The agreed-upon hour with Mang Qi had come.
Jiang Chen arrived at the Boundless Catacombs once more, the four sacred beasts by his side.
Several thousand members of foreign races had congregated at Mang Qi’s side. Jiang Chen gasped to himself as he swept his eyes across them. The demons were impressive indeed; even the cannon fodder they enslaved was incredibly numerous. They weren’t weak in terms of cultivation either.
Just as Mang Qi had said all those years ago, there were at least a hundred empyrean cultivators. In fact, by his count, there were more than two hundred. More importantly, there were gods here as well!
That divine realm cultivators had been enslaved by the demons just the same was the most remarkable.
However, all the cultivators he saw had soulless eyes set in blank faces. Countless years had nearly completely worn away their wills. Only freedom could revive them now.
“Is everyone here?” asked Jiang Chen coolly.
Mang Qi looked a little embarrassed. “Not necessarily everyone.” He stepped forward. “Some didn’t believe me, so they didn’t come out here. Everyone who’s willing though, is here.”
Jiang Chen’s face darkened. “Alright. I’m not going to force anyone to do anything, but I see no reason to be responsible for the lives of all. You lot, register yourselves. I will issue individual identifications to all of you, without which you will not be permitted passage through the exit. Anyone violating this will be summarily cut down!”
His murderous tone showed that he was deadly serious.
There was a flurry of murmuring and motion within the crowd.
“Quiet!” Long Xiaoxuan roared. His potent draconic presence took the breath from everyone in the crowd. They were already weakened by the formation, and had no strength left to stand against a divine dragon’s voice.
“Whether it was the demons or yourselves who willed it, your invasion of the human domain and crimes here are undeniable fact,” Jiang Chen declared coldly. “It was already fortunate that you were simply imprisoned here rather than annihilated. Are you going to expect me, a human, to just welcome you out with a smile?”
This was certainly true. These foreigners were invaders through and through, and the humans had no reason to show them courtesy.
“Mang Qi, it seems that the three months that I gave you haven’t been too productive.” Jiang Chen was positively frigid by this point. “Forget about the others. We have a pact. I will release you alone.”
Mang Qi paled. “No, no, Jiang Chen,” he interjected hurriedly. “Everyone here is sincere about their wish to join you.”
Jiang Chen smiled smoothly. “Is that so? I don’t see any of that in their expressions.”
Mang Qi anxiously turned around. “Friends, Jiang Chen is one of the few humans worthy of trust. If you can’t put your faith in even him, then we will only be able to live out the rest of our days here. There will be no hope of you returning to your homes.”
The mention of home brought some life back to the crowd’s lifeless eyes.
“Jiang Chen, there were some great men among humanity in the ancient times,” an elder asked with a dry voice. “Are you like them?”
Jiang Chen frowned. “I’ve said everything I needed to Mang Qi already. I give as much respect as I receive. If you don’t try to trick me, I have no reason to let you down. Otherwise… even if I let you out, I have many ways to end you.”
“Don’t be stuck in your old ways, my friends,” Mang Qi proclaimed loudly. “If the formation is restored and we don’t take the exit, we will be stuck here for eternity.
“Don’t you want your freedom back? Don’t you want to go back to your homeland to see how it’s doing now?” Freedom and home were the only two prospects that could elicit the remotest amount of excitement in these people.
They dared not venture any thoughts of family. After all these years, how could any relation of theirs still be alive?
Jiang Chen handed over a pile of prepared jade slips to Mang Qi.
“When the formation comes back alive, you must raise up your jade slip in hand. Anyone without one will be killed on sight! Remember this well.” He had little interest in saying anything more. As soon as he left the jade slips, he departed.
Long Xiaoxuan harrumphed. “If you don’t grasp your only chance at life,” he glanced at the crowd with disdain. “Then you can really get ready to meet your eternal rest here.”
The Vermilion Bird and the Black Tortoise shook their heads, saying nothing.
The Astral White Tiger pulled a funny face, revealing a maw of white, pointed teeth.
The departure of Jiang Chen and the four sacred beasts left Mang Qi in utter silence. He pulled on the storage ring in his hand in a daze.
“What are you standing around for, Mang Qi? Hand out the jade slips!”
Mang Qi nodded and began to do so. “Let me emphasize this. Don’t think of trying to deceive this Jiang Chen. He is a genius that only comes about every hundred thousand years. Only a few years ago, he was still a cultivator of little repute, but look at him now! A god in his own right. If we behave in a two-faced way with him, simply leaving this place will mean the death of us.”
“Don’t worry. What’s a few orders if he gives us what he wants? Better than living out the rest of our days here, no? Plus, the demons destroyed our homes and enslaved us. Even if we die in the process of fighting them, it’ll have been worthwhile.”
“Exactly. I wouldn’t back out from a fight with the demons!”
Everyone here was indignant when it came to the demons. They had all been captured, their homes destroyed, and their families eradicated. They had been deprived of their wills and turned into puppets.
Their hatred of demonkind far exceeded any biases they had against humans. The latter were victims of the former too. They had been sealed only out of self-preservation, and if the roles were switched, would have done the same themselves. The only party at fault was the demons.
“The roaring beast near Jiang Chen just now… Was that a true dragon?”
“I think so. That roar was quite scary.”
“Not just a true dragon. The four sacred beasts were all divine realm, I think. The four sacred beasts, famous in the heavenly planes!”
“All four sacred beasts? How could that be?”
“Why, does that sound so impossible? This Jiang Chen is beyond our comprehension!”
Confronted with a very real hope at a second life, these aliens were somewhat rejuvenated. When the four sacred beasts were mentioned, they felt rather conflicted.
“If they really were the four sacred beasts, why would they be content following Jiang Chen? Is he from greater origins than they?”
“No way. The four sacred beasts are some of the noblest bloodlines in the heavenly planes. They don’t pale even when compared to demons. How could they be inferior to a human?”
“Perhaps Jiang Chen is too prominent for them to ignore? They’ve submitted to his service, maybe?”
“Not just that, I think. The four sacred beasts looked like they truly respected him.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
My other novel, Return of the Swallow, hits 400 chapters! Endless scheming, politicking, and face-slapping with no filler, check it out for a giveaway!
have an early chapter all! 3 min to my 2020, I will catch up on advance chapters tomorrow. :)
May the 20s be everything you hope for!