When Su Chen saw Lonely Skyleap’s hesitation, he chuckled. “If the Harpies really want the Immortal’s Soul, you are more than likely to focus all your attention on the Astral Hall. Gloom City has the Brood Mother Temple, the Eternal Spring, the Dream Return Palace, the Twilight Pavilion, the Millenial Garden...... There are simply too many places with too many resources that need to be plundered. If the Harpies focus on one area, the Ravagers probably won’t be able to out-rob the Harpies.”
But what was the difference between that and Danba’s earlier proposal?
Lonely Skyleap glanced at Su Chen and said, “It seems like Sect Master Su and Emperor Danba are on quite good terms.”
Su Chen replied, “You can’t really call this good terms. I just don’t like you, is all.”
Lonely Skyleap felt incredibly humiliated by this, but there was nothing he could do.
It was his fault for requesting their presence, then criticizing them when they failed to comply.
They were the weakest and neediest group out of the three, but they still dared to put on airs. The Harpies’ pride, which ran bone-deep, was quite annoying.
As such, Danba and Su Chen didn’t hesitate to suppress his arrogance, forcing him to pay the prices for his pride.
Of course, most importantly, Danba had brought with him the Inferno Tribe’s Ravagers and their allies, so Su Chen’s plans to stir up a conflict between the Harpies and the Ravagers was already useless. Danba’s men dying would only be good for him.
So what was the point in stirring up this conflict? It would have been far better for Su Chen just to play his cards as he was dealt them.
The fact of the matter was that Su Chen just liked Danba more than Eternal Night. The latter was extremely foxy and wily, and was the only person who had managed to outwit him and defeat him.
He would rather use Danba to deal with Eternal Night, not the other way around.
Want the spoils?
It’s up to you to take them.
This was the eventual agreement that the three parties came to.
The Harpies could only accept if they wanted to claim the Immortal’s Soul for themselves.
After negotiating, the assault immediately commenced because the area was simply too cold.
The countless caves scattered across the surface of Sky-Breaking Mountain were the entrances to the Wanlai Caves.
Every cave went downwards, but none of them actually headed straight down.
The tunnels formed a complicated, interconnected network that would need to be felt out bit by bit. Only the Astrals were able to remember exactly how to navigate the system of tunnels. Any enemies and invaders would likely find themselves completely lost.
But when the invading force was sizable enough, even the most complicated maze could be solved via brute force.
The three armies had chosen a very simple method to deal with this labyrinth - they would simply fill the tunnels with people and slowly snake their way down.
Once all of the tunnels were occupied, the correct path would naturally appear.
Groups of Ravager, Harpy, and human soldiers entered the system of caves from different entrances. From afar, they probably looked like large groups of worker ants entering their colony.
The Boundless Sect’s disciples were split amongst seventy-one openings.
They began to slowly but surely make their way through the tunnels. Because the tunnels were interconnected, they would occasionally run into each other.
The tunnels would become lively at that point.
If there were other paths to explore, the disciples would explore those alternative paths; otherwise, they would deem the cave a dead end and backtrack.
Going back and forth in such a narrow cave system was obviously no easy task.
As such, the disciples were constantly calling out to one another.
“Stop! Stop! Whoever’s behind us, stop walking forwards!”
“This is a dead end!”
“Don’t attack! We’re your allies!”
“There’s a path here......”
“Be careful...... Ah, dammit! There’s a trap here.”
The Astrals weren’t planning on letting these invaders just calmly waltz into their home. Traps had been sprinkled all throughout the network of tunnels, and each trap’s activation became a bother for the Boundless Sect.
Iron Cliff shattered the boulder bearing down on him as he complained, “Weren’t we going to duel in the Wanlai Caves? Why are we just fighting traps instead?”
“This is the duel,” Su Chen, who was standing next to him, replied. “It’s quite fitting for the Astrals, is it not?”
Yes, it was indeed quite fitting.
“Sky-Breaking Mountain is only used to thin out our front line. Once we actually reach the underground, the real battle will begin,” Su Chen calmly continued. “In other words, the annoyances we are facing now are only the beginning.”
Iron Cliff felt his hair stand on end when he heard this. “So doesn’t that mean that this stage is going to be very difficult to clear?”
Su Chen sighed. “Well, not really. No matter how you look at it, these tunnels will lead us to Gloom City. No matter what the Astrals try to do, they will not be able to stop us. The only major difference is how many lives we will lose.
Following Su Chen’s words, a low laugh sounded out from in front of them, as if a ghost was chuckling to itself.
Finally, the Astrals were showing themselves.
These Astrals relied on their familiarity with the tunnel system and their sneaky techniques to begin to harass and hunt the invading cultivators.
Because of terrain restrictions, such as the narrowness of the tunnel walls, the Astrals were not afraid of the enemy’s numbers. No matter how many of them there were, the Astrals were only facing one or two at a time. This gave them a perfect opportunity to demonstrate their prowess in individual fights.
Just as Su Chen and Iron Cliff were chatting, an Astral had chosen to strike.
A wave of corrosive fog suddenly appeared, swirling towards the advancing cultivators.
This wave of fog was definitely an incredibly potent Arcana Technique. Its corrosiveness was even effective against barriers, but its one major flaw was that it was quite slow and easy to dodge. In the tunnels, however, there was nowhere to dodge to. The disciples didn’t even have any time to dispel the fog before it enveloped them, causing them to cry out in pain.
“Hurry and retreat!” the cultivator in the lead yelled loudly.
Thankfully, the disciples had already been ordered not to bunch up too much in the tunnels, giving them space to retreat. Even so, two cultivators were gravely wounded, and had lost the ability to fight.
“Bring the wounded back. You two, take point,” the group’s commander ordered. Those two replacements were cultivators skilled in neutralizing such poison techniques.
A piece of jade appeared in both of their hands. The jade glowed faintly, preventing the cloud of poisonous fog from inching any closer.
They had only just passed the poisonous cloud, however, when the ground in front of them suddenly shot up, wrapping towards the two cultivators as if it was alive and firmly tying them up.
The people behind hurriedly pulled the sand off of them, only to discover that the two cultivators had already died, their eyes still wide open in panic.
The sand had already invaded their bodies, wreaking havoc inside. This was why it was known as Shadow Breaking Sand.
The commander laid down these two subordinates, then said in a low voice, “Continue to advance.”
“You will all die here,” the Astral continued to mock.
The commander ignored the taunt and said, “Pay him no mind and stay alert. He won’t dare to show himself.”
At that moment, one of the Origin Qi Scholars responsible for probing their surroundings suddenly yelled, “Seal!”
Two cultivators instinctively sprang into action, forming seals on the space directly in front of them. As the seals took effect, countless small, formerly invisible snakes seemed to appear out of nowhere.
This was not an Arcana Technique - these snakes were terrifying creatures that lived underground. If any of them were to get into someone, that person would die.
Thankfully, the Origin Qi Scholar had been alert and had discovered the snakes in time.
The Astrals were incredibly tricky and unpredictable, so Su Chen had assigned a scout specifically to each group. This was quite effective in dealing with a majority of the Astrals’ techniques.
This cultivator hadn’t managed to catch the Astral’s earlier attacks in time and felt incredibly guilty. His success was a form of redemption, in a way.
The two sealing cultivators unleashed a flurry of palm strikes, killing all of the small snakes.
At that moment, a fireball suddenly appeared in front of them.
The fireball took up the entire tunnel and bore down on the group, giving them all quite a scare.
“Don’t be fooled! That’s an illusion!” the scouting cultivator yelled.
Unfortunately, he had been just a moment too late. At least three of the cultivators with him responded in kind, but to no effect. At the same time, an incisive attack slammed into one of the cultivators seemingly from out of nowhere, sending him flying.
“Over there!” The scouting cultivator pointed.
A turbulent wave of Origin Energy surged forwards. The pained cries of that Astral could be heard echoing throughout the cave.
The Astral knew that he was in trouble and attempted to run. At that exact moment, however, another figure appeared right next to him.
He was stunned.
Su Chen reached out and grabbed him by the neck. A sudden burst of energy immediately killed the Astral before he could even make a sound.
Su Chen casually tossed the corpse aside and stepped out of the darkness.
“Sect Master!” all of the disciples cried out.
“Continue to advance,” Su Chen calmly replied as he disappeared yet again, reappearing in another section of the tunnels.
Similar scenes were playing out all throughout the network of tunnels. Su Chen was like an emergency response team, saving his disciples no matter where they were.
The Astrals were incredibly difficult to locate. They seemed capable of attacking from any direction, resulting in significant casualties to the invading force. The deeper they went, the fiercer and the sharper the resistance was.
The Astrals were using every tool at their disposal to hunt their opponents, including servants, puppets, strange beasts, poison, illusion techniques, Arcana Techniques, traps, Origin Formations, etc...... This was indeed doing quite a bit of damage to their opponents.
However, the joint army continued to advance fearlessly. No matter how many soldiers would fall by the wayside, their determination would not wane.
The Harpies were going to reclaim the Immortal’s Soul.
The Ravagers were going to drive this troublesome race extinct.
An opportunity like this, which only came about every few tens of thousands of years, could not be passed up.
This motivated them to continue to charge forwards relentlessly.
The Astrals’ resistance only grew fiercer as they progressed, but the joint army was also beginning to acclimate to the Astrals’ techniques.
No matter how slippery and sly the Astrals tried to be, strength was not a negligible consideration.
Even in a tight space, which the Astrals used to their advantage, their combined strength was far inferior to that of the joint army’s.
As long as the three races were willing to do so, they could exchange three or even four lives for one just to break out of those tunnels.
Nonetheless, the invasion of the tunnels was exceptionally arduous and time-consuming.
After an entire day of bitter battle, a group of soldiers finally found the expanse of Gloom City beneath their feet.
“We’re through! We found our way through!”
They began to cheer and celebrate.
After sacrificing tens of thousands of lives, they had finally arrived at the Astrals’ underground world.