“The three of you are being far too presumptuous.” Liu Yu swept an incisive glance at the rest of the envoys around, “Hanyang, the Khmer Empire, Siam, Jiaozhi, and the Bamboo Region - have any of these regions not been thriving for close to a thousand years as well? They’re able to conscript an army of millions at the moment’s notice! Their economy is only second to that of Cathay and Nippon. Our presence at this imperial court meeting is only an expression of respect for our heritage, nothing more. We could have simply refused to come, and still declared our own independence all the same!”
“Insolence!!” Yu Qian and Yang Jiye barked back at the same time. The polearm hanging behind Yang Jiye’s back trembled slightly, and instantaneously appeared in his hands.
Qin Ye remained silent. These words were ostensibly directed at the twelve envoys, but they were in truth meant for his ears!
Liu Yu truly lives up to his name. I nearly had him. Unfortunately, he’s snapped back to his senses in the nick of time.
That’s right. Matters of the future should be dealt with in future. After all, who could say for certain what would happen in the next hundred years? The fact of the matter was that there were a hundred thousand troops arrayed outside Hell right now. Even if Hell were thriving, they wouldn’t be able to stand against a powerful army of a hundred thousand troops! They basically had no choice but to give in!
You want to fight?
Very well. Then, have a taste of the might of an underworld that has been in existence for centuries on end. Besides, even if Hell could hold out against their military forces right now, do they truly have the depths of finances to endure a battle of attrition?
Gao Changgong and Chaghan practically spoke at the same time, “You three, Lord of Hanyang isn’t wrong. You’re all established heroes in the eyes of the mortal realm. How could you be blinded by what you’ve just seen? Think about it. Hell has already lost control of the East Continent. Something like that could remain concealed for fifty years, but we’re talking about a hundred long years of complete inaction! Why did you think Izanami went to war in the Strait of Tsushima? If the old Hell were still around, do you think she’d even dare to step a single foot outside of her abode?!”
“It was a test.” Ma Fubo added, “She was probing at the extent of Hell’s might. And what about Yamaraja of Hindustan? They’re another underworld that was comparable with the old Hell in its former glory! We’re talking about thousands of years of existence, together with billions of Yin soldiers! It’s hard to say exactly what’s going to happen in future!”
This imperial court meeting had already begun to see the convergence of many interests and the manifestation of ambitious hearts. The balance of the situation was incredibly delicate and treacherous, tilting from side to side at the moment’s notice. Not only did each faction have to react with great speed and adaptability, they also had to possess… sufficient leverage to tilt the balance in their favour.
Liu Yu finally heaved a sigh of relief. The startling sight of the new Hell’s state of development had finally begun to fade away. That’s right… who knows what the future holds for all of them?
This shouting match between a king and his high officials bore some measure of semblance to the uprising led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guang. Neither of them knew back then that their initial revolt would eventually spearhead the series of rebellions that eventually caused the downfall of the second Qin Emperor. 
Or how Liu Bang, born as a scoundrel, could never have imagined that he would one day found the Han Dynasty. 
Nobody knows what the future holds!
I live and die by the fate of my own hands. I, Liu Yu, shall never be subservient to others! We can speculate all day, but nothing in future is going to be certain. On the other hand, what is most certain now is the fact that any single one of us twelve envoys possesses the might to single-handedly flatten the new Hell!
This was his leverage! This was his bottom line!
He glanced at everyone, “Right now, I just want to know one thing - which side are you on?! Chang Yuchun, when Emperor Yongle led the uprising at the beginning of his campaign, do you think he had even thought of the prospects of ascending the throne eventually?” 
Chang Yuchun, Guo Ziyi and Han Qinhu grew taciturn once again.
They were completely torn. None of them had ever expected themselves to be faced with such conundrums even after death.
But, right at this moment, Qin Ye suddenly spoke up, “I give you my word.”
Yu Qian and Yang Jiye stared at him in great shock, while Qin Ye simply smiled faintly at Liu Yu, “I can agree to the proposition made by the Lord of Hanyang.”
“Lord Qin, the words of King Yanluo shall be taken as the law!” Liu Yu’s eyes glistened brightly.
“Naturally.” Qin Ye responded with a placid expression, “We’ll enter negotiations proper tomorrow evening. I’m a pragmatic person, and I don’t like beating about the bush. That said, I’ve already made arrangements for the rest of today. Arakshasa.”
“Yes.” Arthis bowed slightly and turned to the twelve envoys, “We’ll be rendering a report on the development of Hell in the afternoon. Each of you will be given a copy of the detailed report for your reference. As for tonight…”
Sme smiled faintly, “King Yanluo has arranged for a special launch event for everyone’s enjoyment.”
“I sincerely hope that everyone… can let your hair down tonight…”
With that, she drifted away together with Qin Ye, until they finally arrived at the annex hall.
“Why?” Arthis asked as soon as they sat down, “The situation was already leaning in our favour, so why did you give your word for the four feudal officials in Lord of Hanyang’s faction to break away from us?”
Qin Ye shut his eyes and sighed in relief, only to realize that his inner shirt was already completely soaked through with sweat.
“Do you really think that the forces arrayed outside of Hell right now are merely for show?!” Seconds later, he gritted his teeth and glared at Arthis, “Didn’t you sense their will for war earlier? Are you aware that when Han Qinhu and the others were hesitating, they practically bore down on me with an overbearing wave of palpable murderous intent?!”
Having ventilating his frustrations, he tapped softly on the table and softened his voice, “Or do you really think that the new Hell can stand against four fiefdoms that have each been in existence for centuries on end? And with what? Military might? Economy? Dream on. They’re only afraid of what we might become in future, not what we are right now! Everything must be done in moderation. Push them too hard, and…”
He paused for a moment to take a deep breath, “This imperial court meeting might very well spell the commencement of a great war on the East Continent.”
Then, he suddenly smiled, “That said, what I’m more interested in is the potential benefits that they bring to the table.”
“I can accept them trampling on my face for now, but… I’ll at least have to take some benefits in exchange.”
“Wait for it. I’ve still got several cards that are hidden up my sleeves. And tonight… I’ll let them know what a dimensional strike is truly like.”
Zhou Gongjin sat in the lounge, tapping gently on the gold-lacquered teacup in his hand as a dark wisp of Yin energy drifted out from the tea. He held a document in his other hand and stared intently at its contents. If one looked closely enough, it would be apparent that his fingertips were pinching at this sheet of paper so tightly that they had already turned pale and white.
The tea which he was drinking wasn’t tea from the new Hell. After all, Hell didn’t have the capacity to produce its own food and drinks just yet. This was none other than tea which he had brought as tribute from his own Tangming underworld. Notwithstanding the flourishing sight that they had earlier been greeted by, it was well apparent that Hell was still lacking in many various ways.
That said… he couldn’t justify any feeling of contempt for how the new Hell looks right now.
Ban Chao and Wang Meng were also seated in the room. The table was set with a sumptuous cold platter, together with delectable Yin wine. The two other feudal officials also held a similar document in their hands, yet their brows were furrowed so intensely that deep crevices had already begun to form on their foreheads.
“What’s this supposed to be?” Wang Meng finally asked after a long period of silence, “These words are completely foreign to us. Zhou Gongjin, you’re the only one among us twelve envoys who’s straddling both the mortal realm as well as the underworld. Do you… understand what’s stated over here?”
After a long time, Zhou Yu sighed wistfully and gazed out of the window and into the distance. He slowly set down the itinerary on the table.
“6.00 p.m. Commencement of Launch Event. Fireworks Display.”
“6.10 p.m. Opening Ceremony. Music accompaniment: Battle Without Honor or Humanity.”
“6.30 p.m. Launch Music Extravaganza.
- Star Sky
- Always Mine
- Final Hour
- The Mass
- Go Time”
“7.10 p.m. Official Launch.”
“8.30 p.m. End of Launch Event.”
The report that they had heard in the afternoon was formal and profound. To the envoys, it was no different from the regular imperial edicts of the ancient past. Naturally, Zhou Yu was able to understand everything that was reported.
Unfortunately, the itinerary for the evening appeared no different from hieroglyphics to the rest of the envoys. Zhou Yu was the only one who was able to understand what was being written.
Yet, it was precisely because he understood exactly what was being written that he suddenly felt a tremor of shock rising from the depths of his heart. The new Hell concealed nothing from them in the report in the afternoon. It was clear to them exactly how Hell had developed over the last year, where the focus was, how many times a rebellion had arisen, and all other measures that had been taken to date. The report even covered how much the economy had grown, and to what extent the Yin soldiers had been trained and strengthened! The more they listened, the more they realized the third King Yanluo of Hell didn’t act like his age! He had more than proven himself to be skillful and adept as a ruler, replete with great foresight and decisive actions. But what was most frightening was the fact that he… was actually keeping up with the societal developments of the modern age!
Zhou Yu was the only person among all twelve envoys who appreciated the extent of societal changes to date. Ever since the advent of the third industrial revolution, the last thirty years of societal progress had seen changes beyond that of the previous millennium combined! This was an immensely terrifying thought!
His understanding of modern day society was cursory at best. But even then, he knew the potential dangers and pitfalls of blindly engaging with such machinations of the modern day society. After all, mankind had even begun to research into matters pertaining to the build-up prior to negotiations, including what to say, what arrangements to make, and even what dishes ought to be served in order to derive the best outcome at the actual negotiations in due course. These specialized disciplines were borne out of the endless tango of negotiations between the high officials of modern day and age. They, on the other hand, were folks who were steeped in their antiquated ways. Would they truly be able to see past the facade of these seemingly harmless events and sidestep all potential pitfalls coming their way?
He silently opened up his golden folding fan and gently fanned himself. Then, after a long protracted pause, he finally responded, “What do you two think of… the King Yanluo of Hell? What do you think he’s going to do next?”
Wang Meng was dressed in an exceptional pitch-black robe without any adornments and embroidery. He gently swirled the contents of the wine in his glass, “He doesn’t act his age at all.”
“He’s no different from a seasoned veteran. Furthermore, he’s incredibly tolerant and patient, and his sudden counterattack took us all by surprise. To be honest, I was personally startled by the sight that greeted us as soon as we stepped into Hell. It was like a bolt that came out of the blue. In fact, I’d venture so far that his opening salvo nearly routed all of us completely. I’ve got to hand it to Liu Yu to have reacted as quickly as he did. King Yanluo is using the prospects of Hell to put pressure on us, but Liu Yu promptly hit back with a reality check of the threat Hell is presently faced with. The way I see it - neither faction has truly taken the advantage in this imperial court meeting thus far.”
Wang Meng continued, “As for what King Yanluo is going to do… Notwithstanding that the opening of this imperial court meeting was fraught with conflict, I personally believe that both factions will eventually be working towards the same goal of a harmonious resolution. After all… the Book of Life and Death is clearly hanging high in the sky, and I also sense the presence of Justice Bao’s Mirror of Eminence in Hell right now. Thus, I’m almost certain that Liu Yu would never resort to a confrontation of force.”
As expected… you guys haven’t noticed the terrifying potential of recent societal developments… In fact, you guys won’t even know what hit you when you finally witness the shocking reality defined by the immense generational chasm…
Zhou Yu gently shut his eyes once more, and his eyelids trembled softly, “I’ve warned everyone to take note of recent societal changes in the mortal realm, but nobody took me seriously back then. You would be wise to heed these words of mine…”
He snapped open his eyes and stared gravely at the other two, “Although I’m not sure what exactly he’s trying to pull over here, but… what I’m certain is that we should avoid the launch tonight at all costs!”
“Since you’re already aware that he’s a shrewd man, then the fact that he’s willing to host the imperial court meeting necessarily implies confidence in the leverage he has over us!”
He locked eyes with the two other feudal officials, “And what’s most terrifying of all is the fact that these are all unknown to us.”
What’s going to be launched?
What’s so important that it justifies being launched personally by the King Yanluo of Hell?
This… is undoubtedly the killing blow which Hell has in store for us!
And I’m afraid that tonight… is when the cutting edge of Hell will finally be revealed!
Wang Meng frowned slightly, “But everyone’s still behaving in the exact same manner. How much could things possibly have changed? Zhou Dugu, why don’t we make a bet using the skulking snow-treading Yin beast that you’ve recently obtained?”
“This is no laughing matter!” Zhou Yu slammed the desk and shot to his feet as he continued to bellow in a deep voice, “That’s right, thirty years in the mortal realm is but a fleeting moment to ghosts like us. But have you thought about what exactly has happened over the last thirty years? The extent of achievements and breakthroughs are comparable to that of the last millennium combined! Have you heard about the study of psychology? It can be used to infer and extrapolate what people are going to do. Would you pause to consider just how terrifying something like that would be if applied to negotiations? Are you even aware of how the master negotiators in the mortal realm these days are all required to be inculcated in the workings of psychology?!”
“And have you ever heard of marketing? How do you persuade someone to accept something that they wouldn’t otherwise usually take notice of? This is yet another mainstay in the arsenal of every international negotiator in the mortal realm! Do you really think you would be able to resist the onslaught of such professional wisdom? Everyone, times have changed. The world is growing, and our experiences and knowledge are being rendered obsolete! Do you even realize what a King Yanluo who understands the intricate workings of modern day society represents?”
After a long time, Ban Chao finally asked suspiciously, “Gongjin, perhaps you’re just overthinking things? Hell has only just been established, and we’re talking about a King Yanluo who’s not even twenty years of age…”
“But he’s still someone who would be growing together in tandem with the modern day society! You guys are the one who’s underestimating him! Don’t be fooled by his youthful appearances, because I can tell you that his heart… isn’t filled with purity and innocence by any means.” Zhou Yu lambasted back in a single breath, before turning back in vexation and staring at the construction sites situated some distance away. Then, he slowly turned his head to the snow-white building right beside Hell’s Gate, “I’ve already said everything that ought to be said. I’ve got a feeling that tonight… apart from Yu Qian and Yang Jiye, the other feudal officials… are all going to be tripped up!”
“I’m going to take a rain check on the launch event tonight. If you guys insist on attending the event, then… be my guest, and have a good taste of what modern strokes taste like. I sincerely believe that you’ll personally want to immerse yourself in the brand new world in the mortal realm after this stumbling experience tonight. That’s all I have to say. Lu Liu, show our guests out.”
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