I wanted to discuss squad formations with Lucia, but she jumped out the window and ran off somewhere…. Did I say something wrong? “Ilya? What was that about?”
“She probably smelled something nice and wanted to eat it,” Ilya said and shrugged as she sat on Lucia’s bed. I want to defend Lucia, but … there’s a high chance Ilya’s right. “Anyway, you won’t get anywhere discussing battle formations with Lucia. She does her own thing, and I wouldn’t trust her to be a competent commander. Imagine she runs off in the middle of a battle because someone shot her in the heart again. Then what do we do?” Ilya snorted and rolled her eyes. Then she held out her hand towards me as if she were expecting me to hand something over. “Let me see what you’ve come up with.”
My grandfather gave me these formations before we left, saying they were the special formations of our Shadow Devil Sect that would allow us to defend ourselves from an earth-realm expert with a group of a hundred saint-realm disciples. But the gulf between the earth realm and the saint realm is really too vast to fill up with only a hundred saint-realm experts. The formations only exist to buy time for Lucia to save us. There’s also a formation that allows us to share qi amongst each other through heart devil worms. Ilya doesn’t cultivate like a normal person though…. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to let her take a look at the formations; after all, she is my grandmother’s personal disciple.
Ilya took the jade slip out of my hand and squinted at it. A moment later, she nodded and passed it back to me. That was quick! I put the slip away and hesitated. It took me a day to digest everything inside that slip. Maybe Ilya didn’t understand? “You … absorbed all the information? Already?”
Ilya raised an eyebrow. “Hmm? What do you mean? There were only ninety-nine formations, right? And most of them shared the same principles behind them. You could probably merge around thirty of them with each other to reduce the number while increasing the effectiveness.”
…The difference between Lucia and Ilya is too great. Lucia suffers from a tremendous headache when she absorbs even the tiniest bit of information. Ilya can absorb a tremendous amount of information in an instant—no wonder why Lucia keeps Ilya by her side. As for me, I’m … just average. But forget my lack of ability for now! What did Ilya mean by these formations could be merged? “Our ancestors came up with these formations, and they’ve worked perfectly as they are. I don’t think we should merge them.”
Ilya rolled her eyes. “I mean no disrespect to your ancestors, but just because something’s working perfectly fine doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. A lot of people like to say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But that’s a problem. Where’s the need for innovation if everyone becomes complacent, content with what they have?”
“But our ancestors were wise!”
“So what, does that mean you’re dumb?” Ilya snorted. “You can’t improve on the works of someone who’s long dead? This is why you’ve been living in a literal hole in the ground for the majority of your life. Yeah, my ancestors had bows and arrows and those worked perfectly for capturing prey to eat and survive. But that doesn’t mean bows and arrows can’t be improved. Nowadays, we’ve taken those bows and arrows and infused them with magic. We can destroy a country with them by shooting lightning bolts from over a mile away.”
“And all of you are like this. Every single person in this Immortal Continent thinks like you do. Why? I’ve overheard so many conversations between disciples where they’re hoping to discover the tomb of a long-dead super-strong expert so they can become exactly like them. I mean, really? Hello? The expert died without becoming an immortal and you want to follow his footsteps on the road to immortality? Isn’t that like asking a cow to teach you how to play the harp? What would a dead person know about living forever?”
“I haven’t seen a single person here try to innovate for themselves. The alchemists in the sect follow recipes from ancient times that were so damn long ago that some of the ingredients have gone extinct! I looked through those martial techniques in the skill pavilion, and the person at the front desk told me the most popular technique originated ten thousand years ago from a sky-realm expert. Ten thousand years! Have only idiots been born in that time? How do you not improve a technique after ten thousand years? Hell, in the eighty years after the Godking’s death, magic’s advanced by huge leaps and bounds.”
Ilya’s so … forceful.
“Wait. Are you crying?” Ilya’s face froze. “I don’t think I said anything that’d make you cry…. Certainly, I didn’t say anything that I need to apologize for.”
“I-it’s not what you said. It, it’s the way you said it.” I thought I toughened up a bit after being with Lucia for so long, but I still get really nervous when I’m yelled at and the tears just come out by themselves. I can’t help it! I know Ilya wasn’t yelling at me, and she was just ranting, but … it’s scary.
Ilya sighed and took out a jade slip. She pressed it against her head before holding it towards me. “Here. I did some quick mental math and merged the formations. These formations should be around three times better than the previous ones, whether in power or efficiency. Take the squad and compare these formations to the previous ones, alright?”
That’s not something normal people can do in their heads! Mental math is like adding two and two, not creating new formations while calculating their efficiency! Ilya’s just as ridiculous as Lucia…. I wonder if she realizes it. But why would Ilya help me? I thought she hated me. “A-are you sure you want to give this to me?”
Ilya pressed the slip into my hands. “You think you’re the only one stuck in this battlefield? I’m going to do everything I can to improve my chances of survival and having allies with a better formation should help a lot. Ideally, I wouldn’t even have come here at all, but I have to follow Lucia since she’s my ticket home. So, look, I don’t care if you like Lucia in the way a woman likes a man or whatever. Just stop trying to get rid of me because I’m not going to leave. And if things ever escalate between you and Lucia, I’ll be sure to step out of the room and give you your privacy.”
W-what is she saying!? M-me and Lucia? Engaging in the activities of a woman and a man? “W-who’s the man!?” Wait! That’s not what I should be asking!
Ilya didn’t react to the obvious blush on my face. I think I could cook an egg if I pressed it against my cheek. “Wouldn’t it be Lucia? She’s not girly at all.”
“Who’s not girly at all!?” Lucia’s head poked in through the window. How, how long was she there? “Stay right there, Ilya!”
Ilya’s face paled and she tried to run away. I say tried because she wasn’t successful. “W-wait! Lucia! Stop! I just fixed my hair!”