Chapter 731: Regal Pill Palace Disciples
News in the Fish and Dragon District spread faster than any other place. Hushed whispers and back alley conversations soon made the robbery at Myriad Puppets Pavilion the talk of the entire district. Yet, chief among all the emotions that rippled across everyone's heart was incredulity.
The mere fact of a robbery wasn't the thing that had rendered them incredulous. Desperation had driven many a fool to tempt fate before. There were far too many of those occurrences every year to keep track of. But robbing the Myriad Puppets Pavilion, that was certainly novel! Moreover, they'd even taken two thousand slaves in one go. What exactly were the culprits trying to do? What did they need so many people for? What everyone was even more curious about was just how on earth they had pulled it off? What kind of technique was powerful enough to snatch a couple thousand people in a couple of breaths?
The most crucial thing was that both the Myriad Puppets Pavilion nor local law enforcement seemed to have caught the culprit. Let alone catch them, they didn't even seem to have the faintest whiff of a clue. This robbery had boasted of a domineering style and a mind boggling brilliance. From the top echelons to the bottom feeders, the whole of the Fish and Dragon District was in shock.
News of the robbery quickly reached House Sikou as well. Sikou Nan was first to arrive at the scene of the crime and flew into a terrible rage. Meanwhile, Lin Ming was in the middle of boiling medicine in his store not far away from Myriad Puppets Pavilion when he heard the news. The shock almost struck him dumb. The Myriad Puppets Pavilion had been robbed! He knew who had done it even if he thought with his knees. After all, there were only those two people who had asked him about the Pavilion an hour ago. This was far too much of a coincidence! They talked about the Myriad Puppets Pavilion, and then the Pavilion was then robbed in short order?
A shiver coursed through Lin Ming, traveling from head to toe. Just when did Wei Jie become so crazy? Hadn’t Wei Jie always been known for being cool-headed?
"Wei Jie, Wei Jie, you’re really making big waves this time. I dearly hope you won’t be caught," Lin Ming felt the urge to cry. He knew full well that if they got caught, the first to be implicated would be himself. As a result, Lin Ming was painfully aware that he had to lock up whatever he knew inside his head, and leave it there to rot. No matter what, he couldn't speak of it. To speak of it would be to buy a one-way ticket to hell. Even if he was perfectly innocent, he still wouldn’t escape the charge of being an accessory to the crime. Therefore, this had to be kept secret.
Jiang Chen and Huang’er strolled around for the entire day after leaving Fish and Dragon District. Only after nightfall did they make their way back to House Wei’s mansion, free and easy. Both of them had changed their external appearances from the one they'd used to enter the Fish and Dragon District. With their current appearance, no one would think of suspecting them.
Seeing Jiang Chen return with a companion in tow, Wei Jie was more or less certain that the one who had robbed Myriad Puppets Pavilion was none other than Jiang Chen. He hadn’t been entirely certain previously because Jiang Chen had been by himself when they'd separated.
"Brother Jiang, who might this be?" A curious Wei Jie inquired.
"Young master Wei, this is a friend of mine. I presume you already heard about the affair in the Fish and Dragon District," Jiang Chen took the initiative. He wasn’t planning on hiding anything.
Wei Jie responded with a wry smile, "Of course I heard about something that big. I thought at first it was someone else who did it, but I have a pretty good guess now that two of you have arrived."
Jiang Chen nodded. "The implications of this affair will likely be enormous. The two of us will depart immediately and won't trouble you."
Wei Jie quickly replied with a smile, "What are you saying? I feel quite thrilled that you robbed House Sikou. Don’t worry. You, me, and Lin Ming are the only ones who even know a shred of what's going on. Lin Ming is involved himself, so he wouldn’t dare betray us. House Sikou is my House's sworn enemy, so it’s even more impossible for me to betray you. So, just let them investigate. Things will sort themselves out after the commotion dies down."
"We really won’t drag you down?" Jiang Chen asked once again. He wasn’t one to act recklessly without a care for consequences. If Wei Jie would be implicated as a result of Jiang Chen's actions, he’d turn on his heels and walk out right this instant.
Wei Jie waved him off, "Brother Jiang, we’re friends who've been through life and death already. Don’t mention being implicated. It’s of no consequence even if I have to shoulder a little risk. A mere House Sikou? House Wei isn’t afraid of them."
If nothing else, a ninth rank aristocratic house's heir had the heroic spirit to willingly shoulder responsibility. Jiang Chen thought a moment. He still countered, "Young master Wei, we’re friends who’ve gone through tribulations together, so I won’t treat you as an outsider. However, people will definitely be on the lookout now that I've stirred up a fuss. You can’t find a place here for a couple thousand people either, I need to find another place."
No matter how large the House Wei manor might be, it would still be hard to hide releasing two thousand people all at once. This was a situation they had to handle discreetly. Wei Jei thought a moment and responded with a nod, "House Wei has an underground estate in the capital. It’s extremely well hidden; only my father and me know about it. Brother Jiang, if you can overlook the crudeness, I’ll take you there right now."
Jiang Chen waved him off. "Just tell me the exact place and how to get there. There will certainly be countless pairs of eyes watching you if you take a step in any direction. It wouldn’t be a good thing for you. I wouldn't want to involve House Wei in this quarrel because of a careless mistake."
Since House Wei and House Sikou were mortal enemies, House Sikou would definitely send people to keep watch over House Wei after something this big happened. As House Wei’s young master, Wei Jie’s every move would certainly be carefully observed. It would be a shame indeed if their charade was seen through because of a predictable action.
Wei Jie pondered a moment and nodded without arguing. He drew a map on the spot and handed it to Jiang Chen. "The exact position, concrete directions, and how to enter are all clearly indicated on this map. The place is extremely well hidden; absolutely no one from House Sikou will find it. This place is the final trump card for my father and I."
Wei Jie disclosed all this private information to Jiang Chen with a wry smile. "Brother Jiang, I won’t hide anything from you. House Wei looks full of splendor on the surface, but it’s in fact riddled with troubles internal and external. That place is the final safe shelter for my father and I, the absolute last lifeline in case of an emergency."
Jiang Chen’s heart faintly shook. A profoundly grateful look emerged on his face. He patted Wei Jie, "Young master Wei, you and I are friends for life."
Though he’d once saved Wei Jie’s life, the sincerity Wei Jie had demonstrated again and again had clearly gone above and beyond a mere repayment of debt. One could say that they'd both made use of each other at first, but they’d now come to truly treat each other as friends from the bottom of their hearts after undergoing repeated woes and trials together. Especially now that Wei Jie had entrusted him with his final trump card, whether or not it truly was his final trump card or not, Jiang Chen still owed him a debt of gratitude. "Young master Wei, I’ll come find you again after I settle them in. Here are some detoxifying pills. Take them for now, and stay vigilant against the pill master at your fifth uncle’s side. He’s likely hiding his real strength."
Wei Jie looked pensive. He took the pills from Jiang Chen and put them away. After a small pause, he still couldn’t stop himself from asking, "Brother Jiang, I see that your talent for pill dao is marvelous. I wonder if…"
Jiang Chen smiled, "I haven’t had my pill dao potential tested, so I can’t tell you at what level it is specifically. That said, when it comes to pill dao, I truly haven’t met anyone yet I would bow down to. So I might not be able to provide a concrete answer if young master Wei wishes to know. That said, ordinary pill kings are indeed below my notice." He patted Wei Jie's shoulder, "Take care."
After bidding their farewells, Huang'er and Jiang Chen departed under the cover of the night without any hesitation. Trackers were everywhere outside. Even so, House Sikou wasn’t a first class faction in the capital, so they couldn’t hunt and arrest people as they pleased without scruples. For that reason, though they put great effort into the search, it was very difficult to guarantee that they could cover every possible area. Meanwhile, Jiang Chen and Huang’er precisely happened to be experts in slipping through blockades. From the Myriad Domain all the way to the Veluriyam Capital, they’d gone through too many roadblocks to count. They simply had too much knowledge and experience dealing with such a search.
Following the map, the two of them spent quite some effort before finally locating the concealed location. It was indeed superbly hidden, even looking like an underground maze the deeper they went. Most importantly, there were even formations deployed inside, as well as early warning systems. The arrangements were close to perfection in every area. What was even more surprising was how spacious this place was. It could even accommodate several times more people than they needed to situate.
"A ninth rank noble house in Veluriyam Capital is indeed something else. This place would have been rather difficult to build without tremendous power," Jiang Chen said, sighing with feeling after he settled down.
Huang’er nodded with a faint smile. "Sir Jiang, hurry up and let these people out. I can’t wait!"
He summoned his palace and was about to release the captives, but then thought better of it. The eternal imprint last time from the Eternal Celestial Capital was a mistake he'd learned from. It wasn’t impossible for the Myrial Puppets Pavilion’s unique imprint to be on these slaves. The palace was separated from the outside world, so this imprint naturally wouldn't be able to send out a signal. However, if they were indeed marked, releasing them would only invite his pursuers to track him all the way to this place.
"Miss Huang’er, let’s go inside."
The two of them entered the palace. Two thousand slaves stood there like living corpses, not showing the slightest sign of resistance, not putting up any struggle. Jiang Chen walked forward, pulling off their masks one by one. His mood became heavier with every mask he pulled off. The thing he was most worried of was that those from the Regal Pill Palace wouldn’t be among this batch of slaves. Even Huang’er was extremely grave. She also knew full well that if they couldn't find their people from Regal Pill Palace here, further rescue attempts would be at least ten times harder.
As masks were tugged off one by one, Jiang Chen’s state of mind grew increasingly heavier. After taking down more than thirty masks, his hands spasmed as wild joy exploded on his face! A familiar face had appeared in front of Jiang Chen’s eyes.
Indeed, he was very familiar with this person! "Shen Trifire!" he blurted, wild with joy. Shen Trifire was a genius from the Sovereign Area of Rosy Valley. He had been Shen Qinghong’s right hand man back then. Jiang Chen had once thoroughly defeated him in a pill dao contest. Shen Trifire had repented then, and withdrawn himself from sect conflict, going into closed door cultivation. Jiang Chen never thought this peer would be the first one he’d find!
Jiang Chen and Huang’er shared a look, seeing the joy in each other’s eyes. Since they saw a familiar face, this meant that those from Regal Pill Palace were at least in this batch. Thank the heavens! Jiang Chen immediately used his consciousness to scan Shen Trifire. However, the joy quickly disappeared from his face, and his brows bunched together in a frown.
Chapter 732: Running Into Yet Another Problem
“What is it?” Seeing Jiang Chen’s expression darken so suddenly, Huang’er realized that the situation wasn’t as optimistic as she'd first thought.
“As I thought, those that work in this business are all animals. Aside from everyone's senses being sealed, their vitals have been sealed as well. If they make the wrong move, their qi ocean will self-detonate. Vicious indeed!” Jiang Chen swore in a low tone.
Hearing this, Huang’er’s expression sank as well.
“Let’s see if the others are here.” She was the first to calm down and came forward to help. The masks were torn away one by one, and the faces of fellow sect members steadily appeared. Suddenly, there was a cry of pleasant surprise. “Big sister Gouyu!”
A mask was removed over on Huang'er's side, revealing Gouyu’s face beneath. Her senses had been sealed away, but Gouyu’s expression was still defiant and unyielding. Her cheeks were thin and pale. She had evidently suffered a lot during her capture. Yet to Huang'er and Jiang Chen, the sight of her was invigorating. They removed all the remaining masks in a concerted effort.
Xue Tong, Guo Jin, the Qiao brothers, Wen Ziqi, Shen Trifire, Rong Zifeng, Ouyang Chao… There were almost sixty disciples from Rosy Valley among those rescued, but not one of the elders were present. More importantly, Jiang Chen didn't find Mu Gaoqi and Elder Yun Nie in the group either.
According to the information he’d received, it was likely that Elder Yun Nie hadn’t died in battle. Those from the Great Scarlet Mid Region had been ordered to capture the elder alive so that they could pry the recipe for the Longevity Pill from his lips. The recipe for the pill had indeed changed hands at some point afterwards, which was proof that Elder Yun Nie had lived past the fall of Regal Pill Palace. The elder had also definitely been the one to disclose the recipe for the pill. Since they hadn’t killed the elder then, he would have made a most valuable slave considering his identity and prior position. There was no reason for the imperial family of the Great Scarlet Mid Region to kill the elder. But even if they had killed the elder, why had the unassuming Mu Gaoqi disappeared as well?
Not seeing Elder Yun Nie and Mu Gaoqi dampened Jiang Chen’s mood. To tell the truth, he had barely any emotional attachment to the others that he'd rescued aside from his personal guards. He only knew them because they were from the same sect. His main motivation to defy all the odds had been to come to the rescue of those closest to him, Palace Head Dan Chi, Elder Yun Nie, Mu Gaoqi, and the Lin sisters. They were the only ones dear to him at Regal Pill Palace. Lin Bi’er had gotten separated from them at the Palace, and her whereabouts were still unknown. Lin Hui’er was with her father, so she should be safe.
Aware that Mu Gaoqi and Jiang Chen were the best of friends, Huang’er understood the latter’s anguish upon discovering Mu Gaoqi to be still missing. “Sir Jiang, it is said that man can only propose, but it is heaven who disposes. You gave it your all. Don’t blame yourself too much,” Huang’er gently encouraged him. With her recent deeper understanding of Jiang Chen, she knew that he was the kind of person to carry a large burden in his heart. In particular, she was concerned with the self-guilt that he would inevitably feel.
Huang’er’s words of encouragement cheered Jiang Chen up quite a bit. However, the masses of unseeing zombie-like figures in front of him, deprived of senses and life, was still a major headache. Though it wasn't particularly sophisticated work, the seals on their bodies ensured that their lives lay in the hands of their sealer. Like a puppetmaster, he decided their life and death with a single thought. If Jiang Chen couldn't disable all the seals all at once, he would alert the controller and every slave would die instantly.This was Jiang Chen’s most pressing concern.
Seeing Jiang Chen deep in thought over a fresh predicament, Huang’er wanted to share his burden. “Sir Jiang, I once heard Elder Shun mention something about sealing qi oceans.”
“Oh? What did Elder Shun say?” Since he'd been dwelling on the same subject, Jiang Chen was curious what the elder's thoughts had been.
“He said that when he was young, he saw something similar happen during a conflict he'd witnessed. Members of one sect had been captured by their rival, and their qi oceans sealed away. They were rescued by their peers soon afterwards, but the seals on their bodies couldn’t be removed. If the seals were touched, the enemy could activate the seals to kill them…”
“What happened after?” Her words moved Jiang Chen.
“Elder Shun said that they were eventually all saved. Their peers asked a formations master to set up a formation that was filled with attacks, each tailored for each seal. Activation the formation caused all the forces within the formation to assail the seals all at once, breaking them all in a single instant. From Elder Shun's description, the formation has two particularly difficult requirements. First, each sealed individual needs to have their own force, tailored to the seal on the body. As such, you need as many attacking forces as you do people. Second, the strike on the seal must be extremely quick. If every seal isn't broken in the span of a breath or two, iti would give the sealer the opportunity to kill every sealed individual.”
“So you’re saying the formation was successful?” Jiang Chen’s heart was shaken. This was a new line of thinking that hadn't occurred to him. Thus far, Jiang Chen’s head had been filled with mush, and he really hadn’t thought of the idea. Huang’er’s reminder gave him a burst of inspiration.
“Yes, Elder Shun said that was the case. The matter left a deep impression upon him. The method of sealing he saw was a lot more complex than this, and the difficulty of removal understandably higher,” Huang’er looked at Jiang Chen reassuringly.
“Alright, since they managed to pull it off, there must be a way for us to do the same,” Jiang Chen slapped his thigh. There were many ways to remove seals in Jiang Chen’s memories. He had no shortage of formations either. He was no stranger to working with either ingredient.
“Sir Jiang, let Huang’er help you.”
In a secret room in the central area within House Wei, a particularly detailed discussion was taking place between the Wei father and son.
“Jie’er, is that Jiang Chen really as miraculous as you say?” The current master of House Wei was Wei Tianxiao, Wei Jie's father.
“Father, you know that I have a good eye for judging people. There is no way that I’ve made a mistake this time. He is a young man from the Myriad Domain, but he's able to run circles around both Eternal Celestial Capital and the Ninesuns Sky Sect. The meteoric rise of such a genius cannot be stopped.” Wei Jie’s tone was filled with confidence.
Wei Tianxiao gave his son a look of commendation. Truthfully, his son often exceeded his expectations. “Mm. As always, I do not doubt your foresight and discernment. From your description of him, this Jiang Chen has pill dao talent that rivals a typical mid-level pill king. That alone makes it worthwhile for House Wei to maintain a good relationship with him. Additionally, it is also good news for us that he has fallen out with House Sikou. After all, the enemy of our enemy is our friend.”
“There is wisdom in your words, father. However, what are your plans for the trouble within our house’s walls? If there is no quick resolution, I fear endless trouble will follow.”
A bright glint flashed across Wei Tianxiao’s eyes. He responded in a solemn voice, “Hmph, that traitor Wei Tianshu, how would I not know about his wolfish nature? Since he dared to raise a hand against you, Jie’er, there is no reason for me to tolerate him any longer! When the right time comes, I shall eradicate that pest with one fell swoop.” Turning to look at his son again, Wei Tianxiao exhorted, “Jie’er, if this is the choice you've made, you should nurture your relationship with Jiang Chen carefully now. If he happens to prosper one day, you will have gained an important contact.”
“I understand,” Wei Jie nodded.
“Keep yourself safe, and do not let anyone from House Sikou have the chance to implicate or attack us,” Wei Tianxiao advised.
“Yes, I will treat the matter with care.”
In stark contrast from the Wei family’s intimate conversation between father and son, House Sikou was filled with great dejection. The family had lost great face due to recent events. That a robbery would happen to a name as eminent as House Sikou and a store as time-honored as the Myriad Puppets Pavilion was inconceivable. The simplicity of the crime was almost shameful. What had been lost was not only two thousand slaves, but also House Sikou’s golden reputation.
“Nan’er, do you have any news?” Sikou Yuan, the master of House Sikou, asked his son.
Sikou Nan shook his head sadly even as he gritted his teeth. “Father, there is no news for the moment. But, even if I need to turn the city upside down, I will find the bastard responsible for this. Stealing from House Sikou is nothing short of intentionally walking into a lion’s den. They must pay the price for such folly!” He thumped his chest.
“Perhaps someone from House Wei is causing us trouble?” For Sikou Yuan, the family’s old rival was the first thing that came to mind.
“I suspected the same. I have already dispatched men to monitor the activities of House Wei closely. If that really is the case, it won't take long to find evidence.” Sikou Nan scowled darkly. “Only a few hours before our store was robbed, their young master Wei Jie arrived at Fish and Dragon District to visit Lin Ming’s store.”
“Did you question Lin Ming about it?” Sikou Yuan inquired in a low voice.
“I did. There was nothing out of the ordinary during his time at Lin Ming’s. Even Lin Ming himself could not make heads or tails of it. I think it is likely that he was only a decoy, meant to mislead us into suspecting Lin Ming.” Clearly, Sikou Nan didn’t believe that the likes of Lin Ming would have the audacity to oppose his house.
Sikou Yuan frowned. “Each slave bears our unique mark. They would be totally useless without your unsealing commands. Have you tried tracking the signatures on your seals?”
Sikou Nan answered with a wry smile. “How would I have not? Our adversary seems be very wily, and the seals are cloaked from detection. There is no way for me to detect the seals unless they are directly tampered with. Otherwise, I have no way of even knowing if the slaves are still alive.”
“Cloaked? That’s not something an ordinary person could manage. This unknown person is extraordinarily capable. But, seizing two thousand slaves in a single sweep is in and of itself testament to that. Nan’er, you cannot take this matter lightly.”
“Father, please be at ease,” Sikou Nan let out a harrumph. “Without my release commands, the goods are totally rubbish. If they truly cannot be found, I can crush the unsealing talismans to activate the self-detonating mechanisms. Then, that would put an end to this.” Sikou Nan was unnerved and in a rush.
Sikou Yuan shook his head, “Search thoroughly first. That choice must only come as a last resort. The slave business is our house’s primary source of income. It would be a crippling blow to our finances to abandon that batch of goods. It may even affect our day-to-day operations.”
The batch in question was valued at two to three billion. The actual cost of the goods had been far lower than that, but given the breadth of the family’s business activities, losing a shipment of goods was not as simple as deducting their inventory price. The loss of potential profits also had to be taken into account.
PS. There will be some celebratory releases today I will also be doing a live reading of at 10am GMT+8! That's 9pm US EST 12/14, so please tune into the then~ The new novel will launch this weekend!