Jiang Chen hadn’t expected his cover to be blown so soon. Moreover, the secret the forefather had revealed was even more shocking. His perception of Myriad Abyss Island was completely overturned.
He’d always thought that the residents of Myriad Abyss were like the legends, descended from ancient deserters, a pack of cowards, one and all. He’d been gravely mistaken.
“I cannot help you with the human domain right now, but I will support you unconditionally while you remain in Myriad Abyss. However, our present circumstances are difficult and in flux…”
“Difficult?” Jiang Chen blinked. “Are the offworld invaders gathering in great numbers again?”
“Not quite. The Ten Divine Nations’ most pressing problem is internal, rather than external.”
“Internal?” Jiang Chen didn’t understand.
“Yes.” The forefather sighed softly, his tone somber. “Perhaps you haven’t been here for too long, so you can’t feel it just yet. The more you stay here, the more you’ll realize that our control over the nation has severely diminished. The same is true in every other nation. The other factions are all rising silently, and the situation is getting more dire by the day.”
“Like House Xiahou here, for example?” Jiang Chen asked thoughtfully.
“Yes.” The forefather agreed. “So you’ve noticed it too.”
“Just a hint of what seems to brew below the surface. I didn’t dare imagine this to be the case, but I’ve been curious as to why Xiahou Zong was allowed to flaunt his arrogance for so long, unchecked. The neutral, rather than supportive attitudes of the other factions in this nation merit consideration as well.” Jiang Chen voiced his concerns.
Despite the momentum he’d garnered in his victory over Shi Xuan, House Yan’s patriarch hadn’t dared take a decisive stand with the marriage proposal. Even that hadn’t been enough to make the patriarch firmly come out on the sacred land’s behalf.
The patriarch’s faltering nature certainly played a part, but there was likely more to the story as well. In theory, the choice would’ve been a no-brainer; and yet, House Yan hadn’t done the obvious.
Had that solely been because of the patriarch’s personality?
House Yan aside, the other factions didn’t openly show their support for the Eternal Sacred Land either. It was obvious no one wanted to anger House Xiahou over the issue.
Though this detail couldn’t explain everything, it did show that House Xiahou was a serious contender. Enough for the other factions to be wary of it, in spite of the sacred land’s intervention.
“Forefather, are things the same way everywhere else in the divine nations?”
“To certain degree, yes.” The forefather nodded.
“This problem should be easy enough to solve.”
“A solution necessitates internal strife, which means significant attrition of resources and manpower. For example, if House Xiahou were to challenge the Eternal Sacred Land, we’d be able to quash them—but at serious cost. It’s the same with the other divine nations. When the sacred land weakens, reinforcements to the offworld battlefield will diminish as well.”
This was a dilemma that had no easy solution.
The various sacred lands had always possessed a certain advantage over the factions they ruled over. However, the number of people they committed to the offworld battlefield was equally excessive.
Many geniuses and heroes had perished there, making it difficult for the sacred lands to gain appreciably in strength over time. In fact, the opposite was far more likely to happen.
When the sacred lands became weak enough, they wouldn’t have enough force of arms to defend their rule. This led to a natural weakening of their authorities. Overly ambitious factions would jump at a chance to fill in the void.
When a king’s ability to punish came into question, his lieges became natural threats to the throne. This was how usurpers often came about.
The Eternal Sacred Land wasn't in such a grave position just yet. However, deterioration in that direction was quite possible if House Xiahou’s ambitions weren’t kept in check. The sacred land was rather empty from its expenditures in the offworld battlefield.
House Xiahou also had spies within the Eternal Sacred Land, which made it privy to a lot of information.
Though the matter of the offworld battlefield was kept extremely well-hidden, the weakening of the ten sacred lands was felt to some degree by the outside world.
This was why the forefather had sounded so exasperated. He needed to deal with civil unrest as well as the relentless threat the offworld battlefield posed. The sacred land couldn’t currently sustain an offensive on both fronts, hence its incredible thirst for exceptional geniuses.
“Young man, your appearance here means that the Eternal Sacred Land’s fortunes remain strong. So too, will Divine Abyss be preserved!” The forefather was quite serious. “I’ve observed you all this time. Among all the young geniuses I’ve ever seen, your luck is unrivaled. Though you haven’t shown off all your talents, I am sure that you will become a great personage someday!”
Jiang Chen saw no reason to be humble. “Forefather,” he asked directly, “why haven’t the sacred lands educated the public about the offworld battlefield? Why not introduce new blood to the war effort? It’s difficult for the ten sacred lands to fight on alone.”
“Ah, we’ve debated this problem for a long time. It always has been, and continues to be, inconclusive. We’re worried that such a drastic change would cause the situation to spiral out of control and destroy the sacred lands’ grasp over Myriad Abyss. It’s possible that the announcement would have the opposite of the desired effect.”
That kind of cautious reasoning was understandable. After all, all the other factions were descended from Divine Abyss’ deserters.
Though the children of deserters weren’t necessarily cowardly themselves, heritage was a strange thing. It was unrealistic to expect a group of people, who’d never known about the offworld battles, to make drastic sacrifices on the basis of conviction alone.
The ten sacred lands had lasted as long as they did because they had a clear mission inherited from ancient times. Duty was engraved in their blood and bone.
In contrast, the other factions were selfish and profiteering to the bitter end.
Clearly, the two parties’ principles didn’t align.
“Change is difficult,” Jiang Chen sighed, “but I believe it to be unavoidable at the end of the day. The Ten Divine Nations cannot expect only its line of disciples to suffice forever.”
“Yes. Alas, no one dares undertake this effort lightly. The potential consequences are much too high for anyone to take charge.”
Upon failure, Myriad Abyss would be plunged into chaos and impossible to predict what would happen then. What if there was endless war after that?
How would stability be reintroduced?
Jiang Chen didn’t doubt House Xiahou’s willingness to supplant a weakened Eternal Sacred Land for a moment. In fact, they would be exceptionally eager for it.
“Maybe the situation cannot be changed by just one person or faction. However, the way of the world will shift eventually. The wheel of history is inexorable, crushing all beneath its weight.” The forefather spoke gravely. “Young man, I can only hope that your noble heart remains unchanged in the winds of change that are about to blow.”
“You overestimate my nobility, sir,” Jiang Chen replied seriously. “Still, I will not wantonly disregard the rest of the world for the sake of selfish gain.”
“Good. I’ve chosen the right man, it seems. That’s the end of our talk today. I hope to hear good news from you for the tournament of geniuses.”
The forefather smiled a little before disappearing gradually from the stone slab.
Jiang Chen’s heart grew heavier after the old man disappeared. Though he had a much better understanding of Myriad Abyss now, he felt a very real sense of danger looming on the horizon.
Myriad Abyss wasn't entirely peaceful, either. It was a barrel of gunpowder that could ignite at any moment. When it did so, there would be widespread calamity.
The limitation over traveling to the various domains had been set by the ten sacred lands. If the sacred lands’ rule over Myriad Abyss was invalidated, that rule would be voided. Would Myriad Abyss’ factions rush into the human domain, then?
“Ah, I hope that the ten sacred lands can keep things under control.” After the conversation with the venerated forefather, Jiang Chen had realized that the Eternal Sacred Land didn’t have a tight enough grasp over the divine nation.
There was no one in the young generation that could compare to Xiahou Zong, for starters! That alone was embarrassing enough.
The Eternal Sacred Land was the ruler of Eternal Divine Nation, and should have led in every field by a far stretch. However, there was no evidence of that right now.
Most concerningly, none of the other factions feared the sacred land. There should have been far more open support for it than there had been at the Skymender Festival, which was explanatory enough.