Qin Ye froze in place for three full seconds, before finally taking a deep breath. This was normal… In fact, it was only to be expected. After all, these were men who had been alive a long time ago, and it was unrealistic to expect them to remain loyal despite the effluxion of time.
That said… he hadn’t expected there to be so many disloyal feudal officials, much less that they would actually join hands to speak with a louder voice!
No wonder Liu Yu dared to speak with me as though he were an equal back then. I’d never expected the situation to have already devolved to such an extent…
Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time to consider these things any longer. The nethergale billowed powerfully, causing the seven banners representing each of the allied powers to flutter wildly in the wind. Each of these banners were embroidered with the same majestic soaring dragon on them. And as soon as the ranks of Yin soldiers appeared, the Yin cloud behind them… breached its dike.
Boom, boom, boom!!! The roiling clouds of Yin energy and movement of Yin soldiers appeared no different from tumultuous waves crashing against the shore, scattering rocks and debris everywhere. Countless Yin soldiers leapt right out of the darkness, shrouded with Yin energy like gods of death returning valiantly from the land of the dead. Moreover, all of them were dressed in dark armor, similar to the attire worn by Song Dynasty cavalrymen. They wore fine armor and carried a polearm. A short sword was attached to their waist, while a longbow was slung right across their bodies. Even their war horses were clothed with thick, heavy armor.
From a distance, they appeared no different from a rushing black tide, save for the fact that the front row of armors were brightly lit from within with a green netherflame. A split second later, the tens of thousands of Yin soldiers hidden in the black tide of Yin energy behind the first row of cavalrymen suddenly flickered on with eerie green netherflames as well.
Like a river breaking its banks or a starburst, thousands of heavily armored cavalry began to pour out of the darkness and charge over in formation. The ferocious rush of the galloping war horses caused a heart-stopping clamor. In fact, they could even see that the polearms in the arms of the cavalrymen had suddenly been ignited with menacing green flames as they continued to rush headlong towards the entrance of Hell.
Rumble! As the thousands of cavalrymen rushed right over, the paper money in the air began to scatter even more wildly. The sound made by the multitude of trampling hooves were so stifling that they may as well have been trampling directly on their hearts. Yet, these sounds only stirred the boiling blood that was in Qin Ye’s heart, because he knew whose army constituted the vanguard forces.
Lord Chaghan of the Bamboo Region!
“This is… the Iron Stupa!” He grunted under his breath. The ferocious charge of iron-armored cavalrymen was typical of that of the Mongol Empire. This was naturally something that could only have been done by the Mongol feudal official.
Yet what was most startling was the fact that this was only the first wave, and the darkness hid a mind-numbing multitude of cavalry and soldiers that soon poured out after the vanguard forces! Qin Ye gasped deeply, and a great wave of anger stirred in the depths of his heart.
They were maintaining their own armies!
Feudal officials were only allowed to maintain an army of not more than five thousand Yin soldiers. Yu Qian and Yang Jiye had adhered to these numbers. But what about the rest?
He could only sense the Yin energy signatures of seven Infernal Judges, and yet the number of soldiers under their command numbered well in the region of a hundred thousand altogether! Wasn’t this a show of great disrespect to the old Hell? Wasn’t this an affront to his existence as the King Yanluo of Hell?!
How ironic. If this had been some time ago, Qin Ye would have reacted with no more than the slightest bit of indifference upon witnessing such a sight - Oh? Maintaining your own forces? What’s that got to do with me?
But ever since he had fully embraced his station as the new King Yanluo, and after investing so much in the revivification of Hell, he truly and sincerely felt wrath and indignation surge from the depths of his heart.
“How dare the vassal states challenge their lord and master. This is a clear act of defiance against the newly established Hell. They’re truly showing no regard for me at all…” His eyes flickered with a dangerous gaze, and a murderous intent stirred in the depths of his heart.
And it was an active murderous intent at that.
“Calm down, and endure.” Arthis muttered, “Genuine Yin soldiers are completely different from other types of Yin soldiers under the charge of riffraff and rabble. Ten thousand genuine Yin soldiers possess sufficient power to sweep away the order in a small underworld and send them into complete anarchy. And right now… we’re standing against an army of at least a hundred thousand Yin soldiers. Their leaders are no mere rabble or riffraff either. We’re at a numerical disadvantage, be it soldiers or generals.”
Qin Ye shut his eyes and suppressed the stirring indignation in his heart. Seconds later, he finally opened his eyes once more and sneered coldly, “Don’t worry, I’m not suicidal.”
“Besides… killing need not necessarily be done with a knife or a blade.” He sighed wistfully, “Besides… this would be the prime opportunity for Yu Qian and Yang Jiye to back their words with action!”
For the next twenty minutes, the Yin cloud in the sky looked no different from a rift to the underworld, and countless spots of eerie netherflames continued to pour out of the darkness, only to join the torrent of armed forces that were already lining up in rank and file. Nobody had expected the twelve envoys to possess such depth of forces. A hundred thousand strong army… was more than sufficient to sweep through the other nations in the regions, all the way through to the Spice Islands! And to think that all of these forces were now pointing their spears and edges directly towards Hell!
Clop, clop, clop… The sound of trampling hooves shook the skies and the earth. But strangely, none of them were shouting with battle cries at all. It was almost as though… they were showing the very last bits of respect that they had for Hell. Faced with the insurmountable onslaught of forces, Yang Jiye didn’t even budge. Instead, he gave a command, and then his banner immediately shifted.
Ka-ka-ka! Sharp flaming arrows were strung to their bows in an instant. If the Iron Stupa represented the ferocious rush of a roaring river, then Yang Jiye’s troops represented the great immovable dam that stood in the way of their charge. Within moments, the vanguard forces of Chaghan had already drawn as close as fifty meters from Yang Jiye’s forces, well within the optimum striking range of his bows and arrows.
Yang Jiye raised his hands.
A desolate wind swept through the lands, tousling Yu Qian’s white beard even as he remained rooted to the ground, firm as a rock. After all, he had personally been involved in the battle of Tumu, when the enemy forces had even abducted his then-emperor. Sights like these were dime a dozen in his wealth of personal experience.
Only war. Only war would put an end to all these.
There was no hesitation in their hearts.
So long as the enemy forces drew too close for comfort, what awaited them would be a deadly rain of arrows. Meanwhile, Arthis had already grabbed hold of Qin Ye’s clothes, so that she could bring Qin Ye back to the safety of Hell’s embrace at the slightest signs of conflict.
Clatter, clatter… clop! But at exactly fifty meters away, all of the war horses raised their front hooves, before slamming it straight back onto the ground in unison. A great clatter of hooves echoed endlessly through the still silence of Hell. A second later, seven huge processions, replete with earth-shattering auras of Yin energy emerged from the darkness in the sky. Each of these processions were formed by hundreds of Yin spirits. With a cacophony of soft bangs, bundles of paper money were scattered into the air like confetti, as though they were declaring the arrival of a majestic, otherworldly being.
Netherwind swept about like a furious dragon, filling the intersection of realms with a stifling tension as it cut through the otherwise dead silence in the air.
Whoosh… The cavalry held their ground firmly. After some time, a lazy voice resembling that of an ancient eunuch called out from the darkness, “Lord of the Khmer Empire, Guo Ziyi, answers the call of Hell’s summons.” “Lord of Siam, Chang Yuchun, answers the call of Hell’s summons.” “Lord of Hanyang, Liu Yu, answers the call of Hell’s summons.” “Lord of Bagan, Ma Fubo.” “Lord of Sanfotsi, Han Qinhu.” “Lord of Jiaozhi, Gao Changgong.” “Lord of the Bamboo Region, Chaghan.”
Whoosh! Several pillars of netherflames rose high into the sky, declaring the arrival of Infernal Judges. In fact, each of these pillars of fire bore the mark of an imperial seal, almost as though they were seven suns that shone brilliantly in the otherwise dark skies.
Qin Ye stared at the seal of the Lord of Hanyang. This seal was completely different from the rest, in that it was located higher than any of the other seals in the sky. It wasn’t as though it were deliberate. Rather, it almost appeared as though the rest of the seals were retreating slightly from it.
Therein lies the mark of a Yama-King’s soulfire - all evil shall disperse!
“With that… will I finally be able to completely lift the curse of the Immortals at the Magpie Bridge?” Qin Ye quipped hoarsely.
“Naturally. But it’s best that you shelve any designs for it right now. This isn’t something that they would willingly hand over. Rather than obsessing over such things, why don’t you… take a good look at these feudal officials before you right now?” Arthis’ voice carried a trace of fury and wrath. Qin Ye lowered his gaze from the gleaming seals in the skies above, and then, his eyes began twitching uncontrollably.
Not a single one of them had gotten off their mounts.
The seven feudal officials weren’t in their Hell’s Emissary state either. Instead, they were simply dressed in the flamboyant clothes and adorned with the exquisite perfumes that they had previously been buried with. Unfortunately, these did nothing to mask the stench of decay emanating from their bodies and plethora of livor mortis spots covering their skin. Not even someone who loved beauty as much as Lord Gao Changgong deigned to shirk that disgusting appearance of his.
Their message was clear - You’re not worthy.
Such blatant provocation caused Qin Ye’s pupils to shrink intently. Nevertheless, he suppressed the raging fury in his heart and continued to observe them placidly.
The seven feudal officials were riding together, and he wasn’t sure whether it was a mere coincidence that the banner in front of each army bore the embroidered mark of a five-clawed golden dragon.
Each set of procession was surrounded by dozens of carriages, including a guiding carriage, a drum carriage, a white heron carriage, a luan banner carriage, a warding carriage, a pavilion carriage, and so on and so forth. Each of these carriages were drawn by four horses. A glorious mobile imperial residence was located in the middle of each procession, carried by hundreds of Yin spirits on their shoulders.
Each of these imperial residences were adorned with carved beams and exquisite paintings. The colourful facade exuded luxury, while the green drapery fluttered about gently, revealing the vague silhouette of the crowned official within. Each procession was even accompanied by a whole host of musical instruments, including drums of all sizes, cymbals, flutes, reed instruments, and other ancient woodwind and string instruments. The entire band was composed of hundreds of Yin spirits. Apart from that, there were even some humanoid paper effigies located further on the outskirts of the procession, armed with five-meter tall spirit streamers and three meter mourning staves, all of which were embroidered with the mark of their respective feudal lord. All in all, each of these processions were simply befitting of any emperor’s pilgrimage to foreign lands for the purposes of diplomacy.
But who was the true lord and master of Hell?
Qin Ye did everything he could to remain calm. That said, it was Arthis who couldn’t help but click her tongue in anger.
How could she not be infuriated?
This was far worse than the approach of the Iron Stupa cavalrymen in formation. Their demeanor right now was tantamount to giving Qin Ye a tight slap across the face - What right do you have to sit on the throne of Hell? On what basis are you issuing the imperial edict to summon us for an imperial court meeting?
You’ve got nothing over us, whether seniority, cultivation nor wealth and resources. So, what gives you the right for this?
Next to your destitute Hell, us seven lords of our fiefdoms are far more befitting as the next King Yanluo of Hell.
Look at the glory and splendour of our fiefdoms. Are none of these comparable to the newly established, raggedy Hell that you stand for right now? We’ve chosen to present ourselves in this form in order to register our disdain. After all, what right does a young Hell in a state of disrepair, led by a prepubescent youngster who calls himself the nominal King Yanluo, have to summon us back in our Emissarial forms?
You say you’ve made an effort?
But our fiefdom’s wealth and our present cultivation is still realms above yours. So what use is that meagre effort of yours? We’re giving you face here. You’d best be good and cross our names from Hell’s Record once and for all. Otherwise… don’t blame us for doing more than just knocking on your door and giving you a tight slap across the cheek.
“Are you mad?” Arthis turned to Qin Ye. It was clear that she was desperately trying to suppress the fury in her heart.
After all, only they knew just how much they had sacrificed for the development of the new Hell thus far.
In fact, one could say that they had truly pulled out all the stops for Hell’s revivification. Despite his intense fear of death, Qin Ye had prioritized Hell and took to the frontlines at the battle at the Strait of Tsushima. He had even clashed directly with the darkfeathers of other underworlds just so that he could seize Gu Qing’s soul and secure the first talent for Hell. And yet… these unruly feudal officials who still have their names etched in Hell’s Records are still discontented?! Their greed truly knows no bounds!
“The only thought on their minds is the fact that their escape from Ksitigarbha’s clutches is tantamount to an endorsement to their existence. But haven’t they considered what it means to have their names still etched in the annals of Hell’s records?!” Arthis’ expressions were ashen, and she ground her teeth coldly in seething rage, “These ingrates… To think that their heart and minds would stray so far from the path after merely a hundred years. Impertinence… Insolence!”
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