Pressure swept over like a landslide and tsunami. The myriad of netherfire continued to sway endlessly in the sky. However, Qin Ye’s heart inexplicably calmed down.
“You can try.” He locked eyes with the crimson eye in the sky as he muttered placidly.
The eye stared intently at Qin Ye, as though it were attempting to discern whether there was any pretension in his voice. Seconds later, the eye swept a glance across the microcosm of Hell, “With you guys?”
“Naturally!” Qin Ye and Arthis responded in unison, refusing to give any ground to Thanatos at all.
Every period of silence represented deliberation and postulation. And the result of such deliberation and postulation determined whether or not to mobilize the hundreds of millions of troops under Thanatos’ command. Every nation was doing its level best to test the depths of Hell’s abilities right now, and they were ready to pounce on Cathay as soon as they discovered something amiss. After all, how could anyone pass up on… a fatty piece of meat that contained billions of Yin spirits on end?
Several moments later, Thanatos finally smiled, “Perhaps we might all have underestimated the depths of Hell’s abilities.”
“In that case, I wonder if King Qin is interested in a little commercial transaction between kingdoms?”
Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed, while Arthis immediately barked under her breath, “Reject him! All trade envoys and emissaries are unable to enter Cathay without Yanluo’s permission. But as soon as you give the nod, they will likely use their trade envoys and emissaries to start probing about at the true extent of Hell’s barrenness!”
Qin Ye nodded slightly and looked back at Thanatos, “What are you thinking of?”
Thanatos laughed like muffled thunder, “Simple… open your border to Khan Tengri Peak. We shall jointly create a ghost city that can house ten thousand Yin spirits in a single year’s time… If you agree, my delegation can arrive in Cathay for further discussion in under a month. I wonder what King Qin thinks of this suggestion?”
“I refuse.” Qin Ye smiled faintly.
“Oh?” Almost as though he didn’t mind it, Thanatos chuckled softly, “Why?”
Qin Ye responded without missing a beat, “No particular reason. Cathay doesn’t need that right now. If there’s nothing else to discuss, I’ll kindly ask King Thanatos to take your leave.”
“Haha…” Thanatos didn’t say much more. Then, it was only when the illusory projection in the air began to fade away that he left his parting words, “Mr Gu was a soul I had wanted to obtain at any cost. Talents like these… have been seized away from us by you far too many times now. It’s about time to repay these debts with interest… You’ve managed to reap his soul… but I hope you’ve got what it takes to keep it in Hell…”
“The global underworld summit is taking place in a hundred years’ time. I hope to meet King Qin face to face then…”
Whoosh… As he vanished, the pressure lifted from Hell instantly, as though it had never existed at all.
“Shit…” It was only then that Qin Ye’s legs went weak, and his knees nearly buckled. Fortunately, it occurred to him that there were countless Yin spirits on scene right now, and he managed to stiffen his legs and hold his ground in the nick of time.
Nobody dared to discuss these affairs openly. The Yin spirits slowly rose to their feet once more and began to discuss in whispers. Qin Ye shut his eyes and wiped off the sweat from his forehead as he heaved a long sigh of relief. Then he pressed his hand over his pounding chest as he glanced at Arthis once more, “The global underworld summit? What’s that? Could you please explain it to me?”
Arthis watched the hole in the sky fade away, and her gaze grew incomparably complex, “You’ve probably already gathered what it is from its name, so what purpose does your question serve?”
Qin Ye’s brows were knitted together so tightly that they could probably squash a mosquito. Moments later, he sighed wistfully and chuckled bitterly, “What’s all this about…”
That’s right. He had already gathered what it was, and he was merely looking to Arthis for her confirmation. But all Arthis did was to deal him a ruthless blow.
This was earth.
This was the stuff of legends - of gods, underworlds, and death.
Like the rest of the world, underworlds had territories and subjects. And just like the rest of the mortal realm, each and every underworld had its own sets of interests and exchanges.
And just like how international organizations like the United Nations organizes gatherings in the mortal realm, including the World Intellectual Property Day, or the Global Warming Symposium, or the Nobel Prize, etc, the netherworld has its equivalents as well.
Since he was aware of the territorial boundaries between the underworld, something like this should have occurred to him.
“What else is there?” He cast a dim gaze at the distant sky.
“For instance, it’s not uncommon to hear of systems of gods vanishing completely. Their territory would become unclaimed lands, and the ownership over these lands would shift drastically every decade or so. Whenever that happens, the gods of the underworlds and their representatives would meet for discussions and demonstrate the power of their states. For further instance, there’s also discussions on the evolution of Yin spirit, or the trade lines between the underworlds and the mortal realms, etc… It’s practically everything you can think of, and more. Whenever something extraordinary occurs, you can count on it that there would be a discussion amongst delegations of states.”
“Then, there’s still the decennial awards for literary, films, television, entrepreneurs, etc…”
Qin Ye made a ‘stop’ gesture. His heart was already on the verge of collapse, and the corners of his lips twitched uncontrollably as he interjected, “Why haven’t I received any notifications on these things? There should at least be some official correspondence with other underworlds, shouldn’t there?”
“Do you even have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs?” Arthis rebuffed Qin Ye with a simple statement, “It’s quite likely that all of the related correspondence is still being sent by way of robin to the old Hell’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs… We’ve got to go back and take a look at the mail if we’ve got the time. If not for this incident with Gu Qing, I might well have forgotten about all these things too. Even if you’re not going to show up, you should at least let them have a response.”
Qin Ye thought aloud, “And if we don’t respond?”
Arthis squinted, “Then something would obviously be amiss with Hell. Otherwise, there’s no reason why nobody would respond to these correspondences… Or are you suggesting that you would like the invasion of the underworlds to occur earlier, and you want the gods of the other underworlds to know that Hell doesn’t even have an official overseeing such matters?”
I guess these are all part of the ‘else’ to consider…
Qin Ye sighed in dejection. He was just a meagre citizen slowly working his way through the ranks, and yet he was suddenly parachuted into a foreign land to do the work of a president. It was truly an order so tall it dwarfed him completely…
“And if memory serves me well, next year should be the Global Underworld Argosian Arts Festival. When all is said and done, every event like this is an opportunity for the great underworlds to compete in strength. The weak don’t participate. If you want the other underworlds to forgo any inappropriate intentions they have towards Cathay, you’ll have to strengthen your own abilities.”
Qin Ye nodded in silent acknowledgment.
Doesn’t an arts festival have nothing to do with strength in the first place?
Only Yin spirits who are well fed and strong would be in the mood for the arts. As things are right now, how could Qin Ye possibly interest his citizens in the arts?
Qin Ye was practically on the verge of giving the art advocate a flying kick of doom.
Hell is so impoverished that I’m practically on the verge of selling my ass for cash, and you’re talking to me about the arts?!
Hell had no right to take the stage if it couldn’t even manage its own affairs. Arthis led Qin Ye to the center of the soul induction platform, “As far as these activities are concerned, rejection is a possibility, but it’s equally alright to personally take part in them. After all, it’s not as though the god of their underworld is the one personally presiding over these events. Nobody would be able to recognize you as the future King Yanluo of Hell… And after all we’ve discussed, I think you know best how important the establishment of Hell is to us. This path that we’re on is a one way street. There’s simply no turning back.”
“And Mr Gu Qing is the most important card we have in our hands right now.”
The netherflames scattered with a simple flick of her hand, revealing Gu Qing who had a confused expression on his face. Arthis smiled faintly, “Mr Gu may not be the greatest urban planner in Cathay of all time, and one person certainly can’t achieve what an entire team can do. But he’s undoubtedly still the most important pillar we have and need right now. He’s the most talented man we have at our disposal, and he’s also got the most hidden cards to play.”
“Our efforts to seize him back from the clutches of extraterritorial emissaries wouldn’t have been in vain.” She bowed gently and used the most sincere and genuine voice to address Gu Qing, “Mr Gu, welcome to Hell.”
“Mr Gu.” Qin Ye sighed, and likewise cupped his fists and bowed slightly, “Hell is a little lacking right now. Do pardon the simple welcome.”
The reconstruction of Hell was an immensely complex project. There were no amenities to speak of as yet. The first priority was to provide everyone with the most basic necessity of lodging.
Yet Gu Qing represented the sole pillar that stood upright in the mess of bricks laying around.
Gu Qing was a balding old man.
He wasn’t tall. He stood at a humble height of 1.73m, and he wore a Cathayan tunic suit. It was the very same suit that he had been encoffined in. He looked somewhat plump, and he had an amiable and kind disposition about him.
He didn’t respond immediately. Instead, he glanced about his surroundings, taking everything in slowly, before finally turning around and chuckling bitterly, “I… guess I’m really dead.”
“It’s part of the vicissitudes of life. It’s part of the circle of life. Cheer up. There’s no need to be down over these things.” Arthis spoke with an uncharacteristically pleasant tone of voice, replete with a faint smile.
“I understand.” Gu Qing suddenly smiled, and then sighed again, “That’s right… This is all part and parcel of the natural laws. I’ve lived for a long time, and I’ve achieved a lot in my time. There’s really nothing to be regretful about. The two of you must be… the fabled Emissaries of Hell?”
Qin Ye walked over and warmly shook Gu Qing’s hand, “Qin Ye. Since Mr Gu is new to Hell, and doesn’t really understand what’s going on, why don’t you… take a walk with me?”
Gu Qing stared at Qin Ye suspiciously.
Is everyone treated like that after they die? Since when is Hell so courteous? He was ostensibly confused, especially since the surrounding Yin spirits were clearly not even qualified to approach the two esteemed Emissaries of Hell. Every single one of them stared at Qin Ye with a gaze that only spelt fear and reverence.
But he knew he couldn’t refuse.
“Please.” Qin Ye made an inviting gesture and then took the lead. Gu Qing followed closely behind, scrutinizing the land of Yin spirits with great interest.
The soul induction platform and Hell’s Gate were the only two structures around, as far as the eyes could see. The rest of the surroundings looked no different from the wilderness.
He looked around with great interest in the first dozens or so minutes in Hell. He was curious about the lands and the waters, the flora and fauna, as well as the climate which was completely different from that in the mortal realm. But very soon, he furrowed his brows.
It was people everywhere… rather, ghosts everywhere.
And they were all idling around under trees, either chatting or resting… Hell reeked of lethargy and inactivity wherever he looked, and it was particularly… simple.
Is this really Hell?
“Mr Gu.” After walking about for approximately ten minutes, Qin Ye smiled and quipped, “I’ve heard of your achievements in the mortal realm. You’ve even participated in the construction projects in Alkebulan cities? I’d like to know what level of urban planning was involved.”
A glint of reminiscence flickered across the depths of Gu Qing’s eyes, and he smiled with great satisfaction, “It’s not a large city. The scale of it was only akin to that of a county. Gambik. I don’t think many people would have heard of its name.”
“Tell me more.”
Gu Qing sorted through his thoughts, and then explained, “When I first arrived, it was a completely desolate wasteland. Cathay Construction’s Third Bureau was the only construction unit around, and the design department consisted only of myself and two other experts. Naturally, the plan was previously discussed many times back in Cathay. But we only talked about the specifics much later on.”
Perhaps it was because he was talking about his profession, but he was ostensibly more outspoken than before. He even raised an eyebrow and started pointing at various places around Hell, “Like here, for example. If we’re to establish a city here, we would have to consider the long-term developmental plans, such as whether there are any natural resources to be tapped on? And if there are no natural resources and no means of developing a thriving tourism industry, the city’s development can only fall back to the light and heavy industries. As far as heavy industries are concerned, we can consider whether there are any mines in the near vicinity. And where light industries are concerned, it would depend entirely on the governmental policies.”
“Not many places talk about establishing new cities these days. Most of them are located in third world countries. The location of every city is of crucial importance. Transport, resources and strategy are three main factors to consider in determining the anchor point of any city around. As far as Hell is concerned, the terrain is very flat. It’s obviously not a very strategic location. Resource-wise… this is something I’m not too sure about. That said, I can see that the vegetation around here is quite uniform, and it naturally implies that resources may be scarce. Vegetation is one of the main building blocks of any ecosystem, and it is directly correlated to the development of organisms and other natural resources around… Apart from that, I don’t see any transportation in the region either. This must be a newly founded city…”
He paused abruptly as soon as he said that. And then, he blinked his eyes blankly then turned to look at Qin Ye with a gasp.
It suddenly dawned on him why the Emissaries of Hell were being so courteous to him.
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