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The alliance’s army immediately left the Supracloud Sanctuary and headed south like a stray dog that picked up a delicious scent, temporarily resolving the crisis at the sect, perhaps even permanently. They had managed to keep the three billion divine herbs, proof that if the two sects were stubborn enough, they could keep more of their harvests for themselves.
“Everyone, continue staying on alert. Protect our homes and don’t let our guard down without my order!” Yun Tianque said.
The Myriadfold Skycloud Formation remained active. Tianming and the rest gathered and turned south to observe the sudden changes. In the distant horizon was a gigantic tree that spanned much of the continent, but now it had been dyed entirely red. The verdant, vigorous mother tree now looked covered in blood and gore. Tianming felt chills even from so far away. It was an eerie and foreboding change.
“What in the world is going on?” Long Wanying asked.
“I don’t know. Nothing like this has happened to the divine tree before,” Gujian Qingshuang said, subconsciously shuddering. Something in his blood was screaming at him.
“It feels a little unsettling,” Yun Tianque said, feeling the same sensation from within his veins.
“Tianming?” Long Wanying gave his arm a short tug.
“Aunt Ying, I’m communicating with Yin Chen now.”
“Alright.” She nodded and kept waiting, worried that this change had resulted from someone else trying to destroy the saplings like Li Wushuang had done.
After some time, Tianming said, “Everyone, the thirty-five pairs of saplings are still untouched. After the alliance defeated our enemies, they immediately took over the sapling sites.”
They were all relieved to hear that. At the very least, the saplings were still fine. “Then what’s going on?” Long Wanying asked.
“It could’ve been caused by the war. Yin Chen said that a total of nearly a million lifebound beasts died in the two battles at Aix Lake. The carcasses of the beasts all piled up under the tree, whose roots sucked up all the blood and essence. I think the tree only changed once it reached its limit.”
“Is it just a change in color? What about other aspects?”
“It isn’t possible to tell for now. The alliance now has people heavily guarding all the sapling sites.”
“It definitely isn’t just a color change. I can feel that the divine tree has entered a state that’s never been seen in history before. It’s like the tree is angry and losing its temper in a fit of demonic rage. I believe we should stay away from it right now,” Gujian Qingshuang said.
They all turned and looked south, still clearly feeling that eerie, numbing sensation. If the divine tree was sentient and had a will, it seemed like it was thirsting for blood and slaughter.
“Up to a third of all people on the continent live under the tree,” Gujian Qingshuang said, furrowing his brows. If something were to happen, they wouldn’t be able to evacuate at all.
All Tianming could do was have Yin Chen continue monitoring the situation. With how huge the tree was, it almost seemed like the sky above the continent had turned red. Countless people came out of their houses and looked at the reddened world around them with fear.
“What’s going on with the divine tree?”
“It looks like a huge monster! Daddy, I’m scared!”
They quickly returned to their homes, but the shadow of the red tree was still visible through their windows. Even the plants in their homes had turned a demonic red as if they had also absorbed fresh blood.
Gradually, the huge red tree began to sway and dance like a hoard of demons. Countless people in the various cities and settlements ran and hid, their breathing growing more difficult by the moment. Amidst these changes, the only ones who still remained on the divine tree were those in the alliance’s army.
Such terrifying occurrences kept intensifying. The tree looked like a gigantic bloody demon hundreds of thousands of meters tall. Tianming felt that his mouth was rather parched. At that moment, a transmission stone from Jiang Qingliu entered his hand.
It read, ‘Everyone, I’ve been researching records of the divine tree and collecting information about the recent changes from the people. I found an explanation in a chronicle written a million years ago! The writer said that the Azurecloud Divine Tree is actually a unique, ancient lifeform that can be considered to be a plant-type cosmic wildbeast. It is a special lifeform that absorbs fundamental cosmic force and feeds it back to cultivators in its vicinity in a way similar to symbiotic cultivation. In a sense, it can connect with everyone near it.
‘A lifeform like it naturally also has a way to procreate, as it’s the key directive of any and all life! The tree has settled down and protected the lifeforms near it in hopes that they can protect its saplings when they’re still weak. Last time, Li Wushuang destroyed a pair of saplings and incurred its wrath. That can be considered our fault for not fulfilling our responsibilities. Back then, we thought that the tree’s anger was temporary and would calm down, but that wasn’t the case! Losing saplings is the same as losing children for it! However, it didn’t throw a tantrum because the other saplings were still weak. Not that the saplings are nearing maturity, they’re harder to destroy. The tree also happened to absorb a lot of blood, so the pent-up rage from the destroyed saplings is probably going to explode soon. To quote the chronicle, ”The rage of the divine tree will fill the skies with blood as the plague spreads and culls all life”.’
The others felt their eyelids uncontrollably twitching when they read that. Saplings that only sprouted once across millions of years should have been protected to the utmost. Unfortunately, the tree had lost a pair of them right at the start. As the covenant between the tree and the people living near it had been lost to time, Gujian Qingshuang and the rest were ignorant of it until now. Even so, this was just one account written by a distant forebear, so there could be other explanations. Regardless, it seemed to line up with what was happening now.
“The skies will be filled with blood as the plague spreads…” They mumbled the words and continued reading the message.
‘The chronicle states that the only way to reverse this is to kill the perpetrator to quell the rage of the divine tree. I believe this to be none other than Li Wushuang. Naturally, I can’t say for sure if that’s true or not. The ties between the divine tree and our continent aren’t nearly as simple as they seem.’
The message had left them speechless. Yun Tianque said, “It looks like the events more or less correspond to the records.”
“All life will be culled?” That was the most terrifying part of the prophecy. There were still countless people on the continent that hadn’t reached the Ascension stage. Those that could stay at the Supracloud Sanctuary were only the most elite among them.
“If Li Wushuang really did cause this, she deserves to die.” Everyone’s hearts shook when they looked at the state the divine tree was in.
“A plague, huh…” That was what gave Tianming pause. Yin Chen had told him that the plague had appeared near the thirty-five sapling sites.
The Azurecloud Continent was located near the border that separated the celestial orderians’ territory from the Myriad Solar Sects’. There was a long formation line that stretched from one end of the sun and looped back around from the other end. It stopped most people from easily entering the domain of the celestial orderians, but allowed for easy passage from the other side. The formation line passed through the seas north of the continent. Near the line was a charred, uninhabited island where not even Yin Chen had managed to reach.
Sounds of eerie burning could be heard there. Within an ancient and dark cave was Li Wushuang, kneeling on the ground and groaning in pain. Her beautiful appearance seemed to contort from her suffering, with veins even showing across her skin.
“Northdipper Swordsage… Wind Swordlord…” Her teeth were chattering as she leaned on the wall, right arm holding her left. She was completely covered in sweat and feeble like never before. Her skin even began to pale. “Big Brother…”
Her voice turned hoarse and sharp as she groaned in pain like someone suffering from a fever dream. A sizzling sound came from her left arm. When she looked down, she saw that her broken bane-ring was changing. It used to be shaped like a moon, but now it was a bloody mess. The blood around it began to swirl and move the flesh as it changed. “Big Brother… it hurts… it hurts!”
She tightly grabbed her wound, but couldn’t stop the changes at all.
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