The Eternal River ebbed and flowed in a rhythmic manner. Jiang Chen took note of the slightest changes as he cultivated. His mind became more agile and his insight more keen.
Day after day, he absorbed the prism crystals as well as the early rays of sun, morning dew, the air at the riverbank, the energy of the flora, and the smell of the earth… Every existence in the world seemed to be offering energy to him generously, giving what was needed for cultivation.
His body was also undergoing transformation every day. Both his physical strength and fortitude of consciousness were greatly improved.
An empyrean cultivator cultivated through absorbing the energy of heaven and earth. The faster he cultivated and the greater his progress, the more dramatic the natural phenomenon he’d trigger.
Fortunately, the Eternal River was quiet and isolated like a secret realm. People outside knew nothing of what was going on inside, while those inside were oblivious to the outside.
The sword competition was a few months away.
Jiang Chen made amazing progress every day; his efficiency was out of the world, and yet he wasn’t satisfied.
“I’ve reached a bottleneck in second level empyrean. If I break through and reach the next level, I’ll be able to take the Crowning Empyrean Pill.”
In truth, Jiang Chen would easily make the breakthrough if he took the pill now, but that wasn’t his final goal. He only wanted to use the pill to push himself to fourth level empyrean.
“There’s still time. I can do it.” Jiang Chen quietly absorbed the energy within the crystals and refined their attributes for his own. Even the Five Great Gentlemen would at most be able to absorb only a handful, while Jiang Chen had absorbed more than twenty.
Most would have to be insane to attempt what he did. A lesser cultivator would’ve already died from overconsumption. Jiang Chen, on the other hand, had room for more.
It wasn’t impossible for him to step beyond the threshold of second level. As long as he kept absorbing energy, he’d eventually be able to ascend. That was the moment he was aiming for.
Meanwhile, talks about the upcoming sword competition flourished everywhere in Eternal Divine Nation. There wouldn’t be a record-breaking number of geniuses, and the talents featured weren’t the most remarkable, but there was a fascinating story to follow for this year’s event.
The stars of the story were none other than Shao Yuan from the sacred land and Xiahou Zong from House Xiahou. There was even a female lead - Yan Qinghuang from House Yan.
The general consensus was that Xiahou Zong would undoubtedly dominate the competition, followed closely by top geniuses from the most powerful factions, including the Five Great Gentlemen from the Eternal Sacred Land. There would be no surprises.
However, Shao Yuan’s proposal to Yan Qinghuang at the Skymender Festival threw a twist into things and made it all the more interesting.
Gossip about Shao Yuan and Xiahou Zong’s tussle over a woman spread like wildfire.
On one hand, many were convinced that Xiahou Zong’s dominance over the young geniuses couldn’t be challenged. On the other, some believed that Shao Yuan had a chance at disrupting the current pecking order.
Although the majority weren’t betting on Shao Yuan winning, they admired him for his courage and ambition. Quite a lot were even hoping that the young man could create a miracle.
Not even Jiang Chen knew that he’d gained a group of devoted supporters within the nation. They saw him as a hero for defeating Shi Xuan and restoring the reputation of both the sacred land and Eternal Divine Nation. He was a true man for bringing glory to the nation.
Xiahou Zong was a great genius, but he’d earned his fame through battling his compatriots. His glory had been gained at the cost of his peers. Many were more inclined to support Jiang Chen.
The three primes were also under great pressure lately. A few days ago, Duke Xiaoyao, the patriarch of House Xiahou, visited the Eternal Sacred Land and demanded Yan Qinghuang.
The three primes refused vehemently, insisting that the sacred land would protect Yan Qinghuang as long as she stayed within their territory. But if she left on her own accord, the sacred land wouldn’t intervene.
However, they refused to retract Shao Yuan’s proposal.
The conversation ended on bad terms. The three primes simply refused to comply with the request. If they surrendered the girl to House Xiahou, it would be the sacred land subjected to no end of mockery.
“First Prime, it was long decided that Yan Qinghuang would be Xiahou Zong’s cultivation vessel,” the duke declared calmly. “It defies both reason and propriety for you to encourage Shao Yuan to propose to her.”
“Your words are unfair, Duke Xiaoyao. We’ve only heard about this deal and have seen no concrete evidence backing your claims. The youths will determine their own fate. It’s wonderful that Shao Yuan has fallen for Yan Qinghuang. Why don’t you let them have their happy ending?”
The duke was silent for a moment. “Happy ending?” he growled. “Who will support our happy ending then?”
The first prime smiled faintly. “Let the youths resolve their own conflict. Tongues will wag if we old folk intervene too much. Our youths will also be mocked for crying to their parents like a little child.”
She was essentially calling Xiahou Zong weak and incompetent.
A frown creased The duke’s forehead. “First Prime, you’re being unreasonable. First come, first serve. The Eternal Sacred Land takes more than half of all the resources in the nation--that we’ve accepted. You shouldn’t be pushing for more. You’re interfering with House Xiahou business. We can’t possibly tolerate that, can we?”
“That’s an overstatement. This is simply a matter of the heart between the young. Your words make me wonder if you have no confidence in Xiahou Zong. Do you think he’s going to lose in the sword competition? If he truly is as powerful as he purports to be, no one will be able to take Yan Qinghuang from him. If she ends up becoming Shao Yuan’s partner, Xiahou Zong has no one to blame but himself for not being strong enough.”
The duke flew into rage, his lips twisted into a leer. “Xiahou Zong isn’t strong enough? First Prime, I don’t know why you’re so confident in Shao Yuan, but he’s going to die in a battle with Xiahou Zong unless he flees like a coward. Don’t blame Xiahou Zong for not showing mercy then!”
“If Shao Yuan is incompetent enough to be killed by Xiahou Zong, then that’s his fate.”
“Good, good!” The duke laughed. “I look forward to seeing Shao Yuan’s blood and guts splattered all over the stage.”
“Duke Xiahou sure is confident,” the first prime said coolly.
“Haha, I’m not exaggerating when I say that not even the Five Great Gentlemen can defeat Xiahou Zong, let alone Shao Yuan. In Xiahou Zong’s own words, he can fight the five gentlemen at the same time and still come out on top.”
It was typical of Xiahou Zong to make such a bold statement. Only someone insane would say so without the strength to back himself up, but he was likely the only one qualified to make such a bold statement.
The first prime knew The duke was likely right, but she wasn’t going to admit defeat even in conversation. “This seat has asked Shao Yuan if he can defeat Xiahou Zong. Do you know what he said?”
The duke scoffed. “What?”
“Simply, Xiahou Zong is merely a stepping stone in his pursuit of martial dao. He can easily kick the stone away. A little interlude isn’t going to change his path to success.”
Jiang Chen had said something to the effect. Only, the tone and choice of words had been changed a little.
The duke could barely contain his rage. Shao Yuan was truly overly arrogant! “It seems that we can’t come to an agreement about Yan Qinghuang, First Prime.”
“Let the fight do the talking,” the first prime responded in a steady voice.
“As you wish!” The duke shot to his feet. “When Xiahou Zong destroys Shao Yuan, don’t blame House Xiahou for being ruthless and then complain about losing a pill dao genius!”
The first prime gave as good as she got. “I hope House Xiahou won’t fall into despair if Xiahou Zong lies dead on the ground.”