Five whale-shaped Umbras collided onto the bloodied floor, sending out large chunks of dirt and debris flying in all directions. At the centre of the thick, weighty necks, sharp ice spears, each one bearing ends akin to that of an eagle’s talons or a leopard’s claw. The fallen Spirit Beasts had joined a legion of its dead brethren that were piled up against each other. Some of them had a fine line splitting their bodies in half, while others had a plethora of different weapons sticking out as if they were a porcupine. The thick stench of blood and mud tickled all of the soldiers’ noses, forcing them to improvise by covering their lower faces with a thin handkerchief.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep them going without fighting the urge to spill their guts. Though not all warriors needed that luxury. Shin continued to pierce through each and every Umbra that crossed his path. It had almost become reflex at this point. If he sensed malicious movement, Shin would circle his Spear of Aiglos and bring out thousands of ice arrows to protect himself.
Meijing Bingying also joined the fray. Merging with her Enigmatic Narwhal, the frosty maiden swung her Spectral Reaver blade and danced her way through the hordes of beasts as if she was performing on an ice skating rink. Due to her sending the ice-elements into an absolute frenzy, Shin found it much easier to cool down his created water and manipulate ice. All of his regular water-shaped attacks became much more deadly when transformed into a steadier form, and Shin massacred his way through the rocky fields.
Isadore wasn’t a slouch either. With Elrin’s Sacramental Boost and False Armament, the young elfin had turned into the silver flash of the battlefield. His thick thighs acted as springboards, and his slim and lean body shape facilitated his aerodynamic movements. One swing of his temporary spear pushed away a Tier 4 Spirit Beast as if they were a child’s teddy bear and each thrust he threw, tore through thick tendons and shattered massive bones. Up till this day, Shin didn’t understand how Isadore could pack such force in such a thin body, but for the moment, Shin was just glad that the spear wasn’t pointed his way.
Standing just twenty metres away, a tall and sinewy young man watched as the trio damaged all of his prey without his permission. It wasn’t gratifying at all, seeing someone do better than himself. Suji was nicknamed the Son of War after all. So what if Shin was better in him in one-on-one situations? Killing enemies in a warzone was supposed to be his speciality. Ignoring the sore muscles and exhausted spiritual energies in his body, Suji swung the hefty Guandao in his hands and summoned out even more coils of lightning. His trusted stead that had turned faint before sparked back into life and neighed with pride as it stood on its hind legs.
The elements continued to dance wildly as the young cultivators opened a kilometre deep into the Payirci. The veteran warriors of the field all steered clear with convivial smiles and allowed the younglings to do their thing. Ah, youth… Many of them thought. They could continue on with all they had, but it would just steal the thunder away from the ‘elite rookies’ that had been dispatched for their mission. Thus, they slowed their movements and preserved their strengths. Their goal was to drive the Umbras back into the Payirci. It didn’t matter who did it and how. As long as they got the job done, it was sufficient.
“Is there no end to them?” Shizen complained. His Adivinar Tree released thousands of knife-like razor leaves, injuring any Spirit Beast that came near to him. Ella, who covered his back, took advantage of weakened Umbras and continuously bombarded them with icicles when they were still bleeding through every fraction of the skins.
“I don’t know!” The maiden shouted back. They had been exterminating the Umbras as if they were cockroaches from a garbage box at a breakneck pace. Yet, just like the pests that they were compared to, the Spirit Beast would continue to march out of the Payirci. It was as if the levitating tower was truly an infinite well that spat out new Umbras each time a pack had perished.
“Let’s push back as many as we can.” Ella continued. “If we can force them all the way back into the Payirci, the Spirit Venerates can attempt to blow them all up once more!”
“I think we would run out of mana before that happens!” Shizen scoffed while thousands of vines swirled around him.
It has been ten minutes since they first jumped down from the forts and they had been continuously grinding down the number of Umbras since. On their side, there were about five hundred trained men and women, each one assigned to their own respective units. The vanguard had a mixture of shield bearers and lancers while the backlines consisted of competent Houyi-type archers. Auxiliary Spirit Users would continue to supplement the lost mana while healers focused on treating minor wounds so that their brave compatriots could return back to the battlefield.
Controlled chaos. That would be the aptest way to describe their current situation. Speeding right in the frontlines, Shin was creating hundreds of ice weapons while hurling beasts into the air for Bingying or Isadore to finish off. Right behind them, Kanari was using her Spirit Spectre abilities to full effect. Gorgeous luminous Auroras surrounded the young maiden, and her ruby eyes glistened in the same crimson hue as the blood that flowed underneath. Fear wasn’t a known emotion in the darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts mind, but even they couldn’t resist the urge to retreat when the Auroras hit them.
Foxfires ran rampant as if they were grass while strong gales drew the Umbras towards Kanari as if she possessed magnetic properties. Her supple white arms flowed in a rhythmic symphony like a conductor of a concert and the pale blue flames that she created followed suit. Bouncing from Umbra to Umbra, the Foxfires incinerated the beasts to their bone.
‘Her abilities have really shot up…’ Shin gaped in awe as Kanari took down a hundred Umbras in just one minute. She didn’t even have to move from her position to annihilate the enemies. Anytime a foe crept up near her, Kanari’s domain would burn all of them out of existence as the Auroras doubled her Foxfires’ effects while weakening the Umbras significantly.
‘I really have to create a domain for my next spiritual ability.’
Now that Kanari had promoted, all eyes were now directed at Shin. He was at the peak of Rank 37, and it would probably take him about eight to twelve months for him to reach that final threshold. Just like the maiden, Shin had already planned what his next spiritual ability would be. Joining the ranks of Meijing Bingying and Qilong Hu, Shin was preparing to create a domain ability that would bolster his water creation ability. With a domain, Shin would be capable of doubling the power, speed and spiritual denseness of his created water all while weakening all that dared to step within his path.
However, that was a discussion for another time. Right now, seizing Junius from the Payirci was the highest priority.
Badddukkk… Badddukkk… Badddukkk…
The ground rumbled heavily, shaking the brave warriors on the field off their feet. Spirit Spectres rose to the skies, while those who could not fly stayed close to the ground, lowering their centre of gravity to remain stable. As if their central nervous system had gone haywire, the Umbras all waywardly bolted back into the floating tower. That sudden movement stunned the Alliance members for a brief moment. They planned to force the Umbras back into the Payirci and yet, they were now willingly running back?
“What are the Black Masks planning?” Commander Martha thought out loud, her eyebrows furrowed and her lip arched down into a frown.
“Whatever the case, them retreating back into the tower plays right into our plans.” A middle-aged man took one step forward and watched the retreat of the Umbras. He wasn’t a tall man. Not particularly striking either. If he walked in a crowd, not one soul would ever acknowledge his presence. However, Jingyu Qiang, the Lantis Republic’s Spirit Venerate, anything but weak. At Rank 87, he was the closest entity to a Spirit Saint that Commander Martha’s army had.
“So who’s going to do it first?” Yet another man who looked no older than forty emerged from the shadows of the forts. His bald, crystal head reflected the glaring rays from the sun while his broad, muscular chest twitched out of reflex. Unlike Jingyu Qiang, the Kori Federation’s Spirit Venerate, Gundla Barak, was as striking as can be. Smacking his lips, the man stood up straight and gave a small flex to make himself look more prominent. He asked: “You? Me? Or the Duke?”
“Shouldn’t I get the first try?” The final man, Duke Cyanjaw from the Himmel Empire, cracked his tensed-up neck while strolling forward. His eyes piercing, and his expression grim. Duke Cyanjaw had been sitting around for the longest, and the man wanted to stretch off the lethargy that he accumulated. “I was the first to arrive, I have the right to land the first hit.”
“Early bird gets the worm, huh?” It was easy to debate the man, but neither Spirit Venerates cared that much. Though they were from different countries, the trio were now fighting under the same banner. There was no point in arguing over useless matters.
“You heard the man, Commander Martha. Retreat your troops.”
The White Knight Commander hid her loathing frown while blowing the whistle for her troops to withdraw. She was a seasoned warrior, a commander that was slated to become a general, a famous tactician and most importantly, the leader of the current army. Yet, even with all those credentials, Commander Martha still had to take orders from the three Spirit Venerates. Such was the nature of the cultivation world. No matter how marvellous you were at your job, those with a higher cultivation level still had the power to command you.
Duke Cyanjaw didn’t bother to wait for the troops to completely withdraw. Once he saw Kanari and Suji’s team retreat, the Spirit Venerate leapt forward while two metallic gauntlets covered both his hands. Bronzed with a touch of grey, the heavy gloves bore several sharp spikes and were wrapped with earthen chains that seemed to restrict its terrene might.
The man’s biceps swelled up to three times its original size while his thin robes were torn apart. Brown light flowed out from his pores and filled the area with a dense mana field. A few seconds later, a colossal bronze phantom appeared behind of Duke Cyanjaw. All of the men and women retreating came to a halt as they watched the titan, who seemed just as big as the Payirci itself, raise its mighty fist with the same gauntlets that Duke Cyanjaw had. Like a boxer, the phantom placed its leading foot forward while it prepared to release the ultimate drilling jab. Large pieces of rock and dust floated up into the skies and joined the Rinfermar Gauntlets in the charge-up, increasing the weight of the phantom punch. In just ten seconds, the strongest attack that Duke Cyanjaw had been locked and loaded, ready to wreak havoc on the poor Payirci that stood in his path.
The Spirit Venerate unleashed his wrath and launched the punch. A sonic explosion, hundreds of times louder than the strongest thunderclap, devastated the land, forcing those with weaker cultivations to fall down and cover their ears. Even Shin and his fellow Spirit Adept friends felt crimson liquids flow out from the depths of their ears. Luckily they had Shin’s healing water to treat their ruptured eardrums. Otherwise, they would have been rolling on the floor like everyone else.
“Holy shit!!!” Shizen remarked. All of the land before the colossal phantom had been ripped to shreds leaving nothing but dust and dirt behind. Any poor Umbras that hadn’t made it into the Payirci had been brutally turned into black powder, and all of the elemental spirits stayed clear from the desolation that the one punch. Just from the sound being generated by that attack, thousands of mighty warriors fell. So one could imagine what
‘So this is the might of a pure-offensive Spirit Venerate.’ Shin stood stupefied. Elder Baobiao’s Xuanwu’s Yawn was definitely powerful, but even that ability paled in comparison to Duke Cyanjaw’s. However…
“My god! It’s still standing!!!” Watching the smoke dissipate, Emma cried out in absolute horror when the Payirci remained to levitate up high in the air. The attack that Duke Cyanjaw threw, the power that could bring down any fort like a kid kicking through sandcastles, was utterly useless against the defences of the mighty Payirci.
“Your Excellency, it looks like you squandered your chance.” Gundla Barak from the Kori Federation floated over with a mocking smile.
“Oh yeah? Why don’t you try then?!” Snorting in derision, Duke Cyanjaw released the titanic phantom and folded his arms together.
“Now, now. We shouldn’t really be fighting.” Jingyu Qiang smiled bitterly as he arrived next to the rivalling Spirit Venerates. “If the Payirci’s defences are capable of withstanding Duke Cyanjaw’s ‘Wrath of the Rinfermar’, it should be able to hold up against both of our attacks. If we want to damage the structure, we should all combine our might.” The Spirit Venerate from the Lantis Republic explained patiently.
“Hmph!” Duke Cyanjaw turned around and flew straight back to the makeshift forts. He didn’t even bother to consider the neutral Jingyu Qiang’s opinion.
“He… Hah… Has there been some bad blood between you and him?” The Kori Federation and the Himmel Empire weren’t exactly the best of buds before. With Gundla Barak being from Dragon Tiger Gate and Duke Cyanjaw being the owner of a prominent Duchy, it wasn’t surprising for the two Spirit Venerates to have locked horns in the past.
“A tale long passed.” Gundla Barak turned his head, unwilling to narrate a story that occurred decades ago. Right now, they had a bigger fish to fry. “I’m going to strike. If you want to join in, do it quickly.”
Just like Duke Cyanjaw before him, Venerate Gundla Barak summoned out a phantom as well. However, instead of taking the shape of a humanoid phantom, it was muscular, lanky Goldhorn Elk. More robust than any steed in existence, the Goldhorn Elk was covered with halcyon fur, and its two antlers were shining like a white gold lunar branch. Standing up on its two hind legs, the Goldhorn Elk congregated all the light elements around it into a concentrated sphere, ready unleash heaven’s wrath on the floating tower before it.
Sighing, Jingyu Qiang brought out an avatar of his Spirit, the Colossal Leviathan. It had a long serpentine body with thick squid-like appendages twirling all about. Its beady black eyes glowed ferociously, and sharpened shark’s teeth glistened while it brought the fury of the oceans with it. Water split out from the Colossal Leviathan’s mouth while thousands of ultramarine particles congregated within the opened jaws of the avatar.
“Three…” Gundla Barak begun the countdown.
“Two…” Jingyu Qiang continued it. The light within both their Spirits increased exponentially, like a beam waiting to be released.
At the final second, both of them released their abilities and sent two calamitous beams, each a thousand times more potent that Kanari’s Lunar Beam, crashing into the Payirci’s body. Any structure in the world, barring Deus Citadel, would have collapsed under the joint powers of the two prominent Spirit Venerates. However, everything that the Alliance forces had learnt thus far was about to be thrown out of the window.
“H-How is it still standing?” Shin choked on his words. How could a Payirci sustain such massive defensive capabilities?
The two Spirit Venerates frowned. Even their combined attacks were unable to even place a mark on the relic that the Black Masks had made. Jingyu Qiang bit the bottom of his lips and turned towards the bald man that floated beside him. Now that their initial plan had failed, they were forced to resort to their backup one.
“Looks like we have to ascend the tower…”