The Fire Crow rushed out, transforming into a stream of flames. Ji Hao gazed at the valley below while standing on the head of the Fire Crow. The crow cawed and unfolded its wings, gliding through the hundreds of feet wide gaps between mountain cliffs and mountain peaks. Soon after, his view became broad; a magnificent valley appeared in front of him. The valley was hundreds of miles long; the widest part of the valley was over thirty miles.
The adjacent lofty mountainside was known as the Gold Black Mountain, the Holy Land of the Fire Crow Clan. Fire Crows were legendary creatures, known to be the most powerful fighting beasts of the Fire Crow Clan. The ancient, legendary Three-Legged Gold Crow was the common ancestor of both the Fire Crows and the Fire Crow Clan.
Mulberry trees were planted at the end of the valley within an area spanning tens of miles and countless nests were built atop those towering mulberry trees. A large group of Fire Crows were flying silently above the trees.
When Ji Hao and Mr. Crow arrived at the mulberry forest, all the crows hovering in midair stopped and landed on the branches, silently gazing at them. After a while, all those crows slowly spread their wings, moving their chests down to salute Mr. Crow in their own special way.
Ji Hao leapt off from the head of Mr. Crow and whistled. Mr. Crow flapped his wings and darted out, transforming into a stream of flames once again. It circled in the air at thousands of feet from the ground, and flew towards the Gold Black Mountain.
Numerous young Fire Crows silently stared at Ji Hao with their red eyes. The mulberry forest was filled with a strange and solemn atmosphere. Ji Hao waved his hands at the young Fire Crows and walked away, following a trail which was narrow and meandering; it was less than three feet wide.
The rustling sound of leaves could be heard as wind blew across the branches. From a distance, the mulberry forest seemed to have a circumference of only ten miles; but when viewed from below, it seemed vast and endless.
After running along the trail for a few minutes while leaving a large part of his shadow behind his body, Ji Hao sighted two towering trees which were so thick that it could take hundreds of people to put their arms around them; however, these two trees were completely invisible from outside the forest. The two trees were twenty meters apart from each other. Their branches entwined and formed an archway which emitted a faint, fiery glow. Ji Hao walked through the archway and felt that the air was blazing hot. A meadow of forest came into view.
At the end of the forest, there stood a huge dome made of wood. At the top of the dome, there was a thirty-foot-thick wooden foundation upon which a platform was built. On the platform was the gigantic skeleton of a Gold Fire Crow with a wingspan of hundreds of feet wide. Although there was only a skeleton of this Gold Fire Crow that remained, Ji Hao sensed that the skeleton possessed a mysteriously strong, inexhaustible power which enveloped the entire forest. At first glance, the skeleton seemed like a blazing sun floating in the air. Even more astonishing was the fact that this Gold Fire Crow skeleton had three leg bones.
Ji Hao bowed three times before the skeleton and crossed his fingers to pray for a while in a low voice. After praying, he silently walked to the door and peeked through the cracks between the door and its frame. The rooms were very broad, seemingly large enough to accommodate thousands of people. This was the Fire Crow Clan's council room, accessible to only the leaders and the elders for the discussion of the most important matters of the clan.
The floor was paved with stones; a blazing bonfire was set in a fireplace that had been built at the center of the room. A skinned beast hung over the fire and was being grilled until it sizzled, having a golden luster. Large droppings of fat dripped down into the flame, and Ji Hao could even smell the thick scent of the grilled meat.
Tens of clay jars were placed next to the fireplace. A few scrawny elderly men and several muscular middle-aged men used these jars to occasionally fill their stomachs with liquor. Tens of sturdy men and the same number of elderly men sat around the fireplace while drinking with solemn expressions; no one was talking. Aside from the sounds of wine being poured and meat being sliced, only the sound of the blazing fire could be heard.
At the time of Ji Hao's arrival, half of the beasts have already been eaten; at the time he looked around for a few minutes, the beast's bones had already been chopped into pieces for the marrow to be extracted and consumed. Those men had also finished the liquor without leaving a single drop.
A sturdy-looking man who was over three meters tall had his eyes narrowed like a snake's and his long hair that was tied in a thick braid laid on his back. He displayed a hint of menace on his face. Suddenly, he grabbed a jar and swung it to the ground, smashing the jar and the underlying stones into pieces. With a loud noise, the silence was broken.
"We ate and drank enough, let's talk!" The man slowly stood up, his skin steaming. In an instant, the room was filled with hot air and seemed much smaller than before.
"Ji Xia, you are not the same as ten years ago; you are no longer the strongest warrior amongst us! Look how skinny you are! After breaking your Magus Acupoints a decade ago, you are no longer a Senior Magus! Now you are just an ordinary person!"
The man was pointing at another man who faced the door.
He continued, "What qualifications do you have to be our leader!? What makes you think that you are eligible to lead us, the guardian warriors of the Holy Land!? Why do you still comfortably hold the highest power within our clan!?"
The man who was being pointed at slowly stood up. His shoulders were broad and he was tall, far more taller than the provocative man. However, no muscle could be seen on his body. His skin seemed tightly attached to his bones, making him look like a skeleton and could possibly even be blown away with just a single gust of wind.
He was Ji Xia, Ji Hao's father and the former strongest warrior of the Fire Crow Clan!
However, when Ji Hao was born, he had been ambushed by the Fire Crow Clan's sworn enemy, the Black Water Serpent Clan. He had been seriously injured while protecting his own son. From that day onwards, his body had continued to deteriorate year after year. Some of the fellow clansmen even believed that he had already lost his power and strength.
Ji Hao clenched his fists and gazed at Ji Xia. Ji Hao's mind flashed back to that battle, clearly remembering that Ji Xia fought desperately to protect Ji Hao using his own body to block all of the enemies' attacks. Ji Hao had felt his father's boiling-hot blood splash on him at that time. Ji Hao threw a sideways glance at the provocative man.
"So, Ji Mu, my brother, what do you have in mind?" said Ji Xia while calmly smiling.
Ji Mu didn't answer. A boy abruptly jumped up, pointed at Ji Xia's nose, and shouted, "You old waste! Do we need another talk here!? Just take your Qin Yi Clan woman, your little bastard, and get out of here! Let my father be the leader! My father will take care of our Holy Land and our people!"
The boy held his head high, puffed his chest and continued, "The worship ceremony is nearing soon; all the leaders will come to the Holy Land and worship our ancestors! In front of all those clan leaders, you should relinquish your position and leave the Holy Land!"
"Old waste!? Qin Yi Clan woman!?"
Ji Hao sneered; he kicked the door open and rushed into the room without a second thought.
"Little bastard, who are you talking about!?" Ji Hao shouted. He quickly interlocked his fingers together and spat towards the bonfire. A wisp of flame soared towards the boy.
The unexpected raging fire completely burned the boy's hair and eyebrows into a puff of smoke.