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The old man could do nothing despite his fury.

"I'll let your impudence slide today, kid. You're on home turf, after all. Don't go falling into my hands one day now." He had little actual face remaining before Jiang Chen.

Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "Shu Wanqing said something like that too, but he ended joining the Order. Are you planning to copy him? Who are you going to join, the Embittered Savages? That's not a bad choice. Your cultivation means that those barbarians might toss you a few bones."

The young man had lost all hope in these so-called secluded empyrean experts. Had all of them been cast from the same mold?

Meanwhile, the old man was almost angry enough to cough up blood. Jiang Chen was comparing him to a dog!

"Jiang Chen, you will suffer my wrath!" He found it impossible to trade witticisms with the younger man. The frustration alone was enough to hurt him in an almost tangible way. He left as fast as he had come.

Seeing him disappear into the sky caused the Vermilion Bird to breathe a sigh of relief. Because it hadn't come on the campaign against the Order, it didn't know about Jiang Chen's Nine Labyrinth Formation and Confounding Puppets. Out of everyone present, its nerves had been the tensest.

It had been most concerned about the possibility of a fight breaking out.

"There's more to that old man than meets the eye, Jiang Chen. He's much stronger than Shu Wanqing. I estimate him to be above minor empyrean realm."

"Mid empyrean realm, then?" Jiang Chen had sensed it as well, coming to a similar conclusion.

"Yes. He should be around fourth level." The bird's appraisal came from its experience. "If I were at my peak, fourth level empyrean would be a piece of cake, but ah…"

In ancient times, the Vermilion Bird was a sacred fowl fit to reign over a great territory. Its parity with the head of the Primosanct Sect reflected this fact. Naturally, its cultivation had been far above fourth level empyrean realm.

However, in the human domain today, fourth level empyrean was an extremely rare sight. That was after the domain had doubted the existence of empyrean experts in the first place. The appearance of a fourth level one was astonishing.

Jiang Chen was upset as well.

"Why were these empyrean experts nowhere to be seen in times of danger, and yet first in line when it comes to profit?" This was the strong reason for his disgust of these experts.

They couldn't be found when they were actually needed, but were perfectly happy to exert their cultivational clout outside of conflicts.

"Never mind. Sorry to trouble you, Senior Vermilion. Please go back to the wood spirit spring and rest there. There's no need to worry" Jiang Chen was very satisfied with what the bird had done on his behalf.

Its willingness to protect him in his time of need showed its morality and loyalty. As expected of an ancient friend of humanity!

The entirety of Sacred Peafowl Mountain felt the pressure disappear the moment the glacial old man left. Their hearts, stuck at their throats a moment prior, could finally settle back down.

"Alright. No need to be concerned, everybody. The sky isn't going to fall any time soon. As a place with ancient heritage, Veluriyam's fortunes will stretch on for a long time yet. One or two empyrean experts won't be able to shake our foundations." Jiang Chen encouraged his subordinates in an attempt to alleviate their fears.

Wellspring smiled as well. "See everyone, that old empyrean master was stronger than any opponent we've seen before. However, he didn't dare cause any trouble. Why? Because this is Veluriyam Capital! This is Sacred Peafowl Mountain. There isn't just heritage here, but young lord Jiang Chen. An overwhelming fortune protects this place."

His words were very convincing. Everyone nodded in spirited agreement.

"Okay, don't overreact. Each man should go back to his station. The sky isn't going to fall any time soon. Secluded experts are plentiful, and possibly not all of them are as crude as that old fool. I believe there will be other experts more amenable to our cause."

In fact, Jiang Chen had no doubt about this. It would be positively strange if every hermit expert was as idiotic as this. It was impossible for only the buffoons of humanity to have reached empyrean rank. Other, more understanding, experts had to exist.

Jiang Chen couldn't let down his guard after the recent turmoil. The old man's appearance rang an internal alarm.

"I have many experts beneath my banner and Veluriyam is steadily improving. But all of this is built on the precondition that we don't encounter more difficult trials. I would have a hard time dealing with two or three experts like that old man. A group of them can easily crush Sacred Peafowl Mountain!" He felt a very real, looming threat.

Jiang Chen didn't actually think that the human domain had so many mid empyrean realm experts. Even if there were, they wouldn't all be so brainless enough as to band together against a youth like him.

He had never enjoyed the feeling of his destiny in another's hand.

"I must increase my strength. Without absolute strength, I don't have absolute freedom to steer my future!" Jiang Chen remarked to himself. "I must break through to great emperor with all of my abilities. Getting there as early as possible is imperative. When I do, my martial dao level will soar beyond the firmament."

Once he was a great emperor, Jiang Chen felt he was guaranteed to hit empyrean rank in a short amount of time. This hunch wasn't just born out of blind faith.

"My path is destined to be vastly different than other cultivators'. My fate bears countless hopes and dreams absent in others. I come from the heavenly planes, and each and every one of my opportunities and fortunes is a hundredfold better than those of others. My cultivation speed then, must be faster as well. The same is true with my potential. My responsibility is heavier than most can bear…"

Time was of the essence. He had to make use of every minute and second before the Embittered Savages' army embarked. He threw himself deep into cultivation.

"I should think about taking a more accelerated, ambitious approach." Jiang Chen took out a lotus seed-sized pill object from his storage ring. It shimmered with a faint, golden hue. 

"The Ming Tuo relic," he murmured. "I unsuspectingly came upon your corpse in the Paramount Realm. After I buried it, I found the relic there. I haven't refined the relic at all before now, but it may be time to if I want to hasten my breakthroughs."

He'd gotten the relic back when venturing into the Paramount Realm during the Myriad Grand Ceremony. It predated Guo Ran's palace.

Jiang Chen had kept the relic all this time, and it seemed now to be the right time for him to refine it and absorb the martial dao essence within.

He guessed this was a martial relic that a peak emperor cultivator had left behind; or perhaps a half-step great emperor. Once it was completely refined, it could cause explosive growth in hi's martial cultivation level.

The young man was currently advanced emperor realm, close to eighth level. After the relic, he had a good chance to instantly ascend to ninth level emperor realm or even peak emperor realm.

Any other young genius pursuing such a radical method of cultivation risked backlash. For them, this was engaging in long-term gluttony. It was a strategy liable to damage one's own fundamentals. 

Jiang Chen's biggest advantage was that his fundamentals were more stable than most, and he had the ability and methodology required to speed up his proverbial metabolism.

Other geniuses might have needed to consider their endurance in refining such a relic. It was crucial for most people to take the process slowly, taking in the power of the relic one chunk at a time.

Though Jiang Chen couldn't refine the entire thing in one go, he could do so quicker and more efficiently than just about anyone else. 

This was the greatest advantage his previous life's memory provided. From the beginning of his cultivation, he had paid significant attention to his fundamentals. They were ten times better than those of any other genius that existed in the human domain.

When he had been at the cusp of spirit realm all those years ago, he avoided breaking through until he could get his hands on the Five Dragons Opening Heavens Pill.

Why was that?

Because he wanted to do everything in his power to improve his base. Doing so would lay down the framework for his future martial dao endeavors, which meant he could take the straightest path and never worry about sustaining the pace.

Ordinary people could only see one step ahead of their own cultivation. Geniuses, ten or a hundred. Jiang Chen, however, could plan out absolutely everything about his cultivation. He could see thousands of steps ahead thanks to his experience.

In a secret room, he sat cross-legged, greedily consuming the Ming Tuo relic's essence.

The relic did contain potent martial essence. It had been formed from its previous master's martial energy, distilled from an entire lifetime's worth. A normal cultivator rashly refining it would have very likely have suffered serious injury from the powerful energy backfiring. Damage to one's meridians and ocean of qi was highly impossible.

The best outcome in case of accident would be a grave injury.

On the other hand, Jiang Chen found refining the relic trivial. He chipped away at the relic little by little, controlling the rhythm of refinement perfectly.

"The previous master of this Ming Tuo relic was definitely a genius when alive. He wouldn't have been able to so flawlessly crystallize his martial dao essence otherwise. Alas, he met with misfortune and death in the Paramount Realm."

As Jiang Chen refined the relic, he kept careful tabs on its energy and purity. In that process, he sensed and resonated a little with the emotions its master imbued. It was a wondrous kind of communication, surpassing the boundaries of life and death.

In the last moments of the expert's life, his emotions had transitioned from anguish, despair, to accepting his fate, and understanding. Jiang Chen immersed himself in those emotions.

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