Though Third Master Jing didn't want to put his own life on the line for the Heavensworn Four, he couldn't just sit idly by and watch them die in front of him either. For one, it would affect his future prospects when an explanation was demanded. The potential criticism had no material effect, but he nevertheless could not discount its intangible potency. It would've been better for him not to be here at all, but he couldn't exactly change that now. He was compelled to take the chance that was available to save his indirect associates.
Smiling ruefully at Jiang Chen, he interjected apologetically. "Young master Shao… my good friend, my dearest brother. I know I'm as much of a bastard as they come, so I'm in no position to say anything, but I'd like to put in a word here anyway. The Heavensworn Four aren't stunning examples of society, but they have powerful backers. It doesn't matter much that you killed the other members of the Heavensfall Society, but if you kill these guys, it'll be a declaration of war on the Moon God Sect. I'm not familiar with the beef you have with them, but I'd still like to, er, recommend that you not kill them if at all possible. If you're resolute about taking on the Moon God Sect, that's fine. But, as I gather, you're not here in Frostmoon City to make enemies, so…"
Third Master Jing was speaking quite conservatively. He didn't want to threaten Jiang Chen with the Moon God Sect, because he well understood how proud the youth was. If he did try to use the sect's clout, it was likely to have the opposite effect. The mysterious young man had both the capital and the confidence to mount a formidable resistance.
Emperor Peerless glanced at Jiang Chen, waiting for the lad to come to a decision. If things were up to him, the Heavensworn Four would already be dead. Indeed, killing the four of them was the most satisfying solution. But, Jiang Chen couldn't choose to do that for now. He needed to find out who they'd given his father to and where his father had gone from there. Every clue had to be sifted through.
Alive or dead, he wanted to see his father in the flesh. If Jiang Feng really had been murdered by them, Jiang Chen was absolutely ready to spill a river of blood. The Heavensfall Society wouldn't nearly be enough, then.
"Old Brother Mo, take them down first!" Jiang Chen's own strength was insufficient to defeat the Heavensworn Four outright, much less capture them alive. Emperor Peerless, on the other hand, found the task quite easy. For an accomplished great emperor with countless years of experience, not much in the world was difficult.
The Heavensworn mounted a resistance, but pressure exerted from the emperor made it seem half-hearted. One by one, they were apprehended by the older man. Jiang Chen and Long Xiaoxuan took one man in each hand and returned inside.
Third Master Jing forced a smile. He contemplated following the young men, but Emperor Peerless's draconian gaze stopped him. "Halt."
The pressure from a great emperor alone was enough to cow the third master from proceeding. The fact that Emperor Peerless had just used his abilities a moment prior amplified the threat.
"Senior… please, please tell young master Shao not to be too impulsive. Killing the Heavensworn Four will lead to endless trouble!" Third Master Jing had no ties to the quartet, but he was definitely worried about his prospects.
"He can do whatever he likes. It's not my place to lecture him." The emperor left with a flourish of his sleeves.
Third Master Jing and his entourage dithered in front of the door. They were unsure whether to go or stay, but eventually decided on the latter. For the sake of appearances alone, leaving was not an option.
Though restrictions were laid on their bodies, the Heavensworn Four were still completely conscious. Tossed aside to the earth by Jiang Chen and Long Xiaoxuan like dead dogs, they were quite frustrated with the state of affairs.
"The Heavensworn Four? Pah! How can you pieces of shit use the word 'sworn' to call yourselves?" Jiang Chen was exasperated and irate. Long Xiaoxuan helpfully accentuated the criticism by kicking each person twice. All four of the men grimaced at the pain. Because they couldn't move, they were essentially defenseless sandbags. Naturally, being kicked in this position was extremely uncomfortable. By now, Liu Zhen had walked over as well. The Heavensworn Four were surprised to see him. They recognized the origin realm cultivator easily.
"What, how's it…" Beigong Ming couldn't help but gasp. "How could it be you? Who are you? How did you…"
Liu Zhen was immensely satisfied by the sight of the splayed Four. When he'd come to the Heavensfall Society prior, even the lowest-ranking member looked at him the way one looked at air. No one spared him a straight look. He was less than a dog. That the four lords of the Society were so flustered in front of him now was sweet justice to him. They were about as presentable as a bunch of dead dogs.
"And why can't it be me?" He intentionally laughed in an exaggerated fashion. "Did you ever imagine that one day, you'd have to answer for all of your evil deeds?"
"Pfft." The youngest of the four glared back with hate. "Who do you think you are? So what if I'm in a bad spot now? You're still so far below me it doesn't matter. It's far too early for someone as pathetic as you to laugh at us!"
The Liu Zhen of the past wouldn't have dared strut in front of the Heavensworn Four under any circumstances, not even with the severe misfortune they were currently facing. Jiang Chen and company's boldness and fortitude had been the catalyst that shook his world. His mindset had been utterly changed after seeing them in action. The Heavensworn Four's youngest's stubbornness upset him. Liu Zhen retaliated by hacking up a ball of spit and shooting it to his enemy's cheek. The slippery mess was absolutely disgusting.
"You bastard. I'll kill you for sure when I'm free again. Just you wait!"
Jiang Chen frowned at the exchange. "Get to the point."
Liu Zhen didn't dare misbehave in front of the young man. He nodded hastily and turned to the Four once more. "One more chance," he declared. "Answer every question I ask. If I'm not happy with what I hear, I'll kill a member of your Society for every bad answer. After they're all dead, I'll move on to the four of you."
The Heavensworn Four spat tongues of fire from their eyes. They'd experienced insolence before, but never from a mere origin realm cultivator! Origin realm cultivators were less than ants to them. The fact that such an insignificant existence was now lording it over them was unbearable. Most importantly, they couldn't antagonize the other man too much, lest they actually be killed. As the smartest one amongst the Heavensworn Four, Beigong Ming was the quickest to bring his anger back under control. "Ask whatever you like. I will tell the truth about everything that I know."
Things had come this far already. At this current stage, keeping their lives intact was much more important than maintaining face. People from Bleakmoon Hall were going to arrive soon anyway. They just needed to wait for their saviors to arrive in due time. Still, disquiet lingered in the back of Beigong Ming's mind. Given these people's ferocity, could the Bleakmoon Hall's dispatched team really take care of them?
The Hall had plenty of experts, but whether they'd send them out in sufficient numbers was another matter. Besides, whoever they sent would have no chance without a top-notch great emperor as back up, anyways. A great emperor was not someone who could be defeated simply by a swarm of emperor realm cultivators.
"Where did you take my friend to?" Glowering at the captives, Liu Zhen spoke with a certain vehemence.
"Your friend isn't here anymore. We sent him off to the Moon God Sect." Beigong Ming answered hurriedly, before immediately adding, "That's absolutely true, I swear it. There's nothing false about it whatsoever."
Liu Zhen chuckled. An odd smile crept onto his face. Suddenly, he took a few steps back towards one of the Society's executives. With a single stroke of his saber, he cut the man's throat. Once their body was restricted, cultivators were no different from normal people. Their usual defenses were rendered inactive by their shackles. Thus, the attack was enough to end the man's life outright.
Beigong Ming's face blanched with fear. "My answer was absolutely true!" he called out. "Why did you kill him?"
Liu Zhen cackled mockingly. "Absolutely true? I'm surprised you're brave enough to say it. Did you really send him off? You carried him off in chains! Don't make it sound like he was some kind of guest. Do you like playing word games? It may have looked like my saber killed your executive, but the real murderer is you."
Jiang Chen marveled at the origin realm cultivator's actions and speech. He didn't at all expect Liu Zhen to have another side to him. He didn't see much point to stopping the man, however. He was content enough to watch.
Beigong Ming's throat moved a little, culminating in a wordless sigh. He didn't know what excuse to offer.
"Second question. Is my friend alive or dead?" It was worth remarking that Liu Zhen was a reasonably clever man. He knew what Jiang Chen wanted to know, and asked in a way that made that clear. It was a nice gesture of goodwill.
Beigong Ming didn't dare answer too casually this time. He tossed an appealing glance at his three sworn brothers. Cong Taiyan harrumphed. "We have no control over someone who's with the Moon God Sect. How are we supposed to know whether he's alive or dead?"
Liu Zhen gave a slight nod, then smiled in the same disturbing way. A flash of body and blade later, and yet another Heavensfall Society executive lay dead on the ground.
"You killed this one." He looked coolly at Cong Taiyan.
Feeling the tension in Liu Zhen's gaze, the eldest of the Heavensworn Four became a little evasive. He was afraid of meeting the other man's eyes head on. Having their own lives controlled in the hands of others was the worst feeling in the world. An origin realm cultivator was, ordinarily, the lowest of the low to them. How could someone like that have the right to do what he was doing?! The sheer notion of it was depressing enough to make them cough up blood.
"If something's happened to him, then all of you Heavensfall Society scum will die for it. Not a single one will survive. You better pray that he's still alive, hmm? That he's still alive and well. Otherwise, you can say goodbye to your Society and your wretched existences!" Liu Zhen's tone was as chilly as a frozen lake.
The Heavensworn Four were greatly moved at what they'd just heard. Finally, the truth was out! These guys had come for that origin realm cultivator? But, how did an origin realm cultivator have such a strong background? The Heavensfall Society had a habit of killing cultivators of every stripe, with plenty of emperor realms among the victims. There'd been no negative repercussions whatsoever from doing so. It was perplexing that an origin realm cultivator was the hornet's nest.