Chapter 700: Onward

After pondering for several more moments, Qin Ye finally stood up. Mi Gaozhu looked up in astonishment, “Are you already done?”

“That’s right. I’m done with the search through the archives. Thanks.” Then, without bothering to conceal his identity before Mi Gaozhu, Qin Ye transformed into a stream of nethergale and promptly vanished from Mi Gaozhu’s office.

He didn’t return to the Mi family’s home either. After all, there was no need to impose on others right now. Instead, he went straight back to the hotel, where the Harken was lazing about on the bed, watching the television in boredom. As soon as the door opened, the Harken immediately perked up his ears and asked with great curiosity, “So, how’d it go?”

“As we suspected, there’s truly something strange about the Yin Mountains. Unfortunately, not even the Special Investigations Department was able to assess what’s wrong with it. My guess is that they’ve rated it to be of maximum danger for this very reason.” Qin Ye poured himself a cup of coffee and sank into the sofa, “They must suspect the presence of a powerful ghost, but they can’t wrap their minds around why the ghost has remained there in the Yin Mountains all this while, devouring all trespassers without any signs of expanding its reach. In other words, they perceive the Yin spirit to be acting passively in defence, rather than actively seeking out flesh and blood. This is completely uncharacteristic of a Yin spirit.”

The Harken’s eyes twitched slightly, “I’ve never quite heard of something like--... No! There’s one possibility!”

It jerked its head up, “Promotion!”

“Promotion?” Qin Ye nearly spat out the coffee in his lips, “Brother Zhao is already an official Ghost King. What room is there for him to grow? Are there any other official titles for him to covet?”

“... Can you not address him so intimately? You make it seem almost as though you’ve known him all along…” The Harken sighed softly, wondering what to make of the next King Yanluo of Hell.

“Strictly speaking, his strength is in the realm of a Yama-King, and there are a myriad of official titles that he can be conferred. That said, the promotion that I’m talking about is likely one of strength rather than title. According to our rules of classification, a Yama-King is already considered a peak existence in this world. But… how do you explain the strength of the Second King Yanluo?”

It sighed, “Therefore, there are those who posit that there’s still room for improvement beyond the realms of Yama-King, and it simply remains unknown to us right now. What you see right now is no different from the symptoms of one searching for a promotion, or a breakthrough. As for what exactly it entails… We’ll have to personally look into it.”

After an inordinate period of silence, Qin Ye finally nodded. Then, he made a series of quick hand seals, and a messenger bird flew straight into the skies.

Their trip to the Yin Mountains would easily take them another half a month or more, and there were still things to be done to close up this episode with the Russian Underworld. Naturally, he had to relay his instructions to Hell and issue his orders in the meantime.

Ten minutes later, a cloud of true energy suddenly gathered in the room, and an old man in his eighties, wearing Qing Dynasty clothes, appeared before them. As soon as he appeared, he immediately fell to his knees and bowed down with great respect, “Lord of the Land of Kalgan City, Du Wang of the Irgen Gioro Clan, humbly greets the esteemed Emissaries of Hell. I await your instructions.”

“Bring this to Hell.” Qin Ye handed him a letter, “In addition, tell them that I’ll only return after another month and a half.”

“Yes.”

Yet he maintained a posture of respect because Qin Ye had not issued him the orders to take his leave just yet. He knew the rules very well, and he also knew the punishment for breaking these rules. Furthermore, he knew more than anything that he had to tread carefully since this was the new Hell that he was now dealing with.

Qin Ye walked over slowly and leaned over the old man’s bald head, “Well? I’m here right now. Is there nothing to report of the supernatural incidents here in Northriver Province?”

Du Wang paused for a moment, and then he gasped deeply and raised his head, “There is!”

“My Lord… Please make sure to look into the supernatural incident in the Yin Mountains! The… the situation there is completely out of this world!”

“I’ve already reported the details to Ashmound City, but I haven’t heard anything to date. My Lord…” His body trembled as though in fear, “That place… devours everything! Let’s not even talk about ordinary human beings or experts for that matter. To date, five Walkers have been completely consumed by the Yin Mountains! We’ve only got approximately 15 Walkers here in the Northriver Province! I… don’t even dare to draw close to those regions myself!”

“Ordinary human beings might not be able to see them, but us heavenly envoys can clearly tell that the Yin energy gathered there is already dense to the extreme! It’s absolutely terrifying! In fact, the Yin energy there is so dense that they’ve been forced into a state of instability, and they can explode anytime and anywhere! The Yin energy there has even forcibly torn apart the boundaries between the mortal realm and the netherworld! We’re… we’re talking about hell on earth that has been slowly expanding in size!!!”

His wrinkles quivered slightly, and he revealed a look of intense fear in his eyes, “That’s no Hellguard. It’s not even an Infernal Judge. What lays within… is probably the most terrifying monster that the mortal realm has seen to date…”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Qin Ye glared at him, “That’s my Brother Zhao that you’re talking about! How can you call him a monster? He’s my brother, understand?”

Lord of the Land: ……

Damned this hierarchical system… He immediately revealed a warm smile on his face, “Yes… your good brother…”

That’s more like it… Qin Ye sat back down onto the sofa, and then turned to the Harken with a whisper, “Walker?”

The Harken glared at him with great indignation, “Didn’t you learn anything from your classes with the Second King Yanluo? Walkers are essentially the mortals discharging the duties of Emissaries of Hell. Mortals who have an affinity with Yin energy, and who possess the gift of infernal eyes, are given simple tasks to carry out in the mortal realm. In Hell, they’re more commonly known as the supernumerary emissaries, and they’re essentially the bridge that allows us to circumvent the ironclad rule that Hell should never interfere with the affairs of the mortal realm. Their role might seem redundant, but the truth of the matter is that these tiny threads form a network that reports to the Lord of the Land, and they act as the feelers of Hell on earth.”

“Regardless of county or city, there would be Walkers in every part of the mortal realm once Hell regains its former glory. In exchange, they’ll live their lives free of any illness or accidents. Separately… how dare you call Zhao Zilong your brother again?!”

Qin Ye: ……

What? Did you also fall in love with Zhao Zilong just like a certain other silicon doll?

“Alright. Find me a Walker and ask him to act as my guide into the Yin Mountains.” With that, Qin Ye waved his hand and summarily dismissed the Lord of the Land before he could even acknowledge Qin Ye’s instructions. The Lord of the Land vanished into a cloud of white smoke that quickly dissipated into the surroundings.

…………………………………………….

Cheng Jianfeng. Male, 28 years old, self-employed, single.

He was an optimistic young man that ran a joss stick store. He also got along well with the other merchants in the neighbourhood. He barely got by with his business, but he didn’t mind it too much. At the very least, he would never take it upon himself to actively solicit for business.

“I should’ve been dead a long time ago, and yet I was blessed with a second shot at life, and one without illnesses and ailments and disasters at that. Life is in itself the greatest blessing to me.” It was 6.00 p.m. He glanced out the window at the other shop fronts that couldn’t bear to lower their shutters and call it a night. He shook his head and slowly closed the old-fashioned door panels in front of his shop.

His shop was well-lit and filled with paper effigies, wreaths and other adornments used for coffins. The contents of his shop made the modest room feel somewhat stifling and depressing. Although he wasn’t afraid of these things, it didn’t change the fact that he wouldn’t remain here more than he had to. Thus, he opened the back door and headed back to his own room.

This was a small village located right next to the Qinglong Mountain Cemetery that had been spared relocation efforts when the cemetery was built. Incidentally, his shop shared the same space as his own home.

The design of his room was completely different from the shop space outside. It took on a minimalist style, and things were plain and simple with few pieces of furniture and decors. That said, there was a candle-lit shrine located right at the center of his room, dedicated entirely to the Lord of the Land. More bizarrely, the candle flame on this shrine was completely still and stable, and they didn’t even flicker in the slightest when he opened the door earlier.

He heaved a long sigh of relief. He felt completely at peace in this room. He couldn’t help but recall what happened just a few years ago, when he was seriously ill in bed and almost on the verge of death.

“Esteemed Lord of the Land, thank you for the blessings of your kindness and mercy to me.” He knelt on the mat reverently, lit up a stick of incense, and began to chant some mantras inaudibly.

Just then, the candle that had remained completely still all this while suddenly flickered wildly. And then, the lights in the room went out completely. A split second later, under the warm illumination of the candle light, the statue of the Lord of the Land suddenly stirred, and then… its eyes slowly opened!

“Walker A7.” The Lord of the Land spoke with a grave voice, “I have a task to entrust to your hands.”

Cheng Jianfeng’s eyes lit up at once.

It had been three years since he was first appointed a Walker on earth, and yet he’d never received a single task because the Yin spirits in Northriver Province were simply far too lacking. Naturally, this was the first time he’d heard the Lord of the Land address him so sternly.

“I await your command!”

The Lord of the Land paused for a moment, and then continued, “An Emissary of Hell has arrived at Yan Capital, and will be travelling into the Yin Mountains tomorrow. Are you aware that the Yin Mountains are considered a forbidden zone of Kalgan City? I’ve personally instructed all Walkers not to even glance at it on the night of the full moon, for fear that your souls will depart from your bodies.”

“I understand.”

“But now, I hope that you can act as this lordship’s guide. If you can gain his favour, then you can be sure that once you die… even if you’re not blessed with wealth and riches, you’ll at least be guaranteed a smooth-sailing afterlife.”

Cheng Jianfeng’s heart thumped wildly.

It was human to have ambition. Having once crept ever so close to the precipice of life and death, the draw of mortal careers naturally faded from the forefront of his mind. However, he still knew an opportunity when he saw one.

“Dare I ask who this lordship might be?”

Silence. Three seconds later, the Lord of the Land responded, “I can’t say.”

“But bear in mind that this lordship is a man that can crush your soul into nothingness in an instant. Never… never ever use your infernal eyes on him.”

With that, the lights in the room came on again, and the candles’ flames grew still once more. Cheng Jianfeng immediately noticed the words written on the ground with incense ash.

“Summer Tide Hotel, Room 642. Lord Qin. Tomorrow morning.”

Cheng Jianfeng recorded the information and immediately booked a cab. Early the next morning, he arrived right at the doorstep of the Summer Tide Hotel on the second day.

However, he didn’t knock on the door. After all, he didn’t know whether Lord Qin was still resting in slumber. Thus, he settled down in the hotel lobby, flicking through his phone lazily as he kept himself apprised of all the latest ongoings in the world. Yet, even then, his heart wouldn’t stop palpitating in anxiety and anticipation.

A great Emissary of Hell?

What kind of person could cause the Lord of the Land to act with such humility and respect? How terrifying must he be?

A multitude of thoughts ran through his mind with every moment that passed. He would even look up from time to time, anxiously, wondering if the lordship of Hell had arrived before him. Then, after an inordinate amount of time, his heart suddenly skipped a beat.

It was a primal sensation,  almost as though he’d noticed a prehistoric beast awakening right before his very eyes, and staring down on him as though he was food.

It was Yin energy that only Walkers like himself was able to detect. Furthermore, he could tell that the source of Yin energy was only growing stronger and more terrifying by the minute! At once, he felt as though he was thrown down into the depths of a bottomless abyss filled with evil ghosts. Not even the countless pedestrians walking about him could dispel the intense chill in his heart. He felt as helpless as a little boat swaying about in the roaring waves of the boundless oceans, ready to capsize at the moment’s notice.

This was a primal fear that rose from the depths of his soul!

Thud… He scrambled to get up, but his legs immediately gave way and he fell straight to the ground. He gasped in fear, wiping off the cold sweat beading up on his forehead.

Is this the lordship from Hell? He’s… terrifying… He’s completely different from what I’d expected! Is this one of the masters of the evil ghosts?

Tap, tap… Just then, a pair of sneakers appeared in his field of vision, followed by a sprightly young voice, “What’s the matter? Have you Walkers not seen an Emissary of Hell before?”

“G-g-greetings, Your Lordship!!” Cheng Jianfeng’s mind went completely blank.

In that instant, he felt as though he’d discovered the meaning of his existence.

In that instant, he understood the source of his second lease of life.

It wasn’t the Lord of the Land.

Rather, it was Hell!

At once, his heart was filled with worship.

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