Seconds later, Qin Ye finally continued, “Thirdly, this is anything but the lowly provocation that the Lord Mythic Spirit suggests it is. Rather, if this is indeed true, then the implications could potentially change the netherworld as we know it.”
He glanced around the table and continued with a deep voice, “I’m quite certain that everyone was already mentally prepared for something like this the moment I decided to step back into this room. Let me reiterate that this is anything but a joke. Let me put it out there that the Russian Underworld is definitely looking to develop Forbidden Art capabilities. And to this end, they already possess the basic conceptual know-how, and some raw data on how to go about with these developments. Furthermore, I can assure you that there are traces of the Argosian Underworld egging them on from behind the shadows!”
Nobody said a word.
Perhaps it was Qin Ye’s attitude in the earlier round of negotiations that had attracted the responses of - “Are you kidding me?” “This joke isn’t even funny.” “Is this Hell’s attitude towards international affairs these days?”
And perhaps, even when he stepped into the grand hall for the second time, they might still have thought that Hell was simply coming up with excuses to compel others to act on their behalf when it wasn’t convenient for them to do so. After all, the interests of any underworld were of paramount importance, and the excuses used were just cover stories to justify the interest that they were tabling for negotiations. Unfortunately, these allegations and claims were a little bit tasteless, even as excuses.
That said, everything was cast in a different light now.
Fate’s appearance means that Qin Ye was formally representing Hell. The emissaries seated at the table couldn’t help but shudder at the implications of these thoughts, and their expressions grew somber and stern.
Is there really an underworld out there that is prepared to go directly against the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Forbidden Arts?
Having witnessed the global sanctions against the Argosian Underworld after they first took the world by storm with their Forbidden Arts capabilities, is another underworld now prepared to risk everything and follow in their footsteps?
The words “Forbidden Arts” were almost like something of taboo, ripping out the scab that had formed over their wounds after centuries on end. Moments later, Black Mamba finally responded in a deep voice, “Specifics.”
His voice was calm, like a large flowing river. However, it was clear that beneath the calm surface was an intense undercurrent that was ready to breach the dykes!
The gravitas he spoke with caused Babulu, Shaman Cain, and the three elders to all sit up straight and listen intently. Qin Ye sighed softly, and then explained with an equally authoritative voice, “Resentment Crystals.”
Still as calm as ever, but his words had clearly begun to stir up a small wave.
These words didn’t trigger much of a reaction in the other emissaries at the table. However, Black Mamba’s pupils immediately shrank.
Know thy enemy as thyself.
Ever since they were first baptised with the full force of a Forbidden Art centuries ago, the Mythic Spirits of the Alkebulan Underworlds had done everything within their abilities to understand the composition of Forbidden Arts as best as they could. Naturally, Black Mamba knew a thing or two about Resentment Crystals.
“Moreover, it is quite possible that the recently discovered Resentment Crystal Mine is so large that it contains more Resentment Crystals than the record-breaking ‘Heart of Darkness’. We expect it to contain more than 1,700 pounds of Resentment Crystals in this regard.”
Black Mamba’s eyes twitched softly, and then he sighed, “How did Hell first come to learn about this?”
They spoke with calmness and indifferent on the outside, but the truth of the matter was that their hearts were all burning with intense passion and anxiety. Meanwhile, Qin Ye’s mind was filled with unprecedented clarity. After all, he knew that he was drawing closer and closer to the crux of the issue that would either make or break these negotiations. Fate had allowed him to open the door to the negotiations, but whether he could successfully invite the master of the Alkebulan Underworlds out of their house was the hallmark to success in these negotiations.
“Everyone here is probably aware that there exists a buffer zone between Hell and the Russian Underworld, and the standing rules of engagement is that marching into this buffer zone with one’s army is tantamount to a declaration of war. Incidentally, the Resentment Crystals Mine is… located in Khuree, the capital of the Mongol Empire.”
There was no need to explain any further.
Black Mamba tapped his fingers on the table softly. He had already managed to put two and two together to deduce the rest of the story.
Hell had first learnt about it because the Russian Underworld had no choice but to engage Hell in these matters. Admittedly, the Mongol Empire’s underworld was so weak that they would never be able to resist the advances of the Russian Underworld. In fact, it might not even be an exaggeration to say that the Russian Underworld could easily flatten the Mongol Empire in a day! Unfortunately, doing so would also be tantamount to declaring war with Hell!
And the Russian Underworld could never afford that.
Sure, they might know a thing or two about Forbidden Arts, or even successfully develop Forbidden Arts with the seizure of Resentment Crystals, but… how effective would Forbidden Arts be against the Second King Yanluo? Could they possibly destroy the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces in one fell swoop? And what about the Sixfold Ghost Kings?
Without an assurance in this regard, they naturally had no choice but to first seek Hell’s blessings. This was the only way they could then afford to make their move.
“Has Hell already crossed paths with the representatives of the Russian Underworld?” Black Mamba asked.
“It would be Marquis Rumyantsev, who was acting under the direct instructions of Catherine the Great. I was the one who met directly with them.”
“And you didn’t refuse them?” Babulu looked up and straight into Qin Ye’s eyes, “This concerns the teetering balance of power of an entire continent. Why didn’t Hell, in its capacity as one of the P4 underworlds, condemn these actions of theirs? Why did you choose to come to us instead?”
“Because the causes and consequences are all fraught with layers of complexity. It’s an issue that goes well beyond bilateral relationships. I’ll come to this in a little while. For now, suffice it to say that I was the one who spoke face to face with Marquis Rumyantsev. However, given the gravity of the situation, I wasn’t able to act beyond my authority and supplant the role of the King Yanluo of Hell.”
“So, are you currently acting under the instructions of King Yanluo in seeking external aid?” Shaman Cain asked hoarsely, “Why can’t you just give the word? Do you really think that the Russian Underworld wouldn’t dare to invade Khuree if you refused to give your approval?”
The waves were stirring.
The great river was finally roaring into action. As soon as they determined Hell’s allegations to be highly probable, the first thing to expect was that the Black Mamba Underworld would start nit-picking at everything.
They would pick on every word, and the presumptions undergirding every statement. They would question everything in the hope that they could uncover the deeper truth hidden within. After all, it would be naive to expect any bilateral meetings to be conducted with their cards fully open on the table, devoid of any measure of concealment whatsoever.
And to this end, Qin Ye was alone facing the close scrutiny of five experienced emissaries of the Black Mamba Underworld, as well as the Black Mamba Mythic Spirit himself. Naturally, nobody gave Qin Ye the time to even catch his breath. His heart pumped wildly, and his cerebral cortex was firing on all fronts. Qin Ye tightened his fists underneath the surface of the table, and he spoke through clenched teeth, “The Second King Yanluo, Lord Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces are in agreement that none of the Yama-Kings of Hell should be travelling during this period of time when the competition for succession is growing red hot in intensity! If you have any doubts as to what I’m saying, you may contact the Second King Yanluo directly!”
He was showing strength to conceal the truth of the weaknesses within.
He spoke harshly because he knew that there was nothing much more he could say to convince them otherwise. After all… the questions pertaining to Hell’s bottom line was currently also one of the greatest weaknesses of Hell.
In fact, the situation was currently so tense that Qin Ye could even feel the coldness of six figurative blades on his neck, almost as though one wrong word, and his neck would be cut right off his neck. This was no longer an issue of boldness and courage. He was facing the scrutiny of six people on his own. The pressure on his shoulders was so immense that it was only natural to feel sheepish the moment he spoke of untruths. And all he could do right now was to pray hard that they would not be able to see beyond these loopholes of his.
Just then, Black Mamba suddenly spoke up, “Even if Hell condemns the Russian Underworld’s actions, they would still invade Khuree.”
Babulu looked up at his Mythic Spirit in consternation, but Black Mamba promptly shook his head and continued indifferently, “The Russian Underworld simply wanted to ‘meet’ with Hell. Given the importance of this matter, they had no choice but to drag things out for an inordinate amount of time, just for the opportunity to meet with the Emissaries of Hell once.”
“After all, marching straight into Khuree without even meeting with an Emissary of Hell would be tantamount to a challenge to Hell’s authority. In fact, it would easily be read as a tight slap to Hell’s face, and Hell wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to bite back, thereby sparking a war. And since the Russian Underworld is definitely no match for Hell’s forces, I’m afraid what awaits them… would be certain annihilation.”
Then, Black Mamba rested his jaws on his hand and surveyed the room placidly, “But things are quite different if they chose to act only after meeting with Hell.”
“You know my intentions, and you know just how much this means to us. On the other hand, this is hardly of any importance to you. After all, I would only possess one instance of Forbidden Arts at my disposal, while you possess dozens of such instances at your disposal. I would hardly be a threat to you. In fact, this might even pave the way to a strategic partnership in future. And since that’s the case, having weighed the potential costs and benefits, I shall march boldly into Khuree, riding on the belief that Hell would never set off a war of annihilation.”
“These are probably the thoughts of the Russian Underworld at this point in time. And so long as the Russian Underworld isn’t exterminated, then a hundred years later, when the might of Forbidden Arts blossoms in the Russian Underworld, any losses that they might potentially incur at this point would completely be acceptable.”
Black Mamba turned to Qin Ye, “So, is Hell prepared to spark a war of annihilation against the Russian Underworld?”
Qin Ye shook his head. Once again, he couldn’t help but sigh in his heart.
There were always benefits in speaking with clever people. For instance, so long as one’s flow of logic held up, the little loopholes in one’s arguments would always be filled up by the logical deductions of the others privy to the conversation.
Black Mamba continued, “The Russian Underworld spans a vast territory and even shares some of its borders with territories of the Aegyptian Underworld and the Argosian Underworld. If Hell were to spark off a war against the Russian Underworld, it would easily implicate two other P4 underworlds, and thereby easily devolve into a great netherworld war. Nobody is willing to see something like this happen. Therefore, the Russian Underworld is effectively using its geographical location as leverage in its present course of conduct. So long as they do not offend Hell’s bottom line, they know full well that Hell would not go to such extremes to take them down.”
Everyone grew silent.
The implications were obvious. If everything said thus far was spot on, then coupled with the fact that the Russian Underworld was desperately trying to curry favour with the rest of the netherworld, it was quite likely that they would be marching into Khuree in the near future!
In all likelihood, they may very well already have countless Yin soldiers arrayed at the borders of the Mongol Empire, awaiting the Tsar’s orders to march right in to seize what they claimed to be theirs!
Seconds later, Black Mamba turned back to Qin Ye, licked its lips, and then suddenly smiled.
“So, it’s about time we got down to business, isn’t it?”
Qin Ye lowered his eyes and smiled softly back, “I was under the impression that we were already talking business all this while.”
Black Mamba shook his head and continued to gaze intently at Qin Ye, “There’s only one order of business.”
“And that’s the evidence.”
“There are no logical flaws in your assertions thus far. However, there are still many things that cannot be explained.”
“For instance, why are you so certain that it is the Argosian Underworld that has rendered aid to the Russian Underworld? Or for further instance, how did the Russian Underworld manage to cross paths with you when Hell is currently inaccessible to foreign emissaries?”
“I’ll give you one chance to convince me, young Prefect - and only one chance at that.”
The waves were finally showing on the surface of the river, sloshing about wildly as it ushered the arrival of a megawave.
Yet Qin Ye didn’t seem in the slightest bit nervous. Or, rather, it might be more accurate to describe him as one who was so saturated with tension that it was impossible to get any more anxious than he already was. In fact, it might not even be wrong to state that he felt some measure of relief knowing that he had finally arrived at the crux of the discussions.
It’s good that they’re asking for evidence… And that they’re taking the initiative to do so at that.
After all, this is telling of the importance of these negotiations to the Mythic Spirit!
Besides, the fact that they’re asking for evidence means that they’re already starting to come on board with Hell’s suggestion. They’re starting to loosen up to the possibility that we might be right!
This was a good thing for Hell. In fact, Qin Ye was praying hard that two possible eventualities wouldn’t come to pass, the first of which was to be given the cold shoulder simply because they were too afraid to deal with the portends of Forbidden Arts again. The second possible eventuality that he feared was that they would first ask what they were going to receive in exchange for their commitment to deal with the situation on Hell’s behalf.
Fortunately, the Black Mamba Underworld still treats Forbidden Arts as a matter of grave importance to be nipped in the bud. Qin Ye’s only hope right now was that this reflected the interests of the rest of the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds as well.
“Of course.” Qin Ye stood up, bowed slightly, and then placed several sets of dossiers on the table.
“This one sets out in detail the circumstances under which we first came into contact with the Russian Underworld.”
“This one sets out the possible changes we might see in the netherworld if the Russian Underworld gains Forbidden Arts capabilities.”
“This one sets out the reasons why we think someone has been rendering aid to the Russian Underworld from the shadows, and our deductions on who might have given them aid in respect of the conceptual know-how as well as some of the basic modules.”
Qin Ye placed his hand on the second dossier, “Yesterday, I’d gone back to the mortal realm to make six copies of these documents. Now, let me tell you exactly how, in the eyes of Hell, the Russian Underworld will change the world once it becomes an underworld with Forbidden Arts capabilities.”
“Believe me, this is not a situation you want to see coming to pass, nor one you’ll ever be able to accept!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter