When Ye Fenghan stepped out of the palace, he was still slightly dazed. In his stupor, he had virtually no reaction when he saw Chang He waiting for him outside.
Chang He glanced at him, some confusion on his face. “Why do you look so strange? It’s like your soul was sucked out of your body. The Sect Master didn’t reprimand you, did he? But that’s impossible! You made such an important contribution……”
“No, I was rewarded. I just feel a bit tired right now is all,” Ye Fenghan replied hollowly, completely devoid of strength.
“Tired?” Chang He didn’t understand.
He wanted to probe further, but then suddenly realized that something felt off.
He sniffed the air like a dog. “This aura…… Heavens, you reached the Spirit Burning Realm?”
He emotionally grabbed Ye Fenghan by the collar. “Tell me, how did you reach the Spirit Burning Realm just like that?”
“The Sect Master personally guided me and helped me ascend,” Ye Fenghan replied helplessly.
Chang He trembled with excitement. “I knew it! I knew that you were going to be rewarded in other ways besides contribution points. But to think that he actually helped you break into the Spirit Burning…… the Spirit Burning Realm!”
“Not just that.”
Ye Fenghan’s words stunned Chang He. “What else is there?”
Noticeably exhausted, Ye Fenghan replied, “Apart from helping me ascend to the Spirit Burning Realm, the Sect Master also gave me the sixth level of the Flying Immortal Cultivation Techniques, a piece of spatial equipment, three vials of consciousness-strengthening medicine…… and the Seven Bloodline Microcosm Aspect.”
“Spatial…… equipment? Seven…… Seven Bloodline Microcosm Aspect?” Chang He’s jaw hit the floor in shock.
After Su Chen returned from the void, he had gathered a large group of Origin Formations and equipment construction experts, then used the Void Starmetal that he had gathered to construct a ton of spatial equipment.
However, this equipment was incredibly precious, and was normally only given to the higher-ups to use. Amazingly, Ye Fenghan had somehow managed to secure such a precious piece of equipment for himself. Just what kind of equipment was it?
Then again, compared to the Seven Bloodline Microcosm Aspect, a piece of spatial equipment was nothing.
The Seven Bloodline Microcosm Aspect was Su Chen’s most powerful invention to date. Its offensive and defensive properties were both extraordinary. Back when Su Chen had been at the Spirit Burning Realm, he had been able to levy the strength of the Seven Bloodline Microcosm Aspect to withstand the might of a Sovereign. It was obvious from that just how powerful this Aspect was.
And now, he had handed it down to Ye Fenghan? At the rate things were going, Ye Fenghan would soon become a personal disciple soon.
How could Chang He not feel stunned and jealous?
Ye Fenghan, however, sighed. “But he gave me a condition.”
“Condition? What condition?” Chang He began to calm down when he heard this.
“The Sect Master asked me to head towards Nightmare Forest as part of an advance scouting squad.”
So that’s how it was.
The events at Ringed Corridor Plains had given Su Chen quite a bad scare.
He could afford to not worry about himself, but the same could not be said for the Boundless Sect.
If the Ringed Corridor Plains already contained a formation powerful enough to nearly single-handedly exterminate the Boundless Sect, then what kinds of surprises were waiting in Nightmare Forest, Specter’s Garden, Damaged Canyon, Reaper’s Temple, and Wanlai Caves?
Su Chen was forced to be careful.
This was also one of the reasons why he had summoned Ye Fenghan.
He had given him many benefits and rewards because he was also entrusting an important duty to him.
The Nightmare Forest was another one of the Astrals’ natural forbidden territories.
It was possible that, like Wind Silence Breach, it wouldn’t pose a threat to the Boundless Sect. However, it was also possible that, like Ringed Corridor Plains, it only appeared harmless while actually being filled with incredible danger.
It would take some investigation to determine which was which.
In any case, what had happened at the Ringed Corridor Plains had taught Su Chen an important lesson, forcing him to take the Astrals seriously. He was planning on sending a sizable number of disciples behind enemy lines to get a handle on the actual situation.
On the other side of the war, news of the human invasion had finally reached the ears of the Gloom Kingdom.
Within Wanlai Caves.
This place was on the extreme north tip of the Primordial Continent, and was completely frozen no matter the season, making the ground extremely hard. More amazingly, the ground here had a high capacity for absorbing Origin Energy, making it incredibly difficult for even an Ultimate Emperor Realm cultivator to damage it.
Despite the ground’s durability, a massive cavern had been carved out beneath the resilient ground.
Yes, the Astrals’ Gloom Kingdom had been built here.
The bulk of the city was underground, roughly five thousand feet below the center of Wanlai Caves. The walls of the city were made entirely out of dark green stone, which possessed a similar Origin Energy absorption properties as the ground, and thus also its resilience. In terms of pure defensive power, these walls were no weaker than Sky City’s.
Gloom City also had another unique advantage, which was that its surrounding environment was incredibly complex.
Any invasion force that wanted to attack Gloom City needed to dig underground to reach it.
This meant traveling through long stretches of underground tunnels.
The Astrals’ underground tunnel system was incredibly complex. In addition, it was so narrow that usually only one person could walk through it at a time. As such, a numerical advantage was completely nullified in this kind of terrain. To enter the underground world, all invaders needed to go through these tunnels one by one.
And the tunnels constantly branched off as well.
It was impossible to predict which tunnel led to the underground city. The tunnels had to be manually explored one by one.
If you guessed incorrectly, then running into fatal traps was inevitable.
And even if you managed to find the right path, you would be in even bigger trouble.
The Astrals had created countless secret caverns and numerous hiding spots within the tunnels, where Astrals, puppets, traps, or formations would lie in wait. Any invader that explored these tunnels would be subjected to a vicious barrage of attacks.
This was how Gloom City protected itself.
The ground itself served as a protective shell for Gloom City, and it was also layered with defensive Origin Formations that further diminished and blunted any attacks targeting the city.
This three-layered system of defense made Gloom City impossible to siege, and was why the Astrals had managed to peacefully exist here for tens of thousands of years.
Most of the time, the Astrals living there would remain within their own “coffins” and quietly conduct their own research, or sometimes, they would run off somewhere to gather more research subjects or for other reasons entirely.
Today, however, a strange bell interrupted the typical calm of Gloom City.
Bong, bong, bong!
As the bell’s rings pealed through the sky, all of the Astrals felt an urge tugging in their hearts, calling them to respond no matter how far away they were.
“This is……” Ulric raised his head from the book he had been carefully perusing. After a moment’s thought, he realized the significance of the tolls. “Total mobilization? These tolls must be from the bell meant to gather us, the Death’s Mourn Bell. It’s been a long, long time since I last heard this sound.”
Ulric muttered all this to himself quite calmly. The Astrals were far too used to long periods of isolation, to the point where Ulric had completely forgotten what the purpose of the Death’s Mourn Bell was for a short moment.
If the Death’s Mourn Bell was being rung, then a Death Conference would inevitably be hosted.
Death Conferences were held when all of the Astrals gathered together. In some sense, this was their supreme assembly.
Something big had definitely happened.
Ulric put his book away and stepped out of his house.
When he walked out, he saw the other Astrals around him floating towards the central plaza.
“Hey, Ulric, do you know what happened?” asked an Astral who stopped in front of him.
“Sorry, I don’t know either.” Ulric shook his head.
“I don’t, but I have a bad feeling about this. The ringing of the Death’s Mourn Bell is probably not going to bring us good news this time.”
“Sorry, but has the Death’s Mourn Bell ever been the bearer of glad tidings? Why have I never heard of that before?”
“This time is different! This time is different,” the Astral replied solemnly.
Faint chains appeared around his translucent body due to the agitation and anxiety that he was feeling.
“Calm down!” Ulric said comfortingly. “No matter what happens, time will smooth everything over.”
“May the Immortal preserve us!”
The two Astrals prayed for a moment before falling silent and heading for the central plaza.
When they reached their destination, they found that the plaza was already crammed with Astrals, with more still on the way.
The Astrals were all used to living solitary lives. Under normal circumstances, it was rare for even ten Astrals to gather together.
After another period of time, no more Astrals appeared to be floating in this direction, which meant that almost all of them had arrived on the scene.
A low, gravelly voice descended from the sky. “My fellow Astrals.”
“Menelaus the Wise!” all of the Astrals responded in unison.
An Astral slowly came into view at the center of the plaza.
Fog was obscuring his figure, making it difficult to see the Astral’s face. Even so, the powerful waves of consciousness energy emanating from his body left no doubt that this was their leader, the king of the Astrals: Menelaus the Wise.
Menelaus gravely said, “There is some bad news that I must tell you all…… The humans are invading.”
So they were under attack from the humans?
This didn’t surprise the Astrals very much. After all, the sounding of the Death’s Mourn Bell was often related to such invasions, so this announcement merely confirmed their suspicions.
But a human invasion was not that big of a surprise. Was it really necessary to call a Death Conference just for this?
Menelaus very quickly answered this secondary question for them.
“By the time we received news, the humans have already taken over the Ringed Corridor Plains.”
This second piece of news stunned the Astrals.
This rate of advancement was simply too fast. News had only just reached Gloom City, but the humans had already taken over the Ringed Corridor Plains. And the Ringed Corridor Plains itself were quite important. The Astrals had spent an incredible amount of time and energy to set up the Origin Formation within it. In the Astrals’ eyes, the Ringed Corridor Plains should have stalled out any possible enemy offensive. No invader would want to continue advancing after taking that kind of a beating.
But why hadn’t the giant formation taken effect?
As the Astrals murmured and discussed amongst themselves, the ambient consciousness fluctuations spiked a few hundred times in magnitude.
A powerful will interrupted the conversation. “Enough! The news has already been confirmed. There is no need to doubt the veracity of this statement any longer. The main debate now is how we should respond.”
“How else can we respond? We will of course fight them to the end!” some Astrals cried out.
The Astrals were cold-blooded, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have a temper.
If the humans dared to invade, then they would get a taste of the Astrals’ full strength!
“I need to draft an army that can stop them before they reach Reaper’s Temple,” Menelaus continued.
That was the main goal of the Death Conference.
To draft an army.
Individual Astrals were quite powerful, and all of them were capable of fighting. However, this was also why they had no official standing army.
Every time a large battle was about to commence, the Astrals would organize themselves into an army, and then return to their original roles at the end.
To the Astrals, this was already something they were quite used to.
“We are at your command!” all of the Astrals replied simultaneously.
“If that’s the case, then General Memnon will be in charge of repelling the human invaders.”
“As you command,” an Astral loudly responded. The other Astrals didn’t respond at all.
The Astrals made their own decisions in battle, so there wasn’t much point to having a leader in battle. And given their innate apathy towards social class and status, choosing a commander was done even more casually.
Now that a leader had been chosen, Menelaus then said, “All Astrals will report to General Memnon, with the exception of the elders. We will meet separately to further discuss our plans.”