Jiang Chen was a bit confused. If Ling Dan was the very same Saint Dan of the Primosanct Sect, how come the 'dan' characters were written differently?
Both were pronounced the same as the character for 'pill'. Did he have something to do with pills, then?
Perhaps the primordial era was too far in the distant past. A founder's name could easily get muddied by the swirls of time. Was it possible that this had been an honest mistake?
Jiang Chen laughed despite himself. "There's not much point in being too serious about this. Whether or not Ling Dan is Saint Dan, this legendary ancient bow is definitely a treasure of the Primosanct Sect. So its true name is the Holy Dragon Bow, huh? A weapon forged from the forgotten corpse of a divine dragon of the northern sea, a relic of the primordial era. No wonder this bow is so naturally and effortlessly regal.
"Even in the heavenly planes, this bow would be quite a respectable weapon. It must have accompanied Ling Dan in countless battles and slain that many foes." Jiang Chen could tangibly feel the bow's killing aura. There had to be some kind of reason for it developing, and the most likely was its repeated usage in warfare, reaping, and conquest.
He liked the bow very much so. It was an extremely powerful weapon of mass destruction. Though he could only access about a tenth of its full strength, that didn't dampen his excitement to refine it.
Jiang Chen had always had a remarkable talent for archery. He'd used the Da Yu bow and Sunpiercer in the past. Both weapons had accompanied him for a long time.
The Holy Dragon Bow, carrying destructive potential that was hundreds or thousands of times his past weapons, was going to be even more potent.
"Maintaining fine control over one's shots requires perfect harmony with both bow and arrow. All martial arts under heaven are imbued with dao. Sword techniques involve sword dao, blade techniques require blade dao, and the bow has its own dao as well. In fact, the dao of weaponry is commutative to a certain extent…"
Jiang Chen used his consciousness to feel every inch of the bow's detail. Each bit of space upon the weapon's surface was filled with the intense presence of the primordial era. It was as if the bow carried incredible stories within every fiber of its being.
His understanding of the primordial era itself deepened through communing with the bow. Subconsciously, he'd almost returned to that antiquated time; one that was filled with brutal, exhilarating battle and primal, frenzied conquest.
Three months passed.
Jiang Chen awoke with a start. He snatched at the air for a message glyph.
Something must've happened outside. There was no reason for a disturbance during closed door cultivation otherwise. He activated the glyph, allowing the message within to flicker into his mind.
"The Order of Wind and Cloud?" Jiang Chen blinked. The message mentioned that this peculiar faction had bizarrely risen within the very short span of the past four years.
It had garnered so much momentum as to overtake most of the first rank sects. Its headquarters was located to the west of the Upper Eight Regions, in a place called Unbounded Mid Region.
This region was located very close to the Heavenly Dragon Sect, which made it reasonably close to the Ninesuns Sky Sect as well. It was almost wedged in between the two sects. It had another neighbor: Phoenix Cry Lower Region, the region that contained Agarwood Valley.
The glyph mentioned a large-scale conflict between the Order and the Heavenly Dragon Sect half a year ago over ownership of a mine.
It had concluded with the total defeat of the latter. Heavenly Dragon's sect head, Long Zhe, had suffered a grievous injury to the degree of his cultivation being completely crippled. Terrified, the sect had sent out requests for assistance to its peers.
Unfortunately, because of its customary arrogance, the sect's relationship with the other first rank sects of the Upper Eight was lukewarm at best. Its requests fell on deaf ears.
The Heavenly Dragon Sect then resorted to self-preservation via turtling within the sect itself. Its territory had largely been taken over by the Order, so much so that the majority of its holdings were no longer its own.
Because of this devastating blow to its forces and finances, the Heavenly Dragon Sect had little ability to actively oppose the Order of Wind and Cloud. There were even rumors that Long Zhe had died of his injuries.
Long Zhe's cultivation level was very close to both Emperor Peafowl and Pillzenith's. Aside from the generally acknowledged hegemon of Veluriyam, there were essentially no existing factions that could hope to rival the Heavenly Dragon Sect.
After all, it was originally ranked at the top of the first rank sects. At its high point, it had stood alongside the Ninesuns Sky Sect and the Great Yu Skysword Sect as the strongest among its peers.
It was astonishing for it to have suffered such a devastating loss now that Pillfire was gone. The entire human domain shared in the shock. The Order of Wind and Cloud had drawn the collective attention of the human domain.
Moreover, there were rumors on the wind that the Order was planning on making a move against the Ninesuns Sky Sect. Ninesuns and Heavenly Dragon were the two jaws of a pincer. If they closed around the Order's headquarters, they could surely deal an incredible amount of damage.
Alas, relations between the two sects had never been particularly harmonious. Because both parties desired the title of foremost among the first rank sects, they had a tradition of private squabbling.
In fact, the Ninesuns Sky Sect had felt some schadenfreude when they saw the Heavenly Dragon Sect suffer. Only when the Order set their sights on the sect did the latter realize that the two neighboring sects shared a common lot. This understanding came a little late, however.
The Heavenly Dragon Sect no longer had the strength to fight, much less ally with the Ninesuns Sky Sect in a struggle to the death. This meant that Ninesuns had to face the Order's blade alone.
The Ninesuns Sky Sect was forced to the edge of desperation. Originally, it neighbored both the Heavenly Dragon Sect and the Eternal Celestial Capital.
Jiang Chen had quashed the Eternal Celestial Capital and the Heavenly Dragon Sect was now out of commission. With that, the Order's territories spanned multiple upper regions.
Because of the urgency of the situation, the Ninesuns Sky Sect sorely felt the absence of any close allies. It was forced to request help from Veluriyam Capital.
Jiang Chen frowned when he finished perusing the glyph's contents. "Where did this Order of Wind and Cloud come from? Is this the mastermind behind those imposters a couple years back?"
He had a few guesses of his own brewing. It was impossible for the rise of such a colossus to have been anything other than premeditated. It was much more likely that the Order of Wind and Cloud had begun planning and preparation far earlier.
Perhaps it had already laid down decades of hidden groundwork and it was simply this recent opportunity that allowed the sect to come into the light. How could a budding sect like that overwhelm an experienced first rank sect like the Heavenly Dragon Sect otherwise?
Jiang Chen went over the glyph a few more times, making sure he hadn't missed anything.
"The Ninesuns Sky Sect seems pretty useless in this situation. Why is it showing weakness before even a preliminary skirmish? How is it supposed to fight after throwing away its spirit?" He could see the sect's timidity through its decisions.
Still, the sect's attitude was understandable in the end. If the Heavenly Dragon Sect had lost so badly, there wasn't much reason to think the Ninesuns Sky Sect - very nearly its equal - was going to fare much better. It had been wise of them to request aid beforehand.
In any case, it was much better than the Heavenly Dragon Sect's attempted gambit. What use was asking for help when trouble was already at one's door? There was no time for any interested helpers to gather information or prepare.
"It seems I must stop cultivating for now." The message glyph changed Jiang Chen's plans for the immediate future. Without his intervention, the chaos in the outside world would only multiply.
Within the Empyrean River Palace, the palace head held a secret letter in his hands. His expression was serious, clearly at a difficult crossroads.
"What does the letter say, Palace Head?" Standing nearby, a venerated elder of the palace asked eagerly.
"Ah, where did this Order of Wind and Cloud come from?" The Empyrean River Palace head sighed softly. "In this letter, there's a demand for us to make a decision within three months whether or not to surrender to them."
"Surrender to the Order?" The venerated elder frowned. "Ridiculous! What are they thinking? How dare a four-year-old upstart speak to us so!"
"Well, that's what they did," the palace head smiled wryly. "After defeating the Heavenly Dragon Sect, they're qualified to a certain extent to do so."
"Hmph! Is Veluriyam going to ignore all this?" The venerated elder had finally remembered a helping hand in this time of trouble.
"Veluriyam… hasn't made their opinion known yet. They did nothing when the Heavenly Dragon Sect was crushed, and they haven't announced anything yet regarding the coming battle between the Order and the Ninesuns Sky Sect… I'm worried that the city still may not care very much about us northern sects. A lingering grudge may exist still because of what the northern coalition did a few years ago."
The Heavenly Dragon Sect and the Empyrean River Palace had both belonged to that alliance. Even though Jiang Chen hadn't ended up destroying these sects in the end, this didn't mean he had forgiven them. In particular, he wasn't necessarily going to help them out of sticky situations.
And though Ninesuns hadn't participated in the northern coalition, Emperor Newsun had partially done so in its stead. He'd proven an imposter in the end, but who knew what Jiang Chen really thought?
There was no indication of an olive branch from Veluriyam despite Ninesuns's current danger.
"Palace Head," the venerated elder intoned in a low voice, "Pillfire City used to coerce us into many things for countless years. Are we going to let the Order do the same? How can we possibly suffer the same injustice twice without resistance?"
Its experience with Pillfire alone had been shameful enough in the past. Was it going to make a repeat performance after receiving Veluriyam's clemency?
What if the Order went to fight Veluriyam in the end? Were they going to serve as hapless peons once more?
That kind of shame was deadly enough on its own.