Jiang Chen moved forward at a steady pace. He wasn’t overly pleased with beating the Prince of Shangping. With his knowledge of the prince’s characteristics, he knew that the fellow wasn’t the type to give up so easily. He would come again, or perhaps was already lying in wait for him with another trap. If Jiang Chen hadn’t been with Huang’er, or if she were able to function normally, Jiang Chen wouldn’t mind going a few rounds with the prince until the latter was dead. However, he couldn't afford to horse around right now. The Imperial Advent Defense Talisman would last only two more hours, and one had already passed. Yet strangely, the Prince of Shangping had seemingly disappeared into thin air.
"Perhaps that old codger Shangping guessed what kind of talisman I was using. He won't bother me until the time is up!" Jiang Chen was a little bothered by the prospect. He wanted to get the fight over with quickly, no matter how many trump cards he had to use. He was tired of this game of cat and mouse. They were in demon territory, and all signs pointed to the gradual remobilization of the race. However, the time left was at least enough for him to leave the valley.
The good thing was that although Huang'er wasn't in a particularly great state, her condition also wasn’t significantly worsening. Sealing away her senses had been the right choice. If he hadn’t done so, it would have been much more likely for her consciousness to have been attacked under the current circumstances. Though Jiang Chen was somewhat worried that he had not seen any traces of the Prince of Shangping along his route, he didn’t let this concern disrupt his thoughts. With Huang'er in tow, he continued moving forward. Now that they were more than halfway across the valley, he could simply press on if the prince refused to show himself. Once past the valley, Jiang Chen had a much better chance of survival.
Lu Shinan, on the other hand, had mixed feelings. Though it was good that his liege lord once again possessed a physical body, he felt no sense of contentment. The demon king had given him firm orders to hold Jiang Chen off for three days. Three days? Lu Shinan's heart was aflame. That kid's strength is unfathomable. I don’t even have the confidence to hold him off for six hours! The king has too much faith in me. What should I do?
While he deliberated, Lu Shinan received information from the bone apparitions that Jiang Chen was heading his way. His arrival wouldn’t be immediate, but it would be within fifteen minutes. I have no chance of facing him with brute force alone. Why not use the same trick I used on the Prince of Shangping? Having come to a decision, he immediately carried out his course of action.
Jiang Chen arrived right on time. His consciousness was on the alert as soon as he entered the area. He spotted a man beneath a large tree, appearing to be resting against its trunk. Jiang Chen used his God's Eye to take a closer look. It really was a human cultivator, and someone he was familiar with at that.
"Lu Shinan?" Jiang Chen remembered him quite well. When everyone had been grouping up, the man had approached him in private, but Jiang Chen had refused his offer to team up.
Jiang Chen's approach seemed to surprise the man. Lu Shinan wiped away the blood on his mouth. "Daoist Huang?"
Their reunion in this particular place was very odd. Though the man seemed to be hurt, Jiang Chen had no plans of dropping his guard.
"Daoist Lu, what are you playing at?" Jiang Chen smiled faintly, looking Lu Shinan up and down.
Lu Shinan's face was pale. He grinned helplessly, "What do you think, friend?"
Jiang Chen had no interest in riddles. His smile remained, but he decided to continue moving forward. He had Huang'er with him, after all.
"Daoist Huang, how is your friend?" Lu Shinan couldn't help but ask.
"Just a little out of sorts," Jiang Chen said. "Thank you for your concern, Daoist Lu, but there's no need to worry."
Lu Shinan wiped at his mouth again. He smile was a bit wry, but it was suffused with an undoubtable sense of sincerity. "Daoist Huang, you really don't want to know how I got hurt?"
Jiang Chen was indifferent. "No, I don't."
Lu Shinan sighed softly. "I treat you like a friend, and this is how you repay me? I wanted to team up earlier, but you refused. Now, I've almost lost my life to the Prince of Shangping because of you. Alas, you're as distant as ever."
"The Prince of Shangping?" Jiang Chen raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"I randomly encountered the prince just a little while earlier. He was a little flustered and told me that he'd had a big fight with you. He wanted me to help him. I disagreed, of course, but as a result he wanted to use me as a punching bag. Daoist Huang, that Prince of Shangping has surely laid a trap further in. You should be careful."
Jiang Chen was quiet as he looked at Lu Shinan with his God's Eye. He stared at the man for a few seconds before suddenly tossing a pill in his direction. "This is a healing pill. A gift from me."
Lu Shinan laughed ruefully. "Do you really intend on walking into danger alone, Daoist?"
"You don't need to worry about that." Jiang Chen smiled faintly. There was no way he would partner up with Lu Shinan, regardless of what the man said. He wasn't in the habit of traveling with strangers, nor would he show his back to anyone.
Lu Shinan was frustrated. The Prince of Shangping had been hard to deal with, but the prince had weaknesses. Though the guy in front of him also seemed to have many flaws, Lu Shinan didn't know how to find them. Nothing worked on him. People who didn't have any noticeable desires were detached and aloof. Lu Shinan had no breaching point against someone who wanted nothing from him.
His eyes glittered as he watched the youth disappear from his sight. He couldn't do anything about it. Fight him head on? He didn't think that he was stronger than the Prince of Shangping, and the prince had lost to the kid.
Jiang Chen slowly passed by. When he’d first entered the area, he pretended not to have noticed the surrounding mounds and white flags. His heart, however, was not so still. Someone with a consciousness as strong as Jiang Chen's could easily sense the demonic auras surrounding those fixtures. He could even perceive a bit of the Prince of Shangping's aura in the midst of those strong demonic auras.
Jiang Chen would have long since struck first if he didn't have Huang'er in tow. His intuition told him that Lu Shinan was hiding something. Was being hurt a pretense as well? Jiang Chen couldn't immediately tell. But Lu Shinan himself was definitely problematic, he was sure of that much, at least. Could Lu Shinan be the one who’s defected to the demons? Jiang Chen had already confirmed that there was such a traitor amongst the human cultivators. There was no other way that the bone apparitions could have acquired their intel.
He didn't have a clue who it was prior to this. But now, he had a vague inkling of the perfect candidate—Lu Shinan! I assume that the unlucky Prince of Shangping is already dead. Doesn't look like I'll be able to obtain the formation disk for the eight statues. Too bad...
Jiang Chen wasn't the slightest bit happy at the news. After all, the clandestine threat of the demon race’s revival far overshadowed the prince's insignificant plotting. He had the option of spurring on some Goldbiter Rats to seek out traces of demon activity, but there were many underground creatures in the valley. The rats had no advantage. With this all in mind, Jiang Chen decided not to further complicate things. He headed for the valley's exit posthaste.
Though it wasn't exactly safer beyond Myriad Corpse Valley, at least Huang'er wouldn't be negatively affected by the malevolent air. Taking care of her was his first priority. Jiang Chen didn't have the luxury of engaging in any sort of heated battle.
Having been unable to detain Jiang Chen, Lu Shinan was like a cat on a hot tin roof. He had to return to the cave and inform his liege of his failure.
"What, you just let him go like that?!" The demon king was still in the process of absorbing demonic energy. He was greatly upset by the news of Jiang Chen's departure.
"My liege, that kid possesses extraordinary strength. Not even the Prince of Shangping could beat him. I was just worried that… well, it would throw a wrench into our other plans."
King Nineshadows's eyes gleamed, as if deep in thought. "Is that kid really as strong as you say?"
"I'm not really sure. But from what I understood of the prince's words, Shangping suffered at the kid's hand."
The demon king was silent for a moment. "Never mind. It's not worth the risk just for a sage realm kid. If he wants to return the same way he came, he still needs to pass by my Myriad Corpse Valley. I'll have completely infused this body with demonic energy by then. There will be no escape for him."
Lu Shinan's thirst for Jiang Chen was stronger than others'. "My liege," he couldn't resist interjecting. "If he leaves the valley, he'll be in the Wood Demons' territory. Do you think that they'll give him the chance to return at all?"
The demon king cackled. "That doesn't matter to us. We have to let them have some morsels, right? He's a mere appetizer compared to the emperor realm cultivators' rich feast. You said that there's probably going to be twenty or thirty thousand cultivators this time, no?"
Lu Shinan had nothing to say. He wanted to disagree. He actually thought Jiang Chen was the ideal prize. He didn't want to just say something like that, though. He greatly desired Jiang Chen's belongings. "My liege, isn't it hard to keep twenty or thirty thousand people in place just by ourselves?"
The demon king harrumphed. "Don't worry, I have my ways. This kid is lucky he's here early. My formation is not yet complete. When it is, the valley will be transformed into a living hell. Anyone who goes inside won't be able to make it out again."
Jiang Chen had been careful along the entire way. He had expected a great struggle, but his expectations were let down. He was already out of Myriad Corpse Valley, but there were no assailants in sight. It was quite fortuitous. Now that they were out of immediate danger, he didn’t bother thinking much more about it. He followed the map another few dozen miles, then unsealed Huang'er's senses.
Huang'er gradually woke up. "Brother Chen, where are we now?"
"Huang'er, even though I sealed your senses away, the malevolent air still found its way into your consciousness." Jiang Chen's expression was worried. "I think we'd better find that Requiem Wood, and fast."
Huang'er smiled apologetically. "Sorry... my condition is causing so much trouble."
"Why? We're closer than that." Jiang Chen comforted her softly. The land in front of them was perfectly clear. A vast grassy plain stretched off into the distance, and green coalesced into blue on the horizon.