Chapter 426: Consolidated Power

“And that’s not the only place.” Yang Yanzhao carefully pointed to several locations, “Here, here, and here! These are all enemy troops. And they appear to be… corralling the Yin spirits? To where?”

Qin Ye’s gaze flickered wildly, and he suddenly spoke directly to the Mirror of Eminence, “Lord Ming, please take a look and see where these Yin spirits have gone.”

With that, the images on the Mirror of Eminence suddenly began to speed up. Then, it appeared almost as though the Mirror of Eminence was slowly but surely rising higher into the sky so that it could capture a more macro picture. But no matter how far it drew out, the same milky way of Yin spirits never disappeared. Instead, they only appeared to grow denser and denser, as though everything had congealed into a network of veins!

Just then, a wisp of cloud drifted past the surface of the mirror.

Nobody said a single word. Everyone was staring transfixed at the mirror.

The Mirror of Eminence continued to pan out for a long time, and clouds would pass by the surface of the mirror from time to time. Then, after ten minutes, another cloud passed by. When the image finally cleared up, everyone practically gasped at the exact same time.

Whoosh… Countless Yin spirits were congregated in the exact same location, forming a massive sun-like spot among the series of constellations on the image transmitted by the Mirror of Eminence! Furthermore, they could tell that there was a massive city located right in the center of the sun-like radiance.

It was akin to the sun god’s residence, or the palace of the heavens.

But they knew without a doubt that this was undoubtedly Qufu’s Shanhai Pass!

There was no need to even take a closer look at it. Everyone could tell in an instant the identity of that location.

It was heavily guarded. The top of the city walls were densely populated with patrolling Yin spirits. The eyes of the Mechanical Beasts were also fully ignited and operational. Even the Winstrike Ballistae were already locked and loaded. The entire city walls were ostensibly radiating a mysterious yet dangerous lustre. The four city gates were all open for their citizens, and every moment saw countless Yin spirits drifting into the heart of the city.

They were on guard.

Qufu was actually on full alert right now!

We’ve been detected… They’re actually on full alert right now! What the hell is going on?

Nobody said a word. The difference between a sneak attack on a city that was unprepared, and one that was on full alert was practically as far as the heavens were from the earth! Then, after an inordinate amount of time, Yang Yanzhao finally broke the silence with a voice that was still calm, but ostensibly filled with sobriety and gravity, “Look at where they’ve come from.”

“They’re coming from the direction of where the Beacons of Light are located. This means that… they’ve all taken the exact same route as us. They’re returning from the Darkriver City!”

Mu Guiying chimed in, “Does that mean that the death of the Lord of Darkriver was what put them on alert in the first place?”

Yang Yanzhao nodded, “That’s the only possible explanation. The disappearance of a hundred thousand Yin soldiers must have triggered the alarm, and they’re now preparing themselves for any possible enemy invasion. That’s why they’re now consolidating their forces and evacuating all citizens to safety.”

Qin Ye frowned. There were two sides to everything. He had managed to take down Sha Xiangzu’s 100,000-strong army without significant losses, and managed to absorb the surviving forces into Hell’s army. All of them were even Netherworld Operatives to boot. But, at the same time, their overwhelming victory had given rise to a misjudgment on Qufu’s part. They had assessed Hell’s forces to be several times larger than the 100,000-strong army under the Lord of Darkriver’s charge, and they clearly even suspect Hell’s forces to potentially be a threat to Qufu’s garrison of troops!

This was what led to Qufu’s consolidation of power.

Yang Yanzhao continued, “Given the speed at which they are operating right now, they must have commenced their consolidation efforts as soon as news arrived.”

Silence.

Everyone’s eyes grew hot, and their thoughts raced. The atmosphere was instantly shrouded with a tense silence like the calm before the storm.

Ten minutes later, Qin Ye raised his head and looked at everyone with unprecedented determination in his eyes, “We march full speed ahead. We won’t rest until we arrive at Qufu!”

“And when we finally arrive at Qufu, we’ll rest for a day, and then begin our assault!”

Are we still going to besiege Qufu?

Zhao Seven’s lips trembled and blurted the immediate thought on his mind, “But, Lord Qin, there’s simply no way we can take down a Qufu that is on full alert!”

“Our greatest advantage earlier lay in the fact that we could take them completely unaware. But this city… isn’t something that we can take down without such an advantage...”

But before he could finish his statement, the Yang Clan generals half-knelt to the ground and cried out in unison, “Wise decision, Your Excellency!” Their eyes were blazing with an intense netherflame, and the excitement in their voice was completely overwhelming. Even Oda Nobutada was clearly filled with an intent for battle.

They had suppressed their ferocity for the last three months, and it was finally time to bare their fangs!

The day of reckoning… was finally on the horizon.

What the hell is going on?!

Zhao Seven bit his lips and cupped his hands forcefully, “My Lord! Please reconsider! The stakes are simply too high! There’s no way we can take down the Shanhai Pass with only 100,000 Yin soldiers when they’re on full alert!”

“General Zhao.” The Yang Clan generals stood up in unison. Yang Yanzhao’s eyes were blazing with flames half a meter high, evidently a reflection of the stirring emotions in his heart right now. He responded hoarsely, “With all due respect, I sincerely believe that… now is the best time to attack the city!”

He immediately went on to explain himself, “Certainly, Qufu might have consolidated their forces, but… there are two sides to everything. The difficulty in besieging the city might have risen, but so has our chances of taking the city!”

He explained with great excitement as he pointed towards the terrifying defenses surrounding the sprawling city, “First and foremost, this means that Kong Mo isn’t located within Qufu right now!”

“There may be twelve Infernal Judges among the Alliance of Darkness, but it’s clear that he’s the sole brains of the entire operation. The Lord of Darkriver has perished, and his army has vanished into thin air. It’s highly unlikely that Kong Mo isn’t aware of something like that at all. If he were in Qufu, he would most certainly have reacted at once!”

“But that’s not the case. It’s clear that their army has gone to Valley County. The time taken for that…” He turned around and looked at the map on the ground, before tracing a line from Eastmount to Valley County, “It would have been just enough time for them to have taken the coastal route straight towards Darkriver City, carried out the necessary investigations, and then returned to Qufu before finally reacting in this manner. This is the only way we could have caught sight of them in the midst of their evacuation.”

He slammed his fist onto the ground with the utmost certainty, “Kong Mo must have relayed his instructions from out of town. That’s why the investigations were carried out after such a long time! I’m absolutely certain that he’s not in Qufu right now!”

Arthis’ gaze flickered wildly, and her emotions surged like the rising tide. Even her hair was now scattering about like a nest of poisonous viper, “If Kong Mo isn’t here, then the Mythic Palace of Reflections is as good as an unmanned Yin artifact right now! Believe me - an A-grade Yin artifact in the hands of an equally skilled operator and an A-grade Yin artifact in the hands of an unskilled Yin spirit are practically worlds apart. Given how powerful a Yin artifact the Mythic Palace of Reflections is, there’s simply no way Kong Mo would have taught anyone how to draw out its full potential. At best, these Yin spirits are only granted the permission to utilize a part of its abilities.”

“This is destiny.” She stared at the sky and sighed to herself. To think that I would be part of such a moment of destiny once more.

When was the last time something like that happened?

Was it when Hell was surrounded by the seven major underworlds of ages past? Or was it during our tussle for territory with the Hindustani underworld?

The situation back then was just as bleak, but someone had at the most critical of moments found a ray of light and clung desperately to it.

The curtains of fate might look dark and depressing now, but everyone knew that what lay right behind was undoubtedly clear skies and blue waters.

Qin Ye nodded as he glanced at the mirror once more, “There’s more.”

“They’ve opened all four city gates and are rounding up their citizens at top speed. While I’m not sure if such a move is significant in any way to their military arrangements, I can somewhat guess what’s running through their minds when they ordered the consolidation of forces in the region.”

He placed his hands behind his back and hung his head low as he sorted through his thoughts, “If I had discovered the death of the Lord of Darkriver and the disappearance of a 100,000-strong army, I’d be equally ready to subject Qufu to martial law for a period of time. However… that would have been weeks ago. I might sense danger on the horizon, but it certainly wouldn’t be with the kind of urgency that they’re demonstrating right now. And this is particularly when there’s simply no signs of the enemy’s movement in the vicinity of Qufu at all. They would never know that we’re travelling through the core of the earth, rather than through the mantle, which is Limbo.”

“In other words, the person who gave the command must be incredibly cautious to have called for a consolidation of forces and a rounding up of all citizens. Qufu has activated their defences in order to deter any incoming enemy attacks, but a closer inspection would reveal that they’re not entirely prepared to actually defend against an enemy attack right now. The difference between the two is practically worlds apart.”

“All four gates are open, and they’re displaying a flashy defence. This is a telltale sign of a great opportunity.”

“Attack. We have to go on the offensive! There’s no better opportunity than this!” He turned back sharply and stared intently at the mirror, “We’ll have to launch our offensive before they manage to round up all citizens! Trip them up and deny them any opportunities to shore up their defenses for a proper enemy siege! General Yang, what do you think of my analysis of the matter?”

“Your Excellency is wise.” Yang Yanzhao nodded in concurrence. Truth be told, he hadn’t even considered the thoughts in the minds of the enemy forces when he reached his own conclusion of the matter. His decision was based entirely off his keen intuition arising out of his soaring tactical literacy. His heart had screamed at him, telling him that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had just presented itself!

Granted, Qufu’s capacity to put up a defence would have increased by leaps and bounds as a result of their consolidation of forces. But what lay behind the city walls right now was hardly a pair of sharp fangs. Rather, it was simply the city’s soft and tender tongue.

So long as they arrayed their forces properly, and struck up a situation of chaos, then… the Yin spirits within the city were bound to panic, and Qufu would internally be in a great mess!

We’re talking about millions of Yin spirits after all! Even an Infernal Judge would take more than a day to slay every single one of them!

And the more chaos broke out, the more attention would be drawn to the outer city of Qufu where the citizens were located. Troops would be diverted away from the inner city, and then… that would be the moment to deliver the final blow against the enemy forces!

“We can cover the rest of the journey in a single day.” Qin Ye drew a deep breath to suppress the emotions that were roiling in his heart. Then, he swept a fiery gaze across every general around, “Everyone, brace yourselves.”

“The day of reckoning is at hand!”

“Glory to Hell!!”

………………………………………………………………..

Bulwark of Qufu City, Shanhai Pass.

Flags were lined up neatly right above the eastern gate, and at least ten thousand Yin soldiers were patrolling the vicinity. Countless Yin soldiers were manning the Winstrike Ballistae, loading it with ammunition and drawing its string to the nock. That way, a single command would instantly release hundreds of bolts that would tear through the wind and rain destruction on their targets up to three thousand meters away.

There was a simple yet spacious residence erected on the city gates. Four Yin spirits dressed in luxurious Tang Dynasty clothes stood within the residence, surrounded by dozens of Operative-class Yin spirits that drifted around as they kept watch over the lands below.

The city gates were located right beneath their feet, and an endless number of Yin spirits were slowly streaming through with some measure of unease. Even then, there was still an entire sea of Yin spirits out there that were eagerly awaiting entry through the city gates. After watching for several minutes, the Tang Dynasty Yin spirit located right in the middle of the residence raised his head and spoke hoarsely, “How much longer is this going to take?”

“Four days.” Next to him, a Yin spirit dressed in modern clothes glanced at his dark, long nails that were extending and retracting at his command, “Lai Junchen, don’t you think you’re kicking up too much of a fuss? Is it really necessary to round up all Yin spirits of the 72 villages and 6 counties that are located around the city? What’s dead is dead. What’s the use of crying over spilt milk?”

Lai Junchen’s eyes narrowed. Like Kong Mo, his eyes were devoid of any flickering netherflames. Instead, there were only two tiny red spots where the flames should have been.

If any Emissary of the old Hell were present right now, they would have been able to tell at a glance that this was a clear sign of the Yin spirit having been subject to the torment of the six paths of reincarnation for an inordinately long time. This was the only way to quench the flickering flames in their eyes until nothing more than a red spot remained.

And any person to be subjected to such torment would undoubtedly have been a notorious man of his time.

“Are you doubting my decision?”

“No, no, no. You’re Lord Kong’s trusted aide after all.” The Yin spirit responded casually, “That said, we were the ones who had over decades painstakingly nurtured everything you see in the near vicinity. It’s fine if you round them up, but you also have to be responsible for sending them back later on. I don’t want to see these areas that we’ve invested so much in come to waste later on.”

Lai Junchen stared coldly back at him for several more seconds, before sneering softly, “You don’t have to worry about that.”

The Yin spirit snorted, before walking back into the residence, “Then, thanks for your trouble.”

Boom!

The door slammed shut, and copious amounts of Yin energy immediately poured out from his seven apertures. His face contorted in a grotesque fashion, and his lips peeled open all the way from ear to ear, “Screw this shit!”

“We’re the boss of Limbo right now! Do you really think anyone would dare touch a hair on the mighty fortress otherwise known as Qufu? If not for the fact that you’re one of Kong Mo’s trusted aides, I’d have shredded you to pieces by now!”

One of the Yin spirit attendants beside him immediately asked, “Lord, should we comply with Lord Lai’s instructions and speed up the process of corralling all Yin spirits back into the city gates?”

“My ass we will!” The Yin spirit sneered, “If he really wants to do it, then let him do it himself! Lord Kong has entrusted the defense of Qufu to the three evil ghosts of Breakwater Province. All three of us are special Yin spirits in our own right. Are any of us weaker than him in any way? Pfft. He only became an Anitya Hellguard when he was a thousand years-old. What basis does he have to order us around like that?!”

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