Huo Yuhao gradually felt the weakness disappear. Electrolux seemed to have finally gathered enough strength, and the golden runes began to appear faster and faster. The Snow Lady was gradually engulfed in a layer of golden light, while her divine sense was magically stabilized.
Huo Yuhao could sense that the transparent pearl below his navel was now encased in a layer of gold energy, the entirety of the pearl's strength restrained by it.
It was a very strange feeling. It was as if a force on the brink of collapse had been frozen in that state. The Snow Empress' expression had also become calmer. Her aloof demeanor was much gentler now.
Something weird seemed to have been etched into Huo Yuhao's heart, and he slowly shut his eyes. He didn't know what had enabled him to become enlightened, but he slowly became immersed in his Spiritual Sea and entered a deep meditative state.
Within the Illustrious Virtue Hall.
Jing Hongchen grit his teeth as he stood in the underground base. Everything in front of him was simply too startling.
The entire underground base was a complete mess. Less than a third of the costly laboratory desks were still in working order; the rest had been completely destroyed, leaving all sorts of rare metals strewn about. The underground base was in tatters.
Jing Hongchen was most depressed by the fact that the underground base was beginning to show signs of instability as a result of the intense battle that had ensued earlier. Luckily, it wasn't beyond salvaging. He immediately instructed his people to solidify and stabilize the base's foundations before they did anything else.
The Illustrious Virtue Hall had never been hit so badly before. The material damages it had sustained would be astronomically costly, and then there was the lives they'd lost. The Illustrious Virtue Hall didn't even belong to him; it was the soul tool research base for the entire Sun Moon Empire! It also had to bear the responsibility of developing advanced soul tools. Even with his current status in the Sun Moon Empire, he'd still be held responsible for such a grave matter. He was bound to receive pressure from the imperial family for this.
"Body Sect…Body Sect!" Jing Hongchen was enraged. His attempt to pursue them hadn't achieved anything. Halfway through one of the tunnels, Du Busi had collapsed the tunnel behind him while they were chasing them, which had allowed the Body Sect the chance to flee the area.
Jing Hongchen immediately commanded the military to lock down the entire city. However, he knew that this wouldn't work. With the Body Sect's abilities, how would the military be able to stop them?
"Hallmaster." Lin Jiayi's voice trembled as he walked up to Jing Hongchen. Jing Hongchen lowered his head to look at him.
"What's the situation?" Jing Hongchen attempted to calm down.
Lin Jiayi lowered his head and answered, "The warehouse is still fine—we didn't really lose anything. All of the advanced soul tools in storage are intact."
Jing Hongchen heaved a sigh of relief after hearing Lin Jiayi's words; at least there was still some good news. It seemed that the Body Sect's target had been the hundred thousand year soul beast embryo, and that they'd employed their entire sect to launch a surprise attack on them. Jing Hongchen was determined to take revenge.
"However…" Lin Jiayi's next word caused Jing Hongchen to tense up.
He glared at Lin Jiayi, "'However' what? Don't stutter, speak clearly."
Lin Jiayi grit his teeth. His voice trembled as he said, "However, Test Subject 1 is missing…"
"What?" Jing Hongchen felt as if his vision had suddenly gone dark. His body shook, and he almost toppled to the ground. Lin Jiayi quickly moved to support him.
Jing Hongchen felt as if the sky had just collapsed. He was panicking, and was extremely upset now.
"Repeat what you just said." Even Jing Hongchen's voice was trembling this time.
Lin Jiayi's voice continued to tremble as he said, "Test Subject 1 is missing."
Jing Hongchen cursed, spat out a mouthful of fresh blood, and then collapsed into Lin Jiayi's arms.
What was Test Subject 1? It was the pinnacle of the Illustrious Virtue Hall's research on soul tools! Even though it was only half-complete, it was the essence of the Sun Moon Empire's research on soul tools over the past few thousand years!
Jing Hongchen face had become pale and his eyes were now full of fear as he looked at Lin Jiayi. He could get away with the fact that the Illustrious Virtue Hall had suffered a great amount of damage in this incident, but he couldn't bear the consequences brought about by the theft of Test Subject 1. This was something that threatened the entire empire's safety!
He took in a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. After a moment, he asked, "Who else knows about this?"
Lin Jiayi shook his head hurriedly and said, "I personally went to Laboratory 1 to check. I sealed the door to the lab and changed the door's passcode the moment I discovered that it was missing. I immediately came to report it to you."
Jing Hongchen finally managed to calm himself down and said, "Good job. No one else can know about this."
"Alright." Lin Jiayi hurriedly answered. Jing Hongchen's face was currently half-red and half-white. His hatred towards the Body Sect had reached a peak. His only hope right now was that Test Subject 1 was too difficult for anyone to use—that its technology was too advanced. If it were to be stripped apart, the explosive device within it would immediately detonate. This was a theft prevention plan they'd implemented, and right now, it seemed that doing so had been the right choice.
Even so, the metals they'd lost were still extremely valuable. Fortunately, the Illustrious Virtue Hall was greatly autonomous. So long as this matter wasn't exposed, there was still a chance that they could resolve it quietly.
Jing Hongchen forced his body to straighten up, somehow managing to maintain his cool despite the critical situation.
"Lin Jiayi, instruct everyone who was present today to keep their mouths sealed. Anyone that dares to leak news of the incident will be executed, no exceptions.
"Send people to every single auction houses, including those in the empire. Have them monitor any and all higher-level auctions. If Test Subject 1 is discovered, retrieve it at all costs.
"Finally, use the Illustrious Virtue Hall's name to send a mission out to all mercenaries and assassins: Kill anyone from the Body Sect and you'll be heavily rewarded."
Jing Hongchen paused for a moment, then said, "Besides the injured Illustrious Virtue Hall disciples, all remaining Illustrious Virtue Hall members are to aid in restoring our underground base. Help me inform the elders that we'll need them to beef up the Illustrious Virtue Hall's defenses as well. No further flaws will be accepted. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Lin Jiayi answered hurriedly. He was relieved that Jing Hongchen had regained his reason.
Jing Hongchen seemed to have thought of something, and asked anxiously, "How're the exchange students from Shrek Academy? Especially Huo Yuhao. Were any of them hurt?"
Lin Jiayi knew that Jing Hongchen would ask him this question, thus had done his homework beforehand.
"Fan Yu and He Caitou are currently out for an experiment, thus they weren't in the underground base. Most of the rest were also outside of the experimentation zone; the initial explosion didn't affect them. They were all very sly, and managed to swiftly retreat to a safe place where they didn't have to participate in the battle. Some of them are injured, but their injuries aren't serious. Huo Yuhao is one of them. Our healing-type soul engineers have already checked on him. Even though he's unconscious, he isn't critically injured. He must've suffered a concussion; he just needs some time to recover."
Jing Hongchen heaved a sigh of relief and said, "That's good. If anything had happened to the Shrek students, it would've caused even more trouble. They have to be well taken care of—nothing can happen to them."
Lin Jiayi hesitated for a moment before saying, "Hallmaster, do you think it's possible that this attack was some sort of collusion between Shrek Academy and the Body Sect? How else could the Body Sect accurately know the position of our underground base—especially where Test Subject 1 and the hundred thousand year soul beast embryo were? They even managed to release the hundred thousand year soul beast embryo. I'm afraid that there's a mole!"
Jing Hongchen glared at him and said, "Idiot. Don't I know that? However, Shrek wasn't involved. Is your brain empty? Does anyone from Shrek Academy know where our hundred thousand year soul beast embryo is? None of them can even enter the core region of the Illustrious Virtue Hall. Furthermore, we have Huo Yuhao with us. Shrek Academy wouldn't be so stupid. They might mock us for this incident, but it wasn't their doing. And do you really think that they're that close to the Body Sect?
"Alright, quickly pass down my instructions. We need to minimize the effects of this incident. I'll head to the palace immediately; It seems that I need to pay the Crown Prince a visit after all. It's really heaven's will!" Once he'd finished speaking, Jing Hongchen quickly walked away.
Even though the Illustrious Virtue Hall was doing its best to suppress the news, how could such a huge matter be concealed?
The matter had been made known to the entire continent after just a few days. Although the Sun Moon Empire's officials didn't reveal who the perpetrators had been, the Illustrious Virtue Hall's murderous mission towards the Body Sect clearly indicated who the mastermind behind the attack had been.
The entire continent shook from the news, and the other empires were jubilant at the news. Even though they didn't know how much damage the Illustrious Virtue Hall had suffered, it was a good thing for them no matter what!
The Sun Moon Empire's Emperor was enraged when he learned about the matter, and his physical condition worsened as a result. Jing Hongchen was severely punished as a result: his Dukedom was revoked. If not for Xu Tianran, his punishment would've been even more severe.
The prices of advanced soul tools on the continent dropped significantly following this, while the prices of rare metals soared. The exchange of rare metals suddenly became much more prevalent.