Without a better choice, the disciples all looked at White Jade resignedly, waiting for him to expound upon their assignment.
“The fewer people that sneak in, the safer our team is. After deliberate thinking, I found the optimum number would be four. So let’s say that brother Qin Jing of the Heavenly Sword Sect, brother Di Tong of the Wind and Fire Sect, brother Shi Mu of the Black Demon Sect, and I are the four who will sneak in. The others will take concerted action outside the enemy’s camp, trying to draw their attention,” White Jade declared in a flat tone.
Shi Mu ‘s eyes flashed alertly, but only for a second. Among the other members, the Taoist youth with a sword over his shoulder and another muscular youth with dark skin jerked momentarily but did not make any complaints. Most of the other disciples, who had not been chosen to be in the surprise party, secretly heaved a sigh of relief, all knowing clearly that though the surprise party would get the most feat points, those who stayed outside were definitely much safer. After all, their team was hopelessly understaffed compared with their enemy, hence slipping into the barbarian’s area means that being found out is a death sentence.
While some were secretly rejoicing at their luck, some cast doubtful glances at Shi Mu. Ke Er broke the silence by bravely suggesting, “Brother White, you three are quite strong, but not brother Shi. He’s better as an Adept, you know. Don’t you think it is inappropriate to include him in this dangerous task?”
“Sister Ke, you are quite right. The reason I included him was just because of his Adept identity,” White Jade explained to her with an indulging smile, “I have a middle-level fire charm, and as long as the four of us could sneak in successfully and work this charm, we’d burn all the food without difficulty. But this charm won’t work unless we have the power of an Adept, so you see why I asked brother Shi to come with me.” This said, he showed them a red charm with magic patterns on it bursting with heavenly energy that sent the air around it rippling.
There was a gleam of surprise in Shi Mu’s eyes when he looked at the red charm. It was the first time he had seen a middle-level charm, whose power had long since reached his ears. With the timely assistance of this charm, the task instantly got much easier. Ke Er knit her eyebrows in suspicion, but Shi Mu prevented her from making any further objections, waving his hand at her, and smiling, “Since brother White has made such a thoughtful plan, I’d be very glad to go with him.”
“Brother Shi is a real warrior! Once we’ve completed this mission, I’ll report your feats to the union. Well then, we should rest so that we can ready ourselves for the mission. We’ll set off this afternoon and try to make it to the Eagle Worrying Ravine before dusk. We’ll act during the night.” White Jade cast a meaningful look at Shi Mu, a grim smile playing across his lips. The others certainly had no differing opinions, so the meeting broke up with people getting up and chatting as they hurried about. All went around making preparations.
Shi Mu headed to his place directly, and, after walking about the room for a while, a hint of a knowing smile flickered across his face. Of all the members in the mine, he was the one who understood White Jade’s intentions the best, but he would not satisfy him this time. With his current cultivation, as long as they did not encounter Xiantian Saints, he felt quite sure of surviving this task. Now that White Jade’s cunning hand had reached out toward him, he would not sit idly and look unconcerned, nor treat him politely anymore.
Suddenly, someone gently, yet with some trepidation, knocked on the door. Shi Mu opened the door to find Ke Er waiting with a face lined with concern, her long green dress rustling.
“Sister Ke, is there some urgent matter to discuss?” Shi Mu let her in and asked.
“Brother Shi, I feel so bad… It’s all my fault that brother White misunderstood you the other day...Or he would not have asked you to slip into the camp...” Ke Er raised her head, looking apologetically at Shi Mu.
“Hehe, you are imagining things. The Black Tortoise has long been at odds with our Black Demon, this has nothing to do with you.” Shi Mu’s eyes glinted. He tried to speak in a tone that was as soft and gentle as possible.
“Don’t worry about me. Even if I’m to slip in the enemy’s camp, I’ve got means to protect myself. It’s yourself that you should be concerned about. Do be careful when you feign an attack outside. “ Ke Er was cut off by Shi Mu.
“Uh...Alright, I’ll do as you said. “ Ke Er’s big naive eyes blinked, and then she took out a green paper charm from her sleeve, and handed it to Shi Mu. The charm was giving off a green light that twisted and turned like a living thing.
“This is a Rejuvenating Charm. Please carry it with you. It will be of use.” She pleaded.
Shi Mu could not help but feel moved. Though the Rejuvenating Charm was only a low-level charm, it was rather difficult to make, and cost far more than ordinary charms of the same level. Even he himself had not succeeded in making one. This kind of charm could heal wounds fairly quickly, which made the demand for it far outstrip the supply during times of war.
“That’s a very precious charm. How could I dare to take it from you? Please keep it for yourself.” Shi Mu shook his head violently.
“Please don’t say that. I’ve got more than one Rejuvenating Charm.” Ke Er flashed him an encouraging smile, which made it difficult for Shi Mu to refuse a second time. She slipped the charm into his hand obstinately, and the moment her fingertips touched his skin, his heart melted. He did not insist and nodded his head, taking out some Fire Ball charms and Water Sword Charms and handing them to her, “Thank you, sister Ke. Here are some charms that you might find useful in combat. Just take them to protect yourself.” To this generous reciprocation, Ke Er did not decline, and received the charms in a most cheerful mood. After prolonging the meeting by chatting some more, she bid him goodbye and left.
At the same time, in a remote cave in the mine, White Jade was standing with a fat youth wearing the Black Tortoise’s uniform. The two of them engaging in an intimate conversation.
“Brother White, I’ve been wondering why the union gave us this special task so suddenly? Indeed, our stronghold is not that significant, but, after all, we offer timely intelligence of the enemy, and we are in the enemy’s area. If our stronghold gets destroyed, it would be a great loss to the union.” The fat guy asked, knitting his brows.
“Hehe, that’s a question you’d better figure out for yourself. “ White Jade gave him a prevaricating smile.
“Could it be that the union is going to do something really big?” The fat guy seemed to have a moment of enlightenment, his eyes flashing.
“I held back a piece of information from the others. The union has found out that the barbarians have decided to scour this area, for we have been causing them a lot of issues. Therefore, this stronghold is no longer safe and should be evacuated soon. And this will be the last mission we perform before leaving.” White Jade snorted coldly.
“So I see.” The fat guy understood.
“I’ve been thinking how to deal with that Shi Mu recently, and this mission just happened to come at such a timely moment...” Licking his lips, White Jade muttered with a sinister smile.
“Hehe, brother White is a real genius!” The fat guy echoed, praising White Jade.
The night had descended, and the moon was rising among the mountains, it's cold light coming down through the night sky and enveloping the whole valley, where buildings made of wood squatted against the hills. Some were taller while most were short. A tower was erected at the periphery of the valley, its height was around 7 meters and it was entirely made of thick logs whose tips were sharpened into the shape of an arrowhead. There were two sentry posts at either side of the tower, each guarded by a tall barbarian, on the watch for any suspicious signs.
This is the valley of the Eagle Worrying Ravine, a stronghold of the barbarians within the boundaries of Fu Zhou province. Though it was already dark, no torches were lit to illuminate the valley, which was completely enclosed in darkness - due to the necessity of absolute secrecy. But inside the colossal wooden gate, muffled footsteps were constantly heard, which suggested a vigilance inside that contrasted with the tranquility of the valley.
At this moment, in the dense forest adjacent to the valley, a dozen figures soundlessly made their way to the entrance of the valley. The leader was a lanky man, who waved his hand gently to make an order, at which the figures around him all split in all directions, each closing in on the entrance with hushed footsteps. The lanky man stopped, stretched his arm up, and reached for something over his shoulder, which reflected the cold moonlight. At almost the same time, in the post a burly barbarian froze, looking in the direction of the forest, and was just about to open his mouth to shout out a warning when a black shadow whizzed through the woods towards him at an incredible speed. The next moment, a feathered arrow penetrated his throat with terrifying accuracy. The barbarian gasped, and looked hopelessly downward, but only managed to utter some groans before his bulky body fell off the post, blood gushing out of his throat like a shower. The other barbarian on the opposite post witnessed the whole process, and was scared half to death, but the next moment, the same black shadow flashed through the air with a hellish smell, and pierced his heart to end his life, nailing him onto a log of the tower.
“Ah!!!!” His last sad and shrill cry at least traveled far enough to memorize his baleful death.
On the other hand, roughly at the same time, another figure cut through the woods and darted to the wood gate of the camp. Moonlight shone on his purple robe, showing himself to be a tall and well-built young man. He gave a quick upward flick of one arm, and next moment a huge greatsword, the length of his height, appeared out of nowhere. He swayed the blade, tracing an arc in the air which resembled a crescent, and then, with a howling wind, he chopped heavily at the gate with his blade.
*Ka* The split gate gave a huge creak as it fell on the earth in two pieces, the whole valley echoing with the sound. Just near the gate a patrol group made up of nearly twenty barbarians was shocked dumb by first a series of bitter cries, then the ear-deafening sound of the door splitting. Before they made out their enemies the bold barbarians had already pulled out their weapons, running outside amid angry shouting. The purple-robed youth showed not the least sign of fear, and wielded his long blade and confronted the barbarians gallantly. The clang of weapons soon reverberated in the dead of night. As the flashes and shadows of his blade danced wildly, three or four of the barbarians had been beheaded, their blood beginning to pool beneath their bodies.
Without warning, from the adjoining forest came a burst of appalling shouts, which suggested a large number of attackers. Immediately, dark figures filed out of the trees, swooping down on the barbarian soldiers, all the while arrows kept shooting out from the woods, each taking away the life of a barbarian, not a single arrow missing its target. The patrol group had no Totem warriors in it, so it was soon annihilated by several human warriors. Their bodies were trampled upon by more barbarians that issued out of the buildings nearest to the gate, mutilated in the subsequent confused fighting between human and barbarian warriors.
But while these people were fighting furiously, in some place further into the woods, dozens of torches were flickering, coming like waves in the direction of the camp. By now all the sleeping barbarians had wakened from their dreams to find themselves in a perilous state. Their faces turning pale with fright.
“The humans! They are coming!” A barbarian, who looked like a captain, shouted at the top of his lungs, then fished out a black ox horn and blew it with all his might.
The stars trembled while the forlorn bugle call resonated through the valley.