Jiang Chen was a little shaken by Pillfire City's range of influence. Veluriyam Capital's residents often felt a common sense of superiority. The city was the heart of the Upper Eight Regions, a dominant beacon in its heartland. But the sheer force of comparison made Jiang Chen change his opinion. Pillfire City had been grossly underestimated by at least a portion of Veluriyam's populace. Not that they were country bumpkins exactly, but they were just a bit too arrogant.
"The Celestial Cicada Court, hmm…" Jiang Chen silently made a note of the name to himself. If he had the chance, he absolutely needed to make a trip there. This formation piqued his interest in them. If the Celestial Cicada Court was related to the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect, that was very good news. He would take on this mission for sure.
The remaining mission was one that related to blacksmithing and refining. Issued not by a first rank sect, but by a faction slightly lesser that specialized in the forging of legendary arms. In the Upper Eight Regions, many sects had their own blacksmith. However, most were a far cry from elite. The cream of the crop was, instead, largely attracted to this particular faction. Whenever he checked a mission's issuer, Jiang Chen was astounded time and again by Pillfire City's ascendancy.
On the surface, the city was a faction founded on pills. In actuality, its prestige and authority extended to every other aspect and sphere of martial dao as well. This was one of the keystones for the city's success. Invisibly and without notice, it spread its tendrils of power to every vocation and faction.
Jiang Chen had no plans on accepting this mission. Though he had reasonable knowledge of forging a weapon, he didn't want to be involved in this particular affair. First, the difficulty of the task was clearly commensurate with its reward. If he accomplished something that a faction specialized in forging weapons could not, it would be too astounding and bizarre. Second, he did not want to reveal too many of his skills or attract pursuers. Finally, and most importantly, the faction in question was very intimate with Pillfire City. It was reason enough for Jiang Chen's natural dislike. Thus, he decided to pass the mission up. Let someone else solve the problem for once!
His musings complete, Jiang Chen opened his eyes once more. Taking the weaponsmithing mission in hand, he headed straight towards Assistant Temple Master Gao.
"Arena Lord Shao, have you decided this quickly already?" The assistant temple master asked jovially.
"I'll take on the other three, but I have no expertise with this one. I'll leave it to my fellows." Jiang Chen cut to the chase.
Assistant Temple Master Gao blinked. He seemed to recall that Jiang Chen had taken four sovereign missions. How come only one was coming back? Was the young man keeping the other three? Both the temple master's face and eyes changed color. "Are you absolutely sure about taking on the other three sovereign missions, Arena Lord Shao? Is that what you mean to do?"
Silence on that front was affirmation enough. Jiang Chen countered instead with a question. "Are all the issuers here at the Temple?"
"Of course they are," Assistant Temple Master Gao smiled. "We wouldn't have given you the missions otherwise. We bring out only ones whose bounties can be cashed in immediately."
"Good." Jiang Chen nodded. Being able to cash in the reward in person was best. He had no love for long-term relationships.
The temple master was floored by the young man before him once again. He knew better than anyone what sovereign missions signified. In past years, most had gone either failed or unclaimed. In a single Bounty Arena, it was considered quite good if two or three such missions were completed, out of ten issued. Why had this young man kept three out of four? Was he able to complete a whopping seventy-five percent of the sovereign missions? That proportion was jaw-droppingly high. Incredible, truly.
Still, the Temple Master retained his composure in the face of private amazement. He was a high-ranking member of a notable organization, after all. "Arena Lord Shao, if you're sure about taking on those three missions you have, then I will arrange for you to meet your clients immediately. You can discuss the details with them face-to-face."
Jiang Chen thought about it. "Let them come tomorrow. I need a day's time to think things over."
"A friendly reminder, Arena Lord Shao. The amount of time you have to give up your mission is six hours. If you give me an answer tomorrow, and you change your mind then…" The assistant Temple Master was charitable enough with the warning.
Jiang Chen laughed. "No worries. Even if I do, the saint spirit stones I've made over the past couple of days should be enough to pay the associated fees."
Assistant Temple Master Gao was not in a position to say anything further. Instead, he smiled once more. "I'll offer my congratulations to Arena Lord Shao ahead of time, then. However, do let me note down the identification numbers on the three missions you have right now. For reference and convenience, you understand."
"Not a problem." Jiang Chen didn't object.
The young lord was quite relaxed as he returned to his arena. The Ancient Reformation Pill was missing only two ingredients, a conclusion that he'd come to already a while prior. As for the Celestial Cicada Court's incomplete formation, Jiang Chen had pretty concrete plans for it. He had seen the formation already, after all, and there was no difficulty in it for him. The bounty reward wasn't actually in his pocket just yet, but it was as good as done.
Finally, he had no intention of interfering in the mission he'd given to Lin Yanyu. At most, he might give an inspirational hint at an important time. It was a great opportunity both to test his disciple, and for Lin Yanyu to improve his own skills.
Outrageous news tended to spread quickly. At the end of the allotted six hours, most returned their mission scrolls to the temple. Twenty-four sovereign missions had been issued, but only eight had been accepted. Out of those eight, Jiang Chen had singlehandedly taken three. Both these facts had spread almost instantaneously through the entire Bounty Arena. It made Jiang Chen the focus of the proceedings.
The other arena lords and their assistants were now looking at him with extreme shock. Not everything changed for the worse, though. The other bounty issuers, having heard this news, collectively rushed over to Jiang Chen's two arenas.
Business suddenly boomed, as it were. The sovereign missions aside, the other missions were just the same as before. The level of the bounty had simply been restricted to six or above.
This burst of bustling activity delighted all the assistants at either of Jiang Chen's two arenas. It was their time to shine! There was no better moment to rake in the profit. The other arena lords looked at the young man with great anguish. Most of them had chosen to return the sovereign missions' scrolls completely. True to their name, none of them were easy to complete.
Any returned mission was eligible to be taken by the declining arena lord's fellows, however. This regulation worked to the seniors' considerable benefit. In the moments that followed, taking several of the declined missions was exactly what they did. Jiang Chen himself refrained from stealing their thunder. He had garnered enough attention already. He knew that accepting three sovereign missions was alarming enough. His peers would kill him if he grabbed any more-if not physically, then through looks of envy. Better to leave well enough alone.
Shortly thereafter, a new rumor began to circulate: the mission Jiang Chen had taken involving the Reformation Pill was the mission king of this Bounty Arena. It was so-called because of the sheer payout. A tidy sum of five hundred million! The number two mission belonged to Emperor Peerless, clocking in at a ludicrous four hundred million.
Pill King Blue Phoenix and Master Wang Xuetong had both snatched up three hundred million bounty missions for themselves as well. Among the mission-takers, Pill King Blue Phoenix had the largest number of missions. Four in total, to be precise. Two from his initial allotment, two transferred from the pool of rejects. Both Emperor Peerless and Master Wang Xuetong had three. Adding Jiang Chen's own three made thirteen.
The ratio of accepted sovereign missions to total elicited sounds of awe from the audience. Compared to its usual incarnations, this Bounty Arena had a shockingly high rate of sovereign mission acceptance. More than half had been received.
"The three seniors' presence has made this Bounty Arena extraordinary. As expected from one worthy to be held every several hundred years!"
"Pill King Blue Phoenix singlehandedly took four sovereign missions! No surprise there. After all, he's ranked thirty-sixth in the Hall of Millennial Legends, a man veritably equal to a pill emperor."
"Emperor Peerless took three as well. Martial dao missions are much harder than others, you know, but I guess it's worth it to get His Majesty to teach you."
"That, er, Arena Lord Shao. He's a real black horse, huh? Who would've thought that an arena lord as young as him would accept three sovereign missions as well? He's even got the mission king! My heavens, it makes me jealous just to consider it."
"Tsk tsk, five hundred million. If I had that much money, I could break through to emperor realm just like that. The Bounty Arena is really great for getting rich quick, eh?"
"Agreed. Time to work hard to join the next one."
"Saying that is easy. Do you really think the Bounty Arena is a place where you can commit wholesale robbery just like that? If you're a talentless hack, you won't even get to be an arena lord, much less make any money."
"Ah, I suppose. Arena Lord Shao is young, but he waded through countless people to get there. The very fact that he holds mastery over two arenas explains a lot."
"I respect him a lot for it. He is a most promising new talent."
"I wonder if Arena Lord Shao has a cultivation partner? My sister is young and pretty, and pretty talented too."
"Heh, you're here dreaming about becoming his brother-in-law, but he might not be willing!" The audience was embroiled in excited chatter and discussion.
The issuance of the sovereign missions sent the Bounty Arena's atmosphere soaring to new heights. The percentage of missions accepted, furthermore, broke the record set over the past few centuries. It increased the public's expectations in the event. The arena lords for this Bounty Arena included both honorable seniors and auspicious juniors. This contrast was enjoyable to watch by itself. The increased enthusiasm reached not only the crowd, but the eyes and hearts of the Temple of Cleansing Fire's elite as well.