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It was evident that Shao Yuan had become a controversial figure for the senior executives of the sacred land. He’d gone missing when the faction fell into chaos, which gave those who’d been jealous of him the perfect opportunity to attack. His absence had further fueled the criticism against him and gave rise to many baseless accusations.

Some called him a deserter who bent whichever the wind blew. Others claimed he’d been planted by the alliance to create friction within the sacred land.

The three primes didn’t acknowledge their theories, while Ziju Min took a firm stand to defend the young man. As of late, he’d had many arguments centered around the genius.

Derision and criticism had been levied at him, but he continued to support Jiang Chen without wavering. He firmly believed that someone as loyal and committed as Shao Yuan had no reason to betray the sacred land. The senior executives who suspected him knew nothing about his character, and were only against him out of envy over the young man eclipsing their disciples.

Ziju Min raised an eyebrow in response to the accusations. “You guys won’t stop until you’ve pushed Shao Yuan into the arms of the alliance, will you?”

“Tsk tsk, Elder Ziju, Shao Yuan isn’t your son. Why do you care about him so much? Aren’t you worried that you’ve also been deceived by him? What are you gonna do then?”

“That’s right. You’re an honest man, Elder Ziju, but the kid is cunning. Wouldn’t it be ironic if he’s been lying to you all along?”

Ziju Min flushed purple with anger. “Nonsense! Why would Shao Yuan lie to me? What does he stand to gain?”

“If he is the imperial family’s pawn, he may be lying to you to gain our trust.”

“So what?” retorted Ziju Min. “If he’s a liar, why would he leave us? Wouldn’t it be better for him to stay in the sacred land to stir up trouble?”

“Ha, maybe he fled because he realized he was going to get exposed.”

“You’re reaching now. You’re just jealous of Shao Yuan for making your disciples look bad. Do you need to put on such a disgusting act? Shao Yuan has proven to all of us how much of a genius he is. You’d have to be blind to not see it.

“If Shao Yuan truly is the imperial family’s pawn, then they’re the most generous opponents to give us the Taiyi Skymender Pill and the Crowning Empyrean Pill. And would they let Shao Yuan kill Xiahou Zong?”

The senior executives themselves knew full well that Shao Yuan couldn’t be a spy. If he was, there was no reason for him to kill Xiahou Zong. He would’ve lost on purpose and continued to stay in the sacred land.

Besides, the imperial family wouldn’t be able to manipulate someone who could kill Xiahou Zong.

They were just attacking Shao Yuan out of spite.

The first prime frowned. “Enough. You’ve spouted plenty conspiracy theories about Shao Yuan lately. Watch how you present yourselves. It’s rare for the sacred land to gain a genius at his level. Do you really want to destroy him?”

The senior executives fell silent for fear of offending the first prime.

“Hallmaster Gu, please continue.”

Gu Yunjin nodded. “I’d be the first to deny the possibility that Shao Yuan is the imperial family’s pawn. Although he’s a recent addition to our ranks, he’s surpassed many elders in terms of contribution made. Moreover, there’s an air of righteousness to him. He’s not a dishonest man.”

“Yes, Shao Yuan is no doubt a genius worthy of our trust.” The first prime spoke up, putting Shao Yuan in a positive light. “Since he already has a plan, this seat believes he knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing we can do at the moment other than wait patiently. We’ll send out some of our elites every once in a while to keep in contact with him. Oh, and don’t let any information about Shao Yuan leave this room. If anyone does, I won’t go easy on them.”

All that remained here were devoted members of the sacred land. They might disagree sometimes, but they’d never betray the sacred land. Still, the first prime warned them just in case.

“First Prime, Shao Yuan also mentioned that the factions within the alliance are clearly at odds with each other. Perhaps we’ll soon be able to make our comeback.”

“Both House Xiahou and the imperial family are selfish. It only makes sense that the alliance is unstable.” The first prime scoffed. “Without mutual gains as glue, the alliance would’ve collapsed long ago. As long as we persist long enough, we’ll see the alliance fall apart one day.”

She did indeed have an eye for strategy.

The next few days were uneventful for Jiang Chen as he stayed within his defense post, but the vault of spirit herbs was always on his mind. If the imperial family could find a way to break in, they’d take everything for themselves, which would be a great loss for the sacred land.

“Can’t let those bastards get what they want so easily,” Jiang Chen grumbled.

There was some good news as well. He could feel the atmosphere within the alliance growing tense lately. A brief investigation yielded something interesting.

At the fringes of the nation, many sacred land’s supporters were up in arms and had declared war against the evil alliance, stating their conviction to defend the rightful ruler. Those factions had gained quite the traction around the nation.

Presently, many members of the alliance had grown weary due to the great losses they’d suffered in battles. They also had troubles with deployment because of lack of manpower.

The sacred land’s supporters put an even greater pressure on the alliance. The imperial family and House Xiahou had no choice but to take matters into their hands.

However, there were too many sides to fight on. Not even the imperial family and House Xiahou combined would be enough. They tried to mobilize the other first tier factions, but aside from the particularly devoted ones, the ones that’d taken the brunt of the initial charge refused to keep putting a majority of their people into the fight. They’d recognized their mistakes and turned cautious.

As a result, the resistance against the alliance grew stronger and and stronger instead of weakening. If the resistance was allowed to form a united front, more and more factions would join, and turning the tide would be a possibility.

That was the alliance’s biggest fear. They had to come up with a solution.

Jiang Chen wasn’t allowed to join the high-level meetings, of course. Only the likes of sect heads and venerated elders from major factions could partake in the sessions. Still, he was able to collect some information.

It was said that the alliance was under great pressure. As a result, the imperial family and House Xiahou had decided to gather all the forces from the major factions and organize a final assault against the sacred land’s great formation. This time, the two at the head would send out their elites to lead the charge, rather than letting the other factions to march to their deaths like they had before.

That way, the others had no choice but to play their part despite their reluctance.

They’d been passive because they nursed a grudge against the imperial family and House Xiahou for using others while preserving their own strength.

Now that both had joined the battle by sending out their elites, the other factions had no qualms about following them into the fight. The resulting casualties would be a lot lower for them as followers.

The above information was confidential. Jiang Chen paid a great price to acquire it and was overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. The alliance is getting impatient. They organize this assault to end the sacred land once and for all.

If the alliance was truly united without diverging agendas, they’d have the power to dominate the sacred land.

“They’ll make the move seven days later, on the night of waning moon.” Jiang Chen sent a message when the opportunity presented itself. The sacred land was shocked. The imperial family and House Xiahou had decided to end them with no regard for human life!

That was what the sacred land least wanted. They had very limited manpower. Every death hurt. The alliance, on the contrary, had an endless supply of cultivators and could easily replenish their forces.

“We must cut our losses, First Prime,” someone suggested. “If we can’t defend the great formation, we should break out of their siege. Then we’ll have the freedom to do anything!”

“Shut it!” The first prime raged. “Without the formation, we’ll be spread thin and isolated, making it easy for our enemies to eliminate us one by one. If anyone dares talk about abandoning the formation, this seat will take that an attempt to mislead us all and deal with them swiftly!”

This was where the sacred land’s foundation was. Only cowards would choose to abandon their roots. Breaking out would be nothing but an attempt to flee!

If the sacred land was conquered, they’d all be doomed even if they were lucky enough to survive.

Everyone fell silent in face of the first prime’s thunderous fury. The man who suggested for them to break out was visibly panicking.

“Please quell your anger, First Prime. It’s wise of us to stand our ground and defend the formation, but we can also find a way to reinforce the formation and improve our coordination in battles. If everyone fights together smoothly, we’ll be able to entrust our backs to our comrades and become that much stronger!”

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