"Remember. Just surround Qin Weiwei. Don't kill her! A dead woman won't be able to bait the reinforcements to their deaths; the rest of them can be killed without mercy! After Yang Qing charges in, Qin Weiwei will no longer have a use. Those you can capture—do so; those that you can't—kill them immediately. Afterwards, join up with my forces to launch a coordinated attack against Yang Qing! After we kill him, we will immediately lay siege on South Edict, killing all the reinforcements after Yang Qing! We must thoroughly suppress South Edict in this decisive strike!"
"Understood!" roared the four Mountain Chieftains as they accepted their orders. Afterwards, each of them then led their own units away to swiftly begin making preparations.
Not long after those Mountain Chieftains left with their men, the other Mountain Chieftains under South Edict Manor just arrived at a breakneck pace. They gathered at Zhang Decheng's side, awaiting orders.
War was imminent...
Meanwhile, Yang Qing was rushing forth with great urgency, filled with a burning anxiety. On the other hand, Qin Weiwei was still boiling with fury as she pursued Yuan Zhengkun and the others. She had already charged into the realm of Emerald Forest Cave.
"Treacherous Scum! Stop running!"
Qin Weiwei growled angrily; gradually catching up to her fleeing enemy. Wielding her longbow, she nocked three silver arrows and drew back on the bowstring.
Imbued with transcendence energy, a silver arrow shot out with a 'Whoosh!'. Up ahead, a White Lotus Third Grade cultivator swiftly twisted around to deflect an arrow with his spear. However, deflecting an attack from a White Lotus Sixth Grade cultivator jolted his hand, making him lose grasp of his spear.
Qin Weiwei once again shot another two arrows in rapid succession, and with pin-point accuracy. After blocking one arrow, he was helpless against the other two. Soon after, one of the arrows struck his waist, while the other pierced through his head—a loud scream erupted—and he fell off his mount, losing his life.
Qin Weiwei seemed to have figured out that Yuan Zhengkun was the leader of this group. Another five arrows rapidly shot out from within her storage ring into her grasp. She fixed her sights on Yuan Zhengkun, and quickly released five arrows in rapid succession.
On hearing the 'Whoosh!'-ing sounds, Yuan Zhengkun hastily twisted his body around and violently swept his long halberd across. From the number of clangs that rang out, he managed to deflect three arrows. Yet another struck his shoulder and—fortunately for him—Li Xing struck out from his side just in the nick of time, deflecting the last arrow. Otherwise, it would have pierced his chest.
Yuan Zhengkun hadn't expected that Qin Weiwei would be so skilled in archery. He was almost scared shitless.
Just at that moment, a large herd of dragon steeds suddenly leaped into the air from the two mountain forest beside them. Over two hundred cultivators rapidly surrounded Qin Weiwei's troops.
Qin Weiwei and her troops quickly came to an emergency halt, instantly propping their backs against each other; huddling together to assume a defensive formation facing outwards. All of them looked more than a little frantic.
Charging back to his own reinforcements, Yuan Zhengkun breathed out a sigh of relief. He lifted his hands to pull out the arrow embedded in his shoulder and tossed it away. Quickly turning around with a nasty grin, he pointing his Square Sky Decorated Halberd at Qing Weiwei as he sternly exclaimed, "Wretched woman, today is the day you die!"
Recalling the series of events that had transpired to culminate into the current situation before her, Qin Weiwei's complexion changed in flash. She would be a simpleton not to have noticed that she had fallen into a trap.
Only now did she realize what a fool she had been!
From atop their dragon steeds halfway up the mountain, Duan Jirui and Luo Wuqing both simultaneously signalled their command without any needless banter—merely giving voice to a single word—"ATTACK!"
Over two hundred cultivators immediately urged their dragon steeds to close in for the kill. Pursing her lips tightly, Qin Weiwei flashed out her Serpent Lance longspear and responded with a scream, "Everyone gather together! Maintain the formation and don't fall out of line. Follow me to break through the encirclement!"
The group quickly turned around with Qin Weiwei in the lead. She led them in a wild, desperate charge, intending to break through the entrapment!
Abruptly, sounds of clashing erupted as the blood-curdling screams of people mixed in with the grief-stricken cries of the dragon steads.
Some men were beheaded, falling off under their mounts; some dragon steeds were hacked open right across the middle. The battlefield swiftly reached a climax in a maelstrom of fresh splattering blood, and torn limbs strewn about in all directions.
Among the combined forces of two mountains, there were actually ten Cave Masters working in tandem. They didn't care about the rest and fixed their sights onto Qin Weiwei, suppressing her and preventing her from retreating even a single step. It was madness to even think of breaking through the entrapment.
Although Qin Weiwei was a Mountain Chieftain, her cultivation hadn't reached the level of one. She was only at White Lotus Sixth Grade, which was the cultivation level of a Cave Master. The only reason she had been able to obtain the post of a Mountain Chieftain, was purely because of her paternal relationship with Yang Qing—half of the Cave Masters constantly suppressing her had cultivation levels greater than her own.
How was she to fight this war now? Qin Weiwei had immediately fallen into a predicament where she could only gnash her teeth and forcefully fight back.
Two shadowy streaks swept passed the boundless sea, before descending just outside the mountain ranges of East Arrival Cave. Yao Ruoxian kept the two bar maces into his storage ring with a gesture of his hands.
Charcoal bounced with joy on his four limbs, his serpentine tail twirling about in circles. It seemed like he knew that they were almost home.
Miao Yi spread opened his arms as he joyously took in his surroundings. "Finally! I'm back in my own domain."
Yao Ruoxian jeered, "A mere Cave Master like you dared to bring along a group of subordinates by himself to venture into the Sea of Constellations. You've left for almost a year, and even caused the death of all the men assigned to you. I don't believe that your superiors will tolerate your atrocious behavior. Maybe the whatever-Cave Master seat has already been replaced. I advise you to just come along with me."
Miao Yi suddenly laughed bitterly, "Senior Yao, you can't go back on your words. We had an agreement. If the Cave Master seat has been replaced by another, then I will find the Manor Head to write off my name from the registry, quit this circle and go with you. If it is still mine, then you have to abide by your promise!"
He had spent quite a bit of time talking to Yao Ruoxian until he was blue in the face, to get Yao Ruoxian to come here. It was just as he'd said, the hint of the stupid bet was rather strongly implied.
If 'Yes!', then he would go with Yao Ruoxian. If 'No!', he hadn't lost his Caver Master seat, then Yao Ruoxian would join East Arrival Cave for ten years, and slowly foster his relationship with the small mantids.
The reason why Yao Ruoxian had agreed, was because Miao Yi had given another justification for it.
Miao Yi said that Lao Bai knew he was the Cave Master of East Arrival Cave. So there was a chance that he might come looking for him there. If Lao Bai came, then he could naturally figure out why they couldn't draw the Hell Mantis out from the Boundless Secular World. If that were to happen, then Yao Ruoxian most likely wouldn't need to wait for ten years. This had Yao Ruoxian hesitating for a moment.
After Miao Yi had repeatedly failed to fulfill his promise, Yao Ruoxian actually hadn't killed him yet. Although the main reason was the small mantids, only Yao Ruoxian himself knew that there wasn't any other factor involved.
At the same time, only Miao Yi would believe that he had a silver tongue, and was only able to save himself because of it.
As to why the both of them hadn't flown directly to East Arrival Cave, it was very simple; Yao Ruoxian did not want his identity to be exposed.
"Let's go!" Miao Yi mounted Charcoal and beckoned Yao Ruoxian.
Yao Ruoxian landed a slap on the fat bastard's rear before jumping to sit behind Miao Yi.
Charcoal flew into a gallop. He was very familiar with the road here and quickly galloped back down the path...
While traveling along the path between the mountains, Charcoal just made a turn around a corner when his speed suddenly dropped drastically. His eyes widened profusely as, even though he was just a beast, he knew what East Arrival Cave should look like.
Up ahead, they could see from afar that East Arrival Cave looked different.
Miao Yi was instantly frozen in shock atop of Charcoal. His pupils shrunk abruptly as he narrowed his eyes at the ruined East Arrival Cave; his body remained still.
Yao Ruoxian had simply been sitting behind Miao Yi, stroking his beard and peering about at his surroundings, when he sensed that something was amiss. After catching sight of the ruined land in the remote mountain range, Yao Ruoxian was a little baffled as he asked, "Brat, this rotten place is your domain?"
Miao Yi didn't utter a single word. His eyes kept being drawn inexorably to that place, as he allowed Charcoal to head back with him in tow.
Galloping up to just before the mountain gate, Charcoal came to a stop. He kept twisting his head around to look at Miao Yi a few times.
"Why does this place feel like it has been devastated by someone?" Yao Ruoxian clicked his tongue as he leaped from Charcoal's back.
Miao Yi's dull gaze swept across the collapsed mountain gate memorial archway. Before he left, this memorial archway was large and imposing, with an air of extraordinary grandness. Now, it had become like this.
Gradually lifting up his gaze, he swept them across a ruined East Arrival Cave. Not a single building was left standing in the entire East Arrival Cave. Everything had been destroyed.
He then locked his gaze onto the wreckage of the East Arrival Grand Hall. From the ruined beams, hung the corpses of handmaidens lined up in a row, making him start abruptly in shock.
Charcoal suddenly charged ahead at high speed, abandoning the squinting Yao Ruoxian and rushing to the collapsed staircase of the ruined grand hall. Miao Yi lifted his head to gaze at the seat on the high platform where a dozen corpses hung, swaying slightly in the chill wind. They were placed right over the prized Cave Master seat that he normally sat in.
The twelve handmaidens were all almost completely naked. Some of their exposed skins still had palmprints on them; some of their naked torsos were left uncovered with blood trickling down from their sensitive nether regions to pool at their feet. Some of the hung corpses even had their stomachs cut open, with their guts hanging and blood oozing out heavily...
Miao Yi's entire body was visibly trembling a little, his complexion turning white. His head was feeling numbed, and his eyes bulged in rage as his heart rate began accelerating; his chest heaved up and down with a burning sensation. He gradually clenched his fists until a cracking sound popped out.
Even if he hadn't had any experience with sex, he roughly understood the manner of humiliation these handmaidens had faced before death.
Although he wasn't experienced, it was obvious from the color of the bloodstains and the fresh traces of the collapsed buildings that this had only just happened not long ago.
Yao Ruoxian floated to his side and stared at the twelve corpses gently swaying in the chill wind. He also seemed to feel that this was really going quite overboard. Knitting his brows, he asked, "Who the hell did this?"
Miao Yi made no answer, except his complexion had already turned a ghastly shade of white. Charcoal brought him to step onto the ruins of the grand hall, circling under the ruined beams in order to identity each of their faces.
He knew all of them—they were all the handmaidens of East Arrival Cave, but he had yet to catch sight of the corpses of Qian'Er and Xue'Er; the ones he didn't want to see the most.
Yet, he still let out a furious roar at the heavens, "WHO DID THIS?! GET OUT HERE RIGHT NOW! I WILL SLAUGHTER YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY CLAN!"
The sound was like a sudden clap of thunder that shook the land—it resonated with a hum, so much that dust all over the debris began shivering wildly, appearing as though a layer of mist were forming.
A response quickly came from the distance. Face distorted in rage, Miao Yi turned to look. Yao Ruoxian quickly followed his gaze, only to see a lone rider leaping out from the mountain forest.
The person was none other than Yan Xiu, who had been looking everywhere for Qian'Er and Xue'Er. After hearing Miao Yi's voice, he had rushed back.
Covered in dust, Yan Xiu stared at Miao Yi in a daze, one hand carrying his broad axe whilst his other arm was wounded and marked with traces of blood. He looked battered and exhausted as he gradually came to a stop at the ruins.
Glistening tears began to gradually well up in Yan Xiu's reddened eyes. The Cave Master was still that Cave Master, and Charcoal was still that chubby Charcoal. Everything proved that the Cave Master had indeed returned—he had really came back, but his timing couldn't be any worse...
A chilling wind continued blow as specks of gray shadow began drifting down from the darkening sky.
Lifting his head to look, Yao Ruoxian extended his hand to catch the things that were falling—it was a snowflake that melted in his palm.
It was the first snowfall of the year, but judging from the scene before his eyes, it seemed to have come at an inopportune moment. Everything was cloaked in white, as if a funeral were being held—only serving to make the scene before him even more forlorn. It would probably make this brat tremble with cold, wouldn't it?