The atmosphere froze. Qingsang scoffed at the long face Yan Jinnan pulled. It was quite a satisfying sight.
Yan Qingsang and Huang’er had the same grandfather. That made them cousins — closer on the family tree. He was sympathetic to his cousin’s plight, but her fate had been decided by the patriarch of the clan and their grandfather.
Though he pitied her, he didn’t have a say in anything. He also knew that Yan Jinnan was asking for humiliation himself in provoking Huang’er. House Yan had plenty of geniuses. Yan Jinnan was nowhere near the top. How dare he have a go at Huang’er?
If Huang’er hadn’t been cursed by destiny, she would be the most remarkable genius in the family. Not even Yan Zhenhuai would be able to outshine her. What the hell was a mere Yan Jinnan?
Jiang Chen secretly cheered on Huang’er. This was a side of her he hadn’t seen before. When they were together, Huang’er had been polite to everyone. She rarely grew angry, let alone glare coldly and deliver threats. He admired her assertiveness.
He cautiously refrained from looking at her; he could feel two pairs of eyes staying doggedly close to their target.
The two elders openly chaperoning the outing walked in from the other side of the room.
Elder He had a stern look on his face. “Enough! Haven’t you gotten tired of fighting? Are you proud of tearing the family apart?” His tone was grave. The youths lowered their heads and didn’t dare say anything in their defense.
However, Huang’er remarked faintly, “Elder He, Huang’er has done nothing wrong. Yan Jinnan mocked me as soon as I showed up. Yes, I am cursed by destiny and can’t blame anyone for being the house scapegoat, but that doesn’t mean the family can jeer at me for it. Don’t forget, I’m bearing the sins for all of you. Every one of you is responsible for my cursed fate!”
Elder He couldn’t argue with that. With an awkward scowl, he snapped at Yan Jinnan, “Apologize, Jinnan! What do you think you’re doing? Huang’er is suffering greatly for the family. Watch your mouth!”
Yan Jinnan didn’t have a choice when he noted how harsh the elder’s tone was. He reluctantly cupped his hands at Huang’er. “I apologize.”
Huang’er huffed and asked indifferently, “Am I still allowed to dine with the family?”
“Haha, what are you talking about, Huang’er?” Elder He said with a smile. “You’re part of the family. Of course you’re welcome at the table.”
Huang’er nodded. Without another word, she picked a spot and sat down.
Yan Qingsang sighed and didn’t say either, taking a seat next to Huang’er. He might not be able to help her, but he wasn’t going to avoid her like she was some monster the way the rest of the family did.
Jiang Chen naturally took the seat next to Yan Qingsang.
Elder He’s lips twitched. He gave Yan Qingsang and Jiang Chen a pointed look. Words danced at the tip of his tongue, but the elder swallowed them in the end.
“Who is this, elder cousin Qingsang?” Huang’er’s eyes flicked to Yan Qingsang.
Yan Qingsang hadn’t expected his cousin to strike up a conversation. He smiled and quickly answered, “This is a new friend of mine from the jianghu. He’s an expert of ancient jade. I invited him here to share his knowledge with everyone. I’ve learned a lot from him over the past couple of days.”
Once everyone was seated, Elder He turned to Jiang Chen and said, “Shao Yuan, is it? Is your knowledge of ancient jade a family heritage?”
“Yes,” Jiang Chen bowed slightly from his seated position. “My family’s teachings combined with my bloodline allows me to reach some level of proficiency.”
“Oh? Are you going to show everyone what you’ve got in this jade festival?” Elder He asked probingly.
“I do very much look forward to the festival,” Jiang Chen responded in a dignified tone.
“Don’t beat around the bush, Elder He,” Yan Qingsang cut in. “I know you have your doubts about my friend. That’s fine. The ancient jade festival is starting soon. If any of you doubt my judge of character, how about a bet? If anyone can reap more than I do in the festival, I’ll give you ten million sky spirit stones!”
Ten million sky spirit stones was a great fortune. Even the first bounty the three Polylore houses had put on Jiang Chen’s head was only ten million stones. Though, they’d steadily increased it to fifty million stones since.
Yan Qingsang’s declaration sent a ripple of astonishment around the room. Even Elder He was shocked to hear the ten million stones wager.
“Are you really that confident, Qingsang?” Elder Quan smiled at him.
The boy smiled back. “I am, but they may not be confident enough to take the bet.
“Haven’t you always considered me an eyesore, Yan Jinnan? Wanna bet? Ten million sky spirit stones are yours for the taking. Do you have the balls to take the challenge?”
Yan Jinnan was tempted. He considered himself stronger than Yan Qingsang. Still, strength in martial dao wasn’t the determining factor in the jade festival. He couldn’t make an immediate decision.
Ten million wasn’t a small number. He could afford it, but it would hurt greatly if he lost.
“I’ll bet with you,” Huang’er piped up.
Everyone in the room started. Huang’er? What was she taking the bet for?
Elder He smiled wryly. “Never mind that, Huang’er. You can’t.”
“I’m taking part in the jade festival,” she responded, unfazed by his words.
Elder He froze. He hadn’t given her permission and never would. He exchanged a look with Elder Quan. For the moment, neither of them knew what to do.
“We can give you everything else, Huang’er,” Elder He finally said, shaking his head slowly. “But I’m afraid we can’t fulfill this request.”
Huang’er smiled cooly. “Worried that I’ll run away?”
Elder He and Elder Quan paused awkwardly. They were indeed worried that Huang’er would flee. After all, only the contestants could enter the trial grounds once it started. The age limit meant that old men like them couldn’t even get in. If Huang’er did something then, they’d be completely helpless.
“We’ve already submitted the list of applicants, Huang’er,” Elder Quan spoke persuasively. “We can’t change it.”
Huang’er shook her head. “You put together the list without asking me. I’m going to the festival, with or without being registered.”
Elder He became a tad displeased. “Don’t make things difficult for us, Huang’er.”
“House Yan has never made things easy for me. You can’t blame me for giving you the occasional trouble.” Huang’er’s tone was aloof. “Don’t worry. I just want to experience the jade festival for myself. If you’re worried that I’ll run away, I can swear an oath.”
“Huang’er, we still wouldn’t dare take the chance even if you swear a death oath,” Elder Quan laughed wryly.
A death oath wouldn’t make a difference. The worst that could happen to her was death, which wasn’t any worse than becoming Xiahou Zong’s cultivation vessel.
“Then I’ll swear an oath on my parents,” replied Huang’er. “If I make a run for it in the jade festival, let my parents languish in prison forever with no hope of resting in peace.”
Her parents were her biggest weaknesses. If not for them, she wouldn’t have returned to House Yan. Them being held in a hellish prison was her biggest concern. If not for them, she wouldn’t have agreed to becoming a cultivation vessel, either.
She would’ve run away from Myriad Abyss and never looked back. Even if Elder Xi went to her, she could’ve threatened to kill herself. She only came back for this particular familial bond.
Swearing on her parents was the most convincing argument. This put Elder He and Elder Quan in quite a dilemma.
They exchanged a look and held a muttered conversation. Huang’er was determined. If they didn’t let her go, it was very likely that she would force her way into the forbidden area of the festival. If Huang’er was killed on spot, how would they explain to the family?
If they let her go, she might run into dangers in the festival. What if something bad happened to her? What were they going to do then? It was a difficult decision to make.
“Of course we believe you with the oath, Huang’er, but the jade festival isn’t completely safe. You’re too important to the family for us to risk losing you.”
“The festival is for people to extract ancient jade,” Huang’er remarked coolly. “It’s not a battle royale. What’s there for you to worry about?”
House Yan had six spots. They could afford to give Huang’er one.
After some discussion, Elder He let out a long sigh. “Us two old men have been hypervigilant ever since we take on this duty, Huang’er. You must remember your oath and refrain from fleeing, but at the same time you have to stay safe and protect yourself. If you can’t agree to the two conditions, we won’t let you go to the festival.”
“I agree.” Huang’er was nonchalant.
Jiang Chen was separated from Huang’er only by one person. He was ecstatic that Huang’er would be in the festival. He had thought that she wouldn’t be allowed to, no matter what. But Huang’er had won for herself the opportunity to attend! Once they both entered the festival, they would be able to reunite!
Since the elders had given the permission, the others weren’t going to argue. Though it rankled slightly that someone would be replaced by Huang’er, none of them dared to take a stand against her.
Huang’er was currently someone they couldn’t afford offend, more so than any elders.
“That’s decided then. Let us eat.” Elder He motioned for the family dinner to begin.
Yan Qingsang tried to make use of the dinner to have Jiang Chen show everyone what he was capable of, but Elder He and Elder Quen didn’t give him any opportunities.
This slightly frustrated Yan Qingsang, but he was more determined that he would thoroughly impress everyone this time. He would show these arrogant snobs that he was more capable than they thought, and that he was a greater judge of character!
Thinking of the ten million stones bet, Yan Qingsang suddenly chuckled. “Did you mean it when you said you’d take my bet, Huang’er?”
Huang’er smiled gently. “Of course I meant it. Money means nothing to me, Brother Qingsang. I’m not going to feel bad even if I lose to you.”
“Good! Who else dares bet with me?” Yan Qingsang was in high spirits. He fit the image of a genius superior to the rest of his peers in the clan.
Yan Jinnan had had enough. “I’m sick of your smug face! I’ll take the bet!”