The Vermilion Bird was a rather composed divine creature. As it had lived and relived the long stretch of time from the ancient era to the present, its patience was perfectly understandable.
Moreover, the bird didn't know enough about the abilities of its divine opponent. In light of this, it didn't want to make promises it couldn't fulfill.
The Xiahou forefather was desperate to return. He rushed back to the capital with almost suicidal speed.
As he sped along, he frowned. His consciousness and vision tipped him off to a forest of thin, silken threads that scintillated in the light. They covered almost every patch of the nearby empty space.
Though they didn’t look particularly special, the Xiahou forefather felt a pressing sense of danger. Not the lethal kind, but danger nevertheless.
“Has someone set up an ambush for me here?” A scary thought jumped into his mind. He swept the environment; the terrain was harsh and unsuitable for a sneak attack.
Nevertheless, peril hung in the air.
As a divine realm cultivator, the forefather’s senses were extremely sharp. Ordinarily, he would’ve scouted out his surroundings to find the root of the problem. Since he was in a hurry, he eschewed this course of action.
Harrumphing, he turned to bypass this area. He couldn’t make heads or tails of the threads with a single glance, but they were evidently here to hinder him. The prospect of being waylaid instantly filled him with caution.
“The venerated forefather aside, the sacred land’s three primes are only peak empyrean or demigods. They wouldn’t possibly dare attack me here.”
This was the confidence unique to a divine expert. Handling at least three to five demigods at the same time was easy enough for a full-fledged one.
Attaining godhood and the recognition of the heavenly dao lent a cultivator a special strength that was utterly incomprehensible to those below his realm. It was a power that drew from the very essence of heaven and earth itself.
However, the Xiahou forefather wanted to get back to his house more than anything. He wasn’t interested in potential delays. No matter how he tried to go around though, the threads seemed unavoidable. They were absolutely everywhere!
The Xiahou forefather furrowed his brow deeper and harrumphed once more. He hadn’t wanted to waste time, but that didn't mean he couldn’t cut through these threads. He believed these colorful strands were woven with poison. This was why he’d been careful in the first place.
“Petty trickery. Out of my way!” The Xiahou forefather fired balls of lightning from his palm in fury. They exploded midair in a series of pops.
The detonation of these electric spheres caused currents of air to blast in every direction. The threads splintered and broke accordingly, their fragments tossed into the wind.
The Xiahou forefather clasped both hands together, causing the currents rampaging about to gradually cluster. In no time at all, the prismatic strings were sucked into a ball above the forefather’s head.
“Hmph. Using poison before me? Pathetic!” The Xiahou forefather was livid. He dusted his sleeves before continuing.
It was at this moment that the scenery shifted before his eyes; he was transported in a trancelike state into an otherworldly realm. A pocket of space that seemed almost like nirvana, filled with the same kind of fiery lotus in every corner. They glowed with a burning radiance, almost indistinguishable from real flames.
The Xiahou forefather was very serious now. He instinctively believed he had entered a formation.
It was extraordinary in that it divided him from the outside world. Even a divine expert like him had ventured in unknowingly. As an experienced cultivator, the forefather didn't panic because of his newfound location.
In his opinion, no formation could be perfect. This specific one that had trapped him was no different. If he could find the flaw, he would be able to walk out with impunity.
The Xiahou forefather cast his eyes before him. Through careful observation, he noticed a few secrets hidden in the formation. It appeared to be an interjoining of countless extradimensional spaces, their layers both piling atop and connected to each other.
Without guidance, someone lost within could only wander like a headless fly, forever doomed to be directionless within the maze.
Naturally, he wasn't so foolish. His divine eye revealed to him all the connections between the spaces. As it did so, the lotuses beneath his feet opened their petals, opening their brutish maws upon him.
“How childish!” The forefather grunted. It was absurd to think an attack of this caliber could hurt a god!
He knew that he was trapped in a formation with an intrinsically complex structure, but the lotuses posed little threat to his personal safety. He flew back and forth freely through the lotuses like a bird. Regardless of the ferocity and agility of the plants, the forefather remained untouchable.
“Hmm, I’ve been here before.” Having looked for clues as to the exit for quite a while, he finally managed to trace something down.
Mid-jump, the lobes of his ears wiggled. A hitherto unfelt sense of emergency struck him in a flash.
“Hmm? What?” A divine expert had quick reactions. He disappeared on the spot in a wisp of blue smoke. At the same time, the air was cut apart by the shrill sounds of crimson feathers in flight.
The Vermilion Bird’s feathers blinked into existence like keen knives, ignoring the laws of physics in the process. If not for the Xiahou forefather’s reflexes, he would’ve been riddled with holes already.
The forefather paused before perching on an opposite corner. There was no more arrogance in his eyes. Inexhaustible prudence replaced it. There was life around that could threaten his own!
He took a closer look at the feathers that had nearly taken his life. His heart was shaken. “Vermilion feathers? Do they belong to that vermilion bird?”
Duke Xiaoyao had informed him in his message about the sacred fowl responsible for smashing House Xiahou into the dirt. A vermilion bird, straight out of the ancient era. Was the bird active here as well?
The Xiahou forefather took a lot more care now that an opponent was around.
It was at this time that an ocean of red clouds swept toward him from every direction. Sky and earth were swallowed up in a sea of crimson. The silhouette of a bird was barely visible behind the haze. The Xiahou forefather felt his heart tense at the sight.
“So it is the Vermilion Bird!” he murmured. He was anxious rather than scared; the energies the bird gave off indicated that it wouldn't be an easy enemy to defeat. If he couldn't break free from the Vermilion Bird’s deterrence and assist House Xiahou, his house would be in even greater danger.
The Xiahou forefather began to hate the imperial one. If that man hadn’t left at such a crucial time, wouldn’t things have turned out better?
No amount of complaining was going to do any good, though. He knew he needed to break through the Vermilion Bird’s blockade as quickly as possible.
It was ideal if he could tame the bird for himself, but that was probably even more difficult than defeating it.
The Xiahou forefather sank into deep thought, attempting to come up with a strategy. He wasn't a high level god – only second level divine, in fact.
He might be a level higher than the imperial forefather, but initial divine realm nevertheless.
He didn't have an absolute advantage against a creature of an ancient bloodline like the Vermilion Bird. Moreover, the bird was clearly much more prepared than he, which added to his concerns.
“Daoist Vermilion Bird,” the Xiahou forefather spoke, “Eternal Divine Nation has never had ancient beasts residing here before. Your appearance is a sign of fortune for us. House Xiahou has never had any ideas of opposing ancient sacred beasts. Why are you blocking my way here?”
The Vermilion Bird could understand the human tongue, but it didn't know how to speak it. Not that it would have deigned to reply to the Xiahou forefather, at any rate. Snorting, it cast a meteoric swarm of countless fireballs toward the Xiahou forefather.
The area of effect of this attack covered nearly every visible inch of ground. Even a god would be seriously injured without defending himself.
The Xiahou forefather didn’t dare take the attack lightly. With a swish of his robes, he vanished into space once more on the breeze, reappearing in a safer place.
Unfortunately, he was also stuck in a formation that prevented him from escaping its boundaries regardless of his attempts to escape. This crimped his style somewhat.