Come to think of it, his road to here had been filled with adversity, hardship, and near-death experiences. But the clouds had dispersed and the sky was clear once more. Palace Head Dan Chi didn’t know what to think. Happiness had arrived far too quickly and completely. His bottled-up feelings were finally able to be fully released into the world.
Elder Yun Nie was even more excited than the palace head himself. He grasped the other man’s arms firmly, as if worried that his long-lost friend would fly away.
The elder and palace head hadn’t enjoyed a particularly close relationship in the Palace’s early years. Dan Chi taking over the helm had led to a massive push toward martial dao. The traditionally important pill dao was forced to yield its position, and the Herbal Hall its own leading spot to the Hall of Might.
Jiang Chen’s entrance into Regal Pill Palace had been a lubricant between Elder Yun Nie and Palace Head Dan Chi, bridging the differences between them. Eventually, they became united in purpose. The two men had harbored a common ambition: revitalizing Regal Pill Palace. Alas, the Eternal Celestial Capital and Great Scarlet Mid Region’s invasion had scattered that to the wind.
“Yun Nie, that we’ve reunited once more despite every peril… this means that heaven has watched over Regal Pill Palace. We shouldn’t be so emotional.” The palace head’s outburst was only temporary. With minutes, he recovered the composure that suited a sect leader.
“You are right, Palace Head. Heaven watches over Regal Pill Palace and the Myriad Domain as well.” Elder Yun Nie recovered himself as well before continuing. “I’ll go inform Jiang Chen of the good news. He deserves to be brought here at once.”
Palace Head Dan Chi waved a hand. “Yun Nie, we cannot live in the past. Jiang Chen has distinguished himself as an extraordinary star. He is both stronger and more eminent than I. It is I who should go meet him.”
Elder Yun Nie considered this for a moment. “You’re right. We’re both exiles. Without his protection, our very safety would be in question, much less our prospects of rebuilding the sect.”
“Don’t be so hasty, Yun Nie. Tell me about Jiang Chen’s experiences these past few years.” Palace Head Dan Chi was worried whether he and Jiang Chen could interact the way they had all those years ago, given the disciple’s current status.
The elder did so without a moment of hesitation. He detailed all minutiae of Jiang Chen’s legendary exploits, emphasizing especially his careful protection and exhortation of Regal Pill Palace’s former disciples.
Palace Head Dan Chi sighed after he heard all. “He occupies such a lofty position, yet doesn’t forget his roots. He is a man with an excellent temperament. Bringing him from the Precious Tree Sect was the best decision of my life.”
Elder Yun Nie sighed as well. “Absolutely. If it wasn’t for your keen eye all those years ago – your small kindness to him – Regal Pill Palace would be just like every other sect in the Myriad Domain. Utterly destroyed, with no hope of restoration.”
Both men sighed over their past losses.
“Which disciples are here in Veluriyam Capital from the palace, Yun Nie?” The palace head went on to ask.
“Among the four geniuses of the Sovereign Area, Shen Qinghong and Nie Chong are both dead. Jun Mobai was an undercover agent from the Ninesuns Sky Sect. Ling Bi’er is missing. Aside from Jiang Chen, only Mu Gaoqi, Shen Trifire, Rong Zifeng, Ling Hui’er, Ouyang Chao, and others remain from the younger generation. Thankfully, they’ve all progressed a great deal with Jiang Chen’s help.”
Having been specially rescued by Jiang Chen from Pillfire City, Elder Yun Nie hadn’t expected so many surviving disciples to reside at Veluriyam Capital.
“Shen Qinghong is dead?” Palace Head Dan Chi shook his head sadly. “What a shame. The elders who were with me on our breakout attempt are mostly dead as well.”
The duo exchanged lamented about their prior experiences.
Jiang Chen’s living quarters.
“Elder Yun Nie wishes to see me?” Jiang Chen blinked. What was the elder here for? It was really late. Did he have something important to talk about?
He knew how cautious and circumspect the elder was. With advance knowledge on how busy Jiang Chen would be over the next few days, he wouldn’t have disturbed the youth without something sufficiently notable.
“Send him in.”
In no time at all, the elder made his way into the room.
“Greetings, young lord Zhen.” He came forward with a courteous salute.
“No need for such excessive politeness between us, Elder Yun Nie,” Jiang Chen laughed. “You’re in a rush. Did you have something important on your mind?”
Elder Yun Nie looked serious. “Yes, there is a very important matter.” He nodded. “I’ve brought a past acquaintance. Do you have the time to see him, young lord Zhen?”
“A past acquaintance?” Jiang Chen was a bit taken aback, but the elder’s quite solemn expression told him that he absolutely had to see who it was.
“If it’s a past acquaintance,” he smiled, “then we should be old friends already. Why didn’t you bring him with you, Elder Yun Nie?”
The elder sighed. “This acquaintance is… a bit different.”
“Please, invite him over immediately.”
Elder Yun Nie nodded before turning back out the door. It wasn’t long before he returned with another person in tow.
“Palace Head Dan Chi?” Jiang Chen thought his eyes were deceiving him. He hadn’t remotely thought of the possibility of seeing the palace head here. Experiences from decades ago began to resurface instantly.
A reunion after a long time apart, especially after life-threatening danger in the interim, meant that both parties had a ton of things to say to the other. Even Jiang Chen could barely hold back his elation.
Perhaps Palace Head Dan Chi’s cultivation level was insignificant within the Upper Eight Regions, but that didn’t diminish Jiang Chen’s respect for him one whit. Without the palace head, he would’ve stuck around at the Precious Tree Sect for a much longer time, missing out on several opportunities that had come later.
Therefore, Jiang Chen had always considered Palace Head Dan Chi as one of his talent scouts. The palace head had been the one to drag the young man out of relative obscurity.
Most importantly, Jiang Chen saw something special in the other man. Regardless of martial strength, he’d only seen the quality in a specific few.
Ye Chonglou from the Precious Tree Sect was one of them, Veluriyam Capital’s Emperor Peafowl was another. There was a great difference between their comparative strengths, but they all had a unique aura. Therefore, Jiang Chen was overjoyed to see Palace Head Dan Chi once more.
After an extended period of greetings, the two parties finally got into recounting the particulars of their separate ways. Palace Head Dan Chi had succeeded all those years ago, but found the Palace occupied and under enemy control upon his return. He chose not to turn himself in, aiming instead to smash through enemy lines. The sect’s other elders had died one by one in their noble attempt.
After being forced eventually to split up, Dan Chi survived only through superhuman perseverance. He outlasted both Eternal Celestial Capital and the Great Scarlet Mid Region’s chase.
After that, he had changed his name to Tan Zhi, a name with very strong overtones about his former identity. But Tan Zhi had another layer to it as well; it was meant to constantly admonish him of the eventual goal to re-establish the sect. He had chosen the name, lest he be overwhelmed by prolonged misfortune.
“You’ve suffered greatly all these years, Palace Head Dan Chi,” Jiang Chen sighed.
“How can the small problems I’ve faced compare to yours? I’ve heard from Elder Yun Nie what you went through to get here. My greatest decision in this mortal coil was to dig you out from the Precious Tree Sect,” the palace head recounted emotionally once more.
“Back at the Regal Pill Palace,” Jiang Chen sighed, “you treated me with great respect beyond my deserving. It was the least I could do to repay you and I only did what was my duty. Plus, Eternal Celestial Capital considers me a stubborn thorn in their side regardless. They would hunt me even if I didn’t do any of that.”
“The Eternal Celestial Capital is the only first rank sect absent at the wandering cultivator meet,” Dan Chi suddenly realized something. “Is your identity known to them already?”
“They sent a saint holy king here to parley, but I refused,” Jiang Chen affirmed.
Joy and affection filtered into the palace head’s eyes. Elder Yun Nie was equally excited by those words. They could the young man’s steel-clad resolve and attitude.
“My friends, though I am Veluriyam Capital’s young lord, and thus bear a weightier responsibility… rebuilding Regal Pill Palace is still something that concerns me. I protected the palace’s disciples and rescued Mu Gaoqi precisely to preserve a spark of the sect’s heritage in order to one day re-establish it. Now that you’ve appeared once more, sect head, the day of the palace’s reappearance is not far at hand.” Jiang Chen made a very serious declaration.
His words inspired both the palace head and the elder. The speech was more than enough to assuage their worries, giving them genuine hope for their sect’s tomorrow. If the sect had Veluriyam Capital’s support, what could Eternal Celestial Capital do? Would it somehow become stronger than Veluriyam Capital?
“Alas, this old man’s abilities are far too limited,” Elder Yun Nie lamented. “The road to rebuilding the sect is long and arduous.”
Hardship had advanced the palace head’s cultivation with blustering speed. He had broken through to half-step emperor realm in only ten short years.
In the Myriad Domain of yesteryear, this level of cultivation rivaled the Great Cathedral’s Sacred Elephant family head. However, it wasn’t nearly enough to re-found an entire sect. Moreover, it was easy to call the sect reestablished, yet a great deal more effort was required for full revitalization.
Palace Head Dan Chi’s gaze was burdened by the problems ahead.
“Young lord Zhen,” he glanced at Jiang Chen. “I said all those years ago that the Regal Pill Palace will survive any storm, no matter how chaotic, as long as it had you. Today, less than a tenth of the palace’s disciples remain and my personal prowess is anemic at best. The way to restoring Regal Pill Palace is burdensome and challenging. I’d like to humbly request your assistance in the matter.”
“Please, Palace Head, don’t say this. I too, must do my part in the Palace’s restoration. In actuality, you have one of the most fundamental elements to reforming the sect already.” Jiang Chen replied, smiling.
“Oh?” The palace head hesitated.
“An ancient martial method is recorded in that jade token, a method strong enough to be compared to any first rank sect’s best methods. In fact, it actually surpasses them in numerous ways. You came upon such a valuable text as a wandering cultivator, Palace Head. It means that you are far luckier than the rest. There is no question that the Palace will soar to great heights in your hands.”
None of this was false. It was a stroke of immense fortune that the palace head had both survived and received such an amazing find. As long as he was willing to lie in wait for a time, the ancient method would ensure there was substance behind his promise.