Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Even before first light, Lu Ye and Lan Yudie continued their journey.
They maintained extreme vigilance to remain unnoticed. Somehow Lan Yudie possessed the ability to detect enemies within a certain vicinity, allowing them to circumvent a lot of trouble.
Lu Ye only realized that because he could feel the violent undulations of Spiritual Powers nearby and they were always huge—furious battles must be going on somewhere around his position.
These must be the Cultivators that had arrived from the inner ring areas of the Battlefield and they had begun engaging each other.
They rode for the whole day before they veered into a glen at Lan Yudie’s instruction.
Riding on Amber’s back and sitting just in front of Lu Ye, Lan Yudie fiddled with her Battlefield Imprint. Before long, a group of Cultivators arrived. From the looks of the wounds they carried, these dozen or so men looked like they had just survived a battle.
“Relax,” said Lan Yudie at once when she noticed Lu Ye looking tense at the sight of the strangers, “They’re friendlies.”
Before they got near, Lan Yudie lifted an arm to catch their attention. “Am I addressing the men of the Northern Star?”
The leader of the group, a man with a bushy beard, displayed to Lan Yudie his Battlefield Imprint and responded, “Indeed you are!”
They approached the cave and once they got near, Lu Ye finally had a better look at them—a pair of Seventh-Orders, three Sixth-Orders, and the rest of the squad were made up of Fourth- and Fifth-Orders.
The overall strength of the squad was enough to scare off any Thousand Demon Ridge kill squad.
Lan Yudie flipped herself off Amber’s back. She looked at Lu Ye with an apologetic expression wiped across her face, “I’m afraid this is as far as I can go with you. You’ll have to carry on on your own. There will be others waiting ahead to join you.”
When Lu Ye refused to leave her and continue his journey without her, she had to seek out any allies who could be around and set up a meeting so that they could take over from her.
That was why he refused to leave her behind. He could not ride off while knowing that she could be in danger at any time. Lan Yudie had been so badly weakened since the last fight that if left alone, she would never survive defending herself against a squad full of Cultivators.
Lu Ye immediately understood what she was doing. He nodded, “I see.”
“And you’re Lu Ye?” asked the bushy beard leader.
Lu Ye nodded, glancing at the Northern Stars whose sights were all trained on him.
“We’re by no means the best Cultivators anyway,” the leader grinned from behind his beard, “But we’ll never stand and allow those Thousand Demon Ridge scum to bully one of us! Go! We’ll hold off whoever’s coming for you! At any rate, live! The standard of the Crimson Blood Sect must never be allowed to fall!”
Lu Ye stared at them, feeling uneasy. He had never met these people before nor did he ever have dealings of any sort with them. Yet here they were to help, defend, and protect him.
And they were not the only ones. Among the others who were fighting for his sake, the Mount Aurora Cultivators too must be somewhere using their own lives and bodies to stave off waves of enemies trying to get to Lu Ye.
Lu Ye did not know what to say, except that he felt an inexplicable weight on him.
Then it dawned on him: he might have been on this journey of power and skills all by himself since he arrived at this Battlefield, but he was never alone. He had his mentor and the Crimson Blood Sect to depend on, and by extension, the Grand Sky Coalition!
He did not know what happened in the past and what caused this whole debacle to center on him. But people have been dying all for his sake.
Lu Ye of the Crimson Blood Sect was no longer just his name. It has become a symbol.
A symbol that would make even strangers—such as these Northern Stars—willing to give their lives to ensure his survival.
Live. He must live on!
For the first time in his life, he felt the burden and the weight to remain alive. The urge to ensure his own longevity had never felt so strong.
Lu Ye saluted to the men from on top of Amber’s back. Solemnly, he vowed, “I shall hope that I will have the chance to thank you all for this over wine and merriment! Here’s to good fortune in our wars to come!”
The Northern Stars and Lan Yudie all returned the salute. The bushy-bearded leader chuckled, “If we get through this, you can well be sure that we’ll hold you to that promise!”
Lu Ye wheeled Amber around and rode away with plumes of dust kicked up in his wake.
He was just barely away when he heard the clangor of battle erupting behind him.
He steered Amber up the crest of a hill and looked back. The Northern Stars were locked in a vicious battle against several Thousand Demon Ridge kill squads who had come pursuing Lu Ye. It did not take long for the commotion to attract all other Cultivators in the vicinity, and they all converged here, turning the battle into a chaotic battle royale with more Cultivators joining the fray every now and then.
Still, one look was enough for Lu Ye to tell that the Grand Sky Coalition Cultivators were being severely outnumbered, and their numbers were quickly dwindling under the onslaught of the enemy Spell Cultivators who never stopped firing spells after spells.
One of the Northern Stars was shot, but he dragged his mangled body and hurled himself into the enemies and managed to kill one of them before succumbing to his injuries.
Another gave off a defiant snarl before he dove into the midst of the enemies and detonated himself like a stick of dynamite, sacrificing his own life to kill off several enemies.
He spotted the bushy-bearded leader amongst the chaos. He had been stabbed a few times and was practically bathing in blood that clearly looked like his own, yet he ardently fought on without any signs of giving up.
Then there was Lan Yudie, flitting amongst her foes like a fluttering butterfly, her twin daggers like a pair of fangs in her graceful whirlwind of woe.
Amber pawed the ground anxiously.
Lu Ye would have ridden into the fray to join them. But he knew he couldn’t. He inhaled deeply, shoving the urge down into the innermost corner of his mind, and thundered as loudly as he could, throwing his head back, “I AM LU YE OF THE CRIMSON BLOOD SECT!”
“HERE I AM!”
“HERE I AM!”
His voice rumbled across the valleys and glens nearby, bouncing off the peaks and crests that ringed the area.
Amber added a roar of his own.
That did the trick. More Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators were just about to pour towards Lan Yudie and the Northern Stars’ position when Lu Ye made his appearance, a young lad on the back of an enormous white tiger perching off the top of a mountain.
Standing right in the setting sun only made him more conspicuous as ever.
“That’s Lu Ye!” cried a voice.
“Go! There he is!”
Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators besieging Northern Stars began peeling off, redirecting their attentions on Lu Ye. That was enough to spur more enemies, especially those who had yet to converge on the Northern Stars, to rush towards the peak Lu Ye was standing on.
They were not alone. Many more enemy Cultivators scouring for him nearby heard the voice and the tiger roars and they immediately veered this way.
Down in the glen, Lan Yudie and the Northern Stars were quick to notice how the pressure had been lifted substantially all of a sudden. She disengaged and withdrew herself back into the midst of her allies, her tunic caked with the blood from her wounds and her fallen enemies, scowling bitterly, “Dammit!”
The bushy-bearded leader broke into a burst of laughter, “You know what? At least we’re not going to be dying for no reason or purpose!”
By the time, the mountain was swarming with Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators, Lu Ye had long fled.
Hardly a fool, he knew that he needed to go as soon as he made his presence known. Announcing himself was pretty much the only thing he could do at the moment to lift the pressure off Lan Yudie and the Northern Stars or it would only be a matter of time before they were overrun.
How well did his plan work out, there was no time to check. As Amber sped away from the mountain to put as much distance between them and their pursuers, Lu Ye could spy figures rising up into the air before descending again far behind him—that must be enemy Seventh-Order Cultivators who possessed short-distance gliding abilities like Dong Shu Ye.
[At least that would mean that Lan Yudie and the others must be all right by now], he mused.
As for his pursuers who were trying to use gliding to close the distance, Lu Ye was hardly concerned about them. Amber’s speed had increased since Lu Ye’s last skirmish against Dong Shu Ye and that was all thanks to the blood-red substance inside the dragon scale.
There was nothing for him to be worried about unless they were enemy champions from the inner ring areas of the Battlefield. Enemies of that strength and level would most likely be arriving on magical conveyances.
As if Fate had heard him, Lu Ye and Amber did not escape long when Lu Ye felt a powerful presence bearing down on him with the speed of a cannonball.
Lu Ye jerked his head to look back. There really was someone coming! A flash of light streaking from behind and it was catching up fast! That must be a Ninth-Order enemy!
“Amber, run!” Lu Ye urged.
The white tiger bounded as far as it could and galloped with the longest strides it could manage, yet still, it just couldn’t shake off the enemy pursuer from behind. As the enemy got closer, Lu Ye heard a voice that he could have sworn he had heard somewhere before, “You’re dead meat, brat!”
[Han Zhe Yue?!] Lu Ye recognized that voice. Han Zhe Yue of the Tai Luo Clan!
He should have known! Xie Jin’s earlier warning to him clearly meant that those around the Green Feather Mountain locale had received word about his identity and so would the Tai Luo Clan!
The Clan had suffered a lot because of Lu Ye’s active involvement in the Dragon Spring Conference and back then, Han Zhe Yue had paraded her fervent desire to vent her displeasure by killing Lu Ye.
For that reason, the senior Green Feather Mountain acolyte in charge of the Dragon Spring Conference had personally ferried Lu Ye all the way to Yi’An, just so that he could prevent Han Zhe Yue from killing Lu Ye.
It was so that she would not know where to locate Lu Ye and she would have better things to do than to track down a mere stranger.
But when Lu Ye’s real identity was made public knowledge, Han Zhe Yue immediately knew that her chance had fallen straight on her lap.
Her failure to win the Conference had resulted in the severe admonishment that the senior members of the Clan peppered on her and, naturally, she blamed this all on Lu Ye. Hence when she learned that Lu Ye was none other than an acolyte of the Crimson Blood Sect, she embarked at once from the Tai Luo Clan outpost to come here, only to hear Lu Ye announcing himself as soon as she arrived.
Thanking the stars for her chance to exact her vengeance, she hurried this way as quickly as she could.
Hovering over Lu Ye in mid-air, Han Zhe Yue gazed down at her prey with a satisfied and smug grin. Her hand came up and clasped between her slender fingers was something that resembled a feather. But it was shining. Lu Ye immediately knew that it was—a Spirit Artifact!
Han Zhe Yue was about to set her Spirit Artifact on her prey when a loud thunderclap cracked from one of the mountain peaks somewhere below her. Something, with the speed of a loose arrow, came slamming into her with the force of a battering ram!
Han Zhe Yue sensed something was charging at her, but despite her best efforts to evade it, the object just managed to collide squarely into her, and she careened away, shaken and perplexed.
A figure that she would have recognized anywhere floated in the air just above her. Coldly, the man growled, “Down you go!”
The terrible force bore down on her with the speed and force of a tidal wave, allowing Han Zhe Yue no time to maneuver to safety at all. She immediately summoned her magical protective shield, but that did not prevent her from being batted down to the ground.
Han Zhe Yue crashed to the ground with a deafening boom. She got up to her feet at once, indignant and dusty. Like a deranged termagant, she shrieked, “What was that for, Tang Wu?!”
“Spoken as if we have a truce, Han Zhe Yue,” Tang Wu snorted with frost. He lifted a fist and attacked again, “Enough talk, take another one!”
Both Nine-Orders—one a Body-tempering Cultivator while the other, a Spell Cultivator—had known each other for a long, long time and the rivals engaged each other in a gritting battle.
But Tang Wu had all the advantages. With the element of surprise and his already-superior powers, it did not take long for him to secure the upper hand in the fight. Han Zhe Yue, now absolutely disheveled and heavily bruised from all the abuse, screamed, “What is this madness, Tang Wu!? Since when does Green Feather Mountain interfere in the business of the Crimson Blood Sect!?”
“Since when did I say that I’m here because of the Crimson Blood Sect?”
Only then did Han Zhe Yue understand why Tang Wu was here. This brute wasn’t here for the Crimson Blood Sect! He had come for her!
Such were the motives of the participants of this war. While most were fighting due to the camaraderie they shared with the Crimson Blood Sect, some were here because of some personal vendetta while some saw this war as a cornucopia of opportunities to really hone their skills and experience.