Qin Ye didn’t disclose his deductions to Zhao Yun, and neither did the Harken. After all, the Harken had been with Qin Ye since their run-in with Russia, and its deductions naturally weren’t far off as well. Thus, after giving the Harken a tacit glance, both man and dog kept their thoughts to themselves.
“Well then, I guess that brings things to some form of closure. Ghost King Zhao, what do you plan to do next?” Qin Ye smiled and picked up his cup of wine, “On second thoughts, allow me to pose the question slightly differently. Ghost King Zhao… how familiar are you with Forbidden Arts?”
With the initiation module of a second generation Forbidden Art, as well as a high-ranking Emissary of Hell in tow, there’s simply no reason not to tackle the development of Forbidden Arts straight away! After all, the Forbidden Arts was what gave any one of the P4 underworld their standing in the international arena!
“Not too shabby.” At once, Zhao Yun’s expressions turned grave once more, “Yin Talismans can be considered the building blocks of the netherworld. You can think of it as akin to the protons, neutrons and electrons in the mortal realm. The more you know about these things, the quicker you can advance. But I have to add a caveat that understanding doesn’t immediately translate to advancement in cultivation. Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. That said, it still remains true that the deeper one’s cultivation, the better their understanding of Yin Talismans.”
That’s rather straightforward… But if you’re clever enough to understand these things, then why didn’t you even begin to suspect the Second King Yanluo for setting you up?
“And why is that so?” Qin Ye probed deeper. He was deeply interested in Yin Talismanology.
However, the one who answered him wasn’t Zhao Yun, but the Harken, “Because the higher one’s cultivation, the closer one gets to the Heavenly Dao. And that’s where one can find the source of all Yin Talismans. In fact, you can say that the scales are tipped in favour of the underworlds with Yama-Kings. That said, Yama-Kings remain a rare commodity that have a multitude of other duties. Take the old Hell for example. How many Yama-Kings and quasi Yama-Kings did we use to have? And then, just look at the duties and responsibilities each of us had to shoulder. Where were we to find the time to delve deeper into Yin Talismanology?”
“Thus, most of the research was instead delegated to Hell’s academicians, fellows, and other talents that we’d earmarked from talent scouting programs. Even our Abyssal Prefects don’t have the time to delve into these studies. After all, people are dying at every moment of the day, and there are a multitude of tasks to handle to keep Hell going as an underworld. Besides, it was already stated at the International Underworld Development Conference that the greatest issue to be addressed in the next 300 years or so would be energy-related issues.”
“Hang on a minute…” Qin Ye stared at the Harken as though he had just seen a ghost, “Academicians? Fellows? Young talents? Might you perhaps be conflating the underworld and the mortal realm?”
“... I’m just explaining it in terms you would better understand. These are only things that I’ve only recently been exposed to after all. In the past we used to call our equivalent of university scholars the Hanlin Academy. But don’t you think it’s better to keep with the times?” The Harken rolled its eyes, before turning to Zhao Yun, “Back to the topic at hand, what I’m trying to say is that even though General Zhao might not be a specialist in the field of Yin Talismanology, his understanding of Yin Talismans should still be the highest among all Yin spirits in Hell at present. Moreover, having been in close contact with the initiation module for such a long time, I think it’s safe to say that he should have some insights on its constitution and functionality by now.”
Zhao Yun nodded, “I await your instructions.”
Qin Ye raised his glass and paused for a moment, and then sighed softly without saying anything.
Don’t worry, I don’t know any imperial mind tricks just yet. I’ll simply reciprocate how you treat me for now.
Clatter, clatter! A white bone carriage pulled by six skeletal horses sped across the surface of the seas. The hooves of the skeletal horses clattered along the sea, leaving a trail of netherflames in the wake of its path of travel.
The human bone lamp hanging from the eaves of the carriage tinkled violently as the carriage sped along. Meanwhile, the carriage was tailed by hundreds of humanoid paper effigies riding on paper horses. That said, most of these paper effigies appeared to be somewhat incomplete. Some appeared to be charred and burnt, while others appeared to have mutilated limbs. All in all, the entire procession of troops appeared no different from an army that had been routed.
“Lord Kong, we’ll be at the edge of the array soon.” The coachman was a male Yin spirit dressed in ancient garments, “But what should we do? There’s no way to breach the formation array personally laid by the Second King Yanluo!”
“Keep going!!” A shrill voice echoed from the chamber of the carriage. Then, a withered hand drew up the curtain slightly, and a skeleton that appeared to be wearing the loose skin of a man peeked out and gnashed his teeth.
It had been ages since his last change of skin. The current one no longer fitted him well, and it was clearly coming loose at every part of the body. In fact, if one looked close enough, he would even be able to see ripples flowing along the surface of the loose skin as a result of the fierce wind battering against his body. However, he couldn’t care less about these inconsequential details at this point. He stared intently behind him with scarlet dots in his eyes.
Right there, he could see the skies across the horizon billowing with terrifying Yin energy and spreading madly. Meanwhile, there were endless red spots peeking out of the roiling clouds of Yin energy like scarlet constellations in the boundless night skies - these were all mad dogs that were hot on his tail.
These were the night hounds of the Daolord of the Asura, Qin Hui!
They were the ones who had sniffed him out from his hiding place and chased him across the waters!
Qufu had been lost, and his own army had been crushed in the confrontation with the Daolord of the Asura. Without reinforcements of the Mythic Palace of Reflections, he was completely helpless against such a terrifying force!
Is Qin Hui mad?! There can never be more than a handful of survivors in the old Hell! What good would killing me serve him!
Is he looking to devour me?
But our cultivation levels are so far apart! What good would that do him?
No… He must’ve gone mad! He’s hell bent on killing me! He’s even gone out of his way to chase me to the edge of this grand formation of the Second King Yanluo!
“Damn it…” He gnashed his teeth and lowered the curtain again, “If it weren’t for the Confucian Family’s 100-mile Soul Carriage, I would’ve been dead by now! With the old Hell gone, things should’ve gone right back to the warring states era of ages past! I should’ve been able to earn my footing as a feudal lord! So how did I end up encountering such a madman that threw a spanner into my plans?!!”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the time to be mulling over these things. After all, escape was of the utmost priority!
“Onward… Head straight for the formation!” He picked up a cup of tea, but his hands were trembling so hard that the tea spilled all over his hand. Gritting his teeth, he barked at the coachman, “I’ve already gotten in touch with the Nipponese Underworld. So long as we can get to the edge of the formation array, Izanami will bring Yue Wumu’s soul with her and grant passage to us!”
Kong Mo’s teeth chattered as he continued with a low, almost-inaudible voice, “Of course… the price to pay on our end is every bit of intelligence we hold about Hell right now…”
“Just you wait… If I can’t be a feudal lord of this glorious warring states era, then nobody can! The chaos in Hell… is only just beginning!”
Fwoosh! The four wheels of the carriage ignited abruptly into flames, and the carriage hurtled forward even quicker. Meanwhile, the throng of night hounds continued to rush forward in close pursuit without slowing down in the slightest.
Time passed by quickly. Thirty minutes… One hour… Then, finally, after an hour and a half, the evil ghosts travelling across the waters finally saw a glorious golden curtain of light appear across the seas. Countless intricate symbols of Yin Talismans glowed on its surface, just like the dazzling stars in the night sky.
Kong Mo shot to his feet and immediately rushed forward to the head of the carriage - We’re here… We’re finally here! I’ll finally be out of that hellhole! The three Daolords might be strong, but they’d never be able to lay a finger on an underworld that has survived the test of time!
So long as the forces of Yomi-no-Kuni are around, then my problems will be resolved. And then, I’ll at least be conferred an honorary title of a daimyo or higher!
But, just then, his moment of reverie was abruptly interrupted by a massive explosion of water right before the golden curtain. There was a shrill cackle, followed by the emergence of a behemoth from the waters, from which copious amounts of seawater flowed down.
It was a woman.
No, rather, it was a female ghost.
Her hair was scattered everywhere, and her head was massive. Her body was somewhat slender, save that her belly was disproportionately large. Furthermore, her scarlet tongue hung loosely from her lips, all the way down to the surface of the seas. Her pupils were blazing with scarlet netherflames, almost like two demon stars that shone down with foreboding omen.
Whoosh!!! Yin energy surged, kicking up escalating waves that surged as high as a hundred meters into the skies! At once, Kong Mo gasped, and he stared in horror in the direction of the behemoth.
“Hungry… SO HUNGRY!!!”
“I’m hungry… I want food… GIVE ME FOOD!!!”
The behemoth stood right before the golden curtain of light, stirring up roaring waves that swept everywhere with terrifying destructive force. It was like a roaring rainstorm. Following that, a series of scarlet netherflames began to light up all over her arms, belly and head. And then, an unprecedented shriek of anguish filled the air.
It was a despondent sight. She was the embodiment of the stuff of nightmares.
“Daolord of the Hungry Ghost… Su Daji…” Kong Mo’s lips trembled, and his heart sank to rock bottom.
How did I end up getting targeted by two Daolords?!
He was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was merely an Infernal Judge, sandwiched between two Abyssal Prefects. What were the odds of him surviving this deadly pincer attack?
“Stop the carriage…” He clutched tightly at the wooden armrest, and then… proceeded to kowtow to the ground.
This was the most humble and humiliating gesture he could muster right now - all for the sake of his own survival.
It was frustrating. He was already at the edge of the great formation, and Izanami was likely already waiting on the other side with Yue Wumu’s soul. But unfortunately… he couldn’t take a further step from here.
An intense nethergale swept across the seas. Then, as soon as the winds died down, a pair of brocade boots and a rose-coloured flamboyant skirt appeared right before Kong Mo’s eyes.
“Your servant, Kong Mo, humbly greets the two esteemed daolords.” His heart thumped wildly as he bowed deeply to the ground, “Your servant doesn’t know how it might have transgressed or offended the two esteemed daolords, but I would be grateful if the daolords could be merciful and leave me a way out! I will find some way to repay this favour in the future!”
“Haha…” Su Daji chuckled, while Qin Hui lifted Kong Mo’s jaws with his brocade boots.
“There shouldn’t be any reason to kill you.” Su Daji muttered softly, “And there shouldn’t have been any need for us to expend our resources hunting you down. After all, you’re nothing more than a dog to the Confucian Family.”
As if he could sense the confusion in his heart, Qin Hui sneered, “Because someone else wants you dead.”
“How could a subject escape the gallows if the ruler demands for his death?” Su Daji smiled viciously, “So… go in peace.”
In that instant, Kong Mo understood everything.
He stared at the two Abyssal Prefects in horror, “Did… did you two actually defect to the new Hell?!”
“The new Hell doesn’t have anything right now! How many Abyssal Prefects do they have right now?! One? Possibly even none! Do you really have to defect to them?!”
“If we join forces, the Confucian Family’s lineage coupled with the strength of two daolords, we’d be the strongest force to contend with in this warring states era! We’d be the ones to write history with our own hands!”
But before he could even go on, Su Daji immediately kicked him, sending his head flying off his body and hanging loosely from what remained of his skin. And then, Qin Hui opened his mouth and sucked hard. At once, a soul screamed and flew right out of Kong Mo’s body and into his lips.
“Only those who can judge the situation deserve to live a long life.” Qin Hui sighed and shook his head, “What about Dong Zhuo?”
“I’ve heard that he’s already consolidating his army of 150,000 troops. He’s getting ready to duke it with the new Hell.”
“What a fool.” Su Daji’s eyes gleamed dangerously as she licked her lips, “The Harken is still around, and the new King Yanluo is already an Abyssal Prefect. Does he really think he can defeat a powerful force like this?”
Then, just as the two daolords were about to vanish into a wisp of Yin energy, Su Daji abruptly held up her hand, “Hang on.”
A cold sea breeze swept by, causing waves to crash on the surface of the ocean.
Qin Hui frowned. Just then, a loud horn tore through the silence of the night sky.
They could vaguely make out a hazy sight just beyond the curtain of light!
Is that… a ship?
No! It’s more than one! A fleet of ships! And a fleet of ghost ships at that?!
What’s a fleet of ghost ships doing at the edge of Cathayan waters?!Previous Chapter Next Chapter