Sukhbaatar, the final city between the Mongol Empire and Rus, was just dozens of kilometers away. Unfortunately, the Mythic Spirits had come down hard on the Russian Underworld’s forces out in the wilderness, transforming the mortal realm into a living purgatory on earth.
Flares of conflagration pelted down from the sky in a great baptism of fire that turned what was once a multitude of Yin soldiers on the ground into nothing more than wisps of Yin energy that quickly dissipated into the surroundings. Catherine the Great stared dumbly at the hopeless sight before her eyes, before sighing softly.
The climax was filled with ups and downs, and twists and turns. They were filled with elation and hope when the Reverse Cross first appeared. Unfortunately, none of them had expected Fate to completely obstruct the Reverse Cross’ approach at the eleventh hour with a brilliant display of the top defensive ability across the netherworld. To that end, it was clear that a quasi-divine artifact of one of the P4 underworlds was easily an equal to one of the protector Yin artifacts of lesser underworlds.
In that instant, they’d made the snap decision to muster one final hurrah in a desperate attempt to link up with the lord of their underworld. Sure, it might have been foolish of them to charge straight into the waiting arms of 13 Mythic Spirits with only 10,000 imperial Yin soldiers, but they knew the alternative was almost certain death. Their only hope of coming out of all of this alive was to breach Fate’s defenses and return to their homeland.
It was a toss up between 10% chance of survival and a 100% chance of death. Naturally, they chose the former. Unfortunately, miracles were called miracles precisely because of their rarity.
They weren’t able to get into contact with the stairs of light at all. As a result, one of the strongest expedition forces the Russian Underworld had sent out in centuries was instantly decimated, leaving only the two gods of death alive.
She stared blankly at the sky with an ashen expression and a despondent heart.
Are the lesser underworlds destined to remain silent on the international arena for all time?
We’ve made it this far, so why did such a cruel twist of fate befall us?
Why are we always so near, yet so far?
She couldn’t even muster the rage within her heart at this point in time. Her entire being was filled with hopelessness. Fortunately, her despondence didn’t necessarily translate to inaction on the part of other antagonists in the story.
Whoosh… The gloomy clouds of Yin energy around her suddenly stirred into action once more, and 13 pairs of netherflames appeared around Catherine the Great at once.
“Stop!” The Tsar called out in astonishment and rage. Unfortunately, the 13 pairs of netherflames erupted into action in the very next second! A terrifying shockwave immediately rippled across a thousand miles, churning and boiling, extinguishing every last measure of hope and ambition of the Russian Underworld altogether. A mushroom cloud of Yin energy immediately rose up from the borders between the Mongol Empire and the Russian Underworld, so tall that it could easily be seen from eastern Rus and western Cathay.
Just then, Qin Ye turned back haughtily, only to notice the figure standing at the top of the stairs of light suddenly vanish from his place.
Time seemed to come to a complete standstill. And then, Qin Ye saw a flash appear out of the corner of his eye, and the figure of a man whizzed past him in an instant. This man was wearing opulent robes in white and gold, replete with a crown embedded with precious stones. Just a second ago, this was the same man who appeared high and lofty in the skies above, and now, he was already standing right in front of them. This was testament to the incredible speed he possessed.
Even though Qin Ye couldn’t see this man’s appearances, he could sense that the man had cast a deep gaze upon him just as he passed by.
Whoosh… The Yin energy in the sky slowly drifted away. Catherine the Great had already closed her eyes, resigned to her fate as a prisoner of war - and one of the first ones in centuries at that. It was humiliating, but she felt nothing of it.
After all, her personal humiliation was nothing compared to the rise of the Russian Underworld.
She was expecting an intense baptism of fire by the encirclement of Mythic Spirits. But, surprisingly, the feeling of excruciating pain never came. She opened her eyes in consternation, only to realize that… she appeared to be protected by a layer of ghastly blue scriptures. Furthermore, there appeared to be another person, three meters tall, and dressed in luxurious garments, hovering right beside her.
This was Tsar Arturo Vladimir, the true master of the Russian Underworld!
An inexplicable sensation immediately welled up from her heart. The aura of his presence was completely different from every other god of death around. He was still of the same level of cultivation, and yet… his appearance caused everyone else to fade away like stars in the face of a brilliant moon.
Copious amounts of Yin energy billowed from his body, making him look absolutely surreal. The black cloak of Yin energy on his back fluttered wildly, while the ends of it constantly tore apart from the main body, transforming into dark crows of Yin energy that flew away into the night sky. His facial features were completely shrouded in darkness, and one could only make out two spots of golden netherflames peeking out of the darkness.
“My Lord…” Catherine the Great’s lips trembled, and she promptly disengaged her bone armor, transforming back into her elegant likeness, replete with her puffy dress. It was only then that she spoke in a hoarse voice, “I’m sorry…”
“The recovery plan… has failed…”
The Tsar didn’t say a word.
For the longest time, he simply stared at distant skies as he sighed softly. The astringent sense of failure stirred in his heart.
The heavens are cruel… How long have I waited for an opportunity like this, and how much have I invested in these plans, only to have them dashed at the very last moment… From the scripts set into motion in Daehan, all the way through to the Khuree recovery plan, everything was flawless and perfect, yet…
Yet, even the Tsar knew full well that it wasn’t the time to be languishing in the miserable state of his plans.
Failure was now a certainty. All they could do next was to salvage the situation to the best of their abilities.
He looked around, and the roiling clouds of Yin energy immediately receded into the surroundings, revealing the 13 Mythic Spirits hidden within. Each of them appeared valorous and majestic, befitting of a god of death. Chieftain Woolf glanced at the Tsar and sneered, “Tsar… Nameless god of death, it’s been a while.”
Everyone knew that the Tsar’s appearance in these lands was the closure of this entire episode.
And it also marked the time… to divide the spoils of war.
“Heh… the legendary nameless god of death, known for being agnostic to the politics of the world, is actually not so agnostic after all.” Phoenix flapped his wings, causing sparks of flames to flicker all around him, “You’ve blatantly reneged on your ratification of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Forbidden Arts. Just you wait. In a month’s time, the Coalition of Alkebulan Underworlds shall table this issue to the Federation of Underworlds for a proper resolution!”
The netherflames in the Tsar’s eyes immediately flickered wildly. After some time, he responded, “First of all, I believe there’s been some misunderstanding between us.”
“The reason why the Russian Underworld is harvesting Resentment Crystals is because we’re trying to extract the power within it that allows it to isolate and absorb Yin energy around it. We’re trying to research new energy sources. As you know, no underworld has discovered any sources of long-term energy generation solutions just yet. Mr Aristotle was also specially recruited by the Russian Underworld for this specific reason.”
No matter how bad the situation might seem to be, he would still need to create a pretext for their presence in these regions. Otherwise, the Russian Underworld would simply be made the laughingstock of the entire netherworld.
“Is that so?” A Mythic Spirit snickered, “Don’t worry, once the Federation of Underworlds takes over, I’m sure they will immediately organize a task force to investigate the presence of Forbidden Arts. After all, the Resentment Crystals wouldn’t be sufficient evidence alone, and there would be much to prove. That said, do you… dare to open your books and treasuries to the task force for their investigations?”
The netherflames in the Tsar’s eyes flickered wildly - These Alkebulan Underworlds have never been able to reconcile their differences for the longest time, and yet they can actually come together to put forth such threats before me?
Had this been a world conference, the Russian Underworld would already have gathered the concurrence of several other influential underworlds to veto the Alkebulan Underworlds’ actions here. Unfortunately, it was not.
Such a complaint by them isn’t that threatening. What’s more threatening is… He glanced at Qin Ye.
The fact that Hell is also present as a witness!
The P4 underworlds held veto rights. Even if the Russian Underworld was clinging tightly to the thighs of the Argosian Underworld, Hell could likewise stand in the way of their veto rights and balance things out!
“There’s no need.” The Tsar took a deep breath and continued slowly, “I’m speaking the truth, and there’s simply no meaning going through that entire complicated process. I sincerely apologize that the untimely series of movements of the Russian Underworld might have caused us a misunderstanding, so… perhaps we can make it all up to you.”
There was no use blabbering about rights without talking about compensation. After all, would the Alkebulan Underworlds be here for fun?
There wouldn’t be war if not for the fact that there were profits and gains to be had.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any response.
All eyes were still on him.
He gritted his teeth, “Might I be so bold as to ask what would sufficiently recompense you for such a misunderstanding?”
Chieftain Phoenix finally chuckled softly, “Firstly, the Russian Underworld shall give its word that it must never research and develop Forbidden Arts for the rest of time.”
The Tsar took a deep breath, and then spoke hoarsely, “Certainly.”
“We... have never had the intention to do so to begin with. Again, let me reiterate that our expedition and operations have been spurred by the desire to develop new types of energy.”
The Tsar was practically speaking through gritted teeth right now, and his voice was filled with incomparable resignation.
So near, yet so far. In the end, their hopes and dreams were nothing more than a mirage.
“Secondly, at the junction where the western Rus tectonic plates meet the east European tectonic plates, where five large S-class veins are located… Ah, that’s right, it’s the connected veins of mineral deposits codenamed ‘Chekov’ that the Russian Underworld had announced at the Netherworld Tectonic Conference 200 years ago.”
“The Alkebulan Underworlds want exclusive mining rights for… 100 years.”
“Other underworlds may not intervene in any way, nor can our rights be revoked. Furthermore, our mining rights… must be absolutely tax-free.”
Catherine the Great shut her eyes in despair. The Russian Underworld, Hell and the New World were the three regions known to the rest of the netherworld as the king of minerals. Despite that, S-class mines were still considered a great rarity among these three regions. To date, the Russian Underworld’s surveillance efforts have revealed that there are only 53 such mines in the lands of Rus, and of these, the Chekov connected veins are among the richest of mines, containing up to 100 million tonnes of mineral ores and deposits!
Was that a lot?
Indeed, it was. These are S-class mines after all. The value of 100 million tonnes of such resources were sufficient to make any other underworld green with envy. That said...
There were over a dozen tribes represented right now!
Even if each tribe was able to harvest 50,000 tonnes per year, a hundred years would mean the extraction of only 5 million tonnes. And this was on the condition that they had the requisite tools and special implements required to harvest these minerals and ores effectively. After all, such S-class minerals often needed to be harvested under special conditions. Taking into account a small discount for the fact that these were tribes, the dozen or so tribes would in a hundred years… quite probably be able to harvest 50 million tonnes of these resources!
The Russian Underworld should be grateful that there would still be some left for them after all of this was done!
They would at least have about half of the mineral veins to themselves!
No response. Black Mamba sneered, “What’s the matter? The Russian Underworld is known to be immensely prosperous, so… could it be that you’re… unwilling?”
“I… give you my word.” The Tsar gazed deeply into the skies and nodded softly.
But before he could even attempt to close the chapter at that, Mythic Spirit Bain immediately plunged another spike into him. “At the same time, we will require the Russian Underworld to disclose to us the knowhow of ten S-class patents of yours, five in terms of military armaments, and five in respect of Yin Talisman arrangements.”
Pfft… Qin Ye could almost hear the Tsar crying within, and he couldn’t help but delight in the Tsar’s misery.
The Tsar glared daggers at Qin Ye. It felt almost as though layers of flesh were being peeled right off his heart.
Patents pertaining to Yin Talismans and armaments were the foundation of any nation. The only thing that was probably more precious than this was the territory of a nation. The Alkebulan Underworlds were like a pack of hungry wolves, biting down hard on the flesh of a lion, refusing to let go.
Once again, there was a period of silence, and the Yin energy around them began to stir once more, “No agreement?”
The Tsar fervently suppressed the fury in his heart, “And what will you do if I refuse to give you my word?”
Qin Ye promptly interjected, “Then, Aristotle, Catherine the Great and Peter the Great shall be locked up as prisoners of war until you give us your response.”
He stroked the Harken’s fur placidly, “And mark my words, they’ll be kept inside so long as you refuse to give us your word.”
Seconds later, the Tsar’s voice trembled, “Very well… I give you my word.”
Whether Aristotle, Catherine the Great or Peter the Great, the imprisonment of any of these great figureheads would most certainly be an embarrassment to the Russian Underworld!
His only wish was that these negotiations would soon end. After all, it was so humiliating that he could no longer keep the expression on his face straight anymore!Previous Chapter Next Chapter