Xie Lian’s swift leap was indeed quite shocking, but his two attendants knew it was nothing to be concerned about. Mu Qing didn’t move, but Feng Xin still went to lend a hand. With a slight exertion of force, Xie Lian lifted the young soldier up. The two of them landed on the city wall together, and Xie Lian asked, “Who are you, soldier, and why were you hiding here?”

This soldier had bandages wrapped around his hands and head, with traces of blood staining the bandages. It was not surprising since many soldiers had been injured and wrapped themselves up like this after the fierce battle. But he had been hiding silently in the shadows, which was suspicious. Mu Qing suggested, “Could he be a spy from Yong’an? Let’s capture him and interrogate him.”

Xie Lian also had his suspicions, but the security in the imperial city was tight, and it was unlikely that enemies could infiltrate unless it was Lang Yin alone. And this young soldier was clearly just a teenager. At this moment, Feng Xin curiously said, “Your Highness, don’t you remember this kid? He was always charging ahead of you during the day, the one at the forefront of the formation.”

Xie Lian was taken aback and asked, “Is that so?”

In the heat of battle during the day, he had no time to pay attention to anything else. As long as someone attacked him with a sword, he would strike back. He hadn’t even noticed Feng Xin and Mu Qing, so how could he have noticed other soldiers?

Feng Xin confirmed, “Yes, I remember this kid. He was fierce in his charges, as if he didn’t care about his own life.”

Hearing this, Xie Lian carefully observed the young soldier. The young man inexplicably straightened up, lifted his head, and stood with a stiff posture, almost like a military stance. Mu Qing said, “He shouldn’t have been lurking here so sneakily. Who knows if he came to spy or eavesdrop?”

Although he said so, he had actually let go of his guard. This was because the “Divine Army” had been heavily promoted in the Xianle Army, with many young people joining the army to follow Xie Lian. Among them were quite a few teenagers, who were devoted followers of Xie Lian, having grown up worshiping his image and listening to the name of the Crown Prince. It wasn’t uncommon for them to try to secretly get close and catch a glimpse of the War God.

Xie Lian said, “Alright, it was a false alarm.” He spoke in a gentle tone to the young soldier, “Sorry for scaring you earlier.”

However, the young soldier showed no fear and just stood even straighter, saying, “Your Highness…”

Before he could finish his words, something unexpected happened. The young soldier suddenly lunged towards Xie Lian!

Thinking that he was launching a surprise attack, Xie Lian dodged to the side and raised his hand to deliver a palm strike. With his power, this strike would have instantly killed the young soldier. However, he suddenly felt a chilling sensation on his back, and his hand swiftly changed direction, intercepting a cold arrow shot from behind.

It turned out that the young soldier had lunged at him because he had seen the glint of the flying arrow in mid-air. Xie Lian had originally been standing with his back against the female wall, unafraid of attacks from behind. Instead, he had leaped onto the wall and looked downward from the front. He could faintly see an empty space in front of the city gate, and a figure standing alone in the distance. The person’s dark-colored clothes blended with the night, making it extremely difficult to detect. Feng Xin quickly came to Xie Lian’s side and shot an arrow, but the person had already calculated the distance and deliberately stood far away. The arrow was shot, and the person beckoned to Xie Lian, gesturing with his hand, and without saying a word, turned and quickly retreated. Feng Xin’s arrow was already old by the time it reached its target, barely missing the person by a few inches. Feng Xin angrily struck the city wall, and bits of gravel fell, as he said, “Who is that?!”

Who else could it be? Xie Lian said, “Lang Yin!”

The Xianle soldiers also noticed the anomaly and shouted as they ran in all directions. But out of caution, they didn’t immediately order the opening of the city gates to pursue, and instead went to seek instructions from their superiors. Lang Yin had shot an arrow and left, as if he had come specifically to greet Xie Lian. Mu Qing furrowed his brow and said, “What is he here for? To show off?”

Feng Xin angrily said, “Today, Yong’an was defeated and forced to flee from Your Highness. He’s just barely escaped from Your Highness’s hands. What’s there to show off about?!”

However, Xie Lian touched the cold arrow and found something attached to it. He took it off and examined it near the firelight. It was a torn strip of fabric, seemingly torn from a dark blue silk robe, with damp bloodstains on it. Unfolding it, he saw that it was twisted and written with the character “Qi.”

Xie Lian immediately crumpled the fabric in his hand and said, “Qi Rong… Isn’t Qi Rong in the imperial palace?”

Feng Xin said to a nearby soldier, “Quickly go into the city and confirm!”

The soldiers hurriedly went down. This was indeed a piece of the edge of Qi Rong’s favorite robe. Lang Yin was known for his ability to appear and disappear at will, so there was a real possibility that he had taken Qi Rong captive. Time was of the essence. Xie Lian said, “I’ll go up and take a look.” When he saw Feng Xin also approaching, he said, “You stay and guard the city gate. Be steady and careful not to be drawn away from the mountain.”

Feng Xin slung his bow and said, “Are you going alone?”

2 / 2

Xie Lian wasn’t willing to send troops from Xianle unless Yong’an initiated a full-scale invasion. If Qi Rong had fallen into enemy hands, Xie Lian could bring him back on his own. But if he led a group of soldiers, it would surely escalate the situation, resulting in more than just one or two casualties. Currently, Xie Lian wanted to keep things under control as much as possible. He said, “No need to bring anyone. They can’t do anything to me.”

After speaking, he lightly pressed his hand against the wall and leaped down from the city wall, landing gracefully. He swiftly chased after the direction Lang Yin had retreated. After running for a while, he heard footsteps catching up from behind. When he turned his head, he realized it was the young soldier. Xie Lian shouted at him, “I don’t need any help. Go back!”

The young soldier shook his head. Xie Lian said again, “Go back!” and increased his pace, quickly leaving the young soldier far behind until he couldn’t see him anymore.

He ran for about five or six miles and entered a hill. This hill was not steep but more like a slope, hence it was called “Beizi Slope.” According to reconnaissance, after the people of Yong’an retreated, most of their forces and civilians hid here. The vegetation on Beizi Slope was dense, and in the darkness, there were eerie sounds coming from the forest, as if countless creatures were lurking, watching with predatory eyes. Xie Lian ventured deep into the mountains, holding his breath and searching for a long time. Suddenly, he saw a long figure hanging from a tree in front of him. Upon closer inspection, he exclaimed, “Qi Rong!”

Indeed, it was Qi Rong. He was hanging upside down from the tree, seemingly beaten brutally, unconscious, with blood flowing from his nose and a blackened eye. Xie Lian drew his sword and cut the rope, catching Qi Rong as he fell, patting his face. Qi Rong slowly regained consciousness and loudly exclaimed, “Cousin Prince!”

While Xie Lian was untying him, a sudden chill ran down his back, and he swiftly turned around, his long sword blocking an incoming attack. It was Lang Yin, wielding a heavy sword in both hands, striking towards him.

The two clashed several times, but after a few moves, Xie Lian sent Lang Yin’s sword flying and kicked his lower leg, causing him to stumble and fall. Xie Lian pointed his sword at Lang Yin’s throat, ending the fight, and said, “You know you’re no match for me. Stop fighting.”

Today, everyone who charged at Xie Lian on the battlefield had been killed, except for Lang Yin, who had survived a direct strike from Xie Lian’s sword and retreated with his injuries. Anyone could see that Lang Yin was the leader of this group from Yong’an. When Xie Lian told him to stop fighting, it naturally carried multiple implications.

Xie Lian said, “As long as you don’t initiate an attack, I guarantee that the soldiers in the imperial city won’t launch an attack on you. Take some water and provisions and leave.”

Lang Yin lay on the ground, his gaze fixedly locked with Xie Lian’s. His gaze sent chills down people’s spines. He asked, “Crown Prince, do you think what you’re doing is right?”

Xie Lian’s expression froze. Qi Rong cursed from the side, “Nonsense! Do you even know who Crown Prince is? He is a god from heaven! It’s not him who’s wrong, but you, a bunch of traitorous thieves!”

Xie Lian shouted, “Qi Rong, enough!”

He couldn’t answer Lang Yin’s question. Deep down, he actually felt that what he was doing might not be right. However, it was the best course of action he could think of. If he didn’t protect Xianle and resist the invasion, would he allow the rebels from Yong’an to repeatedly attack and even infiltrate the imperial city?

He could deal with one or two individuals who charged at him with a sword and knock them unconscious. But on the battlefield, where blades were merciless, he couldn’t possibly have the energy to knock out each and every one of them. He could only avoid thinking about it and swing his sword. Lang Yin’s question happened to stir up that voice in his heart: Do you think what you’re doing is right?

However, Qi Rong wasn’t as conflicted as Xie Lian. He said, “What did I say wrong? Cousin, since you’re here, quickly kill these treacherous thieves! They have dozens of people attacking just me!”

He had always been despised by the people of Yong’an in the imperial city, and seeking revenge was not difficult for them. Of course, there were also many Xianle people who despised him. Xie Lian didn’t have time to deal with him now and said to Lang Yin, “What do you want? If you want rain, Yong’an can still make it rain. If you want gold, I can give you gold statues. If you want food, I’ll… find a way. But don’t provoke a war again. Let’s find a solution together, find a third way, alright?”

These words slipped out unintentionally, and Lang Yin might not understand what the “third way” meant, but he answered without hesitation, “I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything. The only thing I want is for Xianle to disappear from the world. I want it to vanish.”

His tone was flat, but his words were chilling. After a while, Xie Lian said in a deep voice, “…If you bring your people to attack, I won’t be able to stand idly by. You don’t have a chance of winning. Even if the rebels from Yong’an who follow you will die, are you still willing to do it?”

Lang Yin said, “Yes.”

“…”

He answered so calmly and resolutely that Xie Lian’s bones crackled, yet he had nothing to say. Lang Yin said each word distinctly, “I know you are a god. It doesn’t matter. Even if you are a god, don’t think you can make me stop.”

Xie Lian knew that Lang Yin was sincere. He was all too familiar with the sentiment in his tone—it was the unwavering determination of a person who had made up his mind. When he had said to Jun Wu, “Even if heaven wants me dead,” the determination in his words mirrored Lang Yin’s resolve at this moment!

Lang Yin’s words were nothing less than a declaration that he would continue to rally countless people from Yong’an to attack incessantly, with no end in sight. So, what should Xie Lian do now? The answer couldn’t be clearer.

Xie Lian usually wielded his sword with one hand, but now he held it with both hands. Just as his hands trembled and he was about to thrust his sword at Lang Yin’s throat, a strange creaking sound came from behind, followed by an abrupt, chilling laughter.

Someone had silently appeared behind him, which surprised Xie Lian. He turned his head and widened his eyes.

At a time like this, the most likely person to appear would be an enemy general, perhaps with countless swords aimed at him. But he hadn’t expected that the person behind him would be someone so peculiar.

That person was dressed in a pale mourning gown, wearing a mask on his pale face. The mask showed half of a crying face and half of a smiling face, an extremely bizarre sight. He sat on a vine between two large trees, making the “creak creak” sound as he swayed back and forth on the vine, as if swinging on a swing. When he saw Xie Lian turn around, he raised both hands, clapping slowly and rhythmically while emitting a chilling laughter from his mouth. Xie Lian felt an inexplicable sense of horror and exclaimed sharply, “What are you?”

He used the term “what” because he instinctively felt that this was not just one person!

Just at that moment, Xie Lian suddenly felt that the tip of his sword didn’t feel right in his hand. Qi Rong also shouted and turned his head to see that a long trench had opened up in front of them. Lang Yin, who had been lying on the ground, had actually been swallowed by the crevice. The ground quickly closed up, and Xie Lian instinctively thrust his sword into the ground. Sensing that the sword tip touched nothing but soil and didn’t pierce flesh, he realized that the strike hadn’t killed Lang Yin. He didn’t know whether to feel regret or relief. At this moment, the person in white emitted a sneering sound again, and Xie Lian threw his sword at him.

The sword flew like lightning, piercing through the person’s body and nailing him to a tree. However, the person didn’t utter a sound; he slumped to the ground. Xie Lian hurried forward to check, but all he saw was a crumpled white cloth on the ground—the person wearing the clothes had disappeared into thin air!

The appearance and disappearance of this person were extremely bizarre. Xie Lian felt a shiver down his spine and didn’t dare to be careless. He lifted Qi Rong with one hand and said, “Let’s go.”

But Qi Rong shouted, “Don’t go! Cousin, set fire to the mountain! There are many people from Yong’an on this mountain. Those troublemakers who refuse to leave the city gate are all hiding up here. Let’s burn them all!”

Xie Lian dragged him away for a while but felt the surrounding aura becoming increasingly heavy, as if countless pairs of eyes were watching them. He said, “Didn’t you see how strange that person was just now? It’s not safe to stay here.”

Qi Rong asked, “What does it matter if they’re strange? You’re a god, aren’t you? Why should you be afraid of these small demons? Just kill them if they dare to cause trouble.”

Xie Lian said, “Let’s go back first.”

Seeing him brush it off and refusing to set fire to the mountain, Qi Rong widened his eyes and asked, “Why? These people beat me like this, and they want to oppose us. You heard it earlier, he said he wants to destroy Xianle! To destroy our country! Why don’t you kill them all, just like what you did on the battlefield today!”

“…” Xie Lian’s breathing paused, and he angrily said, “Why do you always think about killing them all?! Are civilians and soldiers the same?”

Qi Rong retorted, “What’s the difference? Aren’t they all humans? It’s all the same to kill anyone!”

Xie Lian felt a pang in his heart as if Qi Rong had struck a nerve. A surge of anger rose within him, “You…!”

At that moment, Xie Lian suddenly felt a tight grip on his ankle. He looked down and saw a swollen hand protruding from the dense undergrowth, grabbing hold of his boot!

At the same time, several thuds sounded ahead, and seven or eight figures rained down from the trees like a downpour, collapsing on the ground. Although they had human forms, they had no clothing and resembled numerous large worms, wriggling slowly toward them. Qi Rong exclaimed, “Who are these people?!”

Xie Lian severed the hand that had grabbed his ankle with a sword and said in a low voice, “They are not people, they are minions!”

Xie Lian had never heard of such things appearing near the imperial city before. Even if there were any demons or monsters, the Daoists from the Palace of Emperors would quickly eradicate them. Therefore, these minions must have been intentionally placed here by someone.

Xie Lian had never anticipated that in this war, there would be non-human entities involved. Recalling the various clues just now, he increasingly felt that the other party was in cahoots with Lang Yin, and the abduction of Qi Rong was merely a ploy to lure him out. However, he didn’t have time to dwell on it now. Every time he swung his sword, he could cleanly cut the minions into two halves. However, once the minions appeared, they came in large groups. Sure enough, the surrounding trees and bushes rustled, and more and more indistinct flesh-colored figures crawled out, surging towards Xie Lian, and only towards Xie Lian. For every ten he killed, twenty more would rush over. As Xie Lian continued to wield his sword, a minion on a tree took aim at his back and pounced!

To his surprise, before it could get close, a cold gleam severed it. Qi Rong didn’t carry any weapons, so it couldn’t have been him who intercepted it. When Xie Lian turned around, he discovered that it was the young soldier who had swung the sword!

He had been thrown off by Xie Lian at the city gate, yet he had followed them and found them. The young soldier held a worn-out sword and swiftly cut down several minions, proving to be quite effective. These creatures secreted highly adhesive fluids as they crawled, making Qi Rong feel nauseous. He stomped fiercely on the head of a slightly weaker minion and found that these things weren’t as terrifying as they seemed. He wondered, “They’re not that formidable, huh?”

However, he didn’t know that minions often appeared in conjunction with other vicious creatures. Xie Lian bit his lip, then wiped his two fingers on the edge of the sword, staining them with fresh blood. Finally, he handed the sword to Qi Rong and said, “Both of you take this sword and go ahead! Nothing will dare to approach you. Don’t look back no matter what you hear on the way, remember, absolutely don’t look back!”

Qi Rong said, “Cousin! I…”

Xie Lian interrupted, “The real danger is behind us. Once it arrives, I won’t have time to take care of you. It’s better to go back and report the message!”

Qi Rong fell silent and ran with the sword in hand. Xie Lian had already used his divine power to illuminate the precious sword in his hand. Along the way, the minions and other evil creatures didn’t dare to come close, so their path was unobstructed, and they quickly disappeared. However, the young soldier hadn’t left yet, and Qi Rong had already gone ahead. Xie Lian didn’t have a second protective sword to give to him, so he had to rely on his bare hands. With the young soldier’s strong cooperation, they fought fiercely together. After a short time, all the minions were finally cleared away.

The ground was covered in mucus and corpses, and the stench was relentless. After confirming that no minions had been missed, Xie Lian calmed his breathing, turned around, and said to the young soldier, “You handle the sword quite well.”

The young soldier tightened his grip on the sword. He had been slightly out of breath, but now he stood up straight and said, “Yes, I do.”

Xie Lian said, “I’m not giving you orders, so why are you saying ‘yes’ to me? When I ordered you to go back just now, why didn’t you say ‘yes’?”

The young soldier replied, “Yes.” Then he realized what was strange and straightened up even more. Xie Lian shook his head, thought for a moment, and suddenly tugged at the corner of his mouth, saying, “However, you are more suited to using a knife.”