“My mind is made up.” Han Qinhu didn’t say much, and he promptly took his seat with that.
Qin Ye licked his lips. The situation was slowly but surely turning in his favour. The dark clouds that were looming over Hell since the commencement of the imperial court meeting had already cleared up, and he could already see the rays of hope shining brightly over the lands. Three feudal lords didn’t count for much, but the recanting of their earlier position was still a cause for celebration.
After all, it was akin to securing himself three overseas trade routes at once, together with a windfall of tributary offerings every fifty years!
It even meant three additional sources of news and information for Hell, as well as the addition of three famous historical figures to Hell’s ranks of officials!
“Good. Hell will never mistreat those who remain loyal to it.” He smiled, “This is the first international trade conference ever since I’d taken over Hell’s reins, so there are quite a number of issues to be discussed on the agenda here. Why don’t we move on from this and delve right into the next issue?”
The agreement certainly wasn’t something to be signed right now.
What they would be inking at the end of this meeting was a document called a memorandum of understanding.
It contained the material intention and points of agreement that both factions had agreed to. That said, the actual agreement would only be finalized pursuant to the results of a legal tug-of-war from both sides, through which many subsidiary issues and minutiae of detail would be ironed out. These included things such as where to draw the boundary lines, what kind of behaviour would attract a certain kind of sanction, and all other details that were incidental to and which arises out of the purpose of the agreement. We’re talking about hundreds upon hundreds of clauses and sub-clauses! That’s not what the present meeting was for. The feudal officials were only concerned about the grand scheme of things. The rest of the work was to be ironed out by the respective civil servants under the charge of their overarching government.
Although the new Hell’s legal department was sparse and lacking in many ways, the silver lining was that it was at least still in existence. This would undoubtedly be a useful learning opportunity for them to hone their skills.
The entire process would take at least six months to a year, before the actual agreement would be finalized and inked in counterparts. Such an experience would most certainly spur incredible growth and maturity in the legal team.
Haa… Thus concluded the end of the first item on the agenda. Both sides had come to a compromise, and neither said anything more.
Qin Ye coughed lightly, “Then, moving on, we’ll be talking about what each fiefdom will be offering to Hell as compensation for their independence.”
The twelve envoys stared at Qin Ye as though they were seeing a living ghost. Buddy, what the hell do you mean? Are you hell bent on collecting every bit of money you can get your hands on? You’re not even willing to spare a single drop? You want compensation for leaving Hell? Have you ever considered your own lack of military might, and the fact that you can’t actually stop us from leaving?
And speaking of which, when did you develop such thick skin anyway?
Zhou Yu stared blankly at Qin Ye, only to realize that Qin Ye was still smiling brightly despite the baptism of shocked gazes on him. In fact, his expression wasn’t in the slightest bit unnatural. In that instant, it suddenly occurred to Zhou Yu that he might very well have underestimated just how thick this man’s skin was.
But he soon snapped right back to his senses. Having come this far into the negotiations, he knew that Qin Ye was soon about to reveal his true purposes. He couldn’t wait to see what else this new King Yanluo had hidden up his sleeves, so that he could finally decide… which way the Tangming underworld was going to go from here.
Gao Changgong’s face was flushed with fury, yet everything was hidden right underneath that mask of his. He was the first one who broke the silence, “And what’s this compensation you’re seeking?”
Qin Ye explained with a straight face, “I’ve checked Hell’s records. Back then, the old Hell had invested hundreds of billions of Yin spirits stones in order to help each vassal state get up on its feet! This includes support in the construction of most national highways, and the establishment of your underworld’s county-level and city-level government branches as well. That naturally includes all of the major special buildings that have been constructed in each of your underworlds. Hell was integral in bringing you up to becoming what you are today. Unless… you’re denying this charge?”
“But that’s the input of the old Hell! What has that got to do with you?!” Chaghan snorted.
“It’s got to do with me because I’m the successor of the old Hell!” Qin Ye slammed on the table and shot to his feet, “What’s the matter? Gentlemen, you’ve enjoyed the favor of Hell, and yet you’re now turning your back on your obligations to Hell? All I’m asking is that you render an account just like you would to the old Hell. I’m not even asking you to pay interest on the loans you’ve made from Hell from ages past. Do you even consider yourselves Cathayan Yin spirits to begin with? Are you forcing me to completely erase all traces of each of you defiant Yin spirits from every single record we have?”
“Ridiculous!” Liu Yu flicked his sleeves and stood up with a defiant laugh, “I’ve paid dozens of tribute to the old Hell since time immemorial, and I’ve long since repaid all favours that the old Hell has extended to us! What gives you the right to make such demands of us in the first place?! Lord Qin, please have some self-respect!”
“Ridiculous indeed.” Yu Qian stood up with his hands clasped tightly within his long red sleeves as he sneered back, “Liu Jinu, you died in 420 A.D., more than 1,600 years ago. Had Cathay not established and maintained a trade route to Hanyang over the last 1,600 years, do you think you would even have the ability to vie for independence right now? If not for the fact that Hell’s Imperial College dispatches envoys to nurture and groom your underworld’s potential talents into who they are right now, do you think any of your advisors standing here today would even exist?!”
“You’re a feudal official. Quite apart from the fact that you don’t know how to repay kindness with kindness, you’re even turning your back on Hell? The old Hell has collapsed, and the new Hell is standing alone. You’ve been blessed by the previous reigning King Yanluo of Hell for 1,600 years, and rather than serving the new Hell with gratitude, you’re jumping on the earliest opportunity to take advantage of Hell’s current predicament?! You don’t deserve to be remembered in the annals of history! You’re an ingrate! A shameless white-eyed wolf!”
Liu Yu erupted with copious amounts of Yin energy, and a massive palm formed out of Yin energy alone flew right out of his sleeves and flew straight towards Yu Qian’s head in an instant. Lightning arced all around and spots of netherflames flared up from the palm. Simultaneously, Gao Changgong suddenly looked up, and two majestic wings congealed out of Yin energy abruptly unfolded from his back. Countless feathers were sent scattering into the skies in an instant. Ma Fubo also revealed a terrifying smile as his body floated up into the sky. He made a grabbing motion, and a massive lance promptly materialized in his hands. Thousands of ghosts appeared to dance around the lance, as though this were a needle that was forged in the deepest abysses of Hell.
A split second later, and with an earth-shattering tremor, a shockwave of Yin energy dozens of meters large suddenly erupted from the epicenter of the clash. The envoys who weren’t involved remained placid and indifferent, and yet they, too, were sent flying back dozens of meters by the powerful shockwave. But before the shockwave could travel any further, the ancient lamps that populated every part of the statue of Ksitigarbha flickered slightly, and the flame of a single lamp went out. Instantly, the expanding shockwave disappeared completely, almost as though it had never appeared!
Back at the conference table, Liu Yu, Gao Changgong, Chaghan and Ma Fubo’s clothes continued to flutter wildly to the billowing Yin energy that continued to diffuse through the air. On the other side, Arthis and Yang Jiye had already moved from their seats, and were now standing directly in front of Yu Qian. The area between the two fighting factions were filled with countless spots of crackling netherflames.
“Do you four still have any regard for His Excellency, the King Yanluo of Hell?!” Yang Jiye berated them with a deep voice, “And how dare you act this audaciously right under the feet of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva! Do you not feel the slightest bit ashamed in your actions?!”
“Don’t go overboard. If the Heavenly Dao perceives that Hell is once again thrown in chaos, it might just intervene against your actions. At that time… the ones to be banished to the depths of the six paths of reincarnation… might just be you!”
Then, there was silence.
Two opposing waves of Yin energy continued to clash powerfully against each other, causing sparks to fly from the tension and friction in the air.
Qin Ye’s back was now soaked through with cold sweat. He possessed the lowest level of cultivation among the people who were gathered at the table. In fact, he wasn’t even able to react to the sudden clash of powers earlier. The only reason why he was still seated at the table was only because he was protected by the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal in his protection. This was the second time it dawned on him just how terrifying advanced Judge-class entities were.
“Lord Yu… what a sharp and incisive tongue you possess.” Gao Changgong breathed a long sigh and took his seat, before speaking with what little remaining etiquette he could muster, “You… be careful of yourself.”
“Do you really see yourself as the embodiment of justice?” Chaghan sneered as he sat down, “You possess the weakest military might among all twelve envoys. How dare you even speak out at this conference against us?!”
Liu Yu and Ma Fubo didn’t say anything. Instead, they simply turned to look at Qin Ye as they promptly sat back down.
“My conscience is clear, and my heart is upright. On the other hand, I can tell that there are those among us who remain stubborn and obstinate. I shall continue to stand tall with my head held high as I watch what happens to you at the end of it all.” Yu Qian wasn’t in the slightest bit daunted. In fact, his appearance didn’t even shift in the slightest, almost as though the earlier altercation hadn’t happened at all. He snorted coldly, and then grew taciturn.
Qin Ye coughed lightly, and everyone promptly turned to look at him once more.
“So, does that mean that none of you are agreeable?” Qin Ye did his best to smile at everyone, but the truth of the matter was that his palms were already dripping wet with cold sweat.
“This way, I’m afraid that the Book of Life and Death and the Mirror of Eminence--...”
“Lord Qin.” Chaghan’s head hung low and didn’t even look at Qin Ye as he pulled out a tiger-shaped token and placed it on the table, “Do you know what this is?”
Qin Ye shook his head.
“The Yin Soldier Token.” Chaghan explained with indifference, “This token was originally black in colour, and the only part that was white was the head of the token. This token means that we can only conscript five thousand Yin soldiers. This was a prohibition placed on each of us feudal officials by the old Hell. As soon as the number exceeds five thousand, all excess Yin soldiers will vanish completely. But now, with the collapse of the old Hell, the entire token has now turned pure white. This means that… we can now command a total force of a hundred thousand Yin soldiers.”
“Additionally… as soon as I shoot this token into the air… “He leaned back comfortably into his chair, “Then, the army under my charge, garrisoned outside of Hell right now, will begin its siege against Hell with complete disregard to their own lives.”
Ban Chao immediately interjected, “I’d ask the four of you to watch your words. It’s fine if you want to declare independence. But… if you’re looking to usurp the throne of Hell right now, then don’t blame me for standing against you.”
Chaghan snorted coldly and gently ran his finger across the tiger-shaped token, “But if the new King Yanluo of Hell doesn’t give me a way out, why should I bother with Hell’s survival in the first place?”
“You’re really bent on staging an uprising…” Wang Meng sighed lightly, but didn’t say anything more.
“Lord Qin.” Gao Changgong looked at Qin Ye, “The state is like family, and we’re but coming and going. Do we really have to make such a huge fuss with a small separation, so much so that we can’t even maintain cordial relations with each other now? If Cathay meets with any cataclysmic disasters or devastating civil strife, we’ll still send troops over to lend our aid at the earliest notice. In fact, we’ve never even thought of discarding or abandoning our Cathayan heritage at all, so why do you have to make us enter into such forced negotiations?”
Liu Yu added with an expressionless face, “But if Lord Qin is bent on having your own way… then don’t blame us for now having any regard for our shared heritage and past.”
Qin Ye smiled faintly at the main perpetrators, all of whom were famous people in their own right. He could tell that they had all hardened their hearts against him, and were resorting to anything to have their way. They were but servants of the old Hell, and yet to think they had now stepped all over the new Hell’s lord and master, and even had him in a chokehold, as though they were saying - I’ve allowed you to shine, but don’t you dare shine too brightly. I’m giving you face, but don’t you think that I’m afraid of you!
Despite that, Qin Ye knew that now wasn’t the time to be putting them in their place. He suppressed the burning flames of indignation in his heart and continued with a placid smile on his face, “Fine. If you’re not willing to pay us a one-time compensation, then, let me propose another means of compensation.”
Zhou Yu softly shut his folding fan as he glanced intently at Qin Ye. Something told him that Qin Ye was finally going to reveal what he truly wanted!
Make an impossible offer, and then make a far more yesable proposition and make it sound like the next best alternative. No, in fact, doing so might even cause the other parties to the negotiations to think that they’ve managed to obtain what they were looking for.
“I’ll be founding a new city in the coastal regions within the coming year.”
“It’s going to be a trade city. I hope that the four of you will agree to an overseas trade treaty with the new Hell. If you can’t agree to this…” He glanced at Chaghan, “Then you’ll have to surrender everything that you have in your possession right now.”
“Hell isn’t a place that you can simply come and go as you please!”
Zhou Yu’s mind was instantly dazzled with a ray of enlightenment.Previous Chapter Next Chapter