Protector King Gentlewind was a very astute man. He removed the restrictions on Ye Chonglou and the rest without prompting, bringing out the antidote to their ailments as well.
"Let me see that," Jiang Chen interrupted coolly when he saw the antidote.
Gentlewind compliantly provided the medicine. "I guarantee there's nothing wrong with it," he swore. "If there is, let me be smited by heaven and earth!"
His life depended on present performance. Gentlewind didn't dare attempt anything rash. He only wanted to seek Jiang Chen's forgiveness and favor.
Jiang Chen gave the old tutor and the others a once-over before nodding. "You can take it. The antidote is real."
The Precious Tree Sect members were quite embarrassed. "Young lord Jiang Chen, we always cause trouble for you."
Jiang Chen smiled. "Why say such things, lordmaster? This is a season filled with many problems. I don't think you should go back to the sect for the time being. Come to Veluriyam's young lord residence. That place is well-defended and safe. You won't have to worry for your lives."
The old tutor was very pleased. "Why would we refuse an invitation to the young lord residence? Tang Hong, be sure to thank your Brother Chen!"
Tang Hong was a big and stocky man. He was almost twice the size of some regular folk — not as gigantic as a stone golem, but exceptional enough.
"Thanks, Brother Chen." The big guy scratched his head. He was a straightforward, simple guy who'd first met Jiang Chen through a quarrel.
But since their days at the Precious Tree Sect, the gap between Jiang Chen and himself had grown bigger and bigger. This had made their relationship become more distant as well. Right now, he felt mildly inferior to Jiang Chen.
Jiang Chen patted on the shoulder. "Ole Tang. You've wasted a bit of time in the mundane kingdoms. A man of your talents should have gone to Veluriyam instead!"
He regretted that hadn't brought Tang Hong there earlier. It had been out of a worry that the Precious Tree Sect would think too much about things. After all, the sect saw him as its best heir. If Jiang Chen were to take him away so recklessly, wouldn't he be perceived as out of line?
But the current situation was more than clear enough. The smaller sects and factions had to join their larger peers or retire out of history. Failing to choose one meant that they would be destroyed. No one would be spared in this world-engulfing tide.
This was the simplest of reasons. No one man could stand alone against the rest of the realm.
The Precious Tree Sect had actually kept quite a low profile. They weren't easily noticeable among the mundane kingdoms. Who would've expected the Order to be so pervasive? It had captured them at such a crucial time.
Thankfully, Jiang Chen had been there to help them out.
"Now's not a good time to talk. Hurry and be on your way. Take my Progeny Feather Medallion and find Veluriyam's army. I'll send others to protect you on the way."
They were still in Order territory; Jiang Chen's Nine Labyrinth Formation was the only thing holding its executives in place. If they did manage to free themselves, they would be a serious threat.
Summoning his Goldbiter Rats, Jiang Chen tasked them with escorting the Precious Tree Sect people to safety as quickly as possible.
Protector King Gentlewind, in the meantime, was as honest and humble as a quail before Jiang Chen.
"Never mind. You don't need to die, but you'll suffer a bit." As Jiang Chen said this, Gentlewind collapsed to the floor.
Rather than killing the man, Jiang Chen dumped him into a corner before returning to the field. This time, his goal was Xiahou Jing.
However, when he approached the Nine Labyrinth Formation, shock coursed through his heart. Shu Wanqing was almost out!
Currently, Jiang Chen could only make use of a sliver of the formation's true power. Therefore, he couldn't entirely ensnare an expert of Shu Wanqing's level yet. Allowing Shu Wanqing to escape now would be as fatal as giving amnesty to a bloodthirsty criminal!
But without the four stone giant brothers by his side, Jiang Chen could only use his Confounding Puppets in order to hold any ground. Give his cultivation level, he could only use two at the same time. He would have a very hard time facing the empyrean expert.
Jiang Chen guessed that Shu Wanqing was at least third level empyrean realm. Slightly stronger than Xiahou Jing, who was only second. Though he was still minor empyrean realm rather than mid, the difference between empyrean levels was marked and significant.
It was extremely difficult to bridge that kind of difference without being a special sort of genius.
Nearing his formation, Jiang Chen wordlessly fired an arrow within at the nearly-escaped Shu Wanqing.
The empyrean expert was focused wholly on a way to break through when he suddenly felt a lethal force coming from behind. In that instant, he barely evaded enough to escape the brunt of it.
However, Jiang Chen's archery was legendary. Another two arrows arrived almost simultaneously behind the first. Shu Wanqing's movements were immensely swift, but the missiles were even faster than that.
A vicious-looking arrow embedded itself into Shu Wanqing's thigh. The empyrean expert howled in pain.
The Holy Dragon Bow's power was unmatched. A single arrow was enough to incapacitate more than half of his capabilities.
Shu Wanqing's shrill shriek drew the others' gazes. Sweat beaded on the empyrean expert's forehead. He dragged along his lame leg, dodging as a streak of light into the crowd. Though he was officially disabled, he was still incredibly fast if intent on escaping.
Jiang Chen held onto his Holy Dragon Bow without firing any more. Firing the bow in rapid succession required a great deal of energy. He didn't want to waste his limited stamina on pointless strikes.
These Order executives were all experts, but they weren't worth his effort. He would target Shu Wanqing and Xiahou Jing alone. The latter was wily enough to know that things had gone quite bad given the former's hasty fluster. He dodged briskly in emulation of Shu Wanqing's rhythm.
Clearly, both the empyrean experts and the others were wary of Jiang Chen's killing arrows. For the time being, they were trapped beasts within the Nine Labyrinth Formation.
"Daoist Shu, didn't you say you'd almost found the exit?" Xiahou Jing couldn't resist asking after catching up.
Shu Wanqing snapped back unbridled fury. "If you'd backed me up, I would've found the exit long ago for everyone!"
His heart quailed. This was the first time he felt a personal threat from this human youngster. Before now, he'd solely been hostile towards the young lord. He'd never considered it possible for Jiang Chen to be able to threaten him in any concrete way. But now, he was forced to admit he'd underestimated the youth.
The disturbing injury on his leg wasn't something that would heal in the short term. The destruction of these arrows extended deeper than the flesh into his tendons and meridians. Most worryingly, his bodily operations had been affected.
If the wound wasn't treated in a timely manner and allowed to worsen, he'd be even more disadvantaged.
"You see what's happening, Supreme Lord? If things are allowed to spiral out of control like this, we'll be cut down like wheat, stalk by stalk. That's hardly an exaggeration." Shu Wanqing's expression darkened, as did his tone.
Xiahou Jing's facial muscles twitched slightly. He could see as well as everyone else that even Shu Wanqing had been grievously hurt. The young man from Myriad Abyss felt himself to be weaker than the human domain expert. This meant Jiang Chen had more than enough ability to threaten his life!
"Daoist Shu, what shall we do? Do you have any good ideas?"
"Hmph, I do! I've found the approximate location of the exit, but that kid's arrows are nigh unstoppable. I need your people to shield me." Shu Wanqing was brutally truthful.
In other words, he needed meat shields to stand in the way.
It wasn't necessarily effective, but it was much better than facing Jiang Chen's arrows head on.
"Must that be done?" Xiahou Jing mused.
He didn't care for the lives of his subordinates, but such an order was difficult to make in the first place. If he did, these Order executives would leave him, making the Order would be an empty shell of its former self.
If his followers no longer wished to follow him, the Order could very well close any time.
His hesitation angered Shu Wanqing. "You don't want to? Then let heaven decide our fates! I'm hurt, but I can protect myself with no problem. We'll see who dies first!"
Xiahou Jing was very conflicted. He knew only the two empyrean experts could find a way out. The others couldn't possibly carry out such a feat. But if they were to face Jiang Chen's arrows, how could they concentrate at all?
This was a quintessential impasse.
Xiahou Jing chose to be blunt. "Friends," he shouted, "you heard what Daoist Shu said! We have to find the gap in this formation if we want to get out of here, but only Daoist Shu and I have a chance to do so at all. Thus, we need someone to protect us, which is an extremely dangerous proposition. If I were to delegate this to any one of you, you would be dissatisfied with me, but it must be done. What do you think I should do?"
The atmosphere became very heavy.
Everyone had been plotting for self-preservation after hearing Shu Wanqing's declaration. Still, it was hard to deny that the supreme lord had a strong argument. This was the only solution. Without doing this, it was probable that Jiang Chen would harvest the lives of everyone in the end.
"Supreme Lord, we have to risk our lives if this is the only strategy."
"Let the heavens decide. We should draw lots!"
"Yes, let's draw lots. Whoever's drawn must do his duty!"
The Order executives couldn't come up with a better way to decide. They were forced to rely on this most primitive of methods to determine the unlucky bodyguard.