There are actually traces of a Yama-class Yin spirit here in this place? And an Emissary of Hell at that? Otherwise, how could we possibly see the mark of the Sixfold Ghost Kings in this place?
“And it’s someone that I’m familiar with too.” The Harken tapped its claw on top of the abutment, and the centuries-old abutment shook slightly, kicking up a cloud of smoke and dust. Its gaze was laced with complex emotions. That said, it was understandable. Anyone who had been deep in slumber for a century would react in the same manner when they finally see traces of a familiar face.
Qin Ye walked up behind the Harken, “Don’t you find it strange?”
“What’s a Yama-class mark doing here in the suspected Tomb of Genghis Khan? Furthermore, if this is something to be sealed, and by a Yama-class existence at that, then why is it so obvious and easy to find? Why isn’t it subject to some form of concealment or disguise? This place is even out in the open!”
The Harken shook its head, “Have you forgotten? You can’t sense the Yin energy of this place at all. Besides…”
It turned to the seal and continued with some nostalgia in its voice, “This is a game known to us as the Ghost King’s Seal.”
“This is a game originally invented by the Second King Yanluo when he was bored out of his mind. Arrange the six stone slabs according to the surnames of various clans, and the seal will automatically open. This is a game that had only been circulated among the Yama-class Yin spirits of Hell, and not even the Abyssal Prefects were aware of such indulgences…”
Qin Ye stared at the Harken almost as though he had just seen a ghost, “So, this is a password of sorts? Just how unproductive did you guys use to be? I sincerely cannot help but wonder what kind of lives you civil servants used to lead in the past…”
“Well, it’s not as though we didn’t have other forms of entertainment…” The Harken coughed lightly, “For instance, there was Blood Mahjong, Big 2, and a couple of other games. But my personal favourite is still 3 Cards Poker.”
Was this really what the ruling class in Hell was like in the past?
Are you sure Fengdu wasn’t a casino?
“Was Lord Ksitigarbha also a part of this? Doesn’t this contravene his own set of principles and rules?”
“What do you mean by contravention?!” The Harken glared at Qin Ye, “This is called nourishing the soul and nurturing the heart!”
“It trains one to keep a straight mind and thoughts in the midst of great ups and downs. Lord Ksitigarbha is using superficial gambling to cultivate a perfect Buddhist heart! What do you know… Whatever. Hurry up and get in!”
Whoosh… The stone slabs on the ground suddenly glowed with a ghastly light, and the abutment promptly opened up, revealing a bottomless pit right in front of their eyes. Qin Ye peeked over cautiously, and then retracted his head in fear, “Jump down?”
“Jump down.” The Harken responded affirmatively.
Over the next few moments, Qin Ye craned his neck over, and then retracted his head, and then craned his neck over, and then retracted his head again. Then, he picked up a stone and tossed it into the darkness below.
There were 10 seconds of silence, followed by a soft thud.
Then, he turned to the Harken and spoke with great resolution, “You jump, I jump.”
The Harken frowned and nudged him aside, before peeking down into the darkness below, “That’s not right…”
“Do you remember how Aristotle mentioned that he’d personally come to this place, and that the Argosian Underworld’s army had even marched into this tomb?”
Was that all a lie?
Qin Ye was just about to refute the Harken’s suggestions when his eyes suddenly glistened, and he rubbed his chin in deep thought, “Are you suggesting that… they’ve been left in the lurch?”
“That’s right. Given the urgency of the situation back then, Aristotle simply didn’t have the time nor opportunity to tell them to leave. If they’re not down there, they would probably be hanging around the vicinity, waiting for Aristotle’s return. But we’ve been acting without concealing our movements or actions at all, yet not a single soldier of the Argosian Underworld has shown up.”
Furthermore, there was no doubt that the cavern below ran unusually deep.
“The Ghost King’s Seal is a technique that manifests in various different iterations, and any Yama-King employing this seal would therefore take particular care to commit the exact iteration of the seal to memory. Then, it leaves the creator of these seals to revisit them every hundred years to maintain the strength of the seal. The Argosian Underworld might only have been able to gain entry because these seals haven’t been maintained for the last hundred years. So… could they perhaps still be trapped or lost inside?” The Harken mused aloud.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear of traps and dangers lurking in the depths of tombs of emperors. And this didn’t even take into account the fact that the prized possession within was personally sealed by a Yama-King as well. Nobody could be sure what exactly was located within the tombs.
“I’ll go down first to take a look around. Wait here.” With that, the Harken transformed into a cloud of Yin energy and dove straight into the pit.
Qin Ye waited outside for a while. Then, ten seconds or so later, the Harken called back with a trace of exclamation in its voice, “Come down.”
Without hesitation, Qin Ye leapt in after the Harken. And as soon as he did, the entrance to the pit immediately closed up.
It was completely dark within, and Qin Ye could sense the temperature falling quickly as he descended into the pit. This was peculiar, because logically speaking, the temperature should only rise as he drew closer and closer to the core of the earth. The only exception to this rule was if…
There was a large gathering of Yin spirits below!
Qin Ye fell for approximately 100 meters before he finally landed on the ground again. But as soon as he landed, the sight that greeted him caused him to draw a gasp of cold air.
It was a passage.
A massive underground passage.
The passage was at least five meters wide and three meters high. Furthermore, it appeared to keep running deeper and deeper into the substratum of the earth.
A deep groove lined both sides of the passage, and they were already lit with pale netherflames that continued to dance wildly in the darkness. The surface of the ground was carved with reliefs depicting Tengrism, while the walls of the passage were carved with reliefs depicting the great hunt of the Mongol Empire’s Iron Stupa. Apart from that, there were two sculptures of galloping stallions placed right in front of him at the mouth of the passage.
It was odd. It was incredibly odd. There were even countless streamers of scriptures written in the Mongol language also hung from the ceiling of the passage. Everything here was supposed to be several hundred years old. The stallion sculptures, the reliefs on the ground and the walls and the grooves that brought light to the passage could all be explained, but nothing could explain how the streamers of scriptures appeared almost brand new!
Furthermore, what was most peculiar about the entire passage was that it appeared to be clear as crystal, almost as though it had been carved out of clear, black-tinted glass! The netherflames caused the lights to refract in curious fashion along the black transparent walls, accentuating the outlines of the reliefs.
Nobody said a word. The Harken promptly leapt up onto Qin Ye’s shoulders, and he proceeded to walk ahead slowly as he surveyed his surroundings.
These don’t appear to be traps. Qin Ye couldn’t sense any nodes of Yin energy emanating from within the reliefs or of the sculptures ahead of him. And it didn’t matter if the traps were mechanical in nature and of the mortal realm. After all, it was impossible for anything in the mortal realm to cause harm to an Abyssal Prefect.
As he walked along the passageway, the reliefs on both sides of the passageway slowly changed to depict the image of a glorious city of the Song Dynasty. That said, the etchings on the ground continued to depict elements of Tengrism. He paused for a moment. But the Harken beat him to it before he could even speak his mind, “What’s written on these streamers of scriptures is the Sutra of the Fundamental Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. I’m all too familiar with these scriptures. They’re used to transcend spirits of the dead.”
Qin Ye turned his gaze to the front. Just a hundred meters away, he saw the sculptures of two horses again, “Horses bear an incredibly high status in the Mongol culture. As far as the funerals of nobility are concerned, most would bury the dead with live horses. However…”
He stroked the wall, “These are all made of obsidian.”
They were volcanic stones that bear glasslike properties.
“Obsidian is naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when volcanic lava cools rapidly. There’s only one place in Cathay that produces obsidian, and that’s the Province of Bod. However…”
He squinted at the location where the passageway appeared to blend into the darkness, “Even if we were to empty out all of the obsidian located within the Province of Bod, we wouldn’t even have enough to build a fraction of this tomb filled with such stones. The opulence of this tomb is what gave the Argosian Underworld the impression that it’s an emperor’s tomb.”
“But there’s more.” He knocked gently on the walls, “Have you noticed the temperature around these parts? It’s already close to zero degrees.”
The Harken’s eyes gleamed at once, “Yin spirit stones!”
“The mortal realm and the netherworld should never intersect with each other.” Qin Ye straightened his body and continued coldly, “I can tell that the temperature around these parts is incredibly cold. That means that a large number of Yin artifacts must have been used to construct this tomb so as to counteract the heat of the earth’s core. And if that is indeed the case, then this tomb mustn’t have been built by the living.”
The Harken could tell what Qin Ye was getting at, “Mass graves.”
“Bury a large number of people, and then refine them into the living dead using a special technique. This way, it wouldn’t contravene the rule of non-intersection between the mortal realm and the netherworld. That said, this tomb is clearly constructed in the mortal realm. Therefore, when the time comes, the living would effectively be buried in a coffin used in the underworld. This is the only way to explain everything that we see. And if this is indeed the case, then the owner of this tomb would have to be of incredibly high status while he was still alive.”
The Harken paced around, “Look at the carvings. That’s something from the Yuan Dynasty. Even if he’s not an emperor, he would at least have to be the grand vizier of his time. But… that doesn’t explain why we can’t detect any Yin energy from above ground!”
There wasn’t this much obsidian available for construction back in the mortal realm.
Besides, there were also a lot of Yin artifacts and items of the netherworld that filled this long passageway with dense Yin energy, and it simply didn’t make any sense that they couldn’t detect such dense Yin energy from above ground!
“There’s more.” Qin Ye looked up, and then pointed to the ground, “Look here. We see the Sutra of the Fundamental Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva dangling on streamers of scriptures overhead, and that belongs to Buddhism. But on the ground, we see reliefs of Tengrism. These are two different religions. How can they possibly be reconciled?”
The Harken thought for a moment, and then shook its head, “Let’s keep going for now. We can discuss these things in greater detail later.”
The tomb was filled with oddities everywhere. Qin Ye and the Harken ran along the long passageway, taking in the sights around them while they kept their thoughts to themselves.
Whoosh… 10 minutes… 30 minutes… 1 hour.
And the passage had yet to come to an end!
After an hour, Qin Ye finally stopped dead in his tracks. The sights around them were so austere that it weighed heavily on their minds. But it was right then that something else stood out to Qin Ye.
It was another sculpture.
But this time, it was the sculpture of a Taoist.
“Interesting.” Qin Ye ran up to the sculpture and took a good look around it as he tutted to himself, “Buddhism, Taoism, and Tengrism, all at the same time. Who is this who bears such mixed beliefs?”
Qin Ye was merely thinking aloud, yet the Harken immediately responded, “Qiu Chuji.”
Qin Ye paused for a moment, and then turned back to the Harken, “Are you messing with me?”
The Harken didn’t even bother to patronize Qin Ye as he pointed to the words below the sculpture.
Xixia’s Seven True Taoists.
So that’s how… Qin Ye coughed dryly and attempted to change the subject, “So… How does that tell us that it’s Qiu Chuji? Isn’t he simply known as the Seven True Taoists of the North?”
“Stop confusing yourself with these cultivation novels and their references!” The Harken barked back in rage, “Qiu Chuji is known to be an ascetic living in Xixia. The words Xixia’s Seven True Taoists is a reference to both the Xixia region and the Seven True Taoists of the North. It can only mean him.”
“But why is there a statue of him here?” Qin Ye frowned, “I don’t recall him dealing with the Yuan Dynasty to begin with. In fact, wasn’t the Yuan Dynasty quite bent on getting rid of him at all costs? Why would his statue be here?”
Who made this tomb?
It almost looks to be a tomb of taboos! An ancient tomb of the Yuan Dynasty, yet decorated with the sculptures of his enemies? Is this supposed to cause the person buried here to suffer from an aneurysm for the rest of eternity?!
“Perhaps… the person buried here simply doesn’t care too much about these things?” The Harken licked its lips, “I’m getting more and more interested in the identity of the owner of this tomb. Speaking of which, this should be a milestone.”
They had travelled approximately 100 kilometers over the last one hour or so.
“A monument to mark the first 100 kilometers, huh… Well, if my guess is right, the next such monument we might see could very well be a monk.”
Qin Ye raised his eyes quizzically, “Why do you say that?”
However, the Harken simply transformed into a nethergale that rushed forward along the passage again, “Let’s keep going.”
This time, they flew even faster, and arrived at the next milestone in only half an hour.
And as expected, the statue was exactly that of a monk!
He was kneeling on both knees, almost as though he had something to say to another person in front of him. His posture exuded an attitude of respect, and the sculpture was exquisite, just like the others before him.
Qin Ye’s lips parted slightly as he turned to the Harken. Without missing a beat, the Harken exclaimed, “Alas…”
“I know what this is…”
“This is a depiction of the Great Debate between Buddhism and Taoism!”
The Harken glanced deep into the depths of the passageway, “Although I’m still not sure of who the owner of this tomb might be, there’s now one thing I can be sure of.”
“And that’s the fact that there must be someone buried here, someone known as Drogon Chogyal.”
The Harken gave Qin Ye an oblique glance, “That might not be a familiar name to you, but he often goes by another name that might possibly ring a bell in your mind.”
“The Imperial Preceptor, Phagpa.”
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