Chapter 878: The Experts Set the Rules
Some rules were finally agreed upon after a series of incessant arguments. The first rule stated that every faction present was allowed to bring three subordinates with them. It didn't matter if this faction was made of a lone cultivator, a pair, or a whole team. They all counted as one 'faction', and the number of subordinates allotted to each of them were the same. This particular rule was heavily debated for a very long time. In the end, there were more solo-wandering cultivators present than paired or grouped cultivators. Therefore, the minority had no choice but to concede to the majority.
Jiang Chen could understand the need for this rule. Those who came in groups already started off with an advantage in numbers. If they were allowed to bring even more subordinates with them, the difference in strength between cultivators who came in pairs or groups and cultivators who came alone would grow too big. It would skew the balance of power a little too much in favor of the larger groups. After all, this was not a friendly collaboration between brothers—everyone here was on guard against each other. No one wanted to see another's power grow so large that it broke the balance. This particular rule didn't bother Jiang Chen. Huang'er and Lin Yanyu would be using only two of the three allocated slots. Therefore, three slots were more than enough for him.
The second rule stated that the total number of entrants, inclusive of everyone present along with their subordinates, must not exceed five hundred people. Five hundred was the absolute limit. The third rule stated that everyone must put the rules into effect and that they could use force to enforce it if necessary.
The fourth rule stated that, after entering the desolate wildlands, everyone could choose to cooperate with each other or work alone if they so desired. The alliance wouldn't restrict anyone's choices.
There were quite a few more major and minor rules that came after the fourth rule, but Jiang Chen didn't care much about them. He could imagine that the ordinary cultivators outside had no choice but to submit, since these rules were going to be enforced by so many emperor realm cultivators. There was no doubt about that at all. Out of all these rules, what really concerned him more was the fourth rule.
After entering the desolate wildlands, everyone could choose to cooperate with each other or work alone if they so desired. The alliance wouldn't restrict anyone's choices. There was an underlying meaning behind this rule. What the rule really meant was that they were no longer on the same side after they entered the desolate wildlands. Since they no longer shared any relationship with each other, anyone could fight another to the death if they both ran into something valuable. No action would be considered 'too foul'. In short, the law of the jungle applied after they went inside.
Jiang Chen understood this rule very well. The group dispersed after the rules were set. Just as Jiang Chen was about to make his way back to his territory, a magnetic voice suddenly rang from behind, "Please wait, Daoist Huang."
Jiang Chen might not have been present for long, but he had already grasped everyone's characteristics. He knew immediately who was calling out to him the moment he heard the voice. A cultivator dressed in a scholarly appearance walked swiftly towards Jiang Chen. His attire made him look more like a scholar who was rushing to the capital for the imperial exams than a cultivator. "May we speak somewhere privately, Daoist Huang?"
Jiang Chen remembered the fellow. His name was Lu Shinan, one of the few cultivators who didn't display any objections or hostility towards him. This didn't mean that Jiang Chen would let his guard down around this person, however. The two walked to a secluded corner before Lu Shinan smiled. "I am very impressed by the strength of your consciousness, Daoist Huang."
"You can save the pleasantries and get to the point, Daoist Lu."
Lu Shinan showed no anger towards Jiang Chen's interruption. He smiled, "There is indeed something that I would like to talk to you about."
"If I remember correctly, you and I share no relationship with one another, so what exactly do you wish to talk about?"
"We may have been strangers previously, but we can be friends later, can't we? You might have a bit of a hot temper, but I still find you more trustworthy than those devious fellows."
Jiang Chen didn't take this praise too seriously. After all, pretty words came at no cost.
"It's like this. I noticed that you were able to deal with Ole Feng Huan's ambush confidently earlier, so I'm guessing that your true strength is not weaker than us emperor realm cultivators. Why don't we join hands after we enter the desolate wildlands?"
Jiang Chen smiled. "You want an alliance? Give me a reason to trust you."
Lu Shinan said, "I came alone, so I'm sure those people will look down on me, and you even more so. If we don't ally with each other now, the moment we enter the desolate wildlands we will definitely become their first target. As the saying goes, misery loves company, so I thought that we should join hands and keep each other safe."
Jiang Chen had to admit that Lu Shinan's suggestion made a lot of sense. Unfortunately for him, Jiang Chen had no interest in allying with anyone right now. He couldn't trust a complete stranger either. "I'm sorry, but I have companions of my own already. Please find yourself another helping hand, Daoist Lu." Jiang Chen returned to his territory after turning down Lu Shinan's offer to work together.
He was away for only a short period time, but the number of cultivators outside had obviously increased. Huang'er looked around her with a bit of worry. "More and more people are starting to gather."
Jiang Chen let out a soft sigh. Their arrival was pointless, for they were destined to be barred from entry into the desolate wildlands. The alliance of emperors had already been formed, and the rules had already been made. "Don't worry," Jiang Chen patted Huang'er's hand softly. "Most of these people are just random bystanders. They don't qualify to enter the desolate wildlands anyways."
Huang'er looked curious, "Do you have news already?"
Jiang Chen nodded slightly and mentally transmitted everything to Huang'er. Although Huang'er found the moral character of these emperor realm experts to be a little disagreeable, she thought that the rules were quite sound. When she recalled the sight of many zealous cultivators continuously making their way towards the desolate wildlands, for some reason her instincts called out to her in warning. It made her slightly suspicious and worried about the situation at hand. However, she couldn't explain why she felt this way.
"The rules will be announced tomorrow morning. Let us wait until then."
Huang'er nodded thoughtfully and grabbed Jiang Chen's arms gently. The duo leaned closely against each other.
Even more wandering cultivators showed up overnight, and the space before the valley entrance grew noisier and even more crowded. When morning arrived, a sea of heads filled Jiang Chen's vision as he looked around. There were at least ten thousand people gathered outside the desolate wildlands now.
It was at this moment that Prince Shangping's disciple came over to invite Jiang Chen to a gathering once more. Every expert who had participated in yesterday's alliance meeting had gathered together in one place. The Prince of Shangping, the appointed leader of the alliance, stood on a higher elevation and forcefully spread his aura to the surroundings, pressing his palms downwards. He spoke resolutely, "Please be quiet, everyone!"
The mighty aura of an emperor realm cultivator surged into the surroundings like a storm. Powerful astral winds whipped out in every direction, as if enormous tidal waves had suddenly sprung into existence. Every cultivator within a thousand meters of the Prince of Shangping was knocked off balance by these winds. Some weaker cultivators even spat out blood and staggered on their feet. Jiang Chen knew that the Prince of Shangping was setting a forceful example with his display of strength.
"I would like to say a few things, everyone." His tone was apathetic, but contained within his timbre was the unmistakable might of an expert. "I don't care where you come from or what you plan to do inside the desolate wildlands. I simply want to say that the desolate wildlands isn't a place where everyone can venture into.
"In order to secure everyone's interest, the greatest experts of this place have gathered in a meeting and set up a few rules. I am now going to announce them to you all. Once the rules have been proclaimed, I hope that those who understand them will leave on their own accord. Those who do not may choose to stay, but will not be able to take a step further into the desolate wildlands. If you still wish to intrude into this forbidden land by force, then death is the only outcome!" Either way, they were going to play the villain's role, so the Prince of Shangping spared neither pretenses nor pleasantries in his speech.
The moment he said this, the entire area was engulfed in an uproar.
"What?! Are my ears deceiving me? What rules, and who set them?"
"Yeah, who do you think you are? Do you think you're the leaders of the entire human domain? Why should we obey the rules you've set?"
"F*ck you, we're all wandering cultivators here, so why are you pretending to be all high and mighty?" These wandering cultivators were all brutish and rebellious fellows, so the first thought that came to their minds upon hearing this was that of immediate refusal. Even if they were only given their butts to use as heads, it was clear as day that these rules were disadvantageous for them. They knew that these so-called rules were just a way for the minority to protect their own interests and prevent others from taking a piece of the pie.
Several beams of light appeared from behind the Prince of Shangping right after the shouts cut through the air. The beams immediately pierced into the crowd as terrifying attacks that accurately pinpointed the loudest complainers, blasting them away. Bloodcurdling screams rang out at almost the same time as the withdrawal of these beams.The wandering cultivators who had just been jeering at the Prince of Shangping a moment prior vanished into thin air, leaving behind only pools of flesh and blood. This cruel scene caused the wandering cultivators who were surrounding the victims to turn pale and back away rapidly. None of them wanted to be caught within that terrible intent. The emperor realm cultivators behind the Prince of Shangping smiled apathetically. "Please continue." The Price of Shangping wore an equally expressionless face as he continued, "I will not repeat this twice. Anyone who dares interrupt me while I'm speaking will be met with the same fate as them."
Those people had been killed to set an example. For a time, the scene was so quiet that even a falling pin could be heard. Every wandering cultivator appeared ashen-faced and frightened despite the anger they felt towards the unjustness of the rules. The might of an emperor realm cultivator was something that everyone here simply had to respect. But now, a whole group of them was standing in front. It was obvious just how powerful and intimidating they were. Jiang Chen was inwardly dumbfounded by the scene that had just unfurled before him, but even he couldn't stop it from happening.
The Prince of Shangping swept his chilly gaze across the entire place before continuing, "The desolate wildlands have been a forbidden land since ancient times. Although news of its opening hasn't been publicly spread, there are still at least tens of thousands of people around here. If we allow everyone to go in at once, it is inevitable that that the situation will dissolve into great chaos. Someone may even accidentally bring great trouble upon us. Therefore, we've decided to limit the number of entrants to five hundred people only. We have reserved three hundred of these slots, and we leave the remaining two hundred for you to choose amongst yourselves.
"Remember, don't complain about the rules, and don't try to cause trouble. If you're truly capable, then you'll naturally emerge as one of the qualified entrants. But if you aren't, then you'll die even if we allow you to enter the desolate wildlands. And of course, it should go without saying that we won't allow anyone useless to cheat their way into the place." His tone was as ruthless as cold steel. No one dared to refute his points.