The night’s odor was gloomy and unusual; the silence had its own unique sound
The mountain range seemed to be forming shadows of enormous beasts, stirring and lying in ambush all around us.
The easy-to-defend Xu castle, after going through five days of defense, had eventually reached the limit.
Although Xu family elders spared no efforts while building the Xu castle, they never expected their predecessors to encounter such a situation.
Under the cooperation of the four leaders of horse bandits, there were actually more than five thousand bandits, which further had five tenth layer experts and more than ten ninth layer experts.
None of the influential families in Tai Cang county could resist such an enormous power.
Five days. For a full five days, under the lead of He Wude and Xu Yinjie, all the core members of the three families had taken turns to fight. Almost every one of them was injured and at the point of exhaustion.
They had already lost count how many times they had repelled the horse bandits’ assault. As of now, the corpses of horse bandits amassed under the Xu castle had almost reached the frightening number of a thousand. Among these thousand bandits, there was no lack of seventh and eighth layer cultivators, and even two ninth layer experts. Such heavy casualties made the leaders of the horse bandits extremely furious, but at the same time, also firmed their determination to wipe out of Xu castle.
At this moment, everybody inside the Xu castle knew that if Xu castle was breached, not a single one of had any chance of surviving.
A blood-curling scream sounded on the wall. In the quiet night sky, the sound travelled for miles. However, the surrounding people acted as if they hadn’t heard anything; not even sparing a glance in that direction.
Xu Yinjie softly patted his hands. His thin, dried-up face had caved in, making him look like a ghost in the dark night. Wherever he passed by, the younger generation of all three families straightened their chests; their gazes on this dried-up, bamboo pole like old man filled with admiration and gratitude.
During the night, he’d killed seven horse bandits that had sneaked onto the wall. If this old man had not kept watch without caring for himself, their defense would have already crumbled.
However, looking at the three families’ blood soaked young generation, Xu Yinjie’s heart was quite heavy.
His vision fell upon the city wall which already had several openings. Even the combined strength of three families couldn’t fill this gap.
The horse bandits had come too abruptly, and their strength was also too high.
“Brother Xu, you’ve killed one again- more than one compared to the result of my yesterday’s battle.”
An aged voice came from a different direction. He Wude walked over in big strides. Cheng Zhusheng followed right behind with a big smile on his face.
It seemed as if he wasn’t walking on a blood-covered wall that had gone through a battle of several days, but that beautiful garden back at his home.
The surrounding young disciples, spongers, and attendants involuntarily felt refreshed after seeing his smile, seeming as if a lot of the fatigue accumulated over the past few days was dissolved.
Xu Yinjie nodded at them, and the three tacitly walked over to a corner. With a wave of a hand from Xu Yinjie, the few people that had been guarding there immediately bowed and left in quick steps.
Although there were only three old men here, these were the three most powerful individuals in Tai Cang county.
If some horse bandits tried to breach through at this moment, they would undoubtedly be following the path to their own deaths.
Along with a light from a huge torch, distant gazes fell on them. The light rays illuminated Cheng Zhusheng’s face; his splendid smile sending a clear message.
However, although the latter’s smile didn’t change, the words that came out of his mouth weren’t funny in the least, “Brother Xu, the situation tonight seems somewhat too abnormal.”
“Yes, I also feel the same. They have already begun to gather horses and people below.”
Xu Yinjie spoke in a cold and detached tone. There wasn’t a trace of expression on this old man’s face. However, nobody felt it was strange at all, because everybody knew that he cultivated Withered Tree technique. His face without emotion was natural; if he were to learn to smile like Cheng Zhusheng, that would simply make one feel as if the heavens were about to collapse.
He Wude let out a sigh. His back stood perfectly straight. After spending more than eighty years of his life experiencing hardships, he was still brimming with vitality; hardly any different than young men.
“If we aren’t misreading, they will probably launch an all-out attack tomorrow morning,” His gaze fell upon the destroyed regions, “I’m afraid this time, we truly might not be able to resist.”
The other two didn’t say a word, but their eyes tacitly showed agreement.
Cheng Zhusheng suddenly said, “Brother He, brother Xu, I have a suggestion. You mind hearing it?”
“Speak,” He Wude said in a lowered voice.
“This time the three influential families have come across a disaster. However, we can’t truly be exterminated just like this. If you don’t oppose, I wish to gather the most outstanding members of our third generation and separate them at morning. During the attack of the horse bandits, He Quanyi, Xu Xiangci, and my family’s Jiayun will lead them out of the heavy encirclement and let them escape through the back mountain trail.”
Even when he said these words, the smile on Cheng Zhusheng’s face didn’t falter in the slightest and still gave off a soothing feeling.
“Why would you pick them?” Xu Yinjie discontentedly said, “Just let Right replace Xiangci.”
“Impossible,” Cheng Zhusheng resolutely said, “I know what you’re thinking and also know Xu Right is the number one member of Xu family’s second generation. However, this is precisely the reason. If Xu Right were to do this, it would undoubtedly attract a lot of attention, and it would be the end of the only chance of the third generation’s escape.”
“Brother Cheng’s words are correct. If we are to escort the most outstanding members of our third generation out, I’m afraid that not only we can’t leave, nephew Right also has to stay here.” He Wude sighed deeply.
Cheng Zhusheng smilingly continued, “A pity, if your Xu family’s old Ancestor could return, not to mention four gangs of horse bandits, even if there were ten, we wouldn’t have to fear them at all.”
An indescribable glow flickered in Xu Yinjie’s eyes, as if he was somewhat regretful and somewhat annoyed.
“Brother Cheng, why are saying such things now?” He paused and asked, “You’ve already selected your candidates?”
“Yes,” Cheng Zhusheng said, “I’ve selected seven who’ve good state of mind and drenched their hands in blood in this battle. They ought to have room for development in the future. Entrusting Cheng family’s future in their hands, I’m fairly relieved.”
He Wude lightly shrugged and said, “Our He family’s population is sparse. After receiving the information this time, we’ve already made those with Internal Energy below the sixth layer take shelter in the mountain forest, and it’s only Quanming, Quanyi, Yihai, and Yixuan who’ve come with me. After several discussions, we’ve decided Quanyi will lead Yihai and Yixuan to try to break through the encirclement, and I will stay here with Quanming.”
Xu Yinjie’s face slightly changed as he suddenly said, “Your suggestion is alright, but I think we better have some changes.”
He Wude and Cheng Zhusheng exchanged a glance, simultaneously revealing a trace of puzzled expression, ‘Could this old man have come up with some brilliant idea? This is not like the usual him at all.”
Xu Yinjie’s voice became even lower, even the two standing right beside him had to focus in order to hear clearly.
“Tomorrow, I’ll stay behind alone. You all, leave.”
He Wude and Cheng Zhusheng simultaneously rolled their eyes, and the latter discontentedly said, “Don’t joke. If you stay behind alone, our bravado would take a huge hit. In that case, I guarantee you not a single one will escape.”
Xu Yinjie’s eyes revealed a trace of bizarre expression as he said, “Gentlemen, there is something you don’t know. Our Xu castle has a secret path leading directly to the mountains in the back. This path has existed since the day Xu castle was created. It’s just that it has never been used in these hundred years.”
He Wude and Cheng Zhusheng’s eyes shined with delight.
With the existence of such a secret path, although it was not possible to completely evacuate the castle, escorting the core members was not an issue at all.
Xu Yinjie continued, “Tomorrow early morning, these robbers will probably launch an all out attack. Seize the opportunity and leave with everybody.”
Cheng Zhusheng hesitated a bit, then asked, “What about you? Not coming with us?”
Xu Yinjie coarsely laughed. He didn’t reply, only ridiculed himself, “We are called the three influential families of Tai Cang county, but in comparison to them, we’re nothing. Hehe, Tai Cang county….Tai Cang county is too small, too weak.”
He Wude and Cheng Zhusheng’s face started to become unsightly.
In fact, it could even be said that the combined strength of these families constituted more than half the strength of the entire Tai Cang county. However, not to mention entire Atai county, they couldn’t even compare to the four biggest horse bandit gangs in Atai county.
This fact was indeed somewhat hard for them to digest, and thus, made them feel a little unwell.
“That’s enough,” Xu Yinjie sighed and said, “We’ll return and escort all the disciples with potential in our respective clans out. No need to be stingy. Leaving a hope for them to live is far better than sending them to death’s door here. I even believe that after this calamity, these youngsters will certainly rise once more and make our three family’s name resound in Tai Cang county once more, and even Jadeting county.”
“And you? Really not intending to leave?” Cheng Zhusheng suddenly asked.
Xu Yinjie swept his gaze all around the castle; his eyes filled with unwillingness to part, “This is my home. I was born here, and will be buried here upon death as well. I must take responsibility for all of those who are connected to Xu family,” His gaze dropped to the ground, “Right knows about the tunnel. After making your selection, find Right; he will take you out.”
In the discussion between the three, all they talked about was related to the three family’s core members. As for the spongers and servants, not even a word was mentioned. Even all those women inside the Xu castle couldn’t gain any consideration from Xu Yinjie.
Evidently, in their minds, as long as they could get the core members of the three families out safely, they were satisfied.
He Wude deeply glanced at him, then suddenly turned around and walked away.
Cheng Zhusheng, however, retreated a few steps and suddenly stopped, “Yinjie, you don’t blame me for leading these people here, do you?”
Xu Yinjie faintly smiled and said, “Brother-in-law, the four biggest bandit gangs of Atai county had joined hands. Don’t tell me you really think their target is merely county town? Even if you and He Wude hadn’t come here, they still would have razed He manor and Xu castle to the ground. Otherwise, how could they have agreed to make such a trip.”
Cheng Zhusheng coarsely laughed. Not speaking any further, he slowly walked down the wall.
With a flicker, an individual suddenly walked out from a dark place. This individual was precisely the most outstanding member of Xu family’s second generation, Xu Right.
“Father, why have you informed them about the secret path?”
Xu Yinjie faintly shook his head, “Right, bear in mind, Tai Cang county is our base. We can’t let this place be truly powerless. We can let He family and Cheng family take the lead, we can endure our submission to them, but keep in mind, as long as their is a slither of hope, we should never allow an external power to establish a footing here.”
Xu Right’s face flickered, seeming as if he was thinking of something. However, Xu Yinjie shook his head and said, “I know what you’re thinking. If a second He Wude comes into Tai Cang county, let him become a resident of Tai Cang county by all means, let him truly treat this place as his native place. You understand?”
Xu Right eventually lowered his head and said, “Yes, I’ll remember.”
“En, this time there is no escape for Xu castle. After you lead everybody outside, immediately seek help from old Ancestor. If Ancestor agreed, not to mention rebuilding a castle, even building two or three castles is not a problem. Xu Yinjie’s voice was low but powerful, “This is a good opportunity, and perhaps the only one. You must grasp it.”
Xu Yinjie vigorously sounded his agreement and suddenly said, “Father, you really don’t intend to leave?”
“Nonsense,” Xu Yinjie’s brows twitched as he spoke, “This is my family. Whosoever wants to intrude in my home will pay the price for it.”
Although his tone was dull, it carried an unquestionable perseverance.
Xu Right’s fists tightly clenched. He knew that there were countless eyes observing him at this moment. He couldn’t divulge any clue. If people were able to guess that the core members of the three families are planning to abandon the castle and escape, the people in the castle would certainly have no will to fight remaining in them.
As long as horse bandits charged inside, they would easily decapitate everybody inside.
Sighing deeply, Xu Right turned around and departed in heavy steps; his heart filled with sorrow. He knew this would be the last time he was seeing his father.
Under the castle wall, a kilometer away, a group of horse bandits was carefully patrolling. Whoever had made the futile attempt of escaping outside the castle, had been intercepted by them and ruthlessly killed.
A middle-aged man with a tall and lean build but a cold face had locked Xu castle under the sky in his viper gaze.
This individual was precisely one of the four horse bandit gangs’ leaders, Wolf Fangs’ Zhong Wei. Although he appeared to be in his forties, his true age had long crossed the mark of sixty years.
All the leaders of the four biggest horse bandit gangs of Atai county were above sixty in age and reputed tenth layer experts. However, Red Cloth bandits had two tenth layer experts. In terms of strength, they indeed seemed above the rest of the gangs.
Upon receiving Red Cloth bandits’ invitation, he thought it over and over before eventually agreeing.
Apart from the fact that he also wished to gain some benefits, he didn’t wish to go against Red Cloth bandits’ idea.
After all, even among tenth layer experts, there was distinction of strong and weak, and he, Zhong Wei, was undoubtedly the weakest among the five leaders.
At first, everything went smoothly. However, none of them expected that after easily conquering the county town, they would bump into a hard bone like Xu castle.
In comparison to Xu castle, the county town was like a mud wall which collapsed in one push.
On the other hand, against Xu castle’s high wall, even though they had experts as numerous as clouds, they had to spend a full five days and sacrifice over a thousand men and horses before finally succeeding in opening a few entrances through the wall.
Though these few entrances were enough in itself.
Zhong Wei licked his somewhat dry lips. A vicious glint flickered in his eyes as he clasped his hands and slowly released them. Internal Energy circulated its course through his body. As it passed through his right shoulder, his right shoulder faintly ached.
His face faintly twitched, and the killing intent he was emitting became somewhat denser, which made his subordinates quiver in fear.
When they had begun to seize, he happened to run into Xu Yinjie. During the few palm strikes they exchanged, he was hit by Xu Yinjie on his right shoulder. Although it was not fatal, it caused him a lot of sufferings.
He’d already decided that once they broke into the city, he would certainly capture Xu Yinjie alive, and before him, behead all of the males one by one, give all the women to suffer humiliation from his brothers, and make Xu Yinjie regret that he’d injured him.
Suddenly, a blood curling scream once again sounded in the darkness of the night, followed by a sound of something heavily dropping on the ground.
Zhong Wei’s brows slightly creased as he said, “Raiders are still preparing?”
One man immediately replied, “Leader Zhong, raiders haven’t stopped once. Leader Sea is personally directing the preparations.”
Zhong Wei lightly snorted. In his opinion, since they were going for an all attack tomorrow morning, even if they didn’t attack tonight any further, it wouldn’t matter. However, since it was according to that woman Sea Huqiao’s plans, he immediately dispelled all thoughts of meddling.
Sea Huqiao was Azure Hanyang’s wife. The husband and wife were the leader and second leader of Azure Sea horse bandits. Although the former was a tenth layer expert and the latter a ninth layer expert, they excelled in coordination and their techniques also complemented each other. After joining hands, the might they could unleash was hardly below that of two tenth layer experts.
More importantly, Sea Huqiao had exceptional witts and had always been considered as a mastermind.
This time when five thousand horse bandits raided the county town, she was the only one who advocated to first conquer Xu castle, then attack county town.
Unfortunately, apart from Azure Hanyang, nobody agreed with her suggestion. The fact that nobody was willing to be ordered by a woman was probably a big reason for it.
However, the battle proved to be a testament for her foresight.
Tai Cang county was merely a name. It was conquered without any effort. However, the guarded Xu castle became a thorn in their eyes and flesh, costing them nearly a thousand brothers before they could see the dawn of victory. Although it seemed that they would be able to seize Xu castle tomorrow, who knew how many more brothers would be buried here tomorrow.
Not too far away from him, pairs of horses and men began to gather together.
During these five days, these people had been living in Xu town in turns. As for the people in town, they had either taken shelter inside Xu castle or had been killed by horse bandits.
The entire town had been occupied by the horse bandits, serving as a base camp for thousands of horse bandits.
Although the color of sky was still dusky at this moment, all the people in the town had arrived here and had started to assemble. Even though they were horse bandits, their quality didn’t pale in comparison to an army at all. Thousands of bandits slowly gathering in the night filled the air with a kind of intense inauspicious aura.
Horse bandits didn’t have too many tools at their disposal, but they were no ordinary men. They were cultivators who cultivated Internal Energy with their body and soul. As far as they were concerned, although the wall was a huge obstruction, it was not untranscendable. The battle of these five days was already a testament.
Of course, if there was no wall and thousands of horse bandits were allowed to charge into the castle, everybody inside the castle would have died long ago.
As of now, under the coordination of several experts, several breaches had been opened in the wall. As long as they organized a charge with sufficient manpower, they could definitely obtain the ultimate victory.
Five individuals appeared beside Zhong Wei.
Among them, four were males and one was female.
They were Red Cloth bandits’ leader Guan Qing and second leader Guo Shaofeng, Fierce Tigers’ Xu Hanbai, and Azure Sea’s Azure Hanyang and Sea Huqiao.
The four had nothing common in appearance, and even the youngest of the four, Azure Hanyang, was above sixty years old.
However, even though his age was the lowest, in terms of cultivation base alone, he was undoubtedly the strongest among them. Even Guan Qing would be unwilling to face him.
“Ready?” Guan Qing’s voice sounded like a stifled thunder.
A voice that couldn’t be considered sweet came out of Sea Huqiao’s mouth. However, none of the men present dared to look down on her as a woman.
This was not because of her husband, but because she’d received this status through her own efforts.
Almost at the same time, the gazes of the few individuals tacitly shifted to their target.
The black wall that seemed even more sinister in the darkness of night.
It was right before dawn, when night was the darkest.
Nobody said a word as they silently awaited for the unceasing raids carried out through five consecutive days to end.
As if the two sides had a tacit understanding, there was no sound on the wall either. It seemed as if both sides were waiting for the first light.
In the horizon, there was already a narrow, milky white strip stretching beyond, seeming as if joining all these mountain peaks together. Then appeared a scarlet, intoxicatingly red halo, and also a wisp of deep gray colored cloud.
The sky was a shade of light blue; extremely light blue. Suddenly, a red colored beam appeared, slowly expanding, and as its glow intensified, eventually the first light ray appeared….
Sea Huqiao slowly nodded. Guan Qing raised his hand high above, and all bandits tightly held their weapons; glints of madness flickering in their eyes.
However, right at this moment, they heard a heaven-shaking disturbance like that of a landslide and tsunami.
On the wall, Xu Yinjie kicked a bandit who had climbed up the wall, sending him flying down.
His face still didn’t have a ripple, completely expressionless as if he hadn’t kicked a man but a withered leaf.
Suddenly, he raised his head and saw an exceptionally familiar face with whom he’d fought for decades.
His eyes carried a trace of questioning look, as if he found the presence of this old guy on the wall strange.
He Wude’s both hands were behind his back as he arrived beside him in neither hurried nor slow steps and looked into the darkness underneath.
“Why haven’t you left yet?”
“I wished to leave, but if I leave, I wouldn’t be able to fulfil a wish of mine throughout my life.”
“I wish to see whether your Withered Tree technique is more ferocious or my Reclining Moon Blade is still unmatchable,” He Wude pointed towards the dark night ahead and said, “There are so many bandits ahead, sufficient for us to have a match.”
Eventually, Xu Yinjie’s eyes opened somewhat wider, and his eyeballs deep inside the rim of his eyes seemed to have turned somewhat livelier.
“Your Reclining Moon Blade?”
He Wude blankly stared, then bitterly laughed, “I gave it away.”
Xu Yinjie once again lowered his head; his voice carrying a trace of envy, “You…..have a fine grandson.”
He Wude heartily laughed and said, “Indeed. As long as there is He Yiming, our He family certainly has a hope of revival,” He patted his hands against each other and suddenly said, “But don’t you worry, even without Reclining Moon Blade, my two hand blades are not that inferior.”
“Tch, a hand blade. This old man actually wants to see it,” Cheng Zhusheng walked over with a chuckle.
Xu Yinjie and He Wude simultaneously turned their heads with incredulous gazes, as if they had seen the sun rising from the west.
Although Cheng Zhusheng’s skin was quite thick, at this moment, his face slightly blushed with anger.
“You two, what are these gazes?” Cheng Zhusheng furiously said.
He Wude astoundedly said, “Brother Cheng, have you gone mad with age? You, the sly old fox of Tai Cang, really aren’t afraid of death?”
Xu Yinjie’s lip slightly trembled. Although he didn’t say anything, this reaction was enough to clearly convey his current feelings.
In his youth, Cheng Zhusheng was called Tai Cang’s fox. Thus, after he turned old, he automatically turned into Tai Cang’s old fox.
The people this old fox had swindled during his life were countless. It was because of this old man that Cheng family was able to maintain a powerful status despite the lack of a top level battle power and avoid being truly pushed down by He family and Xu family.
Moreover, Cheng Zhusheng’s biggest weakness that had remained throughout his life was his fear of death.
Perhaps because he was this cunning, he was overly skeptical and indecisive, resulting him being stuck in his cultivation.
This was his nature, carved deep inside his bones. It couldn’t be changed.
Be it He Wude or Xu Yinjie they never thought he would come to the wall at this moment. Even in their dreams, they couldn’t have such extravagant hope.
Cheg Zhusheng arrived beside them and put his hands behind his back like He Wude, “This old man didn’t want to come, but there was something I couldn’t let go. So I came back to join in the fun.”
“What is it that even you can’t let go?” He Wude astoundedly asked.
Cheng Zhusheng angrily said, “We three have fought throughout our lives. What I want to know the most is, in the end, who among you two is the number one expert of Tai Cang county.”
He Wude and Xu Yinjie exchanged a glance, then looked at Cheng Zhusheng who had a furious face, and eventually couldn’t help but burst into laughter. Even Xu Yinjie, who cultivated Withered Tree technique, revealed a rare, frightening as if starved, sort of smile.
The color of the sky seemed to have turned dark to the extreme. They stopped smiling and looked down the city wall.
Cheng Zhusheng slowly said, “With you two as opponents, my life wouldn’t be regarded as wasted.”
The two old men preserved silence, but inwardly, how could they have not felt the same.
The beautiful glow of sunrise gradually appeared. As sun hid behind the summits, it enveloped the surroundings of mountain peaks in a hazy brilliance, which slowly influenced the surrounding light blue sky, and following it, the golden glimmer of dawn appeared in the sky.
The first light, amidst the focus of thousands of gazes, appeared….
The gazes of three old men simultaneously ignited. Their Internal Energy slowly aroused and a powerful aura suddenly soared.
However, at this moment, they heard a heaven-shaking disturbance like that of a landslide or tsunami.
Inside Xu castle, inside a courtyard near the back mountains, under the lead of Xu Right, He Quanming, and Cheng Shine, about fifty people were standing before a huge rockery.
Xu Right aroused his ninth layer Internal Energy and unhurriedly shifted a corner of rockery. There appeared a dark pathway sufficiently wide to sustain three people walking simultaneously.
The color of the sky was still dark. Only the light and brightness given by the torches in their hands provided them a glimmer of hope in this endless darkness.
“Let’s go,” Xu Right said in a low voice, “Yucai, go and find a path first, brothers from He family will follow afterwards, brothers from Cheng family will be in the middle, and Xu family will be in the end.”
Xu Yucai sounded his agreement; his voice carrying a hint of sobbing. However, at this moment, nobody had any thoughts of mocking him.
This time, the people who were leaving were elites of Xu family- the true elites. Apart from this, even Xu family’s women were not included, which also included Xu Yucai’s mother.
“Wait a minute.” He Quanming lightly said.
Xu Right and Cheng Shine’s gazes simultaneously turned towards him.
He Quanming said in a heavy voice, “Third brother, Yihai, Yixuan, follow me in offering three kowtows to father.”
He turned around and knelt down towards the wall. He Quanyi, He Yihai, and He Yixuan also did the same.
Xu Right and the rest faintly started, then slowly knelt down on their own accord. Apart from the sounds of heavy tapping of heads on the ground, there was only sorrow and gloominess.
Morning fog was still thick. An azure halo appeared in the east horizon, dimly floating about like smoke rising in spirals.
That first light appeared before everybody’s eyes.
He Quanming stood up. His eyes faintly snapped before he sternly said, “We’ll leave!”
However, right at this moment, they heard a heaven-shattering disturbance like that of a landslide or a tsunami.
The first light ray of the morning, as if a blade cutting through the darkness, streaked across the night sky, and illuminated his body.
As if a dazzling flash cutting through the darkness- in the sky, on earth, in people’s eyes, in people’s mind- cut open a rift.
He raised his head and hissed; a thunderclap quaking the lands and shaking the mountains.
Sailing on clouds, bringing rain, bringing an aura like that of billowing waves,
Hiding the sky and covering the sky
He surged in…..