Gentlewind's residence wasn't without its defenses, but they seemed average at best. The defenses could serve as an early warning system or delay ordinary enemies, but were far too lacking to subdue anyone.
However, the supreme lord had dispatched several Celestial Stars and Earthly Fiends in assistance, making the place secure enough.
"Daoist Shockcloud, I've always valued your keen observations. Since the supreme lord's sent you here, please feel free to point out the deficiencies in my layout." Gentlewind offered a warm welcome.
Jiang Chen feigned indifference as he asked, "Where are the prisoners?"
Gentlewind smiled. "Follow me."
Without batting an eye, Jiang Chen followed the protector king past several detours before reaching a dim area.
"They're in there. The energy of the surroundings is completely sealed off, so no matter how great Jiang Chen's powers are, he won't be able to locate them," Gentlewind chuckled.
Jiang Chen nodded. "Well done. The supreme lord was right to leave the matter in your hands."
He mouthed endless praise, but his mind searched urgently for a solution. He was no longer so impatient now that he'd found the captives. His cover would hold as long as Shockcloud didn't show himself.
"Daoist Shockcloud, please take a look and see if there's anything's lacking. I heard the brat is as slippery as the devil. Like a fly, he can smell the faintest stink from miles away." Gentlewind seemed very admiring of Shockcloud, his goodwill audible in his voice.
Jiang Chen's eyes shone inwardly. What a good opportunity! But he also swore. Bastard, how dare you compare this young lord to a fly??
Though anxious, he remained outwardly impassive, else he would arouse the other's suspicions.
"Let me see. This place is fine indeed. There's no need for groundless fears. Hasn't Jiang Chen only dispatched a few giants? These oafs might be good in a reckless fight, but they're useless with more subtle tasks. Not to mention, the supreme lord and Senior Shu have already gone to suppress them." Jiang Chen's voice and manners were strikingly similar to Everviolet's own.
Gentlewind nodded. "I'll take a look outside first while you investigate. We must make sure everything's in order."
Jiang Chen repressed his delight. Is this fellow going to leave me here all by myself?
The Order's foundations were indeed still shaky. Most protector kings came from the wandering world and lacked the discipline of true great factions. Otherwise, no matter how trusting he was, Gentlewind wouldn't have left someone else alone with captives he was responsible for overseeing.
Jiang Chen barely kept his joy in check and nodded curtly. "Alright, you do you, don't mind me."
Glance at the lightly closed gates, he knew the prison lay beyond. But he didn't jump into action. Instead, he crossed his arms and feigned a casual inspection of the area.
Gentlewind had left, but who was to say he wasn't hanging around in the shadows? This was the enemy's domain. It wouldn't be difficult for them to monitor every area.
Jiang Chen silently weighed up all of the possibilities.
What should I do first? Rescue them or kill Gentlewind and his group?
He could easily dispose of the protector king and his men thanks to the Nine Labyrinth Formation and the Confounding Puppets. Each puppet was empyrean realm. After a period of exploration, he'd gradually acquainted himself with their uses.
He was almost guaranteed to kill these men, but the odds of doing so without sounding the alarm became a measly sixty percent. He was in someone's territory after all. Who was to say there was no trump card hidden within?
Would the supreme lord assign Gentlewind to this important mission if the protector king was incompetent?
Time elapsed minute after minute as Jiang Chen pretended to observe the place, slowly inching towards the gates.
But just as he was ready to push them open, his heart throbbed inexplicably. The sudden sensation caused the chain seal in his consciousness to blaze with a sudden, intense sense of danger.
Strong and abrupt, this strange sense of crisis had come when success had seemed so close at hand. The hand that'd almost reached the gates stilled as his figure turned into a beam of light that shot outside.
However, he suddenly screeched to a halt halfway through, his feet seemingly rooted in place.
Whoosh, whoosh! The next moment, countless restrictions emerged one after another all around him. Countless runes from a formation wriggled in the air like so many locusts.
Jiang Chen felt as though he'd plunged into a frozen lake.
"Hahaha, this is what they call bringing about your own ruin." A proud laugh suddenly reached his ears. He immediately recognized Xiahou Jing's tone.
Why is he here?
Jiang Chen's heart sank. Had he been played?
Many figures followed each other inside the palace: Xiahou Jing, Shu Wanqing, Shockcloud, as well as many powerhouses of the Order. Almost half the sect's elites were gathered inside.
Two Shockclouds, one true and one fake, came face to face without warning.
Everviolet's violet gaze shot at Jiang Chen, trying to pierce the latter's disguise with the power of his eyes.
Responding tit for tat, the Evil Golden Eye's formidable light shot forward.
The clash of the two eye arts created vortexes of energy shocking the very air. Everviolet's entire body tensed. The great emperor felt ill at ease by the powerful attack, as if almost frozen by the Evil Golden Eye's riposte.
"Tsk tsk, is that what they call the final struggle of a trapped beast?" The supreme lord brayed with laughter. "Jiang Chen, you actually snuck inside my sect. Everything went according to my plan! Tsk tsk, do you think your small tricks can fool me?"
Jiang Chen's chest tightened when he saw his opponent's pleased face. He had indeed fallen into a trap.
Everything had been an act from the beginning. To be more precise, interlinked ploys had followed one another until he'd jumped in with both feet into their trap!
Yet, despite precarious situation, he became strangely more coolheaded. True, he was dismayed at being duped, but not the point of being scared stiff.
Jiang Chen nodded, his face serene. "Xiahou Jing, this young lord's underestimated you. That said, did you arrange so many ploys simply to corner me?"
The proud Xiahou Jing laughed boisterously. "You finally understand, but it's a bit too late. How else would I have caught a sly fox like you?"
"Does that mean the Precious Tree Sect's captives are also impostors?"
Xiahou Jing smiled lazily. "I know you want to test me and find out whether I've truly captured these Precious Tree fellows. But too bad, do you think I'll tell you?" He flashed an infuriating smile, "But I have to admit you have some skills. Your talent for disguise is out of this world. If not for our earlier schemes to lead you here, you might truly have fooled me."
Gentlecloud also had to commend the young lord. "Your disguise was truly perfect. I knew from the start you were a fake, but there were times when I wondered, is it the true Protector King Shockcloud? Did the supreme lord really send him?"
The crowd laughed uproariously. They worshipped Xiahou Jing even more so. With such a supreme lord, the Order had no need to confront Veluriyam's main force.
Jiang Chen was nothing in comparison to such a leader. Hadn't he been easily defeated by a simple scheme?
Shu Wanqing cackled evilly. "Kid, do you remember your foul mouth and lack of respect for your elders back in Veluriyam? Who has the last laugh now?"
The old man had forcibly interfered and ruined Jiang Chen's plans to kill Xiahou Jing. In the throes of rage, the young lord had cursed him to his heart's content. The specifics didn't matter, but the old man had always kept the grudge close to heart. How could he let a human junior scold him so?
He'd thought long and hard how to erase this extraordinary disgrace, and the opportunity was finally in front of him today.
Jiang Cheng's ice-cold eyes bore into him. "You must be the cowardly human hermit? I heard them call you Daoist Shu? Someone who's forgotten his roots like you will never be more than a shitty, cowardly turtle even if you live to be ten thousand years old. So let me ask you, what gives you the right to show off in front of me?"
He was pulling no punches. The fellow had obviously submitted to the Order. Lackey was written all over his face. The mere sight of him was enough to infuriate the young lord.
His face red, Shu Wanqing almost blew his top despite his seniority.
"What? You know to be angry? What gives you the right to be? You have no shame despite your age, are you going to feign pride and self-respect now?" Jiang Chen swore roundly.