The morning sunlight was gentle and enchanting in Great Scarlet Mid Region, but it was tinted with the redness of blood. The arrival of Jiang Chen's mighty army trapped everyone inside the territory like ducks in a barrel.
"Ole Gold, I've raised you for so long, now it's time for your clan to get to work." Jiang Chen summoned the Goldbiter Rat King.
With an uncanny, bloodthirsty smile, the rat king responded, "Young lord, just sit back and watch the show."
"Don't be in such a rush," Jiang Chen admonished. "Take your clan and surround the capital. Anyone who enters or leaves is to be viewed as wanting to go down with the imperial family."
"Young lord, can't we just kill everyone?" The rat king was slightly disappointed. He had hundreds of millions of descendants. It would be quite a feast if they made it into the capital. In fact, they were already champing at the bit to do so.
Jiang Chen shook his head. "Your only mission is to seal off the city unless I say otherwise. Of course, kill anyone who resists!"
His words dampened the rat king's hopes. Reality seemed a bit off from expectations.
"Ole Gold, don't be impatient. You'll have your killing. I'm only worried about indiscriminate slaughter of common people."
Although Jiang Chen had come for revenge, it was directed to those in power and not civilians. Cultivators were a bloody breed, but even so, killing innocents was a sin against the heavens. This was a principle that Great Scarlet Mid Region had also mostly observed when it'd invaded Myriad Domain.
"Hehe, be at ease, young lord. Mortals taste really bland. We only eat cultivators." The rat king chuckled merrily.
"Be off!" Jiang Chen ordered with a wave of the hand.
"Yes, young lord!" In high spirits, the delighted rat king prodded the Millionditch Stonenest. The Goldbiter Rats poured out of it in a torrent.
They used to number more than three hundred million strong, but as the mighty preyed on the weak, only a hundred million or so were left. But those left were far more powerful than before, especially the rat king and a few handpicked elites.
Of course, individual strength wasn't the most terrifying thing about them. With their numbers, no obstacle could stand in their path.
Several dozen miles away from the capital, Goldbiter Rats surged towards the city walls from every direction. An ominous carpet of rats writhed in a radius around the capital. Just a glance at the dark, squirming flood was enough to scare someone out of their wits.
The Jiao brothers looked at each other, their astonished eyes hiding a hint of fear. They'd been lucky when Emperor Pillzenith hoodwinked them into attacking Sacred Peafowl Mountain. They might have ended up as rat food even without the offense from the wandering great emperors.
But for the Peafowl Guard and other subordinates that Jiang Chen had brought on the campaign, their scalps tinged with numbness at the sight. Even if they knew the rats were on their side, their blood still ran cold at this chilling spectacle.
As the core area of the empire, Great Scarlet's capital was tightly guarded at all times. In the currently tense atmosphere, defenses at the city's four gates had been further strengthened.
At the southern gate, a guard captain asked his vice-captain, "What the hell, do you hear something?"
The vice-captain listened carefully and then nodded. "I think so. It sounds like rumbling drums? Are we under attack?"
"Drums? Impossible! Do you think we're in a battlefield?"
"What is it then?" The vice-captain froze. "It's coming closer and closer. It sounds like an earthquake. What's going on?"
They could feel the ground shaking under their feet now. The vibrations weren't big, but the tremors were particularly intense. If felt as if the earth had ruptured somewhere far away and the fissures were creeping closer and closer.
"Go check it out!" The captain shouted with a frown. "Brothers of the third city battalion, listen carefully! We're entering emergency mode!"
"Hurry, tell the brothers at the inner gates to be prepared!"
The captain shot forward while issuing commands. As the leader of the third battalion, he had to take the lead and scout the situation.
After a few leaps, he landed on an elevated spot and gazed into the distance. He almost lost his footing when his eyes focused on the source of the tremors. He stiffened as if struck by lightning. He stared incredulously at the… something surging and roiling from the distance. He couldn't distinguish what it was yet, but it was surely some sort of monster that was coursing their way like a river crashing through a broken dam.
At this rate, it would reach the city gates within a quarter hour.
"What!? Is that a beast tide?" The captain regained some lucidity after momentary stupefaction. He locked his eyes forward, afraid to move forward. "Wait, something's not right. We've never weathered a beast tide even with all the mountains in the area. A tide would also have to pass through many places before reaching the capital, so we should've received ample advance warning."
As it rumbled closer, he finally managed to discern the nature of the torrent.
It was indeed beasts.
They didn't look very big, the largest ones were human-sized at most while the smallest ones were the size of a foot. Each of the monsters had a tail and sharp teeth. Their fur was as smooth as a mirror. Their advance wasn't fast, but… there was so many of them that a glance at their density was enough to kill someone with a phobia of dense crowds!
There were simply too many of them! A single look prompted shudders of horror.
"Rats! It's rats! How can that be? I've never heard of a rat tide ever happening in Great Scarlet. Is it a sign of great changes afoot? Are more and more strange things going to happen?" The captain didn't linger any longer and sprinted back. "Hurry, have someone inform the higher-ups. There's a rat tide incoming, it'll wash over us within a quarter hour!"
"Rat tide? Captain, could you be mistaken?"
"Stop the bullshit and just go!" The captain roared like a rampaging lion. "Call anyone you can, put in a request for the highest level of alert. This rat tide will swallow the capital whole if we don't stop it!"
Although skeptical, the soldiers didn't dare waste any time after their captain's urgent yell. They snapped to solemn attention. The vice-captain volunteered. "I'll warn our brothers in the other battalions. Captain, our gates are tall and sturdy, they can withstand anything as long as it's not those people from Veluriyam Capital."
"Cut the crap! Sturdy gates and thick walls won't be enough. Hurry up or nothing will be left alive in the city in three days!"
Seeing the seriousness of the situation, the vice-captain immediately made for the other gates.
"Rat tide coming! Rat tide coming! Cultivators, be ready for battle! Any civilian who can help, please do so. If you can't, go back home and stay there! This isn't an exercise! I repeat, this isn't an exercise! Rat tide alert! Rat tide alert…" The vice-captain hollered warnings as he ran.
Those on the busy streets looked at him like they were looking at an idiot. However, many became worried when they saw his appalled face. Someone suddenly yelled. "Everyone be quiet. I think I hear something!"
"Ah, is it just me or is the ground shaking?"
"I can hear it, it's like an avalanche. Is it really a rat tide?"
"Oh no, a rat tide is coming!"
Fear and panic were the most infectious of diseases. In seemingly a few breaths' time, they spread throughout every nook and cranny of the capital, leaving chaos in their wake.
The vice-captain had finished relaying the news up the chain of command. Step by step, the information reached higher and higher in the upper echelons of the capital.
"Grave news, Your Majesty. A rat tide has been spotted at the the southern gate."
"Bad news, Your Majesty, the northern gate has also noted a rat tide."
"Rat tides incoming at the eastern and western gates as well. We're completely surrounded, there's simply too many of them. They'll reach us in five minutes!" A torrent of bad news filled the emperor's ears within the palace.
The immensely irritated ruler suddenly shot to his feet and smashed his teacup. "Rat tide? How can a rat tide materialize out of nowhere?"
Understanding flashed through Old Guo's eyes. He ventured, "Your Majesty, there's never been a rat tide in Great Scarlet history. It must be Veluriyam Capital… They're already here."
Before the emperor could reply, a menacing voice boomed in the air above the capital.
"Attend, people of the Great Scarlet capital! A debt must be repaid, a grievance must be avenged. This young lord has come today to settle a score with the Great Scarlet emperor. Innocents will not be harmed. You'll be safe as long as you stay home. But if you choose to side with the tyrant, I will turn this place into a ghost city with a snap of the finger!"