The scream instantly affected the other two . Fearful of the fiery dragon forming in the air, both men descended slightly. Their descent brought the lava underneath closer; close enough to hear the boiling and popping of the lava below. Countless geysers spurted high enough to touch the tips of their nose.
The parched air formed crests of hot air that could melt the world, suffocating the scouts with blazing heat. They could almost see the moisture in their bodies evaporate before their eyes.
The two of them felt that the restriction would be a bit weaker lower down. Their perturbed minds were relieved a little bit by this.
At this time, something floated out from the lava beneath into their field of view.
A skeleton, to be exact, one that had been a living, breathing person only a few breaths ago. His flesh had been consumed by the lava!
Terror pulsed through the two survivors' hearts. They wanted only to accelerate on through as quickly as possible.
Alas, the restriction was a muddy morass. The more one sunk in, the harder it was to move. The two men slowed down the deeper they went in. Finally, they were so sluggish that they could barely move another inch.
Seeing the burden with which the two scouts walked, everyone became thoughtful. It looked like they each bore the weight of a mountain on their backs, so great was the pressure.
"Daoist Cloudbillow, the restriction really does look like the trapping, hindering kind. It doesn't seem like they'll make it."
Neither scout had particularly advanced cultivation. One was sage realm, the other half-step emperor. Their strength didn't help them very much in the middle of the restriction and they didn't look like they were going to get free any time soon.
Observing the restriction in secret, Jiang Chen muttered inwardly to himself. The restriction has some spatial properties, huh. It won't attack through material means alone… there's a dimensional component as well. Those two guys are both blind and inflexible. Not a good combination, if they want to pass through...
Even as that thought flickered through his mind, the sage realm cultivator suddenly shrieked. He was already sweating buckets and appeared to have little energy left. Immediately after the shriek, he spasmed as if electrified, then froze like trapped by an invisible force.
His body plummeted downward, taken by something intangible. It was submerged in the boiling lava with a splash.
There was another shriek. Within moments, another skeleton floated to the top.
The death of the second scout made the last cultivator very nervous. He saw that his compatriot hadn't been attacked by the restriction at all. Instead, he'd lost his balance after using up all of his energy and then fell to his death.
The last man standing was half-step emperor realm, which meant that he was considerably stronger than the other two.
From Jiang Chen's point of view however, he didn't have much longer to live. He gave the last guy about fifteen minutes before he broke.
Just as the young lord surmised, the man was a trapped beast in the spatial restriction. Fifteen minutes hadn't yet elapsed when he fell into the terrifying lava after expending all his energy. A third skeleton soon appeared in the crimson flow.
Color drained from everyone's when they saw what'd happened to the scouts.
This was the result of exploring ahead!
Even the half-step emperor had met a cruel end. More than half of those present were lower than emperor realm. None of them were so fearless as to want to scout any more.
Emperor Cloudbillow furrowed his brow at this. The three scouts' attempt had revealed little about the restriction. The pills he'd given them were utterly wasted.
The emperor glared at the omnipotent restriction until he was blue in the face. He didn't quite know what to do. Would great emperors do better than those three foiled cultivators? In theory, a great emperor would do a lot better. Still, he had no guarantee whatsoever of that hypothesis.
Because of how ineffectual the scouting sortie had been, exactly how much strength the restriction held was completely unknown.
Without that information, Emperor Cloudbillow wasn't going to risk himself.
"Send more to scout, higher level this time!" he transmitted.
The second-rate factions exploded at hearing that they had to send more. Hadn't three people just died?
"No way, hells no! No matter how many we send, they'll just all die. Why should we? Shouldn't it be the Upper Eight Regions' turn?"
"That's right, we've lost three already. It should be the Upper Eight Regions' turn to risk their hides."
"Quite so. If the Upper Eight Regions are the leaders of the human domain, shouldn't they take the lead at a time like this? If not, what kind of leaders would they be?"
The clamor of the crowd revealed their heated emotions. No one wanted to scout on ahead any more. The way the three scouts had died was just too depressing.
The restriction was entirely uncooperative. The number of lives that went in didn't seem to matter. Such a fearsome restriction was impossible to pass!
A wave of anguish rippled through the crowd. After the three tragic deaths that had taken place right in front of their eyes, most of the observers had suffered significant trauma. No matter how much profit they were promised, no one was interested in scouting ahead. Who was willing to go to their certain doom?
The situation was at a standstill. Emperor Cloudbillow was thick-skinned, but intimidation and threats weren't necessarily useful at this point any more. If he pushed too hard, the second-rate factions could very well riot. Even if he didn't, it wasn't like the Upper Eight Regions could stop them from leaving straight up.
Jiang Chen pretended not to see any of the changes in public perception. His thoughtful eyes were focused on the restriction alone, mulling over it.
The restriction has obvious powerful spatial properties. It uses the restrictive power of space and the intersection of time to grind to death any cultivator that ventures into it. The lava isn't the killing mechanism, but rather the pulverizing force within.
Though the restriction's mysteries were hidden from an outsider like him, Jiang Chen was able to come to a few educated conclusions after some observation.
Though Pillfire City hadn't yet raged at the overexcited crowd below, Heavenly Dragon Sect's Long Baxiang was not so patient. He rushed into the crowd, grabbing two random emperor realm cultivators.
Without another word, he flew towards the restriction.
The two emperor realm experts were white in the face. "Senior, mercy! Senior… we don't hold any grudge with you…"
Long Baxiang was mostly expressionless, save for the slight sneer at the corner of his mouth. "Begging me is pointless. You should beg for the heavens to give you mercy… or yourself maybe, for luck."
Saying this, he shook both arms, pushing the two emperors into the range of the restriction.
The two men thus unwillingly entered it.
As emperor realm cultivators, both quickly tossed their hatred aside after being thrown in. Only a fleeting moment of panic and despair proceeded a careful search for a way out. They were already in trouble. Now wasn't the time to be upset at Long Baxiang. They needed to make it out alive first!
There was no retreat after entering. The only way out was forward.
The two cultivators were quite a bit stronger than the previous three scouts; and yet, the restriction was still quite formidable and limiting. However, they dealt with it in a much more methodical way. They didn't brute force it, instead attempting to find some sort of order.
"These two have learned from the mistakes of the three before them. They're going with the flow rather than struggling. However, it's impossible to pass by exerting so little effort without finding the truth of the restriction. You can't get to your destination by drifting along a river! This is a swamp. As long as you don't actively try to leave, you'll just mire yourself in deeper and deeper. It's only a matter of time…"
That was Jiang Chen's judgment.
"Daoist Cloudbillow, what do you think of these two?" One of the great emperors of the Empyrean River Palace blurted out.
Cloudbillow frowned at the restriction above. The two emperors were like snails crawling sluggishly along. He didn't particularly approve of this passive approach to exploration.
At a time like this however, maybe it was the best they could hope for.
Long Baxiang stood at the very front, his eyes fixated on the two scouts. He'd hurled them in after grabbing them randomly from the crowd. He wanted to know very much if they could actually pass the restriction.
Nobody was realistically optimistic about their chances. The two were performing much better than the three before them, but they were obviously struggling very hard.
Even if they could minimize energy expenditure, the restriction would eat away at their stores of strength sooner or later. They needed to either break through the restriction or end up just like their predecessors.
The two emperor realm cultivators were having an absolutely difficult time. No matter how much they labored, they felt their bodies becoming more leaden by the second. Every step they took forward was harder and harder.
They were still wrestling with their predicament, but had realized in their heart of hearts that their fate was likely no different from the previous three. They were on the brink of despair, ready to crumble at any minute.
They were at the end of their rope.
Time passed minute by minute. The two emperors slowed down more and more. Everyone's hearts sank into their stomachs.
The restriction wasn't planning on letting anyone through. If an emperor realm cultivator couldn't do much, could a great emperor really do drastically better? No one was sure of the answer to that question.