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Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
With the nexus split open and its Nuclei removed, the insectoid nest was beginning to deteriorate and shrivel.
“Those who are wounded but can still move, stay and clear things up here!” Ding Yushu barked loudly, “The rest of you who can still fight, come with me!” He began striding out of the nest and the rest of his men—a four-hundred-man-strong force—went with him.
They clambered out of the wormhole and headed somewhere else.
It was only halfway when the men began to realize that they were not heading back to the outpost. It rather seemed like they were heading for the Clan Feng outpost.
Filled with anticipation, one of them finally asked, “Brother Ding, are we hitting Clan Feng? Now?”
“Clan Feng! Gods, have I waited so long for this! The last time Zhang and I fought with a bunch of Clan Feng goons, we killed one of theirs!”
“Don’t forget that Feng girl. She looks sweet enough for Brother Ding to keep as a concubine, hahaha!”
“Damn, I’ve never seen anyone who could laugh so vilely as you. And leave Brother Ding’s name out of any smutty deliberations of yours. The last thing we want is for his name to get tarnished for nothing. And what makes you think that Feng girl is a good match for one as distinguished as Brother Ding?”
“Oh? Give her to me then? I wouldn’t mind having her.”
“Quit prattling! So, Brother Ding, are we really gonna hit Clan Feng?”
The notion of launching an assault on the Clan Feng outpost was like a jab of adrenaline to the battle-weary men who had just survived a gritting skirmish against the insectoids. Clearly, the beef between the Atheneum’s and Clan Feng’s acolytes must be more brutal and personal than just the simple enmity of being on opposing sides.
As if Fate had had a hand in this, every outpost in the Spirit Creek Battlefield would always be near two or even three other outposts and at least one belonged to an ally faction. Understandable, if Fate, or maybe even the Heavens, had a part in this, for outposts surrounded only by outposts owned by enemy sects and orders would never be able to allow any of its acolytes out for fear of being attacked. That would be detrimental to the growth of the order’s future generations.
Right now, Lu Ye was looking at his map, studying the positions of the nearby outposts, and noticing that if two ally outposts could join forces, they could form a force formidable enough to take down any enemy.
Of the three outposts near the Clan Feng one, two belonged to the Crimson Blood Sect and the Atheneum of Finality respectively with the last formerly occupied by the Redoubt of Wrath.
With the Crimson Blood Sect outpost virtually empty in the past, Clan Feng could devote all of its resources to the Atheneum of Finality.
On the other hand, the Atheneum could hardly boast the same luxury. Their hands were tied with having to handle the threats coming from not one, but two enemy outposts. The usual fisticuffs were pretty much the most they could afford to incur for if anything were to escalate into an all-out skirmish with either side, the other enemy faction would intervene to make life hell for the Atheneum.
That culminated in a massive pileup of resentment and bitterness between both sides where even the pettiest of rivalry could mutate into the most savage vendetta.
“That’s enough!” Ding Shuyu cautioned for silence from the front. Until now, he has been extremely tight-lipped as to the details of this sudden expedition. He could use the secrecy—too many with knowledge about what the real plan was could risk jeopardizing the mission—and he wasn’t too certain about the plan himself, despite Lu Ye’s assurance. No plan survived the first contact with the enemy, so it was said.
Obviously, Ding Yushu enjoyed a very high standing amongst his comrades. All the chatter immediately went dead at his reprimand, and everyone busied themselves with consuming Spirit Pills to restore themselves as they pressed on.
As long-time neighbors of Clan Feng, the acolytes of the Atheneum knew exactly where the former’s insectoid nest would be and the sight of a four-hundred-man-strong army stampeding at full speed was one that no one could overlook.
They were noticed from afar by acolytes of Clan Feng who were stationed outside the wormhole and they immediately sent word to warn the ones still inside.
Before long, all four hundred men encircled the wormhole, staring at the dark abyss that led meters down below in silence. Prolegate of the Clan Feng outpost Feng Lianju was not worried at all. He merely snorted when he got wind of the Atheneum shutting off his exit and returned his focus to the extermination at hand.
Unfazed, Feng Lianju did not believe that having his exit route sealed by the Atheneum of Finality acolytes would pose any threat at all. So long as he could hide down here and bide his time, the enemy acolytes outside would never dare to venture into the pit.
In the meantime, he was sure that he could contact his outpost and request aid from the other Thousand Demon Ridge outpost to launch an assault on the Atheneum of Finality.
For this reason, Feng Lianju was not worried at all by Ding Yushu and his men camping outside the wormhole.
Word of the Atheneum’s movements was quickly reported to the Clan Feng outpost. When Feng Yue, the female legate of the outpost, heard that four hundred Atheneum of Finality acolytes had cut off the exfiltration route of her men from the underground insectoid nest, she was stunned. As much as she was surprised at how fast the Atheneum dealt with their insectoid threat, she was equally befuddled as to the purpose of the seemingly pointless move.
Nevertheless, she needed to be certain, hence she delivered a message.
A reply came back soon enough.
“What is it, my dear?” Feng Yue was not liking the intimate tone of the message at all. In fact, she could almost imagine the hideous and misshapen face of the person who sent the reply.
She could almost confess to being disgusted by the mere notion of the face. But she could use his help and antagonizing him won’t be useful to her cause at all, hence she swallowed her pride and ignored her loathing as she articulated the situation at hand.
“Brazen fools,” came the next reply, “It’s been a month since that Ding whelp got a whacking from me. It seems that he is beginning to forget that last lesson! Don’t worry my dear. I’ll deal with my insectoid threat then I’ll slaughter some of his men to put him back into his place!”
“No need to trouble yourself, sir,” Feng Yue responded coolly and formally. “I’m only reporting this to keep you informed. Clan Feng has enough resources to safeguard its own interests.”
She would never openly ask for a favor—not from him at any rate. If she did that he would start making nonsensical requests in return. If his side were to suffer any losses in their skirmish against the Atheneum, Heavens knew that he might demand compensation from Clan Feng instead.
But she could not let Ding Yushu do as he liked with impunity. Knowing that this presented a chance for that hideous and insufferable imbecile, who would never resist pouncing at a chance to make a name for himself, she knew that just a little nudge would do the trick.
That was why all she did was just supply information. By telling that imbecile about Ding Yushu making a move on her side, what happened after that would not and could not be any responsibility of hers.
“That went well,” Feng Yue commented dryly to herself as she sipped her drink.
BOOM! A sonorous crash jolted Feng Yue from her chair, causing her to choke on her water. It took a couple of coughs before she could at last regain her senses.
A Clan Feng acolyte rushed in urgently.
“WHO?!” She growled furiously. She did not see with her own eyes, but she knew what happened: something, or someone, must have just attacked the defensive ward of her outpost! Infuriated, she thought, [Who in Heaven’s name could be doing this at this time or day?!]
The acolyte who came in reported in dismay, “Insectoids!”
“What insectoids?!” Feng Yue responded sternly, the creases on her face making her look like a seething hen. But as she spoke, she could have sworn that she caught an irritating and interminable buzzing.
Her expression twisted. She got out at once and rushed to the battlements where what she saw drained all color from her face.
Insectoids of all assortments and proportions were crawling all around the dome-shaped barrier of light that was the magical defensive ward of the outpost. Many were even the length and breadth of a man, and they were chewing and gnawing at the barrier, feeding on its energy. In every spot that was bitten, the glow turned noticeably weaker.
As if that was not bad enough, some of the insectoids even spewed a strange, greenish secretion that, once dripped on the surface of the defensive ward, could nibble its way through the barrier like acid.
The sight of the insectoids threatening to overrun the outpost was enough to send a jolt of cold and fear down Feng Yue’s spine.
[What in Heaven’s name?! This is not an infestation that outer-ring outposts could deal with anymore!] She thought of the Atheneum at first, but that was impossible! If the Atheneum’s infestation had come this far and at this force, then they should be at their own outpost, panicking like ants in a hot pan, not here sealing off the exit of her men!
[But if not them, then who? The Crimson Blood Sect?]
[But did they not just recruit more than a hundred initiates?! Even if they had bungled the extermination, there’s no way that the infestation could grow into such a monstrosity! And even so, how could the infestation in their area travel this fast to this place?! Insectoids are supposed to spread slowly and gradually to consume everything nearby before they press further away!]
“Sister Feng!” Someone called from beside her.
Feng Yue immediately tore her attention off the swarming insectoid. [Yes. It’s pointless to think about where these insectoids came from. The enemy has reached our gates and we need to handle these insectoids quickly if we don’t want the outpost to be overrun!]
“FAST! INCREASE THE STRENGTH OF THE WARDS!” Feng Yue screeched. Clan Feng acolytes scurried hastily to where the defensive ward was placed, shoveling more Spirit Stones into it so as to increase its strength.
Three miles away from the rear of the Clan Feng outpost, the seven-hundred-man host of the Crimson Blood Sect force waited quietly just below a descending slope.
A group of such size would have easily been noticed under normal circumstances. But with most other sects and orders busy handling their own insectoid infestations, most of the Cultivators in the Spirit Creek Battlefield were underground by now with barely just a skeleton crew to watch the outposts. This was why the Crimson Blood Sect force could wait in silence without anyone realizing how close they were.
“So, um, Brother Lu Ye,” asked somebody anxiously. Capturing the Redoubt of Wrath outpost was thrilling enough, especially for those who had just tasted their first success. Everyone was more than eager to sample that same thrill once more.
“Patience,” Lu Ye responded. He communicated with the legate of the Atheneum of Finality Ding Yushu and received word that they had arrived, and his deputy was on his way.
Lu Ye lifted his chin and gazed at the Clan Feng outpost. The phosphorescent dome-like shield was still holding, and he was not amused.
He had intentionally waited here because he was giving time for the Atheneum prolegate to arrive with his reinforcements. But also, so that he could hunt down some Clan Feng acolytes.
After all, his motives were not only confined to just capturing the outpost. If he could kill a few Thousand Demon Ridge Cultivators that would be all the more rewarding.
Li Baxian’s tips on dealing with the insectoid threat included a warning about how the magical barrier of defensive wards was usually weak against insectoid attacks.
If the Crimson Blood Sect were to launch an assault in conjunction with the insectoids gnawing down the defenses of the outposts, the Clan Feng acolytes inside would immediately withdraw back to the real world of Jiu Zhou, just like what happened at the Redoubt of Wrath outpost earlier.
Hence, Lu Ye decided that he should wait for the insectoids to first defeat the magical barrier. That would give him the chance to rush in and secure the outpost’s Sanctum of Providence and deny the Clan Feng acolytes their only chance of retreat.
He had regretted allowing the Redoubt of Wrath acolytes to escape earlier. Despite the huge loot, Lu Ye was pretty sure that the prolegate must have heaps of goodies inside that Storage Bag of his.
So this time, he was determined to not let the Clan Feng prolegate or legate escape.
This insectoid attack had posed the perfect chance for Lu Ye to accumulate his experience in siege warfare as he experimented with his methods on both enemy factions one after the other.