Many female Yin spirits stopped by this place, marveled at the goods, and then sighed softly as they turned to leave. These were all cosmetics that they couldn’t afford right now. Rather than linger around these parts, they promptly left to see if there were any other items that were more budget-friendly.
And while the Heaven’s End Pavilion was off to a fiery start, the Yellow Springs Pavilion located at Ashmound Port was completely silent.
Not a single Yin spirit had the desire to chat with each other right now. After all, the Yin spirits located within the Yellow Springs Pavilion, especially the entrepreneurs located on the second floor, were all going through their materials.
Meanwhile, there was a screen set up in the main stage of the auction hall, together with a string of numbers that were rapidly going up.
“32,187,652… 32,284,435… 32,489,587…”
And another line of numbers located below was also growing wildly - “152,317… 184,537… 214,392… 543,232…”
This was a live update of the total expenditure and the number of Yin spirits at the Heaven’s End Pavilion thus far. The figures were nowhere near the sales figures back in the mortal realm, but… there were currently no more than 20 million Yin spirits located in Ashmound City!
And not even civil servants were earning wages more than 4,000 to 5,000 HL!
Yet the fact that it didn’t take them more than 10 minutes since the launch of the physical mall to rack up sales of 30 million, together with approximately 550,000 entrants, was an absolutely remarkable feat!
In other words, each Yin spirit that had entered the premises had already spent 600 HL on average!
What did this mean?
It meant that the entrepreneurs could potentially be laughing to the bank if they could be part of the next Great Sale!
Consumers were the lifeblood of commerce. Meng Zhiming’s heart thumped wildly as he stared at the rising numbers. He couldn’t help but lick his lips avariciously as he leaned in to Zhao Xinggang, who sat right beside him, “I don’t think it would be too much to say that Hell will see an age of material scarcity in the next ten or so years. After all, the survey reports of the construction corps sent out by Hell will take several more months, and the unification of Cathay will take Hell several more years. During this time…”
His voice broke up slightly. There’s much profit to be had during this time! In fact, there would probably be so much profit that it would make even the wealthiest of tycoons in the mortal realm green with envy!
Just then, the Yin energy suddenly converged upon the main stage to create a portal, from which Qin Ye, Wang Chenghao, and several other Emissaries of Hell marched out.
Is it finally about to begin? This was the calm before the storm. Qin Ye sat right in the middle and ran his finger gently over the lid of his teacup, “I’m sure everyone here knows my temperament, so it would be prudent to remember not to beat about the bush and get straight to the point. You know what’s at stake here.”
Of course we do… The entrepreneurs glanced at the numbers on the screen that were still rising ceaselessly. The call of Midas made them remain right in their seats.
Qin Ye glanced around and took in the electrifying tension in the air. Then, he paused for a moment, before adding, “Before we begin, let me go through the rules one last time.”
“Firstly, any agreement signed today will only need to be accompanied by a token deposit. The term of the agreement will be five years.”
“Secondly, these agreements will be assessed largely based on the tax revenue generated, as well as the number of jobs your company can create. The higher these are, the more highly your bid will be regarded.”
“Thirdly, please bear in mind that we’ve got a professional evaluation team that will also be assessing your bids in the background. As mentioned, your bids will have to be submitted with a detailed report from your company on how you derived these figures, and how you intend to achieve them. We plan to hold these auctions with every five sets of resources we receive. I hope everyone has made the necessary preparations.”
“Next, you should bear in mind that once these agreements have been signed, Hell’s government will be following up with you every quarter, and we expect a detailed financial statement to be submitted to our treasury to be audited by our special agencies. Anyone caught falsifying numbers will immediately be deprived of operating qualifications, and your personal particulars will immediately be added to the underworld blacklist. That way, your creditworthiness will hit rock bottom, and you will no longer be able to access any sources of capital for a long period of time thereafter.”
“Meanwhile, do note that the Ministry of Finance will conduct a detailed inspection of each enterprise after the five year term of the agreement. Any enterprise or company that is found to have failed to fulfill its obligations under the agreement will be deemed to have gone back on their words, and Hell will lose trust in you. But if you exceed your committed goals by at least 10%, you can count on it that you will receive unimaginable rewards - commensurate with the amount exceeded.”
Whoosh… At once, everyone’s eyes lit up brighter than ever before. They had already familiarized themselves with the rules… save for the mention of “unimaginable rewards”. What exactly did that mean?
It was like a needle that pricked their sensitive hearts. Amidst the silence, the former chairman of Dingxin Technology, Su Menglai, raised his hand. Then, under the watchful gaze of Assistant Wang, he scrambled to his feet with the aid of his crutches, and then asked with great respect, “Could you kindly shed some light on what these “unimaginable rewards” might be?”
“Domestic protectionism.”  A middle-aged woman dressed in a black suit stood up and adjusted her glasses, “We shall be embarking on Hell’s reunification efforts shortly, and our army is expected to march from east to west. This is going to cause a huge difference in the rate of development between the east and the west, and newer industries sprouting out in the west will naturally have to be granted domestic protection for some time.”
“You may not be too familiar with this, so allow me to explain it in a little bit more detail. Hell is currently the strongest force in Cathay, so the unification of the Cathayan Underworld is only going to be a matter of time. However, it will still take time to establish a proper network of infrastructure across the entire nation. Just think of the connectivity in Cathay, and you’ll naturally have a better idea of the work that needs to be done. Along the way, we will have to slay or tame the monarch beasts that we encounter, identify new species of plants and animals, and even discover other suitable livable locations. From there, we will tap on the resources available to existing cities to establish satellite localities in accordance with the suitability of the geography in the region, and then allow them to grow on their own. Everything is going to take time.”
She adjusted her glasses and went on, “And to that end, we expect our unification plan to take 10 years.”
“Now, allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Yu Hua, the head of the market research department of the Ministry of Finance. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other better in due course. After all, the quarterly reviews, the annual reviews and the detailed inspection and review after the five year term of these agreements to be entered will all be under the ambit of my department’s charge.”
The hearts of the entrepreneurs thumped wildly. Yu Hua’s words contained another very important piece of information.
Domestic protectionism. Such a concept, interpreted against Qin Ye’s suggestion of “unimaginable rewards”...
Su Menglai’s throat shifted as he gulped excitedly. Then, he bowed deeply towards Yanluo Qin once more, “My Lord, would I be right to understand, then, that if we exceed your expectations, then… you might lift the policy of domestic protectionism of a city or two to us?”
Whoosh! All eyes were on Qin Ye. He continued to run his finger gently across the lid of the cup as he responded, “No.”
The hearts of the entrepreneurs fell at once. But before they could even consider any other possibility, Qin Ye went on, “To be more precise, it’s the lifting of the policy of domestic protectionism of a provincial-capital level city.”
At once, the shuffling of restless feet could be heard. If not for the fact that Yin spirits didn’t possess blood in their bodies, their faces would be completely flushed red by now!
Clack… Meng Zhiming tapped hard on the table with his pen as he sighed in exclamation. Meanwhile, Zhao Xinggang clenched his fist tightly and gritted his teeth, “We’ve got to secure this agreement! And then, even if it means slogging our asses off for the next five years, we absolutely have to exceed expectations!”
Dead silence. All that remained in the room were ragged breaths that signalled that the bubbling and gurgling magma in the volcano of entrepreneurs was ready to erupt!
Just then, Qin Ye tapped his finger, and a screen of light appeared between him and the entrepreneurs. At once, an old man dressed in an old Cathayan tunic took centerstage and bowed deeply to everyone.
Then, he spoke with a sonorous voice that filled the entire hall, “With that, let us officially commence with the first sea trade and enterprise negotiations.”
“Fei Liming, one of the pioneers of Eastmount Province Radio?” Many people recognized this man at once. Fei Liming straightened up and tapped his hand on the screen of light. At once, it flickered, and several items appeared on them at once.
The first of the resources shown was a bean that emitted Yin energy. It was nearly indistinguishable from the coffee beans in the mortal realm, save that the beans were marked with a characteristic silver line in the middle. The second was a fruit that looked like a cantaloupe, and was about a foot large. It was shown with the cross section of the fruit, revealing white flesh within. A third resource revealed a tree that looked like a spindle.
“The coffee beans of Hell.” Fei Liming’s voice was sonorous and yet pleasing to the ears. At once, the eyes of the entrepreneurs lit up.
“It thrives in an environment filled with intense netherflames, and the cultivation of these beans also requires high humidity and a rainy environment - preferably one that is close to the sea. Its flavour is rich and fragrant, with a pronounced heat factor. This is the most popular drink in Alkebulan, as well as in the Middle East and European underworlds. Famous brands include the Star Coffee chain in Argos, and the Return Coffee chain in Europa.”
“Milk is naturally the best companion for coffee. This tree is commonly known in other underworlds as the milk bottle tree. It originates from the Russian Underworld, and thrives in extremely cold regions. The lower the temperature, the more aromatic the milk derived from this tree. Be warned, the milk harvested from these trees will bear the fragrance of plants.”
“Last but not least, this fruit originates from the baobab tree. Unlike the ones in the mortal realm, the flesh of its fruit is similar to flour, and can be used without processing to make all kinds of pastries.”
Fei liming took a deep breath, picked up the hammer on the podium, and then gave it a light tap, “Alkebulan’s top coffee bean from the Great Rift Valley. Grows only in Eastern Great Rift Valley. The inventory comprises 500,000 tons of coffee beans, together with 1 ton of Great Rift Valley coffee shrub seeds, 5,000 tons of fruits of the milk bottle tree, 5,000 tons of fruits from the baobab tree, and 30,000 sets of mortar and pestle. Now, let the bidding begin.”
Whoosh! At once, two Yin spirits shot to their feet and raised their hands at exactly the same time.
Fei Liming made a gesture of invitation. The man on the left was an old man dressed in a Cathayan tunic. He coughed lightly, “I am the founder of the Wawo Group, Qi Jun. If Hell grants us the right to this batch of raw materials, we promise at least 2,000 jobs for Ashmound City, as well as at least 1,500 jobs for Everburn City!”
“And that’s just the stores. We anticipate at least 500 jobs created for the headquarters, comprising our research and development group and other major departments. Furthermore, we will have another 300 positions created for the shipping department over and above that. Give and take, we will be able to commit to the creation of 4,500 jobs!”
It wasn’t a small number.
This was just one industry, and a standalone one at that, without any by-products! A company in a single sector that could provide thousands of jobs would easily be considered a godsend in the mortal realm! Besides, companies could grow over time.
All eyes were on Qi Jun right now. Everyone knew of the Wawo Group. They were the ones who revolutionized the drinks market. Be it dairy products, coffee, sports drinks, energy drinks, cereal mixes, low-calorie drinks, soft drinks, milk tea, iced tea, or any other products, their products could easily be found in stores all over the country!
Furthermore, nobody would ever underestimate these products, because it was on the back of these products that the Wawo Group had managed to break into the top 100 companies of Cathay!
And his rival… The Yin spirits glanced over.
Nobody recognized him.
It was a man that nobody knew. He appeared to be in his 30’s, and not a single person recognized his name from the list of attendees.
“I’m the CEO of the Have A Cup Group.” The young man bowed courteously, “It’s regrettable. I do recall sharing the same car as Mr Qi in the past.”
Have A Cup?
The Yin spirits glanced at each other with great consternation - This brand name… is incredibly popular in the south right now!
Moreover, it hasn’t been more than five years since the inception of their company!
“My Lord.” The young man held up a stack of documents with both hands, “These are the plans of the Have A Cup Group. By our estimates, we… expect to provide more than 50,000 jobs for Ashmound City and Everburn City combined! In fact, it could well be more!”
1. For those less than initiated in the fields of economics (just like myself), the concept of protectionism is to shield domestic producers by restricting imports or imposing taxes on foreign imports. This allows domestic products to become comparatively more attractive compared with foreign imports.