Even though each guest was an empyrean master, they couldn't help being moved by the word "benefit." In the secular world, perhaps Veluriyam's young lord was the only one who could tempt them in this manner.
"Gentlemen, I have the beginning of a mantra here. Please peruse it at your leisure." Jiang Chen unfurled a sheepskin scroll containing a passage he'd personally written; it was only a few hundred characters in total.
He handed it to Xue Tong so that the latter could pass it to Old Crane, the one with the highest prestige out of all the empyrean masters.
The elder was satisfied by the young lord's obvious high regard. He brought out a talisman and offered it to Xue Tong in return. "Thank you, little friend. This talisman is an empyrean defense talisman. Consider it my humble gift as thanks for hosting us these past two days."
Xue Tong had been in charge of the guests' well-being. Clever and lovable, the child had left a good impression on the elder.
Xue Tong was torn whether to accept the present or not, but Jiang Chen chuckled. "Xue Tong, remember that the elder's goodwill is your blessing. Accept it."
Xue Tong therefore took the talisman with due deference. "Many thanks for your favor, senior."
Old Crane laughed out loud. "Master and servant are both so courteous. As the elder, I ought to give some presents to my juniors."
He cheerfully unrolled the scroll and studied it in earnest. His eyebrows twitched into a frown at the first two lines. Sharp concentration replaced the smile in his eyes as he stared at the characters, seemingly absorbed by the profound mysteries within.
His chest heaved faintly after taking in the full text. Gone was his relaxed demeanor. His face was dead serious, as if he'd made an earth shattering discovery. He couldn't help reading it over again, then over and over, finally handing it to Liu Yuan with clear reluctance after a full nine times.
"Liu Yuan, your comprehension ability is quite good. Ttake a look."
Astonished by Old Crane's reaction, the latter took it solemnly with both hands. Was there some magic to this scroll? It must have been remarkable to make the elder so solemn. An ordinary item wouldn't have shaken such an aloof character.
He read it once, then twice, yet still couldn't completely grasp the content. It seemed a little too cryptic and abstruse for him.
His reading speed was slower than Old Crane's. He'd been a little confounded the first time, so he slowed down the next time around, spending a long while on each sentence before proceeding with the next.
In that manner, he spent over an hour on his second reading. His difficulties astonished the assembled guests. What on earth could be giving a powerhouse like Liu Yuan such a hard time? What kind of text in this world could be so arcane?
Liu Yuan finally realized he'd monopolized the scroll for far too long by the end of his third reading. He had no choice but to hand Zhu Yun the scroll.
A little embarrassed, the latter tugged at his tufts of wild hair. "I'll pass. Brother Liu, your talent and knowledge are both above mine. If even you need so much time, how would a crude man like me understand it? Just explain it to me once you make sense of it, will ya?"
With a simple and honest smile, he stuffed the scroll to the next person.
But Liu Yuan responded cautiously, "This should be a mantra. I can understand some of it, but it's too profound for me to master. Even so, I can vaguely tell it's a sophisticated mantra that can perceive the rules of the heavens."
"How sophisticated?" Zhu Yun puzzled.
A little uncertain, Liu Yuan turned to Old Crane. "What do you think, Old Crane?"
The elder smiled. "Let's wait for everyone to read it and share their opinions. That being said, I'm certain it surpasses all the internal methods we usually cultivate. It's only the first couple hundred characters, but sublime truths are hidden within. Perhaps it comes from the ancient times, or even from the primordial age."
Indeed, no one could create such a technique in the current era. There were quite a few people present, and each of them spent a long time studying the scroll. Half a day quietly went by.
As the host, Jiang Chen didn't manifest any impatience. He leisurely sipped at the fine liquor he'd brewed, quite at relaxed ease. He was waiting for these men's reactions.
At long last, the last empyrean master finished reading and handed the writing back to Old Crane. The latter carefully read it again, then sighed. "Young lord Jiang Chen, this opening of yours is frightening enough."
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "Old Crane, what do you think of it?"
"As I've already said, the mantra exceeds our current standards. It must be a legacy from an era gone by, perhaps even from the primordial times."
"You have an exceedingly sharp eye." Jiang Chen applauded. "Old Crane is Old Crane alright, your reputation is well-earned. Your discernment alone is the most eminent in the human domain. To tell the truth, this scroll comes from an expert who taught me during my childhood."
His past was no longer a secret, and public opinion had its own ideas for the reason behind his earthshaking talent, fooled as it was by the young lord's fabrication of a mysterious teacher in his youth.
As to the teacher's identity, no one could find that out. Of course, no one doubted his story. On the contrary, the absence of an exalted master would be more suspicious.
How else could the scion of a mundane official risen to these heights? Could his opportunities and skills have come out of nowhere?
Had Emperor Peafowl secretly groomed him as a successor? Even the great emperor wasn't mighty enough to have trained such a prodigy.
As to Veluriyam, Jiang Chen was a newcomer to the city, and his feats astonishing even before becoming young lord. So the presence of an extraordinary teacher went without saying. It was the most logical explanation.
Old Crane's eyes lit up as a thought occurred to him. "Young lord, your teacher must have been an extraordinary senior. You're truly fortunate. Do you perhaps have the full version of this mantra?"
Like a bug scritching over his heart, this question gnawed at the elder and stirred his dispassionate heart.
Jiang Chen admitted with a smile, "I do."
Old Crane leapt up from his seat, discarding all pretense of propriety. "Can you perhaps make it available for a look?"
No matter how great, the beginning by itself was useless. One couldn't cultivate it before understanding the entire structure, so he needed the complete version.
All ears, the others also brimmed with eagerness.
Jiang Chen chuckled. "This is precisely the benefit I've mentioned when inviting you all. My master called this mantra 'The Way to Grand Ascension.' It guides one's cultivation, paving the way to comprehending the heavenly rules in pursuit of the supreme grand dao. They say that the creator set down his thoughts and reflections in this mantra after ascending beyond empyrean realm. It's particularly easy to understand and very well suited for empyrean cultivators. It's meant for public education."
This mantra was naturally from his past life. It had been of a decent caliber in the heavenly planes. More importantly, it was a perfect fit for the empyrean level, making it a famous obligatory study for empyrean cultivators.
Of course, it hadn't been the most outstanding method, but it'd become widespread thanks to its relative ease of comprehension, turning it into a classic textbook. He was certain it was foreign to the Divine Abyss Continent, hence why he'd selected it.
His words left the crowd on tenterhooks.
An existence above empyrean realm? How exalted a being was that? Empyrean cultivators were those who'd peeked into the secrets of the heavens and gained their acknowledgment, obtaining an empyrean decree.
Certainly, it was merely the first step to the grand dao. A higher level had to exist. But it was outside the scope of their knowledge and imagination. Afire with desire and curiosity, they couldn't begin to imagine how fearsome beings at that level could be.
If this Grand Ascension was truly so mystical, couldn't it guide them further along the empyrean road?
There was no end to martial cultivation. Even at their level, their goal forever remained one and the same: to go even higher! However, everyone's potential was limited. Breakthroughs become harder after a certain stage.
Some people would halt at a realm or another for a couple thousand years without making any headway. Such were bottlenecks that visited everyone. Some bottlenecks were obstacles of a lifetime!