Chapter 393: Misgivings

“But we have to be mindful of the possibility that they may have remnant forces remaining within Valley County.” Just as everyone’s blood was beginning to boil, Oda Nobunaga forcibly cooled everyone down with the countervailing considerations, “Even though I’m of the view that something like that isn’t very possible, it’s still prudent to be prepared for the worst case scenario.”

Now you’re talking.

Qin Ye lay comfortably in his bed - You think you’re mighty? You want to assassinate me? Well, my ganking force is here as well! Let’s see who’s more afraid of the other![1]

Oda Nobunaga cupped his hands respectfully towards Qin Ye, “Lord Qin, I’ve once asked Lady Arthis about battles between Yin soldiers, and her response was that the level of their cultivation doesn’t matter very much. What is more important is the strength of the military formation, spell arrays, as well as the armaments at their disposal. I wonder if you’ve seen anything noteworthy about their Yin soldiers on your clash against them?”

Qin Ye was instantly jolted back from his ‘ganking’ stupor, and he immediately furrowed his brows, “They have military formations at their disposal at well.”

“Military formation?!” Arthis gasped in horror, “How is that possible--... No, it’s possible after all. If the great sinner of the Confucian Family is among their midst, then it stands to reason that they know a thing or two about drawing up military formations.”

She chuckled bitterly, “The ‘greater’ the sinner is acclaimed to be, the higher their corresponding level of authority before their great fall from grace. After all, how significant a crime could a drifter citizen of Hell possibly commit? The effects of such crimes are limited at best. In other words, I’m afraid that the great sinner wouldn’t have been lower than me in the great hierarchy of Hell’s ranks. That, coupled with the fact that the Confucian Family was always considered one of the top gentries in Hell, means that it’s only natural that he knows a thing or two about military formations…”

Qin Ye blinked his eyes, “Hang on, you don’t know about military formations?”

Arthis coughed dryly, “About that… military formations might be powerful, but they have to be complemented with the use of spell arrays as well. You can think of it this way - military formations increase the strength of Yin soldiers, while spell arrays transform the strength of individual soldiers into a proper killing blow. He might know a thing or two about military formations, but spell arrays would never be part of his scope of knowledge! After all, the methods and means to setting up spell arrays are all hidden in the deepest caches in Fengdu Necropolis!”

Silence.

On account for their friendship, nobody thought to call Arthis out on her somewhat-contrived diversion of the topic of discussion.

The silence was awkward.

Fortunately, the awkwardness promptly faded away. Qin Ye sighed softly, and then turned to Gu Qing, “Mr Gu, do you know who the most evil persons in the history of Confucianism are?”

“There are too many.” Gu Qing chuckled bitterly, “The Confucian Family comprises several factions, each of whom alleges that the other is more evil than them. Furthermore, every dynasty has seen the emergence of their own sets of scholars who subscribe to Confucianism. How are we supposed to distinguish between them all?”

Oda Nobunaga nodded, “That’s true. But perhaps the identity of the perpetrator isn’t of the greatest importance right now. Lord Qin, could I trouble you to look back on your encounter with them and see if there was anything else apart from their military formations that stood out to them? For instance, their equipment?”

“After all, the military formation means nothing in light of the Karmic Fire Divine Crossbows at our disposal. We’ve still got approximately nine hundred thousand bolts in our arsenal to boot. If we clash head on right now, we might not be able to gain a flawless victory, but we wouldn’t have any issues holding our ground and protecting ourselves either.”

Qin Ye gently massaged his temples and thought about their encounter - I remember that there’s something else… Suddenly, he was struck with a brainwave, “That’s right, there’s still this.”

He flicked his finger, and a matchbox-sized item flew straight into Oda Nobunaga’s hands.

As it flew through the air, it slowly expanded, until it transformed into a piece of paper armor by the time it reached Oda Nobunaga!

“Armor?” Arthis was taken aback, “They’ve actually got something like that at their disposal?”

Without missing a beat, she continued, “Legend has it that there are one hundred and eight demonic stars in this world, all of whom are equipped with sacred sets of armor named ‘Cloths’. The three strongest entities in Hades are known as Rhadamanthus, Aeacus and Minos. The paper armor you’re holding should be from the Butterfly Demon known as Papillon.”

Silence.

Things were far more awkward than it had been before.

Seconds later, Gu Qing coughed dryly, “Lady Arthis… I’ve personally read the Saint Seiya: Hades series when it was first released…”

Qin Ye gazed blankly into the space in front of his eyes. Here he was, desperately attempting to salvage what little remained of the image of Hell’s leadership, and there she was, desperately working to destroy everything he had painstakingly built up. Will Hell still be able to flourish if its leadership implodes on itself? Would it give rise to partisan strife? Somebody, help me out here…

Arthis coughed dryly, “Ahem… sorry about that. What I meant is that you shouldn’t underestimate the fact that this artifact is made entirely out of paper. The fact that it was strengthened and imbued with Yin energy means that it can exhibit properties that are no different from refined steel back in the mortal realm. Did you say that… they were all wearing armor similar to this?”

Qin Ye nodded. He could sense that something was amiss, but he just couldn’t put a finger on it.

“Then that makes things even worse than it already is.” Oda Nobunaga finally looked up with an incomparably grim expression, “My lord, my lady, this time… I’m afraid we might have encountered the greatest obstacle Hell has seen since its reestablishment!”

“What do you mean?” Everyone turned to Oda Nobunaga with a quizzical expression in their eyes.

Oda Nobunaga flipped up the paper armor in his hand and immediately infused it with his Yin energy. At once, the paper armor glowed with a bright sheen as though it were steel. Then, Oda Nobunaga struck it with a powerful palm strike. To everyone’s great surprise, the armor didn’t shatter into pieces as they had expected. Instead, only a small part of it broke off, almost like it was made out of steel.

Oda Nobunaga stood up and waved his hands, and the doors and windows slammed shut immediately. It was only then that he drew a deep breath and continued, “Lady Arthis, is it possible to forge armor like that back in the mortal realm, and then incinerate it to send it to its intended location?”

Nobunaga’s actions caused everyone to tense up their spirits. Arthis promptly shook her head in response, “Not possible.”

“Then this means that it was something made in an underworld!” Oda Nobunaga swept a glance around the room, “This tells us one thing… someone… is manufacturing these underworldly armor, and their industrial output has already surpassed that of the new Hell!”

Without missing a beat, he immediately continued, “Furthermore, that very same entity also possesses the ability to train Yin soldiers. They’re basically equipped for the industrial production of Yin soldiers, from training straight through to equipping works. They even have the backing of an alliance of Judge-class entities behind them!”

Oda Nobunaga slowly cast a deep gaze at the leaders of Hell once more.

Everyone was in deep thought, including Qin Ye himself. Then, moments later, something clicked in Qin Ye’s mind, and an electrifying sense of fear surged throughout every corner of his body!

So that’s how it is…

He finally understood the full implications of what Oda Nobunaga was trying to communicate to them all. He also finally understood why he had earlier felt as though something was amiss. The implications of these matters were so grave that not even Nobunaga dared to speak openly about it!

In fact, Qin Ye was almost certain that this was the core of what Ksitigarbha wanted to warn him about all along! The layers around the mystery box had finally been peeled away, revealing the incredible truth that lay within!

Only a secret of this level was worth Ksitigarbha’s time making the trip down to the mortal realm just to warn Qin Ye about it!

Having noticed Arthis and Gu Qing’s somewhat befuddled expressions, Oda Nobunaga sought to rephrase, “What I’m saying is--...” But Qin Ye promptly interjected at that time, “Mr Oda.”

“Here.” Oda Nobunaga cupped his hands back respectfully.

Qin Ye gazed softly out the window, before speaking with great authority, “Ready the troops.”

“Yes!” Oda Nobunaga immediately knelt down on one knee and responded with gusto.

Gu Qing was startled, and he no longer dwelled on the implications of what Oda Nobunaga had alluded to, “My lord, are you certain? What about the possibility of unforeseen circumstances…”

“I’ve already decided.” Qin Ye turned to the two who were still befuddled and responded with categorical determination, “This battle must be fought.”

“And it must be fought regardless of whether they are still lingering about the Valley County right now!”

Nobody dared to raise any objections after his decision because Qin Ye had the final say in these matters. With that, Qin Ye laid back down on his bed and waved his hands, “Mr Gu shall take over my work in Hell for now. The rest of you may take your leave. Mr Oda, please remain behind.”

Arthis and Gu Qing promptly took their leave, leaving Oda Nobunaga alone with Qin Ye.

However, Qin Ye simply remained silent. He glanced out of the window and into the distance skies, reeling from shock by the matters that had struck him just moments ago.

What location could possibly support a military industry like that?

What location could possibly train such multitudes of Yin soldiers like that?

There was only one possible answer.

A city.

A ghost city!

Apart from the new Hell… ghost cities had already begun to sprout up across the rest of Cathay!

The more he thought about it, the more it all made sense. Dread wraiths and incarnate revenants already possessed sufficient spiritual awareness to notice that Hell was in turmoil, Emissaries of Hell were no longer around, and the mortal realm was in chaos. Not even the evil ghosts who had died within the last century knew of the existence of something known as the underworld. What was most likely to happen under such circumstances?

The bunching effect!

Any powerful Yin spirit could become the lord of the land! Cathay would once again be treated as a fertile piece of land with no master to its name! Anyone who plants a flag to the ground could lay claim to a territory and call it his own! It was a resurgence of the warring states era all over again!

And the new Hell… was no different from Liu Bei of the period of Three Kingdoms. It was undoubtedly the true lord of the lands, but they were still relegated to the same treatment as though they were but another vassal state in the region.

Only the last man standing in the warring states era would be finally crowned the emperor of the lands! It was only then that Qin Ye could finally claim to be the ruler of the underworld proper!

Right now, Qin Ye had a namesake that was passed on to him through the legatic inheritance bestowed upon him by Granny Meng, but Hell most certainly didn’t have the strength to live up to its name!

That’s right… This has to be it! This must be what Lord Ksitigarbha was warning me about. He was neither trying to warn me of a particular person who might threaten my life, nor the fact that I might be encountering a powerful Yin artifact which might send me straight to Death’s doors. Rather, he was telling me about the bigger picture!

This concerned the movement of powers within Cathay’s netherworld!

“I should’ve thought about this a long time ago…” Qin Ye lay softly on his bed and shut his eyes. He had been far too complacent just because Hell had been developing well by his own standards. But as it turned out, the difference between Hell and the other ghost cities was like night and day.

He was still in the dark as to just how many ghost cities had appeared in Cathay’s netherworld. Hell was still nestled away in a remote corner known as the City of Salvation. If not for Ksitigarbha’s warning, and Oda Nobunaga’s astute deductions, he would still have been none the wiser despite having seen the sheer extent to which the Yin soldiers were all clothed with armor.

The more he thought about it, the more he finally understood what was going on. He clearly wasn’t a part of the Confucian sinner’s alliance, and yet he had still stepped into the territory which the alliance saw as their own. The trespass of an Infernal Judge would naturally be taken as an incursion of enemy forces.

Especially since… the great sinner of the Confucian Family would immediately have been able to identify Qin Ye as a genuine Emissary of Hell.

Was there truly room for the emergence of a new Hell amidst the new warring states era of the netherworld? Something like that must be nipped in the bud before it poses a threat to our existence!

So that’s how it is… That’s how it is…

Just then, almost as though he could hear the contemplations of Qin Ye’s heart, Oda Nobunaga suddenly quipped, “My lord, there shouldn’t be too many ghost cities around right now. How difficult would it be to develop a fully-fledged ghost city within a hundred years of Hell’s collapse? Besides, how many Yin spirits possess the same level of knowledge and insight as the great sinner of the Confucian Family? And how many of them would be familiar with the workings of the old Hell? By my guess, it’s almost as though things are reverting back to the times when the first King Yanluo of Hell was establishing his rule across Cathay. That said… the silver lining for us is that we’ve got a completely different handle of the situation and far better information than the first King Yanluo ever had!”

“It is said that the first King Yanluo of Hell had fought for a thousand long years before finally establishing Fengdu Necropolis as the core of Hell. But how many ghost cities did he have to get through at that time? And how many are there now? Even if there are others, my guess is that there can’t possibly be more than four or five out there. And these are only speculations at that. The truth about this matter…”

He paused for a moment, before leaning in closer to Qin Ye, “Will only be revealed when we display our show of force back in Valley County!”

“There will definitely be clues left behind in the wake of an army’s march, and it’s from these clues that we would be able to infer and deduce many things about the state of the netherworld right now. Therefore, this battle must absolutely be fought at all costs! To protect Hell’s integrity and reputation, as well as to uncover the truth about this horrific speculation of ours!”

Qin Ye nodded. He couldn’t help but be thankful for the early realization of these matters.

It’s a good thing that we discovered these things early on. The earlier we learn of the bigger picture out there, the more advantage we have to work with. At the very least… we’d be able to stem all potential sources of rebellion before they even rise up against Hell!

This battle is practically an imperative! There are some things about this battle that not even Oda Nobunaga has considered. This battle isn’t just to protect Hell’s image, it’s also an outward declaration to the rest of Cathay that Hell is still around! It’s a warning that all rogue forces should take care to tread lightly!

And most importantly…

Where would the great sinner of the Confucian Family choose to establish his ghost city?

No matter how Qin Ye thought about it, there was only one answer.

Eastmount, Qufu![2]

It was a location that was only three cities away from Martial City!

Unfortunately, there was only room for one leader. After all, how could either faction simply allow a dangerous existence to reside in their backyard?

The blade… must be drawn!


1. Gank is a MOBA term used to refer to ambushing others and taking them by surprise.

2. This is where the hometown of Confucius, the Confucius mausoleum, and the official residence of his descendants are all located.

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