Nobody said a single word.
The two Judge-class experts were completely silent. They had expected the negotiations to proceed formally and with great sobriety. In fact, they were even prepared to adjourn to a conference room promptly after introductions, where the top brass of the mortal realm would begin to consult with Hell how they should best go about quelling the supernatural outbreaks across the nation.
None of them had ever expected the negotiations to proceed on an open-and-shut basis.
“Could it be that… Hell has no intentions of intervening with the outbreaks in the mortal realm?” Yu Guanzhu’s heart sank as he murmured back.
Qin Ye smiled as the flickering netherflames in his eyes turned to Yu Guanzhu, “Don’t overthink things. Like I said, Hell and the mortal realm are like two sides of the same coin. Without Hell, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the mortal realm collapses. At the same time, Hell cannot possibly exist without the mortal realm either. You are us, and we are you. As long as either one of us faces a problem, the other would most certainly reach out with unconditional assistance. It’s not that Hell isn’t willing to lend the mortal realm a hand right now. Rather, the heart is willing, but the flesh is weak. King Yanluo has personally asked me to relay his promise to the mortal realm - as soon as Hell resolves the issues plaguing it, Hell will immediately send troops into the mortal realm to reap all souls that are lingering where they shouldn’t be!”
Not a single person objected to what Qin Ye had just mentioned.
It was true that they were both sides of the same coin, and there naturally was no good reason why Hell wouldn’t be willing to lend aid to the mortal realm. There had to be some extraneous reasons for Hell’s inactivity thus far. The two Judge-class experts sighed softly. There were countless questions clawing at them from the bottom of their hearts, but they knew that it wasn’t appropriate to ask these things right now.
That said, Chief Fang was unable to hold himself back, and finally asked with much hesitation, “At risk of asking, what happened to Hell?”
Qin Ye remained silent for some time, before finally disclosing what he could, “Lord Ksitigarbha has fulfilled his great vow and ascended.”
“And the might of his ascension… is approximately equivalent to the combined forces of a dozen or so Yama-Kings. We’re still reeling from the aftermath of his ascension right now. Everyone, let me say it once again - it’s not that we’re unwilling, but it’s simply that Hell is barely holding itself together.”
The two human Judges gasped in horror. Ksitigarbha’s ascension… It was impossible to fathom what kind of terrifying power that must have entailed. That said, they appreciated the fact that a Yama-King was an existence qualitatively more powerful than an Abyssal Prefect.
The mortal realm didn’t have any Yama-class cultivators for now, but that didn’t mean that they were unable to extrapolate from their own experiences and draw their own conclusions. After all… a Prefect-class expert was already an otherworldly existence to their minds!
“Agree to his requests.” Just then, the two Judge-class experts heard the voice of an old-man speak directly into their earpieces, “Tell them that the mortal realm will do its best to fulfill any needs of theirs. Starting next year, we’ll be establishing a cemetery in Martial City for all talented personnel across Cathay.”
The eyes of the two Judge-class experts flickered wildly, because they could immediately tell who the old man was. Is he actually concerned about our interactions with Hell?
“However…” The old-man’s voice soon continued, “Ask that Infernal Judge of Hell what Hell has to offer back to the mortal realm.”
The two exchanged a knowing glance with each other. As expected of a leader. How did he remain so objective after hearing what Hell has had to say thus far? This is truly the difference between him and us…
Chief Fang no longer hesitated, “We are prepared to agree to your requests. However, the mortal realm is also in hot waters, and we are hoping that we can finalize our partnership with Hell as soon as possible. I wonder what Hell has to offer back to the mortal realm in exchange for our acquiescence to your requests?”
Qin Ye didn’t even pause to consider these things, “We still possess the full extent of knowledge accumulated in Hell over the last few millennia. This would include the various methods of dealing with Yin spirits, the detailed classification of Yin spirits, information pertaining to each type of special Yin spirits, and the documented locations of all powerful evil ghosts that have been sealed across the entire history of Cathay. King Yanluo has decreed that all of this information be released to Cathay’s government. We’re currently in the process of proofreading everything and verifying the details, and we should be prepared to furnish you with all of this information within the next half a year.”
“We’re not trying to undermine the mortal realm’s abilities in this regard. However, the mortal realm’s research on Yin spirits is probably only at the same level that Hell was at just a thousand and five hundred years ago.”
At the receiving end of the audio transmitting device was an old man who appeared to be in his seventies. Several bodyguards stood around him, among which included… two Infernal Judges!
As soon as he heard Hell’s offer, he immediately shut his eyes and smacked the table with a soft sigh.
“Agree to his terms. Immediately!”
Elsewhere, in the heart of a massive room surrounded by computer screens and wall-mounted LCD screens, five white-haired old men dressed in white lab coats were seated right in front of a screen that was broadcasting the very same negotiations which were taking place in a tiny place called Valley County.
The little-known county was drawing a lot of important attention to itself right now.
As soon as Hell’s offer was made, the five old men immediately gasped in unison. A split second later, one old man immediately grabbed the phone beside him, “Get up right now! Immediately notify all doctoral researchers and professors to report to the SRC headquarters in Yan Capital right away!”
He cut the call and stared intently at the screen with a faint flush on his face, “This gift… has come at the most opportune moment!”
Back in Valley County. Yu Guanzhu and Chief Fang heard Qin Ye’s somewhat derisive remark, yet they didn’t respond with the slightest trace of anger. Instead, their eyes gleamed brightly, and their faces flushed with a bright red hue.
“Deal.” Seconds later, Chief Fang cupped his hands respectfully, “We look forward to Mr Kui Wood Wolf’s visit half a year later!”
Qin Ye glanced at the dark skies, “And that leaves us with one final thing to do.”
“A rift between the mortal realm and the underworld has opened up in Valley County, and we must seal it right away. Our Yin soldiers will immediately withdraw thereafter. Everyone…” Qin Ye’s physical form slowly began to drift away like a soft nethergale, “See you in half a year’s time.”
As he vanished, so did the rest of the Yin soldiers that came together with him. Ten minutes later, all of them appeared right next to the pit of a thousand once more.
“My lord, when breaching this predatory zone, I detected large amounts of residual Yin energy still lingering about in the crevasse below.” Oda Nobunaga reported solemnly, “But it’s not enemy Yin soldiers either. Those would already have withdrawn by midnight earlier tonight. However, the residual Yin energy still hasn’t dissipated for now.”
Qin Ye immediately gazed deeply at the fissure in the ground, “Such coincidence?”
“I’m afraid not.” Oda Nobunaga glanced at the ground with a flicker in his eyes. The darkness in Valley County was ebbing away, and the break of dawn was merely moments away, “Perhaps… our opponent might have left some pawns around. I’ve heard my lord speak about Kong Mo’s modus operandi before. He’s by no means a person who takes things one step at a time without planning ahead. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave troops lingering about. My lord, would you like us to comb through the fissure below?”
If tens of thousands of Yin soldiers were indeed hidden here, there was no way they could possibly remain hidden under a thorough search of the region.
“No need.” Qin Ye responded softly, “He can keep an eye on us if he truly so desires.
“Our battle with the Eastmount alliance of evil ghosts is only going to be a matter of time. It’s fine to let them know of Hell’s stance against any attempted assassination of its officials. We’ll let Kong Mo know that Hell still possesses a powerful army to deal with unruly Yin spirits. Let it be known to the alliance that they have stirred the hornet’s nest! The realization on their part would be far better than any warning I could possibly give.”
And as for now… the priority is naturally to suss out what stage of development my opponents are at!
As long as they’ve been here before, they would most certainly have left traces. Sixty thousand Yin spirits have marched to these lands, stayed for some time, and even executed their plans. The amount of preparation work must have been immense. It would be impossible for them not to have left any traces of clues around! Not even the most capable of generals could achieve such an impossible feat as that!
Qin Ye stepped right into Limbo, together with Wang Chenghao and Oda Nobunaga. It was completely dark, almost as though they had entered a primeval corridor of sorts. Wang Chenghao immediately seized the opportunity to clarify with Qin Ye, “Brother Qin, why? Why don’t we open up trade routes with the mortal realm right away? This would enable us to immediately strengthen Hell, right? Didn’t you say that this was the plan to begin with?”
“It’s good to ask questions. But before you do, it would also be wise to first place yourself in my shoes and ask why I could have possibly done what I did.” Qin Ye was pleased that Wang One Tail was beginning to act the part of a Defender Crane, and he promptly reinforced his conduct with positive affirmation, “But since you’re begging with me that sincerely, I’ll let you know out of the goodness of my heart.”
Wang Chenghao: ……
Beg? What do you mean beg? I’m just asking you a question over here!
Qin Ye sorted through his thoughts and explained patiently, “I didn’t know anything when I first inherited the old Hell’s legacy just one year ago. I’d just been a mere Netherworld Operative back then. What do you think would’ve happened if I’d revealed myself to the mortal realm back then and told them - ‘Hey, I'm the next King Yanluo of Hell. I can lead you right out of the predicament you’re faced with right now.’”
Wang Chenghao immediately cut to the chase, “Human body centipede… no! Human sashimi!”
Qin Ye glared at him viciously - What the hell are you talking about?! What do you mean by ‘human body centipede’? Do you believe that I’ll immediately send you straight for reincarnation?
“That’s right. They would immediately arrest me, cut me apart and experiment on me. To put it bluntly, our words carried little weight back then. In fact, it would have been useless even if I’d claimed to be the incarnation of Buddha. How could Hell’s successor only be a Netherworld Operative? Would I really be able to answer the multitude of questions they had for me? If not, what good would I be to them? Wouldn’t they be able to extract more answers out of me by dissecting me and experimenting on my body parts?”
“... That’s a rather apt analogy - so apt that I can’t help but feel somewhat nauseated… Urgh… Ah, it’s not that I find your flesh repulsive…”
“Shut up! Listen carefully!” Qin Ye glared at Wang Chenghao, “I’m finally in the position to prove a point. An Infernal Judge would undoubtedly be considered a strong pillar of support in the mortal realm. After all, it’s only one qualitative step away from the strongest existence in the mortal realm. When a Judge says something, it definitely holds weight. If I wanted to, I would have been able to secure an important position for myself within the Special Investigations Department - perhaps even get myself appointed as a vice-chief of bureau of one of their city branch offices. That said… the more knowledge you gain, the more you realize how lacking you are as well.”
He retracted his smile and sighed softly, “The first issue is that of trust. If words have no consequences, then anyone would be more than ready to place their trust in what I say. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that Hell hasn’t manifested any traces of its existence for the last hundred years. How much do you think the human government is willing to trust in such an existence right now? Your guess is as good as mine.”
Wang Chenghao was about to say something, when Qin Ye promptly shook his head, “Were you going to say that if Hell and the mortal realm were two sides of the same coin, who else would they trust if not for us? You’re wrong. They could still very much prefer to trust in their own abilities. What has Hell got to show for itself? What has Hell done in recent times that justifies such immense investments on the part of the mortal realm? Nothing.”
“Do you know how far Cathay’s GDP has fallen? It’s only grown by 4% this year, as opposed to 6-7% in previous years. Do you know what accounts for the decline in growth? It’s all due to the extra resources channeled into scientific research on Yin spirits, developing weapons against Yin spirits, and provision of resources and materials for cultivators. Cathay has been doing this for well over a decade, so do you think they would trust us enough to invest heavily in us, just because we cleaned out Valley County for them? No. They would never. The advent of science means that they would much rather trust their own processes and their own abilities than put their faith in us once again. This is how humans behave after all.”
“Do you remember when I earlier mentioned to the judges that we could potentially set up a phantom market where trade could take place? I watched their reactions closely, and I noticed that there was barely any trace of excitement in their hearts at all. This tells me that they’re still unconvinced by what I’m saying. They have their reservations as to how much benefit Hell can truly bring to the mortal realm apart from assisting them with the purge of Yin spirits in certain parts of the nation. They may be expectant, and they may be excited, but as far as faith and trust is concerned… we’re currently still at rock bottom.”
Wang Chenghao frowned, “But… all they need to do is to give us a single batch of resources! They would do something like that, wouldn’t they? After all, a county’s worth of supplies isn’t much as far as Cathay is concerned as a whole. On the other hand, it would springboard our development, and then they would reap the manifold profits of their investments in due course!”
Qin Ye shook his head. A faint mist of blackish-green Yin energy was now blurring their field of vision. Limbo was just ahead of them. Qin Ye responded coldly, “Sure, we might get a batch of supplies, but… what about Yin spirits?”
Wang Chenghao instantly figured out the crux of the problem, and he promptly grew taciturn.
“Have you finally figured it out? I haven’t opened trade talks with the mortal realm because all we can do right now is to ask for investments, yet we have nothing to show for it. Without Yin spirits, we won’t have Yin soldiers. And without Yin soldiers, we won’t be able to purge more lands and recover more lost territories for the mortal realm. Like I said, trust is already at rock bottom right now. They might respond to our requests for funds once, but as soon as they see no returns on their investment, they would never put us in further funds thereafter. Thus… we have to make sure that we would be able to repay them greatly with the first tranche of resources that they invest in us! They would have to be able to reap a huge amount of returns!”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Wang Chenghao asked in bewilderment.
Qin Ye smiled softly, “Whenever we purge a precinct for them, we could establish a city right there and then. We may not have the requisite resources required for the same, but we could always ask the mortal realm to invest in us! That way, any place we purge in the mortal realm can be considered completely reclaimed by Hell as well! Naturally, the precondition to these plans is that we have to be able to purge these lands in the first place.”
His gaze flickered wildly like a blazing conflagration as he stared intently at Limbo, “Therefore, the eastbound expedition to Martial City is the first and most important step to our negotiations with the mortal realm. The daolord has already crossed the waters and entered Eastmount Province, while the alliance of thirteen Judge-class evil ghosts are moving together. Things in the mortal realm must be on the verge of collapse. We take down Martial City, and destroy the legions of Yin soldiers currently garrisoned in the mortal realm. That way, we would be able to put our money where our mouth is, and finally negotiate proper terms with the mortal realm!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter