Chapter 616: Changes [V6C146 – Sorrow of a Silent Parting]
At this moment, the old general said, “Young Master Jingzhan, Young Noble Qingyun’s power is outstanding, but he hasn’t secured victory just yet. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the family just give him the Storm Pearl directly? What’s the point of setting up these rankings? It’s surely because they’re worried about public outrage.
“Moreover, the combat squads dispatched by the various clans will be arriving in a few days. The profits this time have moved many people, and with how big the empire is, there are hidden tigers and dragons everywhere. Who knows which expert would jump into the fray? Young Master, muddy waters are a good thing. As I see it, we need to try hard in harvesting contributions and not go back so soon. That way, our contributions won’t be publicly known.”
“That’ll only drag things out a bit, what’s the use?” Li Jingzhan was apparently vexed.
“There might be some changes if we drag it out for a bit. For instance, if Young Noble is really interested and has accumulated enough contributions, we could consider switching allegiance to the third branch. Why would we need to stay suppressed under the second?”
Li Jingzhan’s expression transformed radically. In the end, he said through gritted teeth, “Fine, let’s do it that way!”
It was at this time that a clamor arose outside of the tent. Li Jingzhan looked up and shouted, “What’s with the ruckus? Scandalous!”
A personal guard rushed into the tent despite Li Jingzhan’s angry glare and cried, “Young Master, things don’t look good. There’s a beast tide charging over!”
Li Jingzhan shot up and delivered a prompt slap. “What’s so big about a beast tide? I’ve killed no small number of them, haven’t I? Set up the autocannons and slaughter them.
Li Jingzhan had brought hundreds of elites from the Li family private army. He had come well-prepared with ample firepower and ammunition. The combat strength of this unit had long since been proven in battle. They had annihilated three dark race hunting sub-parties in the past month—at least in terms of head-count, these sub-parties weren’t inferior to Li Jingzhan’s group.
As for beasts and midgets, their main threat lay in their numbers and indefensible poison. Organized elite troops were the nemesis of these creatures—as long as there was sufficient ammunition, large bore autocannons could practically mow them down.
In order to deal with these beast hordes, Li Jingzhan had brought six high-speed autocannons and vast amounts of ammunition. In the past month, the storm of metal spewed out by these cannons had killed at least several thousand midgets and beasts.
Li Jingzhan heard the familiar rumble of the autocannons. As far as he could remember, the stream of flames would mow down large swathes of beasts as though they were grass.
However, the personal guard didn’t back down even after being struck. He kept on shouting, “Young Master, it’s not the same this time! Run quickly!”
He hadn’t even finished speaking when his expression froze. Afterward, he looked down to find a spear tip poking through his chest.
It was a wooden stake, the most common type found throughout Misty Wood. After birth, the midgets would cut down the leaves and branches of the giant tree and sharpen them into wooden spears. Afterward, they would use a mixture of their own saliva and some unknown plant juice to coat the stake in poison. And thus the powerful poison that brought both factions no end of trouble was born.
Li Jingzhan’s eyelids twitched as he glanced at the spear tip, and his brain went completely blank.
He was very clear about this personal guard’s strength and was also familiar with the grade of his armor. Even Li Jingzhan himself would need to attack seriously in order to pierce this guard’s armor, but now, it had been pierced through by a wooden spear right in front of him.
In his memory, the spears thrown out by these midgets could barely cut through the chainmail of his guards. They were far from being capable of penetrating the entire body.
A whistle rang out at this point as another spear shot toward Li Jingzhan. The latter responded at lightning speed, immediately drawing his sword and cutting the projectile into two. But just this movement caused the sword to tremble and emit a low drone. The strength behind the spear was so powerful that Li Jingzhan swayed slightly backward.
Both shocked and furious, the man slashed the tent open and rushed out.
In a short moment, the entire camp was already in ruins. Many soldiers had been nailed to the ground by the incoming spears. Some of the stakes had pierced right through their shields and into their chests.
The air was filled with whistling sounds as numerous spears flew in from the distant woods and landed in the camp. One beast after another charged out from the mist with several human figures moving in their midst.
“W-What are those things?!” Li Jingzhan was shocked as he looked at the incoming beasts and aboriginals.
These native entities retained their familiar appearance, but they were no longer midgets. They had grown to twice their previous height and were now comparable to a young human. There were numerous red veined patterns on their bodies with golden specks mixed in. Moreover, those that possessed more golden specks were evidently more powerful.
The beasts had also grown larger than before and also possessed the same pattern of red veins and golden spots. Their speed, strength, and build all saw a sharp increase—even the autocannons could only produce bloody holes on them, a far cry from the past where they would be blasted into a bloody mess.
Ten meters away, a boar-shaped mutant beast was charging against the hail of bullets, and it only died after taking a dozen shots from the autocannons.
“This…” Li Jingzhan’s hands and feet turned cold. He was truly at a loss about what to do.
The beasts and midgets charging over weren’t exactly great in number—only several hundred in total. However, their combat strength had undergone a complete transformation and was enough to drown their entire squad.
At this moment, the old general dragged Li Jingzhan away and fled in the opposite direction of the beasts.
“No, let me go. My soldiers are still in the camp.” Li Jingzhan struggled.
“They’re lost, Young Master. You must live today in order to make a strong comeback in the future!” The old general allowed no explanation as he towed Li Jingzhan away.
Before long, the clamorous camp became deathly silent.
Meanwhile, a human squad was advancing silently along the borders of the Misty Wood. Judging from their direction, they were traversing the Misty Wood and headed for the Song clan warzone. The group was mostly composed of Li family private soldiers with a mixture of mercenaries and adventurers among them.
There was a big, fierce-looking man at the center of the group. His lightning eyes, from time to time, scanned the identical forest on either side.
A middle-aged man with a fair complexion laughed after seeing this. “Sire Li is too cautious. This area is fairly peaceful, and the dark races rarely if ever appear here. Even if they do, they won’t have an expert overseeing them. If they really dare appear before us, they’ll just be offering more contributions to you.”
The burly man’s expression relaxed slightly. “That might be the case, but we can’t be careless. I heard there’s a demonkin count operating in the area.”
The middle-aged man sneered, “Those are just rumors. Besides, our troop strength is no longer comparable to the past. Even the two counts who attacked our base never dared to appear again. It’s been so long since the beginning of this conflict. If there really is some kind of expert, how can those youngsters from the family return safely every time? As I see it, the dark race fellow in charge of this area must be a useless slacker, count or not. He’s probably not worth mentioning.”
The burly man said with a smile, “You have a point there...”
He had just finished half his sentence when the middle-aged man fell backward and half his head flew into the air.
Even someone of the burly man’s strength couldn’t help but become startled. He then came to, drew his gun, and roared, “Enemy attack!”
Just after shouting thus, his entire body flew out as though he had been struck by an invisible hammer. When he crashed to the ground, the armor on his chest had been shattered, and the flesh there, badly mangled.
The burly man clambered up, but before he could celebrate how the thick armor had allowed his heart to remain intact, he discovered something wrong. He looked down at the blood flowing out of his injury and saw that they were black. Moreover, his origin power was being drained at a rapid pace.
This name emerged in the man’s thoughts. Immediately afterward, he saw a calm and elegant figure traversing the many-layers of defense set up by the soldiers. Wherever that silhouette passed by, all the warriors there—regardless of their rank and combat strength—would freeze up and gradually fall down,
The burly man’s vision was turning blurry. He could no longer see clearly how the veteran warriors under his command had died.
The shadow arrived before him in the blink of an eye.
The man struggled indignantly. “Who are you?”
The man uncovered his hood to reveal a handsome countenance that did not belong to the human race. His lips moved slightly into a mocking smile as he said, “I’m that useless slacker you guys were talking about, Eden of the Dark Abyss.”
This name formed the burly man’s final memory.
The Li clan base was recently becoming livelier by the day with squads from various aristocratic clans and families surging into the base. These competing units were each more well-equipped and powerful than the next.
The leaders were all core characters of the aristocracy, and they only had one objective here—the Storm Pearl. Before their departure, their family heads had ordered them to obtain one at all costs.
In the several days that followed, Li Tianquan was completely occupied with work. He was troubled but delighted because, from his past experience in managing such major activities, he could tell that his authority in the elder assembly would definitely take a step forward. Moreover, the Li family was the host this time around, and the Storm Pearl was their property, so all the other aristocratic families were fairly deferent toward him. Li Tianquan was up in the clouds these days and had almost forgotten his position.
The arriving aristocratic family combat squads all required lodging, food, and supplies—these administrative arrangements kept Li Tianquan frantically busy. Fortunately, these squads didn’t stay very long and would head into the Misty Wood after a brief period of organization. And only after most of them had entered the forest did Li Qingyun bring his own squad into the woods.
The true struggle for the contribution rankings had just begun. No matter how experienced the independent hunters were, they were hardly a match for the well-trained private armies of the aristocratic families.
Even Qianye could only take a detour whenever he encountered a thousand-strong army—at most, he would be able to harass them with sneak attacks. But this kind of attack wasn’t helpful for accumulating contributions, and the reason was simple, there was no way to collect proof of contribution even after killing the targets.
However, most of the combat squads dispatched by the aristocratic families were made up of their core forces. A group of five-hundred soldiers could easily digest such an enemy squad.
Little over a month remained until the three-month deadline, but the various aristocratic families, including the Li clan, didn’t really care about the independent experts currently occupying the top of the board.
Only the Zhang and Zhao didn’t send a combat squad to the Misty Wood. These two clans have always upheld their status and would never take part in such private contests. Moreover, the war was in a critical stage. The Zhang clan had managed to hold out for a fairly long time, but they were pretty much spent at this point. Reportedly, they were being pushed back with every skirmish, and most of their warzones had fallen into enemy hands.
It was said that the Zhao clan had disregarded their past enmity and dispatched a motorized unit to the Blacklight warzone to reinforce the Zhang clan. Those two colossal powers had their eyes on the main battlefield, not even sparing a glance for the things taking place here.
Li Tianquan was naturally dissatisfied. He felt that the two clans were too arrogant and didn’t put the empress’ clan in their eyes. However, his status wasn’t high enough to express his dissent for them. The clan lord and Marquis Seagazer, Li Tianshi, made no comment on the complaint he had submitted about this matter. This became a small knot in the midst of his happiness.
At dawn this day, Li Tianquan had the rare leisure to brew a pot of good tea as he began looking through the recent battle reports. He had just turned a single page when he heard an urgent knock on the door.
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