Jiang Chen was very excited. This spiralized dimensional labyrinth was none other than the Nine Labyrinth Formation he'd received from the third of the Six Palaces of Heritage, Palace of the Grand Marquis.
Once deployed, the Nine Labyrinth Formation created a nine-fold maze capable of locking down an enormous patch of space, losing anyone present within.
Jiang Chen was innately sensitive to formations. Moreover, the Nine Labyrinth Formation had an affinity with him. His use of it took even an opponent like Shu Wanqing by surprise. The formation's mysteries were not to be understood in any short span of time.
After all, this was an ancient treasure, the pride of the Grand Marquis who'd previously owned it. When Jiang Chen wasn't limited by his own cultivation level, he would be able to trap someone many times stronger than Shu Wanqing once he used it at peak strength.
The young lord had turned the tables by taking the initiative. He stood commandingly outside the formation, dismantling the opposing force within moments through the power of his Holy Dragon Bow. The Order's cultivators scrambled to flee in every direction.
This was the kind of effect Jiang Chen wanted. If they were together, it would be very hard for him to do anything to them. However, their retreating backs made much easier targets.
Jiang Chen's goal was none other than Protector King Gentlewind. Rather than killing the protector king, he wanted to take the other alive.
With a flourish of his hand, Jiang Chen sent a ray of light into the Nine Labyrinth Formation, dispatching a humanoid puppet.
Jiang Chen had obtained seven of these Confounding Puppets from the third palace. Each puppet was a crowning achievement of the Grand Marquis, and embodied his will and power. Any individual puppet contained thirty percent of his ability. The strongest of them, seventy percent.
Jiang Chen could scarcely believe how strong these puppets were himself. He'd heard Master P'eng and Venerated Skysoarer talk about how different the third palace and its treasures would be. Nevertheless, the sheer value of the Nine Labyrinth Formation and Confounding Puppets took him off guard.
He could only make use of two of them at most, even with the fullest measure of his own exertion. And the two weakest, at that.
But in actual combat, a Confounding Puppet couldn't match up to a real empyrean expert. After all, puppets remained constructs regardless of how much will they had been imbued with. This meant that they required a human hand behind them and couldn't act autonomously.
Under Jiang Chen's control, the Confounding Puppet morphed into the guise of Everviolet.
He had disguised himself as Everviolet in order to trick Protector King Gentlewind, but had fallen prey to the other man's trap instead.
He was trying the same trick a second time.
Gentlewind had been separated from everyone else for a long time now. Currently, he was panicked and clueless. His head felt strangely chilly out of fear of Jiang Chen's life-reaping arrows. They could very well be planted into the back of his head at any moment.
The protector king had more than enough reason to be afraid. He had been the mastermind and executor of the previous trap. It was quite likely Jiang Chen would assign him the majority of the blame.
"Daoist Gentlewind, over here…" Everviolet's voice echoed by his ear in his throes of dismay. Gentlewind hurriedly glanced over to see the great emperor waving to him not far from here.
"Daoist Gentlewind, that kid's archery skills are worrisome. We're both his worst enemies and will absolutely be taken down separately if we're apart. Why not put our backs against each other so that we have an extra person to rely on? This way, we can at least guarantee not being flanked. How about it?" Everviolet made an extremely reasonable offer.
Gentlewind wanted more than anything for a lifeline in the midst of his hysteria. This was a crucial moment for survival. They had every basis for sound cooperation, and neither man needed to fear being sold out by the other.
Doing so was tantamount to sacrificing one's own safety.
Gentlewind darted over to stand by Everviolet with his back turned. Confidence instantly flourished after the two men stood together.
"Daoist Shockcloud, that kid is beyond comprehension. What method or ability is he using? Or perhaps a heaven-defying treasure of some sort? Why does he have such an overwhelming advantage over us?" Gentlewind found it rather perplexing. Just like Xiahou Jing, he couldn't quite accept reality.
They had been on the cusp of triumph. Jiang Chen had been a beast caught in a trap; there was no possibility of a reversal. However, what had happened next had dumbfounded everyone. Thus, Gentlewind was both startled and resentful.
He was answered not with Everviolet's words, but a paralyzing jolt in the small of his back. In the next moment, he felt his own body go limp. He collapsed to the ground with an incoherent thought.
This 'Everviolet' was a Confounding Puppet in disguise. Under Jiang Chen's control, the puppet placed Gentlewind on its back, then disappeared in the formation in a burst of light. All had happened without none being the wiser.
When Gentlewind came to, he noticed that he was outside the formation. Joy filled his heart for a split second before he realized that he was probably not in a situation that warranted it.
As expected, Jiang Chen's face appeared before Gentlewind, making the man blanch.
"We meet again, Protector King Gentlewind."
Jiang Chen's tone was cool, but his Evil Golden Eye carried a kind of killing intent that was almost militant in nature. It seemed to pierce Gentlewind's very soul. The protector king felt like his soul was being cut by countless razors.
"Ah, I have nothing to say. I'm the loser today." Gentlewind wanted to feign nonchalance.
Jiang Chen smiled placidly. "Really? My spirit beasts will appreciate the nutrition then. You're a great emperor, aren't you, Gentlewind? Good eating, as they say."
The protector king's face changed color once more.
"What do you want to do with me, Jiang Chen? Kill me if you want. Why toy with me like this?" Gentlewind was worn thin.
He didn't actually want to die, but he was worried that pleading for his life would anger Jiang Chen. Making such a misstep would likely cost him any hope of getting out of this relatively intact. Besides, Jiang Chen would just look down upon him. This conflicting mentality bothered the protector king.
"Stop pretending." Jiang Chen shook his head emotionlessly. "The fear at the corner of your eyes betrays your heart. It's normal for humans to fear death, so there's no need to hide your own nature. You'll have a chance to live, but it'll be up to you to grasp it."
Jiang Chen didn't hold such people in high regard, but he had killed more than his fair share of them. He'd taken this particular one alive for a different purpose.
"You want to know the truth behind those Precious Tree Sect people, right?" Gentlewind was clever enough to immediately understand what Jiang Chen wanted.
Jiang Chen smiled coolly, but neither confirmed nor denied it. If Gentlewind was smart enough, he would spill the beans of his own volition. If not, Jiang Chen had plenty of ways to make him do so, though with significantly less courtesy.
Gentlewind sighed. "Never mind. It's understandable that I'd lose to you, young lord. If you can easily play with the supreme lord and Senior Shu Wanqing, an errand runner such as I cannot possibly win.
"I'll tell you everything. We did capture and secretly imprison a few from the Precious Tree Sect. The supreme lord suggested we use it as bait to hook you in, which everyone agreed with heartily. Many people know that you are adept at laying low and hiding yourself, so much so that they were worried you'd infiltrated the Order itself. Thus, there was a trap for you from the start. The fact that you were able to escape unscathed from the trap we prepared was totally unexpected, though."
Gentlewind sighed at this point. He felt completely defeated given the circumstances. There was no way they could've made better plans than these.
"Where are those prisoners?" Jiang Chen was uninterested in hearing his lamentations. He headed straight for the important part.
"I'm keeping them in another jail," Gentlewind supplied honestly. "That place was just where we set up the deathtrap."
Jiang Chen finally understood all.
"How devious of you," he harrumphed. "If I hadn't intuited that it was a bad idea to head straight in, I would have been incapacitated by an even more powerful restrictive formation behind the door, hmm?"
Gentlewind sighed. "Victory and defeat were decided by a single thought. Your win was well-deserved. If you'd blundered into opening the door, the outcome would have been very different."
It was as he had said. There had been a powerful restrictive formation behind the door, waiting for Jiang Chen. If he hadn't been wary about a possibility like that, it would have been easy for him to bungle the whole affair.
Once he was held in place by a restrictive formation, no method would be able to save him.
"Lead the way to the prisoners and you'll live. If the Precious Tree Sect's captives are still alive, perhaps you can live as well. If not, then you're done for." Jiang Chen's voice was cool and dispassionate. His care for the Precious Tree Sect's members was without question.
Gentlewind didn't play any tricks this time. He was sincere in his escort. They came very quickly into another jail area.
This jail contained several people from the Precious Tree Sect as well as Ye Chonglou himself. They were all close to Jiang Chen. These captives had lost all hope after being kidnapped and had anticipated the worst. Jiang Chen's arrival was a scene beyond their wildest dreams!