Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Xie Jin tossed the Storage Bag at Lu Ye.
“Urm, this is?” an incredulous Lu Ye said.
“A reward from the Green Feather Mountain forces to you. Two Spirit Stones for each Contribution Point and ten for killing a Fifth-Order Cultivator. Let’s see… One Fifth-Order enemy, three Fourth-Order enemies, five Third-Order enemies, and six Second-Order enemies. As a Fourth-Order Cultivator, you’re entitled to a reward of forty-nine Contribution Points.” Apparently, everyone was not only aware of the full details of what he had done, but they even had his Contribution Points fully calculated!
But that must be the Shadow Moon Disc, or Lu Ye would have suspected that someone must have had his or her eyes literally stuck onto his back without him knowing.
“Senior Brother Tang Wu has left us strict orders that the reward must reach your hands. Please accept this as a token of appreciation. I shall leave you to rest then.”
Xie Jin finished what he wanted to say all in one breath, all to prevent Lu Ye from declining the offer before he quickly slipped away, leaving Lu Ye alone with Amber in the tent staring blankly at the Storage Bag.
Lu Ye examined his Battlefield Imprint. It was true; his total Contribution Points had risen up to two hundred and twenty-three. A forty-nine point increment since the last sum.
[So… That would mean that the Fifth-Order Combat Cultivator’s dead, innit?] Lu Ye mused thoughtfully. Small wonder, especially since Lu Ye himself had delivered the final coup de grâce when Amber bounded over the enemy with Lu Ye riding on his back. The “Sharp Edge”-reinforced blow had ripped half the poor fellow’s throat apart. In his haste to escape from his pursuers, Lu Ye did not have the chance to stop and verify his kill, but the Contribution Points he gained today clearly showed that the kill was secured. The Fifth-Order Combat Cultivator really was dead.
With a casual toss, he threw the Storage Bag to the top of a table nearby and sat down, where he retrieved some water from inside his own Storage Bag to rehydrate himself.
The exertions today had been greatly exhausting and even Amber was hanging his tongue out like a thirsty dog. Lu Ye poured him some water too.
Yi Yi appeared. She strode to the table, curiously pried open the Storage Bag’s drawstring, and looked inside. Lo and behold! The sight of a hundred and eight Spirit Stones shining inside made her lit up with excitement.
For one with insatiable avarice for wealth second only to Hua Ci, Yi Yi had never laid eyes on so many Spirit Stones before. For years, she and Amber had lingered around poverty and destitution. Plundering and raiding low-tiered Cultivators was their only way of surviving in the wilderness and things would not have turned for the better if they had not encountered Lu Ye.
“Lu Ye, Lu Ye!” Yi Yi called loudly with brimming exhilaration. So happy was the Spirit Ghost that she couldn’t put down the pouch full of Spirit Stones, she asked, “What do you think they’re trying to do?”
“Buying us over, I guess,” remarked Lu Ye.
“But what for?” the Spirit Ghost pressed naively.
Lu Ye gave her a concise brief about the Dragon Spring Conference. “The Green Feather Mountain forces are slated to be the underdogs in this contest, therefore, the rules dictate that they are allowed to enlist outside help from independent Cultivators who are in no way affiliated to any of their allies. With so many Tai Luo Clan Cultivators dead at our hands today, it’s only natural that Green Feather Mountain wants us on their side.”
Lu Ye only knew about this after accessing the information contained within the jade strip that Xie Jin had given to him when they first met earlier and making a few guesses of his own, all of which were promptly confirmed by Xie Jin’s handing him of the Storage Bag filled with Spirit Stones.
Green Feather Mountain had sent forth a cavalry of more than twenty Cultivators and this would not have been possible if Lu Ye did not impress them by surviving the gauntlets of steel and doom on his own.
Otherwise, Green Feather Mountain would not have even the slightest inkling of interest in him. They would hardly bat an eyelid and Lu Ye would just be one of the many weak Cultivators who tragically lost their lives every day in the vicious and highly-demanding hell known as the Spirit Creek Battlefield.
Still, no one from Green Feather Mountain had said anything about recruiting him into their ranks – at least not yet. First, they sent a squad of mounted men to meet and escort him to safety, then they brought him here to heal and recuperate, and lastly, they presented him with the prize of his derring-do. It could not have been subtler enough. At any rate, the gestures haven’t been too straightforward or vulgar by Lu Ye’s reckoning.
[Tang Wu…] Lu Ye murmured the name Xie Jin told him about. [I guess he must be the Ninth-Order Cultivator that leads Green Feather Mountain…]
“Well, if that’s the case,” said Yi Yi dryly now that she had had a clearer picture of the status quo, “What do you think we should do?”
“What do you think?” Lu Ye threw the question back to her.
Yi Yi peered at the Storage Bag she cradled in her hand and placed it on the table carefully. “If it’s too dangerous, maybe we should just walk away. We’re talking about being caught in the middle of a three-way battle royale? Talk about a hell of a mess!”
“Well, things might not be as bad as they sound,” Lu Ye grinned. “Only Second- to Fifth-Order Cultivators are allowed to join this Conference. So as long as we make sure we’re not being outnumbered by more than one Fifth-Order enemy, it should be fine.”
“Wait, that means you’re ready to say yes?” Yi Yi gasped, her head tilting quizzically.
”I mean to say goodnight.”
That elicited a round of muffled giggles from Yi Yi before she got up and looked at the entrance of the tent and yelped, “Someone’s coming!” She quickly discorporated and went back inside Amber.
The chirping voice of a woman called from outside. “Yi Ye? Are you still up, Junior Brother?”
”Yes, I am. Come in, please!”
The flap opened and a young woman came inside. She looked like she was Yi Yi’s age, although more shapely than she was. Lu Ye just couldn’t neglect the fact of how bosomy her chest was.
She wore a headscarf on top of her head, donning a garb that looked more like an apron if not for the fact that it was mottled with blood spatters.
[A Medical Cultivator of the Green Feather Mountain forces?]
She bore an uncanny resemblance to Hua Ci, who was also similarly dressed when Lu Ye encountered her in a town.
Unfazed, the young woman smiled at Lu Ye. Something about her demeanor told Lu Ye that she was on orders to come and tend to him. “I’m one of Green Feather Mountain too. My name’s Mu Ling.”
Lu Ye got up at once and bowed, “Nice to meet you, senior sister.”
“I’m here to see to your wounds, junior brother,” said the bright Medical Cultivator as she strode to a corner and began rummaging through her Storage Bag.
“I’m fine, senior sister. But my mount’s rather the worse for wear. Can you take a look at him?” said Lu Ye.
“I’m afraid I’m still gonna examine you, junior brother. Senior Brother Tang Wu has expressly stressed that I must make sure that you’re okay,” said Mu Ling as she swiveled around.
Not wanting to sound ungrateful, Lu Ye could only oblige. Fortunately, he really wasn’t hurt much and it only took a couple of minutes to dress most of the superficial wounds he suffered. The only injury worth noting was the internal wound incurred during his bout against the Fifth-Order Combat Cultivator.
But with the blow greatly mitigated by Lu Ye’s “Protection” Spiritual Pattern, Mu Ling did not have much trouble treating him.
Finally, after making sure that Lu Ye’s injuries were all seen to, Mu Ling turned her attention to Amber. She carefully removed the bolts and arrows jutting out of the tiger’s hide before applying some healing salve and herbs.
That took the better parts of almost two hours before Mu Ling’s work here was done. She said her farewells and left, but not before leaving a pair of Healing Pills for both Lu Ye and Amber.
Lu Ye knew better than to decline the kind offer. As soon as Mu Ling was gone, he swallowed one, giving the other to Amber.
Yi Yi reappeared. Only this time, she looked rather miffed at Lu Ye.
”What’s wrong with you?” Lu Ye asked, perturbed by the nasty look she was giving him.
But Yi Yi refused to respond.
“What the hell is going on?!” Lu Ye yelped incredulously.
“Hmph!” Yi Yi averted her eyes, peeved and distant.
Lu Ye reached for the side of her face, his hand caressing her supple skin as he lifted her chin. “Come on, what’s wrong?”
Yi Yi vanished again, withdrawing back into Amber with a quick “Someone’s coming”.
The flap of the tent folded sideways to admit another young woman with a curvy figure. Amid a strange whiff of fragrance that lingered around her as she drifted across the tent, she sidled close and cooed into his ears, “Time to tend to those wounds of yours, junior brother.”
“W-Wait! I-I… J-Just now?!” Lu Ye gasped, utterly at loss for words.
“That was just the first part of the process. Now get on your bed,” she ordered curtly.
Lu Ye could not believe it. [Heavens, are they really that serious about us?!] he wondered to himself. [That they needed two healers to make sure I’m okay? But I’m not really hurt anyway…]
The female Cultivator wasn’t too amused to see Lu Ye’s hesitation. “Get on the bed, please,” she pressed again impatiently.
[What’s wrong with her? In a bad mood?] Lu Ye thought at that moment. But before he could say no, the female Cultivator pushed him and kept him pinned down on the bed before she began stripping his tunic.
She ran a slender finger through the firm curves of his hardened chest playfully, staring at him with a dreamy look. “Impressive, junior brother. Look at how strong you are…” She caressed the dreadful scars on every inch of his taut flesh. “Men who survived great battles are just so irresistible…”
[Something is terribly wrong.]
Lu Ye got up at once before the young woman’s hands could skim on his body further and seized her wrist. “Um, senior sister, are you sure you’re a Green Feather Mountain Medical Cultivator?”
She gave him a naughty and kittenish wink. “Medical Cultivators deal with injuries to your body, I’m here to provide soothing and comfort to your mind!”
[Wait a minute! Wasn’t this one of the female Cultivators who were batting their eyelashes at me?!] Lu Ye recognized her at last.
[She’s not some ruddy Medical Cultivator!]
Lu Ye refused to let go. Grimacing at the situation, he urged, “I’m injured and I could do with some rest, senior sister.”
“So what if you’re injured?” countered the female Cultivator, “Life is short. We take what we can, while we still can. Carpe diem! Heaven forbid, we could be dead by this time tomorrow, so it’s wise to spend each day like it’s our last!”
Lu Ye could barely take his eyes off the generous curve of her bosom and bobbed his head, “Can’t contradict you there, senior sister!”
Then he felt it – the weight of Yi Yi’s and Amber’s stares bearing down on him. Lu Ye looked up again and there were both of them, giving him angry and nasty looks!
Yi Yi looked like she was going to blow a gasket. She thrust a finger at the female Cultivator and Amber lunged.
The next few seconds were utter pandemonium inside the tent before the female Cultivator scrambled out, spewing litanies of curses and expletives between every breath. If only she knew how lenient Amber had been or she could have been dead.
The inside of the tent looked like the aftermath of a cyclone with the bed utterly collapsed.
Lu Ye sat on the ground with Yi Yi towering over him imperiously. “Oh, you found yourself unable to contradict her, eh?”
”Well, what she said made sense.”
“In what way?!”
“In how inviting her generous offer was,” Lu Ye answered cryptically, not forgetting to hold up his hands in front of his chest to emphasize how enticing the female Cultivator’s womanly charms were.
Yi Yi peered at her own chest and that infuriated her. With a final howl of total frustration, she vanished back into Amber.
That left Lu Ye and Amber both tossing blank stares at each other. At last, Lu Ye decided to look for something to eat. They had barely consumed anything yet and some epicurean pleasures would certainly help to satiate those particularly good appetites of them both.
He left the tent and found a flaming bonfire where he sat down. He got some animal flesh he had been keeping inside his Storage Bag and cooked them over the fire. He had only just begun eating when more Cultivators appeared. Some of them well and a good many of them hurt, they came bearing gifts. Some offered him more meat while some presented him with some liquor and wine, and every one of them was kind and warm.
This was a first for Lu Ye, who had never been showered with such generosity and attention since his arrival into this dimension. But he was somewhat relieved to find that the Cultivators did not stay to talk much. They merely came and left whatever they brought, exchanging only some short but friendly greetings.
Lu Ye did his best to respond politely to every one of them.
[Is this the dignified presence that members of great and powerful sects often carry?] The Cultivators all thought when they took their leave and walked away.