In a large hall constructed from stone, a middle-aged Early-stage Soul King let out a belch of blood at the same time the mysterious soulbeast had been killed by the figure in black!
He whipped his head up with a bloody snarl and furious eyes. "My six-legged crocodile was killed! In the twelfth section of the eighth-kilometer point!!"
"They've snuck that far in already?!"
Several other people in the hall were letting out cries of surprise. "That has to be the Early-stage Soul King Qin Shu was talking about," Qin He stated, "if he's already at the twelfth section, then…loosen up the surrounding four section and reconcentrate them elsewhere. Have the soulbeasts corral the miners to the other sections and capture them! Don't let a single one escape!"
He turned to point at three Early-stage Soul Kings, "You three will head out at once to help with the capturing process. Don't let even a single one escape from here, even if it means destroying a section or two!"
The hall was basked in silence again once the three Early-stage Soul Kings left to fulfill their orders, but the silence lasted only for a short while before an elder next to Qin He spoke out. "We've confirmed the companion of Jing Wuying is deep in the mines, but Jing Wuying has yet to be found. Is…is it wise to let those three Soul Kings go?"
"Jing Wuying's goal is to stop the patriarch from breaking through no matter what. No matter how he hides, he'll end up in this cave eventually. All we have to do until then is to work hard to ensure the preparations are made…but he won't reveal himself so easily. If we find him, he'll be surrounded and will have to fight for some time to get here. That wouldn't be favorable for him.
"Our enemy is most skilled in the art of hiding. It's an impossibility for us to find him by normal means, so we must wait here and bolster our defenses until he reveals himself! Jing Wuying will be an opponent for us no longer when the patriarch breaks through! We just need to wait! And if he does nothing and waits for the patriarch to succeed, that'll be even more dangerous for him!
"So even though it seems like we're being forced to make do with these emergency measures, Jing Wuying is actually waiting for us to make a mistake! We hold the advantage right now! We must be patient and prepare!"
Qin He took a deep breath before he circled around to answer the main question the other elder asked. "We…have no choice but to send those three out! There'll be some people that'll make it out if only our Soul Exalts are scouring the mines. We need Soul Kings to ensure no fish escapes the net. But if they are unfortunate enough to come across Jing Wuying…"
The elders in the cave didn't need to hear the rest of Qin He's words to know what he meant.
"It is the honor of every man to sacrifice themselves for their family!! They know the danger and didn't shirk away nor refuse their duties! We should feel proud!"
Qin He sat back down after his speech to close his eyes and wait. Everyone else had a steel look on their face as they pondered the situation. Their anxiety had seemingly lessened a bit after all this. One by one, they sat down in order to try and prepare themselves for battle.
There was a single elder in gray robes that had been hiding in the corner. He had been listening to this conversation from start to finish with a 'calm' look, but his eyes were flashing with cold light. Strangely enough, it seemed like no one else in the cave had noticed him as they discussed what to do between themselves, allowing the elder to remain there in the corner and think…
Qin He's eyes flashed open a while later as a figure in violet came running towards the cave. Stopping in front of the entrance, the elder saluted towards one of the inhabitants. "Father, the first round of people have been captured!"
The elder who received the message snapped his head to look at Qin He.
"Bring them here!" Qin He nodded.
The messenger was someone from Qin Long's generation, Qing Lang. He was just a Late-stage Soul Exalt but was a core member of the family and responsible for overseeing the entire capturing process.
"Yes!!" Qin Lang replied at once.
Multiple soul cultivators were soon brought into the room to be strewn all over the ground. There were around thirty of them with most being Soul Ancestors.
When the last of the captured soul cultivators were put on the ground, the patriarch sitting at the center of the room finally opened his eyes.
It felt like a beam of fire had been lit up when he opened his eyes. The heat exuding from his eyes also contained some kind of thirst for blood. It was unknown what the elder was doing, but each of the captured people rose into the air around him and redistributed around the room in a peculiar 'pattern'.
When that was done, the patriarch turned his eyes to stare at the mysterious gray-robed elder in the corner.
"Start the Soul Fusing Array!"
The man responded at once the patriarch's emotionless words. His hands rose to chest-level to begin a series of confusing hand seals before grunting and slamming both hands onto the ground!
An eerie black light rose out from this elder before forming into the face of a snarling ghost. The palms of the elder drove deeper into the ground with a rumble before black lines started to show up on it!
The black lines had first appeared around the elder's hands before it dispersed across the ground. In the blink of an eye, ninety percent of the ground was covered up by markings and mysterious runic script. Qin He and the others were outside of the boundary, but the patriarch was seated at its center!
The white sand that had been covering the legs of the patriarch and ground around him was still there. The sand looked almost transparent with how the black light was shining beneath it. Going around in a circle, the light shot out from the ground to form a barrier that seemed to separate the patriarch and the floating soul cultivators and the outside.
A red light came shining out from the patriarch to envelop each of the people floating around him. All was calm for a second before his eyes narrowed and a wave of soulforce undulated out from him!
"Bang! Bang! Bang…"
There was a loud explosive sound as each person suddenly exploded into flames!
"Ah! Ah! Ah…"
And then screams rang through the cave!
The black light was shining even brighter now. It flickered for a moment before darkening in shade. Even the walls nearby were seemingly having bits of black light being pulled from it into the black barrier…
It took a while before the last of the screams was silenced. The black light dropped away to reveal the patriarch and several balls of fire. None of the soul cultivators could be seen anywhere, but left behind in the flames where they used to be was a black strand of light that struggled a bit before being pulled into the patriarch's body!
The patriarch trembled a bit whenever the black strands went inside of him, but the more noticeable effect was his aura. Each time the black strand went in, his aura…increased in strength!
And every time a strand was taken in, the flames would disperse and leave behind a shower of white stand to fall down and cover the ground beneath.
The white 'sand' wasn't just sand, it was…the bone ashes of the sacrificial people!