Though they were underground in a cramped space, that was no issue at all for the pair of lovebirds. Just being together was a happy luxury.
They knew that their current circumstances made such companionship rare. After the month was up, they would go back to the way they were before. Because of this, they considered the time they spent together nothing short of priceless.
Jiang Chen spent twenty-four days underground with Huang’er. He didn't slack on his cultivation during this time and so jis strength saw a noticeable increase despite the short timeframe.
After realizing Jiang Chen’s change, Huang’er attained a new understanding of his martial dao capabilities. He was truly an extraordinary individual. Perhaps he really would trample Xiahou Zong underfoot – the entirety of House Xiahou, in fact.
Brother Chen hadn’t fully perfected his strength yet. In the Ten Divine Nations, someone like him wasn’t worthy of being mentioned. But his martial potential hid a tremendous energy that could upturn all of Myriad Abyss.
Huang’er firmly believed that this wasn’t a delusion.
Brother Chen was very likely right. He didn't belong to this world, but was a reincarnated god from another who’d awakened his memories. How could Divine Abyss birth such an incredible man otherwise?
“It’s already been twenty-four days, Brother Chen. The event ends in another six. If you don’t leave soon, Yan Qingsang will get pretty upset.” Huang’er didn’t want to separate from Jiang Chen, but she knew they would really delay more pressing matters if they kept staying below ground.
“It’s been twenty-four days already?” Jiang Chen sighed. “It feels like it hasn’t been more than a dozen days.”
Reason overcame desire in the end.
The lovers returned aboveground. After making a promise with Huang’er to meet again, Jiang Chen went to work in Yellow Dragon Ridge. His excellent mood increased his efficiency by leaps and bounds.
The seal in his consciousness was especially perceptive of jade from the ancient and primordial eras. This allowed him to have double the results with half the effort.
Though Jiang Chen didn’t have much interest in ancient jade personally – he still hadn’t refined the raw piece he had bought back in Oriole Valley – his seal seemed much more active in the pursuit of it.
This caused him to refocus on its potential importance. It seemed he had underestimated the attractiveness of the jade. The seal was a weathervane for him.
When it reacted violently to something, that thing invariably ended up being extremely useful and important. When it remained calm for a long time, that meant nothing remarkable was probably going on.
He couldn’t say why, but he was entirely sure of the seal’s effectiveness in delivering early warnings.
The chain seal had most likely been left behind by his father, the Celestial Emperor. He hadn’t yet found a precise answer as to why though. Because of this, he considered any activity from the seal as his father’s guidance. He trusted it implicitly.
Thanks to the seal’s directions, Jiang Chen’s efforts were outrageously effective despite the shortness of six days. He was quicker than he would’ve been even with a physical map.
Anywhere that elicited a reaction from a seal was a place that he ventured to. He was able to find something almost every hour. Sometimes, he would make a discovery as quickly as every fifteen or thirty minutes.
All in all, he brought home a haul of nearly three hundred ores. He could guarantee the existence of ancient jade within every single one.
Jiang Chen didn’t care for near-imposters. He only went for ore that he was sure of. Just these pieces wouldn't do, though. Out of convenience and to round out the story, he dug up waste jade amounting in the tens of thousands.
These pieces of raw jade had no ancient jade within; they were just a smokescreen.
No single other contestant would match his profit, Jiang Chen surmised. Not even a ten-man team necessarily could.
For anyone else, excavating ore was gambling on luck. His process was positively cheating.
Only on the last day did he resume Shao Yuan’s disguise. He found the highly distressed Yan Qingsang at their promised place.
“Man, were you hiding from me all this time?” Yan Qingsang’s eyes were red with panic.
“Hey, don’t discredit me like that. I was only doing you a favor. If I were together with you for the past month, what would they think? Even if you win, they’d only claim that you cheated.”
Yan Qingsang blinked, then grinned in concession. “I suppose you make a certain amount of sense. How’d you do, then?”
“Pretty well, as it turns out. I have about three hundred ores that definitely contain ancient jade. I picked up some extra trash as well, of course, just to avoid alarming everyone else.”
Yan Qingsang was speechless. Everything had been arranged for him; what else was there to say?
Jiang Chen gave most of the ore to Yan Qingsang and kept only a small fraction. “You take the raw ore for now, Brother Yan. Remember, we said we’d split it down the middle later. I want my pickings first, then you can have the rest, alright?”
Yan Qingsang agreed readily. “No problem. I’m getting it for basically free anyway. Oh, I dug up some ore as well… I wonder how I did with my own?”
“We’ll see once we’re out,” Jiang Chen smiled.
Yan Qingsang nodded. “Sure thing. We should split up again though. Otherwise they’ll say I cheated, yeah? Hahaha.”
He made to do so as he said this, then remembered something important. “Brother Shao Yuan.” He tilted his head with the question. “Have you seen Huang’er during this time?”
“Why are you asking me?” Jiang Chen retorted angrily. “I thought you didn’t want me to get close to your cousin? And anyways, I wouldn’t know how to look for her even if I wanted to.”
Yan Qingsang chuckled. “Alright, alright. I have my reasons for not wanting you near her. My cousin is far above her peers in the Ten Divine Nations when it comes to beauty, talent, and all else. There are countless men who admire her beneath the heavens, but none dare express their emotions for her. Your heritage provides you some modicum of skill, but you don’t think yourself superior to the divine nations’ great houses, do you?”
Jiang Chen guessed from what he was hearing that Yan Qingsang really did mean well. The noble scion didn’t want his brother to get in trouble if Jiang Chen got too close to her.
“One day, I’ll make all the great houses in the Ten Divine Nations look up to me!” he huffed. These big words were naturally said for Yan Qingsang’s benefit.
Yan Qingsang roared with laughter. “That’s the spirit! I look forward to it. Alright, time’s almost up. Let’s get out of here.”
Jiang Chen chuckled, but didn't move from his spot. His ears twitched, his expression turning frosty. “Come on out.”
“What?” Yan Qingsang blinked.
Jiang Chen didn't respond to his friend. Instead, he pointed a cold look at the nearby forest. “What fool is hiding so secretively over there?”
There was a sinister cackle from within the trees, following by the appearance of a newcomer.
Yan Qingsang colored when he saw who it was. What a small world; it was none other than House Xiahou’s Xiahou Xi, the one whom Yan Jinnan had curried favor with back at the Jade Revel Lodge. He was ranked top five among the geniuses of his house.
“You?” Yan Qingsang was a bit pale. He was anxious about the run-in since his cultivation lacked somewhat compared to his enemy’s. “Brother Shao Yuan, take the goods and go on ahead.” He tossed a storage ring at Jiang Chen. “I’ll hold him up.”
Jiang Chen laughed as he took the ring, then casually threw it back. “No, you go on ahead.”
Yan Qingsang was stunned. “Brother Shao Yuan, this isn’t related to you. This is a private matter between Houses Yan and Xiahou.”
This statement gained Jiang Chen’s respect. Most scions of these great houses wouldn’t push away the involvement of others in their problems.
He smiled faintly, then glared about with his Evil Golden Eye. He found no prying eyes within several dozen miles.
“Damn it, Yan Qingsang, stop f*cking wasting time,” he called out. “I told you to go on ahead!”
Yan Qingsang was no fool. It suddenly struck him that Brother Shao Yuan had noticed Xiahou Xi before him. Is this wandering cultivator stronger than me in martial dao? This both shocked and embarrassed him.
Xiahou Xi chose this moment to bark out a malicious cackle. “Yan Qingsang, was it? I remember you. You seemed to have quite a temper that day at the Jade Revel Lodge! It seems that heaven has put you into my hands. Do you think you can leave today?
“Oh, and you over there. I don’t know where you’re from, but you must be trash too if you’re mixing with House Yan. Don’t bother looking around. I’ve been following Yan Qingsang for quite a while, and I made sure there’s no one around. No one’s coming to save you. What other useless member of House Yan is going to stop me even if he sees me kill you? Yan Jinnan? I think he’d rather have you dead, hahaha!”
Yan Qingsang was blue in the face. He knew that Xiahou Xi spoke the truth. Even if there had been someone around, no one would interfere in House Xiahou’s business. Moreover, others from House Yan wouldn't necessarily assist him if he were attacked here.
Jiang Chen chuckled abruptly “You were right about one thing. No one is around, for dozens of miles in fact.”
“Oh?” Xiahou Xi’s eyes narrowed into slits.
“Have you thought about this, Xiahou Xi? If you died here, no one would know.” There was steel in Jiang Chen’s serene declaration.