The moment Ling Tian Jiao revealed that he was behind Ling Tian Nan's rise, Ling Xian had thought of a trap.
Of course, the term 'trap' was not entirely accurate, better to be replaced with 'strategy'.
According to his current status, both inside and outside of the Ling Clan, Ling Xian's presence was more than enough to persuade Ling Tian Nan to hand over his daughter in marriage. However, Ling Xian was Ling Hu's brother so Ling Xian would be using his stature for personal gain. Even if Ling Hu did marry into that family, he'd still be looked down on.
On a different note, Ling Xian was about to depart for a long time. During his absence, Ling Hu would be vulnerable to retaliation.
But Ling Tian Jiao was second-in-command at the Ling Clan. If he were to openly side with Ling Xian and become a witness to this union, Ling Hu would be protected even during Ling Xian's absence.
It was for this purpose Ling Xian pretended to be angered by their connection. His intention was to place the blame on Ling Tian Jiao and that it was his duty to keep his protégé's ego in the right place.
If not for this reason, Ling Xian couldn't possibly lash out at Ling Tian Jiao who was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Young Master is merciful!" Ling Tian Jiao feigned relief. He couldn't fathom why Ling Xian was showing such a wide range in mood swings. One moment, the sun was up, and all was well, and the next, hail and lightning storm.
His sharp wit was no match for that of Ling Xian, whose century-long life inside the Fantasy had made him a man wise beyond his years.
"My apologies, this dilemma is of no concern of yours. I was already angry before and therefore lost my composure. Please do forgive me." Ling Xian smiled slyly.
"No, no, it is completely my fault. I was blind in helping such a character rise through the ranks. He has so offended the Young Master. I am at fault for not putting him in his place sooner." Ling Tian Jiao shook his hands and head uncoordinatedly in a hurry. The mightiest warrior in the City of the Qing, the Heaven's Favorite, was apologizing to him, this show of humility had put him at ease.
"Ok, I won't pursue it then." Ling Xian threw him yet another smile. But then, he suddenly frowned again and muttered to himself, "This has now become a problem. Ling Hu is smitten with his daughter, whom he refuses to give permission to marry. I had planned on using certain levels of force. But he is the right-hand man of the Clan Leader's brother, so obviously I can't insist on forcing him to agree to this marriage."
The words were muttered to himself but intended for Ling Tian Jiao.
Predictably, Ling Tian Jiao slapped his chest and said, "Do not fright Young Master, I shall make it happen. Ling Tian Nan is under my guidance, he will listen to me."
I was waiting for you to say this.
Ling Xian feigned excitement, then hesitation. He continued, "But my circumstances are quite special at the moment. Perhaps Ling Tian Nan would consider this as forcing his daughter's hand, and negatively affect the relationship between the couple."
"Young Master can rest assured. When we go in, you speak your intention, and I'll speak mine. I guarantee Ling Tian Nan will have no reason to refuse." Ling Tian Jiao replied confidently, completely oblivious to Ling Xian's strategy.
"That would be best, I give you thanks in advance." Ling Xian smiled once more. The thought of having Ling Tian Jiao help him in return for risking his life gave him comfort.
"It is my honor to ease worries for the Young Master," Ling Tian Jiao said ecstatically. This request was of no obstacle to him, yet the reward was enormous.
"Ha ha, let's go in then. I'll leave it to you." Ling Xian laughed and led the way to Ling Tian Nan's house.
Ling Hu was beyond confused at this puzzling exchange. But that was not important to him. His focus was solely on the outcome of this proposal.
On the contrary, Ling Hu's mother understood clearly what was happening. She threw Ling Xian a glance of admiration and gratitude.
However, Ling Tian Jiao had caught this glance, and suddenly he too understood.
Spectators always see things for what they are. Ling Hu's mother saw through Ling Xian's intentions the moment he became angry. She said nothing, allowing him to perform his best.
Ling Tian Jiao was oblivious to this trap until he intercepted this glance.
[They call me the bishop of tactics. They say my wisdom is unparalleled in this house. But today, I accept defeat at the hands of a 15-year-old.] Ling Tian Jiao let out an unconscious sneer. Instead of fury, he sensed a tiny bit of fear for this youth whose depth had succeeded in deceiving him.
This fear was forged in Ling Xian's bravery, then expanded in his stature. And now, there was a new dimension to this fear - this previously undetected maturity and intelligence.
Members of the Taoism Community mature much faster than mortals outside of this world. However, someone at Ling Xian's age should not possess depth he had just showcased. Ling Tian Jiao had never seen a character this complex. Of course, he couldn't have known Ling Xian has had a life of a century-old elder.
There had been and will never be anyone like him.
"Already boarded the pirate ship, what else is there to do but dance with the pirates too?" Ling Tian Jiao sighed heavily. He had already slapped his chest and made his promise, he couldn't possibly retreat now. Perhaps if he tried, Ling Xian would end his life with a flick of a finger.
Still smiling and shaking his head at being deceived, Ling Tian Jiao followed suit.
Soon, the foursome arrived at a magnificent, immaculately landscaped garden.
This was the home of Ling Tian Nan. Having recently found favor amongst the elites of the Ling Clan, his home would undisputedly exude the highly order of grandeur.
"Leader, after you." Ling Xian gestured for Ling Tian Jiao to lead.
Ling Tian Jiao nodded and pushed the doors open without knocking or announcing his arrival. He was determined to put on a good show with and for Ling Xian.
As he stepped inside, a young servant dressed in emerald came running to greet them. Seeing Ling Tian Jiao, the servant inquired with a smile, "Good day, Leader, are you here to see Master?"
Ling Tian Jiao ignored him completed. Instead, he stepped around him and headed straight for the reception hall while shouting, "Ling Tian Nan, get the hell out here!"
"Get the hell out here…"
His frightening shouts echoed across every corner of the complex.
Ling Xian nodded in satisfaction, watching the performance on the sideline with amusement. He was ready to see Ling Tian Nan being knocked out.
"Who dare talk to me this way? Looking to die?"
Ling Tian Nan's icy voice responded. Suddenly, he appeared in the middle of the reception hall.
Ling Tian Jiao narrowed his gaze and aimed it mercilessly at the man shouting threats. He sneered coldly, "Well, you have indeed acquired a new level of arrogance. I'd like to see how you'll let me die."
Ling Tian Nan was born a frightful figure. Dressed in a long robe with feet rooted where he stood, Ling Tian Nan was ready for a faceoff. But upon seeing his opponent, the host's figure immediately cowered. In a trembling voice, he muttered, "Leader, how… could it be you?"
"Why, I am not welcome here?" Ling Tian Jiao let out another cold sneer.
"No, no, no, that's…that's not what I meant." Ling Tian Nan shook his hands and head at the same time, unaware of whether he was crying or laughing. He continued, "Leader, you've come to my humble shack, it's my honor, you are most welcome."
"Let's leave it, I don't time for this." Ling Tian Jiao exhaled some steam out of his nose and continued, "Today I've come to ask you something."
"Please, do tell me what you've come for."
Ling Tian Nan exhaled a sigh of relief. He tried to contemplate the reasons for Ling Tian Jiao's arrival. Perhaps he'd made a mistake on household matters? Why is he so angry?
"I've come to pass judgment," Ling Tian Jiao replied coldly. There was nothing he could do to ease the tension. Ling Tian Nan had been blind to offend Ling Xian. He had to face the consequences.
"Pass judgment?" Ling Tian Nan's heart sank. He hurried with a follow-up, "Have I committed an offense? What have I done to infuriate you?"
"You dare ask?! You disrespected the Young Master Ling Xian. In accordance with the Commandments governing the Ling Clan, your entire family is sentenced to death!"
Ling Tian Jiao did not even stutter. The legs of Ling Tian Nan on the opposite end of the hall had already melted. He muttered incoherently, "Ling…Ling Xian… which Ling Xian? The Ling Xian who killed the two foundational-level cultivators?"
Ling Tian Nan could neither cry nor laugh. He continued in a trembling voice, "But… I've never even had the honor to meet him. How could I have offended him?"
"But you purposely humiliated Ling Hu, offending him is offending Ling Xian," Ling Tian Jiao continued in a merciless tone.
As if struck by lightning, Ling Tian Nan felt the air exploding around him. Such a little cultivator with no exceptional skills or character, how could he have any involvement with the Heaven's Favorite?
Seeing Ling Tian Nan in such a disoriented state, Ling Tian Jiao winked at Ling Xian and gestured him to step in. His scene was complete, his job done. The rest was up to Ling Xian.
Ling Xian acknowledged this gesture, stepped up to within arm's reach of Ling Tian Nan and opened the second scene of the Act.
"Ling Xian had come without an invitation, I beg your pardon."