Huang’er hadn’t entered the arena out of fleeting interest, nor was she here just to play. Unrestricted, she crushed the competition in the preliminaries. Many who were envious of her handsome face went up to insult her, only to be swept off in a matter of seconds.
Her swift and tempestuous termination of her challengers intimidated the rest into inaction. However, the imperial family was quite displeased at her incredible performance. Huang’er’s momentum was so fierce that a clean sweep of everyone seemed inevitable. This was entirely unwanted.
They had set up this event in order to foster relationships with the Ten Divine Nations’ geniuses. They weren’t planning on marrying off the princess off to a wandering cultivator!
The fellow was certainly extremely handsome and talented, but his self-proclaimed status as a jianghu wanderer gave the imperials a headache. That was just another name for a wandering cultivator!
The Bluesmoke Isles had raised the princess for many years. It wasn’t going to give her up to a mere wanderer, even if that meant the entire event was called off.
“Impossible. We have to find a way to get rid of this guy.” Bluesmoke began to call in stronger opponents to force the intrepid interloper off the arena.
Alas, it’d underestimated this wandering cultivator’s strength. Huang’er easily dismissed both of her new challengers. Her record now totaling ten straight wins, she entered the area designated for the next round.
Amid the cheering of the crowd, Huang’er flashed a dashing smile, cupping a fist at Ling Bi’er. “Princess Bi, I fell in love with you at first sight. I’ll win your hand in the finals and sweep you off your feet. You won’t marry anyone else other than me!” She finished her speech with a softly ringing laugh and flew off the stage.
Yan Qingsang approached her with a foul expression. “What’re you doing, Huang’er?” he intoned in a low voice. “Are you targeting me or what?”
“You’ve got the wrong person, friend. I am Mu Gaoqi, a wandering cultivator, thank you very much.” Huang’er burst out laughing.
“Now you’re just trying to tick me off, huh?” Yan Qingsang smiled wryly.
Huang’er shrugged. “Don’t take yourself so seriously, Yan Qingsang. There are at least a dozen or so cultivators in the next round who are stronger than you. How much hope do you think you have in winning?”
Yan Qingsang knew as much. He had participated only for some self-gratification; he didn’t specifically want to marry the princess, but he hated to lose. He was upset at Huang’er’s jab, but only a little. It was something that was easily recovered from.
Jiang Chen smiled and clapped Yan Qingsang on the shoulder. “Brother Yan, it seems that you and the princess aren’t fated to be together, hahaha.”
Yan Qingsang rolled his eyes, but laughed mirthfully once more. “I admit that I can’t beat Huang’er, but I just had another thought. What if the princess picks you, Huang’er? What will you do? Will you marry her and take her with you back to House Yan?”
“Why not?” Huang’er grinned cheekily. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“What? You, m-marry her? Really?” Yan Qingsang stuttered. “You… you can’t be serious!”
“I’ll take her home and give her to someone else. Why can’t I do that?” Huang’er replied seriously.
“Oh?” Yan Qingsang’s eyes brightened. “Our surname is the same. We have the same grandfather, right? We’re very close…”
“What’re you thinking about, Yan Qingsang?” Huang’er raised an eyebrow. “You can’t seriously think I’ll give the princess to you?”
“What, you won’t?” Yan Qingsang blinked.
Huang’er smiled serenely. “Of course not. You have quite an imagination.”
“Who, then?” Yan Qingsang was almost despondent.
“Who would I give her to?” Huang’er muttered to herself, then glanced at Jiang Chen. “Sir Shao Yuan, of course. Aren’t you guys trying to earn his permanent attachment? If I help him get a wife, he’ll settle himself in and help House Yan to the best of his ability. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Huang’er seemed only half-joking. Yan Qingsang opened his mouth, but couldn’t find any words to say.
Jiang Chen was the same way. He had no idea how to respond. He suddenly felt that Huang’er’s actions had another motive behind them. He smiled wryly to himself.
He’d seen her cleverness back in the human domain, but not how playful she could be. Now, he had the newfound knowledge that she could play pranks with tremendous spirit.
The preliminaries ended under the crowd’s collective eye.
Two hundred or so had managed to make it into the second round.
At least half of these were geniuses from the Ten Divine Nations – the very ones who’d attended the ancient jade festival. In fact, most of them were in attendance. Only the few who were especially prominent and skilled, such as Ye Zhou, had abstained.
Evidently, even geniuses from the Ten Divine Nations liked pretty girls and wealth. They didn’t feel it below their station to attend an event hosted by a second-rate faction like the Bluesmoke Isles.
After all, there were only so many female cultivators from large factions. Many of the male cultivators wouldn’t have an opportunity to marry someone of equal status. Especially talented female cultivators either remained unmarried or married another top genius of equal stature.
The youngsters who’d come to the ancient jade festival were largely not top-tier within their houses, with a few exceptions. Therefore, they weren’t about to give up a golden opportunity like this.
It was better to be a small-time leader than a big-time grunt. If one could win the princess’s hand in marriage, being the emperor’s son-in-law wasn’t half so bad. The competition was all the fiercer because of it.
Just as Huang’er had predicted, Yan Qingsang was eliminated after a few rounds. He was mildly saddened by this turn of events.
“Brother Yan, your loss only shows where you need to improve,” Jiang Chen comforted the youth. “You missed out on Bluesmoke’s princess, but you’ll find someone better in the future.”
“It’s alright, don’t comfort me,” Yan Qingsang replied sadly. “I know myself well enough. I’m not first-rate even in House Yan. It seems I must really work harder.”
“If you trust me, Brother Yan, I’ll help you become first-rate in House Yan. First-rate in the Ten Divine Nations, even!” Jiang Chen suddenly declared.
“Hmm? You, help me?” Yan Qingsang was a bit skeptical.
“Yes. The ancient jade we got will definitely help you tremendously. You aren’t lacking talent, just resources from your house. If you calculate the jade in terms of resources, you are more well-endowed than the best of your peers!”
Yan Qingsang’s eyes brightened. “Now that you put it that way, my fighting spirit is back!”
The young man fixed his gaze upon his friend. No matter how he looked at this Brother Shao Yuan, he was well pleased with his find. If his cousin wasn’t in such a sticky situation, he would have liked to shove Huang’er at his companion to ensure everlasting friendship.
“Brother, I know you like Huang’er, yes? Do you know why I’m opposed to it? You must know who Xiahou Zong is. He’s the number one genius in House Xiahou and Eternal Divine Nation. Even in the entirety of the Ten Divine Nations, he’s touted to be top three…”
“You’re going too far, Brother Yan,” Jiang Chen replied coolly. “I’m not much interested in House Xiahou’s matters.”
Yan Qingsang sighed softly, but held his tongue.
“Let’s keep watching the fights. I’d like to see what my cousin ends up doing.” Now that he was out of the running, the young man from House Yan lightened up completely. He was here purely for the spectacle.
Over the next few days, Ling Bi’er didn’t need to be pressed to watch the fights taking place in the arena. The imperial family was charmed by this change. Had the princess finally accepted what she needed to do? Was her heart being moved by the geniuses from the Ten Divine Nations?
Regardless of reason, it was good to see her be proactive.
Huang’er’s talents were remarkable even in the Ten Divine Nations. If not for the Generation Binding Curse, she would be much stronger than she was now. The fact that the actual top geniuses who’d come to the jade festival weren’t here made her bouts even more trivial.
A few rounds were enough for her to enter the quarterfinals.
According to the rules, the princess could pick her husband from the contestants now. If she wanted to ponder the subject further, then the tournament needed to continue.
“Are you going to choose your favorite now, Your Highness, or shall they fight on?” The middle-aged imperial prince asked with a smile.
“I can choose now,” Ling Bi’er answered impassively.
The imperial family was collectively agape at this. They’d prepared themselves that she would reject making a choice. Thankfully, she was being unexpectedly straightforward. So much so that they didn’t quite know how to react!
Some snickered to themselves. “She usually pretends to be aloof, but she’s actually more anxious than anyone. Looks like she was just feigning her reluctance before.”
Ling Bi’er didn’t care what the imperial family members thought. She was more interested in who the man called Mu Gaoqi actually was. She intuitively believed that he had come for her. Furthermore, he was someone he knew.
She needed to figure out everything related to all this. The marriage itself was immaterial. If she adamantly refused in the end, it wasn’t like he could force her.