Some time while Bai Yunfei was fighting Qin Long and Yan Tianxing, something else was happening within the depths of the primal stone mine.
Several members of the Qin were still seated there in the same cave where Qin Tian and the other two members left from. One of the more solemn-faced individuals had been waiting for some time after Qin Tian left before he decided to speak up. "Qin Xia, notify every Soul Exalt within our family to gather on the surface. Spread out around a five-kilometer perimeter over the mine and guard every entrance. Order them to disallow entry to everyone!"
"Yes!" A skinny but middle-aged man bowed at once before quickly leaving the cave.
Aside from the patriarch seated in the middle, this solemn-faced individual was the oldest one there. He was the cousin of Qin Tian and was named Qin He, one of the strongest of the Qin. He was close to being a Peak Late-stage Soul King and also close to becoming a Soul Emperor, but Qin Tian was stronger than him by a small amount.
But it wasn't long after the one named Qin Xia left that the people in the cave found themselves astir once more to gape at the entrance.
Two auras were rapidly approaching them. One of them was Qin Xia, and the other was a scholarly-looking person behind held up by him!
Everyone was alarmed at their sudden reappearance. "Qin Shu!" One person exclaimed, "What reason have you for coming back? Did something happen?!"
The one named Qin Shu looked like death had warmed over onto his face. He wasn't injured by any physical means, but his body seemed like it was without strength. Just standing required Qin Xia to hold him up as he gasped. Terror filled Qin Shu's face when he was asked the question.
"We were ambushed!! Outside the mines!! Uncle and Qin Jian were…they were both killed!"
The elders gathered in the cave flew to their feet at once at the news. Horror gripped at them all as what Qin Shu said was processed into their minds. Qin He himself flew forward to grab Qin Shu by the chest to bring him close. "What did you say?!" He barked, "Repeat yourself at once!"
His authoritative voice towards Qin Shu wasn't meant to intimidate the man, but to refocus his mind and drive out the terror. Qin Shu trembled as Qin He's words took affect onto his person. "We…" He began to stutter, "we were just twenty-five kilometers away from Swallow City when someone attacked us from a nearby mountain. Not even uncle could sense them until they attacked. There were two of them. One of them was so skilled at hiding that he blended in with the world itself. When he attacked us, the other appeared behind uncle and…and killed him! Qin Jian tried to attack, but he was killed as well! I…I knew I couldn't win, so…so I fled back here!"
Silence filled the cave as Qin Shu finished his short story. No one knew what to say or do but just stare at him…
"Impossible! Someone that can assassinate the previous head in one move?! That's ludicrous! I don't believe it! How could there be such a powerful person!?"
A white-haired elder cried out in exasperation. Though he cried out his misgivings, his reactions said otherwise.
A Late-stage Soul King being 'assassinated' without even the chance to fight back?! How…how could anyone believe in something like that?!
But the messenger bringing this piece of news was Qin Shu, someone who everyone knew was not a liar. The news was disproportionately terrifying to even think about. No one wanted to believe what Qin Shu was saying, but they had to!
"Who…who is the one that's doing this to us!?"
Unable to hold it in within himself, an elder within the cave let out a loud cry.
Qin He was the calmest figure within the cave. Aside from the faint layer of disbelief showing on his face, Qin He had also a pondering expression on his face as he thought about the possibilities.
His eyes snapped back to Qin Shu as if he realized something. "A person skilled in assassinations…and hiding within the world itself? He was able to assassinate Qin Hu and even Qin Tian without a sound…I can only think of one person capable of all that. Jing 'Death God' Wuying!"
"What?! Jing Wuying!?" Someone else cried out. "The patriarch of the Jing?! Didn't he die a long time ago?! We investigated him a long time ago. He didn't even appear when the Jing were exterminated, how could he possibly be alive still?!"
The speaker's voice was trembling from fear. Jing Wuying was clearly someone so powerfully terrifying that even speaking his name invoked fear.
"He's the only one…no one else would have that kind of strength or motive to fight our Qin!" Qin He spat. "It's definitely Jing Wuying!"
"But how?! What…what should we do? The man was already a Peak Late-stage Soul King when he was last heard of multiple decades ago. All the rumors said he died when trying to become a Soul Emperor. Could…could those rumors be wrong? Could he be a Soul Emperor now?!"
Another horrifying thought that only served to deepen the terror everyone in the cave felt.
"Impossible! Why would he spend so much effort assassinating our members if he was a Soul Emperor? He could've killed the entire Qin by himself then!" Qin He refuted, "He must've failed to become a Soul Emperor and was injured! That's why he spent all those years in hiding! He must only be a Peak Late-stage Soul King!"
"But…even if he is, what can we do?" Another elder asked. "Even as a Peak Late-stage Soul King he remains an opponent we cannot fight against! He's skilled in the art of assassination and subterfuge. We don't stand a chance! If the Death God has his eye on our Qin, what can we possibly do?!"
Everyone's eyes were focused entirely on Qin He now. They were all expecting an answer from him, but it was no use. Not even he had a plan against an enemy as powerful and sudden as this.
From all the days before, the Qin had been waiting since forever for their patriarch to become a Soul Emperor. His ascension to the next level would bring forth the elevation of their family!
And now a threat large enough to exterminate those grand ambitions was presenting itself right before their dreams could come true!
While everyone was fretting to themselves, a terrifying wave of aura slammed into the inhabitants of the cave!
Qin He whirled around along with the other members to look at the state-still elder in the middle. Something had piqued their surprise.
A faint red light was shining from the patriarch's person and his eyes were slowly starting to open…
Two bright beams of red light shot out from his eyes. With each time the beams of light landed on a person, the person would shiver momentarily as if feeling their very soul being scrutinized, their bodies bent set on fire, and their blood being boiled.
"Patriarch, have…have you…" Qin He started to speak hesitantly.
The patriarch's eyes swiveled to look at Qin He. His mouth didn't open to speak, but everyone could hear a voice speak into their minds. "I heard everything…a strong foe appears…I cannot wait any longer…let us begin the final soul fusion ahead of schedule!"
Qin He looked startled, "Ahead of schedule? But patriarch…is that not too risky? The previous fusion has yet to stabilize, there might be the chance of failure if we try too soon…"
"If Jing Wuying is here, then he knows of my situation and will not let things go as we planned. We…must make haste! Do not give him the time nor opportunity! We must do this now! Our problems will be solved as long as I…succeed!" Patriarch Qin's voice rang out in their minds with a hint of steel.
"That…" Qin He was still a little hesitant. "Preparations have yet to be finished, patriarch. We don't have enough souls. Trying to force the next attempt would be a little…"
"Send the order for our men to capture every single miner within fifty kilometers! I'll use their souls!"
Qin He snapped to full attention at the order of his patriarch in shock!
"To every single miner?! That's…" Qin He's mind went blank at the numbers that'd involve. While capturing that many miners would definitely mean having enough souls, how would the Qin possibly be able to survive the fallout after that?
"Do it now!!"
But the patriarch had given the order. Qin He straightened at the back to bow one last time to the patriarch. "Yes, patriarch!!" He replied with gritted teeth.