Chapter 370: The Demon King's First Expedition

Oda Nobunaga walked out of Hell’s Gate, and slowly made his way back towards the money tree with his hands behind his back. He was deep in thought. The area around the money tree was already surrounded by a tall green fence, and the only thing that could be heard from within were the concerted shouts of training.

He entered the fenced up area. There was an ancient brick-and-stone building that was located in the innermost part of the fenced area, upon which lay a massive stone platform that was none other than the general’s platform. There was a massive clearance located right in front of the platform, where the entire garrison of troops were gathered. All eight thousand Yin soldiers were armed with simple wooden sticks and practising a thrusting motion right now, while the thousand or so Umamawari horse guards dressed in majestic Cathayan armor shuttled between their ranks, constantly pointing at them and providing them guidance.

Whoosh… The wind tousled their scarlet cloaks. Just then, Oda Nobutada walked over and cupped his hands respectfully, “Father.”

When he looked up at his father and caught the complex gaze in his eyes, Oda Nobunata blinked curiously, “You’ve… got something on your mind.”

It was an affirmative statement.

Oda Nobunaga didn’t respond immediately. Instead, he watched the thousands upon thousands of Yin soldiers moving uniformly with every raise of the drill master’s spear. The glorious canopy of the money tree swayed softly over their heads, concealing the deep, austere atmosphere within the fenced up area. Then, Nobunaga suddenly remarked, “Nobutada, do you think… Lord Qin trusts us?”

Oda Nobutada didn’t expect the sudden question, and he naturally froze for a moment. He didn’t know how exactly he was to respond to something like that.

Trust?

We’ve undoubtedly been given full command over the military, but… something still feels a little bit out of place.

Nothing was overt, but it didn’t change the fact that the Yin soldiers only looked at them with cursory respect in their eyes, and yet none of them deigned to report anything to them of their own initiative. Groups of Yin soldiers would be seen laughing and chatting among themselves, only to become suddenly silent and distant as soon as they noticed one of the Nipponese men approaching their ranks. It was a silent, subtle rejection of their leadership.

They knew that such an aversion towards them stemmed from the undertones of tension between Nippon and Cathay. Furthermore, there was also a xenophobic mentality that was deeply ingrained in their hearts and minds. It was something that was insidious, and would take an incredibly long time to dissolve. Not even a hundred years would make a difference to something set as deeply as that.

Distrust?

If that were indeed the case, then how could they possibly have been given command of the entire security force of Hell in the first place?

Oda Nobutada didn’t respond, and Oda Nobunaga suddenly smiled, “I don’t need an answer from you. But let me ask you something else. What kind of leader do you think he is?”

This time, Oda Nobutada answered readily.

“A man of a thousand faces.” Oda Nobutada responded in earnest, “He treats each person differently, in accordance with his assessment of them, and yet he does so seamlessly and proficiently. He has an excellent grasp over the human heart, and he’s a master at manipulating it. He has a keen sense for great things, and he… most certainly isn’t as young as he appears to be. In fact, there are even times when I feel completely naked to his scrutiny, almost as though his intense gaze can penetrate the most perfect facade that I’ve put up. He’s… formidable. Although he doesn’t have the air of a leader about him, he’s undoubtedly… a natural born leader.”

Oda Nobunaga responded, “This was because he never wanted to lead others. Or perhaps I should say that he’s not willing to lead others. But he was still forced to do so anyway. This is why his image doesn’t seem to cohere with his talents. A leader like this is someone who is truly terrifying. His greatest strength lies in the fact that he doesn’t have any desires, and that allows him to be firm as iron. This was one of the reasons he dared to clash head on against the twelve envoys who are each historically renowned figures in their own rights.”

He sighed softly, and then smiled, “So why would such a person suddenly put me in charge of the new Hell?”

“It’s--... Ah?” Oda Nobutada nodded, and then nearly jumped in astonishment, “Father! L-lord Qin has placed you in charge of Hell?! Then, he--... That’s right! He’s going to personally lead the expedition in order to establish the new sea trade city, isn’t he? Father, this is our chance!”

SMACK!

Oda Nobunaga immediately slapped him across the cheeks before he could even finish his statement.

“Idiot!!” He grabbed his son by the collar and lifted him up, while the bones that were protruding out of his chest like willow branches promptly enveloped Oda Nobutada like a bone cage. Oda Nobunaga gnashed his teeth, “Chance? What chance?!”

“Bear this in mind - we’re now part of the Cathayan underworld! Or are you saying that you want to become the next Azai Nagamasa?!”

“This is a test… the final test for us! Do you understand?!” He shook Oda Nobutada with one hand. He drew a deep breath, and the branching bones began to shrink back into his chest. His voice turned calm once more, “So what kind of chance do you think this is? Idiot. Look up at the eyes of the Cathayan Yin spirits in front of you. You want to lead an uprising? Who’s going to follow you?”

“In order to stage an uprising, the pretext is that there is civil unrest, and there exists a rebellious group within that is willing to rise up against the leaders. But what you’re suggesting right now is for Nipponese warlords to plant a flag in Cathay and lead Cathayan Yin spirits to an uprising! Do you think this is possible? Additionally, do you know what the wilderness outside of Hell contains? Yin beasts! It’s potentially full of Judge-class Yin beasts at that! With our Umamawari horse guards alone, we’d never make it to the next city alive.”

“What happens in future doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that we must ensure that Hell has our backs. Without Lord Qin’s endorsement, we’d never be able to achieve anything in Hell. Come as you are, and fully embrace your new identity as a Cathayan Yin spirit. And you’d be wise to erase those redundant thoughts in your mind! Don’t even consider usurpation. It’s impossible!”

Oda Nobutada covered his reddened face and nodded deeply.

Oda Nobunaga sighed softly, “My son… Father has high hopes for you, but you… should grasp every opportunity to watch and learn from Lord Qin. As long as you can grasp people’s hearts, you’d practically be able to stand on top of the world.”

Silence.

After some time, Oda Nobutada slowly rose to his feet, “Rest assured, father, I’ll carry myself as a Cathayan Yin spirit through and through, and I’ll leave any baggage from before behind.”

Oda Nobunaga responded unexpectedly, “Is that it?”

Oda Nobutada was baffled. What else did his father possibly want?

“You’re still looking at things in a rather one-sided fashion.” Oda Nobunaga pointed his finger to the thousands of Yin soldiers arrayed in ranks, “Lord Qin’s act of placing your father in charge of the new Hell is not just a test to us. It’s also tantamount to extending to us an olive branch! Apart from that, there’s another test that he’s set in place, and that’s none other than the upcoming eastbound expedition.”

“We’re going to be encountering wild Yin beasts along the entire expedition. There’s no doubt that we’re currently still a little bit out of place, and the reason why we’ve intentionally remained rather low profile to date is because we don’t want to stir up the ambers of conflict. But as long as we head out on the expedition with our men and shed blood, sweat and tears together with them, then… the Yin army of Hell will slowly but surely begin to accept us as one of their own. This way, when we finally embark on our great march towards Nippon, the Yin soldiers of Hell will wholeheartedly be willing to follow us and give it their all!”

“This is why I say that the tests are also an opportunity granted to us by Lord Qin. Otherwise, he could have simply let Murai-kun lead the team this time, thereby diluting my power and influence over the troops and promote Murai-kun instead. But, he didn’t do that, and instead chose to believe in me. If he’s willing to do that much, how could I simply turn my back on him? Do you understand what you have to do now, Nobutada?”

“I understand.” Oda Nobutada’s response was finally filled with sincerity and earnestness. He was now fully convinced by his father.

“Very well.” Oda Nobunaga waved his hand at Nobutada and began to organize his armor, “First up, the billions of blight vermin in the old Hell are ripe for our harvest. It’s only with the right weapons and tools that we’d… be properly equipped to depart on the eastbound expedition.”

“From what we’ve learnt, it seems like this journey… is going to be one fraught with life-and-death struggles. The Yin beasts that we’ll be encountering are minimally Hellguard-class Yin beasts, and this is not to mention the terrifying natural phenomena that we might encounter along the way. Regardless of what happens, this is going to be a baptism by fire, and all who remain alive are qualified to be called the elite among the elites!”

“We cannot always hide in the shadows of the Black Armored Troops.” He drew a deep breath and raised his hands, “Sound the war drums! Rally the troops!”

Oooooooo! Dong, dong, dong! The war trumpets blared, and the war drums thumped with a rousing tempo. The Umamawari horse guards that were scattered throughout the ranks of the Yin soldiers immediately stopped moving and turned their attention to the general’s platform. The rest of the Yin soldiers stood upright and at attention.

The majestic banners bearing the Oda Clan’s cherry blossom emblem fluttered in the background, and Oda Nobunaga’s heart thumped wildly. How many years has it been since his banner was raised in such a glorious manner?

Just you wait and see… The twelve envoys might be illustrious in their own rights, but I, Oda Nobunaga, am no lesser than any one of you either!

The entire grounds were silent. Nobunaga’s unit had been practising for over half a year now, and they wielded their weapons almost as though it were a mere extension of their bodies. All that awaited them was a glorious battle and the experience of war.

Several moments later, Oda Nobunaga erupted with the aura of a Hellguard-class emissary. “Gentlemen. It’s been half a year of gruelling practice, and it’s finally time… to see the fruits of your labour.”

Bright glints of light were immediately seen in the eyes of the Umamawari horse guards.

War is about to break out…

Against who?

No… it doesn’t matter. The Yin soldiers under Lord Nobunaga’s command have already reached eight thousand men. Coupled with us thousand or so Umamawari horse guards, we practically have ten thousand men. We won’t let him down!

The recruits didn’t have a similar premonition to the Umamawari horse guards. That said, Oda Nobunaga didn’t mind. After all, such sensitivities to war was something that came only with experience and bloodshed. Only veterans could tell when war was about to begin, and whether the decision would be to fight or take flight. This was the stark difference in experience.

“We’ve only got the lowest-grade weapons right now, but we have an entire field of raw materials that are right for our plundering, and everything is located right in the old Hell! Furthermore, we have nearly ten thousand brave soldiers gathered in this location today. So, everyone, tell me, what shall we do?”

“Kill the blight vermin!!” Murai Sadakatsu was standing on the first row, right in front of the general’s platform. His eyes blazed with scarlet netherflames, “Kill them all! Take them down for the new Hell!”

“Kill!!” A split second later, the Umamawari horse guards and Oda Nobunaga’s personal guards echoed in unison.

It was but a single word, but this single word was sufficient to stir the boiling blood in the hearts of the rookies.

It takes a thousand days to raise an army, but a moment to deploy them. Today marked the day that the new Hell’s blade was going to be unsheathed.

“What about you?!” Oda Nobunaga bellowed at the rest of the Yin soldiers, “Lord Qin has commanded us to mobilize all forces against the old Hell and exterminate the blight vermin! Who’s with me?! Answer me!!”

Shk!

He unsheathed his katana, the Kiku-ichimonji, and it dazzled menacingly under the gloomy night sky.

Silence.

A split second later, the entire garrison of Yin soldiers roared in unison, “I’m willing to die for Hell!!!”

“Very well.” Oda Nobunaga thrusted Kiku-ichimonji into the ground with a brilliant flame in his eyes, “Murai-kun.”

“Here.” Murai Sadakatsu stepped forward.

“Take command of two thousand troops and form the left vanguard!”

“Yes!”

“Oni-kun, take command of two thousand troops and form the right vanguard!”

“Yes!”

“Nobutada, take two thousand troops and form the rearguard archers!”

“Yes!”

“I’ll personally take charge of the remaining two thousand troops and form the core of the army. We’ll depart in one week! Everything will be executed in accordance with strict military regimentation! All who disobey shall be summarily executed!!”

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