Nefarious Vale had brought just as many men as Sin City. Evidently, they considered the trial just as important. The lord of the Vale had come himself, bringing all his best experts. The commotion alone was incredible.
Terminus Place’s men arrived not long after as well.
The three major factions now accounted for, the second and third-rate factions of Winterdraw slowly poured in.
At the chief warden’s headquarters, the chief and his subordinates stood at the side of a road in welcome. Everyone in attendance was very neatly dressed and somber.
The latest news from the Isles was that the imperial family had descended upon Winterdraw, honored guests from more important factions in tow. Moreover, they were all about to arrive very soon.
The chief found it hard to remain calm. This was a glowing moment of history for Winterdraw, probably more important than any before! Those who’d come in the past had been from the local imperial family at most. But this time, important guests from the Ten Divine Nations were descending!
Their own royals seemed the accessories in this situation.
“Look sharp and keep your wits about you. Remember, everything about this reception must be flawless!” The chief warden repeated for emphasis.
“Don’t worry, milord. We’ll do our best.”
The chief nodded. He suddenly raised an eyebrow and looked the distance. “They’re here. Look alive, everyone!” he warned in a low voice.
A storm of light erupted at the end of the horizon. Flying vehicles broke through the fabric of space like soaring arks, landing on a patch of space close by the warden headquarters.
The chief strode up hastily.
There were seven airboats in all. None were of tremendous size, but it was reasonable for one to hold a few dozen. Seven airboats made for several hundred passengers in all.
The two at the front and back opened first. A group of luxuriously dressed people disembarked from the front, their bearings imperious. These were the Rejuvenation Isles’ imperial representatives.
The ones at the back were the elite guard of the imperial family, part of the security detail for the journey. The guardsmen were uniformly vigorous, strong, and empyrean realm. Some had especially unreadable cultivation levels, obvious from one look that they were nothing short of remarkable.
The imperial guard spread out in a very principled way as soon as they disembarked. They set up perimeter around the key avenues of access immediately.
Only when security was sufficiently shored up did the middle three airboats open. The local imperial representatives rushed up ingratiatingly, plainly highly concerned about the guests on these three arks.
When the vehicles opened, another group of ferocious guardsmen surged forward. The aura of these guards was colder and harsher than the first batch. It was immediately apparent that they were from a major faction. They surpassed the first group of guardsmen in both raw strength and bearing.
The guards clustered a group of well-dressed nobles with an air of superiority. Young, middle-aged, old – a rather large variety emerged from the airboats.
On the locals’ side, a middle-aged man in the lead approached with a wide smile. “Everyone, this is Winterdraw Island. It is thankful to be graced with your presence.”
The imperial representative almost wanted to lick these honored guests’ toes. He was stooping to an incredibly abject depth of humility.
The chief and his subordinates stood deferentially on the outskirts. “Welcome, honored guests! I am the chief warden and these are my men. We are flattered by your presence.”
The guests were probably from the same place, though they were also likely split further divided into a number of smaller factions. Their feigned intimacy couldn’t obscure the hidden divisions between them. There was some mutual hostility, albeit rather light.
“Imperial Prince Huo, there’s no need for so much courtesy. You already know why we’ve come. If everything is ready, then let us proceed according to plan.” An old man at the guests’ vanguard uttered a cool response.
The representative of the Isles’ imperials was the prince who had just been named. “Everything is ready,” he smiled compliantly. “However, why not take an opportunity to rest and have some refreshments first? Let Winterdraw treat you, however modest its means.”
The chief warden came forward, smiling in rather the same way. “Yes. My headquarters has prepared all. We’ve done everything we can, and more than our best. The Blackwraith Mountains aren’t far from here. A breather could do all of us some good, no?”
The guests conferred among themselves, then nodded in consensus. “Let us rest for today then, and set off tomorrow.”
The hosting side was universally pleased. “Please do.”
The chief warden headquarters’ hospitality was very solid.
Though the guests came from lofty origins and overall quite picky, they were unable to find any fault with the chief warden’s arrangements.
Still, they were clearly loath to give up all their haughtiness. Any thanks they expressed were faint, and they didn’t make too much contact with the chief and his men. Their reaction to the banquet was similarly dispassionate. The superiority radiating from deep within was self-evident.
For Rejuvenation Isles’ imperials, the honored guests were behaving in a completely reasonable manner. After the banquet ended, Imperial Prince Huo called the chief warden to his tent.
“Old Ding, is everything ready over at the Blackwraith Mountains?”
“Don’t worry, Your Highness. Everything is prepared. My men tell me that all the factions have arrived.”
The chief thumped his chest. “I have this much confidence in my command, at least. Here on Winterdraw, they wouldn’t dare leave without my word even if they had to wait for a fortnight.”
The imperial prince nodded approvingly. “Old Ding, you’ve worked very hard this time. The results you’ve yielded are very good. I will definitely ask His Majesty to reward you. But don’t relax yet; the honored guests have just arrived. Only when they return totally satisfied does your mission end. You’ve a lot left to do still, Old Ding.”
“Imperial Prince Huo,” the chief warden replied seriously. “I’ve done everything in my power. Still, it seems that the guests are rather reticent. I can’t read their attitudes. Because of that, I’m a bit concerned myself. Are they satisfied with everything here?”
The imperial prince smiled. “Don’t worry. If they’re not satisfied, they wouldn’t attend your banquet in the first place. These honored guests are much more important than anyone in the Rejuvenation Isles. It is normal for them to be a bit more overbearing.”
The chief warden nodded with some relief at that. “If I may ask, who…”
Imperial Prince Huo darkened. “Old Ding, you’re usually a reliable sort. You shouldn’t ask about things that you don’t need to know. These guests are from one of the top factions. If they are happy and willing to back the Rejuvenation Isles, we will finally have a patron in the wider world!”
“I don’t know anything, which is why I’m still quite troubled. Can these guests be from one of the Ten Divine Nations?”
The Ten Divine Nations were publicly agreed upon strongest first-rate factions in Myriad Abyss. They were the highest authorities in all the realm, equivalent to the Upper Eight Regions in the human domain.
“Since you’re so curious, I’ll enlighten you a little. These aristocrats are from Polylore Divine Nation’s most important noble families. Their houses control much of the true power in their nation.”
Polylore Divine Nation!
One of the Ten Divine Nations and definitely top five among its peers.
The chief warden braced himself at the mention of these people’s origins. A hint of wariness crept into his face.
It went without saying that Polylore was an existence that towered above the Rejuvenation Isles. The former’s willingness to back the latter would instantly propel the weaker party to prominence among its neighbors.
“Old Ding, you’re the only one to know these things. There’s no need for your subordinates to be privy to the same. Remember: as long as you’re successful in this, your future will hold limitless potential.”
“Understood.” The chief warden was a bit excited.
Inside a large tent within the chief warden’s heardquarters, Polylore’s aristocratic representatives gathered together. A white-haired old man sat in the most prominent position. Everyone else sat to either side of him, looking back with deference.
“Elder Tong, we’re all at Winterdraw now. Presiding over the situation must go to you,” the other representatives claimed in virtual unison.
“That’s right, Elder Tong. We asked you to come because of your character and seniority. Please give us a proper order of affairs. We will all defer to you.”
The old man smiled. “Winterdraw is a pretty interesting place. You wanted me to come to bear witness, yes? To ensure fairness. Shall I set a few rules then and make an itinerary?”
“As it should be. What would we do without those? There would be no point in coming here.”
“Exactly, exactly. You should be the one to decide all!” All the others in attendance awaited the old man’s opinion.
“I see. There are eight houses present here, with almost thirty young geniuses. All of them are pillars of your respective houses, yes? I will treat all of you equally. You have a tradition of competition, and we can make a spectacle of it this time. The Rejuvenation Isles has prepared a nice place for us. I hear the imperial family here wants to butter us up and has made many preparations to that end. The attention being paid here is obvious.”
“Heh, Elder Tong, aren’t these things being done willingly?”
“That’s true. The Isles want a favor from us. It’s only fair that some contributions are made from their end as well. The Rejuvenation Isles’ attitude has been more than satisfactory. If our experience on the trip is good, I see no harm in praising this place before our emperor.”