Even then, Qufu was definitely going to be a piece of work to take down.
The fact that Kong Mo even knew of military formations meant that he was likely to have various other tricks hidden up his sleeves.
Furthermore, Qufu was the last bastion of their defenses. Although they might not have a large number of troops garrisoned there, it by no means meant that it was of little importance to them. In fact, the possibility that there could be other unknown forms of defences in Qufu in lieu of Yin soldiers was even more terrifying in and of itself.
Therefore, a sneak attack was undoubtedly the best and safest option.
Having decided their next course of action, they naturally had to delve into the details. Qin Ye turned to Arthis, “How are we supposed to tear through the veil separating the realms and enter Limbo from the underworld?”
“Simple.” Arthis chuckled, “I’ll deal with it when the time comes. According to lore, Limbo is a lesser realm of the underworld. A lesser realm would find it impossibly difficult to bridge the vast chasm separating them and ascend into the upper realm, the underworld. Conversely, it wouldn’t be in the slightest bit difficult for the upper realm to descend into the lower realm.”
“Then, how do you know where we’re going to emerge in the lower realm?” Qin Ye asked in bewilderment, “Aren’t we no different from moles, popping our heads out into Limbo to check every now and then? What if we end up right underneath the hammer itself?” 
The atmosphere instantly grew awkward with silence.
Not a single person knew how to respond to Qin Ye’s peculiar analogy.
I mean… Lord Qin, you know that you could simply refrain from using analogies instead of employing such unsuitable ones, right? And even then… moles? Really?!
Fortunately, Arthis was already numb to Qin Ye’s strange antics, “That’s an easy one. Why did you think we’ve brought the Mirror of Eminence along on this expedition? We’re talking about the eye of god! The ability of clairvoyance! Our enemies are none the wiser to our approach, while we have the support of a global positioning system and satellite scans! So long as they don’t have sufficient troops in garrison, there isn’t any reason why we can’t take them down!”
Oda Nobutada continued excitedly, “Then, we can use Qufu as a forward base to destroy the strongest opposing force in Eastmount Province, before conquering the rest of the lands altogether! Breakwaters Province will be next, followed closely by the Pearl River Delta region!”
Everyone’s eyes flickered with an intense gaze of passion. They weren’t being delusional. In fact, there were indeed reasonable prospects of success in this regard!
But as an experienced general, Yang Yanzhao naturally knew that pride begets complacency. Therefore, he immediately balanced things out, “Naturally, everything is only speculation for now. Although there’s some likelihood of things panning out this way, everything is still subject to the exigencies of war. Until it actually comes to pass, it would be wise to treat these as no more than mere speculation at best.”
“What if a large army on their side happens to pass through the vicinity of Qufu when we launch our surprise attack? What if Kong Mo summoned his forces and convened an urgent meeting at Qufu, and his forces happen to be consolidated? All of our plans hinge on the speculation that Qufu is currently empty. But how certain are we? And how empty are they? Do we know what kind of defences they might have in lieu of Yin soldiers? There are a whole host of variables that we’re still none the wiser to! We simply cannot afford to let our guard down!”
Qin Ye sighed softly. That’s right. These are no more than mere speculation on our part. Qufu may be an easy picking if our speculations are right. But… what if we’re completely wrong, and it turns out to be a heavily fortified city?
The greater the expectation, the greater the disappointment. One should never allow their troops to lose morale even before they commence their siege on their objective.
Qin Ye scanned the scene, before drawing a circle around Valley County, “There’s truth in what General Yang is saying. We cannot jump straight to conclusions based solely off a few conjectures of ours. Since the sky has already cleared up, we might as well hit the road immediately. We’re still more than a hundred and fifty kilometers from Valley County, and the trek there is still going to take us approximately two weeks’ time. By the time we’re there, we’ll have more experience with our surroundings, and we’d naturally be more well-placed to consider our next options there.”
Prrrr-prrrrrrrrrrrr… The war horn sounded, and the army of seventy thousand immediately set off once more.
Their experience with the monarch beast and the wrath of nature was like a baptism of fire. It taught them all exactly what to expect along this eastbound expedition of theirs. Thus, given their newfound wariness of their surroundings, they maintained at all times a battle formation throughout the march of their forces. A thousand units of the Black Armored Troops would always march at the front of the army, followed by the shield-bearers, and then the bowmen. Finally, the Savage Tiger Raiders took the rear guard, ready to move at the moment’s notice.
To that end, Qin Ye only brought a thousand units of the Black Armored Troops with them on the eastbound expedition, all of whom would act as an indomitable killing force that would lead the charge against any enemy forces. The other two thousand were all stationed back in Hell.
Two weeks passed in the blink of an eye, and Qin Ye and his forces finally saw a huge column of scarlet light appear well on the horizon.
They had finally arrived at the location of the first Beacon of Light, which was also where Valley County was located. All of the Yin soldiers breathed a sigh of relief. But, rather than becoming more relaxed, they looked all the more tense than before.
The war horns sounded once more, signifying that the troops should hold their position and get some rest. That said, all of the shield-bearers warily moved into formation and set up their shields to surround the bowmen within. Their weapons were showing traces of cracks, and even burn marks in certain areas. That said, each of the soldiers had a special glint in their eye that hid a firm determination to return alive.
These scars, whether physical or spiritual, were all their medals of honour.
Hell’s expedition forces had encountered yet another monarch Yin beast just four days ago. Then, just as Qin Ye and Arthis were jointly fending off the monarch beast’s approach, the entire army encountered yet another monarch Yin beast during their retreat!
Yang Yanzhao was the first one to snap right to his senses. He immediately realized that they had somehow stumbled upon a tussle between two monarch Yin beasts, and it was incidentally after a long struggle, when both monarch beasts were completely exhausted. There was no doubt that the monarch beasts saw the Yin soldiers as nothing more than a welcome snack in the heat of battle.
Naturally, they soon learnt that the ‘snacks’ were also covered with thorns and bristles.
Yang Yanzhao calmly commanded his troops and desperately fought off the oncoming herds of terrifying Yin beasts. They expended another 150,000 Karmic Fire Divine Crossbow bolts as they slowly retreated from the monarch beasts and inched towards the Beacon of Light. Fortunately, they were able to hold out until Qin Ye and Arthis arrived to render their assistance. That said, it was a costly retreat, and they lost three thousand of their troops. The silver lining was that their troops were instantly sublimated by such a life-and-death encounter.
The new recruits of Hell that were initially scattered among the rest of the sixty thousand veterans were now far more reliable than before. At the very least, their hands and feet would no longer tremble when they encountered a monarch Yin beast. In fact, they now even dared to lift their spears valiantly and charge headlong into battle for their comrades in arms!
Then, two days ago, they encountered yet another natural disaster. A snowstorm poured down like pelting blades, even tearing straight through an entire mountain peak in the wake of its destruction. Fortunately, Hell’s forces were able to find shelter in the nick of time.
Time and again, the forces of Hell found themselves straddling the narrow path between life and death. Under such circumstances, even the most timid of Yin spirits would evolve into a brave soul.
Prrr-prrrrrrrr… The war horn sounded, signifying the halt of their march. The multitude of neatly-arrayed soldiers paused at the same time. Qin Ye and Arthis stood in front, while the rest of the sea of Yin soldiers stood in neat ranks behind them.
Valley County is right above us… Arthis raised her hand, and a messenger bird congealed from Yin energy immediately shot off into the distance.
“They’ve had their fill of experiences, and it’s about time for them to consolidate their thoughts and digest everything. It’s been a time of great ups and downs. Let’s take a break for the next two days for them to collect themselves and regroup.” Qin Ye twirled a scroll in his hands. This scroll contained cartography and the records of everything noteworthy as they traversed through the unknown lands of the underworld. It marked out where the new Hell was, and even carefully marked out the nests of all monarch Yin beasts that Hell had encountered along the way, including their unique characteristics and points of identification.
Such information was practically priceless. So long as they were able to discover some common features across all Yin beasts that they had encountered to date, such knowledge would certainly help with future expeditions across uncharted territories.
The more battles they fought, the more the eastbound expedition was shaping up to be a grand show. The little skirmishes along the way were preparing them all for the grand climax to come!
A soft nethergale swept silently through the lands. Qin Ye waited placidly for the messenger bird to return. But five minutes passed… ten minutes passed… fifteen minutes passed… and yet, the messenger bird still hadn’t returned!
Just then, the Yang Clan generals, the Black Armored Troops and Arthis all looked up in unison at the exact same spot.
Red Yin energy twisted and mixed with the surrounding black Yin clouds at the top of the column of light. Just like that, it swirled slowly and silently, almost as though it were foreboding death.
It was almost akin to the entrance to Hell that marked the end of all life.
“The messenger bird has vanished.” Arthis explained as soon as everyone turned towards her, “There are two possibilities. The first possibility is that it was captured by a monarch beast of the underworld, while the second possibility is that the messenger bird didn’t find its intended target.”
Silence. Several seconds later, Yang Yanzhao added, “Or perhaps… it’s neither of those two.”
Qin Ye interjected with his own thoughts, “Yin beasts would never bother themselves with something as insignificant as a messenger bird. You’ve described the messenger to have vanished, as opposed to merely being unresponsive. In other words, a sentient Judge-class entity must have destroyed it the moment it showed up on their radars.”
He raised three fingers, “Firstly, they know what a messenger bird is. Secondly, they don’t want us to see what’s going on up there. Lastly, ‘they’ are not one of ours. I recall that we’d convened a meeting soon after taking down this military garrison, and it was recorded in the minutes that hundreds of Yin spirits were sent to occupy the garrison in this location. We can rule out mutiny, because none of them holding the fort there possess the ability to rebel in the first place.”
“So… are they all dead?” Mu Guiying was a valiant heroine no matter how one looked at her. She sported long hair that draped over her shoulders, and her striking eyes stared intently at the swirling vortex over the top of the column of light above, almost as though she were gazing straight into the eyes of an invisible demon.
Several moments later, Arthis finally broke the silence, “King Yanluo and I will head up first. Wait for my signal before following in my footsteps. All you’ll have to do is simply to stand in the center of the pillar of light."
On the other hand, Qin Ye simply stared at Arthis as though he had just seen a ghost - Did I wrong you in any way?! What’s the point of having scouts? Do you know how priceless an existence I am? What are you doing allowing a Teemo to head into the frontlines to begin with?
Unfortunately, his protest fell on deaf ears.
Arthis ignored Qin Ye’s fiery gaze and continued softly, “Abyssal Prefects are already the strongest entities across all of Cathay right now, and there shouldn’t be more than three of them. As Judges, we’d have no issues holding out for a moment or two, even if we encounter the strongest possible existence in Cathay. This is naturally also the safest option, all things considered. Lord Qin, do you have any thoughts?”
Incidentally, there was also a sharp pointed edge made from hair that was hovering right between Qin Ye’s thighs.
Qin Ye gazed vacantly at his surroundings and gritted his teeth, “N-n-no objections.”
“Understood.” Yang Yanzhao responded.
Then, just as they stepped into the heart of the pillar of light, Qin Ye couldn’t resist the urge any longer and blurted softly, “Though we say that, you’ve got to come quickly when we call for help… alright?”
But before Yang Yanzhao could give any placating response, Arthis promptly snapped her finger, and the two entities suddenly vanished into the vortex above.
Everything was a blur.
Crossing an entire realm in a single moment was a completely disorienting feeling. Both sight and sound were a complete mess. But in his stupor, Qin Ye heard a clear sound - shk. It sounded as though something were being released…
It was a familiar sound. Qin Ye’s mind spun slowly. Then, a split second later, his Prestige of the Luminary suddenly trembled violently, and then there was the sound of something attempting to drill past his defenses!
He slowly came to his senses, and immediately gasped with widened eyes.
That’s right. It’s those arrows! It’s the arrows used by Kong Mo when they attempted to assassinate me back then!
He could hear a multitude of sounds in his state of stupor. Unfortunately, the earlier sound of the arrow being loosened didn’t come in isolation. Rather, it was merely the first of an entire flurry to come!
There are Yin spirits around… no… there are evil ghosts around!
And to make matters worse, they were all lined up in a neat military formation!
His heart was already screaming at him in alarm and distress. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to react in time. Yin energy instantly erupted from the heart of his being, and the Prestige of the Luminary flared up. But, a split second later…
ROARRRR!!! There was an earth-shattering roar, and the surroundings immediately heated up. Meanwhile, the sounds of bowstrings being loosened from tension continued to pour in like an incessant, crashing wave.
Qin Ye could even hear the sounds of countless projectiles slicing through the air, leaving sonic booms in their wake.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter