Dong… The clock struck twelve, and the sound of a majestic gong echoed through the streets of Hanyang. There were many churches around these parts, and it wasn’t odd to hear such sounds coming from the bell towers at all. That said, the chime of the bell tonight came together with the rise of an eerie chill.
At some point, the courtyard right outside was already filled with Yin energy. Qin Ye pulled up the curtain and took a peek, only to see a magnificent carriage pulled by eight skeletal war horses pulling over at the main entrance. The coachman and the attendant stood upright at attention at the side of the carriage.
It was a Cathayan-styled carriage, covered with an exquisite relief of the bright rising moon as well as the majestic Aurogon holding up a lantern. The beautiful palace lanterns shaped like lotuses also hung from the four corners of the carriage. Wisps of teal smoke rose into the air from these lanterns, before quickly dissipating into the surroundings.
There was also a procession of eight Yin spirits dressed in the garbs of eunuchs, nine Yin spirits dressed like palace maids, and then six Yin spirits dressed like children. The ones standing on the left were holding up scarlet flowers, while the ones standing on the right were holding up black willow branches. Finally, six other female Yin spirits stood at the end of the procession, wearing gold-gilded headgears adorned with brilliant feathers of unknown Yin beasts.
The procession was followed closely by an armed escort unit comprising 99 Yin soldiers wearing their newest Tigerform Battle Armor. Intense netherflames blazed from the masks on their faces, making them appear ever more domineering than before.
“What a huge procession…” Wang Chenghao leaned over and gasped in surprise.
“Naturally.” Shang Yang sneered, “Liu Yu has committed the heinous crimes of colluding with a foreign underworld. Death would be but a reprieve for him! He’s definitely shivering in his pants right now. Do you really think he would still dare to put on airs around us?”
Just then, the eunuchs standing at the front of the procession suddenly flung their whisks from right to left and declared in a shrill voice with a hint of grandeur, “The time has come! May we invite the esteemed Emissary to board the carriage!”
Whoosh… At once, the procession of Yin spirits and the armed escort knelt to the ground at once. Meanwhile, Qin Ye, Wang Chenghao and Nobutada vanished from their rooms and appeared right in front of the carriage in a gust of nethergale.
“Greetings, esteemed Emissaries of Hell!” The 99 Yin soldiers at the back of the procession shouted at the top of their voices. Qin Ye, Oda Nobutada and Wang Chenghao boarded the carriage and took their seats. Seconds later, with the crack of the whip, the horses neighed, and the carriage began to pull away.
Within moments, there began a soft chanting around them. Wang Chenghao peeked out of a crack in the curtains, only to realize that the entire entourage was floating an inch above the ground. Yin energy billowed below, while flares of netherflames flourished overhead. The ceremonial procession behind tossed paper money in the air as they rumbled towards their destination. Wherever they passed, wandering Yin spirits would scream and retreat in fear.
They could barely sense the rumble of the carriage. Its stability was comparable to the maglev trains. That said, Qin Ye couldn’t be bothered with peeking out at this moment. It was far more important for him to maintain his persona. That said, he could still sense the temperature around him dropping quickly.
“Are we entering a rift to the underworld now?” He closed his eyes and sensed his surroundings. He could detect that the source of light outside of the carriage was slowly undergoing a qualitative change. The breath of the living was also fading, while Yin energy was slowly taking its place.
We should be arriving soon…
At just about the same time, the skeletal horses neighed loudly and stopped completely. Seconds later, there was a knock on the door to their carriage, “Esteemed Emissaries, we’ve arrived.”
Qin Ye opened his eyes and took a few deep breaths, opened the door and disembarked. At once, he was greeted by a completely different sight.
This was the first time he had entered a foreign underworld.
The first thing that caught his eye was a golden and glorious palace. Numerous lamps hung from the eaves, and the green hue of the netherflames blazing within cast a sheen of eerie green on the golden facade of the palace. Palace maids stood behind the towering pillars of the building taking in the sight of a ceremonial procession, while hundreds of guards toted their lanterns as they patrolled the vicinity.
Qin Ye glanced back beyond the palace walls. The vast expanse outside was brightly lit with lanterns of all shapes and sizes. Citizens sang and danced in joy in the middle of large Cathayan pavilions. The sea of netherflames appeared no different from the constellations in the sky. The splendour and prosperity of Hanyang was probably only second to Ashmound City itself.
It’s still not enough… If Hanyang is already like this, who knows what New Dilli, Al-Qahirah and Athenai would look like? 
In that instant, he was suddenly filled with the urge to go outside and see the world.
After all, know your enemy as yourself, and you can win a hundred battles.
He finally retracted his gaze and looked ahead where two figures stood, welcoming his arrival.
Liu Yu was dressed in a black official garments, while Rumyantsev was dressed in pompous Marquis garments.
“Welcome, Marquis Zhong.” Rumyantsev earnestly made a gesture of invitation as though there had never been any friction between them before, “Please, Earl Liu has already arranged a glorious banquet, and we’re waiting on our guest of honour.”
Liu Yu wore a stiff smile on his face. Unfortunately, his enemy was now far stronger than him, and he had no choice but to put on a smile, regardless of how contrived it might be. At once, he walked up and bowed with a slightly awkward smile, “I guess I should address you as Prefect Zhong now. Thank you for making the trip down. Please.”
“Judge Liu.” Qin Ye smiled back and shook Liu Yu’s hand, ignoring the ugly expression on Liu Yu’s face when he heard himself being addressed as ‘Judge Liu’. A moment later, Qin Ye turned his gaze past the two men and onto the gold-painted roof at the back, “Golden glaze, huh… That’s strictly for royalty, isn’t it? You might have overstepped your boundaries here.”
Liu Yu took a deep breath and forcibly repressed the urge to chop Zhong Kui up to pieces, “Yes, you are right. I have already ordered that it be torn down and rebuilt.”
Qin Ye nodded placidly. Then, escorted by Rumyantsev, he walked into the main hall in a breezy manner.
It had to be said that Liu Yu’s dreams of becoming emperor once again had clearly become an obsession. As soon as he entered, Qin Ye could tell that the entire palace was built entirely in accordance with the specifications of a regular emperor’s palace. That said, it was clear that they had made several emergency modifications in preparation for the reception today. For instance, there was no longer a golden throne in the middle of the room, and all that sat in its place was a xiezhi unicorn chair, befitting of a meagre Infernal Judge. But, even then…
Some of the larger fixtures akin to the golden glazed roof outside couldn’t be changed that quickly. Within, there were the golden pillars, the Torch Dragon lamps, and frescoes of the Harken, just to name a few.
“It looks like Judge Liu has been living well over the last century or so, haven’t you?” Qin Ye chuckled softly with a smile on his face.
“It’s all thanks to the blessings of King Yanluo.” Liu Yu’s smile stiffened. He was now more tempted than ever to burn bridges and call upon his army to tear the Emissary of Hell to shreds!
Unfortunately, he couldn’t. Nor did he dare to do the same.
A loss was a loss. Although he had to pick himself up, he also had to know when to bow in front of one stronger than himself.
Even if he once used to be hailed as an invincible man.
Qin Ye immediately nodded, and then suddenly quipped, “But I’ve heard that Judge Liu hasn’t been sleeping too well lately.”
Liu Yu’s lips immediately twitched. He didn’t say a thing, and instead fought hard to maintain the increasingly stiff smile on his face.
This was no different to a slap to the face. He could already guess what Zhong Kui was about to say. In fact, his hand even shifted slightly towards his waist where his sword was located. However, it was only when Rumyantsev grabbed his hand and glared at him in the eye that he finally backed down.
Qin Ye would never consider the feelings of the defeated, much less the thoughts of a traitor. Thus, he went on, “I mean, if you’d been sleeping soundly and well all this while, would you really have had such dreams of the grandiose and unachievable?”
“Lord Zhong!” Liu Yu finally exploded. He tossed away Rumyantsev’s hand and stared Zhong Kui in the eye as he complained through gritted teeth, “The Third King Yanluo of Hell has already promised me independence! Just what’s the meaning of this? Are you telling me that these actions are all sanctioned by the King Yanluo? How could Hell, one of the four major underworlds in the netherworld, not keep to its word? How would this make Hell look in front of other underworlds?! How do you expect them to treat Hell at arms’ length in future?!”
Rumyantsev sighed softly and shut his eyes.
A leopard never changes its spots.
It seems like Rus should never have hedged its bets with Liu Yu. Otherwise… we wouldn’t have been in such a predicament right now.
Does he not know that history is written by the victors? The losers have no rights! Contracts and agreements? Who’s going to enforce them, especially if they’re nothing more than verbal agreements? In fact, who would possibly believe that the King Yanluo of Hell personally assented to the independence of one of his twelve envoys?
That would make Hell the laughingstock of the Federation of Underworlds!
“Absurd!” Qin Ye barked back louder, sneering, “Sure, the Third King Yanluo may have agreed to it, but has he ever agreed to an official date of independence, or made a formal international announcement? You knew full well that you didn’t have any formal declaration of independence to work with, and yet you went ahead to conspire and collude with foreign underworlds, and even allowed them to set foot in Hell’s territory! Are you trying to conceal your actions from Lord Harken? Or are you banking on your suspicions that the Second King Yanluo can’t be bothered anymore?!”
“As one of the twelve envoys of Hell, you’ve betrayed your master, and even obstructed the actions of your master’s representative Emissaries! Your traitorous acts are shameful and an ugly blemish in Hell’s spotless reputation!”
“You--...” Liu Yu was livid.
He had brought up the Third King Yanluo of Hell to remind Qin Ye that he still hadn’t disclosed Hell’s current state of disrepair to the Russian Underworld. He was warning Qin Ye not to push him to the edge!
Who would’ve thought that Qin Ye would immediately retort like a ferocious general, bringing up the Harken and the Second King Yanluo to make it clear once and for all what the situation of Hell was like.
The Harken was still around. And even though the Second King Yanluo hadn’t personally made his appearance, the presence of Fate was no different from a declaration of his presence! In other words, Hell appears to be no different from how it used to be!
Not even the man once hailed to be invincible would dare stand toe to toe against the peerless Second King Yanluo of Hell!
After all, he was a complete monstrosity that didn’t belong to the Three Realms!
“Pardon my interjection.” Rumyantsev chipped in at the most opportune time and smiled dryly, “What’s the point of bringing up these things of the past? What’s happened has happened. Everything could in some way or other be attributed to a misunderstanding. Besides, aren’t we here today to figure out a good way to resolve these differences? Come, please take a seat.”
“A good way?” Qin Ye maintained his aggressive posture and looked at Rumyantsev with some measure of disbelief, “Aren’t we simply going to talk about how the Russian Underworld is going to compensate Hell for trespassing on the territory of its vassal state?”
And then he added the masterstroke, “If you’re looking for a way out… I’m sorry, but I think that might be a conversation better left for the Second King Yanluo of Hell and the Tsar of the Russian Underworld.”
You--... Name-dropping isn’t allowed! That’s foul play, do you understand?!
Rumyantsev forcefully suppressed the disgust in his heart and continued tugging at Qin Ye’s sleeve with the sincerest smile he could muster, “That’s right, compensation. The Russian Underworld would definitely offer Hell fair compensation for its transgressions, and hopefully finally close the chapter on this episode. Marquis Zhong, please, have a seat.”
It was only then that Qin Ye snorted coldly and took his seat at the head of the table.
Emissaries of Hell naturally commanded at least that much respect.
“There isn’t much to be said.” Qin Ye sat down and got straight to the point. He didn’t even take a second glance at the spread that was laid out before them, “First of all, Hell isn’t minded to harp on this incident either.”
This was the angle of attack that they had previously agreed upon. Push Liu Yu too hard, and he might actually go ahead and disclose Hell’s current condition. That would most certainly end up in a lose-lose situation.
Instead, the killing blow had to be delivered swiftly and decisively. Qin Ye wasn’t even going to give Liu Yu the chance to ask for help and spill the beans!
Liu Yu and Rumyantsev both heaved a sigh of relief in their hearts.
“There’s no need to sugar-coat anything. We’re all used to such international discourse, so we all know what’s coming. Everyone, please take a look.” Qin Ye flicked his hand, and a scroll immediately flew into Rumyantsev’s hand.
“The total value of the reparations we’re asking for amounts to the sum of approximately one billion Yin spirit stones. The full particulars of it are set out in the scroll. Mr Marquis, if you have no further questions, please sign and endorse this treaty on behalf of the Russian Underworld.”
Previous Chapter Next Chapter