The two barbarian Cultivators thought that they were having a confidential conversation by restricting their soundwaves into a line, and that ‘Ling Lanyin’, the female Cultivator in the wagon up ahead could never hear what they were talking about.
But they never knew that a great expert in the Nascent Soul Stage named Li Yao was right next to them listening to every word they said.
Li Yao had no intention of reporting them.
It was because almost all the barbarian Cultivators had the same thought as theirs. They were open to cheering and applauding, but if they were asked to fight at the risk of their life, they would have to see whether the blades of the emperor’s army or the Ghost Qin army’s sabers were sharper.
Through their clandestine communication, Li Yao managed to have a general idea of the mess in the Southland of Sorcerers.
The Great Qian Dynasty had dominated the Ancient Sages Sector for a thousand years. The prosperous central plateaus were blocked from the southwest forests by a surging ‘Sorcerers’ River’. Therefore, the southwest area south to the Sorcerers’ River was collectively called ‘Southland of Sorcerers.
In the Southland of Sorcerers, the mountains were steep, the weather was hot, and venomous fog was everywhere. Primitive forests were all everyone could see whichever direction they looked at. Even the rare basins and plateaus among the mountains were blocked by the high mountains, making it difficult to communicate with the outside world.
The place was highly unsuitable for the survival and reproduction of human beings. The pests which carried all kinds of diseases were enough to extinguish the sparks of civilization. Therefore, of all the states in the Great Qian Dynasty, the Southland of Sorcerers was the one with the least population and the weakest capability.
During the Great Qian Dynasty’s thousand years of reign, a lot of peasants in the central plateaus were forced to immigrate to the place. But the peasants were merely co-existing with the local barbarians, even if they did teach a batch of ‘familiar barbarians’ who were familiar with the rules of the central plateaus.
Deep inside the forests, it was still the world of the ‘strange barbarians’ who feasted on raw meat and blood. The mysterious, unpredictable, eccentric evil arts and sorcery prevailed, too. It was considered to be a land of perils by the folks living on the central plateaus.
Thankfully, most of the tribes in the Southland of Sorcerers knew that they were outnumbered. For hundreds of years, they had been quite dutiful and never rebelled.
The barbarian Cultivators who played with snakes and ghosts often stayed in the Southland of Sorcerers. They hardly went to the central plateaus or committed anything illegal there.
It was because, just like the barbarian soldiers, the barbarian Cultivators were greatly dependent on the venomous fog, pests, and other advantages in the tropical forests.
As natural-born jungle hunters, even if an army of a million soldiers marched into the forests, they would only need to dive into deeper parts of the forests, and nobody would be able to do anything about them.
On the other hand, if the barbarian Cultivators left the forests for the flat, boundless plateaus, their venomous fog, pests, and gremlins would be much less powerful.
Since the experts in the Southland of Sorcerers were incapable of moving on to a greater stage, and the Great Qian Dynasty was offering tremendous magical equipment and arts to win their support, submitting to the Great Qian Dynasty, allowing the Appeasing Ambassador of the Great Qian Dynasty to establish local agency as nominal leader, and agreeing that the leaders of the villages would be decreed as chiliarches and generals did not seem very bad.
With such a strategy, the Southland of Sorcerers and the central plateaus had maintained the ostensible peace for almost a thousand years. Except when they were submitting the taxes and the labor service, they had barely communicated with the central plateaus.
However, over the past few decades, with the Grand Qian Dynasty unstable, some ambitious warlords in the Southland of Sorcerers began to have other plans.
After the rise of Ghost, their regent Han Baling was also quite determined to swallow the entire world, and therefore paid great attention to diplomacy.
Although the Southland of Sorcerers was not strong itself, it was at a critical geological position. In the southwest, it was close to the few major grain-producing areas in the middle part of the Great Qian Dynasty’s territory. Also, by sailing downwards on the Sorcerers’ River, it would be able to reach the prosperous lands in the southeast directly, which was essentially the softest abdomen of the Great Qian Dynasty.
For hundreds of years, the Great Qian Dynasty had never worried about the Southland of Sorcerers. Military fortresses or armies were never deployed along the Sorcerers’ River.
Now that rebellions were rising up in the southeast and the northwest, and Ghost Qin was coveting from the north, the Great Qian Dynasty had ever fewer troops to build up the defense in the Southland of Sorcerers.
If the barbarian tribes revolted at this moment, they would be stabbing the most vulnerable part of the Great Qian Dynasty brutally. The Great Qian Dynasty would be even less likely to be able to deal with the emergencies all at once.
Han Baling had secretly dispatched the Ghost Qin Cultivators to infiltrate the Southland of Sorcerers, devoting tremendous resources to buy the local leaders and warlords.
His persuasion work was rather thorough. At least, the two bros in the Refinement Stage in front Li Yao’s eyes had both met envoys from Ghost Qin and received Han Baling’s gifts.
Even two barbarian Cultivators in the Refinement Stage had been attended to well. It was indicative enough of the smoothness and carefulness of Ha Baling, who was called by the Great Qian Dynasty as the ‘Wolf King’.
Right now, the Great Qian Dynasty still had its remaining influence, and the domination hadn’t been entirely gone yet. Nobody could tell what would happen later. The cunning barbarian Cultivators were certainly unwilling to jump to any choice.
They gladly accepted the gifts from Ghost Qin and did not reject the jewelry and the Cultivation arts. But when it came to rising up as rebellions and declaring war on the Great Qian Dynasty, they would certainly hesitate and observe for a while longer.
Maybe, all the leaders, warlords and Cultivators in the Southland of Sorcerers had been waiting for a signal.
Right now, the signal had shown up.
Six months ago, the previous leader of the Fire Rude Clan died abruptly and mysteriously.
The Fire Rude Clan was the strongest tribe of barbarians, and the one with the largest territory, in the Southland of Sorcerers. It was also the tribe closest to the Great Qian Dynasty.
The leader of the Fire Rude Clan was appointed by the emperor in person as the ‘Chieftain of the South Land’. He was the nominal leader of the hundred tribes in the southwest.
The so-called ‘Appeasing Ambassador’ was not a regular official title most of the time. If it had been peaceful for a hundred years, there would be no need to send out any Appeasing Ambassador. The local affairs and the tributary system would be under the control of ‘Chieftain of the South Land’. The barbarians would be managing the barbarians’ own business.
It went without saying that the previous leader of the Fire Rude Clan was a loyal subject of the Great Qian Dynasty.
But his successor was not necessarily so.
The old leader died abruptly when he was in his prime years. He did not leave any will to name an heir.
Of his many sons, Huo Wuji, the eldest son, and Huo Wujiu, the second son, were both very capable. They had in their control a few villages of the Fire Rude Clan respectively, and a lot of soldiers and Cultivators had pledged loyalty to them.
After the previous leader perished, Huo Wuji was the first one to present a will which nobody knew where he found, claiming that he was the new leader of the Fire Rude Clan his father had named. He also sent a messenger to the capital city of the Great Qian Dynasty, demanding the official appointment and degree of the Great Qian Dynasty.
It was a sign that he would continue acknowledging the Great Qian Dynasty’s reign and serving the Great Qian Dynasty.
Huo Wujiu, the second sound, did not give in, either. He also took out a piece of creased paper, announcing that he was actually the rightful leader of the Fire Rude Clan.
That was not the whole of it. He also let out of a piece of shocking news.
It was said that, when the previous leader was alive, he had sensed the decline of the Great Qian Dynasty and the rise of Cloud Qin and was considering joining Cloud Qin’s side instead of pledging loyalty to the Great Qian Dynasty.
The assassins of the Great Qian Dynasty who were hiding inside the Fire Rude Clan learned the matter and killed the previous leader shamelessly.
Huo Wujiu announced that, for the future of the hundred tribes in the Southland of Sorcerers, he would fight the Great Qian Dynasty to the end even at the cost of his own life!
Everybody in the Southland of Sorcerers was greatly shocked by his words.
They were not shocked by such an absurd joke that the Great Qian Dynasty assassinated the local leader, but by the fact that Ghost Qin had finally found such an important spokesperson.
To compete for the leadership of the Fire Rude Clan, Huo Wuji and Huo Wujiu had been fighting bloody battles for half a year. But neither of them was able to defeat the other.
Right now, because of the efforts of the renowned elders and Cultivators in the hundred tribes in the Southland of Sorcerers, they finally agreed to sit down and negotiate and decide the leader of the Fire Rude Clan in a more straightforward way.
However, those who were smart enough could all tell that the puppets had finished their show and it was time for the real players to come up.
Huo Wuji’s request of degree had long been delivered to the capital. The Fire Rude Clan had been key to the hundred clans in the Southland of Sorcerers and was always obedient to the court. It was certainly a big deal, and the court had to stand up for him.
That was why Ling Shoujing, ‘Appeasing Ambassador of the Fifth Prefecture of the Southland of Sorcerers’, was reinforcing the area with the Black Tiger Guards.
On Ghost Qin’s side, a lot of elites had been deployed to stir trouble, too. Some of the tribes, under their enchantment, finally jumped out in rebellion, too.
The ambush that Ling Shoujing’s army suffered was conducted by a few barbarian tribes that had joined Ghost Qin’s side.
But as it turned out, their leader Black Nose was minced into pieces before they had the chance to ask for rewards from their new master.
Right now, Huo Wuji and Huo Wujiu, two self-proclaimed leaders of the Fire Rude Clan, were both recruiting the barbarian Cultivators in the desolate land to build up their force and waiting for their respective reinforcements.
When the emperor’s army from the Great Qian Dynasty and the experts from Ghost Qin arrived, the final ‘negotiation’ would take place in the village of the Fire Rude Clan.
Even the most stupid persons knew that the ‘negotiation’ wouldn’t be done with words.
It was much more than the leadership of the Fire Rude Clan that was to be decided by the negotiation, too.
If Huo Wuji, the eldest son, won, it would prove that the Great Qian Dynasty was still powerful enough, and a tiny Southland of Sorcerers was certainly not good enough to deal with it.
If Huo Wujiu, the second son, laughed to the end, not only would the Fire Rude Clan join Ghost Qin’s side, a chain reaction would also be caused. The situation in the Southland of Sorcerers would be hopeless.
It was exactly because of the importance of the ‘negotiation’ that Ling Shoujing had been recruiting barbarian soldiers and Cultivators the moment he entered the area.
He naturally knew that most of the barbarian Cultivators would not fight for the Great Qian Dynasty with their life.
But at such a critical moment, it was almost good that one more person was cheering for his side.