No matter the other’s purpose in coming, and no matter what intentions the other had, these few motions served to win the greatest amount of goodwill from Guo Jin.
This also caused Guo Jin’s lines of defense to slightly crumble a bit.
“Who would’ve thought that only slightly more than a decade after Guo Shun, tutor Guo, had gone to travel the heavens, the Guo family would wither and fall. It is surely true that the god of destiny makes fools of people, and that heaven’s way is unjust.”
Jiang Chen sighed lightly.
When Guo Jin heard these words, his shoulders trembled in defeat as uncontrollable tears trickled out of his black eyes.
“Guo Jin, let’s cut to the chase. I’m the young duke of Jiang Han, Jiang Chen.”
“Jiang Chen? You’re the Jiang Chen that farted during the Rites of Heavenly Worship?” Guo Jin started and immediately scratched his head in awkwardness. “I was wrong, perhaps I should’ve said the Jiang Chen who swore at the various influential officials and nobles at the Soaring Dragon manor?”
“Haha.” Jiang Chen laughed heartily. “Whether good or bad, you’ve named them all. That’s right, I’m that Jiang Chen.”
Upon knowing the other’s identity, Guo Jin’s heart softened as more of his defenses were dispelled. However, he didn’t know what to say in the heat of that moment.
When he saw Jiang Chen burn incense to pay his respects to the Guo ancestors, Guo Jin spoke haltingly, “Young duke Jiang, the entire capital and the kingdom as well says that my father is a deserter. Why… why do you pay your respects to him?”
“A wise man does not believe in rumors. Either ulterior motives are hidden in some things, or the mind is slow-witted. Your father returned from a bloody battle and brought back important intelligence, rendering outstanding service. I’ve heard this a long time ago from Princess Gouyu. This is also the reason why I’ve come to find you today.”
Guo Jin had never heard such an assessment from others before. He was first astounded upon hearing Jiang Chen’s words, then immediately broke out into bitter sobs, throwing himself upon his father’s memorial tablet.
“Father, did you hear that? Young duke Jiang spoke out boldly to uphold justice and says that you are a meritorious subject of the kingdom, acknowledging your efforts. Can your spirit in heaven hear these words?”
When his words stopped, tears were already roiling in Guo Jin’s eyes as he was choked with sobs and unable to speak.
It was apparent that comments such as “deserter” and “shame of the kingdom” had caused Guo Jin to shoulder many burdens that didn’t belong to him since he was little.
He toiled and trained, yet ran into a wall no matter where he went.
Wherever he went, others would immediately respond when they heard of his family background — you’re the son of that shame of the kingdom?
Guo Jin lived through his childhood and youth with this ignoble infamy on his shoulders.
The censure and contempt of the common people caused him to become more and more isolated, more and more depressed. Apart from a mother whom he mutually depended upon, the blade in his hand was almost the only thing left in his life.
And yet —
The contempt and scorn of the common people didn’t lead him to belittle himself. He refused to give in. He was going to prove to the world, using the blade in his hand, that his Guo family was absolutely not the shame of the kingdom!
Only, until now, Guo Jin had never been able to find a chance to free himself from misery.
Not a single noble family of power was willing to give him a chance to prove himself!
Jiang Chen was deeply affected by Guo Jin’s dejection, as if he had experienced it himself. To be treated unjustly by others, belittled by others, oppressed by others – it was truly not an easy thing to live through such treatment since he was little.
He lightly patted Guo Jin’s shoulder, “To make a long story short, my Jiang family is competing for the position of duke of the first rank this time. I’ve drawn the mission of recruiting personal guards in the Hidden Dragon Trials.”
“You… you’ve settled on me?” Guo Jin’s fierce body trembled slightly as he lifted his head, sending out looks of disbelief.
In all these years, he had suffered from everyone’s eyerolls and ran into walls everywhere he went, offering his services to others in vain. He had thought that only his blade would accompany him in this life, and had prepared to become a first class independent practitioner wandering the outside world.
However, destiny was truly amazing. Someone had unexpectedly extended him an olive branch when he was at the lowest point in his life!
“I choose you not only for you, but also for the loyalty of your Guo family clan.”
Guo Jin became choked up and found it hard to speak when he heard those words. Even though he knew that Jiang Chen might be speaking these words to buy popularity, he was still so touched in the moment that he almost became a blubbering mess.
It was said that “a kind word is remembered for a long time”, and Jiang Chen’s words of “loyalty of the Guo family clan” happened to touch precisely the weakest, most delicate part of Guo Jin’s heart. It was also the area that most needed warmth.
“Young duke, based on those words alone, I, Guo Jin, am willing to pledge my life to follow you eternally, in life and in death!”
Guo Jin was not good at heroic utterances, but an exceedingly resolute voice in the depths of his heart told him that he should do so, that he must do so!
Jiang Chen never stinted on his people.
He immediately ordered for Guo Jin’s mother to move to the Jiang Han manor and asked the alchemists from the Hall of Healing to personally look after her. At the same time, he had Guo Jin lock the main doors of his house and have the neighbors pass on a message to the Zhou family.
“If that Zhou family wishes to create a disturbance, then do so at my Jiang Han manor. If he feels that it’s still not satisfying enough to make trouble there, then he can go to the palace courtyard and make a fuss at Princess Gouyu’s !”
Jiang Chen left these words behind before he departed.
Since Princess Gouyu had recommended this Guo Jin, then Jiang Chen naturally didn’t mind borrowing some effort from Princess Gouyu.
In any case, the royal family owed this much to the Guo family .
Guo Jin’s father had originally been the personal follower of Princess Gouyu’s older brother, Eastern Jun. At that time, Eastern Jun was the exalted crown prince.
Eastern Jun wished to accomplish a military feat during a skirmish with an enemy kingdom once, but fell victim to an enemy ambush. Only Guo Jin’s father emerged from the bloody battle and sent a piece of important intelligence back to the capital, dying from exhaustion afterwards.
The current king, Eastern Lu, was only made heir apparent due to the crown prince accidentally falling in battle.
When Eastern Lu was made the crown prince instead, there was even a rumor within the kingdom that the death of the prior crown prince Eastern Jun was very likely because someone had traitorous relations with a foreign country, betraying the former crown prince. When Eastern Lu was initially made crown prince, his foundations were shaky and thus he was cautious and prudent. In order to cast off suspicious circumstances, he even ignored the Guo family who had sent back important intelligence on pain of death. He didn’t even publicize what had gone on behind the scenes.
As time went on, the rumors of Guo Jin’s father being a deserter started circulating.
On account of the love and kindness from her respected martial dao teacher, Guo Shun, Princess Guoyu had appealed several times for Eastern Lu to redress Guo Jin’s father’s grievances and rehabilitate his honor.
Eastern Lu was not swayed by her speeches.
From his perspective, inaction was better than taking action. Eastern Lu was also unwilling to go to battle and reopen matters of many years ago for a family like the Guo family that had withered and fallen.
The pity was that in doing so, Guo Jin was the one who suffered.
Princess Gouyu harbored great remorse and regret in her heart, but couldn’t openly help the Guo family due to Eastern Lu. She could only covertly pay attention to Guo Jin. She had traveled often for training the past few years and neglected to pay attention as time went on.
In this manner, Guo Jin’s room for survival became even narrower and thus he had fallen into his present day circumstances.
Princess Gouyu was ashamed and uneasy but couldn’t take action. She could only entrust the matter to Jiang Chen and recommend Guo Jin to him, making amends for her previous faults through good service.
Except, Guo Jin had no way of knowing the twists and turns of this matter.
One had to give it to him, Guo Jin was indeed a different sort when it came to training. Although he had the martial arts techniques and methods of his family’s heritage, his potential was astounding.
With the Guo family’s current economic level, Guo Jin had absolutely no spirit medicine complementing his training. There were, of course, no pills available for him to take either.
However, he had made it to six meridians true qi based purely on his own great willpower.
One had to know, even many of those nobles sons and disciples, with the favor of tens of thousands focused on them alone, couldn’t make it to six meridians true qi!
“Although it’s quite cruel to say so, but one has to admit that sometimes one’s birth can truly decide one’s destiny…” Jiang Chen felt even more keenly the truth of this harsh reality through Guo Jin.
High potential and great willpower, was as insubstantial as the reflection of a flower in a mirror or the moon in the water, if one didn’t boast of an illustrious birth or the ways to become head and shoulders above others.
Out of the eight spots for personal guards, the first one had gone to Guo Jin. Add to that the two nephews that Qiao Baishi recommended, he had already filled three slots.
The remaining five would most likely necessitate a trip back to the Jiang Han territory.
The mission was pressed for time and Jiang Chen wasn’t the sort to drag his heels. After taking in Guo Jin and explaining the situation to him, they set out for the southern frontier in the afternoon of that day with a crew of underlings.
After the experience of being ambushed by the Soaring Dragon manor last time, this time both the royal family and the Jiang Han household placed abnormal emphasis on this trip, and sent out all sorts of hidden guards along the way to scout out the path.
Under such arrangements, the Soaring Dragon manor had nowhere to insert even a needle if they had the desire to make a few moves. They couldn’t do anything unless they wanted fall out with the Eastern family clan at this very moment.
Spurring on their horses, Jiang Chen’s crew successfully reached the southern frontier after three days.
The southern region was drastically different from the capital. It permeated with the thick atmosphere of the southern border. Unique overtones colored the region, whether in terms of atmosphere, human sensibilities or geographical style.
Many memories of the southern border were preserved in his past self’s memories.
At least he had a clear grasp of the relations of the Jiang family clan.
The family welcome entourage outside the River Wave City was rather sparse, with not that many people.
“Indeed, the treatment of returning a young duke is different to that of the return of the real duke.” A trace of a contemplative smile leaked out on Jiang Chen’s face.
Jiang Chen also knew that no one could be blamed for this. The previous Jiang Chen had committed fabulously absurd sins when he was in the Jiang Han territory, and the ridiculous things he had done once he’d travelled to the capital had all made their way back home.
The extraordinary things he’d done recently rather, hadn’t had time to travel back home.
Therefore, it was quite normal to receive the cold treatment on his return.
“Third uncle, Xiaoyu.” Jiang Chen warmly greeted the first two people in the front as he hopped off his horse.
In the entire Jiang family clan, they were probably the extreme minority who could tolerate the previous Jiang Chen’s fantastically silly existence.
The middle aged man Jiang Tong was Jiang Chen’s third uncle. His personality was honest, sincere, and contained. He scrupulously abided by his duty and was the younger brother that Jiang Feng relied most heavily on.
The slim and fragile youth next to him was Jiang Tong’s son, Jiang Yu.
“Chen’er, you’ve been at the capital for the last two, three years. You’ve grown quite a lot.” Jiang Tong patted Jiang Chen’s shoulder as a feeling of happiness exuded from his eyes.
“Brother, you’re back!” Jiang Yu was younger than Jiang Chen by a year or two, and they’d been close since little. Although they were cousins, he’d always called Jiang Chen “brother”.
Jiang Chen smiled, “I’ve returned with a mission this time. Let’s speak of it when we get back.”
Although a small amount of people had come and it was apparent that the others in the family had deliberately not come in order to put on airs, Jiang Chen did not become angry over this.
Jiang Tong was a bit surprised upon hearing Jiang Chen’s words. Seems like Chen’er has grown more mature in his years at the capital.
If it was the previous Jiang Chen, upon seeing that his family members weren’t giving him face, he most likely would be cursing furiously by now.
In fact, it was Jiang Chen’s personal steward, Jiang Zheng, whose face darkened upon seeing this scene. He seemed ready to erupt a few times, but finally controlled himself in the end.
River Wave City was the largest and most prosperous city in the Jiang Han territory, and also the core location of the Jiang Han dukedom. The Jiang family’s control over the Jiang Han territory radiated throughout the territory, with the River Wave City as the core.
Compared to the capital, the prosperity level of River Wave City lacked a bit in comparison. But as the largest city in the southern frontier, it had its own unique geographic flavor.
Jiang Chen traveled slowly and gently on the back of his horse, viewing the flowers along the way, laughing and chattering with the Jiang Tong father and son duo. However, he didn’t say a single word regarding the mission.
They returned to the Jiang Han manor after a short while.
But who would’ve thought that the Jiang Han manor doors would be bustling with noise and excitement at this moment.