There were no woods in sight.
Rather, it was more accurate to say that there weren’t many trees left in sight.
All that remained in sight were massive plots of lands that were obviously construction sites.
Works had been halted for today. However, the scaffolding and machinery and tools on site, and even the towering cranes with their arms looming over them gave them an insight as to the buzz of construction works that would be carried out on a regular day in Hell.
Is this Hell?
Is this truly the new Hell? An underworld that had barely turned one year old?!
Liu Yu was seriously taken aback. The immense shock to his heart was borne out of a trifecta of visual, mental and emotional blows all at the same time. The devastation of such a bombardment blew away all measures of common sense in his mind, leaving a numbing buzz in its wake. A split second later, he was overwhelmed with the tsunami of shock that surged from the depths of his heart.
This was because he saw Hell’s Gate. Logically speaking, Hell’s Gate would be the only building in Hell right now. This was the default start-up mechanic, and Hell would be considered to have done fairly well if they could even maintain the order around it and keep out any unwanted Yin spirits. But now…
There was hardly any evidence of an uprising at all! The only thing he saw was rows after rows of Death Inquisitors sitting in their posts with a still, solemn expression.
Furthermore, Hell’s Gate wasn’t the only building that was standing in sight. He could tell that a snow-white building had been erected right beside Hell’s Gate. It was built in a completely different style and aesthetic altogether, and its existence immediately drew the attention of the thirteen Infernal Judges. Their eyes lingered on the strange building for some time, before they finally turned away.
“How… is this possible?” Liu Yu finally pulled himself together after several minutes on end. He couldn’t help but recall his very first meeting with Qin Ye, when he was apprised of the GDP growth of Hell. After that meeting, the first thing he did was to check on the meaning of GDP, before immediately scoffing at the growth rate that was cited to have been 1000%. Ever since then, he began to treat Qin Ye as a braggart who would exaggerate his own achievements by tenfold or more.
But now that he had seen everything with his own eyes, he suddenly realized that… the cited GDP growth rate of 1000% might very well have been true…
How terrifying was this?
Qin Ye had essentially turned a destitute land into a massive site for construction works. It wasn’t hard to imagine the kind of soaring growth Hell would experience as soon as the works were completed, and the basic amenities for his citizens were fully in place. But… how is all this possible?
“Chaghan…” Liu Yu appeared to be stroking his beard gently, but the truth of the matter was that he was tugging at his beard tightly and intently. The golden robe embroidered with majestic dragons had been specially tailor-made for the present imperial court meeting. It was flashy and extraordinary, but it did little to warm the iciness in his heart right now.
“What is it…” Chaghan, the famous Mongol, responded with an equally drifty voice. What Liu Yu failed to notice was the fact that Chaghan’s gaze was still lingering on the construction sites, the ghostly citizens around, as well as the auditorium that stood completed beside Hell’s Gate.
I’ve been surpassed…
My grass plains… have actually been surpassed by the new Hell!
He wasn’t referring to the extent of development so much as he was the rate of Hell’s growth. His personal conviction in the Mongol Empire ran deep in his bloodline. He stuck to the beliefs and purposes of his empire, and erected his golden tent by the waters. But apart from the city-sized golden tent, the rest of his fiefdom comprised largely of grass plains, and the rate of development was nowhere close to that of the new Hell!
“You… back then, how long did it take you to control the grasslands and earn the trust of your citizens?”
Chaghan mulled over the question for some time, before finally responding, “Forty-five years. The initial fifteen years were almost entirely spent quelling uprising and rebellions.”
“Then… would you look over there…” Liu Yu pointed into the distance with great reluctance, right at the ghostly citizens who were hiding in their construction sites and in the distant woods, peeking out from behind their cover and watching the feudal officials with great interest.
Chaghan could feel his eyes stinging with pain.
To their minds, a newly established underworld should be filled with helpless, confused and cranky ghosts.
So why did everyone in Hell appear to be filled with hope, trust and satisfaction?
“He’s actually… managed to earn the trust of his citizens?” Chaghan’s facial muscles twitched uncontrollably, and he gnashed his teeth as he turned to Liu Yu, only to realize that Liu Yu had the exact same expression as him.
We can’t wait…
We can’t afford to wait any longer!
Given this rate of development, it wouldn’t take the new Hell more than fifty years to catch up to us. With any luck, they’ll even be able to regain control of the entire East Continent in just a hundred years’ time! If we don’t break away now, we won’t get another chance to do so at the next imperial court meeting!
This was undoubtedly the best shot that they had. An army of 100,000 was garrisoned outside, so why wouldn’t the new King Yanluo of Hell consider their proposition seriously? On the other hand, if they held back now, they would never have the same kind of leverage over Hell again!
Who could have thought that the prospects of an independent future would be foreclosed so quickly? Before they entered the new Hell, they had anticipated that Hell would still need the next three hundred years to get its act together, before it would properly be a threat to the independence of the feudal officials altogether. But after seeing all this, it finally dawned on them that they couldn’t afford to wait any longer - not even until the next imperial court meeting!
They absolutely had to impel the new Hell to cross their names off the register in this very visit.
Chaghan turned back, while Liu Yu took the opportunity to glance back at the other feudal officials, and his expressions soon sank.
Gao Changgong’s green ghostly mask completely covered the exact same expression of shock underneath, but it did nothing to conceal how he was rubbing his fingers against each other with immense vexation and frustration.
What a complete reversal… Our expectations of Hell’s nascent growth was at rock bottom, only to be shockingly disproven with such a mighty visual blow.
“A new underworld… can actually achieve that much in just a single year… How is it even possible…” He murmured to himself as he glanced at the worksites and the forest of equipment and tools. Then, almost as though he recalled something important, he suddenly turned back to Qin Ye.
Qin Ye’s expressions were still icy cold, but at this very moment, it appeared to be laced with a thick measure of contempt.
What did you think the new Hell was supposed to look like?
I’m sorry. It’s probably completely different from what you’d anticipated it to be!
“He’s… flexing back at us right now…” He sighed softly. It was no different from their conduct towards him earlier. Qin Ye hadn’t said much back then, and Gao Changgong had naturally interpreted it as a sign of weakness. That said, what else could Qin Ye do but to bite the bullet and suppress his rage back then?
Clash against them?
Absurd. Even a random conscription of troops from an underworld that has been in existence from hundreds of years would be able to level all of the forces that the new Hell could muster right now.
Yet what was most surprising was the fact that the counterattack had come so swiftly and resoundingly clear.
You can pit your military might against me, but I’ll raise you my rate of development and growth. And when Hell has reached a critical amount of growth, I’ll take you all down in one fell swoop! What’s the use of having a numerical advantage at the start?
Thus, for some strange reason, he felt a chill run down the back of his spine as soon as he locked eyes with Qin Ye.
And he wasn’t the only one. Guo Ziyi, Ma Fubo, Chang Yuchun and Han Qinhu still looked as glorious and magnificent in their flashy outfits as ever, and they even carried themselves with the same measure of poise. Unfortunately, there was now an eerie, peculiar silence among all of the feudal officials.
Chang Yuchun wore a purple crown on his head, and a robe adorned with embroidered pythons. And he would have looked completely at ease, if not for the fact that he was clutching tightly to his jade belt buckle.
Nobody knew this, but his heart was momentarily swayed by what he had just seen.
Liu Yu had earlier bought his support with a great deal of money. Chang Yuchun had initially reacted to the summons with indifference. He was no more than a neutral party. But now, remorse had gradually begun to take root in his heart.
Had the new Hell been as barren and destitute as everyone else had expected, and if Hell was unable to retrieve any of the old Hell’s legacy, then its development would most certainly only take off at least two hundred years in the future. And from there, it would take them yet another three hundred years before they could finally put themselves on par with the feudal officials. Then, unless the new Hell were blessed by a stroke of heavenly luck, they would need yet another several hundred years to muster a force powerful enough to stand against the twelve envoys, if they were bent on reining them in all at the same time. The horizon of such a timeline was well beyond their distant considerations.
But given Hell’s current rate of development… wouldn’t it take fifty or a hundred years at best?
By then, wouldn’t Hell be able to reclaim all of its lost territories? We’re talking about a population size of 1.5 billion people. How could us twelve feudal officials compare against these numbers? No… in fact, there’s only seven of us officials right now.
Then… how exactly should we react to this situation?
This single ripple of Hell had silently stirred up great, tumultuous waves in their hearts.
The new Hell was simply a shocking sight to behold. Yet Qin Ye simply stood where he was, silently taking their looks of awe and other micro-responses. Shocked? No… there’s far more where that came from. I’ve worked hard - so hard that I’ve even discarded my usual placid self in order to bring Hell to where it is right now. Do you think I’m going to simply hold back on everything I have in store for you just because you show me a simple expression of shock?
He was going to make them pay the price for running off their mouths earlier.
After a full fifteen minutes of silence, Qin Ye finally prompted, “Esteemed feudal officials, does Hell live up to your expectations?”
Everyone snapped back to their senses. Yu Qian and Yang Jiye trembled with excitement, and they stared at Qin Ye with wildly flickering flames in the depths of their eyes.
“Of course it does!!!” Yu Qian’s voice cracked from his elation. It was akin to a reputable minister’s encounter with his brilliant ruler - both complemented each other perfectly. His elderly body was instantly filled with vigor, and he half-knelt to the ground in an instant, “Your Majesty is blessed with heavenly wisdom and filled with dignity and grace. I sincerely congratulate the new Hell, and laud King Yanluo’s achievements!!”
Yang Jiye also followed suit, “The rapid development of the new Hell exceeds all measures of my imagination. I’ve underestimated the will and foresight of Your Majesty. I… am willing to put my life on the line for Hell!”
Qin Ye nodded and gazed deeply at the others, “Everyone, let’s take a seat and have a good chat. Everything is still up for discussion.”
He was making a last ditch effort.
After all, there was only a single outcome once they were dissociated from the other - and that was to eventually meet each other in arms on the battlefields.
So long as they refrained from disengaging from Hell right now, then everything could still be resolved through future negotiations.
It was an open secret that the Harken and the Book of Life and Death were now located in Hell, and it was anyone’s guess as to the depths of Hell’s military might right now. Inaction would allow them to live and defer their decision to another day. But if they waged war against Hell right now, both sides would undoubtedly suffer heavy casualties.
They were essentially faced with a choice between life and death. Naturally, nobody was willing to pick death.
Qin Ye didn’t rush them for a response either. It took them three full minutes, before Chang Yuchun finally put a step forward, “Your Majesty, King Yanluo, what’s on the agenda for discussions?”
“Chang Yuchun?! What’s the meaning of this?!!” “Chang Boren, Siam is an affluent land that represents the fruit of our joint labour! Are you thinking of ceding control of it to others?!”
Liu Yu and Chaghan immediately barked back as soon as Chang Yuchun spoke up.
How could they not be startled?
The growth rate of the new Hell was simply extraordinary… so much so that even the feudal officials were overwhelmed by an immense sense of crisis. That said, they knew that this crisis bore no real dangers to them as yet. Thus, faced with the temptation of being the lord of their own lands, they… were willing to hedge everything on this bet!
Are you hesitating? Are you looking to fly solo? Are you going to throw in the towel at the earliest signs of trouble?
Chang Yuchun grew silent, sighing softly as he glanced soullessly at the new Hell.
“Lord Qin.” Liu Yu’s face sank. He hadn’t expected such a swift and powerful counterattack by the new King Yanluo of Hell, who simply let his actions speak far louder than any words he could possibly muster. More than anything, Liu Yu knew that things the longer things dragged out, the more difficult it was going to be to have a clean break from Hell.
“I’m sure King Yanluo must well be aware of the intentions of our visit today.” He flicked his sleeves and continued with indifference, “The new Hell has just been established, and is no longer capable of controlling the East Continent. Fengdu is something that only exists in name. Since that’s the case, we’ll go each our own ways and call it quits.”
He stared straight into Qin Ye’s eyes, before making everything explicit, “I hope to sign a treaty of non-aggression with Hell, and thus be granted complete independence.”
He hadn’t expected the situation to take a turn for the worse so abruptly. Could he truly be certain that the others wouldn’t have second thoughts on declaring their own independence. After all, wasn’t Chang Yuchun already showing signs of regret and remorse? And to think that he would actually be forced by the circumstances to be the first one to extend an olive branch to the King Yanluo of Hell! Who would have thought that the leverage that they’ve earned through the daunting threat of 100,000 Yin soldiers garrisoned outside would so quickly be rebuffed as soon as they stepped into the new Hell?Previous Chapter Next Chapter