Qin Ye listened intently as the Harken continued with its explanations.
“That Rakshasa woman must have already informed you of the dangers of venturing out and paving a way to other localities. Unfortunately, a nascent, village-sized Hell would never possess the finances to support such endeavours. Therefore… it only stands to reason that Hell would for some time be unable to even keep in check the existing incarnate revenants across Cathay, much less prevent the rise of new incarnate revenants. Based on our hypothetical estimates back then, I’m afraid we’re talking about the existence of at least a hundred of such existences!”
“It’s only a matter of time before these incarnate revenants soon realize that there aren’t any natural predators that are keeping them in check! Do you think you can really rely on those organizations in the mortal realm to keep their numbers down? Let me tell you something, so long as an incarnate revenant is intent on hiding and is able to abstain from feeding, then given the mortal realm’s current means of detection, there’s not a single chance that they would be able to uncover the evil ghosts that are hidden among their midst! The world is practically their oyster right now! How quickly do you think incarnate revenants are going to start spawning? How rapidly would their strength increase? Everyone’s attention is currently fixated on the three daolords still in existence in this world, but… they fail to realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the surface… is the true fighting force of the netherworld that stands ready to crush all living forces!”
Qin Ye nodded softly. He hadn’t considered these things in such great detail, and it was naturally enlightening to hear such depth of analysis from the mouth of the Harken.
The Harken paused to catch his breath, before slowly continuing, “We’re talking about high-ranking evil ghosts with their spiritual awareness fully unlocked. Once they discover that Hell is now dormant, the next thing they’d do is to test the waters of the mortal realm. As soon as they realize that there is nothing in existence that can stand in their way, they would immediately swoop down like a ferocious eagle and snag any territory they can find for themselves!”
Qin Ye finally spoke up, “Would you not have told me about these things if I hadn’t realized it myself?”
“Naturally.” The Harken chuckled, “This is the path which the first King Yanluo of Hell had taken. Fengdu Necropolis has been built upon eons of bloodshed. It’s a glorious and magnificent process. If you weren’t able to come to this realization of your own abilities, then it simply tells me that you’re still lacking in your intellect. Then, rather than fight with the few factions that have already started to emerge, I’d much rather you look inward and work on your personal growth.”
“You’re one of the rare few who transcend the physical limitations of life and death. The fact that you have unlimited shots at life is your greatest advantage. It might take time, but you’ll eventually come to realize these things of your own abilities. By then, the world will in all likelihood already be fraught with wars and strife, and provinces and cities will all belong to each their own factions. But it is precisely also because dangers abound that a commensurate measure of opportunities would arise as well. At the same time, I would probably have recovered by then, and would naturally be able to lend you my assistance. By striking later, you might end up having a greater advantage instead.”
The Harken glanced slyly at Qin Ye, “Unfortunately, it seems like I won’t be able to relive the path of glorious conquests taken by the first King Yanluo of Hell…”
Qin Ye lowered his eyes and pondered for a moment, “So, you’re saying that there’s most certainly a precinct of Yin spirits on the mortal realm right now?”
“Naturally.” The Harken chuckled softly, “In fact… I can assure you that there is more than one precinct of Yin spirits in the mortal realm, and at least two of them would already be on the municipal scale.”
Qin Ye gasped deeply, and his pupils immediately narrowed.
How fast… How could they be so quick! How did they become a fully-fledged city in such a short span of time? Hell is only at the size of a town right now!
“Are you wondering how they could possibly be so quick?” The Harken chuckled, “It’s because… they’ve moved preemptively.”
“They would have embarked on these grand endeavours decades ago. Incidentally, that would have been during a time when Cathay was at war, and the number of Yin spirits generated during this period of time was naturally higher as well. Unfortunately, I can only vaguely sense their existence, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you where exactly they are. Their existence lies in a completely different realm, and I wouldn’t be able to move beyond ten miles from where I am right now. That said, I’ve got to remind you that your opponent this time is by no means a simple one. It wouldn’t be a problem to lend you a hand with the Universal Grand Shift. However, aren’t you afraid of… biting off more than you can chew?”
It snickered softly, “It’s not going to be easy to conscript new troops once they obliterate Hell’s main fighting force right now.”
Glossing over the Harken’s somewhat derisive attitude, Qin Ye responded in shock, “You know who it is?!”
“Haha… there’s nothing about Hell that I wouldn’t know.” The Harken panted softly as it slowly retracted its smile, “Throughout the generations, there exists only one man of the Confucian Family who has ever been exiled from Hell and banished to the realms of Limbo! Incidentally, he’s the only one deserving of the title of great sinner of the Confucian Family. Thus, as soon as you mentioned something about a sinner of the Confucian Family, I already knew who it was. The original punishment of exile was intended to deny him all opportunities of reincarnation. And yet, to think that he would actually be able to escape back into the mortal realm…”
It lamented for a few seconds, before drawing a deep breath and muttering softly, “Kong Mo.”
Qin Ye furrowed his brows. He did his best to recall what he knew of Kong Mo, but he drew a complete blank.
The Harken continued, “Come to think of it, Kong Mo and Liu Yu have some connections to each other. Liu Yu was the founding emperor of the Liu Song Dynasty. In the 19th year of Liu Song of the Southern Dynasties, an imperial edict was passed down, ordering the five households in the closest proximity to the Confucius mausoleum to free their corvees from their bondage to their masters and decreeing that these freed corvees and their descendants serve as the groundskeepers of the Confucius mausoleum for the rest of time. The corvees of the five households didn’t bear the surname, Kong. But, in accordance with the customs of their times, they changed their surnames to fit that of their masters, and thereby took on the surname, Kong. One of these corvees was named Kong Jing.”
“Later, in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, the entire nation was in chaos. Those of the Confucian Family, including the major clans and descendants of Confucius and even those who used to be groundskeepers of the Confucian mausoleum, were scattered across various parts of the country. Only those of authentic lineage continued to reside in Qufu. Kong Mo is a descendant of Kong Jing’s lineage. Taking advantage of the fact that the extended Confucian Family were scattered across the rest of the lands, he marched into Qufu with a mob in tow, massacring everyone, including Kong Guangsi, forty-first generation of the authentic lineage of Confucius. He seized the lands, and usurped their position, declaring himself to be the one of direct Confucian lineage. This incident went down in history as the turmoil of the Confucian lineage.”
“This was the first massacre that occurred in the history of Confucianism. When Kong Mo entered the netherworld, he rejoined the Confucian Family, and eventually worked his way up to the ranks of an Infernal Judge. Unfortunately, as time went by, so did the number of Confucian disciples in the official services of Hell. Finally, in one concerted effort, the Confucian Family of Hell ousted him from his post and exiled him to an eternity in Limbo. I’m not sure if there were other instances where the Confucian Family privately banished someone to Limbo, but strictly speaking, Kong Mo is the only one according to Hell’s official records!”
Qin Ye was completely dumbfounded by the time the Harken was done.
How could something like that have happened?!
Kong Mo is a savage beast! How could he, as a slave, massacre the direct lineage of the Confucius bloodline and declare himself a direct descendant?! Banishing him to Limbo was already going easy on him!
Meanwhile, his fear response system was already whirring at top speed - This opponent… is incredibly ferocious, and by no means brainless at all!
How bold did he have to be? How meticulous would his planning have to be? This was the Confucian Family they were talking about after all. The residence of the authentic lineage would most certainly be served by a multitude of servants. Back in those days, the servants of large clans would generally also be fighting fit so that they could protect their masters. Given that the Qufu Confucian Family was also ranked among the top of aristocrats, their servants would be even more well-placed to protect their masters. Yet, despite all odds, a mere servant was actually able to rally a mob and cut down everyone who stood in their way!
And quite apart from what went down in history, Qin Ye only had to look at his opponent’s crafty plans in the assassination attempt he had inadvertently triggered!
There were rings after rings of traps, smoke and mirrors that left him barely any breathing room. If not for the fact that he had the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal in his possession, he would most certainly have been crushed by Kong Mo’s craftiness.
“Don’t ever underestimate these former relics of dated dynasties. The Confucian Family used to be one of the top gentries in Hell. The Infernal Judges in their clan… would have had access to countless secrets methods and confidential information. Even the other Abyssal Prefects around would think twice before stepping on their toes.” The Harken spoke with some measure of excitement as he continued to gaze upon Qin Ye, “He once used to live under the system of the old Hell. Naturally, from the moment he saw you, he would immediately have recognized where you’re from. If their objective is to declare independence and establish their own kingdom, then Hell’s existence would naturally be the biggest stumbling block in their way! I’d even go so far as to say that the moment they manage to track down your exact location would also be the moment when you start to find yourself at the end of assassination attempts, drive-bys and the like. And this will go on… until one of you finally falls…”
“This is fate. It’s impossible to escape from the powers of destiny. Oh, and come to think of it, if Kong Mo was indeed the one who had managed to escape into the mortal realm, then there is a reasonable possibility that one of the two city-level precincts of Yin spirits might very possibly be under his charge. Little brat, are you sure you still want to use the Universal Grand Shift as originally planned?”
Qin Ye was so tempted to say “Sorry, nope. Goodbye.”
But alas… it was the first proper exchange with the Harken. He needed to leave it with a good impression. Besides…
He chuckled bitterly, “I’m not willing to either. Unfortunately…”
Qin Ye sighed as he turned to look at the distant sky, “Hell has already signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a trade route with Liu Yu and the others. Trade is supposed to commence in two years’ time. They are the only prospective trading partners of Hell in the near future. If we fail to hold up to our end of the bargain, not only would Hell lose all face and respect of the twelve envoys, we’d even crush any prospects of establishing trade routes with them in future.”
“So, what does that mean?” The Harken listened intently.
Qin Ye shook his head and smiled bitterly, “To make matters worse, the place we’ve chosen to establish our sea port city is only three cities away from Qufu.”
There was a moment of tense silence.
The Harken stared at Qin Ye with great disbelief. Seconds later, it snickered softly, tilted its head and allowed a golden scale on its body that was glowing faintly to fly over to Qin Ye’s side.
“You can activate it using the shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. It’s a one-use artifact. The Universal Grand Shift has already been cast on it.” With that, it hung its colossal head down low, “If there’s nothing more, you may take your leave. I’ll come look for you as soon as I’m awake once more. Naturally, if you can’t survive the clash against Kong Mo… Hahaha…”
Qin Ye shrugged, and then picked up the golden scale that was hovering before his eyes.
As soon as he wrapped his hands around the scale, a mighty wisp of Yin energy immediately entered his fingertips and swept straight into his heart. He gasped softly, and released his grip instantly. Then, after reeling with shock for several more moments, he finally returned to his senses.
“A test?” He picked up the scale once more and transformed into a nethergale and left the vicinity. It was only when he drew closer to Hell once more that he turned back and looked deeply at the sleeping Harken, “Had you told me all these things six months ago, I might truly have given up there and then. But now…”
He looked up at the dark and dreary Hell hovering above, and he couldn’t help but recall the joyous expressions of his citizens when they first received the containers of goods, as well as the thriving construction grounds.
“As a human, I, too, have feelings that I find difficult to let go of…”
It was only after his presence completely vanished from Limbo that the Harken finally lifted its head once more. But this time, there wasn’t a single trace of mockery in his eyes.
“It’s good to learn of the tactics of these ancient relics of the old Hell as well. After all… he might not be the only exile who has made it to Limbo. If you truly wish to restore Hell to its former glory, you’re certainly going to have to stand toe to toe against the powers of the old Hell, as well as the monarchs of the modern Yin spirits alike. For now, you’re still far too young and inexperienced. If you can’t even cross the hurdle that is Kong Mo and his fogeys, what more do we have to talk about in future?”
“The warring states era of the netherworld. Do you think this is really no more than a term of reference? The warring states of the netherworld is far more cruel and vicious than you could ever imagine. I hope you return alive and in one piece. That way, I might just be able to elevate my assessment of you that much more. Otherwise… on what basis or qualifications do you have to order me around?”
Qin Ye had already returned to Hell by now. However, he didn’t immediately issue any orders. Instead, he returned straight to the annex hall, where he began to break down everything he had just learnt.
Kong Mo's existence is incredibly dangerous to me right now. And this is particularly the case when… he might not be the only one around!
He could tell that the Yin spirits of Breakwaters Province and Eastmount Province seemed to have forged an alliance. This was one of the clearest signs that the establishment of an empire could soon follow. If he didn’t strike hard now, he might potentially find himself squaring off against a much larger behemoth in the near future - one that he had no possibility of appeasing or entreating in the first place.
Fate didn’t favour a relationship of cooperation between them.
Moreover, Qufu and Martial City were incredibly close to each other. Even if they changed the location of the sea port city, the result would still be the same, because Breakwaters Province was likewise still a part of the alliance’s territory. The daolord of the hungry ghost was below them; the daolord of the asura was above them; while the daolord of the beast was further inland to them. And then, there were still the innumerable hidden incarnate revenants that had already realized Hell’s dormancy and were now slowly stirring and mustering their own forces.
They were on the cuff of another warring states era, and the current facade of peace was quickly wearing away!
“We must send troops as soon as we can.” He tightened his grip around the scale with great resolve. In that very moment, the realization that time was of the essence gave birth to a great sense of urgency on his part.
Can I really pacify and unite the forces of Cathay in a hundred and fifty years? Would I truly be able to open Hell’s door to the rest of the netherworld and openly confront the world powers out there?
The current crisis was intense, but it was nothing next to the entities that stood on the world stage! Hades, Yamaraja, Thanatos and the nameless god of death were all indomitable forces that were standing on the world stage, awaiting his grand debut!
“Li Jixi… hurry up… I truly don’t think I’ve got the luxury of time to wait much longer…”