Editor: Dhael Ligerkeys
What enabled Lu Ye to breathe more easily was the fact that he was not attacked even though he had revealed himself. He kept his presence low before he sped to where the commotion was coming from, looking rather frantic.
That he had managed to reach this far without being detected meant that he was halfway to reaching his main objective.
As if there was any need to stay invisible anymore… An outpost usually had, not only the acolytes of a sect or order, but also allied acolytes from friendly sects and orders, as well as associated independents who had pledged their allegiance. Naturally, that would mean that no one could possibly know everyone, so even if anyone were to see Lu Ye traipsing around in broad daylight, no one would know that he was the enemy unless there were people in the outpost who knew what the famous Lu Yi Ye looked like.
To say nothing of the fact that it was already night, which made Lu Ye’s job easier.
Lu Ye kept his head down and let the bangs of his hair hang over half his face as he raced to the main plaza of the outpost where every one of the House of Wintry Blossoms members had congregated.
They had begun assembling here since the attack began. But although they were not worried about the shield’s integrity, they nonetheless wore apprehensive and wary looks.
Many people saw Lu Ye coming out of nowhere, rushing to join them, although most of them merely cast a cursory glance at him before returning their gazes to whatever it was they were doing. Clearly, no one anticipated an infiltration when the defensive ward was operating at full blast and the shield was still holding.
If anything, most of them only thought that he looked unfamiliar. But no one dwelt on the matter long enough to realize anything yet. After all, strangers were often common at outposts; Cultivators who were acolytes of friendly sects and orders seeking temporary refuge or associated independents proclaiming their allegiance. Acolytes could sometimes spend up to months or even years in solitary meditation and by the time they emerged, they would find many unfamiliar faces in their midst.
Outside the shield, Gu Canyang saw with his own eyes how Lu Ye was joining the mob of defenders. The corners of his eyes twitched with amazement.
Deep within him, Gu Canyang made a mental note to remember to install some simple magical wards all around the Hidden Light Sanctuary outpost. After seeing Lu Ye’s plan working smoothly so far, he knew that the outpost would need some sensing wards to raise the alarm in the case of any clandestine infiltration lest any enemies replicate Lu Ye’s feat in the future!
While he was still busy thinking about what to do, Lu Ye got to a fifteen meter distance from Yue Mei.
Lu Ye had seen her even before he slipped through the defensive ward. Information supplied by Gu Canyang indicated that this body-hugging-robes-clad woman was the legate-in-charge of the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost.
And Lu Ye immediately recognized what she was: a Spell Cultivator.
He used to hate Spell Cultivators so much. Luo Ji and Dong Shuye had never failed in making life hell for Lu Ye back when he was still a low-tier Cultivator.
But as he gradually grew stronger and more powerful, he found he rather liked fighting against Spell Cultivators. The great speed afforded by the activation of Glyph: Windwalk allowed him to close distances and evade spells quickly and easily. For those that he could not avoid, there was always Glyph: Protection to prevent any heavy damage.
Spell Cultivators rarely did well once Combat Cultivators like Lu Ye were able to close the distance and turn the fight into a close combat situation.
Hence, one could argue that no Spell Cultivator of similar rank—or even those higher by one or two ranks—could ever pose a threat to Lu Ye anymore.
Legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms Yue Mei was a Ninth-Order Spell Cultivator very close to reaching ascension to the next rank.
Her original intent was to make Chu Qing her successor before picking another acolyte to be the latter’s future deputy.
But Chu Qing, and even the designated future prolegate, were killed during their foray into the Lost City of Xianyuan. It was due to their deaths that the outpost still lacked a prolegate and Yue Mei had to shoulder the duties of both roles together.
In the meantime, the members of the upper echelons of the House of Wintry Blossoms were still locked in an internecine squabble between each other. It was said that every one of the Elders wished to nominate their own students to the post. It was no secret that being legate and prolegate had its uses and benefits—more income and more opportunities to earn Contribution Points. Everyone in the order knew that being pegged as the prolegate now would mean an immediate promotion to becoming legate when Yue Mei finally stepped down—which everybody expected to happen any time soon.
[The order needs to select a prolegate after this. And fast,] Yue Mei was thinking to herself quietly. She and the busy business of handling the outpost’s day-to-day affairs could not suffer any more delays.
Still occupied with her thoughts, a strange premonition of dread jolted her senses, and her peripheral vision caught sight of a figure bolting straight for her.
She tore her gaze away from the front to get a better look at the stranger. It was a young man no older than she was and he was dashing toward her with his head lowered, effectively hiding his face.
Yue Mei could feel a chill shooting up her spine. She could not see him, but she was sure. She had never seen this stranger before!
As Legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost, she knew almost every face—every acolyte, every allied Cultivator, and even associate independents. She might not be close to all of them, but she knew their faces and names at least.
Only she and the late Chu Qing knew every face in the outpost, for everyone who first arrived here had to meet them both before being allowed entry into the outpost.
The unknown youth racing towards her might have kept his head down, but she could still see much of what he looked like.
For this reason, Yue Mei was sure that she had not seen this stranger here before! Not today, not before, not ever!
Quick enough to remember the anomaly with the defensive ward earlier, Yue Mei’s hand shot up swiftly and a glow sparkled at the tip of her fingers as a blast came screaming straight for Lu Ye.
That Yue Mei could summon enough power in such a short time to fire a blast was a testament to her skill and strength. The spell was nowhere near lethal, but it was enough to defeat most Eighth-Orders.
But firing that spell did not make her feel safe at all; Lu Ye was hardly one of “most Eighth-Orders”. Instead, panic engulfed her. The moment her arm came up and she fired her spell, Lu Ye was gone. All that was left in his place was a harmless afterimage. One split-second later, the glint of steel was all that filled her sight.
Death descended upon her like a ravenous beast, breathing down her neck and licking her there, making her shudder with intense trepidation.
The shrill cry of the stranger’s weapon grazing every inch of the floor as he barreled straight at her brought to mind images of her own recollections before her very eyes—visions vivid enough that she instinctively channeled her power just before a furious blow hammered at her throat. The force would have broken her spine, and as a burst of sparkles followed closely by another gleam of steel told her that the weapon was just withdrawing—for a second imminent blow, no doubt—she could feel a jabbing pain coming from her neck.
Yue Mei jerked to her senses. Her instincts had saved her by invoking a magical barrier just in front of her throat. She herself did not even know what had happened.
Unequivocally, her life was spared only by that. Lu Ye meant to behead her and the bursting twinkles were the magical barrier that took the hit for her.
Magical barriers like this were Spell Cultivator’s brand of magical defenses not unlike Lu Ye’s Glyph: Protection. They afforded sound protection and most Spell Cultivators were trained in using spells like these to defend themselves.
In the meantime, Lu Ye was not calling off his attacks just yet. Inviolable gave off another sheen of cold fury as Lu Ye thrust it forward for a renewed assault. If he could keep himself within fifteen meters of Yue Mei, he could win.
Eight times out of ten Lu Ye could kill an enemy with just one blow. But this obviously wasn’t one of those eight times. Yue Mei was just so cautious and quick that he failed to live up to his reputation and expectation; he might have hurt her, but that was not enough to kill her just yet.
At the same time, Lu Ye knew he needed to be quick. He could only deliver one more attack before the rest of the House of Wintry Blossoms Cultivator realized what was going on and ganged up on him.
To that end, Lu Ye’s second blow wasn’t after Yue Mei’s life. It was after his objective.
Yue Mei threw herself backward when she saw Lu Ye coming for a second attack. All she wanted to do was to put in as much distance as possible. Her hand came up and she aimed a finger at Lu Ye again, her powers churning as she got ready to fire another spell.
Yet, Lu Ye was just too fast for her. Before she could even do anything else, Inviolable sank into her other arm. A sharp jolt of pain zapped through the legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost as she grunted in excruciation, her features twisting grotesquely.
With a twist that elicited a sickening crunch, the severed arm flew into the air.
An enraged Yue Mei ignored the pangs of pain consuming her and shrieked at the top of her voice, “KILL HIM!”
A pair of wings unfurled on Lu Ye’s back and he soared into the air, snatching up the severed arm.
It was only then that the rest of the House of Wintry Blossoms acolytes realized what was going on. They weren’t slow; but rather, Lu Ye was just too fast. In barely two seconds, Lu Ye had delivered two successive attacks and no one knew what was going on or what to do, even if they had seen everything right from the start.
Rays and beams of light tore away from the fingers and outstretched hands of the acolytes but it was too late. Lu Ye was already in the sky, leaving all flying weapons that his enemies could unleash in the dust. Spells could reach far enough to hit him, but Lu Ye wasn’t stationary. The last thing he ever wanted in a situation like this was to be a sitting duck and wait for his death. He deftly ducked and weaved around, relying on the quickness of his magically-conjured wings and his speed to skillfully evade the many crisscrossing rays of light that came screaming at him.
A pallid-faced Yue Mei stared at the figure waltzing in the sky with the adroit grace and dexterity of a butterfly. When she saw the stranger removing something from her arm and throwing the arm away, her blood went cold.
[So that is what he’s after!]
“BACK TO JIUZHOU!” she cried with as loud a voice as she could summon, “BACK TO JIUZHOU, NOW!”
Such was Legate of the House of Wintry Blossoms outpost Yue Mei, a decisive leader with circumspection and wit that in spite of the rending pain of an arm lopped off gnawing at her, she made the correct judgment.
It was not a far stretch to expect that all legates in the Spirit Creek Battlefield were each blessed with their individual qualities. At the very least, none of them were fools.
Meanwhile, the rest of the acolytes of the outpost could barely believe what they had just heard. Petrified with bewilderment, they could hardly react to the order of pulling back to the order’s main stronghold in Jiu Zhou when the defensive ward was still intact and the intruder was just an Eighth-Order who was also heavily outnumbered.
Those who were quick on the uptake immediately discovered why.
The defensive ward might still be holding, but the jade tablet used to control it was no longer in their possession!
Which was exactly why Lu Ye aimed for her arm in his second attack: he was after the jade tablet in her grasp.
The very instrument that was the lynchpin to the defense of this outpost. Destroy it and the defensive ward would be no more.
“FAST! GET OUT OF HERE!” Yue Mei cried hoarsely, leading her fellow sisters-in-arms in a breakneck charge for dear life towards the Sanctum of Providence. Everyone in the outpost tore after her.
Still hanging in mid-air, Lu Ye exerted his full strength to crush the tablet to pieces. Oddly enough, it was so hard that it felt like an incredibly hard piece of rock. It looked like an ornate object hewn from jade, but he did not know what it was actually made of.
But owing to the need for haste, there was no time to think. He tossed the tablet into the air and drove Inviolable through it, skewering the object with a double Glyph: Sharp Edge activated.