Qin Ye stared at the head in Oda Nobunaga’s chest cavity, and a triumphant smile crept up the corner of his lips, “That said, you don’t have any choice apart from us.”
The more he spoke, the more confident he grew. It suddenly dawned on him that his edge lay not only in the information asymmetry. The other thing he brought to the table was the modern lens through which Nobunaga could now view the world.
“I’m afraid you must have underestimated me if you think that much is enough to sway me.” Nobunaga sneered. Then, with a burning gaze in the depths of his eyes, he stared straight at Qin Ye and added, “What I want… is to be the lord and emperor of Nippon!”
“I don’t want to have to answer to anyone anymore. I want absolute autonomy!! Nippon… belongs to me!”
“Naturally.” Qin Ye smiled and nodded, “We’re the only ones who would back your ambition in this regard. We’re the only ones in the East with the ability to make your dreams a reality. And as for your concerns… we’ve already thought of some possibly workable solutions.”
He continued to smile as he leaned forward slightly, “Such as… one underworld, two systems.”
Ming Shiyin was currently eavesdropping on their conversation from outside the inner chambers. As soon as he heard Qin Ye’s suggestion, he immediately choked - WTF?! Kid… are you serious? You’re even taking a leaf out of Grandpa Deng’s book? You’re pulling out all the stops in order to win Oda Nobunaga over to your side, aren’t you?
Oda Nobunaga was likewise dumbfounded by the proposition.
What in the world is this?!
Nobunaga was a legendary historical figure. But the fact remains that he came from an era of warring states in Nippon, much like the warring states era in Cathay. Naturally, the only thought on his mind back then was a single word - unification!
One underworld, two systems. This was a concept that was built upon the dilution of sovereignty. This was a complete taboo to a feudal lord whose life goal had been unification like him.
“One… one underworld, two systems?” The head in his chest cavity raised its eyebrow quizzically.
“One country--... underworld, operating out of two different systems.” Blessed with quick wits, Qin Ye quickly ran with his suggestion and built upon it, “Cathay’s underworld will develop and build on its foundation of socialism as it continues to proliferate Cathayan values, cultures and norms. Once we conquer Nippon, you are free to establish whatever system of governance you so desire, be it capitalism or socialism, or others. We won’t interfere, nor would we ask any questions at all!”
Even Nobunaga found himself somewhat confused by everything.
That’s not right…
Where did he suddenly pull out all this jargon from? It’s almost as though… the present negotiations feel completely different from how they had been just moments ago.
But a wise man thinks much and speaks little. He deliberated for a moment, and then quipped, “This manner of governance is completely unprecedented in all of recorded history.”
“These are specially crafted terms, and they represent exactly how much we value Lord Nobunaga.” Qin Ye responded with eloquence as he cupped his hands respectfully, “If you find these terms unpalatable, we still have other alternatives for your picking.”
Oda Nobunaga didn’t say more. He was mulling over the question of how far he had fallen out of touch with modern day society. But… the specificities involved do give me some insight as to how much the Cathayan underworld values me… don’t they?
If only he knew of the truth surrounding the collapse of Hell right now. In all likelihood, he would have lunged forward and bit Qin Ye to death in an instant.
Qin Ye laid off his aggression and gave Oda Nobunaga the time and space he needed to think, and he simply added, “The other kind of agreement is called a special administrative region agreement.”
“What would that entail?”
“This is an agreement we will enter into should you be willing to pledge your allegiance to the Cathayan underworld. From then on, you shall be appointed as an Emissary of Hell, with a formal title and an office to hold. Furthermore, Nippon would become a special administrative region of Cathay, and you are free to develop it however you so desire. All we would do is to provide you with supplies and ghostpower!”
“You are free to develop Nippon into a cultural powerhouse, or you can turn it into an economic district or a military zone. Everything is entirely up to you. We promise not to interfere at all.”
Who says I can’t look at the big picture?
I don’t mean to brag, but when it comes to shamelessness, can any of you hold a candle to me?
Oda Nobunaga’s gaze grew deep and abstruse.
The two different agreements on the table spoke volumes about how highly he was held in regard by the Cathayan underworld. All he needed to do was to pledge his allegiance to Cathay, and then defeat Nippon, and then he would in substance be no different from a Nipponese emperor!
His heart blazed with passion as he muttered hoarsely, “You won’t interfere, regardless of who I put to death?”
“You won’t care, even if I declare myself to be king over Nippon? And what about financial governance and internal affairs? Can you guarantee that you won’t send anyone to infiltrate these departments?”
Qin Ye fervently suppressed the swelling ecstasy in his heart, “Certainly not. As long as you don’t rebel against the Cathayan Hell or stir an uprising against us, you’re free to do what you want. You can even call yourself a king; it is but a title to us.”
“Lord Nobunaga.” Qin Ye stared straight into his eyes, “You’re no puppet to us. We want you as… our colleague…”
“We’re the only ones who can fulfill your dreams right now. As soon as you get dragged into the depths of Yomi-no-Kuni, you can forget about leaving ever again.”
And this much was true. It was a ring fence that Oda Nobunaga would never be able to escape.
As long as he had the capacity for thought, he would be able to understand that Izanami would never be able to tolerate his presence. No, rather, it was more accurate to say that Izanami could tolerate his physical presence, one that would be as obsequious as a dog of the shogun, but not one who possessed an ambition so great that it earned him the title of the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven!
Therefore, Oda Nobunaga knew full well that his only choice right now was to pledge allegiance to Cathay. Everything he had done up to now was merely to give himself some leverage for the negotiations itself.
The entire room was filled with stifling silence. Yet, Qin Ye continued to keep mum, because he knew he had said enough. His palms grew damp as he continued to wait anxiously. Then, after an inordinate amount of time, Oda Nobunaga finally responded, “I’ll need some time to think about it…”
Qin Ye promptly interjected before Nobunaga could even finish, “With all due respect, Lord Nobunaga, do you really have the luxury of time for such consideration?”
“Cathay is paying a huge price to seize control of the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl in order to gain control over your soul. After all, we can only evoke and release your soul from the bowl if we are able to reassemble the entire Yin artifact. However…” Qin Ye lifted his head and smiled at Nobunaga, “Three days later, the ship containing the bowl would be sailing through East Cathay Sea. Then, thirty hours later, you’ll arrive at the Strait of Tsushima, where your old rivals… will already be lying in wait for you.”
Qin Ye couldn’t see what was going on behind the bamboo blinds right now, but he was certain that there was a burning gaze staring transfixed at him. This continued for another five minutes, until Nobunaga finally spoke up again, “Are you the only one here today?”
Thump, thump, thump… Qin Ye’s heart began to beat faster and faster, and his eyes immediately lit up. Nobunaga was essentially asking whether Qin Ye had the authority to enter into an agreement with him!
Nobunaga was finally moved!
“Of course not.” Qin Ye steadied himself and calmed his mind. He knew full well that the negotiations had finally reached its tipping point, and everything would turn on what happened in the next few moments.
“Lord Ming is right outside. This is classified as a top secret operation. Therefore, we’re the only two in attendance here today. Any agreement entered into today will be personally witnessed by Lord Ming. This ought to allay any concerns of yours, wouldn’t it?”
Oda Nobunaga didn’t respond directly to Qin Ye, “Show me the agreements.”
“Lord Nobunaga, the agreement contains far-reaching ramifications. Just as a precautionary measure, we haven’t brought it with us today. Please give us half a day’s time.”
“Certainly.” Oda Nobunaga tapped his folding fan gently, and the bamboo blinds dropped all the way down, indicating that their conversation was over for now.
Time to leave.
Qin Ye cupped his hands together respectfully, and then took his leave from Honnoji. As soon as he stepped out from the main entrance of Honnoji, everything before his eyes started to blur and contort, and a dark luster began to overtake everything in sight. Qin Ye subconsciously shut his eyes.
Several minutes passed. When Qin Ye opened his eyes once more, he was already back at his hotel.
“Hot damn!!” Qin Ye couldn’t help but slam his fist on the bed as soon as he had ascertained where exactly he was. Simultaneously, he heaved a long sigh of relief.
I’m just one step away… All I need right now is to draw up an agreement and endorse it with our signatures. And then, as soon as you enter Hell, I’d like to see where you can run, my dear friend, Nobunaga…
“Kid… you’re pretty good.” Ming Shiyin hovered about him, “I’d rate you first class, regardless of whether we’re talking about your gift of the gab, or your shamelessness, or even your ability to react and adapt, as well as command the negotiations process…”
“What are you talking about?” Flushed with pride, Qin Ye picked at his ears and blew gently at his fingers as he rolled his eyes at Ming Shiyin, “I’m simply doing my bit to help raise Hell once more. Speaking of which, you should read more. It would help us out.”
“Well I’ll be damned!” Ming Shiyin fluttered around excitedly like a happy little butterfly, “Ghost, let me ask you! Are you really going to entrust Oda Nobunaga with that much power and authority in future?”
“Uhhuh.” Qin Ye leaned back comfortably on the sofa and snorted softly, “I naturally have to show him some sign of trust on my part, don’t I? I can grant him complete autonomy under the first agreement. That said, under those terms, Cathay wouldn’t be extending him any supplies at all. You want complete autonomy? You can start everything from scratch then. When that time comes… he’ll come knocking on our doors of his own volition.”
Bloody hell… that’s way too black-hearted, even by the standards of Hell… Ming Shiyin doubled back in great astonishment, “And what if… he decided on the special administrative region instead?”
“Let me tell you something.” Qin Ye crossed his legs, “When it comes to politicking and protecting one’s own interests, nobody does it better than Cathay. Do you know anything about the bureaucratic system? If he pledges his allegiance under the special administrative region regime instead, there’s naturally plenty of hidden avenues through which I can pick at his bones. Have you watched the series ‘In the Name of the People’? Learn from it.”
“... Bloody hell… Aren’t you afraid that he would rebel when he learns the truth?”
“With what? Him and his two thousand foot soldiers?” Qin Ye snorted and smiled proudly, “It’s not out of the question if a Nipponese Yin spirit were to seek help from Cathayan Yin spirits to defeat Yomi-no-Kuni. But… do you really think it’s possible for a Nipponese Yin spirit to stir up a rebellion and get Cathayan Yin spirits to defect to Nippon? Do you think we’re stil living in the last century?”
“As long as he dares to incite the slightest bit of ill will or stir up an uprising, he would most certainly be cast into the pits of Hellfire and brimstone. I’ve got more than a hundred thousand Yin spirits under my command right now. That’s more than enough to quell and completely extinguish any possible uprising on his part. Besides, I’ll immediately confer upon him a title as an official as soon as he enters Hell. He wouldn’t know a thing about the systems of Hell at that point in time. In other words, I’m suppressing him with the sheer information asymmetry. In short, as long as we’re able to secure possession of the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl and bring it back to the City of Salvation, he would be no different from a dumpling in my hand - I can mold him into any shape I like.”
Seconds later, Ming Shiyin finally sighed, “As expected of a scheming bastard… This is simply too dirty. I can’t believe you would betray his expectations like that. What a crude method. It lacks elegance!”
Where’s the spirit of collaboration that belies and agreement? Where’s the honesty? Where’s the trust between different nations? Bloody hell… is this really our future King Yanluo?
The future of Hell is in great jeopardy…
After resting for a while, Qin Ye finally got up and washed his face. Then, he took several deep breaths to regulate his emotions, switched on his computer, and then entered the Baidu library where he began to search for what he needed.
It’s not time to rest just yet…
He had managed to secure the cooperation of his first ally. But he knew that this was still insufficient. After all, he was going up against the armies of Yomi-no-Kuni, an underworld that has stood the test of time. No measure of preparation would ever be sufficient for a confrontation like that.
“What are you doing?” Having noticed Qin Ye searching the Baidu libraries, Ming Shiyin wondered aloud, “He trusts Justice Bao. He knows that my presence used to be synonymous with the presence of Justice Bao in the days of the old Hell, so my presence is all you need. There’s no need to bother so much with the fine print, is there?”
“Lord Ming.” Qin Ye asked as he typed, “How many Nipponese troops do you think are gathering at East Cathay Sea right now?”
Ming Shiyin’s body swayed slightly, “I can’t say for certain… but I don’t think it would be more than six thousand. Arthis should have informed you that the size of an underworld is exactly equal to the size of its corresponding nation. Nippon isn’t large. Based on my historical records, the greatest number of troops they can mobilize should be in the region of six thousand - the same number that they had mobilized each time they had launched a probative skirmish against Hell.”
Qin Ye’s fingers paused as he probed further, “But I recall you mentioning that when Anubis knocked on the western borders of Cathay some time ago, the troops involved numbered in the hundreds of millions?”
Ming Shiyin immediately rebuffed Qin Ye, “That’s not the same! That’s a formal expedition force. It’s not easy breaching a barrier which separates different underworlds… You’re not in a position to understand the inter-underworld relationships just yet. All you need to know right now is that under peaceful circumstances, there’s no reason for any underworld to open its borders at all. After all, that would be tantamount to declaring to all other underworlds that they’re starting a war.”
“That would be no different from a death wish!”