapse of Hell back then. It’s completely understandable to have been no match for the Sixfold Ghost King at that time! Read on… What’s the point of seeking clarity on such matters anyway?”
It was evident just how much the concept of face meant to her.
Arthis gnashed her teeth, “That’s not important. What’s important is the fact that the ghosts who qualify to be suppressed by the Sixfold Ghost Arraignment Array are entities that are at least of the same level as an Infernal Judge! The mortal realm has no ability to deal with an entity like this. As soon as they’re released, the consequences can be unimaginable!”
Zhang Chenghai thought that Qin Ye had addressed his query to him. After pondering for a minute, he finally responded, “Drought demon.”
“The corpse within the coffin was a blue-clothed woman dressed in clothing dating back to the Xia Dynasty. Her flesh wasn’t decomposing, and her clothes remained intact. Fangs protruded from her mouth, and her skin was completely golden. She looked exactly the same as the drought demons we see in most ancient historical records.”
“This incident was recorded and kept within the top-secret archives in Cathay. 2 March, during the spring of ‘59, a landslide on the Immortal Seizing Peak of Mount Venus at the Qin Mountainous Region revealed the ruins. The initial consensus was that this was an ancient tomb - one of the rare mass graves of the Xia Dynasty. Unfortunately, it was only discovered upon excavation that this tomb was in fact the heart of a formation array created by an expert to suppress a great evil!”
Qin Ye heaved a long sigh. This is a display of Hell’s authority. To think that they would be able to suppress a fearsome demon at the Immortal Seizing Peak of Mount Venus for such a long time. Perhaps the Qin Mountainous Region might even look the way it does because of Hell?
Zhang Chenghai didn’t know what was on Qin Ye’s mind, so he continued with a hoarse voice, “After that happened… the great famine struck…”
Qin Ye drew a deep breath. He would never have imagined that the real cause of the great famine in ‘60 was in fact the drought demon that had been excavated from the Qin Mountainous Region!
“Hang on…” Qin Ye blinked his eyes, opened his mouth slightly and shook his head, “Wasn’t the drought demon still sealed? How did it cause the famine? Could it be…”
Zhang Chenghai’s face immediately revealed a bitter expression, “Back then, the total number of drought demon coffins that had been dug up… numbers eighteen in total…”
Sss… Qin Ye felt his mouth grow dry. No wonder… It’s no wonder the great famine in ‘60 was so terrible. 28 million people starved to death that year. As it turns out… it was actually caused by the excavation of eighteen drought demons!
“You guys… opened it up?”
Zhang Chenghai chuckled bitterly, “Some places immediately understood what these coffins were. The oil lamps that were arranged in a nine by nine grid were obviously a seal. However, some places were unaware of this fact. As a result, half of these were opened by archaeologists to take a closer look at its contents…”
Qin Ye shook his head and shut his eyes.
Zhang Chenghai continued, “That incident catalyzed the establishment of the Special Investigations Department. In fact, ever since 1960, all archaeological excavation works had to be first approved by us before the actual commencement of works.”
“Incidentally, it was also from 1960 that Cathay experienced a continuous climb in the number of supernatural incidents.”
“4 February 1975, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Ocean City and Tentjaw City of the Khitan Province. The epicenter was 16 thousand meters underground, and it affected a whopping 9,000 kilometer square area. Of this area, homes and buildings occupying 2,734 square kilometers of space collapsed in an instant, afflicting more than 8 million people with death and destruction… The Yin energy reading in this instance broke the 100 million mark for the first time!”
“The Special Investigations Department rolled in and investigated the midpoint between the two cities. There, ten thousand corpses were discovered in a cave located within the crevasse seven hundred meters underground. Anyone who entered the cave would perish. The cave remains sealed to date.”
“In the following year, another massive earthquake struck the Tang Mountain. Footprints of humanoid creatures were located merely six hundred meters below the heart of the main city…”
“3 February 1996, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Fair River County. A member of the public personally witnessed a man wearing an ancient golden costume walking out from underneath the ground. Investigations revealed that the Yin energy readings at the epicenter of the earthquake was as high as ten million!”
“And you know about the flood of ‘98 right? But what you didn’t know… was the fact that just upstream, a black coffin obstructed and dammed up the channel where all the streams converged. Then, when it suddenly vanished, it unleashed the massive flow of waters downstream, resulting in the terrible tragedy… These secrets are all recorded in the top secret files that are only available to the officials of the Special Investigations Department.”
“Cathay needs us - people like you and I.” Zhang Chenghai sighed as he pointed to both Qin Ye and himself, “Right now, the aggregate Yin energy across all of Cathay has just exceeded 1.1 billion! There was a marked increase of Yin energy by 100 million last year, and I’m afraid it’s only going to be more this year! As soon as the aggregate Yin energy in all of Cathay exceeds 1.5 billion… the mortal realm will go completely off-balance, and humans will no longer be able to live in any part of the country!”
“Therefore, Mr Qin... I, Zhang Chenghai, special agent of the Special Investigations Department in the City of Salvation, sincerely invite you to join us at the Special Investigations Department. Us humans... are running out of time.”
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