The other five houses had now changed their minds. Instead of leaving, they now wanted to stay and enjoy the show.
Of course, they weren’t kind enough as to provide assistance.
Rejuvenation Isles couldn’t ignore the combined wrath of three noble houses. Imperial Prince Huo, Commander He, as well as important figures from Winterdraw were all on site. The most apprehensive one right now was Sin City’s lord, Xie Wushuang.
The three houses might have lost six geniuses between them, and contestants from his city were the most likely culprits.
“Xie Wushang, look at what you’ve done. Explain yourself to our noble guests!” The chief warden berated, keen to shirk his responsibilities and throw the hot potato to the city lord.
However, the latter retorted, his face a picture of innocence, “Lord Warden, your servant’s devoted himself heart and soul to organize the selection at your behest. I’m confident my due diligence has been worthy of your trust.”
He truly felt himself innocent. Your men never told me the selection was meant to provide Polylore with young geniuses to hunt.
If he’d known, he might have been more careful and refrained from sending candidates that were too strong. But on the contrary, the wardens had urged him repeatedly to raise the standards and select the cream of the crop.
How could he not be aggrieved to see the time and effort he’d spent come back to bite him? He was less than eager to become the scapegoat, to say the least.
Xuan Zan threw the chief warden a discontented glare. “Cut the damned chit chat. Focus on the murderer! He’s the one we want!”
The chief warden hurried to respond, “Yes, of course! We’ll hunt him down and dole out the punishment he deserves!”
Hiding their extreme disdain, Xie Wushang and the others nodded in concert. They were the ones who felt the most wronged. As Winterdraw locals, they were innately hostile to outsiders. They also weren’t all that happy to see the geniuses they’d selected turned into prey.
The hunter killed by the prey? Your geniuses only have their own incompetence to blame. What are you lashing out for? How unsightly.
Seeing Xie Wushang’s lack of enthusiasm, Kuang Han remarked with annoyance, “You’re called Xie Wushang, correct? I hear you’re the one who’s selected the two suspects. Tell us, who’s the more likely murderer out of the two?”
Xie Wushang didn’t dare express his loathing for these men, so after some consideration, he replied respectfully, “In my opinion, it should be Jiang Huang. Su Hong’s undeniably talented, but more so than Polylore’s geniuses? I find it hard to believe. On the other hand, I can’t see through Jiang Huang. His origins are mysterious as well…”
“Jiang Huang?” Kuang Han, Xuan Zan, and Xue Yi looked at each other and nodded.
“Prince Huo, since we’re now sure we’re dealing with a murderer, shouldn’t you lift the mountains’ restrictions so we can hunt him down?”
The prince wrung his hands. “My lords, the mountains are truly pivotal for the island. Harming their foundations will affect the entire island’s well-being.”
Kuan Han exploded. “Prince Huo, do you mean that our geniuses aren’t worth the foundations of a trivial land of exile?”
“Indeed. Prince Huo, I’ve heard Winterdraw’s an abandoned island meant to house the worst criminals. What do we care about its foundations?” Xuan Zan rebuked without holding back.
For an exalted prince of the royal house, to be so harshly contradicted was hard to endure. Still, he couldn’t afford to offend these men. He threw an awkward glance at the chief warden.
The latter summoned his courage. “My lords, please leave hunting the murderer to us wardens. You don’t have our familiarity with the mountains and might fall victim to lots of accidents. Rushing inside headlong might be more detrimental than it’s worth, while we can use the formations to tail him. We stand a better chance of catching him.”
“Watch your mouth! Prince Huo, Warden Ding, I hear nothing but excuses to keep us out. Am I to understand that you’re colluding with the murderer?”
The prince paled. The three houses were close to losing their rationality. He had no choice but to squeeze out an apologetic smile. “My lords, Warden Ding isn’t wrong. Trouble truly awaits at every turn if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain. The wardens are locals and know every nook and cranny. It’s a good idea to leave the chase to them. Why don’t you rest nearby and await their good news…”
Kuang Han slammed a hand on the table. “Prince Huo, I don’t want to hear this bullshit! Are you telling us to sit out something as important as the capture of our geniuses’ murderer? We must participate in this! At most, let the wardens guide us if they know the terrain so well!”
“Correct. Prince Huo, refusing means you harbor ulterior motives!”
Since these fellows were impervious to reason, the prince resigned himself to the inevitable and kept his peace. He couldn’t oppose them even if he wanted to, so he nodded immediately. “In that case, the chief warden will dispatch three different groups and provide the three houses with whatever assistance they can. The other wardens will conduct a separate search on their own. What do you think?”
The chief warden wanted nothing more than to refuse, but what choice did he have? He could also see that the three houses were on the verge of exploding.
“Alright, there’s no time to lose. The murderer could have gotten far away while we’re dilly-dallying here. Everyone assemble and get ready to enter the mountains!”
A storm was gathering, destroying the mountain slopes’ usual tranquility
The other five houses weren’t participating in the search. In no hurry to leave, they simply kicked back and enjoyed the ride.
“Tut tut, to think we’d find a talent in this place, great enough to wreak havoc upon three aristocratic houses. I’m now curious what kind of monsters these two men might be.”
“Yeah. I heard one’s called Jiang Huang. Apparently he’s not a local?”
“Sounds like an interesting man. His strength must be frightening if he can kill the likes of Xuan Rui and Kuang Rong.”
“Heh, House Ye could use a man like that.”
Although a little depressed to see his plan dead in the water, Jiang Chen soon regained his equanimity. It was no use crying over spilled milk. The noble houses would chase him down like mad dogs once they learned the truth. His sole preoccupation now was how to hide from them.
He traveled to the edge of the forbidden area.
The border of the sixteen-hundred-miles open area was jam-packed with formations and restrictions. All sorts of eerie runes and formation etchings filled the area as far as the eye could see.
Jiang Chen looked pensively at a certain gap.
“These traces are definitely man-made. I remember them talking earlier about signs of someone barging inside. Did Su Hong create a gap here and enter the second level?”
The nasty environment in the first level was of no challenge for Jiang Chen, but the same might not hold true for the second level. A place designated as forbidden grounds was to be reckoned with.
But time was pressing. There was nowhere to hide in the first level. He had to rush in and face the dangers head-on. Without further ado, he steeled his resolve and slipped inside despite the many layers of restrictions.
A crazy spatial countercurrent impeded his progress the moment he set foot inside.
Fortunately, his adaptability was second to none. Though difficult, he acclimated himself to the new environment and soon found himself increasingly less troubled by the spatial current.
He waded against the tide for a full two hours before finally leaving the border area.
Sure enough, danger lurked at every corner. Troubles cropped up every three steps, and disaster every five. Thankfully, his mighty consciousness allowed him to find his way out of every precarious situation.
What a terrifying place. I fear for Su Hong if he’s really come inside. Then again, the sky’s the limit for him if he can survive this time.
In the current situation, prevailing despite all odds would be proof of Su Hong’s potential.
All of a sudden, a venomous snake shot out of a tall tree, shooting at him as fast as lightning. Such occurrences were a common sight inside the forbidden area. He slashed with his blade without even looking that way.
Its head hacked off, the snake dropped on the ground. But even there, bone-chilling hisses emitted from a protruding tongue. These trivial interludes were of no threat to him.
The omnipresent formations, restrictions, and spatial currents near the edge of the forbidden grounds truly made his journey tenuous. Thankfully, he had more skill and experience dealing with them than most. He finally left them behind after an hour and entered the second level proper.
The land seemed all the more sinister and terrifying after being sealed off for so long. Chilliness oozed from the very air.
Though running for his life, he didn’t charge all over the place like a headless chicken. Instead, he progressed at his own rhythm, every measured step the result of meticulous scouting.
“I might’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest this time. The three houses might send their powerhouses. I can’t afford to be reckless, or I’ll be intercepted or even trapped.” Jiang Chen earnestly focused on his current predicament.