The ocular duel between the two young men was a minor scuffle at best. After testing the waters, Jiang Chen leisurely shifted his eyes away from Xiahou Zong. He ignored the Xiahou genius completely.
Instead, he gazed at the nearby section that belonged to House Yan. Six people were present there: the patriarch, Yan Wanjun, Yan Zhenhuai, Yan Qinghuang, an elder who was a pill dao specialist—and surprisingly, even Ling Bi’er.
Dressed in light-blue clothes, Huang’er gave off an elegant and exquisite aura. Jiang Chen’s eyes radiated a faint sheen of gentleness as they settled upon her.
It was a gaze imperceptible to most. However, there was someone who’d been paying attention ever since Jiang Chen’s appearance. Xiahou Ying’s intuition immediately told her everything she wanted to know.
There was something awry about Shao Yuan’s gaze. Had Shao Yuan fallen in love with that girl from House Yan during his time there?
She had discovered unexplored frontier. Xiahou Ying elbowed her brother. “Hey brother, you’ve got trouble in front of you.”
There was a hint of laziness in Xiahou Zong’s smile. “Trouble? Don’t exaggerate, Ying’er.”
“I’m not lying. I’ve noticed something I’m sure you’ll care about.” Xiahou Ying delivered her words with the maximum amount of melodrama possible.
“What?” Xiahou Zong smiled coolly. “Don’t try to scare me. I’ve seen plenty of that tactic from you since we were young.”
“I’m not just trying to scare you, honest! Haven’t you noticed?” Xiahou Ying leered. “Someone’s trying to steal something from you.”
“Oh? How so?” Xiahou Zong arched an eyebrow.
“That Shao Yuan snuck a look at Yan Qinghuang just now. His gaze didn’t look right. I recognize that kind of look from a mile away.” Xiahou Ying smacked her lips, quite indignant. “No wonder that arrogant idiot ignored me all this time. His heart was on another girl all along! What’s so good about her, huh? How does she compare to me?”
Xiahou Zong furrowed his brow. “Did you really see it clearly, Ying’er?”
“I make stuff up about other things, brother, but why would I do that about this?” Xiahou Ying was vehement in her assertion. “I swear I saw him sneak a look at Yan Qinghuang with sweetness in his eyes. There’s no way he could feign that kind of thing.”
Xiahou Ying was furious. Shao Yuan was seriously blind! She was a young lady of House Xiahou with impeccable looks, figure, and status. What part of her was inferior to that House Yan chit?
Yan Qinghuang could only pretend to be pitiably frosty. What else was she good for?
To Xiahou Ying, Yan Qinghuang was a hypocrite. She merely pretended to be icy to stave off anyone approaching her, so that she could appease House Xiahou and her brother.
Therefore, the Xiahou miss was furious about Jiang Chen’s tenderness. She added fuel to the flame as she recounted the incident to her brother.
Xiahou Zong felt nothing towards Huang’er, but he had always seen her as his private property. No one else was allowed to touch her or even think about her.
In Eternal Divine Nation, anyone who did, that he found out about, was made to pay a painful price. For Xiahou Zong, anyone that dared think about Yan Qinghuang showed him great disrespect. Thus, he was incited to anger once more by his sister’s words.
The causes of his outbursts both times had been a single look. The only difference was that instead of provoking him directly this time, it touched upon what he considered his exclusive property.
“That bastard!” Xiahou Zong gritted his teeth, cold killing intent filling his eyes. “One day, I’ll make him regret being born!”
Xiahou Ying giggled. “Brother, don’t you have a sense of danger? That House Yan girl has been free for so long. Get her to come to the house in a bit. Otherwise, someone in a closer position than you might...”
“Shut up.” Xiahou Zong knew what she was getting at. He wouldn’t allow even his own sister to insinuate such a thing. To him, it was the vilest of blasphemies.
Xiahou Ying stuck out her tongue for a brief moment, but didn’t go on. Her brother’s ire had been successfully ignited already. Both Yan Qinghuang and that Shao Yuan kid were going to suffer!
This brief interlude didn’t affect the progress of the festival. When the three primes appeared, all the other guests rose.
“We are honored with everyone’s presence here today.” The first prime smiled. “Almost every pill dao giant is gathered here for the festival. Aside from hospitality, all I can offer is our best effort in making your trip worthwhile.
“Please seat yourselves, and excuse any sparseness in our accommodations. Since this festival is related to pill dao, I’d like to give the floor to Elder Ziju for the rest of the event.”
The first prime handed the matter over to Ziju Min after only a few brief words. The elder had made ample preparations for the festival.
He wasn’t especially prominent in the pill dao world of the divine nations, but he had the advantage of being on home turf. Furthermore, Shao Yuan served as the bulwark that bolstered his confidence.
Clearing his throat, his voice rang out. “I believe everyone seated here today has already seen the Taiyi Skymender Pill. Even if that isn’t the case, surely you’ve heard of it. This festival is being held in commemoration of the pill’s unveiling before the world. We wanted every party in attendance here today to share our joy in embracing this momentous occasion.”
Ziju Min was relatively proficient at making speeches. There was no end to his eloquence once begun. Even Jiang Chen was secretly impressed.
“Though we have never been much of a frontrunner among the Ten in pill dao, I believe that the Taiyi Skymender Pill heralds the fact that we will become a faction not to be ignored in pill dao. I trust that our own improvement will also translate to our peers here in Myriad Abyss as a whole. Only through healthy competition will pill dao thrive. Don’t you agree, friends?”
There was an overwhelming response from the audience. Of course, most of it came from factions within and close to the Eternal Sacred Land.
Those who were on lukewarm terms with the sacred land only offered perfunctory smiles. They didn’t put much credence in Ziju Min’s grand words.
“Elder Ziju, was it?” someone piped up. “This is the first time I’ve heard of your name. What is your relation to the Elder Zimu of yesteryear, if I may ask?”
The tone of this interloper was nothing less than arrogant. It came from a pill dao forefather from Nirvana Divine Nation, a decrepit old man who sported a shock of white hair and a matching beard.
The statement was truthfully, quite rude.
Ziju Min smiled faintly. “Elder Ziju was a senior that I respected.”
“Haha, you’re not related to him by blood then? I wonder how much you’ve learned from him?” Another pointed question, delivered in the same surly manner.
Unfortunately, old men in the world of pill dao had a seniority that they could leverage to reasonable effect over their juniors.
Sensing Ziju Min in a tight spot, Jiang Chen interjected coolly from the side. “Elder Ziju was very clear. Elder Zimu was a respected senior of the Eternal Sacred Land, and thus only Elder Ziju’s peer. There’s no teacher-student relationship between the two. Are you playing the fool, or are your brains not up to the task? What a shame that you can’t even put two and two together.”
It was high time for him to defend the senior who’d helped him so much. Jiang Chen knew that he was destined to make enemies of a portion of people here, so he wasn’t afraid of doing so in the slightest.
As expected, the forefather jumped with furor at his words. “You brat of a kid, I bet you’re still wet behind the ears! Do you know what courtesy is? What right do you have to speak?”
“Courtesy is relative. You’re supposed to be a guest, but you’ve gone and asked something that proves your senility. How are we supposed to respect you? For that matter, what right do you have to speak? Your hair is whiter and your beard longer, but what else are you good for?”
Jiang Chen struck back with twice the edge.
He had observed the old man secretly communicating with the pill dao giants from Flora Divine Nation. They’d traded several meaningful looks with each other. It was obvious that they’d already become temporary allies.
Predictably, someone from Flora Divine Nation snickered almost immediately. “These times are strange indeed. The late Elder Zimu had a quick temper, but he was overall a pretty upstanding gentleman. The standards are certainly declining with each generation.”
This new speaker was a middle-aged man near Shi Xuan, perhaps his disciple or follower. His sinister comment darkened the atmosphere instantly.
The three primes remained completely calm, apparently determined not to interfere in the festival’s proceedings. They knew that verbal conflicts were unavoidable, but these skirmishes were never deciders of the final victory.
Pill dao skill would be the most influential factor in the end. This was only the warm-up stage. What was a little banter to the event?
Jiang Chen glanced coldly at the middle-aged man from Flora Divine Nation.
“It looks like the Flora Sacred Land has no problem with declining standards,” he chuckled suddenly.
“Of course not. In the pill dao world, we always have the highest standards. Our geniuses are perennially top-notch.”
“Oh, is that so? Why do they look like they were fished out from the bargain bin? Of course there’s no problem with declining standards. If every generation is trash, you can’t exactly go lower than that,” Jiang Chen sneered.
Ziju Min gawked. He hadn’t expected Shao Yuan to be so cutting. The young man had saved him from the awkward situation. Despite the pill sovereign’s eloquence, he lacked the rapier wit required to lay down the hurt in arguments.