Dark clouds loomed outside the seaside stronghold. The ocean seemed undisturbed and tranquil on the surface, but a heavy weight pressing down made everyone short of breath.
Diexi stood atop a reef by the shore, solemnly staring at the thunderclouds over the water. Crimson light winked in and out of existence around her body.
“General Yuchi, my recklessness has brought trouble down upon you,” the zombie girl sighed morosely.
Yuchi Hanxing blinked and shook her head without a word.
“Yuchi Hanxing!” a solemn voice sounded ponderously from the sky. “You have one hour. If you don’t serve up five hundred thousand heads by then, my monster spirit army will assault the stronghold!”
Roar roar roar!
Tall waves rose from the ocean, powerful monster spirit soldiers howling and gibbering incessantly in every one of them. They were all immortals, incomparable to the regular soldiers that Diexi had slaughtered. Likewise, the remaining eight hundred thousand Dusk Phalanx in the stronghold wouldn’t be able to withstand the new attackers at all.
“In your dreams!” Yuchi Hanxing spat out, her jaw set.
“The Nephrite court ripped up the treaty first, Yuchi Hanxing,” the voice responded. “You sent in an arcane immortal and killed ten million of our kind. I demand only five hundred thousand of your soldiers in return—a generous enough concession, isn’t it?”
Yuchi Hanxing gnashed her teeth. With the increasing pressure from the sky over the ocean, she couldn’t make a sound even though her chest was violently heaving in an attempt to form words.
If the monster spirits wanted her head, she would cut it off without hesitation. But five hundred thousand Dusk Phalanx soldiers.... Their death would dispel the Heavenly Formation of the Black Tortoise, and even the grand formation in the stronghold would be affected. The monsters could then charge straight into Dusk Province.
Unlike Dusk Province, there was no restriction against powerful immortals in the North Sea. However, the North Sea monster spirits had an agreement with the Nephrite court. This locale was to be a mutual training ground, and both sides were prohibited from deploying immortals that were too powerful.
The Nephrite court couldn’t send their heavyweights to slaughter the monster spirits, and the monster spirits were prohibited from sending in anyone beyond golden immortal realm. Under those circumstances, if the monsters could still seize the fortress and conquer Dusk Province, the province would be theirs.
Over time, the seaside stronghold became a sparring ground for both sides. Both Nephrite Major and North Sea monster spirits sent budding youths here for training via life and death encounters. Among the ten million that Diexi had slaughtered, the majority were young geniuses of great potential, here for tempering through combat.
Losing them to an arcane immortal enraged the senior counsel of the race, so they wanted half of the Dusk Phalanx dead! There would certainly be geniuses from Nephrite Major in that half, which made for a fitting retribution.
“Cut the crap and fight.” Diexi stepped in before Yuchi Hanxing and manifested an orb. “I crushed your weaklings to refine an origin sphere. If you want revenge, come at me. Do you have to be so nauseating and involve the stronghold?”
She slowly took to the air and placed herself in front of the stronghold. Boundless oceans of blood and mountains of corpses could be found in her eyes.
“An origin sphere?! You used the blood of our children to refine an origin sphere!!” The authoritative voice exploded with rage. Something enormous shifted in and out of sight behind the clouds. It seemed to be a black dragon, or perhaps an enormous black snake. “Die, die, die! I want you dead!”
“You’re just all bark and no bite at the end of the day,” Diexi scoffed. “The pack of ants you’ll send ashore won’t even be enough for a swat. And you, a peerless immortal, don’t dare set foot on land. So why are you wasting our time here? Scram!”
Her last exclamation almost manifested physically. A tremendous bolt of thunder and lightning crackled over the North Sea, melting countless monsters into pools of blood.
Everyone shuddered. Yuchi Hanxing hadn’t expected Diexi to suddenly turn so forceful, either. The lady had hit quite a sore spot.
Monsters beyond the golden immortal realm didn’t dare make landfall, and those below that level didn’t even warrant a slap from her. Diexi was somehow an exception, an arcane immortal that the restriction within the ancient Dusk tomb allowed to freely walk about.
“You… you can’t stay here forever!” the powerful entity in the air growled with rage. “The moment you leave is the moment this stronghold will be destroyed!”
“I’ll say the same about you,” Diexi sneered and gave as good as she got. “If you leave, there will be no monster spirit left in the waters where the North Sea borders the Dusk Province.”
“You…!” The voice was completely overtaken by fury. The dome of dark clouds looming over the sea suddenly shrank, revealing an enormous black snake coiled in the air. Surrounding it were swarms of monster spirit soldiers treading on waves.
“A blackwater snake!” Lu Yun murmured from his vantage point in one of the stronghold’s towers, staring at the thirty-thousand-meter-long snake. “One that has reached the peerless immortal realm!”
Blackwater snakes were among the preeminent immortals in the North Sea, capable of manipulating water and controlling the ocean. Their arrival was always accompanied by waves that touched the sky. They were no lesser than the dragon race that used to inhabit the area.
In Lu Yun’s memory, it was the blackwater snakes who’d led the attack against the dragons and replaced them.
“Blackwater snakes…. They’re ancestors of the rimesnakes!” muttered Qing Han. His eyes then lit up with eagerness. “Should we work together to destroy the North Sea monster spirits and help Aoxue reestablish the dragon palace, Lu Yun?”
“What?” Lu Yun stared dumbly at Qing Han, caught off guard by his friend’s ambitious idea.
The two of them had arrived at the stronghold a while ago and were watching the conflict unfold from the safety of a tower. The juba followed them in the shape of a tiny turtle; it was Lu Yun who’d put the words in Diexi’s mouth just now.
She’d only just left the tomb for the living and didn’t know the ways of the world yet, so she couldn’t possibly have come up with all that herself. Yuchi Hanxing, on the other hand, was too intimidated by the monster spirits to even think properly, or she wouldn’t have asked for Lu Yun’s help.
“Calm down, Qing Han!” Lu Yun shuddered. “Don’t think we’re invincible just because we’ve dealt with a few big guys in tombs. Outside of those ancient tombs, I’m nothing, at least for now.”
“No, I can do it!” Qing Han smiled. Before he could explain, though, the governor cut him short.
“Don’t!” Lu Yun said hurriedly. “There are things you mustn’t put into words, or others will know! I know you have a lot of tricks up your sleeve, but the North Sea monster spirits are no joke.
“They couldn’t have eliminated the dragons on their own ten thousand years ago. There must have been another faction supporting them! I know what you’re capable of, but don’t go there unless it’s a life or death situation!
“The empress in the tomb held sway over the world, but even she died and her clan almost went extinct!”
Qing Han nodded in resignation at Lu Yun’s solemn expression. The imperial envoy was at an age when youths were most boastful. Even though he was a cultivator, he was still a teenage boy—well, girl.
Lu Yun sighed in relief when he saw the excitement fade from his friend’s face. He looked out of the stronghold and muttered, “Diexi’s existence will attract a lot of attention. If she wants to stay by my side and walk openly in the world of immortals without being treated like a monster, she has to make a substantial contribution to the Nephrite court. This is a good opportunity.”
Qing Han nodded in agreement.
Diexi couldn’t stay hidden in the darkness forever, after coming back to life, or else she’d slowly lose her humanity and become a true killing machine. If she could live openly and be accepted by everyone, the zombie king would become a real person.
Another fearsome fight broke out over the sea as Diexi’s words enraged countless monster spirits. The tremendous army charged at the stronghold with waves that touched the sky.
Diexi burst into crimson flames, the color echoing in her irises and the blood-red red hair flying wildly behind her. When she lifted her hand, an infinity of crimson light converged at her fingertips.
A sudden explosion rumbled out as an enormous gate pierced the land before the stronghold, its gentle power keeping the army of monsters at bay.
“Please hold, fellow daoists of the North Sea.” An aureate figure sparkled in the sky. “This woman is a fiend born of an ancient tomb. She brings untold violence and great suffering wherever she goes. I am here to execute the decree of His Majesty the Celestial Emperor and take her down.”
A terrifying might radiated from the jade gate and suppressed Diexi, the color drained from her face as a thick line of blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth.