The Harken’s voice cracked, and it swore under its breath.
Qin Ye also froze in horror. He was completely taken aback by the name he saw.
He had known of the existence of Zhao Zilong ever since the Battle of Qufu, where Ashmound City was currently located. Since then, there had been the incidents of the Hungry Ghost Festival, and then the matter surrounding the script of death, his encounter with the Daolord of the Hungry Ghost, and even this incident with the Russian Underworld and their foray into Forbidden Arts. Even then, this was well outside any of their wildest imaginations. After all, Cathay was large, but Zhao Yun was one of the Sixfold Ghost Kings. Why couldn’t they sense his Yin energy at all? And why hadn’t he contacted the new Hell to date?
Neither one of the duo had expected to come across a message left by Zhao Yun in such a place.
1962… Zhao Yun is still in this world…
This message might not seem like much, but it represented one crucial fact.
And that was the fact that Zhao Yun had likewise escaped the great collapse of Hell, and he hadn’t been whisked off into paradise with the ascension of Lord Ksitigarbha!
Who was Zhao Yun? He was practically an unparalleled existence across Hell in its former glory!
“The fact that he didn’t reach out to Hell, coupled with the fact that we can’t sense his Yin energy at all, both point to the possibility that something has happened to him…” Qin Ye paced about the room excitedly with his hands in the air - This is His Lordship Zhao! If I can just locate him and bring him back to the new Hell, we’d practically be able to soar on his wings to new heights! What’s more, we’re talking about a loyal subject to Hell! A loyal dog from whose lips only flows milk and honey, and far better than a certain Infernal Judge back home who only spews venom whenever she speaks!
“I’d posit that his problem relates to Temujin’s soul.” The Harken thought aloud with a twinkle in its eyes, “Temujin’s soul has vanished together with Zhao Yun, while these two doors leading to the inner chambers were clearly sealed by both the Second King Yanluo and the Ghost King at the same time. There’s no way Temujin, a mere wandering soul that hasn’t been conferred any official status in Hell, would be able to escape from this place.”
Qin Ye didn’t say a word. Instead, carrying the heavy sword on his back, he paced around the room several times, suppressing the excitement in his heart as he processed his thoughts, “The first question is why was Temujin’s soul sealed in the first place?”
“His soul… is not quite the same as the rest.” The Harken calmed his heart down and began to address its mind to the details it knew of. After all, they would be doing themselves an injustice if they passed up on the Ghost King before exhausting all of their options and leads.
The Harken spent the next few moments organizing his thoughts, before finally speaking, “To be more precise, it’s the Mongol Empire that is quite different and apart from any other Cathayan Dynasty in history. In fact, there are several scholars who sometimes question whether the Mongol Dynasty could even be considered a part of Cathayan history to begin with.”
“Firstly, although the Yuan Dynasty was similar to the Qing Dynasty in that the incumbents were both not of the Han ethnicity, the rulers of the Qing Dynasty eventually became sinicized, while the Mongols did not. However, that’s not the main point. Any dynasty founded on mainland Cathay would naturally still form a part of Cathay’s history. There’s simply no denying that. The point here is that when Kublai Khan first ascended the throne as the khagan emperor, his army wasn’t the only army that was marching on conquests for the expansion of their territory. Sure, his was the main force driving the formation of the Yuan Dynasty, but the other forces were in no way weaker than his either.”
Qin Ye nodded slightly, “I’ve read that there was a dispute between Ariq Boke and Kublai Khan on who the rightful heir to the throne was, and they disputed the split of the establishment of several major Khanates of the Mongol Empire. After all, they had both led their troops in different directions.” 
“That’s right. The Yuan Dynasty was also known as a territory formed by the four main states of the Great Khanate, the Chagatai Khanate, the Il-Khanate, and the Golden Horde. To that end, these states are not considered unified states, but are rather independent of each other. Their leaders aren’t so important, but the fact remained that these independent states also meant that the dynasty was fractured. Coupled with the differences in their systems of belief, this might well have been the primary cause preventing Temujin’s soul from entering Hell. Or, to be more precise, allowed it to disobey the rules of Hell.”
“After all, any living soul that perishes in Cathay must enter Hell. And should any soul disobey these rules, they would forcibly be suppressed…” The Harken’s pupils narrowed as it continued with its deductions, “There’s a possibility that we’d always known where Temujin’s soul was located, but he wasn’t ready to submit to Hell’s authority. That, coupled with the countless Iron Stupa under his command, and his identity as one of the founding fathers of the nation, made it inconvenient for the Second King Yanluo to directly force him into submission…”
Qin Ye frowned, “But, why?”
Wouldn’t someone as domineering and unparalleled as the Second King Yanluo simply crush anyone who refuses to submit? What’s there to fear?
“Political scandal.” The Harken responded with a sigh, “It’s all because of Hell’s standing in the international arena. Do you know what kind of ridicule Hell would be subject to if others discovered that one of the souls of our founding ancestors actually refuses to submit to Hell? This would be the laughingstock of the millennium! I mean… we might be Hell, but we’re also concerned about our face, you know?!”
“... Please go on…”
The Harken glared fiercely at Qin Ye as it continued, “Like I said, this is likely to be the case. Thus, Zhao Zilong was sent to guard this--... But that’s not right either! Even though Genghis Khan undoubtedly has the potential to become a Yama-class Yin spirit, it doesn’t change the fact that he hasn’t been officially conferred a title in Hell just yet. And that means that there’s no justification for sending a Ghost King to guard a single soul!”
Both of them fell silent at once.
What have we missed out?
What else have we overlooked? That’s the crux as to why Zhao Yun was here in the first place!
Nobody said a word. Qin Ye sat at the foot of the statue of Tengri and delved deep into his own thoughts. After what seemed like an eternity, his eyes suddenly gleamed brightly, and he pulled out the heavy sword from behind his back and smashed it on the ground with a bang. His eyes blazed brightly as he turned towards the Harken, “This is it.”
Second generation Forbidden Arts?
The Harken didn’t rebuff Qin Ye’s suggestion immediately. However, it still had some questions, “What does Genghis Khan have to do with a second generation Forbidden Art? You’re not suggesting that a second generation Forbidden Art is something that is composed of ideas from Tengrism, are you? That’s far too lacking compared with the depths of the system of Taoism. I’m more inclined to think that the initiation module placed here had merely been entrusted to Zhao Yun’s care at the time of the great collapse.”
“No!” Qin Ye responded categorically, “It’s Resentment Crystals!”
“The initiation module of the second generation Forbidden Art originally contained Resentment Crystals!”
“Do you recall how we couldn’t sense a bit of Yin energy emanating from the subterranean reaches when we were located on the surface? Furthermore, you’d earlier mentioned that Resentment Crystals possess a special property of insulating Yin energy from the surroundings. That’s why we couldn’t detect any Yin energy from these catacombs from back on the surface!”
Then, Qin Ye glanced around warily, before dropping the bombshell, “This tomb is likely constructed on a bed of Resentment Crystals!”
“Moreover, do you recall how the records of the Mongol Underworld state that the Resentment Crystal in Terelj National Park had appeared approximately 70 years ago? Guess what? So was the message left behind by Zhao Yun! If he was trying to use the allure of Resentment Crystals to tell the new Hell that he was still around, then everything would make sense!”
The Harken gasped, “But why would he do that? Besides, wouldn’t placing Resentment Crystals in the Mongol Empire be far too dangerous, especially since that’s also the location to the only entrance of the tomb?”
Qin Ye’s mind spun, and he licked his lips, “That’s most likely because he also wanted to ascertain if the next Hell was deserving of his aid as well. Well, let’s shelve these thoughts for now. We’ll never be able to guess his motives fully. What’s more important is…”
He glanced at the obsidian beneath his feet, “The fact that there’s likely a vein of Resentment Crystals down here that is far larger than what we’ve seen earlier in Khuree! In fact, the mine in Khuree is probably just the bait used to lead us to the prize! We’ve… truly struck gold this time!”
Turns out that all of the clues have been pointing to a location right beneath our feet all this while!
“Are you able to locate Zhao Yun?”
“I’ll try.” The Harken walked up to the coffin and took a deep breath at Zhao Yun’s message. At once, the words drifted up like they were alive and flew straight into the Harken’s nose.
The Harken closed its eyes and began to sense its surroundings. Qin Ye took a step back and refrained from disturbing the Harken as well. After approximately half an hour, the Harken snapped open his eyes once more, “Northriver!”
Zhao Zilong was known as Changshan Zhao Zilong. In turn, Changshan was short for Changshan Commandery, where he was from. To be more precise, he was from Zhending County, located in Northriver Province!”
“He’s in Zhending?”
“No…” The Harken frowned, “This place seems to be the… Yin Mountains?”
“Where’s that?” Qin Ye had never heard of this place.
… Are you mocking me?
Faced with Qin Ye’s deadly glare, the Harken coughed dryly and went on to explain, “The Yin Mountains is a mountain range that stretches on for approximately 1,000 kilometers. Of these, there’s a location where a birch forest is located. The temperature there doesn’t exceed 4 degrees celsius all year round, and nobody dares to even set foot there during winter. From October, that birch forest, including the area of a hundred-mile radius around it, was officially slated as a test site for our Forbidden Arts.”
Qin Ye frowned, “Are you not afraid of radiation?”
“Don’t worry, Forbidden Arts will only cause direct damage to Yin spirits, and perhaps stir up some supernatural phenomenon in the skies. But it wouldn’t harm the mortal realm at all, just like how firearms of the mortal realm have no effect on Yin spirits. Have you forgotten about the theories that undergird the interoperability of our Three Realms?”
Qin Ye nodded slightly.
He finally had Zhao Yun’s exact location to work with. Sure, the Yin Mountains might be large, but he could with sheer grit turn every stone in the mountain range!
Just then, there was the sound of a soft rumble. It started out slight, and then slowly grew louder and louder. Within 10 minutes, the sounds burgeoned from that of the trickle of a stream to the deafening roar of a rushing river that had burst its banks!
“What’s this…” Qin Ye stared out of the stone chambers, and he nearly flipped his top, “Sand burial?!”
Both sides of the passageway had already split open by now, and copious amounts of sand poured in from outside!
It was only then that they realized that the chamber that they were currently located in was the lowest point of the entire tomb. That said, it was a subtle feature of the construction of the tomb, because both Qin Ye and the Harken didn’t sense any drop in the gradient at all.
That said, it was now patently clear given the manner in which the sand was falling through the passageway. Everything was rushing over like a stampede of horses!
“What do we do?!”
“You’re not going to die from something like this. What are you so afraid of? Hurry up and let me climb into your shirt.”
“I wouldn’t die, but I’d still get dirty!”
“Then why aren’t you doing anything to protect me? Do you think I’m not afraid of getting dirty?!”
“Bloody hell… Do you believe it when I say that I’m going to kick you if you say more?!”
“What’s the point of posturing against me? Just wait for the sand to pile up and fill this chamber, stand on it and break the obsidian on top of the roof. You’re now back in Cathay, so what do you have to be afraid of? Tsk, young people these days… You need to learn how to get your hands dirty as well…”
In the desert.
“Cut!” A bearded man wrapped up in a down jacket and wearing a cap frowned as he yelled cut. Then, he took a deep breath and picked up his loudhailer, “Hey, move the corpse over slightly! And you there, do you even know how to act?! Hurry up and let me know if you don’t, so that I can change actors quickly! Tsk, a simple crying scene like this and you already need eye drops for the third time? You’re a joke! I’m telling you, you’d better get your damned tears out even if that’s the last thing you do!”
There was a reasonably large crew located right in front of him, and an actor and an actress were clearly both trying to act out a scene of desolation with the desert in the backdrop. Unfortunately, the actress was unable to evoke the right emotions for her role.
“We’ll take a 10 minutes break!” The bearded director set down his loudhailer and sat down on his chair.
They were in the Tianmo Desert.
This was the only desert in Northriver Province, and also the location where over 300 movies were filmed, including Armageddon, Mummy 3, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t a big desert by any means, and the upside to it was the fact that it was only located a few dozen kilometers from Yan Capital itself. In fact, the edge of the desert was even located right adjacent to a river, and one could easily see forests and windmills located on the other bank of the desert.
Nobody knows how or why it was formed. There were mountains to the south, and a lake to the north. There were even beacon towers located along the ridge and the ruins of ancient counties and ancient castles located nearby. Naturally, it was a unique sight to have a desert located in the midst of all these things. In fact, the legends even had it that the desert was formed overnight, and it was something also called the overnight desert.
The crew members gathered in twos and threes. The actress rubbed her reddish eyes softly, staring at the ground as she complained to herself, “Is the bearded director on pills today or something? Isn’t he just after the sheer number of tears to be shed? Why is he asking so much of my acting as well? If I were that good, I’d have won all of the major awards by now!”
Unfortunately, everyone was deep in their own thoughts, and nobody saw the sandy ground beneath their feet slowly rising.
1. For those interested to read more, please look up wiki! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariq_B%C3%B6ke