Tromp, tromp, tromp… Clatter, clatter… The sounds of the romping skeletal tigers and the march of Yin soldiers resounded throughout the underworld as the 100,000-strong army forged forward without stopping at all.
The Beacon of Light painted a river of blood right across the canopy of the skies above them, indicating the direction of their march. Nobody said a single word. A soft nethergale swept by, gently tousling the great banners of their army that had a single word written on them - “Yang”. They could even smell the faint stench of blood in the air.
They had embarked on this expedition over three months ago, and they were now on the cusp of the first war for expansion in the history of the new Hell. A thousand Black Armored Troops marched ahead as the vanguard of the entire contingent. Zhao Seven ran his hand slowly across the hilt of his ancient sword, while the fires in his heart continued to rage with passion.
How long has it been?
When was the last time I’d participated in such a war that would be recorded in the annals of history?
The Black Armored Troops had perished together with the Tang Dynasty, and he had been thirsting for such action for a long time now. In fact, it even felt as though he had been in deep slumber all this while, only to finally rouse up to the call of war.
He couldn’t help but glance around at his comrades-in-arms. These were the same few warriors who had been recalled from the long flowing rivers of history for a greater purpose. There was neither fear nor thoughts of retreat written on their pale faces. The only thing that existed in their hearts was an unrelenting will to do battle. They were all stoked to be part of a war of destiny. Then, Zhao Seven glanced back at the army that was following them. Banners were flying high, while netherflames filled the air. The tempo of their march was devoid of any traces of hesitation altogether. Everyone’s eyes were fixated on the dark skies beyond.
They could all see a massive whirlpool slowly swirling in the sky on the horizon, right at the end of the crimson road. Green, black and red energy filled the air, while the soft nethergale scattered the stench of blood into the vicinity about. The flora and fauna swayed softly, and the lands were devoid of the presence of any monarch Yin beasts. Their instinct had told them that something large was about to go down in these areas, and they had fled the vicinity as quickly as they could.
A 100,000-strong army was slowly but surely making their way towards the place of reckoning.
Oda Nobutada rode on a ferocious skeletal war tiger as he tramped along beside Zhao Seven. The war tiger growled softly as it slowly picked up its pace. Hua Jieyu, Mu Guiying, Yelu Jiner, and the rest of the Yang generals also marched alongside Oda Nobutada with their cloaks fluttering softly to the billowing winds. None of them lagged behind in the slightest.
Perhaps this is the destiny of a Yin soldier… Zhao Seven slowly retracted his gaze. With a renewed determination in his eyes, he, together with the Black Armored Troops, led the rest of Hell’s forces straight towards the swirling vortex of Yin energy.
The closer they drew, the clearer everything got. The Yin soldiers had no trouble covering the remaining distance in less than a day. Finally, the troops arrived right at the doorsteps of the swirling madness.
Arthis’ hair was scattered everywhere as a result of the billowing nethergale. She pulled up right alongside Qin Ye’s war tiger as they both peered into the swirling vortex, “Shanhai Pass is right above us.” The entire contingent of Hell’s forces were lined up right behind them, almost akin to the great wall of Cathay. Even then, none of them could resist goosebumps creeping up all over their skins as soon as they considered the prospects of what they were soon about to face.
Even Qin Ye was no exception to this. He could sense an overbearing wave of Yin energy bearing down on his contingent of troops. The army of Shanhai Pass clearly exceeded that of his own.
After all, there were millions of Yin spirits, and 820,000 Yin soldiers. The sheer concentration of power was sufficient to send waves of Yin energy penetrating the boundaries separating Limbo and the underworld and bear down on Hell’s forces with stifling oppression.
It’s finally time…
Qin Ye drew a deep breath. His heart was filled with a multitude of emotions right now. Anticipation? Anxiety? Perhaps a confluence of both, but he couldn’t tell if either was more intense than the other.
Nonetheless, it was the stirring feeling of finally arriving at one’s prey after a long, arduous pursuit.
It marked both the curtains of an era of old, and the opening act of an era to come.
His heart thumped like a resounding war drum. After some time, when his emotions had finally settled, he opened his eyes once more, before slowly turning to face his army.
In that instant, the great army of 100,000 Yin soldiers immediately gazed back at him with eager anticipation in their eyes. Banners flew high and war drums sounded. The atmosphere was filled with great tension, and a palpable intent to do battle.
All eyes were on Qin Ye.
They were waiting on him. They were awaiting the instructions of King Yanluo of Hell.
They had obviously seen Qin Ye countless times throughout the course of the eastbound expedition, yet none of them could help but feel their hearts thump wildly once more. After a long time, Qin Ye glanced up at the scarlet vortex above his head with an incomparably complex gaze in his eyes.
The rise of every great empire was accompanied by the flames of war and built upon a foundation of blood. Qin Ye might not be used to a lifestyle like that, but he had no choice but to adapt to it right now.
After all, this was just the beginning.
He took several more deep breaths and calmed his mind. Then, he raised his hands, and a screen of Yin energy immediately unfurled in the air, revealing the shape of a magnificent, sprawling city on it.
It spanned miles from end to end, sitting silently on a vast plains in Limbo, just like a colossal beast at the apex of the food chain. Countless spots of cold light shone from the top of the city walls, while innumerable Yin spirits were seen scuttling through the four city gates as they entered the security of the four walls of the city. Mounted Yin soldiers could also be seen galloping in all directions, patrolling about as they maintained the order. Qin Ye glanced at the Yin soldiers before him, before thundering aloud, “Everyone, what you see on the screen right now is our target - Qufu City.”
Everyone remained silent. A fiery atmosphere instantly swamped the entire contingent of troops.
“I’m sure everyone has heard a thing or two about this city along the way. That’s right. It’s a mega-city. In fact, you can even say that this city is larger and more domineering than any opponent which the new Hell has faced to date. We’re talking about 820,000 Yin soldiers and millions of Yin spirits scattered all across approximately one hundred square kilometers of lands. And then, there are still the military formations and Yin artifacts of all sorts to contend with.”
“However… Hell will never condone the existence of any rogue Yin spirits!!”
His speech had started somewhat contrived. This wasn’t something in his comfort zone. However, Qin Ye knew that he would have to rally the troops with a rousing speech before the commencement of any great battle. And this was especially so when the great battle was one that would determine the fate of the new Hell itself.
But as he spoke, he felt something in his heart click, and words began to pour out far more smoothly than he had anticipated. He had inadvertently revealed… a part of his true nature to all of his troops.
It was the part of him that had always remained hidden in the depths of his heart. This was quite possibly the most accurate representation of Qin Ye’s personality to date.
“I won’t say much more about the importance of this battle, save that it’s not an exaggeration to call this battle one which will determine the future of Hell for the next hundred years. You might think nothing of this, but so long as we fail to take Qufu, Hell will forever be confined to the boundaries of the City of Salvation! We will remain as insignificant as ever! Sure, we might find peace in the safety of Hell’s borders for now, but I can assure you that the international powers would all come knocking on our doors in just over a hundred years’ time!”
You might not have lived through that era of war and strife, but I have!” His voice was hoarse and riveting, “Blood was spilt everywhere on Cathayan soil! I don’t want to see something like that ever happening again! The fates of Yin and Yang are both inextricably intertwined with each other. If Hell falls, the mortal realm would be in danger! Or are you telling me that you want Cathay to return to those dark days when it was enslaved by foreigners?”
Countless Yin spirits couldn’t help but gasp sharply in response.
Qin Ye shut his eyes, and his lips quivered softly, “I sure don’t.”
“I never want to experience such dark times again if I can help it at all. I don’t want our lands to become a living hell for the people. Cathay was built on the foundation of 5,000 years of history. We’re supposed to be standing at the top of the world! Right now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has presented itself, and we can only seize it by taking the entire city in one fell swoop! It’s only by unifying the Cathayan underworld that we’d be able to stand tall against the foreign invaders a hundred years from now!”
He opened his eyes once more, “And if Hell should exist, it should exist in the underworld.”
“Take it down, and I give you my word that your individual names would be remembered for a thousand generations to come. I guarantee that every city under Hell’s charge in future shall have a monument erected at its entrance, commemorating each and every single casualty in this eastbound expedition as one of the pioneers of Hell. I give you my word that all of your loved ones will be well taken care of in the future which you have paid for in blood, sweat and tears! Now, tell me, who are we?!!”
“By Hell’s Dictum, all rabble shall disperse!!” An army of a hundred thousand bellowed in unison, sending tremors echoing through their surroundings in an instant.
The humiliation of subjugation was still weighing heavily in the hearts of all Cathayans.
Nobody was willing to live on their knees.
Nobody wanted to lay low all their lives and merely look up to their lords and masters!
It was for this reason that Cathay had caught up with the development of other countries in a short span of just thirty years. It was for the very same reason that Qin Ye was working desperately in the underworld, and it would also explain why each and every one of them were standing right here, right now! Everyone was fighting hard for the unification of the Cathayan underworld. They wanted nothing more than to restore Hell to its former glory, and be like their mortal realm counterparts, standing shoulder to shoulder against the rest of the world.
“Good. For today, we rest. Tomorrow, we’ll launch our all-out attack against Qufu City without reservation!” Qin Ye ended up spilling the thoughts on his mind.
These were evidently his thoughts, particularly in light of the great collapse of the old Hell.
He had experienced all these things, and even been stricken with the grief and sorrow of those times. Naturally, he wanted nothing more than to leave those in the dust behind him forever.
This was why Hell needed to unify the underworld and create a grand and glorious empire!
The empire of Hell!
Sins of three lives in the mortal realm are accorded to thee.
Hath Hell spared any since ages past.
All injustices that slip through the cracks of the legal system in the mortal realm shall never go unchecked in Hell.
And it all begins with the great sinner of the Confucian Family - Kong Mo.
Just then, all of the generals and Yin soldiers half-knelt to the ground and cried out at the top of their voices, “Glory to Hell!!!”
“Passable.” Arthis remarked softly. She could tell that Qin Ye’s face was slightly flushed from his impassioned spiel, “To think that I’d actually witness you speaking from the bottom of your heart.”
Qin Ye ignored her. Instead, he turned to Yang Yanzhao and cupped his hands respectfully at him, “General Yang, I’ll leave it in your good hands.”
“Don’t worry.” Yang Yanzhao bowed back with the same measure of respect, “We die without regrets for the unification of Hell!”
Qin Ye nodded and solemnly reminded them, “Remember to include both myself and Lady Arakshasa among the forces that are to siege the inner city.”
Yang Yanzhao was just about to protest when Qin Ye shook his head adamantly, “There are going to be several Infernal Judges hole out within Qufu that you guys won’t be able to deal with. If you don’t mobilize us, they’ll be able to stop our entire siege with just two Infernal Judges. There’s no need to dissuade me. My mind is made up.”
Yang Yanzhao gritted his teeth and sighed in resignation, “I take full responsibility for my incompetence. I would never have wanted to mobilize Lord Yanluo for the fight if I could help it at all. Please… the only thing I ask is that Your Excellency takes care of himself. Swords have no eyes.”
With that, he lifted his cloak and walked into an isolated, open space.
All of the generals were already gathered there right now.
The rest of the Yin spirits were all staring at the generals with a fiery battle intent blazing from the depths of their eyes.
This was going to go down in history as one of the three greatest battles of the new Hell. This was the honor of all Yin soldiers, and the glorious medal of all generals around.
Yang Yanzhao walked to the centre of the space where a makeshift table had already been set up. There were ten Tiger Talismans placed neatly on the table.
He picked up one talisman gingerly and gently ran his finger across it.
It was incredibly smooth, and somewhat cold to the touch. After a long time, he looked up at the generals with a resolute coldness in his eyes, “Mu Guiying, step forward.”
“Here!” Mu Guiying stepped forward and cupped her hands respectfully, before half-kneeling on the ground with an air of sobriety about her.
“I’ve confirmed the details of our deployment with Lady Arakshasa before. While we can be certain that our deployment would be within the city, we can’t be certain of exactly which location we are going to appear.”
“I want you to lead an army of 20,000 and siege the western walls. Ignore the city for now. No matter what happens, I want you to be the first one to take control of the western walls! Your goal is to pester and harass the defenders of the city, do you understand?”
Mu Guiying drew a deep breath and received the conferment of a Tiger Talisman, before stepping back into her ranks. Yang Yanzhao didn’t hesitate, and he immediately turned his electrifying gaze to the next general, “Hua Jieyu!!”
He was practically sending his generals and soldiers to a suicide mission. However, his instructions were met with neither refusal nor shirking of responsibility. There was no room for kindness, nor care and concern. Everyone knew that there was only one way forward, and that was to advance courageously until death stopped them in their tracks.
“Take 20,000 troops and storm the southern city walls. Disregard anything else that happens within the city itself. Keep at the offensive, and wreak havoc atop the city walls. Can you do that?”
“Yelu Jiner, take 20,000 troops and storm the eastern walls! Keep advancing forward, even if it costs you your life!” “Huyan Chijin, you are also charged with 20,000 troops. Siege the northern walls. Until Qufu is broken, and every last soldier falls, you absolutely must not fall from the city walls!”
“Everyone.” After barking a series of orders, Yang Yanzhao felt a lump swell up on his throat. Then, he stood up and bowed deeply.
After this day… the next time we meet might well be on the stele monuments of remembrance.
But having said that… us members of the Yang Clan live and die with no regrets.
“Death is universal, but our deeds live on forever.” His voice choked up. “Take care, everyone. Do your best to come back alive.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter