"The warriors you've brought are quite ferocious."
Standing next to the Rong Matriarch, whom he had come to know as Rong Hu, Wu Jian paid her a compliment.
"The Wu Patriarch's words bring honour to my clan."
Below them, 3 dozen Rong Clan Cultivators stood for inspection within the Wu Clan's training grounds. Each of them was in the second stage of Body Cultivation, the Body Reinforcement Stage, and carried a large greatsword upon their back. They wore spirit beast hides and furs and had tattoos inked with their prey's blood covering their torsos; their journey as warriors carried upon their own flesh.
Each would make an outstanding fighter in a duel. However, one of the weaknesses of body cultivators was that they could not create a formation with the strength of their bodies, that was something that could only be done with Qi. As such, they would best be used as shock troops to disrupt the enemies' lines and fight one on one with their captains whilst the Wu Clan cultivators fought against any formations of enemy cultivators with their own formation.
"How about a demonstration?"
"You point and we shall follow."
Was her response.
"Very well, then follow me."
He had prepared a small challenge for his vassals in order to test their mettle and coordination, so he led the procession out of the clan compound and out into the wilderness. Rong Hu followed at his heels, eyes scanning him all the while, as if she were trying to uncover everything about him.
Eventually, they arrived at their destination, a large clearing populated by a massive pack of wolves. Most of the beasts were mortal, but the distinct aura of spiritual beasts emanated from within the sea of fur. Rong Hu's eyes went wide when she saw the sheer number of beasts, realising the implications of a small army of them gathering.
"Yes, though this is one of the weaker groups that are forming along the fringes of our territory as it is only led by a Late Body Reinforcement Stage direwolf."
Wu Jian replied.
"Your warriors' task is to slaughter this pack whilst we pick off any that try to run away, we cannot let wild animals loose so close to civilisation. At least not until the settlements in the horde's path have been evacuated."
He explained. Of course, he had a different reason for doing this that he did not explain to the Rong Matriarch. The ritual he had performed a few days ago had shown bad karma for his Clan, and this beast horde was the manifestation of that. But as much as it was a punishment sent from the heavens, it was also an opportunity to get back into their good graces. By acting to save the mortals of his territory, the negative karma he had accumulated for his Clan would be gradually washed away by his good deeds. He was just glad that karma, at least in this sort of situation, only took into account your impact on the world and not the intentions behind your actions.
He watched as Rong Hu turned to her Clansmen and started giving out orders, if you could call her simple instructions 'orders'. Once done, she let them walk forwards, making their presence known to the milling animals.
It was unknown who started the screaming, but soon every Rong warrior was yelling out a barbaric battle cry, putting the wolves' howls of alert to shame. They sprinted forwards, greatswords drawn from backs, and fell upon the pack with bestial fury. If one side did not walk upright and carry weapons, it would be hard to tell who the animals were!
The Dao stirred, wrapping around the barbarians' weapons as they descended and imbuing the sharpened steel with a weight many times its own. Wu Jian's eyebrow quirked as he recognised the Dao as the same one the Zhao Patriarch had used, the Dao Shard of Heavy. It was, of course, weaker as it was powered by a lesser cultivation and shallower understanding, but it was unmistakably the same. He bit back a comment and let the scene in front of him unfold.
The greatswords, backed by the weight of their wielder's Dao, split their targets in two and splattered the remains across the grass, dying it red with blood. But the charge of the warriors did not end there. Using the rebounding force from when they hit the ground, they launched themselves up into the air and hefted their momentarily lighter weapons above their heads to bring down once more. 3 dozen steel grey arcs flashed through the air, resulting in an equal number of resounding booms as they hit the earth and eviscerated anything in their way. Cracks formed, pointing towards the centre of the clearing, and unsteading the feet of the wolves in tandem with the mini shockwaves that blasted out from the points of impact.
The slaughter continued, each of the cultivators bringing to bear a fighting style mastered through a lifetime of practiceand sheer, unadulterated strength. Just as the warriors were settling into a steady rhythm, grey blurs shot out from the massed beasts. Utilising their natural speed, several wolves at the Body Tempering Realm surrounded each barbarian and within seconds, hundreds of attacks had been unleashed upon the savage humans.
The Rong Clansmen endured, their bodies possessing tremendous endurance well beyond that of other cultivators at their stage, and retaliated. Qi hummed as they used their meagre Qi Cultivation Bases to add to their already devastating attacks and enhancing the sharpness of the wicked looking blades even further. The surrounded beasts were showered with gore, their elite dismembered in a mere moment. With the blood dying their furs, they came down from their frenzy, only to be stirred up into another one by a powerful howl that came from the back of the pack.
The wolves parted like the red sea, a hulking monster of an animal striding down the created aisle. It's aura blared out, Peak Body Reinforcement Stage paired with the Early Qi Condensing Realm and the natural strength of a direwolf. This beast would be a threat to cultivators in the Early Essence Refining Realm, and worse, it showed complete and utter dominance over the actions of its pack members.
"Patriarch Wu, don't you think this is a bit much?'
Rong Hu asked with worry as she gazed upon the creature that would leave her injured should she attempt to kill it.
Wu Jian's voice sounded in her head.
"They are in no danger."
Being unable to go against the Wu Patriarch's words, she had no choice but to stand by and watch as the direwolf approached her clansmen. It towered above them, even on four legs, and had a nasty snarl that revealed rows of pointed teeth. It's matte black fur seemed to absorb the light of the area, casting a shadow over the Rong cultivators as its emerald green eyes looked down on them like a predator looking at prey.
The barbarians froze at its presence, their animalistic instincts telling them to run, but with their clan's honour on the linethey stood their ground. Gradually, they got movement back in their bodies, starting at their fingertips and ending at their chest where they slowed their rapidly beating hearts. The direwolf's gaze flicked to behind the Rong cultivators, as if worried that the 2 Clan Heada standing silently behind them would act. Tentatively, it took a step forward and then, seeing that they had not moved to stop it, took another. Remaining unchallenged, the beast took the opportunity to leap towards its delectable meals, their cultivation enhanced bodies looking to be the perfect resource to progress its own cultivation.
As it moved, the warriors' shadows did too, standing up behind them and swinging down their phantom greatswords. Without time to spin and deal with their own would-be assassin, the group communicated with each other through their eyes, body language, and years of familiarity with each other, pairing up and lunging towards their partner's shadow. Thirty-five blades hit their mark perfectly, taking the head off their targets and dissolving them into a black, viscous substance that oozed to the floor. The final blade still found its opponent, cleaving them horizontally through the chest, but the extra second it took to force the shadow creature to melt left it's wielder vulnerable to the direwolf's bite.
Jaws clamped down around the cultivator's torso as the beast tried to bite right through him, but his cultivation allowed him to hang onto life by a thread. Thankfully, his allies were quick to react and rained blows down upon the pack leader's exposed head, forcing it to release its snack and retreat slightly. Anger flashed within its eyes, the colour within them deepening to the dark yet vibrant green of a deadly plant. Its Qi shifted, and the shadowy substance left by its summoned creatures exploded into entangling vines that exploded outwards. Just over half of the Rong cultivators were caught out by this surprise attack and became restrained, beginning to thrash in pain when their bindings grew thorns which pierced their skin and dug into their flesh. The remaining warriors were forced to split into two groups: one to fend off the rapidly approaching direwolf and keep it away from their defenceless clansmen, and the second to cut those entrapped by the vines free.
Watching the battle with anxious eyes, Rong Hu's fingers continuously twitched towards her greatsword, fighting the urge to interfere in his subordinates' battle. On one hand, she could not afford to disrespect the Wang Patriarch lest his wrath be taken out on her clan, but, on the other hand, she could not bear to let any of her sworn brothers and sisters die when she could do something to prevent it. Still, as their matriarch was paralysed by indecision, the Rong warriors battled on.
Sporting many wounds now, they faced off against the beast that had driven them to this state, the creature that could probably wipe a tiny clan like theirs off the map should it show choose. But their will held strong! After all, the man who had sworn to protect their clan in return for their might stood behind them, and they needed to prove their worth so that he would continue to provide safety to their families. They roared as one, strength filling them and their wounds healing rapidly as Wu Jian decided to help them, and charged the mighty direwolf, oblivious to the aid bestowed upon them. Their thoughts synced, joined by the Wu Patriarch's divine sense, and their swords fell as one. The Dao Shard of Heavy made its presence known and all the mortal beasts present were forced onto their knees.
A shockwave ripped through the pack's ranks, utterly obliterating most of the suppressed animals, and a dust cloud exploded out from the point of impact of the Rong Clan's strikes, obscuring the final result.
Slowly, the dust cleared, and the panicked Rong Hu could finally see her clansmen again, but she was shocked by what she saw. Her people were completely fine! But not only that, the direwolf lay at their feet, dead. She let herself celebrate mentally for a moment before she realised the weird positions her subordinates were in.
They stood in two layers, the first layer containing a dozen cultivators and the second, two dozen, and those layers were in the shapes of two many pointed stars. Above them, the spectre of a giant greatsword faded away, but even now, a great heaviness settled upon the shoulders of anyone who gazed upon it and made even the Rong Matriarch's body begin to buckle under the weight.
She turned to the Wu Patriarch, who had hidden his victorious smile behind his mask of cold indifference, and spoke.
"You created a formation using body cultivators as the base."
Her tone was shocked and her mind incredulous. This was something that only large clans and above had the ability to do, yet here a man, barely into the Nascent Soul Realm, had succeeded in doing. Not addressing this, the man in question turned on his heel and began to walk away.
"Your demonstration has been satisfactory."
His voice echoed through her head.
"Now clean up the stragglers and return to the Wu Clan's compound. I will be going ahead."
And with that, he floated up into the sky and began to fly back home, robes flowing in the wind.