Ten minutes later, the bodies of seven signalmen were lying on the muddy ground in the rain.
The soldier who shot first because of nervousness had a shockingly huge hole in his abdomen. His life was maintained by the medication drugs, but the brightness in his eyes was dimming.
It was the only outcome when eight unprepared signalmen were engaged in a head-on clash with twelve fully-armed, well-trained Exos.
The Exos who opened fire at them ferociously a moment ago, however, were standing far away quietly at a loss like misbehaving children.
One of the medics was kneeling next to the soldier and opened the anti-water rune array, creating a dry space for him, while he performed the futile treatment on him with a pale face.
The few elite warriors were picked up along with their crystal suits and thrown afar!
Several other Exos were kicked right in the chest when they just turned around, only to be blown more than a hundred meters away with their gear that weighed several tons, smashing the hard rocks into pieces.
In the middle of the lightning and thunder, a shadow knocked down all twelve Exos like a gale before kneeling on the ground and holding the dying soldier in his arms in the mud on that dark night.
Sparks were bursting out of one of his eyes, but his other eye was filled with tears, which mixed with sweat and rainwater and flowed to the soldier’s face in a dirty current.
The soldier’s brain was lacking oxygen because the loss of blood. In his dying moment, he had already forgotten the details of the battle just now, but he vaguely recognized the one who was holding him.
“Iron… Iron Commander?” the soldier mumbled in a feeble voice. His pupils were enlarged all of a sudden, with disbelief popping up on his face.
In the pouring rain, Iron Commander Zhou Hengdao kneeled down in the mud and blocked the rainwater for the soldier with his magnificent body. Dirty tears were uncontrollably flowing down his face like raging dragons.
He looked at the soldier as if he were watching his favorite grandson dying slowly in his arms.
“It’s alright, son. I’m here,” Zhou Hengdao mumbled to the soldier, sobbing.
Intense brilliance suddenly beamed out of the soldier’s dimming eyes. He turned his head from Zhou Hengdao’s shoulder to the night sky that was as dark as ink. Smiling, he said, “It’s really you, Iron Commander. The enemy was coming…”
“I know, I know. It’s alright. The enemy has been beaten back!” Zhou Hengdao tried to hold back his tears. “You are all very brave. Every one of you… is the best soldier of the federation. You have fulfilled your responsibility and persisted to the last moment! Now, reinforcements have arrived. Mission accomplished. Take a good rest now. You will… be home very soon!”
At the cold, rainy night, the soldier seemed to be remembering the hot dumplings in his warm home, the laughter of his parents and siblings, and so much more. Indescribable brilliance beamed out of his face, but his eyes were frozen to the moment forever.
The soldier’s hand slid down from Zhou Hengdao’s arms.
Like a rusted statue, Zhou Hengdao kneeled in the mud for a long time before he covered the soldier’s eyes with his iron hands.
Because of his shaking hands, he tried three times before he finished the simple task.
Then, he took off his military uniform that was sewed with Golden Stripes and laid it on the ground as cerecloth. He placed the soldier’s body on it carefully.
With the rain hammering his iron body, Zhou Hengdao rose up one joint after another and glanced around with his eyes that were as cold as ice.
The soldiers in crystal suits who made eye contact with him felt that they were hit by lightning. They all took a few steps back with the urge to vomit blood.
“Who asked you to kill anyone? Did I not inform you that all federal soldiers are brothers whom you should absolutely not attack for real?”
Zhou Hengdao waved his hand. One of the Exos, who was wearing a heavy-version Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit with a total weight of almost twenty tons, was drawn toward him easily until they were three meters away. He was locked onto and lifted into the air by his throat by Zhou Hengdao’s spiritual energy!
The burly warrior who was as strong as a tower could not even struggle. He writhed in pain in midair while uttering meaningless syllables!
Zhou Hengdao looked at him coldly, showing no intention of letting him go.
“Iron Commander, it was an accident!” Another warrior was greatly shocked and shouted, “We were preparing the anesthetic ammo. They shot first. All the brothers can prove that they shot first!”
Zhou Hengdao narrowed his eyes. The redness in the crystal camera on his face slowly dimmed. It was not until one minute later that he snapped his finger and blew away the warrior in midair brutally.
The burly warrior smashed into the mud and curled up like a prawn, struggling to catch his breath.
“Everybody here, you and them, is the most excellent soldier of the federation. You should die in the Blood Demon Sector in the battles against the demons, not under the guns of each other!” Zhou Hengdao declared. “I do not want such a thing to happen again. The federal army should not attack each other no matter what!”
“I… understand!” The burly warrior whose throat had been grabbed by Zhou Hengdao for a long time finally caught his breath. He coughed and explained in pain, “This is the last communication base. Now, from the Dark Desolate Domain to the north of the Grand Desolate Plateau, the fifty-two communication bases, including the sixteen main ones, are all under our control. Other than the accident here, the missions everywhere else went very well, with zero casualties.
“Very good.” Zhou Hengdao nodded. “What about the signalmen?”
“They were treated in the same way. Locked up in barriers and given enough food and water,” the burly warrior replied. “The barriers will be automatically deactivated in five days. They will definitely be safe and sound.”
“Alright.” Zhou Hengdao took a deep breath in relief. He wiped the rainwater off his face, somewhat helplessly, and stared at the bodies on the ground. “Keep the bodies of our comrades here carefully for now. Find a place and establish defense rune arrays. Do not let them rot in the rainwater or be gnawed by pests! Also, put a jade chip next to their bodies. Record thoroughly the process of their death. Point out that they held onto their posts and sacrificed themselves to resist us!
“I will sign the record!
“If our cause succeeds, we will find their bodies, destroy the jade chip, and hold a grand funeral for them as ‘war heroes’. Their family will have the corresponding compensation.
“If… our cause fails, it will be the government who finds their bodies. They will still be great heroes who stood up against the Patriots Partnership. Everybody will remember their names. Their family will benefit from them, too.
“Do you understand now?”
In the darkness, the twelve Exos stood at attention at the same time and saluted the comrades who had been killed by them in the most solemn way.
After a moment of silence, Zhou Hengdao said, “Alright, prepare to act. It is too much of a burden to create such a super thunderstorm to block all the spiritual energy connection. The Thunder Weather Troop will not be able to persist for long. We have to seize every second and finish our operation before anyone realizes what is going on!
“Let’s check the time. It’s 3:12:35 a.m. at the moment. The ‘Fog Plan’ will be officially activated at 3:15!”
At 3:15, deep inside the Dark Desolate Domain, at the end of the Thunderous Sound Mountain, a highly-confidential weather troop slowly opened the waterproof cloth in the valley, revealing a weather rune array almost a hundred meters in diameter.
Nine Cultivators who were adept at communicating with nature were sitting at the nine nodes in the rune array. Sitting cross-legged, they mumbled spells, surrounded by electric arcs and mystic rays. Blood was leaking out of their mouths, noses, ears, and eyes while their vitality flowed into the rune array nonstop, making all the crystals that were embedded at the intersections of the spiritual stripes on the rune array glitter.
When all nine Cultivators were exhausted and about to fall down, a round magnetic field was generated above the rune array. The eight hundred and eight crystals embedded in the rune array broke apart at the same time. An invisible mystic ray soared to the sky like a pillar leading to the heavens, only to explode amid the clouds, attracting all the furious spiritual energy thousands of kilometers around like a huge magnet!
The Dark Desolate Domain was like a pot of seething oil that was added with a block of ice. The intensity of the thunderstorm was immediately multiplied, and the spiritual energy was more chaotic than ever. A deep, obscure fog was spreading out in the rainwater, expanding and consuming everything.
At 3:15 a.m., the thunderstorm died down a little bit, but the fog was even heavier than before. The entire Dark Desolate Domain seemed to be enshrouded in smoke, blurry and unpredictable.
At the center of the Dark Desolate Domain, where the fog was densest, as three rune arrays were detonated abruptly, a long, narrow gap appeared in midair out of nowhere.
Demonic energy was flowing out of the gap with all kinds of weird phenomena. It turned out to be a wormhole leading to the Blood Demon Sector!
At 6:19 a.m., a soldier in a broken crystal suit and soaked in blood staggered to the defense area of another legion. He fell to the ground before he reached the sentinels.
His crystal suit was covered in scars of the demon beasts’ venom, and the right side of his breastplate had been pierced through by a tusk brutally!
At 6:33 a.m., every legion participating in the Furious Fist drill, including Burning Prairie, was informed of a piece of shocking news!
At around three o’clock in the morning, when the thunderstorm was most intense, a natural wormhole leading to the Blood Demon Sector was generated due to the collision of the magnetic fields deep inside the Dark Desolate Domain.
In the Dark Desolate Domain, the appearance and disappearance of wormholes were the most common natural phenomena. In most cases, the beast tides from the Blood Demon Sector flooded into the Heaven’s Origin Sector through the natural wormholes, too.
However, when the wormhole was generated, a rapid response troop happened to be marching nearby.
Perhaps because the thunderstorm was too heavy, or maybe because the fog was too dense, the rapid response troop ended up entering the wormhole by accident and was teleported to the Blood Demon Sector!
They were under attack in the Blood Demon Sector. When they planned to retreat, the wormhole already disappeared. As a result, only one of the soldiers managed to escape back and tell everybody the news. The remaining 3,113 federal soldiers were still trapped in the Blood Demon Sector!