The legend of Myriad Abyss Island was a weighty subject. The seriousness of those present made Jiang Chen appreciate its impact all the more.
Emperor Peerless stared at him with some difficulty. "Don't worry, young man. Tell us all that you know. If you've made everything up, please make it plain to us. I will intervene on your behalf so that nothing bad befalls you. But if you do speak the truth, then speak on."
The emperor spoke with a very genuine tone. Jiang Chen had no doubt of the old man's candid character. A single look into his eyes told Jiang Chen that.
"Emperor Peerless, Assistant Temple Master Gao. I'm sure men of your stature know whether Myriad Abyss Island exists or not. However, let my words be affirmation to your suspicions: it does indeed exist. It might as well not, though, for most of the world trying to get there."
There was no insincerity in Jiang Chen's words.
Emperor Peerless gazed at Jiang Chen for another long while before nodding. "As I thought," he sighed, "There is somewhere like Myriad Abyss Island within the Divine Abyss Continent. All is as it should be… indeed."
Pill King Blue Phoenix and Wang Xuetong exchanged looks, anticipation unmistakable in their eyes.
"I didn't think that the legends were true. Friend Shao, stories say that those upon the island cannot leave it and enter the mortal realms, but you…"
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "At the end of the day, stories are just that: stories. Not everything about them is accurate. Though the Myriad Abyss Island has such an unspoken law, hardly everyone strictly upholds it. In fact, many experts from the island have come to these worldly realms over the past years. Not just the human domain, either, but that of the other races as well. That the local factions didn't detect their presence is hardly any fault of theirs."
"Mythical beings tend to keep themselves well-hidden. That's unsurprising." Emperor Peerless let out another sigh. "The occasional inexplicable events that occur in the human domain… they must have been the hand of hidden masters. I hear that Sacred Peafowl Mountain has appointed a new young lord lately, one with unfathomable knowledge. He apparently received tutelage from an expert not of this world when he was young. Apparently the expert is stronger than even great emperor! Who else could this expert be, if not from Myriad Abyss Island?"
The mention of Veluriyam Capital turned the atmosphere slightly sour. It was common knowledge that the city was Pillfire City's number one enemy. No resident of the latter could bear the former any goodwill. However, Emperor Peerless wasn't someone from that category. He had no horse in the race. He'd only said what he did to make a point.
The particular turn of phrase, however, almost made Jiang Chen's heart jump out of his chest.
If not for the fact that the emperor's expression did not change one bit as he said it, Jiang Chen was almost suspicious enough to think that the old man had found him out. But it seemed that he'd been too worried.
"Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord Zhen has a lot of wind in his sails over at Veluriyam," Assistant Temple Master Gao said coolly. "However, as long as the matter of the city's heritage isn't settled, there'll be plenty of internal strife for them to deal with sooner or later. So what if young lord Zhen had some mythical master teach him while he was young? I don't think it'll save him from being embroiled in all that trouble."
The assistant temple master definitely had a grudge against the young lord in question. There was definitely no love lost there.
Pill King Blue Phoenix and Wang Xuetong did not air their thoughts on the subject. They maintained stoic and thoughtful expressions.
"I'm curious," Emperor Peerless smiled faintly. "How strong are Myriad Abyss Island's cultivators, really? Can just a few years of tutelage result in a genius that soars above all the Upper Eight Regions' peers?"
All eyes fell on Jiang Chen. They wanted an answer from him. Thankfully, the young lord had some information prepared from Huang'er in advance. His reply was measured and unhurried. "The Myriad Abyss Island is very large. The Eternal Divine Kingdom has no borders. Yes, it is called an island, but it's actually a continent several times larger than the human domain. Only empyrean cultivators can be counted among the truly strong there. Supposedly, the strongest surpass even that realm of cultivation."
Empyrean? And a realm above that?
These words hammered against the assistant temple master's breast like a hefty fist. He was only ninth level emperor realm, and not its peak, at that. There was little hope of him ever entering great emperor realm for the rest of his days, much less acquire his own empyrean decree by intuiting the truths of heaven and earth. Above empyrean realm? That was not something he needed ever to think about.
Emperor Peerless believed Jiang Chen's words implicitly. "As a place of legend, Myriad Abyss Island is undoubtedly ten times superior to the mortal realms. How did it come to be, my young friend?"
"The Island has always existed. In ancient times, Divine Abyss Continent's native cultivators fought with the demon race. In the aftermath of that struggle, some of those cultivators left that land. They passed through an endless sea before coming upon Myriad Abyss Island, their newfound haven. There, they settled down and propagated. Ever since long ago, the Island has neither seen the smoke of battle nor heard the drums of war. As such, Myriad Abyss Island is the product of long-standing peace." Jiang Chen had come to these conclusions based on what he knew himself.
Had the Island really come about like this? He didn't know, but his explanation made as much sense as any other. He did refrain from calling the ancient cultivators who'd first gone to the Island a bunch of pacifistic cowards, however. There was no reason someone who originated from there would disparage their ancestors.
To avoid an endless stream of questions, Jiang Chen decided to add something. "I've said all I can about Myriad Abyss Island, everyone. The rest must be left unsaid, I'm afraid."
Those present were smart enough to understand. The young man before them was disinclined to take questions.
"I have but a single question, if I may," Emperor Peerless smiled. "Can cultivators from the human domain get to Myriad Abyss Island?"
"In theory. There is great danger and risk in crossing the endless sea. If you can obtain your very own empyrean decree, then there's no problem. Otherwise, the chance for a great emperor realm cultivator to forcibly cross without dimensional coordinates is less than ten percent."
Huang'er had told Jiang Chen all of this as well. Empyrean cultivators aside, Myriad Abyss Island clearly did not want outsiders to get in. They felt that the mortal realms had been polluted in the ancient battle against the demon race. Accordingly, the bloodlines of said realms were no longer pure. How could an island that touted themselves as a sacred land of divines allow impurities into their midst? Despite that… empyrean cultivators were another matter altogether.
Jiang Chen didn't care for Myriad Abyss Island's philosophy. From his point of view, Myriad Abyss Island had initially been populated by a bunch of deserters and wimps. Their descendants could be no better, nor could the place where they lived and gathered.
Assistant Temple Master Gao had a bellyful of questions of his own, but Jiang Chen's stern attitude made him think twice. He was unlikely to get answers to any of them even if he did press further. Suppressing his curiosity, he said, "Young master Shao, we at the Temple of Cleansing Fire are blessed with your presence. You are from Myriad Abyss Island, yet you've graced us with your participation in the Bounty Arena. I fully expect you to give us an extraordinary performance."
He said he was from Myriad Abyss Island, right? We'll see if his bite is as potent as his bark. Both of Jiang Chen's test scrolls had been superb, but a practical display better showed one's true mettle. To be honest, the assistant temple master distrusted the young man's origin claims still. That aside, there was every indication that he wasn't like any genius of the human domain. The human domain had numerous geniuses, but none of his caliber.
Emperor Peerless roared with laughter. "Hard to imagine that I'd get the opportunity to participate in the Bounty Arena with a Myriad Abyss Island genius! This has been absolutely worth my while."
Even without Jiang Chen saying he was from the Island, the emperor's attitude towards him had been one of carefree appreciation.
Praise did not cause Jiang Chen to lose himself. "I am simply a youngster like any other," he said humbly. "There is no need to give me undue praise, Senior Peerless."
"Haha, I don't think it's at all undue. No, no. How could any praise be so for a genius from Myriad Abyss Island? Come on, let's go pick some assistants."
The emperor's authority here was sovereign. Truthfully, Assistant Temple Master Gao lacked the face to request his presence. The reason he had decided to come for the Bounty Arena was twofold. One was to return a favor, but the other was yet unrevealed. There was no way that the assistant temple master could oppose the older man.
The other arena lords were quite envious of the way their younger peer was being treated, but what could they do? Complain?
Jiang Chen had the necessary knowledge and skill. Moreover, he was from Myriad Abyss Island. Either of these two factors meant that the Temple had to give him more than sufficient respect. Not to mention how much Emperor Peerless was applauding the youth…
Occupying the position of a single arena master allowed one to select up to nine assistants. Because Jiang Chen had two, he could pick eighteen. This made him doubly attractive to everyone outside. The instant he left the premises, countless rushed up in an attempt to become his assistant through flattery. Alas, Emperor Peerless's protection of the young man was reason enough for them to reconsider. They lacked the courage to put their plans into action. The pressure of a great emperor cultivator was truly very intimidating.
"Young man, you cannot afford to be too casual with your choices for assistants. Some are skill-less charlatans who can only work to your detriment. Don't be afraid of angering people. If you need it, I'll be here to offer you an additional fear factor. Ignore anyone that you're not satisfied with, no matter what they say or do." Emperor Peerless was being excessively kind to Jiang Chen. He instructed and supported the young man in every capacity, the assistant-picking process included.
Jiang Chen was quite appreciative of the old emperor's patronage. With the emperor backing him up, the swindlers and phonies were loath to approach. It saved him a lot of trouble. The young lord of Veluriyam had very peculiar standards for picking his assistants. His first was that they had to be wandering cultivators. Those who were not were instantly out of the equation.
This rule eliminated most from his pool of consideration.
Emperor Peerless found that a little odd. Because he was a wandering cultivator as well, he wondered whether the young man was doing so out of deference to him? But the young man's actual behavior indicated no such thing.