With eyes narrowed in alarm, Zhang Xuan's mind swiftly whirred into action.
This was not the first time he had asked about Luo Ruoxin's affairs, but back then, Luo Xuanqing had not shown such an agitated response to his question.
Could there really be some kind of secret involved?
As if oblivious to the threatening aura that Luo Xuanqing was emanating, Zhang Xuan replied with an innocent smile, "I just find the matter rather bewildering."
Luo Xuanqing stared at Zhang Xuan intently, as if trying to find any falsehood in his words. However, all he saw was an earnest smile from an honest man, so he eventually released the killing intent that he was emanating with a harrumph and coldly said, "This is a matter between our Luo Clan and the Zhang Clan. As an outsider, you shouldn't get too involved in this matter. Understood?"
"Yes, Brother Luo." Zhang Xuan nodded.
Luo Xuanqing might not have said anything at all, but his very response told Zhang Xuan a very important fact—the two clans were determined to go through with the betrothal by hook or by crook, and no one would be able to stop them!
It was apparent to all how doting and protective Luo Xuanqing was of his younger sister, as well as how much he abhorred the Zhang Clan, but even so, he was still unable to do anything to terminate the engagement between both clans. Most likely, there were other factors that made it critical that the engagement carried on as planned.
This is really a huge dilemma! Zhang Xuan rubbed his glabella in distress.
His previous thought was that as long as he could become the sanctum head of the Sanctum of Sages, he would be in a position not beneath that of the head of the Zhang Clan. On top of that, given that Luo Ruoxin and he were in love, there should have been a good chance that he would be able to gain the approval of the Luo Clan.
However, it seemed like there was a need to reassess the current situation now.
Despite being the head of the Luo Clan and possessing extraordinary strength, she was still unable to struggle free from the engagement she had with the Zhang Clan. He would really have to look into this matter when he got back.
While Zhang Xuan was still deep in thought, a sound similar to the buzzing of a group of mosquitoes suddenly echoed through the air.
Bi Hongyin narrowed her eyes and exclaimed with a hushed voice, "Crimsontail Wasps!"
Shortly after Bi Hongyin's exclamation, an entire legion of wasps, each roughly around the size of a longan, suddenly pressed in their direction in the form of an ominous, black cloud.
"Crimsontail Wasps?" Zhang Xuan's heart skipped a beat after hearing those words.
This saint beast was detailed in some of the beast tamer books that he had read. The Crimsontail Wasp was small, and its strength was not too frightening, typically being only at Saint 3-dan to Saint 4-dan. However, what was frightening about it was the potent poison it carried on its sting.
In a group, even a Saint 7-dan expert could easily be poisoned to death in a moment of carelessness.
What was worse was that they tended to hide within mountain forests in legions. In a sense, they were even more frightening than Saint 8-dan beasts.
The killing intent that Luo Xuanqing released earlier has alarmed them! Zhang Xuan swiftly realized what was going on.
They had concealed themselves really well ever since entering the mountain valley, keeping their auras tightly reined in within their bodies. Under normal circumstances, they should have been able to bypass the detection of most saint beasts, and yet, a legion of Crimsontail Wasps was suddenly heading their way.
Most likely, the Crimsontail Wasps had felt threatened by the earlier burst of killing intent and decided to seek out and kill the source of the threat.
Looking at the fearsome cloud of wasps heading in their direction, Yun Lianhai's face suddenly turned ghastly pale. "What should we do?"
It was a rather unnatural reaction for an expert of his caliber. It seemed like he had an innate fear toward lifeforms that carried poison in them.
"We'll cause too much of a commotion if we engage the Crimsontail Wasps in a battle, and that would likely draw in even more powerful foes. More importantly, there are simply too many Crimsontail Wasps. Putting aside the question of whether we'll be able to eliminate all of them or not, Crimsontail Wasps have a group defensive mechanism that prompts it to release poison clouds upon their death. Once the poison clouds build up to a certain concentration, we'll be doomed as well." Bi Hongyin swiftly analyzed the situation for the group.
The Crimsontail Wasps were the very enemies that they feared encountering in the valley. The Crimsontail Wasps were currently standing in their way from advancing deeper into the valley, but killing them was not an option, and there was no way they would be able to circumvent the entire legion safely. It was truly a helpless situation they were in.
"There's no choice, let's just retreat out of the valley and find a way to get rid of them outside," Luo Xuanqing instructed decisively.
As a member of the Luo Clan's main family, as well as a future leader of the Luo Clan, Luo Xuanqing definitely was not as rash and hot-headed as he appeared on the surface. In times of adversity, he would weigh his options rationally and make the most logical choice on the spot.
"Very well!" Knowing that this was the best course of action they could take, the group immediately began retreating.
After fleeing barely several hundred meters, with a shake of his head, Zhang Xuan remarked, "It doesn't seem like we'll be able to make it in time…"
Following which, another legion of Crimsontail Wasps suddenly appeared right in front of them with a resounding buzzing noise that left one with goosebumps.
As Saint 3-dan to 4-dan beasts, there was no doubt that the Crimsontail Wasps possessed intelligence. It was not easy for a meal to walk onto their plate, so they had made preparations beforehand to corner their prey.
"There's no other choice." Knowing that a fight was inevitable, Luo Xuanqing roared, "Prepare for battle!
"Zhang shi, I'll be counting on you to set up an Aura Isolation Barrier to prevent the shockwaves or sounds from the battle from leaking into the surroundings.
"Bi Hongyin, use your demonic tunes to hinder their communication so that they won't be able to arrange themselves in formations and collaborate with one another.
"Yun Lianhai, use your secret art to determine the whereabouts of the Wasp King.
"Yuan Xiao, your body boasts the highest defensive capability and immunity to poison, so I'll need you to follow me later on to strike down the Wasp King.
"Once the Wasp King is killed, the remaining Crimsontail Wasps would fall into confusion. We can make use of the opportunity to escape!"
The crowd nodded grimly. "Yes!"
Hearing how concise and rational Luo Xuanqing's commands were, each of them aimed right at the flaws of the enemies, Zhang Xuan could not help but nod in approval.
Were it to be anyone else in his position, they would have already lost their nerve. However, not only was Luo Xuanqing able to remain perfectly calm, he was even able to instantaneously capitalize on everyone's strengths to craft the ideal plan to cope with the danger they were facing. The geniuses groomed by the Sanctum of Sages were indeed on a whole new level, reacting completely differently from the others in times of danger.
After seeing that everyone had received his commands, Luo Xuanqing bellowed, "Move!"
At the same time, he lifted his hand and closed his palm. As if falling under his control, the surrounding space suddenly turned incredibly viscous, and even the slightest of movements would be met with the greatest of resistance.
"Zhang shi, I'll fend off the wasps for the time being, but I won't be able to last too long like that, so I need you to set up the formation as soon as possible!"
"I understand, just that…" A hint of embarrassment suddenly surfaced on Zhang Xuan's previously solemn face, and he looked at the group around him awkwardly. "Do any of you have grade-8 formation flags?"
He had cleared the 8-star formation master examination just one day ago, and he had not had time to purchase any grade-8 formation flags yet… if he could afford some in the first place, that was.
"You don't even have any formation flags?" Bi Hongyin face twitched upon hearing those words.
The expert formation master whom Luo Xuanqing had specially invited into their group actually had no formation flags at all!
The other members of the group could not help but feel a little light-headed. Their journey had barely started, but everything was already looking so grim.
"Here, take mine!" Exhaling deeply in frustration, Bi Hongyin flicked her wrist and threw roughly five to six hundred formation flags over to Zhang Xuan.
As one who specialized in formations, it was a given that she would bring large quantities of formation flags wherever she went in case of emergencies. Of course, considering that she was a genius from the Demonic Tunist Guild, there was no questioning their quality too.
"Thank you." Zhang Xuan swiftly grabbed all of those flags as he drove his zhenqi.
Sou sou sou!
The next moment, the flags flew out in all direction.
"You…" Seeing how Zhang Xuan tossed all of the flags out without even giving them a second look, Bi Hongyin's face flushed scarlet in fury. "I only have that many flags! If you throw all of them out at once and fail to form a formation, we'll have no choice but to force our way through using brute…"
But before she could finish her sentence, a huge congregation of mist suddenly settled into the surroundings. A formation had been successfully formed and activated.
Grade-8 Aura Isolation Formation, typically used to prevent any noise, shockwaves, or any sort of intangible disturbances from traveling in and out of the formation.
"T-this… He's already done?" Bi Hongyin gulped in awe, but that hardly helped alleviate the hoarseness in her throat.
Not only was she in such a state, even Yun Lianhai and Yuan Xiao were completely dumbstruck as well.
Even though Luo Xuanqing had showered plenty of praise upon Zhang Xuan about how swift he was in setting up formations, the sight before them was still too inconceivable. It was simply beyond the limits of their imagination!
To complete a grade-8 formation within less than a breath… Could 9-star formation masters even set up a grade-8 formation that quickly?
After all, setting up a formation was a very complex business. It involved analyzing the surrounding geographical terrain, environment, strength of the opponent, diffusion of power, and many other factors. Yet, to finish it in the blink of an eye without even assessing any of those conditions… or was his mind capable of processing all of that complex information in an instant?
Recalling that they were still in the midst of a battle, Bi Hongyin swiftly shook herself out of her shock and whipped out her zither, preparing to play an offensive demonic tune. However, she suddenly realized something then, and she widened her eyes in astonishment. "Wait a moment… this formation doesn't seem to have just concealed our presence—it seems to harness the effects of a Beguilement Formation as well. Look, those Crimsontail Wasps are clearly in a disorientated state, traveling aimlessly around the area."
To her shock, she realized that the formation did not just isolate their presence from the rest of the world. It seemed to be trapping all of the Crimsontail Wasps within it as well, not allowing even a single one of them to escape.
This was extremely significant to their current situation. If even a single Crimsontail Wasp got away, they could possibly draw the powerful saint beasts in the valley over to save their comrades.
"Oh. You gave me quite a few flags there. There were still some remaining after I finished the Aura Isolation Formation, so I compounded a Beguilement Formation while I was at it," Zhang Xuan replied with a cheery smile.
"You compounded a Beguilement Formation while you were at it?"
Everyone's cheeks convulsed wildly after hearing how casually Zhang Xuan spoke of the matter.
Within a short span of less than a breath… that fellow actually set up two formations!
And as if that was not enough… the both of them were compounded upon one another!
Overlapping two formations on top of one another was a task that was many times more complicated than just setting up just a single formation. Many more variables and factors had to be taken into account when making the calculations. Even expert formation masters would have to spend several months working with multiple compasses in hand, and yet, that fellow was actually able to achieve it on a whim.
Bi Hongyin felt a searing pain on her cheeks, as if someone had just dealt a tight slap to her face.
She was considered a genius formation master as well, but compared to the other party, she felt like she was not anything at all.
It was almost as if she was a complete amateur standing before a professional.
Yun Lianhai also quickly shook himself out of his shocked state before asking, "With this Beguilement Formation, those Crimsontail Wasps shouldn't be able to get away. With that, we shouldn't have to fight them anymore, right?"
The others were dazed for a moment before hurriedly nodding in agreement.
Indeed! Their goal was not to kill these Crimsontail Wasps but to bypass them so that they would not hinder the group from finding the Dongxu Gourd! Since they were already trapped by the Beguilement Formation, there was no reason for them to fight anymore.
They could just walk away, and the disoriented and trapped Crimsontail Wasps would not be able to stop them.
"That won't do." Luo Xuanqing shook his head and said, "A formation that is set up on a whim won't have sufficient spiritual energy to sustain it for too long. Soon, it will run out of energy and deactivate. We might be able to get away from them now, but if we encounter them once more in the depths of the valley, we'll be in a far more dangerous position!"
Formations required a constant input of spiritual energy in order to remain active. This was similar to how a carriage required a horse to drive it. Once the horse ran out of strength, the carriage would not remain moving for long.
The Beguilement Formation might have been able to last for quite a while if it was only trapping one or two Crimsontail Wasps, but there was an entire legion of them in here! Under their furious thrashing, the Beguilement Formation would only deplete its spiritual energy faster than ever. By Luo Xuanqing's estimate, it should be collapsing very soon.
Rather than be placed into an even more dangerous situation later on, it would be much wiser for them to get rid of the threat then and there, while they still had the upper hand.
"Run out of energy? Brother Luo, that won't be a problem. I also noticed that problem while I was setting up the formation earlier, so I compounded a Spirit Gathering Formation on top of that. With the Spirit Gathering Formation drawing in the surrounding spiritual energy to fuel the other formations, I think it should have no trouble running for several hundred years!" Zhang Xuan quickly clarified.
"You even compounded a Spirit Gathering Formation on top of that?"
The others staggered upon hearing those words.
They quickly turned their gazes over to assess the formation, and indeed, it was as sturdy and stable as it could get. It seemed like there was an endless source of spiritual energy fueling its power depletion.
The crowd felt as if their minds had just blown up.
A triple compounded formation… and finished in a breath at that. Brother, are you high?
It took a long while before the deeply stifled Luo Xuanqing was able to find his words once more. "Since that's the case, it should be safe for us to leave then…"
He had prepared so many contingency plans, but in the end, he did not get a chance to use any of them at all. Just by throwing out a pile of flags, the young man had already resolved the crisis they were facing. This left him with a crushing feeling of defeat.
"Leave? Isn't it a huge waste to leave behind so many formation flags?" Zhang Xuan blinked in confusion.
These formation flags were of top-notch quality, and every single one of them was worth a bomb! It would be too wasteful to toss away such a huge fortune here!
"What other choice do we have? These Crimsontail Wasps produce poison clouds upon their death. Even if we manage to slaughter every last one of them, we'll also suffer heavy damage," Luo Xuanqing said with a frown.
"Heavy damage? Why would that be the case? There were still some spare formation flags after setting up those three formations, so I decided to add in a Slaughter Formation. It will activate automatically once the formation gathers sufficient spiritual energy. All we have to do is wait here," Zhang Xuan replied with the same cheery smile.