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Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Lu Ye placed a hand on the hilt of his sheathed saber hitched to his waist as he stood at the square outside the main audience hall of the Summit of Fortitude. Overhead, the standard bearing the golden motif of a flame woven on a bloody red field snapped in the winds as he looked on with a vacant and taciturn look on his face.
Facing him was Li Baxian who was twirling a sword in his grasp, playing with it like a toy. Chuckling, he said, “In barely six months, you’ve gone from unlocking your first Spiritual Point to becoming a Fifth-Order. It’s good, but it’s too fast, and sometimes, growing too fast isn’t all that good for you. That’s because people will have spent more time honing their skills and techniques. You won’t. And that’s never good news, especially for a Combat Cultivator like you. Combat skills are important—crucial, even. During the Battle of Goldentip, your most glaring weakness was that you lacked skill, even though you managed to defeat every opponent the enemy side threw at you.”
At present, almost half the Battlefield now knew that Lu Ye had reached the Fifth-Order in just six months, and how he could use Glyphs freely in battle.
Lu Ye was half-expecting Tang Yifeng to question him about that, and he was ready to tell his mentor the truth.
Oddly enough, Tang Yifeng had spoken nothing about his use of Glyphs at all. If anything, he had specifically warned Lu Ye to be careful during the time when all three of them were recovering from their wounds together. It was public knowledge to everyone in the Battlefield that he must have had some unknown encounter that had ended up with him being able to use Glyphs freely—something which could have placed him in the crosshairs of many nefarious parties.
But he might just be overly concerned, as Tang Yifeng admitted himself. Growing to the Fifth-Order in just five months might be rare, but not unheard of. In fact, there have been people who progressed much faster than Lu Ye as well. An ordinary man was once heard to have reached the Ninth-Order in just one year after a fortuitous happenstance somewhere in the Battlefield.
That was what the Spirit Creek Battlefield was all about. Chance and opportunities abounded the Battlefield, but it all boiled down to luck and Fate on whether anyone could find them.
Incidents like this appeared once every few years and no longer came as a huge surprise. But that did not make others feel any less jealous.
But real Cultivators who wished to become stronger would not have time to feel jealous. That they lacked such luck only made their devotion to becoming better and more resilient greater than before.
“Old Man’s a Spell Cultivator while Sister Shui Yuan’s a Medical Cultivator. But it’s been years since both had ever taught anyone anything. So I daresay they have little to offer to you. But fear not. As your brother in arms, I shall teach you everything you need to know to be a Combat Cultivator,” Li Baxian beamed radiantly as if giving advice to Lu Ye was the best job in the world. “You’re a Fifth-Order now, so I’ll keep my Spiritual Power to the same rank. Now come at me and let me see what you’ve got!”
As he spoke, he took a swig of liquor off his gourd.
He only just raised his gourd to his lips when Lu Ye charged. As he drew nearer rapidly, he ripped his saber out of its sheath and slashed.
“Ambush, that’s interesting,” Li Baxian remarked dryly. He leaned back just as Inviolable’s keen edge arced just by his gullet, missing him by mere centimeters. Unfazed, Li Baxian critiqued, “It’s good that you attack with decisiveness. But you apply too much force; that’s not a good thing for it leaves you open enough for any good enemy to retaliate with a riposte.”
Lu Ye was already angling his saber in a vicious downward swipe, only for Li Baxian to easily evade without even moving an inch while he went on, “Slow to the uptake and clumsy maneuvering…”
That was only the first few blows that eventually became a long onslaught of attacks that hardly deterred Li Baxian’s long litany of comments. This served to fuel Lu Ye’s frustration, rage, and rancor to keep slashing and hacking as wildly and as quickly as he could.
Yet nothing he tried could graze Li Baxian, let alone hit him. The latter might have lowered his power down to the Fifth-Order, but that did not close the gap between their skill levels at all.
As if he could see through Lu Ye’s mind, Li Baxian just seemed able to avoid every sweep and strike that came his way. To top it off, Li Baxian did not even attempt an attack of his own yet; all he did was shift around deftly while he held on to his sword, waving it around carelessly while he took a few swigs off his gourd every now and then.
For the first time, Lu Ye began to comprehend just how dangerous Li Baxian really was. If he had encountered anyone with such skill during the Battle of Goldentip, he would have already been annihilated right from the start.
Li Baxian took another gulp of liquor. His aura and presence took a sudden change as he shifted the grip on his weapon. He parried a blow and said casually, “Be careful now, I’m coming!”
The next second ensued a cascade of metallic clanks. Lu Ye’s expression turned stony hard. Li Baxian’s blows were nowhere near strong or fast yet, but his timing was unbelievably impeccable. Each and every time he attacked, he would nullify whatever Lu Ye was trying to do. In fact, Lu Ye was beginning to feel as if he was under an enchantment of sorts where he was forced to be on the defensive while Li Baxian pelted one attack after another in endless succession.
Li Baxian slowly advanced while Lu Ye was finding himself retreating with piecemeal paces. After another series of clanks, Li Baxian said, “Tempo is the paramount concern to Combat Cultivators who are fighting each other. Control the tempo and you control the battle. Like this!”
As soon as he finished, the long blade of his sword angled upwards like a venomous serpent and Lu Ye frantically threw himself backward. That left a huge opening and Li Baxian thrust his sword straight, firing a tiny bolt of light. That sent a jolt of fear tingling down Lu Ye’s spine as he quickly summoned a Glyph: Protection shield just in front of his chest.
But he froze. He looked down only to find that Li Baxian’s sword had entered an inch through his chest. Another inch and he would have ruptured Lu Ye’s heart.
Glyph: Protection did not work quickly enough!
“Brother Baxian?! Are you for real?!” he nearly gasped.
He looked up at Li Baxian, who responded nonchalantly, “You’re dead, Lu Ye!”
He withdrew his blade and Lu Ye staggered backward with some blood trickling out of the wound.
Yi Yi had been watching the training session with interest when she saw what happened and she almost scampered across the square to get to Lu Ye. If not for a hand that seized her shoulder.
She turned her head around and there was Shui Yuan shaking her head at her. “He will meet enemies that would show him anything but mercy. I would rather that he faces some hardships today than face the pain of death in the future.”
Yi Yi was sure that Shui Yuan only had Lu Ye’s best interests at heart. As much as she felt worried for him, she knew that she could do nothing else but sit by and watch. At the same time, she began to understand why Shui Yuan prepared a large basin of medicinal potion…
“One more time!” Lu Ye grunted, taking a deep breath. He was only an inch from having his heart perforated, but he could trust Li Baxian’s impeccable skills and he was certain that he would be safe. Brandishing his saber, he lunged once more.
It did not take long for another spray of blood and Li Baxian’s voice insouciant voice pronouncing the end of another round, “You’re dead again, Lu Ye!”
Another few minutes later, the same voice rang out again, “That’s the third time, Lu Ye!”
Two hours later, Lu Ye laid on the ground, pallid and incapacitated. Poke marks scattered all around him. Although none of them were life-threatening, the loss of blood was enough to render him motionless and wearied.
In just a span of two hours, he had “died” almost a hundred times by Li Baxian’s sword, which would have really killed him if Li Baxian had not been careful to stay his hand.
The glaring light of the sun blinded Lu Ye.
A shadow loomed over him. It was Li Baxian beaming down at him, “How do you feel, brother?”
Lu Ye did not know how to respond to that question. Should he just say “terrible”?
At the risk of being insolent, he finally asked, “Um, Brother Baxian? Is this how the Crimson Blood Sect trains its acolytes? A tad too brutal, don’t you think?”
“Nah, not even close,” Li Baxian giggled, “It’s only because you’re the only one left here, so we’re showering you with our unbridled love and care. Anyway, there’s nothing to be worried about. That delicious and nourishing food you ate just now? They’re good at reviving your vigor and replenishing what blood you’ve lost today. All you need is one good night of rest, and you’ll be as fit as a flea tomorrow.”
Lu Ye finally knew the reason behind such a lavish and nourishing meal.
“But have you trained anyone before, Brother Baxian?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“That means you know nothing about training someone!”
But that made sense somehow. Because Li Baxian did not know how he should train Lu Ye, the best way that he could come up with was for Lu Ye to remember the palpable sense of danger through pain—a sensation that his body would never allow him to forget. That way, he would forever remember this lesson for as long as he walked the Battlefield.
Li Baxian placed a hand on his shoulder. Solemnly, he admitted, “Well, we’ll just try to do this for each other’s sakes, all right? This is Sister Shui Yuan’s idea, by the way, not mine—”
Before he could finish, Shui Yuan appeared out of nowhere and seized him by the scruff of his neck, and dragged him to a corner.
Then she came back for Lu Ye. She got him back to his feet and helped him to a chamber just nearby where the potion was already waiting.
Shui Yuan’s skills as a healer once again performed miracles. All thanks to her potion and her incredible skills, Lu Ye could feel his vigor renewed and the superficial wounds all over him recovering at a noticeable rate. Come evening, Lu Ye could get up on his own already.
The wounds were still healing, but another night should be able for him to restore back to fighting form.
As a bonus, even the scars that he had been collecting during his journey across the Battlefield, plus the ones he caught during the Battle of Goldentip were gone, which could have not been possible without Shui Yuan’s amazing expertise.
That night, Lu Ye had another feast of medicinal delicacies before he went back inside the Battlefield via the Divine Opportunity Column.
He wanted to spend the night inside the Battlefield where he would have the most efficient progress in his training.
Lu Ye had only just emerged from the outpost’s Sanctum of Providence when he immediately noticed that he was not alone. He wheeled around and noticed a pair of heads staring at him. One was the independent he encountered yesterday and the other, a stranger that he did not recognize. But the latter’s emanation of power showed that he was a Seventh-Order.
Lu Ye paused and decided to approach them.
The Seventh-Order looked overjoyed to meet him. He bowed and saluted as soon as they were near, “Are you Lu Ye of the Crimson Blood Sect? Greetings, my name’s Chen Yu!”
Lu Ye nodded and tossed Chen Yu a pact. “Leave your mark on it if you have no problems with it.”
“Huh?” Chen Yu gasped with bewilderment. He quickly peered through the contents of the pact.
Lu Ye had discussed with Shui Yuan and Li Baxian about how he should handle the situation with the independents when he was still at the main stronghold earlier and Shui Yuan had given him a thorough walkthrough of the status quo.
She might have been away for quite a long time, but there have been a handful of independents that she would gladly vouch for. She had earlier sought their help in locating Lu Ye before, but being powerless and nowhere near influential, they did not manage to find out where Lu Ye was before it was too late.
It was also these independents who had been keeping her informed about the ins and outs of what had been going on inside the Battlefield.
Among this number of trusted independents was Chen Yu, the strongest of the independents and the de facto chief of the group of independents taking refuge here. Being a Seventh-Order, he had reached a level where he was powerful enough to survive in the outer rings of the Battlefield. As chief of the bazaar, it was imperative for him to speak to Lu Ye as well.
The bazaar area here varied slightly from the townships and cities that Lu Ye had visited before. Owing to the fact that this was the Crimson Blood Sect’s territory, the Divine Trade Association did not have a presence here. That allowed the independents to operate their bazaar here.
Even so, that did not mean that the bazaar would pale in comparison to a Divine Trade Association branch. The bazaar here had always been busy and because of the richer Spiritual Qi in the atmosphere compared to outside, this place was the nearest the independents could get to a proper safe haven in these parts.
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