The morning of the second day, Nangong Jun and the rest of the house's elders brought a restrained Nangong Ping to the Temple of Cleansing Fire's entrance. They found Assistant Temple Master Gao before the Bounty Arena had even opened.
"Brother Gao, I must apologize profusely. I have taught my son poorly and caused you much trouble." These were the clan head's first words of great recalcitrance to the assistant temple master.
Temple Master Gao harrumphed. He glared at Nangong Ping, the latter's face pale and frightened. "Hmph! I don't know what to say. Is one loss not discouragement enough for you to refrain from a second offense? Do you think that the Nangong clan is the greatest beneath the heavens? Even if Emperor Peerless hadn't been present, Arena Lord Shao is not someone you can trifle with. What gave you the confidence to challenge him?"
The harsh words the assistant temple master had sent to Nangong Jun prior was mere posturing, meant for the common observer. Deep within his heart, he knew that this wasn't something they would fall out over.
The questions mark the end of the affair for him, Nangong Jun realized. The assistant temple master had no intention of breaking away from the Nangong clan after all. He gave a swift kick to his son's rear. "Apologize right away to Uncle Gao, you lout! Beg him for forgiveness. If he's not satisfied with your apology, then you're no longer my son!"
These words bound the assistant temple master on a moral level. Assistant Temple Master Gao gave a convincingly helpless smile. "Brother Nangong, there are no outsiders here, so I can speak plainly. It is no trouble for me to forgive your son, his lack of manners aside, but I am not the one in charge here. Emperor Peerless is the one displeased this time."
"Emperor… Peerless? He and that Arena Lord Shao… are they close in some way?" Nangong Jun couldn't help but ask.
"Brother, there's no point in asking me that. The problem right now is clear: the emperor is really quite upset."
Nangong Ping made a bitter face. "Brother Gao, I am a slow man. This problem has turned my brain to mush. You are much smarter than I. Can you give me an idea?"
"I can put in a good word in for you, but I don't know if it'll be enough to exonerate you in Emperor Peerless's sight." Assistant Temple Master Gao sighed. "The emperor's recent appearance in Pillfire is odd enough by itself. From what I see, he has something on his mind. There is no other reason for a man as clement as he to be so ill-tempered. Well, I suppose it's also possible that his admiration for Shao Yuan is just that strong."
"Then I'll go talk to him about it right away. We are willing to accept any claim of compensation that the emperor asks for." Nangong Jun did not dare become upset at this revelation. A great emperor realm cultivator's authority and clout were absolute. The thought of opposing Emperor Peerless did not cross his mind for even a second. Despite the fact that the emperor was a wandering cultivator, no less. The head of the Nangong clan was perfectly clear on the fact that a single great emperor could annihilate his entire house rather easily.
"If you go to Emperor Peerless right now, you'll only be running yourself into trouble. The root of the matter rests on Arena Lord Shao Yuan. Why not reconcile with him first? After all, he was the… ahem… victim in both conflicts." Assistant Temple Master Gao begrudged Jiang Chen somewhat. Why did a youth have such a fiery temper? What was once a mild inconvenience had been blown up into a significant matter. But it wasn't the young man's fault at the end of the day. From the Temple's perspective, he had no grounds to offend the arena lord.
Emperor Peerless's attitude towards him aside, if the youth really was from Myriad Abyss Island, the Temple of Cleansing Fire wanted to avoid slighting him at all costs. As for the Nangong clan? If they really did offend someone from Myriad Abyss Island, there was no telling what kind of pain they were in for.
"Brother Gao, you're telling me to apologize to the young arena lord?" Nangong Jun was a bit hesitant. He felt no burden in having to bow to Emperor Peerless. Asking forgiveness of an intrepid youngster was a lot more difficult, mentally speaking. He was a person of some status here in Pillfire City, an expert at ninth level emperor realm. Lowering his head in front of a young man was, at best, mildly humiliating.
Nangong Jun's expression chilled Assistant Temple Master Gao's tone. "Brother Nangong, the Nangong clan is the party that has a problem, so it's your call at the end of the day. I've given you a suggestion, but there's nothing more for me to say if you can't accept that advice."
Beads of cold sweat formed on Nangong Jun's forehead. Assistant Temple Master Gao's coolness scared him. "That, er…"
"I have other matters to attend to. Please excuse me." The assistant temple master spoke with some indifference.
Nangong Jun felt himself collapse into a mess. He smelled the thick stench of danger in the temple master's demeanor.
"House Head, the situation presses against us. If we must yield, then we should." One of the elders urged.
"We don't know what kind of backing the young arena lord has. Since Emperor Peerless thinks so highly of him, perhaps he is of much nobler origins than we imagine."
"Yes, Nangong Ping is the cause of the problem in the first place. There's nothing wrong in apologizing, right?"
"If you can't bear losing face yourself, send Nangong Ping instead. We will back him up from the sidelines and butter the young man up a bit. Anything to make amends." The elders were inexplicably frightened by the assistant temple master's attitude as well. They were aged and experienced enough to sense the oncoming crisis, just the same as Nangong Jun had.
"Impossible!" Hearing that he was being made to apologize, Nangong Ping yelled. "I'd rather die than apologize."
"Silence, fool!" Flustered and exasperated, Nangong Jun gave his son a vicious slap. "Haven't you made enough trouble?"
"Nangong Ping, you've brought great disaster upon our house. Enough stubbornness!"
"If you were not the house head's son, you would be dead to house law several times over. Does being the young master of the Nangong clan make you remarkable? No matter how good you think you are, there's always someone better out there!"
"Isn't that right! From what Assistant Temple Master Gao says, that young man has enormous backing. Fighting with him when you can't win? Don't even think about it. Can you endure Emperor Peerless's ceaseless fury?" The Nangong clan's elders were truly angry now. They didn't care that Nangong Ping was the house head's son any more and showered him with loud insults.
Nangong Jun became purple in the face. His voice was shiveringly cold. "If you insist on being so hard-headed, you nitwit, then I have no choice but to renounce you!"
Nangong Ping had seen his father irate before. This time, however, his father's fiercely contorted expression was finally enough to strike a shred of fear into him. He had a feeling that if the current problem wasn't settled, he was quite likely going to die at his father's hand. As lawless as the young man was usually, this was enough to bring horror to his face.
"Tell me!" Nangong Jun was infuriated. "Are you going to listen or not?"
His upraised palm tipped his son off that if the answer was 'no', he'd be lying down in the next moment.
"I… I am, yes." There was evident panic in Nangong Ping's tone.
Nangong Jun's forearm trembled slightly. He let out a long sigh, his whole person looking several hundred years older. "Fool, fool… You've spent all of the Nangong clan's face today. This is the last time. If you still can't make something of yourself after this, then I'd rather cripple you than have you around stirring up more trouble!"
"Arena Lord Shao, everything is our fault. I did not teach my son well, and I've brought the moron in question before you. Do with him as you like. Even if you kill him in the process, we shall not complain." Nangong Jun humbled himself before the youthful young lord.
Jiang Chen glanced sidelong at the house head, smirking to himself. Admittedly, the older man was a very good actor. For one, his flexibility alone marked him a thousand times superior than his worthless son. After a short pause and a frosty look, he replied icily. "I'm curious. Where does the young master Nangong's confidence come from? Why does he look down on the rest of us so?"
Nangong Ping's own eyes narrowed like a venomous snake. Still, he had the semblance of a brain, and quickly drooped his head when he noticed his father's fierce gaze. "Arena Lord Shao, I was the blind one this time. I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
"I'm not interested in such an insincere apology," Jiang Chen snickered. "Whether you gnash your teeth internally or not is of no matter to me. That's as much as you can amount to doing, eh? Whether you hate me or fear me is no business of mine. You're nothing but a flea to me."
It was an intensely demeaning statement. Nangong Ping felt blood rush to his head. Nangong Jun's own heart dripped blood at the insult against his son as well. Still, he knew that he had to bear any degradation that took place now, regardless of how debasing it was. One couldn't profitably go against the tide of things.
"You are a first-rate genius, Arena Lord Shao. Commanding two arenas at such a young age… truly a man among men. My son has many awful habits, and I've spoiled him too much. Will you let a witless child off just this once? We will forever appreciate your magnanimity."
"I know that you're swallowing some very bitter medicine right now to plead with me, head of the Nangong clan. Are you worried that Emperor Peerless will give you hell for this?"
"No, no, we're very sincere. We seek only to douse your fury, Arena Lord Shao." Nangong Jun explained hurriedly.
"Oh, that's easy enough. Everything has its price, no?"
A price? Nangong Jun was pleased to hear it. Any concessions that the arena lord wanted was good news to him. In the grand scheme of things, the young man holding a grudge was much more problematic. Any greed on the youth's part made it significantly more straightforward!
"What compensation would you like, Arena Lord Shao? If it's at all in our power, we will spare no expense." Nangong Jun pledged devoutly.
"I only want Nangong Ping's Cloud Devouring Tiger." Jiang Chen was perfectly fine with resolving the affair on material condition. Why let go of an opportunity to fleece a family of villains?
"Cloud Devouring Tiger?" Nangong Jun bellowed to his son. "Give it up at once, you dolt!"
Nangong Ping was despondent, but nevertheless wilted at once. "It is kept in the Qinyun Residence at home."
"Send for it at once!" Nangong Jun shouted.
Before long, the 'Cloud Devouring Tiger' in question was brought here. Nangong Jun gave it several once-overs before personally offering it up. "Arena Lord Shao, this Tiger is now yours. About my son…"
Accepting the Tiger unceremoniously, Jiang Chen casually waved a hand. "You can leave. You will hear no more of this particular affair. Whether you want peace or war in the future, that's up to you."
Nangong Jun was exuberant. Finally, the problem was solved.