The entirety of House Yan was shocked that Ziju Min had taken Jiang Chen away. After a summary of the birthday banquet, both the patriarch and the elders came to understand the depths of the young man's true potential.
It wasn't easy to stand out in that kind of pill dao contest. And yet, the unfathomable, talented young man had left with Ziju Min.
"What were you doing, Zhenhuai? Why didn't you pay more attention to him and stop him from going?" The patriarch was rather regretful.
"I was mingling with other guests in the House Xiahou manor, patriarch. I only knew afterwards that sage younger brother Shao Yuan had been taken away."
"Why didn't you stop him, Yan Qingsang?" The venerated elder Yan Wanjun growled with a scowl, glaring at his grandson.
Yan Qingsang pouted as he had his own reasons. "What's wrong with all of you? Isn't it a good thing for Brother Shao Yuan to win Master Ziju's approval? I thought about it and felt this would be the best outcome. Through Brother Shao Yuan, we'll be able to get on Master Ziju's good side, or even closer to the Eternal Sacred Land."
His words did make some sense to the others, but Elder Yan Wanyou thought otherwise. He sneered mockingly.
"Qingsang means well, but how long has it been since this Shao Yuan has joined House Yan? He doesn't have a deep connection to the family. If the Eternal Sacred Land makes him an offer, will he be able to say no? How will he possibly turn them down? After all, the sacred land is a much more attractive option than us."
"You don't know him, Elder Wanyou," Yan Qingsang denied. "If Brother Shao Yuan wanted to find a powerful benefactor, he has plenty of opportunities to do so in the Bluesmoke Isles. He has his own set of principles. He won't leave House Yan for mere material gain."
Yan Wanyou cackled. "The Eternal Sacred Land can offer him more than just a little material gain."
Their conversation was interrupted when someone announced, "Patriarch, elders… Sir Shao Yuan has returned!"
Shao Yuan had returned?
Yan Qingsang immediately rushed outside. He had come to explicitly trust everything about Shao Yuan. His brother was his guiding light.
There'd never been a moment's doubt that Shao Yuan would abandon House Yan just because Ziju Min made him an offer. Though Yan Qingsang wasn't a shrewd character, he was unusually stubborn in his judgement of Shao Yuan.
And the truth had proven him correct.
"Shao Yuan greets the patriarch and elders."
The patriarch laughed heartily. "Well done Shao Yuan. House Yan is lucky to have a pill dao genius like you. You grace us with your presence."
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "The patriarch is too kind. Much credit should go to Brother Zhenhuai and Brother Qingsang."
The patriarch chuckled. "Yan Zhenhuai should be praised for his sense of duty and Yan Qingsang for his generosity. However, I asked around and have found that you were the one who contributed the most in the pill dao contest. They should both be commended, but you deserve most of the credit."
The patriarch was obviously trying to get on Jiang Chen's good side. He was putting himself on a lower level and Jiang Chen on a pedestal.
Jiang Chen naturally could read between the lines and smiled back. "I can't in good conscience boast about my achievement as it's nothing to write home about. I'm satisfied as long as I didn't make troubles for the house."
The others silently approved of him for being humble. The young man was indeed remarkable. It'd be House Yan's loss if they failed to keep a talented youth like him.
"Patriarch, doesn't Elder Wanyou have a granddaughter called Qingzhi?" Folks started offering ideas. "She's one of the most remarkable girls in the house with both brains and beauty. And Shao Yuan is at his peak, an addition from outside the family that we value greatly. It'll be killing two birds with one stone for us if we arrange a marriage between the two of them. He'll truly be part of the family then."
Yan Wanyou frowned. What did this have to do with him? But he stopped himself before arguing against the proposal. Why should he argue against it?
No matter how he saw it, Shao Yuan wasn't any worse than the geniuses of the house. Other than Yan Zhenhuai, no other youths in the family was his match. He would indeed make the perfect son-in-law.
Yan Wanjun's line of the family had been able to recruit Shao Yuan only because Yan Qingsang had been the first to make his acquaintance. Yan Wanyou didn't believe that the two of them were really as close as brothers.
Even if they were, the bond between dao partners was bound to be stronger. Yan Qingzhi was a most talented and beautiful girl, but it was unlikely for her to marry any of the top geniuses. Meanwhile, there were signs showing that Shao Yuan would one day become an extraordinary man. Thus, Yan Wanyou was experiencing a spontaneous change of heart.
He'd instinctively disliked and rejected Shao Yuan only because the young man had been brought into the family by Yan Wanjun's descendent. But there was no point in rejecting Shao Yuan now. Why not change his perspective and marry off his granddaughter to the boy?
"Patriarch, Qingzhi is a fine girl who is considerate and talented. She and Shao Yuan would make a good couple. I won't intervene in this matter. May the patriarch make the decision."
Yan Wanyou wanted the marriage to happen, but his pride didn't allow him to make such an open declaration. He wanted to push the patriarch into arranging the marriage with this vague sort of statement.
"No, that won't do!" Yan Qingsang declared suddenly. "Yan Qingzhi can't marry to him. It'll be unfair to her."
"What do you mean?"
"He says he had a dao partner. Right, Brother Shao Yuan?" This was just a random excuse as Yan Qingsang simply didn't want Jiang Chen to marry Yan Qingzhi.
Jiang Chen smiled and bowed slightly. "In response to the seniors, I am indeed already married and have a child. Please forgive me for not being able to accept the offer."
The refusal to him volunteering his granddaughter offended Yan Wanyou. He could tell from the boy's attitude that Shao Yuan didn't want the marriage to begin with.
"Since Shao Yuan's already married, we'll give up on the idea." The patriarch was highly observant and could read Shao Yuan's lack of enthusiasm. Since he wanted Jiang Chen's loyalty, naturally he would cater to the youth more.
Yan Qingsang laughed when he returned to his residence. "Old man Yan Wanyou was fixated on you marrying his granddaughter. Wasn't I smart for finding an excuse for you?"
Jiang Chen smiled wryly. "I hear that Yan Qingzhi is talented and beautiful. Isn't it my loss to not marry her?"
"Haha, you shouldn't listen to rumors. Let me tell you, Qingzhi's at most one fifth as beautiful as Huang'er, and she isn't even one tenth as elegant. That's something many younger members of the family often talk about in private."
Jiang Chen wasn't in the mood to chat with Yan Qingsang anymore and decided to enter closed door cultivation. He'd wanted to break through to peak great emperor as soon as possible and aim for empyrean realm.
"I'll cultivate behind closed doors for a few days, Brother Qingsang. Please don't interrupt me unless there's an emergency." He shut himself in to cultivate and refine an Emperor Supremacy Pill.
Now that he had enough free time, he decided to refine the pill first. It'd greatly help him in progressing through great emperor. The most important thing about refining an Emperor Supremacy Pill was acquiring a Heavencloud Ganoderma. He happened to have one, and of high rank at that.
The next few days were both productive and relaxing, but at times slightly boring. Eternal Divine Nation was a lot richer in resources and spirit energy compared to the human domain.
He successfully refined a cauldron of Emperor Supremacy Pills, and his cultivation slowly advanced from advanced great emperor, making peak great emperor possible.
He knew that he would ascend to a higher level one day, but he wanted that day to come as soon as possible.
Roughly a month later, inspiration struck and the key to his breakthrough suddenly came to him. Understanding of the profound laws of nature dawned on him, pushing him from advanced great emperor to peak great emperor.
He discovered that he'd successfully broken through when he came back to his senses. He was now one step away from half-step empyrean. Perhaps an Emperor Supremacy Pill would be enough to push him over that threshold?
But haste made for waste. Pills such as an Emperor Supremacy Pill could only be consumed once. Taking it a second time wouldn't have that much of an effect.
He was in high spirits when he exited his cultivation, but immediately noticed that something was wrong with House Yan. The atmosphere was turbulent and frigid.
"Has something happened in the house lately, Qingsang?"
Yan Qingsang smiled wryly. "The Jade Lake Sect is still holding a grudge over what happened in the pill dao contest. They've sent many messages for a rematch and refuse to let it go."
"What about House Yan? Has the family agreed?" Jiang Chen asked curiously.
"Of course not. We can't compare with the sect in terms of pill dao. The family doesn't want a rematch at all. It's bound to end in humiliation. Besides, you're the one who's most talented in pill dao, and you've been in closed door cultivation."
Someone interrupted their conversation with a message.
"Young masters, the patriarch has issued an emergency summons. Please attend at once."
"Do you know what it's for?" asked Yan Qingsang.
"I don't know. The patriarch only said that anyone receiving the order should go to the main hall as quickly as possible."