Jiang Chen stood at the fringe of the portal and stared at the body of water until it quieted. He sighed softly. They would only be apart temporarily, but it still pained him to send away the woman he loved.
Yan Wanjun smiled slightly. “A man should follow his ambitions. There will be a time for love.”
Yan Qingsang snickered, but surprisingly didn’t say anything.
“Elder Wanjun, I’ve upgraded the formation around the island based on Senior Pei Xing’s designs. It’ll be difficult for even empyrean experts to break in.”
“Good.” Yan Wanjun nodded. “Myriad Abyss Island is in shambles. Winterdraw Island will make a good operations base.”
“I’m entrusting the island to you then, Elder Wanjun.”
“I have no place to call home anyways. I’m more than happy to be able to settle down somewhere.” Yan Wanjun’s tone was mournful. He added, “What’s your plans next?”
“Returning to Eternal Divine Nation,” Jiang Chen declared with great conviction.
“What?” Yan Wanjun frowned. “Didn’t the men from the Cloudwave Sect say the imperial family and House Xiahou are staging a coup? That may have happened already. You’ll be walking right into the crossfire.”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “I’m a member of the sacred land and have enjoyed its support. I can’t stay on the sidelines and do nothing in its time of need.”
“Well said, I’ll go with you,” rushed out Yan Qingsang.
“You should stay here with Elder Wanjun. Focus on cultivating and let him temper your personality. That’s the right thing for you to do.”
Jiang Chen didn’t intend to bring Yan Qingsang with him. His reasoning was simple: Yan Qingsang wasn’t strong enough to be of much help to the sacred land. He’d only be marching to his death if he returned with nothing but an earnest heart.
Jiang Chen didn’t want Yan Qingsang to get himself killed, but he didn’t want to spare the effort to protect him, either.
“What is this?” Yan Qingsang asked unhappily. “Am I to be a deserter, while you are loyal to the sacred land?”
Jiang Chen smield in lieu of an explanation, which further angered Yan Qingsang. “Do you think I’m not good enough for you and will be dragging you down?”
Yan Wanjun slapped the back of his grandson’s head. “Enough. What are you yammering on about? Jiang Chen is right. You aren’t going to be of much help with that impulsiveness of yours. You’ll only be a burden. Stick with me and don’t think about going anywhere. If you want to help, improve your cultivation and make yourself useful. Now? It’s best that you stay put.”
With age came wisdom. Yan Wanjun was experienced enough to tackle an issue in a more holistic manner.
Yan Qingsang’s shoulders slumped. He knew there was no changing his grandfather’s mind once he’d made up his mind.
Jiang Chen presented them with two pills.
“Elder Wanjun, Brother Qingsang, these are two Crowning Empyrean Pills. They’re not easy to come by. You must have heard about the effects already.”
Yan Wanjun paused. During the Skymender Festival, the sacred land had mentioned a pill that could advance an empyrean cultivator a level, but didn’t they say the pill was still in development?
“Is this… the pill that grants an unconditional level to an empyrean cultivator?” Yan Wanjun asked in an unsteady voice.
“It is. It may be exaggerating to call it a level without cost, but it is very likely to push the user through their limits and into the next level.”
It was rare to find anything that could provide a free level for empyrean experts, especially those at advanced empyrean realm.
The extraordinary thing about the pill was that even though it wouldn’t necessarily help cultivators break through immediately, it was very likely to achieve that in the long term. A cultivator reaching his limit at seventh level empyrean would be able to ascend to eighth after some time.
“Elder Wanjun, this pill will be of great help in ascending to ninth level empyrean. As for Brother Qingsang, I’d advise you to reach third level empyrean as soon as possible before taking the pill to maximize its benefit.”
Reaching fourth level meant ascending from initial empyrean to intermediate empyrean. It’d be a large gap to bridge.
“That’s right. Did you hear that, Qingsang? Jiang Chen has put in so much thought and effort for you.” Yan Wanjun couldn’t be happier. He hadn’t felt this good for a long time. He’d been stuck at eighth level empyrean for years and almost given up on breaking through. The Crowning Empyrean Pill was a wonderful surprise.
Moreover, the grandson he’d devoted everything to had gone through a great transformation over the years, which was another great cause for joy.
Yan Qingsang had been upset about being forbidden from returning to the sacred land, but the pill made it impossible for him to stay mad.
Yan Wanjun slapped his head again upon seeing his grandson’s haughty expression. That wasn’t the face to be pulling now.
“What’s that face for, young man? Let me tell you, you’re lucky Jiang Chen is mild-tempered. No one else would put up with you. You should be asking yourself if you’d be able to reach the same height without his help.”
Jiang Chen was going to be Yan Qingsang’s brother-in-law, but he’d done more than enough for his friend. Yan Qingsang shouldn’t take his kindness for granted.
“I’m not upset with you, brother,” Yan Qingsang finally said. “I’m just angry at myself for not being able to help when it matters. I feel useless.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll be of use once you become powerful enough. Listen to Elder Wanjun and cultivate on the Winterdraw Island. Wait for the right time to make a comeback.”
“Must you go?” asked Yan Qingsang.
“The venerated forefather told me some stuff and we have a deal of sorts. I must go back to the sacred land. Besides, I promised Huang’er I’d save her parents.”
Yan Wanjun flushed red with mortification. That was his son and daughter-in-law.
“Jiang Chen, about her parents...” The elder murmured. “That was my mistake. Let me deal with it myself.”
Jiang Chen smiled. “Elder Wanjun, we’re on the same team now.”
“The Boundless Prison is very complicated, Jiang Chen,” Elder Wanjun boomed. “You won’t be able to enter with your level of cultivation. If I can reach ninth level empyrean, I may have a chance at breaking them out.”
“What’s going on with the Boundless Prison?”
“It’s a sealed prison said to hail from the ancient times, and connected to the Ten Divine Nations. There’s a sealed entrance in every nation leading to the prison. Only those who have committed the most horrendous crimes are imprisoned there, and it’s next to impossible for them to escape. Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes, spatial storms blow up and create cracks, allowing some luckier inmates to flee. These criminals always stir up great trouble after their escape.”
Yan Wanjun didn’t know that much about the prison either. Everything he conveyed was basic knowledge.
Jiang Chen nodded. “I’ll be making a trip sooner or later.”
“Don’t be hasty. Even if you’re breaking in, you have to be smart about it. Huang’er has finally become free of her curse and found a good spouse. I don’t want her to become a widow at such a young age.” He already considered Jiang Chen his future grandson-in-law.
“Fret not, I won’t just rush in head-on.” Jiang Chen wasn’t going to be reckless.
Concern lifted from his chest after sending away Huang’er and Ling Bi’er. He’d also upgraded the formation of the island. It was now time for him to leave.
He didn’t have to worry about staying out of sight since there was no human activity within a radius of a couple thousand miles.
He leisurely navigated Starfate over the ocean, his mood light.
On this day, he flew over Warmspring Island, where he’d passed through the last time he was on the run. Unbidden memories about his old friends surfaced. Xing Hui and Xing Tong and Yong Peng’s family had all moved here.
It’d been years since he left Winterdraw Island, but he still remembered everything like it was yesterday.
“I may as well make a stop and see if I can find out anything about Eternal Divine Nation.”
It’d been a while since he left the sacred land. He was worried about its current situation, but it’d take some time for him to reach it. He decided to ask around first.
No one on the island was going to recognize him. He was way too far from Eternal Divine Nation.
Warmspring Island was even more prosperous than Winterdraw at its peak. He noted its unique culture upon entering the island. People here were more friendly than in other places.
He made his way to where the crowds were. The more people there were, the more cultivators, and the more information he could obtain.
To his disappointment, he didn’t hear anyone talk of an unrest even in the most bustling areas.
There were quite a few people raving about the Skymender Festival though. They told the tale with great embellishment, painting Jiang Chen as a legendary figure and Shi Xuan the poor cannon fodder.
Then, a few of them brought up Xiahou Zong.
These incidents had become the topics du jour in Warmspring, but those were the only news about Eternal Divine Nation that had reached the island. There was no mention of any recent development or an uprising.