Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
The Lord Governor of the Lost City of Xianyuan had just finished speaking when a spiral popped out of nowhere in the middle of the sky. Small at first, the vortex gradually grew at a noticeable pace, spanning more than three hundred meters as if the sky was about to regurgitate something.
Where it connected to, no one knew.
But the heads of every apparition manning the defensive lines of the Lost City arched their heads upwards expectantly like they knew what was going to spring out of the swirling vortex overhead.
Countless eyes trained on the vortex spinning ominously in mid-air. Next, a quadrupedal, exoskeletal being of almost ten meters in length peeked its three-headed torso out of the vortex before crawling out and clinging to it like an insect hanging upside down from a ceiling, the many ommatidia of its compound eyes reflecting the entire landscape of the Lost City below.
More buzzing filled the air and another insectoid monster came crawling out. Then a third, a fourth, and so on… In mere minutes, the entire sky was a massing swathe of insectoids threatening to overrun the city.
One could almost wonder if a hand had unlocked a hatch that led to an insectoid nest, for all of a sudden, a massive deluge of more insectoids—each of varying shapes and sizes—rained down from the vortex.
In just ten seconds, the defenders’ visions all filled with the same jet-black vista of impending death and destruction, and more were still crawling out of the vortex.
“KILL THEM ALL!” A voice bellowed like a war horn. Rays of light of myriad colors screamed into the air, smashing through the ranks of insectoids. Scores of insectoids—both weak and powerful—fell as soon as the columns of colorful lights hammered through the insectoid horde and reduced them to sickening pulps of hemolymph and bug viscera. Nevertheless, the first volley daunted the insectoid advance not one bit. Fueled by a mindless impetus maintaining their charge, the insectoids surged forth like an incessant tide; a flood of black that the apparitions’ defenses could barely staunch. One would fall and ten would rise up to take its place, ripping and tearing in their rage-like frenzy to destroy. One after another, the apparitions fell—their spectral forms turning pale with every hit and damage they sustained until they ultimately vanished in a puff.
In barely an hour, the first line of defense crashed.
The next defense line would fall an hour later, followed by the third and fourth after that. Apparitions perished in the hundreds or even thousands.
Deep inside the Lord Governor’s court complex, more apparitions emerged from the fog. The imprints of the souls they left in the Pool of Divine Purification allowed them to resurrect their spectral forms to rejoin the fight. Every ghost that stepped out of the fog hurried forward to bolster the ranks of the crumbling frontlines in their desperate attempt to resist the insectoid horde without so much as a beat of hesitation.
They might not die just yet, but that did not mean that they did not know the feeling of being dead. Whenever an apparition suffered a blow strong enough to kill it, they truly felt what it was like to have their bodies destroyed.
The stress of dying so many times compounded their suffering and anguish, chipping away at what remained of their sanity.
In just hours since the war resumed, more than half of the Lost City was lost to the insectoid’s merciless invasion, even though the apparitions were finally showing signs of being able to hold back the insectoid onslaught.
The apparition army stopped the insectoids from advancing from one half of the city to the other.
This current stalemate—although far from an ideal situation—would have not been possible without the tireless and ardent defense of the apparitions and the Pool of Divine Purification.
Without the magical power of the pool to revive the apparitions, the Lost City would have long been an insectoid-infested but otherwise barren and desolate wasteland. The magical power of the Pool of Divine Purification was exactly the very beating heart the apparition defense hinged on.
Such was the oath that every single resident of the Lost City of Xianyuan—from the Lord Governor of the city and down to the most common lowborn—made, to use their city as a base to mount the defenses and the Pool as the very quintessential crux to help the defenders circumvent death and achieve power strong and potent enough for them to keep the insectoids at bay.
One must not commit the error of mistaking this as something to be celebrated. For the apparitions of the Lost City to be revived again and again just so that they could rejoin this savage and perpetual war with no end in sight, only to experience once more the torment and pain of being destroyed and killed, there was no glory or triumph, only suffering.
Back when the Lost City of Xianyuan was not yet mysteriously lost, it wielded prestige, power, and influence that even the Tier-One sects and orders of today would salivate with envy.
It was for the sake of the entire world of Jiu Zhou that the whole city had to make such a terrible choice and forfeit their own lives.
Someone needed to step forward to preserve humanity back when the threat was evident and the Lost City of Xianyuan was not the only one; a total of seventeen other clans, sects, and orders had also made this terrible choice.
All eighteen powers and the pocket dimensions they were now confined to made up the cluster of interconnected dimensions now known as the Rift of Fortunes.
Meanwhile, the Lord Governor of the Lost City peered at the vortex in the sky. He could sense a foreboding presence leaking out of the spiraling portal in mid-air. A pinprick-like tingling of dread that was only more distinct than the last time he had this feeling.
[Time really is running short], mused the Lord Governor. [This city might last this time. We might still succeed next time, or perhaps even the time after… But the day when we fail will come. It will surely come… If everything is still not resolved until then… The destruction of Jiu Zhou will only be a matter of time…]
[Let’s hope that it will not be too late…] The Lord Governor suddenly thought of the young lad who had managed to surprise him. [Him… He could be the one…]
A flying vessel resembling a ship gradually approached. It was the Lofty Plume Court contingent.
The four nearest outposts had dispatched contingents of Cultivators to come here when news of the Rift of Fortunes reopening got out, but somehow, the Loft Plume Court contingent got delayed. That was why only three gained entry into the Rift and why the Hidden Light Sanctuary was at a disadvantage right from the start.
But the Lofty Plume Court Cultivators did not leave; they stayed around, waiting to receive their allies in the event of their return.
The leader of the one-hundred-man-strong contingent was the prolegate of their outpost here, Zhou Pei, and a long-time friend of Gu Canyang.
Being near each other had made both the Lofty Plume Court and the Hidden Light Sanctuary develop close ties to each other.
Gu Canyang and Zhou Pei exchanged a few words as soon as they met.
With communications all cut off between the Lost City of Xianyuan and the world outside, those outside did not know what was going on inside at all.
Zhou Pei could barely hide his astonishment the moment he heard that it was the Lost City of Xianyuan that had opened itself this time. He knew how perilous it was being there and despite the odds of being outnumbered two to one, most of the Hidden Light Sanctuary Cultivators still lived to walk out alive, prompting Zhou Pei to express his marvel and praise for Gu Canyang’s leadership.
The legate of the Hidden Light Sanctuary blushed.
Never had he been in such an embarrassing situation before. As soon as he stepped foot into the Lost City, he was captured by a bunch of spectral guards and locked behind bars in the dungeons beneath the city. He would have been dead already if it wasn’t for Lu Ye’s timely rescue. He quickly stopped Zhou Pei before the latter could sing any more praises and whispered the truth to Zhou Pei.
The latter’s face lit up with excitement.
The name of Lu Yi Ye of the Crimson Blood Sect was also, for a time, the talk of all Cultivators in these parts and so he was familiar with the story of the Battle of Goldentip. But Lu Ye was only just a Fifth-Order back then, and therefore, Cultivators of greater ranks did not pay much attention to the news.
However, in just such a short span of time, the central figure of the Battle of Goldentip had added more entries to his long list of feats by making it into the inner ring regions of the Battlefield and becoming the hero of this episode as well.
If anything, his single-handed annihilation of the House of Wintry Blossoms contingent would henceforth be another legendary tale in these parts. It was this accomplishment of his that had helped the Hidden Light Sanctuary turn the tables against the Thousand Demon Ridge side and survive this time’s Rift of Fortune’s appearance.
Naturally, Zhou Pei would love to make his acquaintance and be friends with him.
The flying vessel rose up into the air. The Loft Plume Court acolyte at the wheel steered the flying ship in the direction of the Hidden Light Sanctuary outpost.
At the same time, the House of Wintry Blossoms and Sunlit Mountain both received word about the Rift of Fortunes closing. Next, they were informed about how none of their people had got out. They could not believe it. So many of their acolytes had gone inside and barely anyone from the Thousand Demon Ridge side got out. Those who did were friendly independents.
It was they who provided an inkling of intelligence as to what happened inside the Lost City of Xianyuan, although few could comprehend the staggering losses.
More than six hundred Cultivators had entered the Rift with the Thousand Demon Ridge side at more than six-tenths of the whole number; they had the advantage on their side.
But none of their own acolytes survived while the Grand Sky Coalition side traipsed out of the Rift with more than one hundred Cultivators living to tell the tale.
None of the Thousand Demon Ridge independents had anything resembling a coherent account of the events within. By the time the Thousand Demon Ridge side realized that the tables had all been overturned, it was already too late to salvage the situation and the independents immediately went into hiding. They waited in silence until the Rift closed.
But they did hear that someone from the Grand Sky Coalition side had found ways to manipulate the apparitions of the Lost City, which would be the best explanation for the Thousand Demon Ridge defeat this time.
The Divine Trade Association too was vigorous in its attempts to ascertain this rumor. Despite its neutral stance, this was one news that could well fetch a very good profit, hence the Association was very interested to know what methods were used in the manipulation of the apparitions. The implications could be huge especially since no one had ever been able to accomplish anything like this before.
News of what really happened in the Lost City would undoubtedly reach the ears of every other Cultivator in the Battlefield. The Hidden Light Sanctuary acolytes might honor their word to remain tight-lipped, but the independents friendly to the Grand Sky Coalition side might not. Perpetually beleaguered by poverty, if enough Spirit Stones and Pills were dangled right before their eyes, they would sing any secrets with the alacrity and vivaciousness of a canary to the Divine Trade Association with hardly any scruples.
But Lu Ye wasn’t too bothered about this. It was Amber and not him who could manipulate the apparitions, so he doubted that anyone could so easily replicate the method.
The flying ship arrived at the Hidden Light Sanctuary two hours later. The defensive ward was halted temporarily to allow the ship to land.
Zhou Pei and his men did not stay long. They had been out in the wilderness for almost a month just so that they could ensure the safety of their allies when they returned and now that their job was done, it was time for them to head home.
But Zhou Pei spared no hesitation in offering Lu Ye an invitation.
That night, Gu Canyang arranged for a feast to thank Lu Ye for his help—both in saving his life and defeating their enemies. The feast ended with merriment and joy.
The next day, Lu Ye roused up a sleeping Ju Jia and led him to the outpost’s Sanctum of Providence.
With his Ninth-Order well within sight, it was time Lu Ye found himself a suitable Heaven-grade cultivation discipline or he would have to risk wasting valuable time when he could not progress any further, and early preparation never hurt.
He had enough Contribution Points to get himself one, so all he needed was time to find the right one.
As for Ju Jia who had spent Heaven-knows-how-long in the Ninth-Order, he had not the slightest idea what to do.
With Sima Yang now no more and with his loyalty now towards Lu Ye, the latter felt that it was his responsibility to take care of Ju Jia.
Ju Jia did not have enough Contribution Points, but killing enemies was not the only viable method of earning Contribution Points. Ju Jia could also sell items back to the Vault of Providence in exchange for Points.
With an abundance of Spirit Artifacts, including flying conveyances, Lu Ye could give them all to Ju Jia, so that he could gather the Points he needed.
Prices that the Vault of Providence offered in exchange for goods were oftentimes obscenely low if compared to its selling price, but this was the only way Lu Ye could come up with on short notice.
Ju Jia needed a Heaven-grade cultivation discipline, and he needed one on the double.
Even the seniors of the other sects and orders did this when they wanted their younger acolytes to have proper weapons and tools.
Lu Ye and Ju Jia stepped into the Sanctum of Providence. This was Ju Jia’s first foray into the Vault of Providence. Yet, despite his blank and simple appearance, Ju Jia was no fool. He immediately understood the ways of searching for what he needed in the Vault after just one round of explanation.
He activated his Battlefield Imprint and began going through the contents of the Vault while Lu Ye began his own search.