"Liu Yuan, you speak." Old Crane named another cultivator. From his understanding of these men's personalities, he trusted this one much more than the last speaker.
Liu Yuan was none other than the earliest arrival to Craneseat Mountain, the cultivator in green robes.
"Old Crane, after Jiang Chen's victory over the Embittered Savages, his right to rule is unquestioned in the various domains. I assume he's achieved some sort of breakthrough a few days ago and is riding that high to extend the tea invitation. Apparently, there will be amazing gifts at the martial dao tea party."
"Amazing gifts?" Old Crane smiled faintly. "He's just a mortal boy, is he not? He isn't empyrean realm yet. What gifts can he give that would amaze us?" This question was based in doubt rather than ridicule.
"We thought it odd, too. That's why we came to you, Old Crane."
The old man cracked a wry smile. "But there's no need for that, is there? If you want to go, feel free to go. What if he really does have something amazing?"
To the side, Zhu Yun blinked. "Are you going too, sir?" he looked expectantly at the wise old man. "We'll only have enough momentum to overshadow Veluriyam if you come with us."
"Why would we need to overshadow them?" Old Crane blinked in surprise.
Zhu Yun tugged at his messy hair. He didn't know why; he'd said it without thinking.
"We don't need to overshadow him if you don't think so, Old Crane." He laughed blithely.
Old Crane ignored the mildly silly man. Instead, he glanced toward Xi Yanbing. "I remember you went to Veluriyam last time, Ole Brother Xi. We had a conversation about it. Do you really think that we should take a hostile stance towards Veluriyam?"
Xi Yanbing hadn't expected Old Crane to direct the conversation towards him.
Unable to find the right words, he stammered, "M-maybe, he's a bit too overbearing. He'll threaten us one day, r-right? Even if not directly, then bring us indirect disaster at some point."
The excuse he made was reasonable enough, given the short notice he'd had to come up with it. His two companions nodded instinctively in agreement.
The others were impassive.
Old Crane's attitude gave them the impression that he wasn't particularly against Jiang Chen or Veluriyam Capital. Because of this, it was a better idea to withhold their opinions.
Old Crane was perfectly calm when he heard Xi Yanbing's reply. "You cannot condemn someone because of possibility alone," he smiled smoothly. "Plus, I think he's quite far from being overbearing."
Old Crane looked toward the others. "Do you think Jiang Chen is arrogant or overbearing?"
Liu Yuan thought for a moment, then intoned in a deep voice. "I've paid some special attention to Jiang Chen. There are many topics and rumors about him, but haughty dominance isn't one of them. I think he's a quite responsible young man."
The thin man behind Xi Yanbing grew anxious. "But he's making enemies everywhere. The Embittered Savages today, the Southern Celestials tomorrow, and who knows what the day after? He might even draw the demons here one day. Is the human domain ever going to have peace again?"
Liu Yuan grinned indifferently. "These words of yours are biased. The Embittered Savages came of their own volition when the Boundary Stele broke. Jiang Chen didn't invite them in. Quite the opposite in fact: he went to cut them off as soon as they entered the human domain. The Southern Celestials moreover, has even less to do with Jiang Chen. He was the one who drove them off. I don't know about demons, so I can't comment on that, but he did send two subordinates out recently to kill off a demon emperor. This is something that's actually happened. The evidence I can see shows that he's a responsible man."
Despite his reserved appearance, Liu Yuan didn't shy away from speaking up against greater numbers. He made his comments justly and fairly.
"Daoist Liu," the thin man harrumphed, "I assume you're going to go fawn over him at his martial dao tea party? Aren't you an empyrean expert? You're lowering yourself below your status!"
"I haven't decided whether I'm going or not. That's why I'm here to ask Old Crane." Liu Yuan didn't want to argue with the thin man. Instead, he turned to Old Man Cranecry. "Old Crane, this is all that I know about him. My opinion of Jiang Chen is my own."
Old Crane nodded. "Did you all come hear to listen to what my thoughts were? You want to know whether I'm going or not, hmm?"
His audience didn't nod, but their non-disclosure was tacit agreement.
"Well, Old Crane? Are you going?" After a while, Liu Yuan broke the silence with curiosity.
"I am." Old Crane's answer was clear-cut.
"Huh?" Zhu Yun yelped exaggeratedly out of surprise. He had thought it impossible that Old Crane would go anywhere.
"I suppose we can chat about it if you want to know why." Old Crane's tone was even. "I'm much older than any one of you - double that of some, in fact. As you'd expect, I've seen a few more people and things in my time.
"But just like you, the time I spent in the human domain was stifling. To be here in the first place, we've all witnessed countless so-called geniuses.
"That's why people at our height intrinsically look down upon mortal geniuses. They're not like us when they were young. There's no way they'll break through to empyrean realm, not ever. Something like that, right?" Old Crane's gaze was serene, but strangely piercing as well.
The old man was exactly right. Jiang Chen's achievements in the ordinary part of the world hadn't particularly impressed the empyrean experts. They didn't consider it a given that Jiang Chen would be able to reach empyrean realm in his entire life. How could he possibly surpass them?
"When a young man shows the potential to catch up to us, we might feel discontent in our hearts. We might see it as a challenge to our position and authority. I think that Shu Wanqing's trip to Veluriyam Capital was partially motivated by this." Old Crane sounded almost detached. "Unfortunately, he underestimated the young man's potential… and his strength and decisiveness."
Sobriety entered the old man's voice. "Actually, I would've called you all here even if you hadn't come. It's good that you gathered of your own volition. There are some things I must discuss with you."
Each man braced himself. It was the first time they saw Old Crane being so serious in both expression and tone.
"First, I must make my positions clear. I applaud his actions. Nay, more than that; I admire him for being so capable. My reason? It's very simple, really. I wouldn't have been able to do some of the things he's done at my current age, much less at his'. Frankly, his charisma and ability are shocking for the times we live in. His constant victories in the face of mounting challenge means that he has both great potential and rapid growth.
"You will never be able to quash a young man like this." Old Crane turned oddly harsh. He tossed a fluid glance at Xi Yanbing. "When a genius like him is born, it often means that the human domain is about to be thrown into a new era of chaos. He's a genius created by fate itself!
"Some of you say that he's the reason the Savages and Southern Celestials came. And you say he could lead the demons here. To that I say, you've gotten cause and effect backwards!
"Be honest with yourselves. Did Jiang Chen really attract the Embittered Savages and the Southern Celestials? Can he possibly be the sole cause of the demon race's eventual invasion? None of you experienced their dominance in that bygone era. Jiang Chen? Can one young man usher in an entire ancient race?"
The thin man's face reddened. His baseless accusations were revealed for what they were.
"Remember, hard times create heroes. Not the other way around. Make sure not to get mixed up. You will only find trouble for yourself otherwise. Disregarding the future, what can you do to Jiang Chen right now?" Old Crane's words were grating, but true.
The current Jiang Chen wasn't someone they could take on. Perhaps only Old Crane himself could. But now the young lord had used some method or other to take in the forefather of the Savages as his servant.
Hypothetically, it would be hard for Old Crane to strike at Jiang Chen if he had to go through the Savage forefather.
"I think that's enough talk from me. Distill what you'd like from it. I am going to this martial dao tea party for two reasons. One, to meet Jiang Chen in person. Two, to apologize personally. The human race is in great danger, but we elders have left much of the burden to a young man like him."
Old Crane had announced that he would retreat from the world countless years ago. Mortal interests were no longer his own. This was the biggest reason he'd turned a blind eye to the outside world.
However, his observations informed him that the human race was at a very dangerous juncture. It would be hard for him to pursue self-preservation alone. It was time for him to reappear in the world.
Liu Yuan readily concurred. "I'll go as well."
Zhu Yun chuckled. "If you're going, Old Crane, I'll go to spice things up as well. That Jiang Chen kid has a few tricks up his sleeve, eh? I've never seen a youngster do nearly as many things as him."
The other two secluded experts nodded as well. "If that's the case, we'll both accompany you, Old Crane."
Only Xi Yanbing's trio was left.
Xi Yanbing coughed out a laugh. "Old Crane, I just can't get past my previous tiff with Jiang Chen. I guarantee I won't try to make an enemy of him in the future, but I should probably not go to this tea party of his."