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The inconclusive end to the meeting was regarded by many as Ishbara Khagan considering the Great Tang’s proposal, but the Blackwater Shaman could see that Ishbara Khagan’s stance had never changed.
Now that no outsiders were present, Ishbara Khagan did not hold back.
“In truth, Shaman, you should know just as well as I do that the Great Tang will always be an enemy of the Western Turks! Moreover, does Shaman still remember that prophecy…”
The Blackwater Shaman said nothing, but the fog around his face stirred as he slightly nodded.
‘The steppe will one day be destroyed, and that day is not far off.’ This was a prophecy passed down through generations of shamans, and Ishbara Khagan had known about it since he was a child.
But the prophecy had come alongside another, and this was that ‘the Fourth Prince in that year of disaster’ would be the hope of the steppe who would lead all of the people of the steppe out of the peril of annihilation!
This was why the Fourth Prince had a special status.
Ishbara Khagan placed his hands behind his back and continued to speak.
“It’s just that I’m still unconvinced, still unable to choke down that anger. We still want to try one more time. If the alliance can destroy the Great Tang, do you think that We can defy the prophecy? And the Western Turks can once more become the master of the continent!”
He knew the Great Tang was powerful, so powerful that the Western Turkic Khaganate could not possibly contend against it alone, but deep down, Ishbara Khagan just couldn’t let go.
This steppe had actually had several Khagans. It was not some unbroken line of succession.
But few people knew that this last line, Ishbara Khagan’s line, was actually the true master of the Great Steppe.
Many people on the Great Steppe had forgotten, but Ishbara Khagan had always remembered that several hundred years ago, on this vast steppe, there had been only one name, no east or west, only one empire.
And its name was the Great Turkic Empire!
Countless nomadic tribes had been gathered together into a massive existence that spanned east and west. It had made countless factions tremble, and even the mighty Tang Empire had been forced to prostrate at its feet, trembling in fear.
When he heard from his father about the stories of his ancestors, he mentally swore that he would one day unite the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates and shake the empires to the south, becoming the strongest and most powerful empire on the continent.
Alas, he was not able to fulfill his ambition. After a short moment of resplendence, he faced hindrances on all sides.
He once had a chance to utterly crush the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and unite the Great Steppe, and the Eastern Turkic Khaganate had been in its most chaotic period at the time. Alas, the Tang Empire to the south intervened, eventually rendering his efforts for naught.
Whether he went east, west, or south, he found obstructions wherever he went, and they were all linked directly or indirectly to the Great Tang.
This was why he eventually changed to become a Khagan who sought to preserve what he had.
But as a sovereign, he was still somewhat unwilling to accept his fate.
He did not want to give up so easily to the Great Tang!
He always wanted to wait a little longer. What if there was another chance?
The Blackwater Shaman let out a deep sigh.
Not many people knew about Ishbara’s innermost ambitions and desires, but he had always known.
“Since that is the case, I have nothing to say. Khagan, do as your heart desires!”
A gust of cold wind blew past, and the tent fell silent once more.
Far off in the capital of the Great Tang, in the King of Foreign Lands Residence…
Though all sides were tense and in turmoil, the main hall of Wang Chong’s estate was shut tight, ripples of Stellar Energy spilling out.
Inside the hall, Wang Chong was seated cross-legged on the floor.
His body was surging with energy, light bursting out and illuminating the fuzzy outlines of the furniture in the hall and shadowy pillars. If one looked carefully, one would realize that the air within one hundred feet of Wang Chong was distorted, tinged with weak spacetime ripples.
Occasionally, a thin spacetime fissure about the size of a fingernail would appear.
A barely audible sigh of praise came from within the hall.
“So this is the law of spacetime!”
While Wang Chong’s body was in the hall, a part of his soul and mind had penetrated into the depths of spacetime.
This was Wang Chong’s first time in this strange world.
Previously, Wang Chong had seen the world as a painting. He saw whatever was on the painting.
But now, Wang Chong’s view of the world turned from a thin canvas to a thick ‘picture album’.
For the first time, Wang Chong sensed that this world was divided into many layers, each one bursting with mysteries. No longer would he believe that tearing a small hole in the paper was enough to see spacetime.
Their levels of richness were on a completely different scale.
Wang Chong’s mind followed the thin tendrils of spacetime law as he wandered this infinite dimension.
These tendrils of spacetime law were like the strings of a kite, pulling Wang Chong deeper and deeper, and they were also his guarantees of safety in this world!
The depths of spacetime were far too vast and complex, and its make-up was not something as simple as black and white. Some spaces were overlapping on each other like the pages of a book, and there were other spaces that were extremely fragmented yet tightly concentrated like a gravel road. And there were even larger spacetimes that were like infinite mazes. In the face of infinite spacetime, all martial artists were insignificant.
Wang Chong’s mind continued to ‘drift’ in this place, information pouring in from all sides.
In this state, the speed at which Wang Chong comprehended spacetime was many times faster.
Observing spacetime, feeling spacetime, interacting with spacetime, controlling spacetime… these should be the various thresholds on the way to the Grotto Heaven realm. With my current progress, I should have reached the minor threshold of interaction, which is half a step from Grotto Heaven! Wang Chong inwardly muttered to himself.
Outsiders watched the show while insiders learned the secrets of the trade. Wang Chong had always believed that when he absorbed Firmament Supreme’s Grotto Heaven law and became capable of seeing spacetime laws, he had reached the half-step Grotto Heaven level.
But even though he had obtained much of Firmament Supreme’s Grotto Heaven Core, he had not truly absorbed or mastered it. He had only reached the shallowest level of observing spacetime. After the imperial prison revolt, however, Li Xuantu’s palm had truly opened the gates to the world of Grotto Heaven, allowing him to absorb Firmament Supreme’s Grotto Heaven law.
Wang Chong’s understanding of spacetime was now on a completely different level.
The notes left by the Sage Emperor had mentioned that the path from the Subtle realm to the Grotto Heaven realm was excruciatingly difficult, a massive chasm between them. To cross this chasm was equal to ascending to the heavens.
But Wang Chong sensed that if he combined the powers of his three divine embryos, it wouldn’t be long until he crossed this chasm and broke into the Grotto Heaven realm!
Wang Chong continued to immerse himself in this mysterious world, absorbing knowledge from the depths of spacetime.
After some time, a faint ripple ran through the hall, and that sense of overlapping spacetime disappeared. Wang Chong’s mind and soul receded back into his body.
Wang Chong opened his eyes, which unleashed a bright burst of light that quickly faded.
Wang Chong finished his cultivation session.
A knocking came at his door, and Wang Chong heard Zhang Que’s voice.
“Your Highness, your subordinate has something to report!”
Wang Chong waved his hand, upon which the heavy doors flew open. The man outside stood in a daze in a moment before entering.
“Your Highness, news from the frontline fortress in the northeast. Everything is ready. All that’s needed is Your Highness!”
Zhang Que bowed.
Wang Chong’s eyes flickered, and then he got to his feet.
“It seems that the time has come!”
Wang Chong took in a deep breath and closed his eyes. At the same time, his mind crossed through space to contact one of his divine embryos, located far in the northeast.
Although Wang Chong was in his residence, his divine embryo had left the capital long ago.
The greatest benefit from his three divine embryos was that he could appear anywhere at any time without leaving his own home.
A few moments later, on a distant mountain slope in the northeast, Wang Chong opened his eyes.
Snow drifted down from the sky while winds howled at his ear. The northeast was much colder than the capital.
“Hurry! Pick up the pace! We have to get this done by the appointed date!”
“Coal! We need lots of coal!”
“Forging team, pick up the pace!”
Urgent voices could be heard all across the land, penetrating through the snowflakes.
The neighing of horses and clattering of armor entered his ears.
Wang Chong raised his head to look.
In front of him was a massive fortification. Rows of thick barricades and spikes formed a massive arc around the base.
Unlike normal barricades produced by the Great Tang, these barricades were taller than a man and covered in sharp spikes, enough to make any attacker shiver in fear.
Behind the barricades and spikes were tall observation platforms, each one twenty to thirty meters tall and garrisoned with four to five master archers. They warily watched their surroundings and could probably detect an enemy from as far as eight li away.
Farther back were large iron cauldrons that were packed with kerosene, coal, and dry wood, flames fiercely burning within them.
The snowflakes blown over by the wind were thawed by the heat waves before they could even get close.
These thousands of metal cauldrons served as the greatest source of heat for the base.
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