“Blackjade Coralplum by itself isn’t harmful, but it’s highly malleable, and there’s a recessive attribute to it. Does Elder Wanjun know that spirit alchemists often use the Coralplum to refine poisons?”
“Poison?” A stilted smile appeared on Yan Wanjun’s face. “Even if it’s an ingredient for poison, it’s not harmful as long as it’s not processed, is it?”
“That’s not entirely true,” Jiang Chen said faintly. “Its recessive attribute makes it the perfect catalyst to bring out other herbs’ toxicity, and the Coralplum can incorporate a great variety of herbs to create potent poisons. No processing is needed. Simply place the two herbs near each other, and their energy will mix in the air to produce strong poisonous substances.”
Realization struck Yan Wanjun, pulling out the rug from beneath him. A trace of shock flashed through his eyes. “Are… are you serious?”
“Absolutely. This Dream Inducing Grass must be one of your proud projects, isn’t it? The Blackjade Coralplum can combine with it and produce a great amount of poisonous gas, which even smells faintly fragrant rather than pungent. At midnight, the interaction will accelerate and produce even more gas.”
“That horrifying?” Yan Wanjun was close to being convinced. He knew Jiang Chen. The young man didn’t have a habit of lying. He must be quite confident in his speculation to voice such doubt.
Yan Wanjun’s face contorted into a scowl, the look in his eyes dark. “So they’re producing poisonous gas already?”
“It’s not yet midnight. The poison won’t be fatal for another day. Tomorrow, the poison will have spread through all your vital organs. Not even a god will be able to save you then.”
Yan Wanjun froze, shocked but also relieved. “Guards!” yelled the elder.
Several of his personal advisors and guards walked out of the shadow. “Yes, elder.”
“Bring Wang Jing of Cloud Camel Mountain to me. If he cooperates, let him come to me on his own. If he doesn’t, do everything you must to bring him here even if you have to kidnap him. Remember, I want him alive!”
Yan Wanjun hadn’t become a venerated elder without some tricks up his sleeves. He had a group of deathsworn at his command and quickly came up with a plan once he’d wrapped his head around what had happened.
“You must act quickly and decisively,” reminded Jiang Chen. “You also have to consider the possibility that the mastermind is still around to provide sanctuary to Wang Jing.”
“Should I deal with him personally?” boomed Yan Wanjun.
Jiang Chen shook his head. “Oh, that won’t be necessary.”
“Doesn’t this mean that the Blackjade Coralplum is only going to do me harm?” Yan Wanjun’s eyes blazed with fury, taking a step toward the plant. “I’ll destroy it!”
“No need, no need,” Jiang Chen hurried out. “You simply have to separate the two herbs by five hundred meters to stop the reaction. However, there are better alternatives. The best solution is to cultivate the Coralplum in isolation by setting up a formation around it, preventing its energy from mixing with that of the other herbs.”
Most people would take such measure when cultivating the Coralplum. Yan Wanjun just didn’t have a deep enough understanding in herbs to fully grasp the plant’s properties.
Instead, the elder was still trying to find excuses for his family. “Young man, can it be a misunderstanding that Wang Jing gifted the Coralplum to me? Or perhaps an unfortunate coincidence? Maybe he doesn’t know it can be poisonous himself.”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “It’s not an unfortunate coincidence.”
“Why?” Yan Wanjun was reluctant to believe that someone from the family would want him dead.
Although the different factions within the family were sometimes at odds, things never escalate to murder. Once its members resorted to killing their own, what future could the clan have?
Yan Wanjun still cared about House Yan deeply. He didn’t want to believe that his fellow clan members would try to kill him.
“I wouldn’t be so sure if Wang Jing had admitted that he planted the Coralplum, but he told you decisively that it was found in the wild. He was clearly lying. Man-made interference is evident on the Coralplum. Perhaps he thought it’d be easier to earn your trust by claiming the latter. That leads me to the conclusion that Wang Jing meant you harm from the very beginning.”
Yan Wanjun sighed. “Even so, perhaps Wang Jing’s simply overstated the value of the herb in order to butter me up.”
“That’s a possibility, which was why I asked if anyone else knew about your collection of spirit herbs. I believe that there must be someone who knows the Blackjade Coralplum can be combined with the Dream Inducing Grass, and that you have the latter in your possession. He cleverly used that knowledge against you. This was a sophisticated plan.”
Yan Wanjun shook his head and sighed with great pain. “I still hope it’s merely a coincidence.”
That wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, but the odds couldn’t be higher than ten percent. Too many signs pointed to attempted murder.
Jiang Chen didn’t push further. He’d made himself clear and was in no place to dictate what the elder should do. His job here was done. If Yan Wanjun decided to hold onto blind faith in his family and insisted on trusting them, that’d be up to him. Jiang Chen couldn’t force him to change his mind.
Some of Yan Wanjun’s men returned first with bad news that further dampened the elder’s mood.
“Elder, Wang Jing has disappeared from the mountain. He has no family or friends here, so no one knows where he’s gone off to.”
“That can’t be. He gave me the Coralplum this morning. How can he vanish in such a short amount of time?”
Things were getting more and more suspicious.
Jiang Chen didn’t say anything and started setting up a formation around the plant instead. It was a valuable herb and shouldn’t go to waste. He put a protective formation around the Dream Inducing Grass as well.
Now there was no danger of the two herbs’ energies mixing. To be on the safe side, Jiang Chen had someone move the Coralplum further away.
Yan Wanjun looked at Jiang Chen with unfocused eyes, dejected. It was as if he’d spontaneously aged by many years.
More of the elder’s men returned. “Elder, we’ve searched the neighboring area and found nothing. It’s like Wang Jiang has disappeared into thin air.”
“Has he fled to avoid punishment?” ventured one of the guards.
“Fled?” Yan Wanjun paused. “He attempted to kill me. There will be no escape for him!”
Ire contorted his face as he’d come to see things in an objective light. Jiang Chen was right. He’d been lying to himself. What good did it do for him to sacrifice for the greater good?
There was an internal schism in the family. Someone had attempted to take his life!
He was loyal to the house and would sacrifice himself to protect it, but that didn’t mean he was willing to die a worthless death. He wouldn’t accept being murdered for some unknown reason. He wanted his death to be worthwhile and just.
The worst way to go was at the hand of his peers. He’d done everything he could for the family; it’s matters were his own personal affairs. And yet, they’d been counting down the hours until he died. Despair bloomed in his heart.
“Patriarch, Patriarch… why didn’t you kill me during the meeting if that’s what you wanted?” Yan Wanjun muttered, a little too loud for his words to be meant for only himself. “Making a move only after I came to Cloud Camel Mountain? Isn’t that too inefficient?”
Jiang Chen could tell that the elder was devastated.
Once Yan Wanjun cleared the emotions clouding his judgement, he realized that if there truly was a mastermind trying to get him killed, the patriarch was the most likely culprit!
Aside from the patriarch, very few senior executives knew what herbs he kept. They were either distant from Yan Wanjun, or didn’t care about spirit herbs enough to get to know his hobby. Besides, the patriarch had sufficient motive as well.
Another one of Yan Wanjun’s guards came back covered in blood, his shoulder inflicted with a terrifying wound.
“Elder, we were looking for Wang Jing and ran into a stranger around his residence. The man ran away as soon as he saw us. We gave chase, but the bastard was stronger than we expected. He ambushed us and almost killed me. The others were after him still.”
Jiang Chen was even more convinced of his speculation. He sighed. “Elder Wanjun, Wang Jing is likely dead!”