Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
The battle had only just begun but Lu Ye managed to get within just thirty-three meters!
Dong Shu Ye had fired two spells at him but Lu Ye was able to evade them both cleanly.
Dong Shu Ye channeled more Spiritual Powers. This time, a crimson-red disc blazed into life just in front of his chest. From the center of the disc spewed a long barrage of fireballs into the air, raining fire and destruction down on the whole area where Lu Ye was.
The fire dispelled away the darkness in the cave, driving them up to the eaves of the rock chamber like wraiths retreating into the abyss from whence they belonged.
This was a spell he used before the first time he pursued Lu Ye. A single fireball might not deal as much damage as one of those golden scythes he normally used, but he could conjure a whole barrage of these fireballs to cover a wide area, to say nothing of the fact that he found it easier to use fire elemental magic compared to metal ones.
Lu Ye’s face squirmed with irritation. He backtracked at once, only to realize that he had made a mistake. Then he thought of skirting the side of the area now being shelled by the fireball barrage. But Dong Shu Ye instantly adjusted his magic in time while keeping his infusion of Spiritual Qi into the disc ongoing non-stop.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
The fireballs slammed into the walls of the cave one after another, eliciting a huge cascade of explosions that would never end so long as the fireball barrage ensued. Cowering behind a thick stalagmite in a far corner of this rock chamber was a completely exhausted Amber. So fatigued that he could barely get up and walk, he was no use to man or beast at the moment, therefore Lu Ye had carefully hidden him here where it would be safe for him.
But even if Amber wasn’t tired enough, this was one fight where the tiger could barely contribute anything to Lu Ye’s favor. He might have grown bigger, stronger, and faster, but there was still a long way ahead before he could hold himself against an enemy like Dong Shu Ye.
With his blitz attack now an unequivocal failure, Lu Ye had to keep on hiding behind the stalagmites protruding from the jagged ground of the cave, using them as shields against Dong Shu Ye’s fireball shelling while he prodded for weaknesses in the latter’s defense.
There was no need to rush. The situation, despite the stalemate, was still very much in his favor. Dong Shu Ye’s fireball shelling needed constant depletion of his Spiritual Power. The spell was obviously taxing and Dong Shu Ye’s energy was finite. If anyone were to feel anxious, that should be Dong Shu Ye, not him.
And he was right. Just a few seconds later, Dong Shu Ye switched to attacking with another spell. From his fingers, a slithering serpent of fire shot forth and coiled around the stalagmites like it was searching for Lu Ye. Unlike flaming serpents conjured using Talismans, Dong Shu Ye’s version looked more life-like. One could almost make out the fine detail of the snake’s scales on the whole length of its flaming trunk.
The flaming serpent constricted itself around a stalagmite, but Lu Ye was gone. Dong Shu Ye panned his gaze around frantically, then he caught sight of Lu Ye dashing towards him from his flank!
Dong Shu Ye quickly channeled his powers once again and repeated the same trick: the same fiery-red circle materialized in front of him once again and he went back to firing fireballs the size of a man’s fist at Lu Ye.
Lu Ye’s figure was shimmering. He dodged one fireball. Then another. Then a third. All while keeping a steady pace in approaching his foe.
Dong Shu Ye’s forehead wrinkled with a mix of stress and vexation. Lu Ye appeared to be faster than before.
But he was right. Lu Ye’s speed and agility did indeed increase.
The ascension into a higher rank also meant the overall increase of a Cultivator’s ability, but that was only after a brief moment of acclimatization. To lure Dong Shu Ye into his trap, Lu Ye had intentionally held back from unlocking his sixty-third Spiritual Point and by the time he sprung his trap and unlocked his newest Spiritual Point, there was no time to get used to his new physical condition.
That called for whatever acclimatization to be done on the fly as he fought his enemy. No pain, no gain—without the stress and difficulty that came with this battle, the process would have not been so expeditious.
The renewed bombardment of fireballs again forced Lu Ye to retreat. But this time, Lu Ye felt more confident with his newfound abilities.
He took cover behind the same sprawl of stalagmites and waited for an opening.
Then he found one and he charged, his reaction and his speed now a notch faster than before.
[This is it!] Lu Ye mused, very sure that success was at hand.
He sidestepped and dove past the fireballs that came his way one by one. Those that he could not evade, he would just allow them to hit while he defended himself using Spiritual Pattern “Protection”. [Thirty-three meters… Twenty-seven meters… Seventeen meters!]
Lu Ye reached for the hilt of his saber. The weapon swished out of its scabbard with flaming-red Spiritual Powers dancing all along the length of its blade in flame-like tendrils, casting shadows that gesticulated wildly on the walls of the cavern.
The saber glinted dangerously in the dimly-lit ambiance and with Spiritual Pattern “Sharp Edge” activated, Lu Ye brought the weapon down on Dong Shu Ye with his full weight and strength behind it.
Dong Shu Ye’s expression contorted into that of horror, confusion, and disbelief. He could not understand just how Lu Ye managed to get so close so quickly. Instinctively, his arms came up—a gesture that seemed oddly futile to Lu Ye at the time as if flesh and blood could protect him against steel.
The first thing that resounded was a metallic crack, followed by a shatter as a tiny spurt of golden sparks crackled angrily. That must be the Golden Body Talisman Dong Shu Ye used before he entered the cave. Lu Ye’s present strength and power could easily defeat the effects of normal Golden Body Talismans and all he needed was just one blow with his saber.
But before Lu Ye could celebrate, an aureate sparkle caught his notice, and next he knew, a pair of golden energy scythes fired crosswise was heading straight at him.
The crescent-shaped blows were just so close that there was no way of dodging them!
[IT’S A TRICK!]
That was why Dong Shu Ye flung his arms up when Lu Ye came close enough to attack him! After all, Dong Shu Ye was a Seventh-Order Cultivator proven and experienced in the crafts of war. He would never do anything stupid and futile as using his own arms to stop a swinging blade.
That was not a defensive move, but rather a feint to mask how he was casting his spells! Even the expression on his face was what helped to fool Lu Ye.
[Good Heavens, he could be a performer on stage!] mused Lu Ye in his panic.
Little did Lu Ye realize that he was mistaken on that part. Dong Shu Ye was genuinely shocked and distressed when he saw Lu Ye closing at him so suddenly and easily, but the action of raising his arms to fire his spells really was a feint. To top it off, Dong Shu Ye had been implanting the impression that he could only fire one spell at a time when, in fact, he could do even more.
Therefore, when Lu Ye brought his saber down at him, he quickly fired two crescent-shaped energy bolts simultaneously, thinking that the effects of the Golden Body Talisman, coupled with his own protective aura, Lu Ye’s blow would cause no more than a scratch on him.
Whereas Lu Ye could very well die or at least suffer a major blow if the pair of crescent-shaped blows could hit.
And his plans worked. The pair of golden scythes slammed into Lu Ye’s chest, just as he wanted.
The impact flung Lu Ye into the air and feeling the angst of pain barreling through his ribs, Lu Ye spit up a mouthful of blood just before he crashed to the ground.
But Lu Ye was not the only one who had miscalculated. Dong Shu Ye was mistaken as well.
While Lu Ye was careening backward, puking blood from the heavy blows that pummeled straight into his chest, he missed how Dong Shu Ye was howling in pain himself. The Sixth-Order Cultivator tottered several steps backward and stared at his arms to find a horrifying gash where he could almost see the white of his bones peeking back at him amid the bloody mess.
His eyes widened involuntarily with disbelief.
[What in Heaven’s name is— Is this really caused by a Fifth-Order?!]
[A stroke that not only just defeated the effects of my Golden Body Talisman, it also plowed through my protective aura and left a gaping slash in my arms!]
Dong Shu Ye was only too relieved that he had the habit of keeping his protective aura on at all times, or else, he would have to spend the rest of his life eating with his face in his food like a dog.
But he had never heard of a Fifth-Order Cultivator that could deliver such a deadly attack! [Unless the saber he wields is some incredibly potent Spirit Artifact?!]
Dong Shu Ye’s incredulity was not misplaced: in the last few encounters with Lu Ye, he had only witnessed Lu Ye fighting using Spiritual Pattern “Protection”. He knew that whatever spell Lu Ye was using, it had incredible defensive capabilities. It was not until today did he finally sampled how dangerous and powerful were Lu Ye’s attacks and being so nearly permanently maimed, even he couldn’t help feeling so terrified that cold sweat drenched his back.
In one of the few moments of retrospective terrors in his life, Dong Shu Ye realized how his gambit nearly resulted in his abysmal ruin and death.
“Cough! Cough!” Lu Ye clambered to his feet, using his saber to keep himself steady. Inside his mouth, he could taste the salty and metallic flavor of blood.
Dong Shu Ye cast a long look at Lu Ye’s chest and was dismayed to find nothing there. The pair of energy scythes did not hit him. Lu Ye had managed to activate Spiritual Pattern “Protection” in the nick of time to protect himself. Although he was not able to fully avert the resulting impact, which caused quite a concussion in Lu Ye, resulting in some internal injuries.
Lu Ye quickly looked for more wounds. Despite the pain in his chest, there appeared to be no fractures, which was good news enough for him. His physical constitution had been greatly strengthened since the enrichment process in the Dragon Spring and his endurance had become a lot stronger than before.
But Dong Shu Ye was not going to give Lu Ye any chance for respite. Seeing Lu Ye getting up to his feet, Dong Shu Ye ignored the unbearable pangs of pain shooting up his arms and fired more spells at his enemy.
Bolts and rays of a smorgasbord of dazzling hues—gold, red, and even white—streaked across the air like an artist’s strokes and swishes on a jet-black canvas and Lu Ye had to resort to all sorts of maneuvers, even unsightly ones, just to keep himself safe.
It took a while for Lu Ye to recollect himself. Once he was ready, he charged headlong into Dong Shu Ye again, his saber bared and alight with a swathe of Spiritual Powers blazing on its blade.
He had finally succeeded in landing one attack on Dong Shu Ye just now. All he needed to do now was to repeat the feat again and again until his enemy fell, which was slowly becoming easier with Dong Shu Ye’s apparent sluggishness because of his injured arms.
Little by little, Dong Shu Ye found how he was involuntarily stepping backward. His body was instinctively trying to put as much distance between Lu Ye and him. For once he began to realize the importance of geographical advantage in a battle. He could have easily launched himself into the sky and glided away to safety if this battle was going on outside. But being trapped inside this rock chamber was preventing him from doing exactly that.
The closer Lu Ye got to him, the more resentful and hateful Dong Shu Ye looked.
In the blink of an eye, Lu Ye reached within ten meters of his enemy. He ducked low to avoid another spell that just wheezed harmlessly past him and delivered a reprisal of his own, swinging his saber in a swift and vicious uppercut.
What Lu Ye thought was the blow that would seal his victory hit nothing. Instead, he picked up the signature of a huge burst of Spiritual Powers approaching from overhead. He quickly activated Spiritual Pattern “Protection” just in time for the blast to batter him down with the force of a dam burst that nearly caused his knees to buckle as his feet skidded backward, sinking deeper into the ground.
He looked up and there was Dong Shu Ye, hovering in mid-air, smirking deviously at him, “That’s what you get for underestimating Spell Cultivators, brat!”
Dong Shu Ye did not possess the ability to fly, but with magical spells, he could levitate himself in mid-air for a short time.
What could a Fifth-Order Combat Cultivator do? Unless Lu Ye could sprout wings on his back and continue his assault aerially, this battle was over.
Dong Shu Ye had always kept this trick hidden up his sleeve. He initially thought he was able to kill Lu Ye without much trouble. But now that Lu Ye had fully entered the Fifth-Order and his arms were wounded, Dong Shu Ye no longer had any interest in prolonging this encounter.
He lifted a hand and took aim at Lu Ye, his face turning to stone as he savored the moment of his triumph. Spiritual Powers began concentrating at the tip of his fingertips and bright shimmering threads appeared and began elongating, curving, and crisscrossing quickly to take on the form of a big round circle the size of a dinner table that was filled with myriads of runic glyphs.
As far as Dong Shu Ye was concerned, Lu Ye was just too fast and he had that magical energy shield with strange glyphs to protect him. Single-target spells just wouldn’t be enough to kill him, so Dong Shu Ye decided to opt for a spell with a wide area of effect. He needed to fill the entire rock chamber with enough flames to ensure his success.
The infusion of Spiritual Powers into the large magical circle was slowly reaching its completion when Dong Shu Ye sensed the signature of Spiritual Powers racing his way. He looked and before he saw what it was, he heard the clucking sound that reminded him of a hen. Then he saw a fiery bird with a tummy so fat that the fowl looked like it just came out of a buffet meal skirring headlong into his chest before he could react!
The bird erupted into a terrible explosion and Dong Shu Ye, with incredulity and shock still frozen on his face, came crashing down from the air. The runic magical circle that he just finished conjuring evaporated into the air like dust whisked away by wind. But that was not all, being hit by the blow had thrown his Spiritual Power off-balance.
[A SPELL!? SINCE WHEN COULD THIS BRAT USE SPELLS?!] Still dazed by the explosion, Dong Shu Ye could barely think clearly. Most of all, he could barely comprehend how a Cultivator who had only just ascended to the Fifth-Order could already employ spells in battle!
With only slivers of his consciousness remaining, he could remember how swift and practiced Lu Ye’s casting of the spell was, as if he had been using it for years; he did not see it coming at all!
[IMPOSSIBLE?! IS HE ALSO A SPELL CULTIVATOR?!]
Through the corners of his eyes, he could see Lu Ye blitzing straight for him at breakneck speed. He hopelessly tried to readjust himself, but he couldn’t. Taking a direct hit in the course of casting a spell, in spite of his protective aura, was causing his Spiritual Power to surge so wildly beyond control in all his Spiritual Points that he could barely control his own limbs, let alone stabilize his churning spiritual energies.