Sss-- Yet what was most shocking to Qin Ye was the fact that the monarch beast didn’t even shed a single drop of blood despite having been diced into a million pieces. Instead, all that remained of it seemed to be an endless, heart-rending shriek.
“No way… it’s not even dead yet?!” Qin Ye was astounded by both Arthis’ incredible display of power, and the monarch beast’s seemingly unlimited will to survive. He gulped nervously. A split second later, the pieces of the monarch beast that were just drifting down to the ground suddenly rushed madly back to the depths of the bottomless abyss.
It was afraid…
The monarch beast was truly frightened by Arthis. It had never expected to encounter such a powerful presence and it didn’t have any courage to remain here any longer.
Whoosh… A black gale swept across Qin Ye’s head, and the bits and pieces that formed its whole body rushed along with it like a massive flock of crows, leaving in its wake the victor of the skirmish.
It was a Lady Rakshasa who was still seated atop her eighteen-tiered lotus platform.
Qin Ye coughed dryly and mustered all of his courage, before cautiously approaching the platform, “Hello? Is Arti there? Could I ask her to help me take control of Lordaeron--…” 
But before he could even finish speaking, the lotus platform was promptly consumed by a magnificent conflagration. Moments later, the great blaze faded away just as abruptly as it came, leaving Arthis in her usual form as she fell straight from the height of the residuary flames. Without thinking, Qin Ye reached out to catch her as she fell.
“How are you feeling?” Qin Ye immediately gasped in horror. He could sense that Arthis’ body was icy cold and covered with frost, and he promptly began to pat off the ice covering her body.
But just as he was slapping the ice off her body for the third time straight, Arthis suddenly grabbed his hand and muttered with a quiver in her voice, “We have to go…”
Qin Ye blinked vacantly at her.
So… was everything that you’d done earlier nothing more than a farce?
“What do you know?!” Despite the weakness overcoming her body, she mustered every last bit of strength and barked back at Qin Ye, “Sure, I can suppress it, but I would never be able to destroy it. Do you think that peak Judge-class Yin beasts are that easy to kill? Besides…”
“Cough, cough, cough…” She coughed several times, before panting breathlessly, “It… didn’t run because it was terrified of me…”
“I’ve exchanged blows with it, so I’m naturally aware that it’s still got a trump card hidden up its sleeve that it hasn’t utilised. Yet... it still decided against using it and chose to retreat instead. It wasn’t afraid of me… It was afraid of something else… and whatever it might be… I fear... it might be coming soon…”
“We have to go… Immediately! Hell’s collapse has resulted in earth-shattering changes to the environment. Nobody knows what’s coming next…”
That said, Qin Ye simply glanced thoughtfully at the canopy of the skies, “I’m guessing… whatever it’s afraid of… is already here.”
Just then, the skies promptly darkened, and a lightning bolt fell from the sky with a resounding crackle.
The lightning bolt was visible to the naked eye. Furthermore, it was scarlet in colour.
The first bolt of lightning fell approximately one kilometers away, and yet it sent such a powerful shockwave rippling into the surroundings that its effects could be seen with the naked eye. Arthis and Qin Ye gasped at exactly the same time.
What the spider monarch Yin beast was afraid of was nature itself.
The sky was covered with dark clouds that were crackling with flashes of lightning every now and then. If one listened close enough, they would even be able to hear the faint sounds of an infant’s laughter penetrating the low rumble of the thunder.
“Hehehe… hehehehe…” It was terrifying!
Just then, a flare rose high up into the sky and exploded like fireworks.
It was Yang Yanzhao’s signal.
“They’re approximately ten kilometeres away. They’ve probably exhausted all of their Yin energy by now.” Qin Ye squinted at the distance as he carried Arthis on his back and darted straight towards the location where the signal flare had exploded.
Rumble… The rumbling in the sky grew louder and louder, almost as though it were foreshadowing the arrival of a great thunderstorm. Bolts of lightning would strike the ground every few minutes, blasting large holes in the ground and sending a massive shockwave rippling out from its point of impact. Qin Ye was scared witless by the sheer power of the lightning bolts. Bloody hell! How can you call this a lightning bolt?! Isn’t it more like a nuclear warhead?! It’s anybody’s guess how much of an Infernal Judge would remain if struck by something as devastating as that!
Especially since… He glanced back at the menacing sky, trembling at the prospects of when the thunderstorm would truly begin. However, he quickly shook off these redundant thoughts, and turned his mind to the more pressing concern at hand - I sincerely hope Yang Yanzhao has already set up camp as he fired off his signal flare. Because, if he hasn’t… the consequences could very well be dire!
Qin Ye didn’t want to pit his Judge-class physical body to the test against the mighty bolts of scarlet lightning if he could help it at all!
He suppressed the deep anxiety in his heart and dashed towards the location of the signal flare at top speed. Meanwhile, the overcast clouds in the sky only continued to grow thicker and darker, until it was completely saturated and spilling. And then, he finally reunited with the rest of his forces.
They were currently located at a mountain range.
As it turns out, Qin Ye didn’t have to worry one bit at all. Yang Yanzhao truly lived up to his name as one of the most reputable generals of the Yang Clan that ever existed. Their current location was the perfect campsite. The mountain range appeared rather beaten by the elements. It stretched on for kilometers on end, and the entire mountain range was covered with holes and crevices that led into a deep system of caverns. As soon as Qin Ye arrived, he noticed the entire army swiftly clambering into the various holes that were scattered about. It was the perfect hideout to weather the incoming thunderstorm. Incidentally, Yang Yanzhao and Oda Nobutada were waiting for him right in front of the mountain range.
“Is Lady Arakshasa alright?” Yang Yanzhao immediately noticed something amiss when he saw Qin Ye carrying Arthis back, “Anyhow, my lord, let’s seek shelter first! The thunderstorm is almost here!”
Needless to say, Qin Ye immediately followed him into a cave, only to realize that all of the other generals were already there, waiting for his arrival.
“Your Majesty.” As soon as he entered, all of the generals immediately got to their feet and cupped their hands respectfully. Suppressing the deep vexation that was boiling in his heart, Qin Ye waved his hands dismissively at them. Everyone sat back down on the ground. They could all understand how frustrated he was at the stifling thunderstorm that was quickly bearing down on them. Naturally, everyone grew silent as they stared pensively out at the dark and dreary skies outside.
Not a single one of them possessed the ability to brave the elements to give commands to the Yin soldiers around. None of them were willing to take on the risk of being blown up by a powerful bolt from the skies.
The atmosphere inside was stifling. Outside, the dark clouds had finally grown completely saturated. There was a complete silence for a single moment, before all hell broke loose. Countless bolts of lightning immediately pelted down to the ground as though they were raindrops from a torrential downpour.
Qin Ye stared at the incredible sight outside and sighed with great emotion.
He had seen thunderstorms, but never something quite like what he was seeing right now.
An entire field of lightning bolts roasted the ground like a thundergod’s wrath. Qin Ye had heard of curtains of rain before, but this was the first time he had witnessed something quite so spectacular as a curtain of lightning. Moreover, the lightning bolts appeared to be fundamentally different from the ones in the mortal realm. Quite apart from the obvious difference in colour, each bolt of lightning also appeared to contain far more energy than regular lightning bolts. The blast from each and every single bolt of lightning sent dirt scattering everywhere, almost as though someone was plowing the fields.
The sky was filled with a curtain of dazzling red lightning, while the ground was covered with endless clouds of dust and debris that were constantly being scattered by the blasts of lightning. It was a breathtaking sight - one that lasted for ages before the entire thunderstorm finally subsided and vanished without a trace.
That said, the thunderstorm left a series of indelible scars on the lands that it had ravaged through. Yang Yanzhao was just about to get to his feet and instruct the rest of the Yin soldiers to begin setting up campsite when he found someone suddenly grabbing hold of his wrist.
“Your Excellency?” Yang Yanzhao looked puzzled, but allowed Qin Ye to slowly lead him out of the cave in silence.
Seconds later, Qin Ye finally retracted his gaze and addressed Yang Yanzhao, “Take it easy. Let’s see how Lady Arakshasa is doing first.”
“I’m fine.” A voice responded from behind Qin Ye, “That said, why do you say that there’s no hurry? I may not know much, but I do know that every decision you’ve made in your serious-mode has never been wrong before.”
It was only then that Qin Ye slowly straightened up and leaned against the wall of the entrance of the cave, “It’s been a hundred years since the collapse of the old Hell, right?”
He promptly continued, “How often does a thunderstorm like that occur? Once every hundred years? Could things be so coincidental?”
Arthis frowned. She couldn’t understand what Qin Ye was getting at, and it didn’t help that she was still feeling weak all over.
On the other hand, Yang Yanzhao’s eyes immediately flickered brightly, “I understand what Your Excellency is getting at.”
“Oh?” Qin Ye responded with great fascination.
“Thunderstorms are obviously natural phenomena, much like a torrential downpour back in the mortal realm. It’s a commonplace occurrence.” Yang Yanzhao walked to the front of the cave and peered over at the lands below. His pupils immediately narrowed as he continued with his explanations, “But such a horrific thunderstorm is completely unheard of. In fact, it was so strong that it completely changed the landscape altogether. Take a look at the kind of devastation left in the wake of such a terrifying thunderstorm. If it truly were an occurrence as commonplace as any other thunderstorms out there, then why didn’t we see any traces of it when we first departed from Hell?”
“That’s right…” Oda Nobutada rubbed his chin as he thought aloud, “If that’s indeed the case, these lands should have been torn and tattered by now. But… it’s not.”
Yang Yanzhao took a deep breath and waved at the crowd around while making a shushing gesture, “It’s because of this…”
Everyone gathered around the mouth of the cave and peered over, only to gasp in horror.
The ground was indeed covered with a multitude of cracks from the aftermath of the thunderstorm.
But what was most startling was the fact that there were a number of figures seated right beside each crack!
They weren’t humans. Rather, they were skeletons with long hair, dressed in ancient ladies’ garments, and armed with needles and thread as they slowly sewed the lands back together once more!
Furthermore, they could all see that the cracks in the earth revealed a scarlet pink flesh within, almost as though the cracks were lacerations of the skin of a creature that revealed pink muscle tissue below! One could even vaguely make out the greenish veins that lay beneath the surface of the flesh! Apart from that… they could all see that there were a number of golden eyes peeking out of the cracks in the ground below!
Meanwhile, the skeletal ladies were doing their utmost, stitching the lacerated earth back together with a needle and thread. The entire lands were covered with cracks, and just as many skeletal attendants. It was also a magical sight at that. Wherever the needle and thread passed, the entire crack in the ground would vanish completely. And when a crack was sealed up completely, so would the attending female skeleton also vanish from sight and turn into a wild flower or a stalk of grass. At the same time, the lands that were sewn over would be sealed so seamlessly that they revealed no traces of ever being damaged at all!
It was unbelievable. It was a sight beyond anyone’s imaginations. Everyone watched with bated breaths as the lands were slowly but surely being mended. Seconds later, Yang Yanzhao retracted his gaze with great emotion, “This is inconceivable… I’ve neither seen something like that, nor even heard my father talk about something like that before. In fact, I might even venture so far to say that this is something that has never been recorded across the entire Annals of Hell!”
“Indeed, I can confirm that.” Arthis barely made it to the mouth of the cave and gasped with her interjection, “I wouldn’t even dare to hazard a guess as to what that might have been. All I can say is that this entire realm that we’re in right now exists with its own sets of rules, laws and principles. If we look at the earlier thunderstorm through the lens of the old Hell’s knowledge, then it naturally leads us to the conclusion that it would be a wasteland out there with no creatures at all. But, the fact remains that these skeletal attendants were able to negate the effects of the terrifying thunderstorm earlier…”
“In other words, the little that we can glean from the Annals of Hell can no longer be relied upon. Put differently, we will almost certainly have to draw up a new set of records for Hell. General Yang, did you bring a scribe along with you like I’d told you to?”
“Yes. They’re all hiding out in the adjacent cave next door. Every single one of them are talents in their own rights in the fields of description and drawing.” Yang Yanzhao nodded.
Everyone grew taciturn. Each of them fell deep into their own trains of thought.
They had just realized the full implications of what ecological changes out here truly meant.
Everything in the past could no longer be relied upon. All they had left was their own senses, their own experience, and their own intuition about the dangers that lay waiting for them ahead in this journey.
Everyone had finally begun to understand just how dangerous and difficult the eastbound expedition was going to be.
It was like the first ship to sail out on a voyage into the vast worlds out there. Nobody knew what was waiting for them on the other side - whether a devastating storm that would consume them at sea, or a whole new continent with treasures in store for them.
This was the immense risks and rewards accompanying the act of pioneering. It was awe-inspiring. And today, they officially embarked on their journey to reshape the world out there.
“General Yang, help me find a way to relay a message to the rest of the soldiers. Let everyone know that they should rest until the skeletal attendants are finally done sewing the land back together. Apart from that…” Qin Ye walked back towards the cave, “Summon all commanders. We’re convening the first meeting of our eastbound campaign.”
Yang Yanzhao did as he was told. By the time he returned, everyone who was summoned had already arrived at the bottom of the cave. It wasn’t claustrophobic inside, but it couldn’t exactly be described as spacious either. All who were gathered right now were at least commanders of at ten thousand soldiers. Coupled with Yang Yanzhao and the other generals of the Yang Clan, together with the commanders of Qin Ye’s faction, there were approximately twenty people gathered in the small room right now.
Qin Ye nodded as soon as he noticed Yang Yanzhao enter the room, “I didn’t participate in the pre-expedition campaign meeting because of two reasons - firstly, I didn’t have the time; and secondly, there was no need. That’s why I was comfortable having everyone conduct the campaign meeting in my absence. And when I returned to Hell after setting up the Beacons of Light, I likewise chose not to convene a campaign meeting as such because the journey ahead to Martial City is a long one, and we could convene a meeting at any time it was convenient. However…”
He paused for a moment and waved his hand. A wisp of Yin energy immediately turned into a screen that appeared in front of everyone’s eyes.
It was a map from the City of Salvation to Martial City.
It showed everything in great detail, including every village and city along the way, as well as the topography of the area including all rivers and hills, and other terrain features alike.
“Unfortunately, such a meeting has now become a necessity.”
“And the first problem that we’ll need to address is this - how do we get there?”
He slowly ran his finger along the surface of the map, tracing the route to Qufu, before finally tapping on their destination, “If we don’t make proper plans right now, I’m afraid… we might not even make it to Qufu in one piece!”
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