"Cloudsoar, you four monarchs are to set out tonight and rush to Myriad Domain at first light. Block all exits and stop any Great Scarlet survivors from escaping in that direction."
The four monarchs sprang into action.
The Geng brothers didn't even stop at the Nirvana Sect on their march to Myriad Domain. Everything was now in place.
"Palace Head Dan Chi, the time has come. Tomorrow's dawn will mark the demise of Great Scarlet and the resurgence of the Regal Pill Palace." Jiang Chen gazed in Great Scarlet's direction, his gaze foreboding.
That night, a bizarre fear worked its way into the peaceful darkness of Great Scarlet. Sleep eluded the Great Scarlet emperor that night. He couldn't stop his eyelid from twitching, and there was an indescribable feeling stirring in his chest.
At first, he'd felt some relief after sending away the crown prince and the other elite imperial descendents. But for some reason, his mood became as dark as the night outside when dusk fell.
When the first morning rays emerged from the east, he sat up and glanced at copper mirror facing the bed. A withered figure stared back. An august emperor like him now looked like a crooked old man, his temples white as snow.
"Is that me?" He rubbed his eyes in disbelief. How had he suddenly become so old?
Rage suddenly bubbled in his chest as he examined his reflection. He lifted the copper mirror vengefully and smashed it on the floor.
Footsteps immediately sounded from outside, a patter that was infused with a sliver of panic. The emperor recognized Old Guo from the gait. In charge of the emperor's security and everyday life, Old Guo was a strict man, meticulous about his steadiness and orderliness. But now, he could hear panic in the man's stride, giving rise to an ominous omen.
'Your Majesty, are you awake?" Old Guo's voice filtered through the door.
"One moment." Despite his anger, the emperor wasn't willing to let his subjects see his current sorry figure. He smoothed his robes and changed into court dress before stepping out.
Old Guo didn't have the courage to look the emperor in the eye, so he prostrated himself at the foot of the stairs. "Your Majesty, of the imperial descendents we secretly sent away, three came back last night."
"What?! Came back? Why?" The emperor's rage boiled even hotter.
"Your majesty, please listen to your old servant. They didn't come back of their own volition, they had no other choice. All passages in Great Scarlet leading to other territories have been blockaded."
"What?" Blockaded? The Great Scarlet Emperor's body froze, as if struck by thunder. He stood still and silent a long moment, his mind blank from shock.
"Your Majesty… The Veluriyam army is already here." Pained words came from Old Guo. "Your Majesty, please change quickly. The lockdown isn't completely secure yet, so this servant will break through the siege with the might of the empire and escort Your Majesty to safety."
"Safety?" The emperor burst into sudden laughter. "Old Guo, do you think I can still flee at this stage? The eyes of my forefathers are on me. Leave? Even if I die, I would be too ashamed to face them in the afterlife."
"Your Majesty, while there's life, there's still hope," Old Guo implored, his forehead smashing the floor in repeated kowtows.
"Say no more. I'm not afraid of death. House Yan lives on as long as a single one of them can make it out. Is there any news from the crown prince?"
"None… He was the first to leave. Surely he reached safety before they sealed us off?" Old Guo's tone was hesitant.
"That brat Jiang Chen can't see the future, so how would he know I sent away the crown prince in advance? He's absolutely fine. There's still hope for us as long as my son reaches Pillfire City." The emperor clung to this ray of hope.
"Your Majesty, it'd be a good thing if the crown prince made it out safely. But Your Majesty is the bedrock of the empire. Even if they turn Great Scarlet upside down, we can mount a comeback one day as long as Your Majesty is with us," Old Guo implored.
"My mind is set. Go summon the scions who came back. I need to carefully interrogate them." The emperor was still worried.
Three returnees were quickly summoned.
"What happened to the three of you? Tell me everything." The emperor frowned.
"Your Majesty, all the ways leading out of Great Scarlet have been blocked, especially the one leading to Swordfield Mid Region. There's a massive army camping there. If not for our quick wits, we would be prisoners by now." All three of them still harbored lingering fears.
"Does that mean none of the others managed to escape?" The emperor's mind was thrown into chaos.
"Escape would've been very difficult."
"Your Majesty, you have to find a way. How about inviting House Yan's forefather out of seclusion?"
"Your Majesty, only the forefather can save us from Veluriyam Capital's enormous invasion."
The emperor snorted. "The forefather is in seclusion. No one's seen his shadow in a few centuries, do you think that's so easily done?"
Great Scarlet Mid Region did indeed have an forefather around five thousand years old. He was the last remaining forefather of the imperial family.
Old Guo suggested, "Your Majesty, in these times of peril, perhaps only the imperial forefather can save us.
"We can also command the three great sects and the dozen fourth rank sects. We're all in the same boat, so working together is the only chance to safeguard our foundations."
Now that the enemy was at the gate, they had no choice but to fight.
The emperor nodded after momentary thought. "Old Guo, make all the necessary preparations. I'll personally visit the imperial family's forbidden area. We have no choice but to interrupt his cultivation. I can only hope it won't disturb him."
Any faction as strong as Great Scarlet Mid Region was bound to have a couple reclusive elders.
Somewhere in front of a quiet secret realm, the Great Scarlet emperor used a secret technique unique to his family and attempted contact with the imperial forefather.
A moment later, a message glyph shot out of the secret realm.
"Kid, you've never disrupted my cultivation in the centuries since you ascended the throne. Why do you take this liberty today? Come inside."
The emperor was overjoyed by the response. At least the forefather still lived, and the lack of anger in his voice eased the emperor's trepidation.
"This junior greets the forefather." In the whole of Great Scarlet Mid Region, the forefather was the only one the emperor had to kneel to.
"No need for ceremony, you may rise." A faint voice came from the depth of a secluded forest. "The imperial family has its own rules. I've already left secular affairs behind. You wouldn't come here if not for an utter disaster. So tell me, is Great Scarlet Mid Region in peril?"
Despite the passage of time coloring his throat, the forefather's voice contained a cold grandeur that cowed the emperor.
"Forefather, your junior is incompetent. The survival of Great Scarlet Mid Region is hanging by a thread!" the emperor wailed. He knew he had to be honest. Any petty trick would be exposed in front of the forefather.
"What happened? Did you offend someone? Or maybe a first rank sect?" The forefather remained calm. "Why are you beating around the bush? Even a first rank sect would have to give me some face. They wouldn't act that easily against us."
The forefather's tone was indifferent, but confidence pervaded his words.
"Forefather, this time… it's not a first rank sect."
"Then why are you worried? Don't tell me that a second rank can threaten us?" The forefather was even more baffled.
"Forefather, it's… It's Veluriyam Capital." The emperor clenched his teeth and squeezed out the truth.
"Y-you offended Emperor Peafowl?" The forefather gasped. "Where did you find the gall to provoke someone like Emperor Peafowl?"
"No no, I wouldn't do that no matter how stupid I am. It's a disciple of his."
"His disciple? What is going on? Tell me everything." The forefather had trouble sitting still.
Some first rank sects might actually give him some face, but a colossus like Veluriyam Capital was an entirely kettle of fish. Would they care about someone like him? Especially a monster like Emperor Peafowl who could destroy Great Scarlet on a whim all by himself.
The emperor obediently narrated everything from beginning to end, but the forefather swore at him before he could finish. "Bastard, idiot! Are you a moron?"
"Those bastards from Eternal Celestial Capital are a complete bunch of trash as well! They caused the dispute, but now they want to use us as a scapegoat instead of owning up to their actions?" The forefather flew into a rage, but felt a deep helplessness inside. "This won't be easy to handle. You went too far in destroying his sect, heritage, occupying his territory, and slaughtering his people. These were grave, grave sins!"
"Forefather, it was my mistake." The emperor stayed very humble.
"Hmph, I've heard enough." The forefather's face hardened. "There's no use crying over spilt milk. Veluriyam Capital's young lord sounds powerful. However Emperor Peafowl is no longer there and Emperor Shura is dead. With them out of the picture, the others aren't much of a threat. I'll stay in the shadows and find an opportunity to ambush them. If I can seize that kid and force them to retreat, we'll be able to make further plans after that."
The forefather knew a frontal confrontation was destined to fail. He could only resort to trickery and catch Jiang Chen unawares.