The atmosphere within the palace was solemn as Xiao Yan frowned down at the visitors.
He couldn’t help but worry about Xiao Ting’s recent behavior. His father had perhaps always been a little irritable, but at least he wouldn’t randomly lash out like he did now.
More importantly, he’d recently stopped concerning himself with family affairs.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?”
They said nothing for a long time. Xiao Yan knit his brows and lowered his voice as he pressed for answers. “Don’t you dare say you don’t know. You’ve been by my father’s side this whole time.”
The pair gulped instinctively. The heavy atmosphere scared them out of their wits. They were nothing but solicitors and hangers-on. They couldn’t even be considered part of a branch family.
They started timidly, “Lord, we didn’t…..”
Seeing this, Xiao Yan’s face darkened. “I told you to speak!”
His authoritative aura spread, pressing down on them. Soon they were covered in a sheen of sweat. Right now, they were truly beset on all sides.
The former lord was on one side, the current lord on the other.
Their minds raced. Soon, the thinner of the two spoke, “Lord, we don’t especially understand the person who’s gotten close to the former lord either. She appeared suddenly just half a month ago and gave him a bundle of tea leaves, then immediately disappeared. Since then, she has reappeared every time he finishes all his tea.
Xiao Yan’s voice was dangerously low, but internally he felt lost.
To tell the truth, his behavior just now was just a front. In truth, he’d never valued power or authority and was in no mood to deal with all this.
However, since he’d inherited this title, he had no choice but to act the part.
“Are you telling me you don’t even know her identity? Then you dared let her approach my father?”
As he said this, Xiao Yan’s expression turned grim, his tone perilously cold.
“I invited you here to look after my father, yet you let a stranger of unknown origin get close to him? What exactly were your intentions? Someone, come and toss them into the lightning pool! Let them taste the agony of forty-nine bolts of heavenly lightning.”
Their legs turned to jelly as they knelt to the ground.
They were only the most ordinary of cultivators. They’d never undergone a Divine Bestowal. They’d already been trapped at the Sky Supreme level for a thousand years. In the outer regions they might be considered exceptional, but they didn’t count for much within the Xiao Family.
They’d been living within the Xiao Clan, walking on thin ice the whole time, all for the sake of finding an opportunity to break through.
Now Xiao Yan planned on making them undergo such a potent lightning tribulation. Given their temperament and cultivation, they couldn’t possibly bear it.
“My lord, we’ve been wronged!” the solicitors knelt low to the ground, eyes red as they called out, “the old lord forbade us from intervening. We couldn’t possibly disobey him! Please, give us a fair judgment.”
“Please, My Lord, show some leniency.”
Xiao Yan couldn’t help but be moved as he watched them cry and scrape.
“Am I wrong to handle it this way?”
To tell the truth, he was rather soft-hearted. Given his temperament, if not for the fact that there were no other heirs, he couldn’t possibly have inherited his position.
“Regardless of what he said, why didn’t you stop them the first time they met? Could it be that he trusted her right from the start? At the end of the day, this is still your fault. Can you admit to this?”
Suddenly, a low voice resounded outside the palace. Xiao Yan frowned and turned to look.
“Who dares act like this before….”
Before he’d finished even half his sentence, he shut his mouth and leaped from his chair, wide-eyed and uncertain of what to say.
“Little Brother, I never would’ve guessed that you were head of the family now.”
The voice was misty and ethereal. Xiao Yan felt something flash before his eyes, then saw that a woman in a plain white skirt had already appeared before him.
Her face and voice were both familiar.
Pleasant surprise washed over him as he smiled, but just as he was about to hug her, he restrained himself. He took a few steps back and shouted, his tone hostile, "Who are you? How dare you impersonate a member of my clan?"
"No need to act tough," she sighed lightly and shook her head. "Given your temperament, being head of the family must be tiring." Then her gaze fell upon the two solicitors.
The two retainers were stunned; they'd never heard of the young mistress of the Xiao Family. Even so, at a time like this, they didn't dare look directly at her. They could only lower their heads to the ground and tremble.
"You say you're being unfairly judged?" she said. "I don't see it that way. At the end of the day, you're the ones who let that person approach father. You say he didn't let you intervene in his affairs? Fine, but then let me ask you: did he get close to that person the first time they met?"
They said nothing.
"That's simply not possible. You must have intentionally let her approach him; you've been neglecting your duties or harboring ill intentions. Otherwise, none of this would have happened. That said, Xiao Yan's punishment truly is a bit overly harsh. Given your strength and temperament, you couldn't possibly endure forty-nine bolts of heavenly lightning. We do still have to punish you, so go and undertake twenty-seven bolts of your own volition, then face the wall in contemplation for three hundred years. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for you to break through. You've been stuck at the Sky Supreme level for a while now, right?"
They thought they were doomed, but to their surprise, it seemed they suddenly had a chance to turn things around. They were now completely willing to go accept their punishment, especially after she said this might be a chance for them to break through, but it all depended on….
“Fine. Go on, then.” Xiao Yan waved them away. They kowtowed several times, then dashed off excitedly to receive their punishments.
“Little Brother, as the head of the family, you have to learn balance. You can’t just bear down on people. As the saying goes, 'the lords punishments and rewards are both for the people's benefit.' You need to learn to flexibly use and apply this principle."
By now, Xiao Yang was completely certain that this woman was truly the elder sister he hadn't seen for tens of thousands of years. He reached out and pulled her into an embrace. She frowned and instinctively tried to push him away, then thought better of it.
After a while, he released her, then took her hand and called out excitedly, "big sister, hurry and come with me to visit father. He'll be so excited to see you! Who knows? You might even take over my position."
"Little brother." She retracted her hand, then shook her head at him. "You should keep your position. I only came back to pick up a certain something. As for the rest..... let's forget about it."
“Say no more. I have to go. Also, don’t tell Xiao Ting I’ve returned, got it?”
“Big Sister, do you still hate father?”
She heard this just as she was on the verge of leaving. In response, her delicate figure trembled. She stared straight ahead, gaze complicated as she said, “I do. In fact, I hate him more than ever.”