Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Lu Ye had a walk around the campsite the next day with the Medical Cultivator Mu Ling chaperoning him.
It was miserably stuffy and boring inside the tent, so he needed a walk. He was just out of the tent when he stumbled into Mu Ling who offered to take him around for a look and Lu Ye saw no reason to decline the kind offer.
As they wandered around, scores of Cultivators came by to greet them warmly.
Lu Ye could expect that part of the reason so many people came by was because of Mu Ling. As a pretty and attractive female Medical Cultivator, one could understand why.
On the other hand, almost every Cultivator of Green Feather Mountain had heard the heroic epic of how a Fourth-Order Cultivator Yi Ye had made his way all the way from the rear of the Tai Luo Clan territory, overcoming all manner of obstacles and challenges the Clan hurled at him until he finally entered the domain of the Green Feather Mountain forces. It was this feat that propelled him into prominence.
But there were not only Cultivators of the Green Feather Mountain here. Independent Cultivators from everywhere else made up less than half the number here and they too were accorded great hospitality and immediate medical attention once they were wounded in battle, to say nothing of the Spirit Stone rewards that Green Feather Mountain would distribute every day according to any Contribution Points they gained.
For every Contribution Point, a Cultivator was awarded two Spirit Stones and he or she was allowed to keep whatever spoils they looted from enemies. As a matter of fact, Lu Ye even heard that Green Feather Mountain would be doling out invitations for any exemplary Cultivators who had proved their worth to join them after this Conference.
These generous and enticing offers were part of how Green Feather Mountain had been able to maintain its fifteen-year-long supremacy, allowing this excellent militant order to bolster its ranks with fresh troops at the end of each Conference.
No independent Cultivator could ever turn their heads from offers like this when all they needed to do was shine and survive in the Conference, and their unique talents and skills would not go unrewarded.
Life in the Spirit Creek Battlefield had always been terrible for independent Cultivators. Bereft of supplies and resources critically needed for their progress, many ambitious, if not desperate, independent Cultivators saw the Dragon Spring Conference as a gamble that could potentially mean a huge transformation in their lives. After all, if surviving this meat grinder called the Battlefield was already a gamble, what’s another?
While Lu Ye knew he could take Xie Jin for his word, he still maintained his reservations about Green Feather Mountain’s generosity. But the things he now saw and heard from the mouths of others could almost convert him.
[So everything in that jade slip is true,] he mused quietly.
“The Dragon Spring Conference is not just any contest, Junior Brother Lu Ye. It has everything to do with the future of all three factions, including that of its members and acolytes. It’s as close as it gets to a real war between the three factions, so I’m sure you understand why everyone is on tenterhooks. You appear to be remarkable and special, Lu Ye, and therefore you might not be interested in the rewards we offer. But as a member sect of the Grand Sky Coalition, we implore your help. We of the Green Feather Mountain forces shall greatly appreciate this favor,” said Mu Ling, indicating that their stumbling into each other was no mere coincidence.
In the meantime, Han Zhe Yue had gone deranged since Lu Ye was taken in by Green Feather Mountain. She roped in the Qins in a reckless crusade against the Green Feather Mountain forces, forcing them to cut their losses and give up some of their territories that included a few hills, making the total number of hills now controlled by Green Feather Mountain amount to not more than thirty.
Tang Wu had never felt such daunting pressure before.
He did not want to push things initially. As much as he wished for Lu Ye to join his side, Tang Wu did not want to pester him for he did not want to look desperate and risk becoming a nuisance instead. To that end, he would have wanted to let things take their course instead. But with the enemies now eager to spill more Green Feather Mountain blood, an all-out war would see both sides suffering heavy losses, and Tang Wu expected the worst for his side.
This was definitely not something he could accept, not with the Conference being just around the corner.
Hence, he desperately needed Lu Ye, and the best person to tender that invitation would be the lovely female Medical Cultivator who had been taking good care of Lu Ye and his mount Amber. Even if Lu Ye declined to participate in the Conference on Green Feather Mountain’s behalf, at least he won’t be offended.
Long accustomed to how people had always mistaken him as a Cultivator of distinguished pedigree on a trip of pilgrimage, Lu Ye halted in his tracks. A beat passed in silence as he mulled again his decision before he finally said, “I’m appreciative of what Green Feather Mountain had done for me. I’m not an ungrateful person, so I guess I’ll say yes. I’ll be honored to participate in the Conference on behalf of Green Feather Mountain.”
He never once thought of declining their invitation. The reinforcements that came to escort him had saved him a lot of trouble, in addition to delivering him from danger. Verily, the whole thing – the long horn-like call, the battle that was waged to draw the enemies’ attention away from him, and everything else – must be Green Feather Mountain’s intricate plan to lead him to safety.
There really was no reason why Lu Ye shouldn’t return the favor.
Especially since participating in the Conference wouldn’t be as dangerous as what he just did. In fact, he could be in for a huge haul of supplies and resources.
He still had enough Spirit Pills to last him until the Fifth-Order at the moment, but with his and Amber’s voracity for Spirit Pills, there could come a day when their supplies of pills and ores might dwindle, and therefore, he needed to secure whatever opportunities before they slipped away.
And the Dragon Spring Conference appeared to be one such opportunity.
With scores of Cultivators from the two opposing factions that belonged to the Thousand Demon Ridge as prey ripe for the plucking, the chance to slaughter them and loot them of their belongings and even win rewards in the form of Spirit Stones made this an opportunity that he could die for. Even a Second-Order Cultivator would yield a two-Spirit-Stone reward that could spare Yi Yi days of scouring through the wilderness for herbs. But if he could slay a Fifth-Order Cultivator, then the reward would be ten Spirit Stones plus the original twenty, making the amount a total of thirty!
How could Lu Ye ever decline such a prospect? Nay. Never in his wildest dreams. That he did not make known his inclination to participate was only because of his injuries. He needed the rest. But he also wanted to see with his own eyes how independent Cultivators were treated here. He wanted to make sure that the information he got from the jade slip Tang Wu prepared for him was true.
But now that he had ascertained the facts and his hosts had laid their cards on the table, Lu Ye felt obliged to accept their offer and agree to the favor.
Mu Ling looked rather surprised. “Are you sure, Lu Ye?” She did not expect it to be so easy for Lu Ye to say yes. She thought that Lu Ye might need some persuading and she had been preparing a litany of reasons and a laundry list of benefits that she hoped would sway him. His saying yes so readily really was not what she expected.
Lu Ye nodded.
A beaming Mu Ling responded with elation, “I’ll speak to Senior Brother Tang Wu immediately. He’ll be pleased to hear this!”
“Um, but I have a request of my own,” said Lu Ye suddenly.
“You said just now that the Conference lasts one entire month? how many days has it been since it began?”
“This is the seventh day.”
“I’m afraid that’s too long for me. I still have errands to run so this is my request: I ask that I’m allowed to leave any time I want to,” said Lu Ye, articulating his condition very clearly. The last thing he ever wanted in return for participating was to sink or swim with Green Feather Mountain. If and when something bad were to befall this side, he wanted the freedom to leave whenever he wanted to so as to prevent being involved in any subsequent fallout. As for his “errands”, it was just a pretense.
“Granted,” Mu Ling made the decision herself and she proceeded to make the arrangements with her Battlefield Imprint.
Meanwhile, at the great hall where the Ninth-Order Cultivators of the three participating militant orders were keeping watch of the Disc, Tang Wu received word about Lu Ye agreeing to join Green Feather Mountain and he breathed with relief. Although the addition of such a formidable figure as Lu Ye might not fully turn the tables in Green Feather Mountain’s favor, beyond any doubt, his presence would be a stalwart bulwark that could at least prevent any more slippage. They could easily plan their comeback in due time.
Han Zhe Yue’s fervor had yet to see any signs of diminishing and the enemies were still very much rabid and delirious in their assaults on all Green Feather Mountain’s territories. Thus, a tactical retreat might be just the reprieve the Green Feather Mountain forces needed while they bid their time for recovery.
“WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT?!” Han Zhe Yue shrieked like a banshee the moment she realized Tang Wu was looking at her. “ONE MORE GLANCE THIS WAY AND I’LL HAVE YOUR EYEBALLS PLUCKED OUT!”
“The two hundred Contribution Points you owe me, when are you gonna pay up?” Tang Wu retorted with deliberate placidity.
Han Zhe Yue responded with a snort. “Who’s to say which side he belongs to yet? At any rate, I will only believe it when I see it!”
Unreasonable as she always was, Han Zhe Yue refused to admit that, being that the tiny white dot that was Lu Ye had been inside Green Feather Mountain territory for two days, everyone could guess where his loyalties lied by now.
But something happened just as night beckoned that wiped that smug grin off her face – the white dot turned blue.
“Any more excuses?” Tang Wu asked quietly.
“Like I said,” Han Zhe Yue averted her gaze, “You can say what you want, but I’m not going to believe it until I see it.”
Even to Ninth-Order Cultivators, the sum of two hundred Contribution Points was hardly a measly amount at all. Han Zhe Yue would never so easily give up her Points. As a petty termagant on the opposing side, she felt no scruples at all in being deliberately and wilfully petulant. After all, Heaven had not yet passed judgment on her, so that would mean that she had managed to exploit a loophole.
Tang Wu returned a snort of his own, hardly in a mood for any childish and over-excessive bickering.
But Han Zhe Yue was not yet quite willing to let go. “Don’t you ever for one second believe that recruiting this man makes you the winner of this Conference! It’s a numbers game after all!”
That made sense. Every hill that has been occupied by either side required men to guard it. Without enough men to hold your territories, they would be recaptured easily. This was why the Qins had only twenty-five hills at first because they were severely lacking in manpower.
“We’ll see then,” Tang Wu replied coldly, not wanting to breathe new life into this argument by continuing it.
Inside one of the tents in the glen where the Green Mountain field infirmary was, Xie Jin had come hurrying, bringing with him a contract. Written in fine print was Lu Ye’s request, saying that he would be allowed to leave any time during his participation in the Conference on Green Feather Mountain’s behalf.
The rest of the contents included all provisions about rewards and punishments, all expressed very clearly.
Lu Ye was satisfied with the contract.
“So, Junior Brother Yi Ye,” Xie Jin said as he tucked away the signed contract, “Do you prefer to be on Offense or are you more interested in Defense?”
“Can you tell me more about both roles?”
“If you’re on Offense, we can assign you to either the vanguard or one of the flanking parties to help capture other hills. That would put you on the front lines in direct confrontation against enemies of the other sides. It’s hard work and dangerous too. But if you wish to be on Defense, we’ll send you to one of the hills that needs defending. You can withdraw too if things get too hairy.”
Lu Ye was not surprised by the explanation of the roles. “Offense,” he replied.
There was little to be gained by being on Defense. He could be there all day and no prey would come. Only by being on Offense could he slay more enemies and earn more rewards and loot. That has been his one and only purpose for participating in the first place.
“Heh, I expected no less,” Xie Jin grinned. “I knew you’re an Offense guy. Anyway, my squad is short one man and I could use someone like you. Have a good rest tonight. I’ll come for you tomorrow.”
He lifted his forearm and did something to his Battlefield Imprint. A blue light rose up from his mark and flew towards Lu Ye, who raised his own forearm too and the bluish glow dropped inside his Imprint.
That made Xie Jin the second contact he saved in the Imprint.
The first one has been erased.
Xie Jin gave him a few more instructions about tomorrow before he took his leave.
Yi Yi appeared from inside Amber. “Are you sure about participating in this Conference, Lu Ye?”
“You’re not keen about it?”
Yi Yi shook her head. “We’re going wherever you may go,” she said firmly, her resentment and tantrum towards him a few days ago all but subsided the following day. In fact, she was rather afraid that Lu Ye would be bitter toward her instead. Seeing him behaving just like normal breathed relief into her.
Lu Ye stroked her hair, saying, “Well, someone’s gotta demand some payback for what they did to Amber. What goes around comes around.”
“I guess you’re right,” Yi Yi nodded.
“You’re sure about that?”
“Whatever you say! At least we get to knock on some heads!” Yi Yi declared loudly, deciding not to dwell on right or wrong. It was something she and Lu Ye had never been able to properly see eye to eye about.