An alarming possibility occurred to Yan Wanxi. He was paralyzed with dismay; the more he thought about it, the stranger things seemed.
The person who’d voiced his suspicions murmured as well. “Can this be true? Is Shao Yuan really Jiang Chen from the human domain?”
“What did you say?” The Yan patriarch was just as astonished as his kinsman. Everyone in House Yan knew what had happened to Yan Qinghuang. They were aware that her Generation Binding Curse had been lifted by a youth in the human domain called Jiang Chen.
Furthermore, she had fallen deeply in love with that youth. This was the reason for her intense sadness upon her return. But to say that Shao Yuan was one and the same was far too crazy.
The inhabitants of Myriad Abyss knew what level the human domain was at right now. No one would deign to visit it in the first place.
According to rumor, there were barely any empyrean experts there, and they all lived in seclusion. Most young folk there believed great emperor to be the peak of martial dao. Thus, the human domain was thought to be a desolate wilderness that held little of value.
Elder Xi had believed the same on his visit there a few years ago. His view was shared by the majority of those who lived in Myriad Abyss: they felt an inherent superiority to those who lived in such a backwater.
That was why he’d been so rude to Jiang Chen. Though he knew the young man was the young lord of Sacred Peafowl Mountain and a rare genius of his realm, the elder didn’t find it noteworthy at all.
It was public knowledge that even a third-rate genius in Myriad Abyss could be considered the best of the best in the human domain. The reverse wasn’t quite true: a genius from the human domain would struggle to be counted a third-rate one here.
“Impossible! I’m sure everyone knows what level the human domain is at. How could Shao Yuan come from there? How could that place have fostered a genius like him?”
“Yes, yes, that doesn’t make sense. We’d believe it in ancient times, but the current human domain isn’t even a tenth of what it was back then. The spirit veins and heritages there can’t possibly cultivate a genius that matches Myriad Abyss Island’s.”
“Don’t overthink things. Shao Yuan’s heritage is definitely from Myriad Abyss. The human domain can’t possibly have nurtured a once-in-ten-millennia genius like him.”
“But don’t you think Huang’er’s attitude is strange? Don’t you know what kind of person she is? How many times do you think they met before she accepted Shao Yuan’s marriage proposal so easily? Conversely, how did Shao Yuan take an interest in Huang’er for seemingly no reason? Myriad Abyss has the sixteen golden hairpins, and Huang’er isn’t unique.”
“Exactly! If I was Shao Yuan, why would I court a girl who’s been cursed by fate when there’s so many more to choose from?”
“Plus, don’t you think Shao Yuan’s inclusion into House Yan in the first place was odd too? How did he manage to join us?”
“Yan Qingsang introduced him, yes?” someone asked doubtfully.
“Shao Yuan had ulterior motives for approaching House Yan, then?”
“Enough!” someone shouted in frustration. “What’s there to analyze right now? Huang’er feels no sense of belonging to House Yan anymore. Venerated elder Yan Wanjun is nowhere to be found. Yan Qingsang revels his successes in the sacred land. Which of them cares about House Yan’s survival? Is there a point in figuring out why Shao Yuan picked Huang’er?”
“Yes, there really isn’t a point to looking into this. Let’s discuss how to repair our relationship with the sacred land instead. We should avoid being hated for our stance, at least.” House Yan’s members were as lost as cats on a hot tin roof.
Someone stood up. “There’s a chance. Let me go to the sacred land and take a look.”
It was House Yan’s foremost genius, Yan Zhenhuai. His stepping forward relieved the hearts of everyone else. He had somewhat more authority in this crisis than House Yan’s executives as he had maintained reasonable, undamaged relationships with both Shao Yuan and Yan Qingsang.
Perhaps it was easier for young people to communicate with each other.
The Yan patriarch was elated. “If you’re willing to go, Zhenhuai, I believe that even Shao Yuan will show you some respect.”
Yan Zhenhuai nodded somberly. “I will do all that I can.”
“Patriarch,” someone else suggested, “House Yan should do a few other things to rescue ourselves in this time of need. What if we make an exception and promote Yan Zhenhuai to be an elder? Have him lead a group of elites to support the sacred land. It might not need our help, but we should still make our attitude and intentions clear.”
Promote Yan Zhenhuai to be a house elder?
Yan Zhenhuai was still a young genius. Additionally, the house had strict rules that only those over a hundred could be actual elders. Those with significant contributions could receive equal treatment, but no more than that.
There was no precedent for this proposition in the house at all. However, House Yan had no other choice. Rules were made to be broken.
The Yan patriarch’s eyes darted about before he came to a decision. “Alright. We’re at a crucial juncture: talent should be promoted. Zhenhuai, are you confident you’ll rise to the occasion?”
Yan Zhenhuai wasn’t the reluctant type. He knew that his house was in danger. As the foremost genius of his house, he would gain a great advantage for his own future if he did well here.
“Patriarch, elders,” he replied gravely, “I am thankful for your trust. Though I may be insufficient, I am willing to try. Whether I fail or succeed, I will give it my all so I may rest easy.”
Within House Xiahou’s fallen fortress, the battle was nearing its end. House Xiahou’s bloodline had been all been but uprooted. Aside from a few stragglers, not many were left alive.
Furthermore, the capital’s high alert status meant that they would find it nearly impossible to escape.
Within the palace, Duke Xiaoyao had exhausted his strength entirely under the concerted effort of several other leaders. He fought on futilely, hoping for a stroke of luck to bring the Xiahou forefather back.
But that hope was doomed to be a luxury.
“Should you not admit defeat, Duke Xiaoyao?”
Duke Xiaoyao raved like a madman. “Admit defeat?” he roared, “Why should I? In what way am I inferior to you?! Which of you three primes can claim to be stronger than me? I can crush any one of you one on one! What defense do you have for yourself? You were just born to be loftier above the rest of us. Why should I be lower than you?!
“Why should the Eternal Sacred Land rule this nation? Why do you get to decide all its important affairs? House Xiahou has been blessed by heaven with generations upon generations of geniuses. Why are we not allowed to replace you?”
He struggled to free himself with the remainder of his strength as he shrieked.
The first prime’s tone was cool. “How many generations of heritage has the sacred land experienced? How much blood has it poured out, how many sacrifices has it made for Myriad Abyss? Where was House Xiahou then? You have countless generations of geniuses, blessed by heaven? If that was the case, why did House Xiahou’s rebellion end in failure? Why was Xiahou Zong slain by Shao Yuan? At the end of the day, House Xiahou didn’t possess the fortunes required to carry out its ambitions. Your actions opposed heaven! That’s why you were punished by it.”
“Ridiculous! Unless heaven is blind, House Xiahou is destined to become great someday. Even if you kill me, the Xiahou forefather remains. As long as he lives, our bloodline will not be extinguished. One day, House Xiahou will rise above the Eternal Sacred Land again! We will destroy you!” Duke Xiaoyao was completely imbalanced. The rapid approach of death had entirely taken away his usual grace.
Mocking laughter rang from a distance. “The Xiahou forefather will be right behind you, if nothing goes awry. You can go on ahead without worry.”
Jiang Chen was the speaker, of course.
“Shao Yuan?” the first prime blinked. Hadn’t Shao Yuan gone with the Vermilion Bird to fend off the Xiahou forefather? Why had he come back now?
“Good news, First Prime. The venerated forefather has freed himself and returned! Old Brother Vermilion is currently assisting him in putting down the Xiahou forefather. I’m sure good news will arrive soon.”
“What, the venerated forefather is free as well?” Everyone on the sacred land’s side was overjoyed.
“The nation will know peace once more!”
The heads of the first-rate factions were secretly relieved. They were grateful for their own wisdom in choosing the correct side. If they hadn’t turned to the light and repaired their relations to the sacred land, they would be in an incredibly bad spot now, especially considering House Xiahou…
The consequences were almost too terrible to imagine.
The reappearance of the venerated forefather shattered House Xiahou’s last ray of hope. What of the Xiahou forefather? He had to know his place before the sacred land’s venerated forefather!
Duke Xiaoyao’s eyes rolled around in their sockets. Clearly, he couldn’t accept what he had heard. His heart sank into the depths of despair.