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The whole Beinz Diocese was in total ruin; it was unrecognisable. The earth had been torn apart, leaving behind numerous bottlomless cracks and sinkholes in the wilderness. Carcasses of gigantic tentacles were strewn across the roads and the pebble beach. Eight over ten of the strongholds in the line of defense were destroyed. Plus, most watchtowers had collapsed while the remaining ones were encroached by giant plant roots. Thi made them look like grotesque, creepy structures. The land outside these strongholds, which still held on until the last moment was a horrific scene; carcasses of gnarled dinobeasts lay everywhere, blood and noxious gases turned the place into a lifeless zone.
Opposite the destroyed line of defense, the forest was swelling!
Earth-shattering noises of rolling thunder and roaring beasts could be heard from the Gnarled Grove. It sounded as if thousands of gigantic beasts from the abyss were running out of the opened gate of a nightmare. The cracking of the earth's crust and collapsing of the subterrainean world even shattered the clouds in the sky. The sky above the Beinz Diocese was beginning to be covered in earthquake clouds. The earth was shaking and buildings that were still standing in the town shook violently under the protection of the last gleam of the divine array. If one looked towards the Gnarled Grove from the highest points in town, one could see part of the forest swelling quickly. It looked like a mountain range was rising from the flat land.
The maelstrom at the centre of Beinz Blood Lake stopped before the lake collapsed on itself and it was followed by the sudden loud bang a moment later. Gigantic waves of blood-red water rose before it went down rapidly: the collapsing of the subterrainean world had pulled down the rock layer beneath the lake together with it.
Countless gigantic roots, far larger than the ones that had been attacking the humans for the past day and night rose from the falling lake. These roots were absorbing the water from the Blood Lake. If Hao Ren had witnessed this moment, he would have known what it meant: the Gnarled Grove was squeezing the last drop of energy from the Blood Tide!
Amid the violent shaking of the earth, the giant wolves at the town entrance got to their feet. They roared at the top of their lungs and made their way towards the Gnarled Grove. However, their rock-shattering roar could have blown some leaves off the forest floor at best. The watchtower where Ophra stood began to collapse, so Hao Ren and Ophra immediately jumped down to the ground. "It's happening earlier than expected! Let's get the hell out of here!"
Alas, things did not turn out as they had anticipated: The First Born was waking up 12 hours earlier than the MDT's estimated time!
At that moment, no one was going to harp on the miscalculation. The last group of elite soldiers tumbled on their feet, but they quickly restored their order. They knew that following protocol and leaving in an orderly manner was the only way they could make it out safely. Banners of knights left the town under the leadership of their respective leaders, running along the escape route they had earlier planned out towards Dragonspine Ridge. Ophra and her team, along with Hao Ren and his company were killing their way out.
"Tell Bishop Gelton to abandon the place!" Ophra ordered her aide-de-camp as she rode on her horse. The last hint of exhaustion from fighting for the past day vanished from her face. She was trying to conduct herself as a marshal, and show what a leader should be like.
However, the aide-de-camp only brought back the ordinary bishops and their assistants. "Marshal, Bishop Gelton is not leaving!"
"What does that mean?" Ophra knitted her brows.
Their surrounding buildings were coming down as the earth shook violently, yet she was as steady as a rock riding on her horse. Her unperturbed composure influenced her aide-de-camp to calm himself down amid the chaos. "Bishop Gelton wants to stay with the church, dead or alive. He wants to be a martyr."
"This is not something that can be solved with martyrdom!" Hao Ren became worried upon hearing what the aide-de-camp said. Heroism would not stand a chance in the face of a monster like the First Born. Just when he was about to go and drag the stubborn old man out of the church, a column of light—bigger and brighter than the last one—shot up into the sky. Right after, the church was shrouded in a sacred flame and it became a semi-transparent, shadowy building. It appeared very similar to a mirage. The powerful, divine radiance had the advancing tentacles outside the town withdraw themselves from the invasion. When Big Beardy saw this, he stopped Hao Ren and said, "It's too late. The bishop has already become one with the divine array."
The mirage of the church slowly expanded and soon, it became a magnificent door of glory. It was in the exact image of the Door of the Goddess, which the believers of the Disciples of Glory had imagined and put their faith in for the past thousand years. A stooping figure draped in white robes with the face of a wrinkled elderly man, who appeared almost as if he was going to return to his maker at any moment emerged from the Door of Glory. His eyes gazed into the distance, seemingly unfocused. At the same time, he raised his hand slightly, pointing at the direction of Dragonspine Ridge.
Then, a beam of light shone out from the Door of Glory all the way to the gap in the middle of Dragonspine Ridge. The road to Dragonspine Ridge was right within the range of the light beam, and the tentacles as well as dinobeasts along that road were scorched into ashes.
Suddenly, Hao Ren recalled what Gelton said before he jumped into the maelstrom. "I'm already very old..."
Ophra wheeled her horse around and swung her sword. "Retreat!"
The last group of knights rushed out of Leyton. Lying ahead was the violent surge, a purgatory of wilderness!
The earth riddled like waves of soft gel; everything within sight was shaking terribly. Moutains were falling and walls were coming down. In the blink of an eye, Leyton was turned into ruins behind them. The only thing that remained was the transcending, divine guiding light. Endless tentacles were breaking out from the grounds on both sides of the road, and dinobeasts were storming out like a flash flood from the Gnarled Grove. However, most of them were burned into ashes as soon as they came within the divine light's range: it was the power that believers in the Beinz Diocese had garnered for the last 3,000 years. It was probably not powerful enough against the First Born itself, but it was more than enough to get rid of these things.
"If only the patrimony from the outside world had not been cut off..." Ophra looked at the dinobeasts rushing out from the Gnarled Grove. "Three thousand years would have sufficed for us to exterminate these dinobeasts! Unfortunately, people thought these things were just mutants... No one knew they were actually descendants of the Third Born."
The giant wolves cleared the road ahead while the knights followed behind. Ophra and Hao Ren were at the rear of the team. As the escaping group manoeuvred through the violent grounds, knights and mages, who flew low were attacked and got left behind. The remaining men could only focus their minds, ignore the loud clashing in their surroundings, and run straight towards Dragonspine Ridge.
Not all of the tentacles could be killed in an instant; some were excessively large, enough to withstand the scorching light longer than others.
As the group arrived at the foot of the hill, yet another loud,booming sound came from the other side!
Elson, who was leading the group in front shouted, "Rock monsters! Rock monsters!"
Countless rock monsters were rolling down the hill. Some even jumped straight down the cliff and broke themselves into hundreds of pieces before regenerating and advancing. This group of was far more massive than the previous ones, which loitered around in smaller numbers. As the rock monsters were indiscriminate in their attack, and would most likely kill any living thing within their range of sight, the knights instantly lost hope.
But surprisingly, the rock monsters were not bothered with the humans. Instead, without hesitation they ran straight towards the Gnarled Grove, which was slowly rising and forming into a mountain!
It seemed that the rock monsters still possessed some kind of awareness. They could identify the enemy posing the biggest threat at that moment.
Ophra let out a sigh of relief before she called out with a voice that could still be heard amid the roaring noise. "Keep going. Don't look back!"
The team finally arrived at the mouth of the mountain pass in Dragonspine Ridge. It was a narrow path that the rock monsters would never use. Once they proceeded on the route a bit longer, they would leave the territory of the Gnarled Grove's root system. Vivian glanced over her shoulder and quietly triggered the magic deposits she had left behind in the caverns.
The core organs of the Gnarled Grove were very unique in that, despite the entire forest rising up miles high into the sky, the organs themselves were still attached to the hearts in the caverns.
Red mist began to rise from the edge of the Gnarled Grove. By then, the group had already escaped through the mountain pass and gone deep into the mountain range.
Behind them, a riotous, ear-splitting roar could be heard from afar. Hao Ren could almost sense from the roar that an ancient being was feeling extremely angry and full of hatred.
Suddenly, he heard the voice of the gigantic brain ringing in his head again.
"You pieces of scum!"