It's Daoist Huang! Are Pill King Zhen and Daoist Huang the same person? A lightning bolt snaked across Lin Yanyu's mind, connecting a series of unrelated thoughts. All the clues fit together now.
"Yes, yes, of course Daoist Huang is Pill King Zhen. That's why he told me to come to Veluriyam Capital. He finds my talent remarkable. He wants to help me!" Lin Yanyu was overjoyed. "When he heard about my troubles with Pillfire City, and how my father was Pill King Ji Lang's mortal enemy, he must've taken pity on me. I would only have a chance to take revenge on Pillfire if I came to Veluriyam—that must've been his logic!"
He was a bright young man, and instantly knew what Pill King Zhen expected of him. "Still, what an unexpected revelation. Daoist Huang—no, Pill King Zhen—must have acted as an overbearing asshole to deceive the others!" A storm of sensations passed through Lin Yanyu's heart.
Seeing Jiang Chen's arrival, Emperor Peafowl sidled towards him with a faint smile. "My young friend, how have you been recently?"
Jiang Chen bowed. "I'm pleased to be able to keep my promise and come back in time. Still, I must have already missed some exciting moments."
"It's not too late to have returned now. Look, all these pill geniuses are looking for your approval. Shouldn't you return the favor somehow?"
Jiang Chen smiled and didn't ignore the request. He went in front, his eyes brushing past all two hundred of the pill geniuses' faces. A hundred of them were youngsters from the noble houses and aristocratic families in Veluriyam. A hundred more were wandering cultivators from all over the realm. On a holistic level, the noble youths naturally had an edge. From an individual perspective though, Jiang Chen noticed Lin Yanyu's excellence. In intuition especially, he had a commanding lead over everyone else. It was just a first impression, though.
"Everyone, I am honored to be held in such a high regard in your hearts. The Veluriyam Pagoda gathering happens only once every sixty years. You have already distinguished yourselves from amongst the wider competition, proving your remarkable talents. No matter the results of this second round, you are already all winners. Having said this, the top three of this round will receive a pill-related opportunity from me personally. You'll have a certain degree of choice when that time comes, but I can't promise anything concrete. However, one thing is for certain—I guarantee that the quality of the opportunity will more than live up to the champions that arise here."
Not many people gave promises that were taken seriously by most. Only the likes of Emperor Peafowl, or his great emperor peers, had the appropriate status and honor. But ever since the battle over the Longevity Pill, the name 'Pill King Zhen' seemed to carry an infinite amount of charisma with it. Everyone was willing to put their faith in it. The crowd cheered with jubilation at the announcement. However, there was instant follow-up. "That's unfair! How come only the first three get it?"
"That's right, Pill King Zhen. They have enough nice things as the top three. Giving them further opportunities is just icing on the cake. Why not give us some much-needed help instead?"
"Yeah, we're not asking for much here. We only want Pill King Zhen to give a few more of his famous public lessons. Just like when Taiyuan Tower first opened!"
"It was three days last time, but you should make it seven to match the occasion of this gathering!"
"Seven isn't enough! I think ten is better."
Many voices echoed here and there beneath the podium. Most of them were wandering cultivators, but there were some noble youths who joined the cries as well, mostly from Emperor Peafowl's side. There were a few whose families were subordinate to other emperors, so they were demure. Nevertheless, sheer anticipation was plain in their eyes. Though Pill King Zhen was intrinsically Emperor Peafowl's man, no one found that particularly disconcerting, a select few of Emperor Shura scions aside. On the contrary, there was a great deal of respect for the pill king because he had defeated Pillfire's Ji Lang. In light of that, the feelings they had weren't unreasonable.
Off to the side, the Wei father and son grew increasingly passionate. The young man that had once been their guest pill king was currently one of the most popular people in Veluriyam. Who at House Wei wasn't proud of that? Who didn't feel like they basked in shared honor?
The old Jiang Chen wouldn't have been willing to spend ten days wasting time teaching, but his trip to the wildlands had changed his mind on many things. He wasn't just interested in keeping out of things and focusing primarily on self-preservation any longer. The demon race was on the move, and many human cultivators were dead as a result. Jiang Chen couldn't just stand by and let things play out. Emperor Peafowl's decision to stay the call of the heavens, just for the sake of keeping watch over the human race, was made all the more admirable because of it.
Jiang Chen hadn't been a particularly selfish man in his previous life. He had chosen to protect himself during this one out of necessity alone. But he was still a hot-blooded youth, and his father, the Celestial Emperor's responsibility was ingrained into his very bones. Thus, he came to a decision. If they wanted to hear from him, then he would teach!
"I've heard your demands, and I am pleased to answer. After the Pill Pagoda Battles are over, I will personally set up a stage here and speak for ten days. I only have one thing to ask in return—please, spread the message far and wide. The more that show up for my lessons, the merrier."
The crowd cheered at Jiang Chen's promise.
"Oh, definitely! Only a fool wouldn't come to Pill King Zhen's lessons."
"That's right, even if my legs are broken, I'll crawl here if it's the last thing I do!"
"I can already see it—with everyone here, all the homes will be empty!"
"I for one will do my part. I'll bear a personal grudge against anyone that decides not to come!" The wandering cultivators were mostly simple men. They lacked the guile that the noble scions often possessed and had a tendency to say whatever came to their minds. They especially had nothing to hide from Pill King Zhen. He was a beacon and a goal for them, an example of how a wandering cultivator could rise up into eminence.
Before he'd come to Veluriyam, Pill King Zhen was a virtually unknown name. But now, his name was respected throughout the sphere. Who in the world had their fame spread faster than he had? Pill King Zhen had accomplished more in a year or two than most would throughout their entire lives. Defeating Pill King Ji Lang, defeating Pillfire City's indomitable myth…
No one had been able to do that for thousands of years. Pill King Zhen was a perfect exception to the rule. There was much rejoicing from Sacred Peafowl Mountain at the crowd's fervor. Strictly speaking, Jiang Chen could be counted amongst their numbers. This was even truer for Cloudsoar Monarch, who knew that Emperor Peafowl had decided on Pill King Zhen as his successor. He'd had some initial misgivings about it, but closer observation of the pill king revealed the emperor's wisdom.
For any regular person, having this many fervent fans would put them on cloud nine. Yet, Pill King Zhen was different. His face always carried a soft, calm smile, as if all of the adoration he'd been given was nothing to him. Such composure despite his youthfulness already greatly distinguished him from the rest. Most importantly, Cloudsoar Monarch discovered that His Majesty's prediction had been surprisingly accurate. Pill King Zhen emitted the aura of a sky sage realm cultivator! It was quite the convincing piece of evidence.
At the earlier trial on Sacred Peafowl Mountain, the monarch recalled that Pill King Zhen's martial prowess had only reached earth sage realm. It hadn't taken him long to move from the earth to sky realm. No wonder Emperor Peafowl considered him in a special light. Cloudsoar Monarch couldn't find anything to criticize even when comparing him to young lord Fan. Demon bloodline aside, the young lord had been quite popular due to him having carefully nurtured his reputation. Compared to Pill King Zhen's reputation, however, his popularity was still somewhat lacking.
Their pill dao talents were even further apart. Pill King Zhen could defeat the eternal legend of Pillfire City—there was no conceivable way that young lord Fan's could have compared. The only thing that they rivaled each other in was martial talent. Young lord Fan had been quite a bit stronger than even the current Pill King Zhen. But in a real fight, perhaps the pill king would still have the lead. He had a certain reticence that masked his true strength. The talent Pill King Zhen had exhibited during Emperor Peafowl's three trials, for example, had never before been seen, even from the deceased young lord. The flashiness and intensity with which Pill King Zhen had passed all three trials were remarkable even now.
Still, anyone from Sacred Peafowl Mountain was of course happy to see Pill King Zhen's continued popularity. Naturally, this meant that there were some who were unhappy as well. Especially out of the seven judges for the Pill Pagoda Battles, a couple were certainly less than willing to witness this sight. After all, they were the real judges here, the main parts of the Pill Pagoda Battles.
The enormous amount of acclaim that Jiang Chen received made their faces flush with embarrassment. Each great emperor had a judge chosen from amongst their followers, which meant that there were seven judges for seven titled great emperors. Emperor Peafowl's judge was the best pill king beneath his banner. As a material witness to Jiang Chen's numerous miraculous feats, he had no objections to the lad. Several of the others hadn't seen that key battle with their own eyes, though, and weren't entirely satisfied with Jiang Chen's current level of fame.
None of the competitors had ever been so excited and grateful to the referees before, yet now they had chosen such a young pill king to be the target of their adoration. How could the older pill kings retain any shred of respect for themselves? As a result, two of the referees, because of the intense unhappiness that had arisen in their hearts from these series of events, wanted to stir things up and were planning to make trouble for this Pill King Zhen. However, Jiang Chen was still in the dark about all of this.