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The 36 pylons created a sealed space, trapping everyone within its borders and preventing any outsider from looking into it.
Not even the audience watching the water National Elemental Stone could pierce the veil. All they saw were the beams of light, mounting their unrest. Regent Estate’s side was the calmest of the bunch, going by their broad and sinister smiles.
Within the bushes just ahead of the pylons, Chu Qingcheng’s team, a late arrival, was looking at the scene in bewilderment.
They couldn’t make heads or tails of this recent change. Why did Zhuo Fan have them come here?
“A 3rd grade array?” Chu Qingcheng squinted.
Luo Yunhai nodded, “It also comes with a hidden army. For the ambush to succeed, the easiest would be an array with multiple controllers. Being slow on our way here had worked in our favor. For the trap to be sprung already, someone must’ve fallen for it. “
“What? Are you saying Zhuo Fan had us walk into a trap?” Chu Qingcheng cried in disbelief.
Luo Yunhai nodded, “Although brother Zhuo’s every scheme has come to fruition and is unlikely to make such a mistake, our pressing matter at this point is to break the array!”
Chu Qingcheng nodded after a pause, then shouted, “Men, on me. We will break the array core and get them out!”
“Understood!” The men cupped their hands and charged alongside her.
Grandmother’s side was extremely worried. But Chu Qingcheng’s sudden arrival promised hope. At least the other two teams wouldn’t suffer total defeat.
Chu Qingcheng struck the glowing pylons several times, until it was shuddering and flickering. But when there were 36 of them, each lending support, stabilizing the weaker link.
As such, Chu Qingcheng’s powerful Yuan Qi spread evenly among them. They were shaken but far from breaking.
The rest assaulted the other beams, however pointless it was.
Grandmother’s side was by themselves with worry. They were in a race against time. The longer they took the heavier the casualties to the ones trapped inside.
In the trap, Long Xingyun and company were driven into a corner by the encroaching plague. When they ran out of places to retreat, some random subordinates were even pushed in front to make space.
[You are our vassals. Sacrificing yourself for your lord is downright honorable of you!]
They understood this logic as well and stepped forward without their master’s urging. They braved the impending miasma, only to end up a festering pool of blood.
Xue Ningxiang was wrecked with sadness, tears streaming down.
[Aren’t we all humans? Why must they sacrifice themselves?]
Therein laid the cruelty. If not them, who? The seven houses? No matter how willing Long Xingyun and the rest were, which they weren’t, the vassals would never accept it either.
It was easy to guess why. If they escaped this hell by the grace of their master’s sacrifice, what future would their clans have?
So while this act looked quite virtuous and dauntless on the surface, at its core it all came down to saving their bloodlines. And who knew if their masters in their infinite mercy, would perhaps look kindly upon their clans.
The stream of sacrifices was endless, but the miasma forced them into a corner, with no way out.
Long Xingyun turned glum. He turned to the dozen scattered men with a heavy heart, “Any further sacrifices are pointless. It will hardly give us more room. Will we find our end here?”
His words made others lower their heads in grief.
The earth, soaked in blood, only added to their sadness.
Thousands of people came here, only to end up with barely enough to count on two hands. They couldn’t deny their fate, certain to end up another bloody smear on the ground, joining the others. [Oh, the tragedy!]
The sky shook at the sudden sound and the bloody images around them dimmed some more. In Long Xingyun’s eyes a faint hope blossomed, “Someone is attacking the array!”
“Yes, but what good will it do? By the time the array is broken, we won’t even have bones left!” Xie Tianshang looked at the sky, sombre and dejected.
His words cut at the others’ expectation, at their hope.
Long Xingyun waved him off, “Don’t say that. They might succeed.”
Long Xingyun patted the shoulder of the man next to him, “Brother, what clan are you? For how long have you served the Veiled Dragon Pavilion?”
“Chen clan from Tenebrous City. 150 years ago, we swore fealty to the Veiled Dragon Pavilion!” His sunken face revealed he understood Long Xingyun’s meaning. He bowed, “I wish the eldest young master would look after my clan!”
“You have followed my house for so long and today’s sacrifice won’t be in vain. I, Long Xingyun, will never forget your devotion!” Long Xingyun nodded gravely.
The man’s jaw was set, his eyes firm and he charged at the miasma. Yet he barely touched it and the poison was already gnawing at his flesh. Everyone watched as his blood soaked the ground in a matter of seconds.
Xue Ningxiang wailed, burying her head in Xie Tianyang’s shoulder.
Xie Tianyang sighed and patted her hand in consolation. It came as no surprise to him, not how often he saw the seven houses abuse their privilege.
Long Xingyun stood cheerful in the freshly emptied spot. His calm face begged the question, did he even bother to remember the man’s clan’s name?
Well, since someone was bashing the array, hope slipped into his heart. A second ago he wasn’t intent on making more senseless sacrifices, not when they were doomed to die together. But now, even if he were to die, he’d make damn sure he was going to be last!
What if he lived?
Chu Qingcheng and her men had struck the pylons of light dozens of times now without any result. Each failure mounting their worry. Grandmother was sweating as well, while Xie Xiaofeng and Long Yifey, fearful of their sons’ fate, were devastated.
No one there was more disturbed than them.
Dugu Zhantian stood straight like a blade among them, eyes fixed on the image in silent worry.
Dugu Lin muttered, “Marshal, this 36 Heavenly Stars Array…”
“Stop, Yunhai should know a way!” Dugu Zhantian waved his hand, his eyes confident.
The tigers nodded, watching the young man in the National Elemental Stone with a smile.
Luo Yunhai scrutinized the array and said, “Edifice Lord Chu, the 36 Heavenly Stars Array is laid in accordance with the 36 stars of the Big Dipper. If one holds, they all do. If one crumbles, they all collapse. Only by attacking the life gate will we tear the death gate open and break the array!”
“You have a way?” Chu Qingcheng asked.
Luo Yunhai nodded, “This array is commonly used in the army. I’ve followed the godfather for two years to learn about this array and ask Edifice Lord Chu to lend me all authority!”
“Done!” Chu Qingcheng agreed on the spot.
Luo Yunhai turned solemn and shouted, “Listen all of you. Dong Tianba, take three hundred men and attack the life gate in the center west. Xiao Dandan, take three hundred men and attack the second death gate in the east. The rest will be with me in attacking the seal gate!”
The men set off at once.
Like dragons, the three teams started raining havoc on the 36 pylons of light.
When Dong Tianba attacked the light pylons at the life gate, he sent a ripple to the other beams. Then Xiao Dandan and Luo Yunhai’s teams attacked their own targets and things changed.
The other two ripples prevented the first from spreading to the other pylons.
The three ripples converged onto a single pylon, stopping it from letting the others share the load. Soon, the man inside the pylon cried out and as the pylon vanished, the man blew to pieces.
The 36 light pylons had lost their balance and they could no longer support each other.
Dugu Zhantian laughed, “Nice! The kid didn’t waste the two years he was next to me!”
The Four Tigers of Tianyu nodded in pride. They were the ones who brought up this younger brother with them and seeing him make a name for himself in the Esoteric Debate filled them with glee and pride.
Grandmother’s side nodded, glad as well. Who’d have thought the Luo clan didn’t just have creepy Zhuo Fan worthy of notice, but the young Clan Head as well? Surely not them.
What surprised them the most were Zhuo Fan’s decisions.
They all knew who brought Luo Yunhai into the limelight, Zhuo Fan. With Zhuo Fan always taking the lead in schemes and battles, the third rate clan’s kid would hardly show his face, would hardly prove his worth of being under Dugu Zhantian’s care!
Chu Qingcheng was glad inside. Happy this array that had many of them vexed over popped open with a little effort from Luo Yunhai.
Luo Yunhai didn’t let this minor success cloud his judgment, “The viewing gate is open. Attack the pain gate!”
“Understood!” The men responded, filled with zeal.
Regent Estate’s side turned glum, with only Leng Wuchang ever sporting that faint mystifying smile, “Ha-ha-ha, it’s of no consequence… “
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