Hua Ming delighted at the dominance of his new master. My master is mighty alright!
Jiang Chen continued onwards, looking for a sufficiently secluded spot. If he was going to take action, he wanted to ensure the total obliteration of his pursuers without it being traced back to him.
The wilderness was a rather large place, and completely abandoned. Jiang Chen slowed his steps upon reaching a thicket. He landed after a moment of observation.
“After the fighting starts, stay near me,” he informed Hua Ming. “Don’t panic.”
“Yes, master.” Hua Ming was extremely excited. This was his first time participating in a fight. Though he had no combat ability to speak off, he was nevertheless brimming with enthusiasm.
Jiang Chen patted the boy on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. Calm yourself. You’ll see many more like these in the future.”
A few casual motions were enough to set up a concealment formation. The duo disappeared within the thicket.
“Remember, don’t speak or make a single sound. Stay absolutely still.” Jiang Chen’s voice echoed in Hua Ming’s consciousness.
Another couple moments later, the Northcrown Five happened upon the scene. The five were led by the hook-nosed cultivator. All five members had equally strange outfits and looks, but their murderous intent was undeniable.
The hook-nosed cultivator was especially vicious. His eagle-like eyes scanned to and fro, clearly fixated on the clash they’d had earlier. There was no other reason to have pursued Jiang Chen here.
“Weren’t we right behind him, boss? Where’d he go? Is he hiding in the forest?” a tall, fat cultivator asked.
“Look alive, brothers. That brat must know we’re tailing him,” the hook-nosed cultivator commanded. “Don’t spread too far out. Back each other up.”
“Boss…” a scholarly cultivator came up. “He seems pretty mysterious, right? What if he’s actually important? What if… we just suck it up and let bygones be bygones? It’s not like we lost very much…”
The scholarly cultivator was rather different from his four fellows.
“What’re you implying, number two? Don’t ruin our reputation by getting cold feet just before a fight!” the fat cultivator’s brass voice boomed forth once more.
The scholarly cultivator ignored him, continuing with his advice. “Boss, even Captain Qiu treated the kid deferentially. He might really be related to the Ten Divine Nations. Our grudge with him was a public affair. If it turns out… well, we won’t have anywhere to go in Myriad Abyss Island.”
“You scared, number two?” the hook-nosed cultivator harrumphed.
“Ah, we’re brothers. Why would I have been a brother all this time if I was scared? I’m just thinking of our futures.” The scholarly cultivator made another pass.
“If you’re not scared, then shut up! If you’re scared, get out of here.” The hook-nosed cultivator wouldn’t be persuaded.
Disappointment flashed through the scholarly cultivator’s eyes. He was none too pleased by the response he was receiving.
The others were set on following their leader. They hadn’t yet realized the danger this incident could contain.
“Ah, forget it. We’ll face whatever comes, together. We’re brothers.” The scholarly cultivator was completely resigned. His biggest wish was that his judgment was incorrect – that the kid wasn’t from the Ten Divine Nations.
Secretly, he hoped that the young man had already disappeared. Ideally, they would never meet again. Perhaps that was the best bulwark against tragedy.
The hook-nosed cultivator grinned. “I know you love to fuss and worry, number two. Don’t worry, so what about the Ten Divine Nations? If he’s not a scion of a big house, nothing will happen to us. Would someone like that be alone? He’d have a couple retainers at least, right?”
This assumption was actually completely wrong. Many geniuses in the world of martial dao enjoyed going on journeys alone. However, the scholarly cultivator wasn’t going to waste any more words. If he did, the boss would doubtless turn on him.
The group entered the thicket and began to search.
They suddenly felt the trees moving before them. The ground too, was shaking. The scenery rapidly shifted until they found themselves in a strange space. It seemed that exits were everywhere, and yet all of them were illusory.
“What is this?”
“The hell? What happened?” The Northcrown Five were collectively astonished.
“Don’t panic!” the hook-nosed cultivator called out hastily. “Backs to each other. Beware of a sneak attack!” The boss was reasonably reliable in a sticky situation. He didn’t lose his wits despite the surprise.
The fact that the five had been brothers for many years shone through. Their teamwork was impeccable. They gathered together almost instantaneously, backs to each other. Seriousness was written all over their faces.
“What happened, boss? Did we run into some sorta trap?”
“Shut up. Talk as little as possible,” the hook-nosed cultivator demanded. “This has to be a formation. We’ll work together and find the exit.”
Only the scholarly cultivator remained silent. The foreboding premonition in his heart had blossomed into deep-seated worry. He was almost certain that all of this was part of that kid’s plan. The kid had been waiting for them to walk right into his trap. They’d finally met someone they shouldn’t have messed with.
“Boss…” the scholarly cultivator took a deep breath.
“You be quiet. It’s too late to say anything now. We need to get out of here first.” The hook-nosed cultivator had guessed something at this juncture too. But as the boss of the group, he wasn’t going to admit his own faults.
“Heh, get out of here?” Faint laughter could be heard from the nothingness of space. “How naïve. Do you think I’ll give you a chance to do that?” These words came from Jiang Chen, of course.
They were dreaming if they thought they were going to be able to leave his Nine Labyrinth Formation. Even an empyrean expert would have trouble doing that.
The formation had been a priceless treasure even in the ancient times. The human domain had been humanity’s core back then. Myriad Abyss Island, nothing but wilderness!
Jiang Chen’s voice made the blood drain from the Northcrown Five’s faces. They were all white as a sheet. The hook-nosed cultivator glared at the air. “Show yourself, boy, if you dare! Don’t play tricks like these.”
“Tricks?” Jiang Chen laughed. “I have at least a hundred ways to kill you all, Northcrown Five. I merely picked one of the more interesting methods. Now, you can experience exactly how pathetic and insignificant you are before you die.”
His voice was cool. The group’s cultivation levels didn’t threaten him a single bit. He’d been pursued by three mid empyrean masters just a short while prior. What did he care about these clowns?
“Where are you from, kid? If you really have any skill, then fight it out with us fair and square!” The hook-nosed cultivator tried provocation.
“Ha, do you think yourself worthy of a fair fight?” Jiang Chen chuckled. “I’m surprised you’re so ignorant despite your age. No wonder you brought your brothers into this deathtrap. If you’d taken your brother’s advice earlier and left on your own, perhaps I would’ve let you live. But you hardened your heart and chose to ignore his warning, yes?”
The Northcrown Five traded regretful looks.
The others had rather different expressions now when they looked at the scholarly number two. They’d thought him chicken-hearted, but he turned out to be the most correct out of them all. The boss’s decision had indeed sent them to certain death.
The hook-nosed cultivator’s face changed color several times. He squinted viciously into the ether, as if he wanted to grab the invisible Jiang Chen right out of it. Alas, he was as helpless as a lamb within the Nine Labyrinth Formation. He could do little else other than await his inevitable slaughter.
“Brother Long, Little White. I leave these guys to you.” Jiang Chen didn’t care to strike these pathetic cretins down himself.
Long Xiaoxuan and Little White were in an important stage of their breakthrough to empyrean realm. Cultivators like these were wonderful prey for them. The dragon had a claw in the door of ascension already. Though the tiger had started a bit later, he was progressing incredibly well too.
It was trivial for the bloodline of the four sacred beasts to take down the Northcrown Five. The appearance of the dragon and the tiger scared the wandering cultivators witless.
The scholarly cultivator yelped. “Hold on, hold on! Sir, we’re willing to become your loyal servants! We only ask to live!”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “Isn’t it a bit late to beg now?”
The young man was unmoved. “Brother Long, Little White,” he called with his consciousness. “You have fifteen minutes.”
He wasn’t the bloodthirsty or murderous type, but he wasn’t going to show mercy to these louts.
Wandering cultivators often bullied the weak and cowered before the strong. They were begging right now, but very well could launch another attack down the line. Any offensive action he took needed to be permanent. He didn’t want any future trouble.
The Northcrown Five put up barely any resistance against the fang and claw of the tiger and dragon duo. It took far less time than the beasts had been given, for them to consume their prey.
Jiang Chen put away his Nine Labyrinth Formation diagrams and allotted some additional time for his feisty companions to digest their food. “Come on, then,” he turned to Hua Ming.
The boy was completely flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe his eyes. A dragon, a true dragon from legends! And an Astral White Tiger! Weren’t these supposed to be mythical beasts, lost to stories and lore?