Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
As the Hidden Light Sanctuary party sounded their retreat, one could still hear the angry grunts and hisses of the young female Cultivator as she was being dragged away, much to her livid disgruntlement.
“If I remember correctly, that young lassie’s the daughter of one of the Hidden Light Sanctuary Elders,” remarked one of the House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes, before she added with a chuckle, “Guess Daddy must have been doting on her too much for her own good.”
If only taunting after being defeated would ever work. For years, the bad blood between the House of Wintry Blossoms and the Hidden Light Sanctuary was enough to make both sides more than happy to trade blows instead of just barbed words. If anything, the young female Hidden Light Sanctuary’s taunts only exemplified how childish she was.
That was why no one really took her seriously.
But barely a day later, the House of Wintry Blossoms received a summons from the legate of their outpost, urging them to withdraw home with haste. Apparently, the outpost was expecting an invasion by the Hidden Light Sanctuary.
The acolytes were stunned. Then they remembered their face-off against the female Hidden Light Sanctuary acolytes and the things she said. Her words were not merely taunts—she really could make Gu Canyang launch an assault on the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost!
Maybe they really had underestimated the authority that the young, irascible lass with the emotional maturity of a ten-year-old wielded at her fingertips, they realized. Maybe she really could rely on her father to overrule Gu Canyang. The House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes understood that the situation had spiraled out of their control, hence they quickly reported what had happened to their superior.
But all they received was an indifferent “I see”. If the Iegate of the House of Wintry Blossoms had other ideas, she certainly wasn’t in the mood to share.
One after another, House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes received summons to come back to assist with the defense. The atmosphere was nowhere as warm or friendly when the acolytes were reunited—no giggles or trading of tales or jokes, just melancholic sombreness at the onset of what was expected to be a fierce battle. But no one was panicking just yet; with the shield of the defensive ward still holding, there was no need to. This was hardly the first time the House of Wintry Blossoms prepared for war, but every time the Hidden Light Sanctuary set its war dogs loose, they had always been sent home with their tails between their legs.
But another piece of bad news came knocking on their doors soon enough.
The Hidden Light Sanctuary wasn’t the only one marching to their doorstep this time; Lofty Plume Court would be joining them as well. They had dispatched a force that was already on its way here. Clearly, they must have come to an understanding.
Legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms Yue Mei was going through the scouting reports inside the Sanctum of Providence of her outpost. Two Grand Sky Coalition orders were coming to attack them, but she was barely alarmed; She had seen this coming all along.
Like the rest of her sisters-in-arms, She was not concerned at all about the integrity of the defensive ward. But also like the rest of her sisters-in-arms, she was worried about whether this invasion was real. If the invaders were only here as a show of force, then she would not be too worried. But if this was a real invasion, she would need to be more careful. At the very least she would need to be expecting a siege.
A few seconds of quick thinking was enough to convince her that she needed to do something instead of just resting on her laurels. She immediately transmitted a few messages. Before long, every Thousand Demon Ridge order in the vicinity was duly notified about the invasion that both the Hidden Light Sanctuary and Lofty Plume Court were mounting on the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost.
The messages she sent were not calls for help—it was too late for any reinforcements to arrive in time. But she expected that the Hidden Light Sanctuary and Lofty Plume Court outposts would be empty by now and by notifying the other Thousand Demon Riege orders, she was prodding them to launch invasions of their own as reprisal. That should be more than enough to force the invaders to shorten the duration of the siege, if not call off the invasion entirely.
To lift a siege with such a method was not uncommon in the Spirit Creek Battlefield. This was how allied orders and sects assisted each other.
Hours passed into the late hours of the evening when two gigantic ship-like flying conveyances came lumbering into view of the House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes, lining up alongside each other.
One of the ships bore the sigil of the Hidden Light Sanctuary while the other vessel was emblazoned with the livery of the Lofty Plume Court.
The flying ships came to a halt somewhere three miles away and men began pouring out of their respective holds.
Yue Mei was hanging in mid-air, watching from inside the enclosure of the outpost with a grim look on her face.
Both Grand Sky Coalitres Orles had at least fielded four hundred men apiece—a number that was too big for her liking.
Most inner-ring area outposts had strengths of just about five to six hundred strong. That both the Hidden Light Sanctuary and Lofty Plume Court were fielding four hundred men each meant that they now had barely two hundred men between them to man their own defenses.
Needless to say, the House of Wintry Blossoms must brace themselves for what could be a long and fierce struggle.
[Could it really be true? Like those girls said, that that young female acolyte had managed to get her father to strongarm Gu Canyang into launching this assault? Is he really so inept and soft?]
Something felt terribly amiss but with the enemy invader now already fast approaching, it was too late for any more wishful thinking. The House of Wintry Blossoms would go to war and just hope that more of its acolytes could survive to see the next daylight.
Meanwhile, the Hidden Light Sanctuary and Lofty Plume Court acolytes assembled. The eight hundred men strong force was the best the two orders could muster.
On the other hand, the House of Wintry Blossoms had only four hundred acolytes.
The annihilation of the contingent led by Chu Qing in the Lost City of Xianyuan had dented the House’s strength by almost two-tenths. Yue Mei had lost many a good night’s sleep just because of this.
With Gu Canyang and Zhou Pei spearheading the advance, the invaders marched for the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost.
There was no need for barter; as soon as the invaders reached the walls of the outpost, the assault began without delay.
Spells and Spirit Artifacts wheezed through the air, slamming into the phosphorescent shield that was the only thing now standing between the outpost and its invaders. Like a handful of grains peppering the otherwise peaceful surface of a lake, the projectiles that hit the defensive ward’s shields elicited ripples that numbered up to the hundreds or even thousands that swept in endless waves.
Yue Mei was observing the assault begin at the plaza just outside the outpost’s Sanctum of Providence. Her grip on the jade tablet used to magically control the ward’s defenses tightened at each groan and tremor of the shield.
At the same time, cadres of House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes scurried around the peripherals of the shield, making sure that the ward keystones were all stocked up with enough Spirit Stones to keep the shield running.
The defense shield might have already saved up a rich deposit of Spiritual Qi, but no one could tell how long the invaders planned to keep up the assault, hence it was crucial and imperative to ensure that the defensive ward did not fully exhaust its supply.
Anyone would do the same in the face of an invasion.
Rich was the ambient Spiritual Qi in the atmosphere surrounding the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost; the Divine Opportunity Column must have been enhanced with many layers of Blessings. That helped to further strengthen the sturdiness of the defensive ward’s shield. For almost an hour, the invaders battered at the shield, yet all that incessant onslaught seemed to have accomplished nothing. Aside from the ripples that propagated on the surface of the barrier of light, its glow seemed to have waned not one bit.
Clearly, the invaders would need to do more if they wanted to wear out the shield.
From the other side of the screen of illumination, Yue Mei focused her stare on Gu Canyang and Zhou Pei pensively, wondering what they were actually up to.
The countless times they had faced each other in battle were enough for Yue Mei to know what Gu Canyang and Zhou Pei’s aces were and vice versa. Beyond any doubt, both leaders of this invasion knew as well as she did that a straightforward assault would hardly yield any favorable results for the invaders. Still, the invaders did not look like they were about to call off the invasion any time soon and Yue Mei was beginning to feel that something was wrong.
The suspense was killing her.
If there was any consolation, that would be her earlier decision to inform her allies about the invasion. A coalition of Cultivators from allied outposts was marshaling to launch an assault on both the Hidden Light Sanctuary and Lofty Plume Court outposts and Yue Mei could only expect that they were already on the march by now.
Gu Canyang and Zhou Pei had to withdraw the moment they got wind of attacks on their respective outposts.
Yue Mei was still caught up in her train of thought when the jade tablet in her grasp emitted a sizzle. The sensation transmitted to her via the jade tablet was giving off the signal that the shield had been breached.
Aghast, Yue Mei tore her glance to where the breach had occurred. But nothing. Everything in that area appeared to be fine.
[Was that just me, or what?!] she wondered. But ever a cautious person, she quickly sent forth a squad of acolytes to head to that area to investigate the anomaly earlier.
Unbeknownst to everyone else inside the outpost, Lu Ye had successfully infiltrated the outpost.
The sensation that alerted Yue Mei about the breach occurred exactly when Lu Ye was making his entry through the defensive ward’s shield, which would have not been possible at other times.
But the cover of night and the diversion caused by the assault had robbed much of the defenders’ attention and no one saw him enter.
As soon as he was inside, the first thing Lu Ye did was activate the Concealment Bracelet to mask his Spiritual Power signature from being detected.
He would not have decided on going behind enemy lines alone if not for this immensely useful piece of equipment that Lady Yun had given to him. He could easily slip through the defensive ward’s shield, but he would still be discovered without this Bracelet.
The Concealment Bracelet could mask his presence better than ordinary Ghost Cultivators could their own.
The plan he had made with Gu Canyang specified that the Hidden Light Sanctuary and Lofty Plume Court would launch an assault to cause a diversion while he would infiltrate unseen. Next, Lu Ye was to locate and assassinate Yue Mei and recover her jade tablet. That way, the defensive ward would be just as useless as a glass hammer.
The plan was straightforward enough and its simplicity would ensure its success. A complicated plan with too many moving parts and variables could easily fail when pieces fail to match.
At the very least, the plan had been working well enough up until now and the Concealment Bracelet would be his key to ensuring the success of the second half of the plan. For the sake of stealth, he had not brought Amber and Yi Yi with him this time.
Lu Ye found a secluded spot and hid himself there to watch. As expected, a squad of House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes came hurrying to where he entered through the shield.
Back when he was still studying how to defeat Hidden Light Sanctuary’s defensive ward, Wei Li had told him about a tingly sensation the moment something foreign—him—slipped through the shield. But it was only a tiny and transitory feeling and Wei Li would not have noticed it if he had not been paying attention to it.
But it was enough for Lu Ye to know that the legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost must surely have felt the same fleeting sensation, as proven by the appearance of this small group of acolytes.
The six acolytes came and looked around. Finding nothing, they marched off to investigate other areas for traces of anomalies.
Lu Ye did not move an inch; he could feel something unnatural somewhere thirty meters ahead. Something was swirling in the air—something filled with Spiritual Energy.
He would have not been able to detect the unseen object but for the spiritual enrichment he had undergone at the Pool of Divine Purification had greatly increased his spiritual senses.
He could sense the presence of anything within thirty meters of him—the closer it was, the stronger his perception of it would be.
A Ghost Cultivator.
As warned by Gu Canyang, Legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost Yue Mei really was a careful person. On the surface, it looked as if she had just sent forth only one squad of acolytes to investigate the anomaly when in truth, there were two. If Lu Ye had acted brashly, he would have already been discovered.
The Ghost Cultivator dawdled around for a little while before she vanished and left after finding nothing. Lu Ye had not gotten a glimpse of her at all.
But Lu Ye stayed there for almost another quarter of an hour before he finally felt safe enough to move further inside the outpost.
The Concealment Bracelet had been helpful enough, except with one glaring flaw: he could not channel his Spiritual Power or move if he wished to remain undetected.
At the moment, there was no telling if there were still people lurking around nearby. If he were discovered, then Lu Ye would have to withdraw the same way he came in.
He could come in, and he could still withdraw. Of that, at least, he was sure.