Ziju Min made an unexpected offer. “First Prime, I request to meet up with Shao Yuan. I’m interested in what his plans are, and whether he has more news regarding the outside world.”
The first prime was quite pleased with the elder’s initiative. “I trust your abilities implicitly, Elder Ziju,” she nodded. “Still, make sure to take care out there. We will wait for your successful return.”
In area sixteen, Jiang Chen was frantically preparing for the coordinated attack. He was roused, rather than restless after hearing the news. He had the feeling that this was a grand opportunity.
If he could make use of it, this might very well be the turning point in the entire war.
“Young master Chen, why did you refine so much Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud? Can you be…” The Vermilion Bird looked thoughtful.
“Heh, you’ll find out in due time.” A crooked grin hung at the corner of Jiang Chen’s mouth.
In addition to refining the powder, the young man spent each day studying the sacred land’s map and layout. He wanted to consider every detail.
The assault on the great formation depended on how much area it covered. An idea of how big the attack force might be was conducive to finding a solution.
On one of these days, Ziju Min came to area sixteen.
Jiang Chen was overjoyed to see the older man. “How did you get here, Elder Ziju?”
“Haha, you really are alright, Shao Yuan. Well done, really well done!” The elder was even more excited than the youth. “I came out to ask about what you’ve seen and heard. Is there a plan you’re putting into action? We’re more than happy to assist you in whatever capacity needed.”
“Hehe, I’m planning to strike a vicious blow against the alliance. I want the cracks in it to expand so quickly that it shatters in the next moment. Right, Elder Ziju – please ask the first prime after you return to ready a group of experts for an opportunistic strike. You’ll get a chance to vent your pent-up anger on our enemies.”
“What does your plain entail?” Ziju Min asked with some excitement.
“Simple. I’ll poison them with Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud,” Jiang Chen smiled faintly.
“Isn’t that House Xiahou’s poison? It’s rather well known here in Myriad Abyss. I doubt they’ll lack a solution to it,” the older man commented worriedly.
“This powder has been improved with my secret sauce,” Jiang Chen laughed. “An antidote to the original won’t do much to help. In fact, it will only make the victim worse off.”
“You… you improved the Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud? That’s incredible. Wherever did you get its recipe?”
“I’ve killed plenty of people from House Xiahou, haven’t I?” Jiang Chen smiled. “I have my ways. Don’t worry, I can vouch for its veracity.”
Ziju Min didn’t press on. He discussed the details some more with Jiang Chen, gaining confidence the more information he gleaned.
“Here’s a batch of antidote for this version of the powder, Elder Ziju. If you’re planning to send out a force while the poison is airborne, its members must take this beforehand. The Soulless Powder is a vicious poison.”
Ziju Min took the medicine seriously. “Alright. I will give it to the first prime personally, and let her decide what to do.”
“Sure,” Jiang Chen nodded. “How is the second prime?”
“Not great. If he’s not given the necessary medical attention, his condition will only worsen. Ah… the sacred land has never seen such an ordeal before,” Ziju Min remarked sadly.
“Don’t worry. As long as my plan is successful, the alliance will be all but broken. It’ll be our chance to stage a counterattack in tandem with the loyalists outside. I daresay the rebellion will be quashed before long.”
“But Shao Yuan, even if your plan succeeds, we can’t crush the rebels unless the venerated forefather breaks free of the seal. The imperial family and House Xiahou both have divine cultivators.”
“Haha, it’s impossible for their divine experts to participate in the coming battle. The most they can do is intimidate a bit. They need to stand guard over the venerated forefather, and thus have no energy to spare. In the case they do foolishly divert their attentions over here, the forefather will be given an opportunity in turn.”
“You’re quite right.” Ziju Min became pensive.
After seeing the senior off, Jiang Chen continued with his refinement of the poison.
The worsening situation meant that there was a roll call two or three times a day. It didn’t take long for Imperial Prince Shang to interrupt his work. There was nothing for it. He had to go.
“Greetings to the imperial prince,” he greeted with feigned respect.
“You lot are having a good time, eh? A real easy life of it. Before you, area sixteen was one of the hotbeds of fighting. After you went there, there hasn’t been a single fight. Don’t tell me you’ve been intentionally avoiding any enemies?”
Jiang Chen vehemently denied wrongdoing. “Your Highness, why are you so unfair? We dream of doing big things every day, but the sacred land is scared and won’t come out. We can’t do anything about that! We can’t charge into the great formation, can we? I’d like to, but I’m not good enough to break it open.”
His tone was even-handed despite the imperial prince’s admonishment.
Imperial Prince Shang harrumphed. He found it strange why area sixteen had suddenly quieted down as well. However, there had been a trend of decreased activities from the sacred land in general as of late. It seemed that total defense was the new strategy that’d been settled on.
Seeing the imperial prince in thought, Jiang Chen ventured, “Your Highness, I hear that the sacred land is defending the great formation rather than coming out anymore. If that’s the case, we’ll just keep this siege up for a decade to run ‘em out of stuff.”
“A decade? Who would possibly have the time for that?” The imperial prince was thoroughly displeased. The proposition was utter nonsense.
Jiang Chen pretended to be upset. “They’re not coming out themselves though. My brothers and I want to lead the charge to win some glory for ourselves, but it’s hard.”
“You? You want to lead the charge?” The imperial prince’s eyes darted about in their sockets.
“Yes, Your Highness. Send us anywhere there’s a battle,” Jiang Chen put on a forthright expression.
“You want to fight, do you?” the imperial prince asked again.
“I do, I really do!” Jiang Chen’s answer was loud and clear.
“Alright. I’ll give you a chance for then. If you can accomplish something here, you’ll win ten times the usual credit.”
“Really?” ‘Greed’ flashed through Jiang Chen’s eyes.
“Of course. Do I sound like I’m joking?” Imperial Prince Shang snorted.
“Tell me, Your Highness. What chance is it?” Jiang Chen probed hurriedly.
“We’re planning to organize an offensive that we need a lot of men for. We’re looking for warriors unafraid of sacrificing their lives. Are you sure you want to join?”
“Yes, yes, we want to join! How would we not for a chance like this? But don’t forget your promise, Your Highness. What prize will we win if we achieve something?”
“Much more will be yours! There will be quite a bit of pillaging to be done after the great formation opens up. The brave warriors at the forefront will have first choice for it. How about it?”
Jiang Chen’s eyes lit up. “It’s a promise then!” he roared with laughter.
“A promise!” Imperial Prince Shang chuckled as well, but he had only disdain for the idiots he was speaking to. These empty promises meant absolutely nothing. People who didn’t realize they were cannon fodder wouldn’t possibly survive the offensive.
Jiang Chen could guess what the imperial prince was thinking from his smile. Though he was none too pleased about it, he put on an eager demeanor. He needed to grasp this chance to participate. How else could he pull off his grand sabotage?
Ideas swirled around in Jiang Chen’s head. The imperial prince enjoyed petty tricks. Having spoken to him several times, Jiang Chen largely knew what he was planning.
“Alright, you go back first. Make sure you’re ready to go in the next two days. Wait for my orders. No mistakes, you hear?”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Jiang Chen responded fervently. “I’m at your service.”
Coming out of the imperial prince’s pavilion, the young man was quite happy with his performance. He was one step closer to his goal. Next came to the setup.
That wouldn’t be an easy thing to accomplish. If he was discovered in the process, all his preparation and effort would be for naught.
But he had no room for second-guessing now. The string was taut, and the arrow had to be loosed.
More and more Soulless Powder was refined, enough to incapacitate more than ten thousand. Jiang Chen supposed that no more than two would actually participate in the offensive. Even so, such numbers were astonishing in themselves.
After all, only empyrean experts were eligible for the attack. Over half of the factions’ strength was now invested into this battle. If something bad happened to these two thousand men, the alliance would crumble without trying.
It was finally the day of the offensive. Early in the morning, Jiang Chen received notice to abandon his defense area and go to a predesignated meeting place.
“Now that we’re here, Ah Hong, you can leave. We believe you won’t cause any problems and won’t stop you from leaving for safety,” Jiang Chen declared somberly. “You should know that we’ll be in serious danger if my plan fails.”
Ah Hong was completely impassionate. “I’ve nowhere to return to. Plus, I trust you. Finding out you were Shao Yuan helped quite a bit, actually. Eternal Divine Nation has barely had any heroes in recent years, and I guess you’re one of them. Xiahou Zong used to be one as well, but his death was too pathetic, so he’s off the list. If there’s anyone worth trusting for me, you’re in the top three.”
“You sure? You’re staying?” Jiang Chen intoned in a low voice.
“I’ll live and die alongside your company,” Ah Hong stated bluntly.