Gu Yunjin was thrilled by the surprising news. Hope rekindled in his heart and drove away his deep despair.
Nevertheless, he kept a level head and worried, “Shao Yuan, you’re more admirable than many senior members of the sacred land for going to such lengths to help us, even though you’re just a recent addition.
“Elder Ziju’s trust in you isn’t misplaced, and the same is true of the venerated forefather and the three primes. What a shame you weren’t given enough time to grow when this uprising broke out. Given another couple centuries, I’m sure the sacred land would be able to rise again with your help.”
Jiang Chen could tell that there must be trouble brewing within the faction. However, he didn’t poke for more information. It was impossible for everyone to remain loyal to the sacred land in the face of such a crisis. There was bound to be people abandoning or fleeing the sacred land, or even defecting to the enemy.
“Everyone has their own ambitions, Hallmaster Gu. There will always be traitors and cowards. The fact that the sacred land holds strong against the alliance’s planned assault proves its foundations to be solid. How are the venerated forefather, the three primes, and Elder Ziju?”
“The first and third primes and Elder Ziju are fine, but the second prime was seriously hurt by a group of experts and is out of the fight. The injury isn’t fatal, but it may have a lasting effect if he doesn’t get treated in time. He may never recover his cultivation level.”
The second prime?
The man’s face surfaced in Jiang Chen’s mind.
“When the first wave of attack came, it was the second prime who led our defenses. No one foresaw that the alliance would put together a team of masters specifically to target him. The prime is skilled, but he was caught off guard and ended up seriously injured. His condition is treatable, but the best alchemists in the sacred land have either been killed or trapped.
“To make things worse, we’ve lost control over the area where we store spirit herbs, which prevents us from getting the herbs we need to treat him. As a result, the second prime’s condition continues to worsen.” Gu Yunjin sighed. “We’ve made several attempts to steal the herbs from the vault, but we haven’t succeeded.”
Jiang Chen straightened up. “Where is the vault?”
Gu Yunjin’s eyes lit up as he looked at Jiang Chen. A bold idea came to mind.
The sacred land members were holed up within the sacred land’s great formation. It was difficult for them to access the heavily-guarded vault. That said, the vault was protected by a complicated defensive formation. Although the imperial family had taken over the area, they hadn’t found a way to break through the formation and enter the vault.
“The vault isn’t far from here, but it’s under the imperial family’s tight control. It’s difficult to get close.”
Jiang Chen smiled slightly. “Do you have a map of the sacred land? May I have a copy?”
“I do have one.” Gu Yunjin’s eyes lit up as he took out a map, pointing at specific locations. “We’re here. Our great formation covers this area. The spirit herbs are kept here. Oh, and I’ve marked the alliance’s defense posts on the map according to the intel we’ve gathered. It may not be exact, but it should be of help.”
The information was crucial to Jiang Chen. He’d just returned to the sacred land and knew nothing about the layout of the alliance’s defense. That was why he’d asked Elder Xun for information. Imperial Prince Shang would never tell him anything.
“This is exactly what I need. Hallmaster Gu, how many people are stationed at the vault, and how many of them will pose a real threat?”
“That’s hard to say. It’s difficult for us to even get into the area. There should be at least a couple dozens guarding the vault, the most powerful of which is at eighth level empyrean, I think.”
An eighth level empyrean expert was a first tier expert within the capital. After all, there were only a number of ninth level empyrean experts, and even fewer demigods. And one could count on one hand the number of divine realm cultivators.
The fact that there were eighth level empyrean experts stationed near the vault testified to its importance.
“Eighth level empyrean? How many?” asked Jiang Chen.
“I don’t know for sure. Shao Yuan, you shouldn’t risk your life for the spirit herbs. The sacred land needs you and what you can be. You’re our future.”
Personally, Gu Yunjin didn’t want the young man to take the risk. In his opinion, Shao Yuan was their hope. It’d be unwise to risk their future for their present.
Jiang Chen nodded. “I won’t push myself. Oh, and I hear the venerated forefather has been trapped by two divine experts somewhere and won’t be able to escape for two thousand years. Is that true?”
Gu Yunjin sighed. “It is. If the venerated forefather hadn’t been ambushed, he could’ve easily eliminated all our enemies and the alliance wouldn’t be a threat at all.”
The venerated forefather was the reason why the sacred land had gotten careless. They’d thought the imperial family and House Xiahou wouldn’t be able to cause that big a trouble.
Jiang Chen sighed softly. “In that case, our top priority is to break out the venerated forefather and solve the crisis the sacred land is facing.”
“That’s true, but it’s easier said than done. Even if the three primes all escape the containment, they won’t necessarily be able to free the venerated forefather. Both the imperial family and House Xiahou’s forefathers are gods.
“The three primes are unlikely to rival them even if all three of them work together, let alone when the second prime is injured. This is our darkest hour, which is why geniuses like you have to be patient, Shao Yuan. Live to fight another day!” Gu Yunjin earnestly advised Jiang Chen not to put himself in danger.
Jiang Chen thought for a moment before responding seriously, “Hallmaster Gu, it’s dangerous for you to be here. You should first return to the great formation. We’ll keep in touch. If I get some information or come up with a plan, I’ll let you know immediately. I’ll need you to work with me from the inside.”
Gu Yunjin pursed his lips. “What are you planning, Shao Yuan? Don’t risk yourself.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to start a fight I can’t win,” Jiang Chen declared with great conviction. “If I do make a move, it’ll be to cripple our enemy or break the alliance down.”
Gu Yunjin could tell the young man had made up his mind. He sighed softly. “If that’s the case, I’ll bring the news back to the sacred land first. I’m sure everyone will be thrilled.”
“Yes, you should move quickly. This isn’t a place for you to stay.”
Jiang Chen wasn’t going to keep Gu Yunjin. The defense posts around the area were populated by enemy forces. It was dangerous for the hallmaster to even stay and talk for a minute.
“Take care.” With that, Gu Yunjin disappeared.
Jiang Chen waited for a moment before shouting in the direction opposite to where Gu Yunjin had left in, “Freeze, bastard!”
Those defending the neighboring areas had clearly been lax on purpose due to their unwillingness to risk their people. That was why Gu Yunjin had ended up in Jiang Chen’s jurisdiction.
They were disappointed that Jiang Chen didn’t catch the hallmaster, but they weren’t going to point fingers. None of them were in any place to criticize Jiang Chen when they were all holding back for selfish reasons.
Their meaningful expressions imparted to Jiang Chen that the alliance was slowly falling apart as each faction’s death toll accumulated, which was good news.
With each defense post thinking of their own safety, it was truly difficult for them to catch Gu Yunjin. The hallmaster safely returned to the sacred land’s formation in no time. His comrades were surprised to see him so soon.
“Old Gu, is the offense really so tight that even you can’t break out?”
“So even you failed. Those traitors certainly haven’t spared any effort.”
“What’s going on outside? Tell us.”
Gu Yunjin ignored them and headed straight inside, at the same time calling out, “Where’s the first prime? I have important information for her.”
The first prime quickly strode out when she heard his voice, followed by the third prime and Ziju Min.
“Hallmaster Gu, did you fail to break out?” the first prime asked dejectedly.
“First Prime, I had some success in the beginning, but do you know what happened when I reached the sixteenth defense post?”
“Did they deploy a great number of guards there again?” The first prime knew the area was of great strategic importance. The alliance had sacrificed many lives to guard it.
“No, I met someone,” the hallmaster relayed in an excited voice. “I ran into Shao Yuan. He hasn’t run away. He left the sacred land earlier for personal matters and has snuck back!”
“What? Shao Yuan?” Ziju Min was the first to react. “He’s back?”
“That’s right. He and his companions have assumed the identity of Starlight elders and haven’t been exposed. Imperial Prince Shang entrusted them with the responsibility to defend area sixteen. It seems that he’s planning something big.”
“What exactly do you mean?” The first prime asked with a frown.
“He didn’t go into details. He simply asked me to tell you he’d always stand by the sacred land and he’d help turn the tide for us!”
“Tsk, what a bold statement from an intermediate empyrean cultivator. In my opinion, he’s likely to have defected to the imperial family during his unannounced absence. Perhaps he’s now the enemy’s spy!”
“Agreed. House Yan has defected to the imperial family as well. It’s unlikely that Shao Yuan will remain loyal to the sacred land. Don’t let him deceive you.”