Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Lu Ye could feel all four of his Microcosmic Orbits spiraling quickly in resonance with the Spiritual Powers swirling in his Spiritual Points as he charged. He was getting closer to his adversary!
[Thirty-three meters, thirty, twenty-seven…]
Then an attack slammed into him, blasting him backward. He reeled back, but he immediately recollected himself and pressed on, undaunted and undeterred.
Blood trickled out the corners of his mouth while his chest ached with pangs of soreness from the blast. If Lu Ye had thought that closing his distance with Dong Shu Ye would improve things, he was sorely mistaken.
Being closer made it more difficult for him to evade the spells Dong Shu Ye fired his way. He could evade most spells that his sight managed to catch at more than thirty meters away, but any less than that the feat was proving nigh impossible to repeat.
He would have been defeated if not for his repeated use of Spiritual Pattern “Protection”.
[Thirty meters. That would have to do for now!] he thought.
He made another attempt to get closer and as soon as he reached the thirty-meter mark, he yelled, “AMBER!”
“ROAR!” Amber, who had vanished out of sight since the skirmish in the rain began, appeared behind Dong Shu Ye all of a sudden.
But Dong Shu Ye was prepared. Right when he heard Amber’s roar, he was already spinning on his heels like he knew Amber was there all along, firing a golden crescent-shaped bolt even before the roar was over. The shiny energy scythe split the rivulets of rain that showered from the boughs overhead and missed. All thanks to his predatory instincts, Amber had the sense of switching positions as soon as he made himself known.
Dong Shu Ye did not allow himself to be distracted. He could almost read Lu Ye’s plan now. It must be for the Spirit Beast to nab his ward and use him as a bargaining chip.
But Dong Shu Ye was confident that the plan wouldn’t work. Come any nearer and he could easily slay the beast anywhere within thirty meters. The spirit beast could not employ any magical means to protect itself and with his ward just ten meters behind him, Dong Shu Ye was certain that he could deal with Lu Ye and safeguard his ward at the same time.
Therefore, he immediately returned his focus to Lu Ye as soon as he forced Amber away. He could not afford to take his eyes off the main quandary at hand. But before he could fire any more spells, he sensed the signature of Spiritual Powers drawing close quickly.
His gaze panned up just in time to see a gigantic bell shimmering with a magical luminescence slamming down on him and trapping him inside before everything went dark.
[Dammit, the Mystic Spirit Bell!]
He of all people should recognize the Mystic Spirit Bell, the iconic Spirit Artifact that belonged to the heir of the Nine Star Clan. But having missed the best window to dodge it, he now found himself trapped inside, all alone in the dark within such a tight space!
He had been careless, he groaned at himself. That was why Lu Ye was trying to get close to him! It was not so that he could turn this skirmish into a melee, but because he needed to make sure that the Mystic Spirit Bell would work! Too far away and his plan might fail terribly!
The Mystic Spirit Bell was designed mainly for defensive purposes, but it could also be used to temporarily restrain one’s opponent, although it wouldn’t work so well. Dong Shu Ye, who knew more about the Bell than Lu Ye, was aware of this very well.
He was about to fire some spells to break open the bell when it rose up into the air all of a sudden, freeing him out of the temporary trap.
He traced the Bell to where it flew and what his eyes saw left him seething with stifled indignation.
Lu Ye had a hand holding a knife up at his young ward’s throat. The large blade of the saber gleamed dangerously with its edge just grazing by his artery while Lu Ye kept himself fully shielded behind with only one eye exposed to keep Dong Shu Ye in sight.
Lu Ye had never once thought of gambling with whether he could kill Dong Shu Ye because of the vast difference in their ranks. He had his fair share of slaying enough Fifth-Orders during the Conference, but he wasn’t going to let his hubris get the better of him. Of all his enemies, he knew how he would regret underestimating Dong Shu Ye, who clearly was far better and far deadlier than ordinary Fifth-Orders, and the skirmish up until now—where he could not even get within thirty meters of him—was proof enough of that.
To that end, Lu Ye did not want to put stock in the improbable or let alone the impossible. He could never succeed in turning this fight into a close-combat melee. He could never expect the fiery plump bird-like spell of his to work, not in such damp conditions.
Hence, his motive had been clear right from the start. If Dong Shu Ye had any weaknesses, that would only be his young ward.
He did not know who the ordinary man was at first, but the tone he used when he was addressing Dong Shu Ye showed that he must be someone important and he could very well be the best leverage Lu Ye could ever depend on to defeat Dong Shu Ye.
Lu Ye and Amber’s perfect cohesion in this tag team was all because of Yi Yi’s instrumental involvement. There was no time at all to discuss any plans, yet still, Yi Yi could guess Lu Ye’s thoughts like they were reading each other’s minds.
Amber’s earlier roar was exactly the distraction that Lu Ye needed to cast the Mystic Spirit Bell.
Right now, Lu Ye’s gaze met Dong Shu Ye. He could see the burning anger raging inside the latter, while the latter could see that Lu Ye meant business.
The young prodigal was dripping snot and spit because of the cold and having a steely blade now held up his throat certainly did nothing to improve things. Nervously, he gasped, “Come on, you two were fighting so why the hell am I being dragged into this!?”
As the hedonistic scion of the local mercantile plutocrat, the boy had barely any respect for Cultivators, whether they earned it or not. With the wealth and influence that his family commanded, he could do almost anything—so long as he had the sense of keeping it from going overboard—and get away with it. Even the most beautiful female Cultivator could become a mere plaything to him.
For this reason, he never once feared the powers that Cultivators wielded at their fingertips—powers that could allow them to rule any ordinary human’s life and death with ease.
Until now. For the first time, he felt the fear of mortal danger with the chilly sensation of steel being held up his throat. The feeling of its sharp edge pricking his skin could almost make him wet his pants as he whimpered, “Save me, ‘Ding-Dong’!”
Dong Shu Ye eyed Lu Ye with the blaze inside his glare growing stronger and wilder by the second.
“Ask him to walk away or you’ll die!” Lu Ye growled from behind Dong Shu Ye’s young ward.
“Careful, man! It hurts!”
“Okay, okay! Go away, ‘Ding-Dong’! Go!
“If I’m gone, then you really are dead, you fool!”
“Oh, Heavens, you’re right!” the young prodigal gasped with dawning realization.
“Get him to bloody leave or you’ll die now! If he leaves, I’ll let you go! I swear!”
“I so swear, now get on with it!”
The stinging pain coming from his throat and the sensation of something warm flowing from there were compelling reasons enough for the rich brat to not prolong the argument. “Just go, ‘Ding-Dong’! Just go and I’ll be safe!”
Dong Shu Ye stared at Lu Ye, desperately forcing himself to swallow all the frustration, resentment, and anger that he had been enduring because of Lu Ye. How he would relish killing Lu Ye with his own hands. But he restrained himself and snarled, “Swear it! Swear upon Heavens that you are a man of your word! Swear it and I’ll let you go!”
Lu Ye and Dong Shu Ye’s glare fixated upon each other for seconds before the former finally broke his silence. “I will do nothing to harm this ordinary person if Dong Shu Ye will do me no harm. In three days, I’ll set him free. This I swear in Heaven’s name!”
Everyone present could feel the same surrealistic tingle of Heaven acknowledging the oath.
Dong Shu Ye’s resentment reduced not one bit, but he had to concede that this was the only possible course of action at the moment. He held Lu Ye in a long and deep stare, full of enmity and unresolved rage. “You’d do well to remember your oath.”
He stepped back into the heavy deluge and retreated.
[One step, two steps, three steps…]
Then he stopped suddenly. He gazed up into the sky and felt the raindrops beating on his face. Then he smirked at himself, “Pathetic.”
He was a proud and illustrious Seventh-Order Cultivator, a highly-ranked and immensely-respected member within his order. Then a certain Third-Order trespasser came into his life two months ago, marking the start of the terrible change in his life. He failed his mission to slay that trespasser and for that, here he was, two months later, now relegated to the Sixth-Order while the trespasser had risen to the Fourth.
His Spiritual Points were damaged and as a result, his powers waned. His future prospects were all in tatters as he was forced to desert his former order and become a rogue. And just when he thought he found a place where he could start anew, he was made a simple bodyguard of an ordinary human.
Whereas his nemesis was making progress by leaps and bounds! Dong Shu Ye wondered if he would ever get another chance to slay and defeat him in the future? No! His nemesis was growing just too fast while he was falling further into ruin and squalor! The gap between them was growing smaller and it wouldn’t be long before he surpassed Dong Shu Ye and Dong Shu Ye knew who to blame for this! No, he could never let this slight pass!
In just the blink of an eye, his aura burgeoned as the radiation of Spiritual Powers from him intensified. Without warning, his hand came up and he fired a golden energy scythe at Lu Ye.
Lu Ye knew something was wrong the moment he saw Dong Shu Ye halted. Then when he saw his nemesis reneging on his promise and attacking him, he grabbed his hostage and dashed forward. In a mere few steps, he covered almost a couple dozen meters until he felt it was enough for him to cast the Mystic Spirit Bell that he had been holding with his other hand all along.
The golden crescent of death hit the poor young hostage in the chest, ripping it open and splattering his blood everywhere on the mud-sodden soil, before barreling out his back and smashing into the runic shield of Spiritual Pattern “Protection”, shattering the round shield forged of pure energy and sending Lu Ye hurtling through the air before he crashed down.
The Mystic Spirit Bell bore down on Dong Shu Ye just in time before he could ramp up another attack, trapping him inside once more. But the outer surface of the bell began to glow vividly with a fiery assortment of colors—signs of the Bell being vehemently attacked from the inside.
“ROAR!” Amber bounded out from nowhere, stopping just in front of Lu Ye, who vaulted himself up on his back while he quickly slapped his second Move-With-The-Wind Talisman on the tiger’s strong and stout girth.
[Dong Shu Ye has gone deranged and mad!]
Lu Ye never knew that young prodigal. But his being able to give Dong Shu Ye orders must mean that he wielded influence and privilege enough for Dong Shu Ye to be worried about his well-being to agree to a parley at first. But what had possessed Dong Shu Ye into breaking the promise, Lu Ye did not know. He could only chalk it up to a sudden streak of madness that he dared to risk, and eventually killed with his own hands, the one person he was obviously supposed to defend!
Nevertheless, that impressed upon Lu Ye Dong Shu Ye’s overzealous and rabid resolve to kill him. That was why he needed to run. He had exhausted much of his Spiritual Powers in this skirmish and he had collected too many wounds to continue any longer. Fleeing was the only option and there was no time to retrieve the Bell, not without letting Dong Shu Ye out.
Amber carried Lu Ye on his back and bolted. Seconds barely ticked by when the Bell exploded. Dong Shu Ye emerged amid the fumes and steam, looking slightly charred and bedraggled, but free.
He looked around and found Amber’s tracks and took to the air once more to give chase. Without his ward this time, the speed of his gliding was considerably faster.
The rain was showing signs of subsiding until it finally stopped two hours later. A beautiful rainbow arched across the sky like a bridge. Squads of Cultivators arrived at the scene of the skirmish just now and discovered three bodies and the signs of a battle.
When the Cultivators recognized one of the bodies, all of them stood around it grimly with dreadful trepidation. The son and heir of their master, lying dead in the mud like some mongrel dog…
It did not take long for the family to put a bounty on Dong Shu Ye’s head. But Dong Shu Ye was long gone, still hot on Lu Ye’s heels miles and miles away.
Night slowly set in as Amber galloped swiftly, flitting through a rocky wilderness where towering high-rise columns of rock and granite almost seventy meters tall sprawled across a flat meadow otherwise densely filled with craggy hills.
Amber was beginning to show signs of tiring and they had used up all three of Lu Ye’s Move-With-The-Wind Talismans. Fortunately for them, Dong Shu Ye appeared to have abandoned his chase somewhere more than an hour ago. Lu Ye could only assume that his nemesis must be at his limits too.
The fight and the chase had been for so long and Dong Shu Ye, even with his vast supply of Spiritual Powers, still needed as much rest and recuperation as they did.
In contrast, Lu Ye was able to recover some of his Spiritual Powers during the journey, all thanks to Amber.
Lu Ye knew that Dong Shu Ye might have abandoned the chase for now, but he would never abandon his quest for vengeance. Lu Ye would have wanted to put as much distance as possible between them and their hunter but Amber was too tired to go on. Using Move-With-The-Wind Talismans could increase one’s fleetness of foot, but it also caused a lot of strain and exertion.
Lu Ye did not need to rest but Amber most definitely did.
But the rocky wilderness afforded them a lot of cover. Yi Yi found a hidden and secluded spot and led Amber there. The tiger plopped to the ground with a heavy thud as soon as he reached the spot, his furry chest heaving and his tongue hanging out like a tired and thirsty dog.
It pained Yi Yi to watch him like that and she delved into a long litany of curses directed at Dong Shu Ye while she fed Amber water and food.
In the meantime, Lu Ye examined his own injuries. There was nothing serious aside from the concussions to his torso and head from the blasts Dong Shu Ye fired at him. His abdomen carried several heavy bruises too, but nothing a Healing Pill couldn’t solve quickly.
Lu Ye did not need to be told that Dong Shu Ye’s behavior earlier indicated his dogged determination to see Lu Ye dead with his own eyes and by his own hands. He did not like this at all, but for the moment, trying to fight Dong Shu Ye as a Fourth-Order Cultivator was asking too much.
If he could ascend to the Fifth-Order quickly, then he might be able to triumph just yet!