Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
When the miniature sun slammed itself into the stronghold’s defensive force field, the ground rock and the earth shook. A huge eruption of steam, dust and winds rippled in forceful, pulsing waves from the collision. The defensive barrier might still hold, but everyone inside could feel the heat from the fireball that the insides of the entire fort felt like it was going to burn.
“Recall all your men right now, or I’ll begin the slaughter!” Feng Yuechan called imperiously from atop her magical flying device.
The legate-in-charge of the stronghold knew better than to test her wrath. He frantically sent word to every single acolyte and champion of his order, urging them to come home at once.
All around the Battlefield, every single Vale of Venom Cultivator who was converging on the outer rings of this pocket dimension immediately wheeled around and set a new course for the currently-beleaguered outpost at once, but not without muttering a string of curses under his or her breaths.
The entire Spirit Creek Battlefield had turned into a vast hive of activity. Outposts of militant sects and orders belonging to the Grand Sky Coalition that were located in the inner rings of the Battlefield immediately launched surprise attacks on nearby Thousand Demon Ridge outposts in unison.
More ludicrous was a certain order known by the name the Battalion of Strength. The Battalion sent forth a force that traversed almost a thousand miles, passing through the lands attendant to various order sects and orders, just to attack another Thousand Demon Ridge outpost that belonged to the Sanctuary of Perfidy.
When informed of the attack, the Sanctuary’s low-tier Cultivators were stunned beyond words. The Battalion was an order that was supposed to be a thousand miles away! Yet why in Heaven’s name were they attacking them, the Sanctuary’s Cultivators did not know why. None of them knew how the beef with the Battalion started at all.
But the Sanctuary’s higher-tier Cultivators knew what was going on. Explicit orders had come from their headquarters in the world of Jiu Zhou, bidding them haste for the outer rings of the Battlefield to hunt down a certain someone.
Faced with such a dilemma, the higher-tier Cultivators could hardly carry on with their mission. With a whole army of enemies at their gates, none of the Sanctuary’s low-tier Cultivators could venture out without being mauled by flurries of deadly spells. With no other choice, the Sanctuary’s Eighth- and Ninth-Order Cultivators had to call off their hunt and head back home to help lift the siege.
The surprise assaults launched by Grand Sky Coalition sects and orders on their Thousand Demon Ridge counterparts included only a handful of them at first, but the numbers began to pile. By the Divine Trade Association’s reckoning, more than a hundred small-scale skirmishes had broken out between both sides in the span of just five days. Never in history did the Coalition ever waged a war on the Thousand Demon Ridge at such a scale before.
In fact, this was the first time in several decades that a head-on conflict between the Coalition and the Ridge really broke out. Sects and orders with outposts deep within the core region of the Battlefield followed the progress of the war with interest, all of them anxious to see if the standard that once stood proudly at the head of the Grand Sky Coalition army so many years back would still endure.
It was expected to fall in just two more months, before the sudden appearance of a successor who showed that he might just have what it took to keep the standard standing. The Thousand Demon Ridge could never allow that. Not when its long wait was finally bearing fruit. For thirty years, the Ridge had watched the standard inching closer and closer to crashing down. Yet all of a sudden, something has changed—Lu Ye. The one person whose unannounced advent into the fold could shatter the whole status quo. To that end, the Ridge needed Lu Ye to die. The Fifth-Order Cultivator must be eliminated to ensure that the standard fell and that it would be buried and never be seen again!
The standard that had been the prime object of shame and ignominy for each and every single sect and order that belonged to the Thousand Demon Ridge.
In the meantime, Lu Ye was giving his saber a forceful flick to fling away the blood that caught on its blade. Around him on the ground was a sprawl of several dead bodies. Bodies of fallen Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators. Lu Ye had just survived an attack and he was not liking the number of enemies he was encountering at all!
[Something is badly wrong!]
Since slaying Dong Shu Ye a few days back, Lu Ye had continued riding for the Crimson Blood Sect outpost. With his nemesis and nightmare finally conquered, that part of his journey was exhilarating and refreshing.
It was not until three days ago that something changed.
He was just on his way when he stumbled into a squad of Cultivators. Encountering unfamiliar Cultivators was common, especially in the wilderness. Lu Ye had lost count of the number of times he ran into strangers in the middle of nowhere.
But most of the time, everyone would exchange not so much as curt nods and nervous glances, giving each other a wide berth to prevent any unwanted misunderstanding.
But this time, the squad of Cultivators he ran into came straight at him even when he tried to avoid them. The looks on their face nearly left Lu Ye wondering if he was a fat slice of ham and they had been famished for days.
Even so, that did not prevent Lu Ye from dispatching them in short order. He rode on Amber’s back and unleashed death with no quarter given—there was no need to since his newfound enemies clearly weren’t going to show him any as well.
The squad had a Fifth-Order Cultivator, but Lu Ye was not the average garden variety Cultivator who could barely hold his own in a fight with an enemy of similar rank. The skirmish was just way easier than dealing with Dong Shu Ye. All it took was just a couple of moments before the entire squad of enemies was annihilated.
He looted his fill of the bounty and went on his way.
Just when Lu Ye thought that that was the sum of all his troubles, he was proven wrong when he met another group of Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators.
And in the following three days, he had been killing, killing, and killing. He had stumbled upon and slain at least six groups of enemies. All that yielded him a bounty of more than twenty Storage Bags with a hundred or so Contribution Points.
But Lu Ye was far from pleased with the rewards. As much as he had gained a lot. All the fighting was just slowing him down.
More than that, he was starting to encounter problems with his Spiritual Power. He could feel the presence of impurities inside his Spiritual Power.
In the past, he could fully depend on consuming Spirit Pills to build up his Spiritual Power because of his Skill Tree. He once observed and discovered that the “flames” on the Tree could consume any impurities or toxic waste that resulted from his ingestion of Pills and expel them out of his body. For this reason, his Spiritual Power had always been pure and he was able to avoid what his mentor Tang Yi Feng had described as “toxic poisoning from the consumption of Pills”.
The purity of Lu Ye’s Spiritual Power was one of the main reasons that he was able to defeat any Cultivator of similar rank aside from the Spiritual Patterns of “Sharp Edge” and “Protection” that he could both utilize freely during battle. The purer a Cultivator’s Spiritual Power was, the more potent and powerful the effects of his spells and whatever employment of his Spiritual Power would be.
Even if it was the same stroke, the same skill, or the same technique, the difference in the two Cultivators’ Spiritual Power purity would result in varying outcomes and effects.
Yet right now, he could positively detect impurities inside his Spiritual Power.
When he stopped to rest last night, he examined his Skill Tree and what he discovered shocked him. His Skill Tree had somehow lost its former ability to “burn away” all poisonous and toxic waste from his ingestion of Spirit Pills and that was how his body was beginning to build up more impurities.
The Skill Tree was none other than the biggest reason behind his rapid progress that saw him becoming a Fifth-Order Cultivator when he barely just unlocked his first Spiritual Point. Without the ability to remove all impurities from his Spiritual Power the speed of his future growth would surely be impaired.
That left Lu Ye in a sullen mood, which he vented by reducing to bloody bits and viscera any Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators unlucky enough to run into him.
It took him quite a great deal of thinking that not all was lost with his Skill Tree. All he needed to do was to absorb some sort of heat-based substance that the Skill Tree could use to reignite the “flames” on its leaves. These “flames” were what the Skill Tree would need to “burn” away the toxicity in his body.
The sustenance for the “flames” must have been fully exhausted and that could be why his Tree could no longer purify his Spiritual Power.
It was a hypothesis that still needed due verification, and he needed the aforementioned “heat-based substance” to find out if his guess was true.
The first time when Lu Ye first activated his Skill Tree, it was a strange tangerine-yellowish flame that he discovered sealed inside one of the ores he found. The next substance his Skill Tree absorbed was the heat source from below the roots of the Barrier Penetrating Fruit Tree. Yet despite the experiences, Lu Ye did not know from whence he should find the third “heat-based substance” for his Skill Tree—the first two times were pure happenstance.
Fortunately for him, the bulk of his Spiritual Power was still pristine enough to not impact him heavily. All he needed to be careful of was to not inhale any Spirit Pills as recklessly as he did before. He consumed only one Pill per day and spent the rest of his time using the Spiritual Pattern “Gathering Spirits” to do the rest of the work.
With a copious amount of Spirit Stones at his disposal, his initial plan was to pay the nearest Divine Trade Association branch a visit and see if he could find any “heat-based substances” that his Skill Tree could use.
But that plan hardly looked viable right now. For the past few days, Lu Ye had found himself walking straight into waves and waves of Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivator squads and each of them had at least one or two Fifth-Order Cultivators. It did not take long for him to wonder if these were not ordinary squads, but rather, hunting parties, and a hunch told Lu Ye that he himself was that prey.
Yi Yi was flipping through the dead bodies when Lu Ye looked up. A hawk was circling in the air, a predator in search of prey.
At the same time, under a tree three miles away from Lu Ye’s position, a tiny troop of Cultivators was huddled together. As if they were oblivious to the more than seven to eight dead bodies strewn on the ground around them, they were sharing a view of a device that was showing Lu Ye’s position just like how the Shadow Moon Disc could.
Lu Ye’s position viewed from a bird’s eye view.
All of them watched the display pensively without a word.
One of them gulped hard. “How is that a Fifth-Order Cultivator?!” he gasped.
They had seen with their own eyes how Lu Ye had cleaved his way through a gauntlet of Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators with the ease and finesse of an experienced butcher carving down a slab of meat. One look was enough to tell that Lu Ye was not only no stranger to killing, he was born for it. Not even normal Sixth-Order Cultivators could boast that kind of deadliness.
“Is this the right guy?” asked another. “Just make sure that we got the right guy.”
“It’s him. Fifth-Order, riding a snowy-white tiger, and on the path between Mount Fengyun and the Crimson Blood Sect outpost. There’s no mistaking it,” said a woman with voluptuous curves. It was her who was powering the miniature Shadow Moon Disc with her Seventh-Order level Spiritual Powers. The rest of her squad was made up of three Sixth-Orders and several Fifth-Orders.
A team of such a composition would never have been roaming somewhere in the outer circles of the Battlefield under normal circumstances.
The squad was moving towards the intersection between the outer and inner rings of the Battlefield from their outpost. That was the ideal spot for a team with that composition to train. But halfway on their journey, they received an urgent order from their order’s leadership to come here at once.
What was actually going on, not one of them knew. But they had heard about how their mentors in the order had once enjoyed the kindness and generosity of the Crimson Blood Sect a long, long time ago. Hence when news about Lu Ye’s true identity as an acolyte of the Crimson Blood Sect began to sweep all over the Battlefield like a virulently contagious disease, the mentors of this squad ordered them to come and watch over this young lad and make sure that he was safe.
They were not the only ones. Furious undercurrents abounded the whole Battlefield. While many wanted to protect this young lad, even more wanted to see him dead. It was a contest between both sides where the boy’s survival would determine which side would be the victor.