For the Ranking of Young Lords, it was impossible to decide the specifics via round robin.
Geniuses who competed at this level were able to fight for over seventy-two hours without a decisive victor. If each contestant had to fight every other, the entire competition could take more than a year and a half to conclude. Moreover, the aftermath of the battles would undoubtedly be disastrous.
The numerical placements of the Ranking of Young Lords were preliminary, with the seven emperors’ factions ordaining the positions. Strictly speaking, it didn’t particularly mean anything, but it was still somewhat useful for reference. Most possessed rankings that were close to their true placements, but this appraisal was untested by the rigor of combat. It was actual fighting that would decide the final ranking. Thus, the battles were an outlet for geniuses who were dissatisfied with their placements to confront those with higher standings, as well as an opportunity for those in the reverse circumstance to prove their caliber.
The staff of Taiyuan Tower congregated outside of Jiang Chen’s secret room. The competition for the Ranking of Young Lords was about to begin, but the head of the Tower still hadn’t emerged from seclusion. Everyone was worried to some degree. It was common knowledge that this year’s Veluriyam Pagoda gathering was particularly crucial. If Jiang Chen distinguished himself in the Martial Pagoda battles, it was likely that he would be made young lord by Emperor Peafowl. Originally surfacing as an insubstantial rumor that circulated amongst a few people, this particular piece of news had made broader and broader rounds as the battles proceeded. Thanks to Pill King Zhen’s increasing fame, the story was supported and corroborated by more and more people. Now, it was the most popular topic of conversation for the entire town.
Those who worked at Taiyuan Tower treated the gossip with some suspicion. They’d never heard Jiang Chen bring up such a thing. Aside from Huang’er who’d received a passing hint, no one else had a clue about its veracity. The news understandably energized them completely. Whether it was legitimate or only hearsay, it was enough to bring them happiness all the same. The young lord of Sacred Peafowl Mountain! Even thinking about the possibility made their blood boil.
If the news was truly authentic, it would be a momentous occasion for Taiyuan Tower. Though it was growing more and more in scope, the Tower was still nominally only a pill faction in collaboration with House Wei. It still lacked a heavyweight backer. But if Jiang Chen could become Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s heir,Taiyuan Tower would skyrocket in status because of this association. They would become Veluriyam’s foremost faction without contention. Every member of the Tower would benefit from the change.
Taiyuan Tower’s core membership consisted of Jiang Chen’s companions. Ten hand-picked slave attendants were also part of the group. When they’d first been rescued by Jiang Chen a while back, they had been forced to agree to serve the Tower for three decades as its protectors. The Tower’s lively growth had changed their minds. Its master, Pill King Zhen, was the recipient of an increasing amount of acclaim. Beneath him were Pill King Lu Feng, Pill King Bu, and Lin Yanyu—three eminent pill masters, all top-ranked experts of their craft. The store’s prosperity was evident. The unwillingness in the ten attendants’ hearts had disappeared completely, replaced with a deep gratefulness and pride. As Taiyuan Tower’s brand grew stronger and stronger, so too did their prestige grow with it. They saw hope, a future, and a wonderful road ahead.
Before, they’d been bent on carrying out their agreements as quickly as possible in order to leave. Now, they wouldn’t leave even if the Tower held them at knifepoint. Even they themselves had to admit that they were unreservedly aboard the Taiyuan Tower ship. The Tower’s glory, future, and prospects were unquestionably tied together with their own.
Aside from these ten servile protectors, Taiyuan Tower’s main force included Regal Pill Palace disciples as well. They had places of honor at the Tower—Shen Trifire most of all—and comprised the core of the store’s power. They lived beneath Taiyuan Tower’s wing and were the establishment’s biggest beneficiaries. Without Jiang Chen’s salvation, they would have all been slaves by now, soulless zombies under the command and direction of others, estranged in strange lands. Out of all their peers from the Palace, they were undoubtedly the luckiest.
Most of the others from the sect had died. A few more were scattered to the winds, their livelihoods uncertain. That these people had safe and steadily-recovering lives wasn’t simply good fortune, but rather, a luxury. Jiang Chen and Taiyuan Tower had given them everything they had.
Describing these disciples as fellows drowning in bliss would be a bit much. However, they were assuredly fixated on Jiang Chen as their benefactor and mental bulwark. He was a figurative tree that provided the canopy beneath which they sought shelter. Thus, they were entirely invested in Jiang Chen’s own future. If senior brother Jiang Chen could become Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord, Taiyuan Tower would definitely become more prominent as a result. The future effort put into rebuilding Regal Pill Palace, whenever it occurred, would be relatively painless. Neither the Eternal Celestial Capital nor the Great Scarlet Mid Region would be able to stop it, given Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s clout. All of these hopes lay with Jiang Chen! As the foundation of their existences, he gave meaning to their work at Taiyuan Tower. Without him, any self-improving endeavors undertaken by the rest of them were mere busywork. Given their talents and skills, no amount of personal development would allot them the necessary strength to oppose the aforementioned hostile factions. Everything was different with Jiang Chen.
The possibility of his advancement to Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord merely sweetened the deal. With all this in mind, Jiang Chen’s half-month seclusion was everyone’s concern. And he was still in it! If Jiang Chen stayed in seclusion for much longer, he would miss the battles for the Ranking of Young Lords. It would directly affect his actual placement, and thus, Emperor Peafowl’s judgment of him. From their perspectives, the ranking battles were an outstanding stage for his skills to be showcased. Missing it would surely affect his stature.
“Everyone, please return to what you were doing,” Huang’er suddenly spoke up. “Whether it’s about the Ranking of Young Lords or Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s heritage, Jiang Chen has everything under control. What’s the point of standing around here? Returning to your responsibilities is the best thing you can do.”
The girl was typically demure, but the entire Tower knew that the mysterious Miss Huang’er was Jiang Chen’s partner. Her words carried a lot of weight.
“Let’s disperse,” Gouyu agreed. “The young master knows the limits of everything. So what if he misses the ranking battles? If his strength continues to increase, he will overshadow the rest of the young lords later on regardless. There’s no need to use a single competition to prove his absolute ability.”
Her words were echoed by many others.
“Yeah, we should go back.”
“Okay, okay.” The surrounding crowd gathered themselves slowly for departure.
It was at this moment that the secret room’s door gently opened. A reinvigorated Jiang Chen greeted those present with a sanguine smile. “So, everyone’s here, huh?” His tone was serene.
“You’ve finally left seclusion, young master?” Gouyu was overjoyed.
“Greetings to the young master!” The ten guardians came forward to salute Jiang Chen as well. These old coots were each more cunning than the last. Their prior unwillingness had transformed into pure, unbridled worship. They almost wanted to take their hearts out in an attempt to put their loyalty on display.
Jiang Chen gave them a small nod and looked over the ten codgers with some vexation. He knew that they’d always been a bit resentful and unruly about working at the Tower. A bit of dejection about their situation was understandable. There was something different about them today, though. Why were they so freshly enthusiastic? Was the short span of fifteen days enough to produce such mind-boggling change?
Shen Trifire and the Regal Pill Palace disciples also came forward in greeting, as did Liu Wencai and company. Just like the protectors, they were greatly encouraged by the sight of Jiang Chen leaving seclusion.
“Young master, there’s been a rumor circulating in the city during these past few days. Apparently, His Majesty the Emperor Peafowl has plans to make you Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s young lord? Is that true?” Ever the hasty youth, Qiao Shan couldn’t help but blurt out the question. It was a question that everyone wanted to know the answer to, with preferably a clear-cut response from Jiang Chen himself. It was an answer that could determine the destinies of both Taiyuan Tower and themselves.
All eyes were on Jiang Chen, aglow with anticipation. Sweeping his own gaze mildly across each person’s face, Jiang Chen suddenly understood the ten codgers’ unusual fervor. It was because of this rumor, of course! Eyes unaverted and grinning a little, Jiang Chen decided to be very direct. “Does everyone know about it already?”
Gouyu’s pretty eyes widened. “Then, it’s true?”
The lack of refusal from the young master jolted everyone’s hearts into action.
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “You people knowing about it internally is enough, I think. There’s no need to announce something like this. Let’s try to keep a low profile, hmm?”
Emperor Peafowl had mentioned the matter to Jiang Chen many times before, and they even had an agreement in place. Nevertheless, Jiang Chen distinctly wanted to avoid blabbering about it before the emperor’s own announcement. He only let a little bit slip because of Taiyuan Tower’s collectively intense interest. His listeners were smart. Jiang Chen’s words were verification enough. It simply wasn’t time to reveal something like this to the public yet.
In the midst of conversation, the sound of loud footsteps came from outside. “Brother, you’re certainly a calm one. The ranking battles are about to begin! Even His Majesty has asked you why you’re not there yet.” It was young master Ji San. Pushing to the front of the crowd, he blinked when he saw Jiang Chen. “Aha! Have you broken through into the eighth level sage realm now, brother?”
Ji San had very sharp eyes. He saw the improvement in Jiang Chen’s cultivation level in an instant. Everyone else was shocked by this, their gazes echoing their reactions. Another breakthrough? He’s doing that way too often, isn’t he?
“The half-month’s work wasn’t wasted, thankfully. Let’s go. I… I’ve waited for the ranking battles for quite a while.” Jiang Chen was chomping at the bit for blood. His attitude brought new heights to the excitement of Taiyuan Tower’s staff.