Ziju Min smiled, then spoke once more. “Patriarch Yan, I’d like to speak with young Shao Yuan once more in private. Would that be alright? Don’t worry, I won’t take your treasured genius from you by force. If he’s unwilling, I won’t coerce him.”
The patriarch knew that this was a request he couldn’t refuse.
“I will take you to him,” he nodded in acquiescence.
They arrived at Yan Qingsang’s living quarters very quickly.
Ziju Min furrowed his brows slightly. He didn’t expect such a slight against a genius of Shao Yuan’s caliber. Did the boy not deserve even his own residence? Why was he bunking with Yan Qingsang? Not that the conditions were really so bad, but this detail alone reflected the absurd treatment House Yan was giving Shao Yuan.
“Patriarch Yan. I don’t mean to criticize the way you do things here, but you really do seem to be neglecting Shao Yuan here.” The pill sovereign exhaled, then shook his head several times.
The patriarch was regretting this as well. Ziju Min was absolutely right; a genius that even the patriarch appreciated so much should’ve absolutely had his own lodgings at House Yan.
To have not provided it was indeed somewhat insulting.
“Young Shao Yuan, I am Ziju Min. I’ve come to visit. Might I have a word?” Ziju Min smiled serenely.
Having returned to his rooms, Jiang Chen was a bit surprised to hear the man’s voice. He was even more amazed to see House Yan’s patriarch and the others accompanying him.
“Master Ziju, how did you come all the way here?”
“I was thinking about you, so I came to take a look. I’m frankly appalled by the plainness of your living conditions. I reprimanded House Yan’s patriarch just now for this very thing. Geniuses shouldn’t be snubbed like this.”
The patriarch was too embarrassed to stay. “Master Ziju,” he smiled wryly. “Feel free to speak with Shao Yuan at your leisure. We won’t be disturbing you.”
Moments later, only Ziju Min and Jiang Chen remained in the courtyard.
“I’m a bit startled at your visit, Master Ziju.” Rather than make tea, Jiang Chen brought out two wines to entertain Ziju Min. It was his Shennong Liquor and Drunken Immortal.
“Oh? These are two different kinds of wine, yes?” Though Ziju Min hadn’t drank any yet, the scent tipped him off immediately.
“Yes. Taken individually, the two wines are both quite tasty. If drunk one after another, they will yield an even more unique flavor. Feel free to try some, sir.” Jiang Chen poured out two cups before placing them down in front of Ziju Min.
The pill sovereign’s interest was piqued. He laughed easily, his appetite for drink entirely whetted. The alcohol in the cups disappeared in a mere moment.
Ziju Min smacked his lips in the aftertaste. “Incredible! Superb! There are two more great wines in this world, I see. You’re full of unlimited surprises, young Shao Yuan.”
Jiang Chen smiled. “Wine embodies the smallest of daos. And yet, it contains a microcosm in its own right that contains truths from the greatest dao of all. So is everything between heaven and earth.”
Ziju Min reacted to this comment with high praise. “You are clever indeed, young man. I knew that I wasn’t mistaken. It seems that you’ve made enormous progress already in your understanding of dao. When you reach peak great emperor, you’ll have no problem at all breaking through to empyrean.”
Empyrean realm only involved comprehending the heavenly dao. The depth with which this young man understood it amazed Ziju Min.
Jiang Chen poured out two more cups for the pill sovereign. “If I may, senior. For what reason did you come here today?”
“Same as our last meeting. I’m here to invite you to join Eternal Sacred Land. A youth of your talents ought to stand at a higher vantage point. In our nation, the sacred land is the tallest peak. The other factions are insignificant at best. I hear that House Xiahou has demanded you for itself. Well, you can ignore that outright. The same is true for any potential requests from the Jade Lake Sect. You need only think about whether you’d like to join the sacred land.”
Jiang Chen inclined his head. “Of course I would consider Eternal Sacred Land ahead of everywhere else, senior. I’ve never thought about House Xiahou or the Jade Lake Sect.”
“Have you ever thought about leaving House Yan?” Ziju Min looked at him expectantly.
Jiang Chen replied with a soft sigh. “I have, but I cannot. I may not.”
Disappointment flickered across Ziju Min’s face. “I respect your resolution, but I don’t understand it. What reason is there for you to stay here, Shao Yuan? Is it your bond with Yan Qingsang? If that’s the only reason, I can bring him in as well.”
The pill sovereign was taking a very low posture for the sake of winning Jiang Chen over, for which the latter was immensely grateful. “That’s only a bit of it, Senior Ziju. I have another difficulty that I’m not sure I can speak about.”
“Difficulty? Please sate my curiosity. There’s no difficulty that the Eternal Sacred Land can’t solve in the divine nation, my friend. If I help you resolve this difficulty of yours, will you reconsider?”
“I’m truly chagrined at your great fondness for me, sir.” Jiang Chen laughed helplessly.
“Haha, I’m glad you can see my sincerity. Why not be honest with me? Even if you don’t join the sacred land in the end, I will still treat you as a friend,” Ziju Min smiled.
“I won’t hide it from you any more then, senior. I came to House Yan for one person, and one person only.”
“Yan Qinghuang.” There was no need for Jiang Chen to hide things any further.
“Ah, her?” Ziju Min was taken aback. He knew about the circumstances between Yan Qinghuang and House Xiahou.
“Yes. When I first saw her and heard her zither in the Bluesmoke Isles, it was as if I knew her from a hundred lifetimes ago. I desperately desired to meet her, and when I found out about her fate, my sympathies got the better of me. I swore that I would change her destiny. That’s why I need to stay here at House Yan…”
There was some manufactured information in Jiang Chen’s speech, but his intent was clear enough. He had come for Huang’er and no one else.
Ziju Min fell into silence for quite a while when he finished. There was some admiration in his gaze, as well as ambiguity and amusement.
He broke the lull with a long sigh. “There have always been deeply sentimental men in the world. When they fall in love, they do so for the rest of their lives. Born out of music, forged in compassion and tenderness… such is your love, my young friend, and it reminds me of the ancient sages. Those who are deeply sentimental often achieve greatness in the realm of martial dao. Perhaps you will be the next to do so, eh?”
“Ah, Senior Ziju, you humor me.”
“Not at all. I don’t mean to chastise you for it. Quite the opposite, I only respect you all the more. In the world of martial dao, everyone wants to be at the top. Everyone acts for his personal gain only rather than engage in any altruism or sacrifice. Your distinctness from the crowd is a mark of wisdom. Respect aside, though…
“How can you break the links of fate between Yan Qinghuang and Xiahou Zong with your status and strength? If you stay here, you may be able to face Xiahou Zong in a few centuries. But your beloved will be long dead by then, and your passion turned to despair.”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “You’re not optimistic about my chances, senior?”
“It’s not that. Xiahou Zong is a rare genius in his own right. Even among the sacred land’s geniuses, none can claim superiority over him. In fact, he styles himself the foremost genius of Eternal’s younger generation. It will be hard for you to challenge him in the next three to five years, by which time House Yan will have made good on its promise.”
Everyone knew about the predicament between Houses Xiahou and Yan.
Jiang Chen sighed softly. Ziju Min had a very good point. Unfortunately, it was impossible for him to yield on this matter. Allowing Huang’er to become Xiahou Zong’s cultivation vessel had never been a possibility.
“It’s difficult, Senior Ziju, but I won’t give up as long as there’s even a glimmer of hope.” Jiang Chen couldn’t go into more detail with the pill sovereign.
If that day came, he wouldn’t mind eloping with her. When his strength was perfected, he could then return to Eternal Divine Nation and House Yan, uprooting House Xiahou in the process.
Ziju Min smiled faintly. “The Eternal Sacred Land cannot interfere easily in this affair. However, if you become one of our geniuses and propose marriage to House Yan, perhaps there is still room to maneuver. Provided you’re not worried about angering House Xiahou, of course.”
“If I recall correctly, Senior Ziju, House Xiahou’s Xiahou Ying is your personal disciple. Aren’t your words unfair to her?”
Ziju Min chuckled. “There were several reasons for her to have become my disciple. I’m not at liberty to discuss them here. However, I’ve taken a personal interest in you, my young friend. In this, you are very different from her.”
“Aren’t you worried that I’ll make trouble for you and the sacred land, senior?”
Ziju Min beamed with serenity. “Doesn’t a genius of the sacred land have the right to cause some trouble once in a while? We live in Eternal Divine Nation, do we not?”
Jiang Chen blinked. The pill sovereign was right. The Eternal Sacred Land was the actual foremost faction in Eternal Divine Nation. It was the real ruler of the land.
Xiahou Zong was strong and House Xiahou’s momentum fierce, but Eternal Divine Nation wasn’t theirs in the end.
The young man sank into thought. He’d never seriously thought about joining the faction before because he’d wanted to stay by Huang’er’s side. He was very much anxious that some mishap would happen to her in his absence.
Ziju Min’s suggestion shone a light before his eyes. The suggestion was very doable!
“Young man, I think you can definitely pull something like that off, but there are a few hurdles in front of you. First, you need to show tremendous potential to earn its support for any… mischief you intend to commit. Second, you need to display sufficient strength with which to challenge Xiahou Zong.” The older man cracked a crooked grin. “Allow me to let you in on another secret. We don’t want a genius from outside to call himself the foremost genius of the nation. Do you understand? Xiahou Zong has too much edge. If someone can quash him, so much the better!”
These words were the most important of all. Jiang Chen immediately brightened.