The border of the Black Grove was no longer silent and natural as before. The large swathes of tree stumps made for an unsightly spectacle, and even the Black Grove’s regenerative powers couldn’t overcome the destruction brought about by the mercenary hordes. Moreover, the Black Grove was oddly susceptible to damage without the protection of the natives.
Hundreds of diligent workers and mercenaries cut down the trees in a concentrated effort. There weren’t many chances to log from the Black Grove, to begin with, and the timber here fetched a high enough price to pay taxes with. Now that the Southern Blue city lord had increased the purchase value by thirty percent, even those low-ranking mercenaries who didn’t dare enter the forest saw an opportunity to make money. They could make a fair income by remaining at the borders of the wood, but it was no less than risking their lives on the battlefield.
No matter how low these mercenaries were in terms of rank, their strength made them the best workers for logging. Apparently, the Southern Blue city lord couldn’t wait until all the natives had been cleared out to start building the logging zone.
The logging area was guarded by a group of well-equipped elites. Even without their identity plates and insignias, one could see that they were under the direct control of Southern Blue. The city lord had already staked a claim in the industry, and the scale was nothing to scoff at. Even if other people could sniff things out and latch onto this trade channel with the empire, Southern Blue would’ve gained the absolute initiative. If they could supply large amounts of timber, the empire would definitely support them more. Besides, the wood from the Black Grove wouldn’t be that expensive if it were that easy to develop. With Southern Blue’s strength, they would still need to borrow the Spider Emperor’s strength to be able to do things smoothly.
When Qianye appeared, the guard there considered him a lone-mercenary wanting to try his luck in the Black Grove. They had seen too many of such people. As such, the man waved his gun at Qianye, gesturing for him to go around the camp and toward the forest.
At this moment, the Black Grove was different from when Qianye had passed through it. There were traces of battle amidst its trees, with broken branches that hadn’t been absorbed by the forest. The entire forest was shrouded in an aura of death and decay, with very weak vitality.
It was difficult to search for directions inside the forest due to all the destruction, but Qianye wasn’t about to hold back after arriving here. He rushed straight toward the closest source of sound and caught up with a group of mercenaries rushing along the road.
Sword in hand and alone, Qianye blocked the road expressionlessly. “Where is that girl being surrounded?”
An arrogant mercenary glanced askance at Qianye with a sinister smile. “Why must I tell you?”
Qianye didn’t reply, but a flicker of East Peak immediately sent the man’s head flying. His expression was frozen in a mixture of terror and shock. After killing one mercenary, Qianye looked toward the next. That soldier clearly hadn’t recovered from the astonishment and thus aimed his gun at Qianye out of reflex. He was fortunately quick to react and immediately put the gun down, his entire body drenched in sweat.
“That little girl and those damn natives are in that direction, we’re heading there right now.” The mercenary pointed in a certain direction.
“What’s the situation over there?”
“I heard the captain of Stormwind Fury is taking the lead. They already have the group surrounded and are whittling the natives down.”
Qianye asked curiously, “You guys are attacking and cutting down the forest in such a high-profile manner. Aren’t you afraid of the natives’ retaliation?”
“Reportedly, the Spider Emperor has dispatched true experts to oversee the operation and keep the natives in check. The native experts coming to provide reinforcement will be intercepted. Rumor has it that a major character is on his way here.”
Qianye realized that these people were intent on taking down this part of the Black Grove. Otherwise, it made no sense for them to set up such an operation just for little Zhuji. Of course, this was predicated on the fact that the Spider Emperor didn’t know about little Zhuji’s talents. He might just rush over personally if he were to find out.
After receiving the necessary information, Qianye’s eyes turned cold.
A sharp soldier screamed, “Run, he’s about to attack.”
Unfortunately, it was already too late to run—East Peak jumped about in Qianye’s hands as he cut down all of the mercenaries. Then, he hurried toward the blockade.
Qianye’s speed in the forest was far above ordinary people. Before long, a chaotic battlefield appeared before his eyes.
There were battles everywhere on the wide battlefield. Small groups of mercenaries were mixed in with the natives, clashing haphazardly. Behind the battlefield, dozens of muscular soldiers were waving circular saw-blades or axes, cutting down those ancient trees.
Under the constant logging, a long, empty region appeared in the Black Grove and was constantly expanding to each side.
Qianye wasn’t in a rush to take action. He observed for a while and obtained some clues—the natives were a bit slower and used less mysterious moves, which consequently lowered their combat strength. The natives also understood the threat of this isolated belt. They would rush out of the forest to attack the loggers, and the mercenaries would do their utmost to block the assault.
The mercenaries were adept at operating in small groups and knew quite well about the natives’ attack tendencies. Employing a good balance of attack and defense, they actually managed to fight on equal footing with the natives. There was a middle-aged man standing on the high-ground. He would shout out the occasional order and maneuver the troops, filling up the gaps in the battlefront. The defensive line was as stable as Mount Tai under his command—no native assault could threaten this isolated region.
This isolated region was rather strange, and it almost seemed to sever the power bestowed upon the natives by the Black Grove. It was quite surprising that such a crude method was actually so effective.
Qianye looked on for a brief moment before shooting the middle-aged commander a glance. He then passed through the defensive line toward the depths of the encirclement. With his aura retracted, he became barely noticeable in the chaos of the battlefield. A couple of unlucky blokes would discover him and try to obstruct his path, but all that did was turn them into corpses.
It couldn’t be considered a real encirclement because the mercenaries had merely linked up into a large net. Under the command of the Stormwind Fury Corps, it was almost impossible for the important targets to escape from this loose network.
The surroundings became much quieter after crossing over the chaotic region. The grove became much darker, and Qianye could sense a wisp of mysterious energy hanging in the woods. The forest here hadn’t been destroyed, and the natives could still bring out their full power.
However, there were sounds of battle in a couple of directions. The true mercenary experts had already arrived in the deeper parts of the forest, hoping to gain more benefits.
Qianye’s perception was also affected inside the Black Grove, and he couldn’t sense Zhuji’s location. But finding the girl couldn’t be simpler here in the heart of the battlefield—kill off all the mercenaries and Zhuji would naturally be safe. As for the natives, that would depend on how they treated the little girl. If they harbored evil intentions toward her, Qianye didn’t mind starting a massacre.
Qianye moved swiftly through the forest and arrived at the scene of a battle. On one side were a dozen or so mercenaries, all of them wearing the colors of Stormwind Fury. Surprisingly, there were three human champions and three vampire viscounts among them—that was an oddly powerful lineup.
They were advancing in an outspread crescent formation. On the other side of this battlefront were tens of native warriors. They jumped constantly between the ancient trees in an attempt to throw off the enemy’s judgment. However, the highly-experienced mercenaries were unaffected by their agile targets as they kept pushing forward at a steady pace.
They would change the formation accordingly whenever the natives tried to escape toward the flanks. The mercenary on the opposite side would then launch a flurry of attacks to suppress the enemy. Apparently, these natives would have to pay a steep price in order to escape toward the sides. Nonetheless, it looked like they weren’t willing to abandon their comrades, either. In the end, all they could do was keep retreating backward.
At this rate, these natives would be pushed out of the core forest region pretty soon and reach the external encirclement. By that time, they would be completely surrounded and inevitably destroyed.
Seemingly knowing that going backward was a bad idea, the natives would charge the mercenary defensive line from time to time. But the enemy had too many experts—they would erupt with power and slaughter the natives charging at the front. After several repetitions, the natives still couldn’t do anything to break out of this situation.
At this moment, a small figure appeared among the natives, sitting on the shoulder of a burly warrior. It was Zhuji.
The mercenaries were excited upon seeing Zhuji. One human champion and two vampires left the battle line and charged toward her!
Their combined attack was shocking. The few natives standing in front of the tall warrior couldn’t even stave off a single attack. They were blown away instead and became corpses in the air. The two viscounts launched a flurry of attacks with their dual swords, while the human champion fished out an origin gun and fired constantly from the sides.
Roaring furiously, the tall warrior became momentarily flustered. His strength was far above any one of the three assailants, but he was carrying Zhuji on his shoulders and also had to guard against sneak attacks from the other human mercenaries.
In the blink of an eye, the human champion found his opportunity and opened fire!
Little Zhuji cried out in surprise because this shot was aimed at her! She didn’t have the time to evade at such a distance. In a splash of blood, her head was flung back and her little body was sent flying backward.
The tall warrior roared as he charged over to save Zhuji, but such an opening left him with several sword wounds. He was already drenched in blood by the time he had caught Zhuji in his arms.
“Come back, all of you! Old Meng, you’re too heavy-handed! The boss will slaughter us if you kill that little fellow!” one of the human champions shouted angrily.
The three who had rushed forward pulled back angrily, hoping to return to the defensive line. However, they suddenly noticed a person carrying a fearsome-looking gun appear from behind the formation. “None of you need to leave!”