The Jiao brothers hadn't expected to hear such great news when Jiang Chen summoned them over. They exchanged glances, eyes agitated red with tears.
"I once promised both of you a series of fortunes. After imparting my martial art techniques to you, I considered following that up with an empyrean opportunity. If you wish to ascend to the empyrean realm by yourselves, I'll do my best to make it a reality, but your ascension isn't guaranteed. The empyrean decree is the most guaranteed route you can take. If you refine it, the probability of you becoming an empyrean master rises to at least ninety percent," Jiang Chen explained patiently. "The decision is in your hands. Do you wish to take the riskier or more conservative path to the empyrean realm?"
"Young lord, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each path?" Jiao Yun regained his composure and wanted to weigh the pros and cons.
The brothers were well aware that this was the sole opportunity to change their lives, and possibly the biggest decision they could ever make. They had to choose their path wisely.
"Your ascension isn't guaranteed if you choose the first path, but your growth will be greater with limitless possibilities. Of course, the extent of your growth depends entirely on your potential and talent in martial dao. Even empyrean masters that ascend with their own strength may not make it all the way to the end. Everyone has their own limit! Geniuses who break through their limits are far and few between.
"The second path is a safer choice, but its flaws are also apparent. Your potential will be limited to what decree you receive. If you refine a second level decree, then your maximum potential will be exactly that. Any progress beyond that will be a hundred times more difficult than usual."
The pros and cons were clearly listed. The rest was now up to the Jiao brothers. They exchanged glances. "Young lord, can we discuss between ourselves first?"
Jiang Chen smiled. "Take your time. You needn't rush your decisions. The two empyrean decrees are yours to keep if you choose the second."
The two brothers headed into a corner to discuss and soon came back with a decision.
"Young lord, we are well aware of our limits. We choose the second path. It's better to refine the empyrean decree."
"Are you sure?" Jiang Chen smiled.
Jiao Yun nodded without hesitation. "Yes."
"Would you care to explain why?" Jiang Chen was quite curious.
"First of all, we aren't cream of the crop among the great emperors. If we ascend with your help, our innate potential might not get us very far. Moreover, there's no guarantee that we can even break through in the first place! Refining the decree is much more guaranteed.
"Secondly, cultivating by ourselves will take too much time. The world is falling into chaos as we speak. Refining the decree is perhaps a shortcut, but we'll be able to protect ourselves and contribute a lot more to the young lord's cause."
Jiao Feng nodded. "Young lord, we owe you a mountain of gratitude and wish to share some of your burden. We aren't doing this just to show our resolve, but also our gratitude! A young lord like you deserves our utmost loyalty and dedication!"
He was a little worked up. Back when they'd been wandering cultivators, Emperor Pillzenith had brainwashed them into doing many ludicrous things. However, they'd since found a new goal in life after they were recruited by Jiang Chen. Their integrity and morals grew with each passing day.
They'd become much more mature and level-headed decision makers.
"Mm. Your decision is proof that you're no longer the same Jiao brothers of yesteryear. You've made the wise choice," Jiang Chen answered encouragingly. "I've always been generous to my confidantes. Since you're my personal guards, I shall grant you the two decrees of the highest grade. However, once you've refined them, you won't have a chance with any higher grade decrees that I might come across in the future."
Jiao Yun laughed. "There are countless treasures and fortunes in the world, but it's not like all of them will come to us brothers!"
"Isn't there a proverb? Something about three thousand mile rivers and me drinking with a cup?" Jiao Feng quipped.
Jiang Chen burst into laughter. "A river can be three thousand miles long, but a person can only drink from it one cupful at a time."
Jiao Feng scratched his head with a chuckle. "Yes! That's exactly what I meant! Perhaps the young lord will find more powerful subordinates in the future. The two of us should eat within our means."
Jiang Chen brought out Shu Wanqing and Xiahou Jing's empyrean decrees without hesitation.
"Here are the decrees. One is from Shu Wanqing, third level empyrean realm, while the other is from Xiahou Jing, second level empyrean realm. You two will have to decide who gets what. Xiahou Jing's decree has the greater potential, but Shu Wanqing's decree isn't that far behind."
"Let's draw lots." Jiao Yun suggested as he didn't want to damage his relationship with his brother. Drawing lot was the fairest.
Jiao Yun nodded. "Agreed."
Jiang Chen supported their decision. He made the appropriate preparations oversaw and the process. In the end, Jiao Feng drew Shu Wanqing's decree and Jiao Yun drew Xiahou Jing's.
Jiang Chen warned after he handed over the decrees. "Remember, you're no longer like the others from now on. You're quasi-empyrean masters. However, it's best that you don't widely brag or show off your newfound strength until your breakthrough, or you just might invite death upon your doorsteps."
This wasn't an exaggeration.
It was widely known that the decrees were the keys to the empyrean realm. If word got out that the brothers had received two empyrean decrees, the whole world would come looking for them.
Even though the human domain had already been united by Veluriyam, who could know for certain how many secluded masters inhabited the vast continent?
The brothers nodded solemnly.
"Don't worry, I'll also lessen your responsibilities in the near future so that you'll have more time to refine the decrees."
The Jiao brothers were deeply moved. Meeting Jiang Chen was the greatest fortune of their lives. "Young lord, dumb folks like us are bad with words, but one day, if you need us to jump into the boiling sea, we'll do so without so much as a frown."
"Alright, enough of that. Put them away properly."
Jiang Chen sent the Jiao Brothers off and summoned Emperors Coiling Dragon and Void. They were his closest allies in Veluriyam Capital, and so he had to tell them about the decrees, or else their minds might wander into dark places.
"Young lord, why did you summon us in such a hurry? Has something good happened?" Coiling Dragon laughed joyfully. He'd benefited a lot from Jiang Chen over the years. The Pinecrane Pill, Emperor Supremacy Pill, and many other treasures had fallen into his lap.
Their friendship had also been strengthened considerably by the flames of adversity, and because of that, he was the only one who'd dared crack a joke with the young lord.
"Actually, you're right." Jiang Chen chuckled. "As old friends, you should know by now that I've gotten my hands on a few empyrean decrees."
Coiling Dragon smiled gleefully. "Hehe. Young lord, are you going to gift them to us?" He lit up with joy.
Void smiled gently. Hints of surprise flashed across his eyes, but he managed to keep his cool.
"Coiling Dragon, that's not why I summoned you here. The decrees are not for you."
Coiling Dragon was instantly depressed. "Why? Is it because I'm not a peak great emperor?"
Void burst into laughter. "Coiling Dragon, can't you tell that the young lord has other plans in mind? You're worrying over nothing!"
Coiling Dragon's eyes lit up again. "Is that so? Young lord, care to share them with us?"
Jiang Chen nodded. "I will search for an empyrean opportunity for you. I don't want you to ascend with the help of the decree. Your talent and potential would go to waste."
"Do you mean that we'll have to rely on ourselves to break through?" Coiling Dragon was dejected once more. "That's so much easier said than done. It's been thousands of years since anyone's succeeded."
"How would you know? Are they supposed to inform you if they happened to break through?" Jiang Chen was skeptical. How could there possibly be no empyrean masters?
The human domain hadn't deteriorated to that extent yet. The master's must've hidden themselves because they no longer wanted to have ties with the human domain. Perhaps worldly matters no longer mattered to them, or perhaps there were other reasons.
Whichever it was, empyrean masters were definitely present in the human domain. Even if the ancient demonic war had laid waste to the human domain, it couldn't possibly remain in decline forever. Spirit veins could be destroyed, but they could also born anew.
Where there is death, there is also life.
Jiang Chen had believed the rumors at first, but after meeting Shu Wanqing, this was no longer the case.
Even backwater races like the Southern Celestials and Embittered Savages had empyrean masters. The human race had been many leagues stronger in the ancient age. No matter how great their decline, there was no way they'd be inferior.
Void was visibly moved. "Young lord, do you really mean it? Can we really ascend to the empyrean realm with our own strength?"
Jiang Chen smiled reassuringly. "I might've said otherwise if you were someone else, but I assure you that I'll bring you an empyrean opportunity no matter what. There will be other arrangements in store for you."