To think you were able to pass through the Array of the Nine Gods undetected… Qin Ye placed the feather gingerly into his pocket and continued watching the commotion back in the warehouse.
Then, he continued to preside over the negotiations as though nothing had happened.
The following sets of artifacts, including seals and other forms of calligraphy, were all sold at sky-high prices. After approximately one hour, Qin Ye stood up and took his leave.
At once, the Yin soldiers standing guard around Qin Ye immediately got down on one knee and shouted in unison, “Farewell, Your Excellency!”
When he next appeared, Qin Ye was already located back in his office. The first thing he did was to send out a messenger bird. Dozens of seconds later, a gust of Yin energy converged within his office, and Zhao Yun and Wang One Tail stepped out of the swirling vortex of Yin energy. Meanwhile, the doors and windows of his office immediately slammed shut.
As soon as they appeared, Qin Ye tossed out a feather and sent it straight into Zhao Yun’s hand, “Do you recognize this thing?” Zhao Yun glanced at it once, and then immediately furrowed his brows.
“Heavenly Dao?” He brushed his fingers gently against the feathers, only to see the feather emit arcs of lightning. Wang Chenghao’s jaws dropped slightly, “Pikachu?”
Qin Ye glared daggers at him - What the hell are you talking about? Haven’t you seen my dear Brother Zhao? How could a Pikachu possibly be so good-looking?
It’s obviously a Raichu!
Zhao Yun ignored Wang Chenghao’s comment and continued to inspect the feather for the next minute or so, before finally tossing it into the air, “A god of death that is in the process of melding with the Heavenly Dao… Judging by the Yin energy, I’d say that this is… the Plumed Serpent God? It looks like the Second King Yanluo was right…”
What? Did he say something? Why does it feel as though he’s been leaving traces of his last words everywhere?
Almost as though he could sense the questions in Qin Ye’s mind, Zhao Yun pondered for a moment, and then began to explain the situation, “Several centuries ago, the Argosian Underworld marched through Europa, conquering its underworld, before unleashing the first instance of Forbidden Art in the netherworld against the Alkebulan Underworlds. Nobody knows what happened to the Plumed Serpent God after that incident. The Second King Yanluo speculated that the Plumed Serpent God had no choice but to take the Forbidden Art head on, and it must have sustained serious injuries. By his calculations, the Plumed Serpent God wouldn’t emerge from his state of recuperation for the next 500 years.”
“Going by his estimate back then, 500 years would have expired by now. But there’s still no news of the Plumed Serpent God. That said, this feather tells me that he’s almost completely melded together with the Heavenly Dao.”
He paused for a moment, almost as though he was choosing his words carefully. Five seconds later, Zhao Yun continued, “To properly breakdown this problem, we’ll first have to address the elephant in the room, and that is… what is the Heavenly Dao?”
Qin Ye tapped his fingers gently on the table, as though in deep thought. Truth be told, he had always been wondering what exactly the Heavenly Dao is.
After all, not even the Second King Yanluo was able to resist the force of its repulsion, and it was for that reason that he had no choice but to depart from the Three Realms. Furthermore, Qin Ye was often told that the Heavenly Dao undergirded everything, and no god of death was above the Heavenly Dao. Was this a philosophy? A way of life? Or was it a science or an order of the world?
Zhao Yun had a grave expression on his face, “Nobody knows exactly what the Heavenly Dao is. But if I had to describe it, I’d say that it’s an order. An order or a rule of sorts that governs the operation of the Three Realms, of light and darkness, of life and death, of death and decay, of pride and glory, and even of fate and destiny. In other words, it governs everything. We may surpass or exceed it, but the result of that would be rejection by it. Think of it as a sword. Once you learn of its casting and forging method, you can practically reshape it into anything you desire. But if a spirit resides in that sword, it might not necessarily wish to be cast into a different form. You can think of the Heavenly Dao as the spirit that resides in this sword.”
Qin Ye nodded. In other words, the sword doesn’t wish to be mastered by any particular entity. Once mastered, it would naturally reject the one who has attained such mastery. And the mode of repulsion can only mean one of two things - complete destruction of the sword, or a release by the one who has attained mastery.
Is that why… the Second King Yanluo chose to let go? To let go of the Three Realms and move on to something else?
Rather than call it a repulsion or rejection, it might well be more accurate to call it a compromise of sorts. The Heavenly Dao was prepared to be broken rather than submit, but the Second King Yanluo didn’t want to destroy the Three Realms as he knew it, so he chose to leave instead.
Who would’ve thought that the Heavenly Dao is actually such a scheming little goblin…
Zhao Yun continued, “All Yama-Kings will gain the ability to sense the Heavenly Dao and even communicate with it to a certain extent. However, the Heavenly Dao is both cold and heartless, yet loving and wise. It would never engage in direct communication with you, but it would make its will known through actions. And that’s the first trait of the Heavenly Dao.”
In other words, the Heavenly Dao didn’t care about life or death, and it didn’t harbour any humanity like people do. Humans may sympathize with a beggar freezing out in the cold, or feel indignant when they see a pet abused by its owner, but the Heavenly Dao would simply stand tall, maintaining its rule with an iron fist so long as the world continues to operate as it dictates. To that end, the Heavenly Dao was cold and heartless.
But, on the other hand, the Heavenly Dao can also be said to be loving and wise because it was the very basis upon which the Three Realms was created. In a way, it could be said to be the source of all life, as well as the environment as the world knew it.
“And the second trait of the Heavenly Dao is that… it always leaves a way out.”
“In other words, there’s always hope.” Zhao Yun looked Qin Ye right in the eyes, “Even if the Plumed Serpent God was seriously injured, and even near death, he’s not entirely without a way out. And as we both know, the choice that he eventually went with was to merge with the Heavenly Dao.”
Qin Ye nodded. This was something he’d heard directly from the Plumed Serpent God.
Zhao Yun waved his hand gently, and a complex rune of Yin Talismans drifted up into the air, emanating wisps of golden threads in an illusory and almost surreal fashion.
“Just like how everything in the mortal realm is made entirely out of atoms, molecules, neutron particles and so on, so also are Yin spirits made out of Yin Talismans. This is the foundation of all things in the netherworld. Say for instance that the body and soul is a complete Yin Talisman rune. This rune naturally comprises many smaller constituent runes, each of which can then be further subdivided into other components.”
He pointed to the golden rune in the air, “But unlike the base material of the world, the smaller the Yin Talismans, the more complex it is, and the more difficult it would be to splice it into its sub-constituents. And to that end, the smallest radical rune of Yin Talisman was discovered in Hell just a hundred years ago, and the Second King Yanluo personally named it--...”
But before he could even finish speaking, Qin Ye waved his hand, stood up, and immediately began to pace about slowly.
Something had just occurred to him.
Something known as… Forbidden Arts.
The essence of Forbidden Arts was essentially to splice Yin Talismans as much as possible, before reorganizing them in the most efficient manner. Naturally, the smaller the runes, the more combinations were possible. And now that Zhao Yun had broken through the realms of a Yama-King, wouldn’t he be able to access far more runes that weren’t within reach before?
Add the initiation module created by the Second King Yanluo to the equation… Qin Ye glanced at Zhao Yun, and then decided to shelve his thoughts for now. After all, Forbidden Arts weren’t of the top priority right now, “Continue.”
Zhao Yun nodded, “Now, since we now understand the traits and qualities of the Heavenly Dao, we can go on to discuss the Plumed Serpent God’s current state. And to that end, my guess is that he must have split himself into the most fundamental Yin Talismans, and blended right into the Heavenly Dao to recover his energy. This is probably the glimmer of hope that he recognized in those dire straits of his. But that’s not the point. The point to note is its current state of existence.”
He continued, “Given the state he’s in right now, he has no access to any of his powers, and cannot even come into contact with most Yin spirits. In other words… he’s completely ruined.”
Qin Ye rubbed his temples and looked up at the ceiling. There were a multitude of thoughts in his mind right now.
Truth be told, there were certain things that had completely slipped his mind. For instance, the fact that the Plumed Serpent God had once informed him that he was on fairly good terms with the Harken, and that the Harken would know a thing or two.
Simple - the truth about the Heavenly Dao, the truth about the Plumed Serpent God’s plight, and everything necessary to prove the veracity of what the Plumed Serpent God had told him.
Minutes later, Qin Ye finally retracted his gaze and turned back to Zhao Yun, “General Zhao, you probably haven’t heard anything about my trip to the Alkebulan Underworlds, right?” Qin Ye went on to recount everything that had happened in his encounter with the Plumed Serpent God without missing out any details.
The entire room was silent. Not a single person interrupted him. After ten minutes, Zhao Yun’s gaze flickered slightly, “You didn’t give him any firm promises back then, did you?”
Of course not.
How could a cunning and crafty person possibly agree to cooperate with another god of death so readily? Especially when… he was only given a handful of the Plumed Serpent God’s scales?
“Course not.” Qin Ye looked up, just in time to lock eyes with Zhao Yun. A brief moment later, both men spoke in unison, “He’s getting anxious.”
Zhao Yun continued, “That encounter was almost two months ago. Given your itinerary, you should already have been back in Hell and made a decision by now. But you haven’t. I must say, you’ve got amazing patience. Patience is key if you want to net such a massive fish in the international political arena. It’s Hell’s fortune to have a leader with great foresight like you.”
Hang on a minute… How did you even find such an incisive angle to shower me with compliments?
You flatter me… Qin Ye flushed slightly and coughed lightly as he waved his hand about, “That’s not entirely the case anyhow… cough, cough… I was just waiting for the right time to strike…”
In truth, we were just too weak to make contact back then, so I’ve had no choice but to wait for the right opportunity to arise…
“So, did he send his emissary over this time in order to set up further negotiations with me?”
“Perhaps…” Zhao Yun’s eyes narrowed as he gazed out of the windows, “Or perhaps… he might just be doing all these things in order to curry favour with you. My Lord, you might not be familiar with these old gods of death, but I’ve tangled with them for thousands of years on end now, and I know their methods all too well.”
Qin Ye immediately understood what Zhao Yun was getting at.
The stakes had been set. Given the Plumed Serpent God’s current state right now, he no longer had any capital to hedge his bets elsewhere. Thus, he had no choice but to place all of his eggs in one basket and do everything he can in the hope that Qin Ye can ascend the throne of Hell. And given that he hadn’t heard a thing from Qin Ye over the last two months, he couldn’t help but send him a further indication of his sincerity, as well as… probe at Qin Ye’s thoughts.
“Opportunities are to be seized…” Qin Ye smiled and sighed in relief, “Had I not been cautious back then and introduced myself as a potential successor to the throne, I’m afraid that the Plumed Serpent God might not even have bothered to meet up with me. Too unimportant, and he wouldn’t have wanted to invest in me. Too important, and he might be too concerned that I would gobble him up. Unfortunately for him…”
Qin Ye smiled and tapped on the table, “You’d somehow managed to get yourself tangled up with the big boss of Hell in the end…”
“General Zhao, care to meet up with this emissary of the Alkebulan Underworlds with me? Your presence would… give that dying, old snake some confidence in our abilities.”
Qin Ye nodded, and then turned to Wang Chenghao, “Where’s your party?”
Wang Chenghao’s eyes widened, only to realize that Zhao Yun was already glaring daggers at him.
Forming a private party in Hell was considered a treasonous act!
It took Wang Chenghao three seconds to process the potential misunderstanding here. At once, his face turned pale and ashen, “Brother Qin, what the hell are you talking about? Are you trying to set me up and get me killed here?!”
“Private parties are strictly forbidden in Hell.” Zhao Yun glared coldly at Wang Chenghao, “Offenders shall be purged summarily without trial.”
It’s a misunderstanding! A misunderstanding! Please listen to me!!!
Unfortunately, Qin Ye only continued to heap burning coal on top of his head, “What’s the matter? Why don’t you have your own party after such a long time? You should take a leaf out of Qin Hui’s book. Otherwise, there might just come a time when you wouldn’t even be free to respond to my summons.”
“I really don’t have…”
“Then you should go personally.” Qin Ye picked up his teacup, “Tell Nadia to be ready tomorrow night at 10.00 p.m. I’ll send someone to pick her up.”
“Remember, discretion is key.” He waved his hand, and the feather flew back into his coat, “Merging with the Heavenly Dao is akin to courting death, yet this old snake has been able to remain alive and kicking all this while. Who knows if it’s been able to glean a thing or two about matters that should remain secret to the netherworld all this while?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter