The two seemed fated to follow the footsteps of the previous three scouts, when suddenly—
the seven enormous light pillars fired terrifying rays that streaked through the air like shooting stars. As sharp as an ax, they lacerated the incorporeal barrier, covering it in cracks.
Cracks appearing in the restriction seemed to make it temporarily lose control.
Like birds with suddenly freed wings, the two cultivators flew towards the opposite shore. The strange scene left the onlookers speechless.
By the time they came back to themselves, the two men had already reached their destination. "Hahaha, we've made it!" they gushed, crowing with laughter like madmen.
Long Baxian stiffened. He ordered, "Listen up, Heavenly Dragon Sect! Follow them!"
He took the lead himself. How could he let this opportunity pass him by?
However, another drastic change occurred the next moment.
A violent wave surged through the restriction, like a ripple across a pond. When it disappeared, the surface was as tranquil as it'd ever been.
If the crowd had been surprised before, they were now completely stumped.
What was going on?
How many ancient secrets was Agarwood Valley hiding that a simple barrier could make such a fool out of them? Breached one moment and repaired the next… It was maddeningly difficult to wrap one's mind around the flip-flopping.
His eyes inscrutable, Jiang Chen looked pensive. He'd had a few guesses, but after what had just happened, he now had a rough understanding of the situation, however vague it was.
More than one entity controls the secret realm.
Indeed. Inside Agarwood, two distinct powers seemed at odds with each other. One was doing its utmost to deny them access, while the other did everything possible to lure them inside. There was no other way to explain the strange duality.
There's a deep mystery at play. Why are there two opposing forces with diverging goals? Lost in thought, he hunted for every detail that corroborated his theory.
Jiang Chen was certain he was on the right path. The restriction, the blazing heat, as well as the lava likely belonged to the side that rejected their presence. Meanwhile, the seven pillars belonged to the other side, as well as that glass-like water screen.
Which was good and which one evil? Or perhaps both had equally nefarious plans? It was impossible to tell.
Other than the obstacles, Jiang Chen had little hints as to their motivations.
Like fish back in the sea, the two emperor realm cultivators cheerfully vanished from their sight after reaching the other shore. They casted aside all fear and despair after making it through the restriction on a fluke. Didn't an incredible chance lie in front of them? They no longer begrudged Long Baxiang for using them as guinea pigs.
They even had the urge to thank the sect representative. If not for him, they might still be stuck with everyone else.
Long Baxiang had grazed the barrier just now. Fortunately, he'd halted in time and stopped his men, saving them from a grim fate.
Gnashing his teeth, his face was ashen and his heart pounding like a drum. He fixed the restriction's chaotic fluctuations with a conflicted glare.
Unresolvable anger welled up in his chest. His two hapless victims had successfully entered the secret realm. All of the treasures inside were now theirs for the taking!
He hadn't anything wrong! So why had events taken such a disgusting turn? How could he remain calm when his actions had benefited someone else?
He whipped his head back, a chilly glint in his sinister gaze as it swept over the crowd.
The cultivators behind him blanched and backed up, deeply wary of his tyrannical ways.
He sniggered. "Why are all of you so afraid? The other two reached the other side in one piece. How can you be so cowardly when so many riches are right in front of you?"
In fact, he was tempted to go himself.
But what if it'd only been a coincidence earlier? Would the pillars help a second time? He'd also deduced that the restriction had been momentarily ineffectual earlier because of the strong rays from the light pillars.
But to think the restriction would recover so easily! It was now pristine and unharmed, as if nothing had occurred. How frightening! He repressed a shudder.
The more powerful the man, the more he was afraid of death. Rather than risking himself, he prefered using a couple meat shields and wait for another window of opportunity to present itself.
However, everyone retreated beneath his stare. No one wanted to be the sacrificial lamb.
With a cruel snicker, he flashed into the crowd like a coiling dragon and grabbed two emperor realm cultivators. His great emperor domain restrained them, leaving them no chance to escape.
"Good luck!" Without hesitance, he tossed them into the restriction.
How could a noble first rank sect act so outrageously at this crucial juncture? First threats, and now directly resorting to force! The other factions were flabbergasted. However, despite the mixture of shock and anger, none dared utter the slightest complaint to the domineering Long Baxiang.
They were caught between a rock and a hard place. They didn't want to continue cowering under Long Baxiang's yoke, but could they bear to leave at this stage?
The secret realm was almost within reach. They might never have such a fortuitous opportunity in the rest of their lives. So many great emperors were powerless in front of the restriction, but if they could overcome it, their gains would be unimaginable.
This enticement won over their dread, defeating their urge to flee.
The two cultivators didn't rush forward headfirst. Instead, the safest and most sensible way was to wait for the pillars to cut another path through.
Through unplanned accord, powerhouses from Pillfire and the Ninesuns Sky Sect also stood in front of the restriction, waiting without blinking. As long as the pillars struck, it would create a short-lived gap they could take advantage of.
Jiang Chen threw a meaningful look to Zi Tan. Weren't two entities vying for control of the secret realm? He could use it to his advantage and charge through when the restriction was rendered ineffective once more. He'd reached the same decision as Upper Eight Regions' great emperors.
The forefather immediately positioned himself behind Upper Eight factions.
"Zi Tan, once the pillars strike, rush through the opening," the young lord ordered.
The old man couldn't resist asking, "Are we finally going to reach the secret realm? I wonder what's inside."
"Ask again after we cross the lava. Don't put the cart before the horse. The only thing I can say is that the secret realm's much more complicated than they can imagine."
Jiang Chen didn't go into too many details.
As he'd guessed, the pillars stayed motionless for a spell, gathering and concentrating strength for their next assault.
They flared less than an hour later, firing terrifying, eye-piercing beams of light onto the barrier like meteors.
Like a school of carp, numerous cultivators bounded forward. Some were faster than others, but everyone scurried to the other shore.
Jiang Chen didn't use the Kunpeng Meteoric Escape, but even so, he was faster than average. He hid in the crowd, avoiding attention but didn't sacrifice too much speed either.
By the time the barrier healed itself, more than half the cultivators had reached to the other side! They now stood upon the secret realm's soil. A whole new world unfolded in front of their eyes!