Arthis was extremely displeased.
She felt as though Qin Ye was getting more disrespectful with each day that passed. To think that what was once a budding Emissary of Hell had in the short span of a year grown so brazen to warn a judge with such a disrespectful tone of voice!
Unfortunately, none of the rest cared about her feelings right now.
Qin Ye stood up with a solemn expression, and the rest soon followed suit. Everyone stared at the map with indescribably complex feelings.
The pressure on them was just too great. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that they were currently facing thousands of years of Cathayan history all at once. The prospects of every single envoy rising up against them was the stuff that would keep people up at night.
Lord of Lan Xang, Zhou Gongjin, also known as Zhou Yu!
Lord of the Khmer Empire, Guo Ziyi!
Lord of Siam, Prince of Kaiping, Chang Yuchun!
Lord of Bagan, Ma Fubo, also known as Ma Yuan!
Lord of Sanfotsi, the lord of many isles, Han Qinhu!
Lord of Malaya, Ban Chao, also known as Ban Dingyuan!
Lord of Jiaozhi, Prince of Lanling, Gao Changgong!
Lord of Singapura, Wang Meng!
Lord of Luzon, Yang Jiye!
Lord of the Bamboo Region, Chaghan Temur!
Lord of Licchavi, Yu Qian!
Last but not least, Gao Jianli, Official of Sindhu, the special garrison of Hell. These were the twelve envoys who were listed on the map.
This was a lineup composed of the great historical legends over thousands of years. Anyone faced with the prospects of confronting them would undoubtedly brim with a confluence of both excitement and fear.
“The only good news right now is that none of them will be stronger than an Infernal Judge.” Arthis stated gravely, “Unfortunately… you don’t get any merit points for killing blight vermin. Otherwise… if we can boost your rank to that of an Infernal Judge, things would go much smoother for us at the end of the year.”
Qin Ye gazed deeply at the twelve names in front of him. And then, he suddenly blurted out, “Why isn’t Emperor Wu of Song’s name listed there? Isn’t he the Lord of Daehan?”
“Emperor Wu of Song is indeed a feudal official, but he’s a special case.” Arthis explained, “Do you know something? His abilities were personally sealed off by the most powerful entity of Hell that ever existed - the second King Yanluo himself. He can never be promoted any further unless otherwise approved by the second King Yanluo. Back then, the fear was that Hell would no longer be able to control him as soon as he joined the ranks of an Abyssal Prefect or even Yama-King. Thus, he’s not part of the twelve envoys. He has every right to be held in higher regard than the twelve envoys, but he’s technically still a feudal official through and through.”
“Apart from that, you’ll also be pleased to know that a feudal official should not have more than ten thousand soldiers under his command. This should be the best news to us yet.”
Qin Ye heaved a sigh of relief as he turned to the two professors, “Both of you, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.”
Cathay was surrounded by thirteen other factions. Each of these factions should have been considered no more than a tributary state that was ready to serve the master in the middle. But now… they were all glancing over at the throne with avaricious gazes. How many of them were there that still esteemed Cathay as they did in the past?
It was only natural that they reviewed the risks before the work actually began. They needed to distinguish between friend and foe, so that they could consolidate their forces to fend off the rest. The more they could achieve right now, the stronger their negotiating power at the imperial court meeting, and the more Hell could benefit at the end of the day. In fact… if everything went well for them, they might even be able to bring back several feudal officials to serve Hell altogether!
“Yes.” The two professors exchanged glances, and then coughed softly, “Actually, this map might contain more information than meets the eye. Given the principles of governance that ancient rulers generally go by, the more loyal feudal officials would be assigned to feudal states that are further away. The converse is true as well - the closer the feudal states are, the more likely it is that the corresponding feudal officials are harder to control. Emperor Wu of Song, Liu Yu, who lords over Daehan is a good example of this. After all, he’s only a stone’s throw away from the three eastern provinces of Cathay…”
Tap… Just then, Arthis smacked the table gently and raised her eyes, “I just remembered something.”
She suddenly got to her feet, placed her hands behind her back and began to pace around, “The three eastern provinces are garrisoned with 120,000 soldiers that are led by General Xu Da. They must have been garrisoned there for the primary purpose to keep an eye on Emperor Wu of Song, while maintaining a close eye on the Nipponese underworld as well. After all… it doesn’t take more than a few hours to get to Daehan and Nippon from the three eastern provinces.”
“That’s right.” Professor Li pointed to the map and continued, “Let’s take a closer look. First up, we’ve got the Lord of Lan Xang, Zhou Gongjin. The vassal state isn’t large, but it shares a border with Cathay. Therefore, there’s a possibility that Zhou Gongjin might not be as much of an ally as we’d like him to be!”
Nobody responded. Truth be told, it was quite difficult to accept that such a famous historical figure borne out of Cathay’s history would turn against his homeland.
It was more psychological than it was rational.
“Naturally, there’s more. The fact that Zhou Gongjin has been placed in charge of a relatively small territory with limited supplies lends credence to the fact that Hell was trying to limit his potential. Those who are truly loyal to the land generally wouldn’t be placed in charge of such territories. That said, there’s another possibility…”
The two professors exchanged a glance, and Professor An took over, “And that is that Zhou Gongjin is completely loyal to Hell, and he was appointed as feudal official over Lan Xang precisely because Lan Xang is located right between the borders of Great Viet, Siam, Birmania and Cathay. It’s geographical significance means that it would take a powerful and loyal envoy of Hell to hold the fort! If this were the reason why Zhou Gongjin were appointed as Lord of Lan Xang in the first place, then there would be a 70% chance that he would be willing to return to Hell and submit to us.”
“Truth be told, it’ll be quite hard to tell where his allegiance lies at this point in time. Those who had submitted to a major unified dynasty would tend to feel a greater sense of belonging to Cathay at this point in time. Unfortunately, Zhou Gongjin lived in an era where his deference was not to a major unified dynasty, and in the absence of other information about Hell’s decision making process at the material times, it’s anyone guess as to where his allegiance lies right now.”
Qin Ye didn’t express his thoughts on this matter. Instead, he simply listened intently and then nodded his head, “Please go on.”
“Yes. Your Majesty, we go on to consider some of the others. Lord of the Khmer Empire Guo Ziyi, Lord of Malaya Ban Dingyuan, Lord of Luzon Yang Jiye, Lord of Singapura Wang Meng, Lord of Sanfotsi Han Qinhu, and Lord of Licchavi Yu Qian - these six feudal officials are all geographically located far away from Cathay. At the very least, we can be certain that these officials were at some point in time loyal to the old Hell. Most importantly, they all existed in a time when a major unified dynasty was around, and they were all known for their loyalty to their emperor and land at the material times. In fact, Guo Ziyi, Ban Dingyuan, Wang Meng and Han Qinhu were all known as the pillars of their respective dynasties. Therefore, I sincerely believe that…”
He drew a deep breath and continued, “We might just be able to draw these people back to the new Hell.”
Arthis interjected, “What about Gao Jianli?”
“It’s hard to say.” Both professors sighed at the same time, “If he learns that the old Hell has collapsed, then, in the worst case scenario, he might just relay that information to the Hindustani underworld. If such a high ranking officer of ours defects to the other side… the consequences could well be dire!”
Qin Ye was in full agreement with the views of the two professors.
It made sense that the most reliable and loyal ones should be placed further away, and the ones less so should be kept closer to Hell for ease of scrutiny.
That deals with the two uncertainties, Zhou Gongjin and Gao Jianli, as well as the six who might just return to Hell, namely Yu Qian, Guo Ziyi, Ban Dingyuan, Wang Meng, Han Qinhu and Yang Jiye… then that leaves…
Qin Ye glanced at the map once more.
Ma Fubo, Gao Changgong, Chang Yuchun, Chaghan, and Emperor Wu of Song… They belonged to vassal states located closest to Cathay! In other words, they were the ones that the old Hell was most wary of!
The two professors immediately understood the thoughts on Qin Ye’s mind as soon as they noticed his gaze. Thus, they promptly continued with their explanations, “Gao Changgong didn’t exist in the time of a major unified dynasty. Instead, he lived through the time of the Northern Qi dynasty, until he… was murdered by poison. To make matters worse, it was the emperor who poisoned him because he felt threatened by Gao Changgong’s achievements. And this happened in spite of the fact that Gao Changgong had done everything he could to keep a low profile. My best guess is that he had only reluctantly accepted the fiefdom of the Great Viet at his conferment because the old Hell was already a great power by then, and he wasn’t willing to betray Hell for a foreign land at that time.”
“Emperor Wu of Song, or Liu Yu, is quite the foregone conclusion. Having been an emperor, he would never truly be willing to submit to anyone else. Chaghan Temur is also another foregone conclusion. Among all famous generals across the history of Cathay, he was the one who had control over the most land and territories. Furthermore, he despises the Han Chinese to the core. It’s only natural that a person like him would be placed right under the watchful gaze of the old Hell. Moving on, General Ma Fubo enjoyed great flory in his life. Unfortunately, after his death, he was falsely accused of many crimes, and the reigning emperor at that time posthumously stripped Ma Fubo of his fief and title. He wasn’t even given a proper burial for a period of time. It was only when Ma Fubo’s wife made the sixth application to the emperor that he finally relented. And then, it was only when Ma Fubo’s wife died that he finally allowed them to be buried in a tomb and have a shrine built for their remembrance.”
Professor Li sighed, “Having become a sentient spirit upon death, he would most certainly have witnessed all of these things… I’m afraid… that it’s unlikely we’ll be able to gather these people under our wings for now.”
That’s a pity… Qin Ye sighed secretly. Gao Jianli and Zhou Yu aside, at least he was now finally aware of who his likely friends and foe were.
These opponents… truly give me goosebumps when I think about it!
Professor An frowned, “But what I find most puzzling is… why Lord Chang Yuchun’s territory is located in such close proximity with Cathay?”
“Back then, Zhu Yuanzhang ordered the execution of practically all of his ministers, but he left Chang Yuchun untouched by these policies. Chang Yuchun eventually died of illness at the age of forty… Logically speaking, he should hold no grievances against the state or the emperor at that time. Perhaps… it was his heart that had changed over the last few centuries instead? That might have led to the change in his fiefdom.”
Qin Ye stood up and placed his hands behind his back as he walked up to the map once more. Oda Nobunaga’s eyes were filled with a bright gleam as he stared at Qin Ye. Every single cell in his body was filled with an intent to do battle. His body was raring to go, and he had never felt more alive in centuries.
Perhaps… I’ve returned to life in order to wage war against these timeless warlords…
Oda Nobunaga wasn’t arrogant. After all, those who were arrogant and complacent would never be fit to unify and rule over a nation.
Nippon had always taken a keen interest in Cathayan history.
Thus, Oda Nobunaga was well aware that the Nipponese Warring States era was nothing but a drop in the ocean when compared to the extent of strife and war that had run rampant throughout Cathay to date. Whenever he read about the Cathayan history, he would always lament about being born in the wrong era and in the wrong country. But now… Oda Nobunaga was finally faced with the prospects of squaring off against Chang Yuchun, Ma Fubo, Chaghan Temur, Gao Changgong, and possibly even Zhou Yu and Gao Jianli!
He was absolutely stoked!
In fact, the only other time that his heart had stirred this much was when he had earlier been promised the opportunity to fulfil his age-old dream of conquering and unifying Nippon!
Qin Ye remained silent, but Murai Sadakatsu couldn’t hold back any longer, and he promptly cupped his hands respectfully to Qin Ye, “Your Majesty, the Oda Clan welcomes battle any time!”
Like a chain reaction, Oda Nobunaga’s heart stirred greatly, and he stepped forward as well, “Lord Qin, the Oda Clan would do everything in its power to keep Hell safe from any danger!”
The flame in his eyes flickered wildly and passionately as he muttered hoarsely, “I can’t wait… I can’t wait to cross swords with these legends…”
Qin Ye lifted his head to the ceiling, and then he suddenly chuckled coldly, “Why, then, the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open. That said… Lord Nobunaga, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. We’re not going to be able to cross swords with them for at least the next twenty years.”
Oda Nobunaga took a deep breath, “Then, what happens after twenty years?”
Qin Ye licked his lips, “After twenty years… I’ll personally take back everything that belongs to Hell - one by one! Then… I’ll help you fulfill your dreams of conquering and unifying Nippon! I’ve given you my word, so I’ll do everything within my abilities to fulfill my promises!”
The feudal territories’ submission as vassal states will cause Hell’s population size to surge greatly. Then, with that many great generals now under my charge, perhaps we can even expand the horizon of Hell’s ambitions beyond the lands of Nippon…
“Certainly… I’ll bide my time.” Oda Nobunaga fervently repressed the desire to do battle in his heart, before taking a step back to his original place.
The most important thing right now is still internal development after all… What’s the purpose of reclaiming our lost territory? Isn’t it precisely because we want to increase the size of the population under our charge? Qin Ye sighed wistfully - Besides, what can we do when we’re not strong enough? We can only bide our time for now. The imperial court meeting will take place at the end of the year. That’s when we’ll know who’s for us, and who’s against us.
And then, we can start to plan ahead and strategize.
We can think about where to place garrisons of troops, where to establish ports for trade, and even… where we can establish new cities!
“Everyone.” He swept a profound gaze at everyone present, “I’m sure everyone is clear on the identities of our immediate threats right now.”
“From now on, I’ll be spending most of my time in the new Hell until the induction ceremony for the Book of Life and Death!”
“This time, I want the ceremony to be magnificent and lavish, so as to inspire confidence across everyone in Hell! Su Dongxue!”
“Here.” Su Dongxue stepped out and cupped her hands respectfully.
“You’re in charge of the ceremony. I’m not concerned about the exact details about it, so do as you see fit. But if it’s not up to my standards, then… you can count yourself fired.”
Then, Qin Ye turned to the two professors, “Professor Li, Professor An, there’s still something more I’ll need your help with.”
“Please give us your instructions.”
“The Book of Life and Death contains the power to summon an ancient army - one of the five unparalleled units. I’d like you to pick out the unit that will be most suited for Hell’s purposes right now.”
With that, Qin Ye turned to everyone else and concluded solemnly, “Everyone, let me conclude with a succinct message. I want to see Hell thriving with growth and prosperity by the end of the year! I want the visiting feudal officials to realize that even if we’re nothing compared to them right now, we will be as good as or even better than them in just a few short decades from now! Hell will always be Hell. Hell is the only one that deserves to be the face of the Cathayan underworld! A vassal state shall never rise above us! The dao of the Yanluos shall reign supreme!”
“All who are unable to bring us closer to this goal can leave right now! Now, let me ask this - can we do this?!”
Everyone cupped their hands and cried out in unison, “Rest assured, my lord!”
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