There was an abrupt silence. Qin Ye glanced around once, and he immediately knew what was going on.
Historically speaking, the change of dynasties in Cathay had always been accompanied by bloodshed and massacre. Most newly-ascended incumbents would never leave the lackeys of their predecessors around. After all, it was the instinct of the new emperor to jealously guard his throne and weed out all potential sources of strife.
Qin Ye smiled faintly, “You’ve all misunderstood. Hell has undergone a massive change, and I’ve got no choice but to bear the burden of holding up the banner of Hell. Anyhow, this isn’t the most conducive place for discussions. Why don’t we head inside?”
“Yes. This way.” The hearts of the ghosts were still filled with suspicion and doubt. Nevertheless, they plastered a kind and warm expression to their faces and made a gesture of invitation, before promptly leading the way in.
Changdeok Palace was filled with scarlet lanterns. Apart from that, there were hundreds of Yin spirits dressed in black garments and half-kneeling on the ground, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the esteemed Emissary of Hell. As soon as Qin Ye entered, all of them welcomed him in unison, “Greetings, esteemed Emissary of Hell!”
“What’s this?” Qin Ye asked curiously. Lu Ban smiled and explained everything, “These people here aren’t your usual rabble on the street. They are the research teams that have accompanied us on our foreign assignment years ago. They’ve all learned a thing or two of their own, and they’re more than happy to return to their home country and serve Hell.”
Qin Ye could barely hold in his whistle of joy.
Maintain your persona! Maintain your persona!!! He cried several times to himself before he finally managed to suppress the desire to cheer and dance in his heart.
That’s right… Why didn’t I think of that? These six old men are all leading experts of their own rights! Which one of them isn’t in the league of academicians back in the mortal realm?
They’re practically geniuses in their own rights - the kind that are raring to put their knowledge into practise and change the world as we see it! And if that’s the case, how could Hell possibly have sent them out to foreign underworlds on their own?
They would at least be entrusted with the task of taking along a throng of budding researchers to deepen their knowledge and insight!
And now… the time has finally come for them to return home, take root and blossom as beautiful flowers!
“Excellent.” He didn’t hold back his expression of joy this time, and he nodded deeply, “Everyone, it’s been hard on you. But… it’s finally time to go home.”
At once, hundreds of voices erupted with their response in unison, “We’re willing to serve Hell until we die!!!”
“All are Yin spirits who are absolutely loyal to Hell. This way, please.” Shang Yang led the way, walking in accordance with Qin Ye’s pace as they approached the great hall.
Truth be told, it was a little contrived saying that this was a great hall. After all, having witnessed the great hall of the Forbidden City, few palaces out there could compare in terms of their magnitude and splendour. To this end, Qin Ye had always considered the Palace of Versailles, Buckingham Palace, the Kremlin, the White House and the Forbidden City ranked among the five top palaces in the world.
Changdeok Palace was naturally far from these places…
It looked exactly the same as it did in the day. However, the table and stools were already set up with a jug of jade-coloured wine. Lu Ban remarked with some measure of embarrassment, “Apologies for the lacking reception. Time was tight, and we wanted to keep things low profile. Thus, these were the only things that we had managed to prepare thus far. Please forgive us.”
“There’s no need to be so courteous.” Qin Ye walked right up to the head of the table and took his place naturally, “Everyone, how have things been over the last hundred years? Was it difficult? I give you my word that I’ll do my best to compensate you fairly for all of your hardship.”
Zhang Zhongjing, a thin Yin spirit with greying temples gently stroked his beard and sighed softly, “It wasn’t easy.”
He chuckled bitterly, “At the start, we were here on a learning journey. But over a hundred years ago, we suddenly lost contact with Hell overnight. The foreign underworlds discovered that the place I’d been to was Brittania, the birthplace of evolution. The whole of Europa is under the regime of the Argosian Underworld. These foreign underworlds soon discovered that Hell had closed its borders to the rest of the world. The first 30 years were still fine, and then… they began to persuade us to join them.”
Li Chun’s expressions were ordinary. He had a slightly droopy nose and a head full of black hair. He looked the youngest of the six Yin spirits at the table. He poured himself a glass of wine and gently sipped at it, before reminiscing about the past, “We obviously aren’t going to join them. But, as time went by, and as they continued to attempt to reach out to Hell and discovered Hell to be unresponsive, they gradually became more and more aggressive in their attempts at persuasion. There came a point where it became so difficult for us, because there would be darkfeathers knocking on our doors almost every other day… Sigh…”
He shook his head and swirled the contents of his glass as he continued to speak with some measure of exasperation, “Speaking of which, we really have to thank Mr Zu, who came to our rescue in our greatest time of need. If he hadn’t located us and arranged for transportation for us, we would never have been able to slip under the radar that easily.”
Hang on… did you say arranged for transportation? WeChat?
Qin Ye nearly spat out the wine in his mouth. Since when did you guys become so proficient with modern technology?!
That said, he didn’t interject, and simply continued listening intently. Zu Chongzhi bowed slightly and sighed, “We located all the scholars we could find using the contacts we had in the mortal realm. Then, 60 years after Hell first closed its borders, we leveraged on an international conference and left the underworlds that we were at.”
Qin Ye nodded slightly. The places that Hell would send its Yin spirits to would indubitably have been the top underworlds. It would never be places such as the Russian Underworld or Yomi-no-Kuni. There would be nothing to learn from these places.
And if they had indeed been posted to the top underworlds in the netherworld, then there was no doubt that they would be placed under close surveillance. It would have been incredibly difficult for them to find the right opportunity to leave.
Zhang Heng was an old man with a long beard and a round belly. He carried on where Zu Chongzhi left off, “As soon as they discovered our absence, they immediately issued ‘wanted’ notices. In order to avoid arrest, we escaped here to the mortal realm, searched for some fresh, dead bodies and took possession of them. Thereafter, we all joined up with major companies and kept in touch with each other through messaging apps. Until finally…”
He gulped down the rest of the wine in his cup, and then sighed with relief, “Today arrived.”
The entire room was silent. It was almost as though everyone were thinking back and recounting the hardship that they had been through just to get here. Qin Ye slowly rose to his feet, and cupped his hands respectfully to them, “Rest assured. It may take time, but I’ll see to it that these underworlds shall pay an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth for all that you’ve suffered over these long years.”
When Hell is finally strong.
And when Immortal Sanction is finally up and running once more.
There will come a time when the words “by Hell’s Dictum, all rabble shall disperse” shall strike fear in the hearts of all Yin spirits once more!
An instance of infraction, a life of requital!
Every single Yin spirit at the table tightened their grip around their glasses. Nobody said a word, but they knew that this was just like the Hell that they had always known.
“I’ve got one more question for you. Why couldn’t I sense your Yin energy back at La Yeon?” Qin Ye asked as he raised the wine glass in his hand.
The somewhat somber atmosphere eased up slightly with this question, and Shang Yang chuckled, “Because the Second King Yanluo of Hell had enchanted all of us with a spell of protection. All whose power does not exceed his would never be able to perceive our presence. In fact, this was critical in our escape plans. It was the key to how we were able to elude the major underworlds all this while.”
“And as soon as we made our great escape, we all agreed to congregate in Daehan. This is the country in closest proximity to the coastal provinces in Cathay. Furthermore, the underworld here isn’t strong. Unfortunately, with the Array of the Nine Gods in place, we can’t cross the sea and enter Hell…”
Just then, he suddenly noticed Lu Ban winking at him, and he immediately drew a deep breath and asked respectfully, “Speaking of which, I wonder how the Second King Yanluo is doing?”
They still don’t trust me, huh… Qin Ye sighed softly in his heart - But I suppose that’s only natural. After all, this is but our first proper meeting with each other.
“He’s doing well.” Qin Ye smiled and continued, “If you return now, you might just be in time to see him before he goes.”
Everyone stared at Qin Ye with a complex gaze. Meanwhile, Qin Ye couldn’t help but develop the urge to give himself two tight slaps across the cheeks.
Do you really have to speak in such an ambiguous manner?!
Are you trying to tell them that he’s on the verge of death, and you should hurry back if you want to see him for the last time?!
Qin Ye took a deep breath, “What I meant was that he will soon be leaving the three realms, and I’m afraid he will never return again in future. He’s currently imparting to me the knowledge necessary for my succession. If you return in time, you should be able to see him before he leaves.”
Forget it. I guess I’ll have to apprise them of the ongoings in Hell sooner or later. With that, Qin Ye waved his hand, and the doors suddenly shut. Outside, Wang Chenghao and Oda Nobutada immediately stood guard to ensure nobody entered the room. The Yin spirits in the room immediately exchanged glances, and their expressions turned somber.
Qin Ye stood up and began pacing around, taking in each of their expressions. Finally, he bowed deeply to them.
“Your Excellency, don’t, please.” “Sir, you’re--?” “My Lord, you’re a ruler! How can a ruler be bowing to his subjects?”
Qin Ye straightened his body and shook his head, “Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is no longer with us.”
These words exploded like a mighty bombshell, rendering all of the Yin spirits completely flabbergasted.
“Things in Fengdu had come to a point where Hell had to be broken before it could be rebuilt. The Second King Yanluo held his hand and placed Hell under lockdown as Lord Ksitigarbha gained ascension. The Fengdu Necropolis as you know it has already vanished together with Lord Ksitigarbha.”
But every word that Qin Ye said was like a mighty sledgehammer, pounding deep into the hearts of the Yin spirits listening to him.
After some time, Lu Ban finally asked with great trembling in his voice, “Lord Ksitigarbha… has gained ascension?”
Qin Ye gazed deep into his eyes, “He’s not the only one. The current Fengdu Necropolis is nothing more than an empty shell. Hell is only the size of a city, with only 100,000 Yin soldiers at our disposal, and we’re surrounded on all sides by powerful underworlds. And that’s not all…”
He shifted his gaze away from Lu Ban and turned to everyone else, “What’s worse is that everything in Hell has to be completely rebuilt from scratch. Therefore, you guys should know just what your return to Hell would mean to us right now.”
It was like a morgue filled with Yin spirits.
Nobody had expected to be confronted with such shocking news on the cusp of their return!
Thud… Zhang Zhongjing lost his balance and fell to the ground. His eyes were somewhat blank and listless, “3,000 years of Fengdu is gone… just like that?”
Qin Ye shook his head.
Zhang Zhongjing turned back to Qin Ye and stroked his beard with great trembling, “The Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces, the Sixfold Ghost Kings, and the hundreds of Abyssal Prefects are all gone, just like that?”
Qin Ye shook his head once more.
“Technically speaking, I’m the only Abyssal Prefect in the new Hell right now.”
He didn’t intend to conceal anything from these Yin spirits, nor did he intend to test their hearts right now. He knew better than that.
Besides, if these people harboured the slightest bit of ulterior motives in their hearts, would the Second King Yanluo ever pardon them?
There was a brief period of silence again, before Zhang Heng spoke hoarsely, “In other words… there’s a multitude of things waiting to be done in the new Hell? Doesn’t that mean that the new Hell wouldn’t even have explored the uncharted frontiers around them, and that the citizens of the new Hell are all city-bound? Your Excellency, dare I ask what the size of the new Hell is right now? How much ghost power do we have at our disposal?”
“30 million.” Qin Ye glanced around, “We’re currently working on claiming Eastmount Province and Insignia Province for ourselves. The Book of Life and Death, the Mirror of Eminence, and Fate have already been reclaimed to Hell. We’ve got leads on the whereabouts of the next shard of King Yanluo’s Seal, but the location of the Judgment Pen is still unknown to us.”
The room was filled with sighs, but Qin Ye calmly went on, “I assure you that if you return, we’ll share in our joys and sorrows, and even weather through the most difficult of times together. But if anyone doesn’t wish to be a part of this process, I won’t force it on you either.”
As he spoke, a thread of Yin energy slowly began to congeal around his fingertip.
If anyone dares to voice their dissent, don’t blame me for cutting you off entirely…
Sure, Qin Ye might have a whole host of weaknesses, but the one thing he was most adept at was his clarity of mind on the things he needed to do for Hell.
As far as these Yin spirits were concerned, he wanted to be sure of them all!Previous Chapter Next Chapter