Little White chuckled at Jiang Chen’s words. “Young master Chen, I was afraid of touching these crystals before I reached empyrean realm. But now? I can handle a bit here and there, no problem. I’ll need them to cultivate anyways! If you like ‘em, I can get a few for you right now. What colors would you like?”
“All of them,” Jiang Chen laughed. “As many as you can.”
“Sure thing. Leave it to me!” Little White pranced about in its excitement. Each jump was accompanied by a swipe of its expert claw. Prismatic crystals were continually dug out from the rocky ground.
Without Little White’s correct methods of excavation, an unwary miner would be cut to shreds by the light, as the crystals contained natural restrictions. The tiger, on the other hand, was an obvious professional.
In about two hours, several dozen crystals were between Little White’s paws. The crystals scattered in their immediate surroundings had all been dredged up.
“Without opening up that earthen vein, it’s pretty hard to get more crystals. I think the area around here is already pretty dense!” Little White gave all of the crystals to Jiang Chen. “Here, young master Chen. These crystals are really valuable. Don’t give them away, you hear?”
Jiang Chen grinned. “Of course not. I need all of them myself.”
The crystals came at a time of burning need. Jiang Chen’s desperate thirst for empyrean cultivation resources was slightly assuaged now that he had these.
Man and tiger stood near an underground spring. The spring’s waters glittered with sinister light; its chilling cold could be felt even from the shore.
“Young master Chen, this underground spring nurtures the surrounding environment. Past it is a direct connection to the earthen vein, but I don’t dare go in yet.” Little White refrained from recklessness.
“Do you still sense danger?”
The tiger nodded. “Now that I’m an empyrean cultivator, I have no problems just passing by, but it’s still nearly impossible for me to get my claws into the vein. I want to wait here for a better opportunity and to protect it. This earthen vein belongs to us! I won’t let anyone else lay a finger on it! It would be wasted in their hands, anyways.”
Little White was quite confident that House Yan wouldn’t be able to really utilize the vein. Furthermore, the earthen vein was a gift of nature that had simply happened to materialize in Cloud Camel Mountain.
The mountain belonged to House Yan, but the same didn’t necessarily apply to the world beneath it.
Jiang Chen likewise had no intention of yielding the vein to another. He had seen firsthand what House Yan was currently like. Yan Wanjun had all but lost his influence within the house, and Yan Qingsang was more clearly down as a disciple of the Eternal Sacred Land. As for Huang’er, she had never felt any particular belonging to her house in the first place.
There was no need for him to consider House Yan anymore. A year ago, he might have spared them some thought, but now…
He would be a fool not to take advantage of anything of theirs that he could!
“Are you sure you want to stay here and watch over the earthen vein, Little White?” Jiang Chen gazed seriously at his tigrine friend.
“Yes, I am. You aren’t going to say no, are you?” Little White blinked, returning the look with fearful concern.
“Of course not. Your presence here relieves my worries. Still, you should be careful. If someone overwhelmingly powerful comes for it, don’t recklessly try to stop him.”
“Heheh, don’t worry about it. I won’t come out so easily. Normal people who wander in will die to the restrictions from the crystals. Any non-divine cultivator who intrudes without understanding the rules will be toast!”
Little White had an inborn advantage when it came to navigating this patch of underground.
Human cultivators – Jiang Chen included – were helpless in the crystalline world before them. If Little White hadn’t taught his master these things, the young man would’ve had his hands tied like the rest. Other human cultivators would be ground to dust upon trespassing.
Jiang Chen wasn’t going to stay here any longer. This was a good place for Little White to cultivate, but not for himself. It was time to abscond with the crystals in tow. Little White couldn’t do much to the earthen vein right now, anyways.
Leaving the tiger here for cultivation and protection were more than enough.
“I won’t be able to watch your performance at the tournament of geniuses, young master Chen. So don’t let me down! Beat up that stupid Xiahou Zong!” the tiger encouraged.
“Xiahou Zong is an insignificant and irrelevant threat. I hope that next time we meet, Little White, you’ll be able to surprise me with your cultivation.”
“Haha, you too, young master Chen!” The tiger flashed a swaggering grin, very much at ease.
After Little White’s lesson on the subject, Jiang Chen could leave the place by himself. He carefully followed the tiger’s instructions to slowly hop back up to the world above ground.
The method taught him was entirely correct and effective. Jiang Chen wasn’t attacked even once on the way, and the course of his trip was quite trivial.
He found this rather remarkable. His scholarship was already excellent, but he knew very little about this underground world regardless. He wouldn’t have been able to explore this place without Little White, much less prance around so freely like he was doing so now.
After poking his head back into sunlight, Jiang Chen found a dark place in which to hide himself. He departed two hours later when he was sure nothing was out of the ordinary. Risking his trail being discovered by others was to risk the underground becoming public knowledge. Thankfully, it seemed that no one had crept in behind him.
He returned to Yan Wanjun’s residence to find the old man in high spirits.
“Qingsang has reached empyrean realm, my young friend. He’s stabilizing his level right now. He’ll be right out within three to five days!” Yan Wanjun was filled with enthusiasm that belied his age. It was clear that his grandson had always been his top priority.
He was happier for Yan Qingsang’s breakthrough than he had been for his own, all those years ago. His grandson had finally firmly set foot on the right track!
Jiang Chen was overjoyed to hear the news as well. “Good. I knew all along that Brother Yan’s talent was just as good as anyone’s. He simply hadn’t quieted down to cultivate in the past! Or, perhaps I should say he hadn’t found a path that was his own before?”
“Quite so! You are his benefactor, young friend. I am eternally grateful for all of your assistance.”
After three days, Yan Qingsang finally emerged from closed doors, his cultivation perfected. The now-empyrean cultivator brimmed with vitality: he had taken on an entirely different aura.
“Good job, kid. Well done.” Yan Wanjun rarely praised Yan Qingsang to his face, but he was quite excited to see his grandson an empyrean cultivator before him.
“I think I lived up to your expectations, grandfather.” Yan Qingsang clearly didn’t know that there’d recently been an attempt on Yan Wanjun’s life. There was no unease in his expression to suggest it.
Jiang Chen refrained from mentioning such a killjoy topic. “Congratulations, Brother Yan,” he laughed as he approached.
Yan Qingsang embraced him with a bearhug. “You deserve half the praise for my breakthrough, good brother! Now I have to follow through on that drinking promise at your wedding! I am your brother-in-law, after all.”
Breaking through to empyrean realm was a big day for any young man, and Yan Qingsang was no different. The ascension placed him solidly above everyone else in House Yan. Only Yan Zhenhuai remained above him.
After the celebration, Yan Wanjun knew it was time to break the bad news. “Qingsang,” he sighed softly, “there’s something you should know about sooner or later…” He related to his grandson what had transpired prior.
Yan Qingsang was furious. “Was this the patriarch’s idea?! What… what a vicious man! He was going to order your death, grandpa, after all your contributions over the years? Hasn’t our family done and sacrificed enough for the house already?”
Frustration and anguish was written all over the young man’s face.
“That’s enough of the useless talk, Qingsang. You’re an adult now, and should think like a man. What’s happened is in the past, and no amount of complaining will change it. We must find a constructive way out of this. When you two return to the Eternal Sacred Land, I will dismiss my subordinates and depart from Cloud Camel Mountain to travel the world. The house’s affairs are no longer mine.”
“Travel the world? Where are you going, grandpa?” Yan Qingsang gasped.
“Wherever my footsteps take me. I can’t say quite yet where I’ll end up. Qingsang, you’re the person I worry most about. You lack restraint and conservatism by nature. If you learn those virtues one day, I’ll have nothing to hold me back.”
Not every youth could stay calm in the heat of the moment in order to make unerring decisions.
Yan Qingsang’s eyes reddened. “Don’t worry, grandpa. I’ve learned a lot in the Eternal Sacred Land already. I used to be young and impulsive, but that’s in the past. From now on, I will surpass Yan Zhenhuai and shine as a pearl of the Eternal Sacred Land. Aside from Brother Shao Yuan, I won’t let anyone outdo me!” He delivered this speech with undeniable conviction.
“Good. I can put away my concerns after hearing that. If you can surpass Zhenhuai one day, House Yan will regret what they’ve done!” Yan Wanjun was now quite bitter when speaking of House Yan.