However, Jiang Chen wasn’t fooled by the show of humility. The pride of a scion from a great houses was too deeply entrenched to conceal behind a veneer of sincerity. Given a chance to, the fellow would stop at nothing to strike at Jiang Chen, especially since the young lord was the sole witness of this so-called genius’ ugly side.
There was also no need to kill Kuang Rong straight away. The man still had obvious value. Want to play? Then I’ll play along.
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “Bravo, a real man knows when to be flexible. You’re smarter than Xuan Rui at least. So have a guess. What do you think I desire most right now?”
“What do you desire most?” Kuang Rong blinked. He stared at his captor for a long while before inspiration finally seemed to strike. He murmured, “I don’t know your distinguished self’s concrete identity. You’re too strong and talented to be prey for the eight great houses. But if you’re not one of the Winterdraw contestants, how could you have snuck into the Blackwraith Mountains in the first place?”
He couldn’t wrap his head around the idea. How could someone from the Rejuvenation Isles be strong enough to subvert his preconceptions?
Jiang Chen responded calmly, “You’re right, I’m worth precisely five points.” There was no anger in his voice now, only indifference.
Kuang Rong’s heart sank. “Are you really quarry from Winterdraw? Impossible! Is the Rejuvenation Isles blind? How can they let a genius like you rot on Winterdraw? What a waste of potential!”
His eyes shone bright. “All the more reason for us to strike a deal in that case. Even if you kill us all, you’ll be hard-pressed to escape death in the end. You must be aware that we represent our houses’ future. Too many of us dying in this lowly place is bound to enrage our seniors. They may even flatten these mountains. Consider this, no matter how strong you are, how will you survive then? Are you confident you can hide from our elders and elite guards?
“Not to mention, I hear that no one’s allowed to leave Winterdraw. The lethal restrictions surrounding this place prevents anyone from escaping. Won’t you end up trapped? Capturing you will be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel for the aristocratic houses.”
Kuang Rong put his glib tongue to good use. He found many excuses in a short time, singing his case with logic and aplomb.
However, Jiang Chen remained deaf to his arguments. He threw his captive a glance, accenting the killing intent in his eyes rather than hiding it.
Kuang Chen stiffened. And here I thought I was convincing enough. Why is this fellow still unmoved? He can’t be that brash and foolhardy, can he?
“Kuang Rong, are you giving me even more reasons to kill you?” Jiang Chen asked, his tone eerie.
Kuang Rong trembled and blinked rapidly. “No no no, sir, please tell me what you want! As long as I can be of use, you simply need to ask!”
“I want to leave Winterdraw,” Jiang Chen quietly replied. “I don’t mind letting you off if you can find a suitable way.”
“Leave?” Kuang Rong beamed delightedly. “Isn’t that simple? Just pretend to be my attendant. You can easily leave later. We’ve mainly come to hunt this time, but no one will object if I say I’ve taken a fancy to your potential and want to take you with me.”
Jiang Chen truly felt a rush of excitement at the suggestion.
Yet, he still decided decisively against it after mulling it over. No matter how pretty the plan seemed, it had a fatal flaw. His life would no longer be in his own hands. He would be at someone else’s mercy.
A few words from Kuang Rong, a secret hint in the dark, and he’d be a lamb to the slaughter for the aristocratic houses. He might be a confident man, but escaping from a sixth level empyrean powerhouse?
Furthermore, no one could leave the island as the fellow had pointed out. He’d indeed be an easy target. No matter how fast he ran, he wouldn’t escape the island’s confines and would fall into enemy hands sooner or later.
Deeply aware of the truth, he was determined to remain the master of his own destiny, even if he had to brave some risk to that end. Kuang Rong’s suggestion seemed the safer road at first, but there were still too many uncertain factors. A single piece of the puzzle not falling into place meant his life might be forfeit.
This wasn’t his type of deal.
Kuang Rong panicked. His captor had clearly been tempted at first, yet hadn’t given his assent. It seemed his persuasion had failed.
“Sir, if the idea isn’t to your liking, we can discuss whatever other ideas you have. I have many ways of helping you if you simply want out.”
The young lord snickered. It wasn’t the man’s methods, but his moral integrity that was in question. No matter what hypocritical oath he swore, a subtle hint would be enough to spell Jiang Chen’s doom.
He secretly composed himself. My plan is already set. Kuang Rong is nothing but an accident. I caught him for information, not so I can be swayed. I must stay the course.
“Kuang Rong, I don’t want to hear your shit. If you want to cooperate, the best you can do is to spill every detail you know about each member of the eight houses, how they relate to the others, and the relationships between the houses in general. I might consider sparing you if you’re comprehensive enough.”
He would no longer allow his determination to waver and would leave disguised as Xuan Rui. It’d be folly to alter his plans at the last minute.
Kuang Rong sighed in disappointment, utterly depressed. This fellow was a tough nut to crack and seemed impermeable to his smooth-talking.
“I get it, you just want to squeeze more information out of me. You’ll kill me once I outlive my usefulness.” His tone was bitter. “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. You’ll take my life either way, so why should I cooperate?”
Jiang Chen merely smiled at Kuang Rong’s realization. “So you don’t value this chance?”
The crestfallen Kuang Rong shook his head. “Cut the chit chat and just kill me. The more people you slaughter and the greater your sins, the more alert the eight great houses will become. Want to leave? Dream on.”
What use was spilling the beans if he was doomed in any case?
Not disappointed in the least, Jiang Chen looked leisurely into the distance. “Ah, your friends are here just on time. I’ll bring them here to keep you company.”
Kuang Rong’s expression froze. “I-If you kill them, you’ll be House Kuang’s lifelong enemy.”
“What? Are both of them your clanmates?” Jiang Chen crowed with laughter. “Perfect. The road to the netherworld won’t be lonely with family around!”
Despair finally spilled from Kuang Rong’s eyes. If would be a slap to his house’s face if all three of them died on Winterdraw. It’d even shake the very foundations of House Kuang’s standing among the eight great houses.
His blood ran cold at the mere prospect.
Yet, bound as he was, there was nothing he could do. He could roar at the top of his lungs, but no one outside Jiang Chen’s soundproof barrier would hear him.
“Sir, please let them go. I’ll tell you everything you want.” Kuang Rong finally surrendered.
Jiang Chen smiled. “Too late. Letting them go will come back to bite Xuan Rui in the rear.”
If Kuang Rong disappeared while pursuing “Xuan Rui,” and Jiang Chen left as the same Xuan Rui, then House Kuang would ultimately find and hunt him down. He didn’t even need to think to know what would happen then.
As the ancients said, cutting grass needed to be completed with the roots. Since the other two knew Kuang Rong had gone after “Xuan Rui,’ Jiang Chen couldn’t let these two seeds of future trouble escape.
Without further ado, he summoned two empyrean Confusion Puppets to ambush the two youngsters from House Kuang.
The two men were Kuang Rong’s teammates in the current hunt and took their orders from him. They naturally weren’t as strong, so the two puppets easily captured them alive.
All three geniuses from House Kuang were dumped as captives in a tiny corner. They stared at their captor, their eyes brimming with powerless dread.
“First things first. Kuang Rong, you be quiet.” Jiang Chen knocked him unconscious, then looked at the other two with indifference. “Do you think I’ll have a hard time killing you?”
The two knew their places. They immediately shook their heads.
“Since you’re my captives, you should listen to me, shouldn’t you?” Jiang Chen remained unfazed.
“Of course. What do you want to know? Please ask at your leisure.”
“Not bad, you’re much smarter than Kuang Rong. I’ll question you separately each in turn. Remember, don’t try to fool me. You’ll only have yourselves to blame if I turn cruel once I notice the slightest discrepancy between your answers.”
Isolated interrogations were in fact rather common and most suitable in the current situation. Sure enough, cowed by the young lord, the two men obediently answered every question he had.
Separated, they could no longer collude and their stories roughly matched each other. In this way, Jiang Chen came to know all he wanted about the eight great houses.