Chapter 421: Prisoner of War (1)

Sha Xiangzu stared intently at Qin Ye. A crystal clear baby skeleton was suspended in the air right in front of him. This was the artifact that had prevented Qin Ye from taking him down all this while.

Their duel had lasted some moments, and it was already apparent to Sha Xiangzu that Qin Ye didn’t have any spells or techniques hidden up his sleeves. All Qin Ye did was to repeatedly blot the air in front of him with the brush in hand. And yet, to Sha Xiangzu’s dismay, he simply couldn’t do anything to block these attacks at all!

He had no choice but to resort to the crystal skeleton that had earlier been bestowed upon him by Kong Mo. In fact, the skeleton had started out pitch black, but over time, its colour had faded substantially, and it was even beginning to show signs of cracking on its surface. Sha Xiangzu had a feeling that all it took was a single more attack, and his Yin artifact would shatter completely.

I can’t drag this out any longer… He glanced around at his surroundings, only to realize that there was still the Infernal Judge waiting nearby, tracking his gaze and showing up in his field of vision wherever he looked. There was simply no room for escape at all!

Regret. He was finally regretting his actions.

I shouldn’t have come… I should never have disregarded Kong Mo’s admonition. Unfortunately, his realization had come far too late.

Boom! Meanwhile, the vortex of Yin energy directly opposite him erupted, and a pitch black bolt of lightning that was half a meter thick roared from the tip of the brush and completely obscured his entire field of vision. The vault of the heavens trembled violently at the appearance of this terrifying bolt of lightning. A deafening crackle silenced everything around.

CRACK… Even the air it passed sounded like it was shattering under the weight of its incredible might. Sha Xiangzu gasped in horror, and poured all of his energy into the crystal skeleton hovering feebly in front of him. But as soon as the bolt of lightning came into contact with the skeleton, it shattered completely with a soft, crisp clink.

“I--...” Before he could even communicate his intention to surrender, he instantly felt his entire soul on fire, and an excruciating pain surged throughout his body. He threw his head back reflexively and widened his eyes in horror as he screamed at the top of his voice, “AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!!”

A massive column of lightning had flickered for a moment, followed closely by Sha Xiangzu’s intense cry of agony. This was a sight that was witnessed by all of the soldiers below. Within moments, the alliance’s soldiers silently lowered their weapons.

A multitude of paper spears and swords fell to the ground in an instant. The military garrison that was filled with the flames of war was finally granted a moment of reprieve for a much needed breather. The tide of Hell’s forces had completely overrun the city, leaving tens of thousands of unarmed Yin spirits kneeling on the ground with their hands over their heads in complete submission.

Thud… Sha Xiangzu fell from the sky and slammed straight into the ground, kicking up a cloud of smoke and dust. He struggled to open his eyes, only to witness his own flag being torn asunder by the enemy forces.

It’s over…

It’s all over… He closed his eyes in anguish. But, just then, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching him.

“Lord of Darkriver?” Qin Ye smiled faintly as he spoke down onto the forlorn man, “You weren’t that impressive after all.”

“You’d be wise not to be too gleeful just yet!” Sha Xiangzu gritted his teeth and forced his eyes open once more, “You’re heading for Qufu, aren’t you? Go on, then… Hahaha… Lord Kong is going to avenge me for sure…”

“Would you like to accept a conferment of title in Hell?”

All of a sudden, Sha Xiangzu found all of his words completely lodged in his throat, and he stared at Qin Ye as though he had just seen a ghost. Qin Ye stood right where he was, with folded arms, staring back at Sha Xiangzu with a favourable gaze in his eyes.

“I--...”

“Yes or no?” A soft nethergale swept by and tousled his robes. Qin Ye gently straightened his outfit, “Accept your conferment, and you’ll be an official Emissary of Hell. You, too, will be imbued with the ability to stop a hundred Yin spirits with a single strike of yours. So long as your enemy is an evil ghost of the same level of cultivation as you, you will be able to laugh in their faces and treat them as a kid.”

He glanced at Sha Xiangzu, “Just like how I did to you.”

Sha Xiangzu drew a deep breath and shut his eyes once more.

His heart thumped wildly! Ah, that’s right - he didn’t have a heart to begin with.

Three seconds later, his eyes snapped open, and he nodded desperately!

Even an idiot knew that the government was where one could find the most job security. And this was especially since… the government that had approached him was far stronger than he had thought!

“Very well.” Qin Ye turned around, “Lord Yang, get someone to take this man in. I’ve got some things I’d like to ask him first.”

Then, he brought Arthis along and entered a nearby dilapidated building. As soon as they entered, Arthis hurriedly turned to him and asked with a soft voice, “Are you really prepared to spare him?”

“How’s that even possible?” Qin Ye stared back at Arthis with incredulity, “How dare he put the citizens and officials of Hell through the sky lantern punishment?! What are others going to think if I spare his life? Would anyone even willingly recognize him as a fellow official of Hell?”

“But didn’t you earlier say--...”

“You believe what I said earlier?!”

“... I’m glad you’re at least somewhat sensible…”

Meanwhile, someone helped Sha Xiangzu to his feet.

It was only then that he noticed how his entire surroundings were now completely in ruins. Buildings were in flames, and broken tiles were scattered everywhere. The aftermath of his surroundings revealed that a great battle had just torn through the area. Farther away, he could see that the soldiers of the alliance were all kneeling in the ground. He sighed wistfully, and turned his head to follow Hell’s representative.

Behind him, all of the generals of the Yang Clan stared at him with an intense glare in their eyes.

There were at least four hundred bowmen armed with Karmic Fire Divine Crossbows standing around the abandoned house, aiming their weapons at Sha Xiangzu and ready to release at the earliest signs of trouble.

There was no path left for him but to enter the door. He knew better than to misbehave at this very moment. Thus, he entered the door silently, only to discover that there was even a chair that had earlier been prepared for him.

“Sit down.” Arthis stood behind Sha Xiangzu. Qin Ye sat right in front of him, nodding and smiling at him, “Hell never treats its own people poorly. But, I’m afraid those thoughts would have to be shelved for the moment.”

Sha Xiangzu nodded in silence. He felt safe. Nobody treated prisoners of war in this manner. It felt equitable and respectful. This wasn’t something that could be easily feigned to begin with.

The room fell silent. Seconds later, one of the Black Armored Troops walked in with large strides, and reported with an impassioned voice, “My Lord! Commander of the Black Armored Troops, Zhao Seven, reporting in.”

“Over 67,000 enemy Yin soldiers were killed in action, with the remaining 30,000 captured. Spoils of war include over 40,000 sets of armors, spears and shields, 30,000 bows and quivers of arrows, and over 20,000 crossbows and quivers of bolts. We await my lord’s instructions on how the captives are to be dealt with.”

Qin Ye’s eyes instantly lit up.

War riches… 

Spears and shields, armor, bows and arrows, crossbows and bolts… These were all military products that weren’t in production in Hell just yet! To think that such a great harvest would arise from a single battle!

The strength of Hell’s military forces would never stagnate at a mere ten thousand forever. Beyond that, Yang Jiye’s army would also have to return some day, particularly when the Felipinas was the gateway to the water body leading directly to Cathay. They were needed to keep prying eyes of other underworlds at bay!

But the greatest spoil of war was undoubtedly… people! No--... ghosts!

“What about the casualties on our side?”

“Response. 6,400 Yin soldiers were killed in action. Most of these had been decimated by the enemy’s Hellguard generals before they were summarily disposed of by our own Lady Chijin. All in all, this can be considered a great victory for us!”

Qin Ye deliberated for a moment before finally responding. “Make arrangements for the assimilation of their numbers into the rest of our army. Break them up into separate units, and have the commanders take note of their presence. I’ll have my own arrangements for them later on.”

“Yes.” Zhao Seven left the room. Qin Ye sank back leisurely into his chair and propped his head up with a single hand. He crossed his legs and continued placidly, “Hell might accept your defection, but the exact arrangements to be made depends entirely on the value of the intelligence you can provide us with. Do you… understand what I’m getting at?”

The negotiations have begun… Sha Xiangzu pursed his lips and nodded deeply.

Between his pride and his life, the latter was clearly of greater importance.

And since everyone had already decided to surrender, then there was no reason not to bare it all at once. After all, what use was there keeping these information to himself?

“Very well. I like a Yin spirit who knows how to behave himself. First question - why are you here?” Qin Ye narrowed his eyes, “I don’t believe you were able to sense Hell’s approach from afar, yet you still somehow managed to appear just as we emerged from the underworld.”

“It’s all a coincidence.” Sha Xiangzu responded respectfully, “This city was something I’d been developing ever since my death. Naturally, it was no bigger than just a few dilapidated houses at the beginning. Later, Lord Kong Mo - sorry - Kong Mo came down and helped to expand the city, making it a fiefdom and appointing me as his subordinate. At the instigation of Kong Mo, I was also involved in the earlier attempt at assassinating you. Back then, the situation was complex and urgent, and all troops were ordered to withdraw back to Qufu. I knew that an established city like this would never be abandoned by the incoming forces, so I--...”

He hesitated for a moment and glanced at Qin Ye. However, Qin Ye simply smiled genially, “You can speak your mind. It’s all in the past now. I don’t mind.”

Arthis couldn’t help but roll her eyes - Such hypocrisy!!!

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought that the man gnashing his teeth for revenge earlier was a completely different person!

Sha Xiangzu lowered his head and drew a deep breath, “I knew you would never abandon this city, and might even return in the near future to inspect the spoils of war. So, if I could seize that opportunity to annihilate all of Hell’s forces, then… I’d be able to dispose of one of the main threats against Darkriver City altogether.”

He continued respectfully, “But Your Excellency needn’t worry. This city belongs to Hell now. Your subordinate has got no intention of seizing it back!”

Your subordinate huh… Arthis smiled contemptuously - What a smooth change of allegiance… Why does it feel like I see a particular someone in you?

“I’m glad that you have such harmonious intentions. Hell's policy is to destroy all resistance and assimilate all willing parties in order to unify Cathay once more.” Qin Ye smiled and nodded, “Second question - is the base of operations currently located in Qufu right now? I’m particularly curious about Qufu, including how it came to be, how long ago it was constructed, and how their military strength and defenses currently are. You… wouldn’t mind telling me all this information, would you?”

Sha Xiangzu’s eyes flickered wildly. Even a daft person would be able to tell that this was the core of the information Qin Ye was after!

Where else could Hell be sending such a large army towards?

They had ostensibly come from the south, and had clearly chosen to take the route through Insignia Province and Breakwaters Province. Their objective was clearly Qufu! Thus, he knew full well that if he didn’t respond well enough to Qin Ye’s question right now, then everything Qin Ye had promised him to date would simply evaporate into thin air.

Therefore, he mulled over the question for the next thirty seconds. Qin Ye didn’t rush him either. After thirty seconds, Sha Xiangzu looked up with renewed determination in his eyes, “My Lord… You… wouldn’t be lying to me, would you?”

“How could I be?” Qin Ye smiled sincerely, “A promise is a promise. We have a gentleman’s agreement. Besides, there’s no reason for me to take back what I’ve said.”

Sha Xiangzu took a deep breath, retracted his smile and then finally began to explain, “Qufu is indeed the main base of operations of the Alliance of Darkness. But its origins… are subject to divergent opinions.”

“Divergent opinions?” Qin Ye frowned.

“That’s right.” Sha Xiangzu looked Qin Ye straight in the eyes, “Nobody knows how it came to be. It’s almost as if, overnight, a city suddenly appeared right at Qufu.

“I’ve only died not too long ago. Truth be told, I didn’t have a strong lingering grievance, and I wasn’t entitled to enter Hell at all. Instead, I was fated to drift about within the mortal realm. It just so happens that the place where I was buried was none other than the pit of a thousand - a land of extreme Yin that is a rarity among all rarities. If you flip through the records of the Public Security Bureau to the occurrences just twenty-five years ago, you’d notice that there were a slew of unsolved murder mysteries with headless victims. Anyway, I slowly developed a spiritual awareness due to the land in which I was buried. And just as my spiritual awareness fully awakened, Kong Mo came looking for me.”

Then, as though immersed in distressing memories, he shut his eyes and furrowed his brows with a pained expression on his face, “He was strong… terrifyingly strong. I mean, his strength might merely be on par with the three strongest Judges in the Alliance of Darkness, but he… has access to an incredible wealth of artifacts and wisdom that sets him apart from the rest of us!”

“He possesses a lantern that exudes a Prefect-class aura. That in itself is already terrifying enough. But do you know he has two other artifacts of similar capabilities?! Back then, I had no choice but to accede to any request he was making. And this was despite the fact that I’d already assembled three Hellguards around me and thousands of Yin soldiers at that time!”

“He took me to Qufu…” He opened his eyes and continued with a hoarse voice, “And that was the first time that I saw a city as magnificent as that.”

“It was like travelling back in time and personally experiencing the splendour of the cities of the Tang Dynasty… It was as though a sprawling city over a thousand years old had opened up right in front of my eyes! My Lord, it was a sight that I’d never forget for the rest of my life! It’s practically indescribable! It’s completely and utterly glorious and overwhelming!”

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