There were serious consequences for Jiang Chen’s anger.
The group trailing them was uniformly composed of middle-aged cultivators, empyrean, one and all. The man at their head had sallow skin and a sickly complexion, but was the strongest: he was a mid empyrean expert.
“These guys are small fry, Elder Xu. Is there even a point to following them?” A man with a split lip complained.
“Shut up, Ole Split-Lip! The boss told us to follow even the smallest fly. We can’t let anyone get away for any reason!” The sallow man was Elder Xu.
Split-Lip was a bit upset. “I think it’s better just to kill them. Saves both time and energy.”
“Ridiculous. If we kill them now, we’ll alert the sacred land’s executives. If the boss’ plans don’t work out, our heads will roll. How many heads do you have, eh?”
The split-lipped man sighed, evidently vexed. “What’re we supposed to do, then? Just follow ‘em? Until when?”
“Hmph, not much longer. When the order is given and the others start their mess, we’ll be able to deal with these kids. Right now? Better to lay off our prey.” Elder Xu was surprisingly disciplined and methodical.
There were four in this group as well. Not a large number, but a single glance was enough to show that their combat ability was at least respectable.
“Stop dawdling. It’s shameful to lose track of small fry,” Elder Xu was spurred to remind his slacking comrades.
The group accelerated, flying off into the distance. As they flew, they encountered a vast wasteland.
“Where’d those brats go?” Split-Lip scanned his surroundings. Their quarry was gone?!
Elder Xu paled as well. “We’re in the right place,” he sniffed the air. “I can smell their presence. We haven’t lost them, but…” As he was about to continue, his expression colored once more. “Careful!”
Before he could finish, the scenery drastically shifted. The wasteland was gone, replaced by an infinite, chaotic realm.
“Where… where is this?” The split-lipped man was green in the face and trembled in fear.
Elder Xu suddenly recalled something. “It… it’s that Shao Yuan kid,” he called out, “he used this formation diagram against Xiahou Zong!”
As the strongest among his fellows, the elder reacted the quickest also.
A cool laugh rang at their ears. “So you’re not all stupid after all! You know this is the formation used against Xiahou Zong, huh?”
The voice naturally came from Jiang Chen.
Elder Xu’s expression instantly became very ugly. “Careful,” he growled, “each man to a corner. Don’t let the enemy catch you unawares.”
Xiahou Zong had died barely two days ago. A shadow still hung over their heads. Thus, all four of the cultivators were terrified when they found out they were in the exact same formation diagram.
“Stop struggling. Your cultivation level isn’t bad, but can you measure up to Xiahou Zong? I crushed his four summoned demons. Do you think yourselves stronger than them?” Jiang Chen tried a psychological attack.
The strongest of the four was Elder Xu. He was fifth level empyrean as well, but his combat ability was a far cry from Xiahou Zong’s.
Two Elder Xus wouldn’t necessarily be able to win against Xiahou Zong, while the three others combined were definitely incapable of winning against Elder Xu. That meant the four of them added up couldn’t rival a single Xiahou Zong.
The quartet glanced among themselves, discomfort rising in their heart.
“Shao Yuan, young friend Shao Yuan, is that really you? If so, we must have a misunderstanding here! We are all fellow cultivators of Eternal Divine Nation. My surname is Xu, and I bear you no ill will. I only respect and admire you. My brothers and I were just talking about how you were going to be the young genius that leads your generation. Xiahou Zong is a joke before you!”
“That’s right, young friend Shao Yuan, we’re not bad people. You’re scaring us old codgers by treating us like this.”
These people didn’t belong to House Xiahou, but were rather from the Cloudwave Sect.
Though Cloudwave was no House Xiahou, it was markedly stronger. These four men weren’t at the top of their sect, but they were reasonably important. However, their fate at this moment was completely in Jiang Chen’s hands. If he wanted to, he could take their lives on the spot.
Jiang Chen smiled a little. “You’ve followed us all this time, and you tell me you don’t mean us harm? So I’ve wronged you somehow?”
“You have, you have! We didn’t know you were the famous Shao Yuan. We had some business to take care of ourselves. Maybe we happened to go the same way, which might cause a misunderstanding. If we knew it was you, we would’ve come right up to make your acquaintance!”
The four men were incredibly proficient at shamelessly playing dumb.
If Jiang Chen hadn’t known about them from the outset, he would have quite possibly been tricked or swayed. Flattery was one of the most useful forms of communication, after all.
He might’ve been numbed by their praise, if not knowing where they came from. Thankfully, he was privy to their sinister intentions beforehand.
He’d heard what they said when they entered the range of his formation. ‘Lose track’ and ‘that Shao Yuan kid’ were hostile phrases. Who would believe their cover of of coincidentally taking the same road after that?
Not Jiang Chen, that was for sure.
The young man chuckled leisurely. “So it’s a misunderstanding then! Where do you gentlemen come from, if I may ask?”
Split-Lip was about to respond, but Elder Xu cut him off. “We are executives of House Beigong, a first-rate faction in this nation. Brother Shao Yuan, why not come visit us sometime? We would be glad to receive you.”
Jiang Chen nodded, then suddenly laughed. “What an odd explanation. I would’ve believed you if you said you were from some sect. Shouldn’t House Beigong’s executives carry that surname? I haven’t heard of anyone with the last name Xu.”
Elder Xu’s heart skipped a beat. In his haste, he had come up with a faulty lie, one that he now regretted.
If he had pretended to be from the Starlight or Jade Lake Sects, he would’ve been able to explain himself better. Purporting to be an executive of an aristocratic house was unnecessarily stupid.
The elder was a little stuck. Still, he tried his best to back out of his corner. “House Beigong has elders with foreign surnames as well. We are simply much lower in status. Why else would we be out here in the middle of the night?”
It turned out he was pretty good at making up things on the spot.
Jiang Chen snickered. “Elder Xu, it must be trying for you to come up with such an elaborate ruse. I’m not here to hear your lies, though. Last chance: will you tell me the truth, or die in my labyrinth?”
His attitude turned instantly.
Elder Xu and company began to panic. They were usually an unruly bunch, but they tasted real fear today. They could feel the hostility radiating off of the young genius.
“Young friend Shao Yuan, really…”
Elder Xu was halfway through his sentence when an arrow soared through the air without warning. One of the cultivators was hit before he had time to react.
The arrow shattered its victim’s skull with crushing force. He collapsed, having died on the spot.
“Alright, let’s see if I’m going to hear another lie.” Jiang Chen’s tone was cool. It was easy for him to kill initial empyrean experts now.
He was far beyond that level now. Though he was only mid empyrean, he could fight as well as any advanced empyrean expert. Even someone of Xiahou Zong’s strength had been destroyed. These small fries were almost too insignificant to mention.
Now three men and a mutilated corpse remained.
Their vicious natures didn’t prevent the color in their faces from disappearing. Elder Xu, Split-Lip, and their comrade were uniformly terrified.
“Elder Xu, I’m asking once more: who are you? Why did you follow us? Another lie means another death. You can tell three more lies.” Jiang Chen was cool and composed.
Within the space created by the Nine Labyrinth Formation, those with insufficient cultivation were as good as trapped beasts.
Elder Xu stuttered, but had no idea where to start.
“You have fifteen minutes to put the question off. After that, one more will die.” Jiang Chen didn’t feel like wasting any more time.
A quarter-hour was quite short.
Split-Lip roared. “Elder Xu, we should die on our feet. We’ll fight him to the death! Let’s try to break out together. If even one of us lives, it’ll be worth it!”
Everyone knew that breaking out was a solution, but actually executing it was rather difficult. Xiahou Zong had failed in that department already as a past example.
The allotted time ticked down very quickly.
“Seems like you want to squander your opportunity,” Jiang Chen smiled faintly.
He fired another arrow, using his Evil Golden Eye to lock down his target this time.
The cultivator wanted to flee.
Alas, he couldn’t escape an arrow that was locked onto him. His cultivation was insufficient to do so, but he wouldn’t be able even if he were on the same level as Jiang Chen.
A shrill cry and a shower of blood followed his crumpling to the ground.