These were the only two possibilities.
With respect to the first, Jiang Chen surmised that Great Scarlet Mid Region had no formation master of that caliber, period. A formation master at the level of the heavenly planes was probably alive somewhere on the Divine Abyss Continent, but there was no chance he was in Great Scarlet Mid Region. It was possible that he wasn't even located in the human domain. Therefore, that possibility could be eliminated. All that remained was the second.
His heart was conflicted. He had spent his utmost efforts on finding a powerful earth attribute treasure. Among the five elemental attributes, he'd always lacked completion of earth. That was one of the fundamental reasons he hadn't yet broken through to emperor realm. He had been waiting-no, was still waiting-for an earth attribute treasure to appear.
If this place really did have an earth attribute treasure that could make the earth pulsate, then it was definitely an extraordinary one! Despite his experienced eye from a previous life, he felt a fire beginning to burn in his heart.
He had seen treasures ten or a hundred times more potent than this in his previous life for sure, but they weren't exactly available to the present him. They might as well not have existed either in his past life, since he had literally zero cultivation talent, and therefore couldn't use any of them. This time, things were different. It was the exact kind of treasure he was missing. Fancy the sheer luck involved in such a coincidence!
He had originally come to seek out the Resplendent Emerald Veranda's master in an attempt to save Wei Xing'er. This discovery was the definition of serendipity! It was an astoundingly valuable reward for his troubles.
Jiang Chen's brain fired up for only a moment before cooling down again. He sat down cross-legged, and began to meditate on his assumptions. To ensure accuracy, he sent out the Goldbiter Rat King to scout the premises once again. He needed to double-check the earth pulse's veracity. As a fine specimen of the Goldbiter Rat species, the king wouldn't attract any attention from the emperor realm cultivators guarding the formation upon approach. In the heart of the mountains, it was normal to find powerful spirit beasts glutted with cultivation.
Though the king was a cowardly critter, he still carried out Jiang Chen's commands to the letter. After about an hour, he returned to confirm that the pulse of the earth did indeed exist here. There was no problem, no sir!
Having received supporting evidence for his hypothesis, Jiang Chen was increasingly reassured that there was an earth attribute treasure in the area. What was it exactly, though? He had no idea.
He knew only that it had been here a long time. Its tendrils of influence wouldn't have extended this far, otherwise. The formation of a pulse in the earth required a great deal of energy. A piece of pulsating land like this could be adapted into any number of terrifying formations by even the most rudimentary of formation masters.
Simply triggering the pulse of the earth was enough to eliminate emperor realm cultivators on the spot. There was no need to encode any offense into any superimposed formations. The original discoverer of this place had been a lucky man indeed!
Was it the master of the Resplendent Emerald Veranda? It was yet another guess, but Jiang Chen believed there was a very good reason that the Veranda master was breaking through here. The pulse of the earth was a prime candidate for that.
It had probably been a long time since the Veranda master first noticed the phenomenon. He wouldn't have set up the formation and the other periphery here otherwise. The stage wasn't entirely flawless, but fleeting workmanship could not have accomplished it. A decade or so at minimum had gone into the execution.
Having mused out his thoughts, Jiang Chen decided that it was better to take a look himself. Calling upon the Bewitching Lotus of Ice and Fire, he approached the edge of the formation from deep underground.
Coming to the formation's edges, Jiang Chen began to study it with all he knew. The formation itself was rather elementary. What made it special was a vortex of energy in the middle of its eye. The pulse of the earth originated from there, radiating into the surroundings as an enormous field of energy.
The only function of the formation was to guide the energy from the pulse of the earth outwards. It shaped that energy into an impenetrable bulwark, restraining all trespassers.
Jiang Chen scrutinized the formation from every angle a long while. He wanted to find a loophole, a path of escape through which he could proceed. Disappointingly, the formation had no vulnerabilities whatsoever despite its simplicity. More accurately, the pulse had no gaps whatsoever in its energy field.
Unless the formation was brought to a halt entirely so that it no longer drew on its source of power, not even a great emperor cultivator could pass by unscathed. One thing relieved Jiang Chen, however. The formation was also far too basic to make full use of all of the energies available from the earth's pulsation.
Otherwise, things very well could have been different. This place would've become a dead zone thanks to the all-encompassing power of the pulse. The area of the pulse's reach was like that of a great grindstone. It generated enough force to pulverize everything that dared to come into its vicinity. Any living beings especially who entered the area's core would be reduced to grit.
"Ole Gold, what do you think?" Jiang Chen looked down the formation's four corners with a long stare. Four of the Veranda master's invited protectors stood at them, one to each cardinal direction. It seemed that there was no opportunity to take advantage of a breach in the line. Unless the protectors came out themselves, an outsider had no room to sneak in undetected.
"Young master Chen," the Goldbiter Rat King sighed, "I'm not being pessimistic, but… we've seen what the pulse is doing on the outside. I reckon it gets much worse further in. Even if all of my children went in at once, the pulse would still stop us. Unless… that formation stops."
The rat king understood the pulse of the earth to a certain extent thanks to knowledge inherited from his bloodline.
"There's four emperor realm experts holding down the fort here," Jiang Chen sighed softly. "There's no reason for the formation to stop by itself. We'd have to get them to leave the formation voluntarily, or we can't even attack them through it."
He had been looking for a loophole all the while, but nothing of the sort sadly existed.
The Rat King nodded incessantly in agreement. "Young master Chen, you know… only an idiot would leave the formation normally, but an irresistible lure can turn anyone's brain to mush. You have so many treasures on you. Why not try baiting one or two of them out?"
The spirit creature's words were a spark of inspiration to Jiang Chen. None of the four protectors were ordinary people. One was sixth level emperor realm, one was fifth, and the other two were at the peak of fourth level. The Upper Eight Regions notwithstanding, here in the Great Scarlet Mid Region, they were nothing short of elite. Ordinary bait would be insufficient to attract their attention. But Jiang Chen had no shortage of bait-worthy treasures.
The Goldbiter Rat King fled with maddening haste, the outline of sky rank spirit herb leaves visible between its teeth. Feigning disorientation, it pounced at the formation's boundary with every ounce of its strength. Behind it, someone cried out. "Where are you going, filthy animal? No matter where you go, I won't let you escape!"
The owner of that voice was none other than Jiang Chen himself. They were putting on an act of hardship to win their enemies' confidence. However, the fear on the rat king's face was no act. Goldbiter Rats were craven by nature, and proximity to the formation exponentially increased the amount of psychological pressure on the rat.
The formation had four manned positions. The protectors stood independently, but each man was ready to support the others at a moment's notice. The position closest to him was occupied by one of the most senior elders of a third rank Scarlet Parting Sect. He had been specially invited by the Veranda master.
Surnamed Gao, the old man was a fifth level emperor realm cultivator, edging on sixth. He was an exceptionally important member of his sect, but minded few worldly affairs because of his age. The Veranda's successful invitation of him had been a big surprise to many.
A man as paranoid as they came, the elderly Gao deployed an art of the eye as soon as he heard Jiang Chen's cry. His scan revealed a large, golden-furred mouse rushing towards his direction. Not three or five miles behind it was a cultivator in hot pursuit, his dash as frenzied as his prey's.
Elder Gao furrowed his brow. He hadn't expected a human cultivator to show up here at all, much less for them to be charging straight at him. The two sky rank spirit herbs in the mouse' maw impelled him to cut down the oversized rodent immediately, so that he could take the spirit herbs for himself.
Coming through at the last second, his reason told him that such recklessness was folly. His most important mission right now was to protect the formation. He was absolutely safe within its range, but had zero guarantee as to his security outside. Though Elder Gao did not think that either the rat or the cultivator could threaten him at all, an elderly old man always maintained the most basic of cautions. Despite the fact that his heart was beckoning for him to make a move, he maintained a cool head. He chose to stand at the border of the formation in silent observation.
The Goldbiter Rat King quickly collided with the formation's boundary, stumbling at the impact. It was summarily sent flying by an invisible repelling force. The formation intrinsically rejected outside energies as a kind of warning. Any forced intrusion would trigger the pulse of the earth completely, consuming the invader with its power. A hapless trespasser who got caught up in the pulse would certainly be ground into dust. The Goldbiter Rat King reeled from the formation, but Jiang Chen was behind it in the next moment.
"Keep running, why don't you," he snickered.
The Rat King ran about all helter-skelter, screeching all the while. "Don't kill me, don't kill me. I'll give you your spirit herbs back!"
"It's too late to do that now," Jiang Chen sneered. "I don't just want my spirit herbs back, I want you to serve me for the next three thousand years!"