Chapter 627: Destroying One First
It had to be said that although Cao Jin looked extremely haughty, he was actually extremely cautious. He knew how to properly read the situation and grasp the timing to leave when things take a turn for the worse. He had received enough information from the Tristar Sect to know that there shouldn’t be any more threats apart from the Miasma when he entered the ancient herb garden. Yet, he still maintained his cautiousness, taking the attitude of a lion exerting its full power to capture a small rabbit. As they were also affected by Cao Jin’s line of thought, Wu Heng and Shi Zhen also did not dare to let down their guard.
Although they also felt that neither Jiang Chen nor that Sacred Sword Palace elder posed a threat to them, they were prepared for anything that might come. All three people spread their consciousness into a cone and began to sweep every corner of the ancient herb garden.
The ancient herb garden wasn’t even a tenth of the size of the main mountain in Mt. Rippling Mirage. The three people’s consciousness were very powerful, especially Cao Jin, whose consciousness could cover a startling amount of space.
The three found many clues after roughly three hours of searching. However, all of them had been left behind at the start by members of the major sects. But those people had already left, so they didn’t provide much by way of information. However, Shi Zhen was somewhat despondent because along the way, he spied the telltale signs that many stalks of earth rank spirit herbs had been plucked. This made him want to pound his chest and stamp his feet with annoyance. “Senior brother Cao, look at this…” A sense of urgency suddenly entered Shi Zhen’s voice. “These are the remains of Sage Fledgling Grass. This must have been a large patch of Sage Fledgling Grass!”
“How much?” Cao Jin breathed. Several hundred stalks of Sage Fledgling Grass would sound like sweet music to his ears.
“Judging by the area, I feel like there should have been several thousand, perhaps even tens of thousands!” Shi Zhen’s breathing also quickened. So many stalks of Sage Fledgling Grass—even for the Ninesuns Sky Sect, this was still a startling amount of wealth!
Cao Jin raised a blue brow and muttered, “So, what the Sacred Sword Palace said about Jiang Chen receiving several thousand stalks of Sage Fledgling Grass was most likely true?”
“True or not, wouldn’t we know everything once we capture that brat?” Fatty Wu sneered. The three people glanced at one another, setting off once again.
They soon came face to face with a tall cliff. Shi Zhen suddenly raised his hand as surprise flashed in his eyes.
“What is it?” Fatty Wu furrowed his brows.
“There should be highly ranked spirit herbs here.” As a second rank pill king, Shi Zhen’s judgment regarding this area far surpassed Cao Jin and Wu Heng’s.
Shi Zhen’s gaze zeroed on the patch of tall cliffs before he nodded, “I’ll go check.”
Cao Jin and Wu Heng both frowned, clearly displeased with Shi Zhen’s actions.
Shi Ye smiled indifferently. “Relax, just deduct whatever I get from when we divide our gains later.”
Cao Jin and Wu Heng glanced at each other. At any rate, they’d have to split whatever they gained from Jiang Chen when they found that brat later. No matter what Shi Zhen found now, they could just deduct it from his share later.
“Be careful,” Cao Jin reminded them.
Shi Zhen nodded and retrieved a medicine hoe with one hand. He shrouded himself in flowing light before soaring towards the clifftop. Sage realm experts were equipped with the ability to fly. Shi Zhen had obviously learnt some kind of special flight technique. His body traveled through the air like a large bird, arriving in front of the cliff face in the blink of an eye.
The cliff was covered in shrubs and greenery. Shi Zhen expanded his consciousness and inspected his surroundings. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon a bush about fifty meters to his right.
“Sky rank spirit herb, Sundevourer Ganoderma?!” Shi Zhen was delighted. Never had he imagined that there would actually be a stalk of sky rank spirit herb hidden here! Moreover, this Sundevourer Ganoderma was no ordinary sky rank spirit herb!
But, why had no one from the Myriad Domain plucked such an obvious stalk of a sky rank spirit herb? Just as Shi Zhen was about to step forward to harvest it, he stopped dead in his steps.
He felt that the appearance of this sky rank spirit grass was somewhat suspicious. Could this be a trap? Shi Zhen was not an impulsive person. The more he thought about this, the less he was in a hurry to harvest it. Instead, he scoured the location, circling the area around the sky rank spirit herb repeatedly to figure out if the herb was real.
It was clear that this sky rank spirit herb could not be more genuine. Its concentrated spirit energy was very lifelike and could not possibly have been generated by an illusion. As Shi Zhen hesitated, Wu Heng called out from below, “Senior brother Shi Zhen, time is of the essence. What are you dithering for?”
Cao Jin also asked, “Junior brother Shi Zhen, what do you see?”
Shi Zhen stepped forward to check under their urgings and chuckled, “Caution prevents blunders. I’m only checking if there are any traps in this area.”
Shi Zhen no longer hesitated after that. After thinking carefully, had he perhaps been too cautious? Cao Jin and Wu Heng were just below him after all, and while he was not overwhelmingly powerful, there was still no need for him to tiptoe around mere denizens of the Myriad Domain.
An elder of Sacred Sword Palace? He was just only earth sage realm. And Jiang Chen had been reported to be only an origin realm cultivator. As Shi Zhen thought about this, he instantly regained his confidence. He leapt in front of the Sundevourer Ganoderma. With a swing of his medicine hoe, he prepared to pluck the herb—
When the scenery suddenly changed before his eyes.
“Careful, junior brother Shi Zhen!”
Although the scenery before his eyes had changed, that Sundevourer Ganoderma remained in its original spot. Shi Zhen ignored everything else as his medicine hoe danced, digging at the roots of the herb. At that precise moment, the cliff face surrounding the spirit herb abruptly erupted with countless vines, twisting around Shi Zhen without warning. Shi Zhen had been completely engrossed in the Sundevourer Ganoderma. How would he have expected this to happen?
He suddenly felt a cold draft on his neck.
Whoosh! Shi Zhen’s head shot upwards. His body however, fell into the dense shrubbery with a plop.
It was at this moment that Cao Jin and Wu Heng hastily arrived. When they saw Shi Zhen’s head land on the ground, their expressions changed drastically.
Cao Jin shouted lowly, “Smoke and mirrors and tricks! Who’s there?!”
Suddenly, Cao Jin’s Moonshatter Awl lashed out at a patch of space. With a ray of blinding light, countless talismans fluttered to the ground. Their surroundings returned to normal in the next instant, unmarred except for Shi Zhen’s corpse, which hung from a large tree not far from them.
Wu Heng’s expression was dark. “Senior brother Cao, this is the work of an expert formation master. Just now, senior brother Shi Zhen must have been snared in a formation technique. He must have been caught off guard…”
Cao Jin furrowed his blue brows. His gaze was frosty as he surveyed the area, trying to spot the formation master in the shadows. But no matter how he probed with his consciousness, he couldn’t find a thing.
“Formation master!” Cao Jin fumed between gritted teeth. “Since when did the Myriad Domain have a formation master? Wu Heng, since Shi Zhen has been lost, you and me, our plans will…”
Wu Heng’s heart was also filled with shocked rage, but also a trace of relief. At least the corpse hadn’t been him. Moreover, with Shi Zhen’s death, there was now one less person to divide the spoils with. “Senior brother Cao, senior brother Shi Zhen previously refined a pill to defeat the Miasma here. His loss won’t affect the big picture that much.”
This was the truth. Shi Zhen’s cultivation and martial prowess was undoubtedly the weakest among the three. His value lay in handling the Miasma. Nevertheless, Cao Jin still felt depressed. He didn’t know if the pill that Shi Zhen had refined was effective or not, but with things how they were right now, he could only push forward. Luckily, they knew the rough location of the Divine Befuddlement Miasma from the Tristar Sect’s reports. As long as they crossed the lake carefully, they shouldn’t need to worry overmuch.
However, what worried Cao Jin at the moment was, just who was this mystery enemy? Was it that elder of the Sacred Sword Palace or Jiang Chen of the Regal Pill Palace? No matter who it was, this person would not be an easy opponent. He was fortunate that he had Wu Heng with him, a person similarly adept at formations.
Patting Wu Heng’s shoulder, he said, “Junior brother Wu, our enemy is very cunning and obviously has had time to prepare. The facts that his advanced preparations were for us and junior brother Shi Zhen’s overconfidence were why this tragic murder happened.”
Wu Heng nodded, “Senior brother Cao has no need to worry. We won’t fall for this kind of formation usage a second time. What’s there to be afraid of as long as we’re a bit more careful?”
This was the truth. All three of them had previously taken the attitude of a hunter hunting prey. They had all believed that they were hunting Jiang Chen down. Never had it occurred to them that they could be the prey instead. It was precisely because they had been too aggressive that they had failed to consider the perspective of the prey and had thus been tricked. But now, both Cao Jin and Wu Heng were aware that their opponent was not someone who would simply sit and await his death.
Although Shi Zhen’s death had shaken them and even caused them to panic temporarily, they only took a few moments to calm down. Shi Zhen might have been lost, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. At least they could confirm that there was someone here in this ancient herb garden. Whether it was Jiang Chen or the elder from the Sacred Sword Palace didn’t matter to Cao Jin and Wu Heng. What was important was the numerous sky and earth rank spirit herbs! Moreover, Shi Zhen’s loss meant that there was one less person to split their gains with, so that was just as well.
As the two people steeled themselves, the upbringing of a large sect’s disciples displayed itself. They plowed onwards without even touching Shi Zhen’s corpse. Clearly, they were extremely cautious. The enemy might have laid a trap on Shi Zhen’s body, and it would be bad if they were infected by some kind of poison.
“Junior brother Wu, I guess that this person should be Jiang Chen, not Elder Chen of the Sacred Sword Palace,” Cao Jin sent a silent message Wu Heng.
“How makes you say that?” Wu Heng remained unsure.
“Simple. If it was Elder Chen, he wouldn’t be able to combat the Divine Befuddlement Miasma without the pill. As long as Jiang Chen escaped to an area infused with the miasma, there’s nothing Elder Chen can do. It’s already been two years since the Myriad Domain’s sects left this area. If this person is still alive, this proves that he must be Jiang Chen instead of Elder Chen.” Cao Jin’s deductions made a lot of sense.
“It’s even better if it’s Jiang Chen. Even if an origin realm cultivator learnt a few dirty tricks, just how much trouble can he stir up for us?” Wu Heng replied.
However, Cao Jin reminded him, “Don’t underestimate our enemy. He’s already killed Ding Tong. The fact that he could ensnare Shi Zhen in an insidious trap means that we have been too careless thus far. You musn’t underestimate him. I didn’t think… that there would be a person from the Myriad Domain who could surprise even me!”
With a quick gesture, he rapidly set off in a certain direction with Wu Heng. Clearly, Cao Jin had captured various traces through careful investigation.