The loud and desolate sound of the bugle woke up the entire valley, which was now completely illuminated by hundreds of torches carried by the barbarian soldiers flowing toward the gate.
“What? A large number of humans suddenly appeared and are storming our stronghold? What is the status of our stronghold at the moment?”
Deep inside the stronghold, in the highest building, a hefty barbarian, looking like a iron tower, glowered at the soldier in front of him, speaking in a demanding tone. It seemed to be a meeting hall with strange patterns of beasts carved on the walls, together with some specimens of various unknown monsters’ heads. Laying in the middle of the floor was a huge patch of hide. Behind the hefty barbarian stood another, who was young and sturdy, shirtless, and had a blue tattoo of a wolf’s head on his chest. His brooding face was as stern as a statue’s.
“Master Wu, though we have temporarily blocked the invaders, they are very strong and seem to have more than one hundred reinforcements coming our way, not including those we are fighting with.” The soldier, half kneeling on the floor, answered swiftly, with blood all over his face and body. The blood was, apparently, not his.
“So there must be quite a few Houtian Warriors among the invading human bugs, but how could it be possible that so many of them suddenly appeared here…” The man’s face became even more serious.
Just at that time, a huge explosion was heard from the entrance of the valley, even shaking the hall slightly. The hefty barbarian changed his look and stepped out of the hall, only to see flames rising skyward amid thick smoke that could be seen miles away. The hefty man’s intuition told him that something terrible must have happened.
“Damn! Those dirty human bugs are trying to burn the provisions!” The barbarian was shocked as he realized his enemy’s intentions.
“Tu Ma Gu, lead your warriors to the entrance and call all our men. You must repel the humans’ attack!” The barbarian hefty man resolutely turned around and ordered the young Totem warrior with wolf head tattoo.
“Yes!” The young barbarian replied, and the next second his figure transformed into a puff of smoke, flowing out of the hall and into the distance.
The hefty man then waved his hand to dismiss the kneeling orderly soldier, whereas he himself stayed for another thoughtful moment before he turned to walk even deeper into the hall.
On another mountain at the other side of the valley, four young men were standing still side by side. They were none other than Shi Mu, White Jade, and the other two members of this surprise party.
“Our plan seems to be working quite well; most of the barbarians have been attracted to the entrance.” The Taoist youth first commented.
By that time the battle at the gate seemed to have become white-hot. Flames and smoke rose all over the ground while the sound of fighting never stopped. Though there were only tens of humans which put them at a total disadvantage, but they were all at the level of Houtian warriors and much stronger than ordinary barbarian soldiers, so they did not worry too much at fighting tenfold their number. If all went well like this, this distraction tactic would probably work.
“There is no time to lose, let’s go. They can’t hold very long.” The dark-skinned young man urged, an eager gleam in his eyes.
Shi Mu’s eyes followed the direction of the dark-skinned young man, narrowing to protect themselves from the glaring torchlight. There were more than ten tall figures moving swiftly towards the entrance of the valley from the inner stronghold. Apparently they were Totem warriors.
“Let’s go!” White Jade’s face fell. Holding a thick rope whose other end was tied to a tree by the cliff, he jumped directly down the mountain. The others also followed him, holding a similar rope. After several breaths, they reached the valley safely, and with a few flashes of their bodies, the four of them had moved to the rear of a building. White Jade made a quick scan of the surroundings and then waved his hand, taking the initiative to storm deeper into the valley, followed immediately by the other three.
The stronghold had two layers, according to the results of their previous reconnaissance, and it was precisely in the interior layer that the barbarians stored their provisions. Though most of the guards had been attracted to the gate by now, there must still be some of them remaining inside. On their way to the interior part of the stronghold, the four of them smoothed out all of the guards without difficulty, and most of the barbarians even did not have the chance to see clearly their enemies’ faces before they got killed. Therefore, the surprise party had little trouble sneaking into the storing area successfully, which was quite out of their expectations.
“There is so much food here….” They were all amazed at what they saw in the storehouses.
In a secluded yard, tens of wooden cylinder buildings loomed in the dark, all stuffed with grains, weapons, and armors. Alongside the houses, some ten tents were set up to help store the surplus grains.
“So many provisions… there’s enough for tens of thousands of soldiers. Maybe all the provisions for the barbarians in the Fu province are kept here?” The young Taoist said in amazement.
Hiding on a piece of open ground [TL: you sure you are hiding?] behind a storehouse, Shi Mu looked around apprehensively, an unpropitious idea vaguely on his mind. It unsettled him that the interior of the stronghold was not under heavy guard, and that not a single patrol group could be seen near the storehouses which should be considered of overriding importance. Or could it be that the fighting at the gate had drawn all the guards there?
“Let’s not lose time burning these provisions! So we can return with great credit!” The dark-skinned young man from the Wind and Fire sect exclaimed cheerfully, overjoyed by the slack supervision of the place.
“Haha, never thought it so easy to be here. Seems I can get a new sword after returning.” The young Taoist agreed with excitement.
“OK, let’s do it.” White Jade half nodded before he had a last scan of the environment, musing for a while. Shi Mu did not protest, nor echo. Somehow the strange smell of the air prevented him from making any hasty judgments.
“Then just as we have planned, brother Shi sneaks in and works the Fire Cloud charm while we three will support by taking coordinated action. We must burn all the provisions here.” White Jade’s eyes glinted as he took out the charm and passed it to Shi Mu, the way one would throw a bomb to someone else as quickly as possible. Shi Mu stretched out his hand and was just about to take it when he jerked aside, his face contorting in great alarm.
Whiz! Before he knew it a dark shadow had darted past him, seizing the Fire Cloud charm in White Jade’s hand and then disappearing into the darkness like a bolt of lightning, leaving White Jade uttering a heart-rending cry. He jumped back, blood flowing down his right hand from where two of his fingers used to be.
This came as a great shock to Shi Mu and his fellow team members. He stomped on the ground and jumped aside, pulling out his black blade and propped it against his chest. At the opposite the young Taoist and the dark-skinned young man had also prepared their weapons in hand, eyes widely open in panic, ready to fight a fierce enemy.
“Who’s there?” White Jade yelled in agony to the darkness, struggling to suppress his groans.
“Call our men together to put off the fire, I’ll deal with the humans.” The black-robed man commanded, throwing the towering barbarian a scathing look. The next moment, he rose straight up from the ground, and, like a fierce eagle, he took off in the direction which Shi Mu had fled in.