When the domain's temperature dropped sharply, everyone felt that they'd plunged into an endless abyss of an icy hell. Their very souls shivered.
Join the celestial demons?
That was a surprise beyond words. Many of these cultivators had little in the way of morals and had committed their fair share of wickedness in daily activities. But they had also been uniformly taught to fear the demon race since birth. Demons were the mortal enemy of humanity, a plague upon the world. Therefore, each and every human cultivator despised and dreaded the demons.
Never in their wildest dreams had they imagined joining evil one day. Alas, that was the choice before them. Either they joined, or they died!
The celestial demons had led the invasion into Divine Abyss Continent in ancient times. Even the other demon races subjugated themselves before their celestial brethren.
Just as the demon lord had said, he wouldn't have cared about these human cultivators if he wasn't currently derelict and in desperate need of henchmen. The elite human cultivators of these times would've been nothing more than ordinary mortals back then.
In the ancient times, while humanity hadn't been the strongest race on the continent, empyrean experts and great emperors were still as common as weeds.
In contrast to present day, great emperors were as scarce as the morning stars in the human domain. They were less than one-ten-thousandths of their numbers in ages past.
Of course, it was the same for the demons too. The war that sealed away demonkind had dealt a severe blow to every demon race. Aside from the lords and emperors who were too difficult to kill, most demonic scions had perished in the conflict. The race's strength had also been significantly diminished.
The celestial demon lord had slumbered for more than a hundred thousand years in the Primosanct Sect's sacred place. When his demonic consciousness had first awakened just a little bit, he found that he was unable to fight the powerful sealing formation laid on him.
Unfortunately, the unrelenting sands of time had chipped away at the sect's seal. Every bit of damage meant that the demon lord's consciousness had more room to reawaken.
It was akin to the tipping of a set of scales. When one side's mass went down, the other side would inevitably rise upwards. Without someone to maintain it, the sealing formation could only continue to weaken.
This was exactly what had happened in the desolate wildlands.
The demonic aura of the celestial demon lord made the minds of the weaker willed cultivators tremble. Their nerves were on the edge of breaking. It took no time at all for the first group of defectors.
"O great demon lord, this humble one is willing to serve you."
"I too, am willing to serve the demon lord."
A few lower level emperor realm cultivators found themselves teetering on the edge of implosion. When their knees gave out, so too did any lingering fighting spirit.
When the first traitor came forward, more inevitably followed. Like a set of dominos, the collapse of a single token led to a chain reaction without much resistance. In that moment, a great swathe of cultivators knelt.
Only twenty or thirty remained standing - largely the great emperors and a few emperors who'd come from the Upper Eight Regions. They could just barely stand against the celestial demon lord's authority.
As members of the largest factions in the Upper Eight Regions, they knew that betrayal here meant completely breaking away from the rest of the human world. They would be mortal enemies of the entire human race.
They knew the consequences of changing allegiances better than anyone. This wasn't only a betrayal of their own faction, but the entire human race and heritage. They would suffer eternal shame even after death.
The great emperors from the Empyrean River Palace and Sublime Chord Temple looked at Cloudbillow, clearly clueless at this juncture.
"Heh heh heh…" the celestial demon lord smiled faintly. "If you want to show off your pride to me, I will allow you to do as you wish." His words scarcely fell before the strength of his aura intensified.
The great emperors bore the brunt of the assault. Under siege by the powerful demonic pressure, their consciousnesses ballooned with stress, ready to pop at any moment.
"Ah!!" Emperor Newsun suddenly roared with bloodshot eyes. "The Ninesuns Sky Sect will never submit to demons! We charge!"
The emperor had finally erupted. Like a burning sun, he hurtled towards the outside, his people behind him. Evidently, Newsun had no intention of bringing shame to his sect by joining up with demons.
"Emperor Newsun, we will cover you!" Several of the sect's cultivators slammed themselves into the invisible light veil with uncommunicated synchronicity.
Newsun gasped in shock. "Don't!" he called out.
"With divine radiance crowned by the heavens, may the nine suns destroy the world!"
"Break!" The cultivators transformed into streaks of light, accelerating to incredible speeds. Their bodies burned like comets, smashing with brute force into a single point.
This was one of the forbidden techniques of the Ninesuns Sky Sect. The disciples weren't permitted to use it save for extremely dire situations. The technique used the executing cultivator's life as fuel. Only by detonating one's qi ocean could such terrifying energy be unleashed.
The self-destruction of a single cultivator could create an attack three to five times that of his total strength. The self-destruction of multiple cultivators in tandem further magnified this, amplifying it to several hundred to thousand times their ordinary strength.
This kind of attack wasn't usually effective against more powerful cultivators, since the opponent could just move out of the way. However, it was superb at attacking unmoving restrictions such as the one before them.
The cultivators who had sacrificed their lives were Emperor Newsun's confidantes, the sect's deathsworn. They knew the nature of the deadly situation they were in and were able to complete the joint attack without any prior signalling in the face of adversity.
The strands of light converged at a single point, exploding outwards. The sight was as blinding as the detonation of a noonday sun, sending potent shockwaves in every direction. The celestial demon lord's domain boiled over with excess energy.
"Go, Emperor Newsun!" Even as the bodies of the Ninesuns' cultivators disintegrated, their voices echoed within Newsun's mind.
With lightning-fast reflexes, Newsun transformed himself into a streak of escaping light, lunging in the direction of the explosion. He couldn't yet judge whether his subordinates had succeeded, but this was his only chance regardless.
If the attack had been successful, there was sure to be a gap there. If not, that place would still be the weakest point in the domain. Perhaps he had a chance using the fullness of his own strength.
Long Baxiang reacted in record time. "Follow him!" he waved.
He had no desire to join the demons either. He understood that the celestial demon lord's promise was a thinly-veiled command to become his slaves and puppets in the campaign against humanity.
He would not accept that kind of fate. Long Baxiang was perfectly pleased to battle it out with other human factions, but the loss of freedom involved in surrendering to the demon lord was a fate worse than death.
Everyone saw the opportunity in this new development.
Emperor Cloudbillow was swift and decisive. "Everybody together now!" he shouted.
They all knew that the celestial demon lord was powerful and imposing. However, he was still held back by the power of the seal, and could only use his consciousness to exert his power over them. As long as they broke free of the domain, they were safe!
Absolutely everyone swarmed in that direction, these thoughts fresh on their mind.
"Fools, the lot of you!" The celestial demon lord's impassive voice echoed forth once more. In the next moment, the black net appeared again over the domain, darker and more fearsome than its last appearance.
Still, there was a tiny flaw in the portion of the net that Newsun was charging towards. One that was being quickly repaired, but existed nevertheless.
Newsun was incredibly quick. He was able to reach the flaw before it could completely fix itself.
Everything that happened next took place in mere seconds.
The emperor tossed out a talisman as he reached the edge of the flaw. The talisman blossomed in the wind into a golden shield overhead.
At the same time, an enormous bony claw slammed downward from the air. The claw of bone was nine meters long and six meters wide. It collided and wrapped around the golden shield with a clang.
There was a rumbling impact.
The golden shield was doubtless very durable, but the bone claw crushed it into a ball with little struggle. The instant the shield bought for him though, did give Emperor Newsun a lifeline.
Another burst of speed was enough to propel himself free of the net.
Even as he succeeded in fleeing, the giant net's flaw repaired itself completely. There was no sign that it'd been damaged in the first place. Long Baxiang and the Heavenly Dragon Sect's men arrived a split second too late.
The claw of bone seemed to have been angered by Emperor Newsun's escape. It raised itself high into the air, then grabbed Long Baxiang and the experts from the Heavenly Dragon Sect.
Long Baxiang whitened with terror, struggling desperately against his captor. Alas, he couldn't move an inch.
"Disobedience deserves punishment." The celestial demon lord's voice was cold. A second later, the bony claw closed viciously around its prisoners in a flash of black light.
There had been no time even to scream. The Heavenly Dragon Sect cultivators - Long Baxiang included - were utterly crushed, their essences absorbed cleanly by the demon lord.
Emperor Cloudbillow and the others were unlucky enough to witness the entirety of these proceedings. The high-ranking Pillfire member paled despite his prominence, kneeling unceremoniously in fear.