Jiang Chen's anger didn't abate after dispatching the horned man. Without missing a beat, his flying swords made a sharp turn and shot at the deadpan Old Ma.
It would be a bald-faced lie to say the thought of running away hadn't crossed Old Ma's mind. Unfortunately, his companion had been slaughtered mere moments after he flirted with the idea. The entire space had been sealed off by the Great Dream of Autumn and Spring Formation. Even great emperors needed time and effort to break out. Fleeing was much easier said than done. This was why Jiang Chen felt confident he could kill them.
Old Ma's cultivation was in fact, a little higher than his companion's. There had been opportunities to slip away when he was engaged with Emperor Vastsea. He simply hadn't anticipated that things would change so fast.
For that reason, his reaction came too late. By the time he finally responded, his routes of escape had been sealed off by two formations, one for attacking and the other for trapping. In the meantime, three great emperors rained lethal moves on him.
Old Ma found himself in an even sorrier position than his deceased companion. Without anything to distract them, Jiang Chen and his allies could focus all their attention on him. Apart from Jiang Chen's sword formation and the three great emperors, there was also a dragon whose firepower could match an average great emperor.
Old Ma felt the urge to cough up blood. There was little suspense to the outcome. He was a proud man, an honest-to-goodness advanced great emperor. Yet, he was helpless to extricate himself.
Cultivation-wise, Emperor Vastsea alone was roughly his equal. There was also an Emperor Peerless who was stronger than him.
Emperor Coiling Dragon hadn't been a great emperor for long, but the blood of true dragons flowed through his veins, endowing him with the terrible power of their bloodline. Then there was the true dragon and the fearsome sword formation.
Put all of them together, the enemy' strength was four or five times his. No matter how many outstanding techniques Old Ma possessed, he was powerless to turn the tide in his favor. No miracle popped out for him. The battle ended with his demise.
In the human territory, the death of a great emperor was a rare event. But in the past century, two had fallen in the obscure Skylaurel Kingdom. The wandering cultivators who'd spectated the fun would never forget this for the rest of their lives.
"It's a capital crime for foreign cultivators to trespass in a mundane kingdom! This young lord will show leniency today and will spare you all. Depart from my sight and never step a foot here ever again." Jiang Chen's clear voice rippled out like raging tides, extending rapidly throughout the entire capital.
These cultivators had already been ready to hightail it after Emperor Vastsea's warning. They'd only mustered their courage and stayed behind because someone had attacked Vastsea immediately afterwards, so the latter had no attention to spare for them. They had no shady goal in mind. They'd merely wanted to watch the confrontation between great emperors. To them, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
They were wandering cultivators from various places and they'd only stayed in Skylaurel because of the lawlessness reigning in Myriad Domain during these past few years. The local situation was almost close to anarchy.
The weak monarch of Skylaurel had no authority over them. In his capacity as Veluriyam's young lord, Jiang Chen's threat scared the pants off these misfits. They even cursed their parents for birthing them with only two legs. If only they could run away faster!
The sight made Emperor Vastsea a little crestfallen. "These bastards. I told them to leave when I came yesterday, but so many of them stayed behind. Young lord, your words are weightier than mine."
Jiang Chen laughed. "They would've left if not for these Pillfire bastards stirring trouble. Do you think they would have stayed otherwise? Ah, there are three other fellows left below, let's go check on them."
The three emperor realm cultivators lay on the ground, sealed by Emperor Peerless. When they saw their great emperor companions killed by the Veluriyam cultivators faster than they could blink, their hearts pounded with fear. If not for their acupoints being sealed off, they would have scuttled away with nary a thought for their two seniors.
"Interrogate them carefully." Jiang Chen's expression was unsympathetic.
The three emperor realms were no unyielding heroes. Under forceful interrogation, they spilled the beans on everything they knew.
"What? You were ordered to keep watch at the entrance of the desolate wildlands and investigate whether Emperor Peafowl is dead or alive?" Jiang Chen was startled by the confession. His gaze shot to Emperor Vastsea. "Vastsea, where did Shura spring his trap?"
Vastsea thought for a moment. "He didn't mention the details. But he did say that after being wounded, Emperor Peafowl used a special method to overcome the formation's restrictions and escaped into the desolate wildlands. Maybe it's really around these parts. It's certainly possible."
Jiang Chen was pins and needles when he thought of Emperor Peafowl. This was a senior whom Jiang Chen admired very much. His noble character, his keen insight, and his wisdom surpassed every great emperor in Veluriyam, or anyone else Jiang Chen had ever met. Such a figure shouldn't have died so lamentably.
"Emperor Pillzenith sent you here to investigate Emperor Peafowl's fate? Does that mean he's also in the dark?" Jiang Chen asked sternly.
Wang He hurried to reply, "His Majesty Pillzenith said that logically speaking, Emperor Peafowl should be dead. But he's worried about Emperor Peafowl having some special method of survival. If by chance he's still alive, then Pillfire would be in danger. That's why… Emperor Pillzenith secretly sent the two great emperor seniors here to investigate."
"Did you find anything?" Jiang Chen asked.
"We didn't…" Wang He shook his head. "We followed many trails but didn't find any concrete leads. There's a formation blocking the way in the desolate wildlands. Neither Senior Ma nor Senior Greathorn could pass through."
Jiang Chen was naturally familiar with the formation in question. He'd personally set it up the last time he was in the wildlands. Breaking through it was impossible with conventional methods. Jiang Chen was curious how Emperor Peafowl had ventured inside even when heavily injured.
"Young master, these men were dispatched by Emperor Pillzenith. They must know where the fight occurred. We could ask them to take us there," Emperor Peerless suggested
Jiang Chen's eyes shone at the suggestion.
He was about to turn to Dan Fei, but she spoke first. "Let's go. For both you and me, Emperor Peafowl's favor is as heavy as a mountain. My conscience can't be at peace if we don't investigate."
"Dan Fei, I've already gone there before. It's full of dangers. Why not let Emperor Coiling Dragon take you back to the Regal Pill Palace first? Wait there for a few days, then we'll go back to Veluriyam together."
Just like Jiang Chen, Dan Fei held deep feelings for Emperor Peafowl, so she wanted to join. But then she thought better of it. With her strength, she might end up becoming a hindrance.
She nodded in agreement after some consideration. "Emperor Peafowl is blessed by fate, I have no doubt he's fine. Be careful out there. Don't act hot-headed no matter what happens, alright?"
Jiang Chen entrusted her to Emperor Coiling Dragon. The great emperor didn't protest and took her back to the Regal Pill Palace.
As for Skylaurel, Jiang Chen didn't plan on staying there for long. He'd already exposed his true identity. His friends from the Precious Tree Sect and Skylaurel Kingdom should come back when the rumors reached them. Rushing this matter would be useless in any case, while finding Emperor Peafowl's trail was of paramount importance.
Under the guidance of the three Pillfire cultivators, Jiang Chen and Emperor Peerless reached the battlefield where Emperor Shura and Emperor Peafowl once fought. It was located in a rather deserted area of the sixteen kingdoms alliance. No human habitation could be found within several hundred miles.
"That's strange. There's nothing of interest in this area. What was Emperor Peafowl even doing here?" Looking at the terrain, Emperor Peerless couldn't make sense of it.
Jiang Chen understood Emperor Peafowl better than Emperor Peerless. He observed the surroundings and heaved a soft sigh. "Emperor Peafowl is kind and benevolent. I'm sure he led his enemies here on purpose to avoid impacting innocent people in this mundane region."
Mundane kingdoms were home to enormous populations. If a group of great emperors traded blows in a mundane area, no one could predict how many people they would affect.
Emperor Peerless felt deep respect when he heard Jiang Chen's explanation.
"Emperor Peafowl's righteousness lives up to his status as a leader of the human territory." Mo Wushuang's praise came from the bottom of his heart.
Because the area was deserted, some of the vestiges from the great battle had remained, despite the elapsed time. Using his tracing arts, Jiang Chen found a trail and followed it through. Sure enough, they found the entrance to the desolate wildlands at the other end.
Like a trip down memory lane, Jiang Chen saw the formation he'd set up himself. It bore traces of attacks, but judging from its current appearance, it still held strong.
The mystified Jiang Chen inspected the surroundings. "Old Brother Mo, how do you think Emperor Peafowl broke through this formation? I set it up myself and thought it was watertight. No one seems to have fiddled with it either."
Emperor Peerless sighed. "There existed extremely precious treasures in ancient times that could pass through formations. Perhaps Emperor Peafowl owns a treasure of this type?"
Thinking carefully, this was the only explanation Jiang Chen could find. He wasn't arrogant enough to pretend his formation was perfect. When he set it up, his cultivation and mastery with formations had been far below his current standards.
Eagerness filtered through his gaze, but Emperor Peerless shook his head and urged, "Young lord, we have no idea where Emperor Peafowl is now. So much time has passed. We might not find him even if we went inside. But if you open this formation, it will sow the seeds for future disaster. You're Veluriyam's young lord now. If you adventure inside, it will cause turmoil throughout the entire world. All your previous efforts will go to waste. The men and women by your side will be hunted relentlessly by your enemies." Emperor Peerless' words poured cold water over Jiang Chen.
The young lord regained his clarity. A moment ago, he truly had the urge to break his own formation and venture into the wilderness. Only, upon taking a step back, entering now seemed ill-advised.