Xiahou Zong spoke with an intimidating and emotionless tone, gazing at Jiang Chen like he was sizing up a dead man. The youths present shuddered in response, dread settling in their bellies.
Jiang Chen stood his ground and calmly met Xiahou Zong’s gaze.
“I’m not interested in taking anything from you, Xiahou Zong, but Huang’er has never been and never will be yours! Listen carefully, I don’t care if you style yourself some bullshit top genius. If you dare stand in my way, I won’t hesitate to send you to hell.”
Xiahou Zong broke into hearty laughter. “You sure talk big, kid. People would think you’re an advanced empyrean expert with the way you talk. You’re going to send me to hell?”
“I am,” Jiang Chen said plainly. “I hope you’ll participate in the sword competition. I hope you aren’t as weak as the other one-hit trash from House Xiahou.”
House Xiahou was thoroughly his enemy. There would be no love lost between them no matter what he said. The moment he decided to come to Eternal Divine Nation, he’d already declared war against House Xiahou. There was no need to be tactful or shy away from what he really meant.
A violent light exploded in Xiahou Zong’s eyes. “You’re the one who mentioned the competition, kid. I hope you don’t lose before we fight, or I’ll consider you unworthy of my attention!”
“Pray for good luck yourself,” Jiang Chen calmly responded. “Don’t end up dead in the streets before I can do you the favor.”
The patriarch found no joy in seeing the two geniuses fighting over a young woman from his house. He knew he’d failed to please either side. House Xiahou would continue to sneer at him with contempt, while Shao Yuan must have been disappointed by his indecisiveness.
His mood grew heavy. When Shao Yuan had been in House Yan, he’d been friendly with the young man. Now however, he’d offended both the young genius and House Xiahou.
The Xiahou elder who’d spoken earlier scoffed. “First Prime, it’d be inappropriate for us old men to get involved in the conflict between young men. Considering the situation, why don’t we let their fight over Yan Qinghuang run its course? The outcome of the sword competition will decide her fate. If Shao Yuan wins, Yan Qinghuang will be his, and Xiahou Zong won’t trouble her again. If Xiahou Zong wins, the Eternal Sacred Land mustn’t bring up the marriage proposal again. What do you say?”
The first prime responded with a faint smile, “The Eternal Sacred Land stands by our geniuses. What matters is Shao Yuan’s opinion. We support whatever decisions he makes. If he agrees to let their fight determine the girl’s fate, this seat will not intervene.”
It was clear from her words that Jiang Chen had their full support.
Jiang Chen nodded. “We’ll fight in the sword competition. However, I won’t give up on her even if I lose.”
“What if the battle ends in a tie?” someone asked curiously.
“Impossible!” Jiang Chen and Xiahou Zong shouted in unison. There was no chance that the fight would end in a tie. They’d be giving it their all.
“Young Shao Yuan, we in the martial dao world must be gracious even in conflict,” the elder from House Xiahou disapproved. “You just said you wouldn’t give up no matter the outcome of the competition. That’s against the rules!”
“The rules?” Jiang Chen scoffed. “When has House Xiahou ever cared about rules? Would a rules-abiding faction force Huang’er to be a cultivation vessel? She’s a human being, not a cat or a dog.”
“We’re giving you a fair chance,” Xiahou Zong snapped frigidly. “Are you going to admit to being a coward with all these remarkable heroes as your witnesses?”
“I’m going to fight you because I dislike you and want to eliminate you,” Jiang Chen responded calmly. “It has nothing to do with Huang’er. Huang’er and I are in love. We don’t need House Xiahou’s approval to be together.”
Jiang Chen was the epitome of being unreasonable when he set his mind to it. He left House Xiahou with no room to argue.
Xiahou Ying stuck her hands on her hip and lashed out. “How can a man like you be so shameless, Shao Yuan? My brother’s giving you a fair shot, yet you refuse to follow the rules. What a poor excuse of a genius!”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “It’s better than being a phony like you.”
“Enough!” exclaimed Ziju Min. “Stop wasting your breath. The decision has been made.”
He didn’t want the pointless argument to continue. Xiahou Ying was one of his named disciples. It’d reflect poorly on him for her to make a scene. The Eternal Sacred Land had finally recovered their reputation in the festival. They mustn’t give the others any reasons to mock them.
Xiahou Zong didn’t want to stay a second longer. He threw Jiang Chen a cold glance and tapped his thumb and forefinger at his opponent. It was an insulting hand gesture in Eternal Divine Nation.
Jiang Chen ignored him with a derisive smile.
The Skymender Festival was at an end.
“You should stay here for a few days rather than returning to House Yan, sis.” Yan Qingsang went up to Huang’er. As a genius from the sacred land, it was within his right to invite his cousin to stay for some time. “You aren’t against the idea, are you, grandpa?” he added deliberately.
Yan Wanjun nodded seriously. “You should spend a few days here, Huang’er. Get some fresh air. You’ve suffered the most over the years. It’s my weakness that put you through this pain. Stay as long as you want. If anyone in the family is against that, have them come to me!”
Yan Wanjun had grown assertive after his change of perspective.
The patriarch smiled wryly. “Elder Wanjun, you know I’ve always valued you greatly. What happened today… well, let the young men fight it out. House Yan can’t afford to offend neither of these colossal factions.”
“You can’t afford to offend either, but ended up offending both.” Yan Wanjun huffed. “Patriarch, please forgive me for my recklessness today.”
“There’s nothing to forgive.” The patriarch seemed to understand that they wouldn’t be able to take Huang’er with them today. He might as well play the generous leader.
Jiang Chen saw the guests off with Ziju Min. Each of them exchanged pleasantries with him and issued invitations with great enthusiasm. He responded in a friendly manner. He didn’t turn them down, but didn’t promise them anything either.
The delegates from Flora Divine Nation left with rage and resignation. They’d come with three pill dao sovereigns, yet returned with only two.
To make things worse, that news would soon reach every part of the Myriad Abyss Island. For months, everyone would be talking about how the once domineering master Shi Xuan had suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of a genius from the Eternal Sacred Land.
Shao Yuan would be the name on everyone’s lips.
The world was this cruel at times. For every young genius who shot to fame, numerous people fell from grace as a result. It was how Shi Xuan had made a name for himself, and now he’d become fodder for the young man’s success.
Shi Xuan seemed to have resigned himself to his fate. He didn’t bid his compatriots farewell, but stood motionless near Jiang Chen like a mannequin.
Jiang Chen turned to Shi Xuan once the guests had all left.
He wasn’t actually interested in taking Shi Xuan on as his pill slave. He simply wanted to humiliate the pill sovereign. He had no use for a pill slave or a helper. Shi Xuan would only be a burden. He was getting a headache thinking about how he should deal with his new acquisition.
He turned to Ziju Min for advice, who smiled. “He’s your prize. You can do whatever you want with him. No one will say anything even if you hack him in two right now. He’s a pill slave, which isn’t any different from a regular slave.”
The muscles in Shi Xuan’s face spasmed. He’d submitted to this shameful fate because he wanted to conserve his strength and strike back one day. If Jiang Chen killed him, then his hopes to rise again would be nothing but a pipe dream.
Jiang Chen waved a hand in the air. “Lock him up for now to dull his sharp edges. I’ll consider using him once he’s tamed.”
He knew that Shi Xuan was unlikely to wholly submit. Since he had no need for the pill master, the best solution for the time being was to tuck him out of the way.
Shi Xuan relaxed when he heard he wouldn’t be executed. As long as he lived, there was a chance for him to make a comeback.
The three primes returned after sending the guests off and looked at Jiang Chen with great appreciation. He was pleasing to the eye no matter how one looked at him right now.
“Shao Yuan, you shouldn’t so recklessly agree to fight Xiahou Zong in the sword competition. You haven’t reached his level in martial dao yet.”
“Isn’t it odd that Xiahou Zong has shown such extraordinary talent young and remained undefeated among his peers? I wonder what heritage he’s gained or what good fortune he’s encountered.”
Jiang Chen had a good grasp on Xiahou Zong’s ability. When they’d clashed via eye techniques, he’d noticed that Xiahou Zong was miles ahead of other young geniuses in both presence and power.
Nonetheless, Jiang Chen had confidence in himself. There were still a few months before the sword competition. He believed that he had full chances of winning.