Great Scarlet Palace was the most well-defended place in all of Great Scarlet Mid Region. It was better fortified than any of the three great sects.
Under the leadership of their heads, the elites of the three sects led a furious assault upon the palace. Unfortunately, their repeated charges against the outer defensive formation failed to make a scratch. In fact, the attacking party suffered multiple casualties due to the traps within the formation instead.
Time passed as the three sects whaled fruitlessly on the high-level formation. As their offense increased, the defense seemed to match. There was a standstill for a brief time.
The three sects had originally intended to attack half-heartedly rather than use their full strength. But when more and more of their elite members died to the restrictions and traps in the formation, their tempers flared as well.
Regardless of the extremes that they went to in their attacks, the defense held. It was as if there were countless palace walls around them; no matter how much they blasted the structure, they couldn't find a way further in.
The restrictions, gouts of flame, and ice arrows dealt a severe blow to the combined disciples' ranks. The three sect heads convened a temporary meeting when they saw that this was so.
"My fellow daoists, we cannot keep going like this. Our elite disciples won't last much longer with this battle of attrition," the Scarlet Parting Sect's head wailed.
"Ah. House Yan has ruled Great Scarlet for several thousand years now. They've surely extorted countless riches from the people. The formation is backed by untold sums of spirit stones." The Sky Eagle Sect's head was also quite upset.
"Not so," the Myriad Buddha Sect's head shook his head. "I'm sure that the formation is a drain on spirit stones, but its strength does not solely come from raw expenditure. There is something ancient and mysterious about it. I'm guessing that young lord Jiang Chen finds it a rather laborious task to deal with it as well. Why were we sent as the vanguard otherwise? At the end of the day, he's using us as cannon fodder to save his own men."
"Shh, quiet down. It'll be big trouble if they hear what you're saying."
"Hmph, what am I scared of?! But it's not like the Great Scarlet imperial family isn't a shining example of honor either. All the trouble we're in is entirely their fault."
"Yes. If they hadn't stooped to becoming the Eternal Celestial Capital's dogs in the attack on Myriad Domain, none of this would have happened."
The three sect heads were huddled in discussion. Thanks to the deafening din of the battlefield, they were certain that the young lord wouldn't hear anything about their conversation. However, they still did not dare to utter a bad word about Jiang Chen. The youth was sufficiently intimidating enough in their hearts to garner unspoken respect.
"That dog of an emperor… is he trying to take a bunch of people with him? His death is assured without a doubt." Huffing, the head of the Sky Eagle Sect grabbed at thin air. A black saber materialized in his hand. "My friends, it may be time for us to join the fray ourselves."
The wounding and loss of their best disciples was making their hearts bleed.
"Alright, let us work in tandem to break apart this outside formation. We'll rip out that tyrannical emperor out and hand him over to young lord Jiang Chen."
"Quite so. Let's get in there!"
The personal participation of the sect heads won them a round of adulation. The morale boost encouraged the three sects' executives to join the fray using a variety of methods as well.
Weapons flew, light dazzled, and radiance blinded everywhere. The immense redoubling of effort created enormous ripples between formation and attacks. The air in the vicinity shook and trembled continuously.
Within the imperial palace's inner court, Commander He of the imperial guard stood at the core of the outer formation, observing the crazed offensive from the three sects outside. The commander felt a tinge of wariness when he saw the sect heads join the fight.
A single one of the three great sects couldn't match up to the imperial family. That was an unquestionable truth. The three of them united, however, presented a huge threat to the outer formation given enough time and momentum.
The three sects' concerted strike created a steady stream of minor flaws and holes. Such issues required a continuous supply of spirit stones to repair. The toll on spirit stone stores began to ramp up.
As the force of the attacks intensified, so too did the frequency and size of the damage. The real danger would be when the formation reached a point where spirit stones alone would not be able to sustain the repairs.
Commander He grit his teeth. He squinted at the frenzied sect heads outside, stomping a foot in frustration. "Keep an eye out for me here. I will go report to His Majesty."
"What?" Because the emperor was in the inner courtyard, he was within the inner formation and needed reports from messengers in order to know what was going on outside.
But who would've thought that Commander He would rush back with horrendous news.
"My good Commander He, are you sure that the three great sects are the ones attacking? Not Veluriyam Capital's men in disguise?" Great Scarlet couldn't accept that fact straight off the bat.
"There is no mistake at all, Your Majesty. The three sect heads are energetically leading the charge. They seem to have universally gone mad. We must plan for the worst, sire. I think it's best to send a group of our strongest experts to skirmish with them for a bit. Ideally, we should take one of the three sect heads out for good. How will we scare them off otherwise?" Commander He's face was the very expression of hate.
"I don't think I've ever done wrong by any of them. Why have they gone to the enemy in our time of need? Traitors, cowards, vipers!" Great Scarlet's emperor could barely contain his anger. "Old Guo, take a few royal experts and go with Commander He. Look for a chance to kill them!"
Old Guo came forward unceremoniously, kneeling to his old master. "Your Majesty, I'm not sure if I will survive this battle. I pray that you keep yourself safe. If I cannot return to serve you, my only wish is for you to keep calm and act in the best interests of the nation." Having said this, he touched his forehead to the ground several times before standing and waving. "We royal experts have ever received a great deal of imperial grace. It's our hour to give up our lives to repay the emperor. Who is willing to come with this old man?"
As the minister of chambers, Old Guo had a plethora of experts under his command. His team was the most intimate, loyal, and powerful group of men who served Great Scarlet's emperor. They'd been brainwashed since birth into their role as the emperor's royal guard. Serving and protecting the emperor was their one and only purpose in life.
Seeing Old Guo and the royal experts leaving so resolutely made even the hardhearted emperor feel a bit guilty. Loyalty was proven only in times of crisis. Adversity was the best flame for testing the devotion of one's retainers.
Aside from Old Guo and Commander He, the rest of his officials were essentially useless. Despite the imperial family's sheltering of so many, a precious few had been able to step forward to give aid.
Great Scarlet's emperor tasted bitterness inside his mouth. He'd always thought that his empire was superbly strong and he himself a capable monarch. That was the reason for his expansionist ambitions, accomplished with an utter disregard for reputation. 'At any cost' - that was his motto!
Therefore, he felt no regret whatsoever for destroying Myriad Domain. Survival of the fittest was the law of nature. Only when he was the prey did he come to realize how cruel that law was.
The once-arrogant Great Scarlet emperor had become a sitting duck. It was his turn to be hunted down at others' leisure.
Outside the formation, it had already been more than two hours since Jiang Chen began studying it. He suddenly waved a hand at the Jiao brothers. "Jiao Yun, Jiao Feng, come here. I will teach you a secret method to attack the core of this formation. If you manage to do that, the entire thing will crumble."
Formations were remarkably wondrous things. If one could not penetrate their secrets, a breakthrough would be impossible no matter what. With that precondition however, the threat of the formation itself dropped like a rock.
Jiang Chen wasn't as capable with formations as he was with pill dao. Because of this, he didn't initially have an optimal way to break through the formation at the beginning. Only after watching the three sects' attacks did he manage to gradually figure out its mysteries. Now, he'd finally identified where the core was.
Having found it, he considered the remainder a piece of cake. After all, the Jiao brothers were around. He told the brothers a few things of note about the operation, brightening their eyes in the process.
"Go, but do be careful. Don't make foolish mistakes," Jiang Chen instructed.
The Jiao brothers charged fiercely into the outer part of the formation, orders in hand.
Their descent brought the three sects' heads hurriedly forth. "Great emperor seniors, the palace's defensive formation is extremely difficult for us. We're pouring our all into the assault already, so there's no need for concern. Regardless of how strong it is, we'll find a way to…"
Jiao Yun snickered. "There's no need."
"The young lord gave you a chance merely to test your mettles. It seems that the 'three great sects' aren't really all that impressive. He's not interested in waiting any longer, so that's why we're here. You can bring your men inside after we break through the formation."
"Huh?" The three sect heads glanced at each other, the relief of freedom evident on their faces. They hadn't staked their entire livelihoods on the fight per se, but they had given their all already.
Unfortunately, the results didn't match up to their efforts. They'd managed to damage the formation time and time again, but each flaw was repaired without much strain. Were the two great emperors going to break the formation personally? It would save many of their own from becoming casualties.