Chapter 358: Once and For All

Yes… that’s it!

That’s the thing he’s truly looking for!

The new Hell had just been established. The collapse of the old Hell was like the crumbling away of half the support that should have been available to the new Hell. If they wanted to make the best of the situation, trade was undoubtedly the best option over here. Otherwise, there was simply no way that Hell would be able to grow their economy quickly enough based solely on their internal economy.

But who do they trade with?

Trade with foreign lands was impossible. Hell could very much still be described as an underworld with its borders closed to other lands. On the other hand, opening up oneself to merchant ships would indubitably also mean the outflow of information and news of Hell’s circumstances. Therefore, trade with the twelve envoys had to be the best solution in the bind they were in right now!

Unfortunately… the only ones who were open to the idea of trade routes were only Yu Qian and Yang Jiye.

Not even Zhou Gongjin was willing to consider something like this.

This was because the twelve envoys knew full well that trade would bring about the opportunity for the new Hell to develop rapidly, and this was something that not even those who were neutral and sitting on the fence were willing to have. After all, the only reason why they could remain neutral observers was precisely because Hell wasn’t strong enough. Was there any room for neutrality once Hell grew powerful?

“So… the two trade routes with the remote lands of Licchavi and Luzon aren’t sufficient to satiate your appetite? And because there’s no conflict between the neutral factions and the new Hell, you believe that we’ll reject this proposal of yours forthrightly? So, instead, capitalizing on the conflict between the new Hell on the one hand and Bagan, Jiaozhi, the Bamboo Region and Hanyang, you’ve now got a pretext to deny them the use of the Book of Life and Death and seek compensation for their independence. Thus, flowing from there, the ones you’re looking to establish trade routes are surprisingly not us, the neutral feudal officials, but in fact the feudal officials representing hostile, rival underworlds?”

Shk… He gently snapped shut his golden folding fan. His heartbeats accelerated, and he was somewhat surprised by the thoughts going through his mind. That said, something told him that this was indeed the true purpose of the new King Yanluo of Hell!

“What a claim for the sky and then some… On the surface, it looks no different from a ridiculous demand, but in truth, it’s no more than an offensive posture in negotiations so that he creates room for leverage. He had never wanted the compensation to begin with. Instead, he would make it seem like it’s something he desires, and then appear to compromise with the proposition of establishing trade routes through the sea port city! And that’s his true purpose and objective today!”

Negotiations generally required compromise on both sides. If Liu Yu couldn’t even agree to a proposition as yesable as the port city trade route, then he would truly be seen as being unreasonably stubborn. Moreover, the current request was only that of a trade treaty at an open port, and they would be given free reign as to the goods that they would be curating for export. Thus, Zhou Yu was practically certain that Liu Yu’s faction would most certainly agree to the compromise.

Your lack of experience in modern day societal interactions has given him all the edge he needs over the course of these negotiations…

As soon as you agree, the consequences are going to be dire!

But before Zhou Yu could even speak up, Qin Ye immediately continued, foreclosing any possibilities for reactions or cautions, “I intend to conduct the next auction for new armaments at this sea port city. In fact, all future armaments will be transacted at this city. That said, all foreign Yin spirits shall be barred from entering the city. So, if you don’t agree to the compromise that I’m offering right now, then… I can almost guarantee that the new Hell will no longer be able to provide you with any armaments in future - not even when the enemy is knocking on your doors!”

Whoa!

Zhou Yu closed his eyes and lowered his head. His ears were ringing from the bombshell that Qin Ye had just dropped. The new King Yanluo of Hell had finally shown his hand, only to reveal a royal flush.

It was too late.

He could tell that their minds were already made up.

The most powerful armaments card was played at the most opportune time. He was essentially telling everyone that the new Hell was prepared to exclude the four feudal officials who were bent on independence. If they wanted new armaments, they would have to agree to open up sea trade. There weren't any other alternatives for their consideration.

It was a dead end.

It was checkmate.

“Gongjin, why are you sighing?” Wang Meng furrowed his brows and whispered softly.

“He looks like he’s throwing out a whole bunch of unreasonable, ridiculous conditions, but the truth of the matter is that everything is tightly strung together like the links of an iron chain. He had spent dozens of minutes determining the fate of the new Hell for the next hundred years. Outstanding. Truly outstanding…” Zhou Yu closed his eyes and sighed with great emotion. Wang Meng was somewhat stunned, “What do you mean?”

Zhou Yu slowly opened his eyes and gazed deeply into Wang Meng’s eyes, before smiling softly, “Liu Yu’s next response would most probably be - ‘I agree’.”

“I agree.” As soon as Zhou Yu finished speaking, Liu Yu responded in the exact same manner as Zhou Yu predicted, “Let’s have some representatives come together to draw up the specifics of this treaty. But let me make this clear - there can’t be any quota or restrictions. I’ll have the final say as to what I want to export.”

Wang Mang immediately turned to look at Zhou Yu with great astonishment.

Zhou Yu smiled and fanned himself gently with his folding fan. You’ve played right into the palm of his hands. Liu Yu… you still don’t understand his true purpose for these negotiations. I can almost guarantee his agreement on these incidental requests you’re making.

“I give you my word.” Qin Ye smiled and continued, “Then, I’ll make it clear as well. All goods to be traded shall be taxed in accordance with the old system of taxation, where the exporting state would take a 50% tax of which a fifth of such tax would be set aside for Hell as tribute. A higher levy of one-eighth would be taxed on luxury goods. This is non-negotiable.”

As expected…

Zhou Yu couldn’t wait to leave. If his guess was right, the new King Yanluo of Hell would subsequently throw out a series of diplomatic issues in order to cover up his real purpose over here.

He’s truly terrifying…

“No objections.” “I agree.” “Not an issue.” “Then… let’s ink the deal. We’ve already drawn up a similar agreement.”

Time passed quickly. Then, when Qin Ye’s final proposal of a military alliance was summarily rejected, it was already midnight once more.

“These negotiations have been quite fruitful. We’ve managed to cover every item on the agenda today. And here I thought things might still drag until tomorrow as well.” Qin Ye flipped through his docket with great interest. All of the documents placed within the docket were the various memorandums of understanding that had been signed earlier today. These will all be finalized in actual binding treaties which would be signed by the signatory underworlds in the months to come. And that… would be the final nail on the coffin.

Both parties had made their compromises, and also stood to benefit from the arrangements. Then, there were some that only benefited Liu Yu. However, Qin Ye couldn’t care less. As soon as the sea port city was up and running… he would show these feudal officials just how much influence he actually held over these officials without them even realizing it.

“Since that’s the case, then we’ll be departing for our respective fiefdoms tomorrow. Lord Qin, please don’t forget to strike out our names from Hell’s Records tonight.” The imperial court meeting was finally officially over, and everyone finally loosened their tense spirits. Liu Yu smiled and cupped his hands respectfully towards Qin Ye, “I’ll reciprocate the hospitality you’ve given to me the next time you visit Hanyang.”

“Certainly.” Qin Ye smiled and cupped his hands back at Liu Yu. With that, everyone took their leave and returned to their temporary residence, where they promptly tossed their dockets into the cabinets and slumped onto the bed at once.

It’s finally over…

The short imperial court meeting had finally come to an end.

Half a year of preparatory work had culminated in two full days of intense interactions. It could only be described as nerve-wracking. The mental tussle of this battle of wits was simply too draining.

And it wasn’t so much physically tiring as it drained their spirits.

And now that the tension was finally released, Qin Ye finally felt his body loosen up, and his brows finally easing with relief.

No… there’s still some loose ends to tie up…

Tomorrow marked the day he would take stock of the harvest he had managed to obtain this time. Two feudal officials, two vassal states, a tribute of goods and Yin spirit stones worth ten billion Yin spirit stones, and his reward for auctioning off the New Tigerform Battle Armor. And, most importantly, taking into account Yu Qian and Yang Jiye’s willingness, he had finally managed to secure six trade routes for the future economic development of Hell! These represented a source of finance and resources from the sea port city!

Now that this has finally been set in stone, the external demand would be able to stimulate their internal industries, thereby propelling their economy with an endless virtuous cycle. Supplies would pour in endlessly… and he would even be able to begin reaping the Yin spirits who would enter Hell through the sea port city! The thought of these things caused his heart to thump wildly.

The two days that had just passed had essentially laid a solid foundation upon which Hell was going to be built for the next hundred years to come!

“Then… let’s settle all of these once and for all…” After resting for half an hour, he sat up, completely rejuvenated, and took a deep breath. Then, he raised his hand and pressed gently on his chest, causing Hell’s Record to fly out in an instant. He grabbed at the air, and a brush appeared.

Then, he gently flipped through the yellowing records that were filled with countless darkened names. These were all records of the top brass of the old Hell’s government who had been whisked off into paradise during Ksitigarbha’s ascension.

As he continued to flip through the pages, he saw that every single page was filled with darkened names, almost as though it spelt the fall of an entire dynasty.

Hell’s Records were incredibly long. He continuously flipped through the records for an hour, yet the records simply revealed pages after pages of darkened names, almost as though he had been flipping through the exact same page. If not for the fact that the names that were darkened on each page were different, Qin Ye might have mistakenly thought that time had stopped.

His fiery heart had already calmed down by now. Having looked through the extent of Hell’s Records, he soon realized how much the new Hell had to go before it could even be considered in the same light as the old Hell.

The twelve envoys were only just the beginning.

Whoosh… After flipping for another ten minutes, he finally saw the records of Liu Yu, Ma Fubo, Gao Changgong and Chaghan Temur. All of their names were crimson as blood.

Each of them had records that were at least half a page long. He sighed wistfully, before finally crossing their names out with the brush, causing their names to vanish from the pages of Hell’s Records.

I’m afraid that the next time we meet is most likely going to be on the battlefields…

Boom! As soon as he struck off their names, they instantly vanished, and the entire space in Hell trembled slightly. Ten thousand spots of netherflames suddenly rose from the depths of Hell, before promptly converging and rushing straight for the residences of the four feudal officials like a bolt of lightning.

A soft nethergale swept across the room, gently tousling Qin Ye’s clothes and hair.

It’s finally over…

This… settles all of the loose ends.

There’s no keeping those who are intent on leaving; and there’s no forcing those who are intent on staying. The road ahead… is still long and winding.

Clatter… Meanwhile, Liu Yu and the other feudal officials who were bent on declaring independence soon noticed the bolt of netherflames that burst straight into their room. It went just as quickly as it came, and yet the four men remained completely still, like wooden sculptures.

After some time, they reached into their robes at the exact same time and pulled out a wooden token that had clearly been split in half.

The obverse side of the wooden token was etched with their names, while the reverse side was… completely blank.

It was almost as though that bolt from the blue had erased all traces of what used to be there.

“That’s… where the words ‘Emissary of Hell’ used to be located…” Ma Fubo glanced out of the window and into the dark night sky as he sighed wistfully. After some time, he let out a soft chuckle that was clearly laden with complex emotions, “Let’s go… it’s all over… we’ve managed to get what we’ve come for…”

“Henceforth, we no longer have anything to do with the Cathayan underworld!”

“From now on… there’s no longer the Lord of Bagan, the Lord of the Bamboo Region, the Lord of Hanyang and the Lord of Jiaozhi. Instead, there are new nations - the state of Bagan, the state of the Bamboo Region, the state of Hanyang, and the state of Jiaozhi!”

“Everything is over… Everything is finally over…” He turned around and transformed into a nethergale, before promptly departing from Hell.

Three other streams of nethergale soon followed. These were undoubtedly Liu Yu, Gao Changgong and Chaghan.

They had already achieved the purpose for which they were here, and none of them wanted to stay a moment longer. Only their advisors remained behind in the new Hell in order to continue negotiating and ironing out the finer details of the agreements to be entered between these newfound states.

They also didn’t think of bidding farewell to the Yanluo of Hell. After all… they were now each the emperor and master of their own lands as well! None of them were willing to see themselves as an entity subservient to such a weak Yanluo.

Whoosh… The scarlet vortex in the sky trembled softly in the sky. As soon as the four streams of nethergale appeared, the hundred thousand troops assembled outside of Hell’s borders immediately stood at attention.

“Men.” Liu Yu had at some point already changed into a golden dragon robe replete with an emperor’s crown. He waved his long sleeves and declared, “We return to the Great Song Dynasty!!!”

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