Prefect-class Emissary… Qin Ye’s pupils narrowed as he stood up and shifted to the seat located right beside the uninvited guest. Both men locked eyes and they sized each other up. After some time, he smiled and nodded back, “Emissary of Hell, Prefect Qin.”
The two men shook hands. Cold and warm. Mayasu’s gaze instantly flickered wildly, and he gasped in unconcealed shock, “A living emissary?”
And then, he shook his head in exclamation, “As expected of Hell… the forerunners of the netherworld. There probably aren’t more than ten living underworldly emissaries in the netherworld right now…”
With that, he pulled out a small box and presented it with both hands, “Eritrean Underworld’s Sunbird Tribe humbly presents Hell with a humble token gift of a sundial. We wish you happiness always.”
Qin Ye accepted the gift with a soft smile on his face. Gifts like this would never be too expensive, particularly since it would bear the mark of the underworld making the gift. This was why it was called a token gift more than anything of value.
His actions had already drawn the attention of the other crew on board the plane. However, Qin Ye had earlier already given them a soft wink, and they naturally acted as though nothing was out of the ordinary.
Qin Ye set aside the exquisite wooden gift box and smiled casually, “So are the Alkebulan Underworlds still led each by its own tribes? I’d made this trip on late notice, and I didn’t have the time to pay my respects to the chief of the Sunbird Tribe. I humbly ask that you would look past this little transgression of mine.”
“Yes.” They continued with their seemingly trivial conversation. Mayasu had an impeccable smile on his face, “We weren’t expecting the sudden arrival of an Emissary of Hell either. Usually, there would be an exchange of diplomatic papers. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to prepare these either.”
Both sides smiled faintly at each other.
And then, they grew silent. Qin Ye tapped his fingers on the armrest softly. They had only exchanged a few words of platitudes, and yet each statement had been undergirded with deeper intentions and hidden meaning.
The Sunbird Tribe… is currently flexing at us.
I’m afraid that the Sunbird Tribe’s Mythic Spirit had probably already noticed me as soon as I’d landed earlier, and he had thus arranged for Mayasu to quietly get on the plane… It was a reminder to Qin Ye of sorts - You might have come and left without a word, but don’t you think for a moment that this little act of yours has gone unnoticed by us. But since you clearly don’t want the rest of the netherworld to know this, we won’t make it public either.
It was a tacit arrangement.
Qin Ye glanced at Mayasu as his mind continued to spin at full speed. He couldn’t care less about what the Mythic Spirit of the Sunbird Tribe did, but… this still represented a fantastic opportunity for Hell!
Firstly, the plane was his, and he could rest assured that nothing taking place here would be disclosed to the outside world. Secondly, Eritrea was just a stone’s throw away from Aegyptus and Argos, and it was located right along the coast of a part of the Red Sea as well. In other words, it was well located, and a potential gateway to set foot in Aegyptus. Furthermore, so long as Hell needed to remain in contact with the Alkebulan Mythic Spirits, they would most certainly have to pass through the Sunbird Tribe.
Granted, he could have a good, long conversation with Mayasu right here and now. However, he still had his reservations. He didn’t want them to be his first port of call. After all, they were located too close to the Aegyptian Underworld for comfort.
That said, not engaging in discussions didn’t necessarily mean that he couldn’t drop them a hint or two.
“Ahem…” Qin Ye coughed softly into his fist to conceal the smile that had somehow crept up the corner of his lips, “I’d made this sudden trip to Alkebulan because of the urgency of the situation.”
“Oh?” Mayasu raised a brow placidly, as though inviting more details, “I wonder if the Sunbird Tribe would be able to lend its assistance.”
“Of course you can.” Qin Ye turned and gazed deeply out of the window and the deep blue skies, “After all, it’s something that pertains to Forbidden Arts… Speaking of which, Mr Mayasu, would it be appropriate for you to remain here? We’re about to leave the Eritrean airspace soon.”
Mayasu’s pupils narrowed as soon as these words were spoken, but he very quickly regained his composure once more.
Is this… a hook?
He gazed intently at Qin Ye, and then promptly vanished from his seat, “If Hell requires any help, the Sunbird Tribe is always at your disposal.”
He’s gone… Qin Ye surveyed the vast clouds below in silence.
I’m getting closer…
He had just cast the first hook, and the showdown with the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds only grows closer…
Malagasy. The world’s fourth largest island. Its tropical climate promotes dense greenery, replete with palm trees and towering baobab trees, amongst a variety of other tropical features such as rainforests and the like.
This was an island that had been colonized multiple times. The architecture in this region was clearly influenced by the Europeans, and it looked no different from a simple European town. That said, one would from time to time spot authentic Alkebulan thatched huts interspersed among the European buildings. That said, the construction of these buildings were hardly crude or shoddy in the least. Additionally, there were also signs and traces of the presence of diverse faiths in the region.
Historically, it had been subject to both the rule of the Franks and rule of the Spanish, be it through colonization or war.  Through their reign, they would have imported and introduced their religious beliefs to the land of Malagasy. Naturally, it wasn’t uncommon to see the co-existence of multiple religions, including Christianity, Islamism, Judaism, Buddhism, and so on and so forth. That said, most of the citizenry were still followers of the native Alkebulan beliefs of animism.
And due to the importance of faith in their lives, most Alkebulans viewed with great importance the treatment of a corpse or a body. This was rather similar to the practices in Cathay, save that the Alkebulans treated corpses with even more reverence than Cathayans. This was primarily due to the notion promulgated by animism that one’s ancestors could no longer protect its descendants if their corpses were destroyed. Naturally, few families were accepting of practices such as cremation, and the corollary was that funerary stores were seen everywhere.
Qin Ye got into a taxi together with Abra and glanced lazily out the windows, “Don’t even think of running away. You should’ve heard of soul searching. I’d rather not resort to such cruel means, but I wouldn’t hesitate to do so if you leave me with no choice.”
The taxi had already gone around the capital of Malagasy, Antananarivo, three times now. Whilst a famous tourist destination, Malagasy was still considered a developing nation, and its infrastructure and amenities were comparable to that of a regular town in Cathay. Moreover, the dry weather in Alkebulan made it feel no different from an oasis in the middle of a desert.
Meanwhile, Abra looked pale. Although he kept it well-concealed, his shivering body gave everything away.
Qin Ye glanced at his watch, “I’ll give you 10 more minutes to consider.”
“And if you’re still not willing, then I’ll applaud you for your loyalty and think of a means of giving you a quick and easy death.”
Abra bit down on his lips and remained silent. Meanwhile, Qin Ye simply leaned back languidly. Time passed quickly. Ten minutes later, the hotel where they were putting up at once again appeared in view.
Whoosh! The taxi rushed across an intersection, kicking up a cloud of smoke and dust.
Just then, Qin Ye finally shut his eyes and spoke up, “Stop the car.” He glanced at Abra, sighed softly, and then opened the car door.
Why did he sigh?
He… was looking at me as though I was dead to him. Does this mean that… I’m about to die soon?
At once, fear shrouded Abra’s mind, and he immediately followed after Qin Ye and grabbed him by the hem of his clothes. Then, he got down onto his knees and sobbed, “Alright… Alright!!”
“I’ll tell you everything I know! Please, all I ask is that you let me live!”
Qin Ye gently pulled back the hem of his clothes and smiled faintly, “Clever. You’ll go a long way in life. Lead the way.”
There wasn’t any measure of hesitation in his voice.
Abra took a deep breath and said something to the driver in the language of the land, and the driver immediately began to gesticulate furiously. Just then, a 200 RMB note suddenly drifted from Qin Ye’s hands into the hands of the taxi driver, and the driver immediately snatched it out of the air with glee on his face. Moments later, the trio were happily chugging along the second leg of their journey once more.
Their surroundings of buildings of bustling activity were soon replaced with increasing desolation. Everything soon changed to farmlands and remote pathways, until eventually… even the farmlands vanished from sight. All that remained were the destitute mountains that surrounded them.
They saw more people than the occasional vehicle on the street.
Rows of Alkebulans were dressed in white robes, carrying human-shaped objects wrapped up in white cloth, leading cattle and sheep as they continued to march into the distance. As they chugged along the road, they passed by at least a dozen such processions.
“Truth be told, I’ve not had any contact with the Malagasy Underworld.” Abra finally sorted through his thoughts and spoke to Qin Ye proper, “Indeed, you’re right that my family has had contact with the underworld, but… the oracle that my ancestors have received was to refrain from contacting the underworld until the most important juncture.”
He glanced out of the window, “Do you know why the driver refused to come here?”
Qin Ye’s gaze followed the road straight ahead to a not-so-small mountain peak.
“Because… this is the Sanctuary of Ancestral Spirits.” Abra shut his eyes and continued with great trembling in his voice, “The dead are all sent to this place for burial. Every single procession of people dressed in white that we’ve passed by earlier… are all funerary processions.”
“The funerary customs here are different from other places…” He opened his eyes and explained hoarsely, “Do you see them all leading cattle and sheep to the Sanctuary? Cattle and sheep are a symbol of wealth. The wealthiest would have cattle. In fact, the right to be buried while wrapped in cowhide was a privilege that was once reserved only for the nobility of Alkebulan. These procession of people would slaughter the cattle or sheep at midnight at the Sanctuary, peel off the hide, and then wrap up the corpse to prepare it for burial.”
Interesting… Qin Ye listened with keen attention. These customs and traditions gave him a new perspective of things around the world.
“Doesn’t that mean that the corpses would be stained with blood when they are buried?”
“No…” As though a dreadful thought occurred to him, Abra shivered all over and gulped nervously as he continued, “There are three things here that are inexplicably bizarre. Incidentally… this is also the gateway to the underworld!”
“Firstly, regardless of where you might be in the Sanctuary of Ancestral Spirits, you will be able to see the full moon at midnight each and every night! It matters not whether it’s supposed to be a half-moon or a crescent moon at night. You’ll see a full moon anyway!”
His voice trembled, “Regardless of location or angle! It appears just like an eye in the sky, staring down at us from above as though it were seated on the throne of darkness!”
Qin Ye nodded faintly.
It was important to let Abra to lead the way. This intention of his had never changed from the onset.
Granted, he could unleash his true form in an eruption of Yin energy, and the Mythic Spirit of Malagasy could probably send him a guide. However…
This place wasn’t too far away from Aegyptus.
Just like how Abra was keeping an eye out for the Alkebulan Underworld in the netherworld, there could likewise be Aegyptian darkfeathers of agents lurking in the shadows of the mortal realm here is Malagasy. This wouldn’t be something out of the question in the slightest. And given that the potential development of Forbidden Arts was at stake, Qin Ye didn’t want to risk attracting any unwanted attention.
Besides, this was the only way to keep things as discreet as possible.
Since Qin Ye had intended for this to be a private meeting from the onset, then everything had to be done as discreetly as possible. And the best approach under the circumstances was naturally allowing Abra to contact the Malagasy Underworld through the means he had.
Qin Ye listened intently.
“Secondly…” Abra took a deep breath, “Cowhide is also known as the corpse’s clothes. So long as you hang the corpse's clothes here in the Sanctuary of Ancestral Spirits, it would get completely dried out within an hour. This is an inexplicable phenomenon.”
He turned and looked Qin Ye in the eye, “I know that these two peculiarities might not be sufficient to get your attention, but you absolutely have to bear the third point in mind.”
“Because… it pertains to the legend about the Sanctuary of Ancestral Spirits, the River Styx… and… seaming.”
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