Boss Luo widened his eyes at the blades of Vermilion feathers blocking all of his escape routes. The slashes were too powerful for him to defend head-on. Even brief contact would likely kill him several times over.
Lu Che and the other elders had considered taking advantage of the chaos and running away, but they gave up on that when they saw the gang leader trapped by the blades. It suddenly dawned on them that the Vermilion Bird was far more powerful than they were, and could vanquish them as easily as swatting a fly.
Lu Che realized that the bird must’ve been the one that’d destroyed his Mortal Silken Thread.
Those from Warmspring had gone as pale as a sheet. Boss Luo cried out in witless horror, “Lu Che, you’re acting like this is none of your business, but it’s your turn after I die! If we fight together, some of us may be able to escape!”
He was still holding on the hope of dragging others down with him. However, the Warmspring authorities had lost their will to fight. They weren’t going to let the gang leader coax them into changing their mind.
They were no fools. Boss Luo was as good as dead. They’d get themselves killed for nothing if they tried to help. Besides, the gang leader had been the one to offend the young man. Perhaps they would stand a better chance of being spared after his death.
“Leave him to me, Xiaoxuan!” The Vermilion Bird whipped through the air with its mouth wide open, leaving a trace of red glow in its wake. Boss Luo lost control of his body and was caught by a vortex of air.
The bird took in a deep breath and devoured the human alive.
The macabre scene instilled fear into the elders. Petrified, they watched in horror.
Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump!
The five of them reflexively dropped to their knees. They knew better than anyone how futile it’d be to resist such overwhelming power. Begging for mercy was the only way to survive.
Jiang Chen’s gaze swept over the remaining five until it settled on Lu Che. “Warmspring Island is decently well-known in the area, but not particularly powerful. Tell me, why are there so many advanced empyrean cultivators there?”
He’d been wondering about that for a while.
“I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you everything! Warmspring is different from the other islands. It’s a prosperous port that’s a trading hub for the surrounding regions. Most trades, especially those of the clandestine nature, are conducted on the island. We were outsiders recruited into the Hall of Law Enforcement by the island lord, rather than locals born and raised on the island.” Lu Che didn’t leave any details out.
“Hmph, it doesn’t make sense for Warmspring to be this bold with illicit deeds even if you have the strength to back yourselves up. Aren’t you afraid of offending geniuses from the Ten Divine Nation and having the island meet its demise?”
Lu Che smiled wryly. “You may be surprised to find out that Warmspring is also supported by the Ten Divine Nations. As mere subordinates, we don’t know for sure which divine nation the island lord comes from, but we suspect he has the support of more than one nation.”
Jiang Chen found that difficult to believe. “What? Who would go to such lengths for an island like Warmspring?”
“That’s the way it is according to my observations,” Lu Che spilled everything he knew. “The Silversword Gang is a money-making tool for the lord, which is why Boss Luo was bold enough to openly defy us. He has the lord of Warmspring backing him up.”
The interconnected web of the island’s politics was finally made clear.
Jiang Chen scoffed. “As I expected, the gang has a backer for them to be so bold. What a surprise for it to be the lord of Warmspring.”
However, he didn’t intend to intervene. He’d killed a good number of Silversword’s members and mollified his anger. As long as Warmspring didn’t bother him again, he didn’t have the time to deal with the island.
He stared at the elders, his lips twisted into an odd smile. “So should I kill you all, or give you a chance to live?”
“Please give us a chance,” Lu Che rushed out. “We can tell that you’re not an ordinary character. We’re willing to follow you and serve you. We won’t resist even if you brand us with your consciousness!”
Lu Che and his companions had all started out as wandering cultivators. They joined Warmsping simply in pursuit of wealth and power. Wandering cultivators of humble backgrounds like them knew when to make compromises and prioritized their survival. Thus, they would always choose to live, even if it would be a humiliating life.
It was difficult for them to reach their level as wandering cultivators. None of them were willing to die just like this. Dying for Warmspring, especially, would be a worthless death.
Jiang Chen nodded. “If so, I’ll give you a chance to live.”
Lu Che and his companions were delighted and quickly bowed down to Jiang Chen. “This subordinate meets our master. Thank you, master, for letting us live.”
They painted a pitiful picture. It was unbecoming for a group of advanced empyrean experts to discard their dignity in such manner. However, the martial dao world was just this cruel. One had to fawn over others to survive.
Besides, Lu Che and the other elders didn’t find their submission humiliating. They didn’t know who Jiang Chen was, but he had to be somebody, as he could easily command a true dragon and Vermilion Bird.
Someone like him had better prospects than the lord of Warmspring.
The Vermilion Bird alone would be able to kill the island lord. There was no way the lord could win.
On the other hand, while the true dragon hadn’t seemed to have reached its full potential yet, everyone knew how powerful a true dragon bloodline was. It would be terrifyingly strong once it matured. Not even a Vermilion Bird at its peak would necessarily be able to defeat it.
The thought sent a shudder down their spines. The bird and the dragon were terrifying enough. Who exactly was this human cultivator? What powerful factions were behind him? They didn’t dare even think about the possibilities.
They shuddered to think what could have happened. It was fortunate that they’d smartly decided to submit. If they’d fought back, they’d have been devoured like Boss Luo.
Jiang Chen was familiar with consciousness branding.
“Relax your minds and don’t try to resist,” he warned coldly. “If I find any resistance in the process, I’ll assume you don’t mean to surrender. Then you only have yourself to blame when you get devoured like Luo.”
The brand wouldn’t disappear unless the master voluntarily revoked it. When the master died, the brand would act up and destroy the servants’ consciousness as well.
Essentially, the brand tied the servants’ fate with their master. The only way to be free of it was for the master to deem the servants trustworthy and erase the brands. Otherwise, their survival was completely dependent on their master’s mercy.
The brands were a great risk, but they didn’t have a choice. Their minds relaxed completely like low-hanging fruit waiting to be picked.
Jiang Chen’s consciousness wasn’t any worse than theirs, if not better. After all, with the chain seal still in his mind, the constant supply of power greatly fueled his consciousness. He could rival a ninth-level empyrean expert.
Pfft pfft pfft pfft pfft!
One after another, brands descended on their consciousness, leaving a deep imprint. The five of them were shocked by the tremendous power radiating from the marks, which dominated over their consciousness. In other words, their master’s consciousness was even more powerful than theirs.
They couldn’t believe it!
In the earlier fight, they’d concluded that while the young man’s cultivation was decent, he hadn’t yet reached advanced empyrean. He was strong, but couldn’t take a concerted attack from them.
However, it turned out that his consciousness was much greater than theirs. How could someone so young reach such heights?
They were both fearful and impressed.
They’d been reluctant to be branded, but there was no resisting such a mighty master. The young man was a formidable foe. He may not be stronger than they were at the moment, but someone his age would surpass them in no time at all.
Given the trajectory of his progress, it was possible that he’d one day break through his limits and ascend to godhood. As his servants, they would greatly benefit from his ascension.
There were only a handful of cultivators in Myriad Abyss who’d been said or proven to be divine realm masters. Many empyrean experts would kill for a chance to serve a god as slaves and receive a divine’s guidance.
Being a servant of a god was the greatest ambition and honor for many empyrean cultivators. A god’s guidance was the only way for them to overcome the bottleneck in their pursuit of martial dao and reach greater heights.
Who would’ve thought they’d be given the opportunity? Their despair soon gave way to pleasant surprise.