Chapter 618: Opening Curtains (1)

Qin Ye froze for several moments, shut his eyes, and took several deep breaths. Then, he slowly opened his eyes and placed his hands over his chest, “Calm down… The Second King Yanluo is already gone, so there’s no one to pick up after your slack now. Everything you do will have direct consequences in Hell’s success or failure. Think twice before you act.”

This was one of his personal resolutions ever since the Second King Yanluo departed - he would think twice before he acted from now on.

Thus, he didn’t make his decision immediately. Instead, he simply summoned a messenger bird and sent it flying off into the distance. Moments later, he flicked his sleeves majestically, “Men.”

“My Lord.” Wang Chenghao answered his call at once. Qin Ye instructed, “Prepare a tea reception for some guests that are about to arrive.”

“Yes.”

It wasn’t long before several Yin spirits dressed in ancient attire drifted into the City Tower and entered straight into the conference room.

Kwon Kyung-ho and Ryu Changmin stood guard outside. The inside of the room was furnished with several exquisite tables and chairs. A sprawling folding screen depicting Zhong Kui’s capture of Yin spirits was placed right behind the room. Pots of tea and teacups were placed on a short square table in the middle of the room, from which wisps of Yin energy wafted out gently.

Qin Ye sat at the head of the table, followed by Zu Chongzhi, Li Chun, Lu Ban, and so on and so forth. He smiled at everyone and nodded his head, “Everyone’s been back for a week now. I’ve asked Arakshasa and the Harken to make the necessary arrangements for you. I wonder if you’re satisfied with it thus far?’

Shang Yang looked up at Qin Ye with some measure of surprise.

Qin Ye was fairly young as far as King Yanluos were concerned. In fact, given their experiences with the previous King Yanluo of Hell, they could tell that Qin Ye was at times still rather brash and naive, at least in his demeanor and body language.

It was for that reason that he didn’t expect Qin Ye to deal with matters in such a composed and unhurried fashion today. He clearly had an agenda for inviting everyone for the conference today, but he didn’t get straight down to business. Rather, he gave them all time to settle in and get comfortable.

“I’m grateful to King Yanluo for your care and concern.” He smiled in response, “We’ve all been assigned to different departments as advisors in our fields of expertise. Colleague Lu Ban was even appointed the chief engineer.”

Qin Ye picked up his teacup and gently took a sip.

The tea was clear and cold. Unfortunately, nothing in Hell was warm. Even then, tea could be considered a luxury in the underworld right now, because there was only a small plot of land dedicated for tea plantations. It was a prized product that regular citizens of Hell would never even dream of having.

He gently set down the lid of the teacup and smiled at everyone, “But, are you all satisfied?”

“I am.” Zu Chongzhi chuckled, “We’ve always been focused on our research in the past, so there’s no way we would be equipped with the skills to lead our respective departments in any event. Over the last week, we’ve spent most of our time speaking with our colleagues and getting up to speed. The way Hell handles things right now is very different from the way it used to be. We’re still adapting.”

Qin Ye lifted his teacup again, “It’s the survival of the fittest after all. We adapt to survive. There’s no way I can fill the massive shoes left behind by the Second King Yanluo of Hell. If I don’t adapt, I’ll never be able to survive.”

He chuckled, “You can even say that I’m willing to drag my pride and face through the mud in order to stand tall as the pillar of Hell. It’s laughable, but I’ve been undertaking every foreign expedition thus far, albeit with a change of my appearances. I long for the day when… I have an army of strategists and experts more qualified than I to send on these missions. Everyone, please hang in there.”

“Hang in there.” “Hang in there.” “Rest assured, the day will eventually come.”

Qin Ye smiled and took another sip of his tea. He would always have to be teachable and willing to learn. But at the same time, he would always need to act the part as the King Yanluo of Hell.

The tea was fantastic. It was different from the tea in the mortal realm. Rather, it emitted a cold, refreshing sensation that was cool, yet not icy. The tea was almost akin to… a soft and creamy smoothie.

“I’ve summoned everyone here today because there’s something else I would like to talk about.” He set down his teacup and tapped his finger. At once, a map of the netherworld appeared in the air in front of them, “I’ve not quite had the chance to have a chat with you esteemed scholars ever since your return. What I’d like to know is how the situation outside currently looks.”

At once, their expressions turned grave, and they all turned to look at Wu Daozi.

“Then, let me begin.” Wu Daozi didn’t reject the implicit nomination, and he walked out calmly, cupped his hands respectfully to Qin Ye, and then addressed everyone, “Ever since the Second Battle of the Oracle, it became apparent that there was a need for the underworlds to come together for international discourse. The Federation of Underworlds was formed by the top ten underworlds in the netherworld. From there, they went on to nominate the four strongest underworlds to act as the permanent members of the federation. 200 years later, they came to be known as the Permanent Four, or the P4.”

Qin Ye nodded and listened intently. There was much to be learnt. Everything he had gleaned from the Second King Yanluo and his reading of the old Hell’s Legacy was nothing more than the tip of the iceberg. In fact, he was still reading about the formation of the six paths of reincarnation, and the coalescence of the Three Realms. Qin Ye understood the importance of information and knowledge, and he naturally sponged up everything he could learn from the scholars around him.

Meanwhile, Wu Daozi couldn’t help but nod in approval at Qin Ye’s teachable heart. At once, he pointed to Cathay’s location on the map, “Geographically, Hindustan and Cathay are at a disadvantage. Aegyptus is in a slightly better position, but the most advantageous location is indubitable that of the Argosian Underworld.”

“Hell is surrounded by a number of other underworlds. We have the first-rate Russian Underworld right above Cathay, while the second-rate Nipponese Underworld exists to the east of us. A dozen or so unranked underworlds exist directly south of us, and then there’s Hindustan and Aegyptus located on the west. Yanluo Qin… do you know why this isn’t good for us?”

Qin Ye chuckled.

They’re actually serious.

How dare they test the knowledge of their King? If I didn’t know any better, I might well put Wu Daozi to death right away.

After all, ruffling the dragon’s whiskers was a capital offense.

But Qin Ye knew better. They were actually running the risk of ruffling the dragon’s whiskers in order to fill any potentially debilitating gaps of knowledge that they could right away!

I’ve got to hand it to you… You’re truly lucky to have such a good monarch… Qin Ye secretly praised himself as he pretended to deliberate over the question posed to him, “All large nations have an area of influence around them. But if you put multiple large countries together, their areas of influence will overlap, and this may result in a weakening of their influence in the region. For instance, let’s talk about the lesser underworlds, namely North Daehan, Nippon, Siam, Singapura, Lan Xang, and the Khmer Empire. These can all be considered tributaries to Hell.”

“But things are different once you cross the Straits of Malacca. Borneo, Malaya, Ceylon, and the Spice Islands are all tributaries to the Hindustani Underworld. To put it bluntly, we have far fewer vassal states than the Argosian Underworld.”

“That’s correct.” Wu Daozi nodded gratefully, “Argos is situated in the heart of Europa, and that alone allows them access to dozens of vassal states. Aegyptus also has dozens of tributaries. This puts both of those underworlds at the best position financially. After all, the Federation of the Underworlds has a rule that all vassal states or tributary states will have to pay tribute to their master state once every century. This alone accounts for a substantial part of any nation’s wealth.”

Qin Ye immediately considered the implications of something like this, “Then… how are we supposed to expand our wealth? Do we have to complete our internal exploration, before finally trading our specialty products for Yin spirit stones?”

Shang Yang responded, “Yin spirit stones are a form of currency that is equivalent to gold in the mortal realm. They’re not normally used in trade, and are more often than not stored by each underworld in the form of reserves. Besides, there’s yet another way of increasing wealth.”

Everyone fell silent, and Shang Yang gazed deeply into Qin Ye’s eyes and spoke respectfully, “And that is to… increase our international influence.”

“There are still many masterless lands in the world.” He stood up and began to walk about with a trace of hidden excitement, nodding at Alkebulan, South Usonia, and Australis, “These are the three largest masterless lands. But by masterless, I don’t mean that they don’t have any underworlds. Rather, they do - and a lot at that! For instance, think about the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds.”

“Then, there’s the various indigenous gods of death of South Usonia. These territories are extremely rich in resources of all kinds. For instance, over the last hundred years, the Aegyptian Underworld and the Hindustani Underworld have been vying over the agricultural mountain ridges belonging to the Incan Death God Supay. In the end, the Hindustani Underworld prevailed. Their spoils - wealth! Endless wealth and resources!”

“We’re talking about underworlds that have missed out on the earlier era of warring underworlds. By the time they surfaced and opened their borders, the P4 were already calling the shots in the international arena, and they struggled to keep up, much less speak up in these international conferences. That said, many of these places have given birth to each their own gods of death again. They’re in a state of constant conflict, almost like the conflict zones in Alkebulan, where everyone is fighting for the right to be the lord of the entire land. The Federation of Underworlds would never recognize them as a united underworld until the winner is finally decided.”

“However, they also need to develop their own underworlds. After all, war and conflict is a costly affair. Thus, they have no choice but to invite tenders from the powerful underworlds in the world, trading the natural resources in their lands in order to meet their immediate needs. You can most certainly find ghostpower easily accessible in these regions! Furthermore, resources for the development of a basic underworld are relatively inexpensive. So long as you are willing to share some of your profits and resources with these underworlds, it’s basically no different from money falling from the sky!”

So that’s how it is!

Qin Ye nodded in realization. It wasn’t too different from how things were in the mortal realm.

“And that’s not all.” Li Chun got up and pointed to Alkebulan, “What if they’ve got a dispute amongst themselves that cannot be resolved? They’d have to get a more powerful underworld to set things right on their behalf. For instance, what if an Incarnate Revenant appears, and they’re unable to go up against it? Or for further instance, what if a Yin-Yang phenomenon such as a Yin energy black hole appears? They simply aren’t equipped to deal with such things.”

“The profits to be gained for rendering aid in these situations aren’t low as well! It’s a good way of broadening our income streams!”

Qin Ye listened with great interest. The affairs of the netherworld weren’t very much different from the mortal realm!

“Then… what about the Russian Underworld?” He finally asked, “Where do they stand?”

There was an abrupt silence as everyone slowly shifted their eyes to Rus on the map. It was only after a long time that Lu Ban finally spoke, “The Russian Underworld… has the potential to become one of the top underworlds in the netherworld.”

“First, and foremost, they possess the largest territory in the world, and they must be commensurately rich in natural resources.”

“Secondly, their talent pool runs deep. The first and second world wars have placed them in command of numerous esteemed generals. Their military might isn’t something to be laughed at. Apart from that, there’s no doubt that their espionage and countersurveillance capabilities are top in the netherworld.”

Qin Ye rapped the table gently, “Then what’s keeping them from becoming one of the top underworlds to date?”

“People!” Shang Yang responded affirmatively, “They lack ghost power! They’ve got far too few people in the mortal realm, and that leads to insufficient Yin spirits in their underworld!”

“In turn, they face difficulties planting cities and expanding their infrastructure. Although they may have the knowledge of exactly where the natural resources are located,  the lack of connectivity forces them to prioritize, pick and choose the resource veins to tap into. Your Excellency, despite this fatal flaw that limits their growth, we definitely shouldn’t underestimate them, because… their strength in other aspects are incredibly strong!”

Qin Ye nodded, “Do they… possess the capacity to develop Forbidden Arts?”

At once, everyone fell silent.

Forbidden Arts was practically a topic of taboo, especially when it was spoken of in the same breath as the Russian Underworld. No… In fact, Forbidden Arts in the hands of any underworld was an equation that led to the same outcome.

Disaster.

A first-rate underworld would use it to vie for political rights - something that the top underworlds guarded jealously! It was something that could potentially upset the delicate balance of powers in the netherworld right now!

One faction would fight hard for their rights, while the other faction would fight equally hard to stifle it. The end result would naturally be war - a true, cataclysmic disaster for the netherworld!

Of course, this would be in the worst case scenario.

A King Yanluo never beats about the bush. Thus, without missing a beat, Qin Ye picked up his teacup and went on, “The Russian Underworld wants to strike a deal with Hell. This was the main reason why they appeared in Daehan in the first place. And for this reason, they’d even waited patiently for decades on end.”

With a flick of his finger, he swiftly enlarged the map of the Mongol Empire, “The Tsar intends to make the Mongol Empire vanish from the surface of the earth.”

“Because… they’ve discovered traces of a Resentment Crystal Vein in the Mongol Empire.”

“What?!” “H-how is this possible? Since when did the Mongol Empire get their hands on a divine Yin artifact? The conditions don’t seem right for a Resentment Crystal Vein to appear!” “No way… Resentment Crystals… What are they planning to do with it? These are one of the main sources of fuel for a spirit crystal reactor--… Are they… trying to secretly develop Forbidden Arts?!”

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