"Ling Xian has come without an invitation, I beg your pardon."
The words echoed softly across the reception hall, a perfectly courteous greeting yet they sent a bone-chilling shiver down Ling Tian Nan's spine.
[Come without an invitation?
And begs for my pardon?
What a bloody insult! There is nowhere inside the City of Qing that you cannot go without an invitation. Such rudeness!]
Ling Tian Nan eyed Ling Xian then shifted his gaze onto the two visitors behind him - Ling Hu and his mother. His heart sank at the sight of them.
He couldn't believe this little good-for-nothing nobody was Ling Xian's brother.
What sort of hero was Ling Xian?
The hero who slaughtered two foundational-level warriors, the mightiest cultivator in the City of Qing, the genius who tamed the Eyes of Execution, the Heaven's Favorite!
[Couldn't you have revealed to me earlier that you were Ling Xian's brother? If you had, I would never have humiliated you.]
Ling Tian Nan was nearly reduced to tears. With much difficulty, he squeezed out a smile and bowed. "Young Master Ling is too humble, your presence is my honor. Please, what can I do for you?"
"You should know very well what I'm here for." Ling Xian threw him a look that was neither cold nor inviting. Dragging Ling Hu out from behind him, Ling Xian continued, "I've come today to ask you, on behalf of my brother, for your daughter's hand in marriage.
Ling Tian Nan had not had a chance to react before a sharp voice took everyone by surprise.
An elegant, middle-aged woman stepped into the room, her icy gaze stared at a nervous Ling Hu up and down as she scorned, "Why don't you take a good look at your lame brother, no looks, no skills, no background, no wealth, and he wants to marry my daughter? Beauty for a beast, only in his dreams!"
Ling Xian frowned but did not react. Instead, he gently patted Ling Hu on the back and shifted his gaze onto Ling Tian Nan, demanding a response from him.
In fact, Ling Tian Nan froze as soon as his wife shouted the words "I reject" and heard no more. He only stood, petrified.
His wife was openly rejecting the wishes of Young Master Ling?
Ling Tian Nan's mind went blank and numb as he continued to stand like a scarecrow.
Seeing that no one responded to her ill-mannered outburst, the middle-aged woman began to push her boundaries. She pointed her finger at Ling Hu and shouted, "Why don't you pee a puddle and check yourself out? Darker than coal, bigger than a bear, you don't look anything like a human. A beast is not welcome here, let alone propose marriage!"
"Calling you thick is too kind, you have no awareness. You think by making my daughter happy with your deceiving words would be enough to soften us too? Her father is chief of all household affairs, the favorite of the second-in-command Leader of the Ling Clan. And what do you have, other than a sickly old mother? You think you're good enough to be the son-in-law of this house?"
The middle-aged woman went on, her words becoming increasingly sharper and pierced deeper into the veins of the Ling Hu and his mother. Ling Xian's eyes went from gray to black.
Ling Tian Jiao observed emotionlessly from the sideline. His gaze was turning deadly.
However, the middle-aged woman sensed no awkwardness and continued on by throwing a degrading glare towards Ling Xian. She persisted, out of control, "You, on the other hand, have a good package. But the water must have gotten into your head. Didn't you look twice before coming here with your hideous brother? A piece of tile in this house is worth 1000 spiritual stones. Be careful when you walk. You can't afford to repair it!"
She finally finished her lecture, but she wasn't finished. Throwing a look of disgust at no one in particular, she mumbled to herself, "What is this nonsense? Who let these dogs in…"
Deafening silence instantly consumed the great room.
Ling Tian Nan, now somewhat recovered, finally checked into the situation he was in. He raised his finger and pointed at his wife, but in his state of outrage, couldn't utter a sound.
Ling Tian Jiao, on the other hand, could contain himself no more. He had come for a good show. Instead, he walked in a tragedy where the hero of the City was being called a dog.
"Ignorant, repulsive woman, shut your mouth!"
Ling Tian Jiao took a huge leap forward in her direction and slapped her hard on the cheek.
The force of the hit sent the woman back a few giant steps. A clear handprint emerged on one side of her cheek. She held her face and shouted at Ling Tian Jiao, "You dare hit me? Do you know who my husband is? Damn you! I'll kill you!"
Ling Tian Jiao was unfazed by her series of violent accusations. Before she realized what was happening, another slap landed on the other side of her cheek. Blood could be seen running down the corner of her mouth.
The middle-aged woman screamed in agony. She ran to the side of her husband and bellowed, "Ling Tian Nan, I've been hit. Someone's hit me! Kill him! Kill him!"
Ling Tian Nan finally woke up from his petrified state. He looked at the now furious Ling Tian Jiao, then the emotionless Ling Xian, and finally, at his foolish, out-of-control wife. He bent his right arm and took a few hard swings at her face.
"Pa! Pa! Pa! Pa…"
The beautiful face of the once elegant women was beginning to swell. She looked at him with an expression of shock and bellowed again, "Ling Tian Nan, you dare hit me?!"
"You moron, shut your mouth at once!"
Seeing that his wife had finally locked her lips, Ling Tian Nan bowed down deeply at Ling Tian Jiao and sighed heavily. "Leader, please forgive me. I've spoilt her."
This man… this was my husband's superior?
The middle-aged woman opened her eyes wide, a cold shiver traveled down her spine. She had never met Ling Tian Jiao or Ling Xian, or she would not have been so openly disrespectful. Hearing her husband address these guests, she was beginning to realize the gravity of her mistake.
Ling Tian Jiao looked at him with pity. Waving his hand, he said, "Do not apologize to me, apologize to the Young Master."
Ling Tian Nan returned a pitiful look, stumbled towards Ling Xian and kneeled in front of him. He had no choice but to beg for forgiveness, "Young Master Ling Xian, it is all my fault. I have failed you. Please forgive me. If you must, punish me, and only me. I'll accept anything."
The one who defeated the foundational-level cultivators? The Heaven's Favorite, keeper of the City of Qing?]
The middle-aged woman went cold from head to toe. She was now completely aware of the implications of her outburst. For her act of foolishness, her entire family would pay with their lives.
But regret came too late.
The woman yelled as she threw herself at Ling Xian's feet and wept, "No, Young Master Ling, it's my fault, all my fault. Please spare my husband, I beg you, spare him!"
"Only if you had the foresight." Ling Xian shook his head coldly as he broke free from her grasp. He stepped back and sat down on an oak chair.
Ling Xian had carefully planned Ling Hu's marriage proposal. He had successfully entrapped Ling Tian Jiao in his scheme, and everything was unfolding according to plan. Sadly, no one could have predicted this outcome.
His hard work down the drain.
"Young Master, I'm to blame. Please spare my husband, I beg you…" A flood of tears ran down her face as she continued to beg for her husband's life.
Ling Xian sighed softly, "I came today for a marriage proposal. We came with genuine intentions to ask for your daughter's hand-in-marriage. What a good match, a happy occasion. How can it end this way?"
"Young Master Ling, it is all my doing, everything is my fault. But please spare me, and spare my family," Ling Tian Nan added hopelessly as he closed his eyes and waited for the deathly blow.
"Am I an evil murderer in your eyes?" Ling Xian shook his head. The middle-aged woman was indeed foolish. But killing her would destroy any chance Ling Hu had at being with the girl. The woman had already gotten the beating she deserved from her husband.
Ling Tian Nan startled. He opened his eyes in excitement. His wife did the same.
Ling Xian let out another soft sigh and spoke, "Ling Hu, tell me, do you still want to marry their daughter?"
"Brother, I do!" Ling Hu responded without the slightest hesitation.
"Good, if you insist, I will help you until the end," Ling Xian said, reassured. After such an episode, Ling Hu still wanted to marry the girl. He must love her.
"Brother, I thank you, but I don't need your help."
Ling Hu spoke these words softly but clearly. In this instant, he had become a grown man. He walked over to Ling Tian Nan and his wife and said, "I have no looks, no wealth, no family, but I have bravery and determination. I also have love for your daughter, a love that will never waiver, even in death."
"The shame you have bestowed on me today will not defeat me. I will use it as encouragement to become a better man. One day, I will stand before you, and you will gladly give permission for your daughter to marry me."
Ling Hu showed no expression as he uttered these words. However, everyone could hear the determination behind his vow.
His humiliation at the hands of the middle-aged woman made him realize that he needed to do this on his own. Using his brother's position and status to acquire a marriage that did not receive the blessings of the bride's family was worse than no marriage.
This was not what Ling Hu wanted. He had his own pride, his own dignity. He needed to do this himself to show Ling Tian Nan and his wife that he would make a worthy husband for their daughter.
He had made up his mind.
Ling Xian stood slowly and looked at Ling Hu with pride.
"Brother, I thank you for everything you have done for me. But I've made up my mind. Even if you did help me steal a bride this way, no one would respect me for it. I will not respect me for it." Ling Hu continued, "So I will do this myself. I will work and train harder. I will become a respected cultivator. When I've succeeded, I will come back and ask her again."
"Good, this gives me all the comfort and assurance I need." Ling Xian nodded in satisfaction, but tested him, mockingly, one more time, "But, can you really put your thoughts and feelings behind and wait?"
"Well…" Ling Hu pondered a moment and said with a humble laughter, "Not really."
"I knew it. So, step aside and let your brother help you one more time." Ling Xian laughed out loud. Suddenly, magical Qi expelled from his body and swirled around him, then the entire room, then the entire garden.
Then, in the midst of silence and awe, he dropped these frightening words.
"Today, Ling Xian will play the part of a tyrant and take the girl by force."