The sun at dusk turned red in the reflection of blood spilled throughout the grounds inside the Ling Clan.
The blood was still warm. The Battled raged on. Confronted with a joint assault from the two noble Clans of the City of Qing, members of Ling Clan stood united, prepared to spill every last drop of their blood in defending each other and their Clan.
Half an hour prior to this scene, the Fang and Qi Clan began their advance. The Lings reacted with defensive maneuvers but were increasingly driven backward from the city streets all the way to the Gate of the Ling Clan. This was the point of no return.
In the skies over the Ling Clan, three blurry figures were entangled in their own battle. The forces of their colliding spells spilled into the air below and across the entire city.
The three figures were the three former Clan Leaders of each Clan, all at the early stages of the foundational period.
Armed with his trusted emerald sword and mumbling his familiar spells, the former Ling Clan Leader battled both opponents at once. He was able to maintain an even match for now, but everyone could see he was losing his edge. This battle would last no more than another half hour.
"Ha ha, Ling Yuan, have mercy on your ancient bones and surrender. I guarantee you your Clan will not be annihilated. If you persist, we'll make sure your name dies with you here."
The former Leader of the Fang Clan taunted, swinging his massive spear.
"Ling Yuan, you understand what's happening. Our army is strong enough to conquer the entire City of Qing. You know what is waiting for you if you insist on this. We'll slaughter every last person." The former Leader of the Qi Clan added.
"Save your breath. Nobody from my Clan will choose to live like a coward rather than die a hero. You want us to surrender? In your dreams!" Ling Yuan responded sternly.
The sword glowed in his hand, producing countless strings of bright beams that turned into blades. At his command, the blades emerged from behind him and headed straight for the vitals of his enemies.
This was the Wave of the Flying Swords, one of the most renowned tactics within the City of Qing. Unleashed by a cultivator from the meditational period, thousands of swords could be summoned. If unleashed by a cultivator from the foundational period, tens of thousands at least.
"The Wave of the Flying Swords is indeed powerful."
The other two responded with their specialties. The mighty spells collided.
"Hommm, hommmmm. Hommmmmmmm…"
The thunderous sounds shook the entire city. The flashes of the swords dissipated.
The Wave of the Flying Swords collapsed under the collective attack from the other end.
The force of the rebound sent Ling Yuan flying through the air. When he rediscovered his footing, his face had turned a ghostly shade of white, blood dripping from his lips. Turning back towards his opponents, Ling Yuan exclaimed, "Haven't battled you two for over twenty years, seems like some improvements were made."
"Ha ha, can't say the same for you. Twenty years ago, this spell could have defeated both of us, but now…" Fang Ming Yuan roared in laughter, then suddenly turned serious, "I can kill you with ease."
"I admit I am no match for the two of you, but killing me has its own cost." Ling Yuan's tone was calm and collected. He was determined to sink everyone with the ship.
"I'm going to ask you one more time, surrender or fight to the death? If you surrender, your bloodline will be preserved. If you choose to fight on, your line dies today. The Ling Clan dies today. Your choice!" Fang Ming Yuan's voice was now filled with hope and excitement.
He had been waiting for this day for two decades. His defeat at the hands of Ling Yuan, at the hands of the Wave of the Flying Swords twenty years ago, was what tied the knot of hate.
Now, his oldest enemy was showing signs of defeat. This satisfied his craving for revenge.
"No need for words, no need to choose, no one from this Clan will ever surrender." Ling Yuan looked down at the destruction below him. In an instant, he appeared to have aged ten years. He let out a soft sigh. "A century-long establishment will soon cease to exist."
"Good, very good." Fang Ming Yuan lowered his gaze. He had imagined that Ling Yuan would get on his knees and beg for his life, but Ling Yuan was too stubborn. He would rather sink the ship altogether than save himself and live in shame for the rest of his life.
"Brother, let's stop reasoning with him. It's time we end this." The former Leader of the Qi Clan insisted.
Fang Ming Yuan nodded. He then turned his gaze towards Ling Yuan and said coldly, "Ling Yuan, I never forgot the humiliation I suffered at your hands. For the past twenty years, I built my skills for precisely this moment. I am more than capable of finishing you now, but I won't. You will watch every one of your descendants die in front of you."
Before his voice trailed off, a fresh command sounded in the air, magnified through the echoing power of a foundational cultivator. This was addressed to the entire invading army.
"Soldiers of the Fang and Qi Clan, breach the enemy's last defense at all cost. Kill everyone you find inside the Ling Clan. Elders, children, women, everyone, DEATH TO ALL!"
Death to all!
The words echoed throughout the city, all witnesses to the battle were paralyzed with shock, as if buried under a thousand feet of snow and ice, cold pierced through their bones.
It had become transparent that the Ling Clan was on the brink of destruction.
The invading army acknowledged this command at once. Millions of flashes shot through the sky as hundreds of fighters, all of the fifth realm and above, unleashed their powers at once. The skies above the Ling's courtyard lit up with every color imaginable.
"Hommm, hommmmm. Hommmmmmmm…"
The invisible shield that defended the Ling Clan began to visibly weaken under the mounting attacks from all sides. Only a thin layer of the innermost coating of the shield remained, for now.
"Ha ha, Ling Tian Qing, the Clan Leader of the Lings, do you choose to hide inside your walls? What a coward!" Insults from the Fang Clan persisted through the attack.
Ling Tian Qing's face darkened. He turned to Ling Tian Jiao and said, "Brother, you take over, I'll go meet these guys face to face."
"No, this is clearly a strategy to draw you out. You'll die." Ling Tian Jiao insisted.
"I know, but he's right. I am the Clan Leader. My Clan is about to fall, how can I hide behind these walls?" Ling Tian Qing shook his head. Shifting his gaze and voice onto the entire crowd of Lings waiting behind him, he shouted, "This is the point of no return. We live, or we die. Tell me now, are you afraid of dying?
A fire raged inside the hearts and minds of every member of the Ling Clan. They watched their family and friends perish under the spells and swords of their enemies. Then they watched the destruction of their home. All they had left now was their will. Their will shall not be broken."
"Good, I take pride in each and every one of you. It is my honor to lead you." Ling Tian Qing fell silent for a moment, then resumed, "We're at war. I won't say anything more. I only hope that you come with me and fight to the death. We can die, but we must defend our honor!"
"Rest assured, we won't let you down!"
"It's one life. If I kill one, I break even, if I kill two I make a profit!"
"Give your order, the shield will break at any moment. Let's not wait for those bastards to storm in here. Let's attack first and die a glorious death!"
These sentiments were echoed throughout the crowd. If deep down, someone was afraid of death, they hid it well.
"Ha ha ha, good, follow me and let's unleash our killer instincts!"
Ling Tian Qing let out a roar of laughter, opened the Gate and led the mere hundred survivors into the battle outside.
His hair danced up a storm against his white robe. His first strike knocked dead a member of the Fang Clan directly in his path. But before he could strike against, two figured arrived out of nowhere and blocked his way.
They were the two current Leaders of the Fang and the Qi Clan. Like Ling Tian Qing, they were both half a step away from the foundational level.
"Ling Tian Qing, today is the day of your death and the death of your Clan!" The Leader of the Fangs summoned his powers and struck at the heart of Ling Tian Qing.
The Qi Clan Leader followed suit immediately. With a swing of his sleeve, a colorful cloud came flying out. The murky mass appeared featherlight and harmless. But in reality, it was as powerful as a mountain. Anything it struck would suffer an instant, crushing death.
Ling Tian Qing did not stir. He extended his arms and unleashed the Blow of the Flying Thunder.
Lightning strikes followed the crushing sounds of thunder out of his fists, delivering deadly blows one after another. This move stunned both his opponents, who didn't falter but showed more care in their defense.
The three Leaders closed in and began their own battle, a battle evenly matched.
The rest of the Lings who followed Ling Tian Qing out the Gate had already been fully immersed into the ongoing battle. Mutilated heads and limbs were beginning to pile up.
But the majority of the bodies that lay dead on the ground were the corpses of the Lings. They were simply too outnumbered.
The battle of the three former Clan Leaders raged on above the battlefield. Although Ling Yuan was slowly losing ground, it was evident that he could hold on for a while.
All those watching from the sidelines understood the importance of this particular battle. If Ling Yuan could turn the tides and defeat both his opponents, this battle would end. But if he couldn't, the Ling House was doomed.
"He he, Ling Yuan, looks like only a few more of your kids are left to die. I'm not going to waste your time anymore, let me direct you to the path of hell." Fang Ming Yuan signaled his Qi counterpart and both unleashed their most powerful spells.
One spell forged an enormous, ghostly spear that extended hundreds of feet. The other formed a dotted, vibrant ring of light, two different weapons aiming for the same target.
Ling Yuan observed the incoming blow with a hint of desolation. He was neither fast enough to evade nor strong enough to defend. Expecting these moments to be the last of his time on earth, he muttered to himself, "Is this really the end of our era?"
"Ling Yuan is about to be defeated!"
Someone shouted from the horde of spectators, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
"If Ling Yuan loses, the Fang Clan will be the only noble House in this city!"
"Correct, wait for it, Fang Ming Yuan's intentions are crystal clear. After the Lings fall, the Qis will be next."
"The Qis actually fell for this, forming an alliance with the Fangs? How stupid!"
In this moment, every pair of eyes inside the walls of the City of Qing locked in their gaze on the battle of the former Clan Leaders. Members of the Ling Clan could see their hope fading away. Some even fell to the ground and began crying out of fear and pain.
A sense of hopelessness spread across the city.
It was clear to everyone that if the Guardian of the Ling Clan fell in this battle, no one else inside the Ling House was strong enough to face the foundational former Clan Leaders of the other two Clans. Only one thing could result from his death.
A one-sided massacre of the Ling Clan.
"Ha ha, Ling Yuan, time to die!"
Fang Ming Yuan roared in exhilaration. As he laughed, the giant spear dashed across the sky and aimed directly at the heart of Ling Yuan.
At the same time, the mesmerizing ray of light began to float upwards and expanded towards Ling Yuan with the intention of crushing him.
"Is there no one to save our Clan?" Ling Yuan let out a faint smile. Desperation and hopelessness flashed across his face. However, he regained his composure, stood a little taller and waited chest out for the fatal blow.
The city went completely silent, all eyes on the spear, waiting for the predictable result.
But just as the spear was feet away from striking Ling Yuan, a crispy cry shattered this deafening silence.
A pair of giant wings, both a magnificent, pure shade of white, dashed across the blue sky. This figure stunned every spectator and landed directly in front of Ling Yuan.
Directly in the path of the oncoming spear and ring.
A bloodstained sword surrounded by a magical glow suddenly appeared in the hands of the mysterious figure.
Ling Xian casually waved the Sword of Extinction, and the two spells disappeared in an instant. His black coat danced wildly with the wind, his face icy with rage, seeing the shocked faces of the spectators, he uttered a few simple words.
"Destroy my Clan you say? Have you asked for my permission?"