This scene startled Jiang Chen quite a bit. He'd accidentally stumbled across the true progenitor of the wood demon parasites! It was the culprit for the parasites' infinite plague. If he could kill this monster, the parasite's true progenitor, then the source of the plague would be cut off. Though parasites elsewhere could still reproduce, it wouldn't be hard to exterminate them. The reproductive ability of this parasite progenitor was incomparable to all others—none of its children could possibly match it. This strengthened Jiang Chen's resolve to kill the monster. Unfortunately, he had already played most of his cards.
The only thing he had left was the restriction of his empyrean dwelling. A restriction made by an empyrean cultivator should theoretically kill this parasite progenitor with ease. However, he only had two uses of it left. Jiang Chen didn't want to use them up so casually.
A thought suddenly popped into Jiang Chen's mind. Wood demon parasites had two natural enemies: Fire of Firstdawn and Dragonwhisker Water. Didn't he have a fresh supply of the latter on hand? He conjured Long Xiaoxuan up with a snap of his fingers. "Brother Long, only your spit can contain this monster. I'll leave it up to you."
Long Xiaoxuan shot a sidelong glance at the ugly abomination, not bothering to conceal his disgust. With a curl of his body, he revealed his true form. A sneeze resounded in the sky. Countless jets of Dragonwhisker Water scattered towards the monster like a thousand needles. Truly, everything in nature had a natural enemy.
The monster that Jiang Chen had used so many methods in vain on instantly began to writhe in pain when doused with the water. Plumes of smoke sizzled upwards from the places on its body where the water had made contact with. Long Xiaoxuan unrelentlessly followed up with another sneeze. As more Dragonwhisker Water began to seep in, the monster's armor began to melt. Many marks of severe damage appeared on its carapace. The monster itself shrieked loudly in pain. However, the power of the magnetic golden mountain and the endless reflections of the Featherflight Mirror slowed the beast twice over. Its speed restricted, it could only move at a crawl.
Scorched by the Dragonwhisker Water, its wounds only became more severe with the passage of time. So, too, did the intensity of its shrieks. Jiang Chen was unmoved. The parasite progenitor didn't look fully evolved. Things wouldn't have proceeded so smoothly otherwise, even with the Dragonwhisker Water. Calling upon the Pentecolor Divine Swords once more, he readied to strike while his enemy was weak.
In this crucial moment, two terrifying presences rushed through the air, hurtling towards Jiang Chen and Long Xiaoxuan without ceremony. Alarmed, Jiang Chen hurriedly recalled the magnetic golden mountain, placing it in front of his and Long Xiaoxuan's bodies to block the attack. The two presences smashed into the mountain with a resounding boom. The treasure was shaken by the impact, its golden light flickering.
"Solidified… aura? Is this the aura of a great emperor?" Jiang Chen had fought with emperor realm cultivators before. Though the presence of such a cultivator was fairly strong, there was no way that it could be focused into such a potent attack. Not daring to fight further, the wood demon parasite progenitor seized the opportunity to flee. Tunneling into the air, it vanished without a trace.
Jiang Chen tried to find it again using his God's Eye, but it had completely vanished. He spat on the ground in disgust. How unfortunate! Without those two presences, he could definitely have killed the monster. But that was all conjecture. The two presences had been quite extraordinary. Though their source was unknown, he nevertheless felt threatened.
"Are there great emperor realm demons in this forest?" Jiang Chen didn't want to be reckless. Now that he had the Requiem Wood, there was no need to stick around. The heavy injuries that the parasite progenitor had sustained would take a while to heal. On the other hand, the sudden attack cast a shadow over his heart. He couldn't muster up the courage to explore further. He had what he came for—there was no need to dally. He couldn't defeat the entire demon race by himself, after all. Resolving to leave, he shot back towards the outskirts, Huang'er in tow.
He wasn't unwilling to explore further in, but he was more concerned about the possible pursuit from a great emperor realm demon. However, Jiang Chen was guessing that something was impeding the demon's movements. It wouldn't have attacked with aura alone otherwise. If it had come personally, he would've had no chance of victory without using his empyrean dwelling's restriction.
Emperor Peafowl was evidence enough for that. Jiang Chen felt powerless before the man, even though Emperor Peafowl had only been a great emperor for three thousand years. Any reawakening great emperor realm demon was at least a hundred thousand years old, and thus likely to be stronger rather than weaker than Veluriyam's emperor. If an entity like that decided to pursue him, Jiang Chen didn't fancy his chances to put up a fight. These considerations only cemented his desire to leave.
After an extended period of travel, Jiang Chen finally returned to the boundary between the forest and grassland. By now, the sun was going down again. He didn't want to travel by night, so he cautiously made camp in the borderlands, all the while worried about the great emperor realm demon. The night was uneventful, however. There were no signs that a demon was on his trail at all. It assured Jiang Chen that the demon did indeed have mobility problems. His theft of the Requiem Wood was a great loss for the demon race. There was no other reason that a demon as strong as it would just let him go. It could only be that the demon had no way of personally hunting him down.
Spending the night worrying, Jiang Chen departed at the dawn of the second day. He only had one thought in mind now—to leave the wildlands. The goal of his journey had not been to investigate the demon race's activities, but rather, to obtain the Requiem Wood, which was already safely within his grasp. His own mission was already complete. Having experienced the chaotic astral winds once before, the plains weren't as scary as they previously seemed. Many strong creatures had died to the natural disaster, so Jiang Chen was met with noticeably less resistance. Besides of the winds' ravaging, perhaps it was Jiang Chen's own might that intimidated the stronger creatures of the plains. He traveled through the grasslands in less than a day.
He didn't let his guard down once he was out though. Just because he'd left the Wood Demons' territory didn't mean that he was out of the figurative woods. Myriad Corpse Valley wasn't a place that Jiang Chen enjoyed dawdling in, either, but it was squarely on his way back. Thankfully, the valley wasn't nearly as vast as the grasslands geographically. If Jiang Chen proceeded at the same speed, he could pass through in only about two hours. There was no way around it. Whether he wanted to enter or leave, he had to go through Myriad Corpse Valley.
"From what I recall, it seemed like the Prince of Shangping died in this valley. Now that it's been three days, I wonder how many more have met the same fate?" Jiang Chen shook his head to himself. He was very upset by Lu Shinan's defection to the demon race. It wasn't hard to imagine the huge losses the cultivators on this excursion would suffer thanks to the man's act of betrayal. The death of the prince, for one, had to be related.
Once deceived, it was likely that most other cultivators would die to Lu Shinan as well. Lu Shinan had such an innocent appearance, too. He was very good at acting. If Jiang Chen didn't naturally dislike people like him, he could have been deceived as well.
"Hmm?" Patrolling bone apparitions had brought him back an important piece of news, but Lu Shinan found it hard to believe. Jiang Chen came back! "Did that kid get the short end of the stick somewhere further in? Did he fail to pass through the grasslands, and that's why he came back?" Jiang Chen's unexpected return naturally made Lu Shinan very happy. Three days had passed since the youth's departure, and the demon king had wanted him to hold Jiang Chen back from advancing further. Although he didn't succeed at the task, Jiang Chen's return was quite opportune and was essentially a second chance for him.
"Great news, my liege. The kid is on his way back here. I don't think he passed through the grasslands." Lu Shinan relayed the information excitedly to his lord.
"On his way back?" King Nineshadows was extremely surprised. "I thought you said he was strong. How strong can he be if he didn't even make it through the grasslands?"
"My liege, perhaps he has a special reason?" Lu Shinan had an intense interest in Jiang Chen, far surpassing his interest in any other cultivator.
The demon king didn't care. "You don't need to pay attention to the kid. You should keep a closer eye on the things I told you to do instead. How many cultivators have come into this valley in the last three days?"
"Heh heh, we've had a good harvest in these last three days. At least three thousand cultivators had their souls sucked out by my lord's Soulreaver Banner. They're now your loyal corpse puppets. Two thousand more have been poisoned by Demonshade Flowers. They'll become corpse puppets sooner or later."
"That only accounts for five thousand, yes? I thought you said there were twenty or thirty thousand?"
"It's only been three days. As time goes on, more cultivators will surely make their way in here," Lu Shinan chuckled. "Moreover, there are already three emperor realm cultivators trapped by my liege's demonic formation. Though they're still putting up a fight, they'll succumb in due time."
The demon king laughed as well. "I am not capable enough to have set this demonic formation. It is merely a geographical benefit. The land here contains a primordial demonic formation, refined by a great emperor of the Shadow Demons. It's been a hundred thousand years since then. I've only repaired the formation to a third of its former effectiveness. If His Majesty were to awaken and command the formation personally, capturing even a couple of Titled Great Emperors would be a piece of cake." The demon king cackled proudly. He was especially pleased about what he'd just said.
"My liege, you have received a true legacy from the primordial era. Given enough time, I think it's quite possible for my lord to become the next Shadow Demon Emperor." Lu Shinan was particularly well-versed at flattery.
"Hah, you know me well. How about this, I'll let you take three thousand bone apparitions with you to block off that kid. If you can get him to come before the Soulreaver Banner, all the better."
"Yes, your servant will do so immediately." Lu Shinan was overjoyed.