Shockingly, these were all of the members of the Miao Clan!
They only represented about seventy to eighty percent of the clan as a whole, but that was still a large number. Furthermore, many of them were chosen of the clan, people who the patriarch had spent blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention significant cultivation resources, to groom as necromancers.
They represented the reserves of the entire Miao Clan, as well as its future!
This Miao Clan patriarch had carefully split his clan into smaller groups and hidden them away where he thought no one would be able to find them. Never could he have imagined that Bai Xiaochun would have the resources to track them all down!!
Actually, that was one of the first clues Bai Xiaochun had found, and a task he had immediately assigned to Zhou Yixing. Furthermore, the reason he had ordered him not to do anything at first was for fear of alerting his enemies.
The reason he finally made a move on the Zhou Clan was because he had gathered all the clues he needed, and he had decided to close the net. Of course, the ordinary cultivators of the Miao Clan weren’t necessarily very useful on their own. But Bai Xiaochun had long since come to the conclusion that if Bai Hao were still alive, then he would end up in this very situation, where the Miao Clan patriarch would use Bai Hao to threaten him.
And therefore… he would use the Miao Clan itself to threaten the patriarch, as his trump card! That was another of the reasons why he had unhesitatingly cut down the heir apparent of the Zhou Clan. That menacing action would be even more powerful than a mere spoken threat.
“Bai Hao! You!!!” The Miao Clan patriarch’s eyes were completely bloodshot, and his mind was reeling. Within that projected image, he saw Miao Lin’er and all of the other young ones in the clan that he had not just painstakingly groomed, but also dearly loved.
He thought back to life in his clan, how these young ones had been so attached to him, and suddenly he began to breathe raggedly. At the same time, a look of struggle appeared in his eyes.
As of this moment, their life or death would be decided by one simple action on his part!!
“This isn’t everyone in your clan,” Bai Xiaochun said, slowly and clearly, “but don’t worry. If my soul slave perishes, then trust me, I will do everything in my power to track down every last child of the Miao Clan, no matter where they are hiding, and put them to death! I will ensure that the Wildlands never again has a hint of a clan named Miao! Every bloodline will be wiped away!”
Bai Xiaochun knew that the fact that the Miao Clan patriarch was using Bai Hao to threaten him indicated that his identity had not been revealed. If it had, the patriarch wouldn't need to threaten him. He could overturn Bai Xiaochun’s entire world with ease, and place him in the most dangerous of deadly situations!
Something else that made Bai Xiaochun tremble in anger was the knowledge that the Miao Clan patriarch could not easily soulsearch Bai Hao. And yet, the patriarch would obviously have wanted to know exactly how Bai Hao had come to be. Because of that, Bai Xiaochun could only imagine the suffering and torment he had undergone. And yet… the Miao Clan patriarch had failed in his efforts!
Bai Xiaochun had already been unwilling to abandon his apprentice before, but that added realization bolstered his convictions!
The Miao Clan patriarch’s lips quivered, and his eyes grew increasingly bloodshot. He was even finding it hard to breathe. It was almost like he had split into two people, one of whom represented his clan, and the other of whom represented himself. And the two of them were fighting back and forth for the superior position. Would his desire to become an earthly necromancer outweigh his duty to his clan?
It was in that exact same moment that Bai Xiaochun once again spoke.
“Under no circumstances will I allow you to leave here today. And I don’t need to rely on luck to make sure that happens. You will die today, no matter what. Either give me my soul slave, and be the only person to die, or… you, your clan, and my soul slave… can all die together!
“There is no escape for you, and no one will come to your rescue. Don’t bother trying to buy time. I’ll say it only once more. You have ten breaths of time!
“After that, I will give the order for my corpse troopers to attack. Then, you can watch the blood of your clan flow in rivers toward the Netherworld as you die along with them!” Although Bai Xiaochun’s heart was racing in anxiety, his face didn’t show it. He seemed cold, ruthless and emotionless, and his voice contained decisiveness that could sever nails and chop iron.
With that, he flicked his sleeve, looked at the image of Zhou Yixing, and said, “Start the countdown, Zhou Yixing. After ten breaths of time, execute the Miao Clan!”
The Miao Clan patriarch shivered and panted more than before. Bai Xiaochun’s words were like sharp knives that stabbed deep into his heart and mind, pushing him to the brink of complete collapse.
That was especially true considering that Bai Xiaochun had said that he would die no matter what. And he only had ten breaths of time to make his decision. By this point, he was convinced that Bai Xiaochun truly had made a decision to kill him, and that there was no way out of the situation.
“What do I do?” he thought. “What am I supposed to do!?!?”
As the Miao Clan patriarch chuckled bitterly, and Zhou Yixing counted down loudly, the Miao Clan cultivators began to beg and plead even more loudly than before. “Save us, Patriarch!!”
Zhou Yixing’s words blasted into the Miao Clan patriarch’s ears like thunder. The patriarch stared at Bai Xiaochun, hoping to get some clue from him to indicate that perhaps he was bluffing. But no matter how he looked at him, he seemed cold and ruthless. He looked like he would go to any lengths necessary to see the patriarch dead!
“He cares about this soul,” he thought, his heart pounding, “but not enough that it can be used as a threat against him….” Clearly, Bai Xiaochun either wanted the soul for himself, or didn't want anyone else to have it!
The truth was that Bai Xiaochun was actually far more nervous than the Miao Clan patriarch. And yet, he had to keep that hidden, down to the tiniest scrap.
He knew that if he let the Miao Clan patriarch go, he would lose the initiative, and his opponent would be in control of Bai Hao’s life. At that point, if the other twelve clans and the Nine Serenities King took action, it would be virtually impossible for him to save Bai Hao!
Delaying matters wouldn’t do any good. He needed to decisively end matters right here and now.
His only hope was to see which of the two of them was more vicious. He had to make it seem like he wanted the man dead no matter what. Only by destroying his opponent’s hope for life could he possibly awaken his sense of responsibility toward his clan. At that point, the man would be forced to choose who died: himself, or his clan. In the end, most ordinary people… would pick the former!
The former was not death, it was… sacrificing oneself for one’s people!
If the patriarch somehow saw through Bai Xiaochun’s act, and realized that he cared about the situation even more than the patriarch, then Bai Xiaochun would be forced to compromise, and let him go….
“Three!” Zhou Yixing’s killing intent grew stronger, and the murderous aura of the 1,000 corpse troopers raged.
“Sacrifice yourself to save your clan?” Bai Xiaochun said coldly. “Or be buried along with them? The choice is up to you!” He raised his hand up into the air, and everyone could see that, if he dropped it, it would indicate that the executions were to be carried out!
He didn’t need to make lengthy speeches. In fact, saying too much right now could actually be counterproductive.
“Two….” Zhou Yixing said. The pleading of the Miao Clan became like a sound wave that battered at the patriarch’s heart and mind. He was on the verge of complete mental and emotional collapse. With the weight of death looming over him, his sense of duty toward his clan was now starting to outweigh his own selfish interest!
To some extent, the scene playing out was a mockery. Although the patriarch seemed to be ready to sacrifice himself for his clan, the truth was that if he could sense the slightest bit of hesitation in Bai Xiaochun, the slightest chance that he might make it out alive, he would make a very different decision!
“One!” As the word left Zhou Yixing’s mouth, the Miao Clan patriarch smiled bitterly. Then he reached up to his forehead, grabbed Bai Hao, and threw him toward Bai Xiaochun!
“Let my clan go,” he said. “A man must take responsibility for his actions; therefore, my life is yours for the taking!”
Bai Xiaochun’s heart was pounding so hard that his veneer of coldness shattered. His anxiety erupted as he reached out to grab Bai Hao.
Bai Hao was clearly very weak, but as soon as Bai Xiaochun grabbed him, he opened his eyes and stared in shock and incredulity.
“Master….” he said. Then he passed out.
Heart trembling, Bai Xiaochun sent some divine sense out to confirm that Bai Hao was merely unconscious. Then he put him into his soulhoarding pagoda in his bag of holding.
When the Miao Clan patriarch saw all of that, his eyes went wide, and his mind began to spin. He heard Bai Hao call Bai Xiaochun Master, and saw how much Bai Xiaochun cared about him. Finally, everything suddenly clicked into place. The patriarch began to gasp for breath as the sacred feeling of having sacrificed himself for his clan was replaced by pure humiliation.
“You tricked me, Bai Hao!!!”