With the advent of the Autumn Hunt, the atmosphere within the capital grew fervent again. Sons of dukes who owned various territories all arrived in the capital before making their way to the outskirts of the Precious Tree Sect to enter the maze realm.
This time, there were almost five thousand people who had signed up.
Therefore, there seemed to be insufficient spots to go around as some of the spots were even being sold for up to a million silver.
“The Precious Tree Sect knows how to earn money alright. All they’re doing is opening up the maze realm but they’re taking twenty thousand silver as a signup fee for each entry.”
Five thousand spots with twenty thousand silver paid by each person, just this revenue alone was quite impressive.
This didn’t include the fact that half of all gains obtained from the Autumn Hunt had to be turned over to the Precious Tree Sect.
“This Precious Tree Sect is earning money without putting forth any effort at all.” Jiang Chen sighed.
“Young master Chen, this is your first time participating in the Autumn Hunt, so you need to be careful. In particular, you need to keep an eye on the time and remember it in pursuit of accomplishment. Otherwise, if you stay inside without exiting the place, things will be gravely serious for you.” Tian Shao chuckled.
Jiang Chen privately thought that even if he himself wasn’t afraid of death, that incredibly motivated woman Dan Fei would surely be afraid.
“Old Tian, why aren’t you joining this time?”
Tian Shao smiled, “We military folk can’t participate. Not just me, but people like Xin Wudao and Lu Wuji as well.”
Ye Rong nodded, “Those with military appointments can’t attend. Otherwise, if all the military experts leave, won’t things be thrown into disarray if something changes in the country?”
Jiang Chen pushed Xue Tong to the forefront and smiled, “Fourth prince, Xue Tong is my prized assistant who has just ascended to eleven meridians true qi master. I’m putting him in your hands this time!”
“Greetings to the fourth prince.” Xue Tong’s tone was quite mature as he made a respectful bow.
“Heh heh, it is indeed true that there are no weak troops beneath a capable general. Jiang Chen, your follower is likely a bit younger than you? It’s really quite rare for one to have this level of training at such a young age.”
Jiang Chen smiled, “As strong as his training is, he still must cast off the mundane and enter the spirit realm. Otherwise, all is empty talk. The other reason why I’ve given him this chance to go through this trial is because it is an opportunity to train.”
The group of people chatted and laughed until another group suddenly approached them. The person in the lead was first prince Ye Dai.
Eyes blaze with hatred when enemies come face to face.
Storm clouds immediately floated to the surface of Ye Dai’s previously slightly smiling face.
Rather, it was Ye Rong who chuckled and called out, “Big brother, you’re here too.”
“Are you the only one who is allowed to come?” Ye Dai asked expressionlessly in return.
Ye Rong smiled, “I thought big brother wouldn’t be participating because of how priceless your body is.”
“Number four, you seemed to have grown rather proud lately. I hope you have a successful Autumn Hunt.” Ye Dai waved his hand with a supercilious smile and brushed past them with his group of followers.
Jiang Chen seemed to be deep in thought as he looked upon the backs of Ye Dai and his group. Then, he spoke up in reminder, “Fourth prince, it looks like this Autumn Hunt won’t be that peaceful.”
Ye Rong’s expression was grave. “The Autumn Hunt has never been peaceful. No matter what, I have no way to retreat this time.”
“What do you mean?”
The muscles on Ye Rong’s face twitched slightly as he spoke gravely, “There’s news from the imperial harem that our royal father has decided to name a Crown Prince in the first month of the next year.”
“It’s late autumn now, which means that there’s only three to four months left.”
“That’s right. This intelligence has come rather suddenly and now all the princes are looking for all opportunities to show themselves off in front of our royal father.” Ye Rong’s tone was solemn. “Ye Dai’s mother’s side has great power and influence. They’ve already formed a power at court, advocating and building up momentum to advance Ye Dai’s interests. If I don’t demonstrate enough charisma during this time’s Autumn Hunt, it will be very difficult for me to make a play for the position of Crown Prince.”
Tian Shao sighed. “It’s a pity that younger brother Jiang Chen’s aid has been co-opted by Miss Dan Fei. If younger brother Jiang Chen was helping the fourth prince, then this Autumn Hunt would surely be quite exciting.”
Ye Rong chuckled. There was nothing that could be done with regards to Dan Fei requesting Jiang Chen. No matter what, there was no way that Ye Rong would turn down Dan Fei.
And thinking about it, given that Dan Fei had repurposed Jiang Chen, she would surely feel that she owed him a favor. If Dan Fei could speak a few words on his behalf in front of the honored tutor, that would make up for the possibility of a loss here.
Jiang Chen smiled but didn’t say anything.
He wasn’t that interested in the struggles between the princes and who ended up becoming Crown Prince. However, he was still a guest of Ye Rong in name after all, and so emotionally speaking, he still wished that Ye Rong could inherit the land and seize the position of the Crown Prince.
At least, with Ye Rong as Crown Prince, his people would have an easier time in the Skylaurel Kingdom.
If Ye Dai was Crown Prince, then a ton of crappy, irritating matters would surely crop up in the future.
Just as everyone was chatting, a light, ethereal voice traveled in from the distance. Dan Fei had arrived.
Dan Fei’s outfit today was a stark contrast to her usual simple and elegant style. A clean cut practitioner’s leather robe was accompanied by leather shorts that covered half of her thighs.
Two slender calves beneath her knees were wrapped with specially crafted ties and she wore a pair of leather boots on her feet. Carrying a bamboo basket on her back, her entire demeanor was quite different from usual.
When she saw the pairs of eyes staring right at her, Dan Fei smiled leisurely, “And what are you all looking at? Haven’t you ever seen a beautiful woman before?”
Ye Rong smiled wryly, “Sister Dan Fei, you truly have a multitude of shifting styles. You comported yourself with a graceful and refined style before, and now with a mere shake of your body, you possess a heroic martial spirit.”
“Stop sucking up to me. What are you all doing here staring off into the distance? It’s almost time to set out.” One could see that Dan Fei was in an exceedingly good mood today.
Everyone chatted and laughed as they convened and set out together.
They left the capital and walked roughly three, four hundred li before arriving at the mountain range on the outskirts of the Precious Tree Sect.
The Precious Tree Sect was one of the hidden sects partially because its territory wasn’t as simplistic as how the outside world perceived it. There was actually another opening within the mountain range on the outskirts their territory. No outsiders were able to enter the true world of the sect without the sect’s unique coordinates.
A Precious Tree Sect elder was in charge of the Autumn Hunt. On the Skylaurel Kingdom’s side, they’d actually asked lordmaster Ye Chonglou to be the one in charge.
Looking at how the elder from the Precious Tree Sect was greatly deferential to lordmaster Ye Chonglou, it could be subtly seen that the real master of the Autumn Hunt was still Ye Chonglou.
Jiang Chen was faintly surprised by this.
Dan Fei however, had a faint smile on her face. She’d obviously known all this in advance.
“The lordmaster has always greatly valued the Autumn Hunt. In reality, the Precious Tree Sect is only providing a backdrop. The true power still lies with the lordmaster.” Since she was in a good mood, Dan Fei explained a bit to Jiang Chen when she saw the surprise on his face.
“Heh heh, since the lordmaster is in charge, can we cheat?” Jiang Chen smiled and asked.
“What do you fill your head with?” When Dan Fei was unhappy, her delicate brows knit slightly. “You’re my teammate now, how can you have such thoughts that don’t strive towards progress?”
Jiang Chen shrugged. He knew that verbally sparring with women was the most boring thing in the world. He would never win.
“Once you enter the maze realm, you’re completely cut off from the outside world. You won’t be able to exit before the time’s up. There’s no way for you to cheat even if you wanted to.”
Dan Fei couldn’t help but say angrily when she saw Jiang Chen’s distracted demeanor, “Jiang Chen, I’m beginning to wonder if forming a team with you was the right decision. Can’t you be a bit more serious?”
“Heh heh, does Miss Dan Fei want to fire me?”
Dan Fei rolled her beautiful eyes and bit out, “You want me to fire you? I won’t!”
The two of them bickered on and off until the Precious Tree Sect elder walked on stage and lightly pressed downwards with his hands a few times.
“Order, order. The maze realm is about to open. Each team will enter one by one according to the order you have been given. There’s a transportation matrix within the coordinates of this entrance. No one knows where you’ll be transported to once you set foot inside, so you must prepare yourself mentally and emotionally.”
“The rules are as usual. The Precious Tree Sect will take half of your gains and you can keep the other half. In addition, the Autumn Hunt will also be ranking the top three as well this time. When you emerge from the transportation matrix, you can look up how the rankings are calculated and what the rules are. The more you hunt, the higher your ranking will be. Those in the top three will receive additional rewards.”
“Additional rewards? Is the Precious Tree Sect taking money out from their own coffers?” Jiang Chen hadn’t known that those in the top three would have additional rewards.
“You think too much. The Precious Tree Sect will only sit there and rake in money without earning it. How could they take any of it out?” Dan Fei’s tone seemed to disapprove of the Precious Tree Sect’s style.
“Then where are these rewards coming from?” Jiang Chen was curious.
“There can be no wool without a sheep. The benefit comes from the price paid. All teams need to hand over half of their haul. Out of that half, ten percent will be taken out as a reward for the team in first place. Another ten will be taken out to reward second and third place. Second place will receive sixty percent of that ten, and third place forty percent of that ten.”
Jiang Chen didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he heard those words. “This Precious Tree Sect are certainly as mean as misers. They’re earning half of all the gains without doing anything and taking twenty percent of that out as a reward. So they’ll just pocket the remaining eighty percent?”
“Why do you think sects are so strong? Because they’re drowning in money? They rely on miserly methods like these and only take in resources without paying any out.”
Jiang Chen smiled and thought this to be rather sensible. A sect had to concentrate their spending of resources on the elites if it wanted to be strong.
It was mostly ordinary commoners who participated in the Maze Realm Autumn Hunt. They were destined to be unable to become sect disciples. It was obviously impossible for the sect to take out its own resources as a reward.
“Let this old fellow say a few words.” The voice of honored tutor Ye Chonglou rang out at this time. “The Maze Realm Autumn Hunt is a momentous occasion for the Skylaurel Kingdom, and a rare trial for all of you. This old fellow doesn’t have much to ask of you, except these words of advice. The theme of the Autumn Hunt lies in hunting prey. You best not bring your personal grudges inside. In principle, the Autumn Hunt forbids bloodshed between teams and resolution of personal grudges. Of course, these taboos are not strongly entrenched and are tough to enforce. However, I’d like to emphasize that unless you conceal it well or do so flawlessly, once someone informs me of your actions and you have been investigated, killing someone else in the midst of the fighting inside the maze will bear the same crimes and penalties as killing someone in the outside world.”
It was difficult to forbid manslaughter, but it would carry the same risks as it did in the outside world. Once someone was found out, they would bear the same punishments as they would’ve in the outside world.
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