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Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Lu Ye’s injuries had almost fully healed by the seventh day. A feat that could not have been possible without Shui Yuan’s skillful hands.
Even the condition of his Spiritual Power had improved. The daily intake of medicine and bathing in herbal potions had helped to reduce the toxins in his body. Shui Yuan must have realized the problem and included this matter in the regimen of treatment she performed on him.
Last but not least was Shui Yuan’s masterful cooking skills. She could turn medicinal herbs that tasted bland or bitter into a dish of sumptuous food which was not only amazingly delicious, but also immensely nourishing that, after a few days, made Lu Ye feel his vigor improving, if not enhancing.
But all the love and care were not without reason; Lu Ye was the newest recruit. In fact, he was the only recruit the Crimson Blood Sect had seen in recent decades and he had to endure being hunted down like a dog before the Battle of Goldentip, which made Shui Yuan feel that she owed Lu Ye a lot of love and care.
On the other hand, Li Baxian was showered with scorn and ridicule for coming over this side to get a free meal and free treatment for his wounds. Sister Shui Yuan did not stop giving him a piece of her own mind every now and then, especially during mealtimes.
The Crimson Blood Sect might have been a shadow of itself from decades ago, but that did not mean that they were lacking in resources and supplies, They might not be enough for high-tier Cultivators, but they were definitely helpful to Lu Ye who was still progressing up the ranks of the Spirit Creek Realm.
It was noon in the Sanctum of Tranquility that sat on the Summit of Fortitude.
The Summit of Fortitude was one of a hundred mountain peaks that sat within the wide and spacious Crimson Blood Sect grounds and in their heyday were teeming with scores of acolytes thronging about when the Sect was still a hive of activity.
But a long time had passed since then and most of the mountain peaks had all been abandoned, leaving only the Summit of Fortitude as the only one still being used.
The Summit was where Tang Yifeng and Shui Yuan usually lived.
Once set up on another mountain summit called the Summit of Tranquility, the Sanctum of Tranquility housed the many memorial plaques that belonged to every Crimson Blood Sect Cultivator who had passed on since the founding of the Sect.
Lu Ye was kneeling solemnly before the tens of thousands of memorial plaques with Shui Yuan and Li Baxian quietly standing in a corner.
Tang Yifeng planted three incense sticks into the brazier that stood before the multitude of memorial plaques and bowed very reverently. “I am Tang Yifeng, Tenth Grand Master of the Crimson Blood Sect. To the forebears of the Sect, here I present native of Bing Zhou, Lu Ye. Kind of heart and noble of soul, he demonstrates fortitude and strength, talent and heroism…”
The long paean left Lu Ye bashfully awkward.
“Hence on this day, it is my honor to offer Lu Ye a place as a member of the Crimson Blood Sect. May the forebears watch upon you and keep you safe.”
He turned around and faced Lu Ye. Pensively, he said, “From this day onwards, you are hereby a true initiate of the Crimson Blood Sect. You will strive to live up to the name of the Crimson Blood Sect and you will do nothing to dishonor it. May our forebears shower their blessings on you that—” Tang Yifeng paused for one second and tapped gently on Lu Ye’s head, “—you shall remain safe at all times.”
Lu Ye did not have to be a genius to guess that more words of praise and ambition must have been uttered under usual circumstances. But with only just the three of them, there was hardly any place nor need for exaggeration. What mattered more to Tang Yifeng, especially after the Battle of Goldentip, was something else.
Lu Ye’s well-being.
“Yes, sir!” Lu Ye responded crisply, bowing deeply.
A half year ago when Lu Ye and Tang Yifeng came under attack, the latter had made an oath with Heaven as his witness that Lu Ye was recognized as an acolyte of the Crimson Blood Sect. But since the oath was made hastily, the ceremony today was to properly acknowledge Lu Ye as a real member of the family.
Lu Ye gazed at the tens of thousands of memorial plaques, feeling as if the predecessors of the Sect were all watching him.
He stood up slowly. This was the first time this loner felt that he belonged.
[I belong here! From this day hence, this is where I belong!] he wanted so much to exclaim that out loud.
“Congratulations, Brother Lu Ye,” Li Baxian beamed at him.
“Brother Baxian!” Lu Ye bowed deeply; not only to convey his gratitude for Li Baxian’s painstaking efforts to make sure that he survived during the Battle of Goldentip, but also as a form of respect.
“Sister Shui Yuan,” Lu Ye bowed to Shui Yuan as well.
Shui Yuan could feel her eyes throbbing with redness. Li Baxian was still a young child when the Crimson Blood Sect’s fell from grace, but not her. Seeing the Crimson Blood Sect falling into ruin was a huge blow to her and seeing Lu Ye now being officially inducted invoked memories of the bright and young faces of new recruits so eager to join the Sect back when the Sect’s name was still filled with pride and loftiness.
[The Crimson Blood Sect of old… Oh, how majestic it was!]
Shui Yuan approached Lu Ye at a slow pace and took his right hand. Then she produced a seal. The object glimmered with the bright luminescence of a miniature sun the moment it appeared. Next, after a deep breath, she declared coyly, “Keeper of the Seal and an eleventh-generation acolyte of the Crimson Blood Sect Shui Yuan invokes the Heavens as witness, I hereby appoint eleventh-generation acolyte Lu Ye as the legate-in-charge of the Crimson Blood Sect outpost in the Spirit Creek Battlefield. With this seal, so I swear!”
She stamped the seal on the back of Lu Ye’s hand.
Everyone could feel the otherworldly sensation of the Heavens’ acknowledging the oath; it was done.
Lu Ye could feel his very own self shuddering. He stared at Shui Yuan incredulously, “Um, Sister Shui Yuan, what was that all about?”
“Every sect or order has a legate and a deputy in charge of the running of its outpost in the Spirit Creek Battlefield. I, for instance, am the legate-in-charge of the Devoted Ones outpost,” explained Li Baxian, “Being legate gives you the responsibility of keeping the outpost safe from invasions, and it also affords you privileges. It will take a long time to glean through the details; I’ll give you a jade slip containing thorough information about what the job entails. You’ll understand better then.”
“With you and Sister Shui Yuan being the only eleventh-generation acolytes left, Sister Shui Yuan could only rely on you to watch over the outpost, Brother. A Real Lake Realm Cultivator like her could not enter the Battlefield as freely as you could, so the burden is yours to bear, I’m afraid…”
“The outpost is not important,” Shui Yuan added, “I’m only appointing you as legate so that you can enter and exit the Battlefield more easily. You’re still in the Spirit Creek Realm and the Battlefield is still the best place for you to cultivate your power and hone your skills.”
“But hasn’t the outpost fallen into enemy hands?” Lu Ye asked incredulously.
He thought that with his identity now virtually public knowledge, the outpost should have come under attack by now.
“It used to be so until there were no benefits to be reaped,” said Li Baxian, “There’s nothing there for anyone to plunder anymore. To say nothing about that beast. So long as it is still there, no one from the outer ring of the Battlefield could possibly capture the outpost.”
“The situation at the outpost is kind of complicated,” added Shui Yuan, “At the moment, it’s mostly independents who gather around there. Those were the ones I used to help find out about you, although none of them managed to locate you. Whether you want to keep the independents there is up to you, Lu Ye. There is a handful that you could place your trust in, although the rest I’m not too sure about.”
Lu Ye bobbed his head. There was too much he did not know about the outpost, so there was hardly any need to make any hasty decisions. That could wait until he had a better look at the place. With Li Baxian as a fellow legate-in-charge, he could always rely on him for advice.
“By the way, that pet tiger of yours has safely arrived at the outpost, according to the Turbulent Watchmen who sent him there. The tiger will be there when you go to the outpost.”
“All right, I’m heading there now,” Lu Ye said at once.
“Very well. Come with me,” said Shui Yuan.
She led Lu Ye to another chamber called the Sanctum of Providence.
The strongholds of every sect and order each had a Sanctum of Providence of their own—one in the main stronghold and the other at the outpost within the Battlefield, each with a Divine Opportunity Column. Some called the Sanctum the most important of all chambers in every stronghold for the Column was how acolytes entered and exited the Battlefield. So during an invasion, securing the Sanctum was usually one of the most important objectives, whether for the defense or the offense.
Lu Ye placed his hand on the Column, as instructed by Shui Yuan.
It reminded him of the first time he entered the Battlefield. The moment he felt a tremor coming from the Battlefield Imprint on the back of his hand as it resonated with the Column, the entire world around him warped into a blurry whirl.
“Remember to get a Pact from the Column once you get to that side for your pet,” Shui Yuan’s voice came from somewhere around his ears.
In the blink of an eye, everything was clear again.
Only this time, he found himself standing in a wide and spacious chamber with no one else around.
He peered at the Divine Opportunity Column. He could feel a connection between the Column and his Battlefield Imprint, possibly because of his identity now as an actual Crimson Blood Sect acolyte and legate-in-charge of this outpost.
But that was not all. The Column held something more. Something intangible that he could feel but not yet quite describe, although he sensed that he, as legate-in-charge, could alter and manipulate.
As for how, that would need time to master and get accustomed to.
He did not want to try anything yet. At the moment, he had too much to learn and he should wait for more information from Li Baxian.
His first order of business was to get to Amber as soon as possible; Yi Yi must be worried sick about him.
He stepped out of the Sanctum and into the sunlight, basking in its welcoming and cheery warmth. Then he looked up and noticed something peculiar. The passage of time in the Spirit Creek Battlefield and the real world outside seemed to be similar.
That was when his peripheral vision caught someone looking at him. Lu Ye’s hand instinctively reached for his weapon, only to find that nothing was there.
He remembered it now: his saber had been shattered beyond repair.
He looked around. A few Cultivators were giving him dubious and surprised stares and all of them posed no threat. They were only Third- and Fourth-Orders at best.
They must be the independents Shui Yuan had told him about.
With the outpost abandoned for decades, this place had turned into a safe haven where many independents gathered, turning the surrounding areas into a large bazaar.
And the independents had the sense to not focus their activities around the Sanctum of Providence of the outpost. Much of the bazaar was spread around the outer compounds where none of the noise and mess would get anywhere near.
That was the least the independents could do as a form of respect to the Crimson Blood Sect and avoid antagonizing any of the members.
Without any form of support, independents had to scrape for a living in the harsh environments of the Battlefield. Those who could survive only managed because they had become experienced enough in the ways of the world and the attendant vagaries and subtleties.
For this reason, no independents would knowingly choose to offend any member of a militant sect or order.
The independents that resided in the bazaar of the Crimson Blood Sect outpost knew that the outpost had been abandoned for decades. That someone just stepped out of the Sanctum of Providence was something barely any of them had seen before.
Lu Ye stood there for a few seconds, then he heard the familiar sound of a tiger. He spun around and sped in the direction where it was coming from. He arrived at a wide square where the first thing he saw was the white furry girth of Amber.