Although Jiang Chen was thoroughly disgusted and reviled by Polylore Divine Nation’s eight aristocratic houses, and utterly hated the Rejuvenation Isles for tricking him – he was secretly rather pleased after thinking everything through. This was his big chance, the best he’d had so far after coming to Winterdraw.
Without it, heavens knew how long he would had to wait.
“Who should I pretend to be?” Jiang Chen sank into thought. It wasn’t hard for him to pretend to be Xue Feng. He had wholly absorbed the youth’s source of the Nether Flames. It wasn’t difficult to mimic the evil spirit possession or the giant sword arm, either.
The same was true for Xuan Rui. He had been the most practiced with ocular skills and archery; and so was Jiang Chen. Moreover, Jiang Chen was intimately familiar with Xuan Rui’s aura and behavior after fighting him.
But who should he choose?
He came to a decision reasonably quickly. Xuan Rui was the more suitable option. Compared to Xue Feng, he was more cruel and sinister. That marked him as someone that was likely usually antisocial.
It made pretending to be him even easier. A friendless person was less likely to be questioned about practically anything. Looks and figure were easy enough to copy. As for his cold bearing, maintaining an aura of silence and unapproachability was sufficient.
Jiang Chen rapidly turned himself into a second Xuan Rui. But there was one important problem: he needed a grey cloak. He had totally forgotten about that detail when he killed the youth.
“I need to get my hands on a cloak, hmm?” Jiang Chen had everything else that had belonged to Xuan Rui, as well as all the spoils that Xuan Rui and Xue Feng had carried with them. He was done with Polylore’s test.
If he could hunt down another genius, he would have enough to show for someone of Xuan Rui’s status.
The devil was in the details. Jiang Chen couldn’t risk ignoring them, because his ruse would be flawed without. Though he didn’t have a grey cloak in the exact same style, he had plenty of similar ones. He picked a random one for the time being.
A few adjustments later, Jiang Chen disappeared like a wraith on the spot. Now, he was the hunter rather than the hunted. He hunted not Winterdraw’s cultivators, but the eight houses’ geniuses.
It would be a nightmare for them if Jiang Chen were to go on a killing spree.
Thankfully, he was prioritizing other things first. The geniuses were unwittingly provided succor from the worst.
The area for the trial was stated to be some sixteen hundred miles worth of outskirts in the Blackwraith Mountains. This was a rather large space to hunt down the young geniuses in.
Jiang Chen had a specific goal in his hunt though: only those in grey cloaks were to be killed. Those outside that criterion were left alone, to avoid raising the alarm.
Now that Jiang Chen had shifted gear from picking spirit herbs to hunting down prey, he became highly efficient at his new task.
He didn’t interfere in the geniuses’ killings of the Winterdraw contestants. The law of the jungle reigned supreme in the world of martial dao. He had no plans of becoming some sort of universal savior for these strangers. He had a strict plan that he needed to stick to.
Alas, none of the hunters he saw wore a grey cloak. This misfortune was slightly depressing.
“The eight houses have twenty-four geniuses. So, one house should have three total. If I’ve killed Xuan Rui, House Xuan should still have two more. Maybe the grey cloak is unique to them?”
After a few days of observation, Jiang Chen noticed that the eight houses’ geniuses wore the same style of cloak. The only difference between them was color. Perhaps that singular difference identified who was aligned with what house.
Because of this, Jiang Chen felt a sense of urgency. He only had two potential prey left, if that were the case. The Blackwraith Mountains were sprawling. It wasn’t going to be easy to find two specific people here.
As he went about his business one day, his footsteps slowed. There was an indistinct sense of hostility up ahead.
“Who is it?” Jiang Chen imitated Xuan Rui’s low, ruthless voice.
“Heh, Xuan Rui?” A strange cackle came within the forest. A figure in a brown cloak appeared before him.
“Another top rank genius.” Jiang Chen clucked his tongue as he took in his counterpart’s aura. The person who was blocking the road had a more powerful one than both Xue Feng and Xuan Rui.
Jiang Chen had been instinctively able to sense that Xuan Rui was slightly stronger than Xue Feng. Yet, the brown-cloaked man opposite seemed to be stronger still.
HIs heart shifted, then settled down.
“The Blackwraith Mountains are a pretty vast place, Xuan Rui, but I’ve bumped into you.” The brown-cloaked youth remarked derisively. From the sound of it, he had some sort of grudge with Jiang Chen’s assumed identity.
“Hmph. What do you want?” Jiang Chen harrumphed. He was having a hard time because he didn’t know who this was. He could only poke back with insubstantial replies.
“What do I want?” The stranger laughed heartily. “We fought bitterly over our rankings back in Polylore for the longest time. You’ve pissed me off a long time ago. What do you think I want, hmm?”
“You looking to fight?” Jiang Chen smirked coldly.
“Give up your spoils and I, Kuang, will consider letting you go.” So the cultivator’s surname was Kuang, but Jiang Chen still didn’t know the rest of his name.
The young man in disguise raised his head to the sky. “Isn’t it daytime?” he quipped. “It’s a bit early for you to sleep-talk.”
The other youth’s voice darkened. “I guess you intend to resist to the bitter end.”
“Cut the blather. You’ve got to have the skills to take away my spoils.” Jiang Chen didn’t know how strong this Kuang person was, but he was probably slightly stronger than Xuan Rui had been. Not a decisive difference, obviously.
In a real fight, Xuan Rui hypothetically wouldn’t be at a disadvantage.
Thus, Jiang Chen didn’t know where the other’s confidence stemmed from. However, his heart sank with a cursory probe from his consciousness. The truth was out.
There were actually two more people concealed nearby, not just the one who’d popped up. Without his powerful consciousness, they would have been impossible to notice.
What a nasty piece of work. Are those two also geniuses from House Kuang? Or are they from another one? If it’s the latter, then Xuan Rui clearly failed at getting along with others.
Jiang Chen smiled coolly. Now that he knew what his opponent was cooking, he wasn’t going to step into the trap. “I’ll deal with you after we return to Polylore, Kuang.”
He turned around as he said this, disappearing in a burst of light.
The Kuang genius had already made preparations to fight. He hadn’t expected his opponent to gutlessly run away.
“Xuan Rui, you coward!” he snickered in disdain. “What else can you do other than turn tail and run?”
Jiang Chen didn’t care much for responding to such pointless words. Even if he were actually Xuan Rui, he’d be a fool to not retreat from a three-person ambush.
It seems that the eight houses aren’t harmonious. Just as I thought. Jiang Chen finally understood why Xuan Rui hadn’t been able to keep his cool in their confrontation earlier.
The now-dead genius knew that he had many enemies among the other houses. If a mortal enemy had come upon the scene, he would’ve killed Xuan Rui first without a doubt.
“There’s not much time left in the half-month we were given.” Jiang Chen counted the days out on his fingers. He had less than a week left. He was very much in a hurry to find another grey-cloaked person. Otherwise, his ‘Xuan Rui’ disguise would be slightly flawed.
Of course, Jiang Chen could kill and pretend to be another. But to do that, he would need some extra time to become acquainted with them and copy their mannerisms. He wasn’t interested in pivoting on such a tight schedule.
However, the Kuang cultivator’s obstinacy had not been part of his plans. In fact, the young genius had caught up to him in hot pursuit. The two other cultivators from his house noticeably lagged behind, both in speed and cultivation.
“This guy just won’t give up, huh?” Though he’d originally been uninterested in complicating affairs, Kuang’s pressure was negatively affecting the viability of his plan.
Fury brewed from the bottom of his heart.
“He’s courting death. If I don’t kill him, he might cost me my big chance. But will I cause too much of a ruckus if I do?
“Ah, never mind. If these three are allowed to stick around, I wouldn’t be able to leave Winterdraw at all. In fact, I may be chased down by frenzied seniors from the eight houses.”
This wasn’t an over-exaggeration. If too many of the eight houses’ geniuses died, their seniors would burn with incredible vehemence.
It was possible that they would make an incursion into the Blackwraith Mountains themselves for any potential Winterdraw survivors. If that came to pass, it would significantly damage Jiang Chen’s plans to depart.