Qin Ye didn’t say a single word. In fact, he maintained an indifferent expression as he placidly swept a cold gaze across the seven seals high up in the sky.
Terrific… truly terrific. I’ve lived for a hundred years, but I’ve never once been trampled into the mud with such condescending provocation. These feudal officials truly have no regard for who I am!
Then… let’s see who gets the last laugh at the end of this imperial court meeting!
The seven seals in the air glistened for several moments, almost as though they were showing off to Qin Ye the glory accorded to each their own names. And then, before Qin Ye could give the order, they retracted back to where they had come from.
Not a single question was asked of him.
They didn’t even deign to look to the nominal master of Hell for permission to do so.
Qin Ye smiled.
A tense silence filled the air for some time, before Liu Yu suddenly snickered, “Yu Qian, Yang Jiye… to think that I’d even personally invited you to Hanyang for a short discussion. Is this your response to my invitation?”
“It wouldn’t be good for us to cross swords, would it?”
Yet the only response which Liu Yu got was an instant consolidation of the spear formation, and an air of sobriety so dense that everyone could sense it.
“Liu Yu!” Yang Jiye responded without flinching in the slightest, “King Yanluo is standing right in front of you. How dare you refuse to pay respects to him?! Do you still call yourself a feudal official of Hell?!”
“Oh? King Yanluo is here?” A somewhat effeminate voice drifted over from where Lord Gao Changgong of Jiaozhi was seated. That said, it hardly bore any trace of emotions at all, “Why don’t I see him?”
But before he could even finish speaking, a gruff laughter echoed out from elsewhere, “Haha, besides, since when has King Yanluo of Hell ever placed us meagre feudal officials in his sight? We’ve not even had the luxury of crossing paths with the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces. So why would King Yanluo of Hell suddenly think about us? Weren’t we always entertained by some insignificant officials of Hell whenever we answered the summons for the imperial court meetings and returned to pay tribute? Is Hell unable to delegate such menial tasks anymore? Does King Yanluo of Hell have to personally make an appearance for such matters? Where’s his jade chariot? Where are the six banners of his majesty? Or are you telling me that…”
He paused for a moment, and then chuckled coldly, “Hell is languishing in the ruts of poverty right now? So much so that it even needs the help of its vassal states?”
Another man quipped, “And I’ve heard that the new King Yanluo of Hell isn’t older than twenty years of age?”
“Haha… There would always be drawbacks to such interim appointments. After all, Hell is starting from scratch, “Another voice chimed in, “To think that the former glories and splendour of the old Hell has fallen to the extent of begging for scraps. But that’s fine… tsk, tsk, tsk… If King Yanluo is truly around, then please send someone to receive our tributes. We were once a family after all, and it’s difficult for us to sit around, watching the new Hell grit its teeth and endure such hardships on its own… I’ve brought 100,000 Yin spirit stones. I sincerely hope King Yanluo doesn’t take issue with that…”
Arthis’ expressions twitched and contorted with great fury.
What ingrates. To think that they would turn around and bite the hands that fed them for such a long time. To think that the feudal officials would have developed such inflated egos after being unchecked for merely hundred years! 100,000 Yin spirit stones on account for a hundred-year tribute?! Are you paying off a beggar?!
“Insolence!!” A sonorous voice thundered in response, startling Arthis. This was something already on the tip of her tongue, and yet the man who spoke these words took the words right out of her mouth.
It was Yu Qian.
“Hell is the rightful authority of the Cathayan underworld. Without the official conferment of title from Hell, we’re no different from the evil ghosts around us. If you’re not here to pledge allegiance to the new Hell, then… what exactly are your purposes for coming?” Palpable murderous intent poured out from his body, transforming into a ferocious netherwind that rushed over to the hundred thousand Yin soldiers lined up right in front of him. His Yin energy began to rush out like a rising tide, and the netherflames in his eyes flickered wildly as he continued to speak with a chilling voice, “Unless… you’re trying to take advantage of Hell’s weakness right now?”
“Hell is the orthodox underworld, and it shall not condone foreign influences that attempt to undermine its authority! An instance of infraction, a life of requital! These are the ancient adages of Hell promulgated by the first King Yanluo of Hell. Have you already forgotten these things?!”
“Yu Qian.” The gruff voice responded with a cold chuckle, “Just you and which army?”
His voice carried with it a palpable sense of bloodthirstiness, “Or are you suggesting that I, Chaghan, won’t be able to take you down?”
As they spoke, the hundred thousand Yin cavalrymen gradually lowered their stances and prepared their polearms so that they were ready to charge at the moment’s notice. Simultaneously, Yang Jiye’s army drew their bows and raised their swords and spears.
They were on the verge of a great clash of powers!
Paper money fluttered endlessly through the sky, while the rest of the lands were shrouded in pindrop silence.
The illusory bodies of the multitudes of Yin soldiers squared off against each other like two endless great walls. Qin Ye’s gaze narrowed. Even though he had already expected the rebellious envoys to bring their armies along to the imperial court meeting, standing toe to toe against a tide of Iron Stupas and a reserve army to the tune of a hundred thousand Yin soldiers was something completely different. Qin Ye couldn’t help but feel a wave of apprehension surge in his heart.
Twang… Just then, the tension in the atmosphere was abruptly broken by the sound of a zither.
A series of plucking notes soon followed, stringing together a melodious tune as tranquil and soothing as the sight of a flock of migratory birds flying in formation. A calm voice spoke from the darkness, “Everyone, it’s been a hundred years. We’re all acquaintances, so is there really a need for all of this?”
The interjection suddenly loosened the tension in the air like the release of a tightly wound clockwork. Everyone turned towards the direction of the zither. A split second later, a series of thumping beats slowly pounded into existence, growing louder and louder as it sent tremors of increasing magnitudes throughout the land.
It wasn’t the sound of a large army.
Rather, it was more akin to something massive that was stomping on the ground. The dark Yin clouds billowed wildly, and then six ten-meter large pupils suddenly ignited with netherflames in the deep darkness of the skies.
It was as though a colossal being were approaching them from the darkness, drawing closer and closer with each pound and tremor. Everyone’s narrowed their eyes at the terrifying phenomenon, only to realize that an endless field of netherflames had just lit up right behind the six large pupils.
Whoosh… Three heads finally emerged from the overcast skies. They weren’t living creatures. Rather, they appeared more mechanical than they were organic. Two of the mechanical beasts bore the heads of oxen, while the third resembled a horse. Their hundred-meter tall bodies soon followed, emerging from the clouds as they made their way straight to the aisle between which the two factions of forces were arrayed against each other.
“This is…” Qin Ye stared at the incredible sight before his eyes. The bodies of the mechanical beasts were shackled and bound with countless chains, and plastered all over with innumerable talismans. They appeared no different from a moving fortress of sorts. Due to their size, the armies that were lined up on both sides subconsciously pulled back like the receding tide, leaving a great buffer zone of hundreds of meters between them. Naturally, the tension between the two forces was finally dissipated.
The desolate sound of trumpets resounded from the back of the mechanical beasts. There were innumerable tumor-like blocks on the back of their bodies, and each of these blocks were blazing with endless netherflames within. It was evident that thousands more Yin soldiers had arrived. Moreover, three large banners on the back of the beast fluttered in the wind - “Lord Zhou of Tangming”, “Lord Wang of Singapura”, and “Lord Ban of Malaya”.
The last three feudal officials had finally arrived!
Zhou Yu, Ban Chao and Wang Meng!
The ground trembled violently as the three mechanical beasts slowly came to a halt in the buffer zone between the two forces. Then, with a stiff, mechanical sound, their bodies leaned forward, and they bent down and lay prone on the ground, transforming into a great mechanical wall that separated the forces of both factions, completely sequestering them from each other.
After a protracted period of silence, Liu Yu finally asked, “Zhou Gongzin, Ban Dingyuan, Wang Meng… what is the meaning of this?”
Although they had separated the two forces from each other, the three feudal officials who had just arrived likewise remained mounted on their war beasts. A cold, clear voice responded to Liu Yu’s pointed query, “Nothing much. Are you… truly not afraid of the Heavenly Dao?”
“Haven’t you guys ever considered the fact that the Heavenly Dao has refrained from any actions ever since the establishment of the new Hell? Do you know what that amounts to?”
“It means that they have recognized the new Hell as the rightful masters of the Cathayan underworld!” Yu Qian’s eyes glistened brightly, “The Heavenly Dao would never tolerate the existence of an abominable underworld! The Yin spirits have to have some place to return to after death! Good must be rewarded, and evil must be punished! The six paths of reincarnation must be rebuilt! Seven colleagues of mine, it’s not too late for you to make amends for your erroneous ways!”
Qin Ye had remained silent all this while because he was observing the attitude and behaviour of the twelve envoys. He had to admit that Yu Qian and Yang Jiye were combative people by nature. He hadn’t even taken a stand in these matters, and yet the two feudal officials had already confronted the others for their disrespectful behaviours.
“Ridiculous!” Liu Yu sneered, “I’m the one who is favoured by the heavens and blessed with longevity and eternal prosperity. I’ve proven my mettle as the Lord of the Hanyang underworld, so why should I be denied the opportunity to lord over Hell altogether? Heavenly Dao? The Heavenly Dao only condones this because there is an absence of an underworld right now! Otherwise, how could a greenhorn kid possibly sit on the throne of Hell?”
Gao Changgong muttered icily, “The worst that could happen is for a devolution to the times of the warring states era before the First Yanluo unified Hell. Winner takes all. The choice that represents the last resort of the Heavenly Dao need not necessarily mean it’s the best choice possible.”
The owner of the cold voice smiled faintly, “Since that’s the case, Liu Yu, why haven’t you addressed yourself as ‘This Excellency’ in front of that ‘greenhorn kid’?”
Liu Yu grew taciturn.
“You’ve said it before that you’ve detected the Harken’s scent from his body previously. Lord Harken is a Yama-class existence, and it’s clear that they would have crossed paths with each other before. Yet… even though Lord Harken has clearly managed to elude Ksitigarbha back then, why didn’t he do anything against this new King Yanluo of Hell?”
Is he on my side?
Qin Ye gazed deeply at the three mechanical beasts. No… not necessarily. It’s hard to say where their allegiance lies after a hundred years. The human heart is unpredictable after all.
Besides, if they truly were on my side, they would already have knelt to pay their respects to me like Yu Qian and Yang Jiye have, rather than make an appearance like saviors to the rescue.
Everything went silent once more. After a long time, a middle-aged man finally spoke up slowly, “The three of you should know full well what happens to an opportunist.”
“At least we’ll survive.” A hoarse voice responded, “The fact that Malaya, Singapura and Tangming aren’t willing to participate in this little strife of yours doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re endorsing Hell’s existence either. It simply means that we’re not prepared to turn against Hell just yet, particularly since Lord Harken appears to have endorsed the existence of the new Hell. It’s fine if you have a deathwish, but we’d prefer to stay alive very much.”
Liu Yu burst into an uproarious laughter, “Fools! If the Harken has truly acknowledged him as the new King Yanluo of Hell, then the words that you’ve just spoken would be more than sufficient basis to put you to death a thousand times over!”
“Sorry, we’re just not going to take any chances right now.” The cold voice responded slowly, but clearly, “If you insist on making a move against the old Hell and defying the ways of the Heavenly Dao, then…”
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
The three mechanical beasts on the ground roared furiously. In an instant, thousands of Yin spirit emerged from the backs of each mechanical beast, armed with taut bows and flaming arrows that were all pointed directly at the army of a hundred thousand!
The atmosphere reverted to its tense state in an instant. Several seconds later, the gruff voice spoke up with some measure of bloodlust, “Are you… really standing on the side of Hell this time?”
“Perhaps.” The cold voice chuckled softly, “I’d advise you against any rash decisions. While I was alive, I’d sent an army of eight hundred thousand ablaze in a great inferno, thereby earning myself the nickname of fire god. This mechanical horse is armed with three million divine crossbows of karmic flames. Feel free to test it out… and see if it doesn’t annihilate the forces that you’ve brought together with you.”
As soon as he finished speaking, the crossbow bolts immediately ignited with a crimson flame.
It was clear that those flames weren’t the usual netherflames.
Rather… they were blazing with none other than the menacing Ninefold Karmic Soulfire!Previous Chapter Next Chapter