Chapter 750: The State of the Three Provinces

"Yes!" The servants immediately followed along behind Qin Ye, and shortly thereafter, they arrived at the conference hall.

The conference hall wasn't very large, and it had a refined and antiquated design. This was a battlefield, so there was no need for comfort or luxuries. By the time Qin Ye arrived, Arthis, Oda Nobunaga, Oda Nobutada, Zhao Yun, and 10 other commanders who had been promoted to their current roles during the course of the war were already present.

Most of the promoted commanders were Yin spirits from the modern era, but they were also wearing antiquated suits of armor and kept heads of long hair. Following Qin Ye's arrival, all of the commanders immediately began to stand up, but Qin Ye casually indicated for them to remain seated. "There's no need for formalities; take a seat, everyone."

Qin Ye sat down on the main seat in an elegant manner, and Arthis couldn't help but take a few glances at him. It had to be said that he was really beginning to look the part as the King Yanluo, and she couldn't help but feel a sense of melancholy whenever she saw him.

Who could've anticipated that the man who had been trading insults with her at one point would be able to reach such dizzying heights?

The concept of one's aura was an extremely abstract one. If it had to be articulated, then it could be explained by one's ability to influence others with their immense confidence. There were many possible sources for confidence, but the most fundamental source of all was power. Qin Ye had seized control over the entire land aside from the Westriver Province, the Cloudriver Province, and the Rich Province, and both his power and confidence had reached a new peak.

"It's already been half a month since our three armies have gathered in the Westriver Province." Qin Ye wasted no time with small talk; his style was to be pragmatic and succinct. He absentmindedly played with the string of beads in his hand as he said in an unhurried manner, "All of the preparations are complete, and all that's left is the final battle. Qi Hao!"

"Yes!" A young Yin spirit rose to his feet. Qi Hao was the wartime secretary, and he was very good at his job. He was very organized in the way that he worked, and he excelled in prioritization. Qin Ye already had plans to send him to a city to take on a leadership role and further hone his skills once the war ended. 

Following the conclusion of the war, it was naturally imperative to govern the Underworld, and a vast number of skilled personnel would be required for that.

Qi Hao extended a respectful bow and reported, "According to the information that we currently have on hand, the total quantity of Yin energy in the three provinces is as high as forty million, and we estimate that they have over a million Yin Soldiers, as well as no fewer than five Infernal Judges. Last week, Master Qin Hui attempted to offer amnesty and enlistment to the Daolord of the Beast again, but he was turned down once again. We're currently almost certain that all of the Yin spirits of the three provinces have already gathered at Sword Gate Pass in preparation for a final showdown with our army."

He paused here momentarily as he swept a hand through the air, conjuring up a screen that depicted a map of the Westriver Province.

On the northwestern corner of the map was a huge red dot, beside which were clearly inscribed the words "Sword Gate Pass"!

The string of beads in Qin Ye's hand suddenly fell still as he raised an eyebrow and asked, "So they haven't even deployed all of their main forces to Sword Gate Pass for the final battle against us?"

That was a very idiotic move.

Dong Zhuo had a lot of troops under his command, but they were of an extremely low standard. They had no military formations, and they had to face the army of Hell, which still had over 200,000 remaining troops. For them, their only option was to put all of their eggs in one basket as splitting up to defend multiple sites was akin to suicide, but that was exactly what they had done.

"There's one more thing I have to report," Qi Hao continued in a respectful voice, "Several days ago, General Zhao determined using his infernal eyes that there is a high-grade divine artifact currently situated in the Westriver Province. We know this for a fact as the three provinces are enshrouded under boundless Yin energy that even General Zhao's infernal eyes aren't able to completely see through, but there's only one such divine artifact in the Westriver Province."

Qin Ye raised an eyebrow in a slightly surprised manner, and Zhao Yun confirmed, "I'm certain that there's only one. I can only sense the power of a creation-grade divine artifact, and it's an incomplete artifact. Its aura is very familiar, telling me it's a fragment of King Yanluo's Seal, but I didn't sense the Chalice of Preiddeu Annwn. There aren't that many divine artifacts of this caliber even in the context of the entire world. Even throughout its heritage spanning thousands of years, Hell has only obtained a single one, and there's no way I wouldn't sense it if it was here."

Qin Ye leaned back in his chair as he cast his gaze toward the Yin energy map with furrowed brows. All of a sudden, he mused, "He's deployed an army with ten million Yin energy to Sword Gate Pass while he defends Lotus City in person. If we combine all of our forces to attack Sword Gate Pass, we'll be able to crush their army in one fell swoop! Has Dong Zhuo gone insane?"

Before anyone else had a chance to speak, he stood up and gently tapped the map before continuing, "Do you get the feeling that he wants to defend Lotus City instead of Sword Gate Pass?"

"I do," Zhao Yun replied with a contemplative expression, "Sword Gate Pass is quite far away from Lotus City, and I highly doubt that Lotus City's underworld is better developed than Ashmound. It would take many days even for our army to travel over such a long distance. Even if Sword Gate Pass were to send out a plea for reinforcements, there's no way Dong Zhuo would be able to reinforce it in time. In my opinion, they're most likely only going to put up token resistance at Sword Gate Pass. As soon as they discover that they're about to be surrounded by our three armies or that we're about to unleash an all-out assault on them, they'll immediately retreat to Lotus City to engage us in a final showdown. However, that's even more peculiar."

Zhao Yun gently tapped the table with his finger as he continued, "Dong Zhuo isn't a fool. I'm sure he knows that he has to go for broke here for a chance to save himself. I'm certain that he's aware that he's definitely no match for our army, so the best course of action available to him would be to engage us in a final battle at Sword Gate Pass, where the terrain will give his army an advantage. However, the tactics that he's currently employed suggest that he's going to abandon this terrain advantage and retreat to the plains. No army commander with even a shred of nous would choose to do this."

"Unless there are some factors that force him to do this," Qin Ye mused.

"What could that possibly be?" The two of them were going back and forth as if this were a rehearsed exchange, and they were drawing closer and closer to an answer.

"The Chalice of Preiddeu Annwn," Qin Ye replied with a smile, then sat back down before accepting an ornate teacup that was offered to him by a servant in the room. After taking a sip of tea, he continued, "You may not have been able to sense it, but I still think that the Chalice of Preiddeu Annwn is right here in one of the three provinces. It's a divine artifact of the same caliber as King Yanluo's Seal, but it's still complete while King Yanluo's Seal is broken. A complete creation-level divine artifact, huh? Tsk tsk tsk, I think this is where they've drawn the confidence from to employ such a bold tactic."

There was no evidence to support this theory, but it was the most reasonable explanation for the current situation.

"So why don't they bring the Chalice of Preiddeu Annwn to Sword Gate Pass for the final showdown?"

"Who knows?" Qin Ye mused, "Perhaps they can't pick it up? Don't forget that in the legends, the chalice could only be picked up by the one who was the purest and most virtuous. Of course, that's just a blind guess from me. In any case, regardless of what the truth is, there must be a reason why the holy grail can't be moved, and we'll find out the reason once we capture it."

He turned to Zhao Yun with a smile, and asked, "General Zhao, are you confident that you can win this battle if the enemy has a creation-grade divine artifact on their side?"

"Leave it to me." Zhao Yun stood up as he cupped his fist before extending a bow. "That Dong Zhuo is nothing more than an evil ghost. Even if he has a divine artifact in his grasp, there's no way he'll be able to bring out its full power. On top of that, he's only an Abyssal Prefect, so he'll be lucky to be able to even unleash a tenth of the divine artifact's power. In that case, I'm confident that I'll be able to stand against him."

Qin Ye nodded in response as he also rose to his feet, then swept an intense gaze around the room. "Very good. Notify Su Daji's Hungry Ghost Legion and Qin Hui's Asura Legion to join up with us in the Westriver Province in four days."

"Everyone..." He took a deep breath before continuing, "We've come so far and endured so many battles of different scales. However, this is the final battle! This will be the decisive clash that draws our crusade to a conclusion, so don't any of you dare to get complacent! In one week, our three armies will attack the Westriver Province, and our goal is to unite the entire nation within the next season!"

"Yes!"

Third Era of Hell, Year 7, the combined three armies of Hell, totaling 240,000 troops, embarked on the final battle in the war of unification, recorded in the annals of history as the Battle of Lotus City.

…………………………………………………

Howling winds swept over the earth, and it seemed as if even the wind could sense the passion of the Yin spirits and the harshness of the battle that was to come. Countless inky-black flags were flapping audibly in the chilling wind as menacing killing intent welled up in the hearts of each and every Yin spirit.

This was the Westriver Province, the final piece of the map of Cathay's Underworld that was yet to be conquered. Standing before all enemies was a massive city wall that was as formidable as it was imposing. It was far inferior to the city walls of Ashmound, standing at only less than 30 meters tall, but the walls were lined with countless crossbows that were giving off a cold and metallic gleam.

The towers standing atop the city walls were very much reminiscent of the construction style typically associated with the concluding phase of the Han Dynasty, and all of the soldiers were also wearing armor that was in the style of the Han Dynasty. No one could've imagined that such a city stood on the western border of the Cathayan Underworld.

Clack, clack... The sound of extremely rhythmic footsteps rang out on the city wall, heralding another change in shifts. A group of black-armored soldiers arrived to replace the soldiers that were currently standing guard, and among them, a middle-aged soldier cast a sorrowful glance outside before shaking his head as he heaved a long sigh.

Beside him, a young Yin spirit who was around 16 to 17 years of age asked in a puzzled manner, "What's on your mind, Uncle Wu? Why do you sound so troubled?" 

A wry smile appeared on Uncle Wu's face as he replied, "A battle is coming, and battles lead to death and bloodshed. I don't want to die, and I don't want you to die, either. We were already quite unlucky in the mortal realm; you were with me in my car, and we both died in that accident..."

The young man shrugged in response. "What's there to be afraid of? Aren't we just facing some rebels? It's not like we haven't seen our commanders attacking other settlements; our manufacturing ability and technology are vastly superior to everyone else..."

The young man was talking non-stop, while Uncle Wu merely stroked the city wall absentmindedly as he listened in silence with a wry smile on his face.

You're still too young, kiddo. Do you think Lord Dong is some type of noble and virtuous character? In the history books, he's denounced as a foul charlatan. However, he insists that the jade seal in his possession makes him the true ruler of Hell. He doesn't have the Yama-Kings of the 10 Palaces, the Harken, or the Book of Life and Death in his grasp; how is a so-called King Yanluo's Seal supposed to prove anything? I haven't even heard of such a thing! 

Following his arrival in the Westriver Province, Dong Zhuo had been the epitome of a despotic tyrant, treating netherworldly citizens as if they were swine and dogs. However, several decades ago, a massive city suddenly descended upon this place, much to everyone's surprise, and that allowed his power to inflate exponentially.

Shu Han Imperial Palace. [1]

That was the name of this city. It wasn't very large; only several square kilometers in area. According to the local Yin spirits of Lotus City, this was the very same Shu Han Imperial Palace that belonged to Liu Bei during the era of the three kingdoms. What they had heard was that the palace had been destroyed during the cultural revolution. One could only lament the ill fortune that had befallen this cultural relic. Fate was truly a cruel and unpredictable mistress. 

Armor, crossbows, textiles; they had it all! Furthermore, they had over 2,000 skeletal war horses, and it was thanks to them that Lord Dong had managed to conquer two of the nearby provinces. Under normal circumstances, he was always the one seizing the initiative and lashing out, yet on this occasion, he had recalled all of his forces!

It was clear that they were going to be facing a formidable foe...

The middle-aged man looked up at the pitch-black sky with a concerned expression. Their opponents for this battle were definitely not going to be easy to overcome. For the past several days straight, the netherflame in his right eye had been pulsing erratically [2]. Now, as he stood there, he felt as if even the Yin winds were howling with sorrow.

SSS!!! Right at this moment, a Yin cloud on the distant horizon outside the city suddenly exploded amid a string of bloodcurdling howls! Several Yin spirits rushed directly toward the palace with Yin winds howling violently around them.

"They... They're here!!"

"Open the Gate! Hurry! Lord Dong, we wish to submit to you!"

The frantic and fearful cries made the netherfire in Uncle Wu's eyes pulse even more erratically.

Who was here?

According to Lord Dong, the enemies were known as Hellguards, and each and every one of them was far more powerful than the average soldier. Furthermore, the number of Soul Hunters and Anitya Hellguards that had converged from all directions had been increasing further and further as of late. Every single one of them reeked of blood and gore, as if they had fled some type of horrific disaster, and Lord Dong had accepted them all with no exceptions!

Who exactly was it that was pursuing them? What could be so fearsome that these battle-hardened rogues were willing to abandon their territory to flee to the palace for refuge?

Was it a pride of lions?

Was it a giant dragon?

[1] [Shu Han was one of the states during the era of the three kingdoms in Chinese history, spanning roughly from 220 to 280AD.]

[2] [In China, a pulsing right eyelid is supposed to herald disaster and misfortune, while the opposite is true for a pulsing left eyelid.]

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