"Cloudbillow, do you know why I value you so?" The demon lord suddenly asked.
The emperor blinked. "I'm not wise enough to understand, sir. Please enlighten me."
"After you learn my demonic arts, I want you to take all of these people back to the human domain."
"Huh?" Cloudbillow gasped in shock. "My lord, we will be public enemies if we return now."
"Don't worry. Isn't there a human saying that applies to this? When people repeat a lie often enough, it's no different from the truth. Jiang Chen is only one mouth against many. Can he talk all of you down?"
Cloudbillow blinked. Initially, he thought the idea ridiculous, but what the demon lord was proposing was actually quite feasible. No matter how eloquent that Jiang Chen kid was, he was only one person, while they had numerous people here that spanned different multiple sects of the Upper Eight Regions.
How could they not overwhelm a single voice in the court of public opinion? However, Jiang Chen wasn't the only one who had escaped.
"Demon lord, there were a few more who've escaped. Emperor Newsun of the Ninesuns Sky Sect, and some cultivator of a small sect."
"That's still only three. How many do you have here? Cloudbillow," the demon lord responded coldly, "this is a test. You have another mission once you return to Pillfire City. You must be opportunistic about taking over Pillfire and controlling Emperor Pillzenith. From what you've said, Pillfire is the strongest faction in the human domain. If Emperor Pillzenith becomes your puppet, and Pillfire the celestial demons' headquarters, the effectiveness of my plan will be doubled!"
Cloudbillow was sorely tempted. He was just a subordinate in Pillfire. Though he was reasonably prominent in the city, there was only one boss around there: Emperor Pillzenith and none else.
The others' positions were given at the sole discretion of Emperor Pillzenith. If they didn't ensure their leader's happiness, they could be swapped out almost arbitrarily. If they could control Emperor Pillzenith and take over Pillfire, wouldn't his suppressed ambition be fulfilled?
Wasn't becoming the ruler of Pillfire his secret desire?
The demon lord's suggestion allowed Cloudbillow to see the viability of this alternative plan. Excitement bloomed and he was roused into action. Still, there were a few lingering concerns.
"Demon lord, Emperor Pillzenith is very strong. He is much more capable than I. I don't think it'll be easy for me to beat him. Plus, if Jiang Chen returns to the human domain and spreads the word, Emperor Pillzenith will be on his guard against me regardless." That was the emperor's biggest worry.
"Rest easy. That kid and the other two haven't left the premises yet." The demon lord's consciousness swept the space after a brief respite. Within the range of detection were the auras of the ones who'd fled.
"Hmm?" There was a violent disturbance when the demon lord's consciousness locked onto Jiang Chen's. A feeling of unease came over him.
What's happening? The demon lord's consciousness sank into thoughtful observation. "What is that kid doing?"
No action was hidden from the demon lord's watchful eye. However, he evidently didn't know about the secret of the Primordial Stone Golem Tribe. He had little idea as to what the youth was doing.
"What's with those giant statues over there?" Having been sealed here for so long, the demon lord was naturally aware of the eight gargantuan statues in front of the Primosanct Sect's sacred palace.
He'd thought they were merely ornaments. Why would there be any special meaning behind them? But this no longer seemed to be the case.
Demons were a naturally paranoid sort. Jiang Chen's odd behavior made the demon lord uneasy.
"Cloudbillow, are you willing to take a gamble to deal with that Jiang Chen brat once and for all?"
Cloudbillow's eyes lit up. "Has he really not left yet, demon lord? Where is he?"
"At the entrance of this palace. It seems he's taken an interest in the statues near the door. He's behaving rather oddly. Cloudbillow, are you brave enough to take him out if I give you a Celestial Demon Goldscale Talisman?"
The emperor was raring to go. However, he did immediately recall the other problem. "What of the Vermilion Bird, demon lord?"
"That feathered chicken is at the end of its rope," the demon lord retorted with displeasure. "The attack prior cost it too much energy. It's at the end of its lifespan, which means it can barely move. Why do you think it hasn't come inside to kill you all otherwise?"
"It… it's almost dead?"
"Obviously. If it were at peak strength, do you think you would be able to enter this secret realm at all given your level?"
The demon lord disliked the Vermilion Bird, but also harbored a reasonable fear of it. Still, he had noticed that it was in its final throes before expiration.
"That means the Vermilion Bird is far from being at its strongest!" Emperor Cloudbillow was mildly surprised. It had unleashed such a terrifying attack despite that! If the bird had been at peak during their last encounter, perhaps they would've really all died.
"Stop wasting time. Are you going or not?" The demon lord was getting impatient.
Emperor Cloudbillow thought for a few moments. "My lord, you said you would give me a Celestial Demon Goldscale Talisman. What is that exactly?"
"The talisman can save your life. If the bird uses all it has to fight you, it'll still be quite dangerous. But the talisman will preserve you no matter the danger, unless it is at its peak. Heh, fortunately, it has less than half that much strength remaining. It won't be able to do a thing!"
As he spoke, a flash of gold appeared before Cloudbillow's eyes. In the next moment, an antique, simple golden talisman full of demonic vigor appeared before the emperor.
"There's no time to waste, Cloudbillow. That kid seems to be messing around with those stone statues. You can distract the Vermilion Bird so that the others can besiege that kid."
There were six great emperors alone with Cloudbillow. Even if Cloudbillow was preoccupied, there were many of his compatriots ready to fight. Their newfound demonic methods noticeably increased combat strength, even though their grasp of said methods was only rudimentary. A team like that was almost guaranteed to kill a young genius who was only emperor realm.
Cloudbillow hesitated for a moment before girding himself. "Thank you for your approval, my lord. I'll do it! That kid got out of here alive only to dawdle here. Heaven wants him to die!"
The talisman settled Cloudbillow's heart. He was unafraid of Jiang Chen; the Vermilion Bird was far more intimidating. The kid and the bird currently appeared to be on relatively good terms. This wasn't something Cloudbillow wanted to see.
Jiang Chen's failure to enter the sealing formation had elicited his desire to see the boy being consumed by the Vermilion Bird. Alas, things hadn't played out like he'd wanted.
"Alright. You are fresh recruits under my banner and I would like to see if you are capable or not. If you can't deal with a young cultivator like him, then you will have utterly disappointed me."
"Don't worry, my lord," Cloudbillow thumped his chest. "That kid has no backing to speak of this time. Killing him will be trivial for us."
Cloudbillow didn't consider himself to have been defeated by Jiang Chen last time. Quite the opposite: Jiang Chen had only escaped because he'd kidnapped Pillzenith's beloved son, young master Tian Lin. This time, there was no option of blackmail. Cloudbillow didn't believe that Jiang Chen had any room to flee.
The great emperor gathered together his great emperor compatriots as well as a group of ninth level emperor experts.
"This is the first battle under the demon lord's command, my friends. You should know that if that kid is allowed to return to the human domain, our reputations will be nonexistent there very shortly. We will be branded universal traitors and demonic cohorts! Therefore…" Cloudbillow didn't spell things out, but what he was hinting at was obvious.
They couldn't let Jiang Chen return home!
"Daoist Cloudbillow, if my lord trusts you that much, you should take command here!"
"That's right. As long as we can kill that kid and stem the news, we'll do anything!"
They all knew that if Jiang Chen and Emperor Newsun were stopped from leaving, the betrayal of their own race would remain a secret. Only then could they openly return to the human domain. Therefore, everyone knew that there could be no delay.
"Good!" Cloudbillow continued when he saw their passion. "I'll take the lead shortly and try to draw the Vermilion Bird away. All of you should find an opportunity to attack Jiang Chen. His cultivation level doesn't matter, nor does martial courtesy of any kind. We only have one goal and that's to kill him!"
"Kill him!" Under the control of the demon lord's will, the human cultivators' killing urge had been amplified by quite a bit.
"We're off!" Cloudbillow led the charge. He knew what his mission was.
If he couldn't attract the Vermilion Bird's attention, it would be very unlikely for their assault to succeed. All of the experts here wouldn't be able to withstand a single furious attack from the sacred bird.
A flurry of figures rushed out after him.
Currently, Jiang Chen was submerged in the world of the Primordial Stone Golem Tribe. Having revived two golems in quick succession, his consciousness was on the brink of exhaustion. He was resting and in the process of recovery.
Suddenly, a string of rapid convulsions disrupted his consciousness. He awoke with a start, opening his eyes.