All were silent.
As far as new cultivators were concerned, the concept of Emissaries of Hell was just as foreign as any other. Fortunately, the older cultivators would have heard the legends of these existences in their lifetime, and they naturally knew it used to be reality at some point in time.
Thus, after a protracted pause, a middle-aged cultivator spoke with some tremor in his voice, “You… how do you prove this?”
It couldn’t be helped.
They had dreamt of leaving this place for far too long.
Naturally, none of them dared to shatter the glimmer of hope that had just emerged from the darkness.
“On what basis are you asking me to prove my own identity?” Qin Ye responded placidly, “But I suppose there’s no harm in proving my identity just to give you some measure of assurance, lest you forget something.”
“Let’s see… How about the fact that… you’re all still alive?”
“That’s the best proof of my identity right now.”
Everyone seized up for a moment, and then finally sighed softly.
That’s right… We’re still alive.
Had he been an evil ghost, he wouldn’t have hesitated to consume us after the draining battle earlier. Furthermore, I can see that this man has a shadow.
“Will we… really be able to leave this place?” A younger cultivator began to choke up.
“Not necessarily.” Qin Ye stroked the Harken’s back. Only he could hear the Harken’s ragged breaths right now, “Everything is contingent on our ability to resolve the issues here. So, you best not drag your feet any longer.”
Everyone turned to the most reliable man in their midst, who bit down long and hard on his lower lips, before finally nodding deeply, “Alright. We’ll… tell you everything…”
Their surroundings had become a desert by now. Thus, they simply sat on the ground. The man took a deep breath, and then cupped his hands respectfully, “I’m an investigator of the Kalgan City Special Investigations Department--...”
“No need for introductions. You’ll all have no choice but to report to me in another 100 years or so anyway. Get straight to the point.” Qin Ye waved his hands dismissively. After witnessing the passing of so many people in his lifetime, Qin Ye could hardly be bothered to make acquaintances with these sojourners in his life.
The man nodded, “You can call me Little Gao. We’re all cultivators, and incidentally, it was this little martial brother of ours who entered this place first.”
He pointed towards a young cultivator, and Qin Ye immediately nodded, “Do you have a screen name called One Sword One Mind?”
“Yes!” One Sword One Mind nodded at once, “I was the first one to enter this place back then. But… it wasn’t like this…”
His gaze grew deep and abstruse, “Back then, that brother was very good to me, unlike what we see right now.”
“He used to be sober, and he told me that I could only count myself unlucky to have stumbled into this place. At the start, I was scared out of my wits because I noticed that he didn’t have any shadows! However, he assured me that he wouldn’t kill for no reason, and he even began to hunt food for me, and even dig a well for my sustenance!”
Qin Ye hung his head low, and a bright gleam flickered across his mind, “Then when did he start showing signs of change?”
One Sword One Mind gulped nervously, “It seemed to have been festering all that while, but… it wasn’t so bad at the start…”
With that, One Sword One Mind fell silent, almost as if he was trawling through his memory for the exact details. Qin Ye waited patiently, and the surroundings were completely silent. One minute later, One Sword One Mind looked up with a frown, “If memory serves me well, it would be 25 August.”
“Are you certain?” The Harken abruptly look up, shocking One Sword One Mind, who frantically nodded his head in response, “I’m certain. It hadn’t been long since I’d entered this place, so I can still remember what happened back then. I recall… the cries of pain back in the Martyr’s Shrine. He… he usually treats me well, so I’d skipped over to check on him. But…”
He shuddered, “The one who came out appeared to be him, but wasn’t him altogether! I got the feeling that he was a completely different person! And he actually looked at me and smiled!”
“He never smiles!”
He clutched tightly to his chest as he continued, “He was murmuring to himself about being too soft-hearted to keep the Han Cathayan alive… That’s right! Those were his exact words! I can still remember his demeanor back then - the kind that was high and lofty, and filled with noble contempt. It was an indescribable sensation of dignity, and a far cry from how the man usually behaved.”
Qin Ye nodded, “So none of you have learnt of his name all this while?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Very well. Continue.”
“Let me take over.” Old Li coughed twice and stood up. They were given the opportunity to accrue virtue for themselves! Who wouldn’t want to take up such a prime opportunity like this?
“You’ve probably come for this man’s ego that appears to be fading away.” He paused for a moment, “And you’re probably trying to assess how best you can go about rescuing him, aren’t you? We might not know the means of the esteemed Emissaries of Hell, but we’ve still got some information to share after observing this man for such a long time.”
“For instance, we know a thing or two about the drum beats of the mountain gods, as well as the charging armies below.”
Qin Ye’s expressions immediately turned somber. These were part of the information he was looking for.
He couldn’t afford to pass up even the slightest of details, especially when anything could potentially hold the key to unlocking the mystery enshrouding Ghost King Zhao.
“The drums would sound from within the rolling fog beneath the mountaintop every evening, during the demonic hours. We call this the drum beats of the mountain gods. After that, we’ll hear the charge and clash of a mighty army. We’ve been hearing these sounds everyday since three months ago.”
He then pointed to the edge of the cliff, “Do you see the precipice over there? At the start, they weren’t even able to make their way to the edge of the precipice. But they’ve been gaining ground with each day that passes. We don’t know what exactly lies within the rolling fog around us, but it’s definitely something with a spiritual body and might just like the Yin spirits that we know of. And to that end, the drum beats of the mountain gods that we’ve been speaking of are incidentally also the drumming of war drums.”
“In other words, these are the sounds coming from the war drums which stir the hidden army’s advancement!”
“And the identity of the ones who are charging up…” He paused for a moment, “Are none other than Mongols!”
Qin Ye and the Harken looked up at the same time.
Zhao Yun suppresses the soul of Genghis Khan… the charge of the Mongol cavalry… and the collapse of the Mongol Empire’s Tengrism…
Everything seemed to be coming together!
“Are you certain?” Qin Ye asked, seemingly placidly.
“I’m certain!” Old Li took a deep breath, “I’m from Mongol descent after all, and I’ve learnt their language as a child. Even though we can’t see a thing in the fog, we can still hear them! Every single order given down under has been issued in the language of the Mongols!”
“There’s more!” A cloaked lady built upon the words that had been said thus far, “The 25th of every month is when his body is at its weakest. At the very least, he’s able to stay awake all day until midnight at night. Incidentally, that’s also the day when the Mongol cavalry in the fog is advancing with the most fervor. It almost feels like… they’re trying to share the pressure on the alter-ego attempting to take over the man’s body… At least, t-that’s my guess.”
Qin Ye said nothing, and continued listening intently.
Credit where it was due, having experienced life in this space for such a long time, the survivors had actually managed to grasp some of the laws of this domain by now. After two full hours, he finally nodded, “Thanks for the information. Now, go get some rest. This matter is well beyond your means. Your intelligence has been very helpful to us.”
Nobody felt indignant in the slightest.
After all, their experience of the earlier exchange had changed their perspective completely, and they knew full well that they would only be reduced to ashes if they even got anywhere remotely close to Ghost King Zhao.
Thus, everyone found their own places to rest up. Meanwhile, Qin Ye and the Harken casually paced around, glancing towards the Martyr’s Shrine from time to time, “The answer is obvious.”
The Harken nodded in concurrence, and both spoke at the same time, “Temujin’s soul.”
“That’s right.” The Harken’s eyes narrowed, and it glanced around before continuing with a soft voice, “I’m afraid that Ghost King Zhao might already have returned from his travels. But what he didn’t expect was to be greeted by a mutated soul. But this only stands to reason. Firstly, the old Hell no longer exists, and it’s for that reason that he was unable to suppress a quasi Yama-class Yin spirit. Secondly, don’t you forget that there exists an incredible amount of Resentment Crystals underneath Temujin’s Tomb. Nobody has ever put to test the effects that such radiation can have on the soul of a Yin spirit, and it’s anybody’s guess whether that has something to do with Temujin’s might and actions right now.”
Qin Ye’s eyes flickered, “So, Temujin’s soul is attempting to take control of Brother Zhao’s body? But that’s not too realistic either, is it? He’s only a quasi Yama-King. Even if Brother Zhao is no longer benefiting from his official title from the old Hell, he still isn’t an existence that Temujin’s soul can defeat.”
The Harken stamped its feet on the sand and responded with a grave expression, “I’ve got my own thoughts about this…”
“But since it’s merely a wild speculation, it makes no sense to talk about it.”
What the hell? That’s not what I was expecting!
The Harken glared at him fiercely, before finally relenting, “Where do you think those Mongol cavalry have come from?”
Qin Ye mused, “We personally watched as Tengri collapsed. The collapse of faith should’ve spelled the dissipation of countless Yin spirits. And this is a sizable army that we’re talking about. How could they possibly still exist?”
“Because… they’re none other than the Mongol Empire’s renowned Iron Stupa! They are the invincible army that had ravaged all enemy territories wherever they rode, expanding the state of the Mongol Empire to unprecedented reaches!” The Harken continued, “They belong to Hell, and not the Mongol Underworld, because they had perished in Cathayan territory! This is the cavalry of the Golden Horde that took down the Song Dynasty! It’s the elite of the elites, even among the Mongol Empire’s Iron Stupa!”
“If you’re familiar with Cathayan history, you would know that at the beginning, the most powerful military forces would all be channeled towards the war with the Song Dynasty, while the rest of the forces that were sent to attack Europa were hardly considered the cream of the crop. Well, then, let me ask you something else. Why do you think these Yin soldiers suddenly resurrected and showed up in this place? And why are they besieging the mountaintop?”
Qin Ye frowned, searching through the words of the survivors for a clue as to what the answer might be. Suddenly his eyes lit up, and he glanced back at the Harken with a look of great disbelief, “They… are trying to defend Tengrism?!”
The Harken’s gaze flickered, and it nodded deeply, “That’s my guess. Temujin is also called the incarnation of Tengri, or an embodiment of Tengri’s will. A system of mythology always seeks to leave for itself a means of succession, and the idea of using Genghis Khan’s soul to revive their faith… isn’t completely out of the question!”
“Furthermore, Genghis Khan’s soul has never been through the gates of Hell, and it’s never been branded by the mark of any underworld either! His soul is as suitable as it gets. That said, Temujin’s soul has been sealed for a long time, and its current strength makes it unable to sustain the might of a god’s existence. Thus, Temujin needs to breakthrough his current bottleneck and become a true Yama-King! This is why he has no choice but to confront a Yama-King! Of course, these are all but speculations on my part, but… I’m convinced that I’ve just about grasped the heart of the situation here!”
Qin Ye raised his hand, “Hang on… Isn’t Tengri… at best an Abyssal Prefect? Genghis Khan is already a quasi Yama-King, so what’s so unacceptable or incompatible about it?”
The Harken shook its head, “It’s not the same.”
“We’re talking about the true god of a system of faith. These are entities born to reach the level of Yama-Kings, and their qualifications have existed right from the beginning. The only thing holding them back is the size of the country and the people under their charge. How large is the Mongol Empire? How can they possibly ascend and break through their current rank? Unfortunately, the harsh fact of reality is that there are no strong gods in weak underworlds.”
“Apart from that, there’s also a qualitative difference between the existence of a true god of a system of faith and that of a regular Yin spirit. Not even a regular Abyssal Prefect is able to sustain the manifestation of a true god in their bodies. Foreign underworlds call this phenomenon a divine descent. Here, in Hell, we call it arrogation.”
Qin Ye raised his hands once more, and then blinked his eyes, “Hang on a minute… Am I now… also a god?”
The Harken’s voice drifted off, and it took the Harken some time before he reluctantly nodded its head.
“The dreg among the gods of death.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter