Chapter 128: An Army Marches on Its Stomach

A line of well over a hundred people stood in front of the main palace hall. The words “Hell’s Gate” were written in sprawling, majestic calligraphy across the board hanging overhead, almost as though it were an incorruptible, all-seeing eye. 

The couplets to the side were like a formal declaration that this was the one and only true arbiter of fairness!

Each and every heinous crime and evil deed would have to be accounted for and answered in full.

"This is Hell’s Gate. All Yin spirits entering Hell must first pass through this place.” Qin Ye looked at the signboard hanging overhead, “Other than this place, there’s nothing in Hell right now. Everything… will be rebuilt from scratch by our own two hands.”

“Our efforts will birth a province, a kingdom, and perhaps even an entire realm.”

He turned around and looked at everyone before him, “We are the founders of the new Hell.”

“Su Dongxue.”

“Here.” Su Dongxue knew that Qin Ye wouldn’t hesitate to destroy her if she misbehaved right now. She half-knelt in front of the palace hall and responded politely.

Qin Ye was just about to speak up when he suddenly furrowed his brows.

How should I make these arrangements?

These seats over here… I don’t think I’ve heard a detailed explanation of what they are.

“There are three different-coloured chairs over here.” Just then, a cool voice rang out from the back of the palace halls, “Black, white and red.”

Arthis?

Qin Ye raised his eyebrows in astonishment. Within moments, he saw Arthis slowly walking to the front of the palace hall in her true form.

She had a gorgeous face and silky black hair. She was clothed in a colourful satin robe, and she held out a red paper umbrella over her head. Her striking scarlet tongue hung from her lips to the ground. Everyone immediately gasped at the sight of Arthis.

Scary…

They could tell that this monstrous lady was an existence far more dreadful than the Emissary of Hell standing before them!

Fortunate… it’s so fortunate that we weren’t hot-headed enough to follow those idiots in their feeble attempts at a revolution. This monster… definitely has the ability to obliterate every single one of us here!

Arthis glanced at Qin Ye, “I was around when you first inaugurated Hell, so I naturally have been bestowed with some authority over this place as well. Basic access to Hell’s Gate isn’t an issue to me.”

She explained the seats to everyone around, “There are 280 black seats, slated for probationary Emissaries of Hell; 18 white seats for fully-fledged Emissaries of Hell; as well as 2 red seats for the people in charge - one for the head, and one for the deputy.”

“Those assigned to black and white seats don’t really matter. What truly matters is that you entrust the red seats only to those whom you trust wholeheartedly. Those entrusted with the red seats would naturally be granted first class authority over Hell’s Gate. As to the specific arrangements for now, I’ll leave it entirely up to your discretion.”

Qin Ye nodded his head. After several moments of deliberation, he turned to Su Dongxue and formally addressed her, “You’ll take the white seat for now. Process the census of those who have served in the uniformed forces, as well as those in the legal industry. Those who have no criminal records to their name shall be appointed to the black seats. When I’m not around, you’ll be the one temporarily in charge of all matters here.”

“Yes.”

Qin Ye turned around and looked at the rest of the crowd, “Search your hearts and conceal nothing, for the gods know the deepest, darkest parts of your heart. Let this be a final warning to you to take caution when you register with the census. Those who act in defiance of these warnings best pray that I never locate the book of Life and Death. Otherwise…”

Qin Ye deliberately left his sentence hanging. Then, as the crowd remained completely silent, he stood between the pair of couplets and bowed deeply to the towering incense burner at the entrance of Hell’s Gate.

“I formally declare--...”

“That the Registration Division to the entrance of the second order of Hell located at the City of Salvation, Insignia Province, is hereby inaugurated! The construction works of the new Hell shall officially commence in January!”

“All members of the construction industry are to meet in the palace hall in half an hour for a meeting.”

After saying these things, he walked to the back of the palace hall so that he could have a private discussion with Arthis.

He entered the palace halls directly from Hell’s Gate. The floors were dark coloured, and towering scarlet columns rose majestically from the ground to hold up the roof of the palace hall. Both sides of the hall were filled with innumerable statues of asuras and rakshasas with a myriad of ancient oil lamps on them. There were approximately ten sculptures that stood approximately ten meters tall, and even the smallest folds and creases on the carving of their robes were lined with oil lamps. There were practically thousands of these lamps.

None of the lamps were lit when the second order of Hell was first established. But now, almost a thousand of them were lit with burning green soulfires. The eerie glow of the light caused the menacing statues to look even more fearsome than they already were.

That said, Qin Ye discovered something amiss almost immediately.

The palace hall was originally empty and bare. But right now, there was a new gargantuan sculpture that stood at the door, blocking the entrance. It was like a screen. Innumerable prayer mats were placed neatly on the floor in concentric circles radiating from the statue, and one could only get to the back of the palace hall after circling around this massive obstruction.

The stone sculpture was similarly approximately ten meters tall. The image was that of a man clothed in a Buddhist robe, holding a zen staff in his hands. The zen staff was covered in oil lamps, yet not a single one of the lamps were lit at all.

The man had a kind appearance and a twinkle in his eyes. It was merely a sculpture, yet a boundless aura of benevolence radiated gloriously from it. There was a carving of a beast just under the man’s foot. This beast had a dragon’s body, a tiger’s head, a dog’s ears, a lion’s tail, and the feet of a Kirin beast…

The Harken!

“Is this… an image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva?” Qin Ye exclaimed in shock, “Why would it appear here?”

Arthis responded calmly, “What’s there to be surprised at? Haven’t you played the Heroes of Might and Magic? Hell’s Gate is the city hall that you start the game with, and you’ll have to slowly build everything else you need, little by little. There’s also plenty of room for the growth of the city hall. After all, you’ve only got one shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, and you don’t even have the Yellow Springs at your disposal right now. Even though you’ve managed to seize and secure the wealth of Yin energy from Lord Harken, the amount seized is still a far cry from what this place needs.”

Qin Ye rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “In other words, I’ll have to slowly work my way to the end goal, bit by bit?”

“The limit has got to do with Hell’s Gate as well.” Arthis supplemented her earlier explanation, “Hell will see its next massive expansion in approximately three years’ time, so you’ll have to establish this Fengdu village of yours in these three years. Otherwise… you’ll have your hands tied up as soon as a county’s worth of Yin spirits come pouring into Hell. Do you have any ideas for now?”

Arthis was clearly one who was adept at killing, yet completely inept when it came to matters of construction and expansion.

Qin Ye furrowed his brows. Some moments later, he sighed wistfully.

It was only when he got down to the nitty-gritty details that he realized how tall an order this truly was.

Fortunately, he lived in an era of information society. Thus, he began to search through posts on how to build cities, and even tested out games with a hope of finding some inspiration. Unfortunately, the more he looked, the more confused he became.

Would he need to establish a system of fiat currency?

Promulgate true communism? Not even the Fengdu Necropolis could achieve that!

And would he need to set up a system of bureaucracy?

But that would be predicated on the system of currency. Without currency, there’s no benefit, so how could he possibly motivate people to work for free?

Establish an oppressive regime? 

That’s a possibility, but it would invariably lead to riots and revolutions. There aren’t too many Yin spirits in Hell right now, but who was to discount such a possibility when their numbers start to grow in future? Would he have to cut them down all by myself? And what happens after he cuts down all of the Yin spirits around?

And what if he didn’t set up a bureaucracy instead?

That would be even worse. Qin Ye would be buried under the sheer amount of work that needed to be done - even if Hell were merely a village.

And there were still considerations of developing a construction industry, an entertainment industry, communities of ghosts… the list was endless, and he absolutely had no idea where to start!

“You should pay close attention to the news.” Arthis remarked. She could also feel the onset of a splitting headache, “If you notice the passing of any fellows of research institutions or prominent scientific establishments, you must personally make the trip down to escort their souls to Hell. The souls of such highly talented people are incredibly precious. And there’s also the top management of the massive conglomerates around… why don’t… you find a way to help a provincial governor somewhere make a few hundred million RMB? Then, as soon as he’s gunned down, you could hurry on over and escort his soul to Hell?”

“... That’s a very dangerous idea of yours… It goes against the core values of socialism… but I do admire you for coming up with such an idea…” Qin Ye paid lip service to Arthis as he dismissed her suggestion.

Silence.

Seconds later, Qin Ye finally sighed again, “Let’s take things one step at a time. We’re both newly appointed officials of the new order of Hell, and neither of us knows a single thing about the installations required for building a city from scratch. Even if we wanted to make a plan, we wouldn’t know where to start. I plan to set up some community facilities for starters. We’ve got to pacify the Yin spirits around with some concrete results after all. We might be able to fool them with an idea and a vision for a year, but what about two years? Three years?”

“On the other hand, given how things are developing in Cathay, the promise of proper housing might well be the best motivating force driving the workforce… We’ve got land at our disposal anyway.”

The Yin spirits out there were unaware of the hellish state of finances in any event.

It was an understatement to say that their treasury was as bare as the four walls around it.

Arthis grew silent for several moments, and then stood up in discontentment, “What a bother. Forget it. I’m not thinking about these things anymore. Here, this is for you.”

She tossed over a bundle of talismans bound together by several rubber bands. Qin Ye caught it and stared at it with a puzzled look on his face, “What’s this?”

“Hell doesn’t have any construction materials, so you’ll have to purchase everything from the mortal realm. Store them in a container, paste a talisman on it, and incinerate them. They will arrive in Hell in a split second that way.”

Qin Ye almost broke down in tears, “So I’ll need money for containers, and money to rent the incineration plant as well… Do you think there will be a demand if I put myself up for hire out there? I hear that men command a better price than women these days.”

Rumble… A peal of thunder suddenly rocked the realm. Qin Ye sighed. Several seconds later, he suddenly remarked, “It’s raining?”

Arthis stood up and slowly walked towards the back of Ksitigarbha’s sculpture. Qin Ye followed closely behind.

There was a massive ten-meter tall gate just behind the sculpture. Here, they were able to see the skies in Hell. Flashes of red lightning snaked across the sky amidst the rolling black clouds. Within the minute, it began to pour.

“That’s right… it rains in Hell as well.” Arthis stared at the sky and murmured, “Hell is one of the three realms of this world. Heaven, Hell and the mortal realm. Since it’s a realm of its own, it naturally is subject to its own system of climates, whether rain, wind, hail or earthquakes. Even avalanches and tsunamis are not out of the picture. I do recall the old Hell apportioning some budget to the tune of hundreds of millions for the purposes of ‘disaster repairs’.”

She turned around and gazed deeply into Qin Ye’s eyes, “Kid, you’ve got an entire realm in your hands. You dictate the direction of its growth. Whether it rises or falls, prospers or gets forsaken, is entirely dependent on the ability of the one in charge. The order of good and evil in the mortal realm is entirely in your hands right now.”

Arthis vanished as soon as she finished speaking.

“... Wait… just wait right there! What do you mean it’s entirely in my hands?! Aren’t you going to lend me a hand either?! You’re the Infernal Judge here after all!!”

His voice reverberated coldly through the back of the palace hall, yet Arthis had ostensibly turned a deaf ear to his queries. A few seconds later, she quickly supplemented, “That’s right, Su Dongxue is already considered an official Emissary of Hell now. Do remember to officially register her by writing her name within Hell’s Records. That way, she would be extended the opportunity for merits and promotions, and she would similarly be granted the approbation of Hell. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to tap on any of the latent powers of Hell, and if any rebellion or strife takes place in your absence, the consequences would be unimaginable.”

“Apart from that, there are also ten red-coloured talismans in that stack of talismans. Feel free to burn them if you need to contact me… But do avoid 8 a.m. - 11.30 a.m., 3 p.m. - 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. - 10 p.m. I’ll be catching up on my dramas and serials then.”

“Bloody hell… how could you abandon me like that.” Qin Ye plucked a flower from the ground in displeasure. It was one of the black flowers that had been growing around the Harken in Limbo. As he shook it casually in his hand, his voice boomed like thunder, “Yin spirits who have worked in the construction industry, gather in the back hall of the palace. The meeting is about to begin!”

The Yin spirits gathered outside immediately moved towards the back hall. Qin Ye put his arm out, and a few drops of rain fell onto his hand. The rainwater here was cold and biting. If he felt this uncomfortable, how much more discomfort would other Yin spirits feel under such rain?

The weather conditions in Hell would most certainly increase the “dissatisfaction meter” of the ghostly citizens. Clothing, food and shelter are basic human necessities. Clothing and food were out of the picture for ghosts. Since that was the case, the issue of shelter was naturally the most pressing issue of the list.

Qin Ye was like a tiger attempting to swallow the sky - he simply didn’t know where to begin. But since that was the case, he may as well start by securing the hearts of the ghostly citizens as he struggled to come up with a proper plan!

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