Chapter 876: The So-Called Alliance?
This hunchbacked old man was as short as a nine-year-old child. His clothes were incomparably ragged and tattered. His face, as wrinkled as an air-dried orange peel, was covered with creases and scars. He looked as though he already had one foot in the grave. However, Jiang Chen did not dare slight him. This old man's appearance was simply too bizarre. Even with his level of consciousness, Jiang Chen had not sensed how this old man had sidled over until he had already invaded Jiang Chen's territory.
When the hunchback saw Jiang Chen walk over, he abruptly pushed himself up with the cane he held in one hand. With a swish of his body, he immediately floated a few hundred meters away. Jiang Chen's expression twisted as he flourished his sleeves.
Psht psht psht psht! The piercing whistle of air echoed around him. The gale summoned from Jiang Chen's sleeves was actually imbued with the power of the Featherflight Mirror that slowed down the flow of space around him. In that space, a few slender, seemingly transparent silver needles were forced to a stiff halt eight meters in front of him, suspended in thin air. Unrestrained rage bubbled within Jiang Chen. This old man had actually dared to ambush him!
He glanced at the ghostly needles and was clearly aware of the fatal toxins contained within them. Moreover, these needles were transparent and invisible to the naked eye. If Jiang Chen did not possess such a strong consciousness, if he had not obtained the Featherflight Mirror, he would have suffered a terrible fate as soon as he'd let his guard down. When Lin Yanyu saw the needles floating in midair, his face had also paled. "Daoist Huang, careful! Those silver needles contain poison."
Jiang Chen huffed coldly as he glared in the old man's direction. But with a twist and turn in the underbrush, the old man had disappeared underground like a burrowing mole. Jiang Chen waved his hand in cold fury. A pulse of dark energy emanated from his palm and shattered the needles. He wasn't particularly afraid of the poison. However, if they had been aimed at his vitals when he'd been caught off guard, he would have paid for his carelessness dearly. Moreover, that old man had no history with him, and yet the first move the other party had made was attempt to murder him. Such vicious methods naturally roused Jiang Chen's ire. He checked the area around him. Apart from the hustle and bustle of the site, he could garner no clues from his surroundings.
"What a crafty bastard." Jiang Chen was silently shocked. His opponent had actually managed to escape so easily under such circumstances. That was no easy feat. When the surrounding people saw the assault on Jiang Chen, they were all inwardly terrified. Originally, no one here had been vigilant against danger. But in an instant, the atmosphere had become riddled with tension. Someone was launching ambushes!
Once this news spread, every surrounding cultivator became nervous. They had assumed that everyone would peacefully wait together for the the seal to open, but such a thing had actually happened! Unexpectedly, it was the victim, Jiang Chen, who swept the area around him with his consciousness. When he found no clues, he chuckled coldly to himself and returned to his original spot. Huang'er asked, deeply concerned, "Are you alright?"
"Heh, what a shameless scoundred. It's not that easy to take me down." Jiang Chen deliberately raised his voice. "It's just a fluke that he managed to dig himself an escape route. If there's a second time, I'll teach him the taste of regret!"
Huang'er was fully aware of Jiang Chen's abilities. It would definitely be difficult to hurt him with an ordinary poisoned needle. Lin Yanyu's expression was somewhat perplexed, but he didn't leave. Instead, he sat down with Jiang Chen and Huang'er. After this attack, Jiang Chen fully expanded his consciousness. However, that hunchbacked old man did not appear again. It was as if he had never even appeared at the mouth of the valley at all.
"Are you Daoist Huang? My master has requested for your presence." It was not long after Jiang Chen had sat down that a young man, dressed in black robes, suddenly appeared at the periphery of his territory and spoke cautiously.
"Who is your master?" Jiang Chen frowned.
"The honored Prince of Shangping."
The Prince of Shangping? Jiang Chen furrowed his brows. The human domain was too vast. Jiang Chen hadn't been to that many places, nor did he recognize that many people. Who was this Prince of Shangping?
Lin Yanyu hurried to his side and murmured a few sentences in Jiang Chen's ear. Upon hearing Lin Yanyu's words, a meaningful smile appeared on Jiang Chen's face. He waved his hand, "Show me the way." After he spoke, he turned around and glanced at Huang'er. Huang'er smiled peacefully at him. "Go, I'll be here."
Although Huang'er could not easily make any moves, Jiang Chen was very cognizant of the level of cultivation she had reached. Even Cao Jin, the pride of a first-rate sect, had been easily defeated by her. There was no need for Jiang Chen to be worried for her.
"I'll be right back," Jiang Chen spoke next to Lin Yanyu. "You stay here."
Lin Yanyu had initially wanted to follow Jiang Chen. It wasn't so much that he was curious, but rather that he was afraid that Jiang Chen would be attacked again. However, upon hearing the indisputable firmness in Jiang Chen's tone, he took two steps forward before pausing, "Daoist Huang, be careful. The number of people here complicates things."
Jiang Chen gestured dismissively before following the black-clothed young man. The young man didn't attempt anything as he led Jiang Chen to a forest of apricot trees to the left of the valley entrance. The moment he'd entered the forest, Jiang Chen immediately saw the scenery before his eyes change. He'd actually walked into a formation that had turned into a strange space. Even if the people outside were to walk into this forest, they would definitely be unable to spot this space created by the formation. Jiang Chen didn't stop. As he scanned around the area, he didn't sense any killing intent from the formation.
"We're here." Before they'd walked too far, the black-clothed young man brought Jiang Chen to a stretch of empty land. Large pieces of limestone were strewn messily around the land, forming an irregular forest of stone. A few people were occupying the stone forest. Of them, some were unaccompanied while others had formed groups of two or three. Jiang Chen looked around and calculated that there were around a dozen groups in total.
"Hehe, you are Daoist Huang?" A man donned in elaborately embroidered robes walked out from within the stone forest. His hair was swept into a high topknot, and he kept a thin wispy beard that exuded the aura of royalty.
"Prince of Shangping?" Jiang Chen had heard from Lin Yanyu that this Prince of Shangping was the ruler of a certain territory. Although he was a prince, he had no interest in seizing the throne. Instead, he was extremely passionate about martial dao. In the martial world, this man could be considered to be a little famous.
"Hehe, that is me indeed. A book is not to be judged by its cover. Daoist Huang looks to be full of bravado. Everyone believed you to be an impertinent man with all talk and no action. It seems that they have all underestimated you." This Prince of Shangping seemed to be evaluating Jiang Chen, but his words seemed to carry a strange undertone.
Jiang Chen smiled indifferently, "What are you trying to say?" He had zero interest in listening to the other party's nonsense. He had definitely not been selected from such a large crowd of people and invited here to simply make small talk.
"Just now, Elder Feng Huan acted to assess your capabilities. I trust that my fellow daoist will not take offense?" The Prince of Shangping suddenly smiled at a pile of stone formations.
A figure suddenly emerged from the surface of that stone formation. It was precisely that old man who had attacked Jiang Chen earlier. The old man seemed almost unable to lift open his eyelids. But abruptly, his cat-like eyes opened, and he shot a look at Jiang Chen before snickering at him cruelly. "Do not resent me. I was entrusted by the Prince of Shangping to test your abilities, that's all. If you want revenge, hold it against him. It has nothing to do with me." In an instant, the old man had completely washed his hands of the matter.
Jiang Chen arched his brows. "Prince of Shangping, we are not yet acquainted. It seems that this method of testing me is a bit too extreme, don't you think?" Jiang Chen's tone was clearly a little unhappy.
Unexpectedly, the Prince of Shangping laughed as he replied, "If you knew of my intentions, you would not blame me. Instead, you might even be thanking me."
Jiang Chen sneered, "Thanking you for the ambush?"
"Daoist, from another perspective, the ambush on you was to test your qualifications. Only when you've passed our test do you have the right to enter this place." The Prince of Shangping's tone was even, neither fast or slow; it gave off a sense of full composure.
"Enter this place?" Jiang Chen laughed apathetically. "It's just a formation designed to confuse. What's so special about it?" Since he had given everyone the impression that he was a madman, then he might as well act a little wildly.
The Prince of Shangping laughed. "Daoist, I trust that you've also seen just how many people there are outside. The desolate wildlands hasn't opened a single time within the past tens of thousands of years. No one knows what lies within. But so many people trying to rush in all at once will certainly result in major chaos. If they're not careful, they will run into some powerful spirit in there and drag us, the true heavyweights, into their mess."
True heavyweights! Jiang Chen smirked as he understood what the other was implying. It seemed that every test had been to determine who was a "true heavyweight".
At this moment, a middle-aged man walked over from the distance. He appeared rather impatient as he said, "Prince of Shangping, this brat's potential hasn't even surpassed the sage realm. Surely you don't need to be so courteous to him? Letting him enter this place is already a show of respect. Why should you indulge him so much?"
"That's right. Out of everyone seated here, which one of us isn't in the emperor realm? Allowing a sage realm brat to come into this place isn't even appropriate to begin with."
Once someone started, the others began to speak up, one after another. Clearly, they did not acknowledge Jiang Chen's right to walk into this place. The Prince of Shangping didn't object to these statements either. He only gazed at Jiang Chen with a smile, wishing to see how Jiang Chen would handle himself. Jiang Chen shrugged, "Well, if I'm not welcome then I'll just go."
"You've come and already you want to leave?" That middle-aged man from just now laughed coldly before speaking to the Prince of Shangping. "If you let this brat in here then allow him to depart, who knows how his tongue will waggle when he leaves this place? If he starts spouting nonsense the moment he's back out there, he'll stir everyone up. If a few thousand people start to create trouble, how will we handle that?"
"Yes. Since he's here, we can't let him leave."
Jiang Chen's expression darkened as he started to laugh coldly. "What, don't tell me this is the kind of invitation where the plan is to murder the guest?"
The Prince of Shangping waved a hand in dismissal. Then abruptly, his lips curved into a secretive smile, "Ladies and gentlemen, please calm yourselves. Our dear Daoist Huang here might only be in the sage realm but the level his consciousness has reached is formidable and comparable to any one of you. We could certainly use some heavyweights with a powerful consciousness on our journey. Moreover, the more of these kinds of people the better."
"Even if his consciousness is a redeeming quality, he doesn't have enough potential. Won't he need us to protect him?"
"Exactly. We'll be lugging around a dead weight. Wouldn't that just create trouble for ourselves?" One by one, they all began to hurl various words of contempt at Jiang Chen with extremely unfriendly tones.
Jiang Chen only sneered. He was more or less certain that this was the alliance that Lin Yanyu had spoken about. They had likely gathered together in hopes of controlling l the expedition into the desolate wildlands. "Continue discussing at your own leisure. I have no interest in listening to your nonsense," Jiang Chen said. With a sway of his body, he had already reached the edge of the formation.
The Prince of Shangping was startled. Entering his formation was easy but leaving was not. The exit had been hidden very well. An ordinary person would definitely not be able to find it. This young cultivator had actually fled to the edge of the formation in just a single step! The level that his consciousness and observation skills had reached greatly shocked the Prince of Shangping.