After a long silence, Qin Ye finally spoke again, “Have you heard of the twelve envoys before?”
It was at best a passing remark, and he didn’t expect to get a positive response. Surprisingly, the female ghost kowtowed immediately, “My lord, I have.”
“Where did you hear about it?” Qin Ye’s eyes shone brightly, “Spare no details!”
Sensing the sudden change in Qin Ye’s attitude, the female ghost took the next few moments to gather her thoughts and sort through her memories before finally responding, “My lord… the twelve envoys… used to be existences that the daolord was most jealous of.”
“What do you mean?”
“Because… they’ve been attacking the armies of the daolord… Furthermore, I can’t speak of other envoys, but I’ve personally been a part of the conflict with Liu Jinu at the Yalu River. Not only did they attack us, they even… sealed off the route to Hanyang. The daolord has on several occasions attempted to make contact with the Nipponese Hell, but all of his efforts were thwarted by Liu Jinu.”
Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed like fire. It was almost as though something had just occurred to him… something… that would make the imperial court meeting at the end of the year far more meaningful than anyone could ever imagine.
He caught a glimpse of the big picture!
However, he didn’t think too much of it just yet. After all, he wanted to know more before he finally consolidated his thoughts. Thus, suppressing the stirring emotions in his heart, he spoke with a cool voice, “Mr Murai.”
“Here.” Murai Sadakatsu immediately came in from outside the wooden hoarding and half-knelt to the ground. His response was gruff. He was obviously trying to learn the language of the land.
“Summon Arakshasa immediately.”
His thoughts drifted to the preparations he had made ever since he had learnt of the existence of the twelve envoys a few months ago. These twelve envoys were like a double-edge sword - they could be dangerous, but there were also immense profits to be made by Hell!
He would never have issued an invitation to the twelve envoys if he hadn’t managed to secure the Book of Life and Death earlier. After all, the human heart was unpredictable, and it was even more so as far as ghosts were concerned. The effluxion of time might very well have whittled away at the loyalty of even the staunchest of followers of the old Hell. He couldn’t even be certain of the allegiance of someone like Yang Jiye right now.
And if they joined hands to attack the new Hell, Cathay would essentially be ravaged within and without, by both the three daolords and twelve envoys. The tense situation could very well erupt into chaos!
So long as the twelve envoys refrained from a rebellion, and even if they were to declare their own independence from Hell, Qin Ye could immediately begin making preparations for several overseas trade routes all at once! Besides, there were still prospects that some of the envoys would still continue to pledge their allegiance to Hell.
Thus, the temptation of the potential reward far outweighed the risks involved.
Five thousand properly-trained Yin soldiers, a complete picture of the interplay of underworlds, and more importantly… talent.
Which one of the twelve envoys weren’t famous historical figures in their own right? The new Hell was currently deprived of talents, and their existences were far more valuable than any potential trade routes!
“If Hell is to stand its ground against the avaricious gaze of others, then it would have to have an army of its own, and a powerful one at that. Raising an army, and researching and developing new weapons all require substantial resources. It’s practically a black hole of funds with no end in sight. Hell is but a town right now, and there aren’t any trade routes in existence. We already have to tighten our belts in order to upkeep things as they currently stand right now…” He gathered his thoughts and muttered while nodding, “Everything hinges on the new Hell’s first foreign trade… The imperial court meeting at the end of the year must not fail!”
Just then, Arthis arrived like the rushing wind, and the female ghost was so startled that she nearly screamed out loud. Arthis glanced placidly at her, “The daolord’s subject?”
“Yes… Yes! Please show some mercy on me!!” The female ghost reeled back in terror and shock. The purity and density of Arthis’ vast Yin energy told her that this was a bona fide Infernal Judge of Hell!
Murai Sadakatsu had already shifted another seat in for Arthis’ arrival. After she took her seat, Qin Ye lifted his chin and muttered with indifference, “Continue.”
“Yes.” The female ghost suppressed the intense terror in her heart and continued to kowtow vigorously, “The daolord had initially only managed to gather slightly over twenty evil ghosts, myself included. We were all considered the daolord’s most trusted aides. He was already based in Skytribute City when I first pledged allegiance to him.”
“In fact, the daolord had already planned to turn Skytribute City into a nest of ten thousand captive ghosts from the onset…” Qin Ye promptly interjected before she could finish, “Why? The old Hell wouldn’t have collapsed too long ago. How could he have the gall to do such a thing?”
“It’s not a question of guts.” Unexpectedly, the one who responded was Arthis. She picked at her scarlet nails and continued without even lifting her eyes, “All Yin spirits that linger in the mortal realm would influence their surroundings with the Yin energy that they exude. However, the converse is also true. The Yang energy in their surroundings would be thousands of times stronger than their Yin energy, and that would likewise affect the Yin spirits as well.”
“The debilitative effects of opposing energies are mutual. Therefore, ever since the great collapse of the old Hell, many Yin spirits who remain inactive naturally dissipate after some time, without ever transforming into a grievous spirit. Only those with true grievances or deep set attachments to the world would truly transform into ghosts. They would be imbued with spiritual awareness, and they would naturally possess the ability to cultivate with Yin energy. However, regardless of how strong they are or how strong they become, these ghosts would invariably still be subject to the slow, debilitative effect of the omnipresent Yang energy of the mortal realm. So long as they remain in the mortal realm, they would vanish in due course.”
She raised her finger and blew gently on it, “It’s all a matter of time. Soul Hunters will remain for 50 years. Hellguards can stay for 100 years. Judges can stay for 200 years. Prefects… should be able to linger around for 400 to 500 years. There are only two ways to reverse the debilitative effects of Yang energy.”
“One, by devouring blood and flesh.”
“Two, by devouring their own kind.”
“This also forms the foundation of your premise in your earlier paper, that the quickest way for ghosts to advance is to devour their own kind. The daolord of the three eastern provinces is an old ghost who has lived for over a thousand years. He naturally knows that he can’t just sit around and wait for death to happen to him. Transforming a locality into a nest of ten thousand captive ghosts and making it the land of the dead is the only way to reverse the effects of the constant debilitation from the Yang energy around. In this regard, one needs to be at least an Infernal Judge if he were to artificially form a nest of ten thousand captive ghosts. Wait a minute…”
She suddenly paused and glanced at the female ghost, “Did you say that… the daolord was thinking of establishing a nest of ten thousand captive ghosts from the onset?”
The female ghost dared not lift her head one bit, and she nodded desperately.
“That’s strange…” Arthis furrowed her brows, “If that was the case, why did he only establish his nest of ten thousand captive ghosts after the outbreak of supernatural incidents in the three eastern provinces? After all, it would only make sense that this was something that would form the top of his priorities if he wanted to rise up against Hell. After all, it is only when he forms such a nest that he would be able to provide shelter to Yin spirits, and thereby attract more Yin spirits to pledge allegiance to him.”
The female ghost replied fearfully, “My lady… The truth of the matter is that many of the Yin spirits under the daolord’s command did begin to show signs of dissipation just forty years ago. That was exactly when the daolord began to harbour thoughts of establishing a nest of ten thousand captive ghosts. I wonder if you’ve heard of the grave-breaching incident in Mount Tai Development of Skytribute City?”
“Just say it.” Qin Ye tapped his toes impatiently, “Stop trying to stir my curiosity like that. Hasn’t the daolord taught you anything about humility?”
“Yes! Yes!” The female ghost was so startled that her voice began to crack, “Mount Tai Development is located on a plot of land that used to be a mass grave. Just forty years ago, all the residents living on the ground floor heard something stirring below. It started soft and discreet, but slowly grew louder and louder. It sounded almost as though there were countless people wailing and whimpering in the middle of the night. Finally, they engaged an engineering team to dig down below, right past the foundation, before they finally realized… there was a hundred-man grave located right below…”
“And the skeletons already prepared to crawl out of the depths of the pit. This was the opening salvo prepared by the daolord. If he wished, he could easily have triggered the establishment of the nest of ten thousand captive ghosts back then. But, right at that moment…” She drew a deep breath, “Liu Jinu… sent troops…”
Her pale face appeared to be cramping as she continued with a tremor in her voice, “If you look through the case files of the Special Investigations Department, you’ll discover… records of a large-scale supernatural event occurring at Lucky City at the end of that very same year. I believe it should have been classified as an A-grade incident or higher. That night… tens of thousands of netherflames suddenly lit up across the Tumen River. The residents of Lucky City were reported to have heard the sound of thousands of galloping horses and the clamor of war drums. In fact, the cultivators and ordinary humans who possess the Yin Yang Eyes personally witnessed thousands upon thousands of Yin soldiers rushing across the Tumen River and charging straight into Skytribute City.”
“As a result of that, the relatively tranquil river suddenly sloshed about violently for several minutes. I’ve previously dealt with some investigators of the Special Investigations Department. Having searched through their souls and memories, I noticed that the incident and investigation results were classified as a top secret incident. Regardless, none of these investigators would know of the truth of this incident better than us… Back then, the daolord was still in talks with Liu Jinu for the formation of an alliance and the creation of the largest underworld in the East Continent. They were even toying with the idea of extending their reaches into Rus at the material times. Thus, nobody could have expected Liu Jinu to suddenly send troops so brazenly.”
Qin Ye raised his hand, and the female ghost paused for a moment. Qin Ye turned to Arthis, “Rus doesn’t have an underworld?”
“No.” Arthis’ response shocked Qin Ye. Such a large country, and yet they have no underworld?
“But there are garrisons in the region.” Arthis continued with a somber expression, “Like I mentioned before, one of the prerequisites for the existence of an underworld is the existence of an accompanying faith, religion, myth or legend. That would crystallize and perfect the office of the god of their underworld. Rus doesn’t have this because their faith largely lies in Orthodox Christianity, one of the three main schools of Christianity. Thus, the garrison there is known as the Holy Judgment Crusaders. They operate under the banner of a god of the underworld whose name isn’t known to us. But you should never underestimate them, because they are incredibly powerful.”
“Unknown name?” Her response piqued Qin Ye’s curiosity.
Arthis nodded, “That’s right… It has no name, but the strength of their forces comes close to that of the old Hell. The reference to its existence comes from the gospel of Matthew, and it is simply known as the god of death. It has no name. It is known to wear a black cloak and carry a scythe, but nobody knows its name since time immemorial. It doesn’t reach out or communicate with the outside world either--... Ah! I get it! So that’s how it is!”
She abruptly shot to her feet and paced around with her hands behind her back, “The daolord of the asura was eager to secure a strong backing for himself. Thus, he turned to the Holy Judgment Crusaders in the hopes of leaning on their extensive heritage and deep, profound legacy. However… they clearly didn’t give a damn about him. After all, the nameless god is undoubtedly on the level of a Yama King…”
“Yama King?” Qin Ye gasped. Izanami is only an Abyssal Prefect, and yet the god of the underworld of Rus is actually a Yama King?
Arthis snickered, “The Orthodox Church has 400 million disciples worldwide. If they can’t even produce a single Yama King with such strong backing, then they can forget about being involved in underworlds altogether… Anyway, stop interrupting and listen to me!”
She collected her thoughts and continued, “The other underworlds aren’t certain what exactly happened to Hell, so they’re not willing to take on the risk of harbouring the daolord as a defector of Hell. Thus, he turned to the next best option… which is none other than Liu Jinu! But what’s most unexpected is how Liu Jinu would actually go back on his word!”
“Why is that so?” Qin Ye rubbed his chin. There seemed to be a fleeting notion in his mind, but he just couldn’t get the hang of it.
Nevertheless, he had a hunch that the answer to this question of his could potentially change the manner in which negotiations are to be carried out in the imperial court meeting at the end of the year!
“Because he looks down on the daolord.” Arthis chuckled coldly, “What kind of people constitute the twelve envoys? Sure, they may not be as powerful as an Abyssal Prefect, but they’re all famous historical figures in their own rights. On the other hand, what do the six daolords count for? At best, they are merely defined by the notoriety and infamy that taints their name in the annals of history. In other words, they can be considered two completely different planes of existences.”
“More importantly… have you ever considered the territorial map of the world?”
Qin Ye closed his eyes and mulled over Arthis’ suggestion for a moment. Moments later, he abruptly opened them with a bright shimmer in his eyes!
That’s right… That’s it! That’s exactly it!
Qin Ye exclaimed, “Whether the three eastern provinces, the three western provinces, or the three provinces in the vicinity of Pearl River Delta, these are all localities that share a territorial boundary with the feudal officials of the old Hell! Any feudal official who desires to return to Cathay must first traverse the daolords’ territories! This forms an impediment to the development of the twelve envoys altogether! It’s no different from a hardened yoke around their necks!”
His mind was suddenly filled with great clarity of thoughts, “Furthermore, none of the twelve envoys know exactly what happened to the old Hell, and none dare to act on speculations either. Thus, they most certainly wouldn’t let it slide when a Prefect-level ghost attempts to establish a nest of ten thousand captive ghosts right in front of their doorsteps. After all, if Hell were still in existence, they would undoubtedly be stripped of their fiefdoms and executed summarily for their negligence! That was why Emperor Wu of Song sent troops against the daolord of the asura back then!”
Arthis nodded, “Coupled with the fact that they’re completely different planes of existences, there were just far too many reasons in support of marching against the daolord… Why are you so riled up? Is there something wrong over here?”
“Of course there is!” Qin Ye shot to his feet, “Oh foolish mecha valkyrie… do you even realize the importance of our discussions right now?”
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