LOOG Chapter – 59

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Chapter 59: Scroll Painting

“Dammit!” growled Geng Long, throwing another knife into a nearby tree trunk, which was already somewhat of a pincushion. “The Bone General is certainly taking his damn time getting back here. And how the hell did Bao survive that Vosh Sap poison? Fuck!”

“Enough with the language,” the Golden Immortal growled in irritation.

Geng Long snorted. “Fuck you. I’ll talk however I damn well please.” He threw another knife.

“The Bone General will return when he feels like returning. In the meantime, we have a decision to make. Now that Bao and Sunan are out in the open and moving, should we strike?”

“Why wouldn’t we? If we don’t get them now, it will only get harder. They might be marching south for now, but it’s not like their destination is Yao Gong palace.”

The Bone General looked down at the map he’d spread out on the ground. “But where are they going? It would have made more sense to just head directly west into the Kushen Basin.”

Geng Long squatted down next to the map and pointed to a certain spot in the mountains further to the south. “My guess is here. There’s a story I heard about how Supreme Judge Yu once fought some Mountain God. Supposedly, Supreme Judge Yu threw his spear, but the Mountain God dodged it, and the spear stabbed into the mountains. It was such a powerful blow that it hewed out a valley from here–” he pointed at a spot near to the Banyan Mountains “–all the way to the Earthly Sea, which your map doesn’t even show.”

“A valley that goes from the Banyan Mountains all the way to the Earthly Sea? That’s over 1,000 kilometers! Maybe even 2,000!”

Geng Long shrugged. “It’s just a story, but I’ve talked to people who’ve entered the valley before. If it really leads all the way to the Earthly Sea, then Sunan and that bitch could have a straight path to freedom.” With that, he rose to his feet and walked over to the tree trunk, where he started plucking his knives out of the wood.

The Golden Immortal continued to study the map. “You said you have some tricks up your sleeve?”

Geng Long chuckled. “Finally got the balls to attack them, huh? Yeah I have some tricks. The Dark Cloud bandits’ headquarters isn’t too far away from here, I can get in touch with them if I have to. They have about 500 men ready to fight, more if I ask them to call in their reserves.”

“How could such a huge force of bandits exist right under the shadow of Yao Gong Palace?”

“The Demon Emperor has a lot of trump cards hidden here and there. This is one of them, and luckily for us, under the command of the Bone General. In addition to the Dark Cloud bandits, I have this….” He produced an ornate-looking scroll case, crafted from wood and carved with terrifying-looking creatures and beasts.

“What’s that?”

“Magic. Dark magic. If you’re serious about attacking them, this this will ensure our victory. There’s no way that Sunan and Bao can deal with an army of demons from the underworld.”

**

Hui leaned back against the tree and pushed her hand down over the wound on her thigh, hoping to staunch some of the blood flow. She had other more superficial cuts and wounds, ensuring that her gray robe was now more than half-soaked with blood. But the thigh wound was the worst of all. Hui could tell that the stab of the Love General’s spear had missed the major blood vessel, otherwise she would already have passed out and would most likely be dead.

I was careless, she thought. Careless and unlucky. I can’t believe Ogres are this strong. Maybe I should have just spoken to Sunan and Bao directly….

The Love General stood over her, spear leveled at in the direction of her throat.

Hui looked up at her with a grimace and said, “Well, go ahead and do it.”

The Love General looked down at her for a moment, then waved her hand, causing the spear to shrink back down into the form of an ebony hairpin, which she placed into her sleeve. “I have no desire to kill you. What I said was the truth. I’m here to watch over Sunan.”

Hui wasn’t sure what to think of this. “But why? You’re one of the Ogre Generals! It’s your scheming that led to the Slaughter of the Yangu Plains!”

The Love General frowned. “Slaughter of Yangu Plains? Are you mad? The King of the Pure Ones hasn’t even sent a single soldier to the Yangu Plains.”

Hui shook her head to try to clear it. “You will be responsible. In the future.”

“In the future? What are you? A prophet? An Immortal?”

“It doesn’t matter. Even if you don’t kill me, I’m still dead. I’ll bleed to death unless someone treats this wound.”

The Love General looked down at Hui for another long moment, then reached into her robe and produced a medicinal pill bottle. “Crush these pills into a paste and apply it to the wound. You’ll recover within a few days.”

She tossed the pill bottle down to Hui.

“Why are you doing this?” Hui asked.

“I don’t know who you are or where you come from, but I can see you mean Sunan no harm. For the moment, that’s enough for me to trust you. Unfortunately, you lack fighting experience, and eventually, Sunan himself will surpass you. How will you help him then?”

Hui looked at the medicinal pill bottle for a moment, then back up at the Love General. “Knowledge.”

The Love General’s eyes narrowed for a moment, and then she nodded. “Don’t get in my way again.”

With that, she lowered into a crouch, then leaped up into the air, transforming back into a beautiful Zhen Bird which slowly flew higher and higher into the evening sky.

**

The two sects continued to march south through the unnamed mountains. Considering how far away they were from the most populated and “civilized” parts of the empire, these mountains were considered relatively wild lands. No maps existed that Sunan and Bao could procure, so they were forced to send out scouts and rely on the information brought back before making decisions about the exact path of travel.

One morning, as the sun was just rising, Sunan suddenly sneezed and woke up. After opening his eyes, he found an envelope lying next to him on the ground, with his name written on the front in flowing calligraphy. Upon opening the envelope, he found a piece of thin paper folded inside with the following message.

Sunan: The Golden Immortal leads bandits and soldiers to attack you from the east and south. Lead your people into the ravine to the west. Hurry.

Not bothering to wake Bao, he went directly to Wang Tian and showed him the message. Wang Tian didn’t need any orders. He immediately woke four of the Eyes of the Phoenix and sent them out to scout.

Sunan inquired of the guards on duty, but none of them had seen anyone enter or exit his tent. After the Eyes of the Phoenix left, Sunan finally went to wake Bao.

When she saw the message, she frowned. “This calligraphy looks like it was written by a woman.”

Sunan frowned. “Perhaps. Sun Mai’s calligraphy is fairly flowery, and he’s not a woman.”

“True,” Bao replied. “Whether it’s a man or woman doesn’t matter too much. Whoever it was, how did they get a message into your tent? And how do they know that the Golden Immortal is leading troops our way?”

No amount of supposition or theorization on their part led anywhere. Preferring to play things safe, they roused the camp and issued orders to prepare to march in battle formation. Dragon Lord Sima Zikang’s decision to train in military formations during their time at Mount Fohe had not been a waste.

Even as the camp was being cleared and the ranks were forming, the scouts returned from the east and south, within minutes of each other.

“Chieftess. Sect Leader. It’s true. There seem to be about 400 hundred men marching on us from the south.”

“There are men coming from the east, too. Perhaps 300.”

The two sects immediately began to march to the west. Not too much time passed before the scout returned from that direction.

“Chieftess. Sect Leader. There is indeed a ravine to the west. It seems like an ideal location to hole up for a fight. I rode the length of the ravine, and even scouted the northern ridge. I didn’t see anything untoward.”

At this point, Bao and Sunan handed control of both sects over to Dragon Lord Sima. As they closed in on the ravine, he personally deployed the troop formations, including sending a contingent of archers to the north ridge, which was slightly higher than the south ridge.

By the time the enemy troops arrived, the two sects were completely arrayed for battle.

The enemies seemed to be mostly bandits, wearing a mish-mash of armor and carrying a variety of weapons. A few Demon Emperor soldiers could be seen among them, and in the lead of the entire force was a very familiar face: the Golden Immortal.

“Where’s Geng Long?” Bao muttered through gritted teeth.

“Who’s that?”

“The one who poisoned me,” she replied, her eyes flashing with flames of rage. “I knew him back in Yu Zhing. I expected him to be here too.”

When Sunan looked over and saw the look in Bao’s eye, he decided not to ask any more questions.

The Golden Immortal didn’t waste any time. With a simple gesture and a barked command, he sent his men charging toward the mouth of the ravine, simultaneously pinning down the archers on the north ridge with crossbow fire.

The bandits had numbers on their side, but the two sects were superior fighters, and their front line didn’t budge. In fact, it began to creep forward.

Dragon Lord Sima remained on horseback, barking out orders as necessary.

After the fighting had been going on for roughly half an hour, Dragon Lord Sima approached Bao and Sunan.

“Sect Leader. Chieftess. Something seems odd here. These bandits aren’t fighting to break our lines. They seem hesitant. Like they’re waiting for something.”

“A trap?” Bao asked.

“Perhaps.” Dragon Lord Sima looked back in the direction of the fighting. “Plus, they have hundreds of men in reserve. We may want to consider breaking through their lines and bringing the fight to the Golden Immortal.”

After observing the fighting for another minute or two, Bao looked over at Sunan. “Sect Leader, I have an idea.”

Before she had a chance to speak any further, Sunan suddenly squinted his eyes and then pointed at the south ridge. “What’s that?”

Bao and Dragon Lord Sima turned their heads.

“Is that the Bone General?!” Dragon Lord Sima exclaimed.

“No,” Bao replied. “But it’s a Bone Slicer alright. Same type of armor. That’s Geng Long!”

“What is he doing up there?”

Bao began to walk toward the south ridge. “I don’t know, but it can’t be good.”

Before she even took two steps, Geng Long cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Hey Bao, I have a little gift for you. Hope you enjoy it. Bitch!”

With that, he pulled an ornate scroll case out and then opened it. A scroll painting unfurled, although, from such a distance it was impossible to make out any details on the painting. However, the details didn’t matter. As soon as the scroll opened, the ink on its surface began to swirl and bubble. Rumbling sounds could be heard, like distant thunder, and then a shadowy figure emerged from the scroll.

It stood about knee-high, and resembled a skinned cat, with blood dripping down its exposed muscles, and a vicious-looking face complete with glowing green eyes.

Then another appeared, and another. After jumping out of the scroll painting, they began to leap off of the edge of the south ridge and scramble down the cliff-like slope.

More and more of them poured out of the painting. Soon there were ten, then twenty, then fifty. They emerged in seemingly endless waves, emitting yowling screeches that grated at the ears and tugged at the soul.

Geng Long began to laugh uproariously.

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