Jiang Chen didn’t expect to stir up a mutiny with just a few words, but at least he could plant the seeds of doubt in their minds, further driving a wedge between the imperial family and the other factions. Then, it was only a matter of time before the alliance fell apart.
Forefather Calmdew flew into rage. “Die, you devil-tongued brat!” He was going to take matters into his own hands!
Suddenly, rays of light shone through the sacred land’s great formation. Gap after gap opened up to allow its members egress. Thousands of cultivators swarmed out with as much aplomb as a dragon streaking forth into the ocean. They’d clearly come prepared.
The first batch of troops had collapsed due to the airborne poison. Leading the charge, the first prime shouted, “Take them all, alive!”
It’d be as easy as lifting a finger to kill all of them, since they couldn’t even move, let alone resist. However, the first prime didn’t intend to eliminate them at all.
Forefather Calmdew had originally been worried that the sacred land would holed up in the formation forever. But seeing such a large group of cultivators streaming out now didn’t exactly please him. He turned as ashen as a dead man.
This was the worst time to face the sacred land army. Although he wasn’t exactly on his own, it was a near thing. The army behind him might be able to match the sacred land’s in number, but they’d lost their will to fight and couldn’t rival the sacred land’s elites at all.
Besides, the Soulless Powder was more intimidating to them than the imperial family. Forefather Calmdew had tried and failed to mobilize them. As a result, the sacred land was bound to gain the upper hand unless reinforcement came.
Forefather Calmdew knew when to cut his losses. He huffed when he realized that there was no hope.
“You might win this battle, sacred land, but don’t celebrate just yet! There is no end to our numbers and no use resisting us. We’ll do this another time!”
With that, he actually turned to leave!
“Leaving? And what do you take me for?” The Vermilion Bird wouldn’t allow the human to flee. It tapped the air and turned two feathers into sharp blades, which expanded and slashed at the forefather’s direction with a presence to shake the very earth.
They weren’t the sharpest of all blades, but the killing intent and destructive power they contained were enough to take the forefather’s breath away. His escape route was blocked.
He turned to escape the other way. He was determined to flee and had made up his mind to abandon his three principals.
There was a growing voice that told him that he had to run now, or his life would be in danger.
He thus spared no effort in forging a new path, but he couldn’t lose the Vermilion Bird. Its feather blades chased him doggedly, like a curse to kill.
“How can this be? How??” Forefather Calmdew was frustrated for being obstructed every step of the way. He’d fought in many battles and had a world of experience, but never had he been so caught on the backfoot.
After he’d become a demigod, only divine cultivators could somewhat threaten him. The rest were riffraff to him.
“Can this unassuming fellow in the red fog be a divine cultivator?” The forefather’s heart sank, a trace of trepidation sneaking up on him. It’d be terrifying if were true.
“That can’t be! If he were a god, he’d easily destroy my mind by exerting his presence or even crushing me with a strand of his consciousness. I can feel a powerful bloodline in him, but not a human one. Is he a spirit of sorts?”
Forefather Calmdew was observant despite his fear. He nervously threw an escape talisman in the air, trying to escape.
However, before he could activate it, a flash of light streaked past his view. An arrow pinned the talisman to a pillar before him. The arrowhead made a crisp clink when it sank into the stone.
Forefather Calmdew turned to where the arrow came from and saw Jiang Chen holding a bow in his hand. Clearly, the young man had been the one to shoot. “You’re not going anywhere, Forefather Calmdew!”
He chuckled and shot another arrow, aiming for the center of the forefather’s forehead this time. Only Jiang Chen would dare attack Forefather Calmdew, as an intermediate empyrean cultivator.
The arrow was ferocious. Even the forefather didn’t dare take it head on. He dodged the attack with minimal movement and dashed for the outskirts straightaway.
The Vermilion Bird cackled and soared through the skies. The red fog surrounding it expanded and turned into a sea of blazing flame.
Its shriek rang through the entire nation. It had expanded back into its beast form and obscured the sun with each wingbeat. Its wings had a savage beauty to it that captured the imagination, but at the same time they radiated an intense killing intent.
“Where are you going, Forefather Calmdew?” the bird asked mockingly. It easily overtook the forefather with a few flaps of its wings.
The forefather widened his eyes in shock and terror. This was a vermilion bird of the ancient divine beasts, and one that had reached its maturity! With it almost fully awakened, it far surpassed him in power.
“Dammit, I must run!”
Forefather Calmdew didn’t dare stay for a moment longer. The Vermilion Bird’s beast form was majestic and terrifying in equal measure. He wanted nothing but to escape from this nightmare and never return.
However, the bird was at its peak when it was in this form. Only a god would be able to rival it.
The Vermilion Bird easily stopped the forefather’s attempts to flee. Its feathers morphed into sharp blades and fired fatal attacks at him.
It was clear that the bird wasn’t going all out. Otherwise, the forefather would be dead already. It was using him as target practice.
The forefather scurried around pitifully, his hair unkempt. He couldn’t escape the bird’s grip.
Jiang Chen could tell what the bird was doing. He smirked. “Forefather Calmdew, as the second forefather of the imperial family, don’t you feel ashamed for doing nothing but trying to flee? Where’s your pride? Where’s your dignity?”
The forefather swallowed down a mouthful of blood. He was having enough trouble defending himself from the bird and didn’t have the effort to spare at all for arguing with Jiang Chen. Moreover, the sacred land’s army was still at standby, ready to join the fight any moment.
Jiang Chen approached the first prime and whispered, “It’s now or never, First Prime. You should send a team of elites to attack the vault with the spirit herbs and regain control over the area.”
The first prime was highly pleased to see Jiang Chen. Ziju Min was even more thrilled and kept patting the young man’s shoulder.
“Good lad! I know you wouldn’t disappoint me.” Life hadn’t been easy for Ziju Min lately, what with all the criticism and rumors swirling around. However, Shao Yuan, who’d he personally brought to the sacred land, had become the key figure in turning the tide for them!
It was a known fact that Shao Yuan was a genius, but no one anticipated him to complete such a great feat. He’d played thousands of cultivators like fiddles and planted a time bomb between House Xiahou and the imperial family.
Although the sacred land was not yet victorious, they’d won this round of the match. At least the war was no longer one-sided. They’d been liberated from oppression and humiliation.
Once the sacred land recovered enough to strike back, nothing could stop their momentum until the alliance broke down.
The first prime gazed deeply at the Vermilion Bird, who was toying with Forefather Calmdew in the sky. “Shao Yuan, who is this spirit to you?”
“A companion,” Jiang Chen responded simply.
“Good, good. You’re indeed one of our geniuses. You even befriended a divine beast!” The first prime marveled. “Shao Yuan, this seat is wholeheartedly impressed today. The forefather was wise to have set his eye on you.”
The bird was about done toying with Forefather Calmdew.
The first prime commanded without hesitation, “Lead a team of elites to the vault and take it back, number three. Failure is not an option!”
“Understood!” the third prime responded with great spirit. He took everyone he needed and moved out quickly.
“Brother Vermilion, don’t go overboard with toying with your prey,” Jiang Chen exclaimed as a reminder. “Restraint is key.”