At last, all eyes focused on the patriarch. Everyone knew that he made the final call in the end.
“Elder Liang,” House Yan’s patriarch ruminated. “You’ve been stationed near Cloud Camel Mountain for the past few years. How sure are you of a spirit vein there?”
“Patriarch, I’ve been researching that mountain and the surrounding geography for a while now. I’m certain there is a spirit vein in that mountain. However, I’m not talented enough to connect all the dots and come up with conclusive evidence. If I had it, I would present it at the earliest opportunity for your judgment!”
There were many elders in House Yan, each with his own responsibilities. Elder Liang was in charge of managing Cloud Camel Mountain and its surrounding demesnes.
“How many others in Eternal Divine Nation will be able to survey it, do you think?” House Yan’s patriarch inquired in a low voice.
“I don’t want to pass an inaccurate judgment, but I’d wager not more than five. We can’t invite any of them, though. They’ll take possession of the spirit vein upon discovering it.”
The patriarch nodded slightly. “Pay close attention to this affair. Don’t make too much of a commotion for now. If you think Shao Yuan has the talent for it, take him for a look around. Remember, we can’t be too hasty. The last thing we want is to instigate a conflict.”
House Yan couldn’t afford further conflict with anyone. They lacked the energy and resources to do so. Pressure was already closing in on them from every side. Straining their relationship with House Feng would only add fuel to the fire.
“Alright. That’s enough about Cloud Camel Mountain. Anything else to report on?” asked the patriarch after a look around.
“One more thing, patriarch.” Elder He interjected.
“It has to do with Miss Huang’er. In the Bluesmoke Isles, the imperial family hosted a tournament for the hand of their princess…” Elder He related the tale of Huang’er’s adventure in the guise of a boy and how she’d stormed home with another girl in tow.
The other elders were uniformly astonished by the tale. Evidently, they felt that Huang’er’s conduct had been patently ridiculous.
“There’s no problem with that,” House Yan’s patriarch laughed. “The imperial family may be slightly displeased, but we need not consider their feelings. It’s a good thing for Huang’er to be sworn sisters with the princess. I just wonder... how are her nature and talents?”
“Both superb,” Elder He remarked instinctively.
“Oh? We should cultivate this Princess Bi then. If another genius from Eternal Divine Nation takes an interest in her, House Yan will surely benefit from that union.” The patriarch had the same idea as the imperial family.
“The patriarch is wise. I perceive this girl to possess a unique quality to her. She is confident, independent, and a little austere. Her bearing is quite uncommon. If she’d been born in House Yan, she would be quite comparable to Huang’er in skill and presentation. It is quite possible they could’ve been a pair of treasure.”
“Oh?” The patriarch’s eyes lit up. Huang’er was a young girl whose genius was universally acclaimed in all the divine nations. She was near the very top of the sixteen beauties.
If not for Xiahou Zong, Huang’er’s beauty and talent was worthy of being married off to one of the most prominent factions. To someone in Eternal Sacred Land, even. If Princess Bi was comparable, she could fill in the void that Huang’er would create.
Though Xiahou Zong would one day take Huang’er away, Princess Bi could become House Yan’s second young female genius, taking her place among the sixteen golden hairpins.
Huang’er on the other hand, had finally returned to her own residence. All of the imperial guards and maids were sent outside the residence’s courtyard. Now that they were back in Eternal Divine Nation, these servants had zero authority.
“Big sister Bi’er, we can finally have a proper chat now.” Now that she was back at her own place, a weight lifted off of Huang’er’s chest. She had been carefully watched all the while. No secrets could be divulged in any of her conversations; thus, she had only commented on Myriad Abyss Island at large in their conversations.
Ling Bi’er had been wise enough not to mention their past, either. Only when she heard Huang’er say this, did her heartstrings finally relax.
“I grew up here. No one is allowed to trespass. You can say whatever you like here. Don’t worry about ears on the other side of the wall either.”
Having finally discarded the invisible burden on her chest, Ling Bi’er affixed her bright eyes upon the other girl before sighing sadly. “Little sister Huang’er, I only thought your eyes to be so pretty and pure back at Regal Pill Palace. I didn’t expect your real appearance to be so… breathtakingly remarkable.”
“Hehe, I had a few reasons for disguising myself back at the palace. How did you get to Myriad Abyss Island, big sister Bi’er? I didn’t know you were here, otherwise I would’ve come for you. Brother Chen’s made several efforts to find you after your disappearance. He’s looked pretty much everywhere in the human domain.”
“Brother Chen? Are you talking about junior brother Jiang Chen?” Ling Bi’er’s slender body shivered. Her heart shook uncontrollably when Jiang Chen’s name was mentioned.
“Yes.” From her reaction, Huang’er knew that this icy big sister of hers hadn’t forgotten about her past attachment to Jiang Chen.
“Is… junior brother Jiang Chen, is he alright? Sister Huang’er, why did someone like you from Myriad Abyss go to the human domain?” Ling Bi’er was full of questions.
“Don’t worry, he’s more than fine. Not only him, but your father, your sister, and many of your peers: they’re doing well too.”
“Really?” Ling Bi’er could no longer restrain her emotions. Her eyes reddened. If she hadn’t been a natural introvert, she would’ve been bawling loudly already.
“Mhm. When I left, Palace Head Dan Chi, Elder Yun Nie, Mu Gaoqi, and your father and sister were all already at Sacred Peafowl Mountain. Junior brother Jiang Chen has also become young lord of the place, the de facto leader of Veluriyam Capital.”
“What? Veluriyam Capital? The city in the Upper Eight Regions?” Ling Bi’er’s eyes widened. She thought she’d misheard.
“That’s right. Emperor Peafowl took him as a personal disciple. After that, he became a pillar of the city with his own strength.”
Ling Bi’er’s face was a hodgepodge of rich responses. After a long while, she sighed softly. “As I expected, junior brother Jiang Chen is no ordinary man. Palace Head Dan Chi said long ago that the sect was fortunate to have him, not the other way around. He had some pretty incredible foresight.”
“That’s not the half of it. I think Brother Chen must have unified the human domain by now.”
“How do you know, sister Huang’er? Didn’t you say…”
“Yes, he hadn’t pulled it off yet when I left, but things were already heading in that direction. Now, I’m almost sure that he has finished his undertaking. Do you know why I think that?”
“Why? Are you in communication with him?” Ling Bi’er’s voice trembled.
“Because he’s come to Myriad Abyss Island as well.” A smile hung on Huang’er’s face.
“He… he’s come to Myriad Abyss?” Ling Bi’er felt a tug on her heartstrings. “What for? Have you seen him, sister?”
“You and I both have. Do you remember the Winterdraw affair? There was news about that recently,” Huang’er looked helpfully at the other girl. She didn’t know why, but she enjoyed seeing Ling Bi’er squirm.
“Winterdraw? That’s where Polylore Divine Nation held a trial for its young geniuses, right?” Ling Bi’er wasn’t quite sure. She didn’t usually pay much attention to the outside world. She was more interested in enhancing her own strength, so that she could return to the human domain one day to find her loved ones and rebuild the Regal Pill Palace.
But Jiang Chen had probably done it all by now. She was both pleased and mildly sorrowful. Did they still remember her back home? Did they still need her?
“Yes, I’m talking about Polylore’s little problem. Three of its houses put a bounty on someone’s head. Do you remember who it was?”
“Jiang Huang?” Ling Bi’er knew that much.
As soon as she said that name aloud, her heart quavered yet again. Gazing at Huang’er, she was clever enough to come to her own conclusions about all this. Finally understanding all, she felt a wave of jealousy creep into her heart.
Jiang Huang, Jiang Huang…
Jiang Chen… and Huang’er?
So, that meant junior brother Jiang Chen and sister Huang’er had already been dao partners back at the Regal Pill Palace? No wonder he’d ignored her and her sister’s passionate entreaties.
Ling Bi’er had never felt inferior in her life before, nor had she felt heartache over a man. But she could no longer control these emotions from overflowing.
When Wei Xing’er had teased junior brother Jiang Chen during the trials in Mount Mirage, Ling Bi’er hadn’t given her a second thought. Ling Bi’er had felt from the bottom of her heart that she was better than the other girl.
But even if she were better than Huang’er, what then? It was little sister Huang’er who’d made Jiang Chen’s acquaintance first and exchanged vows with him.
Despondency filled Ling Bi’er’s heart. She was totally lost as to what to say or do.
“Big sister Bi’er, do you know why I went into the arena?” Huang’er tittered as she asked the question.
“Why?” Ling Bi’er sounded weak.
“Because I didn’t want you to marry someone you didn’t like. Your junior brother Jiang Chen didn’t want that, either. It wasn’t a good time for him to do something about it even though he was present, so I acted in his stead!”
“He was present?” Ling Bi’er was even more shocked. She’d thought Huang’er’s statement about meeting Jiang Chen a joke.
“Yes. Guess who he was?”
Ling Bi’er closed her eyes lightly. She found it daunting to meet Huang’er’s gaze, and was afraid that she’d give away the thoughts and wishes that had accumulated over these long years. She was even a bit fearful that Huang’er would think Ling Bi’er was going to come between her and him.
Various people passed through her mind. Her eyes flashed with acumen. “Is it Sir Shao Yuan?” she blurted out.