Qiao Baishi heaved a sigh of relief at Song Tianxing’s clear-cut attitude. To be honest, he had been rather stressed out by the decisions he’d made lately, and had pushed through purely on the basis of his own daring and resolution.
He could tell that his choices had been correct based on the lord hallmaster’s attitude.
“Number three, you’ve been the one to strike up the relationships with Jiang Chen from the Jiang household. You’ll be in charge of maintaining the relationship. It would seem from various bits and pieces of info, that this young man’s shadow has been cast over all of the large happenings in the capital lately. This young man is one to keep an eye on.”
Song Tianxing had never seen Jiang Chen before, but had been able to deduce such an astounding conclusion from the details of the numerous reports he’d received.
Even the normally steady second hallmaster, Yue Qun, exclaimed involuntarily, “Lord hallmaster, isn’t this evaluation of Jiang Chen a bit of an overstatement?”
Song Tianxing smiled faintly, “I have yet to meet Jiang Chen, but I have met Jiang Feng of the Jiang Han dukedom. If the source of all the unexpected is from the Jiang father and son, my money would be on Jiang Chen and not Jiang Feng.”
Qiao Baishi was moved. He knew that the lord hallmaster’s position was lofty, and his worldview cynical. His standards were high, and he basically never made an error when judging people and matters.
For the lord hallmaster to give such high praise to a teenager he had never met before – Qiao Baishi rejoiced more than a little that he had made the right choice.
“Heh heh, I, old Yue, have always admired the lord hallmaster’s eye for assessing things. This time however, I’m curious as to the possibility of the lord hallmaster being mistaken?” Yue Qun chuckled. With his status and position, it wouldn’t be an overreach if he cracked a few lines of a tame joke.
The convention of the senior executives ended with the lord hallmaster’s conclusion.
Song Tianxing pulled Qiao Baishi aside for a private meeting afterwards and patted Qiao Baishi’s shoulder. “Baishi, you have handled this matter with quite a bit of boldness. I am proud of you.”
Although their relationship was one of the lord hallmaster and the third hallmaster, Song Tianxing far outstripped Qiao Baishi in both age and experience, as well as status and standards.
One could say that Song Tianxing had intended to groom Qiao Baishi as his successor.
Qiao Baishi was gobsmacked and flattered, and he hastened to offer a few humble words.
“Baishi, you must not slight Jiang Chen. Have you tallied up the number of amazing things that have happened around Jiang Chen?”
“Your subordinate is dense, and awaits the lord hallmaster’s enlightenment.” Qiao Baishi was exceedingly humble.
“For one, this youth was caned to death at the Rites of Heavenly Worship, but why was he caned and still alive?
For two, the king has caned this youth, but why has the king personally bestowed the engraved dragon medallion to the latter’s keeping?
For three, this youth is a mere son of a duke – from whence did he obtain this ancient pill recipe for the Heavenly Karma pill?
Four, this youth’s martial dao level is insufficient to pass even the three foundational exams, but why was he able to first defeat Yan Yiming with one stroke, and then effortlessly toy with Bai Zhanyun afterwards?
Five, why are the royal princesses of two generations so familiar with this youth?
Six, this youth is wholly unafraid in front of the duke of Soaring Dragon, and denounced a room of elites. His performance was wholly not in agreement with the character of a young man. Where is his surety coming from?”
Qiao Baishi’s expression became more serious with every point that Song Tianxing listed. He had more or less also considered these points.
But, his considerations were not as well thought out or as comprehensive as the lord hallmaster’s.
Suddenly, Qiao Baishi connected the dots between the hints dropped by Song Tianxing. He exclaimed in astonishment. “Is this to say that the Jiang family is backed by the king? And that dispirited, dejected demeanor before was an act to confound opponents? This father and son could be pawns set into motion by the king? Even possibly pawns with the ability to enact change in the greater picture?”
Song Tianxing remarked lightly, “If not this, what other reasons do you think could explain all that has happened thus far?”
Being caned, but not to death, was revealing enough, to speak of none of the others. If it wasn’t for secret instructions from His Majesty, would the king’s men really not have the ability to beat a mere youth to death?
“No wonder, no wonder.” Qiao Baishi suddenly recalled the events surrounding the purchase of the Dragonbone Sun Grass. Hadn’t Jiang Chen told him then that he’d made the correct decision?
Hadn’t Jiang Chen told him then that the Dragonbone Sun Grass had been purchased for the royal family?
Qiao Baishi had felt the Dragonbone Sun Grass’ familiar spirit aura from Princess Zhiruo that night at Duke Long’s banquet.
Then, the Dragonbone Sun Grass had indeed been purchased by the royal family. Jiang Chen had not been blustering about this matter.
Qiao Baishi reaffirmed the lord hallmaster’s judgment even more firmly when his thoughts traveled to this point.
It was no wonder that Song Tianxing would conclude this. From all aspects, none of this would be explainable if it wasn’t for the fact that the Jiang family had long since reached an agreement with the royal family.
And with Princess Gouyu’s identity, how would she so unabashedly laud a youth’s martial dao performance?
It was obviously to use Jiang Chen’s performance as an excuse to offset the impact of Long Juxue’s azure phoenix constitution.
“Baishi, if the Jiang family is a pawn that the royal family laid down a long time ago, what does this indicate? This means that the royal family started their preparations a long time ago.
The duke of Soaring Dragon is hotly ambitious, but more of his power shines day by day.
One side with early preparations, one side with unconcealed ambition. If these two sides really were to become embroiled in conflict, to be honest, I would not bet on Duke Long. Unless –” Song Tianxing stopped at this point. It was obvious that the possibilities behind this “unless” caused even him to fear speaking it, as if it was taboo.
“Unless what?” Qiao Baishi couldn’t resist asking.
“Unless the heavyweight of that hidden sect makes a personal appearance and intervenes in the fight for power between kings. However, with said heavyweight’s status, it would be much too demeaning for them to involve themselves with the power struggle in a common kingdom. Besides, the Eastern family has controlled the kingdom for at least a thousand years, and hold many aces up their sleeves, as well as a rich and unknown heritage. Other than the wildcard Long Juxue, I simply cannot think of what other advantages Duke Long may hold in a fight between a subject and king?
Therefore, no matter if it’s from the perspective of profits or from politics, your decision today was an extraordinarily wise decision!”
Song Tianxing complimented Qiao Baishi once again.
A similarly sleepless night passed by in the inner courtyard of the palace.
Princess Gouyu’s news also caused Eastern Lu to sink deep in thought.
“Royal brother, the duke of Soaring Dragon is no longer bothering to completely conceal his ambitions.” Princess Gouyu was the only one who dared to speak thusly to Eastern Lu.
“It’s understandable that he would become tired of his position as first duke in the lands after being in it for so long. It’s only natural progression that he would seek to advance another step forward.” Eastern Lu’s tone seemed calm, but it was suffused with a heart pounding sense of killing intent.
“Thankfully, he tried to dictate terms to the tough old bird Jiang Feng today. If it was any other, somewhat weaker willed duke, they would have likely capitulated by now.”
Princess Gouyu was also exceedingly displeased with the duke of Soaring Dragon when she recalled how it all had unfolded in that moment. He had schemed against another duke’s territory in front of a royal representative. This looked like a clash between dukes, but was an affront to royal face in reality.
Eastern Lu sighed lightly. “All things change. Even just a few days ago, who would’ve thought that the Jiang family would be my generals of good luck?”
Eastern Lu didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when thinking of the current situation in the capital. “Perhaps many powers will now think that the Jiang family is one of my Eastern clan’s men, and a pawn that I had long since set in motion?”
Princess Gouyu also laughed with a smile. “Gouyu might have thought the same if I hadn’t known the internal proceedings.”
“Have you discovered that every change, every twist in the situation in the capital, has been closely tied with a shadow?”
“Jiang Chen?” Princess Gouyu’s beautiful eyes shifted slightly as she spoke involuntarily.
“Have you also discovered it, royal sister?” Eastern Lu smiled meaningfully.
Come to think of it, the current situation in the capital had indeed evolved from Jiang Chen’s fart during the Rites.
Ever since that moment, each event that had occurred in the capital had seemed to be tied to that person’s shadow.
“I had originally believed without a doubt that he had had a divine visitation in his dreams. But after tonight, I can’t help but suspect that perhaps this youth has falsely borrowed the name of the gods from the very beginning?”
To be honest, Eastern Lu felt that it was quite headache inducing when he thought of this matter.
Logically speaking, a son of a duke shouldn’t be so uncanny. Caned, but not dead, identifying the root source of Zhiruo’s illness, handling the Hall of Healing, defeating an opponent of the advanced realm of true qi with the strength of the initial realm…
Multiple abnormal circumstances had happened to the same person. To say that there were no secrets about this youth — there was no way that Eastern Lu would believe this.
Of course, as the ruler of a nation, he wouldn’t pursue these matters – at least not yet.
After all, Eastern Lu would not only avoid thoroughly investigating the valued assistance of the Jiang family unintentionally clouting Duke Long’s influence, but he would reward them instead!
“Gouyu, visit the Jiang Han manor on my behalf tomorrow.”
A visit to the Jiang Han manor was naturally to reward the Jiang father and son. She could also declare their intentions at the same time, and as a matter of course, bring the Jiang family into the royal camp.
It was absolutely effortless for Eastern Lu when it came to means of power.
“In addition, you must guarantee that Jiang Chen can pass the Hidden Dragon Trials.” Eastern Lu’s attitude had subtly shifted from what it had been before.
Previously, his thoughts regarding Jiang Chen had merely stopped at the idea that this youth could heal Eastern Zhiruo’s illness. Therefore, Eastern Lu thought nothing much of the possibility that the Jiang family could lose their dukedom. Staying in the capital as a wealthy official with no power would actually benefit Zhiruo’s illness.
But now, after tonight’s events, the strategic importance of the Jiang father and son had instantaneously risen a hundredfold. Now, the matter of whether or not the Jiang family kept their dukedom was a small issue that could greatly impact the greater picture.
If the Jiang family lost their dukedom, then it was possible that Soaring Dragon could encroach on the Jiang Han land with the spirit vein, to speak nothing of anything else.
This was what Eastern Lu truly didn’t wish to see.
The fact that a duke could seize another duke’s lands without abandon meant that a problem had developed within the royal family’s control of power.
And the Jiang family’s vow of contending with Soaring Dragon unto the death was in actuality an indirect way of protecting Eastern Lu’s grasp over the kingdom!
Therefore, the Jiang family’s dukedom must be kept!