After the Boundless Sect claimed Nightmare Forest for their own, they set up camp there and momentarily stopped their advance.
They stayed here for twenty days. It almost seemed as if the Boundless Sect had no intention of advancing.
No one knew what Su Chen was doing during this period of time, but because they held the upper hand so far, the Boundless Sect’s disciples peacefully settled down and licked their wounds without any complaints .
They had been constantly fighting for some time and now was a good time to rest anyways.
Time flew by. In the blink of an eye, ten more days had already passed.
On this day, Ye Fenghan was cultivating his Seven Bloodline Microcosm Aspect.
He was currently only capable of manifesting one Aspect — the Dream Beauty Aspect, which he had chosen due to his mission at the time, to explore Nightmare Forest as the vanguard team. The Dream Beauty Aspect increased his proficiency with illusions, allowing him to break out of illusions more easily. At higher levels, it would even be possible for him to substantiate illusions, allowing him to freely morph his appearance or influence other peoples’ six senses.
Ye Fenghan began to gather his strength, causing white fog to appear around his body.
This fog swirled around him in a slow vortex. Eventually, the fog condensed into a strange face that merged onto Ye Fenghan’s face. Suddenly, Ye Fenghan’s appearance had visibly changed.
His nose had grown larger, his eyes had shrunk, and his mouth had become slightly tilted. He had gone from a handsome young man to a plain and unassuming middle-aged man.
Ye Fenghan was quite satisfied when he glanced at his new appearance in the mirror.
This was one facet of the Dream Beauty Bloodline’s ability to substantiate illusions, which was changing his appearance. Rather than physically rearranging his facial features, however, this technique could be better thought of as one that constructed a mask of human skin that was placed on top of his face. Obviously, the latter was far less advanced than the former.
However, illusions created by the Dream Beauty Bloodline had one particular benefit — even though they couldn’t be extremely complex, they had a certain degree of “allure” to them that caused its flaws to be overlooked. In fact, any creature that saw Ye Fenghan’s appearance would probably want to believe that it was real. This was due to the Dream Beauty Bloodline’s influence, and its effect enhanced these typical illusions.
Of course, this effect was greatly diminished against the Astrals, which was why he had chosen to conceal his movements when exploring Nightmare Forest instead of disguising himself.
Due to this limitation, Ye Fenghan was slightly dejected when he realized that this tactic was nearly useless against the Astrals.
After a moment’s thought, he canceled the disguise and instead tried out another one of the Dream Beauty Aspect’s abilities: influencing the senses.
A Boundless Sect disciple just so happened to be walking by at that moment.
An idea came to Ye Fenghan, and he activated it, specifically targeting the unaware disciple’s vision.
The disciple continued walking until he was about ten feet away from Ye Fenghan. He stopped and then said, “Ye Fenghan, the Sect Master is looking for you.”
The Sect Master is looking for me?
Ye Fenghan asked with some surprise in his voice, “Do you know what it’s for?”
He hadn’t altered where his voice came from, so the other disciple glanced quizzically off to the side. “Hm? Why is your voice coming from over there if you’re standing here?”
Ye Fenghan chuckled. “Do you think that I can hit you like this?”
As he spoke, he unleashed a punch.
In the disciple’s eyes, Ye Fenghan had punched towards his side, but then he suddenly felt something hit his left arm.
This punch was not very powerful, but it did give that disciple quite a scare.
“What’s going on? How did you hit me?”
Then, he suddenly realized what had happened. “You’re manipulating my vision? You’re not right in front of me?”
He immediately concentrated his Origin Energy around his eyes and activated the technique that allowed him to detect Astrals.
However, Ye Fenghan’s position didn’t change.
What was going on?
His Astral Sight was actually ineffective?
Ye Fenghan chuckled again.
Indeed, sometimes the tier of the technique was more important than the technique itself.
Even though the Dream Beauty Bloodline wasn’t that effective against the Astrals, it was more than sufficient to be used against other Intelligent Race members.
The Boundless Sect disciple seemed to realize something after his Astral Sight had ineffective. “This must be a reward from the Sect Master, right? It’s quite impressive!”
Even though his tone sounded indifferent, his gaze was clearly filled with envy.
“I’m only at the stage of small success,” Ye Fenghan said in a satisfied tone as he removed the illusion, revealing his true location to the other disciple.
The disciple, to his credit, wasn’t annoyed at all and tossed Ye Fenghan a tablet. “Alright, enough horsing around. Don’t keep the Sect Master waiting.”
“Yes, I’ll go right away,” Ye Fenghan replied, continuing to chuckle to himself.
In a rare turn of events, Su Chen was actually not preoccupied with his research at that moment. Instead, he was carefreely picking flowers with Gu Qingluo and Zhu Xianyao.
Ye Fenghan approached Su Chen and respectfully greeted him. “Greetings, Sect Master.”
Upon seeing Ye Fenghan, Su Chen smiled slightly. “You did a very good job this time.”
Ye Fenghan hurriedly said, “You give me too much praise. The Astrals were the ones who abandoned the territory of their own volition. I do not dare take credit for that.”
“I’m not referring to our conquest of the Nightmare Forest, but rather how you allowed us to advance fearlessly by confirming that there were no dangers lurking within the depths of Nightmare Forest. Even though it may feel like your scouting expedition didn’t serve much of a purpose, ensuring that there was no danger is a serious contribution in and of itself,” Su Chen calmly explained. “The Astrals, like us, have survived for tens of thousands of years. Their foundation runs deep and cannot be underestimated. Even though the Boundless Sect has developed at a rapid pace in recent years, we should not expect to easily steamroll our enemies into submission. Otherwise, we will most likely suffer a gruesome fate.”
Su Chen paused momentarily before continuing. “The Astrals most likely voluntarily retreated from Nightmare Forest only because they didn’t see any chance to turn the tables on us. By that logic, they will next gather in the place that they believe will allow them to definitely secure victory. With this knowledge, we will be able to easily determine where the Astrals have setup traps and where they have not.”
He then lowered his voice. “The Astral armies have gathered near Specter’s Garden.”
Ye Fenghan immediately understood his meaning. “So Sect Master is saying that the Astrals believe that they will be able to win against us there. So they must have some kind of powerful trap waiting there for us, right?”
“Yes. But just knowing that they have a trap is not enough. We need to know exactly what it is. You did a very good job in Nightmare Forest, and I hope that you will continue to deliver impressive results. Of course, I am not forcing you to do this. Your actions have already more than repaid what I gave you earlier. You have the right to refuse my next request. So? Are you up to the challenge?”
Ye Fenghan understood what Su Chen was saying and boldly stood upright and saluted. “Just give me the word, Sect Master. This disciple is willing to head to Specter’s Garden and probe the Astrals there.”
Su Chen was not surprised by Ye Fenghan’s decisive reply and nodded. “Very good. However, Specter’s Garden is different from Nightmare Forest. Nightmare Forest’s trees had illusory properties and were primarily geared towards concealment purposes. Also, Nightmare Forest’s defenses were not fully activated during our previous battle. Specter’s Garden, however, will be densely populated by the Astrals and their army. It will likely be very difficult for you to sneak your way through as is, so we need to prepare adequately before you head out.”
As Su Chen spoke, he turned to nod at Zhu Xianyao.
Zhu Xianyao gestured with her hand. A transparent shadow slowly floated towards Ye Fenghan.
“An Astral!?” Ye Fenghan was badly startled.
“Yes, but he’s under Xianyao’s control and he serves her now,” Su Chen replied.
Ye Fenghan was stunned.
For tens of thousands of years, the Astrals had always been the ones doing the controlling. He had never expected to see the day where humans could take control of Astrals.
Even so, the irrefutable truth was before his eyes, and Ye Fenghan had no choice to believe it.
This was the effect of the Consciousness Refinement Art.
The Consciousness Refinement Art wasn’t a control technique in its own right, but it greatly enhanced the effects of all other control techniques. It was even capable of breaking down barriers and elevating the level of control.
Of course, it was still quite challenging to actually subdue an Astral.
To enslave this Astral, Su Chen had personally suppressed the Astral’s will, knocking its strength down a peg from mid-tier to low-tier. Then, Zhu Xianyao had spent nearly an entire month planting a consciousness seed with Su Chen’s direct help before finally succeeding.
This was precisely the reason why the Boundless Sect had stopped here for thirty days.
Now that their element of surprise had been lost, the only way forward was with an open confrontation. Speed was no longer a critical element in this war, and all they could do was carefully advance step by step.
“His name is Yanto, and is one of the Astrals responsible for managing the Nightmare Forest’s formation. After he was defeated in battle, he fled. I expended quite a bit of energy to help enslave him, and Xianyao sacrificed three years’ worth of her cultivation base to complete the technique. But this servant is worth it. From this day onwards, he will be your servant. Of course, on the surface, it will be the opposite.”
Su Chen’s meaning was quite apparent.
It seemed that Ye Fenghan would enter Specter’s Garden as a supposed prisoner. He would pretend to be Yanto’s slave, and Yanto would pretend to be his master.
Ye Fenghan thought for a moment, and then said, “I have a question.”
Su Chen chuckled. “Are you referring to the Heart Walls technique?”
“The Sect Master is truly insightful!”
Almost all of the Boundless Sect’s disciples cultivated an altered version of the Heart Walls technique that would automatically force them into a comatose state as soon as anyone attempted to enslave their consciousness. This was why the Astrals were completely incapable of enslaving any of the Boundless Sect’s disciples.
For Yanto to suddenly bring a Boundless Sect disciple back with him as a captive would definitely draw some suspicion.
And there was no way Ye Fenghan could pass for a slave that Yanto had claimed in the past.
Because any Astral familiar with Yanto would have met his slaves before. In addition, any puppet that lived in this area for a long time would lose their intelligence due to the influence of the Dark Qi, causing their faces to turn ashen and their skin and bones to harden like iron.
Ye Fenghan could only disguise himself as a new slave.
Su Chen had anticipated this issue a long time ago.
He calmly replied, “Don’t worry. I’ve already mustered the Subdued Sea Branch. They don’t cultivate the Heart Walls technique, so you can pretend to be one of them instead.”
After the battle at the Abyss had come to a close, the Subdued Sea Branch had been fully assimilated by the Boundless Sect. Apart from those who were staunchly loyal to the old command, who Su Chen allowed to return, most of the soldiers and officers had been grafted into the Sect. But because they were naval troops at heart, they were stationed near the sea to pioneer and claim more territory.
Because they didn’t need to face the Astrals, Su Chen had never taught them the Heart Walls technique.
Now, however, Su Chen had purposefully redirected a group of those soldiers on this campaign.
The reason for this was very simple: to give Ye Fenghan’s false identity some viable credence.
An entire army was being moved for a single person.
But Su Chen knew that it would be worth it.
Any sacrifice was bearable if he could find out what kind of tricks the Astrals were hiding up their sleeves.