Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
One look at the insectoids and one could imagine how dangerous these invertebrate monsters were. Those just the size of a man’s fist were only as harmful as chickens while those as large as a man’s head, Second- and Third-Order Cultivators would still hold them back. But the kind almost as tall as a man would need more caution to deal with; these were Sixth- and Seventh-Order insectoids.
And so many of these Sixth- and Seventh-Order kinds teemed among the growing swarm of insectoids that slowly crowded the whole canyon in just the span of a few hours since Lu Ye and the Crimson Blood Sect retreated into the hills.
Everyone could only silently give thanks that they did not enter the wormhole.
There was no dispute that these insectoids were much, much stronger, and more dangerous than the ones the Crimson Blood Sect had just exterminated. An expedition into the wormhole would most definitely be a doomed one.
And these were just the ones outside. Needless to say, the ones inside the nest and guarding the nexus must be even worse. For all everyone knew, there could be an army full of Eighth-Order insectoids or even Ninth-Order ones inside.
Lu Ye gave Hua Ci some quick instructions before he vaulted himself onto Amber’s back.
Everyone watched as he rode away, heading straight into the canyon.
He got near enough for the insectoids to see him, then he fired a Fire Phoenix at those at the forefront. The fiery bolt shaped like a bird smashed into the insectoid mob and several came rolling out of the conflagration, roasted and charred.
Sensitive as ever to Spiritual Power, the insectoids swiveled at Lu Ye the moment he fired his first spell. The entire throng of insectoids swarmed straight for him like an unstoppable tide, their sickening susurration a constant indication of their insatiate appetite.
Amber roared as it carried Lu Ye, bounding and scampering in circles around the mouth leading into the canyon to make sure that they were catching more attention from the insectoids while Lu Ye fired his spells again and again at the approaching horde. Naturally, more insectoids pullulated towards him with gigantic spider-like insectoids spewing threads of silk in their vain attempt to capture him.
The rest of the Crimson Blood Sect force watched from their position, feeling apprehensive and concerned for his safety, being spectators who witnessed how Lu Ye had ridden down alone and the entire insectoid swarm surging towards him after he had done enough to catch their notice.
What in the world was Lu Ye thinking of doing, no one knew.
He made circles around the canyon, leading the insectoid swarm behind him and the ruckus he caused attracted even those who initially did not give chase.
Such was the peculiar bond the insectoids shared that they could communicate in ways that only their kind could fathom and understand.
Hence, it was usual that if one was provoked, the rest would follow.
The multitude of insectoids remained hot on Lu Ye’s heels, following him northward as quickly as their legs could carry them, leaving the canyon bare and bleak as every new insectoid that popped out of the wormhole immediately joined the northbound throng.
A bird’s-eye view would have yielded the sight of a long serpentine parade of insectoids that was elongating all the way from Lu Ye to the pit.
“Wow… So it works, huh,” Hua Ci muttered under her breath, genuinely astounded.
She was skeptical when Lu Ye told her about his plan. She did not expect that he would be able to pull it off, since she believed that without intelligence, insectoids functioned on their base instincts. But clearly, the lack of intelligence was what made them susceptible to manipulation.
She recollected her thoughts and relayed Lu Ye’s instructions: the rest of the Crimson Blood Sect force was to follow the insectoid horde north as well. Their destination: the Redoubt of Wrath outpost more than ten miles away!
In the meantime, prolegate Cheng Bo and the remaining acolytes at the outposts were still wallowing in grief, utterly oblivious to the incoming threat that was marching towards their doorstep—a gift that was being delivered personally by the very person whom Cheng Bo was thinking about now, Lu Ye.
Right now, the prolegate of the Redoubt of Wrath was giving a report to the main stronghold out in the real world through his Battlefield Imprint. Apparently, the news had hit the higher echelons of the Redoubt’s leadership so hard that one of the Elders collapsed with an aneurysm.
Almost five hundred good men lost to the insectoids and no such devastation had ever occurred before.
The hundred-or-so acolytes of the Redoubt were still saddened by the deaths when all of a sudden, a thunderous crack resounded across the entire vista outside the building before everyone could feel the eruption of Spiritual Power.
Cheng Bo evidently sensed it too. He was left bewildered for one split-second before he almost leaped to his feet, bellowing, “How could they?!”
[Something, or someone, is attacking the defensive ward of the outpost!]
Rage overwhelmed him. The Redoubt of Wrath might only be a Tier-Eight order, but through their illustrious history, they had never endured such ignominy before. On the same day the Redoubt had lost almost half of a thousand men, someone had decided to launch an assault on the outpost! Since when did the Redoubt of Wrath become an object to be trifled with?
Cheng Bo tore out of the outpost’s main edifice with a host of his men, still aggravated by somberness.
He looked up and saw a lone figure flying in the air with a fiery-red pair of wings flapping on his back.
“WHO GOES THERE?!” Cheng Bo demanded sonorously.
The deafening voice seemed to have worked to intimidate the stranger, who quickly flew away and vanished.
“How ridiculous!” Cheng Bo cursed, still completely unaware of what was going on and what that stranger’s motives were.
“B-Brother Cheng!” cried a shaking voice behind him, the acolyte’s face fraught with horror and disbelief, “T-Those are… Those are insectoids! We’re under an insectoid attack!”
Cheng Bo began to realize something was amiss. He gazed into the distance and there it was: an endless jet-black trail of insectoids winding all the way from the direction of the canyon toward the outpost.
His face went white as he finally grasped the severity of what had just fallen into his lap.
For the insectoids—creatures driven only by an unquenchable hunger—to make such a purposeful beeline for the outpost was impossible. Like a disease, insectoids only moved further away from their nest in a concentric pattern. Without motivation or provocation, they would only look for the nearest source of sustenance.
But what if they were being driven here like mules with a carrot?
“Crimson Blood Sect bastards!” Cheng Bo roared, all that anger, resentment, and frustration swelling in his chest erupted in one tempestuous outburst. He would not have felt so disgusted if the Crimson Blood Sect had marched up to his doors themselves instead.
There was no reason to grudge each other personally just because they belonged to opposing factions.
But for the Crimson Blood Sect to cut off the exit of his people and cause the deaths of He Meng and the rest of the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes, before driving the entire insectoid horde right to his doorstep was nothing short of despicable.
Cheng Bo could confess that for all his life of cultivating his arcane skills and power, he had never—ever—encountered anyone so depraved and vile. Whoever was capable of something so heinous must have insides completely blackened with sin.
“What are we supposed to do now, Brother Cheng?”
The Redoubt of Wrath acolytes were on tenterhooks. The stranger who had landed a blow on the outpost’s defensive ward earlier was gone but the insectoid horde remained persistent in its advance as the monsters began to crawl around the edges of the defensive ward, feeding off its energy.
The magical energy channeling through the ward made it a real buffet of sustenance for the insectoids.
The present number of insectoids feeding on the magic of the defensive ward was not nearly enough to fully deplete its power—yet. But the ward’s defenses would eventually crumble if given enough time with more and more insectoids emerging from the endless stream leading straight from the nest.
“Those who are manning the defensive ward; make sure that it’s holding! The rest of you, come with me!” Cheng Bo barked his commands.
With the rich Spiritual Qi in the atmosphere of the Battlefield, the defensive wards of outposts rarely ceased since the wards could consume Spiritual Qi from the air to maintain their operation. No further supply of Spiritual Power would be needed for the wards to run in a passive state. In fact, more complex defensive wards could even store additional amounts of Spiritual Power for future use.
Hence, under most circumstances, a defensive ward operating passively would immediately activate during the event of an invasion, during which, its operation would begin to consume Spirit Stones.
Some outposts, especially the more affluent and powerful ones, had more than one defensive ward that linked up into a larger defensive arrangement. That way, the multiple wards would complement one another to maintain the integrity of the overall defenses during the event of a breach.
Outposts in the outer-ring area of the Battlefields, on the other hand, usually had only one defensive ward. Wide-area defensive wards were very costly and having one was usually the most of what lower-tier sects and orders could afford.
Especially since defensive wards can seem like glass hammers sometimes.
Weaker and minor sects and orders situated in the outer-ring areas of the Battlefield were rarely under attack and did not actively seek to invade each other. Hence, when the Mystic Sect launched attacks on the Nine Star Clan back then, the entire Battlefield was shocked.
As if an invasion was not bad enough, the Redoubt of Wrath outpost was finding itself facing imminent destruction and ruin at the hands—or rather, the claws—of an insectoid horde now besieging the outpost! Nothing like this has ever happened before!
But Cheng Bo was not going to abandon the outpost just yet, even with barely a hundred defenders left. It was his duty as prolegate to hold the defenses, by life or by death and it was a charge that he meant to keep.
He relayed his orders. The defensive ward was to be strengthened immediately, but just when Cheng Bo was about to lead the rest of the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes on a sortie against the insectoids, he sensed another Spiritual Power disturbance coming from the back of the outpost.
He immediately sent a force to deal with the insectoids at the gates while he brought with him a tiny retinue to check the rear.
To his ultimate surprise and horror, he, with the few acolytes who came with him, discovered another horde congregating just outside the rear. This time it was humans, and they were firing spells at the defensive wall, eliciting ripples that spread upon the translucent wall of energy keeping the outpost protected.
Cheng Bo nearly fainted. Never had the outpost endured such trying times with them being attacked on both fronts.
He tottered unsteadily and it took another acolyte to help hold him. Next, he gathered his thoughts and roared loudly, flailing his arms, “LU YI YE! SHOW YOURSELF!”
He could barely recognize any of the faces from the invading army of Cultivators, but he was sure of one thing: that they must all be Crimson Blood Sect!
It was obvious enough, with these people attacking as soon as the insectoid army appeared right in front of their doorstep.
He had been careless, and he had underestimated how devious and brutal the Crimson Blood Sect could be.
As if they were not satisfied by the lives of so many Redoubt of Wrath acolytes already taken by the insectoids previously, they wanted to conquer this outpost! But Cheng Bo could see why; being able to conquer an enemy outpost would yield huge rewards.
At this juncture, Cheng Bo was convinced as much as every other acolyte in the outpost that the outpost was as good as lost. If it were just the insectoids or just the Crimson Blood Sect force, then there might still have been a way to save the outpost. But with the insidious plan of playing both sides against the middle, no one could take such abuse and hope to survive.
[It is dark. Everything now seems dark…] Cheng Bo mused in despair.
“How dare you do something so heinous, you Crimson Blood Sect scoundrels!? Are you not afraid of retribution!?” one of his acolytes howled belligerently.
“As if you have been kind and generous to us before!” a voice responded from the Crimson Blood Sect force outside. “We’re just returning the favor! Wait till this defensive barrier falls and I’ll be more than happy to show you how!”