After they hopped onto a Jeep, they took a few turns and eventually ended up in a pine forest south of the city.
Yang Chen then realized that the inconspicuous trail ultimately led to the deepest and densest part of the southern forest.
It led Yang Chen to assume that if any ordinary person were to enter the forest, they would almost surely be halted by the guards. It was also safe to assume that the marketplace was an artificial set up to make the whole ordeal seem less conspicuous.
After all, the Tang Ancestral Fortress would require meals, which in turn would require a constant flow of fresh groceries, rendering their reclusiveness an undeniable hassle.
After driving for more than twenty minutes, they eventually arrived at their destination.
The huge stretch of land was covered with houses built with traditional black flying eaves. The center point was a remarkably placed tower that distinguished it from the sea of two familiar buildings.
The frame of the gate was braced by two imposing white marble pillars, and in the middle was a jade slab carved with a dragon and a phoenix with the words ‘Tang Ancestral Fortress’ engraved in solid gold.
Despite the antique houses, there were modern cars of all shapes and sizes, in addition to a handful of exorbitant Harley Davidson.
The contrast had left Yang Chen in a daze.
Cai Ning was slightly emotional as she stared at the nostalgic buildings. “There’s still a huge district deeper within. There are also a few other modest housings on the outer circle, which are quite a bit away from us.”
Yang Chen then took to ask, “Ning’er, where did you stay then when you were young? Maybe we can go on a stroll around there.”
Cai Ning smiled. “Let’s meet with Master first. We’ll decide later.”
Tang Lizhong was upfront with their request as he called upon the couple and took them inside.
After walking past a few dozen houses in a planned row along the white marble pavement, they managed to meet with several members of all ages.
These people were slightly astonished to see Cai Ning again, but barely any took the initiative to greet her. Instead, they greeted Tang Lizhong and even went so far as to joke with him.
As for the outsider Yang Chen, nobody cared to ask. A guest of Tang Lizhong could only bear good intentions to them.
Cai Ning meanwhile was hardly interested with the sect members, but would occasionally explain to Yang Chen whenever they passed by a functional chamber or the distinct rules they had in the sect.
Yang Chen sympathized with her as he was led through the estate. From the brief interactions he had with the other members, he could tell that she had led a lonely childhood here. The only people she had spoken to were presumably Tang Lizhong and the other students closely associated with the master. After all, her master was Tang Luyi, the biological sister of the grandmaster himself.
That explained Cai Ning’s disinterest in unfamiliar interactions and communication.
They soon arrived at the guildhall which was lavishly decorated with extravagant designs and recherché possessions. In the core of the main chamber was a sandalwood furnace conveniently placed at its center point with a massive phoenix pictorial positioned right above.
Tang Lizhong put up an inviting position as he proclaimed, “Senior, Master Yang, please wait a moment. The elders will arrive soon.”
Yang Chen joined Cai Ning as they made themselves comfortable. “There are other elders here too? What, are we having a meeting?”
Cai Ning took this opportunity to explain, “The Tang Sect has always been reclusive in welcoming guests into their territory. The main reason for this has been the symbolic and significant artifacts located here along with the confidential cultivation techniques and remedies that had been kept away from the limelight. If it wasn’t for your position as a main god, plus your background as the successor of the Yang clan, the Tang Sect wouldn’t even consider letting you into the Tower of Scrolls per your request. So I believe Master and the others are now in discussion to quickly make a decision before making you leave as soon as possible.”
Yang Chen was surprised. He expected to stay here for a couple of days but it would seem like the Tang Sect operated with great efficiency.
Just after the two servants served them with flower tea and tea cakes, a series of continuous trotting was heard from the rear hall.
A middle-aged man in a green robe, paired with a finely split mustache, entered first. Upon seeing Cai Ning and Yang Chen sat by the waiting area, he took the initiative to engage them. “Ning’er, after all these years, you have finally decided to come back and pay us a visit. I truly missed you.”
“Thanks for the acknowledgment, Uncle.” Cai Ning stood up and gave him a bow.
At that moment, a wicked sneer was heard from a woman at the back.
“You ungrateful brat, if it wasn’t for this disgusting man, I’m sure you would never have thought to come back!”
While speaking, a woman in a bright, peach-colored long dress revealed herself.
The woman had brows as proud as a peacock. Her face was free from makeup but it had exquisite features while displaying her pair of pupils and her supple skin.
“Master…” Cai Ning saw the woman and couldn’t help but tremble from the sight, as she subconsciously kneeled down and kowtowed.
Yang Chen knew that Tang Luyi was a Xiantian Full Cycle cultivator, which explained her youth and vigor. But he did not expect her to be dressed in this manner. If not for her ranting and raving, he would have been staring at her immense beauty.
Tang Luyi scanned Cai Ning top down before she seemed to discover something as her eyes showed a tinge of pride. She then turned over to Yang Chen and gave him a disapproving sneer before sitting down.
Subsequently, a crowd of seven elders between their fifties to the age of eighty was seen gradually settling into their individual seats across the redwood seats. Their eyes naturally fell upon Yang Chen.
The man in the green robe was hardly respectful of Yang Chen from the beginning, and once the elders were settled down, he quickly began interrogating Yang Chen. “Are you Yang Chen, the first grandson of the Yang clan?”
From his tone, it seemed like the Yang clan meant nothing in his eyes.
Yang Chen had planned beforehand to remain lowkey and passive throughout the excursion, so he calmly brushed off his question by a simple nod. “This must be Master Tang Dianshan, I apologize for my intrusion.”
“I heard you have achieved Xiantian Full Cycle. I acknowledge that you are a remarkable young man, but I find it rather insufficient to be the baseline you’re seeking for the permission to enter the Tower of Scrolls,” Tang Dianshan complacently proclaimed.
Yang Chen smirked as he thought, These old bags sure are secretive.
It was because from Yang Chen’s perspective, the old bags of the Tang Sect were all cultivators of the Xiantian realm.
Most notably, Tang Dianshan and Tang Luyi had both achieved Xiantian Full Cycle.
And exactly for their inability to measure Yang Chen’s cultivation level, paired with their arrogance over the belief that Yang Chen would not have made past Xiantian Full Cycle, they chose to assume Yang Chen was at the same level as them. It was somewhat fair for them to assume so as both parties were kept in the dark about each other’s cultivation levels and techniques.
After being invincible for so long, the Tang Sect was true to their name even to this day, which Yang Chen presumed was duly underestimated by Abbess Yun Miao. If they were able to train Cai Ning to set one foot into the Xiantian realm, who was to say that they did not have a legion of Xiantian cultivators at their beck and call.
One could easily believe that the Tang Sect, in a solid attempt to reserve their strength left all the dirty work to the fools of the Yellow Flame Iron Brigade. And if they were fighting for their lives, they would have reserved their very best for the last.
That kept Yang Chen contemplating if the Kunlun, Shaolin sects did the same for the continuity of their sects. But ultimately, his goal today was to enter the Tower of Scrolls. He then said, “Then what do you wish I do beforehand, so that I can access the literature within?”
Tang Dianshan sat by his seat. With an elegant and chivalrous smirk, he took a sip of floral tea, before he replied, “According to the regulations declared, all sects within Sichuan, with the intention to enlighten future generations with confidential studies, shall require the disciple to undergo challenges which exhibit decency, morality, and noble intentions. The process will determine whether or not a disciple is worthy of entering. It is not one that any disciple can enter as they please.
“The intent of such was to one, prevent the corruption of minds; two, to avoid the redundancy of illegitimate cultivations. Henceforth, if you ought to lend a scripture or two from the within the tower, that would be an effortless request, nonetheless. If you are seeking entry into the tower, you are not qualified.”
Yang Chen was agitated by his reply. I don’t know what I’m most accustomed to yet. If I don’t take a look at all of it myself then what’s the point of even coming here?
“Then what should I do to be worthy?” Yang Chen tried his best to remain calm as he added.
Tang Luyi interrupted abruptly. “You little brat, are you dumb or deaf? What my brother meant is you won’t be getting into the tower, so don’t even think about it.”
Yang Chen frowned as his smile faded. “I paid for my flight here. I’m not going back empty handed.”
The venue went dead silent. The overpowering gaze of all these Xiantian cultivators was fixated on them both, while Tang Dianshan just sat there with a grim smile.
Yang Chen nonetheless was completely unfazed. The pressure exerted by these masters was nothing but child’s play to him.
It was Cai Ning on the other hand who was able to feel the mounting pressure pressing down on her.
Tang Luyi rebuked. “Oh, from the look on your face you don’t seem too compliant. You really think that becoming the successor of one of the four dominant clans means the world is your oyster? So what if you are? Our Tang Sect has a history that goes back millenias. Your clan is insignificant here! Even the clan leader of the Ning’s has to bow and greet in the name of courtesy, and here you are boastful and imprudent!
“I’m telling you, even the elders of our sect aren’t allowed to enter the Tower of Scrolls as they please.
“Hmph! You think you’re snarky that you could blind Cai Ning of her conscience, but the laws of space are nothing but trivial to us. Don’t you dare get all cocky with your bastardized term of ‘god’ on us!”
“Pfft…” Yang Chen sneered as he turned towards the anxious Cai Ning. “Ning’er, is your master always this uncultured? Was this the kind of treatment you received in your younger years? I now see why you choose to stay away from this godforsaken place.”
“Shut your mouth!” Tang Luyi was furious. She forced her pupils wide open and released a wave of Yin energy towards him!