"Gentlewind! Have you lost your mind?!" Xiahou Jing broke out in loud curses.
The puppet was fully capable of simple speech at Jiang Chen's current mastery level, but long conversations were still too draining. He'd rather hurl a few more punches at his target instead.
However, Shu Wanqing still had the strength to react even after taking multiple heavy hits. He leaned into the motion of his body falling and wriggled away like a fish.
The formation instantly fell into disarray.
"Protect Daoist Shu!" Xiahou Jing yelled fiercely as Shu Wanqing was his only hope of getting out alive. Without further ado, he charged at the puppet and went toe to toe with it.
The puppet's battle style was very straightforward and brutal. It was dishing out punches and kicks with no wasted movement.
Xiahou Jing sucked in a breath of cold air as they exchanged moves. He couldn't believe that "Gentlewind" was so powerful! They were equally matched! Moreover, his opponent kept going at him like a suicidal maniac that didn't possess any concept of self-preservation!
The intensity and recklessness left him breathless and overwhelmed. Soon, he found himself on the back foot, alarm bells ringing loudly. His mind was in shambles. The plans and schemes that he'd so meticulously thought up were falling apart. When had Gentlewind switched sides?
Also, how had he made such a giant leap in martial dao and completely changed his martial style? He almost seemed like a different person!
...a different person? A frightful thought suddenly flashed across his mind. Can the real Gentlewind have been switched out?
The mere thought of it sent shivers down his spine. How could an imitation look so similar to the real thing?
Can it be Jiang Chen?
Impossible! He's not even a great emperor yet! How can he possibly stand toe-to-toe against a second level empyrean master?
But if not him, then who?! How many capable subordinates does that bastard have? Why does this one feel like he'll fight to the death?
While Xiahou Jing was kept preoccupied, Jiang Chen activated a second puppet and transformed it into another member of the Order.
With all the chaos and mayhem going on in the background, it slipped into the crowd unnoticed.
The senior executives of the Order had formed a human barrier around Shu Wanqing as per their supreme lord's orders. They were to keep him safe at all costs.
Shu Wanqing sat in a meditative position. His injuries were grave and serious. They could be life-threatening if he didn't treat himself in time. Sadly, the second puppet wasn't so kind to give him that opportunity.
"Y-you!! Why are you here?!" One of the senior executives finally noticed the puppet.
"Didn't you die to an arrow already?"
"He's a fake!"
Unfortunately, the discovery was made too late. The puppet charged the human barrier, created an opening, and hurled a ferocious punch at Shu Wanqing.
Shu Wanqing was exasperated. He'd been extremely unlucky today. First, he was injured by a seemingly endless strings of attacks, and now a difficult foe had come for his life.
He of all people knew that this was no time to be distracted, but his leg was maimed and his back heavily mutilated. He could barely muster half of his potential. Naturally, he struggled against his opponent.
"What are you imbeciles waiting for? Hold him down!" He yelled angrily. He'd begun to regret his decision to become involved with an organization filled with mindless trash. The events of today were the greatest humiliation he'd ever suffered in life.
It was utter chaos. A group of senior executives ran in to help after hearing Shu Wanqing's cries, but there wasn't much they could do in a battle between empyrean masters. They charged in valiantly, only to be blasted away by one of the two's aura.
Shu Wanqing was on the verge of going insane. He had a deep understanding that he was going to die if this continued. He raised his head towards the sky and bellowed. "Jiang Chen! That's enough! Killing me won't net you anything!"
He was both frightened and angry. It was more than obvious that Jiang Chen was resolved to kill him.
He'd survived and remained hidden for tens of thousands of years, longer than even tortoises. For what had he suffered all this for and why had he refused to show his face in public? All for the sake of longevity! Because of that, he couldn't help but tremble that his life was about to be forfeit.
Jiang Chen had gone too far. Was the brat really going to ruthlessly kill his senior? Perhaps this was time for a proper conversation with the kid.
"Jiang Chen, if you kill me, you'll invite the combined wrath of the hidden empyreans! You should know that we are a very tightly-knit group. They may not help me while I'm alive, but know that if you kill me, someone will definitely give you trouble for it. I have countless friends and many of them are empyrean masters! Do you really want to kick the hornet's nest? Can Veluriyam even withstand the assault from a group of empyrean experts?"
Shu Wanqing was clear with his threats.
Unfortunately for him, Jiang Chen never did respond well to threats. He chuckled easily. "Shu Wanqing, back when we were at Veluriyam, you told me smugly that you'd take me down a notch. Look at you now. Is this all there is to an empyrean master's pride?"
Jiang Chen genuinely had a very low opinion of Shu Wanqing. He'd seen his share of vile filth over the years, but the sight of secluded expert still made his stomach roil.
Shu Wanqing was exasperated after hearing Jiang Chen's response. His wounds were growing ever more serious while the puppet encroached ever closer. He was in a panic and all fluster, his life in terminal danger at any moment.
"Jiang Chen! Don't you push me into a corner! There will be consequences far greater than anything you or your capital can handle!" Shu Wanqing shrieked desperately.
Jiang Chen smiled as though he was watching a comedy. "My capital has been through so many things that others say it couldn't handle. But every single time, it came through just fine.
"We managed just fine when Pillfire tried to suppress us.
"We were completely fine too when the Order stirred up trouble!
"So what makes you think that we can't you being an accessory to a tyrant's crimes?
"The Embittered Savages? They too will fall against us! Even if the sky were to collapse, we will carry the burden upon our shoulders! Look at you still trying to wriggle your way out of the situation with a glib tongue? Aren't you a little too old to be so naive?"
Jiang Chen clearly wasn't going to spare Shu Wanqing.
The Nine Labyrinth Formation was withdrawn. The illusory realm vanished before the crowd's eyes. They'd just heaved a collective sigh of relief, but pupils contracted violently in the next second when they noticed that four golems were charging at them from all sides.
"Those who kneel shall live, and those stand shall die! This is the final mercy I will show to the members of the Order! Obey or die!" Jiang Chen shouted.
His voice was filled with dominance. Any remaining bit of fighting spirit departed from the senior executives of the faction at the sound of his voice. One by one, they abandoned their weapons and armor and plonked to their knees.
Out of twenty-two, eighteen had knelt. Only four were brave enough to stand with teeth clenched, sneering coldly, or emotionless.
Everviolet broke out in loud curses. "Cowards… cowards, the bunch of you! We are so many! We could've put up a fight! But alas, alas!" He turned into a ball of purple light and attempted to flee to safety.
But how could he possibly succeed before an empyrean master's might? Big Stone grabbed at the air and created a prison of air that trapped Everviolet, dragging him to a halt in midair.
"Forget it, forget it. A loss is a loss." This came from another protector king — specifically Emperor Sabledeep of the wandering titans.
Sabledeep had made a deep study of the arts of life and had been tempted by the supreme lord into joining the Order. He hadn't done anything particularly evil all along, but neither had his support wavered like some of the others. Add to that the supreme lord's promise of an empyrean opportunity — that had been enough to win his steady loyalty.
But looking at the situation now, none of Xiahou Jing's promises had come true and the Order was now on the brink of collapse.
As for Shu Wanqing, he refused to believe that any of this was happening. He was an empyrean master! An elite of the human race! In his eyes, he was a dragon amongst men.
Secluded experts like him had always viewed the greater population as their subjects and looked down on them from the lofty perspective of superiors. Who would've thought that the masses he'd dismissed would produce such a perverse genius that could so unequivocally threaten his life?
He refused to accept any of this and was also incredibly depressed. "I can't just die like this. I need to find an opportunity to break out! I have to do that even if I'm heavily injured!"
Jiang Chen instantly understood the subtle undercurrents when he noted the unusual behavior from the empyrean master. "Big Stone, you brothers keep him down no matter what. Don't give him a chance to breathe!"
A centipede still continues to wriggle even when dead. Shu Wanqing wasn't really dead until he'd breathed his last!