With that, Qin Ye departed.
Lei Jun sat listlessly with gleaming eyes, stroking his beard. And then, he paused.
Sigh… How long have I been alive? To think that even my beard is already turning white…
He couldn’t remember. It had probably been over a hundred years since the date of his birth. From a man of total obscurity, he was specially invited by his predecessor to lead the Special Investigations Department and bring together the scattered world of cultivation to become one consolidated unit in the war against the supernatural forces. And then, just like the previous generations of Divine Protectors, he, too, carried out his duties with great diligence.
To think it’s already been more than ten years since I’ve assumed this position…
Is it… finally time to step down? He smiled to himself in contentment. Then, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. Moments later, he left the office and entered a car that was specially prepared for him, before promptly rushing to another location.
Yan Capital had a sense of oppressive darkness about it at night, especially around the outskirts where he was at. Carved beams and painted murals could be seen all around him. The architecture was dated and ancient, but everything appeared spacious and elegant. The road was lined with ginkgo trees, and soldiers could even be spotted standing guard in strict formation. Even someone like Lei Jun had no choice but to go through several rounds of security checks before he was finally granted entry.
He knocked on the door, and it was opened to him after a few seconds. There was an elegantly decorated courtyard within. The main door was open, and a kind-faced old man sat on a Ming Dynasty bench in the midst of a grand room right beyond the courtyard. There were two cups of tea placed on the table in front of this old man.
But a kind face didn’t necessarily mean that the man was happy and smiling. In fact, his face was full of gloom as he waited for Lei Jun to take his seat. And as soon as he did, the old man asked, “What do you think?”
“We’ve got to trust in him, regardless of his credibility.” Lei Jun had thought about this for a long time now, “The last ten years of supernatural outbreak has cost us dearly. Our international status has plummeted, and our GDP has practically remained the same as it was ten years ago. Furthermore…”
Lei Jun’s voice choked up slightly, and he glanced up at the roof, “Furthermore, too many lives have been lost, be it ordinary citizens or investigators. I can no longer remember their names, but what I do know is that the reports of their demise have all been approved by me personally…”
“I would like each of them to know that their efforts and their sacrifices have not been in vain! Therefore, regardless of whether Prefect Qin’s words are true or not, I’ll make it a point to see what Hell has to say!”
He paused for a moment, and then added, “Besides, there’s no reason for Hell to lie to us. After all, Hell cannot grow without mortals.”
The old man’s eyes gleamed softly, almost as though he was reminiscing about the past. After a long time, he finally sighed, “That’s right… It’s been over ten years since we’ve been given this tall task, so what difference does it make to wait for another five years? That’s a time we can afford to wait out.”
“Notify all officials of the rank of provincial ministers and above, as well as the leaders of all implicated in some way by the supernatural outbreak. I want them all present at the time of the negotiations. Has a time been fixed?”
“He said that… it’s up to us. And that it should preferably be in two months’ time.”
“Good.” The old man appeared to have already made up his mind, “So long as the demands aren’t too excessive, we’ll accede to their requests! We simply cannot afford to let Cathay be plagued by another supernatural disaster of this kind!”
Time passed by quickly. Qin Ye had asked for the negotiations to be conducted 2 months later not because he wanted to delay things, but simply because he was too busy!
Things were still fine when the markets in Hell were all stagnant and lukewarm. But now that the opening of sea trade had injected new life into the markets, it was only natural that problems would only start to surface, and countermeasures would have to be put into place. Incidentally, Ashmound City was now also an ideal proving ground to sieve out the wheat from the chaff. It was through these trials that he could truly find out which Yin spirits he could entrust with greater duties in future.
After all, as Hell reclaims lost parts of the underworld over the next five years, there would be an increasing need for trustworthy civil servants to be deployed to the new frontiers to helm the growth of new satellite cities. Meanwhile, the news of the Great Sale in Ashmound City had already reached the citizens of Everburn, and the protestors had already organized a sit-in outside the governmental office there…
Qin Ye entrusted all of these things to the officials of Hell. Meanwhile, he turned his attention to the reports of the Frontier Brigades and construction corps which needed his personal oversight.
Arthis had earlier informed him that the establishment of a new Hell meant that everything in the Cathayan Underworld as they knew it would change, including its ecology. Nobody could predict what would appear. And to that end, the fact that the Frontier Brigades and construction corps were able to report back as quickly as within a few months’ time was already a feat in and of itself.
Qin Ye sat in the conference room together with Zhao Yun and the Harken flanking his sides. They were there to help him break down the information in the reports. The information that was sent back was approximately one foot thick, and it was divided into three broad categories, of things of use to Hell, things that could be glossed over, and things that had to be investigated further. Of these, the things of use to Hell were further subdivided into things that could be appreciated, and things that could be put to practical use. From there, the report went into great detail on the particulars of what they had found, ranging from mineral deposits to food, and from raw materials to precious metals.
This wasn’t a job that one could simply skim through and be done with after a day or two!
“In the mortal realm, an average province such as Westriver Province would have documented something like 12,000 species of plants, animals and insects…” Qin Ye set down the table of particulars and rubbed his throbbing temples, “But the first report from Eastmount Province itself already contains over 4,000 species of plants and animals, and that’s not even counting the 6,300 species of insects that they have documented…”
That’s right. The numbers reported thus far had only included plants and animals. If one included the species of insects discovered thus far, the number would simply be astronomical! To put things into perspective, the total number of documented species of plants, animals and insects in the mortal realm numbers only 1.5 million or so across the entire world!
The sheer thought of having to sub-classify these species be it for livestock or leather, or whether lethal or non-lethal, caused Qin Ye’s eyes to glaze over. Fortunately, these reports were more for his own information and understanding, and he didn’t have to personally attend to the classification work, which was under the charge of both Zu Chongzhi and Li Chun. Both scholars had experience with classification, and they each led their own team of talented individuals who would delve deeper into such work.
Oh, and there’s one other thing to note, and that is the fact that as soon as the other scholars learnt of Qin Ye’s preferential treatment of Shang Yang, and his appointment to the Yang Court, they immediately protested in their own little ways, such as by dragging their feet on the development of any pedagogy for Hell’s education system, and even suggesting at times that Qin Ye had allowed education to play second fiddle to the other interests of Hell. Then, where they could, they would slip in discreet suggestions for Qin Ye to consider using their own name for certain landmarks or developments…
It was absolutely shameless!
Hell’s first educational institution. Everyone wanted to be appointed its head.
“My Lord, there’s no need to rush things.” Zhao Yun remarked, “We’ll be receiving a second batch of reports soon, and then followed by another report on geography and vegetation. You can’t possibly finish going through these things right now. Besides, reading is one thing, but seeing it for yourself is quite something else. It might actually be better to take a little trip around Hell to experience things for yourself. That would also allow you to see things from the perspectives of the citizens of Hell.”
Qin Ye sipped his coffee, “And who would take charge in the meantime?”
“Either General Zhao or I can step in.” The Harken lazily peeked out from the report before its eyes, “General Zhao is right. The government is currently developing well, and everyone has their tasks nicely laid out before them. So, unless something extremely important turns up that requires your urgent attention, there’s really nothing that we wouldn’t be able to do on your behalf.”
“This is the stage of development where things can go organically, and it’s only when that is done that you’ll need to cast another eye on the affairs of the underworld to fine-tune it. So, go on ahead. Go nuts on a trip, and lose yourself in the wilderness. Sometimes, it’s better to experience things for yourself rather than learn things through paper reports from your ivory tower.”
“Don’t forget, the officials of the old Hell used to only be able to ascend the ranks after some work on the ground. Sure, the Second King Yanluo might have been parachuted into his position, but that’s just an exception. He’s an old monster who’s lived for hundreds of years, and his cultivation is in a completely different realm. Could someone like him really be inexperienced in the ways of the world? But you’re different.”
The Harken turned back and leapt up to Qin Ye’s seat, and patted Qin Ye on the head, “You’re only in this seat because of sheer luck and fortune, understand?”
“You’ve never experienced life in Hell, nor do you have any detailed understanding of how the netherworld works. For instance, let me ask you this - how should our education system be developed?”
Qin Ye remained silent.
This was the heart of Hell’s education system. Without a proper understanding of Yin Talismans, there was simply no way he could even begin to consider how to roll out proper educational policies, much less a system of pedagogy. Apart from that there was still the ecology of Hell, nature, humanities and other aspects that he didn’t quite understand. Although the content itself was something for the ground-level Yin spirits to look deeper into, how was he supposed to give his nod of approval without even a cursory understanding of what goes on in Hell?
For further instance, he didn’t understand a single thing about the special architecture of Hell, the qualities of the ground, or any of the specialty products and resources that were currently in his possession. Without the understanding of such information, how was he supposed to know what a particular province or city needs more of, and what they could spare? And if a road needs to be repaired across several provinces, how much would that cost, in both money, manpower and resources?
It wasn’t easy to be a ruler. At the very least, he needed a basic understanding of how things worked in the netherworld. Otherwise, it would only be a matter of time before a poor or unsuitable policy was rolled out, and his efforts to date would all go to waste.
“I’ll consider it--...”
“It’s not for your consideration!” The Harken wasn’t as good-natured as Zhao Yun, and it immediately smacked Qin Ye on the head, “Hell is now back on track, but where’s the Judgment Pen?! How are you supposed to sentence a person or adjudicate between good and evil without the Judgment Pen? And what about the six paths of reincarnation, the eighteen abysses of punishment, and the Ten Abyssal Courts? Hell is a place for reincarnation, not for you to play kingdom and rule over as a patriarch! Get your facts right!”
“Argh… Got it, got it…” Qin Ye stretched his back, and then turned slightly to the side and asked softly, “Coffee.”
He stretched out his hand, but no coffee came to him.
Then he turned properly with a dark face, only to realize that Arthis was now dressed in the garments of a Han Dynasty noblewoman, and she had a demure smile on her face as she leaned in close to Zhao Yun, “Brother Zhao, this is a drink that I’ve just come up with. Is it… to your liking?”
Qin Ye snorted - What a wastrel. Do you really think I can’t tell what kind of expression you have on your face now? That ‘come-hither’ look… How disgusting…
Forget it, forget it… everyone has their own weaknesses… Eh?! Why isn’t Brother Zhao avoiding her like he usually does?! He’s actually drinking it?!
NO! Don’t! Haven’t you seen her body type?! She… she doesn’t have the child-bearing properties!
The atmosphere in the conference room became rather awkward at once. Qin Ye shivered slightly, and then motioned to leave the room for a breath of fresh air. Just then, the door swung wide open.
Wang Chenghao rushed in, “Brother Qin! The Lord of the Land of Yan Capital seeks an audience with you!”
Qin Ye’s eyes gleamed brightly, and he transformed into a gust of Yin energy right away, whisking along Wang One Tail as he rushed out of the room. When he next appeared, he was already right back in his own office. The Lord of the Land stood outside the office and bowed deeply to the ground.
“Have you finally received news from the mortal realm?” Qin Ye asked.
“Your Excellency is astute and wise.” The Lord of the Land bowed to the ground, “The mortal realm has already agreed to your request, and has communicated with me through burnt offerings. They intend to meet with you on… Labour Day?”
Labour Day? Qin Ye glanced at his cell phone. It was 15 March, some time away from 1 May…
The Lord of the Land departed after relaying this piece of news. Meanwhile, Qin Ye thought for a moment, and then began to muster the Yin energy in his body. Soon, two screens of Yin energy appeared right before him.
These screens were rather large, each of which were approximately one square meter in size. And they each revealed a different, morbid image.
The first one revealed the current state of affairs in the three eastern provinces. The lands were covered with a lingering mist of Yin energy, while countless Yin spirits with slender limbs and large bellies were patrolling the streets.
The streets and the rooms around would from time to time echo with the cries of evil ghosts screaming in terror as they burst out of the same. Yet these evil ghosts would eventually be cornered and captured by a group of hungry ghosts, before being escorted straight up to the TV tower. There, hundreds of evil ghosts knelt on the ground in fear and trepidation. The weakest of these were Operative-class Yin spirits, while the strongest… was actually a Hellguard-class Yin spirit!
Yet they continued to bow deeply in submission, not even daring to lift their heads in the slightest. A silhouette sat at the top of the TV tower, fanning herself elegantly as she lorded over the rest. Then, she quipped softly, “Have you… killed anyone?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter