Following his success with the eight knots, he continued to practise until he could do them consecutively.
While Shao Xuan was practising his knots at the foot of the mountain range by Eagle Mountain, far away on the other side of the ocean, within King City’s Yi family residence.
The air hung solemnly.
The Yi family had grown throughout the years and developed many side branches. The main Yi lineage held the main power. Right now, all these people of the main family all stayed home with shut doors. Usually, one would see several high-profile Yi clansmen roaming King City but these days, not even one was seen.
Many people stood around the Yi family residence’s yard walls, all either Yi slaves or part of the peripheral branches. Everyone else was banned.
The fortune-telling street in King City had emptied three days ago. Far-travelling traders and businessmen who wanted to do a reading for their fortunes were surprised to see no one. Since they did not have the guts to go visit the Yi family themselves, and anyone who was not an idiot could see that something was wrong, they merely watched Yi residence from afar despite their curiosity.
Not just these people- even the Yi family contained younger members who did not know what was going on. After receiving the job distribution, they would look around curiously because peripheral Yi clansmen rarely visited the main residences. This time, the entire Yi clan was mobilised.
“Dad, why does everyone look so nervous? What is the main family doing? I heard they are fighting a war? Who are they fighting?” asked a teenager from a side branch family.
In the past, whenever someone brought up the main family, his father would start complaining sourly because the main family often ordered them around rudely and he had nowhere else to vent his frustrations. However, this time, the father’s brows were knitted and he looked very worried. When he heard his son’s question, he scanned his surroundings and then scolded sternly in a low voice, “Shut your mouth! Watch your surroundings, kill whoever who tries to break in!”
Startled by his father’s response, the teenager gulped nervously, understanding that this situation was different from the past. The atmosphere was tense and since his father was unwilling to explain, he did not ask more questions. With his eyes fixed on his surroundings, he replied softly, “Alright!” Then, he shut his mouth tight and never made another sound.
Sat within a large court at the centre of Yi residence was a hundred people all from the main Yi lineage. These were the more powerful members of the core family too, one-third of them held the title ‘Master’ in King City. No matter how arrogant or snobbish they usually were, today, they sat like obedient students in their assigned seats.
Some sat on cushions placed on the ground while others stood surrounding the area, all waiting silently. The more they waited, the more tensed the air became. The oppression was so great even people outside the residence could feel the suffocating atmosphere.
Even the skies turned darker.
Suddenly, footsteps echoed from afar. They were quick but not hurried or frantic.
When they heard the footsteps, the people daydreaming in the yard cleared their minds.
Eight people arrived, the front three were white-haired elders who were elders that usually did not show themselves in public. They were masters that held true status and power in the family, only revealing themselves when it was a matter of survival.
Behind the three elders was the Yi patriarch, or in tribesmen terms, he was the chief. Usually, he held absolute power and no one would dare disobey him. Yet right now, he was only ranked fourth in the room. Out of all three elders, one was his great-grandmother while the other also held very high status too. When one of the elders called him over, he walked over, back bent slightly to listen respectfully.
“Not everyone has arrived?” asked an old man whose eyes were both milky white. Although he could not see, he could sense his surroundings and sometimes saw more than a regular person.
“Most of them have arrived, only the ones on missions were unable to make it back. Yi Cong and Yi Qi are still on the other side but they have made preparations,” answered the Yi patriarch.
“Mm.” The elder was not angry either. People far away could partake in the battle all the same.
“Let’s begin the reading then!” said the white-haired old lady next to the patriarch.
Both elders nodded and the patriarch yelled, “Shell!”
This was a tradition of the Yi family before every major event. This involved a tortoiseshell left behind by their ancestors, its back carved with orange-red characters and lines. These characters were not regular text but symbols only the Yi family members understood, while the lines subtly formed the Yi family totem. Nothing was carved on the ventral side.
Within the shell, in the space between the dorsal and ventral layer, eight pieces of bone chips ground smooth were placed inside. Every piece was a different shape.
“Who will conduct the reading this time?” asked the elder.
The old lady waved her cane. “I did it at the last meeting. It should be Yi Tuan this time.”
The old man with milky eyes did not waste time, stepping forward to take the tortoiseshell with both hands. He returned to his seat. There were three cushions in front of everyone in the centre of the court belonging to these three elders.
After taking his seat, he put his right hand on the back of the shell. The shell was much larger than his palm so he logically should not be able to grab it. However, it seemed to attach itself to his palm. With a flick of his wrist, the bone chips in the shell rattled and collided. He lifted his palm but the tortoiseshell did not fall, nor did the chips fall through the shell’s gaps, still rattling inside.
An arc of fire appeared before Yi Tuan, then a red and white fireball on the other side of the arc. Three long shadows formed behind Yi Tuan.
Yi Tuan stretched his arm with the shell forward. When the tortoiseshell approached the fireball, the rattling became louder and more frantic.
Crack crack crack---
A cracking sound drowned out the rattling of the bone chips. An orang crack appeared on the dorsal, empty side of the shell.
When the cracking sound stopped, Yi Tuan retracted his arm and looked at the shell. He had lost his vision but that did not affect his ability to read the cracks. The longer he studied it, the sterner he looked. His eyes grew more worried.
Yi Tuan passed the shell to the other two elders. Their expressions were as solemn as his.
“Looks like a brutal war is coming,” said Yi Tuan.
In reality, the cracks displayed a worse prophecy: not just brutal but deadly! However, the prophecy also foretold one glimmer of hope, one chance for survival but there were many variables affecting this.
All three elders knew it but could not announce the exact results in fear of affecting morale.
With an inaudible sigh, Yi Tuan yelled, “Prepare for war!”
A strong ripple of power surged through the wide courtyard like a wave. Everyone did not dare breathe.
Visible red flames burned and curled, distorting everything in view.
Within the tortoiseshell, the bone chips rattled frantically. As if the yard was in a world of its own, all insect chirps, leaf rustles and human breaths disappeared. The rattling bones were the only sound in the world.
The bone chips rattled more urgently, then finally stopped.
As if an ancient beast had swallowed the yard whole, all the surrounding buildings, people and plants disappeared. All that was left was an illusory space.
Of course, that was what the sitting one hundred people saw. The people surrounding the yard only saw a large totem and strong ripples from the red flames.
In the illusory space, everyone’s silhouettes turned blurry. They could see a glowing person, though this person’s silhouette flickered inconsistently and his face was too blurry to be seen.
Yi Tuan sensed that the person they waited for would soon appear. The person coined as The Unlucky One a thousand years ago would appear right in front of them very soon.
Very quickly, a few more people appeared in the space nearby. They were Yi family members who could not make it home.
With the appearance of the Yi totem, another two figures appeared.
“Yi Qi, Yi Cong?” Someone recognised them. Although their faces were blurry, their auras were distinguishable.
The Yi family did not ask them about their mission. With the coming battle, everything was unimportant. Why should they waste time talking about irrelevant matters?
As everyone gathered, the three elders gave time for them to acclimatise to the space. Some newer members were not used to this so they had arrived earlier.
After waiting a while, Yi Tuan’s eyebrow twitched as he looked at a spot in the illusory space.
Not just Yi Tuan, the two other elders were looking at the same spot cautiously.
Everyone was stunned. Was another person coming?
The patriarch was thinking hard. He could not think of anyone out of town that had not appeared yet. Even if that was the case, they were quite late- about a few days late in real-time? A Yi family member would not make a mistake like this. Eliminating this possibility, could this newcomer be an enemy?
“Knot divination?!” Yi Tuan could not suppress his shock.
The elders were skilled enough to sense what method a person not from within the residence used to enter the space. This energy ripple did not look like a common Yi technique either. Knot divination had been lost a long time ago, even he was not familiar with it and only knew enough to recognise it.
Knot divination?! Everyone else was shocked.
Didn’t that lineage of knot divination readers die off a long time ago? How could it be? No, there was one. Yi Xiang knew knot divination too. That meant that the person about to appear must be related to Yi Xiang if they were not Yi Xiang himself!
Knot Divination was a type of Grass Reading.
Grass readings, tortoiseshell readings and bone readings used to be the three strongest abilities of the Yi family. Legends described the founder of grass readings to be able to know anything just by plucking a blade of mountain grass. It was unfortunate that the knowledgeable Grass Readings lineage slowly died off, and in the end, only Knot Divination remained. The other lineages transformed with the times, often adding supplementary materials for better results. Some people extracted the essence of tortoiseshell and bones to invent new reading methods. However, the Knot Divination lineage remained as the most conservative, stubborn and prideful lineage- at the same time poorest. These disciples never understood the need for money nor had material desires. If people they disliked came asking for help, they would never offer their assistance despite great monetary compensation. Over time, they were shunned and ultimately declined into nothing.
The last master of the Knot Divination lineage died a thousand years ago. The most frustrating part to the Yi family was that this master took in only one disciple before his death, and this was the fishbone stuck stubbornly in their throats--- Yi Xiang.
When Yi Xiang left, he took with him the knowledge of the last knot divination master. Since then, no true knot divination practitioners remained in the family. This technique disappeared but it did not affect the family because their descendants proceeded to create more powerful methods.
When they realised this newcomer used knot divination, their first thought was: “Is that a traitor?!”
“Yi Qi, Yi Cong, who was with you before you two came?” asked Yi Tuan suddenly.
Yi Qi and Yi Cong were stunned by the question, puzzled why Yi Tuan would ask such a thing. Did Yi Tuan suspect them of something? That they were traitors? That’s not right. While Yi Tuan sounded stern, its hostility was not directed at them. It did not sound like he was talking to traitors.
Several people flashed across Yi Qi’s mind, including Shao Xuan in the end but he stubbornly denied this possibility. Definitely not that tribesman. Tribesmen cannot master the core arts of the Yi family.
Yi Cong was thinking the same thing. His first thought had been ‘Shao Xuan of Flaming Horn’ but he too did not believe this so he could not answer the question.
Very soon, the ripples became obvious and sparks flew, meaning a person was about to arrive. What differed from the Yi family members was that no Yi totem appeared.
Before Yi Cong and Yi Qi appeared, a Yi totem formed from their fire seed’s flames would appear beneath their feet. What did the lack of totem mean? It meant this was not one of them!
Yi Xiang had Yi blood, hence this would not happen either. Who Was this person?
The possibility of Yi Cong’s first guess rose to eighty percent. “Shao Xuan? Could it be the Flaming Horn Tribe’s Shao Xuan?!”
And Flaming Horn Tribe too?!
All three elders’ figures flickered. If one could see their expressions, they would be filled with shock and disbelief.
If the person speaking was not Yi Cong, they would have been scolded. But this was the genius of the young generation, Yi Cong. He was never one to spout nonsense and random guesses either.
While they were in disbelief, the same spot glowed brighter, burning red- which was different from their fire seed’s flames. The totem still had not appeared.
The fiery glow finally condensed into a very blurry figure, much blurrier than any Yi member as if it would disappear at any second.
“This aura…” Yi Qi looked over, and the realisation struck him hard. “Shao Xuan… of Flaming Horn!”