Jiang Chen had his mind set on House Xiahou the most.
The key to freeing Huang’er from her troubles was House Xiahou. As long as he got rid of that accursed house, everything else would be instantly solved. But that was hardly an easy task, was it?
“Among Eternal Divine Nation’s seven houses, House Xiahou is undoubtedly the strongest.” Loathing flickered in Yan Qingsang’s eyes. “Actually, House Yan was definitively first place several hundred years ago. But back then, one of our most venerated forefathers unexpectedly failed a tribulation. The collapse of our pillar led to a chain reaction that restricted our house in various ways and weakened its influence everywhere. We’ve been having a pretty hard time since then.” The young man was saddened as he related the story.
“So, House Yan lacks not resources but a supreme expert, someone to carry the house on their shoulders?” Jiang Chen asked.
“You can say that. If our venerated forefather hadn’t died, we wouldn’t be at the bottom of the seven houses or constantly at risk of losing our status. We wouldn’t necessarily crush House Xiahou, but…”
Yan Qingsang smiled wryly. “You saw what happened at Jade Revel Lodge,” he remarked with some self-deprecation. “Although Yan Jinnan’s behavior was shameful and disgusting, it accurately reflected what position we’re in. It’s not just the younger generation: the entire house is losing its voice in high places. We are participating less and less in the major events of our nation.”
“Heaven is inconstant, just as water is ever-flowing. Perhaps these centuries were a trial sent by heaven for House Yan. No one can guarantee that House Xiahou will be evergreen or eternal. The same is true for your current weakness,” Jiang Chen advised.
Yan Qingsang slammed the table. “You’re absolutely right. Heaven is inconstant to all! I don’t believe for a second that we won’t rise again!”
The encouragement raised his spirits. He began to explain to Jiang Chen the state of Eternal Divine Nation in more detail. Several secret topics were touched upon, ones that only a first-rate faction like House Yan knew.
Lower-ranking factions weren’t privy to these tidbits; some they’d never even heard of. As they conversed, the airboat suddenly began to land.
“Are we already here?” Jiang Chen watched the vessel descend with alarming speed. It touched earth in only a few breaths.
Yan Qingsang raised his head, confusion plain on his face. “No, we’re not there yet.”
The two elders came out. “Stay in the airboat,” they warned, “and don’t come out without a good reason. There’s an emergency ahead that needs to be dealt with.”
“What’s going on?” Yan Qingsang wasn’t the type of guy who could sit still. He made as if to stand up and go take a look. As soon as he did, he was stopped in place by the two elders’ stern gazes.
The two elders’ seriousness prompted Jiang Chen to pull on Yan Qingsang’s sleeve. “Brother Yan, don’t be hasty.”
Yan Qingsang scratched his head, then sat back down. His neck craned outwards to try to get a better glimpse of what was happening. What had caused House Yan’s airboat to land before reaching home?
The two elders were outside the boat by now.
“You must be friends from the Starlight Sect, yes? I am an elder of House Yan. We’re on our way back from the Bluesmoke Isles’ ancient jade festival. We are simply trying to pass by. Please let us through.” Elder He was the one speaking.
“House Yan? What of it? Can House Yan venture into our territory without permission? Is House Yan allowed to trespass as they will?” A distant, hoarse voice rebuked, scorn clear in its tone.
It seemed that this Starlight Sect didn’t care much about House Yan’s name and in fact, dismissed the great house.
Elder He responded faintly from awkwardness. “May I ask who exactly are you in the sect, friend? Eternal Divine Nation has its own rules. Any airboat of a large faction may fly freely in the nation’s airspace. As long as we do not cause trouble, we can travel as we see fit without limitation. Are you challenging the nation’s laws by stopping our airboat?”
“Don’t talk to me about rules or laws. Are you trying to scare me with them? Yes, the nation has a rule like that, but are you sure House Yan is still a large faction?”
“What do you mean by this, friend? House Yan is one of the seven houses, a publicly acknowledged first-rate faction. Why is Starlight Sect…”
There was a burst of raucous laughter interrupting the elder. The hoarse voice began on a tirade of mockery. “You really have just come back. You don’t even know what’s happened in Eternal Divine Nation yet! I suppose your entire house might still be in the dark about it. The other factions have decided that House Yan is no longer a first-rate faction. This is a joint decision from the Eternal Holy Ground, the three sects, and the six other houses. House Yan… is out!”
The news boomed at House Yan’s ears like deafening thunder. Elders He and Quan both colored.
“Don’t speak of inventions in broad daylight, friend!” Elder He declared angrily. “Celestial lightning might smite you!”
“Inventions? You’re not fit for us to make anything up,” the hoarse voice replied coldly. “I hear that House Yan has gotten a fair bit of ancient jade in Bluesmoke? And a princess, to boot?”
It cackled giddily, reckless in its rudeness.
Within the airboat, Jiang Chen found all of this rather odd. “What is the Starlight Sect?” he asked in a low voice.
“One of the three major sects,” Yan Qingsang answered with some gravity.
“Is this their territory?” Jiang Chen asked curiously.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to see from inside the airboat. I’d need to go outside to check. But there’s never been any firm boundary markers, if you know what I mean. As long as it’s not a faction’s forbidden grounds, passage is usually permitted. Starlight Sect is intentionally making trouble for us.” Yan Qingsang was no fool. He saw through the essence of the matter.