Upon seeing that Jiang Chen was noncommittal, Princess Gouyu didn’t overly compel him. She also knew that he could be persuaded by reason, but not cowed by force.
She herself had suffered many losses in front of him before, in this regard.
“Jiang Chen, the amount of time you’ve taken to complete the mission of the first rank counts amongst the faster candidates, you’ve spent only twenty or so days. Up until now, only the two candidates from the Soaring Dragon dukedom have completed their first mission, and that was just two days ago.”
This was to say, Jiang Chen was the third to hand in his first mission amongst the group vying for first rank.
“Heh heh, initial success doesn’t mean one will succeed in the future, only one who succeeds in the end has the true ability. It doesn’t mean much to allow them to be first. If there’s nothing else, I’ll be leaving now.”
Jiang Chen was indifferent to the question of who came first. If he hadn’t shut his doors for training at home for a few days and broken through to eight meridians true qi, stabilizing his martial dao foundations, he could have actually reported in three days ago. These rankings of who was early or late actually had no significant impact on the greater picture.
In the end, the final rankings were determined by the martial arts demonstration.
Gouyu didn’t say much upon seeing Jiang Chen’s indifferent attitude. She knew very well that beneath that seemingly completely unconcerned exterior, his heart had more magnanimity than anyone else’s.
Gazing at the figure that had already left, Princess Gouyu suddenly obtained courage from some unknown place, “Jiang Chen, our agreement from earlier still stands!”
Jiang Chen’s body halted briefly as he laughed involuntarily, thinking, “This lass is stubborn alright! If Zhiruo, that little girl, knew that her idiotic aunt had already promised her to Jiang Chen without obtaining her approval, I wonder if the girl would be at a loss of whether to laugh or cry?”
The second mission was more complicated in comparison to the first mission, but it looked to be a bit more interesting.
Mission of the first rank: Recruit eight personal guards.
Mission requirements: Each personal guard had to be at six meridians true qi or higher, with the potential to continue ascending.
Age requirements: No lower boundary, but may not exceed twenty years old.
Identity requirements: Member of the personal guard must be a practitioner from the Eastern Kingdom, with no other nationality.
Mission criteria: An inspection will be conducted when the mission is over and personal guards must pass the final martial arts exam.
Jiang Chen found this mission rather innovative.
At least this wasn’t a mission that could be completed through brute force and acting rashly. Due to the peculiarities of this mission, candidates weren’t barred from revealing their identity.
This was to say, candidates were strictly barred from revealing their identity, mobilizing family and personal connections in other missions.
However, this mission was quite unique in that it was a mission open the public. One had to reveal their identity and use their network and connections. Otherwise, with the pride and motives of a practitioner, who would be willing to be a personal follower of an unknown somebody?
“Chen’er, this mission isn’t a simple one. Of course, if you want to assail the position of a first rank duke, you must have this kind of personal guard.”
Every duke needed to have a batch of death warriors who were willing to offer their lives up for him.
And this lot of death warriors was basically the equivalent of the core layer of power beside the duke in future days. The duke’s power would continuously expand from this core.
As for the age requirement of not exceeding twenty years, that was only par for the course. Any person with six meridians true qi over twenty years old wouldn’t have much potential.
And as for the identity requirement, that was even easier to understand. Identity verification was nothing but to guarantee that spies from another country wouldn’t permeate the people who were by the side of the dukes.
This mission wasn’t as simple as merely recruiting eight personal guards.
At the conclusion of the mission, these eight personal guards would have to go through a strength examination, and specific tests at that. If they didn’t pass these tests, this mission would count as a fail.
‘Chen’er, our Jiang family has managed the Jiang Han dukedom for hundreds of years, we have quite a bit of local prestige. I have strong relationships with some local powers, and they support and endorse me a great deal. Although your mother passed away early, there are also some fine young disciples on her mother’s side. Make a trip back to the Jiang Han territory and I can help you fill four or five places.”
It was as Jiang Feng said, his mastery over the Jiang Han territory was quite well. In the few hundred years of the Jiang family ruling over the Jiang Han territory, they had long since forged the local territory into a solid sheet of iron support.
Jiang Feng had great prestige in ordinary times to begin with – no matter which local power engaged in a conflict, they were sure to ask the Duke of Jiang Han to make a ruling.
Jiang Feng conducted himself in an upright manner and was honorable and impartial. His judgements oftentimes compelled not just mere obedience, but submission with good grace.
Therefore, although Jiang Feng was greatly suppressed by the Duke of Soaring Dragon in the capital, he was a greatly beloved leading personage in the Jiang Han territory with high prestige.
If the next Duke of Jiang Han was recruiting for his personal guard, there would undoubtedly be innumerable volunteers answering the call. After all, coming under the Duke of Jiang Han’s banner meant forming a relationship with an absolute power, and was the equivalent of taking a step into layer of the core power in the Eastern Kingdom. This was a completely separate matter from being an absolute local power.
The exceeding power and influence of a duke of the nation was not something that a local power could imagine.
The time allotted for completing each mission was one month.
Jiang Chen had saved ten days out of his first mission. That meant he had forty days during this second mission. There seemed to be quite the sufficient time, yet that might also not be the case.
“Looks like you and I need to make a trip back to the southern frontier.” Jiang Feng had also left the Jiang Han territory for quite a while, and he felt rathernostalgic about his home.
“Father, the situation in the capital is quite complicated. A slight move in one part may affect the situation as a whole. Why don’t you stay in the capital, your son can make the trip back.”
Jiang Feng was startled briefly, then thought of something immediately after. He smiled, “Chen’er, you wish to go back alone?”
“I will go back alone.” Jiang Chen nodded very firmly.
“Alright, I have always respected your wishes as your father. Then, you shall go back alone, and make use of this opportunity to test your control of the greater picture.” Jiang Feng chuckled.
A true Duke of Jiang Han was very different from being a young duke.
The Duke of Jiang Han was very illustrious in his territory, but that didn’t mean that the young duke would similarly received the same treatment. Particularly as the previous Jiang Chen was a rather useless dandy. His reputation of having neither learning nor art was renowned, not only in the capital, but also quite famously in the Jiang Han territory.
Therefore, for Jiang Chen, there would be a certain degree of inherent difficulty for him to achieve certain deeds and successfully recruit eight personal guards in the Jiang Han territory without his father coming forward on his behalf.
“Chen’er, I’ve decided to hold a private banquet tonight and invite some dukes we have friendly relations with, in the hopes that they will advertise a bit for us and cast a wide net when recruiting talent.”
It would actually be quite difficult to suddenly find eight promising youths with six meridians true qi in a mere Jiang Han territory.
It wouldn’t be difficult to merely find eight youths with martial dao potential.
But to recruit personal followers, strength and potential weren’t the only questions to be asked. One had to also consider temperament, willingness, and competency, amidst a host of other questions.
Putting all of these factors into consideration made for a more difficult search. Asking a few dukes that they were more friendly with to spread the word in their territories would actually be an ideal channel.
Jiang Chen didn’t object. After all, the more venues the better now. As for what type of person they recruited and whether or not they were dependable, that would still be up to him.
That night, the Duke of Jiang Han held a banquet and invited seven or eight dukes with whom their friendships were quite solid and firm.
It was a common thing for dukes to visit frequently with each other and to have harmonious dispositions.
Even when they knew that the relationship between the Duke of Soaring Dragon and the Duke of Jiang Han wasn’t good, it still hadn’t affected the relationship between these dukes and Jiang Feng.
After all, there was a large number of conflicts between the dukes. It wasn’t as if the Duke of Soaring Dragon would be able to shut out the heavens with one hand.
Not to mention that the situation regarding the Jiang family was lost in the mist and clouds, and many didn’t understand it. The always good-for-naught Jiang Chen had suddenly shot to the skies with one amazing feat, and had continued to commit many astonishing acts.
Many even suspected that the Jiang father and son had long since harbored ambitions, and had concealed their strength in order to not attract attention. They were actually aiming for the position of the four great dukes!
Jiang Chen’s selection of a first rank mission this time had corroborated the speculations of many sides.
Therefore, when the Duke of Jiang Han summoned them, even those with a previous lack of relations wouldn’t openly deny Jiang Feng face, not to mention those who did have a pre-existing relationship with him before.
When the banquet was over, the news of Jiang Chen recruiting for his personal guard also began to spread.
One had to say, the speed in which news traveled in the capital was a lot faster than Jiang Chen could imagine.
The resulting cascading reaction also came with a swift speed.
Important figures began to call upon Jiang Chen early the next morning.
The first one to arrive was Qiao Baishi.
“Honored master, your disciple has two nephews within his family clan. They’re twin brothers and have always trained within the family, with an occasional bit of guidance from me. With the aid of my spirit medicine, they have also trained to six meridians true qi at the age of seventeen this year. It would be a waste of the prime of their lives if they stayed where they were. Baishi has heard that honored master was recruiting for his personal guard, therefore…”
Jiang Chen understood, Qiao Baishi was recommending candidates to him.
“Twin brothers? This is actually quite nice. It’s rare for you to have such thoughts Baishi. I will leave two spots for your two nephews. Write them a letter and tell them to convene with me at the Jiang Han territory.
Qiao Baishi was overjoyed upon hearing these words. Although he called them nephews from the family clan, Qiao Baishi actually had an ambiguous relationship with their mother. He had committed his share of ridiculous acts when he was young.
Qiao Baishi’s relationship with these two nephews was that of an uncle and his nephews, but in actuality Qiao Baishi viewed them as his sons.
He had the desire to help these two nephews advance in life, but unfortunately these two fellows had not the slightest interest in spirit medicine business. They only wanted to train well and flock to a royal or noble banner in the future, rising head and shoulders above the others.
Jiang Chen’s mind was at ease when it came to the people that Qiao Baishi had recommended. At least there wouldn’t be any problem whatsoever in terms of loyalty.
After Qiao Baishi had left, Princess Gouyu came again. Even she had come to recommend someone to Jiang Chen.
“Jiang Chen, I come to recommend someone with my personal guarantee. He is the eldest grandson of my first martial dao teacher. His family is in an abject financial situation now, but he is an honest, sincere, and tolerant individual.”
Princess Gouyu also came straight to the point.