Jiang Chen paid attention to the list of names. Just as discussed, the weakest of the protectors was third level emperor realm. The strongest among them was sixth level: Elder Zhang, the man who was presently a hot topic of discussion.
Another was fifth level, a secluded elder of a certain third rank sect of the region, boasting of immense strength and eminence. Aside from those two, most on the list were fourth level emperor realm. Even the four comparatively weakest names had reached, rather alarmingly, third level emperor realm.
The fact that strength was all relative had to be emphasized. In truth, 'weakest' wasn't really the right word. Third level emperor realm cultivators were uncommonly valuable even in the likes of Veluriyam Capital. In a first rank sect, they would be more than worthy as common elders. If they were from a prominent or powerful background, their position would be even loftier.
The leader of Eternal Celestial Capital's invading force had only been fourth level emperor realm, his name Gong Wuji. Therefore, a third level emperor realm cultivator was more than adequate of ruling over a fourth rank sect.
The fourth rank sects that had come with Gong Wuji were led by sect heads who'd chiefly been second level emperor realm. Third level emperor realm sect heads were more than scarce. A certain Sect Head Qin Mo, third level emperor realm, spearheaded the advance into Myriad Domain because of his slight edge in cultivation. He'd managed to capture Ling Bi'er to blackmail Jiang Chen, who cut the sect head down by activating restrictions left behind by a mid level empyrean cultivator Guo Ran.
From this, it was evident that a third level emperor realm cultivator was more than qualified to lead a powerful fourth rank sect. By extension, they occupied a tangibly important position in Great Scarlet Mid Region. And yet, the master of the Resplendent Emerald Veranda had been able to casually invite twelve emperor realm cultivators. Among the list of protectors, third level emperor realm ones were the weakest! Jiang Chen could only cluck his tongue at the luxury of the line-up.
Great Scarlet Mid Region wasn't exactly a remarkable presence in the entirety of the human domain. It couldn't hold a candle to several of the stronger middle regions, much less the Upper Eight. This comparison also illustrated how insignificant Myriad Domain had been. The lower region didn't even have a single emperor realm of its own.
Granted, there had been a possibility that Myriad Domain could've stood on its own merits at one point in time. The invasion from Great Scarlet Mid Region centuries ago had weakened it to a pitiable point.
All of the domain's emperor realm cultivators had been slain in that clash, as had any sky sage realm ones. The cataclysmic event had been the deciding stroke in the Myriad Domain's eventual decline. Otherwise, the domain had had the foundation to develop into a mid region once upon a time. Though it had lacked in both soft and hard power compared to the Great Scarlet Mid Region, the gap had been slowly shortening.
That was another reason for the Great Scarlet Mid Region's fervor in invading the Myriad Domain. The threat from a promising upstart and the push from their hidden backers in the form of Eternal Celestial Capital had both been compelling reasons for their mobilization.
Jiang Chen stared at the Resplendent Emerald Veranda's bustling doorstep, then glanced back at the list of names again. He sunk into deep reflection. The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that something was off. If the Veranda master really did have so many enemies, he should've maintained a lower profile to weather out a potential storm. That group of protectors should've been hired privately instead.
The unnecessary publicity was nothing short of an open announcement to any mortal enemies that hey, he was going to break through, and if they had any balls, then they should come and get him! Such behavior was understandable from a younger man, but the Veranda master was a successful businessman. Caution and risk management should've been part of his creed. Thus, Jiang Chen found the situation increasingly fishy. Exactly what about it was dubious, though, he couldn't figure out just yet.
He silently committed the list to memory. At the same time, the crowd suddenly diverted to the two sides. They were voluntarily moving aside, making way for someone apparently important. Jiang Chen kept his own troublemaking to a minimum and went with the flow.
Four emperor realm experts padded down this newly-created path. They all looked like wandering cultivators, taking large strides towards the Veranda headquarters' doors. Some of the Resplendent Emerald Veranda's most elite cultivators served as their ushers.
"I know who that white-haired emperor realm cultivator is. He's Ole Clearcloud! A very distinguished senior wandering cultivator in the surrounding regions."
"Who doesn't know him? Senior Clearcloud defeated an entire fourth rank sect by himself many years ago and almost destroyed that sect entirely. That happened in the Swordfield Mid Region, I believe. After that, countless sects from the region invited him to join their sect. Many promised him their highest elder positions. But Senior Clearcloud refused all of them."
"Senior Clearcloud is a wild and unworldly man. I don't think he would much enjoy life in a sect. But a senior is a senior, alright. He's done well for himself despite his lone status."
"That's true. The strongest senior wandering cultivators have it much tougher than those in sects."
"Of course, of course. If the senior wandering cultivators had good backgrounds and plentiful resources, perhaps they'd have attained even greater heights by now."
"Senior Clearcloud aside, what of the three other seniors? Who are they?"
"I recognize that silver-browed senior! He is a wandering cultivator as well, though I recall he tried to join a sect at some point. But apparently that sect then angered a bigger sect and was completely wiped out. The senior remained unscathed, though… many call him Senior Silversand, or the Silversand Cavalier."
"What, so he's Senior Silversand?!"
There was a wave of cheers. The admiration for senior wandering cultivators was evident. Besides Ole Clearcloud and the Silversand Cavalier, there were two other wandering cultivators as well.
One of them was a decrepit old woman who looked like she could collapse at any moment. Her feeble mannerisms evoked suspicion in many whether she was merely here to make up the numbers. However, her eyes did exude a strangely bone-chilling light that caused involuntary goosebumps in the peanut gallery. A sharp gaze like that was clearly not within the capabilities of just any ordinary woman.
The last one was the handsomest and most well-dressed of the four. He was tall and slender, and carried a paper fan. He moved with a natural elegance and grace that was befitting of a dapper gentleman.
Despite his looks, his mouth was curved in a strangely eerie fashion. The corners of his eyes being snidely upturned certainly didn't help things. Thus, he exuded an aura of aloofness. Though his appearance was comelier than the rest, it was difficult to feel any sense of friendliness from his direction. The other three cultivators walked with blank expressions, not looking to the left or to the right. In contrast, this gentleman's eyes wandered side to side as he moved, his irises mildly bewitching.
Jiang Chen stared at the man with indescribable disgust. He didn't want to give himself away and avoided locking eyes with the other man. At this time, a group of men exited the Veranda headquarters' doors. The man in the lead had a genteel demeanor of his own and commanded the limelight from his cronies. In this way, he was distinguished from the rest.
Is that the master of the Resplendent Emerald Veranda? Jiang Chen's heart skipped a beat. Although he had never seen the man in person before, he locked onto the man instantly. It had to be him, no question about it.
When one did not disguise one's bearing and mannerisms, he became easy to identify at a glance. The display that the Veranda master was putting on embodied that axiom perfectly. Unfortunately, Wei Xing'er was missing from the master's groupies.
"Haha, thank you for coming right on time. I greatly appreciate your presence and attendance. Come, come, please step inside." The Veranda master spoke with excessive politeness.
Even though the four of them were only wandering cultivators, emperor realms who were lower level than he, the master nevertheless made sure not to offend any of his guests. Each and every word and action was filled with respect. The four cultivators were beyond flattered.
"I've heard stories about the Veranda master's courtesies to the talented," Ole Clearcloud exclaimed. "It is clear to me that those stories, and more, are true of the man himself. You have my admiration."
The Silversand Cavalier inclined his head in agreement.
The decrepit old woman commented as well, her voice hoarse. "Your fame has spread far and wide, master of the Veranda. One of the reasons I even agreed to come in the first place. If it were anyone else, why should I bother? Not that anyone would care. I'm just a frail old woman."
"Hah, if Granny Goldneedle can be called a frail old woman, then no man in the surrounding domains can be called at all strong!" The Resplendent Emerald Veranda's master roared with laughter.
Finally, he looked to the handsome young gentleman. "Sir Miao, you've made quite the name for yourself these past few years. Perhaps it's your first time here in the Great Scarlet Mid Region? Your face might be an unfamiliar one, but I assure you that you are known far and wide."
Sir Miao? The name caused another ripple to wash through the crowd.
"He's Sir Miao?"
"So that's the famous Sir Miao, huh?"
"Tsk tsk, Sir Miao is a rising star in the wandering cultivator world. He's pretty well-known, both here and in the surrounding regions."
"I didn't think the Veranda master had so much face that even Sir Miao came at his call!"
"Granny Goldneedle, too! She's another of those senior wandering cultivators. As expected of the Veranda master's splendid resourcefulness."
Sir Miao? Granny Goldneedle? The names rang hollow on Jiang Chen's ears. He had known very little of the outside world back when he was in the Myriad Domain. After he came to Veluriyam Capital, his horizons were restricted to the Upper Eight Regions. He had neglected to gather any info about any lower and middle regions.
He knew of some of the bigger factions, but very little about their wandering cultivator bubbles. The four people here were likely the leading members of these bubbles. They wouldn't have entered the sight of a character like the Veranda master's, otherwise.