Chapter 288: Ash
Looking in front of them, Hui Yue saw a massive crowd of soldiers. None of them were moving, but looking at them both the Grand Marshall and Lady Sun could see that they were breathing. Most of them were wounded, some more than others. To the side was the more seriously wounded beasts and others with an affinity for Wood, who were healing them.
Although these beasts were wounded, they all seemed alert. Everyone who could still stand was standing with their body taut and had eyes which were constantly searching their surroundings to catch any movement nearby. No fear was present in the eyes of the beasts. Caution was the best word to describe their current state of mind.
Moving through the many soldiers, Hui Yue and Lady Sun came to the innermost area of the street. Here they found a wounded Wan Qiao. Her arm was sliced up, and part of her chest had been grazed by whatever it was which had sliced her arm open. In front of her was a black cloak and on the ground was black ash. Multiple healers were healing Wan Qiao, and her face was full of annoyance as she slowly but surely had her wounds closed with the help of the experts around her.
As the One-Horned Jasmine Eagle lifted her head, she saw Hui Yue and Lady Sun approach and the annoyed expression on her face changed to a smile while she gently stopped the healers that were healing her. She stood up and moved towards the two other cultivators.
“We have been doing well here,” She said with a smile. “Although there were only hundred Crusaders they are truly a formidable foe,” She continued. “I got one of the Saint ranked Crusaders and as soon as he died the others retreated. I prioritized healing our own wounds before we gave chase.”
Wan Qiao was looking at Hui Yue with big eyes and a tentative smile on her face. It was obvious that she was waiting for him to praise her, and a smile appeared on his face. “You did good,” He said laughingly, and his words caused the eagle to turn smug. A large smile was evident on her face, and it was clear that she had forgotten everything about the half-healed wound on her arm and chest.
“Tell me about what happened here,” Hui Yue said cheerfully as Lady Sun and him looked around. Houses were destroyed, and the road had been busted open here and there. Holes were seen in the walls, and massive stones, which the walls and roads had been built of, had been completely shattered.
“We found the Crusaders,” Wan Qiao started as she sat down on the ground once more allowing for the healers to return to healing her while she explained what happened. “We found the Crusaders lying amongst a whole alleyway filled with beasts; even Lord Pan was there.” While speaking, Wan Qiao’s voice quivered. Although she was the strongest beast in all of Shenyuan, she had lost one of her best friends. Remembering the sight of him lying there with his head in the ground, was something that she found hard. Clearing her throat and quickly wiping her eyes, Wan Qiao continued, “The Crusader was lying there as if Lord Pan had killed him, and his cloak seemed as though his body within had been twisted horribly, but listening to Lord Zhu I knew that it was not as simple as it looked. Although I knew it, as soon as I got close I was still shocked to see how quickly they launched their attack, and I even got injured. The moment they attacked the other lower ranked Crusaders appeared from the shadows and starting to attack the lower ranked beasts. Although many got injured, we did not lose that many beasts. We even managed to kill a few of the Crusaders along the way.”
“You would never guess how they look when they die!” Wan Qiao continued her eagerness returned as she pointed at a cloak in front of her. “There’s one right here. Though, If you lift the cloak all you will find is ashes. But if you lift the cloaks of some of the other Crusaders what you’ll find beneath them.” While speaking, Wan Qiao stood up once more and moved to some other cloaks which were lying on the ground. While some of the cloaks were only a cloak, others seemed to have something within. Lifting the first cloak, Hui Yue found ashes falling off it, nothing within. Frowning, Hui Yue moved to one of the other cloaks. One of the ones that seemed to have something within, and as he moved closer, the scent of rotting flesh appeared. He slowly lifted the cloak only to see a corpse that was half decayed lying within. In another cloak was a complete skeleton. Around ten Crusaders had been killed and all of them were in differing degrees of decomposition. Some were ashes, others skeletons, and yet still some just had rotting flesh.
“I know, right?” Wan Qiao asked as she stood back, “It makes no sense. They are clearly dead, but somehow they were humans before. Very human. It was a black bony hand which wounded me this badly. After being defeated he was turned into the black ashes over there, by the way. But how they can walk around while in different stages of decomposition without smelling, and without collapsing is beyond me. I really don’t understand at all.” She continued, and Hui Yue had to agree. He understood that these Crusaders were definitely dead, yet they were still following orders. It was as though they were an undead legion. It had to be a necromancer’s ability, but Hui Yue never heard Deng Wu mentioning anything about control corpses, and if he could this was on a completely different scale. The only thing Hui Yue knew for sure that he could control was the souls of beasts and humans.
“I better make a mental note about this,” Hui Yue mumbled to himself as he looked at the many Crusaders. Suddenly a frown appeared as he looked at the skeleton. On the forehead were four small holes, so small that they looked to be made by an incredibly sharp needle. Looking at all the Crusaders who were not ash, he found that all heads, no matter who, had four small needle-like wounds on their foreheads.
“How odd,” Hui Yue grumbled as he looked from one to another. It was obvious that it had some meaning but as for what it meant, Hui Yue had no idea. Sighing deeply, Hui Yue let it be and walked around. He saw beasts tending to their wounds or assisting others in preparing for a massive hunt. A few were stacking the casualties in a row. Although a battle had just ended, there was no calm and relaxed feeling. Tension hung in the air making everyone incredibly vigilant and worried about when the Crusaders would attack once again. Although they were vigilant before, they had still been taken by surprise when the many lower ranked Crusaders appeared from the shadows, though now everyone expecting an attack any second. The fact that the Crusaders escaped was both a fortunate thing as much as an unfortunate thing.
“It is good that we are aware of their tactics now,” Hui Yue mumbled, “And it is good we had time to see to the wounded. But they have the chance of setting up another ambush, and we have no idea where they are hiding.” The war was still ongoing, and Hui Yue was the one who had to take the control. Suddenly his eyes went wide, and his mouth went agape. “THE EMPEROR!” He yelled as he ran back to the imperial castle. Behind him followed all the other beasts who were capable of moving as they rushed through the city. Wan Qiao was right by Hui Yue’s side and Lady Sun on the other. Both Saints had their eyes filled with fury and while rushing Hui Yue sighed deeply.
‘It is your turn now,’ He said to Lan Feng letting the two, bird and man, switch places. The moment Lan Feng took over his body both Wan Qiao and Lady Sun felt a shiver run through their bodies. Looking at the man by their side, Wan Qiao asked quietly, “Is that you, pipsqueak?” And when she saw Hui Yue nod his head she heaved a heavy sigh of relief. Although Hui Yue was strong and capable of using Lan Feng’s powers, the phoenix was far more experienced.
Lady Sun looked at the two beasts by her side but said absolutely nothing. Lan Feng sighed as he looked inside of himself and his eyes widened when he felt that he too had access to the red mist energy belonging to the Red Wolf. He could also control the blue energy from the Monk. Although he could not control the energy from the other phenomena, he was greatly excited about the mist energies which he started to feel floating within him.
Soon the palace was within view and Hui Yue slowed his speed down. Although he wished to make it there as soon as possible, he still understood that the Crusaders were likely to have set up an ambush on the way. If they were rushing too quickly it was likely that they would all die. Slowing down, everyone looked around them. Their sharp eyes and noses sensed everything around them yet no movements nor scents were detected as they inched closer and closer to the palace.
Not much fighting occurred this close to the castle. Most of the humans who lived in this area escaped earlier without being killed, but the scent of blood hung heavily in the air. The scent was something which worried Hui Yue greatly.
Making it to the palace the scent of blood got stronger and Hui Yue was ready to hit himself hard for not bringing the soldiers and the emperor with him earlier. Looking at Lady Sun, Hui Yue could see that she too was kicking herself; her face was filled with worry and fear as this was her army. These were her guards. Some of these men and women had been with her for millennia already, yet now she and Hui Yue had left them alone. Alone when there was a massive army of Crusaders out there.
The castle was broken down. Walls had been shattered, and pillars had been crushed. Furniture was destroyed as if it were worthless, and anything of any worth had been stored inside a multitude of storage stones to be shared later. Everything of value was gone, and the castle seemed eerie and empty. As soon as they walked through the main castle gate, they saw the doors hanging on their hinges, but the worst was the strong scent of blood and death.
It was killing them that they were unable to rush through the castle towards the location they left the beasts and the emperor. But they knew the dangers of rushing and very slowly they walked through one room after another, one corridor after another. The closer they got, the stronger the scent became. Moments after, the blood scent mixed with the scent of rotting flesh something which made Hui Yue think of the Crusaders they saw earlier and hope rose in his heart. Perhaps they had managed to fight back against the Crusaders. As far as Hui Yue remembered only a hundred Crusaders had been on the walls earlier, yet the army which Hui Yue left numbered over five thousand emperors. It was possible that they had won the war already, but deep inside a small voice told him ‘stop being so positive, you know it is not possible.’ Hui Yue clenched his fists as he prayed to whatever god there was that they would not have all died. Hui Yue was grateful that Lan Feng was in control of his body. He knew that if he had been in control, then he would have rushed towards the room ignoring all common sense.