Vast as the mountains, and boundless as the seas. It was like staring at the skies beyond and feeling overwhelmed with the fact that one was no more than a drop in the ocean. It was a stifling sensation.
This was a display of might used as the tyrannical precursor to negotiations. The Yin energy around the Black Mamba swirled subserviently, almost as though they were all paying tribute to their master. Unfortunately, just like the sun, Qin Ye couldn’t see the Black Mamba’s appearances clearly no matter how hard he tried.
Is this a Yama-King’s true form?
What a terrifying monster…
Suppressing his wildly beating heart, Qin Ye clenched his fists and bowed sincerely, “Prefect Qin, Emissary of Hell, humbly greets Lord Mythic Spirit.”
He wasn’t bowing in subservience to another underworld, but bowing in respect for a Yama-King’s might and authority.
As he spoke, the colossal skeletal serpent’s bones immediately coiled up and began to hover in the sky. Seconds later, two spots of golden netherflames spanning at least ten meters large each lit up in the skull of the skeletal serpent and stared intently at Qin Ye, “Angel of the East… Please have a seat.”
With that, the stifling pressure in the surroundings suddenly eased up, and Qin Ye finally managed to get a better look at the sights around him.
There was a ten-meter long table covered with a brightly-coloured tablecloth located right in front of the Mythic Spirit. Six chairs were placed on each side of the long table, with one seat located right at the end of the table. The chairs weren’t located too far away from each other. The back of each chair was adorned with an assortment of skulls of vicious Yin beasts.
Five of these seats were already occupied by underworldly emissaries. In fact, Qin Ye could’ve sworn that the exact same person was seated on three of these seats.
They wore skeletal masks forged from the bones of unknown creatures, and it was impossible to see their facial features. Apart from that, they were all dressed uniformly in pure black robes. Their necks and hands were adorned full of gold rings and other accessories. A necklace of exquisitely carved ornaments hung loosely around their necks, while a laurel of pure white feathers rested on their heads, just like the gods of death of Alkebulan mythology.
Babulu was naturally seated on one of the chairs, and he smiled, “Prefect Qin, let me make the introductions. These three are the council elders of the Black Mamba Underworld. While they do not have names, they were conferred the titles of Blazing Sun, Bright Moon, and Yonder Star over the course of their service in the council.”
Qin Ye smiled and cupped his hands respectfully towards them. It was only upon closer inspection that he discovered that the skeletal masks donned by the three council elders had scarlet totemic symbols of the sun, moon and stars etched on them.
Babulu made an inviting gesture and smiled, “All prominent decisions here in the Alkebulan Underworlds are made by none other than the respective Lord Mythic Spirit of the lands. That said, the daily affairs are all handled by the ancestral shaman of each tribe. This esteemed individual here is none other than the ancestral shaman of the Black Mamba Tribe. You may address him as Ancestral Shaman Cain, or Shaman Cain for short.”
The Emissaries of the Black Mamba Underworld stood up and cupped their hands back respectfully.
The entire grand hall was silent.
There were neither attendants nor guards around. Babulu’s voice was the only source of sound that echoed in the empty, silent space of the grand hall. In fact, if one listened closely enough, they could even vaguely make out the crackling sound of the netherflames, flickering softly as though stewing with a sense of rich sacredness.
Qin Ye slowly took his seat. Ever since he entered the grand hall, his nerves had been tensed up to the extreme, so much so that he was now like a tightened bowstring, ready to fire its loaded arrows at the moment’s notice.
He knew full well that all he had done thus far was to secure the right to meet with the Mythic Spirit. But what was of greater importance was none other than the negotiations ahead.
The Russian Underworld had already made its move. What he needed to do next was not only to convince them to give up the potential benefits to be had from a partnership with the Russian Underworld, he even had to do so without disclosing too much about the current situation of Hell. This was something that was bound to come up in the negotiations sooner or later. It was the elephant in the room.
Why isn’t Hell doing anything?
Why does Hell need the Alkebulan Underworlds to make a move instead?
Rus is located right above Hell. As one of the P4 underworlds, why wouldn’t Hell convene the executive council of the P4 underworlds to resolve this issue once and for all? Hell most certainly possessed the capacity to do something like that!
Clink… Qin Ye picked up the wine cup in front of him and gently swirled it about before taking a sip from it.
Lo and behold - the wine in the glass was actually warm! The most valuable artifacts and the most coveted items in the netherworld were generally things that could exude warmth and remind Yin spirits of life back in the mortal realm. That said, the wine glass that he was drinking from looked no different from the usual tall wine glasses, and there was nothing surprisingly flashy or outstanding about it. It was a well-concealed item of extravagance.
As the warm liquid trickled down his throat, he slowly regained his composure. Then, when he finally set the glass back down on the table, he slowly looked back up, only to realize that the other end of the table was currently occupied by a… creature.
It was a man who appeared to be a cross between a serpent and a man.
He had the head of a cobra, and there were clearly black and vermillion tattoos etched all over his body. He stood at approximately 1.6 meters tall, and he was covered with golden ornaments replete with a simple white robe. The wide seat at the end of the table appeared almost too large for this creature, but nobody thought it fit to laugh at the creature. Instead, everyone reverently placed their hands on their chests and bowed respectfully to the creature.
This was the Black Mamba Mythic Spirit in human form! In other words, he was currently sharing the table with the god of death of another underworld!
The suffocating aura of Yin energy dispersing from the creature’s body was more than a sufficient reminder as to whose territory he was currently in right now!
Black Mamba’s gaze landed directly on Qin Ye, and they locked eyes. Qin Ye’s hands were already damp with cold sweat, yet he managed to maintain the same, placid smile on his face as he nodded back in response. Several seconds later, the head smiled faintly, and the scales on his cheeks rattled slightly as he raised his hands and made a gesture for all to take their seats, “Please take a seat. Emissary of Hell, you appear somewhat nervous.”
Qin Ye nodded and smiled back, “Lord Mythic Spirit is too powerful. I would be lying if I were to say that I wasn't nervous.”
Black Mamba smiled back, “Then this must probably be the first time you’re visiting the various underworlds here in Alkebulan. It’s commendable that you’re able to maintain the requisite standards of etiquette despite being so nervous.”
Qin Ye pursed his lips slightly, “There’s a story that we often tell of back in Cathay. Two brothers once met with the king, and one of the brothers was instantly covered with profuse sweat. The king asked that brother why he reacted that way. The sweating brother responded, “I’m so terrified that I can’t help but sweat profusely.” Then, the king turned to the other brother and asked why he wasn’t sweating. It was only then that the other brother responded, “I’m so terrified that I don’t even dare to sweat in your presence.” I was like the second brother when I first encountered a Yama-King of a foreign underworld.”
It was a little joke, and the underworldly emissaries chuckled along. At once, the atmosphere softened somewhat.
Qin Ye was also chuckling, but the truth of the matter was that he was wiping off his sweaty palms on the armrest of the seat he was in.
He’d seen several Yama-class powerhouses to date, but never quite someone with such unrestrained and wild Yin energy.
This was the might of a true god of death - one that exuded an overwhelming divine might wherever he went. It was almost as though he was staring right into the heavenly realms like a terrifying shadow.
“There’s no one else here.” Black Mamba spoke with indifference, “Feel free to speak in your own language of preference. Rest assured that I can understand everything that you’re saying. And, more importantly, nobody else apart from us is privy to the conversations that are taking place. Babulu.”
“Yes.” Babulu stood up and clapped his hands. At once, rows of skeletons marched out from the shadows of the towering pillars in the great hall bearing trays of fine delights that they set onto the table in an orderly fashion. Within moments, the long table was filled with a wide variety of delectable local fare in an incredibly neat fashion. In fact, even the orientation of the plates and the angles of the dishes were all orderly and well thought out.
The food was rich and delightful. However, Qin Ye didn’t even bother to pick up the utensils set on the table. This banquet was more of a table for discussion than anything else. The more he ate, the slower his thought processes, and the more likely he was to disgrace himself.
Generally speaking, banquets for which bilateral meetings were held were never made for the purpose of satiating one’s hunger.
Thus, Qin Ye slowly sipped at his wine in an elegant and reserved posture, waiting patiently for the Black Mamba Underworld to ask their question.
Likewise, the representatives of the Black Mamba Underworld didn’t touch the utensils before them, nor the food on the table either. After three swigs of wine, Babulu finally coughed softly and smiled faintly at Qin Ye, “Prefect Qin, I’ve already reported your intentions here to Lord Mythic Spirit, and we’ve got a few questions for you.”
“Please ask.” Qin Ye maintained an impeccable smile on his face.
The main agenda for today was the Resentment Crystal Mine. But in order to get there, he would first have to pad and pave the way with a series of other topics for discussion.
Babulu nodded, and then his smile faded away, “First question, do you have a detailed charter of the upcoming shipment for our inspection? How many ships are we looking at? What’s the cargo weight of each ship? What’s the expected departure time, the time of the port of call, and the sailing route?”
Of course there wasn’t.
This was merely a segue that Qin Ye had thought up at the eleventh hour in order to gain an audience with the Mythic Spirit. He didn’t even know what these were, much less prepare something like that to be used to convince the Black Mamba Underworld.
“No.” He responded truthfully with a similarly serious expression on his face, “There’s nothing before we get an in principle approval here with the Black Mamba Underworld. After all, wouldn’t it be far too presumptuous for us to prepare everything beforehand?”
All eyes were on him. Although there weren’t many people in the grand hall right now, every single underworldly emissary was at least at the level of an Abyssal Prefect. Copious amounts of Yin energy flowed constantly in every direction like the vast oceans out there.
Meanwhile, Qin Ye couldn’t help but feel his hair stand on end at the nape of his neck. Nevertheless, he suppressed the stirring anxiety in his heart and continued with a deep voice, “Hell has gone into reclusion for the last hundred or so years, and its trade routes with the rest of the netherworld can all be deemed disconnected by now. Don’t you think we’d be placing the cart before the horse if we prepared an entire fleet even before speaking to the potential partners in mind? Besides, the fact that we’ve sent out an Abyssal Prefect for the purposes of negotiations is a clear indication on the importance attached to this matter. Once the main details have all been ironed out, we will hand over the details of the partnership agreement to be ironed out by our subordinates.”
“Prefect Qin.” Elder Blazing Sun interjected, “Importance is one thing, but professionalism is quite something else. With all due respect, I didn’t find any traces of professionalism in your earlier conversation with Deputy Chieftain Babulu. Or are you saying that…”
He paused for a moment, and then added, “The Zhu Clan doesn’t care much about us to begin with?”
Qin Ye smiled.
“Elder Blazing Sun, I assure you that this isn’t the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.”
“First of all, this is merely an indication of our intention. We don’t know whether the Black Mamba Underworld is still open to the idea of maintaining a sea trade route with us after the lapse of a hundred years. After all, it’s been some time since Hell has gone into reclusion. What is needed to determine the intention of parties isn’t so much professionalism, as it is trust.”
“And to this end, I’m not talking about the trust between us, but in the Zhu Clan’s trust in me. You should know that I’m the son-in-law of the Zhu Clan, and not a direct descendant of their bloodline. Yet the fact that they’d chosen to send me signifies their absolute trust in me. They trust that I can both relay their intentions to you, as well as bring back the Black Mamba Underworld’s message to them intact.”
Elder Blazing Sun nodded his head, acknowledging the veracity of Qin Ye’s explanation.
Silence. Just then, Black Mamba winked slightly at Babulu. It was clear that Black Mamba was slowly but surely releasing the reins to Babulu, and Babulu naturally understood his leader’s intention, “We believe in your identity. After all…”
He smiled, “As you’ve mentioned, it matters not who you represent. The Malagasy Underworld holds an edge over all other underworlds in terms of its geography, and will always welcome Hell’s fleet with open arms.”
“We’ll be happy to shelve the specifics of the charter to a later date. But, in the meantime, might I be so bold as to ask what the Zhu Clan plans to load into the cargo hold of its ships this time?”
Qin Ye was cautious about his answers. Thus, he mulled over the question for several seconds before finally responding, “Artwork.”
“Clothes woven from fine fabrics, jewelry etched with precious gemstones, ornaments made by famous craftsmen, and the like.”
These were some of the items he had seen from a brief inventory of the loot from Longxing Temple.
“What about the Rain Swallows?” Just then, a hoarse voice interjected from the other end of the table. Qin Ye looked up, only to see a terrifying pair of eyes gazing intently at him, “The Zhu Clan had earlier promised that they would be sending us ten Rain Swallows in the next voyage to the Alkebulan Underworlds. Is the Zhu Clan…”
His eyes narrowed, “Is the Zhu Clan planning to resile from its earlier promise?!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter