Qin Ye could sense that he had been maturing in his character ever since Hell’s establishment.
Perhaps he wasn’t quite there yet, but he could sense the differences in the manner in which people around him treated him. Wang Chenghao no longer dared to joke with him. Arthis no longer dared to cuss and swear at him. Even the elderly men in Hell were slowly but surely beginning to treat him with more and more respect. He was once a reckless youth that was just feeling his way about, but he was slowly and surely shaping up to become a man befitting of the title King Yanluo of Hell.
Two years in, he was already dealing with the delicate subject of international strife. He could no longer afford to be as casual and lackadaisical as before. He could no longer afford to act with wanton disregard to the consequences.
But what was most surprising about this was the fact that he hardly felt any sense of rejection for the responsibilities on his shoulder.
Perhaps his experiences had moulded him along the way, or perhaps the different things he’d seen in his world travels had opened his eyes to whole new perspectives, but either way, he felt as though… nature seemed to be taking its ordinary course with him.
Has the Second King Yanluo successfully brainwashed me?
Think carefully now…
He smiled back in response to the gestures of goodwill brought by the various Alkebulan Underworlds. He was no longer as childish as before, and he naturally wouldn’t drag things out just to relish in the feeling of being fawned over. Instead, he even looked each minister in the eye and addressed them with the utmost respect.
He was destined to be the main attraction around here, at least until the oracle was issued.
He continued to make small talk with everyone, making eye contact and nodding slightly at each minister from time to time. In fact, he could even sense that he was subconsciously keeping the conversation going. This must be what all politicians were adept at doing…
After approximately 20 minutes, Babulu suddenly walked up beside Qin Ye with a smile, “Everyone, the oracle will soon be revealed. Shall we… make a move? Prefect Qin, please.”
He made a gesture of invitation, and Qin Ye promptly took the cue from him and cupped his hands respectfully at everyone else, “Apologies, everyone. When the old has gone and the new has come in Hell, I’ll personally see to it that everyone is invited to Hell for a grand reception and banquet.”
“Then I’ll look forward to it.” The Minister of the Lioness Tribe smiled like a radiant sunflower, “Might I add that our tribe possesses a deep appreciation for the porcelain, silk and ink paintings produced in Hell. It is truly regrettable that the demand outweighs the supply at this point in time.”
“I eagerly await that invitation.” The old man from the Golden Rhino Tribe also responded with a smile, “I wish Prefect Qin success in your ascension. Remember, the Golden Rhino Tribe will always be your most loyal friend.”
“Mr Qin, do let us know in advance the next time you drop by the Sunbird Tribe, so that we can host you with a proper reception.” “Mr Qin, I sincerely look forward to your next visit to the Alkebulan Underworlds. It’s truly regrettable that we weren’t able to show you the sights and sounds around these parts.”
None of them were qualified to head into the Grand Hall of the Ancestors. The only reason why they rushed here with their eyes wide open was naturally to make an impression on behalf of their tribe. It was a form of political investment, if you will.
After all, Qin Ye was now known to be one of the successors to the throne in Hell. What if… he actually did it?
Truth be told, everyone knew full well that Qin Ye would never be able to remember the names of every tribe that had come forward today. Despite that, they couldn’t pass up on such an opportunity either.
As Qin Ye boarded his carriage, the laughter on the scene soon faded away, only to be replaced by a sense of fatigue and spent enthusiasm. They each nodded affirmatively at each other, before turning and heading back each to his or her own underworld.
Meanwhile, on the carriage. Babulu shut the window and finally sighed softly. And then, he finally turned back to Qin Ye.
He couldn’t believe it when the Mythic Spirit first disclosed Qin Ye’s identity. And now, he looked at Qin Ye in a completely new light, almost as though everything had been a cruel dream.
“Prefect Qin, I’ve been rude to you before.” He bowed sincerely and continued, “Our tribe was unaware that you were one of the successors to the Second King Yanluo of Hell. That alone, would have qualified you to stay in a place elsewhere, and not that little villa unbefitting of a successor to the throne. There is a strict difference between regular emissaries and noblemen after all. On behalf of the Black Mamba Underworld, please accept our sincerest apologies.”
Look at how glib you are.
I haven’t even said a word to you yet, and you’ve already seized the initiative to place the blame entirely on the Black Mamba Underworld, as though you were simply carrying out your duties, huh?
How come you weren’t such a glib talker before? Is this an innate gift of yours?
“Mr Qin, I imagine that you’ll have to return to Hell immediately after receiving the divine oracle. The journey to the Grand Hall of Ancestors is only ten minutes. During this time, I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you one final thing.”
His expressions grew stern and somber, and Qin Ye naturally adjusted his expression and nodded back, “Please speak your mind.”
Babulu looked Qin Ye straight in the eye and continued, “Regardless of what happens, the Black Mamba Underworld would always remain your most loyal counterpart and friend.”
“I believe that our friendship isn’t merely one that is built on something as cheap as commerce. What do you think?”
How bold… Qin Ye’s eyes trembled, and he rubbed his chin with a wry smile on his face.
This was essentially a vote of confidence, throwing everything behind Qin Ye’s back in the hopes that he would ascend the throne as the Third King Yanluo of Hell. This was a declaration that if he was only a single step away from ascension to the throne, they might even be willing to send troops to give Qin Ye the boost he needed, even if it meant risking everything to the Black Mamba Underworld!
But… was there a reason to reject their advances?
Thanks to the Array of the Nine Gods, nobody was any wiser as to the situation in Hell right now. He was the only Emissary of Hell that everyone had seen in recent times, and anything he said was naturally taken as the complete, incontrovertible truth.
“Perhaps we’ll have such opportunities in future.”
There was no need to say more. As representatives of their underworlds, everyone needed to know when enough was enough. Thus, Babulu didn’t press the point any further, and instead nodded placidly, before leaning back and chatting idly with Qin Ye.
Soon, the carriage ground down to a halt. Qin Ye got off and immediately surveyed his surroundings.
There were tombstones everywhere.
Alkebulan was a continent that paid great respect to their ancestors. The more tombstones there were in a place, the more sacred that place was to them. And to that end, the tombstones here in Alkebulan were different from what one might expect of other underworlds. They were all made from wooden crosses, with the skulls of beasts perched at the top of the crosses and draped with a wreath of animal teeth and feathers. The entire graveyard looked just like this, save that there was a large, Aegyptian-style mausoleum located right in the center of the graveyard.
The tombstones were approximately two-meters tall, and their placement artificially formed aisles between them. Babulu led Qin Ye through one of these paths until he finally stopped before the great hall.
The hall was made of dark obsidian, otherwise known as a dragon’s crystal. The natural glaze on the surface of the stones were formed by the sudden cooling of magma flowing from volcanic lava, and they could be said to be a type of non-crystalline gemstones. However, the entire hall appeared to be joined together so seamlessly that it appeared to have been carved out from a humongous piece of obsidian.
It was square in shape, and was surrounded by 17 gates, all of which were etched with the totem of a colossal beast, including a sunbird, a rhinoceros, a lioness, a hyena, and so on and so forth. That said, not a single Yin spirit could be seen in sight. Furthermore, Qin Ye could already sense the overbearing Yin energy of the Black Mamba Mythic Spirit pouring out from within.
“This is the most sacred place of every tribe in the Alkebulan Underworlds.” Babulu gazed deeply at the Grand Hall of Ancestors, “Even if the Hall of the Mythic Spirit is razed to the ground but the Grand Hall of Ancestors remains standing, the tribe will still be able to regain its totem over time and reforge its Mythic Spirit. Prefect Qin, please. These lands are normally only accessible to the Ancestral Shaman, and I can take you no further along this path.”
Qin Ye nodded, took a few breaths, adjusted his robes, and then walked in with a grave expression on his face.
It was almost as though he was trudging through a dense forest. With every step he took, he could’ve sworn that he heard the soft moans of souls. Spots of netherflames drifted eerily between the tombstones around him. As he passed by the various tombstones, he even felt as though the beast skulls hanging placidly on the tombstones were staring intently at him.
Each step he took was devoid of any sound. In fact, not even the shadows in this place appeared to be his. Every time he lifted his feet, the shadows beneath his feet would flutter up like a swarm of bats, shrieking as they scattered into the other shadows around him. The fact that these were the only sounds echoing around these parts made the entire graveyard all the more creepy.
Just like that, he slowly marched up to the front of the Grand Hall of Ancestors, and the heavy stone gate opened up without a sound. He stepped in, and the stone gate shut right behind him.
A pair of netherflames lit up, followed by a second pair, a third, and so on and so forth. Just like pre-programmed street lamps, the torches on both sides of the corridor lit up in turn, forming an avenue of netherflames.
Qin Ye could see a vividly carved statue placed right at the end of this avenue.
It was a giant snake covered with feathers. It looked just like a cobra, save for a pair of wings that were protruding right out of its back, almost as though it was poised to fly. The entire statue was constructed out of a silvery-white material, and yet a simple look at it seemed to completely rattle Qin Ye’s mind.
There were obviously no Yin Talismans etched on the statue, but Qin Ye felt almost as though he could see a river of stars drifting about in a zephyr ocean. The shape of the statue, its curves and its form, all seemed to come together to constitute an indescribable sensation.
And that symbol was none other than death - the god of death.
A long, red carpet stretched from the doorway all the way to the statue. Towards the end, there were three steps that led up to the platform on which the statue was located. And at that moment, there was a figure seated right in front of the statue.
It was Black Mamba Mythic Spirit.
His entire body was shrouded in shadow. As soon as Qin Ye entered, he raised his eyes slightly, “You’re here.”
Yet Qin Ye didn’t take a single step forward. He stared intently at Black Mamba for a long time, before finally asking, “Who are you?”
“Heh…” Black Mamba smiled enigmatically, “Don’t you recognize me?”
Qin Ye took another step back. Fate whistled out of his sleeves, radiating a splendorous light, causing Black Mamba’s pupils to shrink wildly at once. Meanwhile, Qin Ye shifted back until his back was leaning heavily against the cold door behind him. He didn’t say a word. However, his defensive posture spoke volumes about his assessment of the situation.
This wasn’t Black Mamba!
It was still a Yama-King, but the Yin energy radiating from the other wise felt far older and more ancient than the Black Mamba Mythic Spirit. In fact, Qin Ye could even sense trace amounts of decay and divinity in the air!
Just then, it stood up.
And as soon as it did, everything in the Grand Hall immediately shuddered, almost as though they were composed from shadows. It looked almost no different from the flickering screens of an old television set.
However, this moment of shock didn’t last for more than a split second. A moment later, Fate blossomed with a brilliant eruption of light, only to illuminate… a tall figure that had suddenly appeared right in front of Qin Ye.
It was none other than Black Mamba!
He had traversed the span of approximately one hundred meters in the matter of just a split second!
Yet he appeared to be remaining completely still. With his hands behind his back, he asked, “Do you still not know who I am?”
Qin Ye gnashed his teeth as he responded, “Should I… feel lucky that I’ve gained the favour of the great Plumed Serpent God?”
“Oh?” Black Mamba maintained the expressionless look on his face, “Reason?”
Qin Ye licked his lips, “The Plumed Serpent God maintains a lofty status in the Alkebulan Underworlds. If this was truly Black Mamba himself, he would never act with such disrespect to the statue of the Plumed Serpent God. And that’s not to mention the fact that the divine oracle is about to be delivered. Black Mamba would never dare sit so boldly right in front of the most divine being in Alkebulan. In fact, there’s only one entity in all of Alkebulan that would dare to do what you’ve done!”
“Besides, Black Mamba Mythic Spirit doesn’t bear the scent that you do, that is, the scent of something ancient… and almost primordial. I’m afraid that I’ve only ever detected such a scent from one other Yama-King thus far.”
Black Mamba nodded, “The Harken?”
“That’s right.” Qin Ye gazed deeply at Black Mamba. He had an incredibly ominous feeling about this. If the Plumed Serpent God knew through some special means that he was going to be the future King Yanluo of Hell, then the delivery of an oracle could very well be a decoy - Is he… trying to possess me? Or is he planning to use me as hostage?
After a few seconds, Black Mamba smiled.
As he did, his scales flared up in unison, and countless white feathers emerged from within, turning the otherwise ink-black god of death as white as the wings of an angel!
“There’s no need to be nervous.”
“Successor to the throne of Hell… The Plumed Serpent God has already passed away. You may think of me instead as… a part of the Heavenly Dao…”Previous Chapter Next Chapter