Spring had come exceptionally this year. As the ground began to warm, the many different forms of life that had lain dormant during the winter began to flourish once more.
Northface City was bustling with activity as well. The annual Spring Blade Festival was starting soon, and each house was fully decorated with gaudy, elegant lanterns. The sound of laughter and celebration filled the air.
This year, however, the atmosphere was slightly different.
The good news of the human race’s triumph had spread far and wide by this point.
Apparently, the Boundless Sect’s armies had not only swept their way through the wilds inhabited by the Beasts, but had even subjugated the Harpies and exterminated a number of Desolate Beasts.
Of course, the final notice was also the most important: all taxation and forced labor would be suspended for three years to give them a time of rest.
To many of the country’s citizens, this piece of information was even more important than the human race’s triumph. It was only natural that this year’s celebration would be even more lively than usual.
Apparently, this decision had been made because of the sudden influx of rare and valuable resources from Beast-controlled areas.
The Boundless Sect also fully released the bloodline-less cultivation techniques. Now, anyone amongst the Seven Kingdoms could cultivate them.
In the past, an adequate supply of cultivation resources was hard to come by, but with the taming of the wilds and the lifting of taxation policies, resources were much more available, making it easier for cultivators to ascend.
Apparently, the Sect Master was still not satisfied, and he had personally gone to visit the Oceanids in an attempt to open yet another trading route.
Currently, the entire human race was now under the rule of this Sect Master.
Even though the Seven Kingdoms still existed, each with their own ruler, everyone knew that only Sect Master was at the very height.
The tea pavilions, the wine taverns, and other public gathering areas were filled with an air of rejoicing. Even the beggars lining the streets and the prostitutes in the brothels were happy - the dispelling of forced labor had made their lives much easier, and they were able to save up more money as a result.
There was perhaps only one clan that was excluded from this celebration.
The Su Clan.
In theory, the Su Clan’s status should have risen in a meteoric fashion due to Su Chen’s current status.
But the reality was that the Su Clan had not changed in the slightest.
Not a single member of the clan had ascended to meteoric heights or descended to the lowest depths.
The Su Clan was still the Su Clan, as steady and stagnant as always, in a way that almost belied their status as a large clan in Northface City. In fact, even their wealth and status had remained entirely the same.
Of course, this was all because of Su Chen.
Some had once asked Su Chen how he planned on dealing with the Su Clan.
Su Chen’s reply was to neither support nor suppress them. They would be treated like they had always been treated.
As a result, they were treated with the utmost fairness, resulting in the current state of affairs.
No one would ever bully them, but no one would ever give them preferential treatment either.
In fact, they were treated so fairly that it was a little eerie.
The Su Clan’s servants could only buy vegetables at market price - no higher and no lower.
They would be treated with both politeness and formality whenever they were conducting business.
The Su Clan would always be invited to the city’s important affairs, and their status would be honored, but no one would ever invite them to personal gatherings.
It was as if they didn’t exist!
This was extremely difficult for the Su Clan’s members to bear.
But this was not the most important factor.
No, the most important factor was that, underneath this mask of calm was disdain, ridicule, and contempt.
Su Chen’s relationship with the Su Clan was not a secret in Northface City. Everyone, from the old to the young, knew about this story.
For this reason, everyone scorned the Su Clan for pushing aside their pillar of support, even if they refused to say so openly.
If people’s thoughts could be heard, then the entire Northface City would likely be filled with the sounds of ridicule and mocking.
How could the Su Clan’s members have any joy remaining in their hearts?
Su Hao spat on the ground as he glanced at the bustling outside world, then flicked his sleeves and returned to the main hall.
The Su Clan’s hall was quite busy as well.
The Su residence’s inhabitants were gathering in the hall to celebrate the new year.
Su Feihu sat at the top seat and greeted all the guests. The formerly youthful physique he had possessed had withered significantly due to old age. His mind was still sharp, and he was in a good mood. As the clan’s juniors all bowed and paid their respects to him, he smiled and said, “Good, good. Very good.”
Once the greetings had been given, everyone sat down at their respective seats.
Su Feihu glanced around, then asked, “Why isn’t Eldest Brother here?”
Naturally, he was asking after Su Cheng’an.
One of the maidservants stood and said, “My Lord is not feeling well and is currently resting in his room.”
Su Feihu shook his head. “Not feeling well? I think that his discomfort is coming from his heart. It’s been so many years, yet he still is unable to let that go, huh? Well, let him do as he pleases.”
Su Feihu’s gaze appeared almost electric as he gazed at everyone. “I know that you all hate this outcome. The greater his status is, the more difficult it will be for you to bear. But trust me, this is for the best.”
The juniors all lowered their heads in silence, obviously not taking his words to heart.
Su Feihu’s wife spoke up. “Alright, alright. Today should be a day of celebration. Forget all of this heavy talk. Come, let’s eat.”
Everyone lowered their heads and began to eat.
Even the atmosphere of the meal, however, seemed stale and stagnant.
Su Feihu was the only one who didn’t mind.
After eating, Su Feihu immediately went out into the courtyard, sipping on his tea as he smelled the roses he had planted.
Just as he was enjoying himself quite immensely, a wind blew past him.
Su Feihu discovered that his surroundings had become totally silent, as if time had stopped.
The flowers had stopped swaying, water had stopped flowing, and even the wind had stopped blowing.
Su Feihu was not surprised by this, and he smiled slightly. “Chen’er, are you back?”
There was no response.
Su Feihu chuckled. “Come on out. I know that it’s you.”
The silence persisted, but Su Chen’s figure gradually began to materialize out of thin air.
He stood there silently, as if he had been there this whole time.
Su Feihu laughed when he saw Su Chen. “You finally know to come back and pay us a visit. It’s been three years since the last time, right?”
During the past few years, Su Chen had secretly returned to Northface City a few times to see Su Feihu. Each time, however, they would only talk for a brief period of time before Su Chen would leave.
Because he would always come by just before the new year, Su Feihu was used to his appearing. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to identify Su Chen so easily.
“I’ve been busy lately and haven’t had much time to see you, Uncle.” Su Chen walked to where Su Feihu was sitting and sat down next to him.
The gentle breeze resumed, the flowers continued their swaying dance, and the water began to burble once more. Anyone who passed by, however, would not be able to see Su Chen sitting there.
Su Feihu chuckled, “Your ability to hide yourself seems to have improved again.”
Su Feihu said this because now people could still see him, but they could not see him talking to Su Chen. This was quite an extraordinary feat.
Su Chen replied, “I’ll teach you if you want to learn, Uncle.”
Su Feihu laughed and waved his hand. “There’s no need. I’m getting old anyways, and I don’t have the heart to continue advancing any longer. I just want to calmly and quietly live out the rest of my days on the rest of this earth. That is good enough for me.”
“Just because you like it doesn’t mean others will,” Su Chen said.
Actually, Su Chen had already forgiven the Su Clan quite some time ago for what they had done for him. In fact, he had even tried to free them from the current situation they were in.
Su Feihu, however, didn’t want that.
He had been the one to propose the “neither suppress nor support” idea.
Upon hearing Su Chen’s comment, Su Feihu disdainfully replied, “Who cares if they don’t like it? They just want to borrow your influence and soar to new heights. I refuse to let them have their way. Chen’er, reaching the peak is not easy. How many powerful, talented heroes were eventually weighed down by those around them? These relatives of yours were not able to help you at all in your moment of need, but now that you’ve achieved something they are swarming like mosquitoes to a fresh source of blood. The better you treat them, the more trouble you will bring yourself. Of course, if you wanted to, you could raise the Su Clan to unprecedented heights with a wave of your hands, but whose blood would they be sucking? Not only yours, but the entire human races! And whose reputation would they be destroying? Yours, of course! I’m very happy that you’ve forgiven them for what they’ve done in the past. But I cannot allow you to bear them as a burden just because of that. I won’t be able to help you with much, but I can at least make sure that they won’t bother you.”
Su Chen glanced at Su Feihu, his eyes slightly wet with tears.
Su Feihu truly cared about him. This was why he didn’t want the Su Clan to become a burden to him, and why he had so decisively severed their connection.
Su Chen very much wanted to say that he could avoid what Su Feihu was talking about by treating them more severely, but he knew that that was basically impossible.
Money was meant to be spent; authority was meant to be used.
Otherwise, what was the point of trying to earn either?
Su Chen’s ambitions were great, and he had no time to worry about watching over these people. Even Su Feihu might not want to - after all, he had overseen the Su Clan for far too long, and he knew their hearts. Give them an inch, and they would take a mile.
Treating them more severely or completely cutting them off were both useless.
The current status quo was for the best.
“Actually, taking things slow and steady like this is not a bad thing. The higher up you are, the greater the wind will be. No one knows when trouble will come looking for you. At the very least, no one has any intentions of messing with us, and no one will try to use us to deal with you. We are quite safe. Isn’t that security what many of us are fighting for in our human life? I like the way things are. If those juniors want to live the high life, they’ll have to work for it themselves. Giving up on some people who only know to cling to you as you rise is not a bad thing,” Su Feihu continued.
Su Chen nodded. “If Uncle says so, then I will obey. Right, how is he doing?”
Su Feihu knew that he was asking about Su Cheng’an.
With a sigh, he replied, “The knot in his heart has only grown tighter in recent years. I imagine he doesn’t have much longer to live.”