The old man's face reddened at the mention of Jiang Tong and Jiang Yu. After a long while, he sighed. "Jiang Chen, I've let you down. I didn't take good enough care of them."
"What happened to them?" Jiang Chen paled. The response was a punch to his chest. He had been close with his uncle's family ever since young. Though he was only paternal cousins with Jiang Yu, they were as close as real brothers.
His heart chilled when he heard the old master's words. Had something happened to his uncle and cousin?
"Old master... are they… gone?" The young lord asked with bitterness in his mouth.
"Gone? No, no." The old man became thoughtful. He was considering how best to explain, it seemed. "Rather, I think it likely that they're fine."
"What do you mean, 'likely'?" Jiang Chen was rather confused.
"It happened like this. When I led the first group out of the Precious Tree Sect, we brought your uncle and cousin along. Great Scarlet hadn't attacked Myriad Domain yet, so our journey was relatively peaceful. We left Myriad Domain for Phoenix Cry Lower Region. It's a comparatively remote place, so we thought that we'd find peace there. We wanted to find a good place to live out our days in hiding, but one day… we met a group of people out hunting. There was a girl among those hunters who was very interested in your cousin Jiang Yu. She kept bothering him that day…"
Wasn't it a good thing for Jiang Yu to draw a girl's interest? Jiang Chen found himself even foggier than before.
"I thought about it for a bit afterwards. The girl probably did that because she was especially interested in Jiang Yu and wanted to attract his attention - or should I say, her attention had been attracted by him? After the hunt, the girl sent a group to abduct both your cousin and your uncle. I gave chase, but they were much stronger than me. Even a normal man among their ranks was only slightly weaker than me, and their leader was significantly stronger!" The old man sighed. "My abilities were too limited to protect them." His tone was full of self-blame.
"The old master chased them for quite a while. There were a couple skirmishes too," interjected Tang Hong. "He had to pull back after several wounds."
Jiang Chen became silent. The old man's retelling illustrated a rather absurd occurrence. The old master wasn't to blame. His cousin was a handsome gentleman. It was definitely true that he posed an immense threat to any girl's heart.
However, that girl's curiosity was also startling. Had she really abducted two people just to sate a passing interest?
That seemed too incredible for words. Such actions were nothing short of lawless! The girl must be some kind of privileged blueblood. Both men and women from prominent factions or houses preferred to exert unchecked dominance in daily life.
"Phoenix Cry Lower Region? Do you know that place, Old Brother Mo?"
"Sure, but I haven't been there. Many wandering cultivators choose to avoid such distant lands. Unless amazing resources surface there, or perhaps a secret realm opens, powerful cultivators generally don't go to a lower region of their own volition."
Jiang Chen nodded. It had been ten years since the old man's withdrawal from the world. Who knew what had happened during that time?
"Old master, have you found anything about that girl's origins during the past decade?" Jiang Chen asked again.
"We haven't been in Phoenix Cry at all in the last ten years," sighed Ye Chonglou. "After that affair with Jiang Yu, the girl's subordinates warned us that we'll all die if we appear there again."
The old man didn't fear death, but neither would he walk straight into its jaws. If he didn't know what faction he was dealing with, looking for clues became rather difficult.
"Wait, I do remember something. That girl and the cultivators she had with her… there was an insignia on their sable-fur hats." Lordmaster Ye Chonglou remembered a key detail and drew a vague impression of what it'd looked like. "It should be something like that. I assume it's related to the faction she's from."
Jiang Chen tossed the insignia a glance, then nodded to himself.
Even a small clue made things much easier. Phoenix Cry was only a lower region at the end of the day. Not every lower region was as weak as Myriad Domain had once been, but its number of strong experts was limited by its status nonetheless.
It was very possible that the girl was from a prominent background in Phoenix Cry. There was no chance she would kidnap people so brazenly otherwise.
Recklessness without sponsorship was generally rare and short-lived. However, the young lord wasn't in much of a rush to search. It had been ten years and a few more days or months wasn't going to hurt.
"Old master, Old Tang, do you have any plans after returning?" Jiang Chen asked.
Tang Hong scratched his head blankly. He was a man focused on cultivation and little else. He didn't much have the room to consider far-out things like future plans.
"Do you have any ideas, old master?" Jiang Chen respected Ye Chonglou a great deal. The old man wasn't to blame for Jiang Yu's predicament. His strength limited what he could have done in that unexpected situation.
"I thought that I could live out my old age at the Precious Tree Sect, but I assume it's mostly destroyed now. There's not much to return to. Meeting Dan Fei here was a pleasant surprise. I think I'll go where she goes."
"Come to Veluriyam Capital, then." Jiang Chen made the decision for them with a broad stroke.
"The Precious Tree Sect still exists in a sense, lordmaster. Unfortunately, a bunch of wandering cultivators have pretty much ruined it. The damage is hard to repair, and honestly, I don't see much of a point." Dan Fei didn't have particularly deep feelings for the Precious Tree Sect.
However, the old man thought differently. He shook his head at Dan Fei's comments. "You can't say that. Regardless of how ruined it is, that place is where our roots are. Even if the Precious Tree Sect is no longer, as long as the Precious Tree of Rosy Dawn lives on, it can be re-established anywhere."
Jiang Chen approved of the old man's attitude. "That's right. The Precious Tree is a treasure that carries with it a heritage. The Precious Tree Sect can be rebuilt elsewhere, but not without that tree."
The Precious Tree wasn't very remarkable for a man of Jiang Chen's current stature. Heritage-wise, however, it carried with it inestimable value. More importantly, Jiang Chen's breakthrough beneath it to origin realm had evoked impressive natural phenomena. He had a very good impression of the plant.
The reunion with two more past acquaintances energized the young man. After a time, news arrived from Great Scarlet that its three sects had entered prolonged warfare against each other. The chaos in the region had reached a boiling point.
Assembling his experts, Jiang Chen declared that he was officially intervening in the region's affairs. They were preparing to take over Great Scarlet anytime. When wind of this got out, there was another enormous reaction from the human domain. The factions who were typically antagonistic to the city were tremendously surprised.
Alas, the Veluriyam Capital of today burned as brightly as the noonday sun. Plus, Jiang Chen had a vendetta with Great Scarlet in the first place. What shocked the outside world the most however, was the welcoming attitude of most of the region's residents.
With the dethroning of House Yan, the region required a power that could dominate and unify the entire realm. The anarchy brought about by the power struggle-related daily skirmishes was too much for the common people.
The first order of affairs in Jiang Chen's intervention was to take the region's three great sects down a peg. He didn't need to decimate their numbers, because their ranks had already been exhausted by the prior conflict.
His scouring of the sects tamed them to his will. Immediately following this, Jiang Chen announced to the rest of the world that Veluriyam Capital was temporarily taking over Great Scarlet Mid Region. The reason he gave was that he wanted to assure its integrity and well-being.
When he did so, the entire human domain realized that Great Scarlet's past was fully history. From this moment onwards, the region had Jiang Chen's indelible mark upon it.
Though there were occasional voices of dissent, no one openly presented resistance to him. Veluriyam Capital was at the peak of its prominence. Anyone who angered them would be subjected to certain misfortune.
Even Pillfire City stayed oddly quiet after repeated loss. There was no usual loud proclamation of opposition. Jiang Chen found this quite strange.
Pillfire saw Veluriyam as its mortal enemy; the city hated him to the bone. This was especially true after his recent destruction of two of their great emperor experts. Silence from them could only be hiding a fomenting conspiracy. Calm before a storm, as it were.
Jiang Chen dared not let down his guard.
After exerting full control over Great Scarlet, he handed the reins of the region to Emperor Vastsea. This entrustment of heavy responsibility flattered the emperor.
As time passed, things in Great Scarlet began ticking upwards once more under Jiang Chen's simultaneous application of coercion and reward. Everything proceeded as planned in a deliberate and measured manner.
One day, Jiang Chen gathered the wandering great emperors together. "My friends, the situation in Myriad and Great Scarlet have settled down for the time being. I'm sure you feel plenty caged up after your time here at the Regal Pill Palace. Today, we return to Veluriyam Capital. Shall we prepare a little before departing?"
All of the great emperors were overjoyed when they heard this. They had waited for this day for quite a while.
Jiang Chen returned to Veluriyam Capital in secret. Emperor Peerless remained at the Palace, lending his prestige to help Palace Head Dan Chi. Emperor Vastsea remained in Great Scarlet to further stabilize the region. Jiang Chen took the Jiao brothers with him.
After they returned to Veluriyam Capital, the young lord lodged the wandering great emperors. He needed a bit more time to prepare and told them as much. The great emperors were no rush. They had finally come back to Veluriyam Capital, after all.