Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
Fifty miles to the north of the Crimson Blood Sect outpost was this canyon where a large gaping pit could be found. That was another wormhole.
Like the one near the Crimson Blood Sect outpost, the vicinity of the pit was a forlorn and bleak desolation with not even a blade of grass in sight. The only thing with any semblance of green were the dried patches of hemolymph plus some maimed insectoid limbs and carcasses.
The Crimson Blood Sect force was hidden just over the precipice of a cliff nearby and everyone waited, quietly and tensely.
They were enjoying an easy moment slaying bugs to farm Contribution Points after a fierce battle to combat the insectoid threat when Hua Ci had everyone brought here. The appearance of Lu Ye joining them later was telling enough: something big was about to happen and it was going to be fast.
As if their recent adventure with their legate and prolegate wasn’t enough to show what crafty figures they both were. It did not take long for the rest of the force to guess what Lu Ye and Hua Ci were up to and that made everyone anxious. For good reason, since the only large-scale operation everyone had ever taken part in was the extermination of the insectoid infestation they had just lived through.
But it was this battle turned out to be a steep learning curve; one that had helped every squad to learn how to fight as a group, and being victorious against the insectoid had turned out to be a much-needed confidence boost. Despite their apprehension, no one was worried enough to panic.
The mountain breeze rustled through the thin vegetation where the Crimson Blood Sect force waited in silent vigil.
Lu Ye peered over the cliffs, mumbling impatiently under his breath, “Why the hell are they taking so long…”
He had made sure that the acolytes of the Redoubt of Watch were showing signs of sounding a forced retreat before he left. That would mean that they should have been out by now—unless they had managed to rally for a riposte.
That prompted Lu Ye to wonder if he needed to initiate things himself. If he could strike when Redoubt of Wrath acolytes were still in the heat of their furious skirmish against the insectoids and give them a well-placed stab in the back, he could wipe them all with the insectoids here all in one fell swoop.
But such a huge undertaking especially in such a tight and cramped space like the pit and adjoining tunnels could mean large amounts of casualties.
For this reason, Lu Ye would prefer to fight on an open field. If he could strike when the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes were coming out of the pit, then all they need to do after that was to guard the pit and let the insectoids mop up the rest of the enemies still inside the pit in what could seem like a two-pronged attack.
“I think we should be more careful next time, Hua Ci,” said Lu Ye suddenly. He had noticed that the Redoubt of Wrath had left a handful of men outside to watch the exits so that they could keep an eye on things outside and inform the ones inside as quickly as possible. “We’ve been sloppy.”
He reflected on how he had sent every man from the Crimson Blood Sect outpost down into the pits with no one to watch their homes and no one to guard the exit of the pit.
“I planted my mushrooms, just in case,” Hua Ci gave him a resentful look.
“Oh?” Lu Ye answered curtly, “Good thinking.”
The conversation was abruptly cut off by a sensation coming from his Battlefield Imprint. Lu Ye checked it quickly and beaming broadly, he exclaimed, “At long last!”
It was Yi Yi. Since her inception as a member of the Crimson Blood Sect, she was also accorded her very own Battlefield Imprint.
And as a spectral entity, she could become invisible at will. That made her the perfect candidate for reconnaissance and scouting.
Lu Ye had sent her into the pit to reconnoitre and after quite some time, she had finally responded.
Lu Ye vaulted himself onto Amber’s back, pulling Hua Ci up with him. Next, he called to everyone, “Let’s go, people!”
Amber bounded forward, bolting down the slopes on the side of the hill with the wind in their faces and playing with Hua Ci’s locks.
The rest of the Crimson Blood Sect force swept forward in a tide just closely behind. There were no battle cries nor was there any howling, but the sight of several hundred Cultivators flowing out of the mountains and the jungle would have seemed intimidating nonetheless.
Almost every single one of the Cultivators who had pledged themselves to the Crimson Blood Sect banner—especially the associate independents and initiates—had all suffered the torment of the two nearby Thousand Demon Ridge sects before. Many of them had at least lost a friend or two to these scum and hence, they had no love for both the acolytes of the Redoubt or Clan Feng. But even without the long-repressed sentiments of resentment, hate, and frustration, knowing that they were the enemies was reason enough for every single Crimson Blood Sect Cultivator to swing their weapons at them.
The Crimson Blood Sect force stampeded halfway down the slope when Lu Ye clambered to his feet into a crouched position on top of Amber’s back. With one last whisper beside Hua Ci’s ear, he said, “I’m off!”
The charge would have been easily noticed by the Redoubt of Wrath Cultivators watching the pit.
So Lu Ye needed to deal with them before they could warn the others inside.
His powers surged and a pair of flaming-red appendages unfurled into wings on his back, and he shot up into the sky, heading straight for the wormhole.
Only five acolytes were assigned to guard the wormhole entrance into the nest and all five of them were panicking. Not because they had discovered that they were under attack by the Crimson Blood Sect, but because they had been in contact with their people within. The situation was dire and the rest of the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes was pulling back out to regroup outside.
“How could this be?!” yelped one of the acolytes watching outside, a male with a pallid complexion, “Never!”
Their many times of exterminating insectoids in the past should have made the acolytes of the Redoubt effective bug-killers. Losses had always been expected, but no one thought that something like this—where they were being beaten back in addition to piling up deaths—could ever happen.
“Brother Liu said something about the insectoid tide suddenly becoming stronger. That’s what changed things.”
One of them fell to the ground on his knees with tears surging out of his eyes. Sombrely, he murmured, “No… Sister Sun… She’s gone! How could they!?” He bent down in grief and knocked his head on the ground, “NOOO!! SISTER SUN!”
“Keep yourself together, Brother Guo! Sister Sun is not our only casualty!”
“She’s dead! That’s enough for me!” screamed the acolyte called Guo. He got up and began stalking toward the pit with eyes as red as a feral wolf, “I’m going in there! Those monsters must pay!”
One of his brothers quickly locked his arms around Guo. “Calm down, you fool! Brother He Meng and the others are pulling back out and our job is to hold this place for them!”
“Wait a minute, what’s that!?” another acolyte called out with astonishment.
Everyone looked in the same direction he was staring at. Something flaring red was speeding towards them.
When the bright incandescence finally subsided as the object—or rather, person—drew nearer, what filled their sights left them petrified with disbelief and awe. It was a person with a pair of wings on his back shaped with Spiritual Power.
But it was too late by that time. Rooted to the spot like a statue, they could only sit on their own hands as the stranger unleashed a tiny red comet-like spark that speared through every single one of them with lightning-quick speed, leaving streamers of blood-red ichor in its wake. One after another, the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes fell.
The pair of wings on Lu Ye’s back disintegrated and he landed. Next, he withdrew his hiltless knife.
This went well; none of the enemy acolytes here had managed to send any warning to the ones inside.
He strode to the edge of the wormhole and peered inside, finding nothing but complete pitch-blackness staring back at him. He knelt and placed an ear to the ground. A deep rumbling was approaching. But when he looked up, he frowned. The noise came from his own men marching to him.
Hua Ci was the first to arrive with Amber and the first thing she did was scurry around the perimeter, planting some mushrooms everywhere. They might look harmless at first glance, but Lu Ye knew better.
By the time the rest of the Crimson Blood Sect force formed up around the pit of the wormhole, everyone glanced at Lu Ye with looks of anticipation, apprehension, or even dread. None of them had an inkling of how a bug extermination just turned into a war.
“AROUND THE PIT! KILL ANYONE WHO COMES OUT!”
The men all dispersed into their squads, forming three layers of concentric perimeters around the wormhole.
“Body-tempering Cultivators and Combat Cultivators to the front! Spell Cultivators at the rear! Don’t be too anxious to strike; wait for my signal! AND DON’T FALL INTO THE PIT! IT’S INSTANT DEATH IF YOU DROP INSIDE!”
The Cultivators only just formed into formation when Yi Yi’s head popped up, much to everyone’s surprise, more so, for those who were witnessing this special trick of hers for the first time.
“They’re coming!” Yi Yi squeaked as soon as she found Lu Ye.
A loud groaning reverberated from inside the abyss, intertwined with the clamour of battle. That must be the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes fighting their retreat.
“GET UP QUICK!” a voice from below bellowed, “FAST!”
The ropes leading into the pit went taut. They shook and scuffed the edges of the pit for a few minutes until the first head peeked out of the hole.
It was at least seventy metres from the top of the pit to the bottom of the wormhole. That the enemy acolytes managed to climb out so fast showed how frightful and anxious they were to be alive.
The first head that looked out of the hole cried, “Gimme a hand!”
He even reached out an arm.
But no one took it. Incredulously, he looked up to find a horde of stony-faced people staring at him.
[Wait a minute?!] How did we have so many people out here?! The enemy acolyte thought, [No… I’ve not seen these faces before! And why are they raising their weapons?!]
The last thing he saw was the flaming image of a roaring dragon that looked so real baring its fangs at him before a loud “KILL THEM ALL” drowned the rest of the bedlam as spells and talismans of all sorts rained down on him. Those without talismans or who were not yet able to fire spells swung their weapons down at those who were just emerging out of the pit.
Shrieks and howls slashed over the pandemonium as enemy acolytes were struck down tottered and plunged back into the abyss, knocking and bringing with them a number of those who were just climbing up.
None of the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes below knew what was going on at first. Bodies started to fall from the sky, and everyone was panicking until a voice cried, “It’s the Grand Sky Coalition!”
Only people from the Grand Sky Coalition would attack them, though which sect or order the enemies above were, none of the Redoubt of Wrath knew.
After all, everyone should be busy dealing with their own insectoid infestation right now. There was supposed to be no one here but their own people!
But knowing that the enemies outside the wormhole were Grand Sky Coalition Cultivators dashed all hopes of surviving this disaster.
Caught between the hammer and the anvil which were the Grand Sky Coalition Cultivators and a horde of raging insectoids, none of them could ever hope to survive such odds.
Down below the wormhole, near the entrance to the tunnels where the insectoids were pouring from, a Combat Cultivator was swinging his polearm in deadly circles, lashing down one insectoid after another in his bloody attempt to keep as many as his brethren alive. This was He Meng, legate of the Redoubt of Wrath outpost in the Battlefield and a Seventh-Order Cultivator with more than a hundred and thirty Spiritual Points unlocked.
The sudden increase in the strength of the insectoid horde had caught them all unawares, disrupting the Redoubt of Wrath’s original plans of the extermination. Beset by the string of failures that had cost several of his men their lives, He Meng was forced to order a retreat. At least that way, he might be able to salvage what forces he still had, and they could lick their wounds while they made new plans. As a veteran of many insectoid attacks, he was sure that his men would ultimately prevail.
But when he sensed waves of Spiritual Power and heard screaming and shrieks coming from behind, he knew something was wrong. He quickly demanded to know what was going on and the reply came swift and speedily enough.
[The Grand Sky Coalition ambushing us from above?!]
[Who on earth could that be?! What depravity is this?! Don’t they need to contend with their own infestation?!]
Even so, He Meng immediately realised what dire straits he and his men were in.
How were they going to survive this?!