City of Salvation, Hell.
It was no longer the same barren lands that it used to be. In fact, there were countless high-rise buildings as far as the eyes could see.
They were all built in variegated styles, including modern western minimalist styles with reinforced concrete structures and tempered glass facades, as well as ancient Cathayan courtyards in the middle. These buildings had all been erected in concentric rings built around Hell’s Gate as a landmark. Hell was bustling.
They didn’t have any light source. All that they had were the ghastly netherflames that drifted about endlessly. That said, the energy around these parts were no less vibrant than that of Ashmound City. At the very least, there were easily at least over a hundred thousand Yin spirits gathered within these few square kilometers of land. All of them rested under the shelter of the buildings, marveling at how much things had changed, and reminiscing about how these parts had been no more than a wasteland just a year or so ago.
Today, the buildings were all surrounded by a scarlet silk, both high-rise buildings and ancient pavilions alike. The streets were lined with festive lanterns that emitted a soft green glow, while countless Yin soldiers patrolled up and down the streets.
“What’s going on?” A Yin spirit in his early twenties standing outside the lush bamboo forest surveyed the streets curiously, “I mean, it’s one thing that they build all these buildings but not let anyone live in them, but what’s all the fuss about now?”
“How young and naive.” A middle-aged man smiled back, “Today, Yanluo Qin will return to cut the ribbon in an inauguration ceremony. Besides, it’s for your own good that they’re not allowing anyone to enter these buildings just yet. They haven’t been tested after all. The smell of new buildings can’t be great anyway.”
The young man stared back at the middle-aged man as though he’d just seen a ghost, “I mean… aren’t we all dead already? Does it even make sense that we can’t stand the smell of formaldehyde? Besides, aren’t they already rushing the inspection works to be completed over the next two days? And separately, who in the world is Yanluo Qin? Isn’t Lord Oda Nobunaga the head honcho about these parts?”
“I just knew you haven’t been dead for a long time.” An old man in his nineties picked up a smoking pipe and puffed it habitually. Unfortunately, there was no tobacco in it.
“Yanluo Qin… is amazing.” An old woman nearby looked over with a toothless grin. “You guys probably aren’t aware of what this place was like just a little while ago. It was a complete wasteland. Apart from Hell’s Gate, the only thing in sight were trees and forests. Us ghosts didn’t even have a roof over our heads back then.”
Several young ghosts immediately gathered around curiously and listened to what the old woman had to say.
She patted the chair beside her and sat down with her face full of pride, “Idleness. Endless idleness. At that time, even a fart was news to us. Back then, there were even some souls who stirred up a rebellion. Wanna guess what the result was?”
The young man shook his head.
“They died.” The old man lamented, “They were completely reduced to ashes. I recall that there were two - no, three instances of rebellions, but they were all quelled as soon as they began. Not a single ghost remained. All who dare rebel would instantly be destroyed!”
“But… isn’t that a little bit too harsh?” The young man gasped in horror.
The old man stared at him, and then shook his head, “Speaking of which, Lord Qin looks just like you. No, in fact, he looks even younger. But his actions are decisive and ruthless. You think he’s harsh? If you ask me, I think I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if these people remained around these parts!”
“That’s right!” The old lady slapped her thigh, “How dare these criminals of the mortal realm covet the throne here in Hell? Have you seen the couplet adhered to Hell’s Gate? Who has Hell spared? I think there’s nothing wrong with what Lord Qin did!”
“Mr Oda is just one of Lord Qin’s subordinates.” “That’s right… there was still another female ghost that appeared to be nothing more than a head. What was her name?” “Arakshasa!” “That’s right! She’s even more ruthless than Lord Qin is! A single slash, and hundreds of ghosts were annihilated at once!”
After listening for some time, the young man finally nodded in realization. And then, he frowned, “Then… where’s Lord Qin?”
“I’ve been here for more than half a year, and I’ve not seen him once.”
The old man sighed, “Back then, Hell sent tens of thousands of troops to the Eastmount Province. I’ve heard that they managed to take the city that they were sieging. And then, he set up a permanent residence over there, from which he would remotely issue orders to the office back here… If I had to say it--...”
His eyes shifted beyond the dozens of Yin spirits standing around him, beyond the boundless bamboo forest, as he lamented, “How can that place possibly be better than the City of Salvation? Look at the gardens around us! This is the only place you could possibly find such peace and solace!”
The old lady also glanced over, but she shook her head and sighed, “It’s only been two years… Who could’ve imagined that the desolate lands that Hell once used to be could undergo such a massive transformation in such a short time?”
“Lord Qin… is a practical leader.”
Almost as though they were affected by a contagion of sorts, the Yin spirits standing around promptly swept their gaze beyond the bamboo forest and gazed at the vast courtyard behind them.
This was the place where the most Yin spirits were gathered. In fact, it was so packed that Yin spirits couldn’t even stand around properly without being jostled about.
Qin Gardens Phase One!
It wasn’t a fenced development. Rather, the only form of sequestration was that which was naturally formed from the bamboo forest that had been planted around it. There were eight exits to the development. The courtyard was filled with countless water features and man-made rock formations. In fact, there was even a man-made island located right in the middle of the development that was a full kilometer long from end to end. Trees, flora and fauna of all kinds flourished within.
A tall building sat right under the shade of the colossal ancient pine trees and within the natural fence formed by the bamboo forest.
It was a five-storey building that appeared no different from an inn in ancient times. Two wings to the building unfurled majestically from it, while strings of scarlet lanterns hung gloriously from the eaves extending from the buildings. Once night fell, the lanterns would all light up with a brilliant display of crimson light.
Every day, and every night, countless Yin spirits came here to peek through the gaps in the bamboo forest. The elegance of the development touched their hearts. Furthemore, many of the Yin spirits had never experienced the life of a gated community that allowed them to both live individually, yet interact with a community around them as well. This excited many young Yin spirits. Meanwhile, the older Yin spirits couldn’t help but find such lodging nostalgic to them.
After all, there was a time when Cathay ran state-owned factories, and the allocated lodging was similar to how Qin Gardens Phase One looked like.
The only difference was that things used to be a lot simpler back then.
It was as though a single gate separated them from a completely different realm.
Qin Gardens Phase One was a luxurious and elegant development that stole the hearts of all Yin spirits alike. Unfortunately, none of them were able to find the sales department for this development!
Everyday, Yin soldiers would find citizens coming up to them, asking about the sale of the development. It didn’t matter whether they were elderly or young. Even the youngest of children couldn’t help but ask curiously about these things. Naturally, rumours about it also spread like wildfire.
“An internal quota? Who decided this? Where’s the transparency in that? Did you manage to snag a place there?”
The Yin soldier’s eyes widened, “How can you taint my image like that…”
“What do you mean by tainting your image? I swear I saw you entering Qin Gardens the day before yesterday with my own two eyes!”
The Yin soldier’s face flushed red at once, and the veins on his forehead bulged and throbbed, “Entering the Qin Gardens doesn’t mean that I’ve been assigned a place within… Besides, since when did Hell have to report these things to you?”
The tiff that ensued isn’t worth talking about. Suffice it to say that the onlookers couldn’t help but chuckle at the petty quarrel over nothing. The atmosphere was lively and hearty, to say the least.
Put simply, every single Yin spirit around was well aware that the Qin Gardens was going to be allocated in accordance with one’s accrual of merit points. But more importantly, everyone knew that… this wasn’t going to be the only such development in Hell!
The Yin spirits were eagerly anticipating the inauguration ceremony. More than anything, they couldn’t wait to see which lucky soul would be the first ones to get their hands on the much-coveted home!
Naturally, they weren’t aware that Gu Qing, Oda Nobunaga, as well as hundreds of construction supervisors were going about with their final inspections.
“Mr Gu.” A man in his early thirties ran up to Gu Qing and reported back, “No problems have been found on the fifth floor for the time being! All ventilation and drainage pipes are smooth and intact. There’s also no issues with the clearance left for cables and fiber optics in future…”
“What do you mean ‘for the time being’?!” Gu Qing was just inspecting a document when he barked back, “Lord Qin will be here soon, so how can things just be temporarily fine?!”
Oda Nobunaga chuckled bitterly, “Mr Gu, there’s no need to get so worked up.”
Over the last three seasons, Oda Nobunaga had already developed a fairly good working relationship with Gu Qing. Furthermore, the language barrier had also diminished substantially. That said… he had somehow picked up a strong accent from an unknown place...
“How can I not get worked up?!” Gu Qing barked back, “Don’t you know how important Qin Gardens Phase One is? You and I both know exactly what it represents! Project acceptance is one thing, but who’s going to take responsibility if something goes wrong later on? How can I condone such vagaries in a project that requires precision and accuracy? Isn’t this just a feeble attempt at shirking responsibility if something crops up later?!”
The supervisor who had just reported back was flushed with embarrassment, yet he didn’t dare retort with a single word.
This was Gu Qing after all! He was a construction guru for his time. In fact, the supervisor had probably read dozens of papers and articles personally penned by Gu Qing. How could he possibly refute what he had said?
“Hurry up and get going!” Gu Qing glared at the supervisor and sent him right back to work, “If there’s a problem, then there’s a problem. If not, then there’s no problem! Don’t give me a half-hearted answer like ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’. That’s not acceptable at this point in time!”
Oda Nobunaga waved his hand dismissively, and the supervisor promptly slunk away. He then accompanied Gu Qing with the rest of the inspections, “Mr Gu, what gives, huh?”
Gu Qing sighed, “Mr Oda… that’s not proper language. Don’t you remember that I’ve told you time and again to steer clear from learning the Cathayan language from your secretary? His dialect is toxic… It’s like a virus that spreads with extremity…”
“Can’t possibly change it now.” Oda Nobunaga glanced around, and then whispered, “Whatcha think Lord Qin gonn’ do?”
Gu Qing’s temples throbbed with pain, “What do you mean?”
“I’ve thought about the instructions last night, and thought we must chatter…” Oda Nobunaga pulled a slip of paper out from his sleeves. Gu Qing picked it up and took a glance at it, and his eyes immediately twitched.
Lord Qin’s orders were that instructions should be direct and straightforward. It should never be clouded with murky thoughts and political language.
“The City of Salvation will roll out its monetary system within the next six months.”
“I--...” “Don’t say a word!”
Oda Nobunaga was just about to speak when Gu Qing sighed softly, “I get a headache hearing you yabber on with that accent of yours. I’ll do the asking, and you just give me the simplest responses you can muster.”
Oda Nobunaga spoke without hesitation, “Leverage.”
“Yin soldiers in that mound ain’t returnin’. Lookin’ they might’ve found a better city. We ‘ave news of Ashmound City ‘ere. This order, methinks, is to give the ol’ economy a boost.”
Gu Qing nodded and glanced unexpectedly at Oda Nobunaga, wondering where he’d started picking up a thing or two about modern economics.
“That’s right.” Gu Qing smiled, “And there’s nothing better to move the economy than through real estate!’
Oda Nobunaga’s eyes lit up. Gu Qing continued, “My Lord learns quickly. The specifics aren’t clear just yet, but when I first received reports that works were complete, I immediately thought of using it to promote the monetary system. After all, the launch of any monetary system requires an opportunity. And this...”
He glanced around Qin Gardens, and then turned his attention to the innumerable Yin spirits peeking in, “I’m afraid there’s no opportunity better than this…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter