Elder Liang shivered with fear. He’d heard the rumors of Prime Puresmoke’s strength, but the pressure from the woman before him was ten times more intimidating.
Face to face, she was plainly far above him.
“H-honored Prime, I… I…” the old man’s lips trembled. “I…”
“You what? You were talking a pretty talk now, weren’t you? What were you going to do with my disciple and me? Well, I’m here now, aren’t I? Show me.”
The elder was positively ashen. He slapped himself harshly. “Madam Prime, I was a fool. A real fool! I had eyes but did not see Mt. Tai. Please don’t stoop to my level, and have mercy on the young master.”
“Mercy on your young master?” Above, Jiang Chen laughed. “His appetite is pretty incredible for one so young. He has such malicious delusions, yet you’re begging on his behalf? First Prime, the Dreamhaze Sect’s sect head Meng Qianqiu must be an old bastard. How else does one explain his grandson’s awful behavior?”
Elder Liang’s voice quavered. “W-who… who are you? How did you intrude in here?”
“Haha, the Dreamhaze Sect’s puny defenses are only good against three-year-olds. They’re practically for show. I can come and leave as I want.”
Despite being captured, Meng Tianxing disagreed. “What are you bragging about? You ambushed us. If you have the stones to, fight me one on one!”
Jiang Chen sneered. Such a crude application of reverse psychology was fit only to be ignored.
He slapped Meng Tianxing’s handsome face in an insulting fashion. “Are you still dreaming, kid? Fight you one on one? You’re not nearly strong enough to try that trick. If your grandfather was suggesting that, I might’ve considered it.
“You’re totally worthless though! I don’t see a point to wasting my time. You have a pretty face, true, but your ugly heart means that it’s a huge waste.”
Meng Tianxing shrieked, agonized by Jiang Chen’s torment. “Don’t hit my face! Don’t hit my face!”
He’d always been confident in his looks to the point of narcissism. Naturally, he was worried they’d be ruined by his captor.
Jiang Chen burst out into laughter. “Are you trying to rely on your looks alone, kid?”
“What, am I not handsome enough to do that? If you’re not jealous of me, then stop hitting my face!” Meng Tianxing was an odd one.
In the heat of the moment, Jiang Chen couldn’t think up of a good enough response.
Were there people this weird in the world? A prisoner that cared more about his looks than his safety? Did this kid believe he would be able to escape alive?
“Meng Tianxing, do you want to die a handsome man?” he quipped snidely. “Or do you want me to ruin your face and let you live?”
“You would dare kill me?!” Meng Tianxing spasmed.
“Give me a reason why I wouldn’t.” Jiang Chen chuckled in reply.
“My… my grandfather is Meng Qianqiu. If you kill me, you won’t have anywhere to hide from his retribution in Martial Divine Nation!”
Jiang Chen roared with laughter, then shook his head. “Sorry, I’m not from here. Your threat isn’t very useful.”
“What? You’re not a native of this nation? Why’re you sticking your nose in our business then?”
Jiang Chen shrugged. “You traitors should be gotten rid of as a public service. I like sticking my nose in others’ business. What’s it to you?”
Meng Tianxing cackled. “You’ve really done it now, kid! Our allied army has already surrounded the Martial Sacred Land and it’s about to fall any moment. When that happens, the sacred land will be done for. The entire nation will be under the alliance’s control.
“If you let me go now, we can still negotiate. Otherwise, you will be declared an enemy of the Dreamhaze Sect. My grandfather definitely wouldn’t spare you. He’s one of the four demigods in the allied army!”
As a foppish dandy, Meng Tianxing was self-centered, insolent, and experienced with using his elders’ influence as a bludgeon. It wasn’t going to work on Jiang Chen though.
“Four demigods? Is that supposed to impress me?”
“You’re pretty smug, kid! The four demigods are only inches away from divinity! Don’t think too highly of yourself just because you’re empyrean realm. Before a demigod, your cultivation is worthless. Now be a good boy and let me go, and you’ll…”
“Sorry to say, but I think I accidentally killed a demigod before I came here. He had a golden bell that was pretty interesting, so I picked it up as a toy. Do you recognize it?” Jiang Chen took out the bell and shook it in front of his captive, grinning.
Prime Puresmoke found Meng Tianxing’s frightened idiocy rather amusing. Jiang Chen was definitely a youngster, alright. Even in these moments, he didn’t forget to inject a few antics.
Meng Tianxing’s mouth opened very wide. “This… this golden bell belonged to Forefather Goldenbell?” he paled.
“You’re pretty sharp. Oh, yeah, what treasure does Meng Qianqiu like to use? I want to collect a toy from him after taking his head.” Jiang Chen licked his lips.
The young dandy was even more scared when he heard this.
“You… you… you only know how to brag! Forefather Goldenbell is an amazing cultivator. You haven’t even grown your hair out. You think you can kill him? You’re dreaming!” He floundered for an explanation that was barely passable. However, he couldn’t actually convince himself. The golden bell looked completely authentic.
Elder Liang looked at Jiang Chen, then at Prime Puresmoke, then at the golden bell. Suddenly, infinite terror consumed him.
Forefather Goldenbell had been responsible for attacking the spirit herb base. The one in charge of defense there was Prime Puresmoke. If she was here rather than back there, what did that mean?
There were two possibilities. One was that the spirit herb base had fallen and Puresmoke had escaped.
Two, that the spirit herb base had been freed from the rebels’ encirclement and defeated Forefather Goldenbell’s men.
It seemed now that the second possibility was more likely. The golden bell was explanation enough. If it were the first case, Prime Puresmoke wouldn’t be standing here unscathed. She even looked like she was on vacation.
Elder Liang’s last shred of hope vanished.
“Young master, please speak less,” he pleaded. At the same time, the old man raised both arms high. “First Prime,” he turned to Puresmoke, “we didn’t participate in the rebellion. We offer our full cooperation in deference to you.”
He was certainly more than fickle with his loyalties.
“What do you mean by this?” Puresmoke sneered.
“I surrender.” Elder Liang knew that death was assured if he resisted. Surrender was better; even if Meng Qianqiu pressed him after the fact, he could claim he falsely surrendered for the young master’s sake.
If the rebels lost in the end, he could maintain that his surrender was real all along. In this way, he would be able to preserve his options.
Prime Puresmoke didn’t expect the old man’s wiliness. She sank into silence for a moment.
Meanwhile, Jiang Chen chuckled. He was no stranger to this kind of person and act.
“Elder Liang is wise and aboveboard, First Prime. Let’s give him a chance. But if he wants to surrender, he should show his sincerity, right? Here, kill Meng Tianxing right now and we’ll accept. Otherwise, your surrender is insincere and false.”
Surprise flickered across the prime’s eye. She applauded Jiang Chen’s versatility. He’d pointed out the key point before she’d thought up a response.
Elder Liang panicked. He had wanted to preserve his options, but killing Meng Tianxing ran counter to that intention.
Jiang Chen cackled himself. “Master and servant have far too strong a relationship, it seems. Meng Tianxing, I offer you the same chance. If you kill Elder Liang here, I’ll let you live. Are you willing?”
Meng Tianxing shook uncontrollably. “I don’t want to. I don’t believe you’ll actually kill me!” he shouted. “My grandfather…”
“Your grandfather nothing,” Jiang Chen rebuked harshly. “If you don’t value the chance, I’ll send you to hell!”
Seeing that his captor meant to act on his words, Meng Tianxing yelped, “Hold on, hold on! We can talk it over. What do you actually want?”
“What do you think?”
“How would I know?” Meng Tianxing said helplessly.
“Get rid of this old man first. Then you get the right of discussion.”
The young man shuddered. His eyes glanced icily at Elder Liang. The elder felt a chill as his young master perused him. He could see that Meng Tianxing would really follow through.
Nobody wanted to die. Even if one’s master willed it, it was impossible for anyone to sit still in the face of death.
“I accept your conditions! I accept!” Elder Liang shouted frantically.
“Exactly what do you accept?” Jiang Chen replied coldly.
“I’m willing to kill Meng Tianxing and join the Martial Sacred Land. I will fight for the sacred land and for justice,” the old man stated without reservation.
Jiang Chen smirked. “First Prime,” he cocked his head toward Puresmoke, “do you trust someone like him? Will you take him in?”
Prime Puresmoke scoffed. “He’s just grass that bends every way the wind blows. The sacred land doesn’t need soft-spined folks like him. What good will he do for anyone?”
Jiang Chen shrugged. “Look, Elder Liang. You didn’t value your chance when you had it. Well, it’s too late now! You’re worth less than Meng Tianxing, sorry. One of you has to die, and it looks like you’re the one.”
Elder Liang paled. “That’s unfair!”
Jiang Chen’s face darkened. “Unfair? Do conspirators and turncoats have the right to claim such a thing? You were prepared to sell out your master. What fairness do you deserve?”
“But you were the ones that forced my hand!” Elder Liang protested.
“Hmph. If you surrender when we force you today, who knows what you’ll do when another faction does so in the future? Remember, don’t be so opportunistic in your next life!”
“You!” Elder Liang had no time to finish that sentence. Steel flashed at his throat – Prime Puresmoke took his head in the next instant.