On that day, Lin Mengze received a piece of news that dealt him the greatest blow since the war had begun.
The soldiers at Southern Cloud Gate had been defeated!
Half of the hundred-thousand-strong army had been wiped out, while a majority of the rest had surrendered. Less than a thousand had made it back alive.
The reason this had happened was because the main force of the Boundless Sect had returned.
Li Chongshan led them into battle, dealing Lin Mengze a harsh blow.
From that day onwards, the situation in Long Sang Country began to change. Long Sang’s armies suffered defeat after defeat, while the Boundless Sect began to triumph.
No one knew the full extent of the Boundless Sect’s strength while they were off in the Abyss, but after they had returned, they were putting it on full display to all the human kingdoms.
Twenty thousand Light Shaking Realm cultivators and thousands of Spirit Burning Realm cultivators. This number was shocking and threw the Seven Kingdoms into an uproar.
The Boundless Sect steamrolled their way over the Long Sang soldiers, who could do little more than flee. Even Lin Zuiliu, who was sitting at the southern border, found an opportunity and was revitalized, allowing him to push back and sandwich Long Sang’s armies between him and the Boundless Sect.
Actually, whether the Boundless Sect had Lin Zuiliu’s aid didn’t really matter. At this point, they were more than strong enough to challenge an entire country. Lin Zuiliu’s sandwiching was more akin to trying to fight the Boundless Sect for their territory and benefits.
As the two parties began their conquest, the Boundless Sect had a clear advantage due to their greater manpower.
As the Boundless Sect marched onwards, they continued to swallow up Long Sang’s territory.
Notably, the Boundless Sect was not heading straight for Long Coiling City.
They were in no hurry to attack Long Coiling City. Instead, they expanded their reach rapidly in all directions, allowing them to quickly swallow up large swathes of territory.
As such, the Boundless Sect’s expansion was extremely lateral in nature. Every step they took, they would completely swallow up any of the other cities in their path. Their advance was not like a spear; instead, they were more like a tsunami sweeping across Long Sang Country.
This created a clash between them and Lin Zuiliu.
The two of them had originally been working in tandem, one from the north and one from the south.
However, the Boundless Sect’s wanton devouring of Long Sang’s territory stopped Lin Zuiliu’s advance in its tracks.
On a map, the Boundless Sect was at the bottom left-hand corner, while Lin Zuiliu was at the bottom right and Lin Mengze was in the center.
The Boundless Sect’s expansion was beginning from that bottom-left hand corner, and they were sweeping across the boundaries of the map. By the time that they claimed the center, they would have claimed almost all of the map. They had basically divided up the map into two, with the Boundless Sect controlling the central portion.
And Lin Zuiliu would definitely need to pass by the territory belonging to the Boundless Sect on his way forwards.
He discovered that his troops were actually unable to advance.
The Boundless Sect refused to let him pass!
“What did you say?”
Lin Zuiliu smacked the table and leapt to his feet. The messenger quailed at his feet and replied, “The other party said that no one is allowed to enter the Boundless Sect’s territory. If we want to attack Long Coiling City, they asked that we please go around.”
“Go around? They’ve claimed the entire central region of Long Sang already. Where am I supposed to go around through?” Lin Zuiliu roared angrily.
“Ravager territory,” a voice replied. The speaker was a pale-faced, clean-shaven middle-aged man. His name was Li Ming, and he was Lin Zuiliu’s advisor.
“What?” Lin Zuiliu stared at Li Ming in shock.
Li Ming said, “The Boundless Sect is obviously doing this both to seize their own territory and also force us to go by way of the Ravagers instead.”
“Why would they do that?” Lin Zuiliu asked.
“Because of the Flowing Gold Fort,” Li Ming replied.
Lin Zuiliu understood.
Even though Long Sang Country was in chaos, and their armies had taken a significant hit, there was still one branch of troops whose strength as largely preserved - the soldiers stationed at the Flowing Gold Fort.
This group of soldiers, who were responsible for handling the Ravagers, were originally supposed to be redeployed to deal with the Boundless Sect and Lin Zuiliu. However, because Long Pojun had stirred up some unrest amongst the soldiers there, only a few ended up being redeployed. Most of the soldiers had remained there.
As such, the soldiers stationed at the Flowing Gold Fort were the only group of soldiers whose strength was mostly intact.
Of course, regardless of how powerful they were, they were incapable of facing off against the Boundless Sect in a head-on battle.
A powerful entity like the Boundless Sect was already capable of challenging an entire country, while Flowing Gold Fort merely contained a small fraction of the strength of an entire country.
Even so, the Boundless Sect didn’t necessarily want to have to deal with the Flowing Gold Fort.
Li Chongshan, Chu Yingwan, and the others were all raised there, and they possessed an innate connection with the place. Long Pojun had also made it so that place was still unstained with the blood of Boundless Sect disciples. As such, they were hoping to be able to get the Flowing Gold Fort to surrender peacefully.
They had already tried to do this earlier.
Unfortunately, they had failed.
They had their own system of values. Even though Lin Mengze had let them down, and they could ignore his orders, they would not casually surrender and become traitors.
In fact, the opposite was true. When Lin Mengze held the advantage, the Flowing Gold Fort was unwilling to send out troops and fight. But when Lin Mengze had fallen into dire straits, the Flowing Gold Fort had finally decided to mobilize.
In their eyes, this was how a true soldier was supposed to behave.
True soldiers were not afraid of spilling blood for the sake of their own country.
They were not fighting for Lin Mengze, but for Long Sang Country.
Thankfully, the Flowing Gold Fort wasn’t completely iron-clad, so news of this had still managed to spread.
Li Chongshan, Shi Kaihuang, and the others weren’t willing to fight with the soldiers in the Flowing Gold Fort, so they thought of this plan. They would let Lin Zuiliu go through Ravager territory to distract the Flowing Gold Fort.
This would restrict the Flowing Gold Fort and prevent them from sending out soldiers against the Boundless Sect, and it would also keep Lin Zuiliu from taking too much of their territory.
Even though there had been no official rules written down, everyone had tacitly agreed that the territory seized belonged to whoever had seized it.
Lin Zuiliu was, of course, unwilling to do this, but since the Boundless Sect had claimed the entire central region of Long Sang, he had no choice but to go the way of the Ravagers. The Gravel Lizard Tribe had already taken over at this point and had gone to Gullan Castle, leaving the plains empty. Lin Zuiliu would be able to travel in and out as he pleased.
But just because the Boundless Sect was pointing out the way for Lin Zuiliu didn’t mean that he was willing to acquiesce so easily.
Now that he understood what the Boundless Sect was trying to do, his expression sank. “Send word to Li Chongshan and the others that Long Sang belongs to me. Sect Master Su promised me that himself.”
Li Ming said, “I’ve already done it, but I’m afraid that...... it won’t have any effect.”
Indeed, Li Chongshan very quickly replied.
The reply was quite lengthy and voluminous, but at its core was one message: the Sect Master had asked you to go and claim the country by yourself with the Boundless Sect’s support, so you cannot blame us for your failing to live up to your own expectations. The same principle still stands - any territory you have been able to claim on account of your own strength, we will not try and take from you, but don’t even think about taking what belongs to us.
And the message also didn’t forget to mention what had happened at Flat Order City.
Lin Zuiliu should have attacked in order to ease the burden on the Boundless Sect. However, he had selfishly chosen to delay in attacking, forcing Ye Fenghan and Chang He to assume his identity in order to push him into attacking.
This matter was a sore point in Su Chen and Li Chongshan’s hearts.
If you won’t uphold your end of the bargain, don’t blame me for not doing the same.
Put plainly, since he had acted in poor faith when the Boundless Sect had needed his aid, there was no one he could blame but himself for his current predicament.
Lin Zuiliu trembled with rage when he read this reply.
He had known that the Boundless Sect would retaliate sooner or later, but he hadn’t expected it to come so quickly, nor for it to be so harsh and shameless. Wasn’t he just a few days late in attacking? And now they had taken over the entire central region, making it impossible for him to attack?
Of course, he conveniently ignored the fact that, without the Boundless Sect’s sudden rise to power, he wouldn’t have even had the chance to counterattack.
The Boundless Sect had offered him this lone path. Whether or not he was going to take it depended on himself.
Lin Zuiliu fell silent.
After a long time, he said, “Send a letter to Li Chongshan. Tell him that I am willing to go by way of the Flowing Gold Fort, but that he must leave the land to the east of Long Coiling City to me! If he wants me to do things for him, he can’t insist I do it on an empty stomach, can he?”
The old thing was still somewhat cognizant of the situation. Now that the Boundless Sect’s influence had surged, it was going to be impossible for him to take over all of Long Sang on his own. As such, he requested that the Boundless Sect divide up Long Sang with him instead.
Li Chongshan replied very quickly.
Lin Zuiliu took his soldiers with him and set off for the Flowing Gold Fort.
But before he had even gotten on the road, he received a piece of news that further aggravated him.
The Moonkin had backed out.
Night Elegance informed Lin Zuiliu that the Moonkin had only ever wanted a place where they could survive.
Now that a large portion of the west had been taken over, there was more than enough room for the Moonkin to settle down given how few they were in number. As such, they no longer wished to keep fighting, hoping instead to be able to settle down and take care of themselves.
Even though Lin Zuiliu did his best to persuade them otherwise, the Moonkin had made their decision. Lin Zuiliu could only helplessly agree to their terms, but killing intent had already surfaced in his heart - he had decided that, after dealing with the Flowing Gold Fort, he would turn around and slaughter these backstabbing bastards.
Finally, his troops mobilized, going by way of the Sinister Marshes and the Bitter Joy Skyway to reach the Harvey Plains. From there, they headed straight for the Flowing Gold Fort.
The Flowing Gold Fort was primarily responsible for defending against the Ravagers.
The Ravagers had strong bodies and weak magic, so the Flowing Gold Fort’s defenses were extremely sturdy. However, they were significantly lacking when dealing with a powerful expert or a barrage of Origin Skills.
Lin Zuiliu was an Ultimate Emperor Realm cultivator, and he had brought five Thought Manifestation Realm and a few dozen Spirit Burning Realm cultivators with him. His subordinates were all quite proficient in unleashing Origin Skills as well. The Ravagers simply couldn’t compete in that regard.
And given the Flowing Gold Fort’s unsteady state and the fact that the Ravagers were no longer nearby, their defenses would definitely be lax. If Lin Zuiliu’s armies were to suddenly attack at night, it would definitely yield extraordinary results.
With this in mind, Lin Zuiliu and his troops pressed onwards to the Flowing Gold Fort.
After a few days, the Flowing Gold Fort finally came into sight.
Lin Zuiliu didn’t even let his soldiers rest for a moment and immediately attacked. Speed was of the essence, and Lin Zuiliu didn’t even want to wait for a minute.
Following the signal to attack, Lin Zuiliu’s soldiers rushed towards the Flowing Gold Fort’s walls.
The Flowing Gold Fort was obviously caught off-guard, and they weren’t even able to activate the barriers in time.
The trained soldiers rapidly scaled the fort’s walls, taking control of them and opening the gates before rushing towards the center of the fort to continue their slaughter.
Everything had gone so smoothly that even Lin Zuiliu couldn’t resist muttering in satisfaction, “My great ambition...... has been finally achieved.”
At that moment, a violent rumble could be heard as the city walls began to glow with light.
The defensive barriers had been activated.
Lin Zuiliu said disdainfully, “We’re already in the cities. It’s too late to activate the barrier.”
The Flowing Gold Fort’s defensive barriers were aimed outwards, not inwards. As soon as an invading force made it inside of the city, there was no point in activating them.
A moment later, however, Lin Zuiliu watched lightning and fire begin to fall from the sky as the barrier reached up towards the sky.
They were falling inside the fort.
This barrier was not intended to defend against outside invaders.
It was obviously designed to kill anything inside of the fort!
Lin Zuiliu felt his heart tremble.
Then, he heard a war cry surround him.
Soldiers came flying towards them from every direction, and figures could be seen flying through the sky - the very experts that he had recruited.
Lin Zuiliu felt himself grow weak at the knees.
Suddenly, he realized that he had fallen for a trap.
Li Chongshan wasn’t asking him to fight against the Flowing Gold Fort - he was treating Lin Zuiliu as food for the Flowing Gold Fort instead.
The two parties had definitely reached some kind of agreement beforehand.
At the same time.
Two people stood, floating high in the sky.
One of them had silvery hair, but his body was tall and sturdy, and a muscular aura emanated from his body. Even though he was old, it was obvious that he was a fighter through and through.
This person was the commander of the Flowing Gold Fort, Hong Qianzhu.
Beside him stood Li Chongshan.
“General Hong, Chongshan has fulfilled his duty. Lin Zuiliu has taken the bait,” Li Chongshan said.
Hong Qianzhu nodded. “The Flowing Gold Fort has done their duty, then.”
“General Long’s spirit can rest easy now,” Li Chongshan replied.
Long Pojun’s status amongst the Flowing Gold Fort was almost legendary. His death caused virtually all of the Flowing Gold Fort’s soldiers to hate Lin Mengze.
In Hong Qianzhu’s mind, defeating Lin Zuiliu was not only a task given to him by Long Sang Country so that he could demonstrate that they had not been idly sitting by. He was defending his country and giving the soldiers inside the fort an appropriate explanation.
And as for Li Chongshan, by using the Flowing Gold Fort to deal with Lin Zuiliu, he was not only able to dispose of an ally with unfathomable motives but also a competitor.
In this world, where the winner takes all, Lin Zuiliu’s dividing of the spoils was a cardinal sin.