At the same time the hostages held at Autumn Light Temple were rescued, Jiang Chen’s team members in the capital were either detained or killed. The power of the Seven Champion White Princes exposed them, and the Qilin Guards were on the scene before they could even react.
Valley of Yearning had a messenger send incriminating evidence to the Ministry of Justice to prove Li Muye was framed, and Secretary Leng promptly took action to clear Wondrous Warrior Manor’s reputation.
Following the collapse of Fiends’ Genesis’ network, Jiang Chen’s plans started being uncovered one after another, unravelling the mysteries so effortlessly that had people commenting, “I can’t believe we were played by someone like this?”
Meanwhile, Jiang Chen covertly entered the prospering city of Hangzhou. His Fiends’ Genesis cohorts had also fled into the borders of Hangzhou, but they had to often fight the martial community there that put up a strong resistance. Needless to say, there were also people who were waiting for him to show up at Ksana Temple so that they could rip him to shreds.
Jiang Chen effortlessly went around crowds without being detected. He didn’t stop to check anything because nothing was worth his time, particularly when he believed he was on the cusp of turning it all on its head. Once he arrived at West Lake, he meandered to the bottom once nobody was paying attention, just as he had done every time.
Losing the hostages wasn’t the factor that cost Jiang Chen his master plan since kidnapping them never was the cornerstone of his master plan. His plan was actually nothing special; nobody would say, “Wow, that’s brilliant.” All he sought to achieve was make himself less visible and to make himself harder to read.
Even with a century of studying and experience, not one of Jiang Chen’s countless attempts to overthrow Li Dynasty even wobbled their reign. “Better strategies” wasn’t his limiter. He had bloodier and more ruthless means even now, such as colluding with Beijiang, the dissatisfied seven states of the Western Regions, releasing Six Evils, joining the unorthodox factions and plenty more. All of them offered better odds of success and would provide more opportunities to pull off brilliant strategies, but he refused to go down any of those paths. Gongsun Chu was still Gongsun Chu after a century. Hatred, failures, anger, not one of these negatives emotions could change his character. Had any of those emotions changed him, he’d be dead. He insisted on relying on just his waning power and abilities to take revenge his way. Framing people, kidnaps and inciting chaos, not one of those activities were truly successful; all of them had flaws, and they were eventually countered. He was aware of the flaws because the reactions were a part of his plan.
After rescuing the hostages, the Seven Champion White Princes would reconcile with the imperial court, and the rift that formed as a result of Luo Ming’s forfeit would be mended. Nobody would believe the friendship was solid for a second, but it’d rob the imperial court of the best opportunity to strip the remaining six of power. If the seven wanted to have another go, they’d need plenty of time to reprepare, and now was the best time ever.
Jiang Chen hadn’t lost. As long as the Seven Champion White Princes still had the means of resisting the imperial court, then there was always a flame to fan. It was just a matter of time. The Seven Champion White Princes were different to foreign enemies, in that they were insurgents’ abettors. What Jiang Chen wanted to see was them tearing each other apart.
The envoys of the Seven Champion White Princes wouldn’t be aware of Jiang Chen’s intentions. Soon, they’d give him the Nine Dragons Fire Jade, granting him the power to awaken the godson from his long slumber.
Everything went according to Jiang Chen’s plans and predictions, everything until Shen Yiren jumped on stage. The one thing he never anticipated was Tianhu’s involvement.
Tianhu was unimaginably stronger than Jiang Chen ever thought. Even after expending all of his defensive power, even after Shitou suffered severe injuries that’d be hard to compensate for, even after mustering every ounce of might he had, he couldn’t even tickle Tianhu. Despite him and Shitou using everything at their disposal, they barely managed to escape from the man who refused to stand up. But, that was only one problem.
There was an explanation for Tianhu’s prowess one way or another. However, he wasn’t supposed to know where Jiang Chen was. Tianhu only found him because he tailed Shen Yiren, but Shen Yiren wasn’t supposed to be able to find him; it was supposed to be impossible. He had developed confidence in his conjecture of how it was possible by the time he dragged his wet body onto the dark path. Assuming his hypothesis was correct, he had genuine respect for the new genius who’d emerged. Whatever the case, it was time for him to commence the last step of his plan. The last step was unrelated to his master plan to overthrow the imperial court, but nothing else could compare to its importance.
Although Jiang Chen didn’t vomit blood or anything of the sort due to the physical changes to his body, he was too weakened to mould any internal energy whatsoever. When he arrived at a place he was familiar with – or rather, a place he should’ve been familiar with – he froze for he sensed a change in the atmosphere that compelled him to pick up the pace in spite of his poor condition.
Upon seeing the faint golden light, Jiang Chen futilely tried to contain his excitement. It was the first time he used every ounce of energy – technically, he had when implementing his plans, but this was a different form of it, one filled with desperation and anticipation – to find any way he could to get their sooner, breathing in nose and mouthfuls of air in hopes that he could reach his destination sooner. He became tunnel visioned on the one desire to reach his destination sooner.
It took Jiang Chen nearly a hundred years to learn how to unlock Autumn Lock. He could unlock one of them, but he couldn’t unlock both simultaneously. Hence, he wanted the five he gathered to unlock it for him through saving the hostages. His plan was to have the group at Ksana Temple unlock “Speechless” while he sneaked into the underground palace to unlock “Pain of Parting”.
Speechless being unlocked was calculated since Lady Bai should’ve easily been able to unlock it as long as she still had a fraction of her skill when she was at the pinnacle. Who, though, unlocked Pain of Parting, and just who would be capable of that? Nevertheless, the answers no longer mattered.
With the golden light highlighting his face, Jiang Chen entered the room with the beam of a crazed religious follower. “Ping-”
Jiang Chen stopped in his tracks. At the end of the day, he was still Gongsun Chu. “Who’s there?!”
No outsiders were allowed in there, yet there was no mistake that a foreign source of anger permeated it.
He had Gongsun Clan’s treasured sword – a snapped version – in his hand, a plate of roast chicken he wasn’t done eating, grease on his lips, and he was sitting on the bronze coffin of Jiang Chen’s wife.
“You’re back early. Have you had dinner yet?”
West Lake – an iconic, symbolic sight in Hangzhou that’s helmed as one of the most beautiful sights in China.