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Dragon’s Soul: An End’s Beginning
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Upon receiving Zhang’s orders from Chu Shou, all of the saint level experts from the Blood Coral Cove charged into the mines, with the exception of Xiao Gong who decided it would be best for him to stand guard at the entrance.
“My lord, we are ready to receive your commands.” All of the saint level experts said in unison after quickly assembling before Zhang.
“Scour the mines with your divine sense and report any abnormalities, make sure to not alert those on the surface of what we are doing down here.” Zhang commanded.
“Yes, my lord.” The saint level experts replied before speeding off in separate directions into the countless tunnels that branched out across the mine.
“Should we go too?” Yuying asked, Zhang while gathering around him with the other beauties.
“Come have a seat, let them do the work.” Zhang said with a grin as he waved his hand and made a golden throne appear beside him.
“To make things comfier.” Zhang also said as he waved his hand and made a few puffy looking pillows appear on the golden throne, prompting the beauties to giggle a bit before sitting down beside their husband.
“Sis, what do you think those things were?” Ai asked Yuying whose knowledge outstripped everyone else’s.
“To be honest I’m not entirely sure, I’ve never heard of demonic beasts that would fit their description nor have I heard of any magical treasure that can manipulate the earth like that.” Yuying said while shaking her head.
“Strangely enough besides the essence stones embedded in their bodies, I couldn’t see any other source of essence from them at all. So I think someone or something is controlling them.” Zhang commented.
“Regardless of what they are or what is controlling them, they will soon fall under our control.” Zhang said with a face full of delight.
The thought of being able to raise an army of stone men, or shall we call them golems very much intrigued Zhang. See as the golems appeared to be able to endlessly regenerate, they would become an extremely valuable asset when taking part in large scale wars.
“But for now all, we can do is wait.” Zhang said with a laugh as he pulled the beauties in closer to himself and embraced them.
As Zhang’s saint level subordinates continued to comb through the vast mine brimming with essence stones, a few of them soon found themselves lost in a labyrinth of twisting caves. Despite having the ability to use their divine sense to scan their surroundings, due to the sheer size of the mines, many of the lesser saints became hopelessly lost.
“Dammit, what is with this mine… How is it so big!” A lesser saint cursed as he tried to find his way back to the main chamber where Zhang and the beauties were waiting. However, regardless of how many times he attempted to do so, there were simply too many tunnels, too many twisting turns and passages that it made it nearly impossible to figure out where to go.
“I’ll just keep moving forward and see where that leads me… If anything I’ll use my powers to dig a hole all the way to the surface…” The Lesser saint mumbled before flying off into one of the three passageways in front of him.
In the meantime, a large number of soldiers from the Blood Scale Army along with a few miners who had worked the mines had made their way down into the main chamber of the mines.
While the soldiers had begun to set up defensive barricades and various other things that would help them in a fight against the stone men., the miners were turned over to Zhang and the beauties for interrogation.
“If you can be ever so kind enough to please tell us what happens down here. Also, you all look parched would you like something to drink? Perhaps a snack?” Zhang asked in a polite tone to one of the miners, without minding ranks and what not.
“M-m-my lord, we tried to warn you to stay away from the mines, away from those things, however, our words did not reach you before you made your way down here.” An elderly man said in a shaken voice with his hands clasped while he continually eyed his surrounding as if he was making sure nothing was going to sneak up on him.
“By those things you mean the stone men?” Zhang asked, to be sure that he and the miner were talking about the same thing.
“Ye-yes my lord.” The elderly miner replied.
“Please tell us all you know about them and currently you are safe so there no need to be so tense. Even if anything was to happen we could ensure your safety.” Yuying said as she stood beside Zhang.
Upon hearing Yuying’s assurance, the elderly man and the other few miners who had accompanied down into the mines were slightly relieved and no longer acted jittery.
“Those things have not always lurked these mines, it was only recently after a huge cache of essence stones had been found within one of the deeper chambers did they begin to appear.” The elderly miner said.
“Yea, before everything was peaceful and despite being worked to the bone, we were safe. However, after that accursed stone appeared, all hell has broken loose down here.” Another miner spoke.
“Stone?” Zhang asked, as his interest was piqued.
“Yes, the devil stone… Roughly six months ago while we were excavating a new tunnel we stumbled upon a massive chamber brimming with countless essence stones and along with it a large oval shaped stone the likes of which none of us had ever seen before.” The elderly miner said.
“Interesting” Ling mumbled as she stood beside Zhang, opposite of Yuying.
“The stone was as tall as a grown man and was so large that it took the arm span of three people to fully encompass it. It was also covered in weird symbols that we could not decipher.” The elderly miner said.
“From head to toe, it was covered in really odd looking markings. Seeing that we didn’t know what it was, none of us dared to move close or touch it.” Another miner said.
“So the stone is still where you found it?” Zhang asked.
“No my lord, after stumbling upon the chamber and the stone we quickly made our way back to report our findings. By the time we returned with the mine overseers, the entire chamber that was glowing with essence stones was empty.” The elderly miner said.
“All of the essence stones and the stone had disappeared without leaving a single trace. Thinking we were trying to weasel our way out of working, the guards gave each of us ten lashes that day…” One of the miners said as he rubbed his shoulder where a gruesome looking scar could be seen.
“All that remained in the room was a small mound of fine powder where the devil stone was.” The elderly miner said while he proceeded to rub his fingers together as he recalled what had happened.
“After the essence stones and the devil stone disappeared, countless strange events began to happen one after the other. Tunnels that were filled with essence stones the previous day would turn up empty the next day. Large amounts of things would go missing. Mysterious tunnels and passages began to pop up all over the place overnight.” The elderly miner said.
“At first overseers were thinking that we were trying to keep the essence stones to ourselves in an attempt to establish a cultivation base and overthrow them. So they enforced very strict regulations and had everyone who had a cultivation at the levels of five or higher sent away. They even doubled the number of guards down here.”
“However since it wasn’t us who were the ones stealing the essence stones, despite the stricter regulations and surveillance, essence stones continued to disappear. Infuriated the lord of the fortress order for a thorough sweep of the mines.”
“And that was when it began. As the guards drove us into the depths of the mine in search of the missing essence stones, the stone men began to appear and all hell broke loose, hundreds were injured and many were killed. Every day the stone men would appear and attack us, however, tributes needed to be made to the Golden Pearl Sect Headquarters so mining could not cease. Luckily for us, you came to our rescue, my lord.” The elderly miner told Zhang and the beauties with eyes filled with gratitude.
“There is no need to thank me, uncle, I just happen to pass by. Thank you for telling me everything you know; I’ll have some of my men escort you to the service shortly. As a show of my appreciation for your help and knowledge, although I’m not sure if it has any value here, please take this. You all can split this amongst yourselves and the other miners.” Zhang said to the elderly miner and the rest of the group standing by him, as he waved his hand and made large sacks fall on the ground.
As the large sacks fell to the ground, the sound of metallic bits hitting one another rang into the ears of the miners. While a dozen sparkling golden coins came into view as the miners peaked at the small opening at the top of the sacks.
“We can’t possibly take this my lord. You’ve done enough for us.” The elderly miner said.
“Saving us is enough for us to owe you our gratitude for a lifetime, my lord there is no need for this.” Another miner said.
“How about this, you can consider this a down payment for your services in the future.” Zhang said with a smile.
“Services?” The miners mumbled in confusion.
“Well, simply said, this mine will become essential to helping my forces grow stronger and since essence stones don’t mine themselves, I was hoping all of you would help me. Of course, unlike the previous owners of the island, I will provide more than sufficient payment for your work, you’d work fewer hours, and there will also be more detail towards safety.” Zhang said with a smile.
“We’d also deal with whatever is lurking down here of course.” Ling said before anyone could raise any objections.
“My lord I can’t speak for the others but if you rid the mines of whatever evil is lurking down here, then I’m sure with the conditions you’ve offered us, everyone would be more than happy to work once again. However, until we start working, I refuse to take even a single gold coin from you. You’ve done us plenty as it.” The elderly miner said in a resolute manner.
“So be it, once we rid the mines of whatever evil is lurking about I’ll have my men inform you to begin working once again. So, for now, I’ll just hang onto these a bit longer.” Zhang said as he waved his hand and stored away the stacks of gold that he had placed on the ground.
“Escort these gentlemen back to the surface, make sure no harm is to come to them if those stone men appear once again.” Zhang said before a group of soldiers arrived and lead the miners away.
“We haven’t visited the other islands yet, but I’m sure that a sufficient number of your recourses are imported here and distributed by the Golden Pearl Sect. This is judging from the supplies they had kept in the storage rooms of course. But now since we have control of the island now, the duty of supplying the islands with resources will, of course, fall into our jurisdiction. Meaning if we wanted to have them work down here, be it for free or with pay, they would have no means of refusing.” Yuying stated after a quickly recalling that she had seen crates children’s clothing being listed as one of the things found in the fortress’s storerooms.
“We can, but in the end, someone who works for us willingly is better than someone who works for us unwillingly. What if someone came up and forced you to marry him? Wouldn’t that make you unhappy?” Zhang said with a laugh.
“Forced to marry? Well, all I would have to do is poison him in his sleep.” Lingqi said with a chuckle.
“I’d just have to kill myself as painlessly as possible and go home to father.” Yuying said as she stuck her tongue out at Zhang.
“That wouldn’t happen because we have you.” Ling laughed.
“Sis would take care of me or I would beat them to a pulp.” Ai said as she punched at the air with her delicate fists before walking up beside Yuying and sticking her tongue out at Zhang.
“Cheeky as always.” Zhang laughed as he arrived in front of Ai and Yuying in a flash and shot his hands outward. In an instant, he had managed to gently pinch both of their tongues in a playful manner.
With panicked expressions on their faces, Ai and Yuying tried to speak, however, only unintelligible sounds could be heard.
“Stop bullying them.” Ling and Lingqi said while laughing as they playfully punched Zhang.
“Alright alright.” Zhang laughed as Ling and Lingqi exploited his ultimate weakness, after receiving a new body through the powers of the Underworld Heart and regaining his sense of touch, Zhang found himself to be very ticklish.
With a good laugh, Zhang and the beauties began overseeing the construction of the makeshift base and preparations being made to fight against the stone men.
“Dig a trench there and there, we will fill them with water for Mistress Ling’s use.” A commander in the Blood Scale Army commanded as he oversaw the setup for the defensive measures.
“Commander, have some of our men begin moving into the passageways and have them mark the walls with arrows pointing back to this chamber just in case anyone happens to find themselves lost. Snap this jade slip if anything happens, I’ll be back once the quakes begin once again.” Zhang said as he came to the realize how tricky it was to navigate the mines after doing a quick scan of it with his divine sense after the miners departed.
“As you wish my lord.” The commander of the Blood Scale Army said with his hands clasped after he received Zhang’s jade slip.
“Hopefully no one gets too lost. Now to go back to the surface before they suspect something” Zhang thought as he walked toward the beauties, who then accompanied him to the surface for Xiao Gong greeted them at the mouth of the entrance to the mines.
“My lord, the holy son of the Starry Sea Sect was looking for you. He said he wished to speak to you about where next to proceed with our invasion plans and would be waiting for you in the fortress’s main hall.” Xiao Gong reported upon seeing Zhang.
“Alright, we will head over there right away. Please stay here and make sure no one unauthorized is to go down there.” Zhang said to Xiao Gong who replied with a nod before seating himself back down on a chair he had placed at the entrance of the mine and yawning.