It was said that a prominent figure’s departure from a group would cause a chain reaction. The imperial family and House Xiao had never felt the truth to the saying more keenly than they did so now.
The emperor and Duke Xiaoyao exchanged a silent look, their hearts bleeding as the major factions pulled out from the alliance. Everything seemed so surreal and detached from reality. How could things have taken such a wild, sudden turn?
Where had the Vermilion Bird come from?
Why had the assaulting army so suddenly collapse from the Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud?
Duke Xiaoyao believed that the house had taken effective measures to keep the poison’s recipe confidential. Only their core members and geniuses knew of it. How had the sacred land gotten ahold of the recipe?
Perhaps they’d never find the answers to those questions.
Once the tide turned, the sacred land’s credibility surpassed that of the imperial family’s. Factions of all scale and wandering cultivators around the capital opted to support the sacred land, putting the blame on the imperial family and House Xiahou.
Public opinions gradually converged. It became clear to everyone that the nation at large had become more chaotic as the war dragged on.
Countless innocent people had been killed in crossfire. The nation’s order had been falling apart as well. Cases of fatal robberies grew exponentially.
All signs pointed to the fact that they’d been better served under the sacred land’s rule. Back then, there had been little in the way of pleasant surprises, but at least the world hadn’t been as nightmarish as it was now.
People had been living under daily terror since the uprising. They were helpless and directionless. The disparity was telling. Only now did they reminiscence what was good about the sacred land and how they’d taken things for granted.
“Your Majesty, we must come up with a solution. Things can’t end like this. All our hard work will have been for nothing.” Duke Xiaoyao spoke gravely.
Only a quarter of the original members remained in the alliance, half of which were loyal supporters of the imperial family and House Xiahou. The other half were still weighing their options. They only remained because they had an ingrained fear of the two leading factions.
Jiang Chen wasn’t going to waste his time trying to persuade them. He knew they were either too stubborn or too devoted, and could only be defeated, not persuaded.
The alliance had been able to suppress the sacred land for so long not because of the imperial family and House Xiahou’s superior power, but the momentum they’d gained.
Previously, the alliance’s domineering appearance had given them an edge. Their momentum allowed them to keep the sacred land at bay and attract more and more members.
Now, the tide had been turned and the alliance was falling apart. They were as good as doomed both in terms of their power and the impetus driving them forward.
Therefore, Jiang Chen didn’t intend to waste his breath. His frigid gaze swept through the crowd beneath him. “It seems you’ve decided to stay on the sinking ship that is House Xiahou and the imperial family. Don’t blame the sacred land for being merciless then. Since you refuse to budge, the sacred land will not show you mercy.”
His words were effective. A few more factions hesitantly left the alliance. The emperor’s eyes blazed with fury, but there was nothing he could do.
“Your Majesty, things aren’t looking good for us,” transmitted Duke Xiaoyao. “The sacred land was able to turn things around solely because of Shao Yuan and the Vermilion Bird. If we can eliminate the pair, we still stand a chance of coming out on top.”
“Eliminate them? How?” The emperor was more eager to kill Jiang Chen than Duke Xiaoyao was. It was deeply regrettable that such a remarkable genius didn’t belong to the imperial family!
If he’d been theirs, the alliance would have gained a clear upper hand or even conquered the sacred land already.
“We have to do it ourselves. We must gather all elites from both our factions and launch a counterattack with the help of the palace’s great formation.” Duke Xiaoyao continued, “It seems that the Vermilion Bird’s strength is still at a demigod’s level, which is our only chance to defeat it. If it becomes a real god, it’ll be so powerful we may not even survive a fight with it, let alone rival it.”
“It’s common knowledge that even as a demigod, a descendant of the four divine beasts can rival a divine cultivator,” the emperor sighed. He couldn’t help but wonder if it was fate that the sacred land would rise again.
“At least we still stand a chance against it, Your Majesty. If we let the bird continue to grow and ascend to divinity, it’ll become an unstoppable force. No matter how slim our odds are, we have to give it a try. Otherwise, we’ll have no choice but to call the two divine realm seniors back.”
If they did that, the sacred land’s venerated forefather would be set free. So that wasn’t an option. They had to depend on themselves to forge a way out.
But before they could reach a conclusion, Jiang Chen was already poised to victoriously report back to the sacred land.
“Your Majesty, Duke Xiaoyao, the two of you are the sinners who brought disaster upon the nation. I’d even venture to call you sinners. You’ve committed too many atrocities to be redeemed. Better be prepared for the sword of justice to claim your lives!
“The rest of you, listen up! We’ll be merciful to you, but if you insist on helping these two tyrants, we won’t hesitate to execute you as well.”
He tried to sway the alliance further even with his parting words. The imperial family might be a unified whole, but survival was every cultivator’s priority. There would be those willing to stick with the alliance when faced with great danger even at the risk of their lives, but not everyone.
Jiang Chen’s words were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Soon, the palace fell into complete chaos.
The good news that Jiang Chen had torn the alliance apart with the first prime’s order reached the sacred land. Morale was high and a strong sense of relief permeated the air.
They weren’t afraid, but they were sick of the killings.
The relationship between the major factions of the divine nation was complicated. Take the sacred land as an example, many of its members had been recruited from the other major factions. They might be loyal to the sacred land, but they couldn’t completely abandon their familial bond.
After all, blood still spoke loudly in the end.
If there was a way to peacefully resolve the war, they’d chose that over fighting, anyday.
The imperial family and House Xiahou panicked when they realized the alliance was about to disband, while the sacred land was thrilled.
The three primes made a collective statement to the entire nation, declaring the imperial family and House Xiahou as the culprits of the uprising. The rest of the factions could be pardoned as long as they took action to atone for their crimes, and they would be rewarded accordingly.
At the same time, the sacred land called for the factions to put aside their biases so that this conflict could be ended for the greater good.
Lastly, the sacred land declared that it was going to launch a comprehensive counterattack against the alliance. All factions seeking atonement must declare war against the imperial family and House Xiahou.
It was merely a demonstration of loyalty. Both the imperial family and House Xiahou had been considerably crippled. The deaths of Forefather Calmdew and Xiahou Zhen had taken a heavy toll on them, and the two divine realm forefathers couldn’t come to their aid.
Although they still had a few devoted supporters left, they were clearly at a disadvantage. It was no exaggeration to call them helpless and weak.
After the sacred land made the statement, factions that supported them rejoiced. Meanwhile, some former members of the alliance changed their tune and declared the imperial family and House Xiahou persona non grata.
The situation was reversed completely in only a few days.
“First Prime, the imperial family and House Xiahou are at their weakest. It’s time for us to strike them down. Otherwise, things may change after their divine realm forefathers return. As long as we take out the emperor and Duke Xiaoyao, the two factions will lose their direction.”
“That’s right. For the imperial family, especially, their experts are bound to flee after the emperor dies. On the other hand, House Xiahou won’t go down without a fight due to their heritage. Our biggest problem at the moment is the latter rather than the former.”
“House Xiahou may be difficult to eliminate, but once Duke Xiaoyao is killed, none of the others will be much of a threat.”
“Please give the order, First Prime!”
“Hear, hear! Please give the order now!”
The first prime was thoughtful. “Since you’re all so driven, this seat isn’t going to rain on your parade. Besides, it’s wise to eliminate our enemies once and for all before they can regroup. Get ready, everyone. I’ll lead the charge tomorrow morning against the two treacherous factions!”
“Exterminate the traitors!”
“Crush House Xiahou and the imperial family!”
“All hail the mighty and everlasting sacred land!”
The cultivators were in high spirits. They’d been suppressed for so long. Finally, it was their chance to strike back. They’d pay the alliance back double for the humiliation and torment inflicted on them!