Yama Rising

Chapter 460: The Shepherd of Souls (2)

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“Yes…” The humanoid paper effigy trembled profusely, so much so that even the plate and bowl he was holding onto were clinking softly against each other.

The figure behind the veil slowly sat up, “Where did today’s medicine come from”

The humanoid paper effigy gulped nervously, “R-r-response to My Lord. We’re currently using medicine from Ironwood City… made from the freshest and most tender of hearts. The blood used is also that of a v.i.r.g.i.n girl - it’s sweet beyond comparison…”

Silence.

Seconds later, a finger that could only be described as skin and bones slowly lifted the veil, “What about the bone marrow?”

“N-n-none…” The humanoid paper effigy immediately set down the bowl and began to kowtow to his master, “My Lord… it’s impossible to get it! The mortal realm is watching us far too closely. It’s impossible to dispatch Hellguard-class Yin spirits to the mortal realm to harvest what My Lord is looking for…”

His voice trailed off. Within moments, a scarlet tongue slithered out like a venomous viper, picking up the bowl and pulling it back into the curtain, and the soft sounds of chewing and swallowing continued until the scarlet tongue spat out the empty bowl, “What about the Howling Wolves Battalion and the Mourning Apes Battalion?”

The humanoid paper effigy continued to kowtow resoundingly as he responded softly, “My Lord, the two battalions have been ordered to wrap around through the surrounding cities in order to prevent Kong Mo from getting away.”

There was a soft snicker from within the veil, “Have you ever heard of the Sword of the Yellow Emperor?”

The humanoid paper effigy didn’t dare answer.

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“Legend has it that the sword has been passed down from generation to generation within the mortal realm. One of the three strongest experts in the mortal realm is rumoured to be the master of the Sword of the Yellow Emperor. Unfortunately, only half of the sword remains.”

The figure within the veil continued speaking, almost as though he were speaking to himself. Then, his incomparably old and hoarse voice suddenly transformed into that of a young child, and a chorus of mourning ghosts appeared to echo alongside his voice as he chuckled eerily, “Armed with this sword, the Yellow Emperor cleaved a realm into two, forming the mortal realm and the underworld as we know it. Chaos ensued, and Yin and Yang were divided. This was the origin of the underworld as we know it. From then on, only half of the sword remained in the mortal realm. Legend has it that the other half was lost in the underworld. It was an artifact that not even Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva was able to destroy.”

The humanoid paper effigy couldn’t understand for what reason the man was bringing up all these things, but he knew better than to interject.

“But little did I expect…” A head suddenly rose up from behind the veil, staring intently at the endless darkness outside with two spots of ghastly scarlet netherflames in his eyes, “The other half of the sword was actually in the Confucian Family’s possession! And they would even entrust it to the hands of someone like Kong Mo! They’re truly worthy of their name as one of the top gentries of Hell… no wonder Kong Mo dared resist our forces at the Azurewaters City for such a long time… cough cough…”

“My Lord…” Concerned, the humanoid paper effigy raised his head softly, “Are… you alright?”

“I won’t die from this.” The figure hidden behind the veil cackled softly as a scarlet tongue wrapped around the floating head, stroking it as though he were playing with a cat, “There’s hardly any more Yin spirits out there that have lived for over 100 years. Conversely, we see the rise of proud, arrogant young ghosts who are no more than 50 years-old. Haha… none of them can even begin to fathom how terrifying millennial ghosts truly are… Sure, the Sword of the Yellow Emperor may be powerful, but do they really think that I’m a pushover? I’ve been suppressed under the six paths of reincarnation, and yet survived thousands of years of relentless torment. Sure, had the Sword of the Yellow Emperor ended up in the hands of other Abyssal Prefects, I might have been terrified - perhaps even to the point of being unable to rest properly at night. But if it’s just Kong Mo… Haha…”

He continued to speak his mind and caress his head, “He’s wounded me, and yet chose not to pursue after me. Instead, he even ordered his forces to retreat. That’s not the style of the Confucian Family at all. I know the disposition of these scholars. Something groundbreaking must have happened in Qufu, forcing him to resort to such a devastating attack just so that he can pull back his forces. But… does he really think I’m going to let him have his way?”

“Go. Pass down my orders to the Howling Wolves Battalion and the Mourning Apes Battalion.” The veil fluttered softly, “Wrap around the surrounding cities! Watch for any potential openings! And mobilize all Shepherds of Souls. When we finally flank Kong Mo and surround him, I want to know directly from the horse’s mouth what’s really happening back in the hinterlands.”

“Yes.” The humanoid paper effigy finally heaved a sigh of relief and bowed down deeply to his master.

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“One last thing.” The figure behind the veil added, “Any deserters or defectors of my army who are Soul Hunters and beyond shall be executed summarily! Even if I’m going to have to pursue them to the ends of the earth, I’m going to capture their souls and rip them to shreds, piece by piece.”

“Until everything is over, nobody is to talk about what goes on in here - not even in the slightest bit!”

“Yes!!”

With that, the humanoid paper effigy finally took his leave.

There was once again a pin drop silence in the room.

Then, after an inordinately long time, there was a muffled roar from behind the veil that sounded no different from the valiant cry of a dying beast! It was filled with pain and agony, almost as though someone were scraping against his heart with broken glass.

The green veil fluttered wildly, revealing a pale old Yin spirit lying restlessly on a bed within.

He wore the uniform of an ancient official, and his expression was twisted and contrived. Yet what was most striking was the fact that there was a gaping wound across his chest that was the size of a human head!

One could see right through the grotesque wound on his body. The wound bubbled with traces of pitch-black Yin energy.

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It was pure, hellish Yin energy.

“What a ruthless attack…” He clenched tightly to the sides of his bed, gnashing his teeth as he fought to distract himself from the pain, “Yama-class Yin artifact… How can the Confucian Family entrust something like that to you?! You cannot possibly have failed to realize that you’ve struck me squarely with that devastating attack. But, even then, you’ve chosen to pull back your forces and retreat… Something ground-breaking must have happened back in Qufu that demands your attention! Good… excellent… Once I take down your soul, I’d like to see which saint it was who had helped me take control of the entire Eastmount Province!”

“With this, I’d gain access through the rivers. Once I reunite with the other two daolords, would anyone in Cathay be able to stand against us?!”

………………………………………………………………

Southbrook Neighbourhood.

Prosperity Street.

It was already 1.00 a.m. in the morning. The city-wide curfew meant that nobody could step out of their homes at night. Thus, everyone huddled around in the living room and watched television and surfed the net together. Every household in the neighbourhood had their own Eight Trigram compasses and talismans hanging in front of their doors in conspicuous locations.

Cathay’s silent handling of the situation had been very effective thus far. Although the government hadn’t taken an official stance on the supernatural incidents just yet, every member of the public had already more or less guessed what was going on. Across the entire populace of approximately 1.5 billion people, there was not a single household that hadn’t purchased an artifact or talisman of sorts to ward off evil spirits.

Ding Xuan was a highschool student. He hated how things were right now. He hated the bizarre world, and how he had to return home from school immediately and then turn in at the same time every night. He hated the boredom accompanying the repetitiveness of his life, and he hated the government for their inaction and cover-up.

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At least, he hated them for what he perceived to be inaction.

Furthermore, he hated the fact that he couldn’t even look at his phone under his sheets at night, because he was afraid that he would see on the screen of his phone someone or something else hidden behind him, breathing coldly down his neck.

He was also afraid of waking up in the middle of the night. He slept with the lights off, in accordance with the habits he and a multitude of other people have built over the years. If he woke up in the middle of the night, he would have to face the terror of boundless darkness, as well as the peculiar sounds that seemed only to surface in the middle of the night. He was afraid that the sources of supernatural incidents he had heard so much about and even seen in news reports would suddenly creep out from the darkness, right onto his back and dribble drool all over the nape of his neck.

Unfortunately, his worst fear came true. He woke up in the middle of the night tonight.

A constricting sensation in his bladder told him that the toilet was beckoning. He clenched his thighs tightly, doing his level best to hold it in.

But how could one possibly hold in their pee for the entire night? Seconds later, he cursed under his breath, got out of bed and scrambled for the toilet in his underwear.

Humans were naturally passive creatures.

For instance, just like most households, the light switches in his home were all located at the entrance. Whilst not much of an issue on any other day, this was problematic in their current times, because it made it impossible to get up and switch on the lights in the middle of the night. To make matters worse, this was an old house that had been constructed more than ten years ago, and it was difficult to rework the circuitry in the home.

Thus, Ding Xuan rushed straight out of his bedroom and into the toilet without switching on the lights.

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His family’s living room wasn’t large. The television console was located right at the entrance, while the sofa was located directly opposite the console. A screen had been drawn across the mirror at the back of the living room. Just then, Ding Xuan suddenly stopped right in his tracks.

The urge to pee immediately shrank back where it came from, and an electrifying sensation of fear spread from his heart and surged straight through his limbs. Fear caused his heart to thump out of his chest, while cold sweat instantly emerged from his forehead.

He could have sworn that he heard it just a moment ago - a clinking sound.

It was soft.

Very soft.

But it was incredibly familiar.

There was a coffee table that was placed right between the television console and the sofa. His father enjoyed a good cup of tea while watching television in the evening, and the familiar clinking sound was the sound of his father’s favourite teacup striking the surface of the table!

Nobody apart from his father was allowed to use the teacup!

Ding Xuan’s scalp went numb in an instant!

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It was clearly in the wee hours of the morning. He was scrambling through the dark living room. The doors leading into the living room were all closed, and the windows were tightly shut. He could even hear the faint sound of his father’s snoring coming from the adjacent room.

He was the only one in the living room right now. He was making a beeline for the toilet when he suddenly heard something… set down his father’s favourite teacup.

Could there have been something seated right there on the sofa, watching me at night whenever I scramble for the toilet?

T-t-t-t-t… His teeth began to chatter. It was a deafening sound amidst the still silence of the night. His legs were clearly weak as jelly, and yet he felt completely rooted to the ground, almost as though he were nailed right in place.

The refrigerator was located right ahead of him, while the sofa was located behind him. Slowly, he turned stiffly around and glanced at the sofa.

Nothing.

Haah… He heaved a sigh of relief, only to discover that his palms were already soaked through with cold sweat. Even then, he still felt somewhat uneasy. Thus, he called out with a slight tremor in his voice, “Dad?”

Yet, the only response he got was the rumble of a deep snore.

“Mum? Mum?”

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“Ungh…” He finally received a muffled response from the bedroom.

I must be thinking too much. It might have just been a rat… He wiped the cold sweat off his forehead. Then, just as he was about to turn back--...

A source of light suddenly appeared in front of him.

Creeaaaakk… It was the sound of something being opened.

It was… the refrigerator.

His heart instantly began to thump wildly once more. He immediately jumped up in shock and began to scramble back in horror. He wanted to scream, but he simply couldn’t make a single peep of sound.

Slowly but surely, the three-door refrigerator opened up in front of his very eyes, door by door.

There’s something!

There’s something here!

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Ding Xuan knew better than anyone that there was something unclean in his home right this moment!

And that unclean thing… was opening the doors to the refrigerators right now.

Right in front of his very own eyes!

The thought of such a possibility caused his entire mouth to feel completely parched. But a split second later, the expression of fear on his face soon turned into shock, and then abject terror. Within moments, he found himself clutching at his head in anguish as his knees buckled and he collapsed to the ground.

His parents were right there in the refrigerator - in pieces.

Their heads were placed right on the top shelf, replete with a smiling, peaceful expression on their faces.

The middle compartment of the fridge was where their torso was placed.

And the bottom compartment was where their arms and legs were located, arranged with such cruelty and coldness as though they were a work of art.

“AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!” He screamed at the top of his voice. Terror filled his entire being!

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Who’s snoring in the bedroom?!

Who’s the one who responded to me earlier?!

Who’s the one who set the teacup onto the coffee table?!

Someone’s here!!

There are at least three other persons in this household of three!

Thud!

Just then, the doors to the refrigerator slammed shut at the same time. He gasped for air and wiped the tears from his eyes as he struggled to get up to his feet.

Terror had faded, only to give way to endless rage that was surging from the depths of his heart.

But the wave of intense rage receded as quickly as it arose, because in the next moment, he suddenly discovered something else.

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He could tell from the shadows on the refrigerator that there was currently something standing behind him!

It was standing right behind him! It even had a hand on his shoulder, and its head… was slowly leaning close to his own head!

“AHHHHHH!!!” He shrieked even louder than before. It was a shriek of terror that had taken him by complete surprise. Something had just appeared right behind him without any warning whatsoever! He reacted reflexively, twisting his body and swinging his fist at full force at the unknown entity behind.

“Interesting.” The voice of the entity behind was somewhat filled with regret, “To think that I was still moments too late. You must have witnessed the death of your parents, haven’t you? This must be the reason why you turned into an earthbound spirit. Have you been replaying the last few moments of your life over the past few minutes? Waking up, scrambling through the living room, only to notice the refrigerator opening by itself?”

“Let it go… Remember this - when you report to the Death Inquisitors in Hell, tell them that Lord Qin has personally instructed them to look kindly upon you.”

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