It was a survey form.
Furthermore… the survey questions were incredibly subtle. At the very least, nothing can be gleaned of the purpose of the survey from the questions themselves.
“Question 1: What is your preferred choice of communication? A: Shouting. B: Messenger bird. C: Facebook. D: Wechat.” Wang Chenghao smiled as he read, “Question 2: What is the preferred mode of entertainment in your fiefdom? A: LOL. B: Mahjong. C: Naruto. D: ...Patty?”
Qin Ye didn’t respond, but merely lifted his head smugly. Wang Chenghao continued reading.
“Your favourite brand and fashion style: A: Tang style. B: Ming style. C: Armani. D: Paul Smith.”
“Your favourite accessory: A: Jade pendant. B: Folding fan. C: Watch. D: Perfume (not to be confused with scented pouches).”
There were 25 questions altogether. Wang Chenghao read it all at once, and then looked up at Qin Ye with horror, “Are you… assessing their fashion sense?”
“No.” Qin Ye’s gaze grew deep and abstruse, and he smiled wickedly, “It’s to test whether they… keep up with the times!”
“I want to assess whether these feudal officials are fixated on antiquity. I’ll have Li Jixi take these survey forms to the various underworlds of the feudal officials. I refuse to believe that they can understand the hidden intentions behind these surveys of mine. They’ll be issued to each underworld’s finance minister, defense minister, military generals, as well as the twelve envoys themselves for their response. I’m sure they’ll at least indulge me in this much given that I’m asking in my capacity as the new King Yanluo of Hell.”
He gently fanned out the stack of survey forms, “This survey will take a month’s time. And then… we’ll know exactly what kind of rulers they are. If they’re truly fixated on the ways of antiquity, then they’re bound to be lambs to the slaughter in this trip back to Hell.”
They were going to be the main course at the figurative banquet of Hell!
After issuing his instructions, Qin Ye delved straight into the planning process, and began to hunt for talents with experience in conducting auctions. It had to be said that he secretly missed working with Master Bai…
I wonder what Master Bai of Guardian Auctions would think if he learns that King Yanluo is secretly coveting his presence in Hell…
Time passed quickly. Two days later, Arthis returned to Hell, somewhat weary and forlorn.
“You’d best hurry.” She slumped back into her seat as she continued, “The blight vermin are spawning so quickly that they’re practically a great flood right now. If we don’t hurry, we might not even get a chance to return to the main city in future.”
“Where’s the stuff?” Qin Ye responded with urgency.
Arthis waved her hand, and a Qiankun Pouch unraveled in mid-air, revealing ten dead blight vermin, along with a set of black armor.
The armor was pitch-black in colour. The breastplate and the shoulders were all adorned with the emblem of a tiger’s head. The surface of the armor was shiny and smooth. It wasn’t the best looking armor, but the Yin energy emanating from the entire set was undoubtedly top of its class.
“Chest, shoulders, wrists and knees - these are the seven places on which there are slots on this set of armor.” Qin Ye inspected the goods in accordance with what he had learnt from the scroll obtained from the old Hell’s Yin Barracks. His voice trembled with excitement, “Yin spirit stones can be inserted into these slots, thereby imbuing the Yin spirit wearing the armor with a great boost to their strength… Furthermore…”
He touched the tiger’s head adornment on the bracers themselves. This adornment appeared somewhat different from the rest, in that this tiger head appeared to have a wider and higher jaw than the rest, almost as though it was hiding something. A blade groove lay right outside the adornment.
He pushed the adornment gently, and a gleaming blade extended out of its nook in an instant.
“Even if one loses his weapon, he will still have the means to preserve his own life with these hidden weapons.” He sighed with great satisfaction. This was the key to propelling the new Hell to the heights of a premium armament dealership. The stage had been set, and he was happy to be personally involved. But the most important thing of all was to have a truly premium product to sell.
In this regard, there was no doubt that the Tigerform Battle Armor checked every single one of the boxes he required! He was confident that this would be the centerpiece of his imperial court meeting that was to come!
Defying modernization with adamance?
Then, let me show you the true horrors of the commercial realities in the modern day and age!
“And that’s not all…” Arthis looked at the scroll and gasped in horror, “It actually augments the effects of battle formations, such that one would only require ninety percent of the actual number required to establish a proper battle formation?! Something like that… are you sure you want to sell something like that to the twelve envoys?!”
Qin Ye straightened up and raised his eyebrows quizzically - Why not?
“I fear you might be underestimating the potential of this set of battle armor…” Arthis gritted her teeth, “Battle formations… constitute the heart of all potential of Yin soldiers. It enables the simplest, weakest Yin soldiers to stand tall against Infernal Judges and even Abyssal Prefects. The fact that 10% less soldiers are required to establish battle formations can mean that… there is suddenly a great deal more Yin soldiers at their disposal on the battlefield! Can you imagine how terrifying its impact will be on any battles that they participate in?!”
Is that so… Qin Ye caressed the Tigerform Battle Armor as though he were caressing his lover, murmuring, “Then… it suits my purposes even more. Since that’s the case, why don’t I call it… the Wealth Destroyer One?”
“What are you being so anxious about?” Qin Ye pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his hands, “Let me ask you something - are any of the feudal officials able to pull off million-men battle formations?”
Arthis was stunned.
The feudal officials naturally didn’t have the ability to do so.
“What’s there to fear if this isn’t even going to be a possibility? The new Hell isn’t anything like the Hanyang underworld. They’ve had hundreds of years of history behind them, while we’re still busy prioritizing the huge list of things that we have to get done. Million-men battle formations?”
He yawned, “It’s still too early to talk about these things.”
Then, his expressions changed, and he snorted at Arthis, “Speaking of which, didn’t you see anything else when you went back to the city walls? Why didn’t you bring them back as well? Are you really going to follow my instructions to the tee, without the slightest bit of initiative altogether?! How are you going to take on the socialist lessons in future?”
Arthis froze in shock, “Anything else?”
Qin Ye muttered, “And don’t tell me that you didn’t see any siegebreaker crossbows or octagonal crossbows and the like…”
Arthis remained stunned for the next ten minutes, before she flew out in a fit of rage.
What kind of a person are you?!
The sky was dark, and spots of netherflames drifted about soullessly in the sky. The city walls were over twenty meters tall, and covered with troops. The crossbow towers stood majestically at the heights of the walls, exuding a cold, domineering aura that filled the vicinity, while countless Yin soldiers patrolled along the walls. Within the walls, everything appeared to be bustling with great prosperity.
After all, it had been hundreds of years since the Hanyang underworld first became a tributary of the old Hell.
Their prosperity wasn’t a remarkable feat worth bragging about.
If one walked through the main gate of the underworld, they would see that both sides were lined with Han Dynasty styled buildings, interlaced with countless Buddhist temples. Many of the building also bore signs of affiliation with Buddhism. Everyone appeared to be thriving in harmony.
Bazaars and markets were set up along streets of residences. Everything greatly resembled the Northern and Southern Dynasties of Cathay. Yet what was most striking was the black-coloured palace that sat right in the center of the Hanyang underworld.
And that was Liu Yu’s royal palace.
He was seated right atop his throne at this very moment. The palace hall reflected the style prevalent during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, with some influences of the Han Dynasty. The main themes were black-and-white, and the entire hall exuded sobriety. The usual vermillion colours with gold-gilded accents simply didn’t exist at all.
Furthermore, everyone sat in a kneeling posture.
The great hall was currently filled with dozens of people, one of whom was Li Jixi. Liu Yu wore a black crown, and a black long robe embroidered with five golden dragons. He raised a bronze chalice in his hand as he spoke, “Please.”
Everyone downed the contents of their cups at the same time.
“What does King Yanluo mean by this?” He set down his chalice and picked up a piece of paper with a quizzical look in his eyes, “We’ll naturally comply with the imperial edict, but what purpose does this form entail?”
“I don’t know. It should be a survey of your lordships’ hobbies and interests.” Li Jixi naturally wasn’t aware of the contents of what was discussed at the monthly progress meeting. He deliberated for some moments, before adding, “But His Majesty mentioned that Hell would be preparing return gifts for each fiefdom based on the responses provided in these forms.”
“Hah…” The gold flames in Liu Yu’s eyes flickered for a moment, and he snickered derisively, “How is Hell going to be able to prepare a return gift for us in its present state of destitution?”
Li Jixi remained silent. After all, he was new in Hell, and he naturally hadn’t begun to develop a sense of belonging for it just yet.
Furthermore, he didn’t know the deliberations of Qin Ye’s heart, and was consequently unaware of what he should say, and what he should not.
Liu Yu lifted his robes, picked up his chalice of wine and asked casually, “Imperial envoy, how do you view the Hanyang underworld? Is it comparable to the underworld of your master?”
“It’s beautiful here.” Li Jixi responded truthfully, “But despite its age, Hell remains the orthodox underworld in mainland Cathay. Besides, I sincerely believe that the prosperity and growth in Hell right now is well beyond Lord Liu’s wildest expectations.”
Liu Yu stood up with his chalice in hand and smiled faintly, exuding an aura of great splendor and majesty, “Do you know how many great poets speak of my reign back in the days of the Northern and Southern Dynasties? These lands of mine are second to none, even among the multitude of fiefdoms which exist under Hell’s overarching umbrella. Mr Li, why don’t you come work for me instead? Wouldn’t it be far better here than the little village that Hell is right now?”
Li Jixi smiled bitterly.
Truth be told, it didn’t matter to him where he worked. However, Qin Ye had almost immediately conferred upon him the title of a Soul Hunter of Hell, and he knew full well that his conferment of title wasn’t a glorification of the office he had been given. Rather, it signified the extent of Qin Ye’s distrust for him, because it bound him inextricably to the ranks of an Emissary of Hell.
After finishing his cup of wine, he stood up and bowed deeply, “Lord Liu has many things to attend to, so I shan’t bother you any longer. Farewell.”
Liu Yu watched silently as he left the hall. In fact, the entire hall was silent. Several moments later, Liu Yu finally chuckled bitterly and slammed his chalice to the ground, “Insolence.”
“I, too, have raised this underworld to its present age of prosperity from the days when it was no larger than a destitute village. Even though I’ve not been to the new Hell… how good could it possibly be? What does it have that I can’t offer? That stinking brat and his empty promises?”
“I gave him a way out, and he turned me down. What disrespect.”
A general stood up and cupped his hands respectfully to Liu Yu, “Should I…”
“No.” Liu Yu glared at him fiercely, “That man is an imperial envoy of Hell when all is said and done. The imperial court meeting hasn’t taken place yet, so any such acts might well constitute treason! Yu Qian and Yang Jiye are still scrutinizing my every action with great vigilance as though they were protecting their sheep from a wolf.”
He waved his hand, and the survey form flew over to his hand, “And as for this thing… I wonder what tricks that little brat is trying to pull this time?”
“My lord, it’s just a plain old sheet of paper. We’ve checked and verified it’s not hiding any Hell’s Arts or techniques. What could he possibly want with it?” “It’s not an edict either. The imperial envoy had mentioned that Hell would be preparing return gifts based on the responses provided in these forms. The way I see it, Hell’s actually afraid.” “That’s right… I’ve heard that he’s summoning the twelve envoys back to Hell at the end of this year, and this comes after a century of Hell’s silence. How could he not be afraid of what might happen?” “I’ve also heard that the new King Yanluo of Hell looks no different from a teenager. Haha… the second King Yanluo had only taken the throne because of how formidable he was. Such positions can only be taken by those who possess the power to back their throneship. So how could Lord Liu possibly condone the existence of a young sprout ruling over his fiefdom?”
There was a sudden clamor in the hall, and Liu Yu shook his head, “So be it. The imperial edict has arrived, so we have no choice but to comply for now. Li Anguo!”
“Your subject is here.”
“Take stock of our troops, and pick out three thousand elites. These troops are to follow me to the new Hell in a month and a half’s time!” A cold gleam surfaced in the depths of his eyes, “Let’s go meet the lord of these… monkeys.”
He made a series of other orders, and the generals soon departed from the hall. With that, Liu Yu was the only one left in the room. He grabbed a pen, squinted his eyes, and then began to slowly fill up the survey form.
“These are tricks befitting only of a kid. Even though I don’t know what games you’re trying to play over here, but… I’ll oblige you with much reluctance for once…”
“After all, even tigers have to give some indulgence to monkeys from time to time.”
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