"It's your time to shine, Big Stone!" Jiang Chen was alert in his own right after receiving the warning from the Vermilion Bird. The ancient talisman Pillzenith was quickly activating likely held untold power. Perhaps it was a treasure with a remarkable heritage.
The violet light flared into the firmament, carrying with it a crowd of Pillfire cultivators on an escape through the horizon. It left behind it a lavender streak of an afterimage.
"Well met!" The eight stone golem brothers had waited in the clouds for a long time.
When the violet light hurtled into the sky, it was met by Big Stone's giant hand. A giant palm was formed with incredible energy, slamming ferociously down on the fleeing cultivators.
The light scattered instantly, and many cultivators that it had carried were flattened into pancakes. A few of the stronger great emperors spread out in time with terrified screams.
But there was no way Jiang Chen was letting them escape.
"Don't miss a single one, Big Stone!" He gave the order to the eldest stone golem.
"No worries, Savior." Howling at the air, Big Stone pounced at Pillzenith.
The emperor was extremely fast even though one of his hands was occupied with his son. In the instant the violet light was destroyed, he found another gap of space and blitzed towards it.
His other hand produced a second talisman, an ancient one designed for retreating like the last. His body was transformed into a sharp arrow designed to pierce through spatial restrictions.
Even this high in the air, the stone golem brothers had locked down the space entirely. To any intrepid travelers, this defense was harder than stone or metal wall.
No matter how much Pillzenith tried to penetrate the defenses, he couldn't break through them.
The emperor was scared out of his wits. He'd never thought that all of his trump cards would fail to bring him out of this mess. Right now, he was a homeless stray rather than a leader of a prominent faction.
His embarrassing behavior was completely taken in by the other factions down below. Their men and leaders all quavered at what was happening. They'd never thought it possible for the imperious Pillzenith to one day be so flustered and helpless.
However, they were also thankful that they had come around at the last second. It was certainly much better than the alternative of supporting Pillzenith all the way.
"Do you know what this is called, Pillzenith?" Jiang Chen's voice was infinitely harsh to Pillzenith's ears.
"This is called 'bolting the door to beat the dog'." Jiang Chen laughed easily. "You're an old dog that's plagued the human domain for far too long. If you're allowed to live for much longer, you'll drag the rest of us into the abyss with you."
Pillzenith presently didn't even have the heart to utter a witty retort. The only thing on his mind was escaping with his life intact.
Unfortunately, the position the eight golem brothers had taken wasn't something he could possibly break through. No matter how hard he tried, he was met with an impassable brick wall.
Jiang Chen's eyes didn't rest on Pillzenith. He was more attentive to the others who'd formerly been his cohorts.
"You've made the wise decision in the end, so I'll spare you from death. However, this doesn't mean I've forgiven your transgressions. You have a chance to redeem yourselves by arresting anyone who went to Agarwood Valley. I can clearly tell you that they are imposters, one and all, with only the most malicious of intents in infiltrating us!"
He hadn't forgotten about this matter. In fact, he held the imposter problem in much higher regard than Pillzenith's offensive.
No matter what the leader of Pillfire did, he was restricted to a set of relatively predictable maneuvers. There was nothing creative he could pull off.
These unknown imposters, on the other hand, were concerning due to their mystery. Who was the mastermind behind them? What faction did they belong to? This was Jiang Chen's foremost concern.
If the mastermind couldn't be found, a hidden threat would remain. More importantly, he suspected that Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers had fallen into this mysterious faction's hands. He had no desire to see any harm come to those three.
The imposters collectively paled when they heard what Jiang Chen had said, turning into streaks of light that also attempted to flee.
This reaction instantly revealed their status as fakes. The sect members finally realized that Jiang Chen hadn't made anything up. He was speaking only the truth.
"Quick, quick, stop them from getting away!" There was mass anarchy due to the fakes' sudden escape attempts.
Thankfully, Jiang Chen's arrangements beforehand meant that none had a real chance of actually getting away.
Countless Goldbiter Rats surrounded them on the ground, and the stone golem brothers' wall locked down the airspace.
Despite transforming into beams of light, the imposters failed at getting anywhere, largely because they kept on slamming into walls of resistance. Eventually, they all ricocheted back to where they started from.
Their former fellows and current pursuers arrived just in time to encircle all of them.
When the imposters saw they had no possibility of escaping alive, they traded resolute looks, then muttered a few words. In the next moment -
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Their bodies exploded without any prior warning. The resulting bloody debris and energy scattered outwards.
They had chosen to self-destruct, every single one of them!
This sent absolutely every witness into shock. The cultivators who were closest died on the spot, hit by the aftershocks of the detonations.
The ones who remained were extremely terrified, backing off in unison. They remained fearful as their eyes passed over all the gore littering the ground, their hearts pounding with dread.
Jiang Chen was as utterly astonished as the rest.
What kind of faction was this? Why were the imposters so organized that they uniformly chose suicide after failing to escape? A cultivator choosing to detonate himself was one of the cruelest things to do to oneself.
Without an especially cold heart, who could be callous enough to harm oneself to such a degree?
Jiang Chen's pleasure from having completely quashed the northern coalition evaporated because of this new turn of events. He didn't particularly value the lives of the dead, but the trail was cold now that they were gone. How was he supposed to find Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers now?
Above the clouds, Pillzenith fought like a cornered beast. The other Pillfire executives were either captured or dead, and none was left to mount any resistance. The emperor was still struggling alone like a madman, his hair messy and unkempt.
"Big Stone, send him to hell." Jiang Chen wasn't interested in showing unnecessary mercy. People like Pillzenith didn't deserve it in the first place, and shouldn't be given that hope.
His ilk created disaster wherever they roamed. Therefore, he couldn't allow Pillzenith to leave alive.
Chortling, Big Stone leaped down from the clouds with a giant thud.
A descending jump from someone as enormous as him had immense visual impact. The stone golem looked like a powerful god among mortals.
Big Stone strode up, the steps of his thick, burly legs long enough to almost circumvent the limitations of space. He wasn't particularly brisk, but the sheer distance between each footfall was astounding.
Within a single inhale and exhale, he was already at Pillzenith's side. A divine art exerted the weight of the world on the emperor's chest, instantly slowing the target down. A colossal palm shot through the clouds directly down, gripping the great emperor within its clutches.
Pillzenith was scared witless. He wanted to struggle, but he no longer had control over his body. He was being held in place by a huge clamp.
With a casual slam from Big Stone, a tremendous force passed through Pillzenith's skin to shatter his qi ocean. All of his veins and meridians were completely destroyed!
The attack hadn't taken Pillzenith's life, but it had taken the basis that he lived by.
For Big Stone, anyone who lost against him was treated the exact same way, regardless of their status.
He tossed the body of Pillfire's leader before Jiang Chen. "Savior, he's useless now. You tell me what to do with him."
Big Stone may be naïve, but he had some cunning of his own. He knew enough to let Jiang Chen decide his enemy's final fate.
Jiang Chen looked at the struggling emperor, his heart devoid of compassion. In fact, he despised the man to the bitter end.
"You'll meet an ignoble end of your own, Jiang Chen. I won't let you off even as a ghost!" Pillzenith knew that his death was assured so resorted to wanton cursing.
"I considered you as low as dirt when you were alive. Do you think I'll be scared of you after you die?" Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "Your actions in this life means that even if you reincarnate, you'll become an animal. Want to get revenge on me? Do ten lifetimes worth of punishment first!"
The formerly arrogant Pillzenith flopped on the ground like a dead dog. He rather looked like he was kneeling out of respect to Jiang Chen.
Pillfire's erstwhile allies were dumbfounded. In their eyes, Pillzenith had once been someone second to none in the world. But that invincible emperor was virtually insignificant before Jiang Chen. This vast difference between expectation and reality was a bit hard to accept for most.
"Is Emperor Pillzenith's era over just like this?"
"It seems that Pillfire's blooming ambitions were an absolute joke."
"From now on, the human domain belongs to Veluriyam Capital alone!"
"This is better in the end. When north and south war against each other, humanity is the biggest loser. A decisive conclusion may be for the best!"
If Jiang Chen had relied on threats and coercion before, his excessive display of force finally clarified to these people why the young lord had treated Pillfire's incursion so casually. He had the absolute strength necessary to back him up!