Chapter 888: Demon King Nineshadows
"Your Highness, that brat is here!" Lu Shinan suddenly called out.
"Where?" The Prince of Shangping was startled. However, he realized something was wrong the next moment. A black burst of light erupted behind him as he turned, and a strange black talisman exploded in the middle of his back. It turned into an inky jet of air and shot itself into the prince's body. On the other side, Lu Shinan shifted a few dozen meters away like a slippery eel.
The prince was furious. "Lu Shinan, you backstabbing..."
Lu Shinan laughed malevolently. "You're wily, Prince of Shangping, but your wits are no match for mine!"
"Then die!" The prince's face darkened. He was about to deploy an art but found that his body was weak and devoid of any energy. He had no strength left to muster. His entire body had been wrapped in the black air. He couldn't move at all.
"Lu Shinan, what did you do to me?" The Prince of Shangping was scared witless. His normal calmness was lost, and his entire body shook in fear. His intuition told him that the end was nigh.
"Heh heh, what do you think?" Lu Shinan stayed at a distance from the prince, not approaching beyond a certain point. His expression was inscrutable.
The prince's pupils contracted. "Don’t forget that you made a heavenly oath!"
Lu Shinan snickered, "I made an oath that I wasn't in cahoots with the kid. That much is true. I'm really not."
The Prince of Shangping finally realized—there had been a loophole in Lu Shinan's oath from the very beginning. Because he had been wholly focused on Jiang Chen, it had slipped past him. And as as a result, Lu Shinan's plot found unexpected success. The prince had been overconfident. In his alliance with Lu Shinan, he had thought that he was the more favorable party, that he was the stronger cultivator. Even if the other man was plotting something behind his back, he had assumed that he wouldn't be really threatened by it. As such, the prince didn't believe that Lu Shinan would attack him before they had taken out Jiang Chen. Even if they were to reach a point of contention when they divvied up their spoils and ended up coming to blows, it would only be after Jiang Chen was out of the picture.
The possibility that Lu Shinan was never interested in working with him in the first place hadn't even crossed his mind. The Prince of Shangping was full of regret. He had plotted against countless people in his life. His failure to scheme against Jiang Chen was already unlucky enough; Lu Shinan's backstabbing was simply karmic justice.
"Do you think you'll be able to defeat that kid by yourself, Lu Shinan? Is that why you've trapped me like this?" The prince still wanted to salvage the situation.
Lu Shinan chortled, "Are you still dreaming, Prince of Shangping? Who said that I was going to face him alone?"
"You have a partner in crime?" The prince's expression changed drastically. "Who is it? Even if you do, they couldn't possibly be as strong as me. You think you'll have a better chance with them?"
"Don't think so highly of yourself. My partner is already 'in' you." Lu Shinan retorted mockingly.
"What?" The Prince of Shangping was completely lost.
Lu Shinan's mocking expression grew more pronounced. "You're at death's door, and you still don't even know how you got there. Truly, if wise men play the fool, they do it with a vengeance."
The prince's body shuddered as a new thought entered his mind. His look turned to despair. "Have you defected to the demons, Lu Shinan? Are you now their faithful servant?"
“It is good to know which way the wind blows," Lu Shinan laughed. "Demons are a high-class race hailing from the heavenly planes, and I'm only following their natural ebb and flow. Too bad you don't have the chance to do the same, prince. My liege has a use for your body. Though it's not perfect, there's little choice in haste."
"Your liege?" The prince's smile was grim. An incredibly powerful force within the stream of black air was already eating away at his consciousness. Completely restrained by it, he couldn't move a finger, much less launch any form of active resistance. It was as if a cleaver was headed straight towards his head, but he was powerless to avoid it. He wanted to destroy himself, but his body wouldn’t respond to his commands.
"Lu Shinan, you traitor of the human race… I won't let you get away with this, even from beyond the grave!" The Prince of Shangping was hoarse from exertion.
"Oh, come off it," Lu Shinan was unimpressed. "You think you'll have a chance to do that? Don't waste your breath. I've set up soundproof barriers all around us. No one will hear you. You wanted to take out that brat, right? Don't worry, I’ll avenge you in that regard at least. Why don't the two of you compete when you're both in hell, eh? Hahahaha." By the end of his speech, Lu Shinan wore a ghastly smile. The light in the prince's eyes faded as his consciousness was eaten away, until it finally dimmed to a corpse-like gray hue.
Everything was quiet. The Prince of Shangping looked as if he had been dead for many hours. Suddenly, the prince's body moved. His gray-white eyes dilated, and his eyelids fluttered. He was alive once more. However, his eyes were now home to a new malevolence.
Lu Shinan's body shook. "Congratulations, my liege. You have finally attained a new body. This is a big step forward for the demon race." He knelt to the newly-risen prince.
The 'Prince of Shangping' looked a little disoriented, and his eyes moved about constantly. He scanned his surroundings, his expression vibrant. After a long while, he smiled bewitchingly, "Good, good, good. I, King Nineshadows, can finally see the light of day once more!"
"Now that you've awakened, my liege, I’m sure that a new renaissance for the demon race is not far off." Lu Shinan laid on heavy flattery.
The demon king smiled faintly, his gaze resting for a moment on the man. "You've done well, Lu Shinan. You deserve a rich reward for your work. When the time comes, I’ll request a high-rank portion of demon blood from His Majesty the emperor himself. You'll truly become a member of our superior race then."
"Thank you for your praise, my liege." Lu Shinan was overjoyed.
"Stand now. This is only the first step. Though I've taken the Prince of Shangping's body, this unrefined body is not very suitable for my demonic arts. I do not expect that I’ll have much combative ability, and I’ll surely be cut down by any strong adversary." The demon king was not blinded by arrogance. He understood the situation very clearly.
"According to the information supplied by this Prince of Shangping, my liege, the person who destroyed the five bone apparitions is Jiang Chen. He is a tough character in the outside world."
"Oh? How tough, exactly?" King Nineshadows asked, frowning. Lu Shinan relayed a few of the rumors he had heard about Jiang Chen, as well as some details regarding the prince's loss to the young man.
"A sage realm youngster can stir up so much trouble? He seems like he'd fit in well with the demon race. We need geniuses like him the most. Shall I take his body? Or adapt his bloodline? Or perhaps make a corpse puppet out of him?"
Taking his body entailed occupying a new body with his consciousness, much like he was doing now with the Prince of Shangping's body. Adapting his bloodline meant injecting demon blood into his body, then letting it awaken in the youth naturally. In this particular way, Jiang Chen would end up becoming a member of the demon race as well. As for making him into a corpse puppet, it was a method unique to Shadow Demons that allowed them to change a living person into a lifeless puppet. Corpse puppets were stronger than bone apparitions.
Bone apparitions merely involved controlling bones through demonic arts. They appeared fearsome, but were actually rather simple and weak. On the other hand, corpse puppets could retain the abilities they had in their previous lives and moreover, gain new abilities that were unique to the demon race. They would become enhanced versions of their previous selves, in a sense.
Shadow Demons were not one of the stronger bloodlines of the demon race. However, they excelled at borrowing external strength. They didn't only use corpse puppets and bone apparitions; they boasted control over malevolent ghosts and monstrous zombies as well, using all kinds of minions to complete their goals with ease. Therefore, Shadow Demons were more difficult to deal with than many of their brethren. It was difficult to guard against their mysterious and insidious methods. Of course, that much could be said about the entire demon race. It was just that the Shadow Demons exemplified more of these characteristics.
"Don't you have a body already, sir?" Lu Shinan asked.
"This body is only for temporary measure. I won’t be able to recover my former strength with a body like this."
The Prince of Shangping was decently strong amongst wandering cultivators. However, he didn't amount to much in front of actual competitors. This was especially true given that he had reached his body’s natural limits in many respects. There wasn't much more to dig up and areas that he could make additional improvements in. To King Nineshadows, this was a deal-breaking flaw. Obviously, it was better for him to have a surrogate body of the highest possible quality.
Unfortunately, the demon king's soul wasn't in an ideal state. He wasn't able to take over cultivators that were exceedingly strong. A great emperor's body would of course be ideal, but the pressure they exerted could instantly crush his demonic soul. The demon king had no choice but to pick on the likes of people like the Prince of Shangping instead. He had the desire for greater, but not the necessary ability. Anyone stronger than the prince, and he would suffer significant backlash as a result.
"My liege, that brat should be close by now. What if you take him down as he approaches?" Lu Shinan's eyes flashed with malice.
The demon king thought for a moment, then shook his head. "There is no rush. If, like you said, the kid is capable enough to foil even the Prince of Shangping, then he's certainly quite a character. Though I can fight him immediately, my body’s instability will be at a significant disadvantage. Let's play it safe since we're just starting out. There's going to be a lot more chances to toy with them once they enter Myriad Corpse Valley. I shall return to my Ten-Thousand-Year Coffin to gather more demonic energy so that I can further refine this body. You'll be responsible for keeping them in check. You can activate some restrictions when the time arises, but you must keep them in place. Three days is all you have. Remember, they cannot be allowed to leave. The territory outside the valley isn’t mine."
Lu Shinan was a little disappointed by the demon king's instructions. He had hoped that the demon king would seize Jiang Chen, because then he would have the opportunity to rob the youth of his possessions. Although he didn't know what Jiang Chen possessed exactly, it had to be of superior quality and utility. After all, the Prince of Shangping had been willing to hand over Jiang Chen’s entire bounty to him in exchange for these possessions.