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As Zhang’s soldiers disembarked from the Sky Fortress, hundreds of Wraith Spiders began to lower themselves down also. Much to the disbelief of the city’s defenders, the city walls, and provincial lord’s mansion were quickly occupied before a proper defense could even be established.
By the time Zhang and the beauties landed on the ground, the province’s lord was bound in chains and the provincial lord’s mansion was completely captured. In fact, most of the city had already been captured also and only small pockets of resistance remained.
“Damn thieves!” The lord of the Twisted Bog Province said as he spat toward the ground in front of where Zhang and the beauties stood.
“Insolence!” One of Zhang’s soldiers said as the back of his hand smashed into the face of the province’s lord.
“Stand down.” Zhang said toward the soldier.
“Yes my lord.” The soldier said as he stepped back to allow Zhang to speak.
“Lord Chu Zhihao, I presume.” Zhang said as he recalled the names of the dozens of provincial lords in the Southern Region.
“Do what you wish to me, I have no need for small talk.” Lord Chu Zhihao said spitefully.
“Cut their ropes.” Zhang said with a smile disregarding the way Lord Chi Zhihao was acting.
“Alright I’ll skip the small talk and get straight to the point, for the most part, the occupation of the city had mostly been bloodless and since I would like to avoid killing people unless necessary, so how about pledging your allegiance and then ordering the rest of the province to stand down.” Zhang said as he squatted down toward so he was at eye-level with Lord Chi Zhihao.
“Over my dead body!” Chi Zhihao roared as he lunged toward Zhang. However, in an instant, he was restrained by two soldiers clad in black armor.
“Detain him and have his second in command brought here…” Zhang said with a sigh.
“Sometimes there are people who just can’t be convinced or bribed…” Zhang thought as his soldiers took Chi Zhihao to a platform that would take them up to the Sky Fortress.
“What about them? My lord.” One of Zhang’s soldiers asked as he pointed toward Chi Zhihao’s family members.
“Take them up and give them some lodgings… They will be allowed to leave once the province is under our complete control.” Zhang said.
Since convincing Chi Zhihao to surrender didn’t seem to be an option, Zhang decided to move on to his second in command. If that did not work then he could move onto the third in command and so on. Once a fairly influential person within the province joined Zhang then establishing control of the rest of the province would be easy.
After establishing control and restructuring the province by replacing key officials with people who are loyal to him, Zhang would allow the provincial lord and his family to be set free, with a sum of money so they could live the rest of their lives worry free. By then even if they wanted to oppose him they would be powerless to do so. Then again Yuying could fiddle with their minds a bit, but Zhang decided only to do that under extreme circumstances.
Before long the man deemed to be the Twisted Bog Province’s second in command was brought in front of Zhang.
Unlike his master, the provincial lord’s second in command was fairly easy to persuade and readily joined Zhang in exchange for becoming the province’s new lord.
Soon enough, dozens of messengers departed from the city and told the various city lords and government officials that the province was now under the rule of Aurora.
Since time was of the essence, after Yuying did some mind probing and after fifty thousand soldiers were stationed within the city, the Sky Fortress flew onward to its next target.
Flying day and night, the fortress soon reached its next target after only roughly five days of travel. Much like what happened in the Twisted Bog Province, Zhang’s soldiers descended from the skies and quickly took control of the city in a but a few hours.
This time, however, the lord of the province willingly surrendered in the hopes of retaining his position as a provincial lord. After using the Sky Fortress to capture another province, Zhang decided, this time, his forces would maintain their position and let news of what had happened spread to other cities before moving forward.
Although this may become a doubled edged sword, in the long run, Zhang decided that it would serve to hasten the conclusion of the war. Once the other provinces learn of the Sky Fortress, they would either surrender knowing there was no chance of countering the forces or Aurora or make preparations to attempt to attack the fortress.
“My lord, what if information about this fortress reaches the ears of one of the large kingdoms or worst yet one of the two empires. If they send level ten mages or saints, then our soldiers would be slaughtered and we would have no way to stop them from taking the fortress.” Guan Yu said to Zhang when he decided to halt their advance.
“If it’s only a saint or two, with my current level of cultivation coupled with the defenses of the fortress, I’m confident we can hold them off.” Zhang said as he recalled the various defensive spell formations and inscriptions that the fortress had.
“If needed, I can ask father to loan us a few helpers.” Yuying said as she traced the jade pendant that hung from her waist. This, of course, was the pendant given to her on her wedding day and had the power to activate the Samsara Gate which would allow people to travel to and from the Underworld.
Of course under normal circumstances, she would never think of using it to ask her father for help nor would he lend her any if dire situations came up then the Yama would be forced to act to save his beloved daughter.
So without much fear of having the fortress stolen from them by stronger cultivators, after roughly two weeks Zhang was one the move once again.
Soon after whenever he arrived at the capital of a province and whenever the people within the capital of a province saw Zhang approaching, countless white flags would be raised into the sky.
“When one domino falls many others fall with it.” Ling would occasionally say as the number of cities and provinces that surrendered to them increased.
Of course, there were provinces that chose to try to resist and had catapults and ballistae bolts fired toward the Sky Fortress, however, their weapons either failed to reach or were not strong enough to leave even a scratch on one of the five towers that stuck out at the bottom of the fortress.
For the most part, the conquest of the Southern Region was no longer a daunting task, rather it became a fairly easy objective as Zhang’s island in the sky flew through the region pretty much unhindered.
This was until they found themselves in a particular province referred to as the Golden Peak Province. This province was made up entirely of mountains and possessed very little flat land, with its cities being built on the side of mountains or within cast caverns that opened up on the face of steep cliffs.
Although the geographic positions of this province’s cities would prove to be an issue for Zhang, there was even a bigger problem at hand. The Golden Peak Army, although small when compared to the armies of the other provinces, possessed a very unique army amidst their ranks.
This army comprised of no more than one hundred and fifty thousand men but possessed more than enough power to perhaps defeat every other army in the Warring States Region combined. With that being said if one were to add up all of the armies within the Warring States Region then there would be well over a few million soldiers.
However contrary to what one may think when imagining an army that could defeat all of the other armies in the Warring States Region combined, the Golden Wing Army did not possess any soldiers over the seventh rank of cultivatio and their general was only a middle-aged man who had barely reached the eighth rank.
But they did possess something that no other province did, an army of flying demonic beasts. Everyone within the Golden Wing Army was paired with a level seven demonic beasts called Golden Winged Eagles, hence the name of their army and partially the name of the province itself. These eagles were as large as horses and possessed razor sharp talons that could rip through steel like it was tofu.
With large high level flying demonic beasts on their side, the Golden Wing Army could easily wipe out any landlocked army or naval fleet within the Warring States Region who opposed them, however even with such enough power to sweep across the land, the lords of the Golden Peak Province have never set foot out of their lands nor have they entered into direct conflict with any other province.
Of course, information about the Golden Wing Army was only known by a few southern provinces that bordered the Golden Peak Province and had basically become like a myth everywhere else, it was not until the Sky Fortress was surrounded did Zhang know of this impressive army.
“Brother! Brother! I want one of those! I want to fly onto of one too!” Ai yelled in an excited tone as she spotted the thousands of Golden Winged Eagles that were currently flying toward the Sky Fortress.
Just like Ai, Zhang’s eyes also glittered as he caught sight of the eagles.
“If they joined me then not only will I have an aerial fortress; I’ll even have an aerial army!” Zhang thought excitedly.
With the fortress alone he wasn’t confident in being able to deal the kingdoms that bordered the Warring States Region. As Zhang saw things, although it did not take much time at all to lower his soldiers down to the ground using the dozens of platforms apart of the fortress, if he met with a highly organized army the size that some kingdoms possessed, his men would be easily outnumbered and subdued when the platform landed.
But if he had an army like the Golden Wing Army, then Zhang would be able to cover his soldiers being unloaded from the platforms of the Sky Fortress. Such an army would also only serve to add to his army’s overall military might.
“You two can spend as much time as you like taming flying demonic beasts after we repel them.” Lingqi laughed as she saw how much Zhang and Ai currently resembled two children who just caught sight of a shiny new toy.
“Ri-right.” Zhang laughed as he scratched the back of his head.
“All archers and ballistae units prepare to fire! All civilians fall back to the underground sanctuary. We are under attack; I repeat we are under attack.” Zhang said as his voice projected throughout the fortress thanks to the magical voice amplifiers installed everywhere.
Once orders were given, Zhang walked out from the room he was in and jumped off one of the four balconies that circled the top most floor of the Azure Tower. After jumping off the balcony Zhang landed on top of a flying platform that began to lift him upward toward the roof of the tower, but not before Ling also jumped off the balcony and landed beside him.
At the very tip of the Azure Tower was a massive diamond shaped crystal that glistened under the sun’s rays, this, of course, was one of the Sky Fortress’s essence cores.
“Just put your hand on it and draw on its power, I’ve already binded a drop of your blood to it so that the core’s defensive mechanisms won’t activate on you.” Zhang said toward Ling as they both sped toward the essence core.
Unlike the Underworld Heart which can draw an unlimited supply of essence from the area around it but was limited to its user’s storage capacity, the essence core created its own essence at a fairly quick rate and possessed massive storage capacity. The only downsides it possessed is that it had a limit to how much essence it could store, which could not be expanded like a human’s or was not infinite like the Dragon Heart Necklace storage capacity and that its rate of essence regeneration isn’t as quick as the rate that the Underworld Heart absorbed essence at. Then there was also the fact regarding its massive size so it can’t be stored on a person’s body.
So although they could not be compared to the Dragon Heart Necklace in terms of storage capacity nor could it be compared to the Underworld Heart’s essence channeling rate, essence cores are without a doubt very usefully because it contained lesser versions of the two treasure’s abilities but combined into one.
One may wonder why didn’t Zhang simply funnel essence absorbed from the Underworld Heart into the Dragon Heart Necklace, well actually he did, but he was normally unwilling to tap into the store of essence in the Dragon Heart Necklace and saved it only for life-threatening situations.
Thus, the essence core served as an alternative for when Zhang wished to use or strengthen his techniques that require more essence than his body could store.
Placing their hands onto the essence core, Zhang and Ling began unleashing their techniques on the incoming army of demonic birds being ridden by soldiers in golden colored armor.
Pointing one of his hands outward while keeping the other on the essence core, Zhang began to unleash massive lightning bolts the size of which no one has ever seen before. Ling on the other hand began to draw out moisture from the atmosphere and the surrounding clouds to create a hail of sharp shards of ice.
In mere moments, dozens of Golden Winged Eagles fell to the sky after being pelted by ice or shocked by lightning. Of course, since the eagles were level seven demonic beasts that were big enough to be ridden by people, they would obviously be fairly resilient and would not die so easily. But they would certainly sustain heavy injuries while their riders who are humans would without a doubt meet their end due to falling to the ground from such heights.