Chapter 268: The Curtain Falls

The winds swept across the surface of the waters.

The waters of the Strait of Tsushima had already been dyed black by the infusion of Yin energy. The colossal corpse of Kuki Yoshitaka lay motionlessly next to countless plumb corpses, drifting about the surface of the waters like flotsam of garbage. When Justice Bao’s great shockwave of Yin energy abruptly erupted, he was immediately crushed and destroyed before he even got the chance to scream in fright.

At this point in time, there was a massive encirclement of red, black and white which had formed right above the pitch-black waters, and dark figures in the center of the encirclement would dissipate into wisps of Yin energy from time to time.

Black and red were the colours of Oda Nobunaga’s black guards and red guards, while the black and white colours were attributable to the Tengu army and the battle monks that had joined them. The tips of the spears and the tips of the arrows were all trained onto Azai Nagamasa’s remnant forces, which now numbered less than fifty in total.

That said, Oda Nobunaga’s faction sustained great losses as well, and they numbered approximately only one thousand at this point in time.

Azai Nagamasa looked up at the sky with great despair - I’ve lost… I’ve once again lost at the hands of my archenemy, Oda Nobunaga. That said, he wasn’t too surprised by his defeat. Even though they were both warlords of the Nipponese Warring States era, he knew that he was weaker than Oda Nobunaga. After all, he had already once been defeated by Oda Nobunaga.

The Umamawari horse guards moved swiftly and mercilessly, finding weaknesses in Nagamasa’s forces like deadly vipers and pursuing them relentlessly. Before long, Izanami’s forces had already dwindled so much that they were no longer battling on level playing fields. And when he finally realized what was happening around him, all that was left in front of his very eyes was a sea of valiant soldiers dressed in black and red.

When the battle first commenced, he had charged head on with thousands of Izanami’s personal guards behind him, greatly outnumbering the Umamawari horse guards at Oda Nobunaga’s disposal. The fact that he had ended up with such tragic losses was the clear result of his own incompetent commandeering of forces. Yet, it was precisely because of this that he just couldn’t bring himself to accept the outcome.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t accept defeat. Rather, he simply couldn’t accept losing to the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven once again after four hundred long years.

There’s no escape… The coalition of Umamawari horse guards, the battle monks and the Tengu army have blocked out all possible escape routes. Furthermore… with only fifty over men remaining, how long could we possibly hold out for?

Clatter… Just then, the Umamawari horse guards parted ways, allowing a massive skeletal war horse to canter in. The man who sat on its back was a person who Azai Nagamasa wanted to flay and skin alive, yet he knew he was completely helpless at this moment.

“Azai-kun…” Oda Nobunaga leaned over slightly and stared condescendingly at Azai Nagamasa, “You’ve lost again.”

“As daimyos, we stake our lives with every battle we fight. And I’m afraid that this is the last we’re going to see of each other.”

Azai Nagamasa remained taciturn. Several seconds later, he suddenly began to chuckle softly. It started small and soft, before slowly growing louder and louder, until he finally threw his head back into the air and laughed uproariously.

“Oda Nobunaga…” He slowly lowered his head once more, and then stared intently at Oda Nobunaga with a raging scarlet flame in his eyes, “I’ll wait for you in Yomi-no-Kuni…”

“How dare you make an enemy of Lady Izanami?! Even if you escape to the ends of the mortal realm, you’ll never be able to evade the pursuit of her darkfeathers forever!”

Oda Nobunaga gently stroked his short black beard as he quipped with bemusement, “But that’s only if Izanami dares to venture into the depths of the Cathayan underworld.”

The Cathayan underworld?!

Azai Nagamasa found everything he had wanted to say suddenly lodged in his throat, and he simply stared at Oda Nobunaga and shuddered, “You’re… going to the Cathayan underworld?”

Oda Nobunaga turned around slightly, and his red cloak fluttered softly as he chuckled contemptuously, “Do you smell that?”

“What?” Azai Nagamasa responded reflexively with great despondence in the depths of his eyes.

“This is the scent of a Cathayan Judge-class emissary…” Oda Nobunaga looked up and gazed into the horizon, “It’s precisely because of this unconcealable scent that Izanami hasn’t even attempted to rescue you… So, do you really think she would dare to venture into the depths of the Cathayan underworld just to arrest me?”

Azai Nagamasa turned his head stiffly and gazed into the distance, only to notice the existence of an ancient seat in the horizon, approaching them with great magnificence amidst the boundless fog of Yin energy that covered the waters. Terrifying amounts of Yin energy flowed from the seat in a grand display of authority and power. This was undoubtedly a declaration of the arrival of a high official of Hell - all rabble shall disperse!

On the other hand, it was clear that Izanami had been content with dispersing like all of the other rabble around as well. After all was said and done, Azai Nagamasa was still a daimyo and the commander-in-chief of their great expedition force. Izanami’s inaction in spite of Azai Nagamasa’s predicament spoke volumes about her lack of intention to get involved.

“Go.” Oda Nobunaga flicked the reins on his war horse gently, and rode towards the direction from which the majestic seat was approaching. Murai Sadakatsu, Mori Ranmaru, and Nohime followed closely behind him.

Rumble… The great cloud of Yin energy blanketed the lands and blotted out the skies. A chorus of ghastly wailed resounded all around them, while innumerable spots of netherflames lit up the sky like twinkling stars of the night.

Neither bird nor fish dared traverse these parts that were now overwhelmed with Yin energy.

An ancient arhat bed that was approximately three meters long drifted across the dense cloud of Yin energy. Arthis was dressed in her usual colourful robes. Her hair scattered about wildly, while her tongue slithered about menacingly like a venomous viper. She sat on the arhat bed, drifting along indifferently without deigning to even look at Oda Nobunaga as he approached her.

Arthis was completely in her element right now.

“Daimyo Oda Nobunaga of the Nipponese Warring States era pays his respect to the esteemed Infernal Judge of Cathay!” Oda Nobunaga dismounted from his war horse, half knelt on the ground and paid his respects to Arthis. Murai Sadakatsu and the others promptly followed suit as well, “Oda Nobunaga’s retainers pay their respects to the esteemed Infernal Judge of Cathay!”

It was only when they came up close to Arthis that they truly appreciated the towering might of an Infernal Judge.

In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that apart from the Five Elders of Nippon, none of the other Yin spirits in Nippon would be capable of mustering such immense Yin energy. And the Prefect-class Izanami naturally sat at the top of the Nipponese food chain.

I would expect nothing less of Cathay.

“Are you Lord Nobunaga?” Arthis glanced at him, and then smiled faintly, “You can dispense with the formalities.”

“Pledging allegiance to Hell is going to be the best decision you’ve ever made in your life. So long as you don’t forsake Hell, Hell would never forsake you either.”

“Yes!!” Oda Nobunaga drew a deep breath, and then cupped his hands respectfully.

How naive…

Arthis looked away - I’m not sure if you’ll be able to laugh like that when you see the state of the new Hell as it currently stands… That said, even if you do regret your decision later on, you won’t be able to do a single thing about it without my permission…

“Despicable! Shameless!! Oda Nobunaga! How dare you even call yourself a daimyo of the Nipponese Warring States era!!” The bulging veins on Azai Nagamasa’s forehead throbbed uncontrollably as he watched the ridiculous scene pan out, and he couldn’t resist lambasting Oda Nobunaga for his traitorous action.

Cathayan underworld… the Cathayan underworld?!

How far can your reaches possibly be?! Once this man enters the Cathayan underworld… I’ll no longer have any hopes for revenge in this entire life!

“Eh?” Arthis raised her brows slightly, even as Azai Nagamasa continued hollering with a shrill and hoarse voice, “You’re not worthy to be called a Nipponese samurai! You’re slaving yourselves to others! You…”

Yet, Oda Nobunaga remained unflappable, “I’ve made a fool of myself. Let me end things properly right now.”

He waved his hands lightly, and the Umamawari horse guards forming the encirclement immediately swarmed over. No matter how much Azai Nagamasa and his forces struggled, it didn’t take more than half an hour before they were all reduced to mere wisps of Yin energy that quickly dissipated into the surroundings.

Pshhk! Pshhk! Pshhk! Several spears stabbed into Azai Nagamasa’s side at the same time, yet he didn’t even let out a single cry of pain. Boundless Yin energy flowed out of his body, until finally… he transformed into an inferno of netherflames that blazed with great intensity as it grew higher and higher.

“I’ll see you in hell…” Azai Nagamasa’s soft voice drifted out of the raging inferno, almost as though he were beckoning to Oda Nobunaga from an underworldly abyss. Moments later, hundreds more spears instantly plunged into the heart of the inferno. With a miserable roar, his entire being transformed into countless netherflames that transformed the inferno into a ten-meter tall pillar of netherflames. And then, his body began to crumble, inch by inch, transforming into burning ravens that scattered about, before quickly dissipating into the surroundings.

True death.

Henceforth, there would no longer be in existence any person named Azai Nagamasa, whether in the netherworld or the mortal realm.

And Izanami chose to remain silent throughout all that had happened.

“Even ghosts can die…” Arthis gently tapped her finger on the arhat bed, “Die once, and you become a Yin spirit. Die again, and your soul would be gone for eternity, without any hopes of ever being reborn again… Nobunaga, aren’t you afraid that Izanami would witness you pledging allegiance to Hell?”

Oda Nobunaga laughed aloud, and then boomed with a deep voice, “I wouldn’t have pledged my allegiance to Hell had I truly been afraid of Izanami.”

“Good.” Arthis chuckled softly. And then, she held up her hands and spread them wide. Instantly, her hands appeared to grow larger and larger, until they appeared to completely blot out the surroundings. Then, with a light wave of her hands, Qin Ye, Ming Shiyin, Oda Nobunaga, and the rest of their forces simply vanished without a trace.

It was over.

This marked the end of the battle at the Strait of Tsushima.

The entire Strait of Tsushima was shrouded in darkness, while a single cruise liner was left drifting over the waters in the wake of the massive battle. Not a single person was aware of exactly what happened this day.

………………………………………………………..

“Cough, cough, cough…” Ten hours later, back in a hotel in Eastsea, Qin Ye found himself lying on the bed, wriggling about in a sea of comfort with an ecstatic expression on his face.

The veins on Arthis’ forehead twitched and throbbed. She hadn’t brought her silicone doll vessel along, so she possessed another woman’s body instead. She glared at Qin Ye with great dissatisfaction, “Do you have a disease or something? Are you unable to control the sickening moaning and groaning sounds that you’re making right now? The bleeding has already stopped a long time ago, so why are you still making those terrible sounds?!”

Qin Ye’s appeared somewhat teary-eyed. He grabbed hold of the sheets and bit down on his lower lips as he murmured, “I… want some hand-ground coffee…”

Breathe in… breathe out… A second later, Arthis stomped hard on his back with a vicious expression, “Hand-ground coffee, huh?! Do you think you’re in a drama serial, huh?! Would it kill you to act with some restraint, huh?! Why can’t you just live like a proper man?!”

Qin Ye’s squeals echoed throughout the four corners of the room. Several seconds later, he panted heavily as he responded, “Damn you, unfilial daughter! Your father has been working his butt off in the East Cathay Sea, and he barely even made it back in one piece! And this is how you treat me? You’re not even going to make me a cup of coffee?”

Arthis picked at her ears and rolled her eyes.

Where do you get the nerve to come up with such ridiculous statements? Isn’t it part of the duty and responsibility of an Emissary to risk his life for Hell to begin with? Oh… it must have slipped my mind… You’re Qin Ye… Eh? Come to think of it, this is a great leap of improvement from your usual performance… It does seem somewhat praiseworthy, doesn’t it?

Arthis opened her mouth a few times, and yet she still couldn’t bring herself to betray her own conscience and praise Qin Ye for what he had done. Thus, she simply shut her mouth once more. Moments later, she spoke with a far gentler voice than before, “I’m guessing you’ve managed to achieve everything you set out to do?”

“Don’t worry.” Qin Ye snuggled into his pillow, “Hell’s development is soon going to take off for real, and soar on wings. I’ll get it sorted out as soon as we’re back. Speaking of which, what use is the Book of Life and Death good for?”

“The Book of Life and Death, huh… well…” Arthis pondered for a moment, and then abruptly froze for two seconds. And then, she yelled with great astonishment, as though someone had pricked her with a needle, “Don’t… don’t tell me… you actually managed to retrieve the Book of Life and Death?!”

Ming Shiyin was in a semi-conscious state, and it didn’t apprise Arthis of the exact details of what had transpired out at the Strait of Tsushima.

Without lifting his head, Qin Ye raised a finger to Arthis.

Arthis: ???

“A cup of hand-ground coffee, and I’ll tell you everything.” Qin-high-and-mighty-Ye muttered lazily.

Silence.

A moment later, the room was once again filled with miserable pig-like squealing. Ten minutes later, Arthis clapped her hands with great satisfaction and folded her legs gracefully. However, her voice was clearly laced with great excitement, “You actually managed to get your hands on the Book of Life and Death? This tells us that the divine artifacts of Hell haven’t disappeared, and the appearance of the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal isn’t a mere coincidence! The rest of the artifacts must all be scattered about in the other parts of Cathay! It’s like I said… these divine artifacts can never be destroyed by the great collapse of Hell caused by Ksitigarbha’s ascension!”

“... Can you get to the point?”

Arthis drew a deep breath, and then spoke with an incomparably stern and somber voice, “Are you aware that every underworld is capable of producing their own distinct types of soldiers?”

Qin Ye stared at Arthis as though he had seen a ghost. He stammered, “... Are you telling me that… you’ve been playing Heroes of Might and Magic these days?!”

Arthis gritted her teeth, while her hands vacillated between clenched fists and eagle’s claws. Finally, she managed to suppress the rage in her heart and respond with an unkind voice, “Do you think I’d joke about these things?”

“I was simply trying to put it in a manner in which you would understand. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s absolutely true! Take Oda Nobunaga’s Umamawari horse guards or the secret ninjas of Renpu for instance. Do you think Hell wouldn’t have its own set of unique special forces?”

“The production of these soldiers would require special facilities powered by copious amounts of Yin energy. King Yanluo’s Seal would be ideal for this. But without it, we can still use one of the other three primordial treasures of Hell, the Book of Life and Death! Although we won’t be able to produce the most outstanding Yin spirits… we would nevertheless still be able to train a batch of these unique special forces of Hell! This is incredible news for Hell as it stands right now, especially in the absence of any defensive powers!”

“And the Book of Life and Death does much more than that! What I’ve told you is no more than one of its basic functions which taps on the boundless Yin energy contained within. As the three primordial treasures of Hell, each one of them comes with their own unique functions!”

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