Without considering any other factors, Jiang Chen was only certain that his consciousness was superior, and an overwhelming advantage at that. His opponent was more than a match in terms of speed, martial potential, and combat ability.
The fight was turning white-hot. Jiang Chen noticed through his consciousness that his opponent wasn’t much interested in fighting anymore after repeated failed moves. In fact, he seemed to be looking to retreat.
No way. It took a lot of effort to get him here. If he escapes, wouldn’t all the clues just dead end? This compelled Jiang Chen to lead the fight to where the Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud was scattered.
The man in the black cloak found his composure slowly turning to impatience. He hadn’t expected his opponent to be still standing. His cards were largely spent. Was his opponent really just a candidate from Winterdraw?
Resentment and doubt filled his heart.
The impact of fist against fist sent both combatants stumbling backwards. Such a direct clash taxed them equally. Both Jiang Chen’s tempered body and his enemy’s possession technique were quite tiring.
“Again!” Veluriyam’s young lord pounced in his opponent’s direction once more. His opponent fended off the attack off with a flip of his gigantic axe.
“Hold on!” A wave from the stranger signaled to pause the fight.
Jiang Chen remained poised, leering fiercely at his opponent. He wanted to see what other tricks the cloaked man had up his sleeve. The Soulless Powder was about to take full effect.
“You’re quite skilled. You aren’t one of the candidates from Winterdraw, are you?” The man in the black cloak hadn’t quite recovered himself, but his tone now was much less arrogant than it had been at the beginning. The skirmish had forced him to swallow his pride and face reality.
Jiang Chen sneered. “I have the medallion and number to prove it. I’m from Winterdraw through and through. But, I’m certain that you’re not!”
“If you don’t know who I am, why not call it a draw?” the cloaked man retorted coldly. “Neither of us can take down the other.”
“This isn’t an arena. There’s no such thing as a draw.” Jiang Chen shook his head.
“Oh?” The man’s voice darkened. “What’re you planning to do? You want to finish this decisively? Do you think I’m scared of you?”
“What, aren’t you the one scared?” Jiang Chen snickered. “Why else did you stop? Why are you thinking of retreating? You don’t want the Goldensable Fleeceflower any more?”
The cloaked man almost coughed up blood. He was a proud scion of the eight houses. Any resident of Winterdraw was less than an ant to him!
He’d been unable to attain an advantage despite having fought with a so-called ‘ant’ for so long. His lack of success bred feelings of unease. After all, there was a time limit for the competition. He couldn’t waste much time in a fight with minimal chances of victory.
No matter how strong his opponent was, he was just one of the elites from Winterdraw and only worth five points.
If the five points were out of his grasp, there was no point in sticking around. In fact, it would be downright stupid to. There were sixty elite candidates in all. Why spend time mucking around with this absurdly tough one?
The little contest between the eight houses appeared quite ordinary on the surface, but it was actually a cloak-and-dagger bout of intrigue. No one wanted to, or could afford to lose given the high stakes.
The Goldensable Fleeceflower was valuable, but what his house stood to gain from winning the competition far outweighed it. The cloaked man glared fire at Jiang Chen, as if he wanted to incinerate the youth with a look alone.
“You got lucky this time. I have other matters to attend to.” He suppressed his frustration in the end. After delivering a punchy one-liner, he decided to use his speed to escape.
“Do you think you can still get away?” Jiang Chen smiled easily.
The cloaked man’s look grew dour. “What? Do you think you actually have the ability to defeat me? Don’t be naive. It’s impossible for us to conclude our fight even with another fortnight of dueling.”
“I wouldn’t be so hasty.” Jiang Chen’s tone was layered with blackened humor. According to his calculations, the Soulless Powder was about to kick in right… now.
“Hmph. Keep dreaming.” The black-cloaked man was stoic enough to ignore his seething fury. It was better to avoid conflict with such a sharp enemy.
Suddenly, his face colored as he detected something errant. A simple probing of his qi ocean plunged his mood deep into the abyss. After the short break, his qi had been sealed away by some unknown force!
An alarming chill ran down the man’s spine, spreading to his limbs. A glance out of his peripheral vision saw a mocking smile hanging on his opponent’s face. An ominous premonition sent cold sweat down his back.
“Submit to your fate. I don’t care who you are. I gave you two choices: either you take off the cloak yourself, or I do it for you.” Jiang Chen’s voice held a gravity reserved for judgment.
“You underhanded bastard!” The stranger had plainly noticed the bind and danger he was in. He tossed a foreign object into the air, making an odd light to soar and scatter into the skies.
Jiang Chen wasn’t quick enough to stop him from doing so. “What, calling your friends?” he snickered. “You’re too naive.” He stepped forward in great strides, picking up the stranger with his bare hands.
The cloak was torn off in a single, fluid motion, revealing a young man with mildly sinister features. He looked several years younger than Jiang Chen.
Jiang Chen drew a sharp breath. “Just as I thought.”
He recognized this youth among the honored guests that the Rejuvenation Isles had invited. Those so-called ‘honored guests’ had brought a group of young geniuses with them. This particular youth had been among their ranks.
“You recognize me?” the uncloaked stranger paled.
“I don’t and I don’t see much of a need to. You’re my enemy and you wanted to kill me. For that, you deserve to die.” Jiang Chen’s tone grew murderous.
“You dare kill me?” the stranger screeched. “Do you know who I am? Killing me will only bring trouble to Winterdraw. The same goes for the Rejuvenation Isles!”
“Is that so?” Jiang Chen burst out into laughter. “You’re only convincing me of the correctness of my actions. Winterdraw is where prisoners are exiled. Do you think we prisoners care about bringing trouble here? It’s not like it’ll affect our freedoms, eh?”
The stranger’s heart froze. “Hmph! Do you think you’ll be able to preserve yourself in the midst of calamity? No one will be left alive on Winterdraw. Can you pacify the anger of nobles from a divine nation?”
Nobles from a divine nation? Jiang Chen had guessed the honored guests to be rather important. It was quite possible they were from one of the Ten Divine Nations. His guess had apparently been proven correct.
“You’re from the Ten Divine Nations?” He delayed going for the kill as his curiosity had been piqued.
His opponent was out of tricks anyway. The Soulless Powder meant that his life was unequivocally in Jiang Chen’s hands. There was no harm in extracting some potentially useful information.
Or perhaps this fellow still thought he could stall until a compatriot came to the rescue?
“That’s right.” The black-cloaked man puffed out his chest. It remained unchanged that he felt he was owed prestige thanks to his origin.
“Which divine nation?” Jiang Chen asked coolly.
“Do you really need to know? Are you prepared to oppose a divine nation?” The stranger thought that the mere mention of a divine nation was sufficient to intimidate his captor.
His lack of responsiveness was frustrating. Suddenly, Jiang Chen’s ears twitched. He sensed several energy signatures flying toward his direction. He was shaken by this revelation.
There wasn’t much left he could squeeze out of this young man in particular. Nodding slightly, he walked over with a cross between a grin and a grimace. A layer of frost formed atop his right palm, shimmering like a cold, blue flame.
The stranger felt Jiang Chen’s mountainous pressure. His arrogance and pretentiousness melted away. “Hold on, I’ll tell you. The Polylore Divine Nation’s eight houses have twenty-four geniuses here…”
His words were cut short by a scream.
An arrow had lodged itself into his chest.
Jiang Chen braced himself, stunned by the sudden appearance of the arrow. He hadn’t had the time to react to it until it had already hit its mark.
Such a life-seeking projectile was fearsome indeed!
He had a feeling that a more difficult opponent had appeared — someone that Jiang Chen had no interest in staying around for. He picked up the cloaked man’s storage ring, then fled with a flash of escaping light.
The cloaked man was from a place as prominent as Polylore Divine Nation. His storage ring was sure to be a treasure trove of goodies. The Nether Flames alone were enough for him to take a gamble!
His speed was unaffected by the grueling battle he had just experienced. A few moments was enough to put the battlefield behind him completely. The cloaked man’s corpse remained where it was, his eyelids still open.
In the next moment, another ghostly figure landed beside the cadaver. This one wore a cloak of greyish-white.
The second stranger’s eyes were even keener. It was as if they could divine all the world’s truths in only a few blinks.