Chapter 658: The Tsar's Gravitas

“My Lord.” Babulu knelt respectfully before the bone serpent in the middle of the grand hall of the Black Mamba Underworld, “Two Emissaries of Hell have departed from the Black Mamba Underworld just ten minutes ago.”

The bone serpent drifted up into the sky, and golden netherflames lit up in the orifices where its eyes were, “Oh? Where were they headed?”

“Back to Cathay.”

Silence.

Moments later, Black Mamba responded, “Wasn’t I right?”

“Do you still think he represents one of the Eight Great Clans?”

Babulu shook his head, “Nothing escapes the all-seeing eye of the great Black Mamba Mythic Spirit.”

“This time, I’m certain that he’s back for evidential proof of the Forbidden Arts as earlier alleged. You’re right. He would never do something like that if he’s from one of the Eight Great Clans. After all, the Eight Great Clans’ dealings with us would only extend to matters of commerce and profit, and it matters not to them whether we believe his claims about the Russian Underworld’s foray into Forbidden Arts or not. There’s simply no impetus for them to head back into Hell to obtain any proof of such allegations. Instead, the only one who has a vested interest in doing so is someone from within Hell’s governmental system - especially one entrusted with a tall responsibility.”

“But…” Babulu paused, “Why, then, did he not bring such proof beforehand?”

Black Mamba responded placidly, “Because this wasn’t a big deal for Hell to begin with.”

“Hell is one of the P4 underworlds, and they’ve already possessed Forbidden Arts under their control for hundreds of years. In all likelihood, they might even be well underway in their research and development of the second generation Forbidden Arts. So what if the Russian Underworld develops Forbidden Art capabilities? Do you really think that they would be able to stand toe to toe against Hell? Furthermore, think about the geography of the East Continent. With Hell on the east and the Hindustani Underworld in the southwest, where does the Russian Underworld even begin to come into the picture?”

“What they desire is international influence. For instance… over Usonia.”

Babulu pondered for a moment, “That would explain why he didn’t bring any proof to us in this trip to these parts. He was looking to probe deeper at our intentions, and would only bring out proof of these claims if we remain open to further discussions.”

Black Mamba smiled, and his eyes flickered softly, “And that was precisely why I didn’t outrightly reject him back then.”

His voice grew cold, “Do you know something? The Alkebulan Underworlds are the only ones who would never condone the appearance of a fifth nation wielding the might of Forbidden Arts - even if that means the Russian Underworld that exists thousands of miles away from us!”

“Babulu, do you now know why I didn’t give Prefect Qin an affirmative response even though I didn’t think he was lying back then?

Babulu nodded, “Firstly, evidence.”

“If we’re going to act on these claims of his, then we’ll need to be able to trigger the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds to act together. Given the gravity and potential implications of the situation, we cannot afford to make any move without compelling evidence and further information on hand. After all… this matter is likely going to escalate into something to be discussed at the Federation of Underworlds. It would be imprudent to act on an impulse, to say the least.”

Black Mamba egged him on, “Keep going.”

Babulu bowed, “Secondly, leverage.”

“Suppose this is true. Then, the fact that Hell has approached us means that they obviously want us to make a move. And if your assessment of the situation is spot on, then this means that Hell doesn’t actually possess the capacity to deal with the situation right now. Granted, nobody would ever underestimate Hell simply because it was unable to act against the Russian Underworld during its change of regime. That said…”

He paused and smiled wryly, “We can’t be acting in your interests for free either. The commercial opportunities you’ve presented to us… isn’t sufficient.”

“Very good.” Black Mamba nodded with approval, “But that’s not all.”

His voice deepened, “We’re going to ask for the sky.”

“Is the situation in Hell truly as Prefect Qin claims it to be? A change in the regime? There are many reasons for such a change. For instance, they could have a friendly competition like Prefect Qin had suggested, or… they could have war.”

Babulu’s eyes gleamed brightly.

“Are you saying that we’ll use these upcoming negotiations to test Hell’s bottom line?”

“That’s right.” Black Mamba responded softly, “Do you know what to do?”

“Yes.”

Moments later, Babulu vanished from the grand hall. If Qin Ye were here, he would most certainly have applauded the Mythic Spirit for his astuteness.

Although he didn’t quite manage to hit the nail on the head, he wasn’t too far off either.

A little deviation was only to be expected of any person that couldn’t quite be described as omniscient. Unfortunately, this deviation would prove to be fatal.

And that deviation pertained to their reading of Hell’s attitude towards the situation.

Just like the Russian Underworld, nobody had anticipated that Hell was currently in hot soup! Hell’s current attitude towards the situation wasn’t one of indifference and apathy. In fact, it was quite the converse - Hell viewed the situation as one of grave importance to them, so much so that it justified the personal attention of the King Yanluo of Hell himself!

…………………………………………

Qin Ye remained in the room, carefully drafting up the documents that he required. Time passed quickly, and a day passed in the blink of an eye.

Four more hours passed before he finally sighed softly and surveyed the golden words written all around him.

It’s done!

He read through his draft once, and he couldn’t help but sigh in amazement at the workings of Fate. He had never drafted such diplomatic documents before, and yet Fate was able to process the information in his mind and present it in a manner comparable with reports that had been drafted over decades.

He had managed to document everything during this short period of time, from why he first visited Daehan, to the entire incident that transpired, to his considerations of the masterminds pulling the strings from the shadows, until the final conversation with Marquis Rumyantsev. From there, he even documented the proposed compensation and the terms of cooperation. Everything was written in formal prose and in third-person language. Furthermore, all traces of emotions had been masterfully omitted from the records.

Simple?

Hardly. At the very least, Qin Ye knew that he couldn’t possibly have done this without the aid of Fate.

Had he relied on his own experiences and abilities, there would certainly be errors or statements that evinced Hell’s perspective and considerations. However, Fate had managed to transform all that into a perfectly neutral historical record, such that the Mythic Spirit would never be able to peer beyond the statements written to learn of the situation in Hell.

That said, Qin Ye was now completely worn out. With a soft sigh, he slumped back onto the sofa weakly. Using Fate like that resulted in a huge drain on his Yin energy reserves. Over the last day or so, all he’d done was to draft up a series of documents, and yet he couldn't help but feel weak in both legs.

Unfortunately, he knew that this wasn’t the time to relish in his weariness. No matter how exhausted he was, he had no choice but to see these plans through to completion. Thus, he gritted his teeth and made a series of hand seals. At once, the golden words hovering all about him immediately flowed about like a brilliant river of light that converged into his chest, before promptly transforming into a golden scroll.

It was a scroll with a golden background embroidered with patterns of rolling clouds, and tied together with a double-stranded rope - just like the official diplomatic scrolls recorded in Hell’s legacy. The only difference was that it wasn’t stamped with a seal.

“These are state secrets. Furthermore, I’m supposed to be on a private visit from Hell this time. It’s naturally better not to have a seal stamped on these documents.” He stroked the scroll carefully as he heaved a long sigh of relief.

There were a total of three puzzle pieces that he needed, and he’d finally secured himself one piece. Now, all he had to do was to wait for Ryu Changmin and Kwon Kyung-ho’s return and pray that they might have the other two puzzle pieces for him.

It was admittedly still very much an unknown whether they would be able to fit the three puzzle pieces into a perfect key that would unlock the door to the solution that Hell was seeking. But at least… he would have tried his best.

Success might mean the best possible eventuality in certain circumstances, but the knowledge that one had put his best foot forward would allow him to move forward with a clear conscience.

Knock, knock… Just then, there were a couple of knocks on the door. Qin Ye answered the door at once, only to be greeted by an attendant standing respectfully outside the door.

“Sir.” He held a copy of the newspaper in his hands, “These are the latest newspapers.”

Qin Ye raised his brows. He didn’t request anything earlier.

And if that was the case, then someone must have wanted him to see the contents of the papers.

Thus, he received the newspapers with a smile and returned to the villa before proceeding to read through its contents carefully.

That said, there was clearly no need to look too far, because everything was clearly written all over the headlines - “Duchess of Rus, Catherine the Great, has just announced the grand opening of five international-class energy deposits in Eastern Rus.”

These included internationally recognized S-grade Lion’s Eye Crystals, S-grade Tritium Jade… Everything was internationally recognized as S-grade, and the total amount of deposits available amounted to 20-30 billion tonnes! To this end, they were inviting tenders for up to 27 access permits in total, and the tender process was expected to take place approximately half a year later.

“Sigh…” Qin Ye sighed softly. He’d already guessed that the Russian Underworld’s Parasitic Inkstone Mine tender was nothing more than an appetizer for the main dish that followed. But, even then, he couldn’t help but sigh in exclamation at the extent to which they were willing to go in order to secure what they needed.

Some of these items were even items mentioned in Hell’s Legacy and classified as strategic resources. The Tsar was truly pulling out all the stops!

Is he not afraid of the possibility that they wouldn’t have the resources to actually develop the Forbidden Arts?

Is he not afraid of the possibility that everything might end in failure?

This was the classic case of placing all of their eggs in one basket and going all out in pursuit of a certain goal of theirs. Regardless of the result, it was far more important that they’d tried their best than to regret not having done so later on.

Their actions were clearly executed on a global scale, ranging from operations in Daehan to tenders to the Alkebulan Underworlds. Their willingness to give it their all left an indelible mark in Qin Ye’s heart.

“But… if you’re doing so much to put your best foot forward, how can I not do the same?” Qin Ye turned his attention to the papers and began to read carefully, “At the very least, none of you pampered Tsars and Dukes have to personally lobby for change like I do.”

Hell may not have as many resources at its disposal as the Russian Underworld.

That said, Hell would never make light of the situation!

The first thing that he saw was the report of the press conference held by the Russian Underworld.

The details were all summarized in the first few paragraphs of the news article, followed by an in depth, blow-by-blow description of exactly what transpired. Qin Ye was content with skimming through the summary of the press conference, before promptly turning to the commentaries section below the article.

“... This is the largest mining operation of this century. One has to be moved by the verve of such a series of launches.” “Unbelievable. Together with the launch of the Parasitic Inkstone Mine, the Russian Underworld has effectively launched five S-grade deposits and one A-grade deposit, all of which contain an immense amount of resources.” “Disrupting the energy market? Or are there ulterior motives? Whatever it is, we’re all winners!”

Nobody questioned their motives.

Everyone was clearly celebrating.

Qin Ye counted about a dozen underworlds who had already registered their interest for the tendering process, including several large Alkebulan tribes.

“What resolve…” After approximately half an hour, Qin Ye finally shut the papers and murmured to himself, “A good segment of the netherworld would reap benefits from these actions of theirs. If it so happens that they’re announced to be dabbling with Forbidden Arts later, I wonder how many of these underworlds would actually be willing to pass up on such benefits?”

His eyes narrowed, “If you’re not willing to give up on these benefits, then you’ll have to compromise in some way or other. To think that they’re already padding the pot and softening their landing before their negotiations with Hell. Does this mean that they’re absolutely certain that they would be able to get their hands on the rights to the Resentment Crystals Mine? So much so that they’re even willing to burn bridges with Hell?”

It’s the innate desire of every respectable underworld out there to possess the might of Forbidden Arts. Naturally, it was worth every bit of the risks involved, even if it meant potentially burning bridges with Hell.

Unfortunately, this was also bad news for Hell.

Because all of this meant that if Hell was unable to heap sufficient sanction on the Russian Underworld this time, they would never let go of the fattiest piece of meat that is dangling right before their eyes!

“I wonder what the Black Mamba Underworld thinks of all these developments?” He ran his finger gently across the papers, “Is this a show of might? Or is this all part of their negotiation tactics?”

“Are you showing me this because you want to tell me that if my terms aren’t good enough, then you wouldn’t meddle in the Russian Underworld’s affairs?”

With that, Qin Ye shelved his thoughts and glanced blankly at the ceiling. No matter what, he would have to wait until Ryu Changmin and Kwon Kyung-ho returned before he could reassess Hell’s position on this matter!

How deep and indelible were the Alkebulan Underworlds’ wounds from their past run-in with the Forbidden Arts?

Would they outweigh the profits to be had?

It was useless to speculate.

At the very least, he would have to test their mettle if he were to learn of their bottom line for real!

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