Jiang Chen refused Long Baxiang's rude request outright.
"You must beware of the Heavenly Dragon Sect, young lord." The elder Jiao brother, Jiao Yun, spoke up. Normally, one would expect a statement like that to have come from Emperor Peerless. However, the two Jiao brothers had become Jiang Chen's most loyal confidantes. Now harboring a healthy respect for the young lord, they protected him constantly.
"We've dealt with many sects during our travels," Jiao Yun continued in a low voice. "We have at least a rudimentary understanding of the Heavenly Dragon Sect's tendencies. People from this sect don't rest until they reach their goal. They're not as high profile as the Ninesuns Sky Sect, but they're far more vicious once they have an objective in mind. Out of the eight first rank sects in the Upper Eight Regions, the Heavenly Dragon Sect is the thorniest."
Jiao Feng nodded as well. "Absolutely. The Heavenly Dragon Sect is not to be underestimated."
Jiang Chen didn't know very much about the Heavenly Dragon Sect, but he knew how to read people. Long Baxiang didn't look like an easygoing man. However, there was no possibility that the young lord would ever turn Long Xiaoxuan over to him, either.
That was a matter of principle. The young lord was now one of the most important people in Veluriyam Capital. The Peafowl Guard paved the way for him, and the city's great emperors roughly flanked him; both gestures were for his protection.
In no time at all, his retinue made its way back to Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
At the young lord residence, Huang'er and the others were waiting at the door.
Jiang Chen was very cautious. In order to avoid unforeseen circumstances, he hadn't brought everyone to the wandering cultivator meet. Aside from Emperor Peerless, the Jiao and Geng brothers, and other powerful experts like the four monarchs, Jiang Chen had only taken Pill King Bu, Pill King Lu Feng, and Lin Yanyu.
The others had stayed behind for the most part. Newcomer Tan Zhi hung behind everyone else, following Mo Wushuang very closely. He looked a little restrained and lost.
"Don't worry," Mo Wushuang chuckled. "Everyone here is family. Since the young lord has decided to take you in and brought you back to the residence, he won't mistreat you."
Tan Zhi nodded. Before he was spoken to, he'd kept his eyes mostly to himself. After being comforted, his heart settled down a little, and he began to curiously scan the residence's surroundings.
His gaze circled the place, pausing fleetingly upon the welcome party. Suddenly, his look became strangely incredulous. He was so surprised that he couldn't shift his eyes away.
"What's up?" Emperor Peerless had a stronger consciousness than most, and easily sensed the nearby cultivator's peculiarity.
Tan Zhi's shoulders shook. "Maybe my eyes deceived me," he sighed softly.
Emperor Peerless chuckled. "Those here in the young lord residence have come from all over the world. Perhaps you do know some people here already. Let's head on in."
Nodding hurriedly in agreement, Tan Zhi followed very carefully behind Emperor Peerless. However, his eyes darted back to the reception crowd from time to time, as if there was someone he cared a lot about there.
"Gouyu, this wandering cultivator friend is named Tan Zhi," Jiang Chen introduced. "He'll be one of us from now on, so please look after him. Try to settle him in near Emperor Peerless, so my old brother can take him around a bit more to familiarize himself with his new home."
After glancing at Tan Zhi, Gouyu inclined her head earnestly.
"Senior brother, I'm sure the wandering cultivator meet will be very exciting. I'd really like to take a look for myself." A handsome young daoist spoke up - Mu Gaoqi.
"I was worried that there'd be some unexpected surprise on the first day, Gaoqi. That's why I asked everyone to stay at home. For the marketplace tomorrow, I'll definitely take you to see the sights. How can I leave you out of the proceedings with how spectacular your pill dao potential is?" Jiang Chen smiled.
"Fantastic," Mu Gaoqi was overjoyed. "Can I go with my master?"
A pretty figure edged out from the rear of the crowd. "Senior brother," a girl's voice muttered, "you can't be biased like that. Don't just take Gaoqi! Hui'er wants to go as well."
The girl was none other than Ling Hui'er.
"Yes, yes, everyone can go." Jiang Chen waved a hand.
"Hehe, I know senior brother wouldn't refuse!" The enthusiasm on Ling Hui'er's face was palpable.
There was a collective roar of laughter before the combined entourage headed further inside.
Standing behind Mo Wushuang still, Tan Zhi was almost electrified by the sight of Mu Gaoqi and Ling Hui'er. He could barely move his feet. Mu Gaoqi, Ling Hui'er…
Countless thoughts flashed through his mind. His lips trembled. He felt the impulse to speak up several times, but his reason suppressed it each time. At last, Tan Zhi's eyes settled on Jiang Chen with some confusion. Suddenly, a possibility crept into his heart, sending a slight spasm through his body. A warm current flowed through him, filling him with a vigor that almost made him shout aloud. If he wasn't harboring worries still, he would've pounced forward to ask details.
Nearby the younger wandering cultivator, Mo Wushuang felt each acute change in Tan Zhi's psyche. However, he chose not to point out anything this time, instead looking thoughtfully at the cultivator many years his junior.
"Young lord Zhen, Emperor Coiling Dragon and young master Ji San are here to visit. They have a wandering cultivator with them." There was a report from outside.
"Oh? Send them in."
Having come so soon after their departure moments earlier, the former clan lord's arrival likely concerned something important. He had brought a wandering cultivator with him, hmm? Can it be…?
A thought popped into Jiang Chen's head, but he didn't pursue it. He would soon know exactly why they'd come anyways.
Emperor Coiling Dragon and the wandering cultivator made their way into the residence rather quickly. Young master Ji san was with them.
"Young lord Zhen, this wandering cultivator friend found us in order to speak to you personally. He says he's the owner of the Heavencloud Ganoderma. We didn't dare leave him waiting after hearing that, so we came straight away." Emperor Coiling Dragon was very responsible with his explanation.
Jiang Chen had guessed the very same. The wandering cultivator in question was likely either the owner of the Ganoderma or the Seven Star Convergence Talisman.
"What should I call you, friend?" Veluriyam's young lord was very amiable. He could see that the man's cultivation level was even lower than Tan Zhi's.
Tan Zhi was half-step emperor, but this man was only earth sage realm. He would be considered a reasonable expert in a more remote place like the Myriad Domain, but the Upper Eight Regions demoted him to one of the small fry.
"My… my name is Cheng Qian. H-hail, young lord Zhen." The wandering cultivator stuttered a little. He'd felt little pressure looking up at young lord Zhen from within a crowd, but seeing the youth right in front of him was something else. Nearby were men many times his senior: Emperor Peerless, the Jiao brothers, and others. No matter how unbridled Cheng Qian was ordinarily, he felt a mountain of pressure bearing down upon him.
Jiang Chen smiled indulgently. "Everyone, take a seat," he instructed those around him.
Having said this, he turned back to Cheng Qian kindly. "You're Cheng Qian, right? Try to relax. Sacred Peafowl Mountain has always been gracious toward the wandering cultivator world. Look at Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers. They are your seniors, no? No one will give you a hard time here, haha. Take a seat."
Beads of sweat formed on the earth sage realm cultivator's forehead. He protested several times out of embarrassment. How could he sit before so many great emperor realm experts? Any seat he did take would burn his rear.
Jiang Chen was helpless before Cheng Qian's self-inflicted tenseness. "Old Brother Mo, you're a wandering cultivator," he turned to his old brother. "Can you soothe his emotions a bit for me?"
Emperor Peerless smiled. "Since it's been said already, Cheng Qian, why not take a seat? I guarantee that Sacred Peafowl Mountain will not lay a finger on you. If you own the Heavencloud Ganoderma, I will personally ensure that you receive your deserving portion."
The Jiao brothers laughed as well. "Young lord Zhen has seen countless treasures. Are you worried that he'll rob you of yours?"
The young lord smiled good-naturedly in turn. "Cheng Qian, if you wanted to find me, why didn't you come to me straight away? What's with the detour to Emperor Coiling Dragon?"
"I was worried that I would… would be tailed by someone, if I came to find you," Cheng Qian looked somewhat bashful. "So I thought a detour would be better."
Jiang Chen offered the sheepish cultivator some cheerful applause to boost his confidence. "Well done. Those were wise actions. Tell me, what would you like me to help you with? You can be open about it. Everyone here will bear witness for you."
Cheng Qian puffed himself up for several moments before he managed to blurt out the following words. "I… I wanted to trade the Heavencloud Ganoderma with you, young lord Zhen."
That was within the realm of expectation. Of course the wandering cultivator had come to trade or auction off his treasure. It was either one or the other.
Jiang Chen nodded. "Sounds good. What would you like from me?"
What Cheng Qian did next was quite funny. He scratched his head, but couldn't think of anything to say. He hadn't even thought up what he really wanted. He'd had the Heavencloud Ganoderma for a long time, and had always viewed it as a prized possession, not expecting its actual value to be beyond his wildest dreams.
Even after the event, his brain was still rather mushy. He did have one instinctual thought, however: he needed to get rid of the spirit herb as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he could very well befall the same fate as Tan Zhi. Unwanted exposure was a very real problem.
"Don't be nervous, Cheng Qian. Speak your mind." Emperor Peerless consoled sympathetically. As a senior in the wandering cultivator world, the emperor tried to take care of his juniors as much as he could. It wasn't any day of the week that a wandering cultivator came upon a valuable treasure.
The earth sage was still flustered. "Actually… I, uh, I haven't really thought of anything yet. Young lord Zhen is a generous and considerate man, so I'm sure that he'll treat me well. I… I didn't think the Heavencloud Ganoderma would be so expensive. Happiness came upon me so quickly that… that, my brain can't keep up. So… so… I'd like young lord Zhen to give me some pointers about what's best for me..." His face reddened after stammering all this.
Everyone broke out into good-natured laughter. It was evident to any onlooker that Cheng Qian really was in a tough spot. He was so stunned by his fortune that he couldn't think straight any more. For an earth sage realm wandering cultivator, the Heavencloud Ganoderma was really too expensive to take in. Cheng Qian's reaction was perfectly normal.