The four from the Starlight Sect headed straight into a classier tavern, their expressions clouded. Jiang Chen and his two companions didn’t follow too closely, staying outside for a brief moment before entering.
Once inside, they swept the place with their consciousness and located the four from the Starlight Sect. They were in a booth near the window opening to the inner courtyard, a quiet corner away from the crowd.
Jiang Chen requested a booth near the four men. It was close enough that his party’s powerful consciousness could overhear the conversation in the other booth. After ordering some wine, they pretended to be regular patrons while eavesdropping without hesitation.
The disciples didn’t realize that they’d been targeted. They chugged down wine without a word.
After a moment of silence, the younger of the group slammed his cup down on the table and cursed, “Fucking hell, we’re so damned unlucky! Only four out of ten of us survived the mission, and those bastards from the Cloudwave Sect stole the credit. Screw them!”
“Enough, Ah Hong, stop complaining,” a deep voice chastised. “Someone might hear you.”
“Brother Ninth, why discipline us even now? We played the obedient sheep and made compromise after compromise. What have we gotten for it? The credit we’re due always gets stolen from us. The Starlight Sect has become nothing but their tool without receiving any of the benefits. Why did we get involved in the first place? We could’ve stayed out of this whole thing.”
Before Brother Ninth could respond, a hoarse voice spoke up. “Don’t blame Ah Hong for complaining, Brother Ninth. Those people have gone overboard. They played noble when we first formed an alliance, saying that the gains would be equally split between factions, and that we should work together and not be selfish. But in the end, it’s every man for himself. Our Starlight Sect has been played for fools.”
Brother Ninth sighed. “Alright, I get how you feel, brothers, but we can’t back out now. There’s no use complaining. If the imperial family and House Xiahou hear, they’ll misunderstand and think that we’re rebelling. Then we won’t be able to prove our innocence no matter what.
“We have to fight in this war even if it kills us. The imperial family has taken over the reigns, and they’re in a honeymoon phase with House Xiahou right now, issuing orders as a united front. The Cloudwave Sect is close to House Xiahou and knows how to suck up to them. Naturally it’ll receive a little more benefit.”
“A little more? If it were only a little more, we’d suck it up, but they’re getting a lot more than we are. Their greed knows no bounds.” Ah Hong didn’t even try to lower his voice. He was furious.
“Alright, let’s drink. We need to report back to the capital tomorrow morning.” Brother Ninth knew it’d be difficult to pacify their anger, so he changed the subject and told his companions to drink and talk about other things.
“Stop trying to make the problem go away, Brother Ninth. We’re all brothers at this table. Why can’t we speak our mind? The imperial family and House Xiahou aren’t interested in eavesdropping on us. They’re surfing their high and too busy splitting their gains to spare a glance at us nobodies.”
“True. I have to admit I’m regretful. If only I was in charge of the Starlight Sect. I want the sect to be what it was before. I have a feeling that things will only get worse after House Xiahou and the imperial family conquers the nation, both for the nation and for the Starlight Sect. I know you may not believe me, but I’m sure time will prove me right.” The fellow gulped down his wine.
“Brother Ninth, do you think Ole Zhao makes sense?” Ah Hong piped up. “When the Eternal Sacred Land held power, they at least maintained fairness on the surface. House Xiahou doesn’t even try. They favor whichever faction is closer or more obedient to them. In my opinion, House Xiahou makes a poor boss. There’s a reason why the sacred land was in charge.”
The man who’d been quiet spoke up, “Brother Ninth, is the sacred land doomed for real?”
Brother Ninth was silent for a long time before he responded softly, “I can’t say for sure. Elites from all factions have surrounded the sacred land. Most of the experts who fled have been killed. Those who stand their ground are barely hanging on with the help of their great formation.”
“But I hear that the most powerful cultivators in the sacred land aren’t the three primes; it’s their venerated forefather, a divine cultivator. He can easily rebuild the sacred land and make it rise again. How are we supposed to fight a god?”
“It’s said that House Xiahou’s forefather is a full-fledged god as well.”
“Really? Ours is only a demigod. Are you telling the truth about House Xiahou’s?”
“Yes. And I hear the imperial family has a divine cultivator as well. The two of them are working together to keep the sacred land’s forefather sealed. It’ll be next to impossible for him to escape within the next three thousand years. During this time, the alliance can freely attack the sacred land without worrying about retribution.”
“Three thousand years… tsk, the sacred land is in big trouble.”
“That’s why you should keep your grumbling to yourselves, lest the words reach the imperial family and House Xiahou. If they hear and make our lives difficult, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.”
“Huh, what a strange world this is. Our life before the uprising was better than our life now. I can’t help but wonder if House Xiahou and the imperial family are deliberately weakening the top factions in order to rule over us all. Do you think that’s a possibility?”
“It’s not just a possibility, it’s a fact. We’ve suffered great casualties as we fought the sacred land head-on. We’re going to be significantly crippled in the end. We’ve done all the dirty work, but they’re the ones who are going to reap the benefits without so much as a scratch on them.”
After a few rounds of drinks, the four men stopped masking their discontent. Even Brother Ninth didn’t stop his companions from speaking up. He only urged them to drink every now and then.
Jiang Chen sighed inwardly as he listened in. An uprising had happened, but the news hadn’t even gotten out.
Actually, why hadn’t the usurpers allowed the news to spread?
The four men soon talked about that.
“Brother Ninth, isn’t it weird that the imperial family and House Xiahou are still suppressing the news after all this time?” asked Ah Hong. “The outside world has no idea what’s going on. Why are they still trying to hide it?”
“You’ve overlooked something.” Brother Ninth smiled slightly. “First, the sacred land has many supporters within the nation. If word spread, those factions will come to the capital to aid the sacred land. They may not be strong enough to resist the alliance, but they will hinder our efforts significantly. If our power is spread thin, our control over the sacred land will waver. The alliance already suffers from a shortage of manpower. We can’t afford to attract the attention of the sacred land’s supporters.
“That’s just one of the reasons. Most importantly, the imperial family wants to keep the uprising a secret while it waits for the other divine nations to rebel as well. This is a joint mutiny against all the sacred lands initiated by various factions within the Ten Divine Nations. The Eternal Sacred Land isn’t the only one under attack. The others are in danger of being toppled as well. Afterwards, it’s possible that the entire order of the Myriad Abyss Island will be disrupted. We all have to be prepared.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is,” Hong said in a conflicted tone. “Is the rule of the ten sacred lands over Myriad Abyss going to be nothing but a mark in history from now on?”
“Well, we are entering a new era, but there’s no telling how many divine nations will be able to topple their sacred lands.”
Ah Hong grimaced. “Sigh, we’re part of the rebellion, but why don’t I want it to succeed?”
“Alright, Hong, enough of that,” Brother Ninth warned in a harsh tone. “Keep your thoughts to yourself, or you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
“I understand, Brother Ninth,” Hong responded weakly.
“Come on, let’s drink. Although credit for our accomplishment was stolen, we killed a mighty foe from the sacred land and acquired his token. The imperial family can’t deny that. We have evidence backing us up when the reward is given out. My only regret is that we’ll never recover the comrades we’ve lost.”
“That’s why I call them evil. So many of us have died, but House Xiahou hasn’t even deployed any of their members. Most of them are stationed around the sacred land instead of fighting on the frontlines. They’re a cunning bunch! They send us to our deaths while they preserve their strength. We won’t be able to maintain an equal status with their house then, let alone fight them for anything.”
“Alright, this isn’t helping. I believe the sect head has a better grasp of the situation than we do. As followers, we shouldn’t care about who we’re serving. I hear that the Cloudwave Sect has issued a mission with great reward.”
“Is it the bounty on Shao Yuan?”
“You know about that as well? I hear Shao Yuan was the first to leave. He left early on with the genius and girl from House Yan. At that time, no one knew it was them. The Cloudwave Sect sent a team to track them down, but the team never reported back. According to news from within the sacred land, Shao Yuan has long since gone missing. The imperial family and House Xiahou are sure he was part of the small group that left the sacred land that night.”
“House Xiahou must want nothing more than to capture Shao Yuan. Haha, they’ve got to be furious with him for killing Xiahou Zong. He’s completed a remarkable feat! No one can deny that the sacred land is second to none in raising and finding geniuses.”