Chapter 732: Running Into Yet Another Problem
"What is it?" Seeing Jiang Chen's expression darken so suddenly, Huang'er realized that the situation wasn't as optimistic as she’d first thought.
"As I thought, those that work in this business are all animals. Aside from everyone’s senses being sealed, their vitals have been sealed as well. If they make the wrong move, their qi ocean will self-detonate. Vicious indeed!" Jiang Chen swore in a low tone.
Hearing this, Huang'er's expression sank as well.
"Let's see if the others are here." She was the first to calm down and came forward to help. The masks were torn away one by one, and the faces of fellow sect members steadily appeared. Suddenly, there was a cry of pleasant surprise. "Big sister Gouyu!"
A mask was removed over on Huang’er’s side, revealing Gouyu's face beneath. Her senses had been sealed away, but Gouyu's expression was still defiant and unyielding. Her cheeks were thin and pale. She had evidently suffered a lot during her capture. Yet to Huang’er and Jiang Chen, the sight of her was invigorating. They removed all the remaining masks in a concerted effort.
Xue Tong, Guo Jin, the Qiao brothers, Wen Ziqi, Shen Trifire, Rong Zifeng, Ouyang Chao… There were almost sixty disciples from Rosy Valley among those rescued, but not one of the elders were present. More importantly, Jiang Chen didn’t find Mu Gaoqi and Elder Yun Nie in the group either.
According to the information he'd received, it was likely that Elder Yun Nie hadn't died in battle. Those from the Great Scarlet Mid Region had been ordered to capture the elder alive so that they could pry the recipe for the Longevity Pill from his lips. The recipe for the pill had indeed changed hands at some point afterwards, which was proof that Elder Yun Nie had lived past the fall of Regal Pill Palace. The elder had also definitely been the one to disclose the recipe for the pill. Since they hadn't killed the elder then, he would have made a most valuable slave considering his identity and prior position. There was no reason for the imperial family of the Great Scarlet Mid Region to kill the elder. But even if they had killed the elder, why had the unassuming Mu Gaoqi disappeared as well?
Not seeing Elder Yun Nie and Mu Gaoqi dampened Jiang Chen's mood. To tell the truth, he had barely any emotional attachment to the others that he’d rescued aside from his personal guards. He only knew them because they were from the same sect. His main motivation to defy all the odds had been to come to the rescue of those closest to him, Palace Head Dan Chi, Elder Yun Nie, Mu Gaoqi, and the Lin sisters. They were the only ones dear to him at Regal Pill Palace. Lin Bi'er had gotten separated from them at the Palace, and her whereabouts were still unknown. Lin Hui'er was with her father, so she should be safe.
Aware that Mu Gaoqi and Jiang Chen were the best of friends, Huang'er understood the latter's anguish upon discovering Mu Gaoqi to be still missing. "Sir Jiang, it is said that man can only propose, but it is heaven who disposes. You gave it your all. Don't blame yourself too much," Huang'er gently encouraged him. With her recent deeper understanding of Jiang Chen, she knew that he was the kind of person to carry a large burden in his heart. In particular, she was concerned with the self-guilt that he would inevitably feel.
Huang'er's words of encouragement cheered Jiang Chen up quite a bit. However, the masses of unseeing zombie-like figures in front of him, deprived of senses and life, was still a major headache. Though it wasn’t particularly sophisticated work, the seals on their bodies ensured that their lives lay in the hands of their sealer. Like a puppetmaster, he decided their life and death with a single thought. If Jiang Chen couldn’t disable all the seals all at once, he would alert the controller and every slave would die instantly.This was Jiang Chen's most pressing concern.
Seeing Jiang Chen deep in thought over a fresh predicament, Huang'er wanted to share his burden. "Sir Jiang, I once heard Elder Shun mention something about sealing qi oceans."
"Oh? What did Elder Shun say?" Since he’d been dwelling on the same subject, Jiang Chen was curious what the elder’s thoughts had been.
"He said that when he was young, he saw something similar happen during a conflict he’d witnessed. Members of one sect had been captured by their rival, and their qi oceans sealed away. They were rescued by their peers soon afterwards, but the seals on their bodies couldn't be removed. If the seals were touched, the enemy could activate the seals to kill them..."
"What happened after?" Her words moved Jiang Chen.
"Elder Shun said that they were eventually all saved. Their peers asked a formations master to set up a formation that was filled with attacks, each tailored for each seal. Activation the formation caused all the forces within the formation to assail the seals all at once, breaking them all in a single instant. From Elder Shun’s description, the formation has two particularly difficult requirements. First, each sealed individual needs to have their own force, tailored to the seal on the body. As such, you need as many attacking forces as you do people. Second, the strike on the seal must be extremely quick. If every seal isn’t broken in the span of a breath or two, iti would give the sealer the opportunity to kill every sealed individual."
"So you're saying the formation was successful?" Jiang Chen's heart was shaken. This was a new line of thinking that hadn’t occurred to him. Thus far, Jiang Chen's head had been filled with mush, and he really hadn't thought of the idea. Huang'er's reminder gave him a burst of inspiration.
"Yes, Elder Shun said that was the case. The matter left a deep impression upon him. The method of sealing he saw was a lot more complex than this, and the difficulty of removal understandably higher," Huang'er looked at Jiang Chen reassuringly.
"Alright, since they managed to pull it off, there must be a way for us to do the same," Jiang Chen slapped his thigh. There were many ways to remove seals in Jiang Chen's memories. He had no shortage of formations either. He was no stranger to working with either ingredient.
"Sir Jiang, let Huang'er help you."
In a secret room in the central area within House Wei, a particularly detailed discussion was taking place between the Wei father and son.
"Jie'er, is that Jiang Chen really as miraculous as you say?" The current master of House Wei was Wei Tianxiao, Wei Jie’s father.
"Father, you know that I have a good eye for judging people. There is no way that I've made a mistake this time. He is a young man from the Myriad Domain, but he’s able to run circles around both Eternal Celestial Capital and the Ninesuns Sky Sect. The meteoric rise of such a genius cannot be stopped." Wei Jie's tone was filled with confidence.
Wei Tianxiao gave his son a look of commendation. Truthfully, his son often exceeded his expectations. "Mm. As always, I do not doubt your foresight and discernment. From your description of him, this Jiang Chen has pill dao talent that rivals a typical mid-level pill king. That alone makes it worthwhile for House Wei to maintain a good relationship with him. Additionally, it is also good news for us that he has fallen out with House Sikou. After all, the enemy of our enemy is our friend."
"There is wisdom in your words, father. However, what are your plans for the trouble within our house's walls? If there is no quick resolution, I fear endless trouble will follow."
A bright glint flashed across Wei Tianxiao's eyes. He responded in a solemn voice, "Hmph, that traitor Wei Tianshu, how would I not know about his wolfish nature? Since he dared to raise a hand against you, Jie'er, there is no reason for me to tolerate him any longer! When the right time comes, I shall eradicate that pest with one fell swoop." Turning to look at his son again, Wei Tianxiao exhorted, "Jie'er, if this is the choice you’ve made, you should nurture your relationship with Jiang Chen carefully now. If he happens to prosper one day, you will have gained an important contact."
"I understand," Wei Jie nodded.
"Keep yourself safe, and do not let anyone from House Sikou have the chance to implicate or attack us," Wei Tianxiao advised.
"Yes, I will treat the matter with care."
In stark contrast from the Wei family's intimate conversation between father and son, House Sikou was filled with great dejection. The family had lost great face due to recent events. That a robbery would happen to a name as eminent as House Sikou and a store as time-honored as the Myriad Puppets Pavilion was inconceivable. The simplicity of the crime was almost shameful. What had been lost was not only two thousand slaves, but also House Sikou's golden reputation.
"Nan'er, do you have any news?" Sikou Yuan, the master of House Sikou, asked his son.
Sikou Nan shook his head sadly even as he gritted his teeth. "Father, there is no news for the moment. But, even if I need to turn the city upside down, I will find the bastard responsible for this. Stealing from House Sikou is nothing short of intentionally walking into a lion's den. They must pay the price for such folly!" He thumped his chest.
"Perhaps someone from House Wei is causing us trouble?" For Sikou Yuan, the family's old rival was the first thing that came to mind.
"I suspected the same. I have already dispatched men to monitor the activities of House Wei closely. If that really is the case, it won’t take long to find evidence." Sikou Nan scowled darkly. "Only a few hours before our store was robbed, their young master Wei Jie arrived at Fish and Dragon District to visit Lin Ming's store."
"Did you question Lin Ming about it?" Sikou Yuan inquired in a low voice.
"I did. There was nothing out of the ordinary during his time at Lin Ming's. Even Lin Ming himself could not make heads or tails of it. I think it is likely that he was only a decoy, meant to mislead us into suspecting Lin Ming." Clearly, Sikou Nan didn't believe that the likes of Lin Ming would have the audacity to oppose his house.
Sikou Yuan frowned. "Each slave bears our unique mark. They would be totally useless without your unsealing commands. Have you tried tracking the signatures on your seals?"
Sikou Nan answered with a wry smile. "How would I have not? Our adversary seems be very wily, and the seals are cloaked from detection. There is no way for me to detect the seals unless they are directly tampered with. Otherwise, I have no way of even knowing if the slaves are still alive."
"Cloaked? That's not something an ordinary person could manage. This unknown person is extraordinarily capable. But, seizing two thousand slaves in a single sweep is in and of itself testament to that. Nan'er, you cannot take this matter lightly."
"Father, please be at ease," Sikou Nan let out a harrumph. "Without my release commands, the goods are totally rubbish. If they truly cannot be found, I can crush the unsealing talismans to activate the self-detonating mechanisms. Then, that would put an end to this." Sikou Nan was unnerved and in a rush.
Sikou Yuan shook his head, "Search thoroughly first. That choice must only come as a last resort. The slave business is our house's primary source of income. It would be a crippling blow to our finances to abandon that batch of goods. It may even affect our day-to-day operations."
The batch in question was valued at two to three billion. The actual cost of the goods had been far lower than that, but given the breadth of the family's business activities, losing a shipment of goods was not as simple as deducting their inventory price. The loss of potential profits also had to be taken into account.
PS. There will be some celebratory releases today in honor of volareversary, volare is two years old! I will also be doing a live reading of my new novel, Phoenix Ascending, at 10am GMT+8! That’s 9pm US EST 12/14, so please tune into the volare Discord then~ The new novel will launch this weekend!
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