Inside the Moon God Palace, the three sectmasters and six holy maidens were all gathered. Jing Tianbo had returned to the palace with Jiang Chen.
"Honored sectmasters, I have brought Sir Shao with me. Sir Shao, please make your greetings to the honored sectmasters," Jin Tianbo indicated.
Jiang Chen smiled and walked forward. He cupped his hands together in a salute and bowed slightly. "Wandering cultivator Shao Yuan greets the sectmasters and holy maidens of the Moon God Sect."
Jiang Chen had enough perception to note that the younger-looking girls were the new holy maidens of the Moon God Sect. A sweeping glance later, his eyes was captured firmly by the girl at the center. Although her features didn't share too much resemblance with his father, Jiang Chen was certain that she was his sister because of her temperament. His heart moved by the revelation, a trace of gentleness flashing through his eyes.
The young girl he was looking at was none other than Xu Qingxuan. Her first impression of Jiang Chen was much better than her first impression of Pill King Ji Lang. For starters, the young man didn't hold himself in a pretentious or honeyed way. His actions and words were open and straightforward. Although his sweeping gaze was a little brazen, and his eyes seemed to have paused on her a longer than usual, Xu Qingxuan didn't sense any indecency or ugliness from him. In fact, she even noticed a glimmer of gentleness flashing through his eyes.
This was a bit of a surprise. The average man would either pretend to be calm, eager to show off, affect remoteness, act pretentiously, or even stare at her boldly with open lust. However, all she felt from this young man was a kind of gentleness that felt as warm as the sunlight. For some reason, she was reminded of the gentleness her mother displayed when affectionately caressing her cheek.
"You look very young, Sir Shao." The senior sectmaster examined Jiang Chen critically for a moment before asking with a smile, "If rumors don't deceive, I heard that you made quite a name for yourself during the Bounty Arena event at Pillfire City?"
"Not really, I just got lucky, that's all. The only reason I stood out is because the seniors relinquished their stage to a junior."
"Good. You are neither servile nor overbearing, and you do not allow success to go to your head. I can be sure that you're no normal person from these qualities alone, Sir Shao."
"You praise me too much, sectmaster."
After exchanging pleasantries and some tentative questions over tea, the senior sectmaster finally broached the main topic. "I have heard that Sir Shao is a genius in pill dao, and Pill King Blue Phoenix thinks quite highly of you. We invited you today, Sir Shao, in hopes that you can help us see if something is afflicting our Moon God Precious Tree. For the past few years, the Moon God Precious Tree has lost a lot of leaves and looked like it was aging for some unknown reason."
Jiang Chen put down his cup of tea. "Seeing is believing. Please allow me to see the Moon God Precious Tree first before I give you an answer."
The sect admired his pragmatic attitude. The senior sectmaster personally led the way to the location of the Moon God Precious Tree. Surprisingly, the Moon God Precious Tree was shorter than the Precious Tree Sect's Precious Tree of Rosy Dawn. On the other hand, the Moon God Precious Tree was noticeably more valuable than the latter, be it in terms of quality or rank.
Unplanned praise gushed out as Jiang Chen looked upon it. "The Moon God Precious Tree is great tree of pure yin without parallel! It's no wonder that the sect's inheritance has been passed down for so long. It's all thanks to this tree."
After the compliments, Jiang Chen set to work and circled the tree a couple of times, making a general inspection. Pill King Blue Phoenix and the others had done the same before, but none of the sectmasters stopped Jiang Chen. They simply stood off to the side and observed the pill king's actions closely in silence.
Jiang Chen's knowledge was much richer than the other pill kings, and the things he looked out for was just as many. However, he didn't find any problems with the tree despite all of his inspections. There was nothing wrong with the air, soil, fengshui or surrounding environment. This meant that he could almost exclude all external factors.
Jiang Chen then inspected the tree for internal factors. Although the Moon God Precious Tree looked to be in slight decline, he couldn't find any signs from its growth rings and trunk that the tree was approaching the end of its lifespan. It was obviously still in the prime of life. This meant that he could exclude all internal factors with certainty. So the Moon God Precious Tree wasn't even close to reaching the end of its life. If it wasn't internal, then it must be external. But he had already eliminated most external factors from the equation.
This is strange. Jiang Chen frowned at the Moon God Precious Tree and sank into a daze. He couldn't discover any external or internal factors that might've affected the tree negatively. He even wondered if someone had damaged the tree on purpose, but again he couldn't find any such signs on its surface. A closer inspection didn't yield any other clues.
For a time, Jiang Chen was stumped by the problem in front of him. Most problems were obvious to him at first glance due to the sheer wealth of knowledge he possessed, so this was the first time he couldn't immediately identify a problem. The Moon God Precious Tree's problem must be very well hidden. Sighing softly, he stepped away from the tree and stopped in front of the Moon God Sect crowd.
"How is it?" the senior sectmaster asked anxiously.
Jiang Chen thought for a moment before replying, "Maybe you'll think that this is an excuse to cover up my incompetence, senior sectmaster, but I can tell you with certainty that the Moon God Precious Tree itself doesn't show any signs of aging or deterioration. It is still in the prime of life, so to speak. I've excluded most external from the equation, so I must admit that I'm a little stumped right now."
Although he hadn't located any external or internal causes, the Moon God Precious Tree was indeed losing leaves and weakening. It was a fact that Jiang Chen couldn't ignore.
Jiang Chen waved his hands. "I know, the Moon God Precious Tree is losing leaves and weakening somehow. There must be something that is causing this. However, the cause of its deterioration is well concealed and not a regular reason. Therefore, I'll like to request for a prolonged stay and observe the tree for while longer. Is that acceptable, senior sectmaster?"
The senior sectmaster pondered for a moment. Whatever her reservations might be, Sir Shao did seem more reliable than that Pill King Ji Lang. At the very least, everything he had said was clear cut and honest. He didn't throw out confusing and specious statements that prevented them from understanding what he was expressing.Nodding, the senior sectmaster responded, "In that case, we shall impose on you for a little while longer, Sir Shao. The Moon God Precious Tree is our totem treasure. If you are able to resolve our dilemma, we are willing to pay almost any price you ask for."
Jiang Chen waved his hands. "We can talk about my reward later. If you don't mind, you may depart and tend to your tasks. You only need to leave one or two behind."
The senior sectmaster pondered again before agreeing. "Alright. Ah Yuan, please stay here and keep Sir Shao company."
Ah Yuan was a holy maiden raised by the senior sectmaster herself.
"But master, I still have a lot of homework to do. Can't you find someone else instead?" Ah Yuan was a little reluctant. Shao Yuan might have a bit of a genteel bearing, but he was also rather plain and unattractive.
Jiang Chen had disguised himself before coming here. He hadn't put on an exceptionally opulent outfit, nor had he disguised himself to look like a handsome and elegant young man. Admittedly, he looked unattractive to girls, particularly young girls. However, he didn't mind this rejection at all. He simply stared at the Moon God Precious Tree as if he hadn't heard Ah Yuan's rejection.
"I'll stay." Someone volunteered suddenly. When the crowd turned to look at the volunteer, they were surprised to find that it was Holy Maiden Qingxuan, the disciple of the second sectmaster, and the most talented and outstanding holy maiden to date in the sect.
The crowd was slightly taken aback. What was Qingxuan trying to do? She had looked down on someone like Pill King Ji Lang, but now was volunteering to stay behind with this strange male? What on earth was she playing at?
"Qingxuan, stop fooling around." The second sectmaster had always intensely disliked men. This was especially true when the men in question were trying to approach her favorite pupil.
Xu Qingxuan was the disciple she treasured the most. How would she possibly allow the girl spend time alone with a man? However, her disciple proved unusually stubborn this time.
"Please let me stay behind, master. Your disciple promises that she'll be a good girl and not give you trouble, okay? I just want to know if this guy is putting on an act or not."
Everyone knew of Xu Qingxuan's temper. She might be naive, but one couldn't deny that she had a certain cleverness. Some called her devious, but they couldn't deny that she had an innocence within her. Some called her antisocial, but she could leave a deep impression when she spoke.
"Come then, Number Two. If Qingxuan wishes to stay, then just let her be. What, do you lack that much confidence in your favorite pupil?" The senior sectmaster said with a half smile on her face.
The second sectmaster couldn't say anything against that. She shot Xu Qingxuan a glare. "Remember your promise and don't cause trouble. Otherwise, I'm not promising you anything else in the future, you hear?"
"Don't worry." Xu Qingxuan chuckled.
Everyone eventually vacated the premises. Although the second sectmaster looked a little reluctant, she ultimately remembered her place and didn't stay behind to supervise the two of them.
Jiang Chen sat cross-legged under the Moon God Precious Tree and stared fixedly at it.
"Alright, stop pretending already. Now speak, why have you asked me to stay behind? You're pretty bold, aren't you? It takes courage to send me a private message right before my master. Aren't you afraid that she'll give you a good beating?" Xu Qingxuan snorted cutely.
Jiang Chen smiled calmly. "Xu Qingxuan, your mother's name is Xu Meng, isn't it?"
"You… don't bring up my mother!" Xu Qingxuan frowned slightly. "I'm warning you. Even if all of the Blues humiliate her, an outsider like you doesn't have the right to do the same!"
Jiang Chen shook his head. He waved casually and dropped a storage ring in front of Xu Qingxuan. "There's something inside this storage ring. If you truly wish your mother well, then make sure to give it to her."
"What… what do you mean?" Xu Qingxuan was completely befuddled.
But Jiang Chen had already changed the subject. "Let's talk about the Moon God Precious Tree. How do you normally take care of the tree? What kind of people are the caretakers?"
"There's someone who tends to the Moon God Precious Tree every day. The caretakers are always the same people. That being said, one of the disciples who tended the tree passed away a few years ago, so a new disciple was sent to tend the tree."
"Hmm?" Jiang Chen frowned a little when he heard this. He seemed to have caught a clue.