Chapter 208: Stone Men
Hundreds of soldiers clad in red colored scale armor stood motionlessly along the corridors of the Essence Stone Mine, standing but a few feet from one another, silently saluting Zhang and the beauties as they walked pass.
“The essence concentration that we absorbed from the Dragon’s Vein can't even makeup but a fraction of the concentration here.” Ling said as she and the others continued deeper into the mine.
Curled up in Ling’s arm’s Little White could be seen silently absorbing the essence around it, in an attempt to further its cultivation.
“Too bad we already ascended or else this would be a great place to cultivate.” Yuying added as she noticed what Little White was doing.
“With such a great environment to cultivate, it makes me wonder why there aren't any more saints residing here.” Lingqi questioned.
“You right, considering that we haven't even reached the deepest parts of the mine yet, it's odd that there aren't a lot of Saint level experts residing here.” Ling said.
“Also with this high of a concentration of essence, shouldn't the miners who work down here have much higher cultivations?” Lingqi asked.
“Perhaps there used to be a higher population of saints here but they went elsewhere. We did wipe out nearly half of their forces. If I recall correctly number of lesser saints that they lost were easily numbered in the tens or dozens. As for the miners, maybe they aren't allowed to stay down here too long, since if they get too strong it would be hard to maintain control over them.” Zhang said as he recalled rewarding his subordinates with Heavenly Energy from the corpses of the slain lesser saints of the Golden Pearl Sect while keeping the corpses of the full saints to himself and the beauties.
“Yea, we sure did a number on them.” Ai said with a laughed as she walked slightly ahead of the group with brisk steps, showing how excited she was to explore the mines.
After taking another hundred or so steps and passing dozens of openings that splintered off from their path, Zhang and the beauties arrived at a large chamber. At the center of this chamber was a large opening that descended deeper into the mines.
Along with a spiraling staircase that was cut out of the ground, there were also four platforms that led to four large wooden lifts that dangled from the chamber’s ceiling.
“My lord, a few teams have already descended and are awaiting your arrival. However due to how vast these mines are we are still waiting for more men to be sent down. Sadly, the villagers refuse to step foot back down here so we are left without proper guides.” A soldier said as he walked up and saluted Zhang who replied with a nod before making his way onto one of the four lifts with the beauties in tow while Chu Shou, Hai Xing and a few other lesser saints filed into the adjacent.
As for the remaining lifts, they were quickly filled with soldiers from the Blood Scale Army.
Once everyone was inside the lifts, a lever was pulled and dozens of ropes, and mechanisms were put into motion causing the lifts to begin to descending into the depths of the mines one by one.
Since there was only so much space on the lifts, a large number of soldiers who had accompanied Zhang and the beauties had to descend using the staircase.
As these soldiers began marching downward, they quickly walked past their counterparts who stood along the walls of the spiraling staircase holding flickering torches.
“This shaft opens up quite a bit.” Ling commented as the surrounding walls widened.
“Luckily we have a lot of soldiers at hand. Or else it would take who knows how long to found our way around this place.” Lingqi joked.
Before long, the lifts arrived at their destination and Zhang and the beauties disembarked to find themselves in what appeared to be another world.
Hundreds of wooden mine carts could be seen filled to the brim with sparkling crystals, countless miles of tracks could be seen laid out on the ground and evidence left behind by a massive workforce was scattered everywhere.
“My lord, due to the sheer size of this mine system, we decided it would be best to await your arrival instead of spreading ourselves thin and getting lost.” A soldier said the moment Zhang and the beauties arrived.
“That's fine.” Zhang said as he proceeded to pat the soldier on the shoulder before his gaze wandered about once again, examining the surrounding area.
“There's no way the villagers that were gathered around the mine entrance could have done all of this by themselves.” Ling pointed out after examining the vastness of the cavern they were in and the number of pathways cut into the walls.
“It doesn't look like any of this was done by magic either.” Lingqi said.
“Chu Shou, have more of our men come down here and begin excavating as many essence stones are they can. We will use this mine to bolster our forces in preparation for future confrontations with the forces of the Golden Pearl Sect.” Zhang said.
Unlike most sect's and forces who preferred to empower a few select individuals with all of their resources, Zhang wanted to increase the bulk of his power.
In his opinion, having a thousand level ten cultivators at his beck and call would be much more useful than having ten lesser saints.
Of course, there are many out there would beg to differ, but none of their opinions truly mattered to him.
“My lord, what about the forces of the Starry Sea Sect? Surely since we are working together with them, they'll expect a portion of the essence stones that we excavate from here.” Chu Shou asked, reminding Zhang of Shan Li and the forces of the Starry Sea Sect that were also currently encamped within the fortress.
“Between me and you, give them twenty percent and tell them we are giving them fifty percent. If they ask for more then I'll handle things with their holy son. For now, we need to maintain a lasting relationship with them but in the future, we may end up becoming bitter enemies once again.” Zhang said with a devious grin on his face.
“As you command my lord.” Chu Shou said with glinting eyes while rubbing his hands together.
Suddenly the ground began to rumble and quake, causing many of Zhang’s soldiers to stumble onto the ground.
Up above within a well-guarded area of the fortress, in a place filled with prison cells, Lord Cheng Huang could be seen sitting crossed legged until the ground began to shake.
“They’re here!” He said as he shifted his gaze toward the ground.
Elsewhere on the island, hundreds of miners began wailing and releasing blood-curdling cries.
“They’re coming! They’re coming!” Many of the seasoned miners cried with panicked expressions on their faces.
“What’s coming?!” Nai Fan asked as he grabbed a miner by the collar after coming to ensure the mine doesn't collapse with his new master still inside it.
“The demons! Th-th-the living statues! The face stealing statues!” The miner cried.
Back down in the mines, a strange event began to occur. As the ground continued to shake, Zhang and the beauties found themselves face to face with an unforeseen enemy.
Caught by surprise, Zhang’s soldiers who were scattered throughout the mine’s tunnels were assaulted all simultaneously attacked.
From the dark caverns, stony walls embedded with countless essence stones and rocky floor, countless humanoid limbs appeared.
Arms of stone reached out and attempted to drag the unsuspecting into the ground while claws tipped with crystals lashed out and sliced through the scale armor that Zhang’s soldiers wore.
While a tiny fraction of the soldiers met an unjust end, most of them were able to overcome their brief moment of panic and draw their weapons.
Swords were swung, fists were used and whatever else that was laying around was this used to fend this unknown enemy.
Much to their surprise, Zhang’s soldiers found that the limbs made of stone and crystal were easily destroyed. However, unlike conventional enemies, the stone arms and claws quickly regenerated and even grew torsos and other body parts, causing them to look ever more so humanlike.
“Prepare to engage the enemy! Whatever these things are, we will crush them!” Zhang roared as the Rising Moon Sword and Mirage Viper Fang Blade appeared in his hands.
“Attack the stone men!” A soldier roared as he led a squad of soldiers into battle.
After using his divine sense to scout out the power level of the stone enemies in front of him and after having witnessed a few of his soldiers successfully smashing a stone hand to pieces, Zhang charged forward at full speed.
With a flick of his wrist and a twist of his arm in a single fluid motion, Zhang dismembered a dozen or so of the stone men in an instant. But of course, much to Zhang’s dismay, a dozen or so more stone men soon rose out from the ground in next to no time at all.
“Form up ranks! If we don't they'll just tear everyone out!” Chu Shou commanded, seeing if he did not take charge, the soldiers of the Blood Scale Army would over extend themselves and unnecessary casualties would occur.
While the soldiers came together, the beauties began to put on a display of their power. Ai lashed out with her black whip, Lingqi tossed vials of corrosive poison, Ling sliced the stone men to bit with blades of water, while Little White dashed about and used its claws and fangs, as Yuying employed her dark arts to summon a green colored mist.
As the green colored mist swept across the ground a small army of the dead was raised. Further adding to the spectacle was the fact that there were actually a few skeletons encased in the stone men. So as they were awakened from their normally eternal slumber, a few of the undead broke out from within the stone men.
Besides the army of the undead, Yuying also activated the powers of the Ruler’s Domain and unleashed her swarm of Wraith Spider.
As a frightening reminder of Yuying’s might in battles that solely relied on numbers, the army of the undead and the swarm of Wraith Spiders quickly decimated the stone men.
It got to the point where the stone men would be crushed before they could even push themselves out from the ground.
“All units! Quickly head for the surface!” Yuying commanded.
However, before any of the soldiers or their superiors could respond to Yuying’s instructions, the rumbling ground grew still and the stone men that had already formed ceased to move and those that had yet to spawn no longer attempted to.
As quickly as they appeared, the stone men disappeared just as quickly, leaving behind a shrouded mystery, awaiting Zhang and the beauties to solve.
“Have all of our saint level experts and a large portion of our forces come down here immediately! Order our men to keep quiet about what happened down here. I also want all of the previous occupants of this fortress gathered and kept under close watch. Avoid allowing the people of the Starry Sea Sect from getting too close to them.” Zhang commanded after the ordeal was over.
“Also have the miners questioned, I want to know what we are dealing with. As much information as possible.” Zhang added.
Perhaps it was due to the mysteriousness of the stone men, but Zhang had become very intrigued and wished to possess them and for him to do that he would have to prevent the people of the Starry Sea Sect from interfering in any way or manner.
“As you command my lord.” Chu Shou said as he levitated into the air and shot up the lift shaft, heading toward the surface to carry out Zhang’s orders before any news of what had occurred was spread.
“As for now all of you are to set up defensive parameters in preparation for an enemy assault.” Zhang said to the soldiers and other lesser saints who remained behind with him.
Quickly responding to Zhang’s commands, the soldiers of the Blood Scale Army started gathering the scattered mine carts and began constructing a makeshift wall. The lesser saints began to employ their magic to remold the ground in an attempt to prevent the stone men from raising up from it.
“Silky, you and the others go and make web nets over there and there.” Yuying commanded as she patted Silky.
After staying within the Ruler’s Domain for extended periods of time and being fed ample food, Silk had grown tremendous in size. Although it was still smaller than the regular Wraith Spiders, Silky was now roughly the size of a very large dog. One of their dogs that were slightly larger than their human masters.