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The Vermilion Bird and Long Xiaoxuan’s companionship immensely bolstered Jiang Chen’s mentality. He found the same feeling of camaraderie he’d had in his days on the run all those years ago.

“Old brother Vermilion, Brother Dragon. Let’s make the most of our time here and really go all out. Old brother’s cultivation is at a bottleneck right now, and needs a new opportunity to break through to divine realm. Hell King Island isn’t enough anymore. I think you need to fight and absorb as much spirit energy as possible. Only then will you understand divinity and become a divine yourself!” Jiang Chen was in high spirits.

“You’re right. Battle will nurture me and feed me the power I need to break through. Many geniuses did this in the ancient times on their path of continuous self-improvement.” The Vermilion Bird sighed. “In terms of bloodline purity, perhaps mine isn’t as wholesome as Xiaoxuan’s true dragon blood. 

“Our good dragon here might be able to reach divinity through natural cultivation, but I need to experience all kinds of trial and difficulties. I’ve weathered countless ordeals since ancient times for this one opportunity. I suppose my greatest fortune was having met you in my life, young master Chen.”

The young man was rather embarrassed. “How can I accept that kind of praise, old brother Vermilion?”

“Hahaha, no need for that kind of humility. From the first day I met you, I knew you were destined for great things. I think our time adventuring with you will be very exciting! Don’t you think so, Xiaoxuan?”

The dragon nodded, but was evidently still deep in thought. The newest information about the Astral White Tiger had put a bit of pressure on Long Xiaoxuan. He was trying to figure out how to maintain its current advantage.

After leaving that patch of ocean, Long Xiaoxuan and the Vermilion Bird both transformed into human forms. The dragon took on his customary appearance of a lanky youth, while the Vermilion Bird took on the shape of a burly young man in a red robe. His hair was rather unorthodox: bald on both sides with a red snake-like flattened mohawk in the middle.

This, coupled with his remarkably unique crimson robes, made him stand out quite a bit.

The Vermilion Bird touched his nearly smooth head, chuckling. “I just finished my rite of rebirth, so I feel quite young again. You don’t mind this, do you?”

Jiang Chen laughed as well. “Quite the opposite of what I imagined. Your human form is adorable in its own way, old brother, haha!”

The bird-man scratched his head again, a bit embarrassed. He was rather pleased with this look, even though he didn’t consider it entirely fitting for his age.

“Don’t call me Vermilion Bird from now on. My name is Zhu Que, don’t get it wrong now!”

The two names were almost homophones in Chinese.  

Taking human form allowed the Vermilion Bird and Long Xiaoxuan to hide their identities. Outsiders wouldn’t be able to perceive a single thing.

After they returned to Miracle City, Jiang Chen secretly monitored Lu Che and the others. They had remained trustworthy enough by staying rather than fleeing.

If they’d tried to escape, he wouldn’t have minded killing them with his consciousness.

Because they’d been reasonably honest, he saw no reason to disturb them. The young man and his two spirit creatures stayed a night in Miracle City. Jiang Chen tried to gather some regular information while he was here, but none of it was related to a rebellion in Eternal Divine Nation.

He still found this rather incredible. Wasn’t the uprising supposed to occur soon after he’d left the sacred land? The Cloudwave Sect adherents he’d killed had given him that information.

It had been more than two months since then. Shouldn’t the rebellion have begun already? Why was there was no gossip about it?

The young man couldn’t understand it, but that wasn’t cause for letting down his guard. In his opinion, there was surely hidden information he wasn’t privy to.

He spurred Starfate on, though not as quickly as he had come. A bit of time now wouldn’t make much of a difference, since the conflict would’ve begun long ago if it was going to.

The deaths of the cultivators from the Cloudwave Sect meant that the rebel alliance would suspect something was up. They would’ve also noticed the absence of Jiang Chen, Yan Qingsang, and Huang’er from the Eternal Sacred Land’s ranks after the fight had begun.

A little guesswork was enough to come to the conclusion that Jiang Chen was the one who’d killed the elders from the Cloudwave Sect. If that were the case, he might already be a target without knowing it.

Jiang Chen needed to be wary of such a possibility.

After reaching an area only a few thousand miles out from Eternal Divine Nation, Jiang Chen decided to dispense with airboat travel.

He was attract far too much attention if he steered his airboat in. That wasn’t conducive to success under the present circumstances.

The young man and the two sacred creatures passed themselves as ordinary wandering cultivators when they entered the nation’s borders. The atmosphere within was clearly drastically different.

On the surface, nothing looked exactly awry,

but closer scrutiny revealed that things here were on the brink of great change. The amount of hidden tension was hard to describe. Anywhere they went, it felt like many eyes watched them from the darkness.

In fact, all of the wandering cultivators were being closely watched.

“Is this Eternal Divine Nation, young master Chen? Looks like something is indeed going on here.” The Vermilion Bird’s storied past provided it with incredible intuition.

Jiang Chen had perceived the oddities as well. “Yes,” he nodded, “something is definitely afoot. Something must’ve happened here. Has the rebellion occurred already?”

“I think so,” the Vermilion Bird nodded.

“It’s more interesting this way,” Long Xiaoxuan declared. “If nothing had happened, what would’ve we come all this way for?”

As they approached the capital, Jiang Chen could feel the additional security added in the city. The imperial guard uniform patrolled everywhere in the streets, meticulously examining all cultivators who crossed their path.

“No wonder no news has gotten out. The borders are so tight that they couldn’t possibly have.” Jiang Chen sighed internally when he saw the drastically increased surveillance. It wasn’t going to be easy to make their way into the capital undetected.

Right now, they were three thousand miles from the capital. It was a usually bustling place that featured more activity in recent months.

The amount of traffic through here was absurd. Evidently, many cultivators who wanted to go to the capital were stuck in this city too. It was called Grandeagle City, and overloaded with two or three times the mobile population it was accustomed to. The city’s hospitality abilities were being tested to its limits.

Jiang Chen and his two companions stayed in Grandeagle City too. It was nearly impossible to pass the stringent checkpoints required for entrance into the capital.

“What are you planning to do, young master? We’ll support you unconditionally,” the Vermilion Bird smiled.

“We could always just charge in,” Long Xiaoxuan interjected. “Can those checkpoints really stop us?”

“You want to pit the three of us against the entire Eternal Divine Nation?” Jiang Chen smiled wryly. “They would welcome our reckless action with open arms.”

Such a thoughtless gesture was the realm of simpletons. He wasn’t about to take the advice anytime soon.

Even if the Vermilion Bird was extremely powerful, there were divine cultivators that lived in Eternal Divine Nation. This wasn’t a place where raw strength alone would suffice. A nation without gods would be an entirely different matter, but that was unfortunately not the case here.

The sacred spirit creature shrugged. It felt no particular inclination to resort to brute force either. As a veteran of the ancient demon-sealing war, it was much more experienced. It knew the human penchant for trickery. There were enough traps to avoid even without taking the most direct route.

To force their way in was to toss caution to the wind. If the Vermilion Bird had ascended to divinity, it would have the courage to mount a frontal assault. Even if the assault failed, They were guaranteed of being able to extricate themselves at any time.

As they conversed, a group of people quickly walked through the street. Jiang Chen’s mind noted them when he saw their dress.

They wore outfits he was all too familiar with – the cultivators were from the Starlight Sect. Jiang Chen was no stranger to this sect either.

The first time he’d come to Eternal Divine Nation with House Yan’s entourage, the Starlight Sect had cut them off and forced them to pay a toll.

They’d left a poor impression on him back then.

Among the cultivators Jiang Chen had killed in his last trip, their leader had mentioned all three great sects were participating in the anti-sacred-land alliance. The three sects were the Cloudwave Sect, the Starlight Sect, and the Jade Lake Sect. Several houses had pledged themselves to the cause as well. All these factions were first-rate in the divine nation.

These Starlight Sect disciples seemed to be on a hurry, almost like they had a mission of sorts.

“Old brother Vermilion, let’s keep a close tab on these guys. Maybe we’ll get a chance to sneak into the capital.” Jiang Chen believed the destination very likely for the men he saw, which gave him a rather daring idea.

The trio here was far stronger than the four Starlight Sect disciples. The man leading the latter group was mid empyrean realm, while the other three were only initial. They were probably of reasonable importance within their own sect: elders seemed likely.

Jiang Chen knew the power structures of the nation’s great factions to a certain extent. Anyone who entered empyrean realm was entitled to become an elder. An exception to that rule was unique to the Eternal Sacred Land. As the sovereign faction, it was far more powerful than the first-rate factions.

In the sacred land, even becoming a lesser elder had steep requirements. Becoming a greater elder was far more difficult.

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