Prime Puresmoke’s heart skipped a beat and her brows furrowed. “What fighting? Have the rebels launched their attack?”
Concern flashed through Holy Girl Yu Ling’s exquisite features. Had the rebels finally attacked? Would they be able to hold the base?
She wasn’t afraid. She was more worried that her master would force her to flee. She’d been raised by and had never thought about being apart from her master, especially not when her master’s life was in danger.
She had made up her mind to defend the sacred land until its fall, but she would never be prepared for her master’s death.
Prime Puresmoke didn’t notice the girl’s expression. She waved a hand in the air. “Come on, let’s go have a look.”
The scout recovered enough from his excitement to shook his head and hands. “No, you’ve misunderstood, Madam Prime. The rebels haven’t launched an attack. They’re the ones being attacked!”
“Really? Have reinforcements finally come?” Yu Ling’s eyes lit up. “Master, help has come for us!”
The prime remained calm and collected. “Don’t celebrate just yet. Perhaps this is all Forefather Goldenbell’s ploy to lure us out. We have to stay cautious.”
Despite what she said, Prime Puresmoke took her disciple to the fringe of the formation. She wanted to see for herself if the cavalry really had come. It’d be cause for celebration if true.
They stood at the edge of the formation, looking out over the outskirts of the steep valley.
Droves of rebels from different factions had surrounded it, blocking almost every escape route from the base.
Prime Puresmoke’s chest tightened. She didn’t fear death, but she wanted to help her beloved disciple escape before that. Given the heavy forces circling the base, it’d be a very difficult task.
After a more careful look though, Prime Puresmoke realized that the rebels outside the valley were rattled. The further they were from the base, the more obvious the commotion.
Standing at the edge of the formation, she couldn’t get a good enough look at what was happening. After a while, the commotion grew even more intense.
Red clouds rolled over from a distance, devouring the air and dying the sky. They moved slowly and deliberately, but bringing with them a mighty presence and a heavy air of intimidation.
Invaders were traditionally likened to looming dark clouds. In this case, the clouds were a fiery red, but their presence and destructive power were just as strong.
The previously tightly organized rebels panicked and scattered.
A penetrating shriek suddenly split the air.
A man emerged out of nowhere and hovered high in the air. With a wave of his hand, he dropped something round into the fray. “Listen carefully, rebels! Forefather Goldenbell has been killed and his body destroyed. All seven of your commanders have been executed as well. Here are their heads...”
It was Jiang Chen. One by one, he dropped the seven blood-stained heads, strewing chaos in their wake.
One of them caught a head. It did belong to one of the seven commanders who had left earlier! All of the decapitated heads had eyes open wide, signifying a death that was far from peaceful. It seemed as if they’d experienced the worst horror in the world before they died.
“Agh! It really is their heads!”
“What’s going on? Heavens, what happened?!”
“Even Forefather Goldenbell is dead? How is that possible?!”
The rebels panicked when they saw their commanders’ heads, their faces contorted with horror. Both their bodies and minds were paralyzed by fear of the unknown.
The commanders’ aides pushed past the crowds and picked the heads up, taking a careful look. It was clear they couldn’t just yet accept what had happened.
However, after careful inspection, they couldn’t deny that the heads did indeed belong to their commanders. Their leaders had been killed during the short time they were away!
The aides exchanged a look, their arms shaking as they held their commanders’ heads. The sudden turn of events disrupted the rebels’ original strategies and hammered at their will.
“What’s going on? Who is it that killed the commanders? No demigod would’ve been able to do that. Can it be a full fledged god?”
The possibility that a god had joined their enemy’s side took root in their hearts and weighed them down. In that case, the odds were great that they would all die without even a body to bury.
A god was too powerful for them to fight. No matter how many of them there were, an advantage in numbers wouldn’t save them. A god could easily defeat an army on their own.
“See this bell? It’s Forefather Goldenbell’s signature treasure, but now it’s my toy.” Jiang Chen hit the bell hard, his face splitting into a sardonic grin.
The aides gaped at the floating bell. Of course they recognized the magical item that bore the same name as the forefather. Even the bell had fallen into the young man’s hands! The shock left them sweating with fear.
“Who’s that kid?” The aides exchanged questioning looks and shook their heads. None of them recognized the unwanted guest.
“He looks young. Could he really have killed the forefather?”
“It’s unlikely. He seems capable, but he hasn’t yet reached divinity. How could he have killed the forefather?”
The aides were completely lost. They kept the army together on autopilot, keeping everyone in line to stop the group from falling apart.
Prime Puresmoke was confused as well. She didn’t understand what was happening.
Holy Girl Yu Ling asked in a quiet voice, “Who is he, master? I haven’t seen him around the sacred land. Is he from outside the nation?”
The prime had no clue. She didn’t know the young man either. She’d thought this was part of Forefather Goldenbell’s plan, but the heads the young man had dropped did indeed belong to the rebel commanders. She could at least judge that much.
It was a forgone conclusion that he was here to help the Martial Sacred Land.
“Is Forefather Goldenbell really dead?” Prime Puresmoke wondered. That would alleviate at least half of her concerns. With both the forefather and the seven commanders dead, the rebels wouldn’t pose much of a threat, even if their numbers doubled.
They had no leaders!
In the martial dao world, oftentimes what determined the result of a battle wasn’t sheer numbers. That didn’t matter when the difference in might was great enough.
“What’s that, master?” Yu Ling asked hurriedly, derailing her master’s train of thought.
“What?” The prime turned around to look outside the formation.
Red clouds flooded from behind the young man. From the ocean of red emerged an enormous spirit that obscured the sun. It flapped its wings, covering half of the sky.
It tilted its head proudly and shrieked, the sound sending mental shockwaves through the cultivators below. The humans toppled one after another like barley bending in a strong gale. Some lesser cultivators spat up mouthfuls of blood and collapsed to the ground, never to rise again.
The aides hurriedly covered their ears, their expression panicked as they zipped around in flashes to escape. They could tell that their lives were in danger.
“Is that… a vermilion bird?” Realization dawned on the prime. She recalled many rumors about such a divine creature.
The spirit looked mighty from a distance. It seemed capable of devouring heaven and earth.
“The Vermilion Bird?” Holy Girl Yu Ling marveled. “Is it one of the mythical four divine beasts?”
“Are they from the Eternal Sacred Land?” muttered the prime, her eyes lighting up with hope.
It made the holy girl feel a little more at ease seeing her master’s expression clear. She could tell her master’s mood was recovering.
“Master, are they from the Eternal Sacred Land?” Holy Girl Yu Ling looked up at the spirit hovering in the air, then at the man on the spirit’s back. “Who is he? How can he ride on a vermilion bird?”
She was curious. To her knowledge, all descendents of the four divine beasts were very prideful. Why would one of them let a human ride it? Was the bird willingly surrendering control to a human cultivator?
“It seems that the rumors are true,” Prime Puresmoke said in a conflicted tone. “Our intel told us that the Eternal Sacred Land started out in a similar situation as we did, but a young genius came out of nowhere with a vermilion bird and turned the tide of the war. He broke apart the rebels with intelligence and power.
“After that, he destroyed the imperial family and then House Xiahou, who led the uprising, putting an end to the rebellion. I thought the Eternal Sacred Land had spread the rumors to create a heroic figure, but it seems they were telling the truth.”
On one hand, the prime was thrilled that reinforcement had come. On the other, she worried that such a genius would widen the gap between the Martial and Eternal Sacred Lands.
Moreover, if the young man ended up helping them overcome this challenge, they’d owe the Eternal Sacred Land another great favor.
Of course, there was no use agonizing over that now. Their top priority was to pick themselves up and vanquish the rebellion. The Eternal Sacred Land had been generous to send both the young genius and the Vermilion Bird to the rescue.
It was a demonstration of the friendship between the two sacred lands!