And while warm tears welled up within Hejin's eyes and trickled down his cheeks, Gulistan shook her head.
"Brother, I'm doing this for your own good. Don't you think this is far too convenient? Within the Ancient Crystal World, how many forces can sneak into the Northern Khan's palace to brutally injure him, kill his wife, slay the bodyguards you arranged, and kidnap the princess, all on her coming of age ceremony?
The Celestial Church doesn't have that much free time. That leaves us with the Hidden Forest's tribes, the Zenith Ants, and the Jade Dynasty. Of the three, the Hidden Forest's tribes have no cause. We can directly eliminate them. As for the Zenith Ants, I'm afraid they wouldn't stop until the entire palace turned into a blood feast.
Therefore, the most likely candidate for this deed is the Jade Dynasty headed by my beloved son, who clearly doesn't have our best interest in mind. Although we've grown exponentially in the last decade, sloppiness is the root of all evil. If he wants to lure you out, then all can go, except for you."
Gulistan replied with such a clear analysis that Hejin was struck speechless. He was no fool. Although his scouts and other chieftains and khans could attest to the event, it reeked of baiting. However, with his current cultivation and strength, Hejin had full confidence to investigate this case without a hitch. That plus the fear of losing his hardly gained daughter made him rush toward the pit.
But following Gulistan's words, a single reflection allowed him to figure out that this might very well be a plot from that dastardly nephew to seize their house's secrets!
"Don't worry, I dispatched the ninth elder. If he comes back without issues, it won't be too late to go. If he doesn't, then just obediently stay here. That son of mine loves beauties the most. At worst, he will give Helbin a third hole. No need to be frightened."
Gulistan stated, and hearing this, Hejin's tears dropped faster! With such dreadful words, how could he possibly stay in peace?!
"Gulistan, no wonders you…"
Hejin began, but before he could finish his words, wild tremors shook the Infernal Cult while dozens of mighty auras descended from the sky to lock on them all! And as they appraised the strength behind those auras, Gulistan and Hejin's eyes narrowed.
Not only them, but all experts throughout the Infernal Cult were alarmed by the sudden arrival of such a mighty force!
"More than one hundred Divine Ascension experts, thousands of Sages, one million Saints."
Gulistan appraised while lowering her teacup. Even from within her quarters, she could sense the clearly demonic nature of those energies and the thirst for destruction bloating the sky. Just like the Celestial Church, the Infernal Cult's headquarters was a massive floating domain standing in suspension several hundred miles above the Barbarian Continent's tallest mountain.
It stretched across thousands of miles with the houses occupying domains corresponding to their rank. Since the coup ten years ago, the Serkar domain occupied more than seventy percent. Leaving less than thirty for the rest. For that reason, the disciples of the other houses, especially the Orrag and the deposed Torul, spent their days grumbling in silence.
But when the auras of legions of Saints and Sages locked on them, all instantaneously forgot their preoccupations to shiver in fright! And the lower-ranked Serkar disciples were no exception!
After all, as far as they knew, the Infernal Cult only had dozens of Sages, and even at their peak, their Saint number didn't exceed one-hundred thousand! But following the ten years ago battle for the Holy Continent, less than ten percent of that force remained! How could they possibly challenge this force?!
This was the effect the Ant Queens were aiming for. Half the battle was won if they could crush enemy morale before making their assault. Afterward, they only needed to destroy the Blood Barrier at lightning speed, prevent the Infernal Cult from organizing their formations, and surf on the wave of dread they induced to obliterate the enemy at one fell swoop!
And recalling how their ancestors were slaughtered and forced into hiding by the Infernal Cult Founder, Marduk, the ant queens could barely suppress their excitement!
Time! The time had come to wipe off that shame!
"Brethren of the Infernal Cult, after one million years of silent accumulations, we Zenith Ants have returned to reclaim our rights! Henceforth, the Barbarian Continent is ours!
Surrender, and you will be spared, resist, and destruction is your sole fate!"
The First Queen bellowed, and her booming voice dived past the barrier, to reverberate throughout the Infernal Cult!
And though the younger members only had a shallow understanding of Zenith Ants, all were frightened!
"What a formidable force, how can our Infernal Cult possibly survive this tribulation?"
A cultist wondered in fright.
"Nonsense, the Blood Barrier was bestowed by Lord Ashara himself! How can they possibly break it?"
Another replied, attempting to use indignation to cover fear.
"Within mortal worlds, the might of foreign Gods' gifts is limited. The Infernal Kings are no exception. Do you really dare claim that the combined assault of thousands of Sages cannot shatter it?"
Whoever said those words crushed the morale of the surrounding disciples who now felt their knees quiver.
But while the lesser surrendered to confusion and fright, the top-level remained stoic.
"They've finally made their move. We've been waiting for them for so long that I was starting to think they wouldn't show up before draining the World Tree to the last bit."
Gulistan stated while rising from her seat. Indeed, one of the principal reasons why the Serkar chose to remain secluded across those years, was to lure an offensive from the Zenith Ants. Since they possessed no information on the enemy's strength and had no means to effectively probe it, as the leading Warchief, Gulistan opted for a defensive stance.
If the Zenith Ant forces proved too strong, then the Serkars would put everything into holding their ground. But with what she saw...
…her lips curled into a smile.
With a wave of her hand, Gulistan released an energy wave that shattered Hejin's bindings and freed him of her seals.
"Since they came to our doorsteps with such fanfare, as the hosts, we can't keep those good guests waiting."
Hejin declared while stepping toward Gulistan's right.
"That is natural."
Gulistan replied, and in tandem, the brother-sister pair vanished to reappear outside the blood barrier, right before the massive, demonic horde. But they weren't the only ones. By the time they arrived, nine more figures had appeared by their sides.
Those were the nine highest-ranking members of House Serkar after Berken, Gulistan, and Hejin. Of those nine elders, three were Berken's children, another three were his siblings, while the rest either were cousins or predecessors.
And without exception, all gazed at the demonic horde with a calm the Ant Queens soon found disturbing. But as they probed the other party's cultivation bases, their eyes widened in disbelief!
"How…could this be?"
The Ant Queens wondered. But before their thoughts went a step further, in a whirlwind of golden light, a handsome middle-aged man appeared, standing before the eleven Serkar elders who bowed upon his entrance.
Indeed, if not Berken, who could it be? And because he just emerged from secluded cultivation, his eyes remained closed.
But as the Ant Queen's gazes locked on him, they opened wide, revealing a piercing pair of black eyes that nailed all foes and suppressed the demonic horde's momentum!
"Slaughter them to the last. And with their blood, show the world the price of challenging our house."
Berken ordered, and alongside the eleven Serkar elders at his back, released the full might of his cultivation base.