Everything was silent.
Three full minutes later, Oda Nobunaga finally leaned forward and remarked softly, “You’re poised to strike.”
But before Qin Ye could even respond to that, Nobunaga continued with a faint smile, “Between being a puppet of Cathay and being a subordinate to Izanami, I’d lean towards the latter. After all, I’d at least be able see some of my old acquaintances.”
Both men glared at each other as though the bamboo blinds weren’t opaque. After some time, Qin Ye calmly chose to skirt around the issue, “Do you know that our destination right now is the East Cathay Sea?”
“And there are already a number of reputable factions of the Nipponese underworld garrisoned there, patiently awaiting your arrival.”
Oda Nobunaga’s eyes blazed with passion, and then it faded away in an instant.
The meaning behind such actions were all too clear.
Izanami didn’t trust him.
She knew full well that someone like Oda Nobunaga would never willingly subordinate himself to her. His grievances ran far too deep. She was keenly aware of the resentment and hatred that had festered in the depths of his heart over the last four centuries. Thus, she was prepared to resort to the most extreme measures to “invite” him back to Yomi-no-Kuni with him.
And this also happened to be the strongest card in Qin Ye’s hands right now.
There simply wasn’t room for another ambitious soul in the unified Nipponese underworld.
Nippon was currently a place rich in culture and arts. How could they possibly tolerate Nobunaga and his immense grievances that have been festering for centuries on end?
Izanami longed to seize his soul for her purposes, while the Onmyojis were rallying together to expunge his soul. There was simply no place for him back in Nippon.
If he were to resist, he would undoubtedly be obliterated by Izanami’s forces. Nobunaga’s faction and Izanami’s armies were on completely different levels.
Qin Ye knew this. And so did Nobunaga. In fact, it was precisely because he knew this only too well that he had reacted with such fury.
“Is that true?” Nobunaga gnashed his teeth behind the cover of the bamboo blinds.
“One hundred percent.” Qin Ye responded, “I, too, have only just discovered this exigency. Time is of the essence. I’m afraid we must stand together if we are to live through this ordeal.”
There was a profound silence for the third time straight.
This time, the silence lasted for ten whole minutes. Finally, Oda Nobunaga chuckled abruptly, “I have to say that you’ve certainly got the gift of the gab.”
Qin Ye smiled and nodded his head.
“But,” Oda Nobunaga responded with indifference, “I wonder if Izanami would be willing to spare my life if I put your head on the discussion table before her?”
The netherflames on the candles around suddenly flickered wildly, and a chilling, ghastly shriek echoed in the shadows of the room.
Nobunaga stretched out his folding fan and lifted the bamboo blinds slightly, “I wonder whether something like that would earn me a shred of Izanami’s trust?”
Qin Ye lowered his gaze, “Are you sure about this? Lord Ming is still waiting right outside.”
“That’s right. I’d like to give it a shot.” Oda Nobunaga chuckled softly behind the bamboo blinds.
But before Nobunaga could even finish speaking, a massive wave of Yin energy erupted from Qin Ye’s body and engulfed him within a massive vortex of Yin energy. In an instant, Qin Ye was dressed in his tall fretwork skullcap and wielding his mourning staff. His hair turned white and scattered about wildly as he walked back out in his Hellguard state. Countless bony hands even reached out where he had just been sitting moments ago, almost as though it were part of the path leading straight to Naraka.
“How dare you make a move against a celestial ambassador of Hell?!” Qin Ye snorted contemptuously and shook his mourning staff. In an instant, a nethergale picked up, and a cacophony of haunting wails could be heart in the distance. His clothes fluttered about menacingly, “Aren’t you afraid of being caught between a rock and a hard place?”
“I make my own path.” Oda Nobunaga laughed from his side of the bamboo blinds, “As long as none of you leave this place alive, would anyone even know you’ve been here before?”
“Nobutada, Murai Sadakatsu, kill him!”
The sliding doors in Honnoji slammed open in an instant, and Qin Ye quickly noticed that the the two sets of skeletons that he had earlier seen suddenly lifted their heads, and green netherflames blazed in their sunken eye sockets. With a shrill shriek, they rode a swift nethergale and charged straight towards Qin Ye.
Simultaneously, the foot soldiers, bowmen, pages, and maidservants hiding in the ukiyo-e paintings immediately opened their eyes with eerie green glows. What was otherwise an empty Honnoji was suddenly filled with countless figures with bright green eyes. The nethergale howled, while the ghosts shrieked among the flickering shadows.
Sssss! A Nipponese female ghost with scattered hair shot out of the ukiyo-e, followed closely by hundreds of other ghosts. Armed with a multitude of weapons ranging from kitchen knives to rusty firearms, the spirits under Nobunaga’s control suddenly charged right into the inner chambers.
Honnoji trembled. Yin energy had poured out of every corner of Honnoji and converged towards the inner chambers like a roaring tide, concealing the silhouettes of the multitude of Yin spirits that formed this unstoppable force. Qin Ye sighed - These cantankerous big shots aren’t easy to negotiate with. It looks like I must make a tactical retreat for now.
“Well, Lord Oda, I’m sorry.” Qin Ye lifted his mourning staff into the air, before slamming it straight into the bamboo blinds, shattering it in an instant as he lunged straight for the man hidden behind it.
This was a showdown between Hellguards, and both unleashed a series of attacks with immense speed. Qin Ye had abruptly struck at Oda Nobunaga at a speed far beyond the comprehension of a mere Soul Hunter. His silhouette appeared no more than to flicker slightly, leaving an afterimage in its wake.
He moved at a speed that was close to the speed of sound.
As the bamboo blinds shattered with a miserable clatter, Qin Ye finally saw the Demon King’s appearances for the very first time.
It was the appearance of a man whose body was burnt all over.
There was no longer any skin left on his body. No blood flowed from his wounds either. Rather, the charred skin and his dried blood appeared to have melded together to form a grotesque crust around his body. He dressed himself with an exquisite feather weave and a daimyo’s hat. However, he didn’t have a head.
Just as Qin Ye struck out with his mourning staff, the chest cavity of the headless corpse on the other end suddenly opened up, revealing his grisly rib-cages which were encrusted with the disgusting concoction of charred skin and blood. And there, right in the heart of his chest cavity, sat Oda Nobunaga’s head where his heart ought to have been. Nobunaga opened his eyes abruptly and unleashed an earth-shattering roar at the incoming mourning staff.
His thunderous roar was backed by the power of a Hellguard. The surroundings trembled slightly. Then, he suddenly opened his eyes, revealing a deep dark abyss swirling in his pupils. Copious amounts of Yin energy rushed out from his seven apertures like a great tsunami that quickly took the form of black, venomous snakes as they charged towards Qin Ye and sought to engulf him.
“Do you think I’ll believe everything you say just because you’re glib?” Oda Nobunaga’s booming voice caused all of Honnoji to quake vigorously, “I’m the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven. You’ve underestimated me.”
But just then--...
An equally thunderous bang shook Honnoji for the second time. A massive crack appeared in the ground, snaking around as it continued to extend endlessly. The foot soldiers stared at the ground in horror. Netherflames surged from the crack in an instant, while the surrounding trees began to shake wildly as though a great, invisible hand were pressing down in them.
This time, it wasn’t Honnoji that shook.
Rather, it was the entire realm that was trembling.
A majestic, unparalleled force had appeared without any warning and filled the entire realm with its presence. Ming Shiyin’s domineering voice filled the skies like the winds and the clouds, “Demon King of the Sixth Heaven, what is the meaning of this?”
“Are you laying hands on an ambassador of Hell?”
A glorious luster shone from the mirror like the radiant sun at dawn.
Like quicksilver, the brilliance of its light penetrated every corner of Honnoji, and every single demon and ghost screamed in terror as they collapsed to the ground, shuddering and shivering with great fear. Then, as the light slowly faded away, everything returned to their respective places within the ukiyo-e paintings.
Whoosh. The inner chambers continued to shine brightly with a radiant glow. This was a burst of light that Nobunaga hadn’t seen for hundreds of years. And right now, it shone like a spotlight on the two Hellguards that were locked in conflict.
Qin Ye didn’t move. His fingers were already reaching for his own arm, while a sea of venomous Yin energy snakes continued to lunge viciously at him, tearing and biting at him desperately, but unable to breach the thin layer of Yin energy wrapped around his body.
He was protected by the Prestige of the Luminary.
A bead of cold sweat rolled off his jawlines. Both had struck out mercilessly, leaving little room for the other to respond to their attacks. He was already on the verge of unleashing his blade release had the snakes advanced just that little bit more.
Qin Ye and Nobunaga locked eyes, and neither made a single move.
Then, after one minute of impasse, the tide of venomous snakes slowly began to retreat, and Nobunaga acted as though nothing had ever happened at all. A fresh bamboo blind hung down in front of him once more, and Nobunaga tapped the tatami mat softly with his folding fan, “Take a seat. I got carried away there.”
Qin Ye sized him up warily as he fervently repressed the wild thumping of his heart.
The centuries of festering resentment provided him with a solid foundation for becoming an incarnate revenant in due course. Qin Ye could tell from their simple exchange that Nobunaga was on a completely different level from any other evil ghost he had encountered in the past. In fact, he was on a whole new level altogether.
His tide of Yin energy was on the verge of materializing. This told Qin Ye that he was at least an advanced Hellguard-class Yin spirit. In fact, he was probably on the verge of attaining a breakthrough to becoming an Infernal Judge.
Most importantly, he finally realized why Oda Nobunaga had suddenly turned on him.
There were two reasons. The first reason was the fact that Qin Ye had been on the offensive in the negotiations all this while, and his aggression could have drawn out an instinctive backlash from Nobunaga.
Secondly, and more pertinently, Nobunaga didn’t trust him, and he wanted to know who Qin Ye’s backer truly was. In other words, he wanted to know to what extent Qin Ye would be able to hold up his end of the offer.
And the more Qin Ye thought about it, the more he grew certain that Nobunaga probably wouldn’t have laid hands on him, even if Ming Shiyin didn’t make a move. After all, the instability of the realm in this place wouldn’t be able to withstand the unrestrained showdown between two Hellguards.
On the other hand, if Ming Shiyin were to refuse to display even a shred of Justice Bao’s authority, Nobunaga could also infer that he wasn’t an indispensable part of Hell’s plans. In turn, his attitude towards the negotiations would take a completely different turn.
“Mr Oda doesn’t seem to trust me very much.” Neither of them brought up the earlier altercation as Qin Ye fired the first salvo in the resumption of their negotiations, “Don’t you think that such methods of verification is a little too unbridled?”
“It gets the job done.” Oda Nobunaga’s voice was calm, “At least I now know that Lord Justice Bao intends to invest in me as a person, don’t I?”
“I believe we can continue with our discussions from where we left off.” His voice deepened somewhat, and he finally pulled up the blinds, “Like I said before, I like to cut to the chase. Tell me what you can offer, and what your conditions are.”
Qin Ye heaved a sigh of relief.
Now we’re getting to the point.
Qin Ye was certain that Oda Nobunaga was hooked by the prospects.
One of the things which Qin Ye hated the most was to receive perfunctory responses like “oh”, “I see”, and “I’ll consider that”. The earlier altercation had seemed dangerous and unruly, but it was the only reliable method of verification that Oda Nobunaga could have resorted to at that point in time.
Ming Shiyin’s presence had given him the impression that Justice Bao had personally earmarked him and was investing in his talents. After all, how could anyone have guessed something as outrageous as the collapse of Hell? Thus, the more Oda Nobunaga pushed back, the more desperate to seek out an answer he naturally was, and the more confident Qin Ye grew.
“First, we’ll rescue you from East Cathay Sea.” Qin Ye deliberated for a few moments before explaining sincerely, “The Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl that you’re residing in is on its way to the Strait of Tsushima to be sold at an auction right now. But, due to some constraints, I’m afraid we won’t be able to gain access to the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl before the auctions. Izanami has already established a garrison of her army at the Strait of Tsushima. There’s no way you would be able to battle your way out of the encirclement without our help.”
Oda Nobunaga acknowledged softly.
“Secondly, you’ll return to Cathay with us. As the First Secretary of King Yanluo himself, I give you my word that you would be given absolute autonomy to act. Furthermore, we will render you our full assistance in your invasion of Nippon in future. However, you must pledge allegiance to Hell by becoming a citizen of Hell.”
Oda Nobunaga sneered, “In other words, after I take down Nippon in the future, the one that stands to gain is still the Cathayan underworld. I won’t be the emperor of Nippon. I’ll at best be relegated to holding an office as a lord of a Cathayan kingdom.”
“I’m sorry, Celestial Ambassador of Hell, this isn’t the outcome that I, Oda Nobunaga, desire.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter