If Jiang Chen hadn't known Xiahou Ying's true nature, he would've been easily deceived by her coquettish complaints and saw her as a innocent, spoiled noble girl. Now with more than enough advance warning about her, he naturally wasn't going to fall for her tricks. He smiled faintly in response.
The youth dressed in violet, Jing Yi, had had enough. He shot to his feet and glared at Jiang Chen. "You sure are arrogant, Shao Yuan."
"What do you mean?" Jiang Chen smiled indifferently.
"There are plenty of geniuses here who joined before you and have more experience," Jing Yi raged. "Don't you think it's arrogant to act mysterious and mightier than all of us?"
Jiang Chen broke into an involuntary chuckle. "I was perfectly happy in my residence. You people invited me here and try to take me down a peg. Now I'm the arrogant one? I'm curious, are all the geniuses here as unreasonable as you are? Are they all in the habit of twisting facts?"
Xiahou Ying started up her act again and sobbed quietly. "It's my fault. It's all my fault. I shouldn't have come. Don't fight with Sir Shao, senior brother Jing. I'm to blame for everything. Don't let an outsider like me damage your bond as fellow disciples."
A woman's tears were a lethal weapon on men.
Jing Yi leveled Jiang Chen with a frigid stare. "I don't care how genius you are, Shao. From a man to another man, I demand you to apologize to Miss Ying."
Jiang Chen snorted. "I don't owe her an apology, do I?"
"You made her cry!" Jing Yi lashed out. "How dare you say you don't owe her an apology? Are you a man or not?"
"By your logic, you must think of yourself as the most manly man, don't you?" Jiang Chen was getting tired of this disciple.
"Are you going to apologize or not?" Jing Yi demanded in a steely voice.
Jiang Chen shrugged. "I don't see why I should."
Jing Yi's lips twisted into an angry sneer. "Fine. That's fine. It seems you aren't going to admit your mistake until you're staring death in the face. Don't blame me for not warning you."
"And what are you gonna do about it?" Disappointed, Jiang Chen looked at the other like he was looking at an idiot. If every genius here was as idiotic as Jing Yi was, then the sacred land was disappointing indeed.
He didn't know how talented Jing Yi was, but the genius was a damn fool to be easily manipulated by simple tricks. He lost all reason just because a woman had shed a few tears!
"What am I gonna do? I challenge you to a duel between two men. Dare you fight me, Shao Yuan?"
Jiang Chen's expression remained distant. "A duel?"
"That's right. The loser isn't allowed to complain to his master. What do you say? Dare you take me on?" Jing Yi shot him a taunting look.
Jiang Chen smiled, giving Jing Yi the once-over.
As a true disciple, Jing Yi had reached empyrean realm - mostly likely first level empyrean. He was considered above average in the sacred land, but not among the best. He must've assumed that it'd be as easy as crushing an ant for him to defeat a peak great emperor like Jiang Chen.
"The loser isn't allowed to go to his master?" Jiang Chen smiled, but the smile quickly gave way to a threatening scowl. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I am. Beg for mercy if you're afraid. There are many of our peers here today. I can give you a chance to admit your mistakes." Jing Yi humiliated Jiang Chen with abandon, or what he thought was humiliation.
"Your name is Jing Yi, right? I don't know how high up your master must be in the sacred land for you to turn out so undisciplined. Has your master taught you only cultivating and nothing about using your brain?"
Jiang Chen had no words to describe Jing Yi. The latter was far from the only man who'd ever acted recklessly for a woman, but it was unbecoming of a genius in the sacred land to act like such a crude fool.
Jing Yi's expression darkened. "Men fight with fists, not words, brat. Accept my challenge if you aren't a coward. Don't have everyone look down on you."
"I'm not interested in fighting for a woman I don't care about," Jiang Chen said coldly. "However, I don't mind teaching you a lesson since you insist on putting me down. Perhaps one day you'll come to realize how childish you are and be grateful." His gaze swept over everyone present.
"All of you here are on the same side, aren't you? Who else wants to fight me? Step forward and let's get this over with. You may have the time to waste, but I don't." He wasn't going to remain idle after knowing what these men wanted.
"I don't know what role you played in this, Daoist Gan Ning. You are among the Five Great Gentlemen, but you're a bit disappointing. I'm willing to give the other four the benefit of the doubt though. They must be ashamed to be lumped into a group with you." He rather felt contempt for Gan Ning.
This fellow wasn't any better than the others. He was the one who'd invited Jiang Chen to his home turf in the name of the Five Great Gentlemen, subjecting him to this farce.
Gan Ning appeared to be a mediator between them, but in truth, he had a hand or was even directly involved, in this attempt to intimidate Jiang Chen. He was just better at pretending.
His intentions didn't escape Jiang Chen's keen observation.
Jiang Chen's blunt criticism broke the calm mask Gan Ning put on. His self-control faltered and his face darkened. "I'm just a middleman, Daoist Shao Yuan. I have no intention of becoming involved in your conflict. If I back down after your false accusation, however, it'll seem like I'm afraid of you..."
"Enough with the yammering," Jiang Chen cut in impatiently. "This is your true nature. Why bother hiding it? Aren't you tired of doing so?" He had no intention of wasting his time listening to Gan Ning.
"Do you want to duel me first? Or come at me together? Or one after another?" Jiang Chen considered Gan Ning lazily. To be honest, he didn't consider anyone other than Gan Ning a threat. He could easily deal with the others all at once.
Gan Ning, on the other hand, was far superior to the others in mindset, ability, and all other aspects.
Even though Jiang Chen had many tricks up his sleeve, he wouldn't say he'd be the sure winner. Even if he did win, it wouldn't be an easy fight. He'd have to employ many of his techniques.
As one of the Five Great Gentleman, Gan Ning was among the most exceptional talents in the sacred land. He might be the worst of them, but that still put him in the top five. He was not to be underestimated.
However, Gan Ning took Jiang Chen's words as the worst insult possible. His expression turned cold. "You seem to have forgotten yourself after conquering the Nine Winding Caves, Shao Yuan. It's my job to beat some sense into you on behalf of the sacred land."
"Beat some sense into me?" Jiang Chen broke into laughter. "You wish! Take a look at the company you keep, Gan Ning. There's a reason for the other four avoid you, am I right?"
He was merely making a guess, but it hit Gan Ning in his most painful spot. He was the weakest among the five and the least respected. The other four seemed unwilling to be seen with him. They rarely invited him to any activities.
Whether intentionally or not, he was excluded from their circle.
It had always been a thorn in his side. Jiang Chen's words stabbed into his heart like needles, causing him intense discomfort. Unbounded hatred flared. It felt as if he'd been stripped naked under broad daylight, exposing his ugliest secrets.
"Stand down, junior brother Jing." Gan Ning suddenly called off an eager Jing Yi and continued in a vicious tone. "Since this kid is so overly confident, I'll show him that a latecomer should know better and respect his senior brothers." He ground his teeth.
Jiang Chen smiled, unaffected by the threat. Although he was in Gan Ning's residence, he didn't consider himself in danger. He was calm and collected, as steady as Mt. Tai.
He didn't for one second feel that these young men were a fatal threat to him. They were pathetic, spoiled geniuses who'd been completely manipulated by a woman.
He'd thought Gan Ning was mature enough, but it turned out he wasn't that much better than Jing Yi and the others. His only strengths were his cultivation and talent, which were nothing to boast about in front of Jiang Chen.
"Come with me, Shao Yuan, if you have the balls to," Gan Ning spoke coolly and walked straight outside.
Jing Yi glared at Jiang Chen. "There's a sparring stage behind his residence. If you're afraid, you can run off through the front door. I promise to turn a blind eye to that."
A calculating glint flashed through Xiahou Ying's eyes. She glanced at Jiang Chen. "If you've come to your senses, Sir Shao, I can ask senior brother Gan Ning to go easy on you."
"Stop the act, Miss Ying," Jiang Chen responded faintly. "You can fool only brainless men no matter how good an actress you are. You may be confident in your beauty, but in the eyes of real geniuses, you're even less than the women selling themselves in brothels. Those women at least are upfront with what they're doing. They just want money. But you? You're playing with fire."
To Jiang Chen, Xianhou Ying was indeed flirting with danger. She had befriended the geniuses here in order to exert House Xiahou's influence on the sacred land. However, the house's intentions couldn't possibly have escaped the senior executives' notice, given how obvious their methods were.