War was essentially a clash of wealth.
On the other hand, development and growth was the source of wealth.
Whoever developed quicker and grew its economy faster would naturally possess a greater potential for war. Even if they could defeat their opponents in one fell swoop, they would always have the option of whittling their opponents down in a battle of attrition.
Liu Yu didn’t want to give anyone the chance to dwell on the possibility of having second thoughts. Yet, little did he realize that had he truly been confident in his invincibility, then he would never have feared Chang Yuchun’s mutiny to begin with.
In other words, he was inherently afraid.
He wanted to leave himself a way out. After all, if the seven feudal officials declared independence at the same time, then perhaps, in the worst case scenario that Hell becomes powerful in a hundred years’ time, they might just be able to get off scot-free by standing strong together. After all, the law would never stand against the majority.
Qin Ye continued to gaze deeply at them, observing their every expression and reaction ever since they first entered Hell.
My efforts over the last half a year have not been in vain… Qin Ye finally heaved a sigh of relief. The first impression of the new Hell was no different from a colossal reversal that completely blew the twelve envoys’ minds away into oblivion. Everything was now different. The twelve envoys were obviously beginning to see the new King Yanluo of Hell in a new light! Even the ringleader Liu Yu had subconsciously begun to plan for exigencies!
Qin Ye couldn’t wrap his head around the minds of these feudal officials - If you’re concerned about the future, then why insist on splitting right now?
Are you stupid?
Just then, a soft voice called out behind Qin Ye, almost as though he could read the thoughts in Qin Ye’s heart, “They’re not being stupid. If you just looked back at the various dynasties in the history of Cathay, you’ll see countless vassal lords planning and plotting against each other. Even the subordinates of famed emperors such as the Yongle Emperor and Kangxi Emperor had been bold enough to plot against them. It’s all borne out of the blindness of one’s rational mind. After all, the greatest weakness of man is the desires of his heart.”
Yu Qian walked up to Qin Ye’s side and bowed deeply with great respect to him, before continuing, “They’re still pushing through with it even though they know it’s impossible. Historically, none of the vassal states had ever been attacked by Cathay, even when they staged an uprising. Thus, to their minds, taking control of the fiefdoms and declaring independence from Hell isn’t an affront to Hell’s authority at all. This is why they’ve limited their independence to the confines of their states. To their minds, it’s not even considered a rebellion. Rather, they are simply asking to be free from Hell’s rule.”
Qin Ye sneered, “But have they forgotten that even vassal states belong to Hell in the first place?!”
Yu Qian immediately responded, “Hell is fortunate to have a King with ambition and foresight that is befitting of its stature! Unfortunately… the human heart is unpredictable. And we’re talking about envoys who were once either framed and put to death, or emperors in their own right in life. No matter what it was, they were the masters of their own destiny, and such control was so important to them that it had become the basis to their lingering grievances and obsessions. Otherwise, how could they possibly turn into such heroic ghastly existences in death? There’s no reasoning with these envoys. Do you really think they don’t understand the implications of Hell’s great revival? Do you really think they’re oblivious to the fact that Hell would regain its former glories in less than a hundred years at this rate? Yet, despite all of that, they’re still willing to put everything on the line.”
“After all, the current opportunity doesn’t seem all that bad to them.” Yang Jiye had also made his way before Qin Ye and half-knelt on the ground, right beside where Yu Qian was located, “Lord of Luzon, Yang Jiye, greets Your Majesty.”
With that, they took their position behind Qin Ye, making it all too clear where their allegiance lay!
Zhou Gongjin, Wang Meng and Ban Chao stood to the side, leaving the seven remaining feudal officials to square off against Qin Ye, Yu Qian, and Yang Jiye. Tension suddenly filled the air, and the collision of their intense gazes immediately caused sparks to fly.
“Lord Qin.” Liu Yu took a deep breath, “Have you come to a decision?”
Qin Ye didn’t respond immediately. Instead, he sized up each and every single one of the seven feudal officials, before booming back, “Who else?”
“Who else intends to break free from Hell and declare independence?”
“You can count us in as well.” Chaghan, Gao Changgong and Ma Fubo responded in unison. In life, each of them were framed and subsequently put to death by their respective emperors. Thus, Qin Ye had already discounted them from those whom he could potentially persuade.
Divide and conquer - this was the best strategy at times like this.
As for who I should convince… Qin Ye nodded to acknowledge the declaratory words of the three feudal officials, before turning to the remaining three, Chang Yuchun, Guo Ziyi and Han Qinhu. They were still silent right now. None of them were framed, maligned or humiliated in their lives, and they were the prime targets for his efforts of persuasion.
Perhaps the heavens knew that it was going to be far too difficult for the new Hell to stand against an alliance formed by all twelve envoys, and they thus decided to give Hell a hand. Because at this very moment… the three feudal officials were still just as silent as they had ever been!
It was time to take a stand, and yet they actively chose to remain silent!
“Chang Yuchun! Guo Ziyi! Han Qinhu! You…” Chaghan turned back and glared at the three men in shock and anger. Nobody had ever expected the three men to have second thoughts only at the eleventh hour!
They hadn’t taken a stand just yet, but the fact that they were even hesitating was terrifying to the ones who had!
“Chang Yuchun, Guo Ziyi, Han Qinhu!!” Ma Fubo was a short man. He wore a scarlet robe adorned with embroidered dragons, replete with a white jade crown and a purple belt of royalty. He flicked his sleeves in fury as he continued, “Turncoats… Just because I’ve not ridden to battle with my Iron Cavalry for some time, do you not have any regard for me any longer?!”
Gao Changgong glared at them like a hawk, “You three, we’re all famous people in our own rights. Indecisiveness isn’t like us at all. If you’d wanted to be an opportunist, you could’ve done so from the onset. But… turning against us at the eleventh hour? Do you really think that this Prince of Lanling doesn’t dare to get his hands dirty with the blood of others?!”
Liu Yu was completely silent. That said, one could easily see that he was clenching his jaws tightly. In fact, he was even squeezing his hands together repeatedly underneath the sleeves of his robes. He stared daggers at the three turncoats and cut them up into a million pieces in his mind.
How has things come to this?
Before stepping into Hell, he didn’t think for a single moment that something like that was even remotely possible.
But as soon as he did, his entire worldview of Hell was completely shattered. He was 99% certain that they would be greeted by a destitute Hell surrounded by acres of forests and woods and nothing more. In fact, not even the remaining 1% accounted for the possibility that he would be greeted with a thriving Hell that was soaring with growth! The ramifications of something like that was simply too profound - so much so that even the three feudal officials who had given their word to stand on his side were now having second thoughts!
“Three of you.” Liu Yu finally spoke up, “I’d hate to… be forced to deal with you first. Honor your word. Don’t disappoint me.”
His words were clearly laced with the threat of his burgeoning murderous intent.
“What audacity.” Yang Jiye immediately stepped forward and snorted coldly, “Hell should have the final say as far as the vassal states are concerned. What gives you, the lord over a vassal state, the right to dictate what another vassal state does? Lord Liu, do you think we’re still in the warring states era? Don’t you dare overstep your authority!”
Yu Qian also chuckled coldly, “Lord of Hanyang, might I give you a gentle reminder that your name is still etched on Hell’s Records at this very moment! Until you finally break away from Hell, you’re still a Cathayan Yin spirit in every sense of the word! King Yanluo hasn’t spoken yet, so what gives you the right to supplant his authority?!”
As soon as Yu Qian was done with his ‘gentle reminder’, Liu Yu exploded with a massive eruption of Yin energy, far beyond what any of the others were able to muster. Like a tidal wave, it instantly swept across the lands and filled the new Hell. The ghostly citizens who were watching the commotion immediately cried out in shock and collapsed to their knees on the ground. Even Chaghan, Gao Changgong and the others around them couldn’t help but gasp in shock as they retreated several steps.
He was furious.
He was truly and utterly furious.
Things weren’t going well for him. The state of the new Hell exceeded everyone’s expectations, and the three feudal officials who had previously promised to stand together with him were now recanting their earlier position. His rage was finally at its limits!
Whoosh… Long, dark nails slowly and silently extended out of his livor mortis spotted hands. The jade crown on top of his head snapped and exploded in an instant, while his hair scattered about wildly and fluttered in tandem with his long, majestic robes. His head creaked stiffly and turned 180 degrees as he stared at Yu Qian and Yang Jiye, “Yu Shaobao, Invincible Yang… What right do you have to be castigating me? Do you think that I wouldn’t dare kill you right here, right now?!”
As he spoke, a splendid scale armor suddenly appeared on Yang Jiye’s body, together with an illusory polearm that he wore on his back. Despite facing the only man in the history of Cathay who was truly granted the title of being invincible, Yang Jiye stood his ground, refusing to even budge an inch!
“Lord Hanyang, you behaved with incivility in front of King Yanluo and berated Hell. How do you think you should be punished?!”
Clang! A loud sound reverberated through the air, caused by the intense clash of spirits between two Infernal Judges. Meanwhile, Gao Changgong lowered his gaze and braced himself for battle, wrapping his hands tightly around two white bone daggers within his sleeves. Ma Fubo’s face twitched slightly, and the muscles on his back began to bulge and swell. At the same time, Chaghan chuckled coldly, while his chest and abdomen inflated in a peculiar manner.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh! Liu Yu’s explosion of Yin energy was soon followed by the three other Infernal Judges in his faction. In an instant, a terrifying cloud of dense Yin energy formed in the sky and immediately bore down onto Yang Jiye!
The sheer magnitude of the terrifying Yin cloud resulted in stark atmospheric changes in Hell. The winds howled, and trees around them leaned away from the epicenter of the powerful clash. Countless paper money began to flutter everywhere in the skies, while the ordinarily calm spots of netherflames in the sky began to dart about in a frenzy. In fact, the dark-red vortex in the sky even began to swirl once again as a result of the massive eruption of Yin energy!
A confrontation between Judges was on a completely different level!
Qin Ye’s eyes flickered, and he promptly gave Arthis a knowing nod. But right at that moment, they heard a long and wistful sigh. Chang Yuchun, who had been silent all this while, had finally spoken up, “Lord of Hanyang, let me ask you something - do you know what the present Hell represents?”
The overbearing Yin energy in the air finally paused where it was, and Liu Yu turned to look at Chang Yuchun with an ashen expression. Without missing a beat, Chang Yuchun continued, “Most of you have been framed and doubted by the kings and emperors of your time. Lord of Hanyang, you even nearly unified Cathay back in your time. But we’re different. We’ve benefitted from the grace of our kings and emperors, and eventually died an honourable death. Our earlier agreement to stand on your side was premised on the condition that Hell was a lost cause.”
Guo Ziyi chipped in, “There’s no point threatening us. We’re all part of the twelve envoys in our own rights. Do you think we’d be daunted or moved by these threats of yours? Before we arrived in Hell, we had anticipated to see barren lands and a destitute Hell. But the truth that we’re confronted with is the fact that Hell is thriving and flourishing with growth. It remains a fact that Hell will one day reclaim their vassal states, whether you like it or not. Had it been destitute as we had anticipated, it would have taken them four or five hundred years before they could even be considered on the same footing as the vassal states around. If that were the case, we could then consider at that time whether to stand against Hell, and if so, how we are to stand against Hell. After all, going to war would most certainly mean laying waste to the efforts and inputs over the past hundreds of years. By then, each of our vassal states would have grown by a corresponding number of years as well. In other words, we can afford to take mutual losses against Hell.”
“If things had panned out that way, there might even be a possibility of achieving imperial hegemony. So long as we are able to gain a firm foothold over our own lands, the entire world is our oyster. There’s Australis and the Spice Islands down south, or the Middle East to the west. Everything is potentially ours for the taking.” Han Qinhu chipped in with a deep voice, “We were naturally willing to stand on your side had the risks indeed been as low as we’d anticipated. But… the reality of Hell is completely beyond our expectations.”
“With this rate of development, I’m afraid it wouldn’t even take a hundred years before Hell regains the ability to take control of the entire East Continent! Lord Hanyang, let me ask you - what are us twelve envoys going to do when that time comes in the near future?! Touch your heart and ask yourself this - do you still consider yourself to be a Cathayan like the rest of us?!”
Lord of Hanyang drew a deep breath and gnashed his teeth.
Of course he considered himself a Cathayan!
Barbarians… Everyone else around us can only be considered barbarians! I’ve never considered discarding my Cathayan heritage!
But… having prepared so long and hard for this day, and having been presented with such a prime opportunity, how am I supposed to simply let it go just like that?!Previous Chapter Next Chapter