Liang Chen's stop in the city was nothing but an interlude to him and his group, thousands had died, but it had already become such a common thing to them that they barely registered it. It was eye-opening for Jiao Hui Xin and the other disciples that had gotten their first taste of blood, but whether it was a blessing or a curse, it was be something they would become intimately familiar with as long as they kept following Liang Chen.
"Is it much further, Paparan?"
Lan Yun had definitely seen her fair share of gruesome battles while she followed Yan Ling on her journey so she wasn't really affected by what Liang Chen had just done. No, she was more interested in the place they were heading, occasionally prodding at the lotus that rested on Liang Chen's shoulder.
"No, it shouldn't take too much longer. Look, you can just barely see it from here."
Liang Chen pointed forward, and Lan Yun, who had been perched in his lap craned her neck to see what he was pointing at. But her sight wasn't as good as his, the difference in strength meant that she couldn't see what he was seeing. But luckily, she only had to wait a handful of minutes before they reached the air above the land that Liang Chen had pointed towards.
A withered forest stretched out beneath them, the earth carrying a sickly ashen colour while the trees had dried up and contorted into unnatural shapes. The omnipresent snow in this hidden realm failed to touch the ground here, dissolving as it got close thanks to the aura of death that radiated from within the depths of the earth.
The Land of Death, it was one of the greatest danger zones within this hidden realm and it also served as the third trial you had to finish before you could enter the hidden pagoda of the Sealing God Empyrean. But that aura of death that once threatened to eat up his life now felt so comforting and welcoming, reaching up to him as if it wanted to invite him back home.
This was another one of the lands that held a soft spot in Liang Chen's heart, not only was this where he abandoned his Ascended Tower and moved onto the cultivation path of the Sebettu, it was also where he got Yumao and managed to get much closer with Yan Ling. He had nearly died here as well, but that memory was just a drop in the ocean when he compared it to what he gained.
"Let's go down. This is where I got you so we may find something from your parents here."
Liang Chen pat Yumao on the head as he spoke, the feathered serpent flapping his wings and descending. When Liang Chen first got Yumao he was nothing more than an egg, neither of them had ever heard anything about Yumao's parents, who they were or where they came from. Yumao personally didn't care, Liang Chen was his father, he wouldn't consider anyone else his parents. But since Liang Chen wanted to check, he decided to follow.
But as they descended and approached the decayed land, a great tremor shook the earth. The trees shook and crumbled, the dried earth cracking open as the entire land of death seemed to be shaking and falling apart. A shadow rose up from within the cracks that scattered throughout the land, a body covered in black scales bursting out from beneath the earth.
The being that revealed itself looked like a massive serpent with a triangular head, its pitch-black scales drawing in the surrounding light. It had the body of a snake, but it also had four limbs, two front legs and two hind legs, it was just that they looked quite small compared to the rest of the beings body.
The several hundred-metre long beast raised its head to glare at Liang Chen, but bright silver chains rose up from the cracks around it and burrowed into its body practically the moment it arrived. The chains were pulled so taut that it looked like just moving would be hard for the beast, they were like hands trying to drag it back down beneath the earth.
"Monarch, this place is not a land that someone like you has any need to enter. Leave, please do not force me to fight against you."
The voice of the beast was heavy and rough, like bones grinding against each other. But the tone of it was quite pleading, despite the beast having reached the Primordial Immortal realm. It could sense the disparity between it and Liang Chen's group, it wasn't just one of strength but also one of bloodline.
Liang Chen placed his hand on Yumao's head and had him stop, tilting his head slightly as he looked at the beast beneath him. It bore an extreme likeness to the Nethersky Wyrm Queen they had encountered back when they first entered the trial inside this land, but both its body and four limbs were quite a bit bigger.
The energy it radiated was also leagues above the Queen from back then, if they had been forced to face this one then they would have died ten out of ten times. Liang Chen was quite familiar with this particular race of Demonic beasts so he knew what this black serpent was, a Nethersky Wyrm Emperor.
It was the end goal of all Nethersky Wyrms, the last chain in their evolution. If they ever wanted to reach a higher stage then they would have to either acquire a stronger bloodline or have the luck of mutating, like the Nethersky Wyrm Emperor of Qian Liao from Tripartite Planet had. But this Nethersky Wyrm Emperor didn't seem like it had the good fortune of achieving either, it would be perpetually stuck at the Primordial Immortal realm. Looking at the chains that held it down, Liang Chen also came up with a guess about its situation and the truth about this land.
"All the Nethersky Wyrms that live in this land, as well as the eggs that seem to be handed out as rewards, they come from you, don't they?"
Liang Chen and the others had seen several skeletons that belonged to Nethersky Wyrms when they had to survive in this land for a week. As such, it was clear that the beasts could certainly be killed, even if they were part of a trial. But was the Sealing God Empyrean supposed to pick up new Nethersky Wyrms every time a trial took place or some of the wyrms died?
"It is as you guessed, but not all of them are from me. Some are born naturally between my own offspring, and only the eggs that have inherited a denser bloodline are picked away to be given out as rewards."
The sound of gnashing teeth came from the beast as it spoke, it bore the name of Emperor but was locked up here, using as nothing more than breeding stock meant to pop out children that could be used to test challengers. And the children that showed real promise were even taken away to be used as prizes, she wouldn't even get to see them hatch and grow.
The beast's words confirmed Liang Chen's gaze, it was the core of this land, she was also its final test should any strong cultivators arrive here. But there was one other point that he was a bit curious about. The Nethersky Wyrm Emperor beneath him did indeed radiate a faint aura of death, but it wasn't the source of the deathly aura that permeated this land. No, Liang Chen could sense that the source of this aura was still locked away within the depths of the land, so deep that not even the cracks that the beast came from reached it.
"Tell me, are you interested in leaving this place? I can't free you here since there are too many normal people in this hidden realm, but I can bring you out to a different place and free you there."
Liang Chen had glanced down at Yumao before he spoke, but he hadn't shown any reaction even when faced with the Nethersky Wyrm Emperor. He had been given away as a prize so it was clear that he was one of the hatchlings born with a denser bloodline, meaning that he was the direct descendant of the beast in front of them.
But it seemed like he took after Liang Chen, who could respect his biological parents but could not see them as his actual parents, that role would forever go to Qing Feng and Qing Lan. But even if Yumao didn't see the beast as his parent, she was still the reason Liang Chen and Yumao could meet so he wouldn't mind extending her a hand.
"Monarch... You would be willing to aid me? What are you hoping to gain from it?"
She could not understand it, his willingness to help. She could sense his dreadful bloodline, it placed him so far above her that it would be beneath him to even look down at her. So why would he be willing to help her? Not killing her was already good enough in her eyes.
"I'm not hoping to gain anything, I'm just acting on a whim. Since you seem intent on calling me monarch then you can just see it as a wandering king throwing a bone to a roadside beggar, there's no need to put too much thought into it."
Liang Chen didn't see a real need to tell her the truth about Yumao, his bloodline had changed so much that she may not even believe him. It was much easier to believe that he was just acting on a whim, a flight of fancy that struck him as he moved about. The beast's almost white eyes flickered slightly as it seemed to be thinking, eventually lowering its head.
"Please, Monarch. If you can grant me my freedom then I would even be willing to serve as your lowly mount."
She had been trapped here for far too long, popping out doomed child after doomed child, she had already forgotten the taste of freedom. She could not let go of the chance now that it presented itself, even if she may end up suffering some humiliation afterwards. After all, what sort of humiliation was worse than eternal imprisonment as a breeding sow?
"Alright. Little Lan, be nice and stay here."
Liang Chen stood up and pat Lan Yun on the head, the little girl pouting since Paparan was going to run off and make her stay still again. Liang Chen flipped his hand and brought out his spear, the maw-shaped spearhead glinting dully under the light of the sun. He removed the small lotus from his shoulder and placed it on Yumao's back, leaving a thin layer of lightning beneath its roots so that it could rest peacefully.
He then stepped forward and dropped down from Yumao's back, plummeting down towards the serpent. The chains loosed up as he got closer, parts of them turning into marks that embedded themselves onto the scales of the beast. A growl escaped the beast as the marks forced her to act, her Qi surging as she opened her maw.
But her world froze before she could unleash a single attack, the law of time completely invading and freezing even her consciousness. She was just at the early stage of the Primordial Immortal realm, her life was something that rested comfortably in his hands the moment she appeared in front of Liang Chen.
He fell past her and slammed his spear downwards onto the chains that shackled her frozen body, the rumbling of thunder drowning out the creaking of the still cracking land. Earth shattered and stones melted as dull violet lightning arced out, piercing deep into the earth and roaring towards the sky.
What remained of the ground caved in, a crater that was a handful of kilometres wide forming around Liang Chen and the serpent. Liang Chen was just in the early stage of the Primordial Immortal, but the power he could produce had already eclipsed that realm, even if he didn't use his law of void.
The chain crumbled under his spear as the lightning travelled along it and entered the hidden array that had birthed it, breaking that particular section of the array. He smashed out his spear again and again, the land of death becoming a land of ruin as his attacks tore it open to get at the array hidden within the earth.
And by the time his spear had smashed down for the 18th time, the last of the chains dissolved and faded away, the sealing array falling apart from the repeated assaults. The marks on the scales of the beast faded away, Liang Chen pulling back his law of time so that the serpent could regain consciousness.
Its pale white eyes were filled with horror as she looked at Liang Chen, the insurmountable difference in strength was far greater than what she had assumed, she hadn't even been able to maintain her consciousness in front of him. Liang Chen didn't care about her shocked gaze, placing a hand on her smooth body while giving her a stern warning.
"I'm going to send you to a place where I can keep you until I leave this hidden realm, but you are forbidden from touching the people living there, you will die the moment you do so."
Jiao Hui Xin and the other disciples inside the orb in his interspatial ring were far too weak to even hold a candle to this Nethersky Wyrm, she could decimate them with ease. But the moment she even tried to do so he would kill her, it was his worry that she would kill so indiscriminately that prevented him from just granting her freedom right here and now.
The serpent quickly nodded her head so he pulled her into his interspatial ring and tossed her into the orb, simultaneously telling Hui Xin and the others to just stay away from her. With her taken care of, Liang Chen raised his head to Yumao.
"Well then, shall we take care of the final thing here before we move on?"