“I’ll take that bet too!”
Yan Qingsang was patently quite good at provoking people. Yan Jinnan’s agreement was met with a flurry of responses from the other two geniuses on his side. All of them could afford the ten million, though it would be a big hit to their personal finances if they lost.
Yan Qingsang cackled. “Sure, no problem. I’m glad you’re all generously contributing to my pocket funds.”
“Don’t busy yourself with boasting yet, Yan Qingsang,” Yan Jinnan snickered. “If we include Huang’er, there are four people betting against you. Do you even have forty million?”
“What’re you worried about? Any betting defaults between house members are sorted out by family rules.” Yan Qingsang shied away from saying that he didn’t. “Plus, I’m more worried that you won’t be able to afford it!”
Yan Jinnan slammed a table. “I don’t want empty promises. If you want to bet, take out your spirit stones to show us. We won’t take anything else as proof.”
“Yes, yes, show us the stones!” The other two chimed in noisily as well.
Huang’er smiled faintly at the developing scene. “If you’re all betting, then I’ll pass. Brother Qingsang, do you have enough? I can lend you some if you don’t.”
Yan Qingsang was rather flattered. Huang’er was famous for her frostiness. Normally, she completely ignored everybody in the family. She had some past relations with him, sure – but that was solely due to their status as cousins. Her willingness to lend him some money was rather a surprise.
“If you’re not betting, Huang’er, I have exactly thirty million for those three.” This was just about Yan Qingsang’s current entire net worth. It was a mad prospect to bet all of it at once. But he had the confidence to take that bet and win!
Without hesitation, he flung all thirty million spirit stones from his storage ring onto the table. “Win these stones from me… if you dare!”
Yan Jinnan and his cronies were indignant. They pulled out their respective ten millions eagerly.
“Elder He, Elder Quan, please serve as our witnesses!”
The elders didn’t intervene in the rivalry between the house’s youths. In fact, they tended to encourage healthy competition. Though the sum on the line was rather large this time, it might stimulate their initiative.
“Alright. If you’ve all agreed to the bet, then we’ll be reluctant witnesses. But remember: no matter who wins, the losing party shouldn’t be sore about it. Familial harmony shouldn’t be harmed in this.”
Yan Qingsang chuckled. “If they can win against me, that means they’re stronger than me. I hold only admiration for the strong. Why would I bear a grudge?”
Yan Jinnan snickered. “I’m just worried that you won’t pay up after you lose.”
With the bet concluded, the family dinner continued. The elders related a few things more about the jade festival, wrapping the tidbits into a hefty helping of encouragement for the younger generation.
Jiang Chen laid low through the entire affair. Occasionally, he pretended to sneak a glance or two at Huang’er in admiration before his eyes quickly darted away. Doing so allowed him to draw less suspicion. It would be far stranger for him not to turn even once towards her throughout the evening.
After all, Huang’er was too remarkable a girl not to be the center of attention of every man. Feigning lack of interest was too fake.
In the latter stages of the banquet, Jiang Chen made a show of working his courage up for a round of toasts.
Elders He and Quan politely accepted the toasts to them with easy reciprocation. Yan Jinnan and company put on airs, and responded reluctantly with a sip only after Jiang Chen had courteously drained his own.
He didn’t care about those people. His sole purpose for this round of toasts was to raise his cup to Huang’er.
When it was finally her turn, Jiang Chen acted like a brainless fan. “Miss Huang’er, I heard amazing zither music from the other side of a wall the first day I came here. You must be the musician. An immortal beauty such as you would be the only one to play such music. I am Shao Yuan, a wanderer in the world. Please accept my humble toast.”
After all this time, he could finally speak with her face to face.
His words thoroughly warmed Huang’er’s heart. She wanted more than anything to throw herself into his embrace. However, this wasn’t the time to let anything show.
Instead, she assumed a guise of complete serenity. Lightly lifting her wine cup, she touched her lips barely to its contents. “Do you understand the zither, sir?” she asked indifferently.
“I’m a crude wanderer, Miss Huang’er. I know only the bare basics of music, so I dare not discuss the zither with you.”
“Alright, alright,” Yan Qingsang coughed meaningfully in interruption. “Enough with your rambling, Shao Yuan. My cousin’s sights and future are lofty indeed. I hope you don’t have any unbecoming thoughts aside from appreciating her music. Otherwise, we won’t be brothers any more.”
Jiang Chen laughed with some embarrassment.
“You talk too much, just like everyone else.” Huang’er shot Yan Qingsang a detached glance.
“Haha, I was just reminding him not to create worries for himself.” Yan Qingsang clearly didn’t want Jiang Chen to strike up a lengthy conversation with Huang’er. Though he sympathized with her, he had to put the house’s benefit first and foremost.
Elders He and Quan heaved internal sighs of relief when they saw Yan Qingsang’s interference. They hadn’t been happy about the outsider’s toast and associated speech. In fact, they were worried that he would do something as foolish as profess his love. If that were going to be the case, they would have to think about how to kick him out.
They were very satisfied to see Yan Qingsang taking preventative initiative. Though he was a bit ornery, Qingsang knew what was best for the house. With him nearby, Shao Yuan wouldn’t be able to do much even if he had any tricks up his sleeve.
Plus, Huang’er had incredibly high standards of her own. Why would she take an interest in a jianghu wanderer?
Jiang Chen drank the wine in his cup, then sat back down in his seat. He didn’t linger on that topic of conversation. The family dinner came to its natural conclusion and everyone returned to their room.
There was some residual bewilderment, however, inside the mind of ‘Shao Yuan’. He remembered when Huang’er left, she’d said that she would be delivered to Xiahou Zong as his cultivation vessel when she reached peak great emperor or half-step empyrean.
At the time, she had also said it would take fifty years. But it hadn’t actually taken long at all for her to get there.
Huang’er’s martial talent was much more incredible than he had thought. After the removal of the Generation Binding Curse, her repressed martial cultivation had undergone a tremendous breakthrough.
Because of Yan Qingsang’s repeated invitations, Jiang Chen agreed to come back straightaway after attending to his personal matters at the inn.
His disciple Hua Ming was still there; Jiang Chen couldn’t just abandon the boy. The young student was overjoyed to see the return of his master.
“Master, you were gone for several days for the registration. I was getting a bit worried.”
“Haha, I’m fine. I’m going to the jade festival tomorrow. Keep cultivating here in the meantime.”
“Yes, master.” Hua Ming now valued his current opportunity a great deal. The more his cultivation progressed, the more he realized how uncommon his experience truly was. The path of martial dao became more and more attractive to him.
He now quite regretted his good-for-nothing time in Oriole Valley and was thankful for having met such a discerning master. How could he not be grateful for the life-changing events that had taken place?
Having settled the boy in, Jiang Chen returned once more to House Yan’s residence.
Holding back his longing for Huang’er, he met with Yan Qingsang once more. The young man trusted in Jiang Chen almost implicitly now; there was nothing he would not talk about to his new friend.
The morning of the next day and under the elders’ supervision, the group departed for the location designated by the jade festival.
They arrived at Yellow Dragon Ridge in about four hours’ time.
The ridge was a vast expanse that occupied almost a quarter of Bluesmoke’s total size. The mountainous terrain, a hundred thousand miles in radius, was a sacred place that produced plentiful ancient jade.
Reportedly, it was once a battlefield in the primordial times. Much bloodshed had occurred back then, and the corpses of their expert participants were buried here.
Their flesh, blood, bone, and heritage had melded into the earth. An aeon of nurturing from the earth was sufficient to transform all of this into the unique jade that was the Bluesmoke Isles’ speciality. In fact, some claimed that Yellow Dragon Ridge was unique in all of Myriad Abyss.
There was already an overabundance of people when House Yan’s team arrived. Bluesmoke had invited thousands of factions, big and small in their varieties.
The Ten Divine Nations’ representatives received the most attention. Aside from those, a number of other isles on the same level as Bluesmoke had been invited as well. Each set of isles had its own assortment of powers.
As such, the jade festival bustled with activity. And this was all without mentioning that the festival was technically open to wandering cultivators as well!
The Ten Divine Nations had several dozen factions in total. Each faction was eligible to enter five to ten people. Considering these alone yielded several hundred.
The lesser isles’ factions received fewer entrant slots, but the factions themselves were far more numerous. In total, they amounted to about three thousand. The Bluesmoke Isles’ own nobles and factions took another few hundred or so placements.
Lastly, about three thousand wandering cultivators had signed up. Adding all of these subdivisions up, the final total was almost eight thousand people. This was an extremely sizable event, considering the caliber of participants.
The upper crust of the Bluesmoke Isles stood above everyone else, paying their respects to all the honored guests they’d invited. There was a lot of grandstanding and speechmaking, but it generally boiled down to something resembling how pleased and privileged they were to have everyone gathered here.
Jiang Chen had no interest in listening to empty words. He devoted his time to observing the Ten Divine Nations’ teams and geniuses instead. The Ten Divine Nations’ geniuses really were on another level. A single one of them would be considered an extremely powerful expert in the human domain.
No wonder Huang’er told me that I couldn’t come to Myriad Abyss without ascending to great emperor. She certainly had her reasons for saying that.
The more Jiang Chen looked around, the more solemn he became. Presumably, the strongest geniuses hadn’t come to this event. Even so, there were more than enough terrifying strong attendees. He wasn’t afraid of them though. So what if they were geniuses? He’d seen many like them and more in his last life.