As Pillzenith's son and possessing excellent martial talent, Tian Lin had already reached initial emperor realm. Jiang Chen could have subdued him with a frontal attack, but easy capture would've been impossible.
He'd achieved a flawless victory instead by catching his opponent unawares. He further paralyzed his victim by sealing off acupoints.
Everything was silent in the courtyard. No one had noticed anything untoward. When he exited the yard still disguised as Pill Seven, Tian Lin's four guards immediately crowded him.
"Where's the young lord?" The one who spoke, a great emperor, frowned. It was past time for his master's return, so his absence was surprising.
Jiang Chen replied with utter deference, "Your young lord asked me to bring a message that you can go back. He's going into seclusion for a month as he's made great strides in his research. He plans on leading the charge in the final effort to unravel the Pinecrane Pill's secrets."
The guard's brows shot up in surprise. "A month? With His Majesty gone, there are many responsibilities awaiting the young lord. The city will descend into chaos if he goes missing."
"Sir Tian Lin said the city is stable enough. Nothing of importance will happen. Emperor Pillzenith should be on the verge of returning as well. In the meantime, Emperor Pillzenith's and Pill King Ji Lang's personal disciples can be called upon."
But the great emperor refused to leave. "Friend, please inform our young lord that as his protectors, we'll remain on guard as long as he stays here."
How surprising. These guards seem rather devoted.
Jiang Chen reacted instantly. "I admire your dedication to your duty. However, if you stay as the doormen, you'd be informing the whole world of Sir Tian Lin's location. Are you possibly worried about his safety here? In Pillfire, inside the Temple of Cleansing Fire?"
The great emperor stubbornly shook his head. "Friend, please tell the young lord that we only obey his personal orders."
They wouldn't listen to a messenger.
Jiang Chen sighed. "I will, but you'll have to bear his wrath if he flies into a rage."
"Don't worry, no responsibility will befall your... esteemed self." In truth, the great emperor was unwilling to waste too many words with the lowly Pill Seven. He was a great emperor! Who was Pill Seven? A mere pill servant, a base domestic.
Jiang Chen returned to the yard and quickly disguised himself as Tian Lin. He wore an annoyed expression and went back outside. "What now? When did my words become so cheap? I told you to go back, why aren't you listening?"
Jiang Chen's imitation of Tian Lin's manners was on point, fooling the four guards. The great emperor bowed and raised a cupped fist salute. "Young lord, His Majesty's entrusted your security to us. We dare not neglect our duty. Please forgive us."
"Hmph! This is the Temple of Cleansing Fire's forbidden area. I couldn't be any safer here. I commend your loyalty, but I have no need for watch dogs. This is a busy area, you'd attract too much attention. At most, find a secluded spot and secretly keep watch. You'll still be nearby in case of any suspicious activity."
After some consideration, the great emperor acquiesced to "Sir Tian Lin's" demand. To protect the young lord didn't mean to stay glued at the young man's side at all times. This was a safe area. It was enough to keep their eyes open.
"Very well, it shall be as you say. We'll hide and watch over you. If anything happens, please warn us immediately. We'll be at the ready." The great emperor chose to back down. He had little desire to oppose Sir Tian Lin.
Jiang Chen waved impatiently. "So it's decided. We're at a critical moment in our experiments, I have no time to waste with you." He turned and left immediately.
The four guards looked at each other helplessly. Although they had a duty to protect Tian Lin, they couldn't go against his will and earn his displeasure. What if he complained about them to Emperor Pillzenith?
"Let's find a spot each and keep our eyes peeled for anything remotely suspicious. The young lord must stay safe at all cost. Otherwise, all of us knows what awaits us once His Majesty returns!" Their zeal didn't come from any respect for Tian Lin. They simply feared Pillzenith.
Once the four guards left, Jiang Chen transformed back into Pill Seven and returned to the secret room. Everyone was still busy with their own affairs, entirely unaware of Tian Lin's misadventures.
The bearded pill emperor asked, "Pill Seven, did you send off Sir Tian Lin?"
"He said I'm to follow him back and run some errands for him for a while. And also…"
"What else did he say?" The old man frowned.
"He said we're at a critical juncture. Everyone should intensify their efforts and go into seclusion for a month to complete the research in one go."
A month of seclusion?
The bearded pill emperor sighed. "We might have a rough outline to follow, but that's still much too short for tangible results. Sir Tian Lin is too impatient. "
Jiang Chen nodded. "Sir Tian Lin knows that as well, but he hopes to have good news for Emperor Pillzenith when His Majesty returns."
"Since the young lord has spoken, we share spare no efforts. A month of seclusion is no big deal. Everyone, let's do our best and show him some results!" the bearded pill emperor encouraged.
He faced Jiang Chen again. "Pill Seven, you don't talk much usually. What's happened to you all of a sudden? Sir Tian Lin admires you so much he wants to bring you back? Kid, you're something else to find so much favor with the young lord. No matter, we won't detain you. Go, serve him properly and don't think of playing any tricks."
For these pill emperors, Pill Seven was at most a perceptive helper. They didn't begrudge Sir Tian Lin for taking him away. Neither would they offer heartfelt wishes or sincere advice to a simple lackey.
Jiang Chen had now hoodwinked both sides. These fellows had been tricked into seclusion, while the four guards would wait for a month. He'd won time for himself.
The guards and the fellows in the Temple of Cleansing Fire would make no waves in the meantime. Even if they did, it would be a month later. That was more than enough for him.
He returned underground, tidying everything, then resurfaced and found a remote spot in the temple. Switching back to his original disguise, he strutted out of the temple with no one to the wiser.
He didn't tarry in Pillfire, and traveled until he reached uninhabited wildlands. There, he opened his storage ring and released Tian Lin. These rings usually couldn't store living creatures. Human cultivators in particular, couldn't survive for long inside.
However, a short stay for ten hours or so was usually no issue. One would need shelter like the Goldbiter Rats' Millionditch Stonenest for stays of longer duration. Moreover, the rats were tied to their nest. They would likewise face a quick demise inside a storage ring.
Tian Lin was still groggy from his capture, but when he recovered some clarity of thought, he immediately shouted, "Who are you? Do you know what you're doing? Are you aware you're challenging the whole of Pillfire City?"
Whether his victim could speak and how loud he could yell was all within Jiang Chen's grasp, so he remained unruffled. He cared little even if Tian Lin shouted himself hoarse.
He calmly roasted some game over the fire. A golden layer of oil coated the meat; an appetizing smell wafted through the air. Then he smiled leisurely. "Perhaps you think that Pillfire is the greatest power in the world and won't tolerate any provocation?"
"Nonsense! Pillfire is publicly recognized as number one in Upper Eight Regions. My father stands at the peak of the entire world. How dare you be so presumptuous? Aren't you afraid of the consequences? We can annihilate your family, your sect, and even your entire region!"
Although Tian Lin was using Pillfire's prestige to intimidate his captor, his courage was but a front. His heart palpitated with fear. The young man in front of him gave off the aura of an outlaw with nothing to lose, the sort that feared no one. Someone like him would hardly be frightened by fame or prestige.