Everyone in the vicinity could sense the great eruption of two powerful and unyielding sources of Yin energy.
“One of it belongs to Arthis… but I wonder who the other one is?” Qin Ye looked away from the ruins of the Pavilion of Transcendence and stared into the distance, where he could see the visible undulations of the ground rippling out as far as ten thousand meters away. Like a massive earthquake, the great roar sent a massive curtain of water surging out of the great lake in the distance.
“Holy shit…” Qin Ye gasped in horror as he witnessed a massive being fly into the sky with a huge buzz of sound. The creature was over fifty meters tall, and it looked no different from a flying fortress.
The creature was completely pitch-black in colour, and it looked like a huge version of the blight vermin he had earlier encountered. A jade-green netherflame appeared to blaze underneath its shiny carapace, while a row of scarlet eyes stared menacingly at its surroundings. There was a large face of a woman located right underneath its wings, and she appeared to be crying and wailing in pain. And right in the center of this colossal blight vermin’s belly sat another scarlet. Yet this eye appeared somewhat different from the rest. It stared down condescendingly at this world as though it were a demonic beast intent on stirring up chaos in the broken old Hell.
Fwoosh! There was a foreboding sound that accompanied the spreading of its wings. Thereafter, every flap of its wings stirred up such great air pressure that the shockwaves generated were visible to the naked eye. The air fluctuated, while the trees in the vicinity swayed wildly and helplessly. In fact, some trees were even uprooted and sent flying together with the stones and dirt in the area. The powerful gusts of wind instantly stirred up a cloud of dust.
Its position gave it a vantage point over a substantial portion of Fengdu Necropolis. Yet, its rows of eyes were all staring transfixed at the person that was positioned directly in front of it, and an intimidating, thunderous sound emanated from its body.
It was staring at a colourful figure located just about fifty meters away from it. The colourful figure had hair scattering about wildly as though vipers were emerging from its head. Its body billowed with Yin energy, clashing powerfully and unyieldingly against the colossal beast. Both parties had evidently already exchanged blows with each other. Arthis’ hair had some scorch marks over it, while the massive blight vermin’s wings were brittle and broken at certain parts.
Gulp… Qin Ye gulped nervously. Then, with great resolution… he looked for a place to hide himself, carefully peeking out from under his cover as he continued to watch the duel of the Judges discreetly.
That’s too damn scary. What’s with the sudden change in their style anyway?
The other blight vermin are so cute and tiny, and they remind me of the good old days of chasing beetles. So what’s with the sudden sci-fi spin to this?!
“To think that a monarch vermin would appear in less than a year… Or should I say that this simply goes to show the sheer abundance of the old Hell?” Arthis smirked and looked up at the monarch vermin in front of her. Her black hair scattered about like a raging tide, “You be good and stay here quietly… I’d just wanted to see if it was possible to tame you, but it seems like you’re not too keen on that idea…”
Whoosh! Like a black spider lily in full bloom, her hair sublimated into wisps of Yin energy that quickly took the form of Yin spirits. Within moments, they converged together like a rushing tsunami of Yin spirits wailing with grievances as they rushed straight towards the monarch vermin!
The tsunami of grievous Yin spirits were vast as the oceans and tall as the mountains. Ssss!!! The monarch vermin hissed sharply and spread its wings, summing copious amounts of blight vermin that rushed out from right under its wings. Like a roiling black cloud, they clashed powerfully against the tide of Yin spirits, with both sides refusing to yield even a single inch of ground to the other.
The impact of their clash was so great that it caused the heavens and the earth to quake violently. Countless Yin spirits were torn and wrenched apart by the tide of blight vermin. After all, the tide of Yin spirits were no different from food to the sea of blight vermin that fed directly on Yin energy. That said, the grievous spirits that perished in the clash instantly transformed netherflames upon death. With the passing of innumerable grievous spirits, the sea of blight vermin soon found themselves engulfed in a sea of netherflames that soon spread so far that it even reached the monarch vermin.
It was an endless cycle of death and destruction, rebirth and suppression. Large numbers of blight vermin perished to the flames each second, only to act as fuel that encouraged the spread of the burgeoning inferno of netherflames. Within moments, the originally dark night sky lit up with brilliant splashes of gold, red, green, white and black like an enchanting light display.
This was a powerful clash between Judges.
Each of them possessed the power to alter the heavens and reshape the earth. The might of the clash left terrifying visions and illusions in its wake. A great inferno soared as high as the skies, while Yin energy poured out in all directions like a desolate field of devastation. Yet, despite all that, the incredible sight drew out a sense of awe and reverence from onlookers around.
Whoosh… Another wave of blight vermin rushed headlong into the tide of Yin spirits, before promptly being reduced to ashes by the blazing netherflames they had become. Murai Sadakatsu stood in front of the asura statue and gasped deeply, “So this is the might of an Infernal Judge from Hell… It’s on a completely different scale from the might of Nipponese Judges…”
Boom! Netherflames licked the canopy of the skies, while blight vermin scattered everywhere. The brilliant milky way in the night sky above cast a dappled shadow over Oda Nobunaga’s face. He gazed into the distance with a vacant stare for some time, before finally sighing wistfully, “Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to pledge allegiance to them after all.”
“We’re talking about the complete legacy of Hell accumulated over thousands of years. This is something that’s on a completely different scale from what the Nipponese underworld is like. Challenging an underworld isn’t something that I can do alone. What I need… is a strong and firm backing behind me!”
The inferno fuelled by the tides of Yin spirits and blight vermin rose high into the sky. Several minutes of stalemate resulted in a pillar of inferno that rose thousands of meters into the sky, spinning wildly as it inched closer to the monarch vermin, crushing everything in its path of travel.
Scree… SCREEEE!!! The monarch vermin raised its head and unleashed an unbelievably loud screech. In an instant, the blight vermin that were still clashing against the Yin spirits suddenly swelled up all over like meteorites suspended in the sky. Then, they began to tremble and vibrate where they were. Qin Ye watched everything pan out with bated breath. Despite the distance, he could instantly sense the crushing might of the monarch vermin’s next attack.
A split-second later, the bloated blight vermin exploded all at the same time!
There was an earth-shattering tremor, followed by a series of terrifying shockwaves that swept across a substantial part of Fengdu Necropolis. Even the skies looked like they had collapsed from the sheer devastation caused by these explosions. Even Qin Ye, who was so far away, heard a thunderous roar, almost as though he were at the epicenter of an earthquake. Just then, a voice suddenly called out in his mind, “Have you all gathered everything?”
“Art--...” Qin Ye responded immediately. But before he could even finish speaking, Arthis interjected with great urgency, “Have you gathered everything?! If you have, we must leave right now!”
“The monarch vermin is already an advanced Infernal Judge, and he’s already at the bottleneck to becoming an Abyssal Prefect. I’m no match for it… damn it… I don’t care whether you’ve managed to gather everything. We leave in exactly ten seconds’ time!”
Qin Ye frowned in dismay, and he glanced at the old Hell with great reluctance.
How vast and boundless was Hell? Notwithstanding the mighty clash of Infernal Judges in the sky, the ripples that they stirred up was hardly sufficient to cover even a fraction of the sprawling underworld.
I wonder how much of Hell’s legacy of thousands of years remains hidden in the deep recesses of Fengdu Necropolis?
However, just as Arthis finished speaking, the pillar of netherflames suddenly erupted, scattering flames everywhere across the great canopy of sky that hung majestically over the old Hell.
Judge versus Judge. This was a duel that left no room for interference from the rest who were around.
“It’s time!!” We can’t dally any longer… Arthis clasped her hands together and yelled with a mighty cry. The spots of netherflames that had scattered throughout the sky suddenly converged once again, instantly transforming into an illusory rakshasa female ghost that was dozens of meters tall. The illusory figure rushed out of the canopy of the sky and bit at the monarch vermin.
Simultaneously, everyone felt their bodies being flung into the sky, shooting straight towards Arthis at lightning speed, almost as though they were being pulled by invisible threads.
They closed the gap of thousands of meters in an instant. A split second later, the monarch vermin exploded with a massive scarlet flame like a nuclear bomb. The devastation swept across the mountain ranges below and rose high into the sky. The monarch vermin’s furious roar resounded across every corner of Fengdu Necropolis. Just like that, the cataclysmic scarlet flames continued to blaze for over ten minutes. When the billowing smoke and curtain of flames finally dissipated, the monarch vermin once again swept its gaze across the area, yet everything was still and silent once more - it could no longer locate its previous opponent.
Scree…. SCREEEE!!! After turning around several times in dismay, it finally sank back into the depths of the dark lake with great exasperation and vexation.
Arthis grabbed each person with her hair and shot across the sky like a dark meteorite. The surroundings rushed past them at breakneck speed. Ten minutes later, everyone found themselves landing softly right back at the start of the Yellow Springs Road once more.
Qin Ye wiped off the cold sweat that was beading up on his forehead. Their odyssey through the old Hell had been far more thrilling and eventful than he had earlier expected.
He gazed into the vague silhouette that sat on the horizon and sighed wistfully, “What a pity…”
“Qin-kun.” Oda Nobunaga abruptly interjected, “When it’s over, it’s over. This is now the turf of the blight vermin. They’ve already discovered our presence, so we won’t be able to achieve anything else even if we remain any longer. Conversely, we risk getting ourselves surrounded by blight vermin. Even with Lady Arakshasa around, there’s no assurances that we’d be able to get out alive. Besides…”
He paused and smiled, “Besides, we might have obtained more than you’ve expected on this trip back.”
Qin Ye glanced at Oda Nobunaga, somewhat startled. That said, he was keenly aware of retaining his noble and distant persona in front of outsiders. His expression soon changed from a look of surprise to that of complete calmness. And when he responded, he didn’t even directly address Oda Nobunaga’s comment. Instead, he muttered, “Lord Nobunaga, in what capacity are you saying all these things?”
Murai Sadakatsu looked sharply at Oda Nobunaga, before immediately shifting back to where he belonged. He was Nobunaga’s retainer, and so he hung his head low and stood humbly behind Nobunaga.
Likewise, Arthis glanced at Oda Nobunaga, waiting eagerly for his response.
Oda Nobunaga’s gaze was calm and placid. Yet, for the very first time, he bowed respectfully to Qin Ye and cupped his hands respectfully like how a retainer would to his master. Nevertheless, he, too, sidestepped the question and unsheathed his katana, “I wonder if you know of this sword?”
Qin Ye looked over. He could tell that the sword was a famous one. It was well-balanced and masterfully made. Furthermore, he noticed that there was a chrysanthemum engraved on the blade of the sword.
“Kiku-ichimonji.” Nobunaga swung it lightly, “One of the most famous swords of the Nipponese Warring States era. After my death, it went on to be tempered by harsh Yin energy, and its strength and abilities already surpasses any average Hellguard-class Yin artifact out there. Yet, even with this sword in hand, I wasn’t able to cut through the carapace of the blight vermin.”
Without missing a beat, he continued, “Haven’t you realized it?”
“When the blight vermin perishes, they dissipate into wisps of Yin energy, but… their carapace remains behind.”
“Are you suggesting…” Arthis’ eyes gleamed brightly, “To use the carapace of the blight vermin for armor?!”
What a novel idea!
It wasn’t as though the old Hell hadn’t thought about something like that. Rather… it was simply that the old Hell had never seen the appearance of so many blight vermin all at once! Yet the sheer number of the blight vermin around right now was sufficient to arm an entire army of Yin soldiers!
No, in fact, there would be a mountain of excess despite dealing with that!
After all, the population size of the new Hell was only in the region of a hundred thousand right now, and they would be lucky if they were even able to conscript ten thousand troops from the onset. On the other hand, there were easily three hundred thousand blight vermin within Fengdu Necropolis alone!
“That’s not all.” This time, it was Qin Ye who spoke up with a smile as he glanced at everyone, “Arakshasa, what Lord Nobunaga is saying is… to arm our Yin soldiers with carapace armor, and then use them to fight back against the onslaught of blight vermin and take back the old Hell.”
What ambition… But if he succeeds, it would enable us to return to seize more of Hell’s legacies that had been left behind! Additionally…
The establishment of the new Hell and the battle at the Strait of Tsushima had attracted far too much unwanted attention, and there were clearly some feudal officials who were already raring to move against Hell. Emperor Wu of Song was only the first one in line. Or perhaps he was just the one best suited for a showdown with the new Hell, selected by the coalition of feudal officials who had eyes on Cathay. Therefore, what Hell desperately needed was mighty armed forces that could hold their own against enemy incursion!
Qin Ye had already given his word to hold an imperial court meeting at the end of the year. If the visiting feudal officials saw that the new Hell was completely devoid of a single soldier at that time, perhaps even the most loyal of feudal officials might find their hearts stirring to the tune of temptation.
In other words, an elite division of troops was what it took to communicate a single message to these officials - that they should know their place in spite of the collapse of the old Hell!
1. This is a rather interesting sword that was made by thirteen swordsmiths who were in attendance to the Emperor Go-Toba in 1208. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiku-ichimonji