Two ancient scrolls? And they were both fakes?
Well this was a rather laughable spectacle. If there was no sincerity behind the presents, why give them in the first place? Giving out fakes… had that been intentional?
Jiang Chen found it odd as well. The glance had been directed at House Yan, but who was stupid enough here to give out fake scrolls? He recalled the handing over of presents a moment ago. Only Yan Jinnan’s boxes had been large enough to contain scrolls.
Everyone else looked at Yan Jinnan, who bristled all over.
“Impossible! The scrolls I gave were chosen after a very long time of browsing in the capital! How could they be fake?” Yan Jinnan didn’t dare shout too loudly. He roared at his own table in a low voice instead.
“Brother Yan Zhenhuai, so it seems the fake scrolls came from a scion of House Yan.” One of the Xiahou youths glared coldly at Yan Zhenhuai.
Yan Zhenhuai’s eyes flashed with fury. He was different from the others and didn’t come to a quick, easy conclusion. He wanted to know whether a genuine present had been swapped with a false one. But it wouldn’t have been easy to do that under so many watchful eyes, no?
“Whose present was that?” Yan Zhenhuai swept his cold gaze across the other attendees around him. “Is it yours, Jinnan?”
“The scrolls I gave were real!” Yan Jinnan protested loudly.
The young man from House Xiahou onstage sneered. “That’s enough. Miss Ying was just a little curious about the oddity. The world is a big place, and there are all kinds of people in it.”
Yan Jinnan was red in the face. He was very upset because he felt he’d been seriously wronged. He wanted more than anything to go up and check for himself. From beginning to end, he thought there’d been no problem with his scrolls.
His gift being chosen as Miss Xiahou Ying’s most disliked for no reason at all depressed Yan Jinnan. He had put a lot of hope on his two scrolls. In fact, he had wanted them to draw the young miss’ attention. Alas, they’d attracted the negative kind instead.
Yan Qingsang breathed a sigh of relief. At least his ancient jade hadn’t suffered the same fate. As long as he wasn’t the absolute worst, he wouldn’t have a real problem on his hands. The two pieces of ancient jade he had given were quite decent, but were far from either extreme of good or bad.
As expected, the three favorite presents were shortly announced thereafter. None of them had anything to do with House Yan.
“Someone just now said something about losing face for the house with poorly chosen presents,” Yan Qingsang interjected suddenly, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “I wonder who that was?”
Yan Jinnan’s eyes were hot enough to spew flames. If Yan Zhenhuai hadn’t been present, he would have charged over to duke it out with Yan Qingsang.
“Yan Qingsang, don’t you dare look down on me! There was no problem with my scrolls. They must be pulling some trick because they want to suppress us!” Yan Jinnan’s explanation was weak and powerless.
“Why didn’t they target us then? Maybe you look like the more hateable type, yeah?” Yan Qingsang provoked Yan Jinnan with a half-smile.
“Enough. Shut up,” Yan Zhenhuai interceded coolly.
The two young men immediately descended into silence.
“Friends, Miss Ying is very happy about your enthusiastic courtesies. House Xiahou has been fortunate enough to invite two esteemed seniors to attend this event as well…
“First, we have our very own, Eternal Divine Nation’s advisor of the state, Senior Duan Zhiyuan. Second, Senior Ziju Min, a pill sovereign from Eternal Sacred Land.” House Xiahou introduced the two seniors with great ardor and zeal
The large curtains at the back was drawn back. Two seniors stode out slowly, one on the left and one on the right.
The atmosphere immediately boiled over at the sight. These two were famous even in the nation at large. One was a national official, the other a veritable pill dao master. A pill sovereign was none other than a legendary pill immortal, an expert who’d attained empyrean rank in pill dao!
Either senior would walk unchallenged in Eternal Sacred Land.
The audience became frenzied in the seniors’ presence. Even Yan Zhenhuai was a little moved when he heard their names. He couldn’t help but stand in respect when the two seniors came out.
Since Yan Zhenhuai had stood up, the others from House Yan didn’t dare remain seated and followed suit. In fact, all the youths from the various factions stood to offer thunderous applause.
Neither senior put on any airs. They waved to the crowd amiably and strode onstage. Xiahou Ying approached them delicately. Her voice was almost sickly sweet. “Senior advisor, Teacher Ziju.”
Teacher Ziju? Everyone paused at the address.
The young man from House Xiahou laughed smoothly. “Perhaps everyone wasn’t aware yet, but Miss Ying became a student of Senior Ziju just last month. The master has acknowledged her talent and believes she may very well become the next pill sovereign!”
Those of House Xiahou let out a deafening cheer, raising a ruckus out of pride for their own house.
The other houses had mixed reactions. Some maintained their smiles without skipping a beat. Others were completely impassive, as if what had been just announced was none of their business. Still others furrowed their brows in secret, worried about House Xiahou’s plethora of geniuses.
The difference in the expressions of the crowd was almost a work of art, spanning across all walks of life.
Yan Qingsang was among those upset by the news. He pursed his lips, muttering something inaudible to himself.
Having cultivated the Ear of the Zephyr, Jiang Chen barely managed to make out the quiet cursing about House Xiahou’s upstart nature. Apparently, Yan Qingsang believed that house had fallen on incredibly undeserved, ‘dog shit’, good luck.
Yan Zhenhuai was rather solemn as well. He inspected the girl onstage thoughtfully. Everyone had previously thought Xiahou Ying’s fame had been due to her appearance and relationship to Xiahou Zong. But now it seemed like an inaccurate presumption. Xiahou Ying was worthy of respect in her own right.
Her pill dao talent had to be incredible to have been picked by a pill sovereign as a personal disciple. In the world of pill dao, empyrean rank pill sovereigns loomed above everyone else. This gave them a certain predilection for pickiness when it came to anything.
Any personal students they took would be subject to strict standards. They wouldn’t do so casually at all. By their former understanding of who Xiahou Ying was, she would’ve never been selected.
And yet, Ziju Min had done exactly that.
Aside from that, House Xiahou had also managed to pull the advisor of the state, Duan Zhiyuan, as well. This came as just as much of a surprise as the other revelation.
Was House Xiahou’s younger generation really this influential that they could influence an advisor of the state?
State advisors participated in the government of the entire divine nation. They controlled the fate of the land they lived in. Regardless of a faction’s strength, could it become stronger than the imperial family? Than Eternal Sacred Land?
Everyone had been universally wary of House Xiahou so far. Many had thought that the sacred land would eventually feel threatened and quell it in turn. It seemed, however, that the conjecture had been born out of pure envy rather than solid fact.
Rather than being rebuffed by the sacred land, House Xiahou seemed to be growing closer to it. They’d even managed to invite a pill sovereign from there!
The two seniors’ seats at House Xiahou’s table was radiance in itself. The house was significantly emboldened by their mere presence.
“Friends, shall we ask our honored guests to make a few comments? We younger cultivators need pointers from our elders. Please give them a hand!”
House Xiahou’s people were intentionally creating momentum for their own purposes. And unfortunately, the two seniors seemed to be rather cooperative in this regard.
“After you, advisor.” Ziju Min smiled in obligation.
The advisor returned a similar expression, then looked at his rapt audience. “I see that more than eighty percent of Eternal Divine Nation’s young geniuses are here at today’s banquet. In all of you, I can see our nation’s hope and future. Our current crop of young geniuses are an especially talented bunch. A few are behind closed doors right now, and I’m sure they’ll give us even more of a surprise when they come out. In the competitions between the younger generation of the Ten Divine Nations, I’m sure that you’ll be able to bring honor to our nation’s name!
“My only wish is for all of you to keep up the hard work. On this common road of genius, any one of you could suddenly jump into the lead.”
Duan Zhiyuan’s speech sounded good on the surface, but was actually rather vapid. Perhaps this could be attributed to the typical slipperiness of government officials. His words angered no one and pleased no one.
“Brother Ziju, you are these youngsters’ idol. Why don’t you say a few things as well?” Still smiling, Duan Zhiyuan turned the conversation toward Ziju Min.
The pill sovereign was wearing scholarly attire today. He looked the spitting image of an academic. His wispy whiskers were well-kept, his visage rather lean. His entire appearance was clean and handsome.
“If our state advisor so wishes it, then let me put in a few words. The advisor just mentioned the incredible talent of our younger generation here. I don’t disagree with this, but our dear advisor must presumably only be referring to martial dao. In terms of pill dao, our young people have a long way to go ahead of them. We are quite a bit off from the best the Ten Divine Nations have to offer. Eternal Sacred Land has realized this issue, and we’ve adjusted the conditions for accepting pill dao geniuses into our fold accordingly. We will no longer be particularly stringent about miscellaneous conditions attached to our tutelage.”