Chapter 4: Against Heaven“s Will
The golden tear drop, circulated throughout Zhang's body and dispersed its power into his body.
After a day Zhang finally stood up, as the golden tear had completed integrated into his body. Surprisingly his essence is now at level 4. After being stuck at the first level for most of his life, Zhang was filled with joy. Then suddenly he heard the mysterious voice once more.
"Although your body lacks the ability to produce a lot of essence, thanks to that drop of pure essence it has reached the 4th level unexpectedly. This is probably the highest level you can reach if you were alive."
"What is the point if I am dead? What’s the point of having power now? I have no one to protect, nothing to fight for." Zhang sighed
"Indeed you are dead, but not all things stay dead. There is actually a way to for you to go back to the world of the living, without having to reincarnate actually. But first I need to devour more souls, my power is lacking and there is no way for me to help you." The voice said
"What??!! There's a way for me to go back?!! Zhang yell
"There is a certain place in the underworld, a forbidden place, called "The Pool of Regrets. This pool links with the other side, but usually it only lets souls pass one way, meaning it only sends souls into the underworld. But every 1000 years during the solar alignment and if one had enough power they could reverse the flow and return to the world of the living as a loose soul. And once you are in the world of the living there are many ways to revive, for instance you can possess someone or if you manage to gather enough negative energy from a battlefield perhaps you can condense it into a body. But first you must gather 100,000 souls of the dead and the best place to do that is within the 18 levels of hell. I can coat you in a layer of energy making you invisible to weak souls. Also you must make haste the solar alignment in going to happen within two years’ time" The voice said
"How will I gather the souls? And where is the Pool of Regrets? Zhang asked
"Simple I will lend you a bit of my power, use the black flame to absorb the souls into the pendant. And the pool of Regrets is within the Palace of the Yama." The voice said
A layer of mystifying black energy coated Zhang's body, and made his body appear transparent. And from the pendant a black fire shot out and revolved around Zhang, constantly flickering as if it would go out any second.
For the next six months Zhang began mapping the city of the dead. He would have to find a quick route from the 18 levels of hell to the Yama's palace. Because once 100,000 souls go missing it will obviously cause a huge stir in the underworld. The Yama would certainly send out army of the Underworld. And only possessing the little power he has how would Zhang contend with them. Even if the mysterious voice from the pendent helped him, he didn't believe that he would be able to make it out. Because he needed all the energy from the 100,000 souls to reverse the flow of the Pool of Regrets to escape.
Zhang had spent the vast wealth he had gotten hiring people to map out every party of the capital. Even though six months had passed only sixty percent of it was mapped. The entire city was simply too big, and was filled with too many alleyways and streets to be entirely mapped out quickly.
The 18 levels of hell were located outside the capital, pass the Forest of the Forgotten. The tricky part of the plan was to sneak into the 18 levels of hell and then make it out and cross through the Forest of the Forgotten. The forest was huge and covered in dense fog that made one lose any sense of direction they had. Zhang would have to navigate his way through while possibly being chased by the Army of the underworld, which had many experts in it.
So today Zhang had set out from the capital and headed into the Forest of the Forgotten, he wanted to leave markers, so he could make out a path later on. The day of the solar alignment was quickly approaching, so he had to make sure there was no loose ends to his plan.
Zhang made a trial of rocks and marked various trees, as he made his way across the forest. Luckily he had not run into any of the mad souls that were banished into the forest. After he made it across the forest he saw an imposing fortress, with a massive tower in the center, this place being the 18 levels of hell. He activated the energy that the pendant had coated on him, and decided to scout out the fortress.
Zhang had to test out to see if any of the guards were able to see him, because it would be simply stupid to try to sneak in if they could see him. And so he made his way toward the main gate, of the fortress.
He saw groups of people in chains being escorted into the fortress by group of guards. Zhang got closer and closer at a relatively slow pace, he had to make sure not to make any noise. Eventually he reached the gate unnoticed, and walked right in. There were countless guards in the fortress, hundreds of thousands of them. What stood out the most in the fortress was the entrance to the giant tower. It looked like a monster with its mouth open, and everyone walking into it was simply walking into a monster's stomach.
Zhang made his way across the forest and back into the city, unnoticed by anyone. He came back to the inn he had been staying in and pulled out a huge map and began making a route.
Two months have passed since Zhang's trip through the forest, the map of the capitol was about eighty percent complete. Zhang was able to make connections with various powers within the city, using his wealth. He had planned for them to make disturbances throughout the city on the day of his escape. He even was able to get himself a map of a small section of the Yama's palace. The map had about ten percent of the palace on it, and he was hoping to find a more complete one before the day of the Solar Alignment.
Throughout this whole time the voice from the pendant had never once talked to Zhang. But he is now able to somewhat control its power, Zhang was now able to make four small black flames appear, and move at his will. Zhang decided to spend the rest of his time, trying to control more of the fire. Because the better he can control it the quicker he will be able to gather the 100,000 souls and escape.
The day before the Solar Alignment, Zhang headed out of the city and into the Forest of the Forgotten. He would have to gather the 100,000 souls and reach the Pool of Regrets during the Solar Alignment which would happen at midnight. Zhang would have a total of ten hours to gather the 100,000 souls. He figured any longer than ten hours was too long, the larger the gap of time the more room there was for errors to appear in the plan.
And so Zhang walked into the fortress, and into the gate of the 18 levels of hell. Zhang witnessed the horrifying scenes that played out in the tower. Although it is a tower but the 18 levels are actually located under the tower, and one would start from the first level and walk all the way down to the 18th level. The lower one went the more dangerous it became, because the lower levels only contain people who had sinned heavily or people who were too strong to be kept in the upper levels.
Zhang's goal was the 6th level, he didn't want to go too deep. Nor did he want to absorb the souls of those who had sinned lightly. He felt those people didn't weren't necessarily evil compared to those in the lower levels, so Zhang decided to spare them.
There were many terrifying scenes playing out in the 18 levels. The first floor that Zhang entered was called "The Mountain of knives." Where sinners are thrown off cliffs and land on mountains of sharp blades sticking out. While other were climbing trees with knives or sharp thorns sticking out of trunks and branches.
As Zhang saw the exit to the 2nd floor, a smile appeared on his face. It did not take him very long to locate the exit, which was a good sign. But right when Zhang crossed the threshold through the exit, a loud bang rang in his ears. He turned his head back to see a giant Minotaur holding a huge trident standing at the exit he had just passed.
"Who dares to pass without permission!!!" the Minotaur screamed
Zhang's heart sank at that very instant. If he got caught on the very first floor, then his entire plan would be a failure. All that time that went into planning would be for nothing. But to his surprise the minotaur started swinging its trident at the ground randomly, nowhere near Zhang.
"It seems he detected that I had passed the exit but does not know where I am." Zhang said with relief.
Suddenly an immense heat struck Zhang, and as he turned his vision away from the minotaur he saw giant pots of oil. And huge lines of people being lead to jump into these sizzling hot pots of oil. This floor would be the floor where sinners were fried in oil cauldrons. But being dead they wouldn't actually die, but they would still feel the pain from the torture. These poor souls would have to experience being burned in pots of oil over and over again until they make up for all their sins.
Zhang winced as he imagined the pain these people would have to experience every waking minute until they redeemed themselves. The heat emitting from the cauldrons alone caused the air to be suffocating, let alone the actual heat of the oil.
But his goal would still be the 6th floor, the people here did not deserve to be destroyed. So Zhang quickened his pace, and soon he saw the exit to the 3rd floor. And to his surprise this time when he passed the exit nothing happened, like when he passed the first exit.
Having passed the exit, Zhang had entered the hell of dismemberment where sinners are dismembered by various means, including sawing, slicing into half, mashing/pounding into pulp, being crushed by rocks/boulders, being run over by vehicles, etc.
Each floor gave off a different aura, and as one went deeper down the aura felt more sinister and eerie. The atmosphere and conditions would get worse and worse. Zhang felt suffocated by just passing from one floor to the next, but oddly enough the guards that were torturing the sinners seemed to not be affected at all.
Zhang continued running until he reached the Hell of Burning, where sinners would be set aflame and thrown into smoldering hot inferno. The air was dry and burned the back of Zhang's throat, his energy sapped away much quicker. It eventually came to the point where he decided he had to kill one of the guards and find out how they seemed perfectly comfortable in these conditions. Although Zhang could have gone back into the previous floor and start gathering the 100,000 souls, from those who sinned less, he decided not to.
It wasn't because his moral compass was always pointed in the right direction, but when he decided he would do something, Zhang would do it. He would not turn back nor would he waiver, Zhang would simply push on harder. That is how he had lived his life from an early age. If he couldn't practice his cultivation like everyone else, that did not mean that he would stop, it just meant he had to keep trying harder and in different ways.
Thus so he pushed on and finally passed the Hell of Burning and entered the Hell of Ice. Also known as The Ice World where sinners are frozen in ice. Some unclothed sinners suffering frostbite in an icy world and their bodies eventually fall apart or break into pieces. The air was dry and cold, while the wind was fast and sharp. If one was unlucky a really strong wind could pass by and caused the person to be knocked into freezing cold water. Or worst yet bet cut in two. Although one could not die in the underworld but pain could still be felt. To the strong this could be seen as a sort of mental training to wash away fear and pain but to the weak it would be one of the worst possible ways of torture. The Hell of Ice was by far the hardest level that Zhang has been on, he had been cut countless times by the wind, and his entire body coated with small pieces of ice.
Luckily the exits and entrances to the levels were located relatively close to each other, and always in a certain distance from each other. Because if one had to roam each floor it would take countless years let alone hours. Each floor was like its own world, and was vast and boundless.
Finally, Zhang reached his goal the 6th floor. This floor is known as the Pool of Blood, where those who have murdered would be sent. Each floor after this the prisoners would have had committed greater sins than murder. The Pool of Blood, had no guards, nor did it have any land nor trees. The whole level was simply just blood, in some parts a person would find themselves knee-deep in blood, while other parts they would be in well over their head. Or if they were unlucky they would end up in some almost bottomless parts. The sinners would simply drown in blood. The blood here symbolized the blood of the innocent people who was spilled, and that the sinners would never be able to get the blood off their hands.
Having arrived at his destination, Zhang reached into his inner soul, where a massive black fire was burning. And made 100,000 small black flames appear. Normally this would not be possible in the mortal world, but because in the underworld the essence in the air is much more concentrated, Zhang is able to form so many flames.
And so all of the 100,000 flames flew up into the sky. All the sinners looked up in amazement and confusion. Some of them have been here for hundreds or even thousands of years and this had never happened before. It was a sight to behold, 100,000 black fires swirled in the sky and then began to descend like falling stars. Each fire would fall on one sinner, and the sinner would be set blazed in black fire and turn into nothingness. Then the black fire would fly back toward Zhang and then into the Dragon Pendant.
Although Zhang is able to now independently control the black fire without the help of the Dragon Pendant, due to a part of it entering his soul from the golden drop. He still needed to use the pendant to store the souls. The mysterious voice that neither sounded young nor old, or like a man or a woman had told him that if he were to absorb the souls into his own body he would at most be able to hold ten or so and anymore would cause him to explode. Also that if he were to absorb the souls himself he would at most be able to get ten percent of the soul’s total energy, whereas the Dragon Pendant is able to absorb all 100%.
Many of the sinners seeing what happened began to frantically scream and run, while others seemed to embrace it. This would be their way out; they wouldn't have to suffer anymore. They would finally be free of everything. Not much time passed before Zhang had been able to collect 100,000 souls. The Dragon Pendant now had a frightening amount of energy in it, and Zhang would use it to reverse the flow of the pool of regret and go against heaven's will. Zhang would cheat death and fate.
After collecting all the souls Zhang began to ascend through the floors. But now a problem presented itself, he was no longer invisible to the guards or the other souls. The coating that the mysterious voice had put on him had no faded away, and the massive amount of energy that was in the Dragon Pendant was like a beacon and gave off a peculiar aura and golden white glow around Zhang.
As he made his way back through the 6 floors, Various sinners would be attracted to Zhang and follow him. But when Zhang reached the exit back to the 5th floor he made a massive black flame appear and sealed the exit up. He did not want any of the murders follow him, if it were the souls from the first 5 floors, then that would be fine but not these murderers.
Zhang entered into the 5th floor and just like in the 6th floor a massive group of sinners began following him, luckily the 5th floor had very few guards so none of them was alerted. But was Zhang reached the exit a group of guards saw him.
"HALT!!! Any further and we will send you lot to oblivion." one of the guards yelled as he and the rest of the guards unsheathed their swords and readied their spears.
But to their amazement small black fires appeared out of nowhere and engulfed the group of guards.
Zhang would not give the guards any mercy, because a soldier was a soldier, in other words if one is a soldier who is ready to kill then they must be ready to be killed. That is a simple law of the battlefield that everyone must follow. To be ready to take a life, one must be ready to lose a life.
The sinners following behind Zhang all had mixed feelings; some were excited while others were scared. But they all knew one thing that this would be a chance in a lifetime to escape. For those with light sentences they obviously choose to stay until their time was up. But for those who had to be punished for thousands or tens of thousands of years, they choose to follow. They did not care if following Zhang meant they would be sent to oblivion and disappear, at least it would be better than being tortured for tens of thousands of years.
When they entered the 4th floor a group of guards was stationed at the exit, but this time the group of guards chose to run. While one of them pulled out a strange-looking orb, the orb was green and had odd designed carved into it. The guard sent his energy into the orb and made it fly into the sky. And once it was in the sky the orb exploded and sent off a green wave of light across the sky. This was a signal that the guards used to call for reinforcements and that prisoners were leaving their assigned floors in large numbers.
If wasn't unheard of for sinners to amass and try to escape. So this was simple protocol for the guards. They would recall all the guards and have them amass at the exit to the 4th floor and then engage the sinners and push them back. Many sinners would be killed and fade away. This would set an example for the other sinners not to act up.
Soon the sinners from the 4th floor joined with those from the 5th floor and the group doubled in size. Although they were following Zhang they were not with him. He paid no attention to them, and simply kept moving and eventually reached the exit to the 4th floor.
An army of guards was present, with weapons drawn. They guards were naturally fewer in numbers then the sinners but they had weapons, and their energy was not sapped away due to being tortured. So they were very confident in containing the sinners and pushing them back. There was a total of 100,000 guards assembled on the 4th floor and if their essence was measured they'd all be categorized as level 8 warriors.
One hundred thousand level eight warriors would be an elite force in the world of mortals, but these were simply regular guards in the underworld.
In a flash the sky was once again filled with black fire and like before the black fire began to rain on the guards, Zhang decided to absorb the souls of the guards so if he needed to he would have a store of energy to pull from in a time of need. The energy that the guards gave him was many times more than the prisoners, due to their high level.
And so Zhang entered the exit to the 3rd floor. Surprisingly only a small group of guards were located on the other side of the exit. This was due to the floors not successfully communicating to each other. Also the fact that Zhang had wiped out the guards at the exit in the 5th floor too quickly.
So once more a guard pulled out a green signal orb and sent it into the sky, and also once more sinners congregated and joined the sinners following behind Zhang.
When the exit was in sight, this time an army of 200,000 guards was present. And the same scene unfolded once more. The sky was blocked out by black fire and the guards would again be annihilated. Using the black fire did not cost Zhang any energy because of the high energy levels in the air, and the low energy consumption of the flames themselves.
When Zhang reached the exit into the 1st floor he did not see a massive army of guards waiting for him like before, but this time it was the gigantic Minotaur from before. And to make things worst he had two friends, who were both Minotaur’s of a similar size.
The sinners following Zhang were stricken with fear, but they did not choose to turn back because they had simply gone too far. And freedom was almost in reach.
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