Deeper within the young lord residence, Gouyu delegated to Xue Tong the work of accommodating the newcomers.
As Jiang Chen’s cousin, Xue Tong had remained dedicated and loyal throughout the years. He had no complaints about being handed Gouyu’s work. He knew that Gouyu tended to be a bit haughty and was probably concerned about taking a strange man around by herself in trying to figure out living quarters. It was no trouble for him to step in on her behalf.
They were within the young lord residence anyway. Their safety was assured. Furthermore, Tan Zhi didn’t look like a bad guy, though he did seem a bit out of it. Was it because of nerves from where he was now?
As one of the young lord’s earliest confidants, Xue Tong had excellent martial dao potential. That, coupled with Jiang Chen’s cultivation of his abilities over the years had easily brought him into earth sage realm. In the process, he’d also become experienced enough to deal with a variety of situations.
“Fellow daoist Tan, I heard that you’ve declared your allegiance already to the young lord at the wandering cultivator meet. As long as you’re not planning to two-time us, we’re one family from now on. There’s no need to be so anxious.” Kindly consoling the apprehensive recruit was the best course of action at the moment.
Tan Zhi forced out a smile. “Thank you, Brother Xue. You look rather young.”
“Aside from our seniors, the great emperors, most of us are pretty young around here,” laughed Jiang Chen’s cousin.
“I see.” Tan Zhi nodded in acknowledgment. “Brother Xue, I’m new here, so I don’t know all the rules yet. Are there any areas in the young lord residence that are off-limits?”
“None outright,” Xue Tong chuckled, “but there are a few unwritten rules. The young lord’s personal area, for one. Also, the female cultivators’ living spaces are generally barred for most members of the opposite sex. There are people watching all the important turns though, and security is pretty tight beneath the surface. As long as you don’t aimlessly wander, you should be completely fine.”
“So, is it fine if I visit some friends?”
“Of course. Daoist Tan, you have friends in the young lord residence already?” joked the guardsman.
“I just got here, so I haven’t made any yet,” Tan Zhi replied. “But there’s plenty of time to make some in the future.”
“Indeed. Everyone here is relatively kind. As long as you’re not too haughty yourself, of course.”
Tan Zhi nodded and said nothing more.
“Alright, we’re here. This courtyard isn’t too big, but it should be enough since you’re living alone. You have a good number of neighbors around here, so feel free to visit when you have the spare time.” Settling Tan Zhi into his new home, Xue Tong issued a gentle reminder before turning to leave.
The wandering cultivator was quite satisfied with the space. As he was about to push open the door, a silver-haired cultivator came out from a different house a dozen yards away. The old cultivator spotted Xue Tong by the wayside immediately and smiled in greeting. “Xue Tong, my young friend, what’re you up to?”
It was none other than Elder Yun Nie, whom Jiang Chen had rescued from Pillfire City a while back. The elder occasionally made an appearance overseeing Taiyuan Tower, but often returned to spend time with Mu Gaoqi.
The residence that Jiang Chen had assigned Mu Gaoqi was very large.
“Haha, if it isn’t Master Yun! We have a new friend here that the young lord told me to take care of.” Xue Tong gestured to the wandering cultivator beside him in introduction. “Daoist Tan, this is Master Yun. Both he and his disciple are the young lord’s old friends, and his lordship treats the latter like a brother.”
Jiang Chen’s cousin carried on with the introduction. “Master Yun, this is Daoist Tan Zhi. He was found to have an extremely valuable treasure at the wandering cultivator meet. The young lord saw promise in him immediately and the appreciation turned out to be mutual. That’s why our friend here joined up with us. Let’s try to make him feel welcome!”
Xue Tong was a smooth talker and deftly avoided mentioning Tan Zhi’s embarrassing situation. The alternative explanation averted a potential social gaffe.
“Wonderful, wonderful!” Elder Yun Nie chuckled. “Sacred Peafowl Mountain is growing stronger by the day. This is truly a testament to young lord Zhen’s charisma. You’re welcome to have tea with me any time, Daoist Tan.”
Unfortunately, the wandering cultivator who was being spoken to could only manage an emotional stare in return. The bleak desolation of the cruel tides of time could be found in his eyes.
“Daoist Tan?” Elder Yun Nie found the silence a little off-putting.
Tan Zhi shook himself free of his reverie. “I’m sorry, Master Yun,” he coughed apologetically. “You reminded me of a past acquaintance. I lost control of myself there. Please, excuse the discourtesy.”
The cultivator’s genuineness won Elder Yun Nie over. “Not at all. There is nothing wrong with being sentimental, Daoist Tan.”
“Feel free to chat a bit more, gentlemen,” Xue Tong smiled. “I have other matters I must attend to. I’ll go on ahead.”
His duties having been completed, there was no more reason for him to stay.
Elder Yun Nie saluted with cupped fist in farewell before turning back to Tan Zhi. “Daoist Tan, I have a few errands of my own to attend to. I must take my leave as well. Shall we share a drink sometime in the near future at my place?”
Tan Zhi managed a faint smile, but his eyes were stuck upon the old man. He stayed completely silent for a long while, his gaze unmoving.
From the moment he saw Tan Zhi, Elder Yun Nie had thought that there was something strange about the man. There was an indescribable feeling about the way the newcomer looked at him. The elder’s heart trembled. He felt restless and nervous.
“Friend Tan, am I really that similar to your acquaintance? I’m, ah, I’m having trouble staying cool beneath your gaze.” Finally, he teased the man to lighten the mood.
Tan Zhi sighed softly, nuance filling his eyes. “I didn’t expect Elder Yun Nie from yesteryear’s Regal Pill Palace to ascend to a position as Veluriyam Capital’s honored guest. Shall I congratulate you, Elder Yun Nie? Or shall I express sorrow for Regal Pill Palace’s fate?”
His words were a painful lash upon Elder Yun Nie’s face. The old man’s facial muscles contorted for a moment. He returned an incredulous look at the stranger, his heart thumping uncontrollably.
“Daoist Tan, you… know who I am?” When the elder spoke again, it was with a wary tone.
“Not just you. I know who your disciple is as well, the one that’s so brotherly with the young lord. He’s Mu Gaoqi, yes? Ling Hui’er as well, and maybe a few others from the Palace, too…” Tan Zhi sounded sour, though it was hard to tell how much of it was out of grief and indignation.
Elder Yun Nie stumbled. “Who… who are you, really?”
The wandering cultivator broke a tragic smile. “The calamity that befell the Myriad Domain destroyed both it and its inhabitants utterly. The sect was crushed and many died with it. The remainder was scattered to the wind, and one knows not the other. Who do you think I am, Yun Nie?” Tan Zhi’s voice suddenly changed.
Elder Yun Nie shivered when he heard it. “Palace Head?” he cried out. Suddenly, he seemed to think of something. “Tan Zhi, Tan Zhi… Dan Chi... Are you Palace Head Dan Chi?”
Tan Zhi and Dan Chi were extremely similar names. Not quite homophones, but very close.
Tan Zhi sighed softly, then wiped away the disguise from his face. His true appearance was revealed. It was none other than the lost palace head, Dan Chi. His eyes were as bright as they’d always been and his face was still handsome. However, there was a tinge of frost-white within his hair.
Palace Head Dan Chi wasn’t actually an old man. He was just over the hundred-year threshold. In the world of martial dao, that was relatively young. His hoar-tipped head told of the bitterness and suffering he’d experienced in the years since the sect’s fall.
Elder Yun Nie was paralyzed, possibly by electricity, or perhaps petrification. He stood unmoving for a long while, his lips quivering the entire time. Not a single coherent sentence came out of his mouth.
“Palace Head… Palace Head… is it really you?” Surely he was dreaming.
“Yun Nie. Who would’ve thought that our separation before the Myriad Grand Ceremony would take so long to bridge once more? Who would’ve thought… that Myriad Domain would be in pieces, and we would be homeless dogs?” The palace head found it difficult to control his own emotions.
Elder Yun Nie was brought to tears by what Dan Chi had said. He rushed forward, clutching tightly at the palace head’s shoulders.
“Palace Head! It really is you! I’m so glad…” Elder Yun Nie was as excited as could be. “The heavens have shown mercy upon us. You really are still alive, Palace Head! All of the Palace’s disciples devoted themselves to continuous self-improvement in order to rebuild the sect. I’ve shouldered that burden for all these days, but I’ve always felt that my own strength was insufficient… Truly, it’s wonderful that you’ve appeared before us. The disciples will be inspired even more when they see you’ve returned. I’m so, so glad…” Elder Yun Nie was having a hard time remaining articulate.
Palace Head Dan Chi blinked. “The disciples? What, do they still exist in large numbers still?”
“Yes, there’s a good few of them. A couple dozen at least, all thanks to Jiang Chen.”
“Jiang Chen?” The palace head looked like he’d just thought of something, becoming passionate once more.
“Yes. He’s the young lord of Sacred Peafowl Mountain. Young lord Zhen and Jiang Chen are the very same. Without him, we would be stuck as menial slaves in servitude, our lives not our own. It was Jiang Chen that cut a path from the Myriad Domain to Veluriyam Capital in order to rescue a large group of Regal Pill Palace disciples. After that, he journeyed a long way to Pillfire City to rescue Mu Gaoqi and I. He’s never stopped reminding us of the sect’s shameful fall, of the goal of rebuilding the sect. Without him, we wouldn’t have survived until now.” Elder Yun Nie was genuinely grateful as he spoke about the youth.
Palace Head Dan Chi’s eyes lit up. “So it really is him… Young lord Zhen, Jiang Chen… Hahaha, I’ve always known that he was a large fish in a small pond! I suspected too much, Yun Nie. My years drifting about has changed my outlook a great deal. When I saw Gaoqi on the way in, I didn’t dare reveal myself to him. I was worried there was some mistake. But I see, now. Jiang Chen… Jiang Chen…” The impassive expression that the palace head had held for so long finally turned into a joyful grin.
All of the dangers and meandering he’d experienced over the years was worth it.
He had never considered the possibility of seeing his fellow peers under these current circumstances. He hadn’t expected the calamity to have left anyone behind it. Palace Head Dan Chi didn’t think that even Jiang Chen would survive Eternal Celestial Capital’s relentless pursuit.
Yet, despite all the odds against him, the palace head had never given up. He had kept struggling to survive in the wandering cultivator world. The jade token obtained through serendipity had brought him an unexpected miracle.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
This chapter is couuuurtesy of Geiseric!! Coming up are requests from hikigaya17 and j3st3r!