Chapter 867: Returning to the Boundless Catacombs
While they were still speaking to each other, a figure suddenly walked out of an alley of the royal tutor's residence. After the initial surprise, the figure immediately smiled. "Have you two came for that secret realm too?"
Secret realm? Jiang Chen felt a bit of astonishment, but he smiled and said nothing in reply.
"Hehe, there are only two days left before registration closes, and the amount of spots left are few to say the least. You should hurry up if you wish to register."
Jiang Chen answered smilingly, "We're not in a hurry."
"You're not?" The person frowned, "The number of spots are limited. You won't qualify for participation if you don't register yourselves soon. Everyone is required to follow a strict set of rules this time."
Jiang Chen had visited practically every reputable secret realm that existed in the sixteen kingdoms alliance. Therefore, he didn't believe that there was another secret realm here that could catch his attention. Seeing that Jiang Chen was unmoved by his words, the person's tone turned a little hostile, "What are you here for if not for the registration? Are you trying to spy on us or something?"
"Is this place your home's private grounds or something?" Jiang Chen countered with a sneer.
The person grew angry and laughed oddly. "You're pretty arrogant for an insignificant wandering cultivator, aren't you? If you're here to register then get moving already, but if not then get your ass out of this place now. Save your spying for another place."
Jiang Chen could eliminate a small fry like this with a finger if he wished. But he had important things to do right now, so why would he? He sneered, shot Huang'er a glance and left with her.
"Hmph, I guess you aren't stupid enough to fight me." The person thought that the two wandering cultivators had left because they feared his terrifying aura. He muttered behind Jiang Chen and Huang'er's back with an air of pride.
When the duo left the royal tutor's residence, they noticed a lot of wandering cultivators rushing towards their direction in a hurry.
"What kind of secret realm is this to attract so many cultivators?" The sight of these wandering cultivators gave even Jiang Chen odd vibes. They'd likely come from other powerful domains as they were obviously not on the same level as those in the sixteen kingdoms alliance. Origin realm cultivators and sage realm cultivators were literally crawling all over the place.
Huang'er frowned, "I can sense a frenetic energy from these people. It's almost as if they were drawn here by something deadly attractive. What on earth is it? Can it be…"
Jiang Chen's expression abruptly changed when he heard this. That the prize these people were looking for might be the Requiem Wood had hit him as well. Had news of the Requiem Wood finally leaked to the public? If that was the case, then the difficulty of their journey had just inched up another notch. Still, Jiang Chen was determined to hunt for the Requiem Wood at his own pace. That the place was crowded didn't matter, that all these wandering cultivators had come together for an unknown reason didn't matter either. As long as he had He Hongshu's map and data, he didn't need to pay attention to any of these variables.
"No matter what happens, as long as the Requiem Wood exists, I will obtain it and eliminate the Generation Binding Curse plaguing you once and for all, Huang'er." Jiang Chen's tone was imbued with unquestionable determination.
The Eastern Kingdom wasn't that far away after they left the Skylaurel Kingdom. Jiang Chen ultimately decided to swing by the former as well after a moment's thought. Although the Eastern Kingdom was his birthplace, there was no one else he cared for there except Eastern Zhiruo. The kingdom might be a remote location, but it too was currently ripe with unusual activity. It hadn't escaped disaster simply because it was located out of the way.
The entire Eastern Kingdom was more or less experiencing the same thing as the Skylaurel Kingdom. Although the Eastern royal family was still nominally the ruler of the Eastern Kingdom, they had become puppets just like Ye Rong of Skylaurel Kingdom. Contrary to expectations, Eastern Zhiruo wasn't disturbed by the changes happening around her because she wasn't a cultivator. She was staying inside the palace and living the life of a princess. The changes of the outside world didn't affect her much.
Many years had passed, and the sickly little girl he knew in the past had now grown up into a beautiful adult. But despite her growth, her constitution still made her look a little sickly. The tinge of sadness furrowing her brows suggested that she wasn't quite happy with the palace life she was currently leading.
Perhaps it was a mistake to leave her here back then. Jiang Chen thought as he watched her from the palace walls outside. That being said, he also knew that leaving Eastern Zhiruo behind was the best choice he could've made at the time. If she had come along with her sister Eastern Gouyu, she might have perished during the destruction of the Regal Pill Palace.
Huang'er knew about Eastern Zhiruo. Back when Huang'er stayed at the Eastern Kingdom, she already knew that Jiang Chen's rise to power had started with Eastern Zhiruo's treatment. Therefore, she wasn't surprised that Jiang Chen would visit Eastern Zhiruo.
"Let's go." Jiang Chen watched over Eastern Zhiruo for a moment, but didn't stay any longer than was necessary. He neither wanted to shatter the peace she currently enjoyed or meet with her right now. It might not be a good thing to catch up now either. Jiang Chen's worries were completely settled by the time he left the Eastern Kingdom. Although the sixteen kingdoms alliance was just as tattered as the Myriad Domain, the situation was better than he initially feared.
After leaving the Eastern Kingdom and approaching the Boundless Catacombs, Jiang Chen came to a pause, "Please wait here for a moment, Huang'er. I would like to meet an old friend here."
Huang'er was very generous and didn't pry into Jiang Chen's private business. She smiled softly and nodded in response.
The Boundless Catacombs were the same as he remembered. To everyone else, it was just a secret realm in the Eastern Kingdom. A secret realm of this level held no attraction to any foreign cultivators at all. After all, the bar of the Eastern Kingdom Hidden Dragon Trials was too low. The Boundless Catacombs was a secret realm targeted at true qi realm cultivators. Naturally, no one paid attention to a secret realm of this level. But Jiang Chen knew more about this place than others.
Back when he was undertaking the trial of the Boundless Catacombs, he had been hunted by the assassins of Hidden Death. Two descendants of the Soaring Dragon clan had also tried to harm him. When he escaped into the depths of Boundless Catacombs, he once encountered a wild beast called Mang Qi at the fourth level. Jiang Chen had made a pact with the creature at the time.
Although Jiang Chen didn't notice anything amiss back then, Mang Qi's presence and the formation beneath the Eastern Kingdom now felt absolutely strange to him. He walked deeper into the Boundless Catacombs. The infinite army of swordbirds that once threatened his well-being was no longer a threat to him. They shied away from him in fear when he unleashed his aura.
Jiang Chen walked all the way to the third level and entered into the abyss of the Boundless Catacombs once more. This was supposed to be a trip down the memory lane, but Jiang Chen noticed something different this time. Although he had visited this place once, he couldn't sense even a shred of familiarity from the abyss around him. With his level of consciousness, there was no way he would have no impression of the place if he had came through this way before.
"As I thought, this Boundless Catacombs contains an enormous secret." Jiang Chen grew even more certain in his assumption. The scions of the Eastern Kingdom dukedoms who entered this place normally operated around the first and second level. Anyone who could make their way down to the third level was considered pretty impressive. Jiang Chen felt as if the abyss was truly endless as he walked into the fourth level of the Boundless Catacombs. There didn't seem to be a fixed route that existed at all in this place. The innumerable forks in the road overlapping one another made him feel like he was feeling his way inside a maze.
"It looks like the Boundless Catacombs aren't as simple as they appear. Most who enter the fourth level lose their way and never make it into the heart of this place. I didn't find any clues despite having come to this place once. There's definitely a formation in this place. Those who aren't able to walk behind the curtains of the formation can only be lost forever amidst the infinite forks of roads." Jiang Chen was no longer a greenhorn in terms of formations. After inheriting the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect's formation foundation, his knowledge of formations could now be considered quite vast.
However, this Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement couldn't be completed by the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect prior to their destruction. Several other sects specializing in formations had to come together before it was finally complete. "Can it be that this Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement really was arranged by the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect?" Conflicting feelings plagued Jiang Chen's mind as he walked further into the abyss. If the Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement really was set up by the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect, then the living beings who were sealed here might very well be a foreign race of ancient times. However, he'd promised Mang Qi that he would take the creature out of this place.
"Let's meet Mang Qi first and see what he has to say. If Mang Qi really is of foreign origin, then I must restrict its actions and prevent it from committing evil, even if I am to fulfill my promise and save him from this place." He recalled that Mang Qi had shown itself as a spirit rank cultivator at the time. But now that he thought about it, it was plainly impossible. If it really was a spirit rank cultivator, it would've died a long time ago already. There was no way it could've lived since ancient times. He had no doubt that Mang Qi had hidden its true strength.
While thinking, Jiang Chen suddenly sensed something before him. A purple flash later, a door seemed to appear in the void. Jiang Chen was startled. Countless green light suddenly exploded where the purple flash was.
Thump thump thump. The familiar shaking was caused by Mang Qi's footsteps.
"Jiang Chen, you're here!" Mang Qi's voice rang from inside the darkness.
Jiang Chen stayed at the same spot and unleashed his consciousness completely. He was fully on his guard towards Mang Qi. Its enormous body appeared from the darkness as its bell-like eyes roamed around Jiang Chen's body, "It's only been a few years, but your growth truly is impressive, Jiang Chen. I knew that my eye for talent is good!"
"You haven't changed at all, Mang Qi." Jiang Chen said indifferently.
Mang Qi was startled for a brief instant before he examined Jiang Chen. Then, it smiled wryly, "It looks like you have your guard up against me?"
Jiang Chen didn't deny it, "You are a being who's trapped inside the Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement. If I'm not mistaken, you're a member of a foreign race, aren't you?"
He had learned about the foreign races from the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect. That was the deduction he came to with knowledge, information and rumors he'd collected over time.
Mang Qi exclaimed, "You know about the foreign races?"
"Are you part of them?" Jiang Chen frowned.
Mang Qi's expression dimmed, but it didn't deny the accusation, "From the standpoint of a Divine Abyss Continent denizen, yes. I am part of a foreign race."
Jiang Chen's expression turned cold. His assumption wasn't wrong.