Qin Ye was already primed to run at the moment’s notice. Unfortunately, Arthis turned and grabbed Qin Ye preemptively. Qin Ye’s temple throbbed uncontrollably, “Let go! Release me at once! If either of us manages to get away, we’ll still be able to retrieve the body of the one who perished valiantly in battle later on. But if we both were to remain in this place, we would most certainly rest in pieces!”
“This is your duty as the future King Yanluo. Stand still and stand tall! Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind ripping you to shreds before Emperor Wu of Song even makes a single move!”
Qin Ye instantly grew silent.
Having finally resolved the issue with the finicky future King Yanluo of Hell, Arthis turned her head once more and looked in the direction of the rundown ship, “You’re but an Infernal Judge at the same level as me. How dare you make a move against us when you can tell that he’s a future Yama-King? Aren’t you afraid of Hell’s Blessings of Virtue over him?”
What the hell… Can’t you tell me these things earlier? Is it really that fun to watch me lose my mind in front of others? Qin Ye subconsciously straightened his back.
There wasn’t any response from the ship. Everything was silent.
Arthis continued, “Or… are you telling me that you dare provoke Lord Harken and risk incurring his wrath? Although you might not be able to sense where exactly the new Hell is located, I refuse to believe that you’re unable to detect the lingering scent of Lord Harken’s aura on our bodies. Killing a Yama-King is tantamount to scheming against your own kind, and that would most certainly attract the intervention of the heavenly dao. Emperor Wu of Song, you’re no more than a mere Infernal Judge. Are you sure you will be able to stand up under the overbearing pressure of all these forces?”
So our bodies even carry the lingering scent of Lord Harken’s aura, huh… Qin Ye glanced begrudgingly at Arthis - Lady, you’re ignorant and insensitive, and you are henceforth disqualified from bearing my child. How could you conceal such important information from me till now… At this point, Qin Ye had already subconsciously reverted to a valiant posture no different from that of a hero. It was a far cry from how he had been just moments ago.
There was still no response from the ship.
Then, three full minutes later, the dilapidated ship suddenly flared up with rows of red light. Following that, the melodious sounds zither accompanied by ancient bells echoed into the surroundings.
It was only then that Qin Ye finally realized that there was in fact a row of lanterns hanging from the ship. They lit up rhythmically as the instruments chimed and strummed, and another procession of humanoid paper effigies emerged from the dark entrance leading into the cabin of the ship. They stood in two neat rows on either side of the door and half-knelt to the ground. Then, a crimson carpet rolled out across the surface of the ground, and a voice finally responded, “I’m just kidding… Arakshasa, it’s been hundreds of years, and your words are still as sharp and incisive as ever. Seems like… the last few centuries that you’ve spent in the Naraka Abyss have been completely in vain, huh.”
The voice continued quizzically, “So the old Hell has indeed collapsed. Those who are able to survive under such circumstances are undoubtedly the elite among the elites. How serendipitous is it that we meet again under such circumstances? So why don’t you… come up and have a drink with me?”
As soon as the majestic voice finished speaking, the twenty or so humanoid paper effigies on the ground echoed in unison, “Please board the ship, esteemed guests!” Following that, innumerable pieces of paper money shot into the sky and began to flutter down like confetti.
A dark night.
A desolate sea.
An empty ship that has run aground, with paper money scattering everywhere and two rows of humanoid paper effigies kneeling on the ground. Any human being who witnesses a sight like this would most certainly faint from fear in an instant.
Fortunately, there was not a single person at the scene who could properly be considered a human being. Qin Ye’s heart had already been hardened as a result of the series of supernatural occurrences which he had experienced in quick succession. He glanced at Arthis, only to discover her hesitance to respond. Thus, with a quick tap of his feet, he leapt several meters high into the air and landed directly on the deck of the ship.
“What are you doing?” Arthis immediately followed after him and whispered to him with a somber tone of voice, “This isn’t like you at all. You’re the embodiment of passivity and lethargy… unless… you’re telling me that there’s some form of benefit to be had from Emperor Wu of Song?”
“Please be more mindful of your choice of words.” Qin Ye rolled his eyes at her, “My dear, foolish mecha valkyrie… can’t you use that damn brain of yours for once?”
Without missing a beat, his voice softened to a hush, “Let me ask you, how long has it been since he was assigned to Daehan? And how far along do you think Daehan’s underworld has developed to date? Can it be considered a mature city?”
“Of course… hang on…” Arthis responded immediately, before gasping in shock, “You… are you… thinking of establishing an overseas trade route? And with Emperor Wu of Song no less? Aren’t you playing with fire?!”
Do you think I’d do this if I had a choice… Qin Ye furrowed his brows. Huang Liangchuan had raised to his attention a truly pertinent and pressing issue. If he were to rectify the fragility of the new industries that were to be established in Hell, then there was no other option but to establish external trade routes! Otherwise, Hell’s current state of prosperity would simply fade away in a flash.
It was only through interoperability that markets could flourish. After all, given Hell’s current population size and each citizen’s spending power, there was simply no other way of sustaining the development and growth of the nascent light industries.
And whilst not the best option, Emperor Wu of Song… was their only option right now!
At the very least, it was far better than opening the gates of Hell to the risk of foreign darkfeathers.
“You’re a Yama-King, and yet you would tolerate the declaration of independence of a vassal state?!” Arthis’ voice grew abrasive, “What difference does that make you from a weak ruler?!”
Qin Ye was already on the deck of the ship by now. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that the two rows of lanterns on the side of the ship were in fact… rows of human heads!
These were the heads of humans who had perished a long time ago. There wasn’t a single trace of blood at all. An opening was made from the forehead, and everything within had already been hollowed out. Spots of scarlet netherflames crackled within the human head lanterns in the dark of the night. It was a sight so terrifying that not even moths would dare approach these sources of light.
The entrance to the cabin seemed to lead into a deep, dark abyss, and blood-curdling, ghastly whimpers could be heard coming from its depths from time to time. The two rows of humanoid paper effigies and the eerie strums of the zither only added to the dreadful ambience of the ghost ship.
He slowly began to walk along the red carpet on the ground as he whispered back, “Then… am I supposed to start a war against him?”
Arthis grew taciturn.
They would need to stabilize the internal workings of Hell before they could look to take the lands of others. Hell’s development was still in its nascent stages, and any suggestion of conquests right now was no different from empty talk.
“Since there’s no other option available right now, what does it matter if he declares independence or not? Besides… I’m the future King Yanluo, and yet you’re asking me, an Anitya Hellguard, to butt heads with an Infernal Judge? Are you trying to send me to my deathbed?”
“... But you always butt heads with me…”
Qin Ye glared at Arthis - Lady, are you an idiot? Are we even on the same wavelength right now? How can a Judge that’s no different from a benign tabby cat be compared with a Judge that’s akin to a wild tiger that has just crawled out of his den?!
Gamer girl, can you please develop a little bit more self-awareness? Do you know that your danger factor goes down every single time you enter the Summoner’s Rift?!
He drew a deep breath, and then stepped into the dark entrance of the cabin, “There’s no forcing the issue in the face of practical impossibility. After all, it’s only a matter of time before we’re forced to accept the outcome. On what basis is he declaring independence? Isn’t it precisely because the new Hell isn’t strong enough to keep him in check? When Hell regains its former glory in future, wouldn’t subjugating Hanyang be as simple as a matter of words once more?”
“Besides…” His gaze flickered, “The king of Hanyang… might have a lot more to offer than you think he does. That said, the precondition to tapping on this rich mineral vein is that he would first have to recognize me as an equal…”
Everything in front of him went dark as soon as he entered the cabin, and his body felt as though it had traversed a hundred meters in a single step. Then, one second later, everything brightened up in front of his eyes once more.
He was now in a large hall that was designed in a traditional ancient Cathayan style.
It was built like the imperial palace of the Han Dynasty, fused with some architectural elements that were unique to the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty. The ambience was majestic. The furniture in the hall was either gold or vermillion in colour, exquisite and elegant. A throne was placed right in the center of the great hall, where a man wearing an imperial crown and a golden dragon robe sized him up with great interest as he sipped on a cup of wine.
The man wasn’t tall, yet the imposing air about him made him appear no different from a towering mountain.
The man wasn’t young either. He had a full head of white hair, and his body appeared thin and shriveled. Yet, none could deny or ignore his presence that abundantly filled every corner of the room.
This is a man who justifies having his own BGM… Qin Ye affirmed his first impression of the man with a single glance. Then, having ascertained his safety, he put on a noble and cold disposition on his face and took another look at the man.
Emperor Wu of Song’s dark eye sockets were blazing with a golden netherflame. As soon as he sensed Qin Ye looking at him, the blazing pupils flickered slightly, and his shriveled expression shifted, revealing a faint smile on his face, “Lord of the Hanyang underworld greets the present lord of the Cathayan underworld. Please have a seat.”
There was only a single table and chair placed in the great hall below the throne. Arthis was obviously not given the honour of having a seat.
He’s an extremely proud man… Qin Ye continued to analyze Emperor Wu of Song’s personality as he took his seat. He was obviously granting Qin Ye an audience with him as equal monarchs and lords. There wasn’t anyone beside him right now. He might extend Arthis the indulgence of entry, but his intention was certainly not to have her sit and participate in the present discussions.
Arthis was an Infernal Judge, just like him. Yet, in his eyes, she could hardly hold a candle to Qin Ye.
This was a difference in their stature.
“What a surprise.” After a moment of silence, Emperor Wu of Song smiled, “To think that King Yanluo’s seal would end up in the hands of a little kid, and with your blessings as well. Does this… tell of his luck? Or does it tell of your desperation?”
Arthis’ eyes were immediately filled with a murderous intent. However, she instantly sensed the fleeting eruption of a murderous intent that was far more intense as her own, and she fervently repressed her emotions.
“Pardon me for interjecting.” Qin Ye placed one hand on his chin, and turned away from Emperor Wu of Song, only to gaze at the ceiling as though with great fascination. He continued while tapping on the table in front of him with his other hand, “Hell has prospered under my leadership. We’ve seen a rapid growth in our GDP of over 1000% year on year, exceeding that of Britannia, and placing us well in the ranks of Usonia. We’ve already been able to clothe and feed all of our Yin spirits.”
Emperor Wu of Song was stunned.
Hang on a minute…
This opening speech… doesn’t seem to cohere with the first impressions I had of him…
Unfortunately, Qin Ye didn’t intend to give Emperor Wu of Song any breathing room, and he immediately continued with great eloquence, “This year is going to be filled with milestones for the new Hell. We’ve incorporated the first state construction company of Hell, broken ground for several construction projects, and ushered in an era of soaring developments. At our first congressional meeting, as well as our first plenary session, the ruling party, led by my officials and I, established the three-tiered strategic goals of Hell and elucidated the path and direction of Hell’s development moving forward.”
Emperor Wu of Song froze in shock.
His pale lips parted slightly, almost as though he wanted to say something, but he simply couldn’t find any words to express himself right now.
It’s completely different from what I’ve expected… To think that he would speak of his political regime, governance and work with such ease and elegance… and doesn’t that make me… a phony emperor?
“... comprehensively implement our strategies across our cities, counties, towns and villages. Our government is working closely with the relevant working group committees, management committees, and prefectural committees to seize the opportunity to forge ahead. We will forge ahead with our three-tiered aggressive growth strategies, promote a holistic development through our five enhancements, with scientific developments leading the charge. With coordinated implementation of these policies, we shall ensure steady growth, promote reform, restructure as necessary, benefit our citizens, and minimize the risks of…”
The entire hall was filled with silence apart from Qin Ye’s rambly spiel. Arthis stared at Qin Ye as though she had just seen a ghost. Her mind had already grown numb from the show that Qin Ye was putting on right now!
How the hell did you even come up with the idea to recite a governmental report to a thousand-year old ghost like that?!
And to think that you’ve even adjusted and modified certain parts of the report to suit the conditions of Hell?!
What a show! Elegant! Refined! God of pretense! Master of fraud! The presentation of a lifetime!
“... strengthen our security measures. We will also install 353 transformers, set up 87.86 km of high voltage lines and 51.17 km of low voltage lines, thereby bringing electricity to more than 100,000 households. We will still have to roll out additional preventive measures as far as potential epidemics are concerned… We’re still in the midst of discussions as far as that’s concerned… Apart from that, we’ve verified the boundary lines across 377 households spanning 6,928.644 acres of land with an acceptable deviation of 0.5%. We’ve also cracked down on over 900 instances of illegal and unregistered business operations, enforced regulations on over 400 stalls, as well as demolished and/or rectified 18 buildings and/or their illegal modifications…”
When Qin Ye finally completed his report, he slowly rose from his seat and adjusted his collar, before glancing disdainfully back at Emperor Wu of Song, “I’ve just given you a brief rundown of the works I have planned out for Hell over the course of the incoming work year. I’m the one facilitating and supervising these works. I sincerely invite comments and pointers from the king of Hanyang.”
Clink… The wine glass that was originally in the hands of the king of Hanyang fell to the ground, and the wine spilled all over the floor. His lips were trembling so much that even his beard quivered.
What the hell is this?!
It sounds no different from what my subordinates have been reporting to me… but why does it sound so much more intimidating and magnificent when supported by these unintelligible data and statistics?
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