In the northwestern lands, the four great Savage armies occupying Moon God Sect territory teemed with impatience. Forefather Bamboo ought to have arrived a month ago, but he was still nowhere to be seen.
They’d received word that he’d been held up by something. Meanwhile, the villages weren’t to act rashly, but to stay put and wait. But their patience had worn thin.
On this day, the upper echelons had gathered together.
“Everyone, we don’t know when the forefather will grace us with his presence. By waiting here, we’re giving the humans more time to prepare. This really… goes against our fast and furious style!”
“Definitely? We come and go like the wind. That’s our main advantage. If we give the humans enough time to prepare, that’s shooting ourselves in the foot. All of their factions have been scared stiff and have taken refuge in Veluriyam. They’ve taken all the good stuff with them. Even if we go loot them one by one, there’s little profit to be made. So what are we supposed to do, let off steam on some commoners?”
The Savages loved massacre, but in principle, the martial dao world left the commoners alone. Only the deranged would slaughter them. Such actions went against the heavenly dao. It damaged the cultivators’ own fate, and to be more dramatic, it could endanger the race as a whole.
“Gentlemen, this king has a bold suggestion,” a chieftain offered with a smile.
“Chieftain Flowerback, what’s your brilliant plan? We’re all ears.”
“I don’t know how brilliant it is, but according to my analysis, almost all of the human experts are currently in Veluriyam. So what are we staying here for? We can absolutely press forward and lay siege to the city.”
“Isn’t it too rash to march before the forefather arrives?” someone countered skeptically.
“Hmph! We can wait for him before starting the battle, but why can’t we surround them first? We’ll weaken their resolve and scare them witless. Once the forefather arrives, we’ll cut into their panicked ranks like a hot knife through butter. We have nothing to lose.” The man who’d spoken was the chieftain and foremost powerhouse of Flowerback Village, one of the four great villages. He was also one of the greatest heavyweights in the entire race.
The other three villages fell into quiet contemplation.
Another chieftain wore a headband with a green plume inserted in the back, a combination sported by all the tribe’s upper echelons behind him. Known as King Greenplume, he was the chieftain of Greenplume Village, another of the four great villages.
“King Flowerback’s proposal is bold but feasible. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. As long as we’re careful and cooperate sincerely, we can make the best use of time!”
For the Savages, time was money. Their one concern on this campaign was the faster the better. Compared to the humans, they were far too few in numbers. They couldn’t afford a protracted war.
Otherwise, no matter how ferocious their warriors were on the battlefield, they wouldn’t be able to trade life for life against the enemy’s tide of numbers.
“King Gunuo, King Yuanqiang, what do you think?” King Greenplume smiled faintly at the two other chieftains.
Among the four chieftains, the bronze-skinned King Gunuo was the only handsome one, yet it didn’t diminish his manly, virile image in the least. He was father to Gunuo’s prince.
King Gunuo had been nursing quite the grudge. As firstcomers, his village should have been first to the loot, but the punk Jiang Chen had disrupted their plans, even ambushing his son by surprise. His son still hadn’t fully recovered from his wounds!
So he nodded as well. “I agree. Time is of the essence. I’m sure the forefather won’t blame us for our showing of initiative.”
Out of the four great chieftains, only the chieftain of Yuanqiang Village had yet to declare his stance. His golden-brown hair rippled like a lion’s mane, imparting a ferocious and untamed air.
He grinned from ear to ear. “Since no one objects, of course I’ll go along with the plan.” This fellow seemed the straightforward type, but was in fact slick and evasive, never offending anyone.
“But how should we proceed? We can’t have all four villages marching together. It’d attract too much attention and we’d easily fall prey to an ambush.” His eyes shifted left and right as he voiced his worries.
“You’re right. I’ve considered this issue as well.” King Flowerback nodded. “Our warriors are temperamental. Traveling together will harm our march’s efficiency. We should divide our forces into four instead.”
“Split up? Is that right?” King Greenplume looked skeptical.
“What’s inappropriate about it? The main human force is in Veluriyam. The first rank sects are all empty shells.” King Flowerback’s tone was firm. “Look at this map. There are too many sects between us and Veluriyam.
“Here’s Pillfire, once their most flourishing city. And here’s the Sublime Chord Temple and Eternal Celestial City domains. There, the Skysword Sect. A bit further to the northwest is the Empyrean River Palace. To the west and southwest lie the Heavenly Dragon Sect and the Ninesuns Sky Sect. We can reach Veluriyam from any of them! By splitting into four, we might even reap some unexpected gains along the way. First rank sects are the fattest sheep in the human domain. Their people might have run away, but they can’t take their houses with them, can they?”
His suggestion excited all of the other chieftains. All had benefited quite a lot from occupying the Moon God Sect. The women had taken a large portion of their treasures with them, but it had been impossible to stow everything away.
The looting of a first rank sect was a temptation hard to resist. They looked at each other, their eyes brimming with eagerness, clearly moved by the proposal.
“Alright. King Flowerback, you’re full of strategies. I can’t refute your reasoning.” King Gunuo sighed softly.
King Greenplum chuckled. “What are we waiting for then? Let’s plan our routes at once!”
The route partitioning was in fact tricky as well. All four chieftains were shrewd beings. They knew that even among first rank sects, some were wealthier than others. Everyone naturally wanted the richest itinerary.
King Yuanqiang cackled. “Hehe, the routes need to be fair. We can’t afford internal conflict. Otherwise, we’ll have to face the forefather’s wrath!”
This was no exaggeration.
King Flowerback turned grave. “I’ve highlighted four routes. Please examine them in detail. We’ll need to come to an agreement in advance, so if you come to regret your choice later, you only have yourselves to blame!”
Everyone pricked their ears and solemnly looked in his direction as he unfurled a map. “Look. This route goes straight south across many mountains. You’ll need to endure the bitter cold to reach the Heavenly Dragon Sect and the Ninesuns Sky Sect. It’s the most rewarding route, but also the one most fraught with hardship because humans haven’t settled the areas in-between. It’s completely barren land.
“The second route goes through Pillfire. After wiping it out, you can march towards the Eternal Celestial Capital or Skysword Sect before the final destination.
“The third one goes through the Sublime Chord Temple and Eternal Celestial Capital. Afterwards, you need to head south to reach Veluriyam.”
“The fourth one makes a long detour towards the Empyrean River Palace, then goes down south through the Skysword Sect before arriving in Veluriyam. Does anyone have objections?”
“No objection. They all seem clear and reasonable and there’s no conflict between them. But how do we allocate them?”
The choices were relatively fair, but a slight difference still existed. However, the difference was within their margin of tolerance.
“That’s not for this king to decide alone. For the sake of fairness, I suggest drawing lots!”
The three other chieftains beamed at the idea. “That’s right, let’s decide on that. We’ll swear an oath to not change our minds after the results!”
No contradiction had arisen between the villages this time. No one had sung a different tune as everyone had the greater plan in mind.
The results were quickly delivered.
Gunuo Village was given the route toward the Heavenly Dragon Sect. It might be the richest route, but it was also the most arduous one. Of course, arduous didn’t mean the great factions, but rather many natural obstacles.
Yuanqing Village drew the northeastern route toward the Empyrean River Palace, then south to the Skysword Sect.
As the ones to suggest the plan, Gunuo Village drew the one through the Sublime Chord Temple and the Eternal Celestial Capital, while Greenplume Village was the one to go through Pillfire.
King Flowerback announced, “Gentlemen, to avoid disputes, let’s swear in the name of the temple never to complain about our marching orders!”
After the chieftains swore the oath, the villages began their preparations, full of eagerness for the upcoming journey. They headed in four different directions the next day.
Countless Goldbiter Rats were disseminated through the northwestern lands. Although they didn’t understand the Savages’ plans, they continuously kept Veluriyam abreast of the latest developments.