Even though the Reaper was strong, it had traded away its ability to regenerate. Thus, it only grew weaker and weaker as the battle dragged on.
After enduring the initial spike in difficulty, the inevitable conclusion to the battle drew near, and the advantage returned to the hands of the Boundless Sect.
Once the battle outcome was determined, the Astrals could also sense that the situation was quickly spiraling out of their control.
They mustered up a final wave of consciousness energy to disrupt the Boundless Sect’s forces before turning around to flee.
The Astrals were incredibly slippery and possessed all kinds of strange methods that allowed them to quickly escape from the battlefield. Even though the Boundless Sect had indeed triumphed repeatedly on this campaign, the actual number of Astrals that they had killed was limited.
There was nothing that Su Chen could do about this other than hope that, after reaching the Wanlai Caves, there would be nowhere left for them to run to.
Letting the Astrals flee also had its own silver lining: the conclusion to battles came about much sooner.
After losing the backbone of their army, the Astrals’ forces would inevitably collapse quickly.
Once the giant Reaper let out a desolate howl before crumbling to the ground, the Boundless Sect’s victory was all but confirmed, and yells of excitement and jubilation could be heard all throughout the region.
This was the most difficult battle that the Boundless Sect had fought to date.
More than three thousand of the Boundless Sect’s disciples had died in this battle, a tremendous loss for them.
On that day, the skies above Reaper’s Temple were filled with the sounds of grieving and mourning. The Boundless Sect’s disciples had all gathered together to stand vigil and remember the ones who had passed away.
Su Chen’s heart was incredibly heavy.
As he gazed at the gathered corpses, Su Chen muttered to himself, “I am beginning to wonder what the point to doing all of this is. I have already saved Xianyao, so there is not even a real reason for me to wage this war. If I had not, many of those who had died here today would have survived instead.”
“You can’t say that,” Li Chongshan said sincerely. “Don’t doubt the meaning of your actions just because blood was spilt on the battlefield. Do you still remember the vow that you made in the past? How you would fight to the bitter end for the sake of the human race’s rise to prominence?”
Su Chen stared intently at Li Chongshan. “Yes. Of course I remember.”
Li Chongshan placed his hand on Su Chen’s shoulder. “As long as you remember. Merely gaining strength is not the same as bringing the entire human race to prominence. There are far too many Intelligent Races to count, and in some sense, every one of them poses a threat to us, even the Oceanids. Only when we can proudly look down upon everything around us like the Arcanists did can we truly consider ourselves as having risen to prominence. No, we will do even better than the Arcanists. We will claim the Beasts’ territory as well and become the true rulers of this continent.”
Su Chen felt his heart jolt when he heard these lofty words.
Li Chongshan continued. “In order to accomplish this, we will need to keep fighting and wipe out enemy after enemy. And with every battle, blood will inevitably be shed. What happened today will likely happen again in the future, perhaps with even more casualties. You can feel sorrowful, frustrated, and be hard on yourself. However, you can never doubt yourself. You must understand that everything that you believe in and everything that you are doing is meaningful. You are not doing this to fulfill your agreement with Eternal Night; you are doing this for the sake of the human race’s future, to create a new dawn for all of us!”
“For the sake of the human race’s future, to create a new dawn for all of us,” Su Chen murmured to himself as his gaze once again filled with resolve.
It wasn’t that he didn’t understand these principles, but rather that the massive casualties of the Boundless Sect had impacted him greatly. As such, it was only natural that some self-doubt would creep in.
At that moment, what he had needed the most was for someone to tell him that he was doing the right thing.
Thankfully, Li Chongshan had taken on that responsibility.
As the former commander of the Heavenly Might Battalion, Li Chongshan had fought on countless battlefields. He knew exactly what supported the soldiers’ bloodied hands and kept them steady.
It was faith!
Without faith, any soldier would have been doomed a long time ago.
This was also why the soldiers in Flowing Gold Fort had been stirred up so much upon hearing that Lin Mengze had indirectly killed Long Pojun — he had betrayed their faith.
An army’s morale was absolutely critical, both for ones composed of commoners’ and ones of Origin Qi Scholars.
Powerful armies could only exist if their soldiers were willing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good. This holds true even today.
After Li Chongshan’s words sobered Su Chen up, he let out a long pent-up sigh as countless possibilities leapt through his mind.
Then, he smiled. “Yes, our goal is to raise the entire human race to prominence. It is indeed time to take the next step and make that a reality.”
“Hm?” Li Chongshan didn’t quite understand.
Su Chen, however, raised his hand and began to draw out some characters in the air.
Two letters took shape in the air. Su Chen picked them up, and then handed them to Li Chongshan. “Have two disciples go look for Danba and Eternal Night.”
“You’re going to ask them to participate in this battle as well?” Li Chongshan was stunned.
Su Chen indifferently replied, “Exterminating the Astrals is not something that concerns just us humans. Letting the Ravagers and Harpies participate is only natural. While they will take a portion of the spoils of glory in combat, they will also help us deal with many of the barriers still ahead of us.”
Li Chongshan mulled Su Chen’s plan over, and then laughed. “The Sect Master is correct. Eternal Night and Danba will probably feel a little uneasy if they watched us wipe out the Astrals all on our own. We can show a little weakness, as is appropriate. If we make a show of good faith, then they should also agree to our conditions.”
“That’s not all......” Su Chen calmly continued. “In this letter, I also wrote that they will be allowed to enter Gloom City first to plunder it once Wanlai Caves fall.”
Li Chongshan was stunned. “You mean......”
Su Chen nodded. “Our campaign to exterminate the Astrals will definitely make them cautious. Thus, I will use their capital, which is both full of danger and unlimited treasures, to entice them in. The Harpies and Ravagers will probably come out in full force for the sake of acquiring these treasures. Also, without this incentive, it will be otherwise impossible to convince them, since they would essentially be working for free. I also don’t need them to agree to deal with a certain number of opponents; as long as they are willing to create enmity between themselves for the sake of reaping some benefit, that is good enough.”
This invitation from Su Chen would, in one fell sweep, gain him some crucial reinforcements, blunt the enemy’s counterattack, and also create further enmity between these two other races.
And even if Danba and Eternal Night could foresee Su Chen’s intentions, they most likely wouldn’t refuse the offer either.
Greed was an incredibly powerful motivator.
The Astrals’ vast vaults and unlimited treasures were definitely enough to cause the two parties to drool with desire.
The Boundless Sect had already carved a path forwards, and now they were leaving the juiciest portion to them. How could they possibly refuse the offer?
Even if they knew that it was bait, they would still eagerly snap it up!
This was the inspiration that Su Chen had glimpsed from Li Chongshan’s reassurance.
His gaze was firmly fixed on the entire continent. What was one city in comparison?
For all those reasons, Su Chen was able to make this incredibly important strategic decision.
And it was this decision that would allow the Boundless Sect to not attack the Wanlai Caves all on their own, which would save countless lives of the Boundless Sect. Thus, they would be able to better preserve their core strength for future battles.
He who is willing to sacrifice will reap the greatest rewards.
As Su Chen explained his plan, a disciple flew over.
“Reporting to Sect Master: an entrance to the graveyard was discovered at the center of Reaper’s Temple.”
A drop of Su Chen’s blood flew through the air before morphing into a clone. “Let’s go.”
No one knew what the Astrals might have left behind in the graveyard. Su Chen would never explore the graveyard with his true body.
Upon arriving at Reaper’s Temple, Su Chen saw a giant gaping hole before his eyes. This was where all those Graveyard Spirits had crawled out of.
Su Chen’s clone stepped inside. To his surprise, he found that it was incredibly clean.
Not only was it clean, but the graveyard had also been modified so that it contained many rooms, which was probably where the Astrals had resided.
Su Chen’s clone continued to stride deeper and deeper in until he arrived at a hall carved from stone. This was the only location that gave off an aura that matched the name of “Reaper’s Temple.”
The walls of the desolate stone hall were covered in profound inscriptions.
And at the very top of the hall was a simple, unadorned statue.
This statue was simple and solemn. Beneath its feet were piles of bones.
The instant Su Chen entered, the statue opened its eyes wide. “A human? So those damned ghosts have finally been defeated?”
Most of the Intelligent Races derogatorily referred to the Astrals as ghosts, to mock them for not being true lifeforms.
This statue’s referring to Astrals as ghosts immediately gave it a sense of camaraderie.
Su Chen patiently asked, “And who are you?”
“I am the Reaper, Jia Luo. Offer a sacrifice to me, and I will bestow great power upon you!”
“Sacrifice? What? Vitality?”
The statue laughed. “No, Astral bodies! The more powerful, the better. Those despicable Astrals only ever gave me lowly lifeforms to mess with me. Aren’t you enemies with the Astrals? Go and slaughter them to your heart’s content, and then offer their corpses to me. I will bestow true power upon you.”
“So that’s how it is.” Su Chen seemed to understand the situation at once. “You mentioned true power?”
“Yes, just like the thing that you dealt with outside,” Reaper Jia Luo replied with a chuckle, “Didn’t you already witness its might? That is the true power that I will bestow upon you. Unfortunately, the Astrals were never willing to properly nourish me. It wasn’t until today that they finally sacrificed over a hundred Astral bodies to me all at once. I ate until I was stuffed and couldn’t eat anymore! Hahahaha.”
So when those hundreds of Astrals had melted into the giant Graveyard Spirit, they had actually been offering themselves up as a sacrifice to the Reaper statue, allowing the giant Graveyard Spirit to reach its full potential.
Reaper Jia Luo!
This was the first time that Su Chen had ever encountered a deity, beings that supposedly only existed in legends. He had never expected that offering sacrifices to it would grant such awe-inspiring strength.
Wait a second. A living deity?
Su Chen glanced at the statue again, and then suddenly started reexamining the situation.
“What are you hesitating for?” The statue began to yell out loudly. “Hurry and bring me some Astrals to eat!!! With my help, you will become an invincible race!”
“But the Astrals didn’t become invincible, did they?” Su Chen suddenly interjected.
“That’s because they weren’t willing to give up their fellow Astrals!”
Su Chen calmly replied, “The Astrals nonetheless should have been able to scrounge up some criminals, traitors, or other willing sacrifices over the past tens of thousands of years to obtain this power. Some things are always possible as long as you desire it enough. So why didn’t they?”
The statue was rendered speechless.
Su Chen then answered his own question. “Because they couldn’t, right? A god...... The gods disappeared a long, long time ago. But one has suddenly somehow appeared here? Hehe......”
Su Chen started chuckling. This eerie chuckle caused the statue to tremble slightly.
Su Chen continued on. “You’re just a soul fragment, right? You were forced to attach yourself to this statue because you were unwilling to die. The sacrifices that you demand are actually a source of consciousness power that you survive on. And if you gather enough, you can resurrect, right? I don’t know what will happen if you do resurrect, but I do know that this world no longer needs any gods.”
When Su Chen finished speaking, his expression grew sinister.
The statue began to panic. “NO!”
Su Chen turned around to leave. “Station a guard here. Under no circumstances will we feed it any sacrifices.”