A sparring match between the heirs of the dukedoms had ended with this outcome. With her identity, Princess Gouyu was naturally safe from suspicion that she was on Jiang Chen’s side.
After all, whether in terms of identity or position, Jiang Chen did not merit such favoritism from Princess Gouyu.
Besides, who didn’t know that Princess Gouyu was renowned for being cold and impartial? If that wasn’t the case, how would His Majesty the King have been willing to let Princess Gouyu govern over an event as important as the Hidden Dragon Trials?
At the same time, although it was miraculous that Jiang Chen had defeated Bai Zhanyun, it had happened right in front of the audience’s very eyes. Even if they wanted to suspect foul play, they were unable to find an excuse to do so.
Back to the banquet, in which wine and food flowed in copious amounts. The atmosphere hadn’t fully recovered yet thanks to the events of the day.
For better or worse, everyone had their own internal worries.
Particularly those dukes whom had been at odds with the duke of Jiang Han – they still couldn’t quite place a finger on it, had Jiang Chen’s win been a fluke?
Or was he a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the father son duo had finally started to reveal their hideous fangs in the last segment of the Hidden Dragon Trials?
To say that someone in the initial realm of true qi could hone in on the weaknesses of someone with eight meridians true qi after one demonstration from the latter; even martial dao masters would be hard pressed to believe it.
How was it possible to find flaws after one viewing, and then defeat one’s opponent in actual battle?
If it was so easy for the weak to triumph over the strong, then what was everyone training so hard for?
But, to say that Jiang Chen had been pretending to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – wasn’t his act just a bit too real?
The key thing was, farting during the Rites of Heavenly Worship wasn’t in the playbook of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing! This was a mortal sin, and extreme punishment was a given.
Unless… had King Eastern Lu played along with Jiang Chen?
This was even more ridiculous! Surely the king wasn’t so bored as to do something like this? Plus, surely the Jiang family did not command so much face as to have the king wholeheartedly act along with their playbook?
Only the duke of Tianshui and several other officials could faintly guess at what was truly going on, because they had been eyewitnesses to the happenings that night in the Jiang Han manor.
“Perhaps the divine patron has not yet left Jiang Chen, allowing this kid to benefit from sheer, dumb luck?” The duke of Tianshui explained things this way to himself.
This kind of speculation was the most logical. The duke of Tianshui had concluded something after observing Jiang Feng’s expressions and actions. Jiang Feng, at least, had no prior knowledge of this matter.
With Jiang Feng’s level of shrewdness, his acting skills wouldn’t be up to par if he was pretending to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He would quickly reveal his flaws.
Fatty Xuan and the others walked around socializing when the banquet started, and were quite friendly with Jiang Chen. They hung out with Jiang Chen before because he was generous, had a sense of justice, and was willing to speak up for a friend.
Now, with Jiang Chen’s strength, they had an even greater mutual sense of pride.
“Damn straight! Brother Chen, I, fatty Xuan, have hung out with you for two or three years but never knew that brother Chen was the true genius! World class acting skills, world class potential, and definitely world class strength. Little brother is in awe, awe!”
Fatty Xuan wore a look of extreme excitement and spittle flew as he gesticulated. He was more excited than a kid at Christmas – as if Jiang Chen being awesome was the same as him being awesome.
Bai Zhanyun was white faced at the other table, and he kept his head down as he found solace in the bottom of his wine cup.
Yan Yiming, who had been one hit ko’ed by Jiang Chen earlier, had finally regained his senses and muttered fiercely. “That Jiang Chen must have used a sinister trick! He’s merely got three meridians true qi, how could he have beaten me!”
Hong Tiantong, on the other hand, was secretly relieved. Good thing he was smart enough to avoid seeking the spotlight after Bai Zhanyun had demonstrated the Eastern King Point.
Think about it! If he’d been the one to spar with Jiang Chen, then the person shamed in front of everyone today would not be those two, but him, Hong Tiantong.
Hong Tiantong’s thoughts churned as he saw Bai Zhanyun drown his sorrows in alcohol, he wanted to continue to provoke the latter. “Brother Bai, don’t be despondent. In terms of strength, he’s in the initial realm of true qi. How could he possibly be your opponent? Eastern King Point is but a basic technique. This kid was lucky and has practiced it more, that’s all. If we were to compete in terms of family history, how could that duke of Jiang Han even think to vie with your family of White Tiger’s heritage?”
Bai Zhanyun only ducked his head and smiled wryly, altering from his usual style of domineering pride. He shook his head lightly, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t a stupid man.
The previous times in which he’d picked on Jiang Chen were purely to gain Long Juxue’s favor.
Except, he had suddenly seen the light after Jiang Chen’s enlightening words, and his thoughts had been cleared up.
Indeed, he was in the prime of his life. Was it worth it to go to such lengths for a woman who would never seriously consider him? And, though Hong Tiantong had picked on Jiang Chen several times with Bai Zhanyun, the former had never suffered any loss, whereas Bai Zhanyun had always been the one to deal with the consequences.
What did that mean?
This meant that Hong Tiantong was a devious sort who always used Bai Zhanyun as cannon fodder!
“Do you really think I’m that dumb?” Bai Zhanyun flicked a glance at Hong Tiantong as his heart grew more than a few traces of wariness and disgust for this calculating character.
At the head table, and as the host of today’s proceedings, although Long Zhaofeng was rather surprised at what had just happened, he thought no more of it.
Even if this Jiang Chen had some plots in mind and possessed some potential, there was an insurmountable gap between him and his daughter’s innate constitution.
Therefore, Long Zhaofeng’s machinations on the Jiang Han land with the spirit vein did not abate, but rather, he decided to step things up.
After several rounds of drinks had been poured, Long Zhaofeng raised his glass towards Jiang Feng. “Old brother Jiang Feng, I’m truly astounded by your son’s performance today. He has broadened my worldview. I have long since wished to become friends with old brother Jiang. Why don’t we make use of this opportunity today? I stick by my words, what are your thoughts regarding my proposal?
Why not go with the flow today and happily put a seal of approval on it? Old brother, you’ve seen my sincerity. As long as you nod your head, you won’t have to do anything anymore and will receive three hundred thousand silver from me every year. Our two families will be united as brothers forever, how does that sound?”
Long Zhaofeng’s tone was magnanimous, as if he was actually giving great face to the duke of Jiang Han when forcefully seizing the Jiang property at a rock bottom price.
Jiang Feng knew that this seat would be tough to sit in when Long Zhaofeng led him to this table. The gloves were off, and Long Zhaofeng had come straight to the point.
He could only put a bold face on it and say, “Duke Long, my Jiang Han territory is situated in the south and is a destitute place with not many sources of income. The entire household budget stems mostly from the revenue from that piece of land with the spirit vein. Duke Long’s proposal is to cut off the main avenue of money for my Jiang Han territory. Little brother here truly finds it hard to agree.”
One had to say, with Jiang Feng’s temper, it was already an uncommon sight to see him speak with such a low posture. If it was any other occasion, Jiang Feng would’ve likely long since pounded the table and left with a wave of his sleeves.
“Jiang old brother, you’re making things difficult for me.” The duke of Soaring Dragon’s tone hardened.
“Heh heh, duke Jiang, receiving three hundred thousand per annum without doing anything is pure profit with no skin in the game. Why do you resist?” Another duke pretended to persuade Jiang Feng.
“Indeed! If it was me, I wouldn’t even frown at the thought of sitting on land and taking in money for doing nothing.”
“Duke Jiang, Duke Long is the most preeminent duke and wishes to become friends with you. How many people would give their heads for such an opportunity? And you don’t even know how to cherish this?”
“Right? The duke of Soaring Dragon is the first duke of the kingdom, and a hidden sect has claimed Miss Juxue. The Long family is destined for a life of unlimited riches. You’ve rebuffed Duke Long’s good intentions and brushed away his face, aren’t you making your future road more narrow?”
These people were all dependant on the duke of Soaring Dragon. It sounded like they had Jiang Feng’s best interests at heart, but in reality they were threatening him, persecuting him, and being an accessory to a tyrant’s crimes.
There were many things that the duke of Soaring Dragon couldn’t voice frankly, and they were here to be the villain.
One had to give it to him – if it was any other duke, they would’ve probably capitulated by now. But Jiang Feng was a tough old bird and shook his head decisively. “Speak no further. Anyone can mouth pretty words, but you wouldn’t be so generous if you were the ones asked to cut off a piece of yourself.”
The representative of the Pill King Garden was also in attendance and had not spoken yet. He was the Grand Courtmaster of the Pill King Garden, and chuckled at this time. “Duke Jiang, throughout the course of the multiple deals my Pill King Garden has conducted with Jiang Han, we’ve discovered that your skill in cultivating spirit ingredients is not up to our Garden’s standards. Therefore, after the unanimous decision of the Garden’s internal officials, we’ve decided that we will no longer accept any spirit ingredients from the Jiang Han territory. Let this conclude our partnership from henceforth on.”
Jiang Feng’s expression changed radically after these words.
He had refused to crack and had been unwilling to rent out the land with the spirit vein because of this business relationship with the Pill King Garden.
Through this partnership, the Jiang Han territory could receive five million silver a year.
But, the head of the Pill King Garden had spoken and had terminated their partnership, banning all Jiang Han spirit ingredients in the future!
This was cutting the ground in which someone stood on.
Jiang Feng asked raspily, “Grand Court Master, must you be so heartless?”
The Grand Court Master replied lightly, “He who observes the greater picture and takes action accordingly is the clever one. Duke Jiang, you have erred in not realizing how the currents of power have shifted.”
What kind of persuasion was this? This was another attempt to rip off Jiang Feng.
Jiang Feng had held back the anger in his belly for quite a while, and the Grand Courtmaster’s words were the spark that lit the flame.
His long repressed rage erupted in a second as Jiang Feng shot to his feet, laughing loudly. “Good. Good! Each of you pretend to be the good guy, but all of you are savage robbers!
Let me tell you something, I, Jiang Feng, am not a Buddha formed from clay! I can earn less money, and even not earn any at all, but I will not give away the slightest ounce of the backbone of being a man!
Pill King Garden is it? Ban my Jiang Han territory will you? Doesn’t matter! I’d rather raise pigs on that land than allow you highwaymen to profit off of it!”
Jiang Feng had erupted. He had erupted suddenly, and very thoroughly.
So it felt this damn good to explode. Jiang Feng felt that the enraged emotions in his belly had been completely vented in this moment.
As for the banquet, all became silent again following Jiang Feng’s eruption.
All the gazes settled on Jiang Feng, looking at him strangely. They were all thinking, this Jiang father and son duo have made a scene one after another, and become the center of attention. What was their purpose? Did they seriously want to create trouble for the Soaring Dragon duchy and be at odds with them?