Not long after, Jiang Chen followed Yan Qingsang to House Yan’s headquarters.
Almost all of the senior executives had gathered in the main hall, including the patriarch, the venerated elders, and more than a hundred clan elders. The only exceptions were the ones otherwise preoccupied or in closed door cultivation.
More than a hundred pairs of sharp eyes landed on Jiang Chen as he walked in. The focus of their strong auras shifted to him almost in unison. Some of them were terrifyingly powerful.
“Yan Qingsang is here to greet the patriarch, the various venerated elders, and clan elders. This is my brother Shao Yuan.” Yan Qingsang greeted them all respectfully and introduced Jiang Chen.
Jiang Chen immediately walked up and offered extremely courteously, “This jianghu wanderer is Shao Yuan. Greetings, patriarch of House Yan, venerated elders, and elders.” He could make this kind of rote introduction in his sleep.
He kept his head down, feeling several gazes sweeping over him. He avoided all eye contact to prevent any of them from latching onto him. He knew that some of them would want to test him, be wary, or hostile to him. Therefore he circumvented the problem altogether.
It was a smart decision.
It was difficult enough for a great emperor to stay upright under the scrutiny of so many elders. If he was foolish enough to meet their eyes, they might jump straight into testing him with their consciousness.
The seal on his consciousness might then be exposed, which would lead to many problems. Moreover, Elder Xi, the one who’d taken Huang’er away that year, was here as well.
He was more than competent. If he noticed something familiar about Jiang Chen’s consciousness, his memory might be jogged.
Therefore, Jiang Chen kept his guard up.
His caution didn’t attract any suspicion; it looked like Elder Xi wasn’t that curious about him.
The patriarch gave him a onceover. “Young man, Elders He and Quan have sung high praises about you. Even the prideful Yan Qingsang considers you a brother. Your abilities are self-evident. As a wandering cultivator, you’ve shown your resilience by remaining calm in such an occasion. It’s remarkable for a young man like you to be this capable.”
The patriarch’s tone and movements weren’t domineering. He talked like an average elder who lived in the neighborhood - benevolent and friendly.
But Jiang Chen wasn’t deceived. No clan patriarch could be as simple as he appeared to be. His instincts told him that the patriarch was even stronger than Forefather Embittered Bamboo at their first meeting.
Embittered Bamboo had been a sixth level empyrean expert. The patriarch was likely to be at ninth level empyrean, the final stage of great empyrean realm. This deduction was drawn from the fact that the air around him wasn’t fierce or aggressive. Instead, his martial dao was gentle and humble.
Men like these had either never cultivated, or had reached such high levels that he’d returned to simplicity.
Other than the patriarch, the venerated elders were likely to all be great empyrean experts as well. They ranked among the top in the family.
The clan elders ranked well below the patriarch and the venerated elders. Therefore, the patriarch’s praise was weighty with importance.
“I’ve had some success from relying on my family heritage. Compared to the geniuses from the Ten Divine Nations however, there’s still much room for improvement.”
“Hahaha, good on you. It’s good for a young man like you to be patient and humble. This is something you should learn from him, Qingsang.”
Yan Qingsang scratched his head and nodded. “I understand, patriarch.”
“Fate’s brought you and Qingsang together as brothers, young man, and you’ve come to House Yan. We are generous to real geniuses. You and Qingsang should cultivate together and help each other. Whatever resources he enjoys, you do too. This seat has only one thing to ask from you, and that is to be loyal to House Yan. Do not turn your back on us.”
“Thank you, patriarch. Thank you, elders!” Jiang Chen affected a flattered and humbled look. In truth, he didn’t care that much about House Yan’s resources. But with the patriarch word’s, his presence and status in the aristocratic house had been confirmed.
He was now of equal status as Yan Qingsang. Even though he didn’t bear the surname Yan, he had a place in the family.
“Show your brother out, Qingsang. From now on, you’re brothers with different surnames. Take good care of him.”
“I will.” Yan Qingsang was delighted.
The guest he’d brought back to the house had been acknowledged and endorsed by the patriarch, which was a stamp of approval on his own actions.
Once Yan Qingsang and Jiang Chen left, the patriarch turned to one of the venerated elders on his left. “Elder Wanjun, Qingsang is your grandson. It seems that he’s improved the most during the trip to the Bluesmoke isles. This seat must congratulate you.”
Elder Wanjun was Yan Wanjun, Yan Qingsang’s grandfather and one of the venerated elders. He held an exceedingly high status in the family. Even the patriarch had to show him some respect.
Yan Wanjun smiled faintly. “That kid still has a lot of rough edges. I hear that he didn’t get along with the other youths in the family during the trip. I’ll have to give him a serious talking to.”
The patriarch laughed. “Those conflicts are trivial. It’s inevitable for proud youth to clash. It’s fine as long as familial bonds aren’t damaged and house values aren’t pushed aside. I hear that Qingsang’s made House Yan proud this time. He performed the best in the jade festival.”
“The youths have their own destinies. There are some things I can’t be bothered with guiding too closely. He can think about them and find solutions on his own.” It would be inappropriate for Yan Wanjun to praise his grandson in such an occasion. Besides, Yan Qingsang wasn’t among the top in the family yet. There wasn’t much to boast about.
“Ah, Elder Wanjun, what do you think about Shao Yuan?” the patriarch asked, changing the subject. “How high is his potential? What kind of a person is he?”
Yan Wanjun didn’t immediately respond. He mused thoughtfully on his response for a while. “Judging his face and eyes, he doesn’t seem like the insidious sort,” he responded cautiously. “That I’m sure of. I believe everyone has reached the same conclusion as well.”
“That’s hard to say,” a venerated elder piped in with a chuckle. “There are those born an expert in masking their true nature. Villains don’t come with a sign announcing their malevolence.”
The patriarch smiled. “Does Elder Wanyou think differently?”
Elder Wanyou smiled. “I don’t have anything against him. It’s rare for a young man to receive such high praise from Elder Quan and Elder He. And his ability is useful to us. As long as he stays loyal to House Yan, it won’t hurt to invest a bit in him.”
“As long as he possesses true talent, we shouldn’t turn him away.” The patriarch nodded. “Elder Wanjun, the young man is here with Qingsang. Please keep an eye on him. Even though House Yan welcomes talented people, if he turns out to have ulterior motives, you must not hesitate to take him out.” A decisive look flashed sharply through his eyes.
“Of course. I’d keep an eye on him even without the patriarch’s order. Qingsang was the one who introduced him to the family. If something happens, I’ll be responsible as well.”
Another clan elder piped up, “Patriarch, venerated elders, if this young man is skilled in identifying ore, this subordinate would like to request his assistance.”
“How so?” asked the patriarch with a slight smile.
“This subordinate has been devoted to uncovering resources in the region I govern, but the terrain is overly complicated. Although I can feel something different in the area, I’ve been unable to detect any spirit veins or mines. I find that very strange. I’ve been exploring the region myself over the years. I didn’t dare invite an outside professional for fear of a breach of confidentiality.“
“Do you mean the area around Cloud Camel Mountain?”
“That’s right at the edge of our territory, bordering House Feng’s,” another person spoke up. “If we make too obvious a move, House Feng won’t stay idle.”
“That’s right, patriarch. Our relationship with House Feng has never been good. If they use this as an excuse to start trouble, there will be little that we can do. It’s better that we leave the mountain alone. The terrain there is difficult and the place is filled with malevolent energy. There’s unlikely to be a spirit vein there.”
“Fortune favors the bold,” the first elder to raise the topic interjected hurriedly. “House Yan can no longer afford to do things by the book. Besides, the border at Cloud Camel Mountain was drawn according to a historical agreement. Eighty percent of the area belongs to us, and only twenty percent to House Feng. They can’t do anything as long as we don’t cross the border.”
“Ha, you’re too naive. House Feng is no House Xiahou, but they’re not easy opponents either. Do you think they’ll hold a civil conversation with us?”
“Do you mean that we can’t even explore our own territory? That we need to consider other factions’ opinions first? House Yan has never been so spineless!” The elder was losing control over his emotions.
“Enough, knock it off!” Elder Wanjun stepped in. “It’s unbecoming of you to quarrel like children.”
One of the venerated elders had intervened. The clan elders shut their mouths and stopped arguing.