There was a bang. Qin Xiu had barely finished when Xiao Yifan had crushed the teacup that he held in his grasp. Tea spattered everywhere. The muffled voices of curious whispers began to fill their surroundings by onlookers outside the hall who were taken aback by the scene.
In the hall, Xiao Changfeng lifted his hand as he cast a look at Huangfu Zhe and spoke dryly, "This was decided many years ago by the chieftains of both families. Is the chieftain of your family informed of this decision?"
Huang Fuzhe replied, "Naturally. Even my father himself had deemed this decision inappropriate. Yet, as mentioned by young master Qin here, young Xin'er has, despite our many reprimands, been accepted as a Cultivator in the mystic arts. But we were informed that young Xin'er possesses six Spiritual Meridians—an extraordinary rarity which is the testament to her potential... hence..."
The people outside the hall erupted into an uproar. Not even Xiao Yifan could suppress the change in his expression as he beheld with the bewilderment of the phrase "Six Spiritual Meridians". The words left many of the younger kin of the Xiao Family astonished, for they had not trusted in the notions of Immortals until their witnessing of the duel at the Rainbow Pavilion. The revelation of Huangfu Xin'er's potential left them without any doubt that she could one day become one of the fabled Immortals.
Huangfu Zhe waited for the commotion outside the hall to simmer down before he continued, "In fact, this is not completely against the wishes of the two patriarchs of both families. Even though our families are not being able to join together in matrimony with young Xin'er and Nephew Xiao, but I trust the younger ones in the future will surely be able to."
With the message that they only wanted Xiao Chen's and Huangfu Xin'er's betrothal to be called off, Huangfu Zhe had ultimately added another blow to the insult and shame felt by the Xiao Family.
With a face white as frost, Xiao Chen sneered coldly and replied, "Do you deem the betrothal so lightly that you dismiss the entire matter with only one sentence?"
Qin Xiu retorted coldly, "Too right you are, and since it is a matter of utmost importance, it is only fitting that the betrothed of my junior sister Xin'Er must be a person of a similar bearing. Do you have six Spiritual Meridians? Or do you have at least one?"
Xiao Chen could only laugh weakly without uttering anything. Huangfu Zhe gave a light sigh and turned to the servant girl beside him, "Please convey the message left to you by the Young Lady, Lan Xiang."
"Yes." The servant girl stepped forward impishly. Without being able to look at Chen Xiao, she squeaked fearfully, "The Young Lady had s-said... said that she would expect her future husband to be a person of honorable character and proud bearing... if only Young Master Xiao Chen c-could, could..." Lan Xiang's voice trailed off as she did not dare continue any further.
"Continue." Xiao Chen's body began to tremble.
"The Young Lady would give Young Master Xiao Chen three years. In three years, the Young Master would only have to reach Lv 3 Qi Refining Realm and enroll himself into the Skygale Sect... only then... only then, the Young Lady w-would... would... Otherwise, she hopes that the Young Master would forget about her..."
A blanket of silence lingered across the entire hall and none who stood outside dared to say anything. Lv 3 Qi Refining Realm was the elementary cultivation stages of Immortality. No ordinary mortals could ever hope to achieve such Realm easily.
From the midst of the drifting silence, came the mocking laughter of Xiao Chen before he snarled angrily, "Is that what she truly said!?" The servant girl was hardly a stranger to him: she was Huangfu Xin'er's personal attendant; the servant closest to her who would never dare lie of such matter. Still, Xiao Chen could hardly bring himself to swallow the words sent to him by Huangfu Xin'er herself.
Lan Xiang shuddered with fear. She stole a fearful look up, only to look into the frosty eyes of Qin Xiu who scared the living daylights out of her as she stammered, "Those are the words of the Young Lady, sir... The Young Lady did mention that she would never marry a complete w-wretch... and, and she said..."
At this, the lids of her eyes got red and moist as she began to breathe heavily. It was apparent that Qin Xiu had coerced her to recite the words which were never the wishes of Huangfu Xin'er.
"Hahaha..." Xiao Chen threw his head backward and began to laugh. There was a sharp agony in his heart as if a blade had driven through it. "Is this truly the wish of Xin'er herself?" "So she is mindful of it after all... Hehehe... Xiao Chen, Xiao Chen... Do you know how pitiful you are now?"
Sitting quietly at the seat of honor in the hall, Xiao Changfeng had yet to utter a word. Huangfu Zhe threw another light sigh and said, "I am aware that the matter is grave tidings, especially to Nephew Xiao Chen. Hence, I have brought with me a Nine-flowered Shrub of Jaded Leaves as a token of apology." "Present the item, Lan Xiang."
"Yes." The servant girl wiped her eyes dry and produced a brocade box. She walked up the hall and opened the box, releasing torrents of blinding white radiance that poured from within the box and blinded everyone present. It was only when all of them had regained their sight that they could finally glimpse upon a little tree that fully blushed in a jade emerald luster with nine pearly flowers hanging from its boughs.
"The ingestion of this plant will allow its user to enjoy immense growth in his or her powers, immunity from sicknesses and diseases, as well as the possibility of the cultivation of a Spiritual Meridian," Huangfu Zhe explained with a tone of finality. Clearly, the Huangfu Family had not expected that Xiao Chen will be able to reach Lv 3 Qi Refining Realm in three years.
The many younger disciples and kins of the Xiao Family thronging outside the hall could only watch with eagerness at the box and its content. The present was also proof that the Huangfu Family had ties with Immortals. The consumption of the plant would allow its user the opportunity to pursue the dream of Immortality.
But Xiao Chen had not even looked at the box. Instead, he feigned a cold giggle, "I am afraid I must object, Uncle Huangfu. My response might displease you, but I do not intend to agree to call off the betrothal unless Xin'er speaks to me herself!"
"Xiao Chen! Silence!" Being afraid that Xiao Chen's insolence might anger the Immortals, Xiao Tianqi shouted at once.
Xiao Chen turned around and smiled coldly as he said, "With the presence of my father today, I trust that the matter of my conjugal affairs should no longer concern you, Uncle."
Xiao Chen's sharp reply left Xiao Tianqi speechless. Xiao Chen immediately turned to Huangfu Zhe and smiled thinly, "I have three years to reach Lv 3 Qi Refining Realm, is it not?"
Huangfu Zhe beheld Xiao Chen with muted silence, feeling a distinct difference to the young man before him. Beside him, Qin Xiu sneered, "As was mentioned in the message left to you by Junior Sister Xin'er. But for her sake, I will have you break off the matrimonial promise today no matter what, for you are a wretch not worth waiting for."
Xiao Chen shot him with a cold glare immediately and said, "Who are you to decide if I am worth it or not? You, a mere practitioner of the mystic arts who has only reached Lv 3 Foundation Building Realm?"
The steely words of Xiao Chen sent a ripple of bewilderment and confusion across the hall and the many younger kins of the Xiao Family outside. They might have heard of the terms "Spiritual Meridian", the "Foundation Building Realm" and the "Qi Refining Realm". Listening to these words spoken before them was like myths and fairy tales springing to life before their very eyes. Yet, how was it possible that Xiao Chen seemed familiar with the mysteries of the Immortals?
Even Qin Xiu could hardly suppress his body from trembling with shock. How was it possible that this useless wretch could easily perceive the level of his cultivation? He immediately composed himself and strode forth, saying, "A mere practitioner of the Foundation Building Realm? Would you like to test my prowess yourself?" With that, he channeled his True Energy and swiftly summoned a strong gale of wind that churned and howled furiously in the hall.
The rest of those present who was weaker in powers and strength were instantly sent into fits of nauseating agony as they began to lose consciousness and their blood churning violently within them. In the midst of the harrow throes, one could not help wondering, was this the powers of one who pursued Immortality? The Cultivator had incapacitated so many of them without even lifting a finger.
With his eyes set with determination and resolve, Xiao Chen could hardly wait as he spoke without an ounce of fear in his voice, "So be it then."
Qin Xiu was slightly taken aback with surprise. "This boy... he is different from the other mortals. What is he? Is he also a Cultivator? But how is it possible that I am not being able to sense his powers?"
He took a step forward. With a twirl of his fingers, an Immortal's Sword materialized and hovered before him in mid-air. But the sword did not cast any shadow on the ground.
"This is Stifled Light, the thirteenth on the Tome of Legendary Weapons. Duel with me if you dare, and I will concede to your demands if you are able to trade three blows with me."
Outside, the younger disciples and kins of the Xiao Family could only watch with their breaths held in silence. It was beyond any more doubt that the person was one of the Immortals that he was able to suspend a sword in mid-air by only his will.
Xiao Chen stepped forward and called out loud, "Is there anyone who will lend me his sword!"
The disciples and kins outside could hardly believe their ears, has he gone mad in accepting a challenge by an Immortal? No mortal could possibly hope to survive one blow by an Immortal, much less three blows! But just then, everyone's gazes were immediately drawn towards a green sword hanging over the seat of honor in the hall.
With a lift of his hand, Xiao Changfeng sent the sword flying from its scabbard and into his grasp with a shrilling ring. He had used his Internal Strength to draw his sword from afar!
"Chen'er, take this sword!"
Xiao Chen reached forth and caught the hilt of the sword. It was called Teal Blade, a blade with extraordinary sharpness that it could easily cut strands of hair and even slice through steel. A gift from the Emperor of the Dynasty of the Nine Provinces when he had visited three hundred years ago, the sword had since then became the heirloom of the Xiao Family. In his hand, the blade quivered with excitement as if it has a consciousness of its own.
"Three blows! Here I come!"
Xiao Chen brandished his sword and threw himself forward, performing a few elementary strokes of the Mystic Cyan Swordplay. The blade of his sword danced through the howling winds, its dazzling movements filled the hall as if Xiao Chen had conjured a multitude of swords. The cold glimmer from its razor-sharp edge and the force of its movements slashed mercilessly through the air that the intense pressure from his strokes grazed the cheeks of everyone present, threatening to rip and tear at their very flesh.
Unruly mayhem of surprise and confusion erupted inside and outside of the hall, "Since when has he learned how to fight! From where had he learned such complex sword techniques!"
Everyone was confused and perplexed. Xiao Yifan could hardly believe what he was witnessing and all colors have left Xiao Yuan's face for he so well knew that his strength of the Fivefold could hardly allow him to wield such complicated swordplay.
Huangfu Zhe was also shaking with shock. Never did he expect Xiao Chen to have wielded such prowess.
Qin Xiu's eyes narrowed as he studied his opponent, how is it possible that this wretch has mastered such powerful sword techniques? It was clear that his opponent's skills with the sword were far superior to his. With a tug of his finger, he controlled Stifled Light with his will and sent it forth like a white ray of light, its tip striking hard against Xiao Chen's sword.
There was a loud clang as sparks flew. The clash of the blades sent forth a strong shockwave, its force so terrible that the tablewares immediately shattered. Liquids of tea were thrown in all directions, splattering and splashing everywhere.
Several elders of the household were nearly thrown backward by the force of the wave. Recovering themselves frantically, they shared a swift look amongst themselves because this was at least the strength of a Sevenfold martial artist! "Since when did Xiao Chen possess such capabilities?"
Outside, the rest of the disciples and kins of the Xiao Family were all astounded. Xiao Yuan's expression was especially hideous as he refused to believe what he was witnessing! For years he had reveled in being the greatest of the younger generations of the Xiao Family, but now, he was clearly being inferior to a useless stooge that he had always looked upon with disdain and contempt!
The furious blows from Xiao Chen's sword generated shrilling winds as the clangs of the clashing blades continued. In a mere blink of an eye, the two fighting men had exchanged more than ten blows. Yet, Xiao Chen was still composed and calm with his strokes. With a sudden burst of speed, a teal blue flash of light tore straight through the air and lunged viciously at Qin Xiu's throat.
Everyone present, inside and outside of the hall, drew a sharp breath, "Sword Radiance! That is Sword Radiance! He has released Sword Radiance!" Xiao Yifan and Xiao Changfeng watched wordlessly with concentrated effort. Only a swordsman with powers over the Sevenfold could conjure Sword Radiance with his or her Internal Strength.
Qin Xiu felt a tingling, cold sensation down his spine. He swiftly channeled his True Energies and Chen Xiao began to feel a huge force bearing down at him from his opponent. His sword could no longer pierce forward as if being thwarted by a force with the strength of a mountain. But before he could react, the sword in his hand snapped, its blades shattered. The shards of his broken blade were thrown backward and impaled themselves into one of the great pillars of the hall.
Xiao Chen was thrown into the air and he crashed into the ground, remaining on his feet. He tasted the sweetness of blood in his mouth, feeling intense pain from his insides. Defiantly, he swallowed the mouthful of blood. With his remaining strength, he struggled to maintain his balance, using his already broken sword to steady himself, refusing to collapse to his knees and surrender his final ounce of dignity.
Such was the difference between the strength of the Qi Refining Realm and the Foundation Building Realm. Silence hung over the hall and the outside like a deathly apparition for none dared to speak. For three hundred years, the Teal Blade of the Xiao Family has struck fear into its foes that dare incur its wrath. Yet, it remained nothing but a mere instrument of common quality before the divine weapons of Immortals.
Qin Xiu heaved a breath before he jeered, "Let's go, Uncle Huangfu." He began to leave, only to pause briefly as he passed by Xiao Chen and sneered, "What use is there if your sword move is only swift? My powers allow me to easily crush you to bits with a merest lift of my finger."
Xiao Chen did not reply. It was true that a Cultivator of the Foundation Building Realm could easily slay another warrior of the Qi Refining Realm. He was no longer that gifted disciple of the Mystic Cyan Sect.
Suddenly, a cold gust of wind blew from outside the hall and his hair, which was earlier tied together by Lil Ruo, flailed wildly in the wind.