Jiang Chen remained seated in the boat. As a guest, he was in no place to interfere without his host’s say so. Unlike in the human domain, his martial dao was nothing to boast about in the Ten Divine Nations. He wasn’t that much stronger than the average cultivators here.
It was better to lay low for the time being. There was no need for him to become involved in the conflict between House Yan and other factions. And, it was also apparent that Yan Qingsang was much more furious than he was.
Without Elder He and Elder Quan’s orders however, a fuming Yan Qingsang could only remain put as well. He knew that he would only make things worse by leaving the boat.
Outside, Elder He conversed patiently with the man from the Starlight Sect. He was showing more than enough deference to the sect. The shocking news that’d been freshly delivered had shaken the two elders, pulling the rug out from beneath them.
“We’re in Eternal Divine Nation territory, my friend. House Yan hasn’t trespassed into the Starlight Sect’s forbidden ground. No authority will consider the sect justified in stopping our airboat. Aren’t you worried about punishment from the royal family?”
“Cut the nonsense. The Starlight Sect is entitled to intercept any airboats passing through our territory.” The man brayed with arrogant laughter. “If you’re smart, you’ll do as I say. Otherwise we’ll keep you as our indefinite guests. You will only leave when we allow you to.”
But there was a limit to Elder He’s patience. House Yan was a first tier faction after all. This man had just crossed a line with his insolence.
“Since when has the Starlight Sect become so unreasonable?” Elder He fixed a cold gaze on the man. “Are you sure you’re going to openly bully House Yan?”
“So what if I am? What are you going to do about it? If you want to pass through, leave all of your ancient jade and the Bluesmoke princess behind. Then we might consider happily letting you go, hahaha!”
Within the airboat, Huang’er had had enough.
“Stay here,” she said to Ling Bi’er. “I’ll go deal with them.”
As soon as Huang’er stood up, the other youths in House Yan followed. They had run out of their patience as well. Yan Qingsang and Jiang Chen exchanged a look before following the young geniuses.
Elder He was upset when he saw them exiting the boat, but he didn’t reprimand them. He waved a hand. “What are you all doing? Get back inside.”
Huang’er ignored Elder He and looked at the man. “Friends of the Starlight Sect, Eternal Divine Nation follows its own set of rules. House Yan has no qualms with you. You’re being rather short-sighted if you think you can bully us as you wish while we’re temporarily down on our luck.
“If you force us to stay, we’ll defend ourselves to the death. The royal family will absolutely find you to be at fault. You know better than anyone what the Eternal Sacred Land hates the most – lawbreakers. You may be able to take advantage of us, but will you be able to exterminate House Yan and keep everyone from talking?”
She presented her arguments calmly but assertively, not trying to maintain peace like Elder He had. Her clear explanation of the factors at play here illustrated plainly that she didn’t believe that these people would do anything to House Yan. They were merely trying to con the house into giving up their valuables.
If House Yan surrendered, the sect would’ve gained what they wanted and would be able to spread the news to defame the house.
The best thing to do wasn’t to compromise, but to show House Yan’s resolution to resist even unto the brink of death. After all, the Starlight Sect wouldn’t dare go on a killing spree in broad daylight and kill every one of them.
The sect wasn’t bold enough, and the Eternal Sacred Land would never allow them to do so.
“Tsk, you sure have a glib tongue, chit. Are you the famous Yan Qinghuang of House Yan?” A lecherous smile appeared on the leading man’s face as he gave her a onceover.
She narrowed her eyes, her expression calm with a touch of disdain.
“What a sharp little girl. Didn’t House Yan trade you away a long time ago? What do you care about them? We’ll let you pass for House Xiahou’s sake, Miss Yan Qinghuang. You may go!” The burly man made an exceedingly dramatic gesture.
His companions roared with laughter. They obviously had no respect for House Yan.
Huang’er nodded and turned to the two elders. “Stop wasting our time on them, elders. Get back in the airboat and depart. Let’s see if they truly are bold enough to break the rules in Eternal Divine Nation territory!”
She walked back inside the airboat without sparing the men another glance.
The two elders shared a look and nodded. There was no better way to address this issue. It was pointless to continue arguing with the sect. These men would never listen to reason. They were unlikely to attack once the airboat launched.
If they did, that would mean war. There would be casualties from the fight, which would alert the sacred land.
Once that power was aware of the conflict, House Yan would receive justice despite its declining influence. After all, the rules were the rules.
The Starlight Sect wasn’t above the rules, and the Eternal Sacred Land had no reason to tolerate their crimes.
All members of House Yan returned to the airboat.
“Launch and set sail!” ordered Elder He.
The boat launched slowly. The men from Starlight Sect clenched their teeth and exchanged uncertain looks. They hadn’t expected House Yan to show such backbone.
The two elders had been wavering, but Yan Qinghuang had been able to turn the situation around with only a few choice words.
In truth, the sect wasn’t daring enough to escalate the conflict. It would be easy enough to attack the airboat, and they were ninety percent sure they would be able to keep the passengers here. But if House Yan fought back with no regard for their lives and ended up with casualties, Starlight Sect wouldn’t be able to hear the end of things.
It wouldn’t be a small conflict then. Once people died in a feud between big factions, no one would be able to cover the incident up.
“Should we do it, Elder Tu?”
“That girl was too cocky. We should take her and teach her a lesson!”
“Let’s take them and have House Yan pay a ransom! We’ll insist that they’ve trespassed into our forbidden grounds. What can House Yan do about it, huh?”
“As long as they fall into our hands, we can make up all the excuses we want!”
The men turned in unison to their leader. The burly man was furiously debating what he should do. In the end, the violent glint disappeared from his eyes.
“Forget it. We can’t be brash! I didn’t expect Yan Qinghuang to be this difficult to deal with, even more so than the two old men. If House Yan fights back with all they’ve got, things will spiral out of control.”
“Are we just going to let them get away? That’s too easy on them!”
“Forget it. House Xiahou will demand an explanation from us as well if anything happens to Yan Qinghuang. We can afford to offend House Yan, but House Xiahou… even the sect head has to think twice about provoking them!”
Yan Qinghuang’s relationship with Xiahou Zong and the family behind him gave the burly man pause. In the end, he gave up on his original plan. If anything happened to Xiahou Zong’s cultivation vessel in their territory, House Xiahou would never let Starlight Sect off the hook.
It was foolish to be enemies with them.
Moreover, they hadn’t gained the sect head’s permission before intercepting House Yan’s airboat. They’d done it of their own accord. If things had gotten out of hand, they wouldn’t get off scot-free either.
They’d planned to coerce the Yan elders by exploiting the latter’s sense of inferiority, but Yan Qinghuang had completely spoiled the plan.
Jiang Chen silently commended Huang’er for what she did. The men from House Yan, elders and youths alike, were all spineless. It was the woman of the group who’d ended up detering the bullies.
Yang Qingsang smiled wryly. “In the end, it was Huang’er who got us out of danger.”
“She’s a heroine more remarkable than any men,” Jiang Chen praised.
“It’s weird though. Why did the Starlight Sect back off after Huang’er’s words? There wasn’t anything special about her speech.”
Jiang Chen smiled. “That’s easy, you didn’t identify the key factors.”
“What do you mean?” Yang Qingsang was puzzled.
“Those men were using your lack of confidence to rip your off. They never wanted to start a fight. Huang’er made it clear that House Yan wouldn’t surrender without one. So of course they didn’t want that. Besides, Huang’er wasn’t someone they could touch. Even if the Starlight Sect is willing to be House Yan’s enemy, they wouldn’t dare offend House Xiahou.”
Yan Qingsang paused for a long moment to think. He slapped his thigh in realization. “There was a one-two punch to Huang’er’s words. One was our resolution to fight to the death. The other was her identity.”
“Yes. If you were the one who presented the same arguments, it wouldn’t have been as effective.”
Jiang Chen wasn’t trying to put him down. It was true that Huang’er was the best person to take a stand against the Starlight Sect. None of them dared lay a finger on her. If something had happened to her, they’d have two aristocratic houses after them.
They didn’t have the courage to face such consequences.
Yan Qingsang sighed. “I haven’t misjudged you, brother. You’re more observant and insightful than I am. Those men also said that House Yan has been ostracized by the big factions. Were they lying? Or were they telling the truth?”
That was what Jiang Chen was wondering too. He wasn’t sure himself either.
“In my opinion, it’s most likely not true, at least not yet. If House Yan was struck off from the list of big factions, the elders wouldn’t be completely oblivious. However, there must be people trying to kick House Yan out of the circle. Whether they would succeed depends on two things: if you people are able to prove yourselves, and if the Eternal Sacred Land approves.”
The Eternal Sacred Land was the absolute wielder of authority in the nation. As long as they were against the idea, it wouldn’t matter how much the other factions pushed for it. If they agreed, however, it would be difficult for House Yan to maintain its status, unless House Yan demonstrated enough power to prove everyone wrong.
So far, the house wasn’t strong enough to do so.
The run-in with the Starlight Sect had put a dampener on everyone’s mood. The two elders felt humiliated as well. If Huang’er hadn’t taken a stand, they would be returning home with nothing but shame.
The fact that they were approaching their home brought them little joy. Instead, their hearts were filled with a sense of relief. The elders had been on high alert during this outing. On one hand, they’d had to ensure the youths’ safety. On the other, they had to keep an eye on Huang’er and keep her from stirring up trouble.
The airboat finally entered House Yan territory, which spanned tens of thousands of miles. The house was the absolute ruler in this region. Their headquarters were located in the capital city, while the territory was governed by the various executives and managers in the family.
Of course, a large faction like House Yan had its own board of elders. There were more than a hundred elders in total.
Even though it wasn’t as highly regarded as it’d once been, its foundations remained intact. The only difference between it and the other big factions was the lack of a domineering forefather.
The young geniuses relaxed only after entering their home territory.
The elders immediately briefed the board of elders and the patriarch on what had happened.
The patriarch was greatly taken aback. “The Starlight Sect has crossed the line. How dare they intercept our airboat and spread rumors about House Yan? Even I haven’t gotten wind that we’ve been excluded from the list of first tier factions. A mere elder in the Starlight Sect can’t possibly get the information before me!”
The elders echoed his sentiment. The sect had gone too far! Many of them proposed filing a complaint to the Eternal Sacred Land.
The patriarch calmed down enough to stop the elders. “Filing a complaint is out of the question. House Yan is stuck in an awkward place. If we file a complaint, the sacred land will dismiss us even more!”
“The patriarch is right. We can’t afford to embarrass ourselves again.”
“Thank you for your hard work, Elder He, Elder Quan. This journey was far from simple. You exceeded our expectations by returning safely with valuable gains.”
“According to your report, Yan Qingsang performed the best, correct?”
“Where is the young man you mentioned? Why don’t you bring him to us so we can have a look?” The elders spoke up one after another, making it a lively discussion.