“That brat, that brat, is he that good?” Gouyu was averse to accepting the situation. She still felt particularly awkward whenever she thought of being lectured by Jiang Chen. It was a bit hard for her to let go of face and admit Jiang Chen’s superiority.
Eastern Lu lightly pulled Eastern Zhiruo into a one armed hug, sighing softly. “Who would have thought that after what happened at the Rites of Heavenly worship, fortune has befallen us in the wake of disaster. Is it the will of the heavens to use Jiang Chen’s hand as a vessel to ease Ruo’er’s suffering?”
The more he thought about it, the more that this explanation became the only possible one.
“Oh right, Gouyu, Jiang Chen is in the capital to participate in the Hidden Dragon Trials, how are his grades?” Eastern Lu suddenly remembered this matter.
“Royal brother, out of the 108 heirs, this Jiang Chen’s grades are without a doubt the last in his class. And up until now, he hasn’t passed a single one of the three foundational exams. There are only three or four more days until the final deadline at the end of the month. If he still can’t pass them then, then he won’t even have the qualifications to participate in the final exams of the Hidden Dragon Trials.” Gouyu could only answer honestly.
“That bad?” Eastern Lu was also quite surprised. “This puts me in a difficult position. If this kid cannot pass even the foundational exams and lose his family’s duchy as a result. Then my intentions to award honors and riches…”
“You reap what you sow. He didn’t try before, it wouldn’t be an injustice for his family to lose their dukedom. Royal brother, I’m saying this first. Since you’ve put me in charge of the Hidden Dragon Trials, I will not be going easy on anyone.” Gouyu still kept a stiff upper lip.
“Haha, how would I put you in a difficult position. If being a duke truly isn’t written in his stars, then being a powerless official in the capital is just as good. No power or influence, or wealth and riches. That’d be quite a carefree life as well.”
This was actually Eastern Lu’s preferred conclusion to the matter. Otherwise, all the various dukes would return to their territories after the Hidden Dragon Trials, and who then would treat Eastern Zhiruo’s illness?
“Oh right, royal brother, speaking of the Hidden Dragon Trials, Gouyu received an invitation today. It came from the Soaring Dragon duchy.”
“Soaring Dragon duchy?” Eastern Lu vaguely creased his brow, obviously quite sensitive to these three words. “Yes, it says that there will be a banquet tonight, and invites me to attend. Apparently, an incredible event of joyous tidings has occurred in the Soaring Dragon household.”
“Joyous event?” Eastern Lu’s expression became even more complicated. As the exalted ruler of a kingdom, by all rights he should have absolute control over all in the capital.
But what event of great happiness had occurred in the Soaring Dragon household? Eastern Lu had no clue.
Of course, the duke of Soaring Dragon would have never invited the king to the banquet. Firstly, dukes did not command such respect, and secondly, custom laid down by the forefathers did not permit such an act.
“He didn’t elaborate in the invitation, and only said that it had something to do with his youngest daughter Long Juxue. Can it be that Long Juxue has had some breakthrough on her path of martial dao?”
Eastern Lu actually didn’t mind if it was truly such a small matter. He spread his hands, “You might as well attend since you’ve been invited. This duke of Soaring Dragon, heh heh.”
Gouyu’s expression was also a bit complicated, and she understood her royal brother’s reservations towards the duke of Soaring Dragon. He was the first duke under heaven, and of preeminent position and power. His influence almost rivaled his liege’s.
The Soaring Dragon manor was located in the southeast district of the capital. Its location was superior with prosperous streets and magnificent buildings. The Jiang Han manor was absolutely incomparable.
Of course, even though it was called the Soaring Dragon manor, it was but a temporary housing site for when the duke was in the capital. Each duke’s true manor was still situated in their respective territories.
Jiang Feng had meant to prepare a handsome gift since he was attending a banquet, but had been vetoed by Jiang Chen. Since they were sure to declare a feud, why bother? Just bring some random items, and the Soaring Dragon household could accept them if it wished.
Besides, it was a sure bet that this invitation did not care for gifts carried in by hand. What the duke of Soaring Dragon wanted was the Jiang Han parcel of land that contained the spirit vein, and to cut off the largest source of income for the Jiang Han duchy.
To seize someone’s food was to start a blood feud. Jiang Chen clearly understood that this matter would not be settled easily.
Jiang Chen plodded out of the secret training room when it was dusk. In his words, they would be subjected to cold looks even if they arrived early, so why not wait until everyone was present?
Jiang Feng thought this made a lot of sense and thus accepted Jiang Chen’s suggestion.
Most of the invited guests had already arrived when the father son duo had arrived at the Soaring Dragon manor.
The scene in front of him was completely within Jiang Chen’s expectations. Whether by previous accord or coincidence, several dukes had formed an agreement with the Soaring Dragon duchy and purposefully snubbed the father son duo.
It was a good thing that Jiang Feng usually conducted himself in a good manner and had made a few friends with some of the dukes. Some familiar peers came to greet Jiang Feng.
So things were not too ugly.
“Old brother Jiang, this duke has been pining an eternity for your arrival. You are finally here!” A hearty laugh suddenly sounded from the front, and a man dressed in luxurious robes strode towards Jiang Feng with large steps.
This man had a sturdy frame and walked with the poise and energy of a tiger. A domineering aura punctuated his every gesture. He was the duke of Soaring Dragon, Long Zhaofeng.
“This is too much, brother Long is too polite.”
“Come come come. Old brother Jiang you are my esteemed guest today, and must sit next to me at the high table.”
It was not easy to obtain a seat at the high table. A household such as a duchy’s was most particular about seating arrangement. Although the duke of Jiang Han’s position was good, it was not good enough to warrant a seat at the high table.
“How can I accept this? Brother Long please continue to go about your business, I will sit with this band of brothers.” Jiang Feng still wished to sit with his crew of brothers.
However, he had apparently underestimated Long Zhaofeng’s determination.
“A guest has to follow his host’s wishes. Old brother Jiang must listen to this duke’s words today.” Long Zhaofeng had an air of I-will-not-rest-until-you-sit-at-the-high-table.
Off to the side, Jiang Chen said lightly. “Father, it is rare that the duke of Soaring Dragon favors us so greatly. Since there is a seat for you at the high table, why not sit? Go ahead and sit.”
“Hahaha, and this must be…? Oh right, you must be dear nephew Jiang Chen. Good good, a tiger father will not beget a dog son. Dear nephew, the younger generation can have fun elsewhere. I will not greet you all separately.” The duke of Soaring Dragon laughed and cast a slightly meaningful look, spending a quick moment on Jiang Chen.
“Heh heh, please help yourself, your Grace.” Jiang Chen gestured randomly with his hands and turned to leave.
“Brother Chen, over here.”
Jiang Chen saw a large mound of a figure waved excitedly to him from a table not too far away as soon as he had turned.
Only one person in the entire Eastern Kingdom had such a large volume of stature. There was no other. It was naturally that fatty Xuan.
Sitting with fatty Xuan was the heir to the Hubing dukedom, Hubing Yue. These two fellows were Jiang Chen’s best friends who happened to be in the capital.
As for the other, Yang Zong, he was hiding at another table, and did not even dare look over at fatty Xuan and the others. It was obvious that he wanted no part of anything.
“Brother Chen, these few days have been such an agony for your younger brother!” Fatty Xuan was quite coarse as he used his sleeve, made from the finest silks, to wipe off a chair. “Brother Chen, this is the seat that I’ve occupied for you since early in the evening. Haha, having tonnage is an advantage in grabbing seats!”
“Brother Chen, haven’t seen you in a while, I’ve rather missed you.” A surge of enthusiasm also emanated from Hubing Yue’s eyes. This fellow did not talk much, but was real and direct.
Jiang Chen was more or less touched that these two would act this way at such a gathering, particularly with the duke of Jiang Han’s precarious position.
There was a reason why these guys were called best friends.
Jiang Chen ignored the looks coming from all directions and was about to take his seat when a figure flashed by the side of the chair, and sat firmly in the chair that fatty Xuan had just wiped off.
“Fatty Xuan, thanks for saving me a seat.”
This man wore black robes and had a nose prominently red from rosacea. A few hints of mockery dripped out from the sharp edges of his lips as he brazenly took over the chair.
“Yan monkey, what’s the meaning of this?” Fatty Xuan was immediately outraged.
“Fatty Xuan, I’d like to ask you the same, what do you mean by this? Can I not sit in this seat?” This person was naturally the heir to Yanmen dukedom, Yan Yiming. He was also the same person who had voluntarily identified himself when threatening Jiang Chen at the Hall of Healing.
“This is a seat that I reserved for my brother Chen!” Fatty Xuan wanted to haul Yan Yiming off the chair.
“Brother Chen? You mean him?” Yan Yiming smiled superciliously. “Fatty Xuan are you blind? This is the intermediate realm area. Only those with at least four levels of true qi have the right to sit here.”
He flicked a glance at Jiang Chen and said in an exceedingly mocking tone while pointing to a lonely table for one in the corner, “Jiang Chen, that table for specially prepared for the initial realm.”
Raucous laughter sounded from all sides as soon as Yan Yiming had delivered his words. It was obvious that this was a play that had been long since planned, and was just waiting for Jiang Chen and fatty Xuan to come along and play the fool.
Fatty Xuan was infuriated. “Yan monkey, don’t you know to pick better times when you need to be slapped?”
Yan Yiming smiled faintly. “fatty Xuan, you’re a mere five levels of true qi. When did you have the ability to slap a better of six levels?”
Yan Yiming’s six meridians true qi surged as he spoke, directly sending out an imposing aura.
The sabers were rattling, and it seemed extremely likely that a fight would soon break out.
All of a sudden, a crisp and toe curling voice came from a nearby table. “Brother Jiang Chen, sit here. I saved you a seat.”
The voice was naive and clear. Jiang Chen knew without turning his head that it was Princess Eastern Zhiruo.
A faint smile at his lips, Jiang Chen suddenly reached out his hand and patted Yan Yiming’s shoulder. “This young duke has fine bone structure with a handsome face, and even steals seats with such personality! You have a bright future ahead of you. Your master must admire you? Yan Yiming is it? I will remember you.”
With that, Jiang Chen completed ignored the jeering looks around him and waltzed towards Eastern Zhiruo with a peaceful face.
“You silly girl, what are you doing at such a filthy place instead of staying at your quarters?”
The assembled crowd was shell shocked, as if lightning had burnt them all to a crisp after Jiang Chen had spoken. This was the princess! Jiang Chen had been caned by the king last time and narrowly escaped death, but his behavior had worsened and now dared to speak to even the king’s most beloved princess with this kind of tone.
This sounded like someone lecturing his own sister?
And to say that this was a filthy place in front of the banquet host, was not this a verbal slap?
The scene’s atmosphere took on strange overtones in the blink of an eye.
Everyone tilted their heads and thought that had this young Jiang duke, one with a penchant of not stopping until he had said something completely outrageous, spontaneously gone crazy because of all the pressure?