“Shit! No wonder our backer wants him dead. But why do they have to send me? I may be above average, but I'm not enough to be paired with a genius of my level. Much less someone who has a higher level. ” Grujil started to have second thoughts about this. In the cultivation world, age didn't matter and everyone could cultivate to the peak. And that was certainly true, there were even old geniuses capable of battling those younger and above their level. But when someone young achieved a high cultivation level it meant he was undoubtedly a genius. And more often than not those geniuses came from powerful families with the resources to nurture them.
If he had a chance, Grujil would accomplish the mission he was given and kill him. But he had decided from the moment the information about that item reached him, that he would put priority into that. Once that was done he would run and hide into his personal tunnels.
‘That's what they get for recruiting the dregs of the army. If they were expecting a loyal servant they should have raised a force by themselves.’ Grujil was an ambitious man, he didn't want to be a thug his whole life. He only took the chance to join the Crimson Claw to escape punishment from the special forces of the army. The Crimson Claw was just a tool he would use and discard when the time was right.
“So, you are the leader of those rats who hide under my city?” The man on the tower didn't yell, yet the voice reached Grujil as if the man was standing right next to him. The tunnels were not a secret, the City Lord was clearly aware of them. But every time he sent his spirit sense towards the earth to see the tunnels, Grujil, and his two trusted subordinates would intercept his perception. Although spirit sense was a good way to explore areas beyond sight, it was very easy to notice and intercept. They didn't even need to collide with the spiritual perception of the City Lord head on, they just needed to make small collisions to distort the information he received.
Unless the difference in cultivation was too high, a small interference would be enough to make anyone leave empty-handed. If someone with high cultivation managed to force his spirit sense inside, the Crimson Claw would already be alerted and would just escape through different exits.
"That is indeed us, milord. You seem to know us, but I'm ashamed I still don't know your great name.” He made a small attempt at figuring out the background of this young City Lord. Not that it would make much difference, but at least he would know what to expect in the middle of the fight.
The man with one ear ignored his question and replied something else. “ I know your backer must have given you the order to kill me. But I can sense this issue is way bigger than we think. Why don't we talk this through, something feels...odd.” The man said while looking around as if hoping to catch something, anything out of place.
For a moment, Grujil thought the man was too injured to fight and wanted to avoid conflict. But the tone of his voice was not pleading at all, he was just making an honest suggestion. Nevertheless, Grujil would not stop, not now that he could get his hands on that opportunity. “Can't do that. I've been given orders to follow, and at least I have to make it look like I tried.” He said as he pointed his bone spear towards the man.
The man stopped looking around, and with a sigh, he looked at Grujil as if looking at an idiot. “ Suit yourself then. By the way, you made a mistake bringing all these people. I'm usually against using my abilities on weaker enemies, but today I will make an exception.” As his words fell, the area around the man started to distort, and in a short time, the distortion grew and expanded. With the City Lord as the center, the whole hill felt like it was suddenly wrapped in some sort of invisible cocoon.
Grujil felt his chest tighten and his blood freeze. “ He is clearly not in his best state yet he can still use a domain?” The range was limited to the small hill, but it was nevertheless a domain. It was one of the abilities of those at the Qi Manifestation realm. And usually, when they get hurt, the domain is one of the abilities they stopped using thanks to the high consumption of qi.
“What the hell is happening to my body!!”
Many of the members of the Crimson Claw were already inside the range of the domain. There were those who were fighting while others were still running towards the mansion. But without exception, they all stop in their tracks. The personal guards of the City Lord didn't seem surprised and just stepped back with solemn faces to watch at the Crimson Claw members. Those who were attacking the mansion and inside the range of the domain felt a deep terror gripping their hearts. They first started to feel light headed, but after a few more seconds they felt all the blood inside them stop and going out of control.
Some of the luckiest suffered a heart attack, directly passing out to their deaths. Some others started to bleed from all the holes in their bodies. Nose, eyes, ears, mouth, every place was filled with blood. They started to choke on their own blood as some parts of their bodies bloated as if about to burst. But the most unlucky ones survived until the last moment when every member of the Crimson Claw inside the domain, no matter death or alive, started to explode in rain of blood.
It was a gruesome sight, and the sound of a body exploding from the inside out was imprinted in everyone present. It was like hearing a water balloon make an explosion, only that within the sound of water, there was the sound of organs crashing against each other.
But that was not the end of it. The blood of the dead Crimson Claw members started to gather and move, as if alive, towards the City Lord.
“This technique... “ Grujil was startled and had a bewildered look on his face as if he just remembered something.
The City Lord had his arms behind his back as he looked at Grujil with the arrogance only the powerful and geniuses have. “You are called the Crimson Claw, don't you? Hehehe, well… this is going to be quite ironic.” The City Lord started to float and rise in the sky far enough so as to not injure his own men with the aftermath of his attacks. Grujil was forced to follow. If not, all his men could be whipped out, and for now, he needed them to distract the guards. After reaching a certain height, the City Lord made a clawing motion with his right hand. Suddenly, all the blood gathered in front of him to form a diabolic gigantic five-meter claw. It was a dragon claw made purely of blood, just like the one in the tattoos of the criminals.
Grujil paled at the sight of all that blood. It had to be known that it was not just normal blood. The cultivators who died were all using qi at the moment of their deaths. That bloody claw was brimming with the qi of those who died. They may be weak by their own, but once you gathered all that together, the power became terrifying.
‘Fuck! I can't believe this. That's the technique of the blood emperor!!’ Grujil couldn't help but curse in his mind. The technique displayed before his eyes had a lot of history behind it. It was used by the man who subjugated all the barbarian tribes and unified them under his rule. The tyrant known as the blood emperor ruled the barbarian tribes with fear and violence as his tools. Many lives were sacrificed on his blood rituals, and thanks to those heinous rituals the name of the barbarians was forever tied to the despicable acts he committed.
But after his death, the territories the barbarians had conquered were later reclaimed by the surrounding forces. One of the forces was the Sidrin empire who chased the barbarians all the way back to their mountains. In one of the last fights, one of the trusted aids of the emperor, Imperial Enforcer Agraham, got his hands on an incomplete cultivation manual. The manual called the Blood Script was brought back to the empire, and with the permission of the Emperor, Imperial Enforcer Agraham took it as a family inheritance.
The manual itself didn't require blood sacrifices, although it was true that saving lots of blood did help. If one cultivated with the blood of others according to the manual, it would speed up the cultivation process. It is said that the complete manual even had a way to absorb special bloodlines. But the one the Ethergel family had was incomplete and didn't have such grotesque parts. With the permission of the emperor, the family took the technique and it was now a signature of their power.
Judging by his age, the man before his eyes was the youngest son of the Imperial Enforcer, Ireg Ethergel. Knowing who the man before him was, Grujil turned extremely serious. There was not much information about him, he usually kept a low profile. But despite his low profile many knew of his power and the talent he had. The people not only feared his family, but this man had also made a name for himself that brought just as much fear. It was just that he didn't like to show himself too much and the information about him was very limited besides his earlier days of cultivation.
With a determined gaze, Grujil prepared to clash with the claw. ‘ I don't have to kill him, I only need to stall him until the boys steal the treasure.’ He said to himself to gather some confidence. At the end of the day, the man was injured and he could not maintain his domain for long, and Grujil could also pull back with his own pseudo domain to help deviate it. But even like that, this was perhaps the most dangerous and powerful enemy he had ever faced.
“Haaaaa!” A powerful shout left Grujil's lips as he summoned his power to fight the injured opponent. With a couple of hand seals, the world around Grujil distorted. Although it was in a minor grade than when the City Lord created his domain, it was still enough to see it with the naked eye. His pseudo domain still didn't have any special features like the one the City Lord used, but it could help to alleviate the pressure he felt. The moment he activated his pseudo domain, he finally felt capable of breathing and he could feel his blood returning to its normal flow.
There was another reason why Grujil activated his pseudo domain. He could survive the pressure of the blood domain by itself and with the protection of his flying compass. But his men could not. If he didn't do it, his men won't be able to rush into the mansion and neither the two kids will be able to enter and steal the treasure. The pseudo domain used a lot of qi, but it was a waste he had to make.
At the same time, a translucent red shield appeared around Grujil's body. Although it looked thin, to Grujil this was a major safety net. The shield was a small formation engraved in the compass made to negate powerful attacks.
Grujil raised his bone spear and thrust it towards the oncoming claw. Perhaps it wasn't the wisest choice, but he was a battle cultivator and wanted to compare his strength with this powerful enemy.
The moment his spear stabbed forward the image of a beast with two black snakeheads, the body of a turtle and the tail of a scorpion appeared around Grujil. Although the image was not very clear, and it needed more work, one could not help but notice the power of the beast this image was based on. Just looking at the green eyes of the beast send a chill down on anyone who saw it.
The beast attacked with its scorpion tail, fused its image with the spear. The tail of this beast was much more flexible than a normal scorpion tail. At the same time, the spear vibrated the moment the image appeared, making it appear more real and the strike more deadly. This was one of Grujil's all-out attacks.
The blood claw met with the tail of the scorpion and both paused for a second. Then, the tail of the scorpion pierced through the claw with a lot of effort. When the attack reached the other side of the claw, the image Grujil used was already shattered and only the spear remained. With the claw destroyed, the blood remained floating eerily in the air. Amidst the blood, the spear kept stubbornly going forwards towards the City Lord. But there wasn't glee in Grujil's expression, only alarm.
The City Lord looked slightly amused as he tilted his upper body slightly to avoid the spear that has lost a lot of its power. The spear light passed by his side and advanced until it reached the sky. And, with a loud booming sound, a big hole was opened in the ceiling of clouds. The power of that spear strike was clear to anyone, even the City Lord was impressed by the power and knew he should not take a hit like that directly in his current state.
But the City Lord wasn't distracted by this and acted decisively. With his left arm behind his back, he extended his right hand and grabbed the bone spear with a fast movement. The City Lord's hand had a dark red color, and Grujil noticed at that moment that the hand was covered in blood. It was like a glove made of blood, that offered protection and increased the strength of the grip.
“Do you really think I don't know what that compass of yours is? I if it weren't for that thing and its shield you wouldn't be able to cross even a single strike with me.” The City Lord said looking with a sneer at the flying compass while gripping tightly at the bone spear.
Grujil was well aware of that too. That strike just now was only possible because the compass had a special shield that covered the user, negating a big part of the enemy's attacks. This compass was handed to him especially for this mission, it was a way to ensure his safety. But every time he attacked a part of that invisible shield would dissipate to allow his attacks to pass. He would have to take some of the force of the enemy attack, but the rest would still be absorbed by the remaining of the shield. One could say that the moment he attacked was the most vulnerable. It was just that with an opponent like this he couldn't just sit inside the shield and do nothing, otherwise, the City Lord would just burst the shield open even sooner.
Just when the City Lord was about to yank him off the flying compass, light escaped from the bone spear as a cloud of green smoke started to spread from it. For the first time, the City Lord erased the sneer from his face as he immediately retreated.
Flying back in an instant, the City Lord undid the bloody glove. Now, that blood was turning black and letting an awful stench. Luckily he had made the glove. Otherwise, with his current condition, his arm and possibly his life would have been in danger. But he was knowledgeable about the many tricks and formations the artifacts could have, only an idiot would try to grab one with naked hands.
The City Lord retreated together with the blood in the air so as to not get it contaminated. The moment the blood got completely dark, he would lose control over it. A hundred meters away from Grujil, the City Lord stop for a moment to really look at his opponent for the first time.
“ The image of that beast, and that bone spear that resonates with the image… you have the inheritance of a shaman from the western deserts. If I remember correctly, there was a foreigner from the deserts who married into one of our noble families.”
Shamans were how cultivators of the desert called themselves. The specialty of these shamans was not in poisons but in the creation of elixirs that enhanced the power of whoever drank them for a short period of time. The formulae to the elixirs were a huge secret and only the most powerful shamans knew them. They also had a miraculous elixir that healed all kinds of flesh wounds in a short time, it could almost bring someone back from the dead. Not even Grujil's father had access to the formula, only the great shaman and his three disciples could know it. Although most shamans knew some recipes to make some elixirs. They weren't at the level of the great shaman but they were enough to be sold like precious items outside the desert.
“It pales in comparison to your Blood Script, City Lord.” Grujil answered between gasps of breath. He had made an all-out attack an couldn't even scratch the man. While the bloody claw, even though it didn't harm him thanks to the shield of the compass, it felt like having a mountain on his shoulders for a few seconds. His arm almost broke in two. At the same time, he felt for a moment his pseudo domain shudder and his blood had gone out of control from a time. If he showed the slightest opening in the control of his own inner qi to counter that force he had no doubt he would end up like his own men. But this was only an attack to probe his opponent state, now he was sure he couldn't take the man head-on. Killing him was out of the question now, the man was weak but he was truly a powerful cultivator.
“Of course it can't even compare to my Blood Script. Maybe the only cultivation technique at that level in the western desert is the one the Great Shaman uses.” The sneer in the City Lord was back on his face together with his arrogance, but he was slightly more vigilant. “You people have grossly underestimated me. If they had sent someone with my cultivation level I would have been a little more pressed. But with you, even with that flying compass, it is just a matter of time for me to play with your blood.”
The blood around the City Lord started to morph into many sphears, all circling around him. The speed of the spheres started to increase until only blurs could be seen moving around the City Lord. He was about to attack seriously.
Although the City Lord seemed confident and his face showed disdain, he was inwardly very serious. The situation was not as good as he made it look. And in fact, the more time it passed the harder it would be for him to keep his domain going. Without his domain, he could not control blood so freely, putting him at a higher risk of receiving an attack. In a normal day, he could use his blood without hand seals as long as the attacks were not mixed with too many other images and concepts. But in his state, without his domain, he would be forced to use some hand seals and waste more time to control blood. And not only was the blood script his main way to attack and defend, but he wasn't sure he could always avoid that spear. Much less doing so while using hand seals.
The hand seals were made to strengthen the images through the movements of the spirit veins inside the fingers and hands. Independently from the knowledge, one held the hand seals could help till a certain point to materialize the image. If one had trouble materializing the images outside the body, it could also help to reduce the time it took to use them. For the most advanced cultivators, they were used when they had to mix many images and concepts, for normal simple images they could use them without them.
This was a practice that had started with body movements and ritualistic dances. But through the years, cultivators perfected those dances and movements until they created a simplified version of hand seals. Some shamans, for example, still used dances and contortionist moves. The only problem was that no matter how simplified they were, they still took some time to make, time the opponent could use in his favor.
To the City Lord right now, in comparison to using his domain, the hand seals were too slow. He may have seemed calm, but he was really surprised at the speed of Grujil's attack. In his normal estate, even using hand seals he could avoid these attacks, but right now he was too dizzy and his reaction was slower. He couldn't take the risk after seeing the speed of his opponent. The truth was that it was he who had underestimated his enemy. His sneer was only a mask to cover the urgency of his real condition. Right now his body was very frail, and a single wound in the right place could worsen his condition and even push him to his death.
The City Lord's bluff had worked though. Grujil was not so sure anymore about the extent of the City Lord's injuries. But whatever the case, he had made his mind to not clash directly and was going to start using long-range attacks.
Grujil looked down and saw some of the personal guards rush out from all parts of the mansion to reinforce the ones that were already fighting. The Crimson Claw may have lost a bunch of men to the blood domain but they were still many of them.
The personal guards of the city lord were very powerful and well trained, but they were vastly outnumbered. After all, a City Lord was not allowed to accumulate too much power for himself otherwise every city lord would have a personal army.
Looking at this Grujil inwardly smiled, that was the signal for the two ghosts. Once everyone started fighting, they would be able to slip in. The plan was less than ideal, but given who they were robbing and the time he had to work with, it was the best they had.