Liar, liar, pants on fire.
If only he would touch his heart and do a proper stock check on the number of such shameful deeds he had done to date, he would probably wish he had some place to hide his face.
What were his principles? Run from all who are stronger, and if running is impossible, then employ deception and smokescreens.
In short, nothing was out of the question. So long as it could guarantee his survival, he was willing to do practically anything.
He fully appreciated the kind of delicate predicament he was in.
Perhaps the only other skill he had that was comparable to his survival instincts was his ability to tap on the economy of others to Hell’s advantage. He was no different from an expert opportunist or a seasoned hunter that would lie silently in wait until it was time to land the killing blow and seize all glory and honor.
“3.6 billion Yin spirit stones…” His eyes flickered excitedly in the darkness, and he licked his lips as he slowly began to transform into a wave of Yin energy, “Now that I’ve done everything I can to seize a fraction of their military budget, then… it’s time to bring this factionized tussle to its conclusion once and for all…”
“This is going to be the first international trade conference. I’m most certainly looking forward to it. With your intelligence, you’ll soon discover the true reason for this splendid launch event which had you guys dancing at the top of my fingers. So… what’s your move tomorrow?”
The second afternoon, at 2.00 p.m. A majestic horn sounded at Hell’s Gate, and all feudal officials immediately drifted out of their rooms to answer the call.
The conference was to be held within Hell’s Gate, right under the statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. A lush red carpet had been rolled out from their rooms to Hell’s Gate, and hundreds of attendants half-knelt on the ground and tossed paper money all over like confetti as the feudal officials walked over. The Black Armoured Troops stood guard on both sides of the path like iron pylons, while thousands of black-and-white ribbons were adorning Hell’s Gate like beautiful streamers.
A nethergale blew, causing the ribbons to flutter in the wind like a foreboding omen. Spots of netherflames darted about wildly, while the calligraphic strokes that spelt ‘Hell’s Gate’ blazed with powerful netherflames. Everything looked incomparably grand and daunting.
Hundreds more Black Armored Troops stood guard around the main hall of Hell’s Gate where the conference was to be held, turning it into a watertight meeting room. Trumpets sounded, and a majestic atmosphere filled the air.
There was neither a grand ceremony, nor a party to celebrate their arrival. Instead, the feudal officials entered the meeting room feeling almost as though they were enemies of Hell. The atmosphere was solemn and tense, and nothing about the conference venue felt relaxed or welcoming in the slightest.
The atmosphere is somewhat tense and somber…. Chaghan’s attendant frowned slightly and whispered thoughtfully, “My lord, why are you frowning? Hell’s revealing the true extent of their strength to us right now. This is the main hall of Hell’s Gate, and yet that’s all there is to their honor guard. The extent of their poverty is simply laughable--…”
“Shut up.” Chaghan interrupted him before he could even finish speaking. He wore a hat and braided his hair today. His fingers were adorned with gold rings inlaid with pearls, and he wore a white suit that was fastened together with a beautiful belt replete with a jade belt buckle. It was a surprisingly formal look.
And he wasn’t the only one dressed in this manner. In fact, all of the other feudal officials were now dressed far more formally than before, and they carried themselves completely differently. In fact, none of them were even carrying their weapons with them right now.
“Chaghan Temur.” A voice suddenly called out. Chaghan looked up, only to see Liu Yu dressed in a low-key black robe and jade crown ensemble, rather than his golden dragon robe and imperial crown that was commonly associated with an emperor. Four attendants escorted him by his side.
The two were currently approximately a hundred meters away from Hell’s Gate, and they cautiously kept their distance from each other. Chaghan glanced at Liu Yu, “It seems like Lord Liu has also figured it out.”
Liu Yu nodded with a sullen expression, gnashing his teeth as he glanced icily at Hell’s Gate, “It looks like we’ve all been underestimating this third King Yanluo of Hell.”
“I’d only figured it out last night as well.” Chaghan retracted his gaze and continued with a cold voice, “What was his objective with the launch event last night?”
“No… That may be important, but it’s most certainly not the primary purpose. His main message is this - the new Hell… can manufacture and produce armaments!”
Chaghan’s voice trembled slightly as he spoke. Liu Yu promptly responded, “It’s impossible to forge armaments without the Hall of Tremors. This is an iron rule of Hell! All of the weapons we possess have been issued by Hell since a hundred years ago. They’re not completely obsolete right now, but…”
He glanced at Hell’s Gate, “We’re both officials who are looking to break away from Hell… We need to do our level best to expand and grow as soon as we do. Otherwise… given Hell’s current rate of growth, it won’t take more than a hundred years before they would come knocking on our doors and asking us to answer for our crimes. That said… expansion and growth is contingent on the possession of armaments. And where are the armaments supposed to come from?”
Chaghan gritted his teeth, “He’s trying to be the largest arms leader across all of the East Continent! And he’s not even attempting to conceal his intentions! Unfortunately, he’s got both the Book of Life and Death and the Harken in his possession. If not for the fact that any dispute could easily escalate into a life and death struggle, we would have flipped out against him a long time ago! He’s practically trying to eat us out alive. Incredibly… I would never have expected such a formidable killing strike in such an unassuming manner. Brother Liu, how’s the situation with the nameless god of death on your side? You’re the closest to them in terms of proximity. Haven’t you personally visited them thrice now?”
Liu Yu chuckled bitterly, “The nameless god of death is rumoured to be a Yanluo-class entity, so how could I possibly have had a personal audience with him? I’ve only met the chief administrator of the Eastern Orthodox Underworld, the soul of Tsar Peter the Great. He doesn’t want to get involved in the internal affairs of the Cathayan underworld, nor does he want to open any trade channels with Hanyang, much less export Yin weapons and armaments to us.”
Chaghan snorted coldly, “But he doesn’t even know what’s going on with Hell right now! That old fox clearly doesn’t want to bother lifting a finger unless a threat is imminent! Brother Liu…”
He gazed deeply at Liu Yu, before finally asking with some measure of apprehension, “You wouldn’t divulge to them what’s going on with Hell right now, would you?”
“What kind of a person do you think I am?” Liu Yu glared at Chaghan with great indignation, “We should never air our dirty laundry in public! No matter how large or outrageous this dispute is, it’s still an internal affair at the end of the day! How can we allow outsiders to get involved in such matters? I can assure you that even if us twelve envoys end up perishing to Hell, not a single one of us would divulge the current status of Hell to foreigners! Besides, rather than worry about these things, shouldn’t you be considering how to negotiate with this unassuming yet incredibly masterful King Yanluo of Hell instead? Arms dealing is his greatest leverage over us! Not only do we have to discuss the terms of independence right now, we’ll even have to secure a diplomatic status for the purchase of arms! Aren’t you afraid that he’ll be using that as leverage to seek more from us?”
Nobody said another word.
Things like these weren’t matters that could be thought up on the fly. In fact, the feudal officials who had decided to secede from Hell’s rule, together with their advisors, hadn’t managed to get a single wink of sleep last night. Qin Ye had revealed his cards too suddenly, and it didn’t help that each of the cards revealed were astonishing in their very own right. After all, how could any one of them have guessed that a sproutling underworld could already be in the process of constructing the Hall of Tremors? And to think that they were even able to sell such premium armaments at their inaugural imperial court meeting!
Something like that… was practically the worst-case scenario possible! Yet, it actually happened!
Thus, everyone decided to maintain a low profile today. They didn’t have high hopes that a belated gesture like that would work, but at least it was a showing of their sincerity.
Respect was something that only existed as between equals. Either be as powerful as them, or possess some other equally significant leverage over the other.
Something like armaments.
And the only reason why they didn’t say another word to each other was because it was already too late to be planning these things only at the eleventh hour. Everything now depends on their actual performance at the negotiations proper. Both men walked into the great hall at the same time. Ka-ka-ka… Countless bladed polearms immediately obstructed their way. They tilted their heads, and each of their attendants promptly whipped out their official documents of entry and allowed the guards to conduct the necessary body search.
Liu Yu sighed wistfully, and then cast a long glance at the couplets hanging by Hell’s Gate.
“Sins of three lives in the mortal realm are accorded to thee.” Netherflames roared around the calligraphic strokes. If this had been seen in the mortal realm, it would have been terrifying. But now, it only looked all too familiar.
“Hath Hell spared any since ages past.” Chaghan couldn’t help but read on, and even raised his hand to touch the couplet. As soon as he touched it, the couplet immediately roared into flames which promptly wrapped around him like a poisonous snake.
He froze, and then promptly withdrew his hand with a bitter smile on his face.
Today, they would no longer be considered feudal officials of Hell.
The old Hell has gone, and the new Hell has come. Their records had gone up in flames, just like the old Hell, and there was no longer a place for them in the new Hell.
We’re… no different from wandering ghosts now…
Clang! Just then, the Black Armored Troops withdrew their bladed barricade and allowed passage to the two feudal officials. It was only then that they discovered that many of their colleagues had already arrived.
A dozen-meter tall statue of the thousand-handed incarnation of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva stood right in the middle of the great hall.
He had a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. Every part of its body which could hold something had an oil lamp attached to it, and each of these lamps were burning with flickering green netherflames. They could tell at a glance that there were no less than thousands of such lamps on the statue right now.
Beyond the statue, there were countless mantles where scriptures were placed. But, more importantly, there was a massive twenty-meters round table that was placed right before the statue. Qin Ye sat on the main seat right under the cover of the Buddha statue where thousands of flames were burning bright, almost as though he were an incarnation of the earlier two King Yanluos.
All twelve envoys soon arrived, and their advisors also took their seats right behind each of their masters. Qin Ye gently knocked on the table and spoke with a stern tone of voice, “Today marks the first day of our international trade conference. The reason why I’m not calling this the imperial court meeting, is because I personally am of the view that… the imperial court meeting has already ended last night.”
None of the feudal officials said a single word. Nevertheless, Qin Ye simply continued as planned.
“There are those who insist on abandoning me and leaving their long standing relationship with Hell a thing of the past. Since I’m unable to keep you, then I won’t bother trying to keep you either.” He spoke calmly, as though Hanyang, the Khmer Empire, Siam, Bagan of Birmania, Sanfotsi, Jiaozhi, and the Bamboo Region had never been a vassal state in the first place, “Once we come to an agreement on the terms of our international trade, the following seven persons, Guo Ziyi, Chang Yuchun, Ma Fubo, Han Qinhu, Liu Yu, Gao Changgong, Chaghan Temur, will henceforth no longer be considered a part of Hell. I’ll publicly strike off their names in Hell’s Record at the end of this conference. Su Dongxue.”
“Your humble servant is here.” Su Dongxue stood up with a scroll, while Qin Ye nodded, “Read out the articles of our charter for the seven feudal officials who are declaring independence.”
Su Dongxue unraveled the scroll and began to read softly, “Article One. Once the vassal states known as Hanyang, the Khmer Empire, Siam, Bagan, Sanfotsi, Jiaozhi, and the Bamboo Region secede all vassalage relations with Hell, Hell shall henceforth suspend all business transactions with them. Article One shall take immediate effect as soon as the names of the feudal officials are struck off Hell’s Records.”
“Article Two. The aforementioned seven vassal states shall henceforth no longer be granted easement through Cathay. Should they enter or cross the territorial borders of Cathay without Hell’s permission, such entry shall be considered illegal entry, and they shall be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the old Hell. Article Two shall take immediate effect as soon as the names of the feudal officials are struck off Hell’s Records.”
Liu Yu’s face twitched slightly.
Seceding from Hell had always been a dream of mine. The day has finally come to spread my wings and soar without looking back at the shackles of Hell, yet… why is there some indescribable feeling that seems to be plaguing my heart?
Am I feeling remorseful that things had to be this way with the new Hell? Or am I feeling pained by the fact that I’ll henceforth no longer be considered a Cathayan?
He didn’t have the answers to these questions, yet neither was he willing to delve any deeper into these things. Su Dongxue continued.
“Article Three. The old Hell’s obligation to protect the said vassal states, and the said vassal state’s obligations to pay tribute to Hell are henceforth abolished. Article Three shall take immediate effect as soon as the names of the feudal officials are struck off Hell’s Records.”
Line by line, these articles were read one after the other. None of them stood out in particular to the feudal officials. Finally, Su Dongxue was at the very end of the scroll.
“Article Twelve. Once the aforementioned seven vassal states secede from Hell, they shall no longer have access to the Book of Life and Death and the Mirror of Eminence. Article Twelve shall take immediate effect as soon as the names of the feudal officials are struck off Hell’s Records.”
As soon as she finished reading the scroll, Liu Yu, Gao Changgong, Chaghan and Ma Fubo immediately shot to their feet! On the other hand, Yu Qian and Yang Jiye raised their heads abruptly, revealing bright flames that were burning from the depths of their eyes.
Zhou Yu and the other two neutral feudal officials, together with the other faction who were sitting on the fence, comprising Han Qinhu, Chang Yuchun, and Guo Ziyi, all gasped at the same time as they stared in astonishment at Qin Ye, only to realize that he was simply smiling faintly back at them.
Damn it… how could we have forgotten about such an important condition!
Terrible. This is a terrible start to the negotiations. To think that he would bare his fangs at us with such audacity right from the onset!Previous Chapter Next Chapter