A black-coloured sheet of paper drifted out of the report as soon as he flipped to the last page.
Qin Ye picked up the piece of paper and took a closer look at it, and his eyes instantly lit up. His heart began to race.
This was… a banknote.
A black-coloured banknote.
It had obviously just been printed. The note had a black background and a silver line running across it. “1 Yuan” was printed on the left side of it, while the empty space on the right was filled with the design of a majestic palace. There was also a white, empty space located right in the center of the note, imprinted with the stereotypical image of a King Yanluo.
The flipside of the note bore Qin Ye’s portrait, and there was even a faint watermark of his silhouette right in the center of the note.
Qin Ye tried tearing the note, only to realize that the material was decent, and the texture was great. There was even a numerical code printed on the bottom, as well as some discreet indentations on the ride side of the note. The obverse side of the note had the word “heaven” written on it, while the reverse side bore the word “hell”. The entire banknote looked rather impressive.
This was the first banknote of the new Hell!
The fact that his portrait was featured on the first banknote of Hell filled him with great satisfaction. Even though they hadn’t begun mass production of the note, it was still sufficient to dispel all thoughts of the preceding week’s hardship, and a silly smile crept up the corner of his lips. Just then, Arthis’ voice rang out from behind him, “This is… money? They’ve begun printing it?”
Then, before Qin Ye could even respond to her comments, the note suddenly flew out of his hand and appeared in Arthis’ hand in the very next moment. She studied it carefully and sighed with an exclamation, “It’s indeed exquisitely made. Huang Liangchuan has pulled out all the stops this time. The design is far better than the notes used by the old Hell. That said, you have to think carefully before you set things in motion, because you probably won’t be able to make any changes to it for the next hundred years or so once you implement it.”
Her expression grew serious and austere, “It might be impossible in the near future, but counterfeiters will almost certainly surface in a matter of time. You’ve got to carefully consider the anti-counterfeiting measures to be set in place. The old Hell’s failsafe used to lie in the fact that its Chief of Finance was an Abyssal Prefect. He would brand each note with a little bit of his soulfire, and that meant that possessing cultivation in the ranks of an Abyssal Prefect was a necessary precondition to counterfeiting. Regrettably, that option isn’t available to us right now.”
“An Abyssal Prefect is an entity that can already influence a province or even a district altogether, and it naturally wouldn’t take more than the flick of a wrist in order to brand a million banknotes all at once. Even if I go all out, I won’t be able to brand more than a hundred thousand notes or two at any one point in time. That might suffice given Hell’s population right now, but I’ll be overwhelmed as soon as Hell’s population size increases. And if nobody’s an Abyssal Prefect at that time, then we might well have no choice but to roll out a fresh set of anti-counterfeiting measures… Hang on, I know that gaze of yours… What the hell are you thinking right now?!”
Arthis’ voice instantly grew cold and frigid, “You must be thinking that it doesn’t matter if nobody attains the ranks of an Abyssal Prefect at that time, because you’ll still expect me to sit in front of the printing machines and brand Hell’s notes all the time!! Let me tell you - that’s impossible! I’m NOT going to do that! Not over my dead body! Dream on! Get lost!”
Qin Ye’s eyes flickered wildly, and he smiled awkwardly, “How’s that possible? Do you really think that I’m such an unreasonable King Yanluo…? Ah-ha-ha-ha…”
Like hell I’d believe you and your pretense! Arthis snorted coldly, “I’m heading back to Hell to check on things there. If I stay here any longer, I’m not sure whether Hell would still have a prime minister and a King Yanluo tomorrow…”
With that, she vanished instantly.
And it was only then that Qin Ye wiped off the imaginary cold sweat on his forehead - Bloody hell… To think that this silicone gamer girl read my thoughts as soon as it surfaced… Can’t a man have his own privacy?!
I guess I really can’t afford to provoke her… He sighed and picked up Huang Liangchuan’s report once more.
However, after skimming through its contents for only a dozen or so seconds, he suddenly furrowed his brows and shot to his feet.
What’s going on?!
The production of Hell’s first prototype banknote should have been stellar news. But unfortunately, it wasn’t.
“SHIT!!” He cursed at the top of his voice, activated the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, and then vanished from his room a moment later.
Back at Hell’s Gate, right behind the statue of Ksitigarbha.
Several generators hummed softer and softer as they slowly wound down. Printers, serial number printing machines, embedding devices, dyeing machines, and a series of other specialized machines were all lined up to form a cohesive production line. Huang Liangchuan paced up and down anxiously among the machines, while a dozen or so Yin spirits stood on the side. Huang Liangchuan would look up from time to time and ask, “Hasn’t Lord Qin returned yet?”
Unfortunately, nobody could give him a response. After all, the answer was obvious. Huang Liangchuan sank into the stool beside him and rubbed his temples furiously.
“Mr Huang, don’t be too anxious.” A middle-aged male Yin spirit tried to console him, “Like I said before, we wouldn’t have anticipated that something like that would occur. After all, we’d simply been exploring options by trial and error, before reporting back to Lord Qin if we encounter a problem.”
“But we really did encounter a problem.” Huang Liangchuan responded in exasperation, “So, what are we going to do now? How are we going to go on with the production? Where are the materials going to come from? What do you think… Lord Qin is going to say when he finally arrives?”
His anxiety came to a head, and he started scuttling about like an ant on a hot pan. Just then, there was a great fluctuation of Yin energy, followed quickly by the appearance of a massive vortex of Yin energy from which Qin Ye promptly emerged. His feet were rooted to the ground, and his entire being appeared as imposing as ever, with copious amounts of Yin energy billowing from his seven apertures. Qin Ye promptly bellowed in rage, “Huang Liangchuan, you’ve been entrusted with the implementation of the monetary system. Anyone can tell you that one of the most fundamental things to implementation is to have sufficient money in circulation. Yet you’re telling me that it’s impossible only now?! What have you been doing all this while?!”
His voice thundered across the hall. Qin Ye had been kind enough to refrain from announcing Huang Liangchuan’s failure to all of Hell, yet his voice of fury was nonetheless so imposing that it caused the entire Hell’s Gate to tremble softly. Huang Liangchuan’s knees quivered, and he promptly fell to his knees.
“I… was wrong…” His mind instantly went blank. Everything he had earlier prepared to say was completely useless in the face of Qin Ye’s fury, and he knew that the best way to pacify Qin Ye was to wholeheartedly admit his ineptitude without qualification.
“Wrong? What’s the point of punitive measures if your words carried sufficient weight?!” Qin Ye was seething with rage, and he was ostensibly already on the verge of transforming into his Hell’s Emissary state. The ends of his hair were turning white, while his eyes were already starting to invert in colour. On the other hand, Huang Liangchuan pursed his lips nervously as he broke out in cold sweat. Despite that, he didn’t dare to move a single muscle.
The entire Hell’s Gate went silent in an instant. The Death Inquisitors seated at the front of Hell’s Gate immediately lowered their voices to a hush, while the Yin spirits approaching them stared apprehensively at the statue of Ksitigarbha. Just like that, there was a protracted period of tense silence, and it took Qin Ye dozens of seconds before he gradually managed to calm himself down. The amount of Yin energy billowing from his seven apertures began to subside. He snorted coldly as he slowly made his way to the annex hall, “Follow me. What are you still doing standing there? Can standing around get us any work done?!”
Notwithstanding his illustrious history as a billionaire and a successful businessman, Huang Liangchuan found himself completely at the mercy of Qin Ye. The only thing he could do right now was to tag along with his tail tucked neatly between his legs. His dozen or so subordinates exchanged an awkward glance, before following closely behind Huang Liangchuan.
Back in the annex hall, Su Dongxue sensibly dispersed the rest of the staff the moment she sensed Qin Ye’s explosive fury, clearing out a space so that Qin Ye could take his seat. Arthis was already seated to the side. Qin Ye unceremoniously sat on the throne and knocked lightly on the table. Then, he swept a cold glance at the entire troupe of people following him into the room, before finally speaking in a cold voice, “Speak. What are your thoughts.”
“You’re only telling me that there’s insufficient supplies at this point in time? Why didn’t you inform me the last time I came down?! Did you intentionally wait for me to announce that we’re going to roll out the monetary system before telling me that we’re faced with insufficient resources?! Are you trying to make a mockery of Hell’s government as it stands?!”
The more he spoke, the more infuriated he got, until he finally smacked the table and shot to his feet. Smack! Yin energy erupted from his body once more, and he transformed into his Hell’s Emissary state in an instant. This time, Huang Liangchuan knew he couldn’t hold back any longer, and he immediately fell to his knees and pleaded with a hoarse voice, “Your Majesty… I didn’t expect it either…”
Endure… Qin Ye stared intently at him as he took the next few moments to regulate his thoughts with several deep breaths, before finally suppressing the burgeoning fire in his belly once more.
He couldn’t justifiably pin the blame entirely on Huang Liangchuan either. After all, Huang Liangchuan did tell him that he had no prior experience with the implementation of a monetary system altogether. Besides, he was reestablishing Hell from scratch, and he was most certainly bound to encounter some obstacles and bumps along the way. As a ruler and leader, it was also part of his duties not to condemn his subjects just because of a single mistake.
Huang Liangchuan was undoubtedly a capable person. Otherwise, he would never have been able to achieve so much back in the mortal realm. To condemn him as a result of a momentary slip-up would be far too much of a waste of his talent.
The annex hall was so silent that Qin Ye’s intense and ragged breaths were clearly audible to everyone. Huang Liangchuan was on tenterhooks, and every second that passed felt like days on end. A full minute later, Qin Ye finally spoke up with a somewhat softer tone of voice, “Get up, take a seat, and tell me what exactly is going on over here.”
He was upset by Huang Liangchuan’s overconfidence in his own abilities, only to realize at the eleventh hour that things were more difficult than he had thought. Nevertheless, being angry was one thing; sorting out the mess was quite something else.
In that regard, Qin Ye knew full well that the needless ventilation of his fury wouldn’t go any way in resolving the mess that had arisen.
Qin Ye’s voice reverberated through the room like an omnipresent being. Huang Liangchuan’s heart had been held in great suspense all this while. So when finally heard the mercy in Qin Ye’s voice, he shuddered and nearly collapsed to the ground weakly. Nevertheless, he didn’t dare to sit down, and he continued to stand at the side as he gave one of his subordinates a knowing look.
“Your Majesty, it’s like this.” Huang Liangchuan’s subordinate picked up another black banknote and explained, “We’re currently able to mass produce the banknotes that you see right now. But… even though they appear to be rather exquisite, I’m afraid that they’re not quite ready for circulation just yet.”
“Why? I’ve seen the new banknotes, and I find them rather satisfactory.” Qin Ye furrowed his brows.
“Because of its poor resistance to abrasion.” Huang Liangchuan’s subordinate explained, “We ran an abrasion resistance test on the prototype note as soon as we printed it, only to realize that it breaks down very quickly. This is due to the ordinary paper that we’re printing it on.”
“One of the key things required in the process of minting money is the selection of materials for the minting process. In this regard, the paper isn’t actually paper, but a composite called cotton paper or rag paper made from a mix of cotton and wood pulp. The production of these materials is strictly controlled by the state, including its exact blend, materials used, etc. After we select the appropriate cotton paper to use, we can go on to print the design of our note on the paper. In that regard… the ink used for printing isn’t ordinary ink either, but a controlled ink called the colour shifting ink, or the optically variable ink.” 
With a bitter expression, Huang Liangchuan continued where his subordinate left off, “I’ve heard of these inks. The production and use of these inks are so tightly controlled by the state that they even send military escorts for the purposes of transportation. Following that, we emboss the sheets, print a unique serial number on each note, and then cut the sheets to shape. I’d initially thought that the paper and ink could be replaced with regular ones. Unfortunately…”
He smiled bitterly and held up a banknote with both hands, “This is what happened to the banknote after our abrasion resistance test…”
Qin Ye looked at the note. The surface of the note was fuzzy and damaged all around, and it looked almost as though it had been used for several years on end.
Yet it was clear that the notes had only been produced no more than two days ago.
“By our estimate, this is how the banknotes will start to look after changing hands only a hundred times.” Huang Liangchuan sighed, “On the other hand, the banknotes from the mortal realm are far more durable, often lasting well more than a year despite the number of times they change hands. Thus… Mr Huang made the decision to halt production.”
Qin Ye picked up the banknote from Huang Liangchuan’s hand and carefully rubbed it between his fingers, before summarizing, “In other words, the materials we lack right now are the colour shifting ink and cotton paper? Then…”
He slammed the bill onto the table and swept his gaze across Huang Liangchuan’s subordinates, “You knew that the consequences were dire, so why didn’t you say anything earlier? Did we really have to wait for the commencement of production before these things were disclosed to me? Furthermore, the existence of colour shifting ink and cotton paper must be classified as state secrets, so how did you learn of it? Who exactly are you?”
1. You can read more about the colour shifting ink and cotton paper at the following websites respectively: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optically_variable_ink https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_paper