Chapter 866: Homeland Remains, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
Five sage realm cultivators were a remarkable force, even for an organization as strong as the Resplendent Emerald Veranda. Their extermination in the blink of an eye struck a heavy blow to the organization. The five had a sky sage realm cultivator among them, and moreover were proficient in coordinated tactics. A combination like this could duke it out even with a lower rank emperor realm cultivator. One or two dying wasn't entirely unacceptable, as long as a few others escaped. But it was the worst result of everyone dead!
A normal first or second level emperor realm cultivator wouldn't be able to kill all of them at once. In the beginning levels of emperor realm, a cultivator's domain wasn't yet stable, and fully containing five sage realm cultivators on a large scale was a struggle. As long as one remained free, they could activate an escape glyph to escape. Fleeing meant opportunities to send out a distress signal to their compatriots at the Veranda. But neither flight nor signal had been possible in time. Their deaths had been sudden and complete, the act itself cleanly performed.
Their opponent, then, had to have been at least third level emperor realm, perhaps even earth emperor realm. There were many earth emperor realm cultivators in the Great Scarlet Mid Region, but they could all be named. None of them had motive to oppose the Veranda. In that moment, the air was thick with contemplation. One of the higher-ups frowned. "Did they hunt down the wrong people?"
"Surely not. It's not like they've done our work for only a day or two. If we weren't satisfied with their work, why would we send them as the vanguard?"
"But if it's an cultivator from outside this region, what interest do they have in simply buying a few origin realm slaves here? It's not like those slaves are important or anything. They're not even disciples of the Myriad Domain's six great sects."
"Perhaps they're a remnant of the Walkabout Sect? Otherwise, why would the young madam be familiar with them?" The senior executives members voiced their concerns and conclusions.
The master of the Veranda was silent. The news of the five's death had been sudden, and he wasn't quite prepared for them. "The head of the Walkabout Sect has already fallen in battle. Of the other important members of that sect, only Elder Wu Hen escaped. I hear he did so alongside Elder Yun Nie. But, that elder is only a sage realm cultivator… he wouldn’t be able to kill all five of them all at once, unless it were by poison."
Mentioning the matter of poison use elicited serious looks from everyone all around. The Walkabout Sect had indeed been a sect which relied on poisons heavily, and were very proficient in their usage. It was an enlightening reminder. The master of the Veranda raised an eyebrow, looking at a white-haired elder. "Great Elder, this matter is quite strange. I would like to trouble you to investigate with a team personally. It doesn’t matter if you can catch them or not. Investigate the scene for any clues, and notify me at the earliest opportunity."
The elder nodded. "I shall go immediately."
"Bring as many as you need," the master instructed.
Another elder piped up. "Master, shall we ask the young madam about this?"
"There is no need to wake a sleeping lion before we are ready to handle it. If they're really from the Walkabout Sect, they'll show up again. We just need to sit back and wait."
Jiang Chen was already a few thousand miles away from the scene of the crime by now. There was no more dawdling on his journey. Two days later, the two of them successfully entered Myriad Domain. After weathering the ravages of war, this region was now much less bustling than that of yesteryear. There were traces of fierce battles everywhere. On the roads, there were even wind-worn skeletons and blackened bloodstains from time to time. Some corpses were still in the stages of decay, and were visited by various scavenging vultures. The birds congregated by the bodies, ravenously tearing flesh from bone. The sight evoked an endless feeling of somberment.
It was a devastated landscape, a banquet of bones. Although Jiang Chen didn't exactly have strong feelings for the Myriad Domain, he couldn't resist becoming angry at the scenery. It was a good thing that Huang'er was by his side. She held his palm softly, soothing his heart and mood like delicate rain.
When he passed by Regal Pill Palace territory, Jiang Chen hardened his heart in order to refrain from revisiting. He was afraid that he would begin a killing spree out of hate and vengeance. Once he did, numerous factions would be notified, and his operation would be jeopardized. When he departed from there, he noticed an increase in wandering cultivators. Evidently, most of the territories here were under the grasp of various factions in the Great Scarlet Mid Region. However, masters from outside clearly weren't as capable as the locals had been. Thus, the Myriad Domain had become a heaven for wandering cultivators instead.
The irritation and depression in Jiang Chen's heart subsided a little as they traveled further from Regal Pill Palace land. The sect had fallen already. Jiang Chen had returned once before, and there would be no difference from back then if he were to do so now. It would increase his sorrow perhaps, and nothing more.
The Skylaurel Kingdom and Precious Tree Sect however, he urgently wished to return to those places and see how they fared. The scenery on the way was no different from when he'd first entered Myriad Domain. That continued to be the case even as he approached the sixteen kingdoms alliance. Blood dripped from Jiang Chen's heart. "It looks like this great loss of life wasn't restricted to just the Myriad Domain's core. Distant places, like the sixteen kingdoms alliance, were affected as well."
He finally entered sixteen kingdoms' territory. Myriad Spirit Sect was closest to the border; as Jiang Chen expected, the sect no longer held those lands, being replaced by a small faction from the Great Scarlet Mid Region. Already numb to the shock, Jiang Chen didn't stay long. He reached the Precious Tree Sect after another half-day. The devastation was especially bad here, and the checkpoints stricter.
The Eternal Celestial Capital and Ninesuns Sky Sect had both made numerous arrangements near Precious Tree Sect territory. Thankfully, Jiang Chen was dressed just like any other wandering cultivator, including those who were plentiful within the areas close by. He wasn't given away. The Precious Tree Sect clearly had new masters.
Mundane nations like the Skylaurel Kingdom were untouched. However, the kingdom's royal family were mere figureheads now. If not for the unspoken rule that mundane factions were not to be touched, someone would have surely come along and utterly destroyed the royal family as well. By now, fourth prince Ye Rong had long ascended to the throne, becoming king of Skylaurel. However, there was no savoring the position. He was a puppet under another's control.
Jiang Chen went to Skylaurel's capital covertly to take a look around. The Dragonteeth Guard was intact as well. His old acquaintances, such as Tian Shao and Tang Long, were still around. Unfortunately, they were only superficially glamorous and lacked autonomy. The king was a puppet, and they were puppets of a puppet. Skylaurel's four great sites had been utterly destroyed as well. Jiang Chen was somewhat cheered up by the fact that many had prepared in advance, thanks to his early warning.
When calamity had befallen the Myriad Domain, Ye Chonglou had gone into seclusion along with a large number of elites. With him was Jiang Chen's uncle Jiang Tong and cousin Jiang Yu, as well as Qiao Baishi, who had joined Jiang Chen ever since his Eastern Kingdom days. They hadn't been vulnerable to the predations of outside factions. Jiang Chen was secretly relieved that he had given a lot of funds and equipment to Ye Chonglou before he went to the Myriad Grand Ceremony. He'd told the elder then to leave Regal Pill Palace and return to Precious Tree Sect in order to prepare for the worst.
It seemed that the old man had trusted him implicitly. For him to have escaped the disaster, his execution was top-notch as well. The Precious Tree Sect was unharmed, and his uncle and cousin were in no danger. Jiang Chen was finally able to lay down his worries. He did not think it prudent to act now on Skylaurel's behalf, either. The grand scheme of things was such that even if he did help the kingdom and restore Ye Rong's rule, it would be meaningless.
Once he'd departed, someone else would find it easy to undo his work.
There was no reason for him to make a move on impulse. It would only further endanger his past acquaintances. Once the overall situation shifted, then an opportunity would perhaps arise. Otherwise, it was best to maintain the current state of things and let sleeping lions lie. Jiang Chen gathered some more information before coming to the royal tutor’s residence. Ye Chonglou had lived here, once upon a time, but it was owned now by another.
He stood in the streets beside the residence, and remembered. It had been another night like this, many years ago, when Dan Fei had spoken the secrets of her heart to him. It was a long time since then, but Dan Fei seemed to have vanished thin air. He kept the letter she'd left him. It was still in his traveling bags. There was only a single line: even thousands and thousands of words are insufficient, I will never regret pining for my love. These words crushed down on his heart like a mountain.
Each time he remembered them, Jiang Chen felt strangely flustered. He didn't quite know why that was. He felt that something was amiss, and there was a truth that needed to be uncovered. He even felt that Dan Fei’s sudden disappearance might have something to do with him. Except, just what might it be? He really had no idea. Even Ye Chonglou had once reminded him to help look for Dan Fei.
The streets were still as they were, but it was now empty chairs at empty tables. Jiang Chen felt a bit melancholy, and he dallied for a while before leaving. He didn’t plan on visiting the Precious Tree Sect. Since it’d fallen into someone else’s hands, it was surely the same as everywhere else. Visiting would only increase his heartache.
“Brother Chen, have you felt an odd feeling ever since setting foot into the sixteen kingdom alliance?” Huang’er suddenly asked.
Jiang Chen had been depressed ever since arriving, so although he’d felt that something was off, he hadn’t paid attention to it. His thoughts turned in that direction now that Huang’er had mentioned it.
“There’s a certain strange, indescribable presence on many of the cultivators here.” A complicated tone had crept into Huang’er’s voice.
This is bonus chapter 5/5 to celebrate the launch of Return of the Swallow, my favorite web novel of 2017!
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