The Divine Arbiter respectfully lowered her head and left, but inwardly, she was more conflicted than ever.
Even if she were more blindly infatuated with the God Emperor, even if she were more loyal, facing him in his current state, she’d still find herself at a loss.
This wasn’t the God Emperor she’d once known!
This wasn’t the man she’d admired since she was a child, that dignified, imposing figure, the caring ruler of the entire god race.
She was truly conflicted. Her hands fished around in her pockets, and she bit down hard on her lip. A full hour passed before she re-extracted her hands. Only then did she finally make up her mind. She took one last glance at the God Emperor’s quarters, which he’d already sealed off with his divine power. She turned and left.
In stark contrast with God Emperor Zhou Wu’s indifference, the demons and Southern Kingdom were holding a grand meeting, one of four nations.
The Southern Kingdom’s bitter defeat left the yao with no choice but to reassess their plans for crossing the Yellow River. They’d have to play the long game.
The four kings, as well as their respective nations’ higher-ups, were all present. Naturally, the focus of their discussion was their common enemy, rather, their only true enemy: Emperor Hades.
“Jiao Hai, go on and speak.”
Even now, Jiao Hai’s face was pallid, and his chest was covered in bandages. His arms were uncovered, and his gaze was unwilling. He was proud by nature, and he’d never truly placed anyone in his eyes before, not even the Eastern Emperor Taiyi.
To him, this defeat was an unbearable, unacceptable humiliation.
“There’s nothing to say. He was strong and I was weak, so I lost! But I absolutely can’t just let this go. He dared humiliate me like this, so I naturally must go back and regroup, then show him a thing or two. I invited you here to ask you one simple question: will you fight alongside my Southern Kingdom?”
“Our Northern Kingdom must decline.” An elegant middle-aged man raised his hand and smiled. “We’ve never been much for warfare. If you want to attack the gods, you can go right ahead, but we don’t wish to get involved. We don’t wish to fight other yao, either. In this battle…. We’ll remain neutral!”
With that, the King of the North gathered his subordinates and left.
No one present was surprised by this turn of events.
Everyone in the Yao Realm knew that the Northern Kingdom was on good terms with the gods. There was no way the South could convince them to help with their invasion. That they were remaining neutral rather than actively fighting against the South was already the best Jiao Hai could hope for.
Even so, Jiao Hai’s expression was unsightly. He’d never liked the King of the North.
“Enough, Jiao Hai. That’s just how he is, and we all know it. Neutrality is already rare and commendable.” The speaker was an elder. His head was covered, and he had a cigar between his fingers.
He was the king of the Western Kingdom, Tie Tan.
“Hmph. It’s just the Northern Kingdom. Sooner or later, I’ll knock them down a notch too.” Jiao Hai snorted, his expression hideous. “What about the rest of you?”
“The fox clan shant participate.” The nine-tailed foxes stood over all other fox clans, and represented them. The speaker was their special emissary.
“Neither will the dragons.”
“The vermillion birds will stay out of this as well.”
“As will we tigers.”
“The Xuan Wu clan won’t get involved either.”
The Sacred Beast Clans had been staunch allies ever since the primordial era, and nothing had changed since. When the fox clans announced that they wouldn’t participate, the others promptly followed suit.
“Farewell.” Their respective emissaries left, one by one.
Next, the king of the Eastern Kingdom smiled bitterly. “Everyone, I’m afraid this old man won’t participate either, then. My Kingdom’s Sacred Beast Clans won’t participate, so I’m afraid I lack sufficient forces.”
“Hah….” Jiao Hai smiled calmly. In truth, even before calling for this meeting, he’d anticipated this result. The person he thought would stay stayed, and the others left. It was exactly as he’d expected.
“Fine. Go on and leave, then.” Suddenly, Jiao Hai pressed his lips into a smile. “But the second you step through that door, we’ll become enemies. Are you alright with that?”
“Are you threatening us?” The fox emissary came to a sudden stop, as did the others. They turned, eyes flashing, to face Jiao Hai. “The King of the North left without incident. Why can’t we do the same? You want us to help you? When our lands were invaded by the demon armies, did any other kingdoms step in to reinforce our borders?”
“What’s the point in saying all that? The Southern Kingdom has been working with demons for a long time now. Although no one’s said it out in the open, we all know it,” said the tigers’ special emissary with a snort.
“The same to you. Aren’t the foxes already working with the gods?” Jiao Hai smiled calmly. “It seems we’ve all sought out allies. We’re already enemies. But my words aren’t directed at you; I’m asking the kings of the Four Kingdoms. Well, Ol’ Bai? Have you thought this through? Are you sure you want to be our enemy?”
“I haven’t made up my mind, no.” The King of the East smiled like Matreiya himself. “But if the Saint Beast Clans don’t want to participate, what can I do?”
“I’m asking about your intentions!”
“Then…. Their intentions are my intentions.” It was hard to imagine; the South had practically already declared war, but the King of the East was still nothing but smiles.
The kings of the South and West visibly soured. Finally, the King of the East laughed. “Farewell.”
The four kingdoms had convened on short notice, but they dispersed just as quickly. The entire meeting had lasted only a few minutes. Soon, only the King of the South and the King of the West remained. Both of their hearts were heavy. The Eastern Kingdom had already made their position clear; the East was determined to stand against them.
“Jiao Hai, what are you thinking?” The King of the West narrowed his eyes. “The Eastern Kingdom has allied themselves with the gods. If we attack the River Styx, we’ll be beset on both sides. Even if we have the Demon Emperor on our side, the demons aren’t unified, either. I imagine that they’ll split into camps, just like the Yao Realm’s four kingdoms. If we recklessly invade god race territory, do we really have any hope of victory?”
“Hmph! What’s there to be afraid of!” Jiao Hai’s expression was vicious. “If the Eastern Kingdom dares attack the moment we turn our backs, we can just destroy them first. Besides, our enemy is the River Styx and Emperor Hades. I’ve already done my calculations, and the group that came to reinforce them was small indeed. It’s clear that the gods aren’t unified either!”
“But Emperor Hades….”
“His power is indeed profound and unfathomable!” said Jiao Hai solemnly. “They don’t call him an ‘evergreen tree of the primordial era’ for nothing. How could people like us possibly compete with him in strength?”
“In that case, how can we possibly take the River Styx?”
“What if…. Emperor Hades suddenly disappeared?” Jiao Hai’s eyes narrowed, and he laughed.
“On your way here, you all must have seen the light bursting from the River Styx.”
“Naturally,” said the King of the West. “I’d actually planned to ask you about it. What exactly happened over there?”
“Just before you arrived, I received word from the Demon Emperor.” Jiao Hai’s eyes flashed with delight. “Emperor Hades has reached the limit of his longevity!”
“This….” The King of the West’s expression froze.
“I was surprised too. I saw no sign of this when we were fighting. But after talking to the Demon Emperor, I thought about it, and indeed, Emperor Hades’ behavior was suspicious. For instance, why didn’t he take my life when he clearly was in a position to do so? Why did he just let me go? Who would voluntarily release a tiger back into the mountains? The only possibility…. Was that he couldn’t fight on any longer!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter