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“Nice going. You’ve broken through, haven’t you?” Ziju Min immediately noticed the difference when he gave Jiang Chen a once-over.

Jiang Chen smiled slightly. “Thanks to your well wishes, everything went smoothly.”

“You broke through a mere two months after arriving at the riverbank?” Ziju Min gasped with wonder. “Two months, and you grasped the heavenly law and earned the approval of the heavens, receiving an empyrean decree. Your… comprehension ability is tremendous.”

Ziju Min had been through a lot and had seen many geniuses, but he’d never known anyone like Shao Yuan. Even the most genius cultivator had to overcome great difficulties to ascend from peak great emperor to empyrean realm. The process was a butterfly breaking out of its chrysalis.

Countless cultivators failed the process. After repeated failure, they fell into despair and their will slowly wilted. Only an extremely small portion of great emperors were able to break through.

Most would need several years to understand the heavenly law and finally ascend. Never had anyone achieved it in two months.

Jiang Chen’s achievement would be easier to believe if he’d already sensed the heavenly law prior to visiting the river, but he hadn’t even reached peak great emperor when entering the sacred land! He’d only attained it before the evaluation.

It’d taken less than a year for him to make such amazing progress.  And after reaching peak great emperor, it only took him a few months to join the ranks of the other geniuses.

Ziju Min was in awe of Shao Yuan’s achievement. No human language could describe the ridiculous speed at which he’d improved himself. The youth’s potential was more than a little extraordinary.

Ziju Min slapped Jiang Chen on the shoulder excitedly, his face radiating joy. “You’ll go down in our history as a legendary figure for your amazing speed in cultivation, Shao Yuan.”

Jiang Chen smiled. “I’m honored. It’s thanks to Elder Ziju’s recommendation that I was able to reach this point.”

”Oh, no, I just did what I should do. It’ll be a great shame if a genius like you ends up unnoticed in the jianghu.” Ziju Min was speaking from the very bottom of his heart.

“I will always remember what you did for me, Elder Ziju. The others may be unaware, but I know that you must have shouldered a lot of pressure when recommending me for the sacred land.”

Ziju Min broke into laughter hearing his considerate words. “As an elder, it’s my duty to shoulder some pressure for the sacred land and the nation. Alright, Shao Yuan. Let’s not waste any more time. You’ve fulfilled the first requirement listed by the venerated forefather. Now let’s focus on the second: You are to accumulate a hundred thousand points in a year.”

Jiang Chen had understood the rules at the Hall of Merit last time. Of the three requirements posed by the venerated forefather, he’d already achieved one. The forefather must have noticed as well.

He was going to focus on the second requirement now. It was to test his ability, but also to make sure the rest in the faction accepted him.

If he could make such great contribution to the sacred land in only a year, no one would question him, no matter how well he was treated and how much support he received.

Truth be told, he was getting amped up.

The venerated forefather had promised him unconditional support once he fulfilled the three conditions, which was precisely what he needed.

The sacred land’s support would give him the leverage to turn things around for him and Huang’er. He’d be entitled to publicly take her away from House Yan, which was what he wished the most and also what was best for Huang’er.

If he snuck her away, hidden from everyone, it’d be considered a dishonorable act. It wouldn’t be a satisfying end. And troubles would ensue.

It was better to take the moral high ground and made sure House Yan willingly parted with Huang’er. The problem would be solved once and for all, and it would be cathartic.

Motivation roared to life.

He and Ziju Min returned to the Hall of Merit half a year after their first visit. Elder Gu Yunjin was also surprised when his eyes landed on Jiang Chen.

“It seems that my well wishes have come true, young Shao Yuan. You’ve impressed me with your progress in the last six months.

“If I’m not mistaken, you’ve ascended to empyrean realm already, haven’t you?” Gu Yunjin marveled, earnest with his compliments. “Brother Ziju, you’ve recruited a genius we wouldn’t even dream of.”

Ziju Min smiled, but didn’t take pride in what his actions.

“Brother Gu, our young friend is eager to contribute to the sacred land after his breakthrough. What are the missions that award more than a hundred thousand points?”

Gu Yunjin paused. “Are you sure you want to start with a sovereign mission, young Shao Yuan?”

Those were the only ones that awarded over a hundred thousand points, but with high reward came high risk. If Jiang Chen failed a sovereign mission, his points would be deducted by one tenth of the awarded points. Such was the pitfall of picking a top mission from the get go.

If he started from the easier missions and made his way up, he’d be able to accumulate points steadily without the risk of deductions.

Very few people would be so bold as to go straight to the top, not even the most arrogant of geniuses. It wasn’t that they didn’t dare take the risk, but that they didn’t have to.

However, Jiang Chen only had a year. He didn’t have the patience to slowly climb his way up. That would take too much effort and time. The last thing he could afford to do now was waste time.

The sword competition was right on the horizon. It was likely that his fateful match with Xiahou Zong would come then. He had to seize every second of every day. Naturally, he wasn’t willing to carve out too much time for the missions.

He smiled wryly. “Elder Gu, the sword competition’s coming soon. I must get a hundred thousand points before that. I have to take the risk. I might get lucky, no?”

Gu Yunjin was a little disappointed. He didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to rain on Shao Yuan’s parade when the young man was so driven and enthusiastic, but in truth, he didn’t think Shao Yuan would succeed.

If it was so easy to complete a sovereign mission, everyone here would be challenging them. There wouldn’t be so many left unfinished. It was telling that the missions had remained for decades, or even centuries.

Ziju Min could tell that Gu Yunjin was doubtful of Shao Yuan’s decision. But the latter was being quite tactful and remaining silent in the face of Shao Yuan’s resolution.

In truth, Ziju Min also found Shao Yuan reckless, but he understood why the young man was making the decision.

The sword competition was fast approaching. If Shao Yuan started from the most basic missions, how long was it going to take for him to get enough points? He might as well try his luck with a sovereign mission. Maybe there’d be a miracle.

In Ziju Min’s eyes, Shao Yuan was skilled at creating miracles.

“Brother Ziju, young Shao Yuan, here’s a list of the summaries for most of the sovereign missions. Of course, the summaries are only for your reference. They aren’t representative of the missions themselves.” Gu Yunjin dutifully presented them with the scroll.

Ziju Min smiled. “This is confidential, Shao Yuan. You’re allowed to read it now, but nothing can leave this hall.”

Gu Yunjin nodded and added on seriously, “Brother Ziju is right. Everything written on this scroll must be kept a secret. There are other people who have seen it, but they’re all obligated to keep things to themselves as well. If any information gets leaked and the sacred land identifies the perpetrator, that person will become a public enemy.”

In response to their grave attitude, Jiang Chen smiled. “I don’t have a lot of strengths, but keeping a secret is my strong suit.”

He didn’t have a habit of gossiping. Besides, the missions didn’t mean much to him. They meant even less for people outside the sacred land. He unfurled the scroll and browsed with great concentration.

They were indeed challenging. Some were bounties against a number of experts who’d been widely-known for a long time, some asked to locate rare treasure. Some were requests for clues regarding a mysterious secret realm, some directly asked for cultivations methods...

There were a great variety of missions, and all were extremely difficult. Now he knew why so few people took them on. The summaries were telling enough.

Some of the missions were as arduous as finding a needle in a haystack. Others were as dangerous as climbing a mountain made of blades. They weren’t for regular people.

Jiang Chen contemplated his options. There were all manners of missions, but some he naturally gravitated to. He preferred missions about pill dao the most. He’d be more confident about completing such a mission, and it’d take less effort.

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