Forefather Xiahou couldn’t believe that the imperial forefather would just leave like that.
“Wait, fellow daoist!” His attempt to stop the imperial forefather was met with resounding silence. The man didn’t even turn around.
Forefather Xiahou’s heart sank. Without the other forefather’s help, it was next to impossible for him to maintain the sealing formation on his own. If the sacred land’s forefather escaped, the Xiahou forefather would be the first to fall victim. The sacred land’s forefather was much more powerful than he was.
He was beside himself with anger, but there was nothing he could do. Staring at the formation, he agonized over his options. Should he retreat, or stay to hang doggedly on??
He’d already been anxious when receiving Duke Xiaoyao’s message. He also wasn’t sure what was happening inside the formation now. Had the forefather been tormented within an inch of his life? Had he died? There was no way to tell.
If he left and gave the forefather a chance to recover, the latter would break free, and all their hard work would’ve been for nothing.
But if he stayed trying to maintain the formation on his own, he might exhaust himself. More importantly, House Xiahou was in great danger. If he didn’t go to their rescue quickly, they’d fall under prolonged siege as well.
He was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Forefather Xiahou came to a decision after some deliberation. “I won’t last long on my own here. If the forefather rises again, I’ll only get myself killed. I might as well hurry back to the family and strike down the sacred land to resolve our crisis. Once things settle down, I’ll recruit the help of divine cultivators from other nations.”
He knew it wouldn’t do much good for him to stay here if the forefather could escape. He spent some time reinforcing the formation before making his way to the capital without a glance backwards.
He burned with anxiety. The threat against House Xiahou intensified by the minute. He couldn’t say for sure how long his clan could prevail under the sacred land’s attack.
Not long after the Xiahou forefather departed, the sacred land’s forefather frail form inside the formation wavered as he expanded his consciousness. The two divine cultivators had left the formation!
What an absolutely delightful and unexpected turn of events!
During the time in which he was trapped, his subordinate elders had been tormented and killed by the formation, leaving only him still standing. He had a feeling that he’d be met with the same fate after three to five months.
Unexpectedly, his captors had left his goal. As a result, the pressure on him ceased to increase.
“What’s going on? They wouldn’t have left without a reason. Has something changed about the situation in the sacred land?”
In order to preserve his strength, the forefather had turned a blind eye to the happenings outside, which was also why it took him some time to notice the two forefathers’ departure.
“Is this a ploy, perhaps?” He considered the possibility, but dismissed it after some consideration.
It didn’t make sense for them to trick him, not at this stage. As long as they continued to broil him through the formation, he’d deplete his strength sooner or later. His instinct as an expert told him something must’ve gone wrong for them to take off at such a critical juncture.
He’d made up his mind. No matter what they were trying to do, he had to seize the opportunity to recover his strength and break through the formation as soon as possible!
Meanwhile, the three primes and the heads of each faction were gathered before House Xiahou’s home base.
The first prime gazed at the fort and declared gravely, “House Xiahou makes for a formidable foe, but their fort isn’t impenetrable. Their defense can’t keep us out forever. Let us work together on our respective tasks and break through their defenses as quickly as possible!”
“Break in, break in!”
Morale was high and everyone was eager. The Vermilion Bird soared into the sky first, leaving a sea of fire in its wake, vibrant and tremendous.
Whoosh! True fire came out of its beak on the exhale, raining rain of flames on House Xiahou’s fort.
A din of screams and wails rang out from within. Even the stone walls and structures burned. A brief contact with the fire was enough to reduce cultivators into ash.
The Vermilion Bird was as strong as a god after all. It could easily slaughter everyone with its full power. It was capable of greater destruction than anyone from the sacred land.
The first prime was both intimidated and relieved as she witnessed the bird’s might.
“It’s fortunate that the bird is Shao Yuan’s friend, and therefore on our side. Otherwise we would’ve been defeated by the alliance,” she sighed inwardly. The divine beast was the key to turning things around.
She hadn’t been there when the bird killed Xiahou Zhen and Forefather Calmdew. Now, with her own two eyes, she saw how powerful the bird was and how integral it was to their victory.
The bird’s fire blotted out the sky above the fort, surrounding House Xiahou’s home base and raining down an ocean of flames upon them.
“What’s wrong? What’s the commotion about?” A surprised Duke Xiaoyao looked upwards and spotted the vermilion bird’s demonstration of its prowess.
“The Vermilion Bird’s struck again! We’ve underestimated that feathered bastard’s lust for blood!”
Duke Xiaoyao knew how powerful the bird was, but it still surprised him that it was able to break into their fortified stronghold. Although the walls had kept most of the fire out, even the slightest crack was enough to let the flames through.
“Your Grace, that feathered bird is a great threat! We must find a way to stop it, or people will panic under its relentless attack!”
“Your Grace, we mustn’t take the hit without doing anything!”
Duke Xiaoyao huffed. “So? Do you expect people at my level to risk our lives fighting the bird?”
Perseverance seemed to be their only option if even their fort couldn’t stop the sacred land.
“If any of you have a solution, feel free to speak up. You’ll be rewarded as long as your proposal is sound.” This was a difficult time. He knew rewards were the only way to motivate people.
“This subordinate has an idea, Your Grace, but I’m not sure if it’ll work.”
“Go on.” Duke Xiaoyao glanced at him. It was one of their elders who wasn’t particularly valued within the family.
“Your Grace, Shao Yuan is an emotional man who has fought hard for a woman. He wouldn’t have considered us his enemies if not for Yan Qinghuang.”
“So what?” Duke Xiayao asked in a low voice.
“Why don’t we exploit that weakness of his and try to appease him with a marriage? Xiahou Zong’s sister Xiahou Ying is both beautiful and talented. Wouldn’t she be a good candidate?”
Duke Xiaoyao’s expression clouded. “Xiahou Ying? Do you think she’ll cooperate after Shao Yuan killed her brother?”
The elder sighed. “Her opinions are insignificant when the entire family is at stake.”
“Even if Xiahou Ying is willing, Shao Yuan may not be. I hear that she made an offer to Shao Yuan before, but he never accepted it. He was clearly hostile to her then. This is unlikely to work.” Duke Xiaoyao shook his head. He didn’t think that was a good idea.
“Your Grace, we won’t know until we try. The family is in great danger. We can’t afford to waste any time. This subordinate volunteers to seek Shao Yuan out and try to convince him. As long as Shao Yuan gives us some leeway by telling the Vermilion Bird to hold back, we’ll be able to survive!”
Duke Xiaoyao considered the elder carefully and asked seriously, “Your enthusiasm is appreciated, but are you sure you can sway Shao Yuan?”
“This subordinate will do my best,” promised the elder with confidence.
Duke Xiaoyao mused in silence. The plan was unlikely to work, but if it did, it’d be great news for the clan. They’d get some breathing space as long as the bird held back even by a little.
Without the bird’s help, it’d take a long time for the sacred land to break into House Xiahou’s fort.
“There’s no reason to hesitate, Your Grace. Shao Yuan started out as a wandering cultivator and he hasn’t been in the sacred land for long. I don’t believe that he is truly devoted to them. At the end of the day, material gain is all that matters. As long as we give him enough incentives, he will talk to us.
“Even if the negotiation fails, it won’t do us any harm to drive a wedge between him and the sacred land.” The elder made some convincing arguments.