When he returned to Taiyuan Tower, Jiang Chen was greeted by an entirely different situation. The Wei father and son duo were now sidelined in the Tower's operations. They knew as much and had no intention of contesting it. Their attitude was one completely fit for their station. Presently, House Wei relied on Jiang Chen instead of the reverse. Everyone in Veluriyam Capital knew that. If Pill King Zhen had not appeared out of the blue, the Wei father and son duo would be long dead.
Acting as a judge in the Pill Pagoda battles was already an exceptional honor. All of the other judges were direct subordinates to the titled great emperors. Jiang Chen was the only exception. Pill King Zhen was from Taiyuan Tower alone, which had undeniable ties to House Wei. Furthermore, Jiang Chen had truly made a name for himself throughout the course of the battles. He became even more reputable than all seven other judges combined. The title of 'best pill master in Veluriyam' now belonged to him.
The Jiang Chen of today was the greatest in Veluriyam in regards to pills, whether the metric was strength, bearing, or fame. After a brief conversation, Jiang Chen clearly noticed the difference in the Wei father and son's attitudes. They had become far more humble, and he wasn't quite used to it. Still, this shift in disposition was completely understandable given Jiang Chen's increase in fame and status. A difference in station meant a marked difference in how one presented oneself as well. Jiang Chen didn't plan on changing it, because honestly, it couldn't be helped. Instead, he grinned at the House Wei head's humble smile. "House Head, you should make some advance preparations. House Wei should be ready to become a great clan someday."
"Become a great clan?" Wei Tianxiao blinked. "I… I'm not sure if I'm ready to think about that." It wasn't due to a lack of ambition. Current circumstances were complicated. Emperor Peafowl's continued governance of Veluriyam itself was in question. As a faction under Emperor Peafowl, House Wei's future hinged upon the identity of Veluriyam's ruler. Without this having been properly decided, their future lacked clarity.
"Don't be fooled by appearances, House Head. You should move forward without hesitation when the time comes." It wasn't Jiang Chen's place to say much more. House Wei was the first faction he'd made acquaintances with in Veluriyam Capital. It was natural for him to want to help them rise up in stature.
Hearing this, Wei Tianxiao pondered the situation for a bit. There seemed to be a hidden meaning in Jiang Chen's words, but he couldn't quite put a finger on exactly what it was. As they spoke, there was an announcement from outside. "House Head, Pill King Zhen, there is a visitor calling himself Pill King Bu. He has a white beard, but says he is Pill King Zhen's student."
Jiang Chen had to smile at the thought. Pill King Bu was a high-ranking pill king loyal to Emperor Shura who had lost a bet to him during the Pill Pagoda battles. It didn't seem like the old man was planning on reneging.
"Let him in." Jiang Chen had no fear of that in any case. If the old man did go back on his words, the heavenly oath that was in place would judge him appropriately.
Pill King Bu had a lot on his mind. Normally, he wouldn't spare the House Wei father and son duo a second glance, despite their nobility. However, he knew what kind of position he had to adopt. With a helpless laugh, he nodded towards them in a half-greeting.
Wei Tianxiao was very pleased that an ordinarily high-and-mighty high-rank pill king was now so honest. Pill King Bu was acting like a child waiting for punishment. He didn't dare dwell on it though, and grabbed at Wei Jie's sleeve. "Jie'er, let us depart for a bit. We should let the pill kings talk alone."
Pill King Bu stood awkwardly in place after the House Wei father and son duo departed. He rubbed his hands incessantly. Despite his loss, it was still hard for someone of his position to grovel too much. He managed only a few phrases after a long period of time. "Pill King Zhen, this old man admits defeat. Why don't you lay down your rules? As long as you don't shame me, I'll do whatever you say."
Having lived out a fairly successful life for most of his years, Pill King Bu only wanted to preserve his reputation. Other things were largely immaterial.
"Shame you?" Jiang Chen smiled. "One only receives respect when they respect others. If you didn't shame yourself in the first place, what opportunity would I have had? But you're my student now, so there's no need to take it out on you anymore. Tell me, will there be retaliation if you leave Emperor Shura? If so, let me know and I'll settle it."
Pill King Bu smiled wryly, "I'm an old man who's devoted my entire life to pill dao. I have no wife and children, nor do I have any relatives. What retaliation could there possibly be? I only have a few pounds of flesh on my body. If he wants them, then let him come. There's no way that I'm going back on my word."
The old man's serious expression told Jiang Chen that he would rather be on Emperor Shura's bad side than break his promise. He was an honorable betting man, in any case.
"Let him come?" Jiang Chen sneered. "You're my student. I'm not just going to let him come. But I'm warning you right now as well—don't think of keeping your mind elsewhere. You're my student now, so I'd recommend you cease any designs on changing your mind later. Twice-betrayers rarely meet a good end."
Pill King Bu's neck stiffened. He felt personally insulted. "Don't worry, I'm not someone like that!" He shouted. "I'm no traitor."
Jiang Chen smiled, but didn't affirm the statement. He looked at Pill King Bu for a moment before continuing, "Maybe you think it's a bit embarrassing to be my student, but even the likes of Pill King Lu Feng begged to become such. If I didn't have a great need for people, I wouldn't have been so keen about taking you on as my student myself."
Pill King Bu's face turned blue, then purple. He didn't know what to say. From his expression, though, it was clear that he didn't completely accept his situation. Jiang Chen smiled. "There's no one else here. If you still don't respect me, I can give you another chance to challenge me. The topic is irrelevant. If you can gain even a little advantage over me, I'll give you your freedom again. You can go wherever you want."
Although he wanted Pill King Bu's help, Jiang Chen didn't want the pill king to harbor any lingering negativity in his heart. Any enlistment of the old man had to be done with his utter and complete submission. One had to remove all distrust from a man's heart before he could be used. Jiang Chen didn't want the long-term help of someone that hated him for any reason.
Pill King Bu was curious. How could the young pill king be this generous?
"I'm giving you the opportunity. If you don't have the courage to take it, then that's not up to me." Jiang Chen said with a half-smile.
Pill King Bu's chest heaved, his eyes bulging. "Do you really mean that?"
"You talk too much. Show me your moves, if you have any. If you don't, then stay put." Jiang Chen was annoyed.
Pill King Bu wasn't upset by the young man's attitude. He considered for a moment, then took out a pill. "I'm not going to challenge you to anything else. As long as you can successfully analyze this pill and tell me its materials, I'll be completely convinced. Even half is enough to secure my loyalty."
The old pill king had mustered up all his courage to say this. He'd attributed his previous loss to lack of care, so he was still disgruntled about it. Smiling faintly, Jiang Chen motioned for Pill King Bu to put down the pill. He swept his gaze across the pill. "This pill has been passed down for three hundred years, has it not? Is it a unique one?" Jiang Chen smiled serenely as he asked.
A look of surprise flashed across Pill King Bu's eyes. Still, he was unmoved. "Don't test me. Analyze this pill first."
Jiang Chen found the old man's staunchness amusing, and took the pill between his fingers casually. Suddenly, the hint of a mocking smile played across his face. He tossed Pill King Bu's treasured pill straight into the trash can beside him.
"You…" Pill King Bu's face colored in fury. "You can shame me, but you can't shame my master's pill! I…"
"Is a Profound Dreamweaver Pill really worthy of being treasured like this? It's just an imperfect version. You haven't kept this for the last couple centuries, have you?" The degree of Jiang Chen's ridicule was plain on his face. In fact, the Profound Dreamweaver Pill wasn't garbage at all. Jiang Chen had merely acted in such an exaggerated fashion to destroy the last shred of Pill King Bu's dignity and ego. Jiang Chen knew that an old man as stubborn as him wasn't likely to lose his airs so easily. He would only do so after his ego was completely gone.
"You… you recognize this pill?" Pill King Bu's entire person was in disarray. His face changed color several times, and he began to stutter. His eyes belied great astonishment.
Jiang Chen curled his lips, "Do you think that everyone is as ignorant as you are? Keeping trash as treasure… surely not!"
Pill King Bu was as gray as ash. Jiang Chen had landed a square hit to the jaw. The pill had been given to him by his first master long ago, on the latter's deathbed. His master had given him the pill with old, decrepit hands. The pill was his masterpiece, the old man had said, but it was incomplete. If he had been able to refine a real Profound Dreamweaver Pill, then his life would have truly been complete, satisfied unto death…
One of the requests that his master had made was that Pill King Bu, as his student, should successfully refine the Profound Dreamweaver Pill. The pill king had always considered the request to be on the same level of importance as an imperial command. However, he was more than a thousand years of age, yet his master's dream still had not been fulfilled. Thus, he'd taken out the pill to intentionally make Jiang Chen's life difficult. He hadn't thought that a pill that he held in such high regard would be treated as garbage in Pill King Zhen's eyes.
The pill that his master had requested for him to complete with such sincerity on his deathbed was trash to another. Pill King Bu wanted to lash out, but could not. He simply didn't have the confidence. Pill King Zhen had directly said the pill's name with such ease, after all. Maybe it really was garbage in the young pill king's eyes?