Having received a clean answer from Jiang Chen, the venerated forefather willingly handed him the written order.
The young man put it away into his belongings without much ceremony. He hadn’t seen the spirit herb vault here yet; it was sure to be one of the best in Myriad Abyss, with a commensurately rich store of materials. Jiang Chen rather looked forward to it.
Returning to his residence, he beckoned to his companions excitedly. “Old Brother Vermilion, Brother Dragon, are you interested in raiding some supplies?”
“Raiding what supplies, exactly?” the Vermilion Bird asked lazily.
“The spirit herb vault here in the Eternal Sacred Land. How about it? Are you interested?” Jiang Chen tossed the order into the air, his tone enticing like he was luring little children.
Long Xiaoxuan’s eyes lit up. “The spirit herb vault? The one here? I want to go. Why would I not?”
The Vermilion Bird chuckled. It glanced at Long Xiaoxuan with a look that belied its opinion: the dragon was still too young and simple.
Long Xiaoxuan voiced its mild displeasure. “Just tell me what you’re thinking, Old Brother Vermilion. Why look like you’re constipated?”
The Vermilion Bird clucked as it shook its head. “Where has your grace gone, Xiaolong? You are a member of a noble lineage, yet your behavior is so crude.”
Long Xiaoxuan shrugged. “You two are a bad influence.”
“Not I,” the Vermilion Bird chuckled. “I am the most elegant of birds.”
“What do you mean by that, eh?” Jiang Chen interjected in a huff. “Are you implying it’s my fault? I see you’re not interested. Alright, I’ll go get rich on my own. Why’re you throwing away my goodwill like that, huh?”
The Vermilion Bird chuckled. “Gifts are often accompanied by difficult requests. Young master Chen, the Eternal Sacred Land’s generosity is no doubt coupled with a mission.”
“Very perceptive. I’m not getting the herbs for free, no.” Jiang Chen repeated the gist of what the venerated forefather had said to him. “Old brother, look. I have to go on the missions the sacred land sends me on anyway. This way, I can extract something extra to sweeten the deal. This is a rare opportunity for acquisitions – I wouldn’t miss it if I were you.”
“Normally, I’d go even without anything to get out of it,” the Vermilion Bird snapped, “but breaking through to divine realm is my top priority right now. Don’t you know how long I’ve waited for this day? Can you bear to see me stew like this?”
“You’ll break through sooner or later,” Jiang Chen grinned. “That you haven’t yet just means the timing hasn’t arrived. Maybe a few more fights or experts eaten will get you there without any work at all. Brother Long needs to increase his strength just as much as you need to break through, no? Xiaoxuan needs chances to fight in practical combat. It’ll be a waste of the dragon bloodline otherwise!”
Long Xiaoxuan nodded several times in succession. “Yes, yes, of course I’ll go. There’s food and fighting to be had. No reason for me to refuse!”
The dragon never passed up chances to improve its cultivation.
“Brother Vermilion, what difference will a few months make for your trip to Hell King Island? Plus, you can’t just sit around to cultivate all day and expect to get anywhere fast.”
“Ah, kid!” the Vermilion Bird was vexed. “Alright, fine. I’ll go on another of your wild escapades. But this is the last one! After that, I’m definitely going back to Hell King Island.”
“Don’t worry. You may break through to divine realm already by then. You won’t want to go there anymore.”
“I hope so.”
Man and beasts were eager to raid the spirit herb vault when another visitor was announced. House Yan’s Yan Zhenhuai, apparently.
“Yan Zhenhuai?” Jiang Chen blinked, then nodded to himself. That young man was worth seeing. He had a pretty good impression of the young genius. House Yan was wising up at last.
“Show him in,” he waved a hand.
Yan Zhenhuai was quickly escorted in. He was reasonably at ease as he came in. “I still instinctively want to call you Shao Yuan, but I reminded myself to call you ‘Brother Jiang Chen’ from now on,” he smiled wryly.
“Haha, you can use whichever name you like. Did you have something to tell me, Brother Zhenhuai?” Jiang Chen cut straight to the chase. He had raiding to do!
“It’s like this. The house has sent a group of experts into the Boundless Prison. However, they’ve encountered a bit of a problem.”
Jiang Chen furrowed his brow. “The three months your house promised are up, aren’t they? I haven’t gone to House Yan because I was waiting for you to finish the task. Now you tell me there’s a bit of a problem? House Yan’s failed, then?”
Yan Zhenhuai was somewhat helpless. “The Boundless Prison is a complicated place. The house made a promise it couldn’t necessarily fulfill because it was pressed at the time. It’s very difficult to find two people and bring them out from the Boundless Prison in three months. Even the experts themselves might not be able to return in that time.”
“So there’s no need to save Huang’er’s parents, is that what you mean?” Jiang Chen’s tone turned icy.
“Not at all. The house is trying its best. I came for two reasons: first, at the behest of the patriarch, to request a small extension. Second, to privately request you to forgive House Yan for this small misstep. I’m sure Huang’er is kind enough to hope that you give House Yan some leniency, even though she’s broken with the house already.”
“You’re certainly right on that count,” Jiang Chen nodded. “If I wasn’t taking Huang’er’s feelings into account, House Yan would not deserve mercy. I don’t mean to offend you, Brother Zhenhuai, but that’s the truth.”
Yan Zhenhuai’s expression was wry. “Indeed,” he sighed. “House Yan bears almost all of the blame. A single mistake has blossomed into a chain of blunders. Several opportunities were offered and missed. Not just the patriarch, but all of the other members are culpable as well.”
“Huang’er included?” Jiang Chen frowned.
“Oh, no! Huang’er did nothing wrong. Meeting you was the first step towards normality.”
Jiang Chen smiled a little. “Never mind all that. An extension is reasonable enough, but how long should it be? I can’t just let House Yan’s efforts go on indefinitely. If the house can’t even do this much to redeem itself, that proves it doesn’t have the right to remain in the capital. There are many other factions stronger and more loyal, aren’t there? They wait for the sacred land’s support.”
Yan Zhenhuai had nothing to say. Yes, there were many houses stronger than House Yan right now. If the sacred land was unsatisfied with the house’s attempt at atonement, it was quite possible it would be pushed aside for another.
There was nothing he could really do, given his position. He gestured toward the door. At his signal, several burly men brought in several chests.
“Brother Jiang Chen, these are a token of House Yan’s contrition. There are three chests in total for your records.” Yan Zhenhuai was just straight up offering gifts.
Jiang Chen perused them through a half-smile, but didn’t move. Was House Yan resorting to bribery?
Seeing his host’s impassivity, Yan Zhenhuai clapped. “Open them up for Sir Jiang to see.”
The chests were opened to reveal empyrean spirit stones, resources, spirit herbs, and other valuables.
“Is House Yan willing to pay such an expensive cost?” Jiang Chen was mildly astonished.
“Brother Jiang Chen, the patriarch means to ask for three more months. Each month of additional delay after that will mean another chest owed… as compensation for your frustration.”
Jiang Chen swept his gaze across the three chests. “I’ll accept these gifts,” he stated coolly, “but these three extra months are final. Do not test my patience. I’m only giving this one chance.”
Though it was rude to answer a smile with a slap, Jiang Chen did feel rather annoyed. How could he not? Despite taking three months, House Yan had completely failed in their task.
He liked the gifts objectively, but couldn’t forget himself because of them.
After the verbal warning, Jiang Chen sent Yan Zhenhuai off.
He knew that his own strength was somewhat insufficient to venture into the Boundless Prison just yet. If House Yan couldn’t pull it off in the end, though, he would have to head in himself.
“I hope House Yan won’t disappoint me too much.” Jiang Chen wanted to forgive House Yan. That was why he’d given it the chance to redeem itself. If the house couldn’t grasp that chance, though, there was nothing he could do.
Yan Zhenhuai’s visit had dampened his cheery mood.
The three boxes of goods had involved a reasonable amount of effort. Jiang Chen toyed with their contents for a few moments, then smiled faintly. “Take whatever you want, Brother Dragon. Don’t be too modest.”
The dragon snickered. “Oh, I won’t.”
The Vermilion Bird lacked interest in items of this caliber. “Young master Chen,” it asked, “the Taiyi Skymender Pill exists for ascension from great emperor to empyrean. Is there something for empyrean to divine?”
Jiang Chen glanced toward the bird. “What’re you trying to ask, Old Brother Vermilion?”
“Haha, I just wanted to know whether something like that exists.”
“It does,” the young man nodded readily. “However, I don’t think Divine Abyss has the requisite materials.”
“What materials? Tell me. I might’ve heard of them.” The Vermilion Bird’s eyes lit up.
“Old Brother Vermilion, you don’t need pills to help you break through to divine realm. Trust me, don’t overthink things. You’ve been stuck on your breakthrough for awhile now. The act of doing so has become an inner demon. If you keep on going like this, it will only be harmful to your cultivation,” Jiang Chen gently reminded.
He had felt the sacred fowl’s clear restlessness as of late. Perhaps godhood was too great of an attraction, a fixation for countless millennia. Now that the bird had the chance to get there, it thought about it every waking moment. As time went on, an inner demon began to form.
This was not a good sign.
The Vermilion Bird’s expression froze in thought.
“Young master Chen, do you really think I can break through to divine realm with no problem?” it asked once more out of concern.
“If you let your inner demon get the best of you, you can forget about achieving divinity for the rest of your life. A shadow of it is already beginning to appear. You must control yourself and destroy it, lest it trouble you in the future,” Jiang Chen warned.
The Vermilion Bird had indeed changed somewhat over the past few days. It had become a little harder to understand. Jiang Chen hadn’t paid it much mind at first, but the bird seemed to be developing an inner demon.