The seawater churned and revolved violently, and boundless Yin energy began to converge as if it had been summoned to the artifact. In the blink of an eye, a pitch-black vortex had taken shape behind Otakemaru, and it was releasing such violent power that it was causing his entire suit of armor to rise up around him.
He stood with his arms crossed at the center as countless streaks of Yin energy twisted and warped together amid the anguished wails and ghastly howls of countless evil ghosts. Cracks were appearing on the ground around him, and the entire building began to creak and groan as if it were on the verge of collapse. All of the evil ghosts present immediately rose to their feet as they observed Otakemaru with grim expressions.
All of a sudden, a faint buzzing sound rang out, and the terrifying aura of asphyxiation in the air abruptly vanished. The Yin energy also faded, and an antiquated bronze mirror was revealed, cradled in Otakemaru's arms.
This was an artifact that had seen the passage of countless years, and it could be seen that it was constructed from bronze. It was giving off an indescribable aura that made all of the evil ghosts present extremely uncomfortable, and Qin Ye knew that this was the aura of a divine artifact. In this instant, he immediately came to realize that this was the real thing, not some replica or forgery!
It was the real Yata no Kagami!
The fact that the Nipponese Underworld was willing to unveil this divine artifact instantly set his mind racing again, and countless thoughts occurred to him at once. Why? Why were they doing this?
The only possible answer was that the Cathayan Underworld was changing too quickly, so quickly that the owner of the Peach Blossom Spring was feeling a sense of unease, and thus, he began to seek collaboration. Without his express permission, how could the Yata no Kagami possibly have made its way into this place?
On the frame of the mirror were carved the two Nipponese gods, Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, while the center of the mirror bore an image of Takamagahara. The entire mirror was clearly constructed from bronze, yet the reflections inside it were extremely clear.
It wasn't reflecting the things that one could physically see. Instead, it was reflecting the things inside one's heart.
"Is that the divine artifact, the Yata no Kagami?" Michael finally spoke, and his voice was extremely grim. His hand had already surreptitiously crept onto the hilt of the knife strapped to his waist.
His voice was extremely unpleasant, reminiscent of a rusty knife grating against metal. Otakemaru nodded in response with a proud expression. "That's right. This is a matter that concerns what was arguably the most powerful member of the four pillars, so I certainly don't think it's overkill to be bringing out the Yata no Kagami."
After a long while, Talina finally broke the silence as she fixed an awe-struck gaze on the Yata no Kagami. "Never did I think that I would see an artifact of this caliber here. Of course, you're very much correct to be taking these precautionary measures. Go ahead and tell us your plan."
Otakemaru turned the Yata no Kagami around so that it was facing himself, then placed the mirror down onto the table. He then returned to his seat, and the slightly deranged smile on his face faded as he said, "Let me ask you all a question: why have we traded with the smugglers from the Cathayan Underworld for so long? Is it for the Yin jade? We're not lacking in Yin jade. As I'm sure you're all aware, the Emissaries of Hell are cautious to the extreme, and they refuse to trade anything with us aside from Yin jade, while we provide the route for them to reach us. All of them are putting their lives on the line, and if anything happens, they'll all be killed without fail. When you look at it objectively, not only are we not benefitting much from this trade route, it makes it more likely for the location of our Mirage City to be exposed, so why has the Peach Blossom Spring continued to engage in this trade?"
No one said anything.
All of the evil ghosts present were Infernal Judges and Abyssal Prefects, and they were all wily old foxes.
All of them knew the answer to this question. In order to facilitate this trade, a prerequisite had to be satisfied: one would have to be able to transport Yin jade from the Cathayan Underworld to Mirage City.
In other words, they were able to come out, which meant that the Array of the Nine Gods wasn't perfect!
There was an opening in the array that everyone had thought was an impregnable fortress, and they were able to come out, so they were definitely able to go back in as well!
As soon as they found out where this entry point was, all of them would be granted amnesty and permitted to return to their home soil.
All of the evil ghosts in the room stared intently at Otakemaru, seemingly waiting for something. They knew that the fact that Otakemaru had brought out the Yata no Kagami was a clear indication that he was prepared to lay all his cards on the table.
Otakemaru smiled as he waved a hand through the air, and the Yata no Kagami flew over to Michael, who was seated directly to his left. He then said in a serious voice, "As I'm sure all of you have already figured out by now, the fact that I am one of the stand-in mayors of Mirage City as only an Infernal Judge clearly reflects the role that the Nipponese Underworld played in the establishment of Mirage City. I am representing my master here in raising this proposal. If you want to join in on my plan, then please inject your Yin energy into the Yata no Kagami. If you don't want to participate, then I won't force you."
Michael's hand was hovering above the surface of the Yata no Kagami, but he seemed to be quite hesitant. He took a wary glance at Otakemaru before asking, "Are you sure that if we track the smugglers back to the entry point in the array, there won't be Emissaries of Hell waiting for us there in ambush? No Yin spirit in this world wants to make an enemy out of one of the four pillars."
"I swear on the name of her Excellency, Lady Izanami, that you will encounter no such thing!" Otakemaru replied in a serious voice. "If you wish to join me, then show me through your actions now. I can tell you more about my plan while you inject your Yin energy into the Yata no Kagami. However, let me make this clear..."
Otakemaru made no attempt to hide his killing intent as he continued, "If anyone agrees to my plan here but changes their mind later on, I'll make sure they don't leave this room alive!"
Freddy dug his sharp claws into the table, leaving several deep scratches as a cold smile appeared on his face. "Are you threatening us? A mere Count like you?"
In response, Otakemaru's Yin energy erupted forth in full force, and at the same time, the Yata no Kagami revolved in mid-air, releasing a burst of Yin energy like a volcanic eruption to quell Freddy's Yin energy. Otakemaru's eyes were like a pair of glacial pits as he glowered intently at Freddy. "That was not a threat, but you can interpret it as such if you like."
His killing intent was like a tangible force that was permeating through the air, and no one said anything.
After a full five minutes of tense silence, the vampire smiled and said, "Taking action against the Cathayan Underworld teeters more toward the realm of insanity and foolishness than bravery. However... I like it!"
He pointed his chin in Michael's direction and continued, "I've heard of you, big guy. If you don't dare to inject your Yin energy into the mirror, then how about you hand it over to me?"
"I'm willing to participate in this."
"As am I. I've grown sick of living in this seabed prison long ago! I thirst for the blood of virgin women, I yearn for the feeling of slicing my blade through a human's neck... I'll take part in your plan!"
"Heh, it's been so long since Usonia has heard the name of Freddy Krueger that they may have already forgotten about me. I was once the stuff of nightmares, and I certainly don't mind giving them a friendly reminder of those happy times!"
Soon, everyone had expressed their willingness to take part in Otakemaru's plan, and Qin Ye was the only one who hadn't spoken.
Everyone turned to him with rapt attention, and Qin Ye shrugged as he said, "Why not?"
"Fantastic!" Otakemaru made no effort to hide his joy. "Seeing as everyone's agreed, we're allies from now on. Come, inject your Yin energy into the Yata no Kagami! With this divine artifact bearing witness to our alliance, no one will be able to betray me. I can barely wait to inform my master of this!"
Michael began to slowly inject his Yin energy into the mirror, and it took Otakemaru several seconds to calm himself down. "As I'm sure you've all figured out by now, the fact that we're able to trade with the merchants of the Cathayan Underworld means that there has to be a way into their territory! If we can enter the Cathayan Underworld, we'll be able to ascertain the exact current state of the Cathayan Underworld! Everyone, join me and you shall be liberated. Perhaps even the entire world will be transformed by our actions today! Everything that I'm about to say next is strictly confidential. Anyone who dares to leak this information will be hunted to all corners of the world by Amano-Iwato!"
Qin Ye didn't say anything, but his hands were already clenched into tight fists within his sleeves.
He had thought that he was very smart, managing to fool the vast majority of underworlds in this world. He had thought that he was doing an excellent job of keeping the current state of the Cathayan Underworld a secret, but there were no idiots among the leaders of the underworlds.
From the very beginning, all of the underworlds had been constantly trying to uncover the true state of the Cathayan Underworld.
Otakemaru continued, "This route was discovered by chance by the owner of the Peach Blossom Spring. My apologies, but I cannot tell you his name. My master has theorized that this route was formed due to the impact from a divine artifact. The impact shattered a part of the laws of heaven and earth, creating a trade route that even those below the Yama-King level could pass through. This means that something big must've happened in the Cathayan Underworld during the past century!"
A thought suddenly occurred to Qin Ye upon hearing this. What had created this route was the ink of the Judgment Pen!
This was a result of the Laws of Yin-Yang Coaction. Specks of ink pursued by countless Yin spirits had appeared in the underworld, and this was reflected in the mortal realm as a seabed trade route that any Yin spirit could pass through. The rest of the puzzle was quite easy to piece together. The owner of the Peach Blossom Spring used this to his advantage, luring an Emissary of Hell into trading with the Peach Blossom Spring. It was an extremely venomous tactic. Perhaps others were oblivious to this, but as the ruler of a nation, he knew that the owner of the Peach Blossom Spring had to have discovered the Judgment Pen. After that, he had traveled in the opposite direction from the one that the Judgment Pen had flown from, and he had to have seen the condition of the Array of the Nine Gods. This was no accidental discovery!
Just as Otakemaru had said, he didn't really benefit much from trading with the Emissaries of Hell. However, what he was searching for was not material gain, but information instead!
The fact that merchants were able to constantly pass through meant that the rift had never closed! The real issue would be if they suddenly stopped being able to leave the Cathayan Underworld someday.
This trade route was his trump card that he had been holding close to his own chest this entire time, searching for the right opportunity to play it, and that opportunity was now!
"I heard that there was a change of administration in the Cathayan Underworld, and that a third King Yanluo has already been instated," Qin Ye said.
Otakemaru cast a surprised glance toward "Teana" and replied, "That's correct. From the Yin jade delivered to us by the Emissaries of Hell, we discovered that the third King Yanluo, Yanluo Qin, has already ascended to the throne. However, he's hiding something from us!"
His voice began to tremble slightly from excitement as he spoke. "The change in administration that took place in the Cathayan Underworld definitely wasn't a smooth one! In fact, it's very likely that it was an extremely chaotic transition! Otherwise, why would a divine artifact have been flung so far out of the Cathayan Underworld's territory?"
He slammed a palm down onto the table as he continued, "Even the Array of the Nine Gods set up by the second King Yanluo was damaged, so the divine artifact had to have been sent flying with considerable force! I'm sure all of you are aware of what type of person the second King Yanluo is. Aside from the death gods of Usonia, who are on the brink of death, every death god from every underworld has suffered by his hands at one point or another! If we send low-grade emissaries into the Cathayan Underworld, there's no way they'll return. Only if we go in would it be possible to find out any meaningful information and return, and this is the only path for us to access the Cathayan Underworld! In the past, the owner of the Peach Blossom Spring forbade us from doing this, but now, with the inauguration of the third King Yanluo, he's most likely changed his mind on this matter. This is a Yama-King level being we're talking about here. Without his permission, do you think we'd be sitting here?"
Michael had already finished injecting his Yin energy into the Yata no Kagami, and the mirror automatically flew over to Leatherface.
"So what do we do?" Black Witch Talina finally spoke. "Do we trace the route back to the Cathayan Underworld? It sounds very simple, but there's no way that the owner of the Peach Blossom Spring would take us there. I'm certain that he wants to use us to test the waters while he observes from the shadows. I don't think there's any chance that he'll get involved. None of us know the identity of that Emissary of Hell. Apparently, he's only agreed to trade Yin jade and nothing else, so he's clearly cautious to the extreme. If we follow his subordinates and are discovered, he'll most likely immediately cut off this trade route. In that case, we'll have to try and trace the route ourselves through trial and error. How many Yin spirits will we have to sacrifice to accomplish that? This deep in the sea, even the slightest misstep will result in a Yin spirit being pulverized by the immense water pressure. Don't forget that I still possess a human body, so there's no way I'm taking the risk."
A cold smile appeared on Otakemaru's face. "This is why I brought the Yata no Kagami!"
He cast a scorching gaze toward the antiquated mirror and continued, "This mirror is able to see through all illusions, even a Yama-King wouldn't be able to conceal themselves in its presence. Under its illumination, we'll be able to know in advance if there are any Yin soldiers lying in wait to ambush us. Regardless of how well hidden the trade route is, we'll be able to find it for sure. Does anyone else have any other questions?"
No one said anything. Everyone was silently calculating this plan's chances of success.
Yes, it sounded very simple. The Yata no Kagami would show them the way, and all they had to do was follow it, and they would definitely find the site of the rift in the Array of the Nine Gods. If they were feeling brave, they could even venture into the Cathayan Underworld to gather information and see exactly what the current Cathayan Underworld was like. If they didn't want to take the risk, then they could simply return.
This information was already enough for them to be granted amnesty. It was information pertaining to a rift in the array that could allow entire teams of merchants to pass through, their native underworlds would definitely know what to do with this information.
However, the problem was that they were facing the most powerful underworld, the Cathayan Underworld!
This was a place that was home to over 10 Yama-Kings, over 100 Abyssal Prefects, thousands of Infernal Judges, and that wasn't even taking into account the likes of the Harken, the Sixfold Ghost Kings, the 10 palaces, the Aurogon... All of these names were vastly renowned across the entire world, and just the mere mention of them was enough to strike fear into one's heart.
Right at this moment, the Yata no Kagami arrived at the right half of the table.
All of the evil ghosts on the left had already finished injecting their Yin energy into it.Previous Chapter Next Chapter