Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
A rock perched proudly over the precipitous cliffs of the mountains that belonged to a Tier-Two militant sect, the Devoted Ones, was known to all members of the sect as the Hawksflight Rock. The rock, a landmark of the Devoted Ones outpost that was located right near the central region of the Battlefield, looked exactly like a hawk spreading its wings, ready to take into the air. A lone figure sat on top of the rock. Clad in a fitting tunic of white embroidered with crimson cloud-like patterns, the lean and strong man in his hair of flowing long mane of silver-white hardly looked like a thirty-year-old man in his prime. If anything he looked rather like he has seen more winters than he ought to.
With one leg propped up and the other dangling off the edge of the rock, he sat there, accompanied by a gourd filled with wine.
His eyes squinted as he gazed at the dimming red sun that was slowly sinking down the western horizon. Seizing his gourd, he threw his head back for a swig, only to realize that it was empty. His urge to intoxicate himself further remained unsatiated.
He gave the empty gourd a little shake as if he couldn’t believe it until he finally sighed.
All of a sudden, his dejected eyes shot wide with renewed vigor. He looked down and saw a flash of light streaking towards him like a comet. Grinning, he exclaimed “Wine!” and waved at his incoming visitor.
The streak of light landed beside him and faded, revealing a young lass smiling at him playfully.
The petite maiden in a shamrock dress and her hair tied into a pair of twin tails beamed broadly at the man, flaunting her dimples.
“Brother Baxian!” her voice chirped sweetly at him.
“Not Brother!” he feigned a glare at her, “Call me Senior!”
“Oh?” the young lass tilted her head quizzically at him, the playful look in her eyes portending something mischievous, “Are you certain about that?”
The man pensively responded, “The ranks of seniority are clear. Your father is like a brother to me, it’s only right that you address me as ‘Senior’.”
The young lass held her hands behind her back and paced around, slowly inching further and further with every bit the semblance of a playful kitten. She threw him a look through the corners of her eyes. “If you say so. Only a brother to me gets to enjoy the sweet draught that I’ve brought him. But a senior, eh? Guess he’ll have to contend with the fresh air here instead…”
“Sister Yuechan, that’s so wrong of you!” the man berated, the stolid and wistful demeanor he was struggling to maintain crumbling at last.
The girl called Yuechan giggled and turned back at last, satisfied. She rummaged inside her Storage Bag and pulled out a few flasks of wine. Baxian peeled off the seal of one of the flasks and inhaled the sweet aroma wafting out of the vessel. His face broke into a contented smile, “Nice wine!”
He upended the flask and took a few mouthfuls before he burped. Then he asked offhandedly, “Where did you find such a fine draught? It tastes as if it’s been aged well.”
Yuechan was emptying the flasks of wine into Baxian’s gourd while she answered nonchalantly, “This is the wine my mother hid in the ground somewhere inside that bamboo grove below.”
Baxian stopped in his tracks and slowly swiveled around to face Yuechan with a blank stare. “Wait, that means this is supposed to be part of your dowry?! Heavens, you’re a brazen one… If your mother knows about this—”
Yuechan giggled impishly, “If you don’t tell and I don’t tell, she’ll never know.”
Baxian peered at her, visibly perturbed. He took one more look at his gourd and took a couple more mouthfuls. [Whatever… It’s not the first time I’ve had a spanking by that old hag… So long as I stay here, there’s nothing she can do…]
“So, um… Brother Baxian? When will you be marrying me?” Yuechan was finished with filling up Baxian’s gourd and she sat in front of him, eyeing him solemnly.
“Cough! Cough!” Baxian nearly choked on his wine. He wiped his face dry of the wine that he spilled and glared at the girl, “Watch what you’re saying! I’m your elder!”
Yuechan looked up into the sky nowhere in particular and began tapping her lower lip gently. “Well, you did kiss me that night thirty-two years ago—” Skilled in magic that could make herself younger than her true age, no one could tell how old she really was at first glance.
“WAIT! That’s enough!” a flustered Baxian yelled at once. He looked around as if to make sure no one heard what Yuechan just said and said, “Come on! What if your mother hears you!? Besides, we were just kids back then!”
[We were just a few years old back then! How in Heaven’s name did she manage to remember everything with such detail!? Is this my past transgressions coming back to bite me?!]
“All right, as you wish,” Yuechan chuckled, beaming broadly at him while she mimed a gesture of closing up her lips and zipping her mouth shut.
Baxian grimaced mournfully. He, of all people, knew Yuechan the most. The more she behaved like an obedient girl, the more likely that she had something hidden from him.
He sighed. “All right, out with it.”
“Well, here’s the thing,” she grinned playfully at him, “You’re marrying me!”
“I’m not hearing a word from you ever again,” said Baxian, turning around to avert his eyes from her, exasperated.
“Are you sure? Not even a word about the Crimson Blood Sect?” her cooing voice came from the back of his shoulders.
The young man spun around. This time he looked genuinely morose. His lips quivered as if to speak, although he managed to force a few words bitterly, “Is it time then? For the Sect to be defunct?”
“On the contrary,” Yuechan shook her head, her large glimmering eyes curving up into little crescents. “It would appear that the Crimson Blood Sect might not have to be removed from the Coalition after all.”
“What do you mean?” Baxian frowned. With no new acolytes for the past three decades, the Crimson Blood Sect was teetering on the brink of being expelled. There would be fresh assessments of the Coalition’s militant sects and orders in two months and for the last thirty years, it was his mentor and another fellow student—and the only surviving one he still had—who had been keeping things running within the order. But that did not prevent the Crimson Blood Sect from falling down the ladder of preferment from Tier-One to Tier-Nine and if the Sect failed to once again meet the mark, it could face expulsion from the Coalition.
“Well, there are rumors—just rumors, mind you—that your mentor accepted a new student somewhere about six months ago. But on the way back to the stronghold, they were attacked, and with no other ways to safeguard your newest fellow student, Grand Master Tang had to send him here. Right now, this young fellow who they call Lu Yi Ye has reached the Fifth-Order and is on his way to the Crimson Blood Sect outpost.”
Baxian was already on his feet even before Yuechan finished, his face fraught with disbelief and amazement. “So that old senile has finally taken in a new one?”
“It would appear so!”
“From where did you hear this? Is there any way to verify it?”
“I’m not sure how, I barely know where it came from. But it’s all over the Battlefield now and people are talking about this.”
“All over the Battlefield now?!” Baxian’s forehead wrinkled into a deep frown before he hissed, “Good Heavens, this is bad!”
A blaze of light engulfed him and he shot into the sky and was gone.
“Remember to marry me!” Yuechan cried cheerily. But there was no reply. Then she snorted, “What’s the rush anyway? You didn’t even ask me where!”
Even so, she delivered a message to Baxian, making sure that he had all the details he needed.
Almost as soon as he left, a voice echoed through the misty cliffs. “What do you think you’re doing, Li Baxian!? You are hereby forbidden from leaving without explicit orders! ARRGGGHH!”
The voice sounded as if it was plummeting down the chasm.
Yuechan stood up and got off the Hawksflight Rock. She paused and thought aloud, “Hmm… The Blackfyre Cult, the Tower of Morning, and the Vale of Venom… Which should I go to first? Oh, what a chore!”
She peered around to make sure no one was looking and removed one of her shoes. Then she tossed it up into the air and let it fall down to the ground. She looked at where the tip of her shoe was pointing and murmured, “So… Vale of Venom, eh? So be it then. Vale of Venom it is.”
As she spoke, she flung out a handkerchief. The tiny piece of cloth fluttered in the wind and expanded immediately into such a size that a few could sit comfortably on it together. Yuechan glided up onto the gigantic piece of cloth and soared up into the air too.
The same disembodied voice from earlier resounded once more, “Sister Yuechan! Where are you off to?!”
“Leave me alone! Go! Scram!” Yuechan waved her hand dismissively.
The same thing happened to that voice again. “ARRGGGHHH!” It sounded like it had just fallen off a cliff again.
A figure, disheveled and dusty, crawled up from the ground moments later, gazing in the direction where the giant handkerchief had vanished with forlorn sadness.
[What the hell just happened?! Our Legate and Vice-Legate just ran off?! Just like that!? This is the first time that something so ludicrous could ever happen since the founding of the Devoted Ones!?]
He immediately sent word to all senior members of the Devoted Ones, ordering them to hold their posts and activate the magical force field that guarded the outpost. The last thing they needed was an invasion by one of the forces of Thousand Demon Ridge. At the same time, he ordered his men to inform their headquarters in the world of Jiu Zhou about what just happened.
Two days later, somewhere within the inner-ring region of the Battlefield and just outside the outpost of the Vale of Venom, the legate in charge of the Vale’s outpost here was gazing up into the sky, fuming with rage from the safety and fastness of the outpost’s defensive force field. “What’s the meaning of this, Feng Yuechan?!”
But that was all he could do. He dared not risk his own hide by coming out of the force field and saying this right into Feng Yuechan’s face.
That woman was the number one name on the Battlefield’s Roll of Supremacy. The most supreme Cultivator in the lands here.
And the one who had been dominating the top spot of the Roll for more than a decade.
She did not have extraordinary gifts in the study of magic and fighting. Her gifts, although exemplary, were not nearly enough to place her on the top of the Roll of Supremacy for so long. There were other reasons.
It was because she refused to ascend further. It was more than a decade ago when she unlocked her three-hundred-and-sixtieth Spiritual Point, prompting everyone back then to think that it wouldn’t be long before she ascended into the Cloud River Realm. Yet year after year went by and she just refused to ascend.
For more than a dozen years, she stayed in the Spirit Creek Realm and that dormancy allowed her powers to grow purer than most. But that was not all. Feng Yuechan was a Spell Cultivator.
Since she had reached the zenith of the Spirit Creek Realm and she could go no further unless she ascended, Feng Yuechan devoted the rest of her time to the study of more spells. That, in a way, helped to make her stronger and stronger year by year, seeing her rising up to the throne of the most supreme Cultivator in the Battlefield where she has remained undefeated and undisputed.
Word had it that she had fully mastered more than a hundred spells.
Which was in its way an unbelievable feat, for most Ninth-Order Spell Cultivators could use only ten to twenty spells, and the spells that they fully grasped, even less so. Hence being able to master more than a hundred spells spoke volumes of how dangerous and deadly the reigning number one of the Roll of Supremacy was.
But refusing to ascend was nevertheless detrimental, especially to gifted Cultivators such as Feng Yuechan. Her potential would undoubtedly wane as she grew older and this would certainly affect her future progress.
A few of her peers were already Cloud River Realm Cultivators by now with another handful now in the Real Lake Realm.
Therefore none really wanted to knock her off the top spot. The longer she stayed there, the more she would suffer in the future.
The Roll of Supremacy was the ranking list of the most powerful Cultivators in the Battlefield, compiled by the sentient will of the laws of Nature that governed the Battlefield. The impartiality of the Roll of Supremacy was what lent credence to its veracity. There was no doubt that Feng Yuechan was the most powerful Cultivator in the Battlefield.
But few were amused at the notion of having a woman reigning over them. That led to a trend where new crops of Cultivators would be happy to quickly progress to the Ninth-Order and ascend so that they could leave the Battlefield as soon as possible.
And now, the Cultivators of the Vale of Venom were the latest to sample Feng Yuechan’s overbearing abuse. All it took was just a few spells from her and the force field of the outpost was already shuddering as if it was going to give way. The Vale might be a Tier-Four militant sect today, but those old enough to remember the old days might recall that forty years ago, the Vale of Venom was a Tier-One monstrosity of immense power and influence.
It was during one of the many wars in the past where the Vale suffered huge losses. That saw its plummet from grace where it became the Tier-Four militant order it currently was. Still, the Vale remained a force that no one was foolish enough to flippantly trifle with.
Yet right here, right now, just outside the entrance of its outpost, all it took was one woman to keep the Vale’s every single Cultivator cowering inside the safety of the outpost’s defensive force field. The one woman whose existence now lorded over the entire Battlefield.
By means of response to the questions posed to her by the legate in charge of the Vale’s outpost, Feng Yuechan conjured a massive fireball the size of a cottage. In comparison, Dong Shu Ye’s fireballs looked just like a pea.