The frenzied atmosphere made it difficult for most to consider the same question. It had popped into the minds of many, but an instinctual conclusion that the first two had probably gotten lost or died somewhere mitigated potential concerns.
"Everyone ready? On my orders! We must all put in effort to break this seal. Remember, this sacred place is a chance to change our destinies. Anyone who doesn't earn their keep has no right to the Primosanct Sect's ancient heritage!"
"One, two, three… go!" A single command from Emperor Cloudbillow elicited a rush of cultivators and attacks forward. Force and energy formed a stormy tempest, breaking against the enormous pillar.
A combined attack from several hundred was earth-shakingly loud. Long Baxiang's singular attack had only sent himself flying. This joint assault on the other hand, had made the pillar's golden runes quiver. There was a series of loud popping noises, an ear-piercing shriek of spatial collapse.
Seeing that one blow wasn't enough, Cloudbillow immediately arranged for a second sortie.
Then a third…
Each attack was as momentous as the one that preceded it. Standing at the back of the crowd, Jiang Chen contributed virtually no strength to the attack. He only went through the motions. Such a stunt was virtually undetectable, given his cultivation level.
In actuality, he was suspicious about the usefulness of this gesture. He had a feeling throughout that the seal over the Primosanct Sect's grand palace wasn't only a test to outsiders. There had to be more to it. The more he thought about it, the more worried he became.
If the seal really were broken, it could potentially open a demonic box. Was this beginning of disaster for the human domain?
That terrifying possibility couldn't be ruled out.
However, this was no place for him to voice any open opposition. His solitary status made his words rather weightless, but he wouldn't even if Emperor Peerless and the others were with him.
If he did, he'd be a public enemy. These fanatics wouldn't hesitate to turn on a cool-headed person in a time like this. Jiang Chen naturally wasn't going to do anything nearly that foolish.
Moreover, that was only a hazarded guess. He couldn't guarantee whether breaking the restriction would be a blessing or a curse at the end of the day.
The chain seal in his consciousness was on high alert, but he couldn't say for sure why it was. Perhaps it was because of the restrictions and seals scattered everywhere, or maybe there was some hidden danger within the Primosanct Sect's grounds?
Anything was possible.
Therefore, the only thing currently for him to do was maintain a healthy sense of opportunism.
Under the combined attack of several hundred cultivators, more than a dozen great emperors, and two or three hundred emperor realm cultivators, the enormous pillar began to dim. Though it stood mightily against the assault, its golden ripples weakened.
The tadpole-shaped runes blurred and disintegrated continually. Clearly, the repeated offensives was slowly chipping away at its fortitude.
Countless years had passed since the ancient era. The seal's effect had surely weakened with the years. Even the strongest seal would one day be defeated by the sands of time.
All the while, Jiang Chen reserved most of his strength. With each new attack, the pillar visibly fell apart a bit more.
Nevertheless, he still felt something gravely amiss. The combined attacks were certainly mighty, but the sealing pillar broke apart more readily than the might of the attacks would suggest.
That meant that the pillar's sealing force was partially being destroyed by itself. Or rather, there was another invisible force cooperating with everyone's efforts in the pillar's destruction.
Cloudbillow looked very pleased at the gradual dissolution of the pillar. "A bit more work and victory is ours!" he encouraged.
Everyone could see the truth behind those words. It was only a matter of time before the sealing pillar was destroyed once and for all.
"Three more hits and the seal will be done for!"
The piecemeal shattering of the seal excited the spirits of all present. The Primosanct Sect's sacred place was soon going to be revealed before them!
At this time, a shrill chirp suddenly sounded through the air. The sound seemed to be coming from the other side of a wide temporal gap, piercing countless years and eras into the cultivators' eardrums.
"What's that sound?"
"Hmm? Is it a bird?"
This greatly surprised the crowd and many scanned their surroundings. The bird cry had been so mournful that it chilled the bones of half its audience.
A chain of incessant cries sounded, each more mournful and pressing than the last. It was as if apocalypse had come, so desperate was the tone.
Jiang Chen furrowed his brow when he heard the shrieks. He had a very bad feeling about this.
Cloudbillow paused a few moments to listen, but failed to gain any useful information from doing so. "Ignore that!" he shouted, frowning. "Keep attacking!"
The great emperor's instructions allowed the other cultivators to refocus for the final stretch. It was obvious that the sealing pillar was going to break very soon. Three more attacks at most would crush it for sure. A new world for the taking would be opened to them then!
"Come!" Cloudbillow led the charge, drawing upon all the strength in his body as he launched himself in a mad frenzy at the seal.
Another painful clang rent the air. The sealing pillar's runes dimmed even more.
"Come on, put your backs into it! Come on!"
It was right then that the flow of the air stood still. In the next moment, a red cloud slammed down, tearing itself into existence from nothingness. The cloud was large enough to conceal the original sky, painting the firmament a bloody crimson.
The fiery red color was very familiar. It was the infernal sea that the cultivators had seen before entering the secret realm.
The temperature in the air rose instantly. Frightening heat waves crisped the air, producing a burning sensation on the skins of those beneath.
Jiang Chen stared wide-eyed at the odd sight, his heart as shaken as the rest.
The voice echoed forth from thin air once more. "Juniors, be careful. That's an ancient demonic bird trapped within the Primosanct Realm's sacred place. It's trying to stop you from coming in. The faster you break the seal and come inside, the safer you'll be."
An ancient demonic bird?
Jiang Chen used his God's Eye to look past the red cloud. There was an enormous crimson fowl hidden within, seemingly being reborn in flame.
Reborn in flame? Is that a phoenix? A Vermilion Bird?
In the heavenly planes, the phoenix and the Vermilion Bird were one and the same. As one of the four sacred beasts, it was equal to the Azure Dragon and the White Tiger in ferocity. It was the foremost fire-attribute species.
Though Jiang Chen couldn't exactly make the creature out with his God's Eye, the swirling shadow within the red cloud looked quite similar to an ancient Vermilion Bird.
An elongated tail and wings large enough to blot out the sun, it cycled through life and death in a world of conflagration, rebirthing through flame.
Vermilion Birds were most renowned for the ability to renew their lives rather than the strength of their bloodlines. A fiery rebirth wasn't quite the same thing as immortality, but it did signify a metamorphosis from death into new life. Once successful, a Vermilion Bird could receive a new life.
In ancient times, powerful sacred beasts were uniformly long-lived. It wasn't a stretch to say they were as old as the world. Vermilion Birds in particular were touted as sacred immortal birds.
Jiang Chen hadn't expected Agarwood Valley's secret realm to contain an ancient creature at all. If the bird really was a Vermilion Bird, then there was no way it was a beast cub like Long Xiaoxuan and Little White.
The bird had likely survived until now through the ages!
An ancient sacred fowl had unfathomably alarming levels of cultivation and strength. Even Jiang Chen found it hard to estimate such a creature. The pressure from the red cloud above was enough to tell him that any fire rained down could annihilate over ninety percent of the cultivators beneath!
"What are you waiting for? Do you want to be snacks for that demon? When it fully awakens, all of you added together won't be enough to sate a tenth of its appetite! Hurry, break the seal and enter the palace!" The voice grew curt even as it ushered them in.
Cloudbillow could perceive the weight of the red cloud quite viscerally, enough to threaten his life. "Life and riches are before us!" he called out. "Why hold back any strength? This is the last push. If we don't succeed, we'll all die. Feel free to choose death if you'd like!"
The great emperor clearly knew that the attacks before now had involved a great deal of conservatism from many of its participants. The blade hanging over his head however, made him intolerant of any further behavior of that kind.
Time was of the essence.
Cloudbillow didn't doubt that the existence within the red cloud could kill everyone here. It was an existence that they could not defy. He wasn't willing to expose himself under the influence of something like that.
Even without Cloudbillow's solicitation, everyone brought out all they had in the next attack.
Boom, boom, boom!
An unprecedented discharge pushed the pillar over the precipice of disintegration. In the next moment, all the runes of the seal became countless motes of translucent gold dust, disappearing into the ether.
"Come, let's go inside!" Cloudbillow, Long Baxiang, and the other great emperors were all wily codgers. They led the charge into the palace. All of them were fearful of being swallowed up by the creature in the red cloud if they were a step behind!