Prior to Ming Feizhen throwing the cauldron into the ether.
Emperor Yuansheng’s escort escorted him under Shen Yiren’s orders, while the rest of the martial arts community tailed along to the lake. Alas, somebody had already moved the moored boats they arrived on.
Although Luo Siming and Shen Yiren’s respective groups stopped a number of Luo Clan’s dissidents, their pursuers still heavily outnumbered them. Emperor Yuansheng took the reins since he wasn’t tortured despite having his accupoints sealed, setting up a defensive formation. Utilising his knowledge gleaned from war strategy books, he levelled the playing field through strategy.
“Luo Clan’s reinforcements are coming!”
There were a throng of small, black Jiangnan-style boats with Luo Clan’s emblem coming, and the twenty men on them were paddling faster than desirable. The end of them still weren’t in sight even from five hundred metres away.
Luo Ming had to have factored in their escape to arrange for a force of that size to be lying in wait. They were at a stalemate at present, but Luo Clan would overrun them if Luo Clan received reinforcements.
“Hahaha, perfect timing. Murder them!” Long Zaitian hurled a silver shuttle through one of Luo Clan’s members.
The fallen warrior’s comrade roared as he charged toward the enemy against his comrades’ behest. A squall of black arrows turned the lone warrior and his seventeen comrades who couldn’t escape in time into pin cushions.
“You can work on your accuracy,” Long Zaitian commented as he took out another seven silver shuttles. “All right, who wants to go next?”
“… As soon as your subordinate received the order, he brought all of the stationed Qilin Guards in Huzhou here. Our Qilin Guards in Huzhou are constantly trained and familiar with naval combat. Taihu Lake is too shallow, so ships do not sail well. Due to the urgency, your subordinate took fishermen’s boats to storm Luo Clan’s boatyard. At present, we have confiscated all of their boats. Your subordinate is to be blamed for failing to be there for you.”
“If I were to punish you for saving me, I would be an unreasonable tyrant, not an Emperor. Get up. Wuxian, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.”
Emperor Yuansheng referred to Xie Duzhe by his courtesy name despite Xie Duzhe holding the same rank as Long Zaitian because they were in-laws.
Xie Duzhe rotated stations once every five years and was recently stationed in Huzhou as commander. He covertly mobilised men and paid particular attention to news in Huzhou ever since learning Long Zaitian mobilised three thousand Qilin Guards from the capital. He was able to contact Long Zaitian’s unit and march on Taihu Sword Island with an additional three thousand men of his own in no time at all precisely owing to his preparations.
Though Lotus Root Ground’s formation had been repaired after Ming Feizhen stormed it, its former glory wasn’t restored. Furthermore, the six thousand Qilin Guards used arson, demolition and genocide tactics.
The six thousand Qilin Guards split up into six teams and landed on the island at different intervals to make the most of their time. The team landing at the island’s dock in the east annihilated Luo Clan’s reserve forces on the island in no time at all due to the difference in fighting power.
Emperor Yuansheng gave Xie Duzhe the order to cease fighting. Hence, Xie Duzhe sent out a signal there was no need for more reinforcements. Nonetheless, those on their way wouldn’t heed the command.
By no account was Emperor Yuansheng glad to hear how many members of Luo Clan had fallen for they were the people who armed the nation’s forces. The extermination wasn’t just Luo Clan’s loss but also Emperor Yuansheng’s loss.
“Even though Yiren has resorted to force, she cannot be blamed as it was for my sake.” Emperor Yuansheng stopped himself from saying, “The fault is all mine,” reasoning a monarch can’t be weak or imperfect in the presence of his vassals – never. “Now that all of you are here, our victory is at hand. Wuxian, you and Vice-Captain Long divide your men up in half to provide backup for the others. They all stayed behind to provide me with safe passage, so I cannot let them become sacrifices.”
“Yes, Your Majesty!” Long Zaitian and Xie Duzhe replied.
Emperor Yuansheng, seeing Ye Luo covered in the blood of those she punctured today, breathing heavily and sprinting over, asked, “How does it bode? Has… Luo Ming caught up?”
Emperor Yuansheng understood why Shen Yiren made her decision to bring up the rear. Still, he couldn’t just turn a blind eye to her sacrifice. If Luo Ming had caught up when she was stalling him…
Emperor Yuansheng exhaled a breath of relief.
“Someone is coming across the lake.”
“Is there something worth noting about that?”
“He… is lying on his boat, yet the boat is sailing here on its own… and fast.”
A boat is automatically drifting on a still lake?
From his feet, Emperor Yuansheng could see the black boat moving on its own. The man lounging in it had a leaf covering his face and his legs crossed as though he was sunbathing by the beach. When Qilin Guards tried to intercept him, his boat would steer away. Upon docking, he sat up and yawned. His silk attire with golden rims was hardly befitting of his lax attitude. The only part of his appearance matching his behaviour was his dishevelled hairstyle. Being taller than Ming Feizhen, his height demanded attention, but this skinny physique cancelled the intimidation his height granted.
“Oi, I asked you a question,” badgered a Qilin Guard.
He stared back at the Qilin Guard and frowned: “Who am I?”
“How should I know?!”
He took out a wooden comb and zoned out for a while. Once he placed the comb in his hair, he turned to the Qilin Guards to query, “You… thought I was going to comb my hair?”
Sort of hard to blame them for nodding, no?
“You’re all wrong.” Yet, he started combing his hair. “I was just going to run the comb through my hair.”
“And that’s not the same thing?”
He interrupted his own combing session to inquire, “Oh, by the way, what’s the term, umm… the one you ascribe to people who call the shots?”
“Isn’t that the same th-”
The man disappeared without arousing the wind, standing in front of Emperor Yuansheng when they saw him again: “I believe I’ve found the boss here.”
Emperor Yuansheng signalled for the Qilin Guards not to attack: “Even you’re here?”
“No, I am not here. I arrived.”
“… What are you here for?”
“By order of the Supreme Saints Government, I am here to pass a notice on to Bodhi Abels. I heard he has been hanging around with Luo Clan recently. Where is he now?”
Coming to Luo Sword Manor’s Whale God Island just because “Abels has been hanging around Luo Clan” could only mean he was ignorant or had balls of steal.
Emperor Yuansheng pointed in the direction of the ring: “There.”
“Thank you.” He yawned and strutted off. “By the way, did I forget to introduce myself?” As he continued, he waved at everyone he passed by. “Hello, hello, I’m just an ordinary man. My occupation? I guess that’d be being one of the ten best fighters in the martial world.” He stopped and turned back to add, “Oh, if you didn’t catch that, I’m one of the Supreme Ten Saints, Lai Jingzhen.”