The entire Ling Family became alarmed when they saw Ling Bo and Ling Xiang, the two rarely seen elders, by Du Jiaolan’s side. They realized that something big was about to happen.
The reason that Du Jiaolan had bided her time even after fully investigating the intricacies of the tunnels at Herb Mountain was solely for today!
She wanted to wait for an occasion where all of the Ling Family members had gathered together so that she could execute her plan of deposition in the presence of everyone!
Ling Chengye felt a sudden chill down his spine.
Ling Xiang and Ling Bo were both martial practitioners from the Ling Family’s previous generation that had made great contributions to the clan when they were younger. Due to some crippling injuries, they had chosen to live in seclusion and never bothered inquiring about the happenings of the clan.
As such, he gradually began to disregard the two elders. He didn’t expect that the two of them would actually side with Du Jiaolan without any prior notice.
“No wonder both the elders’ grandsons had a few extra spirit artifacts and a sudden surge in their cultivation. Seems like these two elders struck a deal behind the scenes for the sake of their grandsons’ futures.”
The comment from Ling Feng, who was honest and upright, completely dispelled any lingering doubts from the crowd.
This very moment, Du Jiaolan and her sons focused their hostile gazes, coldly fixating upon Ling Feng.
Ling Feng scoffed.
“Does it even concern you? Do not interrupt them!” Ling Ying pleaded under her breath as she tugged at his shirt in an attempt to stop him from being a busybody, lest they nurse a grievance against him.
“Dismissing the clan elders is not something you can do so easily.” Ling Kangan was an elder who had always supported Ling Chengye because he knew that the patriarch was the one who toiled the hardest for the family and had never harbored any sort of selfish motives. Hence, he loudly proclaimed, “Only when the patriarch has brought upon great danger to our clan through his errors or has abused his power for personal gain, shaming the family and impeding the clan’s success, can the elders even discuss about deposing him.”
Looking towards the other two elders, his expression grew cold and he said with a hmph, ”The physical health of you two brothers has always been lacking, but it had never been a pressing concern. However, have your brains started to fail you as well? Have you really been unable to see the efforts that Chengye has put in for the family all these years?”
Ling Xiang and Ling Bo both felt guilty and did not dare to meet his eyes, instead subconsciously lowering their heads.
“In this case, I shall make it clear then!” Du Jiaolan laughed coldly, attracting everyone’s attention back to her.
From amidst the crowd, she walked up to Ling Chengye and faced him, radiating an aura not the least bit weaker than his and harshly stated, ”The various spirit plants and herbs on our Herb Mountain have always been our Ling Family’s number one priority. We are required to pay a yearly tribute of spirit plants to Nebula Pavilion in exchange for their protection. As per your arrangement, this has always been brother-in-law’s responsibility. However, the spirit plants are all withered now. The people from Nebula Pavilion kept urging us to pay our tributes, yet our Ling Family has continuously delayed. Nebula Pavilion is gradually losing patience…”
With regards to the matter of Herb Mountain, the majority of the Ling Family was actually in the dark. After hearing Du Jiaolan’s beratement, the expressions of the crowd changed slightly.
The Ling Family was a vassal of Nebula Pavilion. If they were to continue deferring their payment of spirit herbs for an extended period of time, not only would they no longer receive the protection of Nebula Pavilion, they might even be prosecuted for their offense, putting the entire Ling Family into a serious predicament.
Du Jiaolan’s words silenced everyone as they started to contemplate the possible repercussions.
“And that, is but only the first issue!”
After planting doubt about Ling Chengye’s capabilities in everyone’s hearts, Du Jiaolan spoke again, ”Big Brother, please make it clear, what exactly is up with the tunnels in Herb Mountain? Heng’er went to take a look a few nights ago, can anyone here guess what he saw?”
Ling Chengye’s face fell in horror as she pressed on coldly, ”There are now several hundred tunnels within Herb Mountain! The number of mining caves have greatly increased, which means that the mining had never even so much as even paused before! Hmph! Big Brother, you must have really invested a great amount of effort into the mining. But why is it that I have yet to see a single piece of ore in our Ling Family’s warehouse?”
As the saying goes, ‘a tossed stone raises a thousand ripples.’ Her words further shook the Ling Family members.
“If there isn’t anything valuable within Herb Mountain, why would there be such extensively tunnels? If precious ores were discovered, where did they go? Did big brother take it all for himself?” Du Jiaolan questioned as she continued donning her sarcastic smile. “It seems like when big brother gave the inner portion of Herb Mountain to Qin Family’s grandfather grandson pair, it had actually been a well thought out plan! Furthermore, other Ling Family members were forbidden from entering on your orders. I’m sure that everyone can think for themselves and can figure out what it is that you want to conceal!”
“Chengye, shouldn’t you give us an explanation regarding the inner portion of Herb Mountain?” Clan Elder Ling Xiang raised his head at this moment and chimed in to help Du Jiaolan in the interrogation as he too suspected that all the spirit stones from within the mountain had been misappropriated by Ling Chengye.
Even though the remaining members of the Ling Family had all looked up to Ling Chengye, now, they couldn’t help but start to suspect him as all their gazes converged onto him.
“I only discovered the situation within Herb Mountain recently, and many tunnels had indeed been dug. I am still investigating this matter and have yet to come up with a conclusion.” This sentence was as good as confessing to all of Du Jiaolan’s accusations. Amidst the roaring commotion that followed, he continued, ”Five years ago, after I allowed Qin Family’s grandfather grandson pair to use the inner portion of the mine within the mountain, I have not set foot in there. I am just as unaware and perplexed about what happened as you are.”
After his statement, he turned to look deeply at Qin Lie. The audience too turned, yet no one could guess what really happened even after staring at him.
“Who are you trying to fool?” Du Jiaolan’s face turned even colder. “If you had no part in it, how is it possible for just the two of them to dig so many tunnels? Our Ling Family spent numerous decades just to dig a few dozen of those tunnels, yet you are saying that they outdid us so many times over in just five years? Moreover, Qin Shan passed away two years ago. Who would believe you?”
Ling Chengye looked at the surrounding clan members and discovered that many of them were shaking their heads in obvious disbelief.
“If Qin Shan’s cultivation level had reached the Fragmentation Realm, he would indeed have the ability to do such a thing. Destroying Herb Mountain itself would be no mean feat to such a practitioner,” Ling Chengye helplessly replied.
“Haha, what a total joke! Even if a martial practitioner at the Fragmentation Realm existed, why would he even hole himself among our Ling Family?” Du Jiaolan sarcastically spat out.
The surrounding people continued shaking their heads in further disbelief.
“Also, I don’t understand the rationale behind the betrothment of Little Shi and Qin Lie. Have you grown muddled with age? Our clan’s Little Shi is so pure and pretty like a flower. Of all the people to betroth her to, you chose this fool?” Smelling victory, Du Jiaolan pressed forward for the coup de grâce. ”Could it be that you and Qin Shan struck some shady deal that requires offering Yushi? What could this fool possibly give Little Shi? I am truly curious what sort of bridal gift he has prepared. Uncle Fu, open up the bridal gift for all of us to see!”
Du Jiaolan looked towards Ling Fu, who was in charge of receiving the bridal gifts, with her eyes full of mockery as she anticipated Ling Chengye’s complete and utter humiliation.
Her intentions were vicious; she definitely did not plan all this in just the span of a few days. She first started with the matter of the spirit plants not being handled properly, which could bring trouble to the Ling Family. Then, she brought up the matter of the mining caves within Herb Mountain, heavily implying that Ling Chengye was abusing his power to take the valuable ores from the mountain for himself.
And now, she credited the matter of Qin Lie and Ling Yushi’s betrothment to Ling Chengye’s indifference to his daughter’s future, sacrificing her happiness to achieve some unknown motive.
She did all of this to utterly destroy Ling Chengye’s reputation within the Ling Family. Be it from a logical or an emotional standpoint, she wanted every single Ling Family member to be displeased with this Patriarch and doubt him.
“I am immensely curious about the price which you sold little Yushi for. Uncle Fu, why haven’t you opened the bridal gift for everyone to see?” scoffed Du Jiaolan.
Ling Fu held the bridal gift, his face full of awkwardness, as he was unsure what he should do.
“Ling Fu!” Clan Elder Ling Bo harshly called out. He hardened his face and instructed, ”Open it up for everyone to see! Let everyone decide for themselves whether or not there are ulterior motives behind this arrangement!”
Everyone’s sights were gathered upon that bridal gift. Defeated by the interrogating gazes of the Ling Family members, Ling Fu helplessly opened the wooden box to reveal several expensive pieces of jewelry made of gold and silver.
“Pfft, just some jewelry? That would perhaps be valuable in the eyes of a commoner, but they are worthless to martial practitioners like us!” Du Jiaolan ignored the dark expression on Ling Chengye’s face as she glanced at the wooden box and continued, ”I trust everyone can tell that these items are definitely not gifted by Qin Lie. It should be clear to everyone whether there are any ulterior motives behind this betrothment…”
“Isn’t there still a cloth bag?” Ling Kangan looked hopefully towards the cloth bag that was originally on top of the wooden box and instructed, ”Open that too.”
“Ah, open it all then, and let us see what kind of treasures there are. If that fool can really take out something valuable to use as bridal gift, I will have nothing left to say!”
Du Jiaolan raised her head, feeling extremely smug when she saw Ling Chengye’s hardened expression. She felt totally delighted, as though she had already utterly defeated Ling Chengye and was on the verge of becoming the next figure of authority for the Ling Family. That would result in the entire Ling Family following both her will and the will of everyone surnamed Du.
Ling Chengye realized he was completely unable to defend himself against Du Jiaolan’s brutal attacks. Even the clansmen that used to trust him were now revealing looks of rebuke. His sudden plunge into the abyss of despair left him unable to come up with a suitable way to rebut her despite working his brain furiously.
Ling Yushi bit her lower lips tightly as she saw her father’s face contort in despair. Being suspected by the surrounding clan members while Du Jiaolan and company mocked him in delight… Her heart gradually fell as well.
Still holding Qin Lie’s hand, she uncontrollably started to tighten her grip and remained oblivious even after her fingernails had already pierced into Qin Lie’s palm.
At this moment, the helpless Ling Fu loosened the rope tying the cloth bag under the scrutiny of everyone and withdrew a stone. Lowering his head, he gloomily announced, ”It’s just some jade stones…”
A piece of clear and transparent prismatic stone was revealed. The stone radiated a faint glow of green as a refreshing wave of spirit energy rippled forth, evidently from within the stone.
Suddenly a person roared, “Spirit stone! At least a Common Grade Six spirit stone!”
“What?! How can it be possible? Have my eyes gone bad? How can it be a Common Grade Six spirit stone? Heavens!” screamed someone else.
The expressions of Du Jiaolan and company dimmed slightly. “It is actually a Common Grade Six spirit stone; Patriarch indeed knows how to spend. Surely there’s no need to bring out your entire savings just for this one ritual?” she commented coldly.
Ling Chengye too was astonished as he all the more knew that his clan was poor. Whatever spirit stones the Ling Family had were usually obtained by trading extra spirit plants and herbs they harvested, and they were usually below the Common Grade Three.
All this while, those spirit stones had been given to Ling Xuanxuan to use for cultivating. As the amount was truly too little, it was just barely able to keep up with Xuanxuan’s usage rate. Hence, even he was unwilling to use it for cultivation despite being the head of his family.
If he indeed possessed spirit stones at Common Grade Six, he would have handed it to Nebula Pavilion long ago to solve the issue of tributes. Why would he wait till now?
At this moment, Ling Yushi’s dark pupils slightly shimmered, and her face glowed faintly as she glued her eyes to Ling Fu’s hand.
Onto the Common Grade Six spirit stone!
“Is that it?”
“Aren’t there more? Continue taking it out!”
“Uncle Fu, please continue?”
Many of the Ling Family’s young generation involuntarily loudly urged him on, extremely curious about the remaining contents in the cloth bag.
And so, Ling Fu continued retrieving items from the bag…
“Another Common Grade Six spirit stone! Holy, one more! That’s already three!”
“What! A Vigor Recovering Pill! More than ten of those Vigor Recovering Pills!”
“A Hundred Vein Pill! Did I see it wrongly? That is actually a Common Grade Five Hundred Vein Pill! It’s a medicine that martial practitioners at both the Refinement and Natal Opening Realm can use to temper their muscles. Only Nebula Pavilion and Shattered Ice Manor would have this pill! One such pill is comparable to eight of those Common Grade Six spirit stones!”
“Good heavens! How could there be a Hundred Vein Pill?”
“What, what’s that? A Sea Opening Pill! A Common Grade Six Sea Opening Pill! The Sea Opening Pill used to open the spirit sea! If one had a Sea Opening Pill on hand while making a breakthrough from the Refinement Realm to the Natal Opening Realm, the chances of successfully breaking through would be greatly increased!”
“If those were given to my daughter as bridal gifts, even if he was dead, not to mention just merely a fool, I would have forced my daughter to marry him!”