“Alright,” the patriarch sighed. “Vote if you will on the matter of Shao Yuan. When you’re done, I’m sure he’ll be already gone. According to my sources, Master Ziju Min of the Eternal Sacred Land had Shao Yuan over his private residence after the contest. He extended an invitation at the time, but was politely refused.”
“What? Shao Yuan refused the sacred land’s invitation?” Yan Wanzhong gasped in astonishment.
“He absolutely did. But, apparently Master Ziju promised him that the door is always open whenever he wishes it.”
Hiss! Everyone drew a sharp breath.
Here they were, discussing whether they should keep Shao Yuan, but the young man already had a better potential home. He hadn’t gone solely due to emotional attachments. If the family really wanted to push Shao Yuan away, he still wouldn’t be forced to go to House Xiahou at all!
“Yan Wanyou, perhaps this is the result you want?” Yan Wanzhong glanced at the named elder meaningfully, breaking into a faint smile.
Yan Wanyou was indeed stunned for a moment. “That’s just a rumor,” he hastily blurted out. “Patriarch, if the kid’s loyalties aren’t with House Yan, we’re not going to be able to keep him anyway. Maybe he considered us a springboard into a higher power from the start.”
“Oh?” The patriarch remarked coolly, “There are many other factions in the nation more suitable for being a springboard, no?”
Yan Wanyou maintained his stubbornness. “Well, he might feel that we’re the most appropriate for it, since we’re currently weak.”
This explanation was indefensible even by those who supported the elder.
“If that’s the case, patriarch, we need to make every effort to keep Shao Yuan.”
“Yes. If he really is as superb in both pill and martial dao as Elder Wanjun says, and also extremely skilled at identifying ancient jade, he will achieve greatness at some point in the future for sure. We have no reason at all to abandon him.”
“Heaven has given us this opportunity. If we let it slip through our hands, then we deserve whatever back luck befalls us from here on out.”
Many of the house’s elders were voicing their opinions. They’d finally realized that they couldn’t afford to give up Shao Yuan. If House Yan made any moves to dismiss him, he would head to a new place straightaway.
Their most important job now had nothing to do with sending him away, but figuring out how to keep him in mind as well as body.
“What a shame that he has a dao partner already. I have a little niece who’s rather pretty and talented. There’s no reason why we can’t give her to him.”
“Haha, my concubine has a charming daughter as well. She’s thirteen this year. I wonder if young Shao Yuan would be interested in her?”
The patriarch had no patience for the foolishness he was hearing. “Enough with the arbitrary suggestions. Shao Yuan isn’t the lecherous sort. If he were, he would have gone to the Jade Lake Sect already. They have no shortage of beauties.”
Yan Qingsang abruptly stood up. “I know something,” he remarked offhandedly. “Shao Yuan seems to admire my cousin, Yan Qinghuang. Or more accurately, her zither skills.” He shook his head with a sigh, then left.
Everyone was taken aback. “Yan Qingsang!” someone shouted. “Stop messing around! We can give anyone else to Shao Yuan, but how can we give Yan Qinghuang to him?”
“Yes, don’t you try to destroy the family!”
“Isn’t that right? He and Yan Qinghuang are both grandchildren of Elder Wanjun. Just like he said, she’s his cousin. He’s obviously aiming for personal gain in this matter!”
The patriarch found the turmoil irritating. “All of you, quiet down.” He waved a hand. “Yan Qingsang was just making a statement. He didn’t say that we should betroth Huang’er to Shao Yuan. Huang’er… ah!”
The head of the house knew as well as anyone that Yan Qinghuang was no less talented than the prestigious Yan Zhenhuai.
If not for the trouble with Xiahou Zong, Yan Qinghuang would be one of the house’s flagship geniuses. Her charisma and grace would win the hearts of an entire generation of Eternal Divine Nation’s geniuses in worship of her.
Alas, fate was a fickle mistress. This girl had been cursed since birth. It was many years later now, but no end to it was in sight.
In truth, the patriarch was somewhat apologetic towards her. This was why Yan Qinghuang hadn’t been punished after coming back from the human domain.
Amid this meeting, a message came from outside the hall.
“Patriarch, Master Ziju Min and a few of his fellows are here to visit.”
Master Ziju Min?
The expressions on those present changed drastically. Speak of the devil! Had Ziju Min come to ask for Shao Yuan?
“Show him in as quickly as you can,” the patriarch commanded, then changed his mind and stood up. “I will go receive him personally. Venerated Elders, come with me.”
Ziju Min came from such an important place that better treatment was a matter of fact.
The elders stood up one after another. None of them dared flaunt their importance. This was Master Ziju, a heavyweight of the sacred land!
The pill sovereign was still dressed in his scholarly attire. His demeanor was serene and humble, with a bearing belonging to a real immortal. His tone was the furthest one could imagine from being overbearing.
“Patriarch of House Yan, I hope you don’t mind my sudden intrusion.”
“Haha, we are honored by your visit, Master Ziju. Please, come on in.” The patriarch roared with laughter, seemingly very pleased. The two men exchanged niceties before going inside together.
Behind Ziju Min were several of his peers. Once they were settled in and under a roof, the pill sovereign introduced them one by one. They were all pill dao giants, famous within the nation. Of course, none were as prominent as Ziju Min himself. He was the leading man today.
After tea was served, Ziju Min smiled. “Patriarch Yan, I’ll get straight to the point. I have something to discuss with you today.”
“I’m all ears, Master Ziju.” The patriarch was the image of courtesy, though he put his guard up internally. Was the pill master really here to fish for talent?
The others of the house were mildly perturbed. They had spoken about Shao Yuan earlier as if whether he stayed or went was insignificant. But Ziju Min’s arrival had changed their perception of the young man. It was as if someone was here to rob them of their treasure.
“I’m sure you’ve guessed already, patriarch. I’m here for my young friend Shao Yuan. Recently, the Jade Lake Sect has tried to gather together many pill experts to overturn my conclusion about the Mirage Introspection Pill. I’m very displeased about that. Any arguments in the world of pill dao should be decided by truth alone. Ill-advised persistence otherwise is utterly pointless in that regard. Thus, I’ve been thinking about solving this little issue for you.”
“Oh?” The patriarch’s eyes lit up. “If that’s the case, House Yan must thank you for upholding justice, Master Ziju.”
“Upholding the truth of pill dao is a basic moral principle that all pill masters of integrity must maintain. However, I do have a presumptuous request.”
“What is it?” House Yan’s patriarch felt his heart sink.
“I hear that my young friend Shao Yuan is in a mildly awkward position at House Yan. He is neither unimportant nor important enough. Some have a few doubts about his status and veracity. They think he may be a source of trouble for your house. So, I would like for you to try and persuade Shao Yuan to perhaps join the Eternal Sacred Land. We will owe you a favor if you succeed.”
Ziju Min truly placed a tremendous amount of importance on Jiang Chen. He was still contriving to recruit the young genius beneath his own wing. He didn’t know whether to laugh for cry that House Yan was so ludicrous that it didn’t value the incredible piece of jade in their possession.
Alas, Shao Yuan was a bit impulsive himself. He had refused Ziju Min’s invitation because he didn’t want to leave, for some reason.
This was the reason the pill sovereign had come to House Yan today. He wanted the patriarch to help him persuade the youth. If necessary, he would very much like House Yan to make Shao Yuan feel unwanted.
Perhaps then the genius would think about leaving out of anger and frustration.
The patriarch cracked a wry smile. “Master Ziju, Shao Yuan is a talented youth under House Yan’s banner. We’ve already decided to invest a lot of resources into him. You are witness to the fact that our house hasn’t had many geniuses in recent years. Shao Yuan… ah, it’s hard to part with him.”
Rather than decline outright, the patriarch resorted to bemoaning his circumstances. He couldn’t throw around a tough act in front of Ziju Min.
Ziju Min smiled slightly. “House Yan is a faction within Eternal Divine Nation. As long as the sacred land and the imperial family acknowledges your status, no one will be able to shake your position.”
House Yan’s patriarch felt his heart skip a beat. He was a smart man and Ziju Min’s intent was obvious. The apparently consolatory words also held a note of warning.
If they were clever enough to dismiss Shao Yuan and let him join the Eternal Sacred Land, then there would be a favor owed as well as future support. If not, then the sacred land would take a drastically different stance.
House Yan’s head was in a tough spot. If he refused the Eternal Sacred Land, a tiny bit of prejudice shown in return would be more than enough to cause the house much suffering.
This was quite a severe dilemma.
Ziju Min was quite relaxed. He sipped at the tea provided by the host, his expression completely calm and composed. He didn’t look like he was here to force House Yan’s hand at all.
The patriarch sighed softly. “Master Ziju, this is a very important matter in many respects. Let me, let us, think about it a bit more. House Yan would be more than happy to build a strong relationship with the Eternal Sacred Land. We would greatly appreciate your acknowledgement.”
He didn’t dare refuse. He was saddened to realize the reality that he was unlikely to be able to keep Shao Yuan much longer.