Jiang Chen furrowed his brow slightly when the Purple Smoke Sect forefather finished speaking, considering what had been said. The forefather stood deferentially nearby, out of fear that he'd interrupt the youth's train of thought.
"So you're saying that there's a secret realm in Agarwood Valley, but whenever you send people inside, they don't come back."
"Yes," the forefather confirmed hurriedly. "We discovered this secret realm many years ago. There's an unspoken agreement between our local sects to not give away information to the outside world. We've sent in countless teams over the years, but never received a single peep in return. Our men were like rocks tossed into the ocean."
Jiang Chen nodded slightly. He knew much more about secret realms than the Purple Smoke Sect's forefather. In general, these were hidden and mysterious places. It was very important to grasp the right method whether entering or leaving. Not doing so posed serious risks for one's health or life.
From what the forefather was describing, this secret realm was much more mysterious and complex compared to its fellows. Otherwise, why hadn't a single person managed to leave out of so many?
"Zi Tan, did you come here specifically to tell me about this secret realm?"
The forefather's lack of a direct response was tacit confirmation. "That secret realm is a problem hanging over every Phoenix Cry sect's head. I assume that the other sects are looking for outside help as well, now."
"Is that why you came to petition Veluriyam? Is there any other reason?" Jiang Chen smiled faintly.
"Yes!" The Purple Smoke Sect forefather nodded firmly. "Because you didn't fly into a thunderous rage with regards to the Jiang Yu incident, we know that Veluriyam is a forthright faction. Similarly, you are a fair and just man. You are deserving of us lower region cultivators' respect!"
These words erred a bit far on the side of flattery, but there was some rationale behind them. The forefather was voicing empty adoration.
"Approximately when will the secret realm open next?" Jiang Chen thought a moment before replying.
"About six months. Five, if it decides to be quicker than usual." The forefather replied truthfully.
Jiang Chen inclined his head. "Alright. I will think about going to the Purple Smoke Sect in five months' time."
The Purple Smoke Sect's forefather was very pleased. Though the youth before him was less than him in terms of cultivation level, he nevertheless adopted the stance of a junior before Veluriyam's young lord.
"Many thanks, young lord. I will await your gracious presence at my sect." Having received Jiang Chen's promise, the forefather knew that he'd officially made connections with Veluriyam. Moreover, it seemed that the young lord had no interest in pursuing Jiang Yu's plight further. The sword that hung above the Purple Smoke Sect's head was no more.
After the forefather departed, Jiang Chen sank into deep thought. Tidbits about secret realms and their properties floated to the top of his consciousness.
"There's about five to six months until then. I have plenty of time. I need to use it to break through to mid emperor realm!"
Jiang Chen's cultivation speed was brisk enough already, but he wasn't fully satisfied despite that.
Mid-thought, a roar sounded in the air above the young lord residence. The dignity it embodied affected the heavens and the earth, shaking the foundations of the residence itself. It'd come from outside — the mountains to the rear of the young lord residence, to be precise.
Jiang Chen's thoughts were moved by the sound. He immediately shot toward its origin, having remembered something that he'd forgotten about.
On a high peak in the back of the residence, there was a burly, ferocious colossus of a beast. The stripes upon it added a few degrees of savagery and ascendancy.
Jiang Chen was very happy to see the animal's size increase. "Has it awakened once more? It looks all grown up!" The spirit beast didn't at all look like when he'd gotten it.
It was an Astral White Tiger, the very one that Jiang Chen had extorted out of House Nangong's young master, from Pillfire City. That kid had thought his pet was just a normal Cloud Devouring Tiger.
Astral White Tigers were divine beasts of old. Their bloodlines were exceedingly sacred, among the top five even in spirit beast rankings of the heavenly planes.
The first time Jiang Chen laid his eyes upon the beast, he realized how different it was from the pack. That was why he had procured it at any cost. Even now the poor sap probably didn't understand what kind of opportunity he'd missed.
That was partially hypothetical, though. If the Astral White Tiger hadn't made it into Jiang Chen's hands, would it have grown so swiftly and become so strong?
It was responsible for the roar in question. The growth spurt had made it increase tenfold in size. Its aura intensified from a babe's to a robust, vigorous man's. To sum it up, the tiger had finally grown up. Now that its ancient memories were awakened, it looked like an ancient divine beast in both form and essence.
Long Xiaoxuan couldn't resist joining in the roaring.
Dragons and tigers were fated to be roaring buddies since ancient times. Jiang Chen didn't quite want something as fearsome as that to occur in his backyard, though. The ordinary people that lived in the residence wouldn't be able to bear it.
"Brother Long, we can find a more secluded place for you to express your singing. I definitely won't stop you then. In exchange, do you mind not doing that today? It's fun for the two of you, I know, but the rest of the residence didn't exactly sign up to be your willing audience."
Long Xiaoxuan's enthusiasm was rapidly curbed by Jiang Chen's hard stance.
"White Tiger, my boy, you need to chill." Laughing, Jiang Chen hurtled up the peak, landing near the tiger in an instant.
The tiger was just as happy to see the human. It shrunk itself instantly, its sizable body returning to the size pre-growth. A little fat, lazy, and cute…
"White Tiger, did you awaken more of your ancient memories?" Jiang Chen asked with a smile. As an expert in ancient beast language, he could communicate with his feline friend even without the tiger learning human language.
"Young master Chen, my memories seem to say that I have a noble bloodline! There's a lot of other clues that I just can't access yet."
"There's no hurry at all. It takes more than a day to awaken ancient memories. You've awakened several times recently already. Your latent memories are a treasure that you can excavate any time you'd like."
Though the Astral White Tiger had awakened ancient memories multiple times already, it didn't compare to Long Xiaoxuan in absolute strength.
The dragon had stormed into emperor realm with incredible momentum. Moreover, he had the transformation incantation that allowed him to swap between human form and dragon form.
Though the Astral White Tiger was explosively powerful at present, it hadn't yet reached the peak of what its kind could achieve. It also couldn't transform into human form yet. Still, Jiang Chen firmly believed that there was a transformation incantation in the Astral White Tiger's memories somewhere.
Even Long Xiaoxuan hadn't managed to turn into human form through his own inherited memories. Credit for that was squarely assigned to Jiang Chen, using the memories from his previous life to help.
He gave his whiskered sidekick a pat on the head. "I don't think I should just call you 'White Tiger'. Shall I come up with a name for you?"
The tiger yawned languidly. "Call me whatever you want, young master Chen."
"You're an Astral White Tiger, one of the four ancient divine beasts. Your bloodline is supposed to be the most warring and savage out of the four. Still, your current shape is most natural for you. Let me take one word from your name and add something to it. How about 'Little White'?"
Though the tiger was internally happy about receiving a name, it sneezed with pretend indifference.
"If you don't speak up now, that means you agree. Grow up soon, Little White, so you can be my stalwart companion." That was Jiang Chen's dearest wish.
It was thrilling thought to have a future dragon and tiger duo as back up in a fight. The presence these two divine beasts exuded alone was enough to render an opponent out of breath.
The Astral White Tiger was awakening its ancient memories at an accelerated speed. It was very different now from when Jiang Chen had first found it. In particular, its strength had shot straight upwards.
Divine beasts with heritages had this benefit. When their memories awakened - even if only a small chunk had - the benefits for doing so were insurmountable.
"Little White, I'm going to close my doors for cultivation. You can stay here and cultivate, and can leave the residence to find a place to roar in if the urge really hits you. However, you can't do that inside again, alright? I don't want to scare anyone. Indoor voice, please."
Jiang Chen was expectant about the true dragon and the Astral White Tiger that were now his companions. Once grown up, these two divine beasts would be truly terrifying.