The Vermilion Bird and Long Xiaoxuan were pleased for Jiang Chen that the Warmspring empyrean cultivators had submitted to him. However, the young man had no intention of bringing them along just yet.
“Lu Che,” he said, “since you’ve joined me, I’ll make things simple. If you aid me wholeheartedly, you will be blessed beyond comprehension in the future. If you betray me though… I’m sure I don’t need to go there.”
Lu Che hastily pointed toward the sky to swear, “Don’t worry, master. Now that we’ve surrendered to you, we have no intention of treachery. Moreover, it may have been our fortune to fall into your hands. It would’ve been easy for you to kill us all.”
These men were most skilled at judging their situation. As they said before, they knew when to cut their losses.
Jiang Chen had taken them in as slaves due to other considerations. He had little foundations in Myriad Abyss, save for some reputation thanks to his affiliation with the Eternal Sacred Land, and certainly almost nothing in terms of manpower.
The sacred land made for a superb patron. It had the venerated forefather, the three primes, and countless experts. Unfortunately, its current position meant that there was little Jiang Chen could rely on.
In fact, the sacred land may very well need to rely on him in the future.
Therefore, forming his own faction to strengthen the forces at his command was worthy of consideration.
Originally, he’d wanted them to go to Winterdraw, but abandoned that prospect after a moment of thought. These people added together were roughly equivalent to Yan Wanjun, and the old man wouldn’t necessarily be able to keep them in line. He didn’t imagine they would listen in the first place. They followed his orders, but no one else’s.
It was better to let them move about freely for now.
“You lot, go to Miracle City for now. Make yourselves comfortable there and be ready to answer my summons. Remember, you may do what you like in that city, but make sure to keep yourselves in good shape. You are my servants – if I do not allow you to die, then you should not die!”
“Understood!” The cultivators heaved an internal sigh of relief after hearing Jiang Chen wouldn’t bring them along. They had their freedom… for now.
They definitely couldn’t return to Warmspring Island. Miracle City wasn’t a bad place to stay for awhile. It was certainly a much more bustling city.
“Alright, all of you can leave.” Jiang Chen dismissed his crew with a final declaration. His consciousness seal ensured that they had nowhere to escape to. As long as they lived, he could call them to him with a single thought.
The Vermilion Bird suddenly laughed after Lu Che and his friends departed. “It’s been awhile, young master Chen. Both your cultivation and your style have improved in that time. You toy with even empyrean experts easily, with minimal resistance.”
“Hahaha, you played a big part in helping me intimidate them, Senior Vermilion.” Jiang Chen had indeed used the bird’s strength to his advantage.
“No need to call me ‘senior’ anymore. Otherwise, Xiaoxuan will be upset. ‘Old brother Vermilion’ is fine. I’m much older than both of you, but my heart is still young.” The sacred fowl was quite pleased after its rebirth.
Jiang Chen tossed a pill casually toward his draconic friend. “Brother Dragon, this is a Crowning Empyrean Pill. It will give you a free level in the empyrean realm.”
Long Xiaoxuan’s eyes brightened as he caught the pill.
The Vermilion Bird sighed. “Humanity’s most remarkable aspect is your wisdom. The human bloodline is weak by itself, but you have several advantages. An affinity to fuse other races’ bloodlines into their own and an all-encompassing wisdom difficult for other races to comprehend are just two of them. That intellect shines through especially in the area of pill dao.”
Jiang Chen wasn’t proud. To his knowledge, there were races more adept at pill dao than humanity. Their only detriment was that their reproductive ability was far inferior in return.
Man and beasts chatted about what had transpired in the time they were apart. Jiang Chen was sincerely pleased to hear that the Vermilion Bird was now a demigod, a half-step divine.
Long Xiaoxuan, on the other hand, was fourth level empyrean – just like Jiang Chen. The young man was secretly gratified by this; he’d thought the dragon was already fifth or sixth level at first. It seemed he’d been mistaken. Still, the dragon carried astonishing power for fourth level empyrean.
“I worked very hard and had a Crowning Empyrean Pill to get me to fourth level empyrean, Brother Dragon. I’m a bit envious that you got there so easily.”
Long Xiaoxuan wasn’t particularly proud of its own achievement. He admired that Jiang Chen had gotten to fourth level empyrean as well. After all, the young man had only been a great emperor when they’d separated.
It had been only a few years since then. The speed at which Jiang Chen had cultivated was nothing short of miraculous for a human.
“Don’t be dissatisfied, young master Chen,” the Vermilion Bird intoned. “I’ve never seen anyone cultivate as quickly as you, even in the ancient times. I have the odd feeling that you have no limit when it comes to cultivation. You can break through whenever you want! I’ve seen plenty of human geniuses and greats, but you’re one-of-kind. You defy my understanding of your race.”
This was high praise indeed from the sacred beast. Long Xiaoxuan followed up with some applause of his own. “Young master Chen’s talent is very rare among humans. I’m not familiar with Myriad Abyss Island, but he’s on a different level from anyone in the human domain.”
“Alright, you two have given me more than enough compliments. I may need your help this time.”
“Just say the word, young master Chen.” The Vermilion Bird was in a good mood. Jiang Chen had saved its life, so it had a duty to help with anything he asked.
“Do you need help getting your girl? The one named Huang’er, yes? Let’s go to Eternal Divine Nation right now and grab her.” The Vermilion Bird spoke with great bravado.
“No, no, please don’t misunderstand. I have Huang’er already, and have sent her back to the human domain. Right now, we have a different issue…” Jiang Chen elaborated upon his experiences in the Eternal Sacred Land as well as their current plight.
“Without the Eternal Sacred Land,” he emphasized, “I wouldn’t have been able to save Huang’er nearly as easily. I owe them one for that. Plus, I have a promise with the sacred land’s venerated forefather. I can’t just abandon them.”
The Vermilion Bird nodded. “You’re as responsible and principled as always, young master. That’s what I appreciate the most about you. So not everyone here in Myriad Abyss is terrible then! The ten sacred lands have managed an admirable effort so far. They must’ve made countless sacrifices to defend Divine Abyss’ gates from then ‘til now. There are many bad humans, but also some whose selfless exploits deserve to be immortalized.”
The sacred fowl had a very particular sense of duty. Its relationship since ancient times with humanity entitled it to a degree of authority. “What do you think, Xiaoxuan?”
“Sure, I’ll come. I have to do it for young master Chen’s sake.” There was a passionate heart beneath Long Xiaoxuan’s flippant exterior. In truth, he possessed greater affection for Jiang Chen than perhaps even the Vermilion Bird.
He had weathered many storms in life with the young man. Jiang Chen had taken perfect care of him all the while, which made it difficult to be anything other than grateful.
“Alright, we’ll go together.” The Vermilion Bird was overjoyed.
“Right, where’s Little White? How’s it doing?” Long Xiaoxuan suddenly remembered the Astral White Tiger which’d always been his rival.
Both beasts wanted to surpass the other, which had sparked a fierce rivalry that was still ongoing. That didn’t mean they were on bad terms though. Quite the opposite: they admired each other in a way.
Thus, Long Xiaoxuan’s missing the tiger it hadn’t seen was understandable.
“Little White has found a fortuitous opportunity somewhere recently,” Jiang Chen smiled. “It speeds up the tiger’s cultivation an incredible amount. I feel that the opportunity is immensely valuable – likely more meaningful than even Hell King Island was for you, old brother Vermilion.”
“Oh? You would go that far to describe it?” The Vermilion Bird’s eyes lit up.
“Mhm,” Jiang Chen inclined his head. “You’ll know when you get there. That tiger found an ore vein that has great affinity for his attribute. He took to the place like fish to water. I wager that in a few years, he’ll become a completely different beast.”
The Vermilion Bird roared with laughter. “Looks like you have to start working hard yourself, Xiaoxuan! Little White’s fortune far excels anything we have here.”
Long Xiaoxuan nodded, his expression becoming somber. Clearly, the dragon’s inborn pride didn’t want it to lose in him competition against Little White. Moreover, he had begun cultivating earlier than the tiger.
Though Little White was still a bit behind, that was no longer a guarantee with the ore vein in play. After all, he was an Astral White Tiger. He could fast-track its cultivation to a concerning speed as well.
“When it comes to cultivation, everyone has his own path,” Jiang Chen laughed. “Maybe you’ll find a similar blessing one day that propels you into divinity?”
In the world of martial dao, opportunities were the hardest thing to pin down. There were surprises everywhere. Something that might seem to be initially insignificant might lead to a motherlode in the end.
“Look at me now,” the Vermilion Bird consoled. “I lived in Divine Abyss Continent in the ancient times, but I’m still only a demigod. Why? Because it wasn’t time for my fortunes to turn yet. My life was up without an opportunity for rebirth. Thankfully, I came to know young master Chen. Without him, perhaps the ruins of the Primosanct Sect would’ve been my gravesite as well.”