Still dazed, the captain took a few moments to collect his thoughts. He rarely encountered situations such as this, but who was he to stop the other man? “Captain Gu,” he said, “There’s no reason for me to prevent you from picking up a prisoner for interrogation. But, since you’re not on duty right now, can you show me your identification token?”
Of course Gu Xintang had his own token. Taking it out, he handed it over. Captain Qin glanced at it for a few seconds before smiling. “May I be so bold as to ask you to verify it?”
An identification token had to be verified by one’s own consciousness. Each token was matched to a specific individual. An imposter who attempted to infiltrate the prison would fail here. Their consciousness would not be able to match someone else’s token.
“Captain Qin, aren’t we old comrades? Is there really a need for this?” Gu Xintang scowled.
“If our roles were exchanged, Captain Gu, I would volunteer my cooperation.” The other captain smiled wryly. “It’s just that, you know, it’s my shift, and I don’t want…”
“I’ve always treated you well, Captain Qin. And yet you lack the most basic of faith in me?” Gu Xintang was displeased.
“If it were you in the flesh, Captain Gu, of course you’d have my full faith. But… I’m worried about imposters, right?”
The Sable Cells were an important area, off-limits to most.
“You certainly have an overactive imagination,” Gu Xintang spat angrily. As he said this, he activated his consciousness to show that it did, indeed, match his identification token.
The verification process having passed, apology flickered across Captain Qin’s face. “Sorry about that, Captain Gu. Just following due process.”
He looked towards Jiang Chen and Emperor Peerless as he said this, clearly looking for their identification tokens as well.
“Captain Qin, are you intentionally trying to make things difficult for me? Is it not enough that I verified, and now my subordinates need to do it as well?” Gu Xintang’s expression looked even worse now.
The intense irritation in Gu Xintang’s voice sent ripples across Captain Qin’s heart. He looked back at his fellow captain and let out a long sigh. “If you put it like that, Captain Gu, then never mind. Go on in.”
The rules mandated that everyone who entered needed to have their identity confirmed. But Gu Xintang was a close acquaintance, and he’d passed the check himself. If there was no issue with the leader, how could there be with his subordinates? Captain Qin did not want to offend Gu Xintang any further than he already did. He was happy to offer the relatively casual favor in order to placate the other man.
Jiang Chen and Emperor Peerless were impassive. When Captain Qin had shown intent to examine them, they'd both been prepared to subdue the man on the spot. Thankfully, the captain ended up giving Gu Xintang a bit of courtesy after all. He hadn't stuck wholly to the rules. Still, it had been a pretty close call.
Jiang Chen instantly felt that he'd entered an entirely different world when he entered the Sable Cells. This was a dark realm, filled with filth and fetid air. A nauseating scent assaulted the trio's nostrils. It wasn't the scent of feces alone. Putrescence, stench, and the stink of sweat mixed together to form a vomit-inducing potpourri of smells.
"This is how the Cells are," Gu Xintang coughed apologetically. "Please forgive the atmosphere."
Jiang Chen shook his head. "Let's start looking."
The Cells were very spacious. No individual cell was walled off, and any inmate was free to move within the space. The Moon God Sect had intentionally designed it to be so. In this way, the prisoners could deplete their own numbers via mutual bloodshed. The area was little different from a dimly-lit slum. The malice of human nature was on full display here, each and every moment.
As soon as Jiang Chen entered the Cells, he fully opened up his consciousness. God's Eye in tandem with Evil Golden Eye imparted to him a piercing vision that spread to every corner of the space. With utmost care and caution, he began the search process. There was corpse and bone as far as the eye could see. Ripped off limbs and jagged appendages sprawled everywhere, and dried blood caked the earth with a sullen brown.
If Jiang Chen didn't have anything on his mind, the sight would’ve affected him very little. Almost every sect had their own dungeons. Such areas were reserved for their most heinous prisoners and captives, in order to leave them to their own devices. Only the greatest among them ended up surviving. In fact, many sects went on to extend offers of invitation to said survivors. Of course, it was largely an invitation of convenience. They were given opportunities to redeem themselves and use their abilities to benefit the sect.
Those who were put into dungeons of this kind typically found the offers rather attractive. Their dark enclosures might not have taken away their lives, but it certainly took away their leisure and freedom. Existence down here was boring and stale. Therefore, those who were interested in regaining their freedom usually accepted the invitations. Of course, the basic premise was firstly survival in such a harsh environment. Having a life to experience future freedom was a basic prerequisite to receiving that opportunity further down the line.
Gu Xintang was mildly discomfited. He felt somewhat anxious. He’d been the one who’d ordered that man sent to these Cells, after all. Would the two in front of him really absolve him if that cultivator were found dead? Countless misgivings filled his heart. Deep down, he hoped for a miracle that the man was still be alive.
The food supply within the Sable Cells was sparse and limited. Furthermore, there were no resources for cultivation here. Cannibalism was a daily occurrence. Cultivators’ consumption of their fellows wasn’t merely to sate their hungers. Because of the lack of cultivation resources, they were forced to absorb others’ internal energies and bloodlines in an effort to increase their own. It was a cruel fact of life that nevertheless took place with alarming regularity. In that sense, the Sable Cells was also like a small criminal town. There were new arrivals and mysterious disappearances every day.
“How many people are there in the Sable Cells?” Jiang Chen frowned.
“About fifty to a hundred thousand,” Gu Xintang hurriedly replied. “Lower than fifty at its lowest, but usually above.”
Most dungeon areas did not even serve the primary function of holding prisoners. Rather, they existed to cultivate heartless murderers. In the spirit beast kingdom, many spirit beasts kept their young together in mutual competition until only one survived. The one that did was always exceptionally fierce because of the bloody experience. Adversity and carnage were excellent honing steels, after all. The Sable Cells applied a similar principle.
An origin realm cultivator wasn’t paid much attention here. In the Cells, they were the lowest on the literal food chain. Those who had the right of being locked up in the Sable Cells rarely acquired it without some other kind of distinction. Thus, several of Gu Xintang’s attempts at asking the locals drew up only blanks and confusion. None of them remembered anyone matching the description.
Additionally, Jiang Chen knew that his father Jiang Feng would never have used his real name here. That made gathering information beyond difficult. But it wasn’t in his character to give up. He wanted to find his father, dead or alive. Even if Jiang Feng was the former, Jiang Chen still wanted the corpse.
The Sable Cells were enormous, so they proceeded at a deliberate pace. Whatever new groups of people appeared in their sights were sure to be interrogated, but no clues arose. Jiang Chen’s glowering expression disquieted Gu Xintang. He didn’t know what he could do to wash his hands of the affair. His only choice was to grimly carry on forward with the expedition.
None of the prisoners in the Sable Cells were the quiet type. At the sight of Gu Xintang, they began to raise a fuss. “Captain Gu, you’re not on duty today, are you? What luxurious mindset brings you by? Looking for a place of your own, eh?”
Evidently, the captain was very well known here. His strict demeanor drew the ire of many inmates. There were a few that wanted to suck up to him as well, however. They wanted a chance to advance themselves and perhaps get out.
“Captain Gu, are you looking for helpers? What about me?”
“Take me with you, captain. I promise that no matter what your orders are, I’ll carry them out to the fullest. You’ll find no problems with my work, no sir!” Their faces were the very epitome of flattery.
Gu Xintang beckoned to them. “I have something to ask you about. Whoever can answer, come forward. If you have useful info, I’ll think about giving you a chance.”
“What thing? Tell us about it, Captain Gu.”
“I’m the nosiest of the bunch here. I guarantee you’ll be happy to have asked me.”
Gu Xintang kept his expression stoic. “Don’t start bragging now. Don’t try to lie to me. If you do either, I can ensure that you won’t live past tonight… much less get the chance at freedom you so desperately want.”
“No lies, no lies! How could anyone tell a lie to you, Captain Gu!”
“That’s right. This is already an amazing favor from Captain Gu. Lying! No way!”
Gu Xintang glanced at Jiang Chen before speaking further. “A few months ago, there was an origin realm cultivator who came here to the Sable Cells. Does anyone remember?”
“A few months ago? Origin realm cultivator?”
“Is there anything else, Captain Gu? This is too little to go off of. There have been at least a couple hundred to a thousand of those, so how could we know which one you mean?”
“Yeah, give us more. Even a few tidbits more would help. Appearance, name, nickname… whatever. If there’s a name, there’s a way.”
Gu Xintang thought about it for a moment. “This person was delivered to us by the Heavensfall Society. My subordinates brought him here.”
“What did he come here for?”
Gu Xintang was a little embarrassed, but answered nevertheless. “He asked about the Blue Moon’s secrets, specifically about Holy Maiden Xu Meng…”
Before he finished, one of the inmates uttered a surprised “Eh?”
The prisoner in question wasn’t particularly imposing, but he had a shrewd look in his eyes. Jiang Chen locked onto him immediately. He stepped forward, asking in a low voice. “Do you have any clues?”
His breathing hitched as he asked this. Clearly, any information about his father at this point was of paramount importance!