“That’s enough, my friends. There’s no need for you to see me off any further. The most dangerous parts of the sea are past, and this place isn’t far from the Bluesmoke Isles. Don’t worry about me. Go back to Hell King Island!”
Though the Vermilion Bird and Long Xiaoxuan had agreed to Jiang Chen’s suggestion, they wanted to accompany the young man back to Bluesmoke. He refused their goodwill; seeing him through the most dangerous waters was more than enough. After all, it was quite possible they would encounter human cultivators if they went further.
Once that happened, there would be no end of trouble.
Human cultivators were the best at spreading rumors. It would only take a fortnight for news to spread from one person to the entirety of Myriad Abyss Island. These waters wouldn’t be safe after that.
“Remember the Vermilion Feather I gave you, young master Chen.”
“And my dragon scale,” Long Xiaoxuan reminded.
Jiang Chen smiled. “Don’t worry, I’ve put them away for safekeeping. If there’s trouble, I’ll use them for sure. I’m more scared of death than either of you, hahaha!”
The Vermilion Bird and Long Xiaoxuan had both given personal tokens of their utmost trust to Jiang Chen. If the human were to encounter any danger, he could refine the tokens to alert the bird and dragon. His position could then be pinpointed from the tokens, and they would go rescue him the quickest they were able.
Of course, the tokens were for extenuating circumstances only. Being safe was much more desirable.
After making their promises to each other, Jiang Chen’s figure disappeared into the air under Long Xiaoxuan’s reluctant gaze.
“Come on, Xiaoxuan. You’ve always seem so aloof. I thought you were only on middling terms with the young master. You rely on him a lot, huh?” The Vermilion Bird laughed kindly.
“He’s the only human I trust,” Long Xiaoxuan harrumphed.
The bird sighed softly. “I can’t exactly say the same, but he’s currently the human that I trust the most. I owe him a great favor.”
“Let’s go.” Long Xiaoxuan’s voice sounded oddly muffled.
Miracle City of the Bluesmoke Isles had become much more bustling as of late. The taverns and inns were filled up to their brims with visitors from all over. Some were wandering cultivators, others belonged to houses and sects.
Cultivators from the Ten Divine Nations obviously didn’t take up lodgings in inns. As visitors to Bluesmoke, they were feted as the most honored guests. The local government buttered them up, providing discreet and grand residences for them – some were even official buildings.
They couldn’t possibly appear in commercial residences of any sort.
Excitement enveloped Bluesmoke for several months as well. The isles had invited almost every large faction in the Ten Divine Nations to the jade festival.
Most had provided representatives to attend, which granted great prestige to the event. Clearly, the Bluesmoke Isles’ jade festivals were reasonably attractive even to the Ten Divine Nations.
This was quite different to what had taken place on Winterdraw. Winterdraw had begged Polylore’s eight houses to visit. Bluesmoke had merely invited. They were on a completely different level.
House Yan of Eternal Divine Nation was housed in a medium-sized residence. Their accommodations were decent enough, though they paled compared to the strongest factions in their nation. However, the house couldn’t exactly complain.
Among Eternal Divine Nation’s houses, House Yan had significantly declined in terms of rank and position. In fact, they were almost eliminated from being first-rate. They were lucky enough to get their own private residence. Bluesmoke could hardly be faulted for their treatment.
As one of House Yan’s younger generation, Huang’er stood separate from the crowd. The other young geniuses were superficially polite to her, but they kept their distance deep down.
In their heart of hearts, these young geniuses considered her extremely unfortunate. They believed that some sort of bad luck stuck to Huang’er. Anyone who stayed near would be infected with misfortune.
Thus, they were courteous, but never invited Huang’er to any of their own outings.
Huang’er was content to keep her peace. She’d never wanted to build any relationships with these so-called young geniuses of the house in the first place. She was much happier that they chose to remain distant to her in private. In fact, she found their behavior and mannerisms mildly amusing.
No wonder House Yan is getting worse and worse over time. The younger generation is outdone by their elders. These youngsters are short-sighted and callous. How can anyone expect them to shoulder the house’s responsibilities?
Deep down, she had no interest in mixing with these geniuses either. She didn’t care for them one bit, nor did she hold them in any regard.
Having exchanged vows with Jiang Chen, her standards for young men were set impossibly high. Barely anyone could reach a passing grade in her mind, much less compare to Jiang Chen in any capacity.
“Elders, we’ve been here in Miracle City for many days now. I’ve spent all that time cooped up in this residence. I’d like to go out for a stroll today, if you permit it.”
Four elders had come, but only two were seen to the public eye. Even Huang’er didn’t know about the other two.
“Miss Huang’er, your trip was a hotly contested topic in the first place. We took a big risk in letting you come here. Please don’t make things difficult for us.”
“Yes, Miracle City is too crowded right now with unknown elements. What if something happens to you when you’re out on your walk? How do we answer to the house?”
Huang’er frowned slightly. “There are so many others in the streets. What’s happened to any of them? If I’d wanted to run away, I wouldn’t have come back with Elder Xi. There’s no need for you to be concerned.”
The two elders exchanged glances. Huang’er looked too stubborn to dissuade.
After a moment, one of them sighed. “Huang’er, you can take a stroll if you like. But I must follow you with great embarrassment. It’s not that I want to keep such close tabs on you, but the rest of the house can’t afford any more missteps.”
Huang’er nodded remotely. “That’s fine. I have no objections if both elders want to follow me.”
The elders breathed a sigh of relief at her understanding.
“Thank you for not causing us trouble, Huang’er. We’re deeply regretful about your circumstances. But what can we do? House Yan is weaker than House Xiahou.”
Huang’er returned a faint, silent smile.
She disguised herself slightly. She didn’t want to draw any unwanted attention, since there really were too many strangers in Miracle City at the moment.
Given her natural appearance and manner, her safety couldn’t be guaranteed simply being out and about. She was almost universally known as the prettiest girl among Eternal Divine Nation’s younger generation.
Millions of people had swarmed into Miracle City over the past few months. It teemed with activity. Under the watchful eye of her house’s experts, Huang’er cruised along the city’s streets.
She wanted very much to openly ask around, but that would make her intentions too obvious. Alerting her family’s wily old foxes would only ruin her plans in the long run. Everything was to be done without the appearance of impropriety.
Because of this, the locales that Huang’er chose to visit seemed rather odd.
One would expect girls to love looking at jewelry and delicacies. Huang’er, on the other hand, frequented solely taverns and bars where wandering cultivators gathered. Whenever she encountered an establishment that served alcohol, she would go in and have a few drinks.
House Yan’s elders found this rather strange. Since when was Miss Huang’er such a shameless alcoholic?
But her actions quickly made more sense to them. It was normal to douse one’s miseries with alcohol.
The older generation was more sympathetic to Huang’er’s plight. It was a sad existence to be cursed by fate since one’s birth. Alas, she had to be sacrificed for the sake of the house.
Because of this, the elders in charge of keeping an eye on Huang’er didn’t prevent her from doing as she liked. As long as she didn’t cause any real trouble, she was allowed free reign.
Huang’er wasn’t going to the taverns and bars to drink. Instead, she was using her time there to gather information. These places tended to be hubs of rumor and gossip. Having traveled with Jiang Chen far and wide, she had a lot of experience in that field.
Unfortunately, the only subject that people seemed to want to talk about here in Miracle City was ancient jade. Discussion around jade seemed to be a perennially inexhaustible topic.
Polylore Divine Nation’s bounty was hardly popular in contrast. In fact, the poster was relegated to the very corner of many notice boards, where no one paid any attention to it. Nothing could rival the popularity of the jade festival in this city.
The multitude of taverns Huang’er visited had yielded her no information whatsoever. This was a bit upsetting to the girl; had the matter sunk into obscurity after only a few months? Was there no one that would offer their opinion?
Where was that Jiang Huang? Would he come to Miracle City?
Huang’er was unsure even now whether Jiang Huang was Jiang Chen or not. Had her intuition failed her?
Finishing the wine in her cup, she turned to leave when she overheard a few tidbits from a nearby conversation. Several wandering cultivators were discussing something at an adjacent table.
“Have you heard? The wilderness near Oriole Valley saw some pretty amazing natural phenomena recently. According to people’s analysis, it’s quite possible that some kind of true dragon broke through there.”
“I hear it was a well-kept secret for a bit, but someone exposed it very recently. The true dragon is very real, apparently. The draconic aura there hasn’t dispersed completely yet.”
“Sounds like fake news to me, honestly. Since when did the Bluesmoke Isles have a true dragon? Ridiculous. They’re just making stuff up.”
“Hard to say. What if a true dragon was passing by?”
“What, you saying that the true dragon came for the jade festival? Heh!” The wandering cultivators were so caught up in their conversation that they didn’t notice Huang’er intently listening nearby.
A thought flickered into the girl’s heart. A true dragon? I’ve never heard of such a creature in Myriad Abyss Island for tens of thousands of years.
The detail about the dragon kindled her excitement; she’d seen a true dragon before. There had been one at Sacred Peafowl Mountain!
Jiang Chen had a true dragon at his side called Long Xiaoxuan!
“A true dragon, Jiang Huang…” The fuzzy shadow in her heart grew more distinct and identifiable. She was sure that a joyful surprise was slowly approaching her.
There was a person hidden in the shadows, somewhere in the world, who was looking for her just as intently as she him. Perhaps the cogs of fate were turning anew!