Rumble rumble rumble… The entire ground trembled in tandem with the rippling Yin energy. Even though everything was practically imperceptible from the outside, Qin Ye could hardly care less about keeping things under wraps any longer. He exclaimed, “What the hell is going on here?!”
It appeared as though he were asking the others, but Arthis knew that the question was directed to her, and she muttered, “Breath.”
“This is… that mysterious presence’s breath… It’s a ghost, and it’s still alive!”
Qin Ye was stunned, and he probed further, “Sindragosa? Your frost wyrm?”
“Do you believe I’m just going to give you a flying…”
Before Arthis could even finish unleashing the wrath of her fury on Qin Ye, the entire ground suddenly quaked violently, and a chasm opened up and swallowed the whole lot of them.
Simultaneously, as soon as the barrier was broken, the sudden changes immediately drew the attention of the sentries. The entire garrison of troops immediately flew into a state of frenzy and alarm.
“What’s going on?” A Major standing just outside the garrison watched in amazement as a cloud of dust abruptly rose from the first floor of the nursing home. Seconds later, he pulled himself together and shouted, “Hurry! Immediately send a report to the Special Investigations Department…”
“There’s no need.” A placid voice interjected before the Major could finish his instructions. Zhou Xianlong was already standing right behind him.
“The Special Investigations Department will take over from here.” Zhou Xianlong continued to issue his orders in a systematic fashion, “Immediately collate and submit the footage from all surveillance systems nearby, regardless of how remote these cameras are. As long as they are within a radius of three hundred meters from the fourth hunting zone, I want them.”
Very soon, copies of various video footages rolled in. Zhou Xianlong and two others behind him immediately got down to work.
Tatata-tatata… The sound of rapid keystrokes continued incessantly. Several minutes later, the footage of Qin Ye and the others acting like Tarzan was projected on the screen.
“Bunch of troublemakers…” Zhou Xianlong was taken aback, and he gnashed his teeth in anger, “Why do we always attract some bunch of kids who are up to some bullshit mischief… Investigate them! I want to know which department they’re from! … Hang on… on closer inspection, I think I know who they are…”
It was none other than the man who had left an indelible impression, S9527, as well as…
“And those little brats from the Blaze Squad.” His voice was seething with rage, as he picked up the phone and dialed a number, “Principal Xu, it’s me… you’ve got to properly train the new instructors at your academy… What? The instructors’ training hasn’t commenced? Then we’ve got to do everything we can to ramp up the training efforts as soon as they begin!”
“... What’s going on? Haha, does sneaking into the fourth hunting zone in the middle of the night count? Deduct a month’s worth of merit points, and give them a small punishment.”
As soon as he finished speaking, he turned around and left.
“Chief…” After walking out of the garrison, a man behind him muttered in a low voice, “But this is the fourth hunting zone we’re talking about… Given its peculiarities…”
“I know.” Zhou Xianlong revealed a sinister smile on his face, “But… I’m afraid a much larger punishment is awaiting them below.”
“They’re pretty capable, huh? They’d even managed to discover the secret passageway below… Do you know why I’m not issuing a heavy punishment?”
The conversation had moved so quickly that the man behind him wasn’t able to keep up at all, “Huh?”
Zhou Xianlong ignored him, and he simply gazed into the distant night sky as he murmured, “Initiative and creativity are highly commendable traits. We need more soldiers like these, especially in our current times.”
“We need cannon fodder, but we have an even greater need of elites.”
Thud… The landing below the nursing home wasn’t too far below ground level. The drop had only been approximately ten meters, and such height was hardly of any concern to Hunter-class experts at all. They quickly adjusted their stance and landed safely on the ground.
“This is…” They were startled by the first thing that they saw.
A stone door.
It was an ancient stone door etched with intricate patterns. Qin Ye furrowed his brows and thought for a moment. He was almost certain that he had seen these patterns in front of Cao Youdao’s secret chamber earlier.
Was there a huge tomb underground that ran across the entire City of Salvation?
Qin Ye shook off these wild speculations in his mind and began to take a closer inspection of the door.
An altar lamp stood on each side of the door, illuminating the entrance. Apart from that, everything else around was nothing but rock walls.
“This is a manmade passage. And it’s been here for a long time at that… but not too long either. I estimate it to be approximately a hundred years old.” Su Feng examined the dirt below, “Should we open it?”
Having come so far, they all knew that the wealth of merit points was already right in front of their very eyes. Nobody was willing to back down at this moment.
Despite the thick stone door that stood in front of them, everyone could already sense the majestic, boundless Yin energy that hid behind the door. Every breath of the creature from within caused their blood to boil, and sent chills down their spine.
It was unfathomable.
Everyone looked at Qin Ye.
“Me? Open the door?” Qin Ye was taken aback, and he pointed at himself with quivering eyes, “That’s not too suitable, is it?”
What if a thousand bolts shoot straight towards the door as soon as I open it? Or what if a sharp claw surges out and maims me to death?!
Su Feng shook his head firmly. To their minds, it was natural for the strongest among them to raise the banner at such a critical juncture.
This was the privilege of the strongest one.
Faced with the united pleas of the four other S-class agents, Qin Ye cursed softly in his heart.
“If I die here, I want you to know that you’re the one responsible for it...” He muttered begrudgingly. After several deep breaths, he cautiously approached the door, aimed at the gap, and then…
Poked the stone door with his finger.
Then, with lightning quick speed, he dodged to the wall beside, doing his utmost to meld into it.
“I think… it’s better to push than to poke…” Lin Han suggested good-naturedly.
Qin Ye glared at the fool - Do you think I don’t know that?! The question is whether I can muster the courage to do so in the first place!
Under the confluence of great fury and exasperation, he shut his eyes and kicked open the door all at once.
Boom… There was a muffled tremor. The other four people exchanged glances and rushed forward like a bolt of lightning. But in the very next second, they all retreated back in a concerted fashion.
“What’s going on?” Qin Ye furrowed his brows and slowly approached the door. Then, with a sharp gasp, he quickly retreated like the rest as well.
There was a huge passageway inside.
The passageway was four or five meters wide, and the exact contents of the passageway wasn’t clear to them. That said, what was clear to them was…
The entire inner chamber was densely packed with soldiers, all of whom were staring straight back at them. At the same time, there were innumerable laser sights already trained on each of their bodies.
There was no doubt that as long as they dared to even make a single unsolicited move, they would instantly be turned into a sieve.
“Misunderstanding… this is all a misunderstanding…” Lin Han smiled stiffly, and he instinctively raised both of his hands into the air, signifying his surrender.
“This is… laser sight?” Arthis was startled and exclaimed, “Raise your hands! What are you waiting for?! I don’t want to die with you in this place!”
Qin Ye could hardly be bothered with the crazy soul sphere. Needless to say, everyone automatically raised their hands into the air.
“This is the intel you have?” Qin Ye gnashed his teeth and whispered to Su Feng, “Why is there someone else here?”
“This is the Special Investigations Department… look at the emblems on their chests with the sword and shield marks…” Su Feng sighed, “It looks like the government had already known of such matters, and it’s just that they didn’t disclose it to the rest of us. They’ve even already built a base down here… it looks like we’ve all missed the boat…”
Qin Ye drew a deep breath. He had a bad feeling that the merit points for this expedition had just gone up in smokes.
Swish… Just then, the soldiers parted ways while maintaining their laser sights trained on each one of the intruders. A man wearing a large white lab coat gently nudged the soldiers to the side as he made his way towards Qin Ye and the rest. The man was approximately forty years old, with chiseled appearances replete with thick, bushy eyebrows. His hands remained in his pocket as he made his way through the crowd of soldiers with a swift stride. And then, he finally stopped when he had come to the front, “Pretty capable, aren’t you?”
“Haha… average, I guess…” Lin Han chuckled dryly.
The man with the chiseled face gently flicked the work tag on his chest, “Special Life Research Center, or SRC for short. I’m the Director of the First Research Center in Insignia Province, Chang Shun.”
“SRC?” The other four were startled, while Qin Ye whispered in a soft voice, “Is this a problem?”
Su Feng’s expression turned bitter, “Not a problem… SRC… is the only department that matches up to the Special Investigations Department. They investigate all entities who display exceptional or anomalous traits, including people who have been possessed, witnessed supernatural incidents, as well as mutated Yin spirits alike. I only know that their headquarters are based in Yan Capital. Apart from that, every branch that exists is classified as top secret information…”
Chang Shun smiled as he sized up the group of intruders, “Not bad. You’re the first group of people who have stumbled upon the SRC in decades. Tell me, what clues led you to this place? How should I commend you for your achievements?”
“Is it too late to run?” Qin Ye muttered softly.
Zhuo Qinfen’s lips twitched uncontrollably, “You can try, if you don’t mind having a huge black mark against your name.”
Qin Ye grew taciturn.
“Come here.” Chang Shun turned around and waved invitingly at them. Together with the escort of a group of elite soldiers, they all made their way towards the heart of the chambers.
Qin Ye and his group followed Chang Shun in a single file.
The underground chamber was constructed and designed in a very similar fashion to the Special Investigations Department office under the city hall, and it reeked heavily of science fiction. They walked on for tens of minutes and found themselves descending hundreds of meters below ground level. The air had even begun to grow hotter. Finally, a large alloy door appeared in front of them.
A biometric reader scanned Chang Shun’s pupil and fingerprint, and the door opened up, revealing a massive chamber in front of everyone’s eyes.
The chamber was about the size of a football field. Giant screens hung from the ceiling everywhere. Copious amounts of data and numbers were crunched and processed everywhere, while streams of information flowed into Styx’s subsidiary processor in the center of the room before being sorted out and disseminated to their intended recipients once more. There were petri dishes and crystal test tubes, and they even saw an unconscious person resting within a massive test tube!
In fact, there were doubts as to whether the entity within the test tube could be considered a person altogether. After all, that entity had a half-meter long gaping wound in the middle of his chest, and immeasurable dense Yin energy seemed to squirm about inside the wound.
“This is a Kui Wood Wolf specimen number 41, a top grade specimen.” An accompanying man in a lab coat saw the curious gleams in everyone’s eyes, and he continued explaining, “He’s a rare symbiote who was born with an affinity for the Yin, and should have died five years ago. It was us who managed to extend his life for him, and he’s a voluntary subject. Even though he can only come out for three days every month right now, it’s still far better than being tortured everyday.”
The further in they walked, the more giant test tubes they saw. There were even entities that Qin Ye had never heard of before. There was a barbarian, and even a man with Yin energy enshrouding his heart… Each and every single one of these specimens had a serial number underneath the test tube, and someone would explain to them their origin and the significance of their existence.
The entities ranged from the Kui Wood Wolf and the Lou Golden Dog to the Wei Moon Swallow and the Shi Fire Pig... Qin Ye secretly kept a tally in his heart, only to realize that the chamber they were in housed hundreds of creatures that he had never even heard of before! And yet the common thread which bound all of these entities together was that they all had something to do with Yin spirits!
Thus… Just then, Chang Shun paused in his steps.
The five of them returned to their senses and withdrew their wandering eyes. The path that they had been on ended here. A massive alloy wall stood right in front of them, and the face of a man was etched onto it. Two streams of data flowed constantly through instruments located at the sides of the alloy wall. Without turning around, Chang Shun continued to gaze intently at the face of the man as he explained, “Fifty years ago, a magnitude 6 earthquake struck the City of Salvation, causing this rift to appear.”
Qin Ye’s body suddenly trembled, and Su Feng whispered, “What happened?”
Qin Ye shook his head, but remained taciturn.
Nobody was aware that his heart had begun to thump faster and harder than ever.
It was almost as though something… was beckoning to him right now.
Unaware of his peculiar reaction, Chang Shun continued, “This is something that is only recorded in the top secret files. During the relief efforts back then, the 433rd Regiment discovered something.”
He lifted his hand and caressed the etched face on the wall, “It was a creature - the first of its kind. In fact… its constitution and body composition was nothing like anything we’ve ever seen before.”
As soon as his hand made contact with the face, the face appeared to receive a signal of sorts, and the streams of data flowing along the instruments on the side immediately went into overdrive like fireflies on a summer night. The desolate space at the end of the path had suddenly come alive!
Krrr… The alloy door released a muffled sound, and then split into three pieces, each of which began to retract into their own side!
“It’s sleeping. Or perhaps it had been sealed. But despite that, this entity can still devour Yin spirits even in its sleep.”
Ka-ka-ka-ka-ka… It sounded as though innumerable locks and bolts were being released in the darkness behind the door. Chang Shun finally turned around with a flush on his face, “It’s just been… been laying dormant underneath the City of Salvation for who knows how long.”
“May I now invite you to take a closer look at the entity with the highest aggregate Yin energy across all of Cathay - codename ‘Exalted Father’!”
2. The Kui Wood Wolf originated ages ago, when people worshipped the ancient, distant stars in the sky. It is a product of the combination of ancient Chinese mythology and astronomy, and it is considered one of the twenty-eight constellations of ancient astronomy. Whilst considered a star deity by some accounts, it is more often than not considered a demon, such as in the story of Journey to the West.