“Don’t try this with me! Jiang Tong wasn’t out earlier, and wasn’t out later, but he’s out when I come?” A voice like a bronze gong rang out loudly.
Jiang Chen and the others heard the hue and cry before they had even drawn near.
“Chief Jing, he really has gone out. Apparently the young duke is coming back, and the third lord went to the outskirts of River Wave City to greet him.”
One could tell that the servants of the duke manor were still quite polite when they dealt with people.
“Young duke? Huh! That ridiculous dandy Jiang Chen?” That voice like a bronze gong carried quite a few traces of disdain.
“I don’t give a damn where Jiang Tong’s gone, I’m going to wait here!” The man surnamed Jing had an extremely dominant tone.
Jiang Chen’s brow creased when he was still far away. Now that he was training in the “Ear of the Zephyr”, his hearing was stronger than even Jiang Tong’s, and could naturally hear the conversation from afar with crystal clarity.
“The chief surnamed Jing? Can he be Jing Man from the Redbud1 Tribe?” Jiang Chen knew from his past self’s memories that there were ten large tribes under the jurisdiction of the Jiang Han territory.
The Redbud Tribe was one of the strongest tribes, and numbered amongst the foremost out of the ten large tribes in Jiang Han.
Therefore, this Jing Man had always been more domineering. Apart from the Duke of Jiang Han, Jiang Feng, who was able to cow this person, everyone else in the entire Jiang Han territory had to somewhat accede to his wishes.
One only had to hear his wild and arrogant tone today, and listen to him directly saying Jiang Tong’s name, to know that this person was quite domineering.
Jiang Tong smiled wryly and shook his head slightly. “Chen’er, only your father is able to rein in Jing Man. Go directly into the manor later, I’ll take care of him.”
One could tell that Jiang Tong had a measure of dread when it came to this Jing Man.
A few thorns in one’s side would pop up in every territory, Jiang Chen understood this rather well.
He also didn’t really mind coarse language and an overbearing demeanor, but if this Jing Man went overboard with his domineering attitude, Jiang Chen would absolutely not sit by idly, and remain indifferent.
No one wanted such a recalcitrant thorn under their rule – one that would stir up trouble at any time.
“Let’s head over!”
Jiang Chen’s tone was diffident as he took the lead in riding his horse over.
“Eh? The third lord is back!” The servants in the manor immediately saw Jiang Tong and his son when the horse entourage appeared.
Except, Jiang Tong and his son were clustered around another youth. This youth had the strong arms of an ape, and the flexible waist of a wolf. A familiar yet strange sense of dignified prestige emanated from his eyes.
Jiang Tong shouted out, “Pay your respects to the young duke!”
After three years, the changes that’d occurred in Jiang Chen had resulted in him casting off his old self and being reborn anew. Apart from his features still somewhat resembling those in former times, he was drastically different in all other areas compared to when he’d left the Jiang Han territory three years ago, whether it was in terms of presence, or of body.
“Greetings to the young duke!”
The servants in the Jiang Han manor had undergone strict training, and immediately fell to their knees to pay their respects.
As for Jing Man and his group, they all looked to their leader, Jing Man, and didn’t bother kneeling in respect.
Jing Man placed his hands on his waist and looked askance at Jiang Chen. His motions were quite rude and ungracious, and he flicked a glance at Jiang Chen, sizing him up from head to toe.
“Young duke. Excuse me, I, Jing Man, only greet the Duke of Jiang Han. Forgive me for not kneeling without seeing the Duke of Jiang Han in person.”
Jing Man’s people also smiled superciliously behind Jing Man as they took their measure of Jiang Chen. Not only did their expressions lack the proper respect requisite upon seeing the young duke, but some of them even lifted their eyebrows and winked as signals to each other.
“Jing Man is it?” Although Jiang Chen was slightly enraged inside, he didn’t wish to have a public falling out where they stood. “I am the young duke of the Jiang Han territory, whether you pay your respects or not. I only ask you, for what matter have you brought people to cause a hubbub at the manor doors? Where is your decorum and propriety?”
Jing Man laughed heartily. “For what matter? Then you need to ask Jiang Tong!”
Jiang Tong’s expression was a bit awkward. “Jing Man, let’s talk privately about personal matters. The young duke has just returned today, let’s not disturb him.”
“What disturbance? It’s even better that he’s come back, he can be a witness.” Jing Man leered with his big mouth.
“No matter what, let’s go inside to talk. Stop throwing away the face of nobility by standing here and making a public outcry.” Jiang Chen’s face darkened as he took the lead in entering the manor.
Jiang Tong was slightly surprised to see Jiang Chen’s uncommon bearing, and followed him inside.
Jing Man chuckled but brazenly had no respect for anything as he followed them inside.
Jiang Chen cast his gaze upon Jing Tong after entering the manor, tea had been served, and everyone had taken their seats. “Third uncle, what’s going on. You tell me.”
“Ai, Chief Jing. We have more than decades in our relationship, and you accepted the betrothal gift ten years ago. Must you really commit such an act as tearing up the marriage contract? Not to mention…”
Jing Man waved his hand, “Stop right there! I was not going to bring the children into this, but since you’ve mentioned them, then let’s be frank and put our cards on the table. It isn’t that I’m going back on my word, it’s truly that the child is unwilling. You also don’t wish for the two to not get along, and cause such utter confusion that everyone goes crazy after the two get married?”
Betrothal gift, marriage contract, child is unwilling.
Jiang Chen quickly grasped the heart of the matter.
Indeed, this Jing Man was here to rip up the marriage contract.
“Chief Jing, speak frankly – are you dissatisfied with the betrothal gift? Do you think it’s too little? This can all be discussed. In what regard would my Jiang family be unworthy of your beloved daugher?”
Jiang Tong restrained his fury and didn’t adopt a hard tone as he tried to redeem something from the situation.
“I’ve heard these words many times and I’m not here to listen to your blather this time. I’ve brought back the betrothal gifts, you can take an inventory of them.”
Jing Man obviously didn’t want to continue this conversation. He was here to return the betrothal gifts, and to void the marriage contract.
With a wave of his hand, Jing Man’s servants immediately brought up six large trunks.
“The betrothal gifts are here, not a single one of them is missing. Take an inventory Jiang Tong. If there’s nothing else, I’m going back to my tribe.” Jing Man ignored the young duke Jiang Chen through this entire matter.
Jiang Tong’s face flushed vaguely red. Jing Man’s arrogant attitude had obviously deeply wounded the placid middle aged man.
The hand in his sleeve curled tightly and formed a fist. His voice trembled a bit as it rasped out, “Chief Jing, you can break the betrothal, but you cannot do so in such an obscure manner! Tell me, why? In what manner has my Jiang family wronged your Redbud Tribe?”
Jing Man smiled faintly, “Whether or not the Jiang family has wronged my Redbud tribe is not the point. First, you, Jiang Tong, are not the Duke of Jiang Han. Your son will never become the Duke of Jiang Han. Secondly, I’ve already said the child is unwilling. Cai’er, they’re unwilling to cancel the marriage contract. Why don’t you say a few words?”
A thirteen or fourteen year old young girl was behind Jing Man. She wore the jewelry of her tribe, and wore her hair in a bun, with three peacock feathers stuck in her bun.
The young girl’s features were brightly colored and beautiful, with a natural gentle and lovely air. She also possessed a sense of shrewdness that did not conform with her age.
“Jiang Yu, Cai’er believes that you would not seriously agree to a ridiculous marriage that the older generation agreed to when they were all drunk?”
Jing Cai’er brows moved faintly as a natural sense of gentleness and loveliness permeated her crisp voice.
Jiang Yu was younger than Jiang Chen by a year, but he wasn’t muddled when it came to important matters. Although a bit bashful, he responded, “I can pretend it wasn’t true. But, the manner in which you’re approaching this matter completely brushes off the face of my Jiang family. Have you ever thought of where my Jiang family’s face would be, if you do this in such a manner?”
“Face?” Jing Cai’er laughed lightly. “Face is earned and not given to you. Jiang Yu, since you’ve brought it up, I ask you only one question. My training now is at seven meridians true qi, and has a chance to breakthrough to eight meridians true qi in a year. How many meridians of true qi are you now?”
This was the point! Seven meridians true qi was indeed a very extraordinary level of existence for a disciple born from a tribe.
After all, even amongst the heirs in the Hidden Dragon Trials, not that many possessed such training.
Not to mention Jing Cai’er was younger than Jiang Chen and his peers by one or two years.
“You’re only five meridians true qi. Do you know what a difference of two meridians true qi means between peers?
In addition, just as my father said, your father isn’t the Duke of Jiang Han, and you’ll never be the Duke of Jiang Han.”
Jiang Yu’s mouth was agape and tongue tied. He said haltingly, “Although I won’t be the Duke of Jiang Han in the future, the Duke of Jiang Han is still my brother.”
He regretted his words as soon as he said them. Why? Why did he explain such things to this snobbish girl?
“Heh heh, your brother?” Jing Cai’er flicked a glance at Jiang Chen with a few traces of scorn. “Jiang Yu, don’t be naive! Do you think with your cousin’s paltry bit of ability that he’s usually displayed, that he can hold onto this dukedom in front of opponents that are like wolves and tigers?”
Jiang Chen laughed. This Jing family had revealed their dagger after unrolling the map of their plans, and had voiced the true reality.
In terms of potential, Jiang Yu was far below Jing Cai’er.
In terms of status and position, the Jiang family could very well lose their dukedom. Jing Yu wasn’t a direct descendent of the Jiang family, what future would he have then?
In such a way, the meaning for the Jing family reneging on the marriage contract was clear as daylight.
A tea cup was suddenly flung viciously to the floor!
Someone finally couldn’t bear it anymore on the Jiang family side, and had lost their temper!
Except, the person losing his temper was neither Jiang Chen nor Jiang Tong and his son, but the personal steward behind Jiang Chen, Jiang Zheng!
He had seen so many various aspects of society in the capital, and even the influential powers in the capital were obedient, submissive, and obsequious to the young duke. But now that they’d returned to their own land in the Jiang Han territory, they were faced with such ridiculousness?
This was the Jiang family’s territory to begin with. The Jiang family kept their word, and everyone was reverent and deferential in front of the Jiang family.
This Jing family was too unbridled!
Thus, Jiang Zheng was infuriated!
“Jing Man, you father and daughter are putting on show, but have you figured out some things yet? This is the Jiang Han manor and this is the territory of the Duke of Jiang Han!” Jiang Zheng was filled with righteous indignation.
Jing Man laughed coldly. “Your master hasn’t spoken, what is a dog of a servant like you making a fuss for?”
“I’m a servant alright! But, you seemed to have forgotten that you’re also a servant in the Jiang Han manor. We’re all servants of the Jiang family in the entire Jiang Han territory!
You do not pay your respects when you see the young duke – do you even understand the difference between master and servant?
You tear up the marriage contract – do you even understand the concept of the honor of nobility?
Your daughter does not respect the young duke – do you even comprehend the notion of due regard for precedence?
You disrespect your master, tear up the marriage contract, and speak irreverently. Who gave you this courage? Where did you get this nerve from?”
Jiang Zheng’s tongue was like a spear, and his lips like daggers, as he fired off a string of questions, getting out of hand as he started.
Jing Man’s mouth was agape and he was tongue tied, at a loss for what to say during this moment.
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercis_chinensis Redbud is Zi Jing in Chinese.↩