Chapter 360: Surrounded

The wall shone with spiritual energy, so dense the light was almost blinding at first glance. After staring at it for a moment, however, the light seemed to resolve into a warm glow.

“Is this whole wall a sage-grade spirit crystal?” Lin Qingxue asked, her eyes round and wide.

“No,” Xue Ji replied. “This outer rock layer is just a protective casing of sorts; the inner crystalline layer is the true form of the sage-grade spirit crystal.

“Let’s have at it!” Black raised the pickaxe in his hand and struck the wall. With a metallic clank, Black’s pickaxe rebounded off the wall, and Black himself took a few steps back from the impact. “Agh, it’s harder than I anticipated.” Black shook his wrist: the rebound from the blow was so strong that it had jolted his wrist numb.

“Let me try.” Fatty frowned and struck the wall with his steel chisel, leaving not a single mark. “What now? It’s right in front of us, but we can’t get to it!”

Zhuo Yifeng stepped forward and felt the wall with his palm. The chilling sensation of ice seeped into his skin, and he blinked. “Ruoyan, try using your spiritual sword.”

Yun Ruoyan nodded and stepped forward with her sword. The moment the Scarlet Eye’s radiant, fiery aura met the cold jade-like wall, it parted as though it were tofu. The crowd gaped in amazement as Yun Ruoyan cut away the outer layer of stone, leaving a small spirit crystal, the size of an egg, behind.

Yun Ruoyan reached out for the crystal. It felt as though all the pores on her skin had opened wide, that she was sucking in spiritual energy at such a remarkable rate that her spiritual vortex would be refilled even without any conscious effort on her part.

Just as Yun Ruoyan was enjoying the near-miraculous sensation, someone suddenly called out, “Why’s there smoke? What’s going on?”

Yun Ruoyan broke out of her reverie. A large quantity of smoke was headed their way from the mine shaft they had just passed through. As the smoke grew denser and denser, people began to cough.

“Not good—I bet someone started a fire outside the mine shaft trying to smoke us all out!” Zhuo Yifeng exclaimed.

The cultivators, unable to bear the smoke any longer, began running out of the mine shaft despite the possibility that they might be heading into an ambush.

“Zhuo Yifeng,” Yun Ruoyan shouted, even as she ran. “Later, no matter what happens, make sure you protect Qingxue well.”

Zhuo Yifeng looked back at Yun Ruoyan. Before he could reply, they heard a familiar male voice coming from the entrance to the shaft.

“All you groundhogs inside, prepare to die!”

When Yun Ruoyan and the others rushed out of the shaft and kicked aside the burning kindling that had been placed outside the entrance to the shaft, they found a troop of ten riders staring viciously at them. 

“You dare slaughter my swordsmen and steal my family’s spirit crystals? Prepare to die!” The man who spoke was dressed in a flaming red robe, his smile malicious and full of killing intent. His aura was fully unleashed.

There was only one situation in which cultivators would fully unleash their auras: when they were intent on fully decimating their foes!

“Who’s this?” Fatty asked. “His aura’s surprisingly strong. He’s a sword saint, isn’t he?”

“He’s Pi Batian, the young master of the Pi family and a second-rank sword saint,” Zhuo Yifeng replied.

Everyone gasped. All of them combined would be no match for him.

“No, this can’t be! I just filled up a whole bag of high-grade spirit crystals. I won’t die before I use them all up!” Fatty cried.

“Now that it’s come to this, let’s split up and try to protect ourselves,” Yun Ruoyan instructed. She turned to Lin Qingxue. “Hide behind me when they approach.”

Lin Qingxue nodded. She seemed particularly calm: although she was anxious, she wasn’t debilitated by fear.

“Yun Ruoyan, if you surrender with your men, your life might yet be spared!” Pi Yang shouted.

Pi Batian glanced at Pi Yang. “The crime for killing our swordsmen and trying to steal our spirit crystals is death.”

“Brother, you might not know this, but Yun Ruoyan’s Li Mo’s wife. Aren’t you trying to get Li Mo to submit to you? With this woman in hand, you won’t have to worry about his disobeying your command.”

“Is that so?” Pi Batian narrowed his eyes at Yun Ruoyan. “Men, leave only that girl in white alive. Kill all the other groundhogs!”

The swordsmen rushed at Yun Ruoyan’s group with drawn weapons.

“Everyone, spread out!” Yun Ruoyan called out, and the group instantly dispersed. Those cultivators who had had their weapons snatched away the moment they entered the otherworld fell to the swordsmen as easily as farmers reaping the harvest. A few minutes into the chase, over half the group had already perished.

Those who were still able to fly immediately took to the skies, but some of the swordsmen followed them up.

Fatty, on a pair of chopsticks, and Black, on a large cleaver, hovered in the path of a swordsman standing on a sword glowing with mud-yellow light.

“Xue Ji, leave first!” Fatty called out.

“We’ll leave together or die together!” Xue Ji called back. Instead of leaving, she formed a barrier with the two men. The swordsman they were facing was a peak ninth-rank blademaster who had unleashed his aura in its entirety.

“I’ll gladly fulfill your wish!” He pulled out two hammers imbued with a mud-yellow aura and smashed them toward Fatty and Black. Both men tried to defend with the weapons in their hands, but those weapons were easily knocked aside.

Xue Ji darted to the swordsman’s back, conjured a sword of ice, and pierced the swordsman’s back. “You’ll pay the price for underestimating us!” She then conjured an icy dagger and slit the man’s throat.

“Xue Ji, we have to leave!” Black and Fatty grabbed Xue Ji and began to fly off. Not a hundred feet away, however, they heard what sounded like a crack of lightning and were forced to stop: Pi Batian was standing in front of them. He was dressed in red, with red sword aura glowing by his feet, and a scarlet whip dancing in his hands.

He drew the whip, which crackled along its length and shone with a blood-red light. “Die, groundhogs.” With a crack of his whip, faster than lightning, the three cultivators were encased in a red glow.

Yun Ruoyan and the others glanced warily at the scene. Xue Ji, Fatty, and Black could offer no shred of resistance: when the red glow vanished, their half-charred bodies fell from mid-air and landed right by Yun Ruoyan’s side.

“Sister Ruoyan, Brother Zhuo, they’re…” Lin Qingxue’s voice was quavering.

“They’re dead,” Zhuo Yifeng replied solemnly.”

“A frightening man with a frightening cultivation… Zhuo Yifeng, I have the highest cultivation among us three. Let me stop him—run off with Qingxue!”

“Ruoyan…”

“Sister Ruoyan!”

Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue called out together.

“It’s either that or having all three of us die!” Yun Ruoyan unsheathed her Scarlet Eye and flew toward Pi Batian. 

“You foolish woman, are you courting death?!” Pi Yang shouted from below.

“I’ll end this indiscriminate slaughter of yours,” Yun Ruoyan challenged. However, Pi Batian didn’t seem to register her words. His eyes were focused on the sword in her hands.

“What a beautiful sword,” Pi Batian murmured. “I didn’t want to kill you, but I do want the sword in your hands.” He cracked his whip. Yun Ruoyan swung her sword, but the difference in cultivation was apparent. The force of the whip, blunted though it might be by her swing, crashed against Yun Ruoyan. She plummeted to the ground and skidded before finally regaining her footing.

“Sister Ruoyan!” Lin Qingxue shouted. 

When Yun Ruoyan turned to see Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue standing still, she shouted angrily, “You fools, what are you doing?! Scram! Zhuo Yifeng, if Qingxue gets hurt, I won’t forgive you!”

Pi Batian cracked his whip at Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue.

“And you, don’t you dare hurt my family!” Yun Ruoyan swung her Scarlet Eye and deflected much of the blow. Just as it seemed the residual force would strike Zhuo Yifeng, a shield suddenly appeared before him.

Then, without further hesitation, Zhuo Yifeng dragged Lin Qingxue away on his sword.

“They really escaped…” Pi Yang opened his eyes wide as he stared at Zhuo Yifeng and Lin Qingxue’s backs. As far as he could remember, he had never seen anyone escape from his brother’s clutches. He prayed for Yun Ruoyan: she would have to bear the full brunt of his ire...

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