The earth trembled as the walls began to cave in, kicking up clouds of dust. The ground shook heavily as though there was an earthquake. Trapped inside, all seven of them invoked their arts and protected themselves, sweeping all the falling rubble away from their bodies.
Swoosh! Sixteen shields expanded and flew out, protecting them from all sides, including the ceiling, so the space around them somehow remained intact. However, it didn't stop the rumbling noises coming from all around them.
Small grains of dirt and rock cascaded down the gaps between the shields overhead. Dong Quan gasped, "These demons are trying to bury us alive!"
They were at least a hundred meters underground. If such a major cave-in were to crash down on them, they wouldn't be able to withstand it with their cultivation.
Tan Lao looked to Gu Sanzheng. "It seems like we won't be able to find them using the underground path anymore. We should head out!"
A trace of resentment flashed through Gu Sanzheng's eyes. He abruptly lifted his head to look at the ceiling and shouted, "Out of my way!"
The shields hovering overhead quickly spread out. The dirt and rocks above them were about to crash down when a sharp ringing noise suddenly echoed forth. Streaks of silver light instantly whirled around Gu Sanzheng akin to an inverted tornado. Dust and rubble flew about within the tiny space as the Thunderclap Flying Swords formed a tornado that ascended upwards like a drill.
Like a knife through butter, it ground the cascading rubble to dust. The tornado broke through the earth like a silver dragon. Gu Sanzheng quickly swept his sleeves and dusted the falling dirt off his clothes. Under the protection of the silver tornado, he leaped upwards. He nimbly bounded from one falling rock to another as he continued to ascend through the earth.
Tan Lao hurriedly followed behind. Dong Quan and the others were overjoyed. They never thought that Gu Sanzheng still had such a trick up his sleeves. They immediately followed after him.
Shooting stars streaked across the sparkling night sky. Within the dense forests of the mountain range, a loud boom suddenly erupted. A silver dragon had risen from the ground, spreading out dust and rubble from the mighty winds stirred by its ascent.
Beneath the silver dragon, Gu Sanzheng and the others leaped out as well. They gently landed on the ground and swept a cold gaze across the surrounding mountain range under the night sky.
The silver dragon spinning rapidly above them suddenly shot down, reverting back to streaks of silver light as they returned to the sword-case on Gu Sanzheng's back.
Dong Quan and the rest heaved a sigh of relief. They couldn't believe that they actually managed to force their way up a depth of a hundred meters underground just like that. They looked at Gu Sanzheng in awe.
There was a darkness in Gu Sanzheng's eyes. Garbed in battle armor and with a sword-case on his back, he stood proudly against the howling wind, the bright moon and starry sky hanging over his head. He swept a gaze at his surroundings.
If he didn't have some skill, how could he possibly put himself in such danger and enter the underground passage? This was the very definition of being bold and talented.
The Red Scarves Alliance forces were keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings. Suddenly, a Blue Lotus Eighth Grade Sword Deviate Sect disciple pointed to the distance and shouted, "Ye Xin, look! It's Senior Brother Gu's Thunderclap Flying Swords. They came out from over there!"
Ye Xin noticed it too. She turned her Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beast around and shouted, "Let's go! Follow me to the Alliance Master's side!"
The large army immediately galloped off.
After they met up with Gu Sanzheng's group, Ye Xin asked, "Have you vanquished Miao Yi?"
Tan Lao shook his head. "The demons on the island got in our way, and so we couldn't find him. This whole incident is very fishy."
Ye Xin raised an eyebrow, scanning their surroundings as she said, "These insolent demons. How dare they get in our way. If so, we shall purge them all!"
Suddenly, a voice from afar shouted, "Niu Youde! Come out and answer me!"
The members of the Red Scarves Alliance all opened their transcendence vision and looked towards the source of the sound. Under the silver radiance of the moon, dozens of figures appeared on the peak of a distant mountain. In the front, a black-robed man was pointing at them. Behind him stood two voluptuous women.
Niu Youde? Everyone was confused. They didn't know who this man was talking to, but from the direction his finger was pointing at, it seemed like he was talking to them.
The crowd looked around out of reflex. Even Gu Sanzheng and the others did the same. However, they didn't see anyone else besides themselves.
"I forgot. I should be calling you Gu Sanzheng now!" The black-robed man was none other than Hei Langjun. He barked, "Gu Sanzheng! Why won't you answer me?!"
'So he was talking to me. What did he mean by Niu Youde then?' Gu Sanzheng took a step forward, invoking his arts as he proudly responded, "I am right here. Who is the insolent fool who speaks so offensively?!"
Hei Langjun replied, "Gu Sanzheng. You killed Madam Wu Hua of my Jade Stream Manor, then infiltrated Brass Gong Fort and caused the death of its seventy-two Fort Masters. You even killed Commander Yuan. Do you plead guilty to these charges?!"
Everyone from the Red Scarves Alliance that didn't enter the underground passage all looked to Gu Sanzheng's group in shock. They never thought that they had already killed so many in the short time they were down there. Impressive indeed!
On the other hand, Ye Xin knew how powerful Gu Sanzheng's Thunderclap Sword Furnace was, so she was not surprised to hear what he did and felt that it was completely normal.
What Madam Wu Hua? What seventy-two Fort Masters? What Commander Yuan? Gu Sanzheng didn't know a thing about all these people. So many had died to his Thunderclap Flying Swords just now. How could he possibly know who the hell they were?
Gu Sanzheng scanned his surroundings. 'So this place is called Brass Gong Fort…'
However, there was something he didn't understand. It was understandable if he had killed that Madam Wu Hua and those seventy-two Fort Masters or whatever. As far as he knew, the Fort Masters of the Sea of Constellations was equivalent to Manor Lords. It was not completely out of the question for them to die to a Blue Lotus Ninth Grade cultivator like him. However, he wouldn't dare say he'd killed that so-called Commander. Commanders were Red Lotus experts on a par with Hall Masters. Logically speaking, it shouldn't be so easy to kill them. Was it possible that the crab spirit just now was that so-called Commander?
'That's not right. All the Yao Cores that we took just now were only First Grade Yao Cores. If we had killed a Red Lotus realm Yao cultivator, we should have gotten a Second Grade Yao Core. Did that crab spirit hold a high-ranking position merely due to its background?'
Gu Sanzheng thought that the chances of that happening were not completely implausible. Similar cases would often happen within the administration system of the Celestial Nation as well.
"So what if I killed them? What can you possibly do to me?" Gu Sanzheng scoffed, "So you are the demons who got in my way back in the cave just now. Since you dare to show yourselves, are you brave enough to battle me?"
Miao Yi's group followed Pi Junzi and came out from a secret tunnel. When he saw Gu Sanzheng's group had actually made it out, Miao Yi couldn't help clicking his tongue, and said, "This bastard is powerful indeed. Even after all this, they're still alive and kicking."
As he said this, the group then heard how Gu Sanzheng responded. The four of them couldn't help exchanging glances. Sikong Wuwei covered a hand over his mouth and tried to stifle his laughter as he said, "He actually admitted it himself. How can such a lucky thing happen? As the saying goes, you can escape the troubles sent from heaven, but you can't avoid the ones you bring upon yourself. Now he won't be able to wash this sin off even if he jumps into the ocean. This is quite interesting."
Miao Yi and his group couldn't stop snickering.
Pi Junzi was totally flabbergasted. Earlier on, he was worried that once Hei Langjun spread the news, the higher-ups would eventually come to get him to testify. Now, it was all good. The scapegoat had admitted it all himself. Pi Junzi wouldn't need to testify anymore.
On the mountaintop, when he heard what Gu Sanzheng said, Hei Langjun was fuming with rage and bellowed, "Gu Sanzheng, so it really was you! What insolence! Commander Yuan is the sworn brother of the master of my Jade Stream Manor. You killed not just my master's sworn brother, but his lady as well. You've already committed a grave sin. All the Yao cultivators participating in the Crusade will surely come after you. You can forget about leaving the Western Star Sea alive!"
When he heard this, Gu Sanzheng was even more confident that his conjecture was correct. 'It seems like that crab spirit did indeed have quite a bit of background.'
However, he was not afraid. As a participant of the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade, how could he show mercy because of the opponent's background? That wouldn't make sense. So what if he killed the guy? The only chance these Yao cultivators had for revenge was to kill him here in this Sea of Constellations. Otherwise, if Gu Sanzheng were to make it back alive, even if he didn't become a Manor Head of the system, would these Yao cultivators even dare to step foot into the Celestial Nation to settle the score with him then?
"Stop blabbering so much!" Gu Sanzheng pointed a finger at Hei Langjun and shouted, "Do you dare meet me in battle?!"
What Gu Sanzheng didn't know was that his words had greatly shaken the Yao cultivators. So this bastard was the Niu Youde who stirred up such a major commotion in the Sea of Constellations all those years ago. Whoever was able to capture this man or kill him would accomplish a great merit. With such a merit, they wouldn't need to wait for the Subjugation Crusade to end and could simply head straight to the Western Constellations Palace. Even if he didn't reward them heavily, Western Constellations Palace Master Fu Qing would surely help that person escape the Subjugation Crusade and grant them an early release. Given Fu Qing's background, such a thing could easily be done. Otherwise, who would heed the commands of the Western Constellations Palace ever again?
In that moment, the Yao cultivators looked towards Gu Sanzheng fervently. Standing arrogantly, Gu Sanzheng was still unaware that he had become a hot commodity in the eyes of the Yao cultivators.
"Insolence! What's there to be afraid of?!" Hei Langjun turned to his sides and shouted, "Attack!"
The dozens of forces beside him immediately leaped down the mountain and disappeared into the night.
Soon, among the trees before Gu Sanzheng's forces, the ground cracked as human figures started climbing out of the ground. Their expressions were dazed and their bodies covered in dirt. There were also several frail-looking dragon steeds. These figures brandished weapons and mounted the dragon steeds, then speedily charged towards the Red Scarves Alliance. There were about two hundred of them.
Several figures leaped over the hiding place of Miao Yi and the others. Miao Yi accidentally saw one of the figures with half of the flesh on his face missing, revealing the pale white skull underneath. There was also another dragon steed still charging towards the enemy despite missing a leg. He gasped, "Zombies? And undead dragon steeds?"
Pi Junzi whispered, "They are fiends and fiend dragon steeds. The fiends bear similarities to the zombies reanimated by Ghost cultivators and can be controlled by another to fight one's enemies. You can also kill them for their inner cores. The fiend dragon steed is very similar to the undead dragon steed as well."
Miao Yi finally understood. No wonder some of their clothes seemed familiar. They were obviously wearing the uniforms of a certain sect of the Celestial Nation's Fifth Earthly Branch. It seemed like these were all the cultivators who had stumbled onto this island and then reanimated into fiends.
On the other side, Gu Sanzheng summoned the Crystal-Armored Hurricane Beast and mounted it. With a wave of his hand, he shouted, "Red Scarves Alliance, heed my command! Attack!"
Tan Lao, Ye Xin, and Gu Sanzheng took the front charge. Their forces immediately galloped after them from behind.
Soon, the forces of the Red Scarves Alliance began clashing with the fiends within the dense forest before them.
How could these fiends contend against the Red Scarves Alliance given their dulled senses? Not to mention, they didn't have any armor artifacts protecting them either. Even if they originally did, they had probably been stripped of their artifacts already. These fiends were all treated as mere sacrifices for battle.
As such, the fiends were either knocked off their steeds with a single strike of the spear or split into two with a single slash of the sword.
However, what struck fear into everyone's hearts was that even when those fiends were chopped into two halves, as long as they could move their upper bodies, they would continue wielding their weapons and attack the Red Scarves Alliance's dragon steeds. They would hack off a leg from a dragon steed or simply slash at the dragon steed's belly.
Furthermore, even when those fiend dragon steeds had lost their riders, they would continue to charge into the Red Scarves Alliance's formation without any regard for their own safety. There was no reaction even when they were stabbed multiple times to the point where their stomachs bled, and their guts spilled out. They simply continued charging. Even when they were sliced in two and lying on the ground, they would open their jaws and bite crazily.
For a while, the Red Scarves Alliance was in disarray. Some of those without experience with such creatures suffered terribly because of them. Their eyes widened in regret as they fell, their souls forever at rest in the Sea of Constellations.
Soon, everyone became accustomed to the enemy and simply aimed to lop off their heads.
After this battle, those who made it back alive would attain the riches and glory found along the path of cultivation, as well as the experience that they had used fresh blood to trade for. That was why all those who could make it back alive from the Sea of Constellations Subjugation Crusade were the cream of the crop, seasoned by blood!