For a moment, there were gasps and cries, but they quickly died down.
They were all Yin spirits that had experienced their fair share of tumultuous times, so they were quickly able to regain their composure. Moments later, they all turned to Qin Ye for his instructions.
“There’s no need to look at me. That’s as much as I’m aware of for now.” Qin Ye responded, “Arakshasa has personally made the trek down to the Mongol Empire to investigate further. I believe that she’ll soon be back with news. But don’t expect anything too detailed. We don’t have the first mover’s advantage. Naturally, everything that we’re going to see would be nothing more than what the Russian Underworld wants us to see. What’s more important right now is to think of what we’re going to do next.”
He leaned over the table, almost ravenously, and then spoke in a deep voice, “I’ve thought about these matters as well, and there are some questions on my mind that I’m afraid only you scholars are able to answer.”
“First.” Qin Ye held up a finger, “The scrolls comprising the old Hell’s Legacy are further classified from ‘A’ through to ‘D’, with ‘A’ being of the highest importance. The Resentment Crystals are naturally classified under ‘A’. What I’d like to know is whether the appearance of such a heaven-defying material would come together with any natural phenomenon or the like? Furthermore, is it something that can only be used for Forbidden Arts?”
“It will!” Zhang Zhongjing stroked his beard, “I’ve heard that when the Resentment Crystals first appears, an area within a ten mile radius will instantly be purged of all living things. Any living creature that steps into this domain will instantly perish without fail. Day and night, you’ll be able to hear a chorus of ghosts wailing from within.”
He paused for a moment, “As for your question on whether it can only be used for Forbidden Arts… I would say that all of the functions of Resentment Crystals known to us are in some way or other linked to Forbidden Arts.”
“That’s not all.” Zhang Heng quickly chimed in, “I’ve personally participated in the design and construction of a spirit crystal reactor. Resentment Crystals. Its name makes it sound far more unassuming than it actually is. After all, the truth of the matter is that its natural function… is to act as a filter! Even though it is a material found only within the mortal realm, its purpose is to filter out everything that is not of the netherworld!”
“In other words, it functions like a massive mouth in the mortal realm, devouring and filtering everything around it all the time. Everything around it not of the netherworld will be consumed as though it were being devoured like a black hole! We’ve done the calculations. If time is infinite, the Resentment Crystals will be able to swallow up the entire mortal realm!”
Qin Ye nodded, “That must also mean that this process runs slowly?”
“Very slowly. But it’s also a process that is constantly going! In Yin Material Sciences, this phenomenon is given a name called… the Devouring Black Hole!”
“In essence, it’s no different from a black hole to the mortal realm!”
Qin Ye nodded deeply, and then swept a gaze around, “So… why would they tell us something of such great importance?”
The eyes of the Yin spirits flickered wildly. Seconds later, Shang Yang took a deep breath, “Are you saying that… the Resentment Crystal Vein is so large that they simply cannot keep its existence under wraps?!”
Zu Chongzhi immediately added, “Historically, the largest Resentment Crystal Vein is located in the Bermuda Triangle, where 1,742 pounds of Resentment Crystals were extracted. It was more commonly known as the ‘Heart of Darkness’. To put things into perspective, a single gram of Resentment Crystal is sufficient to power a spirit crystal reactor for a week. The ‘crystal’ of a spirit crystal reactor refers to the Resentment Crystal, while the ‘spirit’ refers to the third on the list of special Yin spirits - the most unique half-spirit half-object existence otherwise known as the Dark Jupiter.”
“Join these two, and you’ll essentially have yourself the very core of a Forbidden Art - the means of ignition to a Forbidden Art!”
Li Chun chipped in, “Yanluo Qin is right… It’s quite probable that the Resentment Crystal Vein is simply too large to be hidden. In fact, it’s quite possibly even larger than the Heart of Darkness. They’re afraid of Hell’s surveillance abilities, and they didn’t dare to conceal it one bit! And… come to think of it, it must precisely have been the sheer astonishment of such a discovery that caused them to make the trip down to Daehan in the first place.”
Shang Yang’s eyes flickered with great excitement, “That’s the only means they have of dragging Hell out of seclusion after all. In turn, that would allow them to formally enter into negotiations with Hell. And if Hell doesn’t even respond to Liu Yu’s declaration of independence, then they would probably wait a couple more years before finally moving to extract the Resentment Crystals at their own time. In other words… the incidents in Daehan were all an opening act to the true plot that has just unfolded before our very eyes!”
Qin Ye sincerely cupped his hands, “Everyone, can you please give me your guidance?”
Several moments later, Shang Yang finally responded, “Yanluo Qin, first of all, you would probably already be aware that international politics is highly complex and multifaceted. A single statement often hides several layers of meanings and intentions. Let’s take what they’ve said for instance.”
“The Russian Underworld is essentially asking Hell…” Shang Yang looked menacingly out of the window, almost as though he were glaring directly at the Tsar in contempt, “They’re asking for our permission.”
“They’re asking if we’re going to allow them to extract and remove such a large amount of Resentment Crystals.”
“If we allow them to take it, they will most certainly repay the favour with a multitude of rare gifts commensurate to the value of the crystals we have ceded to them! And then, in exchange, they will completely trample over the Mongol Empire and even blot out the entire country without even requiring us to send a single troop. This is… probably what they are going to do next.”
Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed brightly.
It’s all coming together… He suddenly recalled something that seemed to cohere with everyone’s conjectures.
And that was what Rumyantsev had earlier hinted at - two Yama-Kings were going to be deployed in the upcoming operations in the Mongol Empire, namely Catherine the Great and Peter the Great!
Why would they need to mobilize two Yama-Kings for such an inferior underworld?
Sure, the Mongol Underworld might not be worth their time and effort, but the Resentment Crystal Vein was most certainly worth every moment of it - and then some!
“There’s more.” Shang Yang’s voice grew somber, “And this concerns the epitome of breakthroughs in the field of Yin Talismanology, and is one of the defining features of the top underworlds in existence. We’re talking about something that is difficult, even for first-rate underworlds. You have to tread carefully. If the Russian Underworld is truly developing Forbidden Arts, then…”
Qin Ye could feel the hair standing on the nape of his neck!
If that were indeed the case, then there could be a chance that one of the four top underworlds might even be secretly plotting against Hell! They must have disclosed their research behind Forbidden Arts to the Russian Underworld!
And to this end, it was pertinent to note that the gap between the top underworlds was incredibly narrow.
Hell’s century-long lockdown had come like a bolt out of the blue. Even though nobody knew what exactly happened to Hell, anyone could guess that something earth-shattering was taking place within! Had Qin Ye been the lord of any of the other top underworlds around, he would probably have done the same thing!
“Are they planning on invading Hell?”
“Unfortunately, we don’t have sufficient information to say for certain.” Shang Yang’s eyes flickered wildly, “But even if they’re harbouring designs against Hell, what we know for sure is that they’re still using the Russian Underworld as a pawn to test the waters. All they would need to do would be to disclose a thing or two about Forbidden Arts to the Russian Underworld, and then wash their hands off the matter altogether. This isn’t very different from how things work in the mortal realm. For instance, the Aegyptian Underworld could easily have a secret bilateral meeting with the Russian Underworld and say - ‘Hey, I’ve got something about Forbidden Arts to share with you. Interested?’”
Qin Ye sighed and responded, “The answer is naturally ‘yes’. To an underworld that has long harboured the ambition of breaking out of the shell of first-rate underworlds to being acclaimed as one of the top underworlds in the netherworld, the answer would naturally be yes. And given their close proximity to Hell, the manifestation of their growing ambition would invariably cause them to overstep their boundaries. That said, even if the Tsar knows of the potential consequences, he wouldn’t let an opportunity like this pass him by.”
Shang Yang sighed softly, “Using the Russian Underworld to test the waters is the best possible method. Besides, they don’t even need to disclose the exact means of developing Forbidden Arts. All they need to do is to disclose a little bit of the concept behind Forbidden Arts. After all, the process of research and development is something that will take a long time. If Hell still has its edge, and is still qualified to take its place among the P4, there’s no chance that Hell wouldn’t notice something like that brewing in the Russian Underworld. Hell would never allow any of their neighbours to even come close to developing Forbidden Arts. Conflict would be unavoidable.”
Qin Ye mused, “So, if they discover that Hell has lost its edge, they’ll make a move against Hell? But… what if - and I say, what if - they learn that Hell hasn’t lost its edge?”
Shang Yang smiled coldly, “Then, the top underworlds of the Federation of Underworlds will naturally step in and forcibly prohibit the Russian Underworld from further researching and developing Forbidden Arts.”
“The mastermind would essentially be providing the technology and nudging the Russian Underworld forward, and yet continues to hold the power to cease all research and development efforts on the part of the Russian Underworld. The risks of such actions are practically zero, and yet they would at the same time force Hell to take a stand and make a move! What ruthless scheming… This is practically an unavoidable masterstroke!”
Even the winds and the clouds that rolled in the international arena were incredibly treacherous. All must tread lightly.
After all, every single lord of their underworld had already lived for hundreds of years, if not thousands, and they would naturally have seen their own fair share of politicking, schemes and ploys.
The conference room was silent as a morgue. Seconds later, Qin Ye looked up, “Who is it?”
“Do you have any suspicions?”
Shang Yang shook his head, “Nothing more than speculations. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that Hell simply cannot afford to open its borders right now, nor can it send out Emissaries of Hell to ascertain any of these conjectures of ours. That said, we can always see who stands to gain most from such courses of actions. To this end, it’s anyone’s guess which of the three other top underworlds it could be. In fact, I’m more inclined to think that the three other top underworlds might even be acting together at the same time! After all, they had all once sieged Hell together, but to no avail. Besides, I reckon that they wouldn’t act so boldly if they were merely acting alone.”
The Yin spirits were all deep in thought. Just then, Qin Ye suddenly smiled, “So, now, we’ve found the problem, and we’ve also done a thorough analysis of it. The next step is to find the solution to this problem.”
Shang Yang, Lu Ban, and Wu Daozi practically responded at the same time with a grave expression, “Your Excellency… This… is more easily said than done!”
“If we want to extricate ourselves from this conundrum, we’ll have no choice but to give the Russian Underworld a tight rap on the wrist and deter them by force so that they’ll abandon these reckless designs of theirs once and for all. But… Lord Qin, we might be playing straight into the hands of the scheming underworld. This is a problem that can only be classified as a diplomatic dispute. And something of this scale is far more serious than the incident that had just transpired in Daehan. We’re talking about Forbidden Arts after all! This is something that will have to be announced internationally, so that the Federation of Underworlds can take notice and be on alert!”
“Furthermore, Hell cannot be the only underworld making such an allegation. The three underworlds of the P4 would also have to participate in the investigations. Don’t forget that the underworlds of the netherworld are all signatories to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Forbidden Arts ever since the Second Battle of the Oracle. Everything has to be done in accordance with the international rules of engagement!”
Shang Yang continued with gritted teeth, “We’ll first have to send missions to consult with the other underworlds. And then, the leaders of Hell would have to take to the stand! Your Excellency, if this is the scheme of the top underworlds out there, I’m afraid that this would be what they’re really after! They would be able to assess the current situation in Hell and the forces available at Hell’s disposal through the attitudes and demeanors of these missions!”
Lu Ban added softly, “Truth be told, it’s not as though there isn’t a second option. That is, to send troops to completely wipe out Rus.”
That was certainly neither a desirable nor a viable option.
The only option that remained was the diplomatic route. Unfortunately, Hell simply wasn’t ready for this.
How were they supposed to send out an ambassadorial mission right now? Who are they supposed to choose? What are they to say? There was a potential pitfall at every turn of the way! Forbidden Arts was a matter of such gravity that the King Yanluo would necessarily have to be involved, and yet… he barely knew as much as the Yin spirits standing around him right now.
Moreover, this was a matter that even involved the potential existence of Genghis Khan’s spirit. It would be a disaster if other underworlds caught wind of this.
“Yanluo Qin, I think that you will first have to determine Hell’s attitude towards Forbidden Arts, and then decide what to do next.” Wu Daozi finally chimed in, “We must first decide whether to develop Forbidden Arts right now. That will give us more clarity on the attitude we should take towards the Resentment Crystal Vein.”
“In other words, your opinion on Forbidden Arts will determine everything in the near future! It represents the will of the new Hell, and it will manifest in an overt stand that Hell will take on the international arena!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter