“Oh? What opportunity? Tell me about it.” Jiang Chen didn’t mind lending Sir Xiao an ear as the fellow had left him with a rather good impression.
“A selection’s going be held in a few days. It’s being hosted by the city lord.”
“Oh? What’s it for?” Jiang Chen’s interest was piqued.
“To uncover experts and geniuses of course! The three great factions on Winterdraw have been expanding exponentially in recent years. They’re extremely short on manpower, especially people with real talent. The city lord also needs to strengthen his rule and expand his field of influence. A lot of manpower is needed to support these expansions. Thus, the selection isn’t just for show, but a grand and momentous event. The city lord is taking it very seriously.”
“What do candidates stand to gain if they’re selected?” Jiang Chen asked curiously.
“Plenty! You'll noticed by the city lord and be his direct subordinate. He's one of the most eminent figures on the island, second only to the wardens. That alone is good enough of a reward, isn’t it?”
Jiang Chen fell into deep contemplation.
The event was quite prestigious. All selected candidates would come in contact with the upper echelons. This was exactly what he needed. He’d have to uncover more secrets if he wished to escape the island. Knowledge was the key to success.
“Are there any requirements to participate?” Jiang Chen was clearly tempted.
“No, but you need one of the seven great factions to be your guarantor. Without them, you’re not allowed to sign up.”
There were seven great factions in Sin City. Southsky Alliance, the faction which Sir Xiao belonged to, was one of them.
Jiang Chen smiled wryly and glanced at Sir Xiao. “It seems the entry bar is set rather high. If I’m not mistaken, Brother Xiao’s faction is one of the seven great factions, right?”
Sir Xiao nodded with a smile. “I was just about to get to this. Brother Jiang, I can be your guarantor.”
“Brother Xiao, your offer is greatly appreciated, but there has to be another way.” Jiang Chen appreciated Sir Xiao’s gesture, but upon further reflection, he felt this wouldn’t be a good thing since he wasn’t going to stay on the island for long.
If he ran away in the future, his sudden absence might negatively impact his guarantor. Thus, he was reluctant to accept the young master’s offer.
Sir Xiao was taken aback. “Do you doubt my ability that much?”
Jiang Chen shook his head. “Sir Xiao, please don’t misunderstand. You’ve given me a great offer, but my path ahead is uncertain. I only worry that I might implicate you if I accept it.”
Sir Xiao was a sharp person and instantly understood what was going on. His eyes were wide as a bell. “Your determination to leave this place is far stronger than most. Are you really serious about it?”
“I have to leave this island.” Jiang Chen remained extremely resolute.
Sir Xiao sighed. He was completely speechless.
“Brother Jiang, I truly respect your resolve and I promise not to tell a soul. But please don't try anything rash unless you're absolutely sure about it, because escaping is the greatest sin on this island. Attempting escape is a crime more serious than arson or murder here. It's a guaranteed death penalty!” Sir Xiao warned solemnly.
“I understand. Thanks for the warning.” Jiang Chen raised his hands in a cupped fist salute. “However, I genuinely wish to participate in the selection. Is there any other way for me to do so?”
Sir Xiao sighed. “There are quite a few actually. The notion of playing guarantor is a chance for the seven factions to reap money. Every faction will have many extra spots, and there are many who want to participate in the selection. Not everyone has a background related to the great factions. Thus, they have no choice but to buy their way in.”
“Oh? Is that so?” Jiang Chen was thrilled. It was much easier to let money do all the talking.
“Mm. Some of them have already begun selling their spots. One recommendation costs around thirty thousand sky spirit stones. That’s rather hefty if you ask me.”
It was almost daylight robbery. If ten thousand spots were sold, that would be three hundred million spirit stones without moving a finger. The factions would be counting money in their sleep!
Jiang Chen cupped his fist. “Thank you for the advice.”
Sir Xiao made a sweeping gesture. “Enough of that. No need for pleasantries between us. It's only right that I give you my guarantee after drinking your fine wine.”
Jiang Chen smiled. “Money is the better solution to the problem. I don't want to cause you any trouble in the future.”
Thirty thousand spirit stones wasn't exactly astronomical and was well within what he could afford.
After that was said and done, the two no longer discussed the selection. The young master was extremely curious about the outside world; his fascination apparent from every word and sentence.
Jiang Chen sighed. “When will they finally lift the prohibition and let everyone leave and enter as they please?”
“Probably never! Such is the fate of everyone living on this island!” Sorrow tinged Sir Xiao’s voice.
The two conversed late into the night before they were finally willing to part. The young master clearly admired Jiang Chen a lot. The latter’s different manner of treating others left a good impression on the emotional youth.
When Jiang Chen retired to his room, he noticed that a tray of delicacies had been left at his door. It must been a gift from Xing Tong. He picked up the delicacies and brought it into his room.
Sir Xiao’s intel had moved him greatly. He was eager to give it a try. If he managed to forge a closer relationship with the city lord, perhaps he could gain higher level intel?
The next morning, Jiang Chen set out to buy a spot from one of the great factions.
“Big Brother Jiang, are you going out?” Xing Tong had woken up early as well. She greeted Jiang Chen while accompanying her father on a morning stroll.
“I'm signing up for the city lord's selection.” Jiang Chen answered truthfully.
Xing Hui's eyes lit up. “Is Sir Jiang going to attend the selection as well? With your talents and your age, it’s definitely a great stage to catapult you to greatness!”
“You know about the selection?” Jiang Chen asked curiously.
Xing Hui sighed. “Of course. I participated once. Unfortunately, my competition was too strong. My talent and strength are both above average, but I still failed to make it. However, Sir Jiang is a stunning genius. I'm sure you'll be a cut above the rest.”
“Thank you for your blessings.” Jiang Chen smiled and left with a cupped fist goodbye.
Xing Tong whispered after Jiang Chen left. “Daddy, do you think Jiang Chen will succeed in the selection? He’s offended the city guards. Won’t they seek revenge if he join the selection?”
“Tong’er, you're overthinking it. The city guards are ordinary soldiers. With their capabilities, they don't even have the right to speak to the city lord. If Sir Jiang is able to stand out in the selection, the guards will be lining up to lick his feet, much less seek revenge.” Xing Hui was a seasoned veteran of the world after all. He was able to see things from a much clearer perspective.
Looking in the direction that Jiang Chen had left in, Xing Hui sighed after a long, contemplative moment. “Tong’er, perhaps getting to know Sir Jiang was our fate. Do you know what daddy is hoping for right now?”
“What?” Xing Tong had no idea.
“I hope that he’ll shine in the selection and became the city lord’s confidante. That’ll make him part of the city lord’s faction in Sin City. With his talents, he might rise with fierce momentum in a few years. If that’s the case, perhaps it’ll be a very good choice for me to entrust you to Sir Jiang.”
“Ah?” The color drained from Xing Tong’s face. She was first panicky, then shy. “Daddy, do you not want Tong’er anymore?” Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Silly girl, how would I never not want you?” Xing Hui hastily wiped away his daughter’s tears, speaking in tender tones. “Tong’er, daddy lacks both fortune and timing in this life. This is about where my abilities can take us. But you’re different. You’re young. Your life shouldn’t be settled like this.
“I don’t pray for you to stand above all others, but I want you to at least live your life out peacefully and securely. Not like this, where we spend everyday on tenterhooks. If Sir Jiang can settle down, he might really be a very good match. Besides, he doesn’t have a dao partner on Winterdraw yet…”
Xing Tong blushed even more fiercely. She was rendered so bashful by her father’s choice of topic that she didn’t know what to say. For some reason, she felt slightly fearful, worried, and also a hint of something else.
Whatever that something else was, it didn’t contradict what her father was saying.
“Tong’er, daddy isn’t joking or speaking carelessly. I thought about a lot when I hovered between life and death after being poisoned. You’re the person I care about the most in the world. I protected you too well and made you who you are — completely at odds with Winterdraw. If you don’t have a stable home in the future, the island will truly be a very dangerous place for you.”
This wasn’t Xing Hui giving up on everything. He’d developed an increasing understanding of the island the longer he spent on it, and thus become more pessimistic.
Xing Tong didn’t know what to say. Though naive and docile, she was highly intelligent. She knew her father made a lot of sense and could understand where he was coming from. Her personality would make it difficult to survive on the island.