For the upper echelons of Vermilion Bird, these actions were enough for them to know which clan would be rising to fame, and which one would suffer a humiliating defeat. The fact that Jin Yixuan hadn't said a single word to Mu Yang was enough evidence to suggest that the Wei Clan was doomed!
For the rest of them, what was more important now was how to protect themselves from being affected by this battle, and the first step in doing so was choosing the right side. Within moments, even more people had moved away from the isolated Mu Yang and Wei Tianxiong. Some even glanced at Li Tianming and Wei Jing, a malevolent glint in their eyes, a clear signal of those gloating over their downfall.
Clearly, the inspectors themselves were leading the Yueling Clan to challenge the Wei Clan. Even though it was apparently a simple replacement, pulling up the Wei Clan by the roots after the deed was done was not impossible.
At such a crucial moment, only the Occult Athenaeum held their ground, as they stood by the king’s side, led by Prime Minister Qin.
“Vermilion Bird King, as the ruler of this land, surely it’s your responsibility to make sure that the nation’s younger generation can flourish and the country will prosper, right?” Song Yixue asked with a smile.
“It is naturally my role,” The king, Jiang Cheng, replied.
“Not only is it your responsibility, but you are also in a position that the citizens of Vermilion Bird can trust. Therefore, we invite you to invigilate this challenge together, and validate this battle in front of the rest of the nation. Will you accept this role?” Song Yixue continued asking.
Many gasped when they heard the vice-inspector say that. The royal clan, who was led by Jiang Cheng himself, was the only one who could have supported the Wei Clan. They had been on good terms for many years, as the two strongest clans looking over Vermilion Bird, with one ruling the country while the other raised future talents.
If the royal clan couldn’t help the Wei Clan, that meant that neither the Occult Athenaeum or the palace in general could. Bringing the king to their side effectively forced the entire nation to give up on the Wei Clan, turning the Sanctum Replacement Challenge into a spear that was poised to plunge through the Wei Clan’s throat.
“If it’s the inspectors’ request, it will be my honour to invigilate this event. Is there a family that has received the replacement decree and is ready to challenge the Wei Clan?” As much as he didn’t want to, the king couldn’t possibly reject the inspectors. It was obvious that they were using him to validate this challenge and convince the masses that it was a fair contest. If not, with the current rumours about how the inspectors have been staying in the Lightning Manor, together with the Yueling Clan, many were sure to question its credibility.
That was the main reason they needed the king to become an invigilator. To force him to take their side, and also to use his power and reputation to silence the rest of Vermilion Bird!
Once the Vermilion Bird King was done, many turned to look at Mu Yang and Wei Tianxiong again. They were completely isolated now, and what used to be looks of respect and envy were now looks of pity and gloating.
“We know the perfect clan for that. The Yueling Clan has over a thousand years of history in Torch Dragon. They are a well-established clan with talents across the clan, and Heaven’s Elysium has recognized their morality and their capability to bear the Sanctum Replacement Decree. As for the Wei Clan, they have occupied the Sanctum for a thousand years without trying to improve, and amongst their descendants, they couldn’t even find someone who can take over as the next potentate. Therefore, the Elysium questions their capability to continue ruling the Sanctum.”
“Thus! It is our decision to let the Yueling Clan challenge the Wei Clan. No matter which side emerges victorious, the Vermilion Bird Nation will benefit. If the Yueling Clan wins, a new family will control the Sanctum and bring it to greater heights. If they lose, it will serve as a reminder for the Wei Clan to keep on their toes and regain the trust of the Elysium!” Song Yixue said solemnly, her voice echoing inside the hall.
“Wei Tianxiong, as the son of the potentate, you couldn’t earn the right to inherit the position from your father, and your descendants are incapable of being the future potentate’s disciple too. For that, we question the Wei Clan’s ability. Are my words justified?” As expected, the vice-inspectors had targeted the Wei Clan directly. Instead of asking Mu Yang, they targeted the query at Wei Tianxiong, striking the deepest regret in his heart!
From the moment Song Yixue started talking, Wei Tianxiong’s face had turned dark. It was no different from shaming him publicly! But he couldn’t defend himself, not just because he was facing the inspectors from Heaven’s Elysium, but also because what they said was a well-known fact.
To appoint Mu Yang as the new potentate was Wei Tiancang’s own decision, and the same could be said for not letting Mu Yang accept Wei Guohao to be his disciple. But Wei Tiancang couldn’t imagine that his own strict standards were instead used against himself by the inspectors as evidence that the Wei Clan was deteriorating. Wei Tiancang had heard of this challenge in passing, never expecting it to be used against his clan.
“Yes, Lord Inspectors. You are right.” Wei Tianxiong clenched his fists.
“Wei Tianxiong, we are merely stating facts and we have nothing against you, so you don’t need to hate us. It is a challenge, so naturally the Wei Clan is given the chance to defend their honour! We encourage the Yueling Clan to fight for the position, but at the same time, we also support the Wei Clan in defending their title!” Jin Yixuan said.
“Inspectors, may I know what are the exact rules to the challenge?” Mu Yang knew that Wei Tianxiong was not in a stable state, so he took over the conversation. The enemies have come prepared to rid the Wei Clan and bring the Yueling Clan to power, so grumbling about it would do them no good. The smarter approach was to ask for the rules, and prepare for battle! That was the Wei Clan’s only chance!
As Wei Tiancang had speculated, the inspectors had already planned it beforehand, determined to bring down the Wei Clan no matter what. If not, why would they have spent so long in Lightning Manor? If they could even rig the Abyssal Trials to let Yueling Ji win, then there was surely no point in expecting reason and logic from them.
No matter what, it was certain that the Sanctum Replacement Challenge was not going to be a fair fight. The only thing that the Wei Clan could do now was to seek out their slim chance of survival in this lopsided fight. Mu Yang had that all figured out as he looked at the smiling Jin Yixuan, who was busily putting up a good show to act as a fair judge.
“The Sanctum Replacement Challenge is a challenge between two clans, and a contest of their strength. There are three rounds to it — the battles between the older generations, current generations, and the younger generations respectively. This way, we'll have a fair assessment of a clan’s foundation, current strength and future potential," Jin Yixuan replied. “The rules are simple. The two families will each send out a representative into the arena. Whoever they send out, if defeated, will be swapped out, until there is no one else who can replace them.”
That was very straightforward indeed. Basically, the battle would end when the clan runs out of beastmasters in a particular generation.
“Winning in one round nets that clan one point. Whichever clan that wins two points first will emerge victorious!”
This way, Wei Tiancang and Wei Qing would be pitched against Yueling Hong, Wei Tianxiong and Wei Zikun against Yueling Xiao, Li Tianming and Wei Guohao against Yueling Ji. If either side has a superstar in one generation that could suppress everyone in the opposing clan, getting the point was a given.
“Sir inspector, as the future potentate of the Wei Manor and the disciple of Wei Tiancang, am I qualified to take part in the challenge?” Mu Yang questioned in a low tone.
Everyone looked at the inspectors nervously. Mu Yang was definitely the top three in his generation, perhaps even the top! He was Wei Tiancang’s prided disciple, and first place in the Heavenly Leaderboard back then. Lin Tianjian, Sage Xing and Sage Chen had all lost to him before.
Reasonably thinking, the vice-inspectors should not give him the chance to participate in this challenge. But in actual fact, Jin Yixuan and Song Yixue had already anticipated this question. However, they had already fixed the rules once to benefit the Yueling Clan, and they weren't going to change it again just to bar Mu Yang from taking part.
In addition, Lin Tianjian wanted to find out whether the Mu Yang that had crushed him years ago could still defeat him now. This was also his revenge, which was why he told the inspectors to not change the rules for Mu Yang.
Simply put, they were overconfident and too arrogant.
Jin Yixuan waved a hand casually. “Of course. According to the rules, the potentate’s disciples do have the right to participate in the battle. Mu Yang, I've heard that you are quite capable, so do put up a good show."
The onlookers gasped in wonder. The inspectors must be really confident of the Yueling Clan’s strength to say this! If the two clans were to fight, could Yueling Xiao really match Mu Yang?
Just then, the Tempest Marshal Lin Tianjian cut in. “Mu Yang, it's been a while since we last fought, and I can proudly say that I have improved. This time, I’m afraid you will be handing over the title as the number one in Ignispolis.”
His words were like a thunderclap, and everyone looked at him. This was clearly between the Yueling Clan and the Wei Clan, so what did Lin Tianjian of the Lightning Manor have to do with it?
“Are you allowed to fight in this challenge?” Wei Tianxiong voiced out the question everyone present had.
“Of course. After the wedding today, the Yueling Clan and the Lightning Manor have become one family, so we are considered as their relatives,” Lin Tianjian sneered.
“Inspectors, is this true?” Mu Yang frowned. That explained where Yueling Clan got their confidence from. This wedding was all planned beforehand too, and this was why the challenge was announced after the wedding!
“Naturally. According to the rules of Heaven’s Elysium, the power of a ruling clan’s relatives will also count, so each side gets to appoint a branch of their relatives to take part in the battle,” Song Yixue explained.
“Every member of the Lightning Manor shall battle alongside the Yueling Clan! Similarly, the Wei Clan can appoint a family as well, as per the Elysium's rules.” The Lightning Seigneur, Lin Zhao, bared his teeth. They could overwhelm the Wei Clan with numbers, since the notable members in their current generation were only Mu Yang and Wei Tianxiong.
This was the truth behind this challenge. It wasn’t a battle between the Yueling Clan and the Wei Clan. It was a raid, with the Yueling Clan and the Lightning Manor ganging up on the Wei Clan!