Chapter 686: Game of Thrones (2)

Peter the Great and Catherine the Great snapped their heads up and stared at the shark that was standing before him.

Their greatest fear had come true. They were now faced with the question that they hoped would never be asked of them.

Aristotle’s identity was far too important. He was one of the leaders of the Sages of the Round Table, the Vice President of the Assembly, one of the original creators of the Forbidden Arts, and one of the top brass of the Argosian Underworld. In other words, for all intents and purposes, he essentially represented the Argosian Underworld itself!

The initiation module that was in the Russian Underworld’s possession was given to them by the Argosian Underworld. If they didn’t agree to the exchange now, would the Argosian Underworld continue to render them aid in the fields of Forbidden Arts in future? Moreover, the Russian Underworld had clearly already stepped on the toes of Hell, while the Hindustani Underworld and Aegyptian Underworld were located too far away to be of concern right now. Naturally, that leaves only the Argosian Underworld that can assist the Russian Underworld. They couldn’t simply leave Aristotle out in the lurch.

But… could they really give up on the Resentment Crystals at hand?

It was a decision so agonizing it felt no different from plunging a knife straight through the heart.

The pain was excruciating. Even then, they knew full well that this was beyond their bottom line! Their assent now would mean that everything that they had invested to date, spanning decades on end, would completely go up in smoke, and they would have to import everything from the Argosian Underworld in the future. In other words, their assent now was tantamount to ceding the fate of the Russian Underworld over to the Argosian Underworld!

What they wanted was assistance, and not to be subjugated as a vassal state!

They were caught between a rock and a hard place. This was the reason why Catherine the Great had rushed over as soon as she heard Qin Ye’s earlier words. So long as the Russian Underworld could get the Resentment Crystals back across their borders, neither the Mythic Spirits nor Hell would be able to bring up any concrete evidence to back these allegations of theirs. Furthermore, they could still leverage on the existing treaties on extradition and asylum to compel Hell to return Aristotle to the Argosian Underworld.

And the last thing that they wanted was to allow Hell to have any more hostages than they deserved to have.

The netherflames in Peter the Great’s eyes turned scarlet at once, and he swept a gaze across the dozen or so Mythic Spirits standing in front of him. He took a deep breath, and then gnashed his teeth, “Listen… there are no Resentment Crystals here, and neither have we violated any treaties. We intend to escort Special Advisor Aristotle to the Russian Underworld right now. If you’re willing to grant us passage, you’ll be granted mining rights of the world’s largest S-class mineral deposit, the Crystal Sulfur Dark Meteorite Mine, codenamed Night Raven, located in the northwest of the Russian Underworld... for 50 years!”

“Dream on!” A colossal figure shifted slightly and roared back at Peter the Great, “Forbidden Arts… is something that should never have surfaced in this world to begin with!”

“Did you personally bear witness to the tragic sight when the first instance of Forbidden Art rained destruction in Alkebulan? It was for this reason that the Federation of Underworlds promoted for ratification the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Forbidden Arts. Any nation that violates this treaty would immediately be cut off from the rest of the world, and be subject to trade and other forms of economic sanctions. And you’re thinking of salvaging the situation by simply trading in an S-grade mineral deposit that you can’t even mine with your underworld’s prevailing technology? Are you kidding?”

A dozen other silhouettes stepped forward with flickering flames in their eyes. Black Mamba promptly spoke up on behalf of them all, “If you want us to turn a blind eye to all this, fine - Three S-rank mines in the realms of mega-reserves. Furthermore, your compensation to us has nothing to do with any of your transgressions against Hell! Oh, and one other thing - you must give us your word that you shall never develop Forbidden Arts ever again!”

“Otherwise, all of you, Aristotle included, will become our prisoners of war, and you can wait on the Tsar and Thanatos to come redeem you back from the Alkebulan Underworlds. And it goes without saying that the Resentment Crystals would never reach the borders of Rus!”

Every word was like an awl driven right through his heart.

Their worst fear was becoming an eventuality right before their very eyes. The words ‘prisoners of war’ were so abrasive to their ears that not even the two gods of death could help but tremble in fear.

They wanted so much to refuse, but they clearly didn’t have any grounds to do so anymore.

Just then, a bright light suddenly erupted in the far north.

Like a star of enlightenment in the sky, the light slowly but surely grew more and more dazzling, until three seconds later, it erupted once more, forming an entire avenue of light! Before they could even realize it, the avenue of light instantly shoved the Mythic Spirits to the side, before promptly transforming into a remarkable carpet of light.

Countless complex Yin Talismans surfaced on the curtain of light. However, it didn’t stop at that. The carpet continued rolling forward until it came straight to Qin Ye. The Harken immediately perked up its body with great sobriety, “This is…”

BOOM!!

The carpet of light erupted once more, transforming quickly into stairs of light that continued to extend upwards into the sky infinitely. It was clearly formed entirely out of Yin energy, but it felt more glorious and radiant than anything else. A majestic palace stood at the end of the stairwell, while countless cavalrymen appeared to be waiting in the darkness beneath, flying banners bearing each their own emblems high in the sky.

Endless Yin soldiers stood valiantly in formation under the palace. Despite the fact that this was nothing more than an illusory image, the palpable courage and valor they exuded was nothing to laugh about. Despite all of what, the one image that immediately caught everyone’s eyes was the illusory projection of an ancient European emperor.

Tsar Arturo Vladimir!

The true ruler of the Russain Underworld, and their oldest god of death!

His face was so radiant that none could see his image. That said, copious amounts of Yin energy also poured out of his body like the boundless oceans. It was a sight that caused every Yin spirit around to gasp in shock.

It was the beginning of the end.

It was the moment when all of the main actors in the play were finally assembled on the stage. Nobody said a word, and the tension in the air was palpable.

This was a demonstration of might.

And it was also a threat.

It was the demonstration of the might of a Tsar, and it was a threat to those holding his people hostage to release them.

He didn’t want to lose. He couldn’t afford to lose.

“This is the Russian Underworld’s Protector Yin Artifact, the Reverse Cross…” The Harken gasped in horror, “It can extend safe passage to certain areas located close to the borders of a nation. It possesses no offensive abilities whatsoever, yet it can repel all enemy forces. Does this mean that… the Tsar is personally receiving them?”

As the Harken spoke, the light finally engulfed Qin Ye’s figure. Not too far away, Catherine the Great and Peter the Great screamed in excitement at the same time - This damned Emissary of Hell. He’s finally going to get punished for his shameless ways!

But before they could even begin to revel in their joy, another light suddenly rose high into the sky, transforming into a golden light that completely negated the effects of the Reverse Cross.

Dead silence.

A golden curtain of light had appeared laterally across the avenue of light, and endless golden lotuses were blooming and fading away at the bottom of this golden curtain. A contrasting dark blue staircase of the underworld appeared on the other side of the curtain, billowing with endless Yin energy, almost as though it was a counterforce.

The Reverse Cross had been blocked.

It was unable to extend directly to the feet of Peter the Great and the others.

“Fate…” A noble voice remarked scornfully from the void, rousing everyone’s passion and will. At once, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great felt almost as though time was slowing down.

That said, it was merely an illusion.

It was a misalignment of perceived time and space, triggered only when one was highly focused on the task at hand. They could even see their own hair slowly being tossed up and tousled by the playful nethergale that swept around them.

A snap decision.

It was the final showdown. There was no room for hesitation. This was a fleeting opportunity.

“CHARGE!!!” Catherine the Great yelled out at the top of her voice. At once, a bone at her torso exploded, transforming into a terrifying vortex of bones and darkness. And right in the center of the swirling darkness, the pale face of a young girl slowly emerged. Then, her eyes opened abruptly with a menacing scarlet glow, and her hair thrusted forward like a powerful tide that crashed straight into the barrier ahead!

Crack! The surrounding Yin energy continued to get drawn into the swirling vortex of darkness and bones. Seconds later, she stepped out from the heart of the darkness, wearing bone armor lined with the clothes of nobility below. Naturally, she wore a crown only befitting of a glorious queen of an empire. She raised the sword in her left hand, and it promptly transformed into a sea of stars that swept straight towards their target.

Attack!

Offense is the best defense!

Phweeee!!! At the same time, Peter the Great whistled loudly, and the bones of his entire body scrunched up together, causing him to transform into a glistening white bone sword. Catherine the Great immediately held him up like a mighty treasure sword. Then, like an angel of the night, the boundless Yin energy around her promptly coalesced into two beautiful wings, and she immediately took to the skies.

She was so quick that it caused the Yin energy on the ground to rush up together with her. A moment later, everyone could see that the night just grew darker. All of the blazing netherflames around them instantly went out.

Pale sword marks suddenly appeared in the void, almost like a sword of light was painting brilliant strokes across the canvas of the night. Those who didn’t belong to the realms of the living had just engulfed these lands with eternal darkness. It was almost as though this majestic sight had been rehearsed countless times on end. All of them moved in tandem to the others. Even the cavalry behind leaned closer to their war horses and raised their weapons in tacit understanding. Then, a second later…

All hell broke loose!

Rumble! The earth trembled, and Yin energy roared into the skies. 100 crusaders and 10,000 imperial guards charged straight towards the coalition of Mythic Spirits separating them from salvation. They were the elite warriors of the Russian Underworld, synonymous with killing machines, and they had only one thought right now.

Their long spears carved out deep grooves in the ground. Waves of Yin energy sloshed about like the violent seas in a storm. The sounds of a stampede caused by 10,000 galloping horses was far louder than the largest waterfalls in the world. In that instant, the spark of hope that had appeared right before their eyes once again ignited the passion in their hearts, triggering a do-or-die response from the Russian Underworld’s forces.

Fast.

Too fast. Catherine’s sword and the first wave of the cavalrymen had already crashed straight into Fate’s barrier. This was the most crucial point of focus in this battle. Everyone around knew full well that so long as they could breach the barrier, then they would be the ones coming out on top of this game.

Countless golden lotus flowers appeared on the curtain of light upon impact. However, they soon realized to their dismay that the Yin energy from their attacks simply sank into the curtains like they were throwing mud into the sea. It was a terrifying sensation of seeing a ray of hope appear before their eyes, only to have it completely dashed once more.

Catherine the Great’s lips trembled wildly. Even the sword in her hand shook endlessly. It was no more than a thin and translucent curtain of light. Yet this immensely thin veil might well have been a towering presence that sent all hopes spiraling down the pit of oblivion.

“Interesting…” A voice remarked from behind Qin Ye. At some point, Phoenix of the Sunbird Tribe had already arrived right behind Qin Ye, and it extended a claw straight through the curtain of light, “This is the Life’s Gate, one of the Second King Yanluo’s forbidden techniques, often times also known to be the unparalleled defensive technique in the entire netherworld. Who would’ve thought that I would one day see this again…”

Then, it turned to the Russian Underworld’s forces, “Do you think you guys will actually be able to make it across something as powerful as this?”

“So we can go over, but they can’t come over?” A humanoid creature entwined with the roots of plants and hovering in the sky immediately drifted over and put his hand through the curtain. Then, with an odd smile on his face, he glanced at the Tsar at the top of the stairs of light, “So… shouldn’t you be preparing to pay this ransom of ours soon?”

No response.

Even the Tsar was fraught with bewilderment right now - How did things turn out this way?

Clang… The sword of Catherine the Great slipped out from her hand and landed on the ground. The despair in her heart was far too great, and she wasn’t able to pick herself back up.

She sighed softly. Then, just as she was about to raise her hands once more, she discovered that… huge, ghastly netherflames had suddenly appeared all around her again!

Mythic Spirits!

As soon as they realized that the curtain of light was a one-way street that allowed passage to them, they immediately charged forward, surrounding the Russian Underworld’s remnant forces at once. Then, the Mythic Spirits opened their mouths, summoning a terrifying conflagration in their lips that swirled about madly like a dozen blazing suns.

“Stop.” Finally, a lofty voice echoed out from the top of the stairs of light.

“We… admit defeat. We accept your punishment.”

Unfortunately, it was too late.

Or rather, the Mythic Spirits simply weren’t prepared to hold back right now.

BOOM!!!

All that remained was light. Boundless light.

The cavalrymen who were still charging straight towards Qin Ye were completely consumed by the lustre of the light. Then, just like the fields of snow in the warm spring sunlight, they quickly disintegrated and vanished into nothingness. This was a concerted attack of 13 Mythic Spirits. Despite the presence of a powerful military formation, the Russian Underworld’s remnant forces were instantly reduced to ashes.

It was a spectacle to behold. With Qin Ye as the dividing line, the forces before Qin Ye appeared to have fallen straight through a hellrift. Tens of thousands of Yin spirits were completely wiped off the surface of this world at once. Catherine the Great looked up into the sky with complete despondence. Her heart felt as though it was dripping with blood.

These were her imperial soldiers. These were the top crusaders of the Russian Underworld. They represented the most loyal and devout warriors of the Russian Underworld.

It's over… It’s all over…

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