All of the Yin spirits were sitting upright as soon as the roll call was done. None of them could conceal the surprise in their eyes.
After all, none of them had expected such a complete, star-studded line-up of all the recent leaders of Eastmount Province to be gathered in the same hall right now! There were even generals and political commissars from the time of the War of Resistance!
Qin Ye sighed as he slowly rose to his feet.
He knew full well that he would have to be upfront with them if he wanted their full cooperation. He couldn’t afford to conceal anything from the Yin spirits present today, because they were all supposed to work towards a common goal.
He waved his hand softly. In an instant, a row of book-keepers and clerks entered the room. The main door was slammed shut after them, and Arthis immediately sealed up the door with her hair. The eyes of all meeting attendees flickered slightly. Everyone could tell that the words which Qin Ye was about to speak next were of great importance.
“Everyone, it’s been tough on you over the last month or so.” Qin Ye paused for a moment, before adding, “But there are still a multitude of things to be done in the new Hell. You must have many questions on your mind. Today, I hope to provide you with a better clarity about the situation in Hell.”
Several Yin spirits couldn’t help but exchange glances with each other. Even the soldiers who stood unwavering at the side couldn’t help but look up with a hidden glint in their eyes.
Of course they had questions.
For instance, why didn’t Ashmound’s forces get absorbed into a larger collective army after they surrendered?
This definitely wasn’t the norm. Normally, the conquest of a nation would be followed closely by the influx of armies and citizens in order to dilute the concentration of the surrendered forces. Then, after a census is conducted on the surrendered forces, they would be broken up and dispersed to the surrounding major cities in order to weaken any possibility of collusion and uprising.
However, Hell did nothing of this sort.
It was almost as though there was only one city in Hell, and it was for that reason that Hell had no choice but to go out of its way in order to appease the hearts and minds of the citizens of the city. Such conduct certainly wasn’t normal at all!
In fact, this was the single exception to the norm across the entire history of Cathay. In other words, this was the first time something like that had ever happened in the first place.
Yet, Qin Ye didn’t directly address the most pressing thought on their mind. Instead, he slowly began to pace about the room as he skirted around these queries, “I know, given your positions, that you’ve had oversight of the files pertaining to supernatural incidents over the years. There’s nobody more qualified to know of these things than you are. You’re probably even one of the few mortals around who know of the exact locations where dangerous evil ghosts have been sealed by the experts back in the mortal realm.”
“Haven’t you ever wondered why Hell has remained silent all this while? Have you wondered why there was a surge in paranormal activity over the last few decades? Have you thought about why the number of supernatural incidents have gone from heights to heights in recent years?”
He paused for a moment, before finally dropping the bombshell, “It’s because… the old Hell no longer exists.”
Rustle! As soon as Qin Ye said that, dozens of eyes immediately looked up at him.
Unfazed, Qin Ye continued, “Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has ascended into paradise, and the old Hell no longer exists. Granny Meng found me and started me off on the journey by entrusting me with a shard of King Yanluo’s Seal. Then, I found the Harken as well as the Book of Life and Death. The journey hasn’t been easy, but we’ve finally given Hell a proper footing to stand on. From what I’ve said so far, you might probably have already guessed why you haven’t seen any Emissaries of Hell around.”
Qin Ye looked up at the ceiling, “It’s simply because there aren’t anymore Emissaries in Hell.”
“Currently, the only ones remaining are the twelve feudal officials of Hell, also known as the twelve envoys. They include the renowned Zhou Yu, Yang Jiye, Yu Qian, amongst others. Yang Jiye and Yu Qian are on Hell’s side, and Zhou Yu is currently sitting on the fence. But, apart from that, the rest, including Liu Yu, Han Qinhu, Gao Changgong and the other feudal officials have all declared their own independence as soon as they learnt of the collapse of the old Hell!”
Zhou Yu, Yang Jiye, Yu Qian… The mention of these names caused everyone’s eyes to flicker wildly. Anyone not sufficiently steadfast might have gasped in shock or cried out in surprise. But not a single one of them reacted in that manner.
Qin Ye suddenly turned around and stared at them with a burning gaze in their eyes, “To make matters worse, Lord Ksitigarbha has failed to bring three of the six daolords with him, while the Harken is severely injured and in deep slumber. How could Hell afford to look after the mortal realm when it can’t even handle its own affairs?”
“We currently face the threat of three daolords outside, and hidden rebel forces within our midst. Everyone… I hope you’ll work with me to restore Hell back to its former glory! Lord Ksitigarbha and the Harken will also be helping us along the way in whatever manner they can. Our main goal right now is to assemble King Yanluo’s Seal. Only with that and the Book of Life and Death in hand will we finally be able to rebuild Hell to what we all know of it. By then, nobody will be able to stand in our way!”
The atmosphere was no longer as relaxed as before. Instead, everyone was now in deep thought, and the netherflames in their eyes were all flickering wildly. None of them had ever expected the situation in Hell to be as bad as described.
They were destined to stand with Hell.
They were Cathayans. They knew full well how much the rate of supernatural incidents had grown over the last few decades.
Cathay was bound to be thrown into chaos in light of Hell’s great collapse. Even though they were no longer living back in the mortal realm, they still had family and loved ones residing back there. Thus, whether for the benefit of those who were still alive, or for vengeance for those whose lives had been taken, they all had to stand on Hell’s side whether they liked it or not!
This was how to deal with the top brass. He needed to convince them with cogent reasoning and defensible logic. Coaxing them with chicanery like Qin Ye did with the citizens of Ashmound would never work.
After a protracted period of silence, an old man dressed in military uniform sighed tersely with a hoarse voice, “So that’s how it is. My grandson… died a victim to one of these supernatural incidents. Investigations turned up no results whatsoever…”
“Chief…” “Old Zhao…” Several Yin spirits immediately sighed after him, only to notice Old Zhao shaking his head back at them, “As you know, there used to be seven military regions in Cathay before it was divided into the five theater commands. Back then, I used to be the commander of the Qizhou military region. When the supernatural incidents surged, I worked hand-in-hand with the Special Investigations Department. Qi Zhou… was probably a region with the fewest supernatural incidents across all of Cathay. But, even then…”
He glanced at Qin Ye, “I finally understand that all we’ve been doing is merely addressing the symptoms, and not the cause.”
“As long as Hell remains in shambles, the mortal realm would never be able to rest at ease. It’s just as well…” He sighed wistfully - almost relieved, as though a longstanding mystery weighing heavily on his heart had finally been resolved. Then, he chuckled softly, “I guess we’ll just have to finish in Hell what we couldn’t back in the mortal realm. The revolution isn’t over. Comrades, let’s do our best.”
The atmosphere in the room instantly loosened up slightly. Just then, another old man wearing a myriad of military medals lamented, “Well said… The current situation is so much better than back then during the revolution. At the very least, we’ve got a city and Yin spirits to work with. And you could even say that the defenses of this city renders it practically impregnable. So long as we have our base of operations, we can plan ahead with assurance in our hearts. There’s no need to be hasty, and we can slowly work out the finer details.”
“Unfortunately--...” Qin Ye interjected abruptly, “Time isn’t on our side.”
The old man raised his eyebrows curiously, before asking in dismay, “What does Mr Qin mean by that?”
Qin Ye slowly walked past the old man with his hands behind his back, “The Second King Yanluo of Hell has set up a protective seal around Cathay before he departed. For the next 150 years, no foreign underworlds will dare covet Cathay’s territories. But as soon as this seal expires…”
He paused for a moment and drew a deep breath, “All hell will break loose. I’m afraid that the underworldly Eight-Nation Alliance might come knocking on Hell’s doors once more.”
Eight-Nation Alliance? 
There was a period of protracted silence. Several moments later, everyone gasped in exclamation, while Old Zhao was the first one who managed to collect himself, “You’re saying that… there are other underworlds out there?”
Hell isn’t the only underworld?
“Of course.” Arthis finally spoke up, “The netherworld is similar to the mortal realm in that an underworld’s jurisdiction is limited to its territorial boundaries. How many different nations are there up in the mortal realm? Many of them have their own sets of religions or mythology. Everyone… you don’t actually think that Cathay’s underworld rules over the entire netherworld, do you?”
“There are at least a dozen underworlds that are in existence to date, all of which have been in existence for at least a thousand years. I’m sure everyone would have heard of Yamaraja, Anubis and Thanatos. They correspond to the Hindustani, the Aegyptian, and the Argosian underworlds respectively. These are underworlds that have been laying low, silently existing in a different part of the netherworld, out of sight and out of mind.”
She hunched her back slightly, “Let me just put it out there. Each of these mythic figures possess strength that is at least equal to Lord Ksitigarbha. Their underworlds possess thousands of years of heritage and history behind them, and none of them are weaker than us in any way. Any one of these underworlds would easily have hundreds of millions of Yin soldiers under their charge, including a multitude of Abyssal Prefects, a sea of Infernal Judges and an ocean’s worth of Anitya Hellguards and Soul Hunters! Tamed Yin beasts are dime a dozen. If we allow them to march into our lands, Cathay… would truly become no different from purgatory on earth.”
Pin drop silence. Everyone grew taciturn as they wondered how terrifying the cataclysmic invasion of forces was going to look. They had initially thought that Hell was already well on the road to recovery, so how could they have expected the sudden curve ball by Arthis, telling them about the armageddon that was soon to befall both Hell and Cathay alike?
“Everyone, there’s no need to worry too much for now.” Qin Ye’s voice cut through the stifling silence. His intentions were to apprise everyone of the situation in Hell, and not place a paralyzing burden on their backs.
After all, such baggage would only cause them to overthink things, which would in turn unduly shackle their decision-making processes.
Hell had just begun its approach on the overtaking lane. What it needed most right now was the courage to put the pedal to the metal and drive forward without restraint! Regardless of how many cars there were, they would have to overtake everyone with their eyes fixed on the clear straight path ahead! There was simply no room for looking back with eyes of fear and worry.
It was no different from how Cathay boldly launched its thirty-year reform policies with its eyes fixed solely on the goal of leaving the most embarrassing chapter of its empire in the past! Anything that was beneficial to the nation was absolutely worth the attempt.
They couldn’t afford to be bogged down by the baggage of the past and the concerns of the future. Such burdens could potentially detract their minds from the potential benefits and militate against any thoughts of attempt altogether!
“We were able to seize control of Eastmount Province in no more than a year since the founding of the new Hell. Hell’s capital is located back in Insignia Province. With Eastmount Province in the bag, the other localities sandwiched between these locations, including Breakwaters Province and Insignia Province itself, would be ours for the taking. From there… we can proceed south and occupy all four coastal provinces! Then, with Eastsea acting as a stronghold, Hell would practically have the perfect opening to this grand game of chess!”
That’s right. It was the opening.
They were only at the opening of the grand 100-year plan of the new Hell.
“What we need to focus on right now is to lay the groundwork to smoothen our path for the future. To this end, the first thing we’ll have to do is to firm up Ashmound’s foundation.” Qin Ye smiled, “We’ve been too busy over the last month - so busy that we haven’t even had the time to meet with each other. For now, let’s leave everything else aside. I’d like all of you to come with me and together inspect Hell’s spoils of war. At the same time, it would be useful to get to know each other, and our respective styles of governance. Then, we can all head back to our teams to take stock of the work to be done, as well as the difficulties you’re faced with. We’ll reconvene in a week’s time, and then set a detailed charter moving forward.”
Arthis remained completely silent as she leaned against the doorway with a somewhat complicated gaze in her eyes.
Some people are born to serve a specific calling…
With Ashmound under Hell’s control, Eastmount was ripe for the taking. The only obstacles standing in their way right now were the daolord and Kong Mo. For all intents and purposes, Qin Ye was already working with a brand new province.
Yet, where was the multitude of things to be done?
He was actually able to speak eloquently to a group of bigwigs and assuage all of their concerns even when they were flustered. Everything was completely outside of Arthis’ expectations.
“Granny Meng… You’ve picked the perfect person indeed…” Arthis sighed and shut her eyes with great emotion, “Go in peace. I’m pretty sure you’ll see a completely different sight in Hell after a hundred years.”
It would be a completely new age of Hell!
It was going to be the perfect blend of the modern and the ancient!
Arthis was full of confidence in that very moment.
Then, just as Qin Ye finished speaking, the former governor of Eastmount Province, Zhang Zeguang stood up with a smile, “I’m the one tasked with the inventory list of the spoils of war, and everything is now ready for inspection. Little Xu.”
The young Yin spirit from before immediately walked over and bowed with a pristine smile, “Greetings, Mr Qin. My name is Xu Changyou, first assistant to the current secretary general of Eastmount Province. I’m also among the first batch of Yin spirits to have come to Ashmound City. I’ll be rendering the full report of our inventory.”
Qin Ye nodded, and Xu Changyou continued, “Having spent the last month taking stock of the spoils of war, and apart from the Kong Mo Treasury to which entry has been denied, we report as follows.”
“The full list of industries and professionals under Hell’s charge are as follows. Law enforcement - 470,000 Yin spirits. Agricultural and farming industry - 200,000 Yin spirits. Clothes and fabrics industry - 240,000 Yin spirits. Food and beverage industry - 530,000 Yin spirits. Beauty industry - 470,000 Yin spirits. Light industry and chemicals - 1,340,000 Yin spirits. Weapons and armaments industry - 150,000 Yin spirits…”
“There are a total of 17 industries which currently employ a total of 3,420,000 professionals. Sir, please feel free to inspect the list of technical professionals in Ashmound right now.”
1. This refers to the multinational coalition that invaded China in 1900 and saw the looting and pillaging of Beijing and North China for over a year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-Nation_Alliance The Boxer Protocol was signed as a result of the invasion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxer_Protocol