Jiang Chen didn't think the sum too high. Rather, he found it suspiciously cheap. Was Hua Ming’s information really worth anything?
“A hundred sky spirit stones isn’t much at all. If your information is confirmed to be worthwhile, I’ll give you two hundred. If it’s amazingly useful, I’ll give you five. How about it?”
Five hundred sky spirit stones was a grain of sand on a beach for Jiang Chen. He was wealthier than a newly made tycoon. He wouldn't be outshone even by the rich of Myriad Abyss.
After all, Shu Wanqing had possessed an amazing amount of wealth. Most importantly, the human domain had only a handful of empyrean experts. All the best things had been concentrated in their hands.
However, empyrean experts were everywhere in Myriad Abyss Island. A single empyrean expert tended to be far less wealthy in light of that. Therefore, the experts of Myriad Abyss were far poorer than Shu Wanqing had been.
“Truly?” Hua Ming’s eyes lit up. His expression was incredulous.
“Absolutely.” Jiang Chen was the epitome of certainty.
“Alright, ask away. Anything you’d like to know, I’ll tell you everything!” Hua Ming was very excited. The five hundred sky spirit stones were beckoning at him. This was a more than princely sum for him.
“Let’s talk over there.” Jiang Chen pointed to a clear space near the edge of the valley.
“Anywhere you say, sir!” Hua Ming’s head was spinning at the promise of the spirit stones. He wasn’t in the right mind to oppose much of anything.
Jiang Chen counted out a hundred sky spirit stones when they came to that spot. “This is a down payment. Take it for now.”
There was even a down payment? Hua Ming was astonished beyond words. He almost grabbed the spirit stones from Jiang Chen’s hands. They disappeared between his fingers as readily as a magic trick.
“Like I said, sir, ask away!”
“I’d like to know how the Bluesmoke Isles match up to the rest of Myriad Abyss. Is it closely related to the Ten Divine Nations?” This was Jiang Chen’s first question.
“I guess you can count it as a second-rate faction. Not much happens between us and the Ten Divine Nations. I’ve never heard of anyone from there visiting us in my entire life. But I hear someone’s planning to make a trip recently…”
“What’s the purpose of that trip?” Jiang Chen pressed.
“Probably our isles’ biggest attraction, the Bluesmoke Jade. Our jade is unrivaled in the whole of Myriad Abyss, and rumor has it that they come from the primordial times. Some pieces of jade have ancient heritages embedded within. Every few centuries or so, the Bluesmoke Isles has a grand festival for excavating the jade. I believe one is happening this year. Many big houses from the Ten Divine Nations will send representatives here.”
“Excavating… the jade?” Jiang Chen found this a bit confusing. “Where is the jade exactly?”
“Oh, just about anywhere, as long as you know how to look for it. But the most productive place is Yellow Dragon Ridge, to the east. There’s plenty of jade there within tens of thousands of miles, but the government limits any digging efforts. It’s a well-protected patch of land. It’s your first time coming to Bluesmoke, friend, so remember this well: don’t go wandering into the Yellow Dragon Ridge. Otherwise, you might die without even realizing it.”
Jiang Chen had little interest in Bluesmoke Jade. Visitors from the Ten Divine Nations were far more interesting. He’d also heard that the Ten Divine Nations placed strict limitations on immigrants, and had been wondering how he could get into Eternal Divine Nation. This was an absolutely necessary topic to consider.
“Have you heard exactly what factions and houses are coming from the Ten Divine Nations?” Jiang Chen asked again.
Hua Ming shook his head. “No one knows right now. Perhaps Bluesmoke’s imperial family might?”
Jiang Chen knew that the boy was unlikely to be privy to secrets like these. He changed the subject. “Hua Ming, do you know if there are any islands with a particular affinity to fire around here? The more deserted, the better.”
“Affinity to fire?” Hua Ming blinked, then blurted out, “Sure. Holy King Island.”
“Holy King Island? What kind of place is that?”
“Well, Hell King Island is its real name. That island has a natural volcano, and the waters around it are near-boiling all round the year. The water steams for hundreds of miles, like a big pot of briny soup about to boil over. Even some fire-attribute cultivators don’t dare approach. Many go to train themselves, but few manage to return. The ones that do often become renowned experts.”
Jiang Chen was overjoyed. “Tell me, where is that island? How far is it from here? What are its coordinates?”
Hua Ming smiled wryly. “Brother, are you a fire-attribute cultivator? Please calm down. That island is a terrifying place. Out of a hundred people that go there, ninety-nine die. Do you want to go there to breakthrough?”
“Enough chatter. Do you want your spirit stones or not?” Jiang Chen’s expression darkened.
“Ah, I was just reminding you.” Hua Ming wasn’t an ill-intentions youth. He didn’t want someone kind enough to give him stones to encounter misfortune. He had spoken out of youthful habit.
“Don’t worry. Even if nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine die out of ten, I’ll be the lone survivor. Answer my question.”
“Alright. Hell King Island isn’t far from the Bluesmoke Isles. Maybe eighteen thousand miles eastward of here, then a bit further north. I hear cultivators all have to circle around that area, and few are willing to actually go there.”
“Why? The boiling ocean shouldn’t affect cultivators overmuch. What danger is there?”
“Not just the ocean, but the volcano there sometimes erupts at incredible temperatures. The stuff it spews out is hot and powerful enough to break through empyrean experts’ defenses. A great emperor that passes by can easily be turned to ash.”
This information was a bit more useful. However, Jiang Chen didn’t show a bit of displeasure at this. Rather, he was quite pleased. Wasn’t that a place that the Vermilion Bird would love the most?
The Vermilion Bird needed this kind of place to complete its rebirth ritual. Its chances at success would be greatly increased.
Hua Ming shook his head rapidly. Clearly, he thought that his new brother was crazy.
Jiang Chen asked a few more details about Hell King Island.
“I don’t know very much more than that,” Hua Ming replied. “If you want to know more, I’d recommend you go to a bigger city in the isles and look for info there. That sounds like a better idea.”
“Fine. Tell me, how many experts are there in the Bluesmoke Isles?”
“Experts? That’s hard to say. We definitely have a few great empyrean experts, and of course more mid empyrean experts than that. I guess minor empyrean experts are a force to be reckoned with too. Most here considered reasonably strong are great emperors. Origin realm is a starting point, and sage and emperor realm are rudimentary!”
Jiang Chen had nothing to say about that.
In the sixteen kingdom alliance, origin realm cultivators were forefather-level experts. And yet they were considered rudimentary in Bluesmoke. Children three to five years old could achieve that level.
Great emperor realm had been considered the pinnacle of achievement in the human domain for a long time, but someone like that could only be considered reasonably strong here. That meant they were as common as sage and emperor realm cultivators in the human domain. And this was only in the Bluesmoke Isles too!
As first-rate factions, the Ten Divine Nations were sure to be even more absurd.
It seems the Ten Divine Nations have strength beyond estimation. How fearsome is Myriad Abyss Island, really? Will there be divine level experts?
He really wasn’t quite sure.
Divine experts belonged to the heavenly planes. Any divine expert could reasonably be called a god!
Jiang Chen had thought it impossible for Myriad Abyss to have such existences, but he no longer entertained that conviction with certainty.
After asking a few more questions, Jiang Chen learned more about the Bluesmoke Isles’ strength. In the process, he got to know more about the trade exhibition in Oriole Valley as well.
“Brother,” Hua Ming said. “You look like you’re a pretty important guy. Still, though the trade exhibition here in Oriole Valley isn’t very high level, there’s the occasional deal that happens. I’ve grown up here my entire life. That happens several times each time the trade exhibition happens.”
“Deals… that happen?” Jiang Chen became curious.
“It’s all about the Bluesmoke Jade, you see. Some pieces of jade are difficult to identify from their surface appearance. It’s hard to determine how much heritage they contain. A couple years ago, there was a piece of cheap jade sold at bargain prices, but it turned out to be an amazing deal. That jade contained a wisp of an ancient expert’s will, capable of exerting immense pressure in battle. Even empyrean experts can potentially succumb to it!
“There’s another time when…” Hua Ming had plenty of stories to tell about Oriole Valley.
Jiang Chen had a rather improved impression of the youth. This disheveled boy had his own way of life. Otherwise, it would’ve been difficult for him to survive in Oriole Valley, much less thrive.
The answers to his question had been worthwhile enough. Jiang Chen felt the five hundred sky spirit stones to be deserved wages. He handed the entire sum to Hua Ming.
“Consider the hundred before as your tip. This is your proper fee.” Jiang Chen’s generosity was met with excitement from his temporary hireling.
Hua Ming put the spirit stones away, then fixed on at what he saw in front of him. “Look, look, there’s a public announcement of some sort. Something impressive must’ve happened. There wouldn’t be one during the trade exhibition otherwise! Come on, let’s go and see.” He dragged Jiang Chen in that direction.
Having nothing better to do, Jiang Chen allowed himself to be taken to the spectacle.
The bulletin board did indeed have a new public announcement on it. It was a bounty. There was even a portrait. He almost burst into laughter when he saw the image.
There were two busts there: one was of his appearance back at Winterdraw Island, the other, Su Hong.
“Three great houses of Polylore Divine Nation hereby do announce that we vow vengeance upon these two criminals. Anyone who captures them alive will be rewarded ten million sky spirit stones. Anyone who gives clues, two million sky spirit stones. Anyone who slays them, five million sky spirit stones…”