There were quite a few empyrean experts still living in the human domain, but only seven or eight was in touch with each other. The now-dead Shu Wanqing had been a part of this network.
In fact, the old man's death had caused a wave of heated debate in the small circle. Some expressed their indignation and declared that Jiang Chen should be harshly punished. Others didn't care at all since the matter wasn't personally relevant to them. A few were extreme enough to announce they were going to slaughter the entirety of Veluriyam Capital, in a display of empyrean power.
However, none of them carried out their threats in the end.
The ones calling for heavy-handed tactics fell silent after repeatedly discovering exactly how tough of a nut Jiang Chen was.
The glacial old man who had descended upon Veluriyam was among their ranks. Finding only failure at the city, he'd rounded up several other experts to seek revenge. Some made excuses as to their busyness, others stated their lack of interest, and still others plainly ignored him.
After finally finding two others with similar interests, the dastardly trio had agreed to find a good opportunity to quash Veluriyam.
But receiving news that Veluriyam had defeated the Embittered Savages and taken its Forefather Embittered Bamboo as a servant left the three experts wide-eyed and clueless.
Their delusions of troublemaking disappeared in the blink of an eye. Any attempt at opposing Jiang Chen was tantamount to suicide. And now, he'd sent out the news that he was inviting the human domain's empyrean experts for tea and conversation!
The invitation alone wouldn't necessarily have persuaded them. Though they were forced to admit Jiang Chen was a character in his own right, they didn't want to seem too approachable by agreeing to attend so easily.
However, the prospect of gifts caused them to waver. The quality of the presents was a bit doubtful, since the recipients in question were empyrean experts, but there was an indescribable element of attractiveness given all the miracles Jiang Chen had pulled off so far. It seemed that nothing was impossible with Veluriyam's young lord.
He'd brought forth the Longevity and Pinecrane Pills when he was still a sage realm cultivator. Who could guarantee that the young cultivator, now a great emperor, didn't have other wonderful surprises up his sleeve?
In the human domain, Craneseat Mountain wasn't a well-known locale. Normal cultivators didn't even know where this mountain was, nor were they able to find its entrance.
For the social circle of the secluded experts though, this was a sacred place worthy of their admiration and respect. A real expert of humanity resided here - Old Man Cranecry.
No one knew exactly how old Cranecry was, but the secluded experts in the human domain had all heard legends of him in their youths. When they became empyrean experts in their own right, still he was there.
Craneseat Mountain was where this enigmatic old man lived.
At the foot of the mountain, paths comprehensible only to empyrean cultivators began to shift. Numerous experts followed the trail of the paths into the heart of the mountain.
Before a stone tablet, a green-robed man was looking around, seeking a road upward.
Another man appeared nearby, dressed in red. His chest was half-bared, the hairs upon it dense like boar bristles. Similarly thick hair decorated both of his cheeks, giving the man a wild, fierce look.
"Ole Zhu? You're here too?" The green-robed man greeted the one in red.
The red-robed man chuckled. "Brother Liu, you came earlier than I."
"I wonder if Old Crane is here at Craneseat Mountain at all?" the green-robed man wondered.
"Old Crane doesn't leave home, so I'm sure he's here. What did you come see him for, Brother Liu?" the red-robed man inquired out of curiosity.
"Ah, I just wanted Old Crane's opinion. Veluriyam's invitation for tea… I want to see what Old Crane thinks of it."
"Same here," the red-robed man chuckled. "Come, let's go up first. I think there'll be quite a few people here. If Old Crane doesn't give the word, the rest of us won't exactly take the initiative either."
"Isn't that right. I remember Xi Yanbing's antics at Veluriyam… didn't Old Crane criticize him for it?"
"Haha, I wouldn't go so far as 'criticize'. A small warning at best. Old Crane isn't that strict." As the two men conversed, they flew up side by side.
Upon Craneseat Mountain was a bare stone dais next to a simple building. An old man sat upon it, entertaining himself with a zither. Countless white cranes had gathered nearby, an audience to his music. The atmosphere was very harmonious and serene.
The old man abruptly pressed down both hands upon the strings of his instrument. "It seems that my idle pleasure is going to be interrupted," he sighed softly. "Leave me be for a while, my children."
The white cranes cried in unison, seemingly understanding what the old man had said. They departed the platform on elegant wingbeats.
"Haha, I heard your zither from halfway up the mountain, Old Crane. What, you won't let us two hear your music? We're a bit too uncivilized for your tastes, eh?" It was the red-robed man who had said this. His name was Zhu Yun, a secluded empyrean expert.
The green-robed man behind him was Liu Yuan, also an empyrean expert.
Old Crane's wise eyes pondered the two men as they approached. "Zhu Yun, you don't have a single graceful bone in your body," he smiled faintly. "Why would you want to listen to my zither?"
Zhu Yun scratched his bristles of hair. "I'm a crude man, Old Crane," he chuckled, "but I still feel like I get quite a bit out of hearing you play."
"Your music calms the soul," Liu Yuan chimed in. "It soothes and clears the heart."
The old man smiled gently. "There's no need to flatter me so. Sit down, now that you're here. I live in the wilderness, so I don't have much to offer my guests. If you are content with these fruits, have a few."
A few interesting-looking wild fruits were scattered about on the stone table before the old man.
"Haha, how can we go wrong with anything you offer, Old Crane?" Both men unceremoniously took the fruit.
As they conversed, more appeared from the foot of the mountain.
"Eh? Brother Zhu, Brother Liu, you're here too?" The newcomers were apparently surprised to find the two men present here.
Many had come today - five, to be precise. They had come in two groups of two and three.
Among the trio was the glacial old man named Xi Yanbing. He was the expert who'd gone to make trouble and yell at the foot of Sacred Peafowl Mountain. His cultivation and position was reasonably elevated above several of his peers. Still, he showed more than sufficient respect to Old Crane.
"Greetings, Old Crane." Every visitor stepped forward to salute and greet their oldest and most prestigious fellow.
"All of you are my guests," Old Crane chuckled. "There's no need for so much courtesy. Please, take a seat."
The old man bore a pleasant and kind demeanor.
"Something must've happened in the human domain. Otherwise, you wouldn't all be here, hmm? As far as coincidences go, this doesn't seem like one." A question was delivered with the same telltale placidity and ease.
A thin man near Xi Yanbing started to whine. "Old Crane, that Veluriyam kid doesn't know how big the world is. He announced his invitation to us empyrean experts so carelessly. What kind of 'martial dao tea party' is he intending on holding? What makes a mortal cultivator bold enough to put on airs like this? Are we secluded experts supposed to grace him with our presence just because he says so?"
He clearly represented Xi Yanbing's opinion.
After receiving a tongue-lashing from Old Crane last time, the man himself did not find it too prudent to display his open hostility.
Old Crane was silent. His disinterested gaze swept across everyone's face. "Jiang Chen is hosting a martial dao tea party for all of us. Is there something inappropriate with his invitation? Does it deserve all of you coming here to ask me about it?"
"Old Crane, that kid is insincere. If he were sincere about it, we might have considered. But he hasn't given us a calling card of any kind or an invitation. In fact, he hasn't come to invite us at all. Is he commanding us to go with his announcement? Who does he think he is, to call on us secluded experts like this?" The thin, wiry man was clearly indignant.
Old Crane smiled patiently. "He would need to know where you lived to give you those things. Secluded experts are separate from the world, how was he supposed to invite you? That's unworthy topic of criticism. However, it's up to you whether to go or not. I won't interfere."
"Huh? Old Crane, we came to hear your opinion."
"That's right. Old Crane, that kid styles himself the leader of the human domain. He thinks nothing of you at all."
Old Crane's face darkened. "That's enough!" He could see their malicious intent. They were attempting to aggravate him and give him a bad impression of Jiang Chen.
A man of his age could see through such things quite easily.
Old Crane had no strong opinions about Veluriyam's current leader either way. In the same regard, he was uninterested in being swayed or brainwashed by others.
The old man's harsh rebuke caused the speaker in question to pull back his head, cowering to the side.
Before him, Xi Yanbing offered a placating smile. "Please do not be angry, Old Crane. Sage Brother Tu got a bit ahead of himself."
"I have my own way of judging people and things," Old Crane stated coolly. "You don't need to try to pass on your emotions to me. My eyes will not be clouded."
"Yes, sir." The old man's decisiveness was met with a wave of nods.