Chapter 38: Sacrificial Stab
The next couple of days went smoothly. They managed to leave the desert, and every youngster, Xue Wei included, was brimming with curiosity as they observed their surroundings.
They had lived in Tiankong City their entire lives, and the desert was located next to it.
Although they had left the desert, the warm weather persisted, and all of them were sweating to keep up with the Captain.
"I don't feel good about this trip," The captain said to his next-in-command as they rushed forward as fast as the youngsters were capable of following.
"We’ve already encountered a giant Sand Snake in the middle of the desert, which is the safest of all the areas. We already lost one hundred and sixty-nine youngsters, and that is before we’ve even reached the bandit-infested areas or the forests filled with magical beasts that'll attack us at night."
"Us guards will be able to keep our little lives, but those youngsters will be in mortal danger time and time again."
"I know that it will help those who survive in becoming less of a weakling, but at the same time I cannot help but feel that something is aiming for us. My senses are tingling and have been since we began. There is a constant danger looming over our group."
Hearing the captain speak, the next-in-command was pale. He was after all an Earth Warrior. If something that threatened a Sky Warrior was present, it meant that they, the leaders of the group, would also be in significant danger.
"Do you have any idea as to why this is?" the next-in-command asked the captain, but the latter shook his head.
"I don't know," he said honestly. "I have had a bad feeling since we left Tiankong City so it might just be my bad nerves and the knowledge that we will experience some battles throughout our journey."
"Although humans, in general, are on the same side, there will always be bandits, and these bandit groups number up to a couple of thousands of bandits in each group."
"Such bandit groups will not be scared away by our numbers. Those little nobles will have quite a bit of treasure on them, and although we guards will be hard to deal with, they will have enough people to keep us occupied while they charge at the youngsters."
The next-in-command was quiet. He had also transported youngsters more than three times, but he had never experienced as bloody a start as now.
"Maybe we might get lucky," he sighed eventually. "We can do nothing but hope that our luck will return. If it doesn’t, then we will fight to the best of our ability."
"One of the recruits is quite strong, too. I saw him fight against the snakes; he killed hundreds of them, but the downside was that it looked as if he was enjoying himself."
"We need strong warriors, but those that lose themselves to the fight are not necessarily great warriors, as they rely too much on instincts and not enough on their senses and a calm mind."
The captain nodded his head, "I have heard about him. He is that piece of trash who turned genius overnight. I guess he is filled with pent-up frustrations from when he was treated like trash and as a result releases his feelings while fighting. After a bit of time, he should be able to keep himself under control again."
"But although he is strong, he is at most equal to a weak Earth Warrior. This in itself is already a great achievement for someone in the Ordinary Warrior rank, but at the same time, it might not be much help against the bandits. Still, his survivability compared to the others is much higher, since he even managed to escape from He Tong."
The two spoke with low voices, and no one else could hear what they said. It was no problem for them to talk and move at the same time as their strength was far above the typical youngsters that were running and thus they often discussed the situation.
The group marched past a barren land that bordered to the desert. Dry grass was on both sides of the road, and little vegetation could be seen on the flat ground, as everything had withered because of the high levels of sunshine and low level of humidity.
The gravel on the road crunched under their thousands of feet, dust was kicked up, and some coughed as they had no water with them.
From time to time, the entourage would make stops at small streams to fill their canteens. Those who did not have canteens would drink their fill and hope to last until the next time they had a water stop, which was roughly once a day.
They had no food with them either, but they had slain thousands of Sand Snakes, and many had brought some of the meat with them. Although it could not last long, it could last longer than mortal beast meat, and so far it was still fresh.
Making fires and roasting the snakes was the option of many of the youngsters in the group, while Xue Wei just stuck to his dried meat.
They were relatively safe in the open landscape of the barren land. It was flat and stretched out as far as the eye could see. No one was capable of making an ambush here, only some underground beasts could cause some problems. However, just as before, if beasts were on their way, then the ground would tremor to warn them.
The next couple of days, the group advanced slowly through the landscape. The barren land turned into a forest, and they slowed down. The captain walked with light steps, and his senses were on high alert.
This was a bandit-infested location where one knew that there were quite a lot of bandits, but there were also a lot of Fierce Beasts in these forests. Although most of them would stay away from such a large group of people, the strongest beasts might be alerted and attack them.
They were still walking on a road that cut straight through the forest, but no one spoke although the speed at which they traveled had been slowed down. Everyone looked around them, and Xue Wei had his senses heightened to their limits as he had a feeling that something was wrong.
The eerie silence in the forest did not last long. They continued walking for half a day when they suddenly came to a stop.
"We have been surrounded," The captain said with a loud voice, "It is bandits this time, and they will be even more ferocious than the Sand Snakes from last time. Take everything you have learned from your last fight and try to survive!"
The captain instantly drew his weapon, and everyone else followed suit, except Xue Wei who closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
He could feel the urge to do battle rise in him again. But this time he had been prepared, and he used his calm and collected part of his soul to overwhelm the other part.
"I will not let you out unless I am on the verge of death!" Xue Wei said to himself. He did not like the part of him who found pleasure in killing others.
Just as they had drawn their weapons, Xue Wei sensed that the bandits were moving. Suddenly, the crowns of the trees next to them were black from bandits that were standing on the treetops. Some jumped down on the ground, some stayed in the tree crowns, but there were at least as many bandits as there were people in their group of new recruits.
These bandits also varied in strength from the third layer of the Ordinary Warrior rank to the first and second layer of the Earth Warrior rank.
On top of this was their leader who was at the ninth layer of the Earth Warrior rank. Although he was weaker than the captain of the group of youngsters, overall, the bandits held the advantage in strength.
"Brothers! We will interfere with their captain, the rest of you kill and pillage. If there are pretty girls, just wound them and let us take them back with us!" the bandit leader yelled out. Fifteen of his men, all at the ninth layer of the Earth Warrior rank, jumped down from high above in the trees and surrounded the captain.
"KILL!" someone yelled out, and all of them rushed towards the youngsters. Some of the youngsters were terrified, their faces pale and their hands that held their weapons trembling, while others looked excited.
After experiencing the first life-and-death battle against the sand snakes, the youngsters were split into two groups. One was terrified and had a hard time moving and defending themselves, while the other was excited and filled to the brim with confidence.
In the army, this was precisely the way these two groups were. One was cowardly and feared death and more likely to be killed, while the other consisted of energized and excited experts. They were dancing on the blade of a sword, ready to fall into the abyss, but this was what made them feel alive.
Xue Wei was also one who was eager to do battle. He wanted to fight; he wanted to feel the blood boil in his body, feel the strength soar and the feeling of having someone else's life and death in his hands. He wanted to kill.
Xue Wei sat down on the ground and made a zither from Qi. After this, he started playing on it as note after note followed by shockwaves exploded out and pushed back a whole group of bandits, causing three of them to vomit blood on the spot.
Another note was released and with it a shockwave, yet this time it was not aiming for a full group of bandits but for two of the experts that had been pushed back.
The shockwave was sharp like a blade, and it headed straight for the heads of the two experts. One of them could feel the tremor of the air proving that it was on the way, and managed to lift his weapon just in time to block the attack, while the other never noticed what happened before his head was severed from his neck, blood spurting out as his head rolled away.
"Hmm, the zither is a great weapon. I can use the soundwaves in every way I wish, but my experience with the zither is too low. I need to try using the sword," Xue Wei decided after some time and stood up. The zither morphed into a sword made from Qi, and without noticing it, a smile had once again emerged on Xue Wei's face.
Xue Wei started walking slowly towards the outskirts of the group of youngsters. This was where the bandits were most numerous, and he wished to display his skills to their limits. Sacrificial Stab was an attack he had learned just before leaving Tiankong City, and it was one of the superior attacks that he had picked from among the ones in the ring his uncle had given him.
Sacrificial Stab was an attack that sacrificed the soul of the killed to the ancient god. In return, Xue Wei would be given a divine boon to increase his strength, and according to what he had understood from the technique, this boon stacked.
"I never had a proper time to try it out," Xue Wei smirked. "Sacrificial Stab requires the soul of a human to be sacrificed so it is not as useful as one might think, but against such a massive group of bandits, this is indeed the perfect attack to try out."
Everyone who saw the smile on Xue Wei's face felt a chill run down their spines, but at the same time, they felt relieved. As long as Xue Wei started acting, many of the enemies would be wiped out, and the pressure on the rest of them would be lessened.