Chapter 881: Bone Apparitions
Despite the five's change in honorific, Jiang Chen didn't let down his guard. "You guys are pretty fast, huh," he snickered. "Stay away from me if you don't want to get beat up again."
He had no interest in wasting words on them. The five bowed in simpering embarrassment. The one-eyed man nodded several times. "Yes, yes, senior, we shall leave immediately. But we do have one word of advice for you. Don't go west. It's a little dangerous there."
"What kind of danger is there?" Jiang Chen frowned.
"We didn't quite find out ourselves, but we saw the Prince of Shangping head in that direction. It looked like he was setting a formation to ambush someone. There must be something good there." The one-eyed boss wanted to make a good impression.
"Prince of Shangping?" Jiang Chen was not surprised at all. The prince's facade of an honorable appearance could trick normal people, but Jiang Chen hadn't believed a word he said. Jiang Chen looked back at the Ghost Cave Five, sneering with the corner of his mouth. He didn't trust this group either. Something good? Prince of Shangping? Jiang Chen had no interest in them whatsoever, and wouldn't even think about it. He was heading west, and he wasn't about to be stopped by a few words from the Five.
"You should hurry up and leave. Don't show yourselves in front of me any longer." Sneering, Jiang Chen glanced at them a final time before flying away with Huang'er.
"Hold on!" the one-eyed man shouted. "Don't you wanna know something about the friend who sold you pills, Daoist Huang?"
Jiang Chen halted in his steps, coldly gazing at the one-eyed man. "What do you mean?"
The one-eyed man chuckled. "Finally, something you're interested in."
"Speak up. If you lie, I don't mind cutting you down where you stand." Jiang Chen's face darkened.
"You can kill us, but your friend will die for sure," the one-eyed man laughed strangely.
"Get on with it," Jiang Chen frowned.
"Five million saint spirit stones," the one-eyed man interjected suddenly.
Jiang Chen's look was chilly. "I'll give you ten, but if you give me fake news, you're dead."
The one-eyed man cackled. "I can make a heavenly oath. If I'm lying 'bout it and it's not related to that guy at all, then let us all die in the wilderness."
Jiang Chen was very surprised at how readily the oath was made, enough to leave him momentarily astonished. He was under the impression that the one-eyed man was bluffing, but the latter's oath made him think otherwise. He had to treat the matter more seriously. In the world of martial dao, a heavenly oath wasn't something to be trifled with for anyone. Anyone who did only did a disservice to themselves. Moreover, there were no loopholes in such an oath. The one-eyed man was clearly set on this matter.
"Lead the way." Jiang Chen felt many emotions well up in his heart. He frowned, unable to pinpoint the key. Though the one-eyed man's oath was surety enough, Jiang Chen still suspected something afoul with the situation.
Why had the Ghost Cave Five reappeared so suddenly, and with such relevant news of Lin Yanyu? It was only a few hours since Jiang Chen's departure from the youth. What could have happened in such a short span of time for them to bear convenient witness? That they was able to reach him and Huang'er at all to inform them of this was yet another coincidence. Even if there was a scheme afoot, it was difficult to execute with such perfection.
"Where did you see him last?" Jiang Chen asked suddenly.
"You'll know when you come with us," the one-eyed man smirked. "We won't say before we get the money. Don't ask us anymore, senior."
"How is he now?"
"Very dangerous. Trapped by some kinda man-shaped plant 'n can't get free. I'd guess he can't resist it for much longer. If you're slow, there won't be much of him left."
Nodding slightly, Jiang Chen decided to stop asking any more questions. He took a few more steps before sniffing at the air, remembering something crucial. "Do you people not have a conscience at all? He sold the Eight Treasures Antidote to you, and you're taking money for news of him?"
"Heh heh, we cultivators who live on the edge only care about money. Even if he gave us pills, we still wouldn't do it for free."
"You still have the pill?" Jiang Chen asked suddenly.
The one-eyed man paused, then grinned. "Ate it already."
"How'd it taste?" Jiang Chen smiled faintly.
The one-eyed man squinted at Jiang Chen. "What kinda taste could a pill have? It's whatever, right. Nothing special." He gave an off-handed reply. The one-eyed man seemed to realize that Jiang Chen was trying to trick him, and stopped giving away further info. Stopping in his tracks, Jiang Chen allowed the hint of a smile to fade away from the corner of his mouth. A cold, murderous intent replaced it.
"What?" The one-eyed man frowned. "No way you're unsure about anything after our oath, right? But if you aren't going, nothing I can do."
Jiang Chen nodded. "There's no need for that. We can stop here."
"Here? What for?" The one-eyed man couldn't understand.
"Here, I'll send you off to a place where all of you belong." With a flurry of hand signs, Jiang Chen drew the Ghost Cave Five into a freshly-activated formation. The surroundings were instantly filled with magma. Countless volcanoes ringed them in the sweltering heat.
"What… what're you playing at?" The one-eyed man was genuinely panicked.
Looking directly at the one-eyed man, Jiang Chen enunciated each word clearly. "You disguised yourselves well, so well that I almost couldn't tell the difference. If you had hid your putrid air a little better, if you could point out the slightly pungent scent of the Eight Treasures Antidote, then your act would've been perfect. What a shame… you're just a bit off."
Huang'er's pretty eyes spun upwards, her mind moving with them. When Lin Yanyu told them to use the Eight Treasures Antidote, he said that there would be a pungent scent that was easily distinguishable within fifteen minutes or so of consumption. Yet, none of the Ghost Cave Five had mentioned this detail. She inspected the five with renewed interest. Simultaneously, she was secretly impressed by Jiang Chen's alacrity. His seemingly thoughtless questions were filled with hidden depth. He'd found holes in their story with only a few words.
Putrid air? Her expression became more wary. Jiang Chen, on the other hand, had already leaped to action. With a turn of the Featherflight Mirror, one ray of light split into five, scattering themselves towards the Ghost Cave Five. Beneath the light's radiance, Jiang Chen summoned the magnetic golden mountain. Its shimmering peaks and ridges bore down from above like a divine apparition, descending with a weighty rumble. The light from the mirror, the scorching heat, and the pressure of the mountain caused the Ghost Cave Five crack open. Their bodies shifted and morphed. Suddenly, the five screamed in unison, their bodies splitting open in a flash of black light. Their bodies had turned to piles of bone. The bones seemed to have life of their own, and endlessly struggled against the weight of the Goldmount. However, their strengths were hopelessly unmatched.
"Die." Jiang Chen pressed down with his palm.
Boom! With a flash of golden light, the crushing weight of the mountain pulverized the bones into dust. There was a resounding shriek within the formation, dissipating only after a long time. If he hadn't been a martial cultivator with a wealth of experience, the mere sound of the shriek would have struck fear into his own bones.
Huang'er looked on at the scene with alarm. "They're not the Ghost Cave Five?"
"I was almost fooled," Jiang Chen shook his head. "They're not the Ghost Cave Five, but ghostly apparitions. The transformation of bone is a method that belongs to the demon race…" He was very grave. It hadn't taken long at all for them to encounter the demon race, and not even a Wood Demon, at that. Bone apparitions certainly wasn't theirs.
From the evidence, the Wood Demons weren't the only demon race in the desolate wildlands. There were other branch races as well. It complicated Jiang Chen's feelings on the matter. There had always been legends about the demon race in the human domain. Even Emperor Peafowl had kept tabs on them. He'd been able to detect traces of their imminent return to the world with his All-Seeing Eyes. Despite the various indicators, Jiang Chen hadn't thought it would be this soon. It seemed now that the emperor hadn't been needlessly pessimistic. Rather, Jiang Chen and every other cultivator of the human domain had been too optimistic. In fact, most in the human domain were numb to this threat. Though there was a latent danger, they didn't want to face it head on because of their natural fear of the demon race.
"No wonder they made a heavenly oath as soon as they spoke," Huang'er murmured. "They weren't actually the Ghost Cave Five, after all."
"Yes, that was the genius part about their plans." Jiang Chen was relieved after the fact as well. When it came to situations like this, he only had instinct to rely on. He only found flaws in their story after slowly digging for them. Without the cleverness of his ruse, it was impossible to tell they were false. However, Jiang Chen recalled yet another thing. Clearly Huang'er did as well, because their faces colored at the same time.
"They didn't know the details about the Eight Treasures Antidote, but they did about the things that happened outside the valley." Jiang Chen was very pale. "That must mean the demon race had allies in the group outside. Their communications are certainly very advanced. Even their bone apparitions had such detailed knowledge. It was difficult to notice anything out of place."
They both became rather tense when they considered the underlying problems. The demon race, possible traitors, the wildlands… All of this contributed to a growing sense of unease.
"At least they didn't know anything about the happenings after we came in. This shows that Lin Yanyu isn't one of their guys, at least," Huang'er supplied. Jiang Chen agreed. If Lin Yanyu was an ally of the demon race, there would have been no need for him to reveal the Eight Treasures Antidote's distinctive trait. The tidbit of info about the pungent scent had come straight from the youth's mouth.
"Then who is the undercover agent here?" The other cultivators' faces flashed across Jiang Chen's mind one by one. He didn't have a clue. None of them looked like nice people, but working for the demon race? There was no evidence of that whatsoever.