As an ancient creature, the Vermilion Bird knew as a matter of course that the Divine Abyss Continent wasn't limited to the human domain.
"Young man, I am an ancient being. I understand much more about this continent than you do. Long ago, I owed a favor to humanity. That's why it is my duty to protect this place. I can fail in that duty, but I cannot shun it by departing. Do you understand?"
Its extended loneliness filled the Vermilion Bird with patience. It also found it odd that it would explain so much to a human youth who understood the ancient beast language.
Jiang Chen was filled with respect when he heard the bird.
As expected of a creature of the four sacred beasts' lineages! Its natural nobility meant that a promise was weightier than gold. This kind of enduring spirit was worthy of admiration in anyone.
"So what you're saying is that the lord of the celestial demons struggling free of the seal is a kind of freedom for you as well, senior!" Jiang Chen exclaimed.
"Maybe according to your human way of thinking," retorted the bird. "A promise from me must be upheld on the principle of preventing the celestial demon lord from leaving. For what reason would I shirk my responsibilities and allow the prisoner to leave? You are uncommon, young man, but your character is rather uninteresting after all. You are a far cry from the sagacity of your forebears." The Vermilion Bird's tone took a chilly turn. It considered Jiang Chen's words rather insulting.
Realizing his social gaffe, Jiang Chen smiled apologetically. "I misspoke just now, senior. My apologies. Still, I haven't given up yet… so how about this idea instead?"
"What way is there to make these people leave that area on their own?"
"Almost impossible. Do you think the celestial demon lord would let them escape so easily?" The Vermilion Bird shook its head. "They're in the belly of the beast now."
"So the celestial demon lord can't be stopped from breaking its seal?" Jiang Chen became rather anxious.
"That's why I said that you better hope he can't break his seal after consuming his newfound meal. Otherwise, your race will face untold calamity." The Vermilion Bird was hardly exaggerating.
Jiang Chen didn't know what else to say. He could simply up and leave, but where could he possibly flee to?
When the celestial demon lord was free of his seal, what place in the vastness of the human domain was safe? So Jiang Chen could hole up within the Veluriyam Pagoda, but what about the others? He wasn't alone any more and couldn't seek self-preservation above all else.
His family and friends at the young lord residence - was he supposed to simply let them die at the demons' hands?
Jiang Chen was absolutely sure that a resurgent demon race would target the largest factions and first rank sects; Veluriyam Capital would be singled out for special attention. They were the only sources of resistance against the demon race.
Taking them out would intimidate the rest of the human domain into staying put. Once Veluriyam fell, the southern part of the human domain would be completely lost to the demons.
Leaving now was no better than burying one's head under the sand.
Jiang Chen knew that if the celestial demon lord broke the seal soon, any plans he could hastily cobble together after leaving would be all for naught.
His Nine Sparks Petalstorm Formation was potent, but only against great emperors. A formation that was impregnable against a few great emperors was paper-thin against an empyrean expert.
The lord of the celestial demons was a veritable chieftain of demonkind. He was unquestionably empyrean realm, and not the typical minor empyrean expert either. The formation's defense was worthless against an entity like that.
"Young man, I think you're a good kid. If you don't want to die with those people, you should leave now. My promise to the human race includes a full-effort defense against the lord that struggles free. If he wants to leave this place, he'll have to step over my corpse first."
The Vermilion Bird's serious demeanor proved its words were more than hot air.
"Senior, there must be another way. A formation of the Primosanct Sect set up here to seal the celestial demon lord away must mean that there are failsafes to deal with any unexpected situations. Why not think about possible solutions, senior?"
Heaven offered a way out of almost any situation. Jiang Chen couldn't just leave without doing anything.
The Vermilion Bird shook its head and said nothing more.
At this time, there was a cool snicker from within the sealing formation. "Feathered chicken, you're still as stubborn as ever!" The impassive voice had an air of indescribable authority.
It was none other than the voice that had led the cultivators here. Compared to before, however, it had dispensed with any pretend kindness; its tone was positively frigid.
"Tsk tsk. I didn't expect a Vermilion Bird to stoop as low as to natter with a human youth." The voice cackled relentlessly in mockery of his jailer.
The Vermilion Bird remained proudly silent and still. Its eyes exuded incredible killing intent.
"What is your name, human youth?" The voice turned its attention to Jiang Chen. "I didn't think the human race's decrepit heritage was capable of producing someone proficient in the ancient beast language. Quite unexpected indeed. I like you, kid. Are you interested in joining up with the celestial demons?"
The celestial demons!
These words were a bolt out of the blue, stunning the other cultivators within earshot. Many thought that they had misheard, and everyone uniformly colored upon hearing them.
Emperor Newsun gasped with horror. "This is bad, retreat!"
The others were as thoroughly panicked as him. They all charged outwards with reckless abandon.
Alas, their fates had been decided as soon as they had entered the foreign space.
"Can you now?" The voice laughed faintly. "Now that you're in my realm, those who do not obey can die!"
Even as it enunciated the last sentence, a giant net knitted together from the bizarre lights at the core of the formation. Countless strange runes glittered menacingly in the air.
When the crowd approached the edge of the giant net, streaks of black lightning zapped the weaker cultivators into ash. A roiling black mist then consumed the unlucky victim's blood and essence.
The scene was absolutely shocking.
Everyone screeched to a halt, no longer brave enough to mount another careless escape.
Cloudbillow was as pale as the others. He instinctively congregated with the other great emperors even as they traded looks. Unease and anxiety were reflected everywhere he looked.
Newsun complained. "Cloudbillow, you've ruined everyone. You filled the young lord's kind reminder with nonexistent malice! Everyone knows what kind of person the young lord is. There's bad blood between Pillfire and him, but there's no way he would drag innocents in. You… you're the death of us all!"
Cloudbillow regretted it somewhat as well, but he wasn't about to admit it. "Stop your yapping!" he harrumphed. "Didn't you suspect him as well?"
Long Baxiang had enough of it. "Enough with the useless bickering! What's the point of arguing now? We need to come up with a plan to break through together."
That was true in theory, but the cultivators had collectively been cowed by the demon lord's terrifying methods. They had little fighting spirit left within them.
The demon lord's voice echoed forth lazily once more. "A pack of fools. It's trivial for me to slaughter all of you in a single instant. Do you think that you pieces of trash can escape my celestial demon domain?"
Though the demon lord was still sealed away and had barely a tenth of his power left, killing anyone stuck in his domain was completely inconsequential.
He could expand his demon consciousness to an unlimited degree, but he could only exert control over these human cultivators once they were inside his domain. It was his precise and careful guidance that had led them into this sealed area.
Of course, it was partially thanks to the helpful assistance of the Vermilion Bird outside. If not for its obstruction and pursuit the entire way, these slippery human cultivators wouldn't have come into his domain nearly as easily. The misunderstanding had been key.
"Is anyone interested in trying out my methods?" The celestial demon lord asked nonchalantly.
Long Baxiang's chest heaved in apparent hesitation.
"You?" The demon lord's pressure swept towards Long Baxiang. It felt like a mountain had been placed right on top of the human's head, rendering him completely immobile under its weight.
"I… I…" Sweat caked Long Baxiang's head. "Senior… please quell your anger. I… I surrender."
Under the demon lord's immense influence, Long Baxiang's consciousness was on the verge of collapse. His pride and need to keep up appearances were rendered moot. The only thing meaningful left was the decision between life and death. He didn't want to die, and thus submitted.
"Very good, you're smart. I led all of you here by promising you a heritage. The promise stands even now, but I offer not the heritage of the Primosanct Sect. Instead, the demon race's knowledge is open to you. Are you willing to join the celestial demons? Will you swear loyalty to us?"
The human cultivators had come in search of a destiny-changing heritage. They didn't mind breaking with their original identities for the sake of this goal. However, the drastic turn of events had completely eluded their expectations. The Primosanct Sect's heritage turned into the celestial demons' heritage!
"Hmph! If I didn't have a need for people right now, you wouldn't be worthy even as slaves with how weak you are. You humans have both weak bodies and bloodlines. We demons on the other hand, are one of the great races in the heavenly planes. We are dominant over many realms and supremely noble. Moreover, the celestial demons are demon royalty. You insignificant humans are blessed eight times over for garnering the favor of celestial demons. Are you such a fool that you don't recognize this boon?"
The celestial demon lord's tone abruptly entered sub-zero conditions, taking the perceived temperature in the demon domain with it.