Chapter 699 - Micro-War

"The Nether Battle lasts for ten days. During this time, we won’t be given any hints. We won’t even know how many points we have, let alone how many other participants have. Only when the Nether Battle ends will the top thirty-two enter the final battle. However, you should know that the significance of the Nether Battle doesn’t lie in how many of us make it through to the final battle, but how many of us survive. Therefore, our goal is above all to survive. We must protect the hell tree so we won’t be attacked from all sides.” 

Tianming understood that. It was actually very exciting. Not only did they have to defend their own hell tree, they also had to enter other layers and attack their opponents’ hell trees. That was the only way they could ensure a high score.

"Do you know why we’ve designated a commander and deputy commander?” Xuanyuan Yucheng asked.

"I don’t.” 

"The battle is too chaotic. In order to ensure disciples of the sect enter the final battle, we mustn’t allow the points to be spread out. When the time comes, our teammates will help us subdue our opponents while we deliver the killing blow, so our points accumulate. The fewer points the others have, the better,” Xuanyuan Yucheng said.

"They’re very loyal and selfless to be willing to do this,” Tianming said, looking at his teammates.

"Yes, we have no choice. The Heaven Ranking is a competitive ranking based on strength. Because they believe in us, we must give it our all and live up to their trust. This is the rule of the Number One Summit. Only by working together can we go further. We have a great responsibility,” said Xuanyuan Yucheng.

It’s no wonder Xuanyuan Dao made Tianming a deputy commander. That way he would be qualified to earn points instead of being a catspaw.

Additionally, Tianming had learned during his conversation with Xuanyuan Yucheng that the points in the Nether Battlefield were different from the Deepstar Battle. Although they were also destroying individual formations, no matter how many points their opponent possessed, they would only get one point if they defeated them.

However, the opponent's points would be cleared, and the loser eliminated. They could no longer attack or participate in the final battle. Additionally, when entering the Nether Battlefield, the hell barrier formation within them was very different from the astral formation.

The hell barrier formation was supported by the beastmaster’s own strength. The stronger the beastmaster, the more powerful the hell barrier formation and the harder it was to break it. Only when the hell barrier formations of both beastmaster and lifebound beasts were removed would their attacker obtain one point. What was more exciting is another rule regarding the hell barrier formation.

"The first fatal attack will expose the opponent’s hell barrier formation, which will protect that individual. At that point, the opponent can no longer attack or move. Their points are cleared and they’ll be eliminated. The victor scores one point. However, if you choose to continue attacking and break the hell barrier formation, your opponent is eligible to fight once more, even to the death. However, it won’t result in any points. They’ll also no longer have the opportunity to enter the final battle. If your hell barrier formation is forced out by an opponent whose hell barrier formation is also exposed, you’ll also be eliminated, but your opponent won’t be given any points. After all, they’re already out of the competition. Therefore, in the Nether Battlefield, killing is inherently risky. It takes a total of three attacks to kill—the first to expose the hell barrier formation, the second to break it, and the third to kill. If you don’t succeed by the third time and your opponent escapes, they can continue fighting for their sect. However, they are considered to have embarked on a dangerous path, one without any protection. Because killing is risky, participants in the previous Number One Summits would stop once they expose their opponent’s hell barrier formation. But this time, they’ll kill us, even if it takes three attacks!” 

At this point, there was no doubt about that, especially for Tianming. Even if they had to kill ten times, they wouldn’t relent.

"When the hell barrier formation is broken, it’s tantamount to embarking on the road of life and death. It has nothing to do with the final battle, but with survival.” The Number One Summit’s rules gave them the opportunity to kill, thus increasing the violent nature of this grand convention.

This wasn’t a gathering to swap pointers, but a micro-war of the Nine Divine Realms!

"No matter how many lifebound beasts a beastmaster possesses, as long as one hell barrier formation is broken, the rest will be destroyed as well.” 

Exposing the formation and breaking it were two completely different things. The former meant being eliminated, while the latter signified the intention to kill. Tianming sensed the ruthlessness of the rules. They were sparring, until the formation was broken. But once it was, then it became a life and death battle!

...

The moment they stepped into the Nether Battlefield, hell barrier formations automatically appeared on Tianming and his four beasts, melting into their bodies.

"We can only enter the final battle if our hell barrier formation isn’t exposed.” 

Tianming could feel the formation dancing on the surface of his skin. It was a cold force, as gloomy as the Ninefold Nether Battlefield before him.

"Come with me!” 

Xuanyuan Yucheng shouted from the front. Together, they crashed into a vortex—the real gates of the hell formation.

For a time, a tidal wave pulled them down. It took the concerted effort of all forty of them, hand in hand, to resist being swept away by the wave.

Tianming held Beigong Qianyu's hand, as well as another male disciple. From the temperature of their skin, he felt the passion raging in their blood.

"Brothers and sisters, I won’t lie. This is a battle of life and death! However, this is a most regrettable life. No matter who lives or dies, the people who survive will carry our dreams and live on. The Archaion Divine Realm will never die! We will tower over the rest of the continent!” 

Xuanyuan Yucheng's gruff, yet moving voice was audible within the dark wave. They tightened their grips; all forty of them were linked together. Under the eyes of the entire Flameyellow Continent, they arrived at their Nether Battlefield.

"Fool.” Beigong Qianyu’s voice sounded in Tianming’s ears.

"Do you like him?” Tianming asked with a smile.

"Yes. Everyone knows, yet he’s the only one who doesn’t,” said Beigong Qingyu.

"You’re both from great clans. With your status, can you two be romantically involved?” Tianming asked.

"Not at all, the possibility of this happening is almost zero. But I like him! He’s loyal and gallant, but gentle at heart, isn’t he?” said Beigong Qianyu.

"I envy you! Here’s wishing you happiness. Go with my blessings.” Tianming laughed.

As they spoke, their bodies stabilized. Tianming looked around, only to realize that they had arrived at their destination.

"We’re in the swamp layer.” They were all pleasantly surprised.

"The swamp layer? What are the advantages?” Tianming asked.

"There are only swamps in this layer and few natural hazards. It’s easier for us to hide in as well. This is the bottom layer of the Ninefold Nether Battlefield, so it isn’t in the core battle area. The only neighboring layer is the frost layer above us, which makes it rather safe,” said Beigong Qianyu.

"That's good.” 

"However, there’s advantages and disadvantages,” added Beigong Qianyu.

"What are the disadvantages?” Tianming asked.

"Once the others know that we’re in the swamp layer and flock to us, the hell tree is more exposed because this area is open. Thus, we’re vulnerable to attacks, and will have trouble defending. It’s easy to hide ourselves, but not the hell tree. So I don’t think it’s any good. Previously, it would’ve been good to get away from the central region of the battlefield and secretly score points. But this time, everyone is eyeing us. At present, no one knows where the other sects’ disciples are, but trouble comes in the later part, after countless confrontations with each other. Regardless of everything, the hell tree must be protected. Otherwise, hiding in the swamp won’t mean anything,” said Beigong Qianyu.

"I understand.” Tianming nodded.

At that point, after discussing with the others, Xuanyuan Yucheng solemnly said, "Don't rejoice just yet. Compose yourselves. Although the swamp layer is at the bottom, it’ll be even more difficult for us if people know we’re here. You must make sure to hide yourselves. Let’s act according to our original plan. Divide into three teams and look for the hell tree first!” 

"Yes!” 

Each team consisted of about fifteen or sixteen people. Xuanyuan Yucheng led ten disciples from the Archaic House of Xuanyuan, and several external disciples. Fang Chenjing and Fang Yuewei formed a team with fifteen disciples of the Sterling House of Fang. Beigong Qianyu formed a team with seven disciples of the Draconis House of Jian, and other external disciples. Although Tianming was also a deputy commander, three teams were enough. Since Xuanyuan Yucheng trusted his abilities, he arranged for Tianming to work with the weaker Beigong Qianyu.

There was a division of labor between the three teams. Because Fang Chenjing and Fang Yuewei’s team was made up entirely of Sterling House of Fang disciples, they were rather unified and seemed to possess the strongest combat capabilities. Thus, their main mission was of a defensive nature. They were to be stationed beside the hell tree to protect it upon locating it.

Xuanyuan Yucheng's team was mainly engaged in long-range reconnaissance and combat, because they were the most determined and least afraid of death. They could block off the battle outside without revealing the location of the hell tree.

Beigong Qianyu's team was mainly responsible for short-range reconnaissance and combat. They would be on guard near the hell tree, sandwiched between the two other teams, ready to support the front and back, and at the same time acted as a second protective barrier for the hell tree.

Not everyone could remain beside the hell tree once they found it, since they wouldn’t know how many intruders they had. Additionally, they might reveal the location of the hell tree.

By systematically distributing their people, they were able to detect their enemies in advance, and even lead them away. In fact, it was impossible even for the Nonahall Ghost Sect with the largest number of people with more than eighty top disciples to send all of them out to sweep the area. Disciples had to be stationed at the hell tree for protection.

So as long as the Archaion Sect defended with all their heart and stayed where they were instead of going hunting in other layers, assuming they weren’t besieged and managed to protect the hell tree for ten days, it was tantamount to resisting the oppression of the five great divine realms as well as defending their glory and goddess. 

That was their mission.

It was only ten days; they weren’t completely hopeless. Perhaps many considered them cannon fodder, but at least they didn't think so. In Tianming's opinion, they were fighters!

"Let’s begin!” 

The three teams split up and set off.

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