The most valuable part in all of this was the Pinecrane Pill offered as payment. Emperor Clearsky was sorely tempted by the offer. He knew full well what a single pill was worth in the world. Because such pills couldn't be mass produced, Jiang Chen didn't have any on hand, a perfect illustration of how scarce the pill was.
The two of them discussed a few more details before descending the mountain.
Returning to the sect proper, Emperor Clearsky arranged for Jiang Chen and the four great emperors to stay at his personal residence. The honor he was according to Veluriyam's retinue was unrivaled.
Everyone from the Ninesuns Sky Sect marveled at the attention their sectmaster was heaping upon young lord Jiang. They weren't optimistic about Esteemed Elder Chen Lei and Wu Gong's chances.
According to Emperor Clearsky, refining the flying swords required anywhere between a week to a fortnight. Jiang Chen demanded that the sectmaster be present in the entire process.
The great emperor had a mind to refuse, but the young man was quite persistent. Emperor Clearsky couldn't do much more than acquiesce in the end. Besides, refining items wasn't an art that could be stolen easily.
After twelve days, the doors to the Ninesuns Sky Sect's forbidden area housing the refining formation opened. A tired Emperor Clearsky shambled out.
"You've really driven me to my limits, young lord Zhen," he remarked. "However, I'm more surprised by your expertise in crafting weapons."
"Haha, your praise is too high." Jiang Chen was very pleased. Though it had been a lot of work to refine the items he had in mind, the rewards were more than commensurate. The flying swords were a total success!
Two hundred-odd kilograms of True Heavensfall Iron had been fused fully into eighty-one swords. The entire process had been perfect. The Ninesuns Sky Sect's ancient refining formation was something to be thankful about. With human technique alone, even one of the best great emperors like Emperor Clearsky wouldn't be able to accomplish such a feat.
The fact that Jiang Chen had offered him extremely helpful advice at crucial moments in the refinement process had been wholly unexpected. Emperor Clearsky had benefited from it a great deal, attaining breakthroughs in key moments required to finish the job.
"Not at all high, young lord Zhen. Many say that you are a man of superb talents. It was truly a serendipitous pleasure to see your skill in refining items. I deeply respect the breadth and depth of your knowledge."
The emperor's words were heartfelt. He was still shocked that a young genius had such incredible talent. Should the Ninesuns Sky Sect really make an enemy of someone like that? Merely thinking about it was enough to make his scalp tingle. He'd already decided that the prospect was out of the question without some kind of absolute guarantee.
Having received the results he wanted, Jiang Chen had no plans to stay further at the Ninesuns Sky Sect.
He notified the sect that he would be taking his leave the very next day. Emperor Clearsky knew that there was no chance of getting him to stay and personally escorted him to the base of the mountain.
"I won't see you off too much further, young lord Jiang. Our doors are always open to you. Please feel free to come visit whenever you wish."
"Of course, of course. Don't forget our promise, Sectmaster Clearsky. I will make good on my word within ten years." Smiling, Jiang Chen waved goodbye before drifting into the distance with the four monarchs.
Watching Jiang Chen disappear into the distance, Emperor Clearsky was silent for a long time. Finally, he sighed softly. "A genius like this in the human domain… the unchanging situation for the past several thousand years is finally about to shift!"
There was complexity in his tone. He raised his head to the heavens, taking in the roiling clouds; a mixture of feelings rushed to his head.
"The most terrifying thing about him is his universal mastery of every subject," Shangguan Yanqing agreed. "There is nothing that he lacks expertise in. He's a man who will define an entire age. It's imprudent for the sect to maintain hostilities with someone like that."
Emperor Clearsky nodded thoughtfully. "Go, invite Esteemed Elders Chen Lei and Wu Gong. I have something I'd like to discuss with them."
Esteemed Chen Lei came as asked to Scorching Sun Hall, but Elder Wu Gong was noticeably absent.
"Esteemed Ximeng, Lu Yuan. Please go request Esteemed Wu Gong's presence," said Emperor Clearsky. "Tell him that unless he has sealed his doors on pain of death, he is to come out to see me immediately."
The emperor's unyielding approach was evident in his words. All of the sect's executives braced themselves.
Esteemed Wu Gong failed to avoid a confrontation in the end. There wasn't much else he could do other than open his doors.
"I am at fault, sectmaster. Please mete out my punishment." As soon as he entered the room, the elder prostrated himself upon the ground.
Esteemed Chen Lei stood up suddenly. "Sectmaster, take revenge on me however you wish. I will not beg for mercy at any point."
Emperor Clearsky looked at Chen Lei and Wu Gong coldly. "Both of you are pillars of the sect. I have a great deal of trust in both of you. I can understand your feelings for blocking the way down at the entrance, and you are within your rights to protest as such. I was angry at the time, but there is no reason for me to act upon any personal emotions. I called you here today to declare one thing only:
"Remember, from today forth, our sect shall treat Jiang Chen as a friend rather than an enemy. The entire sect must be unified in this outlook, and I'm giving the order as the sect head. If anyone causes any disruption to the harmony between us, he will be branded a traitor and criminal! Don't blame me for not making this clear beforehand."
Esteemed Chen Lei was electrified. He stood still for a long time, uncertain of what to say. He was dissatisfied with this outcome, but what could he do?
The sect head had made an extremely resolute assertion already. If he caused any further trouble, it would be tantamount to issuing a public challenge to the sect head's authority. Even an esteemed elder would meet a miserable end if that happened.
Wu Gong was a smart man. He didn't have an inextricable grudge with Jiang Chen. The only bad blood between them was the matter of Long Juxue, which had left his grandson without a cultivation vessel. Something like that could be significant or meaningless, depending on how one thought about it.
"Daoist Chen Lei," the other two esteemed elders entreated, "Cao Jin was a genius, but he went to Myriad Domain announcing his status as a first rank sect's personal disciple. That he died at Jiang Chen's hands means that he had insufficient fortune. It's always been the case that geniuses may die when they set out to prove themselves. Why do you hold onto your grudge like this? Jiang Chen's rise is unstoppable, and it's unwise for the Ninesuns Sky Sect to stand in his way. Why not seek out another genius and cultivate him instead? Cao Jin isn't fundamentally unique."
"That's right. Cao Jin was only ranked ninth amongst the personal disciples. He was even weaker than Xiao Paohui. I think it's better just to look for another genius. The gain far outweighs the loss."
Everyone pleaded with the esteemed elder, giving him a way out of his stubborn position.
Chen Lei sighed softly. "My friends, I have been a fool," the old man slumped. "Forget it all. Alas, Cao Jin didn't possess enough fortune. Who can truly be blamed for the ill-fated end of a personal disciple from a first rank sect, when his killer was only some unknown disciple from a fourth rank sect?"
Jiang Chen didn't let down his guard on the way back. After a period of travel, he arrived back at Veluriyam Capital. He was met with great news upon his return.
"Young lord, several groups of wandering cultivators dropped by while you were gone. They had four Goldencrown Cloudcranes with them. They said that the news of your need for these spirit beasts has spread far and wide in the wandering cultivator world as of late. That entire sphere has been mobilized to your aid."
"Oh? Where are the Cloudcranes right now?" Jiang Chen hadn't expected there to be four of the Cloudcranes. It was a stroke of much-appreciated fortune.
"They're at Taiyuan Lodge right now."
"Let's go and see, then."
The four Goldencrown Cloudcranes had been delivered by four different groups of wandering cultivators.
Young master Ji San had spent a few dozen million all those years ago when buying one through auction. Jiang Chen didn't shortchange the wandering cultivators who bought him the necessity; each Cloudcrane was paid for with eighty million saint spirit stones. All the sellers left satisfied.
"Yanyu, take them to the young lord residence," Jiang Chen commanded.
The spirit beasts in question were mandatory in refining the Pinecrane Pill. It'd Jiang Chen's first time refining the pill back then, yet he'd been able to get a cauldron of nine. Four Cloudcranes meant four cauldrons of pills. Their arrival provided timely relief from an urgent need.
Now that he had the materials, the young lord was in no rush to refine the pills immediately. The Pinecrane Pills he owed didn't need to be paid out anytime soon.
"I shall refine the Pinecrane Pills after I return from Myriad Domain," the youth promised himself.
Back at the young lord residence, he declared that he was entering closed door cultivation once more for a while. He needed to familiarize himself with his new flying swords, as well as the corresponding Heavenly Chalice Sword Formation.
He wasn't going to master the sword formation overnight, and he had to practice it sometime. The eighty-one flying swords required great control and resilience over one's consciousness to maneuver. The art of deploying sword formations was very technical. One sword out of place would affect the overall power of the formation by a great deal.
Given the level of the formation, Jiang Chen was able to cultivate only a few of its rudiments at his current strength.
Unfurling the diagram for the sword formation, he began to peruse and comprehend it.
"The Heavenly Chalice Sword Formation is divided into seven levels: novice, minor achievement, skillful, perfection, great perfection, supreme, and legendary. Three times three equals nine, and thus nine flying swords are required for the novice level. Four times four equals sixteen, and sixteen are the swords needed for minor achievement. Twenty-five simultaneously controlled blades signifies skillful. Six times six, seven times seven, eight times eight, and nine times nine are the numbers marking perfection, great perfection, supreme, and legendary…"
It took three days for Jiang Chen to grasp a modicum of what the formation entailed. Another four days passed before he opened his doors once more, gathering his subordinates to his side.
"My friends, all of the preparations are complete. Today is the day we launch an attack on Great Scarlet Mid Region and retake Myriad Domain! Geng brothers."
"We are here!"
"Take three thousand Peafowl Guard with you to the old site of Regal Pill Palace. Slay all who linger there!"
"Yes, young lord!" the Geng brothers accepted the instructions.
"The four monarchs. Each of you take a team to seal off the north, south, east and west cardinals of Myriad Domain. Entry is permitted, but not exit. Anyone who belongs to Great Scarlet Mid Region and the Eternal Celestial Capital will be executed on the spot. Those unrelated may be released pending their innocence."
"Yes, young lord!"