Under the strong sunlight in the midst of rolling yellow sand, two lines of people faced each other rigidly.
Su Le’s gaze on Shao Xuan was obviously heavy with murderous intent. If it was possible, he’d very much like to slash Shao Xuan up personally and feed him to his slaves. However, Su Le treasured his life. He knew Shao Xuan wasn’t easy to handle. Though he did not experience it first-hand, he had definitely heard about the beast battle incident from back then.
Su Le refused to risk it. If he was dead, the successor of the Fallen Leaves City would be none other than that idiot, Su Gu!
Despite that, with Su Le’s current authority, he need not venture over personally. He was a slave master and he owned slaves. Since the change of scenery in the desert, he too began training slaves to create elite talents. Battles could be fully entrusted to those trained slaves and he’d just observe it from afar.
Su Le lifted his chin slightly to look at someone behind from the peripheral of his eye. This person was dressed the same way as the non-breathing ‘humans’ on the outer radius. Their whole body was clad in a greyish-white linen cloth but the difference was while the ‘humans’ had their heads covered as well, this person was merely wearing a hood. The lower half of their pale face was visible but in scarce lighting, any emotions would go unnoticed.
In the desert, many would have slightly tan skin as a result of the sun rays. But this person seemed as if they hadn’t been in the sun for a very long time. One may even say they looked sickly pale.
There were plenty of people of similar fashion in Rock Hill City. Some were involved in the coastal war while some followed their slave masters around. Su Le’s brother, Su Gu, too had someone like this. This was the puppeteer that controlled the monsters.
Though the presence of a puppeteer brought Su Le discomfort, it was a form of protection from another perspective. With them around, Su Le felt relieved as it would not strain the number of his slaves.
He took a glance at the person behind, immediately feeling more confident. On Su Le’s end, he had one hundred slaves and one hundred monsters. He took another look at the Flaming Horn Tribe’s side, they were definitely outnumbered. The Flaming Horn Tribe’s line-up consisted of not more than fifty people. And then he compared their beasts. Su Le’s beast was obviously larger than Shao Xuan’s beetle. The beetle didn’t seem all too mighty either.
The comparison brought ease to Su Le.
Because of that, Su Le made his ruthlessness clear in his eyes. If this were someone else, he would probably grant them mercy after they hand over the Gongjia members as demanded. After all, battles would burn through human resources and he wasn’t too keen on letting his slaves perish. The slave training wasn’t easy at all.
But the Flaming Horn Tribe? He was adamant to not leave behind a single life! He could even bring their corpses back and get rewarded!
Su Le tugged on a metal bell on the side. Soon, slaves appeared.
Eight golden-armoured slaves unloaded the canvas canopy and lifted it like a sedan-chair. They gingerly carried it, afraid to anger the person within with a single tremble.
The fluidity of their actions suggested that they had done this many times.
“Be careful, they’re coming!” warned Shao Xuan.
The little canopy was brought off the beast’s spine to let the giant golden armoured beast participate in the battle without affecting the person inside. With that, Su Le was brought to the very end of the convoy. The golden-armoured members surrounded him while the unbreathing ‘humans’ stood at the very front of the outer wings.
Without reservations, the two plier-like fangs of the giant golden armoured beast moved. It let out a whistle that sounded like violent winds. He lifted its upper body and folded dozens of its feet. Its ventral abdomen that was mostly stuck to the ground was displayed. Though its abdomen wasn’t protected with thick armour like its flanks and back, it still was protected by a shell of a lighter shade.
Then, the giant golden beast hammered its body down hard like a mace!
The sandy grounds shook violently as if receiving impact from the fall of a giant boulder. It almost felt like a mountain could be split open. Their ears were tormented by the thundering sound. Those that were close to the beast would feel their heads hurt while their chest bubbled with air and blood.
The six Gongjia members were very depressed. They had never encountered a giant beast like this during their escape. Even if they did, they would’ve seen it from a safe distance away. If they had met such a beast, they would’ve been long dead by now.
After the booming thud resonated away, waves of sand rippled and spread towards the Flaming Horn Tribe party.
The waves seized the Flaming Horn Tribesmen’s feet and even those that stood a few hundreds of metres away could feel the instability. It felt like they were standing on a rocking boat atop a turbulent sea during a storm.
The sand storm triggered sharp piercing noises from the friction birthed by the sand particles that brushed through the tough golden armoured body. It sounded like the sand was polished by rigid strong metal.
Strong wind brought sand over to their end. Gongjia Ren lifted his sleeve to cover his nose and mouth. His eyes were narrowed into slits to avoid sand from getting into his eyes. His slightly oversized sleeve flapped wildly under the assault of the wind. The man’s hair was blown to a point where it was almost parallel to the ground!
This giant beast was bound to be difficult!
What would the Flaming Horn Tribesmen do? Gongjia Ren looked around.
Out of Gongjia Ren’s expectation, the Flaming Horn members showed no fear or anxiety to the display of threat earlier. It was almost as if the giant golden armoured beast’s performance had triggered nothing but a normal breeze.
But that was in fact, the truth. They weren’t faking their calmness. The Flaming Horn Tribesmen weren’t all too bothered by the giant golden armoured beast.
What was the point of showing off?
They had encountered the stone worms and king worms. Though this beast would bring great stress to Gongjia Ren and the others, it dealt little effect to the Flaming Horn members’ spirit. After all, giant beasts weren’t new to them and they regularly hunt for fearsome beasts. They had even seen a few king beasts.
The Flamin Horn members merely spared the giant golden beast an eye before returning their focus on those masked, unbreathing ‘humans’. They were more bothered by the presence of these monsters.
However, the Flaming Horn Tribe’s silence led Su Le to believe that they were intimidated.
“We have clearly outnumbered you. Nevermind that. As long as you surrender Gongjia Ren and the rest of the Gongjia members, I’ll allow you a grace period to leave,” offered Su Le languidly, making it sound like a rare blessing.
Shao Xuan smirked. He lifted his chin to look at the direction of the wind that blew against the canvas curtains. “So you think outnumbering us will automatically give you an advantage? Is this not called ‘bullying’?”
“So what?” Su Le felt like the concept of bullying the weak was merely common sense. It was the safest approach and his favourite. Doing things the other way round was not normal.
“Nothing.” With that, Shao Xuan raised his right forefoot and stepped on the ground.
Instantly, there was a slight tremor beneath their feet. While it was rather underwhelming compared to the giant golden armoured beast’s roar, the sensation spread far and wide. The surrounding air seemed to have shifted with this step. There seemed to be muffled noises coming from a distance but at the same time, it felt like it was coming from underground. A layer of sand on the surface began spreading outwards in a circle rapidly. Soon, it had gone past Su Le’s position.
The armoured personnel around Su Le felt their feet getting lightly grazed by moving sand. But it gave them a fake impression that an icy hand had gripped their heels. All of a sudden, they felt cold.
The temperature was high and they had been rushing through the journey earlier. It was normal for them to feel extremely hot but the earlier sensation triggered involuntary shivers. Something just felt fundamentally astray.
“Young master, something is wrong…”
Su Le too felt odd. The man peeled the canvas away and peered outwards. He jolted in shock.
He watched as small black beetles began emerging out from the surface. Though a lonely beetle seemed easy to kill, a bad feeling surged as more and more beetles continued to flood out.
He took another look at the giant blue beetle beside Shao Xuan. Su Le inhaled vehemently as his fingers began to tremble. He released his grip on the canvas curtain, swallowed his spit and shouted with a voice filled with shock and fear.
Since when did everyone learn about the fears of an insect swarm? When was the news spread?
In Su Le’s memory, though there were past incidents that involved beetles devouring battle beast corpses, the fear hadn’t begun there. The pure terror the insect swarm brought them had actually stemmed from an incident years ago.
Back then, the Lord of Snow Plains City had sent out two hundred soldiers after Shao Xuan. None of the Golden Armours had survived the mission. It was said that those who went to look for the Golden Armours found their bodies scattered on a spot in the desert. What was left were merely pale bones and tattered fabrics. Their proud golden armours were half-buried in sand, everything felt dead.
Though he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, merely hearing it from other people, it wasn’t difficult to imagine an eerie scene like that. Though rumours were often exaggerated and those two hundred Golden Armours had not necessarily perished in an insect swarm, it was highly possible that their complete wipeout was tied to the insect swarm!
That was the beginning. Since then, insect swarms have become another disastrous tragedy in the desert.
Su Le’s slaves were indeed armed like the famous Golden Armours of the Snow Plains City. He and Su Gu had done the same- The armour cladding their personnel were made in the same batch and later given to them through Su Lun. This could be considered a fair allocation of resources by the Lord of the Fallen Leaves City before an heir was selected.
If the famous merciless and bloody Golden Armours of the Snow Plains could not escape the insect swarm’s assault, what would happen to his slaves?
Indeed, Su Le was proud to own a team of slaves armed with gold armour. However, he knew that these slaves were still far off from the Golden Armours of the Snow Plains.
The thoughts that crossed Su Le’s mind sent chills down his spine. His teeth began to clatter. So this was what Shao Xuan was referring to earlier!
The black beetles that emerged to the surface had formed an insect swarm. All they could see now was a sea of black insects.
The black beetles rushed towards Su Le like a wave. The armoured slaves screamed as they tried to swat away the beetles clinging onto their bodies. But more beetles continued to squeeze through the gaps between their armour and clothes.
The mounts they rode stamped their hooves and threw off its rider on their back. The originally neat formation was now a mess.
However, there were exceptions.
Shao Xuan studied the situation over there with a heavy expression. “They’re avoiding the monsters!”
The beetles were not picky at all. Fresh meat or rotten meat, they’d leave behind nothing. But when faced with the monsters, the beetles seemed to be very repulsive. The insects were actively avoiding them.
Compared to the frantic golden-armoured slaves, the linen-wrapped monsters on the outer wing really seemed like a log of wood, unresponsive to the things happening around them.