How did Long Baxiang spot me? I thought I was discreet enough. Indeed, his strength isn't for show. Under the great emperor's pressure, Jiang Chen "had no choice" but to yield. He carefully took out the brush pot.
Long Baxiang snatched the item and examined it from top to bottom, methodically examining every brush as well. However, he came up empty-handed.
"Why did you take such a lousy thing?" he asked coldly.
"I-I'm too weak for the good stuff." Jiang Chen feigned a stutter.
Long Baxiang glared at him for a long while, then with a snort, destroyed the pot and the brushes with a twist of his hands.
Jiang Chen paled. To think the man would be so overbearing against a third rank sect's "disciple"!
Forefather Zi almost bit his tongue.
Long Baxiang glanced at the latter and cackled. "What, have something to say? Feel free to come at me anytime if you're dissatisfied."
His shamelessness knew no bounds. He was clearly poised to oppress the old man.
The forefather shook his head subconsciously. Not in a million years would he dare challenge the great emperor.
With a callous smile, Long Baxiang finally walked away. The brief, minor interlude had brought to light his paranoid and tyrannical nature.
The second and third tier factions had all witnessed the scene. Some people were secretly amused, others indignant, and some indifferent. In any case, no one stood up for Jiang Chen.
"Why did the idiot pick up that useless brush pot? All it brought to him was humiliation from Emperor Dragontyrant's displeasure."
"Right? I've rarely seen such a pitiable scene."
The young lord remained impassive despite the mockery. It could be seen from the details just how petty Long Baxiang was. He'd rather make a scene than tolerate someone else standing to benefit, no matter how trivial the item. Destroying everything was preferable to entertaining the possibility of something slipping through the cracks.
His arrogance and narrow-mindedness were unparalleled!
Thankfully, I reacted fast enough. Jiang Chen glanced at his storage ring, his heart still drumming. A brush quietly lay inside.
Out of the twelve brushes in the pot, he'd kept this single one and offered up all the rest instead. How would Long Baxiang have known how many brushes there'd been? The tyrant hadn't paid any attention to the pot beforehand. No matter how paranoid he was, he didn't expect a young man to react so fast and had entirely missed the Jiang Chen's sleight of hand.
Just as the crowd thought, the other pots and brushes were useless trash for cultivators. Only this one brush was different. It wasn't quite head and shoulders above the others, but it was close enough.
Jiang Chen felt that the treasures on the shelves couldn't compare to it, even when all put together. It had been hidden amongst all the other mundane brushes, sitting in plain sight in an ordinary brush pot. It'd been gold buried amongst dross, and hence no one had paid it attention.
The great factions were currently engaged in an intense dispute over the division of spoils.
They'd formerly agreed on a fair, peaceful division, but few were willing to abide by that now.
However, the Heavenly Dragon Sect and the Ninesuns Sky Sect turned a deaf ear to all complaints. Thus, the other factions had no way to oppose this bandit behavior.
In the end, Upper Eight Regions hoarded ninety percent of the stash. They'd already agreed on a distribution between themselves, hence they remained civil, despite some tension.
But how to allot the ten percent left? Loud complaints and insults soon filled the air, turning the scene into chaos.
Some of the powerful second rank sects wanted to imitate the Upper Eight Regions and grab most of the leftovers for themselves, but were met with stiff resistance from the other factions. In the end, the situation didn't degenerate any further, thanks to Upper Eight Regions' mediation.
"Very well, everyone. It's time to pack up and leave. The despicable chicken is headed your way." The voice instantly dampened the crowd's greed and excitement.
Whoosh! Outside, the mighty Vermillion Bird suddenly curled in itself, shrinking its size down by ten times. Then it shot inside the palace.
"Make haste, climb to the third floor!" the voice shouted, full of urgency.
Still thrilled by the treasures they'd gained, the cultivators immediately rushed for the stairs. Sadly, the weaker factions had to retreat before divvying up the spoils.
Thanks to his status, Forefather Zi had obtained an item. He'd been on tenterhooks all the while, but Jiang Chen had silently suggested that he calm down. They followed the crowd up the jade stairs to the third floor.
The vast palace was divided into countless floors. The spacious hall on the third was much wider than on the previous floor. It was divided into seven corners, each displaying a different sight.
Jiang Chen shook inwardly when he set foot in the hall. The intense atmosphere here was tinted with the aura of ancient gods and demons, brimming with august power. Standing here, one could feel one's blood burn with passion.
A spire sat in each of the seven corners, around which floated mystical runes and talismans. Like tadpoles swimming through the void, the runes brimmed with mystery, as if waiting for later generations to decipher them.
Shock prickled Jiang Chen. "This is an extraordinary formation."
That wasn't a wild guess.
Different runes mapped to each of the seven corners; all of them flowing in tandem held up an enormous formation. Seven mystical rays of light gathered in the center, radiating golden and silvery brilliance that leapt through the air, filling it with mystical beauty of light and shadow.
The light formed and continuously poured into an enormous lock, which contained an enormous vortex inside.
"What's this?" Using the Evil Golden Eye, Jiang Chen peered right through the rippling light.
And saw a coffin. Yes, a golden coffin.
The others were dazzled by the shifting golden and silvery radiance. They wouldn't be able to spot the coffin without eye techniques.
"Is this the Primosanct Sect's hall of martial learning?" The majestic sight filled some with puzzlement, and even a dash of jealousy.
"It must be. These seven divine lights must be the sect's light of heritage. It can purify our bodies and enhance our innate talent."
"Shut your mouths!" Emperor Cloudbillow swore.
Long Baxiang and a few others continued to chat and laugh, but everyone else trembled fearfully and immediately fell silent.
Cloudbillow cupped his hands. "Honored senior, we've come as you asked. That evil bird also barged inside the palace."
"You're here?" The voice warned faintly, "Now then, all of you slowly approach the central vortex. I've personally deployed the Seven Stars Heaven-Sealing Formation here to defend the area. You don't need fear the sacred fowl once inside. However, don't blame me for not warning you if you stay outside and end up dying."
A chirp sounded once again, this time from the second floor. The ancient Vermillion Bird hadn't given up. Not yet fully recovered, it struggled to climb upwards, seemingly determined to kill them all.
The oncoming scorching aura seemed to portend the end of days.
"Hurry, enter the formation's protective area!" A hint of steel pierced through the voice's indifference.
Even Cloudbillow felt stifled by the divine bird's might. He shouted, "Everyone, gather in the vortex! Don't be afraid, the ancient senior is watching over us."
He headed inside first. Not to be outdone, the heavyweights in his alliance followed closely behind.
Long Baxiang and Ninesuns' representative looked at each other. Neither was confident they could withstand the Vermilion Bird.
"Young lord Jiang Chen, we should follow them," Forefather Zi couldn't resist transmitting when he saw Jiang Chen rooted in place.
"Go if you want. I'll stay here for now." Jiang Chen had his own plans. The closer he approached the vortex, the stronger the disquiet in his sea of consciousness.
The crowd scrambled towards the vortex.
One, two… ten… a hundred...
Soon, only the two of them stood outside, their lonely figures cutting a sharp contrast.
"Daoist Zi, why are you lagging behind? Hurry up and come inside!"
"Is he so scared by the bird he can't even run?"
Sweat beaded Zi Tan's forehead. The bird's fiery aura crept ever closer while countless pairs of eyes observed them like spectators in a circus.
However, he was a determined man. He'd pledged allegiance to Jiang Chen. His liege hadn't taken shelter, so how could he? He clenched his fists, having come to a difficult decision. This is it! The gamble of a lifetime! Since I've chosen to follow the young lord, I'll stick to him come hell or high water!