He had to put up a persona befitting of a proud Emissary of Hell, because the new Hell simply couldn’t afford to let others know about the collapse of the old Hell! The consequences of that would be unthinkable!
And this was precisely why they had come to Alkebulan in the first place. This was the very reason why they were having this conversation!
As Black Mamba looked Qin Ye straight in the eye, Qin Ye did his level best to suppress the wild beating of his heart. He didn’t want to give Black Mamba even the slightest bit of clue about the situation in Hell. He was obviously lying, but he knew he had to act as though he were fully convicted of his words if he were to pull a veil over Black Mamba’s eyes.
After a few seconds of tense silence, Black Mamba withdrew his gaze and smiled genially, “It is indeed a laughable suggestion. Given the current political climate within and without underworlds, the odds of large-scale wars breaking out or even civil unrest is little to none.”
“Therefore, I agree with you. Please continue.”
There was a sound of soft scribbling coming from the darkness beyond. Qin Ye didn’t relax in the slightest, much less commit a foolish act such as heave a sigh of relief. Instead, he simply leaned back slightly and raised two fingers, “Secondly, Fengdu isn’t inviting the Alkebulan Underworlds to stand on its side. Hell doesn’t need any underworlds to take its side. We simply dislike the idea of our neighbours owning Forbidden Art capabilities.”
“Prefect Qin.” Ancestral Shaman Cain immediately interjected, “Then, you could simply send your own troops to have the matter resolved once and for all. Hell’s Black Armored Troops, Beifu Army, Beiwei Cavalry, and in fact, almost any one of your other elite forces are no weaker than Catherine the Great’s imperial soldiers or the Tsar’s personal guards. Besides, the Russian Underworld controls no vassal states. On the other hand, it is common knowledge that Hell possesses twelve vassal states ruled by the twelve envoys. Whatever the Russian Underworld might seek to do, all it takes is a single expression of intention on your part, and it will almost immediately be quelled.”
He spoke unhurriedly and without the slightest bit of haughtiness to his voice, and yet Qin Ye couldn’t help but feel stirred by his words.
This was a battlefield.
A battlefield where they waged war with words.
“Are you questioning our intentions?” Qin Ye raised his brows haughtily and gazed deeply right back into the eyes of Shaman Cain, “Are you questioning an Emissary of Hell?”
“All I’m asking is the reason why you’re doing this. We need to understand the reasons for your intention before we can consider whether there’s a need to even delve further into the details of our cooperation.” Elder Yonder Star explained, “After all, Hell’s perspective on this issue would directly implicate the amount of help that we’re getting. In turn, this would directly influence how we should handle this matter - presumably that whatever you’re claiming right now is true. For instance, if Hell is unable to move on its end for whatever reason, how many soldiers do we need to send? Which Mythic Spirits should we mobilize?”
Qin Ye remained silent.
Black Mamba nodded slightly towards Elder Yonder Star and continued where she left off, “Prefect Qin, you couldn’t possibly be suggesting that the Black Mamba Underworld attempts to quell the uprising of the Russian Underworld on its own, would you?”
“I know where exactly your intentions lay. Hell hopes to stir the entire Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds into action, doesn’t it? The Black Mamba Underworld is naturally only the first stop thus far. Say for instance the other Mythic Spirits agree to take action. The first thing that we’ll have to consider is how we’ll get safe passage from here to where we need to be. And secondly, assuming that we can count on Hell’s intelligence, then…”
He didn’t go on any further. Instead, Babulu sensibly continued where he left off, “If the Russian Underworld is indeed bent on developing Forbidden Arts, then we can almost certainly expect to face up against hundreds of thousands of imperial troops backed by the Cossacks Military Formation. How much help would Hell offer to us? Will you be sending Abyssal Prefects? Yama-Kings? Or perhaps mobilize a large army?”
“And if Hell takes the position that it will remain passive in all of these operations, then we…” He paused for a moment, “It would basically be impossible for us to dispatch a large contingent of Yin soldiers from the Alkebulan Underworlds to ensure the safe passage of the Mythic Spirits through the waters held by the Aegyptian Underworld, and then pass through the lands of the Hindustani Underworld along the way. Prefect Qin, you should understand that these are all practical difficulties in mobilization. The march of such numbers of troops would easily be misunderstood by the international community as the outbreak of war. If not handled properly, it could even be misinterpreted as the lead up to a great netherworld war. Hell might be strong, but can you really bear the weight of such consequences on your shoulders?”
All eyes fell to Qin Ye at this moment. He grew taciturn, and the entire hall was filled with a tense pin drop silence. Nobody said a single word, and nobody prompted his response.
It’s finally here…
This was a question that Qin Ye had mulled long and hard over. If the Russian Underworld were indeed bent on swallowing the Resentment Crystal Mine whole, they would most definitely mobilize a throng of Yin soldiers. Therefore, even if Qin Ye did in fact manage to convince the tiger that was the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds to make its move, he would still have to contend with the question of how they were going to make the great trek to the northern part of the netherworld.
First of all, they would have to cross the Hindustani Ocean, bypass the Aegyptian Underworld’s Arabian Seas, and then cross the Maldives Islands, otherwise known as the “Pearl Necklace of the Underworlds” only because it was an territory that was fiercely contested by both the Aegyptian Underworld and the Hindustani Underworld. Incidentally, it was also situated along the boundary line between the East and West Hindustani Ocean.
Then, they would have to cross the East Hindustani Ocean until they arrived at the Spice Islands, before finally entering the East Cathayan Seas. Thereafter, they would travel northwards through the seas until they finally arrived at Daehan.
This was a long voyage that would take even a Yama-King three or four hours on end. Given the sheer number of Mythic Spirits to be mobilized for these operations, the international community would naturally be shocked by these developments. Even though truth of the matter is that they were all mobilizing to ascertain the truth of the Russian Underworld’s undertakings, how was he going to assuage the Alkebulan Underworlds that the international community wasn’t going to carry out their own investigations on such a large scale movement of Mythic Spirits?
How is Hell going to receive the army of Mythic Spirits when it finally enters Hell’s territorial waters? Given the current situation in Hell, can hell truly protect the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds from the scrutiny of the Federation of Underworlds?
Therefore, they needed to better understand the situation in Hell before they would feel sufficiently assured to make a move on their part.
This was a potential dead end to the discussions.
At least, it would be a dead end if the truth about Hell’s situation was indeed revealed.
“Prefect Qin?” Babulu’s eyes narrowed as he gazed deeply into Qin Ye’s eyes, “Does silence mean that Hell hasn’t made the necessary preparations in this regard? Or are you telling me that… this is something that you hadn’t considered at all?”
Qin Ye met his gaze. The negotiations were multi-faceted and ever-changing. This was a potential problem that he’d already expected to come up over the course of the discussions, and he had already prepared certain countermeasures to it. However, he didn’t expect it to be raised so early in the discussions! Moreover, his solution… was nothing more than a gamble!
After all, it was a solution that he’d only come up with after a day of thought!
“That’s not the case.” His heart thumped wildly. This was probably the biggest bluff he was about to pull out of the bag. Despite having run through these thoughts in his mind countless times by now, he still couldn’t help but feel every nerve and muscle tense up as he was about to deliver his piece.
“First of all, Lord Harken will rendezvous with you in the South Cathayan Seas. As for why specifically Lord Harken, this is a reason that I can only disclose to you later on. Additionally…”
He swept a gaze around the table as he slowly rose to his feet. He could practically smell blood lacing each and every word that was spoken at this moment. His heart was beating so hard it was practically on the verge of collapse.
This was all a gamble.
But since he’d decided to go all in, then he would do so with valor and boldness, and without any regrets whatsoever.
If this failed, then the negotiations would end right here and now. Even if the Black Mamba Underworld didn’t air this issue right now, the other Alkebulan Underworld would have done so at some point later on. There was therefore no point avoiding it.
“Right before I departed on this expedition, an old friend of Black Mamba Mythic Spirit had entrusted me with one thing, asking me to send his regards.”
Without missing a beat, Qin Ye pulled out Fate from the sleeve of his robes and respectfully set it onto the table.
SSS!!! At once, Black Mamba shrieked in terror! The elders and the ancestral shaman immediately shot to their feet at once, and the netherflames in their eyes flickered wildly as they stared at the golden brush, almost as though they were staring at the emergence of a monster.
There wasn’t much Yin energy seeping out of the brush, yet nobody dared to take it lightly.
This was King Yanluo’s royal brush after all!
A glimmer of golden light swept across the entire hall, and all who were dazzled by its radiance couldn’t help but shudder softly. Fate was practically synonymous with the fabled legend that was none other than the Second King Yanluo! This was the man who had beat the master of the other three P4 underworlds into a pulp and single handedly rebuffed the advances of the coalition of seven great underworlds against Hell. He was an unparalleled existence.
And given how it was his personal brush of choice, seeing Fate was quite the same as seeing the Second King Yanluo himself!
Qin Ye took in every bit of their reaction, and then held up Fate in his hands reverently. His palms were filled with cold sweat as he continued speaking, “The Second King Yanluo has mentioned that so long as anyone dares to pursue the issue and attempt to look into the movements of the Alkebulan Underworlds, then all I have to do is to show them this brush.”
He was practically riding on the coattails of others!
Qin Ye was betting that the Second King Yanluo had left such an indelible impression in the hearts of all other underworlds that none other would dare to press the issue after witnessing the display of his authority!
This was an implicit message in and of itself. It was tantamount to saying that I come bearing the highest authority in Hell, and I can help you to suppress any form of reaction from the international community. At least, this was what he hoped they would perceive with the emergence of Fate’s presence. Yet, to Qin Ye’s mind, all he had done was to bring out Fate without promising anything at all. In fact, nothing was set in stone until they finally inked an agreement.
But, at the very least, he would now be able to go on with the next part of the negotiations.
Things wouldn’t come to an abrupt end as yet.
At the very least, he would be able to state his piece, and have their full attention until he was done with the full delivery.
This might not determine the outcome, but it would still be a minor breakthrough on his part. As for the outcome…
It was anybody’s guess. That’s the nature of negotiations after all. Until everything had been said and discussed, who could truly be certain of what the outcome would be?
The only thing Qin Ye could do right now was to give it his all, and then hope for the best.
The grand hall was filled with silence. Qin Ye had a grave expression on his face as he glanced around the table, only to be greeted by incredulous expressions. He had pulled out his bluff at the most opportune time, and the results were outstanding. Now, all that was left was to see if the Black Mamba Underworld would call this bluff of his, or believe wholeheartedly in his assertions.
Time trickled by slowly. The ticking sounds of the second hand almost rang deafeningly in his mind, and each second that passed felt almost as though it was an entire year. After ten seconds passed, Black Mamba finally reacted. With great deference, Black Mamba bowed respectfully to the brush, “It is I who might have overstepped the boundaries of my authority.”
“Prefect Qin, please continue.”
An overcharged sensation surged from his tailbone through the roof of his head. Nobody could see that his fingertips were already turning white from the sheer strength with which he was pressing them onto the table, and it was only in that moment that he slowly regained some pink hues.
I’ve done it…
As expected… the mention of the Second King Yanluo’s authority would trigger the horrific memories of how they were once beaten down into submission. Sure, we might still have to cross the bridge of this issue in the near future, but at least the negotiations can go on!
And so long as the channel for negotiations isn’t abruptly cut off, then Hell will still have a chance to convince them!
Qin Ye felt his lips tremble slightly when he opened his mouth again. These negotiations were nothing like the bitter battle at Ashmound City, or the altercation during the Hungry Ghost Festival and the encounters in Daehan. However, both the degree of intensity and implications of these negotiations were greater than any of their encounters before. In fact, it was so intense that his ears were still buzzing right now.
He spoke with a subconsciously hoarse voice, “However, since this is a collaboration, then it’s only natural that we come to the table with a token of our sincerity as well. So, let me give you the lowdown - the Array of the Nine Gods restricts all movement of Yin spirit, including that of Emissaries of Hell. Sure, we might have some leeway in this regard, but Hell is unable to send more than five people beyond the Array of the Nine Gods. Therefore, it’s not that Hell is unwilling to send a large army to assist in these operations. It’s just that it is simply impossible to do so right now.”
The others at the table stared intently at Qin Ye. The implications of these words were immense. It meant Hell’s complete withdrawal from all international affairs. It also spelt the weakening of their influence in the region.
But after mulling over it for a moment, they shook their heads.
What does it matter?
Hell was one of the P4 underworlds. Did a change of regime mean that they would become as weak as a chicken?
Who knows what might happen as soon as the restrictions were lifted? In all likelihood, Hell might even emerge stronger than ever, and perhaps with the might of the second generation Forbidden Arts in hand!
The fear of the unknown was the most terrifying thing of all.
Nobody even entertained the possibility that Hell was currently going through one of its most difficult periods of time in the last three thousand years of its existence.
Naturally, nobody also considered the fact that the man negotiating with them was none other than the prevailing King Yanluo of Hell, and the only one qualified to conduct such negotiations right now.
And he was standing here, right in front of them all.Previous Chapter Next Chapter