Chapter 669: A Familiar Face

As soon as he cleared the trial of the divine inquisition, Qin Ye's surroundings immediately became blurry and hazy, almost as though he was slowly but surely being pulled into a different realm altogether. Moments later, with a soft swoosh, the clouds of roiling Yin energy around him vanished into thin air, revealing the fact that he was right back where he started - back on Black Mamba’s boat.

Black Mamba was also standing by his side. Qin Ye finally heaved a sigh of relief, “What’s next?”

“Since the divine inquisition is over, we’ll have the results before us in three days’ time.” Black Mamba’s eyes narrowed, “Everything, including whether to march for Khuree, and how many troops to send, depends entirely on the Plumed Serpent God’s instructions. We’ll soon find out…”

Qin Ye nodded, and then quipped curiously, “Why did the rules of the game change towards the end?”

Black Mamba shook his head, “I’m not sure. But, if I had to hazard a guess, there must have been something about you that had caught the attention of the Plumed Serpent God.”

Qin Ye frowned. The results were indeed baffling.

And so was the Plumed Serpent God himself. According to what he knew of the Alkebulan Underworlds, the Plumed Serpent God was an existence on similar footing as the Harken itself. However, could the Harken do what Quetzalcoatl had just done and allow its powers to be felt across thousands of miles?

It was impossible. So on what basis could it judge the veracity of Qin Ye’s words?

His character?

And if the Plumed Serpent God could achieve something like that, then he would probably be an entity in the same league as the Second King Yanluo himself. Naturally, such a powerful entity would never have been wounded so seriously by Forbidden Arts.

As if sensing the doubts on his heart, Black Mamba smiled and explained, “Lord Quetzalcoatl is the first Alkebulan Mythic Spirit we know of, and there is none before him. However, he is by no means the original Mythic Spirit either.”

“He has never told us what happened before. However, records of the title ‘Plumed Serpent God’ was in fact first discovered in the Central Usonian region, otherwise known as the New World of the Earth. That’s a land that is rich in resources, and for all intents and purposes unified as far as its underworlds are concerned. They’re ruled by three systems of beliefs, under the Aztec, Incan and Mayan Mythologies. These three powers are now living in harmony. We had once speculated that the Plumed Serpent God was the loser of the tussle among the various mythologies of the Usonian region, and it was for that reason that he decided to come here to the Alkebulan Continent.”

Qin Ye raised his brows slightly and listened intently. His mind was already filled with other thoughts.

Black Mamba’s attitude was changing.

Black Mamba’s attitude is slowly but surely changing. He would never have told me about these things before. It almost feels as though he’s trying to make up for his past transgressions against me.

This must be in some way related to the disclosure of my identity as a successor to the throne.

He shelved these thoughts for the moment and continued to take in everything that Black Mamba was saying. Black Mamba continued, “The Plumed Serpent God first appeared through the possession of a person’s body in a country that no longer exists, Ancient Ghana. It then became known as the patron god of its capital back then. Due to its serious wounds back then, it was well known that a virgin sacrifice had to be offered up once every year. Then, some time later, a virgin chosen to be the next sacrifice managed to kill the Plumed Serpent God in his weakest, human form. This caused the land to dry up, and the vein of gold on which the nation was built upon to be completely cut off. Ancient Ghana slowly faded into obscurity, before eventually becoming buried in the depths of the desert.”

“Afterwards, legend had it that the Plumed Serpent God had in fact departed from Ancient Ghana, manifesting in other forms as he appeared in other tribes, instigating the birth of Mythic Spirit after Mythic Spirit. However, nobody has seen his true appearances.”

Qin Ye raised his brows, “Lord Black Mamba, didn’t you once personally receive its guidance as well?”

“There’s no need to speak with such formalities around me.” Black Mamba smiled genially, “I wasn’t aware that you were a successor to the throne before. But now that your identity has finally come into light, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t treat each other as equals.”

Qin Ye smiled faintly. It was a privilege.

Yama-Kings were living legends of the netherworld. How many civilizations, legends and myths had there been since the start of time? There were no more than a hundred subsisting belief systems remaining, just over 20 underworlds, and a hundred or so Yama-Kings. They were entities that stood at the top of the food chain. And yet, a creature at the top of the food chain was willing to bow down and stand beside an Abyssal Prefect merely because of his identity as the successor to the throne of another underworld.

This was the gravitas of Hell’s namesake.

Black Mamba continued, “Unfortunately not, because every time it instigates the birth of another Mythic Spirit, it does so through the use of oracles that echo directly in one’s mind. Speaking of which, was the change of regime also triggered by an oracle delivered by the Second King Yanluo?”

“No.” Qin Ye didn’t bother concealing these things because their disclosure right now would only serve to pave the way for his own appearance in the form of Hell’s ruler in future, “The Second King Yanluo would never tell anyone that the task which they’re undertaking is in fact one of the tests. It is only when one is done with the task that they would learn that they were being put through a test as such. I’ve already been through four such trials, and this… might well be the fifth.”

The boat sailed quickly through the river, shuttling between the realms of the Yin and the realms of the Yang. Meanwhile, the fish in the waters, regardless of predator or prey, would all retreat madly to the side.

Black Mamba’s eyes gleamed wildly, and he licked his lips, “If memory serves me well, you’d also mentioned that the quickest ones in Hell would already have cleared half of the trials, haven’t they?”

Qin Ye turned to Black Mamba and nodded softly with a smile, “And they’re probably dealing with the sixth trial as we speak.”

Silence.

Black Mamba didn’t say another word. Over the last 20 days of their interactions, he had already changed his assessment of Prefect Qin from childishness, to maturity, and then to that of complete astonishment. It was a magnificent transformation that could even be described as a metamorphosis.

When I first met him, I could’ve sworn that his first impression was bland and naive, almost as though he was a newbie in international affairs. But as time went by, he slowly played his cards better and better, forcing me to eat right out of the hook, line and sinker he’d placed before my eyes - and even do so in delight at that. And the final scene of astonishment was naturally that of the revelation of his identity before the gathering of Mythic Spirits.

Who would’ve thought that this lonesome traveler from Hell is actually one of the stronger contenders for succession to Hell’s throne?

He was only trailing by one trial behind the rest. Who was to say for certain that he couldn’t rise up above the competition and pull ahead of the pack in the final stretch?

And as for his identity, there was naturally nothing suspicious about it. Otherwise, the Plumed Serpent God would never have made its appearance in the divine inquisition and forced him to disclose his own identity. Furthermore, there was no reason to doubt the Plumed Serpent God’s assessment of the veracity of his words.

One could only imagine how the other Mythic Spirits would treat Qin Ye the next time they met each other.

And to that end, how could Qin Ye pass up the opportunity to lay the groundwork for their future interactions?

After all, a potential successor to the throne would be viewed in a completely different light from a regular Abyssal Prefect!

“Are you in a hurry to return?” Black Mamba turned and asked casually.

Qin Ye nodded slightly, “Since I’m in charge of this matter, I’ve got no choice but to return before the New Year to report back to the Yama-Kings of the Ten Palaces, and have them communicate directly with the Russian Underworld.”

“It’s a pity.” Black Mamba sighed, “And here I was, thinking of personally showing you some of the sights and sounds around the Black Mamba Underworld.”

“I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities in the future.” Qin Ye smiled back in gratitude for Black Mamba’s kind gesture.

To have a Yama-King take him around the Alkebulan Underworlds to eat, drink and be merry, with all expenses to be covered by public funds - what more could he ask for?

However, Black Mamba was also keenly aware that certain things couldn’t be rushed. After all, over-eagerness would only attract the disdain of others. Therefore, he chuckled softly, “Speaking of which, did the Second King Yanluo truly just abdicate the throne without any warning? How bold is he? But I suppose it does stand to reason. After all, someone as powerful like him would never care about what the other underworlds think. Lord Quetzalcoatl had told us that there exists no person in these Three Realms that can defeat the Second King Yanluo of Hell. So long as he remained around, Hell can be said to have a backing as firm as Mount Tai. And even if he leaves, I’m afraid his legacy and namesake alone would keep Hell afloat for at least 300 years.”

You don’t know how close you are to the truth… and that is 250 years in all…

They continued chatting idly along the river until they arrived right back at the Black Mamba Underworld. However, Qin Ye didn’t depart immediately. Instead, he summoned Kwon Kyung-ho and Ryu Changmin to have them return to Hell and relay everything that has happened to the Harken so that Hell could make the necessary preparations.

Time passed quickly, and six more days passed in the blink of an eye. Then, at noon of the sixth day, he suddenly heard a knock at the door.

At some point, three Yin beast carriages would already have stopped at the door, each of which was pulled by skeletal rhinoceroses that were eight meters long and two meters tall. The carriages were gorgeous. They spanned approximately ten meters in length, were gilded in gold, and even accented with inlaid gemstones and precious materials. Even the skeletal lanterns hanging from the roof of the carriage were carved with exquisite designs.

The main body of the carriage was also carved with intricate patterns, most of which were related to the sun, the birds and other animals of the Alkebulan Continent. As soon as Qin Ye stepped out of his door, the carriage doors opened, and several Yin spirits stepped out at once.

All of them were Abyssal Prefects!

“Mr Qin.” Babulu took the lead and smiled at him. However, his smile appeared somewhat stiff, “The divine oracle is about to be given. Lord Mythic Spirit has tasked me to invite you to the Grand Hall of the Ancestors to receive the divine oracle.”

Qin Ye nodded and turned to look at the other Yin spirits standing around, only to realize that Mayasu, the Emissary representing the Sunbird Tribe, was also here.

But before Qin Ye could even say a word, a lady sporting braided hair and wearing golden neck rings and bracelets, and dressed in bright, vibrant clothes, smiled and offered an animal skin bag to Qin Ye, “Prefect Qin. I am Antika, a Minister of the Lioness Tribe. This is a token of our goodwill to pave the way for our first meeting. I hope we get along well in future.”

Then, even before Qin Ye could graciously accept the bag, another white-bearded man walked right over to him with the aid of his walking stick and smiled brightly from ear to ear, “Prefect Qin, I’m Gubo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Golden Rhino Tribe. It must be the blessings of the ancestral spirits that we’re able to meet under such circumstances. Please accept this little gift of ours.”

Then, before Qin Ye could even say another word, the attendants of the Black Mamba Underworld immediately walked right up to receive the bags of gifts contained in animal skin on his behalf.

Mayasu stood on the periphery of the crowd, anxious as ever. He couldn’t understand why his Mythic Spirit had, immediately upon his return from the divine inquisition, asked him to prepare an extravagant gift to be sent to Prefect Qin in the Black Mamba Underworld. To make matters worse, his efforts were promptly stonewalled by the abominable elders of the Black Mamba Underworld.

And he wasn’t the only one who was tasked to do so by his Mythic Spirit. In fact, almost every other tribe had seen it fit to send their ministers to greet Prefect Qin with a “token gift”.

Why?

Since when did Yama-Kings have to stoop so low to give a lowly Abyssal Prefect token gifts like that?!

This doesn’t make any sense!

There was a pack of ministers crowding around the main door right now. Meanwhile, Babulu couldn’t help but develop the urge to kick every other minister outside Qin Ye’s villa to death!

He knew why.

As the next chieftain of the Black Mamba Underworld, Black Mamba had told him everything that was permissible. And as soon as he learnt that Prefect Qin was in the running as the successor to the throne of Hell, he immediately thought to invite Qin Ye to the heart of the Black Mamba Underworld for a wonderful banquet and feast. Unfortunately, Black Mamba promptly dissuaded him from doing so. After all, everything had to be done in moderation. They didn’t need to pull out all the stops. Instead, all they needed to do was to do better than the other underworlds around.

Fortunately, none of them had truly stepped on Prefect Qin’s toes over the last month or so he had remained around these parts. Naturally, he was still filled with some measure of self-confidence. That said, it was still difficult to watch and see how the other foreign ministers of the Alkebulan Underworlds were practically coming up to Qin Ye with beaming faces and showering him with gifts.

“Prefect Qin, I’m an Elder of the Seena Tribe. Please accept this humble token gift of ours.” “Prefect Qin, I’m a Minister of the Wasp Tribe. Please accept this special produce of our tribe. This is unique to the world, and a cherished product of ours. We invite you to humble accept it.” “Minister of the Zawa Tribe. Please accept these token gifts.”

A series of other voices vied for the rights to make an impression with Qin Ye, yet he couldn’t help but smile back stiffly.

Come again?

You gave me the cold shoulder yesterday, and then suddenly shower me with gifts today?

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