Chapter 79: Trials in the Boundless Catacombs
Although he was under the escort of the elite troops of the royal family, Jiang Chen still didn’t relax his guard along the road. He understood very clearly that the feud he had formed with the Duke of Soaring Dragon had reached the level of life and death.
The Duke of Soaring Dragon was overweeningly ambitious, and would never allow any obstacles to be present on his path towards seizing power, whereas it was patently obvious that Jiang Chen had already become the Duke of Soaring Dragon’s obstacle.
Except, what was vaguely surprisingly to Jiang Chen was that this entire trip proceeded smoothly without obstructions. Jiang Chen paid attention, but there wasn’t even covert observation, much less attacks or bizarre ambushes.
“Can it be that the Duke of Soaring Dragon has had a change of heart, and doesn’t intend on making a move? Or does he have other motives instead?” Jiang Chen felt a bit surprised, and couldn’t quite get a grasp on things.
The entourage reached the outskirts of the Boundless Catacombs two days later.
The Boundless Catacombs were located on the outskirts of a patch of mountain valleys in the northeast of the kingdom. The army made their camp for the night.
Princess Gouyu stood high atop a temporarily erected tent. “We will camp here tonight. You will enter the mountain range early tomorrow morning, and the entrance to the Boundless Catacombs are located within these mountain valleys. There are numerous entrances, but they’re all within this patch of mountain valleys. You must search for the entrance and exit yourselves within this terrain.”
“Remember, no matter whether you’re lost within the mountain valleys or within the Boundless Catacombs, the kingdom will not send people to rescue you. You hold your life and death in your own hands once you enter the Boundless Catacombs, so be more than a hundred percent on full alert.”
Jiang Chen chose to sit cross legged next to a large tree as they made camp.
Of course, although he was aware that the center of Princess Gouyu’s defences would revolve around him, he wasn’t accustomed to entrusting the great matter of personal security to someone else.
That night, Jiang Chen didn’t relax his “Ear of the Zephyr” even once. Not even the slightest rustle in the grass from the wind could escape his hearing.
However, this night was still baffingly calm.
Jiang Chen even had a feeling of a misconception – had the Duke of Soaring Dragon truly decided not to make a move? Or should he say that in the eyes of the Duke of Soaring Dragon, he, Jiang Chen, still came up short?
After thinking about it back and forth, Jiang Chen decisively decided he was too lazy to continue contemplating the matter.
The next morning, the rays of the morning sun shone down on the outskirts of the mountain valleys. All the heirs were in high spirits as they looked into the mountain valleys, their gazes suffused with concentrated expectation.
“Brother Chen, I want to tell you some good news. I broke through again last night.” Fatty Xuan closed in and said excitedly.
Fatty Xuan had only been of five meridians true qi two or three months ago, and belonged to the lower tier of existences amongst the heirs.
When Jiang Chen had passed onto him the “True Acupoint Resonance” method, it had aided fatty in breaking through to six meridians true qi. However, fatty had broken through again and gained seven meridian true qi, successfully entering the ranks of the advanced realm of true qi!
Fatty Xuan had chosen to keep his position, that of a duke of the fourth rank. Thus, he was executing the mission of the fourth rank.
Seven meridians true qi was enough for the missions of the fourth rank.
After Hubing Yue had broken through to eight meridians true qi last time, he had chosen not to break through again. However, he had already located the ninth acupoint and was not too far away from nine meridians true qi.
“Brother Chen, many thanks to you this time.” A concentrated sense of gratitude emitted from Hubing Yue’s eyes. He was vying for the position of second rank this time.
He had successfully completed the first two second rank missions earlier.
If he successfully completed the third mission, then his Hubing clan would rise through the ranks to a second rank dukedom!
“Do well, and be careful!” Jiang Chen counseled them.
The various heirs were clustered together in groups of two or three. It was apparent that many were still a bit nervous with the impending commencement of the final mission.
Standing together was a form of psychological reassurance.
Princess Gouyu seemed to have purposefully dressed for today. She hadn’t worn the sexy leather armor, but rather put on a demure court outfit, adding a few traces of royal nobility to her presence.
“I’ve said all that needs to be said. I hereby announce that the third mission is about to commence. You will enter the mountain valleys one by one, according to your current dukedom ranking, starting from the lowest. One person will enter every fifteen minutes.”
This arrangement was obviously to avoid malicious competition between the heirs, and to prevent schemes against each other whilst still in the mountain valley.
Those who were ranked lower had relatively weaker strength, and thus they entered first.
It was an exceedingly reasonable thing to go from the bottom upwards.
Fatty Xuan and Hubing Yue all entered one after another. The Jiang Han dukedom was ranked number fourteen, so it was quite some time afterwards that Jiang Chen entered.
“Jiang Chen, the Boundless Catacombs are endless and ever reaching. You must be careful. You will be able to move freely within the first and second level, but will have to be exceedingly alert and wary on the third level, because it’s very like that king level violent beasts will appear. Their battle strength is on par with human true qi masters at the very least. You mustn’t set foot into and beyond the fourth level at any costs. That is a forbidden zone. Countless numbers of geniuses have once brashly ventured in, and no one has ever emerged. The odds would be stacked against even a spirit dao practitioner. So remember this well, remember this very well!”
Princess Gouyu admired Jiang Chen, and was thoroughly unabashed as she gave Jiang Chen a few pointers in front of everyone.
The relationship between Jiang Chen and the royal family was no longer a secret now. Even so, those who saw Princess Gouyu pay special attention to Jiang Chen still felt vaguely envious.
Jiang Chen nodded as his body sprang up and shot off into the mountain valleys.
The second he entered the mountain valleys, Jiang Chen immediately deployed “God’s Eye” and “Ear of the Zephyr”.
One should not have the intention to harm others, but cannot lack the intention to defend oneself against others.
Although none of the heirs that had entered previously could harm him, Jiang Chen was someone who had reincarnated and had the experience of two lifetimes. He knew when he should be prudent.
Random shrubs and patches of grass abounded within the mountain valleys. The sunlight was blocked by all sorts of big trees that couldn’t even be spanned with both arms, making the environment appear deep and serene.
Jiang Chen was neither in a rush, nor too lazy, as he began to search for the entrance to the Boundless Catacombs.
After a while, he found an exceedingly small entrance about 1.5 to 2 kilometers away. The entrance was twisting and winding, with many forks in the path.
Jiang Chen twisted and turned, following one path to who knew how far in. He only felt that the light was becoming duller and duller, and that the temperature kept dropping.
He finally lost all of the light as the soil beneath his feet became more and more wet. Jiang Chen realized that he had unwittingly already entered the Boundless Catacombs.
“There were endless forks in the road along the way, as if a maze. Add to that the numerous entrances… it would be difficult for the hundred or so heirs to purposefully lie in wait to ambush someone.”
Jiang Chen was in no hurry to make time once he’d arrived underground. He took the time to observe his surroundings, only relaxing when he was certain that he’d arrived beneath the ground.
“This should be the so-called first level?”
If an ordinary person stood here, he would surely be like a blind person, and be unable to see his fingers when he stretched out his hand.
The vision of a practitioner was naturally many times stronger than an ordinary person.
And since Jiang Chen practiced “God’s Eye”, his eyesight was many times stronger than a practitioner of the same level. Add to that “Ear of the Zephyr” and “Boulder’s Heart”, and he held quite a bit of advantage in the Boundless Catacombs.
“One hundred green spirit pearls.” Jiang Chen continuously reminded himself of his mission.
Suddenly, Jiang Chen seemed to hear an agonized wail deep in the depths of the catacombs. The sound was hurried and ghastly. He was unable to discern the distance of this wail, due to various sounds echoing throughout the catacombs.
“Has someone already fallen victim in the first level?” Jiang Chen was shocked.
At this moment, Jiang Chen felt a breeze at the back of his head.
This is bad, an ambush!
Jiang Chen’s ears moved as he flung his sleeve. A Layered Feather Throwing Dagger drew a cold arc through the air – as if there were eyes on the back of his head – forming a beautiful rainbow in the darkness of the catacombs.
A tragic hiss sounded as something fell when the throwing dagger connected with its target.
A greenwing swordbird!
The wings and mouth of this greenwing swordbird were all as sharp as knives, much sharper than the swords of ordinary practitioners.
“The wings and mouth of the greenwing swordbird are indeed much sharper than a sword’s edge.”
Jiang Chen collected his throwing dagger and took the green spirit pearl protruding from the bird’s forehead, storing it into his sack.
“Heh, victory from the first battle has arrived quite swiftly.” After Jiang Chen’s first contact with the greenwing swordbird, he had a good understanding of the swordbird’s capabilities.
“The battle capabilities of the greenwing swordbird are akin to a human practitioner of four meridians true qi. However, its speed is fast, and it possesses the advantages of favorable climate and topography within the darkness of its territory. If a practitioner’s level doesn’t exceed it, then it would indeed be difficult to handle the swordbird.”
Jiang Chen’s heart was much more at ease with the experience of his first battle.
He didn’t increase his speed but rather continued on the same pace, deploying “God’s Eye” and “Ear of the Zephyr” to the utmost.
Leveraging his advantages, Jiang Chen collected twelve green spirit pearls after a day.
“Collecting twelve spirit pearls in a day. This speed is neither fast nor slow. If I can continue at this level everyday, I’ll be able to leave in eight or nine days.”
Jiang Chen’s confidence was greatly boosted after rich rewards within a day.
However, Jiang Chen discovered the second day that the frequency of greenwing swordbird appearances within the five or so kilometers he was moving around in had decreased overnight.
“The greenwing swordbird is a spirit animal, and thus possesses intelligence. Looks like they’ve gone into hiding because they know that a large numbers of human hunters have come down.”
More than a hundred heirs had suddenly appeared. Even with everyone killing just a few, this number would still be staggering.
Therefore, Jiang Chen didn’t find it odd that the numbers of greenwing swordbirds had greatly decreased.
“What the hell; do these greenwings swordbirds have greater intelligence than humans? I killed two the first day, but I haven’t even seen a feather the second, much less than kill one of them!”
“Damnit, have all the swordbirds been killed by the stronger dukedom heirs? I don’t want to risk my neck in the second level.”
Jiang Chen heard an earful of complaints along his way.
It was as if all the greenwing swordbirds had been slaughtered cleanly in the span of a single night.
Even Jiang Chen, with his numerous advantages, only killed three greenwing swordbirds during his entire second day.
If Jiang Chen was thus, then it would be easy to imagine how the others fared.
“Looks like I can no longer linger in the first level. I must be the first to enter the second level, or maybe even the third!”
Jiang Chen speculated that this greenwing swordbird possessed extraordinary intelligence. He who strikes first gains the advantage, and those who strike second gain nothing at all.
When his thoughts traveled here, Jiang Chen increased his footsteps and rushed towards the depths of the Boundless Catacombs.
It was pitch black within the Boundless Catacombs, with marshland and bog underfoot. It was rather risky to proceed at a fast pace.