Qin Ye soon caught up with Arthis, and they continued dashing forward together. Hell was shrouded in dead silence right now. Both Arthis and Qin Ye didn’t even bother exchanging glances. They simply stared straight forward, into the dark cloud in the sky, where a twisted, scarlet vortex had just appeared.
It was massive.
It was approximately fifty meters tall, and it looked no different from a bloody rift.
“Whatever comes our way, you have to remain calm.” The two leaders of Hell had already transformed back to their Emissary state, and Arthis’ hair scattered about menacingly as they continued forward. She cautioned, “The specialties of each underworld is different from the other, and it’s simply impossible to predict what exactly they are. That said… you probably wouldn’t worry about these things with the heart that you have in any event.”
Is this your final attempt at suppressing the stifling tension here? Qin Ye smiled faintly, while his wildly thumping heart gradually softened.
That’s right. We’re the mainstream Emissaries of Hell. I’m diligent, I lead by example, and I inspire confidence in my subjects. So why should I feel such great apprehension when I’m simply about to meet some of the old subordinates of Hell?
As the blood vortex drew closer and closer, it appeared no different from a thin veil that separated two worlds, almost as though it were fading in and out of existence. Bunches of yellow paper money began to scatter across the skies and drift down from above. Countless eyes on either side of the immeasurable thin veil locked onto the other for the very first time.
There wasn’t the slightest bit of hesitation as both Qin Ye and Arthis continued rushing forward. A split second later, a world of black and white opened up in front of their very eyes.
The earth appeared white, while the surroundings appeared black. Copious amounts of Yin energy fluctuated at the borders, causing the entire realm that had opened up to look almost illusory altogether. A massive shadow appeared to be wrigging and stirring in the depths of the darkness. But, more importantly, two sets of neatly arranged armies were situated right at the front of these lands that had opened up. Yin soldiers that numbered to the tune of tens of thousands stood neatly on the plains in front of their very eyes.
Each of these Yin soldiers wore fine armor and wielded a spear in their arms as they stood their ground silently. From a distance, the countless flickering netherflames blazing from their illusory figures appeared no different from a great wall of Yin soldiers. And that’s not all - there were even ten 20-meter tall, oddly shaped Yin spirit beasts that were interspersed among the ranks of the Yin soldiers!
These Yin beasts were all lying prone on the ground. They looked like cows, but there was a single long horn that grew straight out of their forehead, resembling a goat’s horn. The muscles on their bodies revealed the pallor of death, twisting and weaving about like a pile of tangled corpses. Numerable scarlet eyes gleamed on both sides of its body, the pupils of which pulsated with turquoise netherflames. Numerous ropes were tied to its body, tethering it to an exquisite, carved box.
They were an oppressively imposing force.
Standing against such a mighty force felt no different from squaring off against a monstrous tsunami or a sea of blades. Such a stifling presence wasn’t something that could be easily expressed in words.
That said, the powerful forces stood obediently behind two majestic figures.
One of these figures was dressed no differently from a Ming Dynasty official, sporting high cheekbones, white eyebrows and a white beard. The other wore the armor of a martial general from the Song Dynasty. As soon as Qin Ye showed up, the two Yin ghosts trembled slightly. Then, after sensing the Yin energy from Qin Ye, they promptly half-knelt to the ground, bellowing thunderously with voices that did nothing to hide their slight measure of surprise, “Your loyal subjects, Yu Qian and Yang Jiye, pays their respects to the new King Yanluo of Hell.”
Rumble! As soon as the two men knelt down, the tens of thousands of Yin soldiers behind them promptly got on one knee after their master, repeating with a thunderous echo, “Greetings, King Yanluo! Long live King Yanluo!”
Whoosh… A nethergale swept violently through the lands, sending the paper money in the air scattering about wildly. Qin Ye placed his hands behind his back and stood tall in front of the two historical legends known for their unending loyalty, and he did everything he could to prevent his mind from being coloured by the assessment of these people from the history books. Then, after some time, he finally spoke up, “Yu Qian, also known as Yu Shaobao. After the battle of Tumu, you learnt of the ambush against Emperor Yingzong of Ming, consolidated your forces southwards to assist the Ming capital, where you personally took to the battlefields, leading an army of 220,000 arrayed outside the nine gates of the capital against the advance of the Oirat invaders. When the Oirat invaders held Emperor Yingzong hostage and attempted to force a peace treaty, you famously declared that the stability of society was greater than the life of a leader. Because of that, you were later falsely accused of treason and executed.”
Then, Qin Ye turned his head to the middle-aged man holding his helmet and half-kneeling on the other side, “Yang Ye, reputable general of the Northern Song Dynasty, also nicknamed Invincible Yang. You defeated the Liao army at the Yanmen Pass and shocked the Khitans. Subsequently, you were forced to a greatly disadvantageous battlefield by a corrupt official Wang Shen, where you died valiantly in battle. You were posthumously awarded the title of grand commandant and the military governor of the Datong Command. You can be said to be the ancestor that set the Yang Clan’s name into the annals of history. Both of you…”
He paused for a moment, and then ambled down, glancing down at the two famous historical figures who were still kneeling on the ground as he quipped, “Why are you here?”
Why are you here?
Are you here in response to the summons for the imperial court meeting? Or do you harbour ulterior motives, and are prepared to draw a clear line demarcating the boundaries between your underworld and Hell altogether?
Yu Qian, dressed in his crimson garments of a great official immediately responded while keeping his head bowed low, “The new Hell has been established, and it only stands to reason that it continues to be worshipped by all who are around. Without any instructions from the new Hell, I’ve come bearing tributes in accordance with the standing taxation system of the old Hell, where the state would take a 50% tax from the produce of its lands of which a fifth would be set aside for the old Hell as tribute. This is a hundred years’ worth of tribute from the Licchavi underworld, and its value amounts to 10 billion Yin spirit stones. My lord, please verify. Gao Yue.”
One of the Yin soldiers standing behind him, wearing a similar red uniform, walked out and cupped his hands respectfully to Qin Ye. What was noteworthy was the fact that the Yin soldier didn’t even lift his head once to look Qin Ye in the eye. The Yin soldier quickly shuffled forward to Yu Qian’s side and half-knelt down, opened a scroll and began to read softly, “Reporting to King Yanluo. The following is the production report of the Licchavi underworld: Ten Mountain Beasts, five thousand tons of Yin spirit stones, fifty tons of sunken Yin wood, one ton of stone of reincarnation, one ton of water of extreme Yin, a hundred trunks of secret virtues…”
Qin Ye didn’t say a word, and simply allowed Gao Yue to continue with his report for the next few minutes. He didn’t really listen to the report either. He simply gazes at the Yin beasts that were carrying boxes and crates of all shapes and sizes with a slightly drifty feeling in his heart. Then, when Gao Yue was finally done, he finally spoke with a profound tone of voice, “Both lords, please rise.”
“Yes.” Yu Qian and Yang Jiye got up at the same time. But as soon as they straightened their backs, Qin Ye’s somewhat inaudible voice suddenly sounded in their ears, “Is there anything else?”
Yu Qian and Yang Jiye’s eyes flickered wildly. This time, it was Yang Jiye who responded with a firm resolution in his voice, “Your Majesty, it doesn’t matter how many of the feudal officials are eager to turn against Hell. We… we’ll always stand on the side of the new Hell!”
Yu Qian echoed in a cold voice, “How dare these Cathayan spirits plot against Hell after death?! So long as Your Majesty gives the word, we’ll do everything it takes to take down the traitors of Hell, even if it means throwing ourselves into the blazing furnace!”
“Only Hell should rule over the Cathayan underworld! All other existences are nothing but heretics and apostates! There can only be one ruler in the subterranean reaches of Cathay!”
This was a pledge of allegiance!
They were the first feudal officials to express their allegiance to Hell! Their previous assessment of these feudal officials weren’t wrong after all!
Qin Ye gazed deeply at the two men and nodded faintly.
Unfortunately, their pledge of allegiance thus far was no more than lip service.
Even if he were 99% certain that they were wholeheartedly loyal to Hell, Qin Ye still wasn’t willing to take his chances with the remaining 1% chance that they were in fact disloyal.
“I sincerely hope that is the case.” He responded calmly, “Both of you, follow me into the city. Everyone else can wait outside…”
He turned his gaze to the ranks of Yin soldiers stationed outside, “Hold your ground. All who enter the city without my permission shall be summarily executed for treason!”
“Yes!” Yu Qian and Yang Jiye nodded solemnly to each other.
According to their intelligence, the new King Yanluo of Hell was no older than twenty years old. If this were ancient Cathay, it would be no different from having the imperial throne up for grabs, and everyone with some measure of backing behind them would most certainly be vying for supremacy. Such chaos in the netherworld could very well spell disaster for the billion or so citizens in Cathay!
There were three daolords within and twelve envoys without. In other words, Cathay’s underworld was fraught with threats and issues both internally and externally. Under such circumstances, it was undoubtedly wise to disallow all troops from entering the city. Furthermore, they could tell that Qin Ye’s command was absolute and non-negotiable. In fact, they would have found the present King Yanluo of Hell somewhat too rash had he believed their pledge of allegiance right from the onset. This would be their first time meeting after all. Thus, they weren’t displeased by Qin Ye’s probative questions at all.
They knew all too well that actions speak louder than words, and the best way to prove themselves was to be the sword in the hands of their master!
Thus, they resolved in their hearts to cut down any subjects that showed the slightest measure of insubordination!
Even if it meant… turning their blades against their former colleagues.
“If they could even be considered colleagues to begin with.” Yang Jiye gazed icily into the distance, “After all, wouldn’t colleagues be more than happy to stand on our side? The unrivalled spear technique of the Yang Clan… hasn’t spilled blood for hundreds of years now… Eh?”
As he spoke, his eyes suddenly flickered with a cold gleam.
And he wasn’t the only one. Everyone around immediately noticed something amiss, and they turned to gaze into the darkness in the sky once more.
Whoosh… The nethergale howled violently, while the amount of paper money scattering through the air slowly increased, more and more, until it filled the entire skies. Then, a soft sound cut through the tranquil dark skies, growing louder and louder until it finally resounded like explosive thunder!
Dong, dong, dong!
The beat of the drums sounded in unison, sending deafening tremors vibrating through the entire new Hell. A second later, seven pairs of huge pupils lit up in the darkness with striking netherflames. Then, seven terrifying waves of Yin energy swept towards them in an instant!
“This is…” Arthis gasped deeply, “Infernal Judges… seven Infernal Judges! These are… these are all feudal officials! There are actually seven feudal officials who have arrived at the same time! Who the hell are they?!”
Yang Jiye was the first one to react to the situation, “Stand in formation!!” In an instant, trumpets sounded among their armies. It was only at this instant that it dawned on Qin Ye how the two separate armies were both commanded by Yang Jiye alone. Yu Qian had obviously ceded control to him.
“Prepare to meet the enemy forces!!” As soon as Yang Jiye shouted, he transformed into a swift nethergale and dashed to the tallest Mountain Beast, and a spot of netherflame simultaneously ignited in his hands. The previously silent Yin soldiers immediately echoed back in unison, “Yes!!”
A split second later, they all lowered their stances. The row of Yin soldiers standing in front raised a meter-tall shield in front of them, forming an impeccable wall of shields, allowing just enough gaps between the shields for three rows of pikes to jut out neatly with their tips pointing forward. It didn’t take them more than an instant to adopt a three layered defensive pike formation!
This was the textbook counter to all incoming cavalry forces. Any cavalry that charged straight towards the newly formed hedgehog of pikes would almost certainly be killed and wounded in an instant.
Dong, dong, dong… They were getting closer and closer! Arthis picked Qin Ye up and lifted him fifty meters into the air. They could now see that the Yin clouds in the sky were roiling so much that they appeared to be boiling and bubbling. The deafening sounds only grew louder and clearer as time slowly passed. Then, approximately ten seconds later a thunderous tremor erupted from the skies! Seven dark-coloured Yin horses carrying two-meter high banners on their backs erupted from the roiling clouds of Yin energy! Their bodies were shrouded with dense Yin energy, while countless paper money fluttered in the sky all around them.
The banners on their backs were all different in colour. And it was precisely because Qin Ye noticed the difference in colours that his heart immediately sank.
“Lord Guo Ziyi of the Khmer Empire!” “Lord Chang Yuchun of Siam!” “Lord Ma Yuan of Birmania!” “Lord Liu Yu of Hanyang!” “Lord Han Qinhu of Sanfotsi!” “Lord Gao Changgong of Jiaozhi!” “Lord Chaghan Temur of the Bamboo Region!”
Seven of them…
As soon as he noticed Liu Yu amongst their midst, Qin Ye immediately knew that this faction of powers was never going to stand on his side.
Yet… to think that there were seven feudal officials who had joined forces at the same time!
To make matters worse, Guo Ziyi, Chang Yuchun and Han Qinhu, whom he had previously anticipated were likely to be friendly forces, weren’t on his side either!
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