Chapter 901 Bloodbath
“What is this?”
The warrior with a pudgy fat-filled face twisted with horror.
“A broken sword?! What kind of friend would present such a gift for someone’s birthday!? At any rate, this is hardly auspicious at all! Heavens, is he an enemy?!” The band of warriors who came at Li Mu’s behest began to shiver with fear.
“A broken sword?! What kind of birthday gift is this?!”
“Is this an attempt to humiliate the Grand Master? How dare they try such a stunt!? Seize them!”
Guests and Sky Dragons all around the main gallery broke into a riotous uproar, turning what should have been a merry feast into a raucous mob.
Lü Song looked at the ominous gift with a horrified expression twisting on his face.
“T-This… The shards of the Sword of Divinity! This is the warning from Li Mu, the Aspect of Vengeance!”
Horror gleamed in his eyes. With one swift arm, he seized the plump and stocky warrior, pulling him close and growling, “Speak! Where did you see this man?! Tell me what happened! Quick!”
“I don’t know him, sir… He paid us to deliver this box to you…” the fat warrior whimpered, looking like he was on the verge of soiling his pants while he went on recounting every single detail that he could remember about his encounter with the Aspect of Vengeance.
Lü Song gave the warrior a kick that left him rolling away like a sack of manure after the story and smirked. “Very well. So Li Zhiyuan has indeed arrived. But we are the Sky Dragons! We are not like the Aquilas or the Brotherhood of the Cardinal Points! If he thinks that we’re weaklings just like the others, then he’s in for a big mistake! Make ready our preparation for this special guest, men! The reckoning is at hand!”
A tumultuous roar of approval resounded from the Sky Dragons.
Every one of them left to get ready.
Sky Dragonroost turned from a palace decorated for a jubilee into a fortress armed to the teeth.
Seated atop his throne in the great hall of his stronghold, the Dragon Master Lü Song squinted his eyes with full anticipation as he rubbed the arm of his chair, a sneer lined across his composed and relaxed demeanor.
Below the dais where his throne perched were rows of Sky Dragon champions and some of his allies that had decided to stay, flanking the middle aisle and seated according to their prestige and seniority. The sheer number of the warriors that filled the hall alone already was a powerful army in its own right one that was waiting to unleash its fury upon the man who dared to incur the Dragon Master’s wrath.
“He’s here! Li Zhiyuan’s here!”
Ten minutes later, the scouts overlooking the battlements hurried into the hall to report what they saw.
It was what everyone was expecting, but certainly, not one that they were happy to hear. Immediately the entire hall turned tense and grim.
Outside Sky Dragonroost.
Li Mu peered at the boy who was panting to keep up with the fyresteed’s pace and nodded imperceptibly with approval. “That is Sky Dragonroost just up ahead. Are you afraid?”
Shen Jia gazed into the distance and beheld the well-guarded stronghold of the Sky Dragons whose looming presence could make any boy hover in fear. But instead, his eyes flared with rage and rancor. “No.”
“And you trust me?”
“Whether I trust you or not is no longer relevant now,” said Shen Jia, “I’ve done whatever I could, so you’re my last gamble. If you can’t kill Lü Song, then you might as well let him kill me and be done with it.”
Whatever it was Shen Jia had endured, it has turned him into a boy of steely calmness that no one else his age could match.
“Very well,” Li Mu responded, “So be it then.”
He nudged his fyresteed into a quick walk up to the entrance of Sky Dragonroost.
A middle-aged man was there, waiting for him. Fitted in a cuirass chased with the Sky Dragon sigil, the stern and proud warrior saluted. “I am Wu San, a Warden of the Sky Dragons, here to receive you, Li Zhiyuan. The Grand Master is inside, awaiting your arrival. Please come with me.”
Shen Jia stared at Li Mu with disbelief, his gaze laced with shock and hope.
“So, he really is a famous champion after all?!
“That must mean that my wish might come true just yet!”
“Lead the way.”
Li Mu urged his fyresteed along, entering the threshold of the stronghold’s portcullis.
Shen Jia clenched his fists. Like a wolfling bent on revenge, he followed closely behind Li Mu, full of purpose and conviction.
On the other side of the walls of the fortress were countless men wielding swords, sabers, and spears, as well as bowmen and crossbowmen that surveyed their progress with watchful eyes and hands ready to set their missiles loose.
Five hundred Sky Dragons, each furnished with sabers and battleaxes, flanked the main terrace of the stronghold that stretched deep into its center court.
“This way please, sir.”
Wu San beckoned with a flourishing gesture.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
The Sky Dragons all moved as one, holding out their weapons that they stuck out over the main terrace like briars in a blackberry patch. Only, instead of thorns, was steel shining cold and deadly in the bright sunshine.
“Oh?” Li Mu tugged at the reins of his fyresteed and paused. “So this is your brand of hospitality?”
Wu San smiled wryly, “Surely you’re not daunted by such a simple set-up, sir?”
Li Mu scoffed. “I have no interest in parlor tricks. Get Lü Song out here. What do you think you are? A really powerful order that all men should fear? You’re just a lesser order that commands only fear, not respect. Enough with the show-off.”
“How dare you, Li Zhiyuan…” Wu San growled with indignation.
Li Mu placed a finger on his lips to gesture for silence, “Quiet, Wu San. One more word and you’ll never see the daylight again.”
Wu San immediately felt the threat veiled behind those words and his voice instantly failed him.
“Show yourself, Lü Song. If what you have here is the entirety of your order’s might, you might as well show yourself and be done with it instead of wasting my time with these parlor tricks,” Li Mu voiced boomed like rolling thunder through every chamber and every corridor in Sky Dragonroost using magic to amplify his voice.
Lü Song opened his eyes as soon as he heard Li Mu’s message, his composed facade melting away. His eyes seethed with rage and malice as he snorted coldly, “Mongrel pup looks like he could use some lessons in manners. I might as well bury him here so that no one would dare attempt such a stunt ever again! Come with me, everyone!”
The champions and the Sky Dragons’ allies all spewed out of the fortress’s main hall like a pouring tide.
The mob of warriors surrounded Li Mu and Shen Jia in a ring of steel with their weapons drawn and their lust for blood in full swing.
Shen Jia arched his back and growled in response to the threat encircling them like a cornered beast ready for a desperate do-or-die, his eyes staring at Lü Song fixedly.
“What do you have to say?” Li Mu asked Shen Jia.
“I have received your gift, Li Zhiyuan,” Lü Song smirked wickedly, “But I daresay, heh heh heh heh, you seem to lack the ability to deliver your threat.”
“Do you have anything to say, boy?” Li Mu repeated.
Only then did Shen Jia manage to regain his senses. “Nothing. I want Lü Song dead. That’s all,” he replied word after word as if speaking was a strenuous exertion to him.
Only then did everyone realize that was going on. Li Mu was speaking to the boy while they were both ignoring the Grand Master!
Lü Song’s face darkened like ash as he swallowed his rage.
“What’s your sister’s name?”
“Shen Xiaoyue,” replied Shen Jia.
“Very well,” Li Mu nodded.
Then he vanished. Like a big but swift vulture, he was already in the air, bearing down on his target. He ripped his weapon out of its scabbard and in just one steely flash as quick and intense as a lightning bolt, Lü Song’s head left its perch amid a trailing streak of blood and dropped to the ground. There was no need for more talk and more pretense.
One blow to resolve the fight.
No one could even react before they realized the fight was over the moment it began.
“KILL HIM!” a voice screamed hysterically.
Li Mu landed but his saber did not stop, plunging into a whirl of violent and successive flourishes with his blade.
Blistering-white energy scythes burst out in an eruption of steam and vapor that the scythes sliced through. But that was not all that energy blades cleaved through—the blows blasted through the mob, felling the allied champion and all other Sky Dragons who were surrounding him, reducing them to disembodied torsos and severed limbs like a farmer mowing down wheat with a sickle.
Blood slithered down the length of Li Mu’s blade like tiny crimson serpents before dripping onto the floor into puddles and streams of morbid red slick.
It was just a matter of minutes and scores of warriors Class IV and above were turned into what was a gruesome sprawl of maimed and mangled bodies all around Li Mu and Shen Jia. None one survived.
That left only a handful of low-tiered Sky Dragons still alive. Cowering in a corner and shivering in fright, they wept and choked on their own tears and snot, sitting in the very puddles of blood that came from their own comrades. Beaten and disheartened, none of them could pick up their weapons and fight, let alone look straight at Li Mu in the eye and avenge the dead.
Li Mu ran the blade of his weapon on Lü Song’s dead body, using his tunic to wipe away the blood before sheathing his weapon.
The Sky Dragons were nothing more than just a band of brigands and bandits who raped and reaved with impunity. They were one of the few factions who were complicit in the plot to kill him and the rest of the Creed of Divinity when they were hurrying back to the fastness of their stronghold after the fateful day where he was defeated and crippled. Six Creed of Divinity acolytes were killed by them, trampled and crushed to their deaths using horses and for this sacrilege, Li Mu could never forgive them.
He would exact vengeance upon all who slighted the Creed of Divinity.
That was the final wish of Li Zhiyuan before he breathed his last, his single most important regret.
And for that, Li Mu was obliged and honor-bound to fulfill it in his stead.
Meanwhile, the boy Shen Jia was shuddering and convulsing involuntarily as he struggled to keep his urge to vomit suppressed. From the looks of it, this could be the first time he saw a scene so gory and terrifying.
He expected nothing of this sort. He thought that he would be here to see a fierce fight.
A fierce fight between Li Mu and Lü Song. Truth be told, he did not anticipate that Li Mu would triumph against the Dragon Master. Li Mu looked just too young to be able to defeat a powerful warrior in his prime. But give him so much as a tiny opening, Shen Jia would gladly sink his teeth into Lü Song, even if that would mean his certain death.
He certainly did not think that he would be witnessing a massacre.
Li Mu returned to the saddle of his fyresteed. His gaze panned and descended upon a minor lieutenant of the Sky Dragons. “Go to your dungeons and get a girl called Shen Xiaoyue. You have ten minutes.”
“Yes, of course, sir!” stuttered the lieutenant, slinking away hastily to gather his men to help.
Shen Jia looked at Li Mu, feeling grateful and pleased.
The lieutenant came back not long later, looking rather distraught. He was not alone, but it was not a girl, but rather a woman who looked like she was in her forties. “I’m afraid the girl you’re looking for is no longer here, sir,” he stuttered, “This is Mrs. Zheng. She’s in charge of the female staff in this stronghold. She can attest to what I just said.”
“What?!” Shen Jia yelled with shock. Like a hysterical beast, he threw himself forward and grabbed the similarly-distressed Mrs. Zheng. “Where is she?! You must be lying! Where is she!? She must be here! Give her back to me, I demand it!”
“Please, sir! Please! This is not my fault! Ms. Shen was sold to Rydorburg just after her tenth day here. It’s been a year since we’ve last seen her…” Mrs. Zheng squealed.
Girls captured and abducted by the Sky Dragons were usually raped and molested before they were sold off either as servant girls or prostitutes to entertain guests at brothels.
“What are you thinking about?”
Li Mu asked from the back of his fyresteed without so much as a look back at Shen Jia nor the flame-engulfed Sky Dragonroost now being slowly razed to the ground brick by brick.
Shen Jia had found himself a mount too: a handsome white stallion. Grasping tightly his reins, he said firmly, “My sister must be alive. I’m sure of it. I’m going to Rydorburg. No matter what cost it’ll take and how long I need, I’ll find her. I’ll find her and bring her home.”
“Do you wish to learn how to defend yourself?”
“Come with me then.”
“We’ll ride together and you’ll see with your own eyes what a world we live in. After all, I’m riding for Rydorburg myself.”
The city where the Priory of the Four Seas made its roots and built its main stronghold.
“In just one month, Li Zhiyuan has been riding north, putting to the sword all members of the Aquilas, the Brotherhood, the Sky Dragons, the Leviathans, the Warriors Guild, and Fort Flowendic, totaling up to sixteen militant orders and sects that he had decimated. He had killed three Class VII champions, twenty-one Class VI champions, and countless other Class Vs to date. Thirteen out of the sixteen orders and sects that he had destroyed were once our allies during the assassination of Grand Master Ye, the former Grand Master of the Creed. The remaining three were just brigands and marauders that he stumbled upon.”
That was the Emerald Prelate, one of the four main prelates that led the Priory of the Four Seas. The Emerald Prelate peered at the rest of the Priory’s high council. “He’s unstoppable,” remarked the Emerald Prelate. “I believe he’s even more powerful than what we gave him credit for.”
“Has he gone mad? Isn’t he afraid about people calling for his blood?” asked the Obsidian Prelate before he remarked, “Not that I’m complaining. Arcusstone will not easily forgive this and deal with him while saving us the trouble.”
“Allowing Arcusstone to deal with him might save us a lot of trouble, but the world might see this as weakness. Our reputation might suffer. How are we supposed to plan our rise to take over Arcusstone and become the greatest order here in the Northern Steppes without respect from our peers?” snorted the Amethyst Prelate coldly.
The High Patriarch of the Priory, an elderly man who had been listening in with his eyes closed opened them at last, his voice booming from his seat, the Iron Chair. “Where is Li Zhiyuan right now?”
“A thousand miles from Rydorburg. He should arrive here by sunrise if there were no delays,” reported the Topaz Prelate
“So be it then. I want to see his head by sunrise tomorrow. I want to see his head hanging outside the gates of our stronghold, no matter the means, no matter the costs. If a lowly order like the Creed of Divinity could demand vengeance for our slaying of their Grand Master, then we, the Priory of the Four Seas will no longer be an order to be feared and respected by others.”
The High Patriarch broke into a satisfied but no less wicked grin.