Shortly afterward, the court of Qi the Heavenly Country was shaken by a piece of sensational news. It was said that the country’s three fortress prefectures had fallen in a night raid made by the barbarians. Over the next three days, over half of the cities of the three prefectures had fallen. More shockingly, the Great Warlord Yue Tai, who had dedicated most of his lifetime to guarding the fortress, was declared missing! Nobody knew whether he was still alive or had sacrificed his life in the war, but three hundred bodies of his private guards were found lying near his mansion. Come to think of it, how terrifying! The three hundred picked guards were all strong Houtian warriors, but none of them survived. So, for a time, the whole country was profoundly shocked.
At last, someone woke up from their shock. The king, tortured by fear and anxiety, demanded that reinforcements be immediately sent to the fortress, not forgetting to send messengers to inform the three big sects of this tragic event, in hopes of getting their aid.
In the Yan Fire Country. The Black Demon Sect.
The sect’s landmark, the thirteen mountains, stood unperturbed, though the scent of war had already reached the sect. As the peak numbers fell, the mountains grew in height and peril. For example, the No.3 mountain rose almost perfectly straight toward the sky, and barely an edge could be seen from halfway up the mountain. Besides, contrary to the No.13 Mountain, which was in a constant hustle and bustle, this mountain hardly contained any life. No human figures, no buildings. Only a somber black hall that stood by itself at the peak, giving off a gloomy and cold feeling.
At this moment, the hall was dim, as per usual. Emptiness was the only thing that filled the space. A man in a seamless robe was sitting, motionless, in the center of the floor, his brows heavy and sharp like a sword. Strangely enough, a film of black rays had wrapped around him, and the rays were moving and gathering like a fire, except that it was black.
All of a sudden, the bracelet on his wrist glowed, making a faint black ring that contained tiny magical characters. The characters kept moving up and down, soon forming a small round formula. Then a part of the air seemed twisted, and a black jade slip the size of a palm emerged from nowhere. The man with sharp eyebrows suddenly opened his eyes, snatching the black slip and putting it against his forehead. After a moment, he raised his eyebrows and stood to his full height, and the film of dark rays immediately vanished without a trace. He quickly left the hall.
Almost simultaneously, on the adjacent mountain, a hall was also pushed open and out came a middle-aged man with long beard. His face looked rather severe. In his hand was the same black jade slip that the man with sharp eyebrows had...
Throughout the years, the No.1 Mountain peak remained eternally snow-capped and was lost in clouds and mist while biting wind whistled day and night. Amid the vast whiteness, a majestic black hall stood out. The entire building was made from a kind of heavenly stone as dark as the night sky, and it had three stories that stretched toward the sky until they ended in a pinnacle, on which a gigantic globe was in constant slow rotation, emitting dark light as if there was a huge ball of dark fire burning inside. The whole scene gave off an feeling which was so strange as to not be able to be described with words.
At this moment, the twenty big stools placed in the hall of this building had all had people sitting in them, except for the main seat at the center. Whoever had the qualification to sit in this congregation was either the sect’s leader, the mountain host, or an elderly saint. Among them were some that Shi Mu had met when he was kidnapped for their sect: Tiger Bone, Ning Ping, and Jin Xiaochai (the pretty girl who had been disguised as Han XiangXiu on their way to the Black Demon Sect). Although these people wore different expressions, they were all casting expectant glances to a small door in the hall every now and then.
Beside the main seat sat two middle-aged men. One was Master Xie, whom Shi Mu had met the day he was registered as an Adept scholar, whereas the other was a purple-robed man whose coat was embroidered thickly with magical patterns that kept giving off magical energy. He was wearing a big ring of blue jade on his right thumb, and in his hand was a purple magical cane that was made from some unknown material. The cane had a purple crystal stone at its top which would shed a purple light from time to time. The man with dashing brows at his opposite looked to be around the age of thirty and had sharp eyes. If not for his sandy whiskers and a slightly haggard face, he would have looked younger. People in the hall seemed to have divided into two groups which had the two middle-aged man as their respective leader. An antagonistic aura could be sensed in the air between the two sides.
Just then, a figure flashed out of the small door, and a black-robed old man had shown himself in the hall. The diminutive figure proceeded at a leisurely pace. His face was wizened, and the black robe he was wearing did not have a single decorative design on it. Judging from his appearance, this old man seemed to be one of the most commonly seen grandpas in one’s neighborhood. But as soon as he entered the space, all stood up in great reverence, their breath held.
“Your Highness the Head Saint.” Simultaneously they bowed deeply with the uniform respectful face.
“No need for rites in special time. Sit, all of you.” The black-robed old man said lightly, seating himself on the main stool.
All obeyed, not daring to make a sound.
“The barbarians have come and they have taken the three fortress prefectures of the Heavenly Qi Country.
Even Yu Tai is missing. I’m afraid the odds are against him rather than being in his favor.” The black-robed old man put aside pleasantries and went directly to the main issue.
The listeners exchanged looks but none dared to speak up.
The old man directed his look to master Xie and asked, “brother Xie, you are responsible for all Message Formulas in and out of our sect, so have you gotten any news? Have the other sects in the Heavenly Qi Country taken any measures?”
“Your Highness, there are not many spies of our sect in the three fortress prefectures, so I haven’t gotten any news yet. But I’ve been informed that the three big sects have all sent disciples to the fortress, and the that the Qi court has dispatched three hundred thousand soldiers divided into three armies to reinforce the three prefectures.” Master Xie straightened his back and answered with clasped hands. After a momentary pause, he added, “Your highness, please rest assured, I have contacted the three sects of the Heavenly Qi. Once they get any relevant information about the barbarians, they will send messages to us immediately.”
“Brother Xie, I understand it’s a time of emergency, but how could you have contacted other sects without first consulting the Head Saint and the great elders? I think you have overstepped your authority in making such a rash decision.” The man with dashing eyebrows immediately spoke up and expressed his disapproval.
“As brother Xia has said, it is, indeed, a time of emergency, or I would never have acted so rashly. I apologize for this. May the Head Saint punish me for this.” Xie didn’t even change his look when he bowed to the black-robed elder and replied.
“No harm was done. Brother Xie has done nothing inappropriate, considering the circumstances.” The black-robed elder waved his hand and said.
Xie nodded slightly to show his thanks. A malicious gleam flashed in the eyes of the man with dashing eyebrows. He gave a snort but said nothing more.
“As far as I know, the barbarians have carried out a full-on invasion of a huge scale and acted quite swiftly, which is something they never did a century ago. Their purpose in this invasion still remains unclear and I want to know the view of you who are the backbone of our sect.” The black-robed elder let his eyes roam over the people present and asked.
“Head Saint, the seven sects of the three kingdoms have reached an agreement before. When the barbarians invade any part of the three kingdoms, all seven sects must unite as one against the common enemy. In my opinion, we should meet the head saints of the other sects as soon as possible, muster troops of our sect and hurry to the Heavenly Qi to repel the barbarians.” Xie said immediately, his voice rhythmic and sonorous.
Just as he had finished his words, many mountain hosts and elders soon echoed his view and nodded.
The Head Saint of the Black Demon Sect also nodded slowly, as if in approval of Xie’s view too.
“Head Saint, despite the agreement, I still don’t think we should dispatch reinforcements so soon.” The man with dashing eyebrows interposed amid the nodding heads. As his words were spoken all the people in the hall cast sidelong glances at him. Xie, on his opposite side, looked gloomy and was just about to say something when the Head Saint raised his hand to stop him.
“Please speak your opinion, brother Feng.” The black-robed elder said.
“Just as your Highness has observed, the purpose of the invasion was still not clear now, so it’s not unlikely that the barbarians are just snatching resources again. If so, why not stay and watch a little longer? I don’t mean to abandon the Heavenly Qi, but I only want to see how the three sects will handle the barbarians before we make our own plan.” Feng sneered and came to a pause.
“May head Saint remember, “ He continued, “five years ago the barbarians invaded the Shang Que Prefecture of our Yan Fire country, breaching several cities in a dozen days. At last, we of the Black Demon Sect allied with the Wind and Fire Sect to beat them off. Not a single troop of reinforcement came from the three sects of the Heavenly Qi.” Feng finished the rest of the sad story in a moving tone, sending the big hall into a total silence that hung over everyone’s heads. Soon a few of them nodded, deeply agitated by the memory. The Head Saint ran his fingers on the chair handle, his eyes drifting in deep thought,and his face seemed a persuaded one.
Seeing this, Xie stood up in a fit of irritation. “Head Saint, it was just a small tribe invasion five years ago and we two sects had no difficulty in crushing them at all. Now the condition has changed, and how could the barbarians have conquered Xing He city in just one night if they had not planned all of this beforehand! They have become crueler and if we, the seven sects, scheme against each other at this moment, we may be defeated one by one.It would be too late for us then!”
Hearing this eloquent speech, his rival also got up for his turn in this debate.
The elite of the Black Demon Sect apparently had split into two groups, one serving Xie as the leader and the other Feng Kong Zi who had dashing eyebrows.(Translator’s note: Maybe they serve the eyebrows.) It was clear that there had been both open strife and veiled struggle between the two sides (TL’ note: or two groups of eyebrow-pursuers). [TL’s note: Dear readers, it’s not that I wanted to repeat the expression of “the man with dashing eyebrows”, I had to. The Author has this way of writing, haha. So I think it’s not bad just doing the same. ]
“Well, you two don’t have to quarrel at this juncture, do you? Let’s hear what the others think.” The head saint raised his eyebrows [TL: ...] and waved his hand to forestall an interminable debate that was sure to bore him.
Xie and Feng Kong Zi both snorted, and then returned to their seats, their eyes continuing the confrontation in a silent way. Just then, hurried footsteps came from outside the hall. A middle-aged black-robed man [TL: ...] scuttled in with big strides and announced in a great panic,” Head Saint, bad news! The great elder of the Black Tortoise Sect, Bright Fire, and Gongsun Yu of the Tian Yin Sect have met misfortune!”
“What’s the matter, say it slowly.” The head saint was shocked, although more by the announcer than the news, and stood to ask. Other people present were also astonished.
“Your Highness, and honored elders, I have just received messages that Huo Yao - Bright Fire - was practicing in a restricted area of his sect when the strongest Totem Warrior of the barbarians, Wild Killer, appeared suddenly and killed him! And it was the same day when Gongsun Yu took a walk outside his sect and was later attacked surprisingly by several barbarian warriors of Earth Grade! Though he at last successfully fled to his sect, he had been badly injured and won't recover for a long time.” The man said loudly in a slightly trembling voice.
All the people were shocked hearing these words. And the head saint of the Black Demon Sect also changed his countenance, taking his seat slowly.
“Are you sure?” Xie asked in a quivering voice.
“It was the spies in the two sects who had sent the messages at the same time, absolutely no mistake.” The black-robed man hesitated for a while and replied.
The head saint waved his hand to send the middle-aged man out of the hall. All the people in the hall wore a face of extremely sullen look, especially those who served Feng Kong Zi as their leader. The news had struck both fear and an unbearable embarrassment in their hearts.