The fellows continued in heated discussion about the Ten Divine Nations’ sixteen beauties.
“That’s right, has Eternal Divine Nation’s Miss Yan Qinghuang come?”
“She shouldn’t have, right?”
“I hear that because of past enmity between their houses, she was reserved by House Xiahou’s Xiahou Zong when she was young?”
“Something like that, yeah. House Xiahou has grown rapidly in recent years, while House Yan has only declined. What a shame. Miss Huang’er is in the top three among the sixteen, but she’s fated to become Xiahou Zong’s cultivation vessel.”
“Isn’t Xiahou Zong worried that he’ll become a public enemy in our circle?”
“Heh, that’s between their two houses. It’s not our place to interfere.”
“That’s not technically wrong, but it’s a waste for someone like her to become a cultivation vessel. What a buzz kill. I think many geniuses will secretly hate Xiahou Zong. If there’s a battle between geniuses of different divine nations in the future, he’ll have no shortage of eager opponents. Many will target him without even realizing it!”
“That’s definitely possible, though I hear Xiahou Zong’s extremely talented and capable. If he’s not the top genius in the Eternal Divine Nation, he’s at least one of the best contenders for it. I hear that House Xiahou has boasted he’ll take the crown in a battle between the Ten Divine Nations’ younger generation.”
“What, he thinks he’ll win? I hope his bite can match up to his bark. If he wants that accolade, he’ll have to answer to our Brother Ye Zhou first!”
“Enough,” Ye Zhou smiled coolly. “We shouldn’t gossip about others behind their backs. I’ve met Xiahou Zong once, and he is every bit as talented as they say. But every participant in the battle of geniuses is a genius himself, no? Perhaps the bit about taking the crown is only hearsay.”
“Has Xiahou Zong come to the festival?”
“I hear he’s been cultivating behind closed doors for several years now. He hasn’t come out yet, right? If he did, Miss Huang’er would be done for.”
“So he shouldn’t have come then.”
“What does it matter to us? I don’t give a hoot about him. I just want to know whether Miss Huang’er’s here.”
“No idea. Let’s ask someone from the Eternal Divine Nation when we spot one next.”
“Why ask? The jade festival is about to begin. She’ll be at the festival if she’s come at all.”
“Haha, you’re right. Just the thought of seeing the sixteen beauties together is so crazy exciting. They’d be the most beautiful sight in the world!”
“Oh, for sure. I’d give up ten years of my life for a single look at the full set.”
Jiang Chen found the conversation rather amusing. These so-called geniuses from the Ten Divine Nations weren’t so different from ordinary people. The only significant distinction was their status and social circles.
The affairs they paid attention to, the things they cared about – there were more similarities there to normal cultivators. Martial dao, pretty women, and all kinds of exciting rumors and stories.
As he lost himself in their words, another group came up from the corner of the stairs.
Polylore Divine Nation’s group caught sight of them from the window. “Aren’t those guys from Eternal?” someone cried out.
There was a dozen or so in this new group as well, demarcated into a number of different houses.
Jiang Chen was shaken by the loud comment. He glanced over at the group at the top of the stairs.
Huang’er was nowhere to be found.
He burst into quiet laughter. His concern had overtaken reason. How would a girl like Huang’er come to a pleasure house like this? Still, he kept an eye on the Eternal group with his peripheral vision. He wanted to see if anyone else from House Yan was here.
“Yan Jinnan, I invited Brother Xiahou for you. You said you were going to apologize on your house’s behalf to him. I’d like to see your sincerity in that.” One of the youths who looked rather pale in the face delivered this indifferently to another in a yellow tunic.
The young man in yellow was Yan Jinnan, a scion of House Yan. His expression was full of appeasement and servility.
There were a few others dressed similarly near him. They were clearly from House Yan as well, having invited a number of their peers from Eternal’s other large factions.
But everyone deferred to a silver-eyed young man. He looked almost boyish, yet had a mane of signature, silver hair. The silvery locks near his temples were especially striking. While he stood, no one else dared sit. They were uniformly meek in their attitudes toward him.
“Everyone, sit down and talk.” The silver-eyed youth was another genius from Eternal’s House Xiahou, Xiahou Xi.
The others in his group complied with his declaration, save for a few simpering youths from House Yan.
“Big brother Xiahou, we ventured to invite you here today as a token of apology… please feel free to spend as much as you like today. House Yan will pay for everything, as long as you’re happy.” Yan Jinnan tried to liven up the atmosphere.
He fawned palpably over Xiahou Xi. He was very much worried about relations between House Yan and House Xiahou. If they worsened, the former could very well be pushed out of the ranks of first-rate factions by the other houses.
No one in the house wanted to see that.
Yan Jinnan was sending out a friendly signal through this private gathering to butter up Xiahou Xi as well as his Eternal Divine Nation peers. His objective was to not get kicked out of their social circle.
“Yan Jinnan, was it?” Xiahou Xi smiled faintly. “How come House Yan’s biggest genius isn’t here? Where’s Yan Zhenhuai?”
“Haha, he’s cultivating behind closed doors right now. The house didn’t tell him to come.”
“Is that so? What a shame.” Xiahou Xi’s tone was even-handed and difficult to respond to.
Outside, Jiang Chen was secretly astonished. Yan Jinnan, Xiahou Xi!
From what it sounded like, someone from House Yan was trying to curry favor with House Xiahou. And I just happened to run into it!
This immediately piqued his interest. The relationship between Houses Yan and Xiahou was what he was most concerned about currently. This directly related to Huang’er’s circumstances.
“Big brother Xiahou, Brother Zhenhuai has always said that you were one of the top geniuses of House Xiahou. He’s reminded us time and again to constantly ask for your advice and greet you with respect. That’s why we brothers dared to request your generous presence today.”
Xiahou Xi smiled coolly. “Alright, enough with the courtesies. I don’t represent the rest of my house, you know.”
“Yes, yes. We don’t either. We merely wanted to express our utmost respect for you.” Yan Jinnan was the perfect image of adulation.
Jiang Chen inwardly shook his head. House Yan didn’t appear to be in a good spot if such kowtowing was reasonable. Xiahou Xi’s presumptuous airs indicated a total disregard for the people acting as his lackeys today.
“Yan Jinnan, how come I hear that Yan Qinghuang came to Miracle City as well?” Xiahou Xi asked suddenly.
Yan Jinnan trembled. The blood went out of his face, but he dared not deny it. “Yes, she did. The house didn’t want her to come, but she threatened us with death. She really wanted to get some fresh air, you see, and no one wanted to push her too far. The house elders are keeping an eye on her, so she shouldn’t be able to pull off any tricks. I doubt she has any hope left anyway. She’s done nothing out of the ordinary so far.”
Xiahou Xi snickered. “House Yan should keep a closer tab this time. If something happens, you better watch out for House Xiahou’s fury.”
“Yes, yes, she won’t be allowed to escape our control again!” guaranteed Yan Jinnan.
Jiang Chen’s heart was set aflame. Such fortuitous news!
It was fantastic that Huang’er had come. Unfortunately, she lived under the watchful eye of her house elders. It wasn’t possible for her to do much to resist.
He was overcome with emotion. Huang’er’s fine. She’s alright still.
As long as that was the case, no other bad news could faze him. This was the only thing he’d wanted to hear. Moreover, she was here in Miracle City too!
I have to see her. His heart raced with anticipation.
Though Huang’er would certainly appear at the jade festival, Jiang Chen couldn’t wait that long. He wasn’t much interested in listening to these guys talk anymore. He wanted to sprout wings and fly to where Huang’er was. But where was she? Miracle City was such an enormous place. It wasn’t going to be easy to find her without at least a hint.
That’s right, if Yan Jinnan and his groupies are in the same house as Huang’er, they should share the same accommodations. If I follow him back, I’ll know where Huang’er lives!
An issue with that idea popped into his head immediately. The Ten Divine Nations’ accommodations must be very well hidden. I may be caught if I blindly follow House Yan’s youths. If the house’s elders are alerted ahead of time to my intentions, it will be very bad for us.
This made him hesitate as to what to do next. From what he could glean from Yan Jinnan’s words, Huang’er was under strict supervision. It would be nearly impossible to approach Huang’er without her captors not noticing.
Sneaking into House Yan’s temporary residence was nothing but a daydream. Jiang Chen’s current cultivation level couldn’t remotely accomplish that feat, even considering his concealment talisman.
I need to find a more aboveboard way of getting into where House Yan is. Jiang Chen’s brain began to whir with a new plan. His eyes lingered on Yan Jinnan and company. If there was a point of attack to be found, it would be through these people.
Still, he was thoroughly disgusted by how Yan Jinnan fawned over Xiahou Xi. The man was vile all around. A genius of a large faction without any self-respect was worthless.
One of the other geniuses from House Yan looked different. A lanky youth didn’t seem to be particularly pleased about the proceedings. Though his companions hinted to him otherwise, he didn’t cooperate willingly; his brow was slightly furrowed the entire time.
He looks a bit more interesting. Jiang Chen locked his consciousness onto the new guy.