Chapter 620: Opening Curtains (3)

Qin Ye didn’t understand what Wu Daozi meant at the start. But he didn’t need to do much more than address his mind to the underlying meaning behind it to understand the considerations in his mind.

This was a Resentment Crystals Vein, and quite likely a massive one at that. After all, Resentment Crystals were a resource that were generally measured in pounds.

Perhaps the Russian Underworld might already be resigned to never obtaining these crystals, especially since they had already waited for almost a hundred years, but to no avail. But, even then, they certainly didn’t wish for Hell to get their hands on it either.

Seizing our Resentment Crystals after we told you about it of our own volition? Hmm?

Devouring it whole? What greed!

Adopting such a stance might well shatter their fragile dreams of owning Forbidden Arts and push the Russian Underworld over the edge.

Therefore, what he needed to do first is to crystallize his thoughts of Hell’s attitude towards Forbidden Arts, before contemplating what they wish to do with the present Resentment Crystal Vein - Are we to seize everything, or relent in part or entirely? If we plan to seize it, how do we plan to do so, and what are we going to do with it? What about compensation?

“I haven’t thought about it yet.” Qin Ye’s temples were throbbing, and his veins clearly bulging, “It’s not that I don’t want to delve deeper into these thoughts, but… it’s just that I haven’t quite found the time. You’ve seen the situation here. We’ve only just managed to take Ashmound City about half a year ago, and we’re still developing the industries within. Currently, the only strongholds we have are located here in Eastmount Province and back in Insignia Province. In fact, we haven’t even had the time to regroup and rally our military forces to take Breakwaters Province.”

“Then, everything beyond that is still completely dark to us. The Harken has informed me that the Daolord of the Asura has gone out to call on the two Daolords of Pearl River and Westriver. We cannot make our move until he brings news!”

“The Harken is still recovering from his grievous wounds, and he can only muster a single strike at best. However, I’d rather not have him make a move if I can help it. This is the biggest deterrent force available to us. And even then, the strike of a Yama-class divine beast cannot really be considered much of a deterrent force in the face of a first-rate underworld. Rus alone already has three Yama-Kings. Meanwhile, the works of our Frontier Brigades and construction corps are still in progress, so Eastmount Province cannot truly be considered ours for now. And without Eastmount in hand, there’s no leverage for which I can use in my negotiations with the mortal realm!”

Qin Ye sighed softly. The road ahead seemed long and bleak.

There were a multitude of things to be done, yet, at that very moment, Qin Ye didn’t quite know where to begin.

Nobody said a word.

They could all understand Qin Ye’s plight and predicament, but…

Zu Chongzhi sighed, “Yanluo Qin, that might be the case, but… we still cannot afford to be lax about the matter pertaining to Forbidden Arts!”

“We’re talking about the potential placement of a top underworld after all! We’re talking about the nuclear weapons of the netherworld!”

Lu Ban cupped his hands respectfully, “Your Excellency, if I may. Granted, we haven’t been able to return to Hell over the last century, but deep down in our hearts, we’ve always been concerned about the changes here in Hell. After all… it’s not difficult to infer a thing or two about the changes to Hell from what happens in the mortal realm.”

“In the ‘60s, Lop Nor exploded with a mushroom-shaped plume. Do you think Cathay would have been named one of the Permanent Five of the United Nations had it not been for that incident that shocked the world? It’s the same in Hell as well. We need the second generation Forbidden Arts. 100 years isn’t a long time by any means. To put things into perspective, a single technical delay might easily give rise to delays lasting well over a decade. Therefore, I sincerely suggest that… we start right now!”

“Seconded.” I second the motion.” “Yanluo Qin, please think twice. Nuclear weapons are the foundation of any powerful nation. It’s the only way that Hell can ensure it remains listed among the P4 in the Federation of Underworlds!” “Lord Qin, if we don’t start now, what awaits us will be yet another Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Forbidden Arts prohibiting all further research and development of the second generation Forbidden Arts! We wouldn’t get a second chance at that!”

That’s right. Nations with no nuclear weapons would never be given the time and opportunity to develop it at a later date. The international pressure that they would face would be enormous.

Unfortunately…

“This isn’t something that the few of us can decide alone.” Qin Ye stared vacantly at the ceiling, “At the very least, we’ll first have to wait for news from the other two daolords, as well as the return of Arakshasa, before we decide.”

“My Lord…” Lu ban wanted to say more, but Qin Ye promptly held up his hand and dismissed them summarily.

The Yin spirits exchanged sheepish glances before drifting out with a sigh.

Qin Ye hadn’t expected the returning scholars who were most familiar with the international situation to unanimously insist on the development of Forbidden Arts.

Sigh, truth be told, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We’ve yet to even explore the entire nation. Far be it from that case.

The scholars could roughly guess the countervailing considerations weighing in Qin Ye’s mind. But as they left the Mythic Palace of Reflections, Zu Chongzhi couldn’t help but sigh, “Lord Qin is still hesitating… What’s holding him back?”

“Doesn’t he understand the importance of nuclear weapons here in the netherworld?”

“Watch your words.” Shang Yang whispered, “It’s precisely because Lord Qin understands the importance of nuclear weapons that he’s indecisive. You should be well aware of that.”

“Mr Shang, there’s only 148 years remaining! Back when Fengdu first developed nuclear weapons, we practically invested hundreds of billions - in Yin spirit stones at that! Not fiat currency! In other words, we’re talking about the value of trillions of Hel! And back then, despite the wealth of talents we had, it still took us 80 good years to research and develop nuclear weapons. We’re already a step behind in the race to develop the second generation Forbidden Arts!”

“That’s right. I recall that we were all involved in the development of Immortal Sanction, but there were a multitude of others back then. And… it’s just us now! At the very least, we need to have some semblance of the second generation Forbidden Arts coming together with the protection offered by the Array of the Nine Gods dissipates.148 years… are you sure we’ll be able to do it by then? Not even the great Argosian sages would dare make such a promise!”

Shang Yang sighed, “Both you and Lord Qin are both concerned about reality. But you’re looking at the problem from an academic point of view, while Lord Qin is looking at it from the perspective of the state. Ashmound City doesn’t have any specialty products. In fact, we haven’t even taken Eastmount Province to begin with. How are we going to delve straight into the research and development of Forbidden Arts?”

“And once the research is complete, with what are we going to develop the Forbidden Art? Don’t you get it? Let me break it down for you.”

He cleared his throat, “First, we need soldiers - a mass conscription of soldiers. And then, we’ll have to equip everyone with fine equipment, train them, and then send them out to take control of the entire nation!”

“Then, what comes next? The identification and gathering of resources! We’ll be busy as bees, flying to every city, county and even villages in the nation, looking under every rock and stone for the existence of precious minerals and resources! How long will such a process take? 50 years? 100 years? Don’t you forget - we’re one of the few people here who have the requisite expertise to identify the less-known resources!”

“No--...” Zu Chongzhi was just about to interject when Shang Yang promptly shut him down, “Mr Zu, hear me out. As you would be aware, the change of every dynasty comes with a change of the ecology and geography of the rest of Hell. Are you even sure what materials and resources can still be used in the development of the Forbidden Arts? We’ll need at least 10 years to establish a firm footing in material sciences to ascertain which materials can be used and which ones cannot.”

He sighed, “A decade… How many decades do we have left to work with?”

“Unfortunately, it would be important for the new Hell to dig deep and develop its amenities and infrastructures first. Develop talents, and then education and pedagogy, before stabilizing Eastmount Province, linking back up with Insignia Province and taking Breakwaters Province along the way. And then, we would consolidate our forces so that we have sufficient leverage to commence negotiations with the mortal realm!”

Lu Ban, another scholar who was only adept in scholarly matters, appeared confused, “Negotiations? What’s there to negotiate for?”

“People!” Shang Yang’s eyes gleamed brightly, “No. To be more precise, souls.”

“All we need is for the souls of the top scientists and researchers to be gathered up in Eastmount so that we can reap their souls. That way, we’ll slowly begin to accrue the same number of talents as we did back in the days of developing the first generation Forbidden Arts. Furthermore, having already developed a proper pedagogy and foundation for education, we would have a large number of assistants on hand, no different to the research teams we used to have in the past. If we’re going to do something, then let’s do it properly and well. That’s exactly what Lord Qin was deliberating about earlier.”

Silence.

Unwittingly, they had already left a large berth of distance between them and the Mythic Palace of Reflections. Right now, they were in the middle of the streets, and a stream of citizens bustled about on both sides of the road. Li Chun suddenly quipped, “Does that mean that you’re in favour of digging deeper first?”

“No.” Shang Yang’s response caused all of them to frown. And then, he chuckled bitterly, “Truth be told… we’re truly caught between a rock and a hard place.”

“Because the fact of the matter is that diving straight into research is also a viable option. As you all have pointed out, time isn’t on our side. 148 years isn’t a long time, and the earlier we develop the Forbidden Arts, the earlier Hell can return to its rightful place at the international arena.”

He gazed deep into the dark canopies of the skies, “After all, who would still remember the former hegemon of the netherworld if Hell remains closed to the rest of the world for yet another hundred years? Look at us now. From what I understand, Nippon has already probed at our borders twice, while the Russian Underworld has also tried their luck with the recent affairs in Daehan. Let things go on for another hundred years, and… I wonder who else might come poking and prodding at us?”

“The slow decay of international influence and geographical dominance is more painful to any large nation than an instant obliteration. Hell can never accept something like this.”

Wu Daozi chuckled, “So… what exactly do you mean?”

“It’s not so much what I mean, but what Lord Qin thinks.” Shang Yang shook his head, “Let’s see what decision he comes to. This concerns the 100-year plan of Hell moving forward. It’s one of the most critical junctures for the Third Era of Hell. No matter what he chooses, we’ll stand by it fervently…”

“Come on. I see a tavern ahead. Let’s forget about these worries in drunken reverie for now.”

………………………………………………

Pearl River City, provincial capital of the Pearl River Province.

Just ten years ago, it would have been a city inundated with lights, celebrating the merriments of life late into the wee hours of the night.

But today, the entire city is as good as any other abandoned city. The only lights in the city were located in the north of the city, while the south of the city was completely dark.

This was because, just like Pusan, several districts of the city had already been abandoned due to the supernatural outbreaks.

A long cordoning tape ran around the darkened districts that were lost to supernatural forces. These tapes were fortified with chains, from which countless yellow talismans hung, rustling uneasily in the night breeze, almost as though they were summoning souls before them.

It was completely dark beyond the cordons. Yet, it almost felt as though something were constantly stirring in the darkness, as if they were ready to spring out at anybody standing at the cordons without warning.

The other side of the cordons were garrisoned with tens of thousands of soldiers, policemen, as well as investigators from the Special Investigations Department. Everyone gazed intently at the south of the city. Meanwhile, an old man dressed in a monk’s robe situated in the heart of the military garrison hovered approximately ten meters above ground.

He was incredibly old, and so shrivelled that he appeared no more than skin and bones. However, his complexion was still rosy, and his breath was heavy and intense. He wasn’t in the slightest bit lifeless at all.

Dong… The clock struck twelve. At once, the personnel stationed around the cordon immediately stirred with vigilance.

It was a time where the lines between life and death were blurred the most.

They were literally walking along the precipice of death.

It was also then that the old monk suddenly looked up, staring deeply at the middle of the national highway.

A soft wind blew.

The trees on both sides of the road swayed from side to side, and their leaves rustled endlessly as they leaned in the direction of the national highway. Moments later, the leaves of the trees slowly shriveled up and fell off their branches, slowly drifting to the ground as though they were paper money scattered from the skies.

It was almost as though an invisible funerary procession were just passion through the area.

“Sir…” One of the researchers dressed in white lab coats immediately ran over to the old man and looked up at him. At once, the old man spoke up, “Has the Yin energy exceeded 10 million?”

The researcher paused, and then desperately nodded his head.

It was the arrival of an Abyssal Prefect!

It was all too bizarre! Without warning, a Prefect-class Yin spirit had suddenly appeared out of nowhere at a location just 127 meters away from the cordoned-off areas of the city!

“Do not alert anyone. This venerable one will deal with him.” The old monk spoke softly as he began to walk towards the ground.

The researcher gulped nervously, before whispering, “Should we activate emergency protocols--...”

“No.” The old man walked unhurriedly towards the national highway, “We’ve squared off against the Prefect-class Yin spirit with Yin energy readings of 11 million for over a decade, but has Pearl River ever fallen?”

“So long as I shall live, I vow to keep these lands safe, until my dying breath!”

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