After First finished speaking, the other four people did not reply. His face relaxed into a smile, and he no longer appeared solemn. "With the impending disaster, our entire country, and even humanity, is facing difficult times.  If you have anything to say, please say it. Premier Ning, the Ning clan has been taken over by the Luo clan in the illusionary dimension, but this has no effect on the mundane world. Technically, you are now the true ruler of your clan. How come you're still so quiet?"

Ning Guangyao let out an awkward chuckle, and he could not help but ask, “Sir, the illusionary dimension is in chaos now. Considering the Luo clan now wields absolute power in the illusionary dimension with their two cultivators in the Tai Qing Heavenly Lightning stage, are you sure they won’t meddle with the authority in the mundane world?”

“Don’t worry. They won’t,” First replied flatly. “Although the Luo clan has risen in power, their enemy is the Gods. Usurping the power in the mundane world will not help. The only effect it’ll bring about is to provoke the array of guardians. They won’t be so foolish.”

At the mention of the “array guardians”, Yang Gongming and Li Moshen raised their brows and exchanged glances. They had not expected him to divulge the secret that only the First Senior Official, the patriarchs of the Yang and Li clans knew. 

In the face of a life and death situation, such secrets no longer needed to be kept. Nothing else mattered other than the foundation of the country. 

Ning Guangyao and Cai Yuncheng had puzzled looks on their faces as they enquired about the array of guardians. 

First did not hide anything and openly shared the background of the array of guardians. 

Although the age of the duo was unknown, they were ancestors of the Yang and Li clans. 

That was also why the bloodline of the two clans never ended despite being oppressed by the past rulers. 

For the array of guardians, they could not care less about the changes in the political sphere, much less their own clans. 

In other words, even if First would be assassinated by a spy from another country, they would not interfere as it would be a normal power struggle. 

Only if the matter involved the Gods or the cultivators would they intervene. 

All they cared about was the foundation of China. As long as it remained, their descendants could live on. 

As for expanding the territory or defending the country, that was none of their business. 

Similarly, even if the descendants of the Yang and Li clans were in danger, they would not intervene as long as some of their descendants were still alive. 

Of course, that was the speculation of the past rulers. Until then, no one knew their limits. 

In short, the guardians had never aided the Yang and Li clans. Even after the war in Yang Gongming's generation took the lives of their descendants and the Yangs' bloodline changed, they never reappeared.

Perhaps, throughout the decades, the bloodlines of the Yang and Li clans had changed multiple times.

Maybe it would be more fitting to say that the array of guardians cared more about the concept of family, rather than the bloodline. 

Even Yang Gongming and Li Moshen did not care much about blood relationships. For people like them, such thinking would be shallow. 

“Even though I’ve interacted with the array of guardians in the mundane world and even the whole of China, I’ve never seen them. We communicate through divine sense each time. Not only me, but the same goes for the previous senior officials. No one knows what’s on the array of guardians’ minds,” First lamented. 

Cold sweat broke out on Ning Guangyao’s forehead. 

No wonder the Ning clan forbade me from scheming against the First Senior Official. No wonder the hidden clans never dared to annihilate the Yang and Li clans. So it turns out that the two major clans have those two old farts as their guardians. If that’s the case, even if the Ning clan is wiped out, the Yang and Li clans would most likely be alright. According to what First said, the array of guardians from the Li clan has tried to subdue Yang Chen. Therefore, those two should be more powerful than him. Yang Chen by himself already managed to turn the illusionary dimension upside down, so I shudder to think just how terrifying the array of guardians can be. In hindsight, it makes sense. Without such a strong foundation, the Yang and Li clans couldn’t have lasted for millennia. 

Yang Gongming and Li Moshen had reverence for the array of guardians. They had heard of the secret from the former patriarch and yearned to meet the array of guardians. Unfortunately, it would be impossible. 

“Sir, China and the rest of the world are facing an unprecedented catastrophe, the Gods are pushing us against the wall, and the illusionary dimension is in chaos. Are the array guardians still unwilling to help us?” Cai Yuncheng asked, frowning. 

A wry smile touched First lips. “You still don’t understand my words…”

The four of them exchanged puzzled looks. 

First sighed, rose to his feet, and turned to face the map of China with an unfathomable expression.  

“I’ve long tried to enquire about a solution, but the array guardians never replied to me…”

At that point, the rest widened their eyes in shock and worry. 

“Could it be that the array guardians are forsaking us?” Ning Guangyao blurted. 

First turned around. “Premier Ning, I’ve said that the array guardians never stepped up even when the emperors were killed and the dynasties changed—”

“But this is different! If they don’t take action this time, the citizens of China will freeze to death! This isn’t political anymore! Our intelligence has reported that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia are implementing the ‘Noah Ark’ project. They’ve excluded China, which means that they’re ostracizing us! If it’s truly the Gods’ doing, do the array of guardians think Hongmeng can stand a chance against them, the mortal enemies of our ancestors? Sir, don’t you know that the hidden clans were lost to them overseas?  They have no chance against the Gods!" Ning Guangyao yelled as he propped his arms on the table.

First frowned. “Premier Ning, I know you’re upset, but being reckless is useless. The array of guardians must have their own reasons for not showing up. We can’t possibly coerce them into helping, can we?”

With nowhere to vent his anger, Ning Guangyao flushed and paled. 

Although he was a ruthless man who would do anything for power, he could not bring himself to watch the people of China die, especially when he was in that position. 

If he did not even have that much conscience, he would not have been able to be premier at a young age. 

At the thought of the innocent women and children dying from cold or hunger because the array of guardians refused to help, tears welled up in his eyes. 

“Hah, I bet they’re scared of the Gods. Maybe they know they’re no match for them.” Ning Guangyao sneered. 

First immediately admonished, “Premier Ning, watch your mouth!”

Ning Guangyao laughed. He was clearly enraged, or he would not have said such things that could land him in hot water.

Yang Gongming seemed to have aged a few years. The harsh temperature was too strenuous on his body. 

"Everything happens for a reason, Premier Ning. The cycle of life is defined by birth and death. The array of guardians are our forefathers, but neither Patriarch Li nor I dare to speculate on their motivations. Whether they exist or not, the current China was built piece by piece by old people like us. My comrades built it with their blood and bodies. We may be old, but we will not sit idle. We can only do our part at this point. Nobody knows what will happen at the end."

“That’s right.” Li Moshen declared, “Mr. Yang is right. Since the other countries are waiting to laugh at us, we’ll play along and see who’ll have the last laugh.”

First nodded with a gratified smile. “I’ve invited you guys over for this reason. All the citizens are suffering from the extreme cold. They can only rely on us officials. Everyone here, including me, has been relying on the strength of the cultivators. Now, it’s time to rely on ourselves and think of a way. We can run away from this battle and have to get through it with the citizens. We have to fight till the last moment…”