Chapter 168: A War Draws Near
Within Origin Light Castle, in a small alleyway in the commerce district, Iron Cliff giggled at Zhu Xianyao’s expression.
Obviously, Iron Cliff had very much enjoyed messing with Zhu Xianyao.
Zhu Xianyao helplessly replied, “It seems like you are becoming less and less obedient as time goes on. So those people who were with you……”
“Cloud Leopard, Lin Xiao, and the others,” Iron Cliff replied.
“Why are you guys here?” Zhu Xianyao asked, dumbfounded.
“We’re here to look for you,” Iron Cliff replied matter-of-factly.
After predicting that Zhu Xianyao would be tricked into entering Harpy territory, Su Chen had told Patelocke to pass his orders on to Iron Cliff and the others that they were to try and intercept the convoy. Unfortunately, they had been a step too slow.
Thankfully, that had also been accounted for. If they weren’t able to stop the convoy, then they were able to proceed onto the next stage of the plan.
The next stage, however, required him to get into contact with Zhu Xianyao first.
Unfortunately, the Heavenly Fragrance Pavilion was keeping too close of an eye on her. They wanted to find an opportunity to get closer to Zhu Xianyao, but they weren’t able to find any chances. Their illusion techniques, like Zhu Xianyao’s, might have been able to trick some of the lower-status Harpies, but there was no way they would work to the same effect on stronger Harpies. The Heavenly Fragrance Pavilion’s defenses were airtight, and even real Harpies would be denied entrance if they were unfamiliar, not to mention fakes Harpies.
Thankfully, they weren’t forced to suffer and wait for too long. Zhu Xianyao had managed to escape on her own first.
“What exactly happened?” Zhu Xianyao asked impatiently.
She had been waiting to hear an answer for far too long.
Iron Cliff began to summarize roughly what had taken place in Sky City.
When she heard about Su Chen’s repeated exploitations in Fate’s Hands and the Mother Goddess Sect, Zhu Xianyao was dumbfounded. Her amazement only grew when she heard about how Su Chen had managed to draw the Thousand Poisons Toad to attack Sky City.
Su Chen was basically planning on wiping out an entire kingdom single-handedly!
No wonder the Harpies were so keen on capturing her. They were definitely planning on using her as a bargaining chip to deal with Su Chen.
When she realized this, Zhu Xianyao suddenly seemed to remember something and said, “Wait. If they want to deal with Su Chen, then they should have directly captured me. There’s no need for them to maintain this veneer of politeness.”
“That’s only because they still haven’t confirmed the relationship between you and Master yet. In other words, Master’s true identity hasn’t been completely exposed yet. However, there are some Harpies who have managed to link what Su Chen has done with the arrival of the Zhu Clan two years ago. That’s where they initially got the idea that the Zhu Clan is involved,” Iron Cliff explained.
This answer wasn’t something that Iron Cliff had come up with on his own. Rather, Su Chen and Patelocke had come to this conclusion after a lengthy discussion. Zhu Xianyao’s current situation was pretty good proof that this was indeed the case.
If the Harpies were absolutely sure that their target was Su Chen, who had deep ties to the Zhu Clan, then Eternal Night would have never used such soft-handed techniques.
“So that’s how it is.” Zhu Xianyao sighed with relief before asking, “So shouldn’t we prepare to leave soon?”
Iron Cliff shook his head. “Even though you’ve temporarily managed to escape from the Heavenly Fragrance Pavilion, your clone won’t last forever. The security around Origin Light Castle is incredibly tight. If the Heavenly Fragrance Pavilion discovers your escape, then they will definitely mobilize all their forces and lock down the borders. You will never be able to escape. And if you fail to escape, then that’s their best way of confirming the connection between you and Master.”
“So you aren’t here to take me away?” Zhu Xianyao crossed her arms in displeasure.
Iron Cliff obediently replied, “Master has already given his orders. If we were able to get in touch with you before the diplomatic envoy entered Origin Light Castle, then we could try to escape. But now that you are in Origin Light Castle, we need to move onto Plan B instead.”
“What’s Plan B?”
“Stall!” Iron Cliff replied.
“Stall?” Zhu Xianyao squinted her eyes questioningly.
“Yes, stall for time. But we won’t just be waiting around. We’ll do so by strategically pressuring Origin Light Castle,” Iron Cliff replied.
As Iron Cliff began to explain the plan, Su Chen’s ideas began to unfold before Zhu Xianyao’s eyes.
First of all, Zhu Xianyao being placed under house arrest was a huge problem.
However, after Su Chen used the Origin Bone Scepter to determine how Eternal Night was planning on capturing Zhu Xianyao, Su Chen was able to grasp a critical point in Eternal Night’s plan — he hadn’t yet completely confirmed the relationship between Zhu Xianyao and the fake Halcyon Wing Streak.
Everything was just a guess at this point!
And as long as it was a guess, it was entirely possible for the guess to be wrong. No one was a stranger to this. Even Su Chen had made incorrect predictions before.
But Eternal Night couldn’t confirm that there was no relationship between Zhu Xianyao and Halcyon Wing Streak either, so his actions were quite cautious. And this caution clearly revealed Eternal Night’s warinesses to Su Chen.
More specifically, Eternal Night’s wariness towards the human race.
The wariness of starting an all-out war!
The Zhu Clan was not an unimportant one. Any clan with a Demonic Emperor Bloodline was only one tier weaker than an imperial family. They were definitely high-status individuals.
Arresting the successor to such a large clan without clear cause was not a small matter. It was entirely possible that a war could break out over such an incident.
And this was especially pertinent after the Desolate Beast’s attack on the city as the Harpies’ strength had greatly decreased. This was a prime opportunity for the humans.
If something were to happen to Zhu Xianyao in any way, then that was absolutely more than enough of a justification to go to war.
It was for this reason that Eternal Night had given such specific instructions to the diplomatic official. He needed to show both strength and softness. These two contradictory demands clearly indicated the difficult situation that Eternal Night found himself in.
If he were able to confirm the relationship between Su Chen and the Zhu Clan, then Eternal Night would be confident in moving against the Zhu Clan even if it gave the humans cause to attack. Just the fact that he would be able to force Su Chen out into the open made the risk more than worth it.
However, before he was able to confirm this relationship, Eternal Night could not make such a decision.
This was why Su Chen had chosen to first hide himself.
He had gone to great lengths to hide himself in order to ensure that Eternal Night would continue to be unsure.
What would happen if Su Chen were to reveal himself and say that he had no relationship to the Zhu Clan? Why was hiding so necessary?
Actually, making that statement would be a huge mistake.
The Harpies possessed countless experts who were proficient in all kinds of different techniques. If Su Chen really were to reveal himself, then it was entirely possible that someone would see through his lies. And even if they couldn’t, doing something like that was very revealing in and of itself.
His coming out and saying that there was no relationship had certain connotations to it.
Sometimes, telling someone that nothing was wrong was a clear indication that something was in fact wrong.
If there was truly no relation, then Su Chen shouldn’t have cared in the first place.
If you were a spy who had managed to successfully infiltrate an enemy country, and they had captured a stranger in an attempt to flush you out, then how would you react if they said that they were going to kill that person if you didn’t show yourself?
Under most circumstances, your reaction would be one of indifference.
And that is indeed the correct reaction in that circumstance.
Su Chen wanted to show Eternal Night that he had no relation to the Zhu Clan, so his reaction had to be one of indifference.
As such, he refused to reveal himself because any movements like that would betray the real relationship between him and that woman.
The truth would come out one way or another as soon as he appeared.
Of course, just because he couldn’t show himself didn’t mean that he couldn’t try to save her.
It was just that he wasn’t the one directly trying to save her — it was instead the Boundless Sect, and Zhu Xianyao herself.
As well as…… Liaoye Country.
“Liaoye?” Zhu Xianyao asked with some confusion.
“Yes, Liaoye,” Iron Cliff said as he continued to pass on Su Chen’s words. “Even though Eternal Night cannot prove the existence between you and Master, Master used his past interactions with Eternal Night to predict that his resilient and thorough nature won’t just let you go just because he can’t prove a connection exists. In other words, as long as the possibility exists, then Eternal Night won’t spare you. Our current situation is that Master cannot reveal himself to save you, as that would only make your situation worse. Of course, he cannot ignore you either because if the situation remains as is, you will never be freed. If that’s the case, we can only approach it from the angle that Eternal Night fears the most.”
Zhu Xianyao understood. “He isn’t trying to start a war between the two countries, is he?”
Iron Cliff chuckled. “That’s exactly what he’s trying to do.”
After the conflict with the Thousand Poisons Toad, Sky Country’s military reserves had taken a bad hit. This was not just the nearly two hundred thousand soldiers who had been lost, but even more so the large amount of resources they had expended during the battle.
A war included necessitated consumption of resources that had been stockpiled over a long period of time. Oftentimes, wars were conducted solely through attrition.
Defeating a Desolate Beast with just the power of the Harpies felt quite good, but their treasury would be much emptier for it, making it impossible for them to fight another battle of the same scale.
Under these circumstances, it was only natural that Eternal Night would do his best to avoid any further conflict.
No matter what, he could not allow Zhu Xianyao to become the spark of a conflict between the Harpies and the humans.
And since that was what Eternal Night feared the most, then that was precisely what Su Chen was going to do.
Su Chen planned on using this opportunity to take action.
“Of course, he’s not insisting that a war be started. He just wants the humans to posture like it’s about to break out,” Iron Cliff explained.
“So that’s how it is.” Zhu Xianyao understood Su Chen’s plan. “He can’t come out to save me, but Liaoye Country can apply pressure onto Eternal Night. And before he is able to confirm the relationship between Su Chen and me, the pressure will reach a point where Eternal Night will have to let me go if he wants to avoid war. That’s quite a beautiful setup.”
Based on Iron Cliff’s description, it seemed that a political gambit between the two races was about to unfold. Zhu Xianyao found herself quite impressed with Su Chen’s moves.
It had to be said that this was quite a reliable plan. However, the commotion it would create might be a bit too big.
If something went wrong, then not only would Zhu Xianyao find it impossible to escape, but a war between the two races might really break out.
“The problem is, will they all side with us?” Zhu Xianyao asked apprehensively.
Even though Zhu Chenhuan had quite a bit of influence, he didn’t have nearly enough to start a war between the two races.
“You’re correct in that a member of the Zhu Clan being imprisoned might not be enough of a motivation to start a war. Patriarch Zhu mentioned that this might be the case; even if we can convince the country’s nobles, we will probably have to pay a tremendous price. But if we stir up their greed, then the situation becomes much muddier. No matter what, the Thousand Poisons Toad’s assault on Sky City actually did happen, and their losses are real as can be. This is a golden opportunity for Liaoye Country and for the human race as a whole. As long as we humans still have some ambition, then there is no reason for us to let go of this opportunity. As for you, Young Miss, you will merely be an excuse to start this conflict.”
Using just the rescue of a hostage to fan the flames of war was foolhardy. But if the inherent greed of the human heart was stimulated alongside it, it would be much easier to convince those nobles to act.
“And what if Eternal Night lets me go, but we aren’t able to stop the war from unfolding?” Zhu Xianyao asked.
Iron Cliff calmly, “Master said that once the flames of greed are sparked, they are nearly impossible to extinguish. But what does that have anything to do with him? As long as you are alright, Master doesn’t care about whether the war actually happens or not. In addition, a race’s rise to power always comes at the expense of another’s. Even if the humans end up wiping out the Harpies because of this, he doesn’t feel like there’s anything wrong with it.”