Xu Qingxuan had a lost look in her eyes.
"Brother," she murmured, "do you mean that you've given up on defending the northwestern wastes' Boundary Stele? Then the work that my master and the rest is doing… is wasted? Was it wrong to risk their lives to fix it?"
"It's hard to assign right and wrong to many things in the world," Jiang Chen sighed. "Qingxuan, I won't ignore what's happening in the northwestern wastes. I simply said what I was thinking about the matter. I also wanted to let you know that it may be wise for humanity to prepare for war - a single one, or multiple. The human domain is approaching dusk, and a period of darkness is yet to come."
He wasn't applying any pessimism to the matter. Instead, he was speaking from a higher perspective. The current human race was riddled with holes and problems. Even if he were ten times stronger, he wouldn't be able to patch everything up.
Wellspring, the man most closely aligned with Peafowl's ideals, sighed. "I must say that my thoughts are changing as well after all these changes. In the past, I've always thought that us cultivators at the top must bear the burden of the rest of the world. We are the only ones that can, really. But if the rest of our people has not yet awakened to the danger around us, can we really fight with only the strength of a few?"
"We must at least preserve our own strength. Only then do we have a hope of turning the tide." This was Peerless' opinion. He had learned quite a bit from his experience lying low in the Order. The sight of so many human cultivators pressed into loyal service without knowing the origins of their supreme lord shocked him. They hadn't seemed to care if he was evil or not.
Jiang Chen nodded. "As the leader of the human race, Veluriyam will take up the mantle when necessary. However, we must also preserve our own forces and heritages. Only then can we think about saving the rest of the world."
This was his biggest takeaway from the fight against the Order.
Without Peerless' communication, Veluriyam would've very likely suffered a catastrophic loss it could never recovered from. If something like that did happen to his family and friends, what good was vengeance later?
Revenge wouldn't restore his loved ones.
Having said this, Jiang Chen went on. "I know what I'm going to do for the northwestern wastes. I'll make a trip myself. If the Boundary Stele there can be repaired, I'll do my best to do so. If not, I won't force anything. My primary directive will be to save any survivors."
"Yes. Where there is life, there is hope." Peerless nodded in agreement.
"I will make haste without delay and set off today. Old Brother Hui and Mo, Emperors Coiling Dragon and Void, please keep things here in Veluriyam under control. If anyone intentionally spreads damaging rumors, punish him severely. In times of chaos, harsher measures are required. Don't hesitate to apply them when necessary," Jiang Chen instructed his friends. "I will ask our good senior the Vermilion Bird to hold down the fort. Four of the stone golem brothers will also remain."
After fighting the Order of Wind and Cloud, Jiang Chen placed greater value in keeping Veluriyam secure.
Going to the northwestern wastes wasn't as easy as returning to Veluriyam. The spacetime seal could only be used for a one-way trip, and moreover it only had a single usage remaining. The next time back to the Pagoda would be his last.
After making the required arrangements, Jiang Chen left quietly once again without informing anyone. His actions were under the scrutiny of all. No one was benefited by him being too public about his goals.
Thankfully, the human domain didn't pose much of a threat to him aside from the Order's remnants. Every hostile faction in the northern Upper Eight Regions had been destroyed.
The ones that remained were in an alliance with Veluriyam. Therefore, Jiang Chen didn't need to be concerned with much aside from local Order members. Plus, his veneer of secrecy helped to avoid problems as well.
Secrecy aside though, if the destruction of the northwestern wastes' Boundary Stele had something to do with the Order, then his trip would be within their expectations too. But presently, the Order didn't necessarily have the ability to ambush him even if its members knew about his itinerary. It would cost them a great deal to do so.
The removal of Elders Peng and Mo from the equation meant that Xiahou Jing had no manpower available, at any rate.
Jiang Chen's journey was entirely smooth. He reached the territory of Tilted Moon Upper Region in three days. The northwestern wastes were a wide patch of desolate, infertile land.
After entering the region, he could feel the tangible pressure in the atmosphere. A sense of impending war filled the air. A small spark would be enough to ignite the place.
"The threat of the Embittered Savage Tribe is quite intimidating indeed." He remembered how he'd appreciated the region's culture on his first visit. The region's residents had brimmed with optimism, enjoying life to the fullest.
This time, he noticed that even the most optimistic of people smiled a great deal less. While he was here, Jiang Chen found it natural to go visit an old friend. The Third Master Jing he had met all those years ago - alongside Emperor Peerless' foster son, Gu Xintang - were now important members of Tilted Moon's society.
The third master was overjoyed to see Jiang Chen at his door.
"There's no need for too much fuss. I'm here on a secret operation," Jiang Chen instructed.
Third Master Jing held back his overflowing joy. "Young lord Jiang Chen, I've been tremendously worried about you during this time. I was relieved by the news that you had defeated the Order and came close to killing its supreme lord. I was guessing that you'd come around now."
"You guessed I would come?" Jiang Chen was a bit surprised.
"Heheh, you are a very loyal person. There's no way you would abandon Tilted Moon and the Moon God Sect for Holy Maiden Qingxuan's sake."
Jiang Chen sighed softly. "How are things in the northwestern wastes?" he asked.
The third master put away his smile. "Things are getting worse over there," he related somberly. "Contact from the Moon God Sect there has all but ceased. It seems that nothing living can survive over there." He then realized the error in his speech and quickly rectified, "Of course, the sectmaster and the others are capable enough to be fine, I think!".
Jiang Chen nodded. "Time is of the essence. I won't bother you any longer. I'll head to the northwestern wastes right now. I just hope that I can make it in time."
Third Master Jing stood up, solemnly bowing to Jiang Chen thrice. "Young lord, I would like to thank you for your righteous actions on behalf of everyone living in Tilted Moon."
"That's a little too much to say, my friend." Jiang Chen hurriedly helped him up.
Third Master Jing shook his head, his tone firm. "Not at all. Perhaps the rest of the world is used to you saving them, young lord, but you don't actually owe them anything. All that you've done is for the public good! In the current human domain, there are very few men who can say the same. We of Tilted Moon won't take your hard work for granted."
Jiang Chen's lips quivered, but he said nothing further on the subject. Instead, he patted Third Master Jing on the shoulder. "Take care of yourself, and prepare for the worst."
Third Master Jing shook when he heard this. He wanted to ask more, but Jiang Chen had already drifted off.
The young man found his way to the northwestern wastes with the help of a map.
The wasteland was an endless desert, full of sand and not much else. As appropriate of a desert and other such things of that nature, there was very little spirit qi in the air, nor were there any signs of life nearby.
"The northwestern wastes are indeed quite desolate." Jiang Chen and company were having a hard time moving forward because of the conditions. Their pace was noticeably affected.
Any energy they expanded couldn't be replenished through drawing on the surrounding environment. Instead, they had to rely on herbs and pills.
"This is a lot of trouble for you four, Big Stone." Jiang Chen felt some distress when he saw the panting golems. Because of the lack of energy in the air, those with a higher level of cultivation required more upkeep to stay fit. That was why Jiang Chen had brought more than enough pills for them to recover.
"The ancestors were immensely daring to have constructed a Boundary Stele in these wastes." The poverty and bleakness of these wastes was teaching Jiang Chen a lesson in the hardships the ancients had had to endure to build a defense here.
As he said this, the young man felt the earth shake a little. He thought that he was hallucinating at first, but the earth shook once more after a few more steps, a bit more vigorously than the last.
The shaking turned into a recurring event, cascading in intensity.
Jiang Chen hastily sent a few Goldbiter Rats out. "Go on and scout ahead. See what's happening in front of us."
Because there was no spirit qi here, Jiang Chen couldn't send out a swarm of Goldbiter Rats. He sent out only a few of the particularly clever ones. A few moments was enough for them to return.
"Young lord, there's enormous shaking a hundred plus miles out from here. Something related to a restriction. It should be the fabled realm around a Boundary Stele, a real impressive sight to behold. But…"
"But what? Say it straight." Jiang Chen frowned.
Before the rat could finish, Jiang Chen stumbled almost to his knees. A string of rumbling echoed at his ears — a series of destructive thunderclaps that caused the air to explode.
In the next moment, the ground shook like the tides, wavering in intensifying succession. It was as if the order of heaven and earth in this area had been thrown into disarray. A frightening thought flickered into Jiang Chen's mind.
"This isn't good. The Moon God Sect's people are in danger!" Aside from Xu Qingxuan, there were only a few that Jiang Chen admired from that sect: the main sectmaster and Holy Maiden Xu Shan.
He didn't know the others and cared even less about them. However, they were risking their lives to repair the Boundary Stele. Jiang Chen couldn't simply abandon them to their fates.
"Big Stone, we have to hurry." Jiang Chen rushed ahead, anxiety fueling his step.
Though the lack of energy here meant that it was extremely taxing on picking up speed, Veluriyam's young lord unreservedly charged ahead nevertheless.