More than half of the wandering great emperors decided to stay in Veluriyam for the time being. Some had been inspired by Emperor Wellspring. Some were worried about the unpredictable situation, and some outright refused to roam the world at such a dangerous time.
Three of them expressed their regrets and left, but they made clear promises that if open war were to break out between Veluriyam and Pillfire, they'd take the former's side.
The Pinecrane Pill had brought Jiang Chen unexpected benefits, including a newfound respect for Emperor Wellspring thanks to the latter's wholehearted assistance.
Wellspring was a figure to match Emperor Peerless. He had wisdom and spirit in spades, compared to the latter's forthrightness. After arranging quarters for his guests, Jiang Chen returned to his residence.
As it so happened, the men he'd dispatched to Phoenix Cry Lower Region returned that day.
"Young lord, the symbol is from a third rank sect called the Purple Smoke Sect."
"Phoenix Cry's Purple Smoke Sect?" Jiang Chen frowned. "What else did you find?"
"Young lord, here's all the information we've gathered on the sect and the region, down to the smallest detail. Please peruse it at your leisure."
Jiang Chen read it for a moment, nodding. "Phoenix Cry is much stronger than Myriad Domain, and the Purple Smoke Sect is more powerful than Myriad Domain's six great sects used to be."
The sect in question was one of the three greatest sects in Phoenix Cry. Its strongest cultivator seemed to be a hidden forefather with a cultivation at advanced emperor realm. Such an existence was a giant for a third rank sect in a lower region.
Jiang Chen put away the data and ordered, "Jiao Yun, Jiao Feng, which one of you wants to take a trip to Phoenix Cry?"
"I will," Jiao Yun volunteered.
"Go to the Purple Smoke Sect. No need for carnage, just bring back my uncle and my cousin. If something's happened to them, do as you see fit." Jiang Chen disliked senseless killing, but leniency was out of the question when it came to his family.
Jiao Yun left for Phoenix Cry without delay. The Purple Smoke Sect was a local tyrant. Even the Phoenix Cry Empire's royal clan had to show some respect.
Jiang Yu sat atop a cliff somewhere in the Purple Smoke Sect's mountains. Despite the gorgeous landscape of peaks and ravines, his mood was at its lowest. His life had been an ordeal ever since he'd been brought to the sect by force, many moons ago.
The girl who'd been interested and used to harass him was the granddaughter of an esteemed elder, a little gangster with a terrible temper. It hadn't been so bad at first, thanks to her curiosity. However, the novelty had soon worn off. His situation had deteriorated throughout the years with her waning interest.
'Yu'er, why are you here all by yourself again?" Jiang Tong's voice sounded from behind. There were many new white spots on his temples after these many years. Obviously, his life hadn't been any easier.
"Father, why are you here?"
"It's your favorite spot when you seek solitude. You come here whenever you can, so I naturally knew where to find you." Jiang Tong sighed.
Seeing the worry in his father's eyes, Jiang Yu squeezed out a smile despite of his mood. "Father, I'm just enjoying the quiet. There's nothing to worry about."
"Yu'er, I've heard they're publishing the list for Agarwood Valley tomorrow." Jiang Tong's tone was filled with anxiety. "I've kept an ear out for rumors. Both our names seem likely to be on the list."
Jiang Yu smiled wryly. "Father, I've long since grown tired of this sect. What's wrong with leaving?"
"Idiot!" Jiang Tong suddenly exploded. "Do you know what it means to go to Agarwood Valley? The sect's already sent two expeditions there, but not a single man ever came back. It'll be the same this time!"
"So what?" Jiang Yu shook his head dispiritedly. "I'd rather go there than waste my time here and suffer people's contempt. Who knows, maybe it'll be an opportunity to sneak back to Myriad Domain."
Jiang Tong stood silent for a long while before heaving a soft sigh. "Who knows what's become of Myriad Domain now?"
When the young lady had grown tired of his son, she'd gradually forgotten all about them. Left to fend for themselves, they'd become marginalized in the sect.
"Yu'er…" he murmured. "Why don't you go and beg her? She hasn't seen you in a while. If you whisper sweet nothings to her, you might make her happy enough to remove our names from the list. She might even let us leave."
Jiang Yu shook his head. "I'd rather die than beg that witch!"
Jiang Tong sighed. Given his son's character and how much he loathed the girl, it was impossible to persuade him any further
"Yu'er, my life doesn't matter, but I can't let you go to Agarwood Valley no matter what. You're still young, you have a bright future"
"Father, we only have each other now. We need to stick together even in death. No matter how fearsome, the valley's better than staying in this prison."
Jiang Tong sighed after a long silence. "The Precious Tree Sect's Master Ye knows we're trapped here. If he ends up reuniting with your cousin Jiang Chen, maybe…"
Jiang Yu smiled wryly. "Father, cousin Chen might be a genius, but how much could he have grown in a mere decade?"
Jiang Tong laughed. "Hehe, I've always thought he'd be the one to come to our rescue one day."
Jiang Yu nodded. "He'd certainly try if he knew, but I'd rather not drag him down."
No matter his cousin's talent or how great a sect he might have joined, it was unreasonable to expect him to take on a mighty third rank sect populated with innumerable experts.
Furthermore, all they knew was that Myriad Domain had been occupied by enemy forces. Hence, they held little delusion about Jiang Chen showing up to save the day. Of course, due to their marginalization, they hadn't heard about the latest news either. Neither did they want to inquire, lest they met with refusal and embarrassment.
Inside an esteemed elder's residence, the graceful figure of a girl in her mid-twenties hacked ruthlessly at a tree with a longsword, as if taking out her anger on it.
Her fiery sable robe couldn't constrain the magnificent surge of her chest each time she slashed. The soft, white skin below her neck drew perfect curves down to the deep gully between her mounds. Together with her fierce motions, she made for a captivating sight.
"Not so arrogant now are we? How dare you ignore me!" Had some young man offended this miss? She took it out on the innocent tree, wishing she could chop him into a thousand pieces.
She was the esteemed elder's granddaughter, Yin Hongxue, the girl who'd taken a fancy to Jiang Yu and hauled him back to the sect.
Perhaps she'd been brainwashed during her childhood? In any event, she'd always thought romantic affairs shouldn't be reserved for men. Women too ought to enjoy them. So, voluntarily or not, untold sect members had shared her bed. She'd committed more than her fair share of ludicrous actions over the years.
However, she was fickle and quickly lost interest. When she tired of someone, she threw them away like used socks. Some also conjectured that apart from playing around, she cultivated a strange technique that required absorbing male essence.
No matter the reason, her dalliances were famous across the entire Phoenix Cry Lower Region. Many young men loathed her, but were hopelessly attracted to her beauty. After hacking the wood into sawdust, she viciously sheathed her sword.
"My lady, someone requires an audience," a maid shyly reported.
"Something like Jiang Tong? He says his son Jiang Yu and milady have…"
"Jiang Yu?" She finally remembered after racking her brains. "The kid isn't dead yet? He's tougher than I thought."
She'd lost count of the men she'd slept with, but she still had a vague recollection of this Jiang Yu.
"Let him in." She smiled grimly. The man had come right on time. She hadn't released all of her anger yet and could use a live target.
Unaware of the danger, the excited Jiang Tong deliberated over the best way to broach the subject when he heard the miss was willing to see him.
"This humble Jiang Tong pays his respects to the miss. May you be blessed with good health and eternal youth."
Yin Hongxue burst out in cold laughter. "You must be the kid Jiang Yu's father? Not dead yet after so many years? Both of you are pretty resilient."
Her cruel and overbearing tone cut him short.
"What request do you have? Did Jiang Yu send you?" She was in full throes of a dominating temper.
"Nonono. I came on my own initiative. I heard Yu'er has been included on the list for Agarwood Valley… I-in the name of your past relationship, I came to beg the lady to remove his name," Jiang Tong stammered.
Yin Hongxue's eyebrows shot up. She suddenly clutched the air. A long whip appeared in her hand, ruthlessly lashing his face.
"Beg? And are you worthy to beg me?" Fueled by her pent-up fury, the whip rained down on the poor man.