What pride of a great emperor? Dignity of a cultivator? None of it mattered at this juncture. The overweening Long Baxiang had been squashed like a bug. At this sight, the remaining cultivators gave up all idea of resistance.
"My lord, we surrender to you!"
"I also pledge myself wholeheartedly to you! My lord, please spare me!" Cloudbillow, experts from the Sublime Chord Temple, Empyrean River Palace, and Eternal Celestial Capital... all mentally crumbled.
Long Baxiang's death had destroyed the last bit of their battle spirit. Only terror was left, and a desperation to serve. The scene was deathly still. Apprehension gnawed at them. Surely, their attempt to flee must have deeply offended the demon lord?
They no longer had a way out. They could only wait for their sentence.
The celestial demon was indeed seething over Newsun's escape. For him, it was an unprecedented disgrace. Granted, he couldn't even use a tenth of his power within the seal. Even so, everything should have been within his grasp.
Such a mistake would've been impossible more than a hundred thousand years ago, but he'd awoken not long ago and his consciousness was quite rusty compared to his former heyday. He also never would've made any strategic missteps. After such a long isolation, his judgment in battle had proved wanting.
Even a single fish escaping his net was a deep shame. He itched to vent his rage and massacre everyone left, then absorb their essence and energy. But he resisted this urge in the end.
While doing so would indeed greatly reinvigorate him, his lack of capable pawns was the most pressing issue. Manpower was required for his grand plan. Otherwise, even if he broke free, how was he to accomplish his ambitions just by himself?
In any case, even if their life essence might not be enough to enable immediate escape, he was confident he could so sooner or later. He simply needed to be patient. He could control them instead and have them attack the seal. He might free himself earlier this way.
His mind set, he spread his consciousness wide. A black glow shot forth from the giant net.
Whoosh whoosh whoosh!
Black beams of light struck the cultivators' consciousness, marking them with his imprint. From that moment on, they would spend the rest of their days as demon slaves.
"This is your last chance. Don't even think of struggling, or I'll swallow you whole!" he warned.
He was in fact secretly worried. His consciousness was too weak to control them if they were to all fight back. He might lose his grip on the domain if he were exhausted further, giving these fellows another chance to run. It was why he'd made a bloody example out of Long Baxiang!
It proved to be a brilliant move. His limited strength was severely taxed, but none dared mount the slightest resistance, not even Cloudbillow.
Their courage had been shattered, leaving the way free for the demon mark to slowly enslave their souls, giving him full control over their consciousness. He inwardly heaved a long sigh of relief.
It had been a gamble. In fact, if not for the great emperors' total surrender, they might have noticed his extreme weakness and even struck back.
Fortunately, everything had ended well in the end. These humans hadn't shown a shred of resistance and were now at his mercy. They would die in the next second if he ever willed it.
"You'll be my attendants from now on. I shall bestow my personal guidance upon all the great emperors. Why aren't you paying your respects yet?"
"Greetings to the celestial demon lord, we pledge our lives to you!"
"Long live the demon lord!" The cultivators knew they no longer controlled their own destiny. The demon lord's frightening power had also scared them into submission, leading to their wholehearted surrender.
"Very good. You weak humans don't know the extent of your fortunes just yet. The bloodline of the celestial demons ranks in the top three of the heavenly planes. You'll realize one day how smart a choice you've just made."
"My lord, we're humbled by your forbearance and your favor."
After his narrow escape, the frightened Newsun had retreated to the farthest corner from the demon domain, his heart still palpitating with fear.
As for Jiang Chen, he'd observed the unfortunate events inside thanks to the full power of the Evil Golden Eye. He sighed, shaking his head helplessly. "To think the demon can do all this while still restrained by the seal. It's hard to imagine what will happen once he breaks free."
"I already told you. It'll be the end of your race. Alas, you humans don't even have the most basic moral backbone compared to your forefathers. How ridiculous!"
Noticing the contempt in the bird's tone, the young lord sighed. "What else could they have done?"
"What else? They should have still tried to run, of course. Didn't that guy escape thanks to his companions' protection? The demon lord is strong, but he's still hemmed in by the formation. His domain is frightening, but from what I can tell just now, his consciousness hasn't recovered as much as I thought. Most of these fellows could have made it out alive. Too bad they're cowards. Cowards!"
After a long silence, the young lord finally asked, "Why didn't the demon devour them? Doesn't he want to break free?"
"Celestial demons are cunning and deceitful. Who knows what they're thinking?" The divine creature had a bird brain in the end, thinking wasn't his forte.
Newsun had finally calmed down somewhat by now. He yelled, "Young lord Jiang Chen, many thanks for your previous warning. May we talk in private?"
Jiang Chen cast a sidelong glance at the Vermillion Bird. "Senior, may he come over?"
The bird snorted but didn't refuse.
Jiang Chen shouted, "Emperor Newsun, please come closer."
Newsun's heart was still pounding, but he couldn't act too cowardly in front of a junior. He made his way over despite his fear of the Vermillion Bird.
"Don't worry, Senior Vermillion bears no animosity towards us. He only attacked us to prevent us from ending up in the demon's stomach."
Relieved, Newsun cupped his fists. "Young lord, I must thank you again for this new lease on life. Unfortunately, these other daoists…"
Jiang Chen waved a hand. "They weren't as resolute as you when push came to shove. They've surrendered to the demon lord. They're no longer human cultivators, but demon fiends!"
Emperor Newsun's face fell. Worry colored his voice. "Young lord, is a demon calamity upon us?"
He'd escaped with his life, but joy was in scarce supply given the circumstances. The celestial demon lord's power extended beyond his knowledge.
The demon was already this strong when limited by the seal. Once free of the seal and restored to his peak, who in the human world could resist this monster?
Pillfire, Veluriyam, or even a coalition of all the powerhouses, none could stand in the way of this ancient evil. Even now, the might of a sealed, half asleep demon was still etched deeply in his mind.
Jiang Chen kept his eyes on the formation, his face grave. "He hasn't devoured them yet. It seems that he won't be coming out for now."
"Alas." Newsun sighed in dejection, then snuck a glance at the Vermillion Bird. "Does the ancient senior have a way?"
Jiang Chen shook his head. "The senior isn't in its best condition either. This demon would be no threat otherwise."
The Vermillion Bird didn't speak human language, but it could understand a few words. Jiang Chen's high praise sounded like music to its ears. Now happier, it became a little more lively and suddenly recalled something. "I spoke too soon earlier. In fact, the Primosanct Sect's left a hidden card behind. But it's very difficult to use, so I didn't think of it off the top of my head."
Jiang Chen's eyes suddenly shone. Newsun also stared, his dismay long forgotten. He looked at the Vermillion Bird, his eyes full of hope.
"Senior, don't keep us waiting. Why didn't you tell us earlier?"
The Vermillion Bird shook its head. "It's too early to rejoice. You humans have declined too far. This method might be out of your reach!"