Wei Youliang looked up, only to see a Yin spirit desperately jostling his way out of a group of Yin spirits, waving his hands as he yelled with a shrill voice. All eyes in the nearby vicinity were on that very Yin spirit.
Excellent… Qin Ye curled his finger, and that Yin spirit suddenly flew up into the air to his great surprise. But, even then, he immediately bowed with great trembling, “My Lord… The year 2048 is almost 30 years from now… I-is my wife really going to die of cerebral thrombosis?”
“The Book of Life and Death would never lie.” Qin Ye responded placidly, before lowering his finger, allowing that Yin spirit to fall gently to the ground once more.
He casually flipped through the Book of Life and Death once more and continued to read, “Ma Gaoyuan. Place of origin - Longhua Neighbourhood, Qufu City, Eastmount Province. Born in 1955, died in 2017. Cause of death - natural death.”
“Li Xiangyang. Place of origin - Longma County Liquor Chemical Factory, An City, Eastmount Province. Born in 1943, died in 1999. Cause of death - heart disease.”
“Gao Weiquan. Place of origin…” “Wang Fangfang. Place of origin…”
He continued reading out the names and particulars of dozens of Yin spirits, before shutting the Book of Life and Death calmly again, “All of you are located in Ashmound, aren’t you?”
Needless to say, dozens of hands instantly shot up into the air like brilliant beacons of light in the dark night sky.
“I’m Li Xiangyang. Everything is accurate… It’s accurate to the tee! T-t-this truly is the Book of Life and Death!” “I’m Gao Weiquan. I’m here as well! Everyone here from my neighbourhood will be able to verify the accuracy of my particulars! I can swear that the government has never approached me before this! I haven’t been planted here in the audience!” “I’m Wang Fangfang…”
Rustle, rustle… Everyone looked over at the Yin spirits who had their hands in the air with great astonishment.
It really is the Book of Life and Death!
The citizens didn’t think much more about it. It was easy to persuade a crowd of the authenticity of certain products. This was how scams thrived back in the mortal realm. Besides, what Qin Ye was promoting was hardly a scam in the first place.
What he possessed was the genuine Book of Life and Death after all!
Everyone exchanged tacit glances with each other. There was only one thread of thought in their minds right now - This is without a doubt the Book of Life and Death! This is the genuine Hell of the underworld… We’ve truly been following a rebel force all this while!
Then, riding on the buzz and chatter that abounded among the citizens, Qin Ye immediately followed up with a booming voice, “With that, I shall go on to read the fifth article of the Official Decree of Hell No. 001.”
Back on the city walls. The strings of the bows and crossbows tightened softly.
Qin Ye’s expressions were still placid as he stared intently at the throngs of Yin spirit around, “Five. In six months, we’ll be reorganizing the entire Ashmound City.”
“Ashmound City has a population size of over ten million Yin spirits. Coupled with the other ten million or so Yin spirits that have taken refuge in Ashmound City when Lai Junchen earlier consolidated his forces, we have now in excess of twenty million Yin spirits in Ashmound City itself. There’s simply no way the city is able to sustain such a large population size.” His voice grew stern and somber, “Therefore, the government has decided to divide Ashmound into one city and eight counties. Each county shall be in charge of ten townships, and each township shall take charge of twenty administrative villages. Moving forward, Ashmound City shall be conferred the title as the provincial capital of Eastmount Province, and shall sustain a populace of seven million Yin spirits. Priority shall be given to management staff, technical staff, military forces and special talents. No applications for domestic migration shall be accepted by the government in the next five years!”
There was instantly a stir as soon as Qin Ye finished speaking.
But, there was more!
“Hell’s government shall be assembling Frontier Brigades that will be led by the staff of the First Battalion of Hell. 50,000 Yin spirits shall form one such brigade, and there will be a grand total of 200 brigades formed to deal with Ashmound’s needs on various levels, including county-level, township-level and village-level Frontier Brigades. Hell’s government shall be providing support in the form of construction resources and Yin spirit stones, but everything else will have to be forged and built from the ground up moving forward!”
“With Ashmound as the center, the eight counties shall be located around it and named as Leader County, Malignant County, Brave County, Prominence County, Magnificent County, Majestic County, Hero County and Unique County, after the first eight of the 72 earthly fiends. The closest shall be located 100 kilometers from Ashmound City, while the farthest shall be located not more than 300 kilometers away. There shall be no restrictions placed on the city area for now. To this end, Hell has an urban planning team which shall be spearheading the entire planning process…”
He couldn’t say anymore.
Everyone below was stirring with ferocity!
The clamor below had reached blistering levels in an instant, and outcries of rage and grievances poured out like a waterfall.
Yet Qin Ye simply remained silent and watched the outcry placidly.
The absolute limit on the number of Yin spirits that Ashmound City could accommodate was ten million in total. Yet, the Harken had brought every single Yin spirit located within the four walls of Ashmound with it. Upon a proper census, Hell discovered that the total populace housed within Ashmound at this very moment was well in excess of twenty million!
Over the last month, both Qin Ye and Arthis had gone through the figures several times, before finally determining the total prevailing population size to be 21,422,000.
What did this mean?
To put things into perspective, Eastsea City, Cathay’s special economic zone, houses a total populace of 25 million. However, the total land size they commanded was in excess of 2,600 square kilometers!
On the other hand, Ashmound City spans a land size of only 124 square kilometers. How could it possibly maintain a population size of over twenty million Yin spirits?
If Hell didn’t do something about this urgently, Ashmound would no longer be able to deal with the surge in demand for the goods produced by the various industries. The consequential problems that came with such issues would be multifaceted and multitudinous in nature. Simultaneously, Hell’s government would still be easing into its new role, and it would neither have the ability nor the capacity to deal with such immense issues that could rock the foundation of an entire city.
For instance, residential problems.
It was common to see skyscrapers filled with tiny apartments back in the mortal realm. That was the mortal realm’s solution to the growing population size of large and dense cities. On the other hand, the architecture within Qufu City had all been constructed in the manner of ancient-style buildings, most of which were at best three-storeys high. To make matters worse, it was modelled after the famous Shanhai Pass, and it naturally wasn’t designed with neighbourhood amenities or commercial buildings in mind!
It was already brimming with people. Fortunately, Kong Mo wasn’t stupid. In order to retain full control over the overflowing population within the city, he decreed that all residential lodging were to be transformed into public lodging, with ten beds located within every twenty square meters of space. It was a good thing that Yin spirits didn’t need to wash up or discharge excrements. Otherwise, such contrived stop-gap policies would have given rise to terrible consequences by now.
For further instance, work.
The population size of the city had already well exceeded the number of job opportunities available within Ashmound City. Job creation would necessarily entail the construction of more factories and facilities, and yet the demolition of a neighbourhood for such purposes would immediately displace hundred or even thousands of Yin spirits all at once, giving rise to a multitude of immediate problems.
Fortunately, these problems haven’t had much time to fester for now. Otherwise… the marionette of wrath might well make its resurgence in the heart of Ashmound City.
And it would be far more powerful than it used to be before.
Overpopulation gives rise to unemployment, and unemployment gives rise to a surge in grievances, thereby triggering a Yin spirit rebellion or even insurgency! It would be a vicious cycle!
Therefore, despite knowing that it would stir up great unrest in the hearts of his citizens, Qin Ye knew full well that the fifth article absolutely had to be rolled out, by hook or by crook!
“What buffoonery is this?! I’ve been a Qufu ghost all my life! On what basis are you telling me to move?!” An aged Yin spirit was so infuriated that he stumbled slightly on his cane, “Why should I move?! Why should Yin spirits with talents be given preferential treatment? We’re Yin spirits too! How can the government be this biased?!”
“That’s right! Not even Lord Kong dared to tell us to shift out! Look, aren’t we all living peacefully and in harmony right now?” “What kind of a sick joke is this? I’ve done so much work for Qufu when it first came into existence. And now that it’s been changed to Ashmound, I’m supposed to move out?! How does that make any sense?!”
Granted, not everyone was willing to live within the four walls of such a large city, particularly when it was already so crowded. But…
There were still Yin beasts out there!
Ashmound City may be packed, but at least it was safe!
This was the real reason why none of the Yin spirits wanted to move out!
Frontier Brigade… The sound of the name caused their hearts to shudder. They were living well and good. It might be slightly uncomfortable, but at least they were still alive. But just how much sacrifice would breaking new grounds have to entail? And quite apart from the Yin beasts out there, wouldn’t the natural disasters out in the wilderness be sufficient to tear them to bits and pieces?
“Silence!!” Just then, Qin Ye clicked his tongue like a peal of thunder, before booming with great authority in his voice. The clamor below instantly weakened. Moments later, they heard a soft creaking sound.
What’s that… Wei Youliang gasped in horror as he glanced behind him.
As a former public servant, he knew full well that… this was the sound of the Soul-Launching Coffin charging up!
The terrifying sound of the Soul-Launching Coffin powering up caused the entire populace to turn silent in an instant. Qin Ye swept his gaze slowly across the entire city once more. Truth be told, the situation was far better than he had anticipated. After all, he knew that it was useless to explain everything to the Yin spirit around. At the very least, they would never understand when told that they would transform into a horrific monster if they continued to allow their grievances to fester and grow.
What do you mean turn into a monster? What difference is there when we can’t even live the life that we used to live?
The oft-spoken phrase ‘governing a large country is no different from cooking a small dish’ instantly surfaced in his mind. Although he was merely in charge of a city, it felt just as applicable all the same.
Season it too much, and the dish would be inedible. Use insufficient heat, and the dish wouldn’t be cooked through.
“It’s difficult…” He sighed softly. Even the general assembly of citizens today was a completely rushed affair. After all, how could they properly sort through a population of over twenty million in less than a month’s time? Yet the fact remained that they had to engage the citizens within a reasonable time frame from when they first took over the governance of the city. This was why Hell had decided to push themselves to the limit in order to have the Third King Yanluo of Hell personally address his subjects.
“Breaking new ground is naturally dangerous, but there are also benefits to be had to those participating in the Frontier Brigades.” He looked around, before continuing with a booming voice, “All who participate will be entitled to work credits. The full particulars of the entitlement qualifications will be disclosed in three days. But those who manage to accumulate a thousand work credits… shall be entitled to…”
He raised the Book of Life and Death in his hands, “Relay dreams to their loved ones.”
For the umpteenth time.
But this time, it was quite different from before. Earlier, it was silence arising out of intense rage and indignation. But this time, notwithstanding the lingering expressions of fury on the Yin spirits’ faces, they couldn’t help but curl up their lips with pleasant surprise, almost as though they had encountered an ecstatic situation amidst their earlier episode of rage.
Back on the city walls. Yang Yanzhao clenched his fist and continued to hold it up high.
They had just seized a massive city from the hands of their foes, and it was still very much known to them whether there were still remnant forces of Lord Kong who were still hidden amidst the citizenry. If they even came so close to inciting a Yin spirit rebellion, Kong Mo could easily take advantage of the opening created by the wave of chaos and launch a counter-attack! That would truly endanger Hell’s reign of Ashmound City!
Fortunately… the ‘clean-up’ works seem to be working out just fine.
Like a magician of emotions, Qin Ye felt like he had a completely firm handle on the emotions of the citizens. With a smile on his face, he continued, “Five thousand work credits, and you would be given the opportunity to return to the mortal realm for a period of six hours.”
“Sss…” The citizens’ anger and rage had now completely faded away. Instead, they were all now staring at Qin Ye with a look of abject disbelief.
Returning to the mortal realm…
That was everything that the Yin spirits had hoped for, and then some!
The underworld. If one didn’t mind the loneliness, they could easily get by without working at all. All they needed was some measure of shelter against the elements of the underworld. That said… the natural disasters in Limbo were just as frightening. They were only able to get through each occurrence of natural disaster because of the defenses proffered by the city itself.
But besides that, there was no need for food, drinks or even sleep in the first place. Naturally, the only other possible source of incentive that could motivate the Yin spirits… would be in relation to their loved ones back in the mortal realm!
In fact, this was a deadly bait that immediately got all Yin spirits hooked by their noses!
“This kid… really does play dirty. And he’s got to be one of the dirtiest I’ve ever seen…” Arthis sighed softly in the shadows.
Completely oblivious to Arthis’ comments, Qin Ye continued, “I’m sure I won’t have to remind you that the Book of Life and Death contains all of the particulars of your loved ones, including the cause of death.”
The silence continued.
That said, Qin Ye could tell that over twenty million pairs of eyes were all flickering wildly right now - without exception!
And there was even a soft sound of ragged breathing echoing through the lands.
The opportunity to return to the mortal realm… and the ability to relay dreams… If we could just obtain the requisite amount of work credits and relay all of these information to our loved ones, then… wouldn’t it mean that we can be reunited once more as soon as the new cities or counties are ready?
Wouldn’t we be able to live happily with each other at home once more?
“Finally, there are three additional points to note about the fifth article.” Strike while the iron was hot. Qin Ye seized the opportunity and continued to push his point, “The first is that the credits accumulated from your contributions in the Frontier Brigade, or your pioneering efforts, would also double up as the basis for assessing the distribution of housing when the works are finally complete. You can think of it analogous to the basis on which apartments were allocated to workers in the past, in accordance with their contributions. To this end, the assessment of distribution of housing will not draw down on your work credits for the purposes of returning to the mortal realm or relaying dreams as well. It’s just for the purposes of assessing your contributions.”
“The second point to note is that searching through the records of the Book of Life and Death is also going to cost you one thousand work credits.”
“Thirdly, while there’s no limit on the number of times you can return to the mortal realm and relay dreams, this is a privilege that will only be extended to citizens for as long as Hell is still participating in frontier expeditions. Hell will immediately retract these privileges as soon as the Frontier Brigades’ works are completed, and such privileges will only be available again when the need arises for a whole new city later on.”
“Everyone, do you have any questions?”
1. These are named after the 108 stars of destiny, which is core to the plot of the chinese classical novel, Water Margin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/108_Stars_of_Destiny