Chapter 882: The Shadow Demon King
Luckily, the bone apparitions hadn't been that strong. They'd been on par with the Ghost Cave Five. Select recent events had put Jiang Chen on edge. It looked like demons had indeed permeated the desolate wildlands.
"With the demon race resurfacing, repeating the calamity of ancient times seems unavoidable. They are back with a vengeance." Any other cultivator would have a natural fear of demons. Jiang Chen was different. Demons were fearsome because they were alien for the continent. They came and went like shadows. But he knew of both the race's advantages and disadvantages from his previous life. Though the demons were one of the stronger races within the heavenly planes, they were not invincible.
"Of the five hundred entering this time, I wonder how many will return alive?" A trace of worry flew across Jiang Chen's heart. He had no emotional attachment to these people, the demon race was the true threat. Once their claws and fangs reached outside the wildlands, there would be great calamity for the human domain.
"Ideally, there are people wise enough to make early preparations against them." Jiang Chen could only hope to himself that it was the case. He didn't dally after destroying the five bone apparitions, but kept going forward with Huang'er. Both of them were more cautious on the way.
"Brother Chen, did the demon race intentionally spread news of the Requiem Wood?" Huang'er couldn't help but ask. Jiang Chen had considered the possibility as well. However, he'd seen a leaf from the wood with his own eyes. It was definitely real. Moreover, its freshness meant that it had been plucked from the tree not long ago. Thus, perhaps the Requiem Wood was a trap, but it certainly did exist. He couldn't just back down from the situation, despite the risks.
"The Requiem Wood is definitely around here somewhere. You're right that it could be the demons' trap, but we still have to go. This is our only chance. So what if it is? We're no stranger to beasts' lairs. Remember Tai-ah City and the Eternal Celestial Capital's trap there, when they claimed they'd captured Regal Pill palace head?" Jiang Chen wasn't scared of traps. Not finding the Requiem Wood was a bigger concern. As long as it was found, he wouldn't bat an eyelash at any trials and tribulations required to obtain it, regardless of their severity.
In the depths of the wildlands, ghostly wisps glittered within a secluded karst cave underground. Their eerie radiance shone like stars in the night sky, motes floating like fireflies in half-light. A shadow scurried into the cavern. "My liege, I've finished the mission." It knelt towards the darkness at the end of the passage.
A cold voice harrumphed softly in the gloom. "How many people have come in?"
"The first wave is five hundred. The opening is quite wide now, so at least ten thousand more are behind them. More should trickle in as time goes on… I estimate the final figure to be twenty to thirty thousand."
"...Are there cattle for the slaughter?"
"Fifteen or twenty emperor realm cultivators."
"Not bad, not bad." The demon king cackled chillingly. "You've done well, and deserve to be rewarded for your effort. When they are all dead, you shall be given a tenth of their wealth. The remainder will be placed in the treasury to fund our future war efforts."
"Thank you, my liege!" The person sounded overjoyed.
"I give only what you deserve. However, your mission is not yet complete. There are too many emperor realm cultivators even for an appetite as great as mine. Only through home field advantage can I take all of them out individually. I require your further assistance in this matter."
"Of course, my liege. I will do everything I can."
"Good. There is one more thing, pay attention to the Wood Demons. Their interest in this prey is as strong as ours. Even both clans are demons, there is still competition among different branches. Since we Shadow Demons have awakened earlier, there is no reason not to take advantage of this opportunity. The Shadow Demons were not one of the more prominent in the ancient times. I hope to change that, and gain a stronger influence through our achievements in the second holy war."
"My liege, there is no need to worry. Your servant will pay close attention. As you say, Wood Demon parasites are hard to defend against. I see many cultivators who are unknowingly infected with them. They have a clear advantage when the parasites widespread."
"Advantage?" The king of the Shadow Demons sneered. "You've only scratched the surface of their capabilities. Wood Demons are fairly strong, but not much more than us Shadow Demons. Their parasites do reproduce and spread quickly, but once someone figures out how to deal with them, their advantage is rendered null."
"One can deal with parasites?"
"Obviously. Wood Demons would have long taken over the heavenly planes otherwise. However, spreading parasites is only one of their methods. What's truly terrifying about them is their pervasive use of poison. Moreover, they're a very intuitive race with high degrees of comprehension. Wood Demon geniuses often rise beyond all ten of the demon races. In warfare, it is more likely for top-ranked experts to be Wood Demons than compared to every other race, so much so that they're comparable to Celestial Demons."
"...Celestial Demons?" The person blanked.
The Shadow Demon King audibly exhaled in disgust. "You don't need to know more about these things. Do your job. Remember, it doesn't matter who you were previously… now that you've joined with us, you better not have second thoughts. Otherwise, I'll make you regret you were born into this world."
"Quite, quite, my liege." The person rushed to express their loyalty. "Your servant is completely faithful to you. My only hope is to do work for you, that I might have for a good future when the demon race takes over the world. I couldn't possibly have other thoughts. The only thing on my mind is my lord's wish."
"If that's really what you think, then that's fine." The demon king snorted. "Go, carry out the next stage in our plans."
"Yes." The person made to leave.
"Hold on," the demon king suddenly called out. His consciousness was moved by something.
"What is it?" The person stopped in his footsteps.
"Someone destroyed five of my bone apparitions. More importantly, their identities were discovered!" The demon king's voice had a hint of anger.
"Discovered?" The person was surprised. "By whom?"
Bone apparitions were controlled directly by the Shadow Demon King, and moved at his command. He scanned his thoughts for the relevant memories. "A cultivator surnamed Huang and his partner. What background do they have?"
The person's body shook a little when he heard. "It's them? Then there should be another, no?"
"Maybe they split up?" The person muttered to himself.
The demon king was quite upset at having lost five apparitions. "So, what do you know about them?"
The person grimaced. "That fellow's pretty odd. I only know that his last name is Huang, and nothing else. I will say though that he's very arrogant. I don't believe that he's emperor realm even, but he is definitely strong. Even the Prince of Shangping is a little wary of him. My best guess is that he's a great disciple of a big sect or faction, but he's hiding his identity."
"I don't care what big sect or faction he's from. He has to pay for destroying my bone apparitions. His strength only makes him more valuable!" The demon king wore a bizarrely eerie smile.
"My liege can rest easy. That kid doesn't know two things about the world. He'll be right under your finger as soon as he enters your territory."
"Hmph! Lure some people here first. If I am to assume a physical form, I still need a bit more essence from cultivators. It's best if you can get a strong emperor realm cultivator to come. The stronger the body, the better. I shall… temporarily… borrow his body."
"Then let's pick that prince. He's pretty strong, and he practices some kind of body-tempering art as well."
"A fine choice." The demon king cackled once more.
"Your Highness, we haven't done much since we entered the wildlands. There are so many earth rank and sky rank spirit herbs we've missed, all because we're chasing after that Huang brat… is it really worth it?" The one who asked this was a cultivator dressed like a retainer. He was halfway to emperor realm, and a force to be reckoned with.
He was speaking to the Prince of Shangping, who merely smiled. "Sky rank herbs, earth rank herbs… they are only illusions. As a master of the arts of the eye, I'm not fooled by such trifles. You shouldn't be, either."
"Illusion?!" The retainer gasped.
"Even if they aren't, there will certainly be many traps." The prince sounded like all was within his grasp.
"What's so worthwhile about pursuing the Huang brat, though?"
The prince faintly smiled. "Ole Shen, you've been with me for many years. Do you think a cultivator like you would act with such impudence in front of true emperor realm cultivators?" "This subordinate wouldn't dare."
"If even you wouldn't dare, but that brat would as a sage realm cultivator… do you think he's just puffed up? Or do you think he has good reason to be that way?"
"I, er, I can't really tell." The retainer laughed, a little lost.
"You can't tell because you haven't studied the arts of the eye. Though I can't completely tell either, I know that his arrogance is likely an intentional pretense. His confidence isn't, however. When Ole Feng Heng snuck up on him, the kid slowed down the speed of the old man's needles with a flourish of his sleeves. He must have some powerful treasure hidden in there that can slow attacks down. I estimate that he's a great disciple of some strong sect, and carries many treasures on his person. If we can take them for our own, then we'll be able to do as we like here in the wildlands."
"A great disciple of a big sect?" The retainer was shocked.
"Yes! But now that he's in the wildlands, it doesn't matter who he is anymore. Ole Shen, remember, never underestimate him if you meet him in person."
"Thank you for your advice, Your Highness. I will exert my full strength to help you crush him."
The Prince of Shangping showed a winning smile. "Let's go. I already sense that he's not far from here. Make sure to kill him in one blow. Don't give him any opportunities to turn the tables."