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Dan Fei shifted left and right, maneuvering in every direction. Yet no matter how quickly she moved, she couldn't escape the three pythons' encirclement. The three giant snakes were filled with an ancient aura. They'd coiled their sinuous bodies into an invincible formation.

"Hmph, wench! Accept your defeat!" Zhao Mang flashed a contented smirk to himself. Capable hunters always enjoyed most the sight of squirming prey. It was an indescribable feeling, but he was filled with exactly that. A pretty female cultivator falling to his powerful methods!

Dan Fei continually deployed her peafowl feathers. Unfortunately, because her cultivation level was limited, the power that she could extract from the feathers was equally limited.

Though the feathers were faster than lightning and always hit their marks, the three giant pythons had thick scales and hides. The reptiles' tempered bodies meant that they enjoyed the protection of a thick shell. Dan Fei's feathers could score bloody marks, but they inflicted no lasting damage.

The scores were quite shallow. Blood spewed everywhere, but such wounds were hardly lethal. She became more serious. First rank sects' true disciples were difficult to deal with.

Dan Fei had a number of Emperor Peafowl's protective treasures, but was held back by her shallow cultivation and lack of combat experience. She couldn't make ideal use of any of them. Therefore, she was immediately at a disadvantage when her peafowl feathers failed.

The more wounds the pythons received, the more vicious they became. She could just barely hold on using the peafowl feathers' spatial power. 

The three giant pythons maintained a clear strategy of restricting her movements by cutting off bits and pieces of available territory. Even if she could escape the pythons' entanglement, she would lose to fatigue.

Zhao Mang was thoroughly enjoying himself when he saw the girl struggle against his attacks. A beautiful female cultivator being played with like putty fulfilled his primitive pride considerably.

"Senior brother, you're amazing. That girl can't take much more." Lu Yi began his flattery anew.

Dan Fei didn't have only her peafowl feathers in reserve. Unfortunately, the other aces up her sleeve were intended for emergencies, and would harm her to a certain degree when used.

Still, she was unconcerned with the three giant pythons in the end. She had a powerful escape glyph at her disposal that would trivialize her current obstacle.

When Emperor Peafowl had given her the glyph, he had told her in person that aside from powerful great emperors, the escape glyph were unlikely to be restricted by anyone. This meant that her glyph was very potent. Zhao Mang was capable, but he wasn't even emperor realm, much less a realm higher.

It was easy enough for her to leave. Fundamentally, her concern lingered with the ordinary women below.

Sweat beaded upon Dan Fei's forehead. The pythons thrashed about like dragons within a vast ocean, creating dynamic waves with each movement of their bodies. She was shaken almost to the point of losing control.

"I can't hesitate any more." Dan Fei had realized the difference in martial strength between her opponent and herself. It was time for her to decide.

If she didn't leave, she would die with the ordinary women. Worse, she wouldn't be given a quick death. Just like Qin Thirteen, Zhao Mang was sure to abuse her many times over before killing her. Dan Fei wasn't scared of death itself, but she shuddered to think of her fate upon defeat.

"The Empyrean River Palace…" Dan Fei imprinted the name viciously to memory. "I better get out of here to fight another day. I'll remember that name."

Producing her escape glyph, she was on the cusp of activating it. As long as she succeeded, she could escape into nothingness.

The beginning of a hand seal was proof of her intent. At that moment, a glimmer of lightning-fast radiance shot into her presence. Dan Fei's hand spasmed as if electrified, her escape glyph falling from it.

This drastic shift greatly shocked the woman. She had no idea where the attack had come from, but her escape glyph had been swatted from her possession.

"Zhao Mang, you've disappointed me greatly. You can't deal with a simple mid sage realm female cultivator?" A sinister voice rumbled from the aether like cacophonous metal. It pained its listeners' ears, instilling in them a deep sense of discomfort.

"Master!" Zhao Mang and Lu Yi blurted out simultaneously in surprise.

The clouds parted to reveal a ray of divine light. A bald-headed old man in ascetic robes and no shoes at all descended from the heavens, palm fan in hand.

It was none other than the Empyrean River Palace's Elder Qiu. He wasn't the most prominent man in his sect, but had a great deal of authority and clout nevertheless. Not because of his own surpassing strength, but rather the presence of a true disciple like Zhao Mang. The expertise of the student invisibly elevated the status of the master.

The bald old man was rotund and heavy, his small eyes in a perpetual squint. A cursory glance would yield the casual assumption that he was an amiable fellow. However, Dan Fei kept her guard up. Her intuition told her that the old man didn't have even a fraction of his benevolent appearance.

The bald man in ascetic robes examined Dan Fei closely. "Little girl, your cultivation level is unremarkable, but you have quite the treasure trove. Who's your master? Tell me."

His master's appearance prompted Zhao Mang to withdraw his methods. "Master." He cupped a fist to the elder. "That girl killed Qin Thirteen and the rest. Please do what is best."

The bald old man's eyes flared with killing intent. "What? Qin Thirteen was killed?"

"That's right, and this woman killed her. She admitted to it!" Lu Yi added fuel to the flame.

"Good! Good! Good!" The old man extolled three times, but his expression was more frigid than winter. He was obviously outraged at the revelation.

Qin Thirteen was one of his relatives. The bald-headed Elder Qiu didn't necessarily like his distant nephew all that much, but this nephew had been one of his juniors nonetheless. There had been a blood tie between them.

Most importantly, Qin Thirteen represented his face and reputation. Moreover, he had been a part of a plan, a jumping-board into that ancient restricted place. Someone had destroyed that jumping-board, and he was none too pleased about it.

"Speak of your origins. Let's see if I can't deal with you yet." Elder Qiu's tone was icy. There was no hint of his prior affability.

"Master, this woman won't volunteer any information. I've asked before, but she remained completely silent. Plus, she says she's never heard of our famous Empyrean River Palace."

"Hmph!" The elder was infuriated. "The human domain is a big place, and few cultivators in it don't recognize our name. Woman, your murder of my nephew cannot be ignored - regardless of what seniors or master you may have. Resign yourself to your fate!"

Crowing with laughter, the elder flared his aura before sending it all toward Dan Fei's direction. Elder Qiu wasn't a great emperor yet at only ninth level emperor realm. Still, a man of his level could easily crush the fourth level sage realm Dan Fei.

"You say you don't know the Empyrean River Palace, little girl? I'd like to see you mouth off some more."

The elder's pressure bearing down upon Dan Fei posed great danger to her. She wanted to retrieve the fallen glyph, but couldn't spare the mental focus to move her body into action. Her consciousness was completely spent on trying to resist Elder Qiu's attack, but she was still having a difficult time.

"Hmph! You're trying to run with an escape glyph? A foolish fantasy!" Elder Qiu dispensed with all pretense. He contorted his face into a grim grin. "Today, I'll teach you what the Empyrean River Palace is!"

"Is the Empyrean River Palace something particularly impressive?" In Dan Fei's hour of danger, an unexpected voice sounded through empty space. The voice was unruly and untamed, tinged with mockery and disdain. Above all, it was filled with cynicism and scorn.

"Who goes there?" Elder Qiu's face fell. He leaped into the air, scanning his surroundings.

Woosh woosh!

Two burly figures landed before the entrance to the Precious Tree Sect. They bore strikingly similar appearances, seemingly identical twins.

"Brother, this should be the place."

"Yes, I believe so. The Precious Tree Sect? Yes, indeed." The two brothers conferred amongst themselves, surveying the environment while they did so. They treated Elder Qiu as nothing but air.

The elder was incensed.

"Where did you two wild ghosts come from?" As an elder of a first rank sect, Elder Qiu was a man with some wealth and authority. The clothing of these two men didn't indicate their status as experts of some powerful faction. Therefore, he had no reason to withhold the natural arrogance in his tone.

The two brothers traded a look. "Brother," one of them muttered, "who is this old man? The Precious Tree Sect doesn't have someone this that, does it?"

"Didn't you hear him say?" The other one replied. "Who knows where that wild ghost has come from? The young lord told us to come take out anyone lingering upon the Precious Tree Sect's grounds. What do you say?"

"Let's do it, then." The first speaker cackled, then grabbed at the nearby Zhao Mang and Lu Yi. He was as swift as coursing thunder, charging with unprecedented ferocity!

"Get out of there, this is very bad!" Elder Qiu felt uneasy at the potency in the man's movements, hastily calling for his disciples to flee.

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