Jiang Chen remained impassive. He was unsurprised by Ziju Min and the first prime’s decision. They hadn’t told him before the announcement, but that didn’t matter.
Today was the day that all his prior work came to fruition. Finally, the Eternal Sacred Land was showing him its public support. The faction’s attitude was categorically clear-cut rather than fuzzy and uncertain.
The complexions of House Xiahou’s attendees darkened. Xiahou Zong was the worst affected; his face clouded over with malevolence. Though the first prime hadn’t named the girl, he knew instinctively who it would be.
After recovering from his bewilderment, House Yan’s patriarch swallowed slightly.
“Who are you talking about from House Yan, First Prime?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.
The first prime smiled leisurely, then looked toward Huang’er. “Which girl from your younger generation can surpass Yan Qinghuang?”
“Her?” The patriarch didn’t know what he was supposed to feel. Was he supposed to be happy? Uncomfortable? Or worried? There was a bit of all of that.
It would be spectacular if a genius like Shao Yuan could become House Yan’s son-in-law. Could the house fend off House Xiahou’s fury with its current strength though?
Everyone knew that Yan Qinghuang had been long promised to Xiahou Zong as a cultivation vessel. A shameful matter for House Yan, to be sure, but not a promise that could be easily broken.
But the Eternal Sacred Land far surpassed House Xiahou in prominence and power. No matter how dominant House Xiahou was, could it defy the sacred land of its own nation?
Though the patriarch knew the facts, he was nevertheless hesitant. A battle between great powers often meant suffering of the meek. If House Xiahou were forced to bend its knee, it would likely take out its anger upon House Yan instead.
There was certainly a long track record of that happening. Thus, the patriarch was very much troubled by the impasse.
Yan Wanjun brightened. “This is a wonderful,” he proclaimed loudly. “Shao Yuan’s talent is unrivaled, as peerless as Yan Qinghuang’s beauty! They are a perfect match for each other. What other couple under heaven can claim the same?”
He was willing to take any alternative that would preserve his granddaughter from being ruined.
House Xiahou, however, had a different opinion.
One of the house elders interjected coldly, “Yan Wanjun, House Yan has indeed never known the worth of an oath. Your son had an arranged marriage with House Xiahou all those years ago, but scorned her for a girl from the outside world. Yan Qinghuang has been promised to our Xiahou Zong as a cultivation vessel, no? Are you planning on breaking your word again?”
Neither pact had been consensual and had been products of helpless compromise. Because of House Xiahou’s dominance, House Yan had no outlet or recourse for the wrongs done to it.
Alas, their inability to take action was being used to their detriment.
Yan Wanjun was rendered speechless, but Yan Qingsang was undeterred. “My uncle’s marriage was foisted upon him, was it not?” he protested loudly. “So too was the affair with Huang’er. You shoved it onto us with your domineering attitude. Yes, House Xiahou has been strong the past few years, but Eternal Divine Nation has its own laws. Putting my uncle aside, do you dare claim what I said wasn’t true? Do you have any documentation or proof?”
As a disciple of the Eternal Sacred Land, Yan Qingsang had much more self-confidence. He could seriously contend even when faced with House Xiahou in person.
On the other hand, Xiahou Zong was quite upset. He sneered coldly at Yan Qingsang. “Who do you think you are? Don’t believe yourself to be a genius just because you wear the Eternal Sacred Land’s uniform.”
Yan Qingsang roared with laughter. “Stop being so pretentious, Xiahou Zong. We are in the Eternal Sacred Land and I am one of its disciples. I have every right to speak out against you and your black house.”
Xiahou Zong’s eyes darted about like a viper, sweeping across Yan Qingsang to land on Jiang Chen instead.
“Kid, your name is Shao Yuan, correct?” His tone embodied the height of arrogance.
Jiang Chen returned total impassivity. There was no emotion in his gaze back at Xiahou Zong.
“Yan Qinghuang belongs to me. That was decided from the start. If you want her, you’ll be accepting used goods. Now? I advise you to give up right this moment.” Xiahou Zong wasn’t the kind of man that hid his true colors, even in the Eternal Sacred Land.
Upon hearing the phrase ‘used goods’, Jiang Chen frowned a little. He radiated cold murder in Xiahou Zong’s direction.
“Xiahou Zong, did you know that I haven’t particularly hated anyone since coming here to Eternal Divine Nation?” Jiang Chen declared coolly. “However, I abhor you with every fiber of my being.”
“So what?” Xiahou Zong had only disdain for his enemy. “There are plenty of people that hate or envy me. They’re either dead or don’t even dare speak in my presence. You’ll just be one more on the list.”
“Really? I can tell you that everyone I’ve hated in the past is dead.” Jiang Chen uttered a pointed retort.
“So you’ve hated only trash? Got it.” Xiahou Zong became icier.
“Perhaps they were trash. You aren’t the first Xiahou to get the tag, you know.” A strange smile hung on Jiang Chen’s face.
Xiahou Zong stirred when he heard this revelation. The others from House Xiahou also stilled. They instinctively felt that Shao Yuan was getting at something. A forgotten incident was recalled.
Xiahou Ying shrieked. “Brother, is he saying he killed Xiahou Xi?!”
She was the quickest to react. She knew Shao Yuan had come from the Bluesmoke Isles and had participated in the ancient jade festival there.
Xiahou Xi had died in Bluesmoke around the same time, his murderer still at large. The conundrum relating to his death had perplexed House Xiahou for quite some time now. So this kid was responsible for that, eh?
Xiahou Zong raised an eyebrow, glaring daggers at Jiang Chen. “Is that true?”
“If that’s what you’d like to take it as, sure.” Jiang Chen shrugged. Xiahou Xi wasn’t the first scion of his house that he had killed. He’d slain Xiahou Jing back in the human domain as well.
“I see, I see, I see!” Xiahou Zong smirked in fury. “You’ve got balls, I’ll give you that. There hasn’t been someone like you for a long time in Eternal Divine Nation. I’ll remember you.”
“Please do. Until the day you die, I will be your biggest nightmare.”
Many respected Jiang Chen’s courage and character. It had been many years since someone in the younger generation dared speak this way to Xiahou Zong. This Shao Yuan seemed positively fearless. Most importantly, Xiahou Zong was at a disadvantage in the war of words.
Jiang Chen smiled with indifference, ignoring Xiahou Zong entirely in favor of a cupped fist toward House Yan’s patriarch. “Patriarch Yan, I’ve been lucky to make your house’s acquaintance in the past. In fact, one might say we’re reasonably familiar. I’d like to make our relationship even closer by marrying Yan Qinghuang. Will you accommodate my wishes?”
House Yan’s patriarch was faced with a dilemma.
Yan Wanjun’s lips trembled as he held back what he wanted to say.
It wasn’t the right place for any neutral factions to express their opinions. None wanted to anger House Xiahou for no reason.
Though Shao Yuan was quite brilliant, his displayed talent was as of yet limited to pill dao. There wasn’t anyone who could come close to Xiahou Zong in the entire nation, much less challenge his position.
Did Shao Yuan really have that potential?
The Eternal Sacred Ground was definitely stronger than House Xiahou, but would it back Shao Yuan at any cost?
Everyone had witnessed House Xiahou’s meteoric rise in recent years. Though it was unlikely the house could challenge the sacred land, it was better to steer clear of a faction that was gathering in strength.
The divine nation’s neutral factions couldn’t take sides at this juncture. External factions had an even harder time injecting themselves into a nation’s internal affairs. It wasn’t their place to speak.
The Yan patriarch sighed. “Shao Yuan, I appreciate your talent and skill. I think you’re a great match for Huang’er. Alas, House Yan is in a very difficult spot regarding this. I’d like you to sort out your differences with House Xiahou before I agree.”
Jiang Chen was somewhat disappointed in the patriarch’s hesitation. This would’ve been a perfect opportunity for House Yan to take shelter under the sacred land’s wing, if not for its leader’s indecisiveness in times of conflict.
The patriarch wanted to avoid angering both sides by waiting for the conflict to be resolved. However, doing so would also appease neither side. Jiang Chen finally understood why House Yan was in decline. Its patriarch was insufficiently audacious to get anywhere productive.
The smile gradually disappeared from his face. He inclined his head. “Patriarch Yan, many guests are gathered here today. I would like to take this opportunity to ask for the hand of House Yan’s Yan Qinghuang in marriage.”
He would force the patriarch to take a side, whether the latter wished to or not.
Jiang Chen wanted more than anything to make a commotion here. By doing so, he could take advantage of the chaos. If his temporary popularity was allowed to die down and Xiahou Zong took away Huang’er by force, wouldn’t all his planning have been for naught?
He couldn’t allow that to happen.
Ziju Min smiled faintly. “Patriarch Yan, Shao Yuan is sure to include many extravagant gifts in his betrothal gifts. The Taiyi Skymender Pill, the Crowning Empyrean Pill in the future, and many other pill-related resources are just what House Yan needs. If I were you, I wouldn’t pause a second.”