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In the Desert North, where the eight tribes converge, a temporary camp stood guarded by soldiers from all tribes, with security exceptionally tight.
Inside the tent, all the Great Sovereigns of the Desert North's eight tribes were present.
All except for the Dantai tribe.
The Great Sovereign of Dantai had been ill for a long time, a fact known to all, so the Dantai tribe was represented by the Celestial Maiden, Dantai Jingyue.
Although Dantai Jingyue was the only woman among the eight, none of the Great Sovereigns present dared to underestimate her.
In the years of the Dantai Great Sovereign's illness, the Dantai tribe had not only avoided chaos but had grown even stronger, thanks to this woman's presence.
"The matter of the demons, I'm sure all Great Sovereigns are aware."
After everyone arrived, the Great Sovereign Helian swept his gaze over the seven seated and spoke, "Does anyone have any thoughts?"
"What's there to say? Let's send troops together and drive those demons back to the far north," suggested the most belligerent among them, Great Sovereign Chili, the first to speak up.
"That's not appropriate."
Beside him, Great Sovereign Helian shook his head, "We know too little about the habits and abilities of these demons. We've already suffered great losses and can't rashly send troops again."
"If we don't send troops, are we to let those demons run wild?" Great Sovereign Chili frowned.
Great Sovereign Helian fell silent; the situation was indeed a deadlock, neither sending nor withholding troops seemed appropriate.
"Are those demons really as terrifying as your letters described?"
The Great Sovereigns Helian, Tuoba, and Chili, whose territories were relatively southern and less informed about the situation, raised their doubts.
"Even worse than described."
Great Sovereign Helian nodded gravely, "Not quite impervious to swords and spears, but close enough. The key is, they only appear at night, and our soldiers can't adapt, making it hard to mount an effective resistance."
Hearing this, the faces of the Great Sovereigns all showed deep contemplation.
The demons could move freely at night, while their soldiers could not, a disadvantageous situation.
The enemy lurked in the dark, they were exposed, and here on the plains, without the towering, sturdy walls of the Royal Dynasty to rely on, they were practically leaving themselves vulnerable to the demons' fangs. This battle would be difficult to fight.
"If it really comes to it, Great Sovereign Huyan, you might have to consider leading your people south," suggested the Great Sovereign of the Helian tribe, located at the southernmost edge of the Desert North.
"That's right, Great Sovereigns Bai Di, Chili, and Helian, you could also move some of your people closer to the night southward. Perhaps, after this harsh winter, the night will recede," proposed the Great Sovereign of the neighboring Tuoba tribe.
"Speaking of harsh winters, have any of the Great Sovereigns noticed that the winters on the plains are getting longer and colder each year?" said the Great Sovereign of the Chili tribe, his voice grave.
"That feeling is mutual."
Great Sovereign Helian frowned slightly, "I thought it was because my Helian tribe's territory was too far north."
"It's more pronounced for my tribe."
Great Sovereign Huyan spoke solemnly, "Among the eight tribes, my Huyan tribe is closest to the far north. Not only have the winters grown longer over the years, but the grass and water have also diminished by more than a third. We've been forced to move many of our people south. When Great Sovereign Helian suggested we migrate further south, to be honest, if we move any further, our people might start fighting over territory and resources!"
"Is it that serious?"
Great Sovereign Helian's expression grew tense upon hearing this; it was no small matter.
Although the eight tribes of the Desert North seemed peaceful on the surface, it was just a facade.
Simply put, taking the Huyan tribe as an example, if the grass and water in their territory could no longer sustain their people, they would inevitably choose to invade other tribes' lands.
The relationships between the eight tribes were complex and intertwined; any conflict between two tribes could potentially drag all eight tribes of the Desert North into the fray.
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Hearing Great Sovereign Helian's words, the expressions of the other Great Sovereigns also darkened.
They had not realized the situation was so dire.
In contrast to the seven Great Sovereigns' grave expressions, Dantai Jingyue sat quietly drinking tea, not joining in their discussion.
The tea from the Central Plains was indeed good.
Dantai Jingyue's lips curved slightly; she remembered this tea seemed to come from the Li Family of the Central Plains.
It was said that the Li Family was a legend in the Central Plains, rising from an obscure merchant family to a wealthy powerhouse rivaling nations in just a decade.
"The Celestial Maiden of the Dantai tribe seems uninterested in our discussion. What's the matter, does the Celestial Maiden have any objections to our decisions?" sneered the Great Sovereign of the Helian tribe, who had always been unfriendly towards the Dantai tribe, glancing at the silent Dantai Jingyue.
As soon as Great Sovereign Helian finished speaking, the other six Great Sovereigns turned their gaze towards her, knowing that this woman now held the reins of the Dantai tribe, and her opinion represented the decision of the entire Dantai clan.
"I dare not object, but I do have a suggestion," Dantai Jingyue set down her teacup and spoke calmly, "The plains are getting colder, and the grass is dwindling; this is an undeniable fact. If this situation doesn't improve, the eventual fate of the eight tribes of the Desert North should be clear to all Great Sovereigns."
The seven Great Sovereigns tensed upon hearing the words of the woman before them.
The essence of the plains lay in the grass; if the grass was insufficient, war would inevitably break out, a fight to the death over resources.
"Great Sovereigns, now is not the time to discuss the cooling of the plains. Perhaps, when summer arrives next year, the grass on the plains will return to its former abundance," Great Sovereign Helian said, noticing the topic drifting and casting a stern glance over those present, "Right now, with the harsh winter upon us, the most pressing issue is how to deal with those demons."
"There's a saying among the people of the Central Plains," Dantai Jingyue remarked, looking at the tea leaves floating in her cup, "A lack of long-term concerns gives rise to immediate worries. If I'm not mistaken, since the extreme night first appeared in the Desert North ten years ago, each winter it has spread southward by dozens of miles, and the pace is accelerating. Great Sovereign Huyan, surely the migration of your people isn't solely due to the scarcity of grass and water. In the past two years, a significant portion of the Huyan tribe's territory must have been engulfed by the extreme night."
"Great Sovereign Huyan, is it true? Has the southward spread of the extreme night become so severe?" the other six Great Sovereigns asked, turning their gaze towards him.
Great Sovereign Huyan remained silent for a moment before nodding, "The extreme night is indeed spreading southward at an accelerated pace. It may not be long before the tribes of Great Sovereigns Chili, Bai Di, and Helian will notice this as well."
Hearing this, the brows of Great Sovereigns Chili, Bai Di, and Helian furrowed deeply.
This was indeed unwelcome news. They were aware of the extreme night's southward movement, but they had not anticipated it would happen so quickly.
"There's a legend on the plains that all Great Sovereigns should be familiar with: the extreme night's harsh winter is the source of the demons' power. If the extreme night continues to spread, the number of demons will only increase. As they grow stronger and we weaken from internal strife over grass and war, the eight tribes of the Desert North will eventually become powerless to resist," Dantai Jingyue said, her gaze fixed on the seven Great Sovereigns in the tent, "Do you really want to wait until then to start looking for solutions?"
The expressions of the seven Great Sovereigns darkened further as they listened to Dantai Jingyue's words.
There was some truth to what this woman was saying.
"Dantai Jingyue, what do you propose we do?" Great Sovereign Huyan asked gravely.
"Great Sovereigns, we need to shift our perspective," Dantai Jingyue said, her lips curving slightly, "Don't fixate on the demons to the north. Even if we drive them back to the far north, it's unlikely the grass on the plains will return to its abundance of over a decade ago. The tribes of the plains will only continue to decline. It's time for the eight tribes of the Desert North to look south."
Great Sovereigns Helian and Bai Di were initially taken aback, then their expressions changed as they realized what she meant.
The Central Plains!
"Is the Celestial Maiden referring to the Central Plains?" Great Sovereign Helian was the first to recover from the shock, "But we, the eight tribes of the Desert North, have lived on the plains for generations and have never left. Even when we've waged war against the Royal Dynasty, it was only to plunder gold, silver, and women."
"That's why I say we need to change our way of thinking," Dantai Jingyue continued calmly, "The Central Plains have fertile lands and endless wealth, while our plains are resource-poor, with food and land increasingly scarce. Instead of letting our warriors engage in futile battles with the demons to the north, we'd be better off launching a major campaign southward to seize those vast territories from the hands of the Royal Dynasty."
The seven Great Sovereigns were increasingly shocked by Dantai Jingyue's words.
This woman was indeed mad!
The Royal Dynasty had towering walls and an army said to number in the millions. Without siege equipment, how could they possibly fight?
"It's too risky!" Great Sovereign Helian was the first to voice opposition, "We, the eight tribes of the Desert North, simply don't have the manpower. Once we go to war with the Royal Dynasty, just the consumption of food and supplies would be more than we can bear."
"Great Sovereign Helian is right. The Royal Dynasty is too powerful, and with its high walls, our soldiers lack siege experience. There's no chance of winning this war," Great Sovereign Helian analyzed calmly in opposition.
"What's there to fear? Are the men of the Central Plains more formidable than those of the Desert North? Without even fighting, how can you know we won't win?" Great Sovereign Chili, the most belligerent of the seven, agreed, slamming his hand on the table in frustration.
"No, it's not feasible!" Great Sovereign Tuoba also voiced his opposition, "If it's a small-scale war to plunder some gold and food, I have no objections. But a major campaign southward would cripple the eight tribes of the Desert North. If we lose, it would take at least twenty years to recover."
The other five Great Sovereigns nodded in agreement.
War with the Royal Dynasty was too costly.
In the tent, Dantai Jingyue watched the firm opposition of the Great Sovereigns without surprise, calmly reminding them, "Great Sovereigns, the Royal Dynasty's enemies are not only us, the eight tribes of the Desert North. That scholar to the west has been trying to spread the faith of the God of Light to the Central Plains for more than a day or two. The enemy of our enemy is our friend. In this war, we will not be alone."
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