In his vantage point up high, the demon lord was able to catch all the details in his surroundings with the blink of an eye. The celestial demons' majesty was exhibited in every tiny movement he made.
The three empyrean experts of the Southern Celestial Tribe exchanged complicated looks. They read panic in each other's eyes. As uniformly empyrean cultivators, they could feel the immense aura radiating off the so-called demon before them. It was strong enough for even them to feel helpless.
Psychologically speaking, they were unafraid of any human cultivator. They would've even swarmed a human to fight it out first. Hearing that their enemy was a demon weakened their mental fortitude before the fight even began.
The ancient demon-sealing war had embroiled hundreds - nay, thousands of races all over Divine Abyss.
The Southern Celestial Tribe was no exception. It had had less territory and resources compared to mankind, and thus hadn't been a focus of attack. Still, that didn't lessen their fear for their old foes one bit. After all, no native race had remained intact in that ancient war.
"You three, listen up." The tyrannical voice of the demon lord echoed once again. "Your unintentional good work just now inspires me to give you a chance."
All three looked rather disturbed. They traded furtive looks, the desire to retreat evident. They had broken the Boundary Stele solely to raid the human lands. They'd just wanted to plunder and despoil.
They'd never expected this kind of thing to happen before they had gotten hands on any goods. Instead, they'd poked a hornet's nest.
"Haha, don't think about running away. Within my domain, you can't flee regardless of how quick you are." The demon lord's tone wasn't fierce or superficially intimidating, but his even-handed words instantly eliminated the trio's ideas of running.
They hadn't expected even these thoughts to be immediately perceived by their enemy.
"I just freed myself from the restriction, so I need a few useful peons. You three aren't all that bad. Exactly the kind of retainers I need. Remember, this is a reward from me to you. If you know what's good for you, then you should know better than to argue!" The demon lord's cool tone produced goosebumps on the trio's scalps.
Followers? They were very lofty experts within the Southern Celestial Tribe, the best of the best.
They couldn't accept becoming someone's retainer as they were so used to being elevated above the rest. There was a real psychological obstacle.
Thunderroar was the first to roar. "In your dreams, fool! You want me to be your retainer? Do you think yourself worthy? Zhong Liyan, Redcloud, let's kill him together!" He shouted to his compatriots.
Zhong Liyan's eyes glittered with anger as well. He was even more noble than his companions back within his race, a member of its imperial family. He was used to enslaving others, not being enslaved. The reverse experience was worse than killing him outright.
"He needs to die!" Zhong Liyan's killing intent was evident.
Redcloud's face flared with crimson, his own murderous intent bursting forth. "Let's go!"
Three figures turned into three streaks of light, hurtling towards the demon lord.
They launched devastating attacks with the most casual of movements, charging forward in a reckless assault. The aura and momentum of three empyrean experts attacking in unison was incredible. The air crackled and popped, countless ripples appearing upon it in a world-rending manner.
Despite Jiang Chen's distance, he could still feel the terrifying commotion. The heat of battle appeared to be capable of sweeping him up at any moment.
"This is your only chance to leave, Jiang Chen!" The Vermilion Bird reminded.
Jiang Chen considered it for a moment. Leave? Was he going to turn tail and flee, like a cowardly deserter?
He wasn't satisfied by leaving things like this. But what else was he going to do? Would he have a chance to leave later, when the demon lord finished recovering?
He felt helpless for the first time in his life. Things were developing too quickly for him to keep up with.
In the Upper Eight Regions, he'd always felt everything to be within his grasp. No matter how bad things became, he'd never felt particularly powerless.
But the celestial demon lord and the three empyrean experts of the Southern Celestial Tribe had taught him painfully: that some things were utterly unpredictable. That it was normal for accidents to happen.
Jiang Chen looked toward the eight brothers of the Stone Golem Tribe. "Big Stone, how do you feel about the celestial demon lord?"
Big Stone scratched his head. "If we brothers were at our peak form, we're probably the same as him. Now… I dunno."
His customary pride didn't blind him to the reality of the situation. He could feel that the demon lord was recovering extremely rapidly despite not being at peak strength yet. In this regard, the eight Stone brothers couldn't compare.
Their recovery process followed a glacial period of separation between consciousness and body. It was going to take a gradual process to melt the built-up ice.
The demon lord on the other hand, hadn't received a lethal blow to his body even though he'd been sealed away. He simply had to take some time to warm up and familiarize himself with his current faculties.
That wouldn't take long at all.
"No worries, Savior. The demon lord is fierce, but we brothers aren't scared! We fight to the death!" Big Stone proclaimed loudly as he thumped his chest, concerned that Jiang Chen would think lower of him and his brothers because of this.
"He's right. Demons are dumb. Stone golems are never scared!"
"Leave the demon lord to us, Savior! We'll give everything we have before we let him hurt you!" The stone golems were quite sincere.
"No need," smiled Jiang Chen. "The demon lord is frightening, but we don't have to fight him to the death. Now that he's free of the seal, we need to think about…"
As he spoke, he detected a rapid series of pulses beneath his feet. In the next moment, a spiderweb of cracks appeared beneath the mountain top.
The Vermilion Bird blinked, then grew overjoyed. "Jiang Chen, this is an indicator of the reappearance of the legendary bow!"
Jiang Chen's heart skipped a beat as he swept his eyes across the landscape.
In the middle of the peak, a fissure began to widen. Rays of light more radiant than stars themselves poured out from within, blazing in their luminosity.
Light flared upward into the sky. Within that sacred light was an ancient, simply carved bow. It had naturally drawn itself wide, as round as a full moon.
Three golden arrows were nocked on the strings, like an invisible force was controlling the bow. It radiated authority and strength. The nocked arrows pointed accurately towards the palace.
The Vermilion Bird was hugely pleased. "As I thought, as I thought… this makes a lot more sense. The ancient Primosanct Sect couldn't have let the celestial demon lord run free like that!"
Jiang Chen's heart soared even as he examined the strength within the bow, the weapon locking onto the demon lord's direction.
It was as if all the great powers present in this patch of space had been absorbed by the bow and its missiles. The concentration of energy made it seem as if it could shoot down the sun, moon, and the stars.
Over at the palace, the demon lord was preparing to use one of his more powerful abilities to defeat the three of the Southern Celestial Tribe. Suddenly, his consciousness detected an immense killing intent locked onto him from afar. His heart beat with an unknown terror.
This was a warning delivered purely by his instincts as an expert. Cursing to himself, the demon lord clapped his enormous palms together, generating three black tornados that rushed with consuming force towards the three empyrean experts.
The Southern Celestial experts were elated by the demon lord's apparent distraction. The three tornados seemed too casual to be effective, and the trio fearlessly charged headlong into them.
Alas, only when they came near the tornados did they realize that the attacks were far stronger than they'd imagined. The black vortices pulled like all-absorbing black holes, confining the cultivators' bodies with strands of ebon energy. They lost movement in essentially a split second.
This isn't good!
Distress flashed across the trio's minds almost simultaneously.
It was right at this time when…
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!
Three golden arrows arced across space, seemingly ignoring the boundaries of spacetime entirely. A flash of aureate light brought the missiles into the vicinity of the palace.
The three motes of gold arrived with incredible suddenness, faster than even bolts of lightning. Their lethal intent locked down the area completely. The three experts were mentally ready for oblivion.
They finally grasped that the demon lord was trying to use them as meat shields. The three golden arrows were intended for the demon lord, who'd made clever use of their fortuitous presence to attempt a defensive maneuver.
All three experts could feel the approach of death. The dread of the great beyond roiled within their consciousnesses.
It was at this moment that something very odd occurred.
The three arrows disappeared in a burst of light the second before piercing the experts, swerving by the three aliens to beeline straight for the airborne demon lord. This unexpected development allowed all three to breathe sighs of relief. Their bodies were slick with sweat, and their minds exhilarated after being granted new life.
The demon lord, on the other hand, was ghastly pale. He knew how fearsome the three arrows were! They could crush him utterly. That was precisely why he had bound the three Southern Celestial experts as meat shields.
It had never occurred to him that the three arrows could do what they had just done. They'd ignored his feeble deflection, and were heading straight for him!