The biggest winner of the Skymender Festival was Jiang Chen, rather than the Eternal Sacred Land. He had won reputation and fame in Myriad Abyss as a whole, as well as the sacred land’s support. More importantly, the danger looming over Huang’er was momentarily abated.
Yan Qingsang had used his status as a disciple of the sacred land to invite Huang’er to stay awhile. This was a completely reasonable request that served a twofold purpose: it would get rid of House Yan’s surveillance as well as the risk of House Xiahou’s interference.
In other words, it assuaged all of Jiang Chen’s concerns.
After the conclusion of the Skymender Festival, Jiang Chen visited the Hall of Merit once more and received a warm welcome.
“Congratulations, young Shao Yuan. You’ve completed the sovereign mission ‘Flames of Vengeance’. I certainly didn’t expect it the first time I laid my eyes upon you.” Gu Yunjin clucked his tongue. “Heroes certainly do distinguish themselves in their youth—that much has been made clear to me today.”
There was some exaggeration in his tone, but his intentions were completely sincere.
“I had some luck on my side.” Jiang Chen smiled.
“So what if you did? Your genius isn’t diminished by it. How come other people don’t get lucky, eh? Everyone knows how skillful Shi Xuan is.”
“Haha, thank you, Elder Gu. If you praise me any more, I’ll be too embarrassed to stay. I came to register the completion of my mission.”
Now that the job was done, Jiang Chen wanted to cash in his contribution points. The mission could be considered successful only after the final paperwork was completed.
Gu Yunjin swiftly completed the documentation on the young man’s behalf.
Seeing that he had no desire to stay, the older man couldn’t resist interjecting, “Young Jiang Chen, the Hall of Merit has many more sovereign missions that are pill dao-related. Do you…”
“Elder Gu,” Jiang Chen cut him off hastily. “Please let me go for today. The tournament of geniuses is at hand. I don’t have much more time in the coming days to think about an unrelated mission.”
Gu Yunjin roared with laughter. “Yes, yes, I suppose I’m being thoughtless. You have to put on a good show on the sacred land’s behalf, young man! Tell the other factions in this nation that we are the rulers, and that we always will be!”
“I will do my best,” Jiang Chen replied humbly. “Just like I did at the Skymender Festival. Heaven knows how it’ll play out.” There was a great deal of insinuation in his words.
After leaving the Hall of Merit, Jiang Chen visited the three primes to express his gratitude. Without their staunch support, he wouldn’t have had such success at the festival, nor would Huang’er be able to remain as a guest of the sacred land.
It was because of the sacred land’s influence that the Yan patriarch hadn’t dared force Huang’er to go home. In fact, no one from House Yan had expressed any dissent.
House Yan had been cowardly to the extreme for many years. They feared House Xiahou, which meant they didn’t want to anger the Eternal Sacred Land either. The latter was likely more fearsome than the former once riled up.
“There’s no need for thanks, Shao Yuan. As a genius of the sacred land, you are worthy of unconditional support when you display sufficient strength and talent.”
“The tournament is soon,” the first prime encouraged, “and Xiahou Zong perceives you as his rival. You must be cautious. His martial dao talent is remarkable. Don’t underestimate him.”
The three primes knew Shao Yuan could defeat opponents higher than his level, but Xiahou Zong was on an entirely different one himself.
Xiahou Zong was the cream of the crop. Shao Yuan did fine against ordinary opponents, but he necessarily have a good time against the Xiahou genius even at the same level.
Xiahou Zong had never been defeated by anyone with the same cultivation level as him before, which included a few experienced elders. This was why there was such a big gap between him and the rest of the nation’s geniuses and why they felt powerless before him. His martial fame had been acquired through battle after battle of hard work.
Jiang Chen wasn’t in the habit of underestimating any opponent, and Xiahou Zong—an actually skilled one—was no different.
“Don’t worry, honored primes. I will approach my fight with him with utmost discretion.”
“Just so. We’ve witnessed your pill dao talent, and we’ve gotten a taste of your martial dao potential in the Nine Winding Caves as well. However, we hope that you’ll be able to develop the latter over time, and astound the world with your incredible prowess, just like you did here at the Skymender Festival.” The first prime lavished Jiang Chen with splendid praise.
Jiang Chen smiled. “I will give it my all.”
After saying farewell to the three primes, he finally had a quiet moment to himself. Back at his residence, Yan Qingsang, Huang’er, and others had been long awaiting him.
There was no need for the two lovebirds to restrain themselves for the sake of public decorum.
Yan Qingsang coughed softly, signaling for them to tone it down.
Jiang Chen frowned, a little upset. “Brother Yan, if your throat is sore, you can go back to your place to rest.”
Yan Qingsang was dismayed. “Brother, you can’t ditch me after I’m no longer useful! My sister wouldn’t be able to stay in the sacred land without my invitation.
“Plus, Princess Bi is here as well. You should think about other people’s feelings!” he cackled.
He was actually perfectly fine with the romance between Jiang Chen and Huang’er, but his tongue was as acerbic as ever.
“You always have something to say, huh,” Jiang Chen laughed. “I guess I’ll let this one slide. You did contribute somewhat.”
“What do you mean, somewhat? I contributed a lot!” Yan Qingsang raised his voice with melodrama. Everyone burst into laughter.
The atmosphere became very harmonious for a time. Ling Bi’er stood to the side cooperatively, quietly watching Jiang Chen and Huang’er’s reunion. There was only happiness in her heart for them.
The fact that only young people were present made Yan Qingsang even more enthusiastic in their ensuing conversation.
“Brother, I have to admit that you were pretty cool back there at the Skymender Festival. I understand why my cousin will only marry you now. If I were a girl, I might very well fall for you myself!” Yan Qingsang sighed.
“Good thing you aren’t,” Jiang Chen retorted with mock disgust.
Yan Qingsang rolled his eyes. “Still, I’m thankful that you’re the only outlier of your kind in this world. If there were too many copies of you, how are we mortals supposed to pick up girls? They’d all swoon over them instead.”
Jiang Chen rubbed his nose. His friend was saying more and more crazy things. “Enough of your banter. Have you taken the Taiyi Skymender Pill yet?”
“Not yet. I was just about to ask you if it was okay to take it now?”
“Duh! Take it now and go for empyrean realm as soon as possible. You don’t want to have a bad performance at the tournament of geniuses, do you?”
“Not at all!” Yan Qingsang replied without hesitation, his answer loud and clear.
Jiang Chen took out two more Taiyi Skymender Pills; one for Huang’er, and the other for Ling Bi’er.
“I kept some of these pills back. It’s a good time for you to use them, I think. The best part about these pills is that they have no side effects while boosting your chance of breaking through. Future cultivation progress won’t be hampered.”
The Taiyi Skymender Pill lacked the drawbacks that its fellows often contained, hence his choice of the pill in the first place.
Giggling, Huang’er took the proffered pills and stuffed one into Ling Bi’er’s hand. “Take it, Sister Bi’er.”
Ling Bi’er smiled gratefully at Jiang Chen as well.
Jiang Chen was pleased to see the girl brighten. “You’re very pretty when you smile, senior sister. It’s the melting of a glacier.”
“Senior sister?” Yan Qingsang blinked. “Brother, you can’t call people nonsensical things. Since when was she your senior sister?”
Huang’er smiled slightly. “Ever slow on the uptake, Brother Qingsang. If Sister Bi’er had no history with us, why would we have gone to all the trouble of bringing her here? You know, Bluesmoke’s imperial family has been rushing us for quite a while now.”
Yan Qingsang was truly stunned.
His intellect wasn’t capable enough to have come to this conclusion. “So I was the only fool in the dark, eh.” He rubbed his head awkwardly.
“You’ll find out everything in due time,” Jiang Chen remarked coolly. “You weren’t dedicated enough before, so I couldn’t tell you much.”
The corner of Yan Qingsang’s mouth twitched, but he understood. He’d opposed Jiang Chen and Huang’er’s relationship for quite a while before. Now that they were all on the same page, there was no longer much need to keep things from him.
“Fine, fine, I admit that I wasn’t great before. But I’m a new man now. The old me won’t appear anymore. From now on, I’ll be strong! I will make those who looked down on me look up instead!”
There was a hidden indignation suppressed in his heart. At the end of the Skymender Festival, Xiahou Zong had glanced at him with utter disdain. The emotion had been inherent, rather than feigned.
He didn’t like being dismissed. The snubbing stimulated him and served as a new impetus.
“That’s right, brother. My grandfather is of firmly supportive stance. I know you have some strong opinions about House Yan, but I do hope you won’t end up taking your anger out on the house. I don’t think Huang’er would like that either.” There were notes of entreaty in Yan Qingsang’s voice.