Chapter 287: The Hunt
Leaving the two dead Saints behind, Hui Yue and Wan Qiao rushed further into the city with Lord Zhu and Lady Sun by their sides. The force behind them were getting denser and denser as more and more armies slowly folded into the flood of beasts who rushed towards the Imperial Castle. No beast in the city had anything to fight against as the humans had long since given up fighting now that they knew they could safely escape. Not to mention the threat of the Crusaders that hung above their heads. All of them silently agreed to head towards the castle. Perhaps they would find more soldiers there who were willing to fight there; who were willing to give their lives for the sake of protecting the royal family.
Without paying too much attention, Hui Yue and Wan Qiao rushed forward as one Saint after another fell in line behind them. The entire army was soon gathered, and they all rushed towards the palace hoping to catch up with the emperor and the Grand Marshall. Hui Yue knew there was a chance that they had already fled through a hidden tunnel somewhere, and that if this were the case, they would have vanished far away, but he could not help feeling that everything went far too smoothly for them. Had the Grand Marshall truly underestimated them so much that they would win so easily or was this their scheme? Hui Yue dared not believe it would be so easy, and he expected to find Saints and Crusaders lying in wait every time they took a turn, yet no matter how far they went they saw no one. The city was empty; the citizens were long gone. Weapons, items, and valuables were laying all over. People grabbed everything they could while fleeing, but some things were lost during their escape.
Moving through the city, hours had passed before they finally stood in front of the massive Imperial Palace, which was built into the mountainside itself. No guards were visible at the front gates, but as they slowly traveled further and further in, Hui Yue found that a few loyal soldiers had stayed behind. All of them trembled full of fear and the beasts took care of them in an instant. Moving through the castle, fewer and fewer people were seen. Entering the throne room they saw that it was deserted. Knowing that they were incapable of continuing their search the way they had been, Hui Yue fully transformed into a wolf. Seeing him change, a ripple of energy spread through the entire group as they all took their beast form. Finding the bedroom belonging to the emperor, Hui Yue sniffed around the ground for some time while his eyes teared from the overpowering scent of perfume.
“Are you ready for the first hunt of your life?” Lady Sun asked him with a sinister grin on her face. She had changed into a wolf. A large black wolf with a white stripe running down her side. Her teeth were sharp and ferocious but next to Hui Yue she could only kneel deeply. Hui Yue was the sovereign of wolves, and this was something he already knew, but he was inexperienced in the way of wolves and could only nod to Lady Sun.
“Good,” The black wolf grinned as she too inhaled the strong scents from the room. Sniffing around, she followed the thickness of the perfume and suddenly stopped as she noticed that in one part of the room there was less scent. It was as though the perfumed air was being sucked away.
“There is a secret tunnel within this room,” Lady Sun said with a frown as she started to look around the location where the scent was vanishing. Hui Yue turned to Wan Qiao saying “Destroy the Imperial Palace. Take everything you find of value and then destroy the castle. If you finish before we return, then find the Crusaders. If all of you go together, you will be able to defeat them. If you cannot do that, then we will lose this war.” Hui Yue was blunt when he told Wan Qiao what to do. Moments after his nose once more stuck to the ground sniffing the various scents.
Looking around the floor both Hui Yue, Lady Sun, and her wolf-soldiers all looked around for a way to open the secret door they knew was there, but they found nothing. Eventually, Lady Sun’s eyes filled with annoyance from wasting time looking for an entrance, and she furiously started to split the room apart. She broke the marble tiles on the floor, dug up the gold inlaid walls, ripped apart the interior, and finally, after wreaking havoc in the entire room, she found a small tunnel behind a small piece of furniture next to the bed. The tunnel was around one meter wide and one meter tall. It was so small that anyone who walked inside of it would have to bend forward clearly making it impossible for large creatures to make their way inside the tunnel.
Hui Yue and the other wolves all used their mist energy to shrink their bodies before they put their noses to the ground and started howling out loud as they found the scent of the emperor. Moments later the entire wolf pack moved together through the tunnel.
Hui Yue ran by Lady Sun’s side. The lady led the hunt with focused eyes. Her nose was constantly vibrating as she was sniffing the air, her entire body taut. Hui Yue followed by her side as he too inhaled the strong scent of the perfume. The further they traveled, the more the scents changed. At first, there was only perfume, but now a sour scent was mixed in as well. A scent which Hui Yue was told by one of the other wolves in the pack came from sweat. The emperor was apparently starting to sweat.
A bit further down the tunnel, Hui Yue saw blood-red footprints on the ground, and the scent once more changed strongly. Now the smell was mostly metallic. The smell of blood was so strong that Hui Yue almost lost himself. Fortunately for him, Lady Sun had three wolves constantly look after Hui Yue to ensure that he would not get too drunk on the hunt resulting in him jeopardizing the hunt. Although Hui Yue was the sovereign of wolves, Lady Sun was instantly aware that he knew little about the instincts of a wolf.
Running through the tunnel, the scent of blood became thicker and thicker. The scent of perfume had now turned nauseating as it mixed with the blood. The smell of sweat had increased as well, and the scent was now so thick that the entire tunnel smelled of the emperor. Running forward for another few moments, Hui Yue suddenly made out some movement in front of him and shortly after they reached the emperor who was gasping for air; his face was filled with pain and agony. The man was all alone. There were none of his imperial concubines with him, none of his kids, and no Grand Marshall. The emperor was horrified when he saw the beasts in front of him and he drew a heavy jeweled sword that was hanging from his waist. As soon as he drew it, the wolves all surrounded him. One wolf after another jumped forward to bite him, tease him, and snap at him. The wolves were clearly having fun, but none of them were truly trying to attack the human. Seeing that the wolves were not trying to eat him, the emperor seemed a bit more relaxed, and he stopped protecting himself behind the sword instead threw it on the ground. Hui Yue, who was standing right behind him, saw the sword drop to the ground and slowly picked it up then placed it in a storage stone. All the wealth from the castle was to be shared between the armies.
The emperor was no longer as elegant and aloof as one expected a monarch to be. His clothes were thrown on in a hurry, his hair was messy, and his breathing ragged. His feet were bleeding as he had worn nothing but a set of small indoor shoes, but after rushing through the rugged stone tunnel his shoes had given in, and his feet were getting cut up from the sharp stones.
“Move!” Hui Yue growled in a human voice as he appeared in front of the disheveled emperor. Hearing the voice made the emperor jump in surprise, but he quickly nodded his head and started to return to the room he escaped from some time earlier.
Lady Sun trotted up next to Hui Yue. The lady was very proud of herself and Hui Yue’s performance since they had caught the most important person, but her face did not show the elated expression it should have.
“Worried about the others who are fighting the Crusaders?” Hui Yue asked quietly, his eyes attentively looking at Lady Sun. He did not need to watch the emperor as he was being looked after by the other wolves. Wolves who were all eager to show their inner beasts. They made a ring around him making it impossible to avoid them, and even if he could run, it seemed as though there was no will to fight left on the emperor’s face. Instead, a manic grin was shown on his lips. A grin was showing that he was having fun with something which was not as he had expected.
Hui Yue noticed that the emperor seemed deranged, but he decided to wait until they were back in the castle until he could speak with him face to face. Now he was focused on the worried Lady Sun.
“I know that they should be able to defeat the Crusaders,” She said with a deep sigh, “But the Crusaders are not like living beings. They feel no pain; they have no fear. I don’t know how they are created, but I do know that they are terrible creatures. I cannot help but fear who will die from our side. Although we will defeat them, the price will be quite terrible I fear.”
Hui Yue smiled a sad smile. He too was aware that they would pay a large price to kill the Crusaders, but defeating them was an important task something which had to be done if they truly wanted to take over the Siban Empire.
Their trip through the tunnels had taken close to two hours to catch up with the emperor and returning to the castle took a whole hour more. When they returned to the castle, Hui Yue ordered Lady Sun’s soldiers to hold the emperor while he and the lady went to see if they could find the Saints and see how everything was progressing.
Night had settled in the sky as the two wolves left the castle, and started to trot through the city streets. A heavy scent of blood filled the air, but they could not follow the scent to find the beasts as it was everywhere. Some of the blood came from human soldiers, others from inattentive beasts, and some of the smell came from civilians who fought back against the beasts.
Walking through the city, both Lady Sun and Hui Yue could not help but frown as they noticed a lack of any fighting. There were no signs of battles currently ongoing in the city, but oddly at the same time, no beasts were rushing around celebrating that they had won. Feeling his heart quiver, Hui Yue wondered if he had made the wrong decision to send the Saints to battle the Crusaders but he dared not voice his worries. Instead, they kept moving further and further into the city streets turning here and there and walking to random locations. They both silently felt that something was completely wrong. Almost two hundred thousand experts should be within the city but not one living beast, or human, could be heard.
“Do you think they are dead?” Lady Sun asked with a quivering voice, but Hui Yue shook his head vigorously. “No,” He assured her, “Although the Crusaders are strong, they are not that strong.” He promised her. The scent of blood suddenly got stronger mixed in with the scent of death. As they got closer and closer, they finally found the army which they had been looking for.