Limbo trembled as a result of the Harken’s infuriated roar. The netherflames around quivered in fear, while Arthis shut her eyes in awe as her hair fluttered wildly.
She knew this. She had known this all along.
Qin Ye’s attitude wasn’t right. Despite being the King Yanluo of Hell, he would be absent from Hell for protracted periods of time. And even when he was around, he would be approving documents in the wee hours of the night when none of the other Emissaries of Hell were working. Hell couldn’t possibly force all of their civil servants and officials to work around the clock just to match Qin Ye’s schedule. Even though Yin spirits didn’t physically need sleep, they would still grow tired and weary.
There were even a significant number of proposals that weren’t able to be passed in a timeous fashion to deal with issues expediently. Delay begets lukewarmness. The hearts that were filled with passion would quickly grow cold and unmotivated. Besides, how much larger was Ashmound as compared to the old Hell? Could he really address everything that needed his attention with just six hours a night?
And even if he could, then what about the next steps? Could he really chart a course for Hell’s growth without proper discourse with his ministerial team? Is he really that naive to think that everything could be addressed in a single meeting?
Hell’s territory had grown, together with their power, authority, demographic and a whole host of other changes. Yet, even then, Qin Ye was still keeping the same pace as before. Granted, that might have sufficed back when the new Hell was in its nascent stages of growth. But it was precisely because Hell had nothing that everything needed to be obtained from the mortal realm. Credit where it was due, his efforts did bear fruits in various forms, including the construction of the soul induction platform, the Southsea Huanghuali transaction, the seizing of the Obsidian Heaven’s Eye Bowl. All of this had their sources of origins from the mortal realm.
Even his advancement to the ranks of an Infernal Judge was in part attributable to his efforts back in the mortal realm.
But that was all in the past.
Now, Qin Ye was a True Emissary of Hell ruling over Ashmound City and the rest of Eastmount Province. In fact, they were arguably even on the cuff of taking control of all of the coastal provinces in the region. That would place an entire district of Cathay in their charge. Hell might have needed the aid of the mortal realm when it first began, but it certainly didn’t with Ashmound now under its control!
And since Qin Ye was the lord and master over Hell, it was naturally part of his responsibility and duty to give Hell his dedicated attention.
“Back then, he’d willingly assumed responsibility over the redevelopment of Hell because the collapse of the delicate balance between the mortal realm and the netherworld would lead to his eternal death. His actions implicated billions of Yin spirits. However, his mentality hasn’t changed once ever since his assumption of responsibility. Ashmound is a crucial point of inflexion for Hell’s development and growth. Back then, Hell was nothing more than the size of an insignificant speck, and it didn’t matter how Qin Ye wished to conduct himself. But now, with Ashmound and its 20 million Yin spirits and hundreds of square kilometers of territory under his control… how can he act that way?!” The Harken snorted.
“We’re talking about the precise work of sciences and the wide implications of official documents… Yet, he’s not expressed any opinions in this regard throughout my entire conversation with him earlier. It’s almost as though these things don’t even form part of his considerations at all!”
Arthis heaved a long sigh, before finally adding, “Nobody’s perfect… And he’s… still a human being after all.”
Then, she pulled herself together and continued, “He would never consider thoughts of the afterlife. This is the greatest difference between him and us Yin spirits. Perhaps he might not even realize the existence of such differences. He’s just living life in accordance with the lifestyle he’s most accustomed to…”
“And do you think I could care less if he weren’t the next King Yanluo of Hell?!” The Harken’s golden eyes flared up with rage as it scrambled to its feet, “So long as he remains a successor to the throne, he remains duty-bound to see through this task to the very end! Arakshasa, this isn’t the time to be soft-hearted. You’ve been following closely by his side for such a long time, and yet you haven’t done anything to nudge him in the right direction? What a disappointment!”
Arthis bowed respectfully and grew taciturn.
Was Qin Ye wrong?
Not from his perspective.
After all, he’d just been living his own way, without deviating from his principles or path in the slightest. He was the first one to notice the importance of Ashmound. In fact, every single one of his decisions thus far were more far-sighted than anyone could have imagined. He had considered everything around him as best as he could, and from every perspective possible, and yet, the one perspective that he did miss was the perspective of the self.
Was he truly faultless?
From his own perspective, yes. But if simply one considered his role as the successor to the throne, then the answer would be a resounding no.
Whoosh… A split second later, a dazzling golden light suddenly emerged from the Harken’s mouth. Following that, a tiny brush flew out.
Rumble… The presence of the small brush bore down on Limbo with such great force that everywhere within a hundred-mile radius trembled violently. All monarch beasts instantly bowed down in submission and remained completely still and silent.
“This is…” Arthis gasped in horror, “This is… ‘Fate’!”
“Yes… Fate.” The Harken gazed deeply at the brush that appeared to be constructed out of pure gold. The shaft of the brush was even hollow carved with exquisite patterns of the goddess of the moon, while a pure gold soul could be seen tossing and turning within.
“Anything prophetic statement written by this is bound to happen, so long as it takes place within the confines of the Cathayan underworld. That said, nobody knows the process in which things will happen, nor will the process ever be written for that matter.”
“Everything will fall into place, bit by bit, giving rise to the end state that is reflected by the prophetic statement. Not even the King Yanluo of Hell can reverse its effects once it has been properly set into motion.”
The Harken wrapped its tongue around Fate and motioned to begin writing in the air. Just then, Arthis boldly spoke up, “My Lord, please hold on.”
The Harken paused and turned to Arthis, “You’ve got something to say?”
Arthis’ lips parted, and shut, and then parted once more. She had a multitude of words on her lips right now.
She understood Qin Ye better than anyone else.
Two years wasn’t a short time. At the very least, it couldn’t be considered an insignificant amount of time. The two had experienced much together, seeing Hell through from its incipience when barely any hope was in sight, to its present state with Ashmound in hand and the coastal provinces well within their grasp. Thus, she could safely say that she knew Qin Ye only all too well.
He might be flippant at times, but he was never sloppy whenever it came to the decisions that mattered. Apart from that, she also knew that Qin Ye… was a man who valued the self.
Like a bird, he lived a carefree and unrestrained life.
And to that end, Fate was something that would allow him to soar in the sky in exchange from ever returning to the ground again.
That said… even the most majestic of birds would have to return to the ground for a break when it got tired of soaring high in the sky…
She knew something didn’t quite fit, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She didn’t have the right words to describe the harmonious middle ground between the two polar opposites of the self and the greater good.
Thus, she remained silent. The Harken’s eyes gleamed, and then motioned to continue writing with Fate once more. Just then, Arthis spoke up for the second time, “My Lord! What do you intend to write?”
The Harken responded softly, “That he… becomes a competent King Yanluo of Hell.”
Arthis bit down on her lips, “Should we… invite his opinion on the matter first?”
“Arakshasa, you still don’t get it.” The Harken sighed and continued solemnly, “If he was just any Emissary of Hell, be it Hellguard or even Prefect, I wouldn’t even have considered using Fate to begin with. But the crux of the matter is that he’s the next King Yanluo of Hell, and the only successor to the throne. All hopes of Hell’s future lies solely on his back. He needs to have the heart and the mind… as well as the attitude befitting of a King Yanluo.”
“Having lived in the mortal realm for a hundred years, do you think we’d be able to persuade him to let go of everything that he holds fast and dear to his heart? And do you think we have a year or two to waste on such a process to begin with?”
“Let me make this clear once and for all - our borders will be open to the world in just 150 years’ time. Do you really think we have a year or two to spare on such trivialities?”
With that, the Harken motioned to write in the sky again.
“My Lord, please hold on!” Arthis grew considerably anxious, “Aren’t you afraid that this would cause the rift between you both to widen so much so that your relationship completely breaks down?”
The Harken stayed its action for the third time and responded indifferently, “Truth be told, when I made a move against you two the last time, I’d personally witnessed the Heavenly Dao’s nod of approbation to Qin Ye’s succession. In fact, I’ve already accepted him as the sole candidate to be the next King Yanluo of Hell as soon as he became a True Infernal Judge.”
As it spoke, Fate’s tip struck the canvass of the void and began to write with stiff, majestic strokes.
“And it’s precisely because of such recognition that I’ve got to do this no matter what.”
“As a divine beast of Hell, I’m under the responsibility to support the revivification of Hell. I’ll support him where he’s lacking. And if he can’t steel his heart, then I’ll have no choice but to help him, no matter the cost - even if it means being hated by the next King Yanluo of Hell for the rest of all eternity!”
Whoosh, whoosh… It began to write in the void.
It wrote slowly. Each stroke of the brush was accompanied by the ragged breaths of the Harken, who had just recovered from grievous wounds. Evidently, the use of Fate was taking a huge toll on the Harken.
Arthis felt increasingly flustered. Broadly speaking, the Harken wasn’t wrong in the slightest! The one at fault was Qin Ye and Qin Ye alone. That said, she knew this wasn’t the result that she wished to see.
She sincerely hoped for Qin Ye to come to this realization on his own. That said, just as the Harken had said, she also appreciated the fact that time wasn’t on Hell’s side!
The earlier Hell returned to the global stage, the earlier the Yin spirits of Cathay could rest easy.
Several words were completed in the blink of an eye - ‘Let Qin Ye become a competent King…’ Just then, Arthis spoke up once more, “My Lord, please wait a little while longer.”
The Harken grew taciturn, and its tongue stopped moving for a while. After a long time, it sighed, “For how long?”
“Just today!” Arthis gritted her teeth, “Do you know what he’s going to do today? He’ll be convening the provincial-level meeting with all ministers today. He’s still working hard at it… and there’s going to be many things to be discussed today. I expect that this upcoming meeting is going to give him a better perspective of the things to be done, and hopefully, the pressure weighing on his shoulders… would suffice to show him the folly of his ways.”
The Harken grew silent.
Arthis took a deep breath and continued, “And I’ll have a word with him about this proper - honestly and without mincing any words! But you’ve also got to give him some time!”
“And if you still aren’t--... Ah?” Arthis was just about to go on when she suddenly paused mid-statement. Then, she glanced up with great elation and bowed deeply to the Harken.
The entire scene fell silent once more. She stared intently at the stillness of the brush that was Fate, and then finally sighed, “Then, My Lord, I’ll be taking my leave. I’m afraid that they must already have begun without me.”
“Mm.” The Harken nodded as he ingested Fate once more, “But you cannot let him know about Fate.”
“What you need to elicit is the true intentions of his heart, and not what he thinks under duress.”
“Yes.” Arthis promptly vanished without another word.
“How naive.” The Harken glanced in the direction that Arthis had departed and sighed wistfully, “How can you expect someone who’s been living in the mortal realm for a hundred years to suddenly come to the realization of the paradigm required of a King Yanluo of Hell? It’s just going to be another wasted trip.”
“I can even imagine what kind of response he’s going to give. He’s smart, but perhaps too smart for his own good, so much so that he might well think that there’s nothing he can’t do. Sure, he will listen very carefully, and perhaps even undertake a proper assessment of himself, but he will never be able to let go off the mortal realm just like that.”
“It’s because that’s the proof of his existence as a human being - the seal of being part of the living. Why else do you think I would even consider using Fate to begin with?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter