Chapter 168: Signs of Change

Chapter 168: Signs of Change [Volume 3 - The Place Where My Heart Feels At Peace]  

Right now, the name Qian Xiaoye was displayed as the victor on the virtual display. The uproar that had overwhelmed the entire proving grounds hadn’t subsided just yet.

Qianye turned around to look at Zhao Junhong outside the ring. The man tried to clamber up but fell a second time before he could stand up properly. His personal attendants were already pushing open a path through the crowd and running towards him. That being said, Zhao Junhong didn’t look like he was heavily injured, and he was probably just temporarily out of strength because his origin defense was broken apart earlier. Of course, if Steward Wen hadn’t blocked the follow-up and allowed Zhao Junhong to suffer the brunt of a complete origin tidal strike instead, there was no telling what might've happened.

Qianye finally let out a sigh of relief upon learning that Zhao Junhong was well. Then his vision turned black, and he collapsed to the ground and fainted just like that.

This turn of event surprised even Steward Wen, and he tried to walk towards Qianye after the momentary surprise had passed.

Qiqi immediately jumped into the ring and ran full speed towards Qianye, holding him in her arms before Director Wen could do so. The Yin Family bodyguard who was well versed in battlefield medical care appeared right after and gave Qianye a swift but thorough medical inspection.

By now Zhao Junhong had already been helped to his feet. After seeing Yin Qiqi’s movements, he couldn’t help but feel that she was guarding against Steward Wen for some reason. His eyebrows jumped once almost indiscernibly before he whispered something quietly to one of his personal attendants.

The attendant nodded and immediately ran into the proving grounds. This attendant of Zhao Junhong’s was a professional doctor, and his skills were a lot more holistic than the Yin clan bodyguard whose focus of study was in treating external wounds. After explaining his intentions to Qiqi and obtaining her nodding permission, he waited until she moved out of the way before checking on Qianye’s condition.

“He’s okay, he simply used too much origin power and blacked out because of it. He’ll be fine after resting for a few days.”

Steward Wen nodded and allowed Qiqi, the Yin Family attendant and the Zhao Family attendant to carry Qianye away.

By now Duke Wei was standing up on the grandstand and spreading his voice to every corner of the area using origin power. He briefly talked about a few things, encouraged everyone to do better in the future and declared the end of the Profound Heaven Spring Hunt just like that.

This term’s Profound Heaven Spring Hunt was filled with surprises starting from the hunt all the way to the one on one tournament. A rank five commoner level bodyguard had beaten the competition to became the new star of the tournament. No matter how lucky his progress was, or how big of a fluke his final victory had been, there was no denying that he was the one who claimed the final victory.

That being said, the person who truly shone during this spring hunt was the supposedly averagely talented second son of the Zhao Household. If even this level of talent and strength were only considered average, then they couldn’t imagine just how amazing the current young generation of the Zhao Household really was. The dukes, marquises, and counts with keen perception thought they caught the signs of a storm brewing at the recently peaceful imperial court once more.

When Qianye talked about this with Song Zining, Song Zining laughed at those people instead.

Most people in the world loved following the herd, so they thought that Zhao Junhong was average and common the moment they heard the rumors. However, they never once thought exactly what standards Zhao Junhong was judged with to have obtained this review. They never wondered what kind of review they themselves would get if they were judged by the same standards.

Ultimately, this was as far as the horizons of a wealthy countryside landlord spanned. Short-sightedness didn’t stop these people from using their minuscule bit of experience to point out the great economic trends of a province or even an entire country, however.

Those were all the things that happened on the surface. Beneath the surface, the mysterious banker who appeared prior to the finals was the biggest winner of this term’s Profound Heaven Spring Hunt. That was because this banker had invested more than a thousand gold coins, attracting many gamblers to follow with the trend and bet against it.

A thousand gold coins were enough to purchase a regular rank five origin gun at the upper continents, so this banker could be called a true hero already for spending this much money on a temporary gambling scene between attendants, bodyguards, and servants. However, not only did this person bet such a huge sum of money on a rank five contestant who won his quarterfinals and semifinals match almost for free because they bore wounds from their previous battles, he actually won the bet too! This person had won more than thirty thousand gold coins just from the main betting pool alone!

Naturally, the gambling scene that happened right at the spring hunt’s great camp didn’t escape Duke Wei’s attention. When his attendants told him about the extraordinary outcome of the betting pools as a joke last night, he immediately instructed his men to investigate this mysterious banker.

The person who entered his vision was a rank seven bodyguard named Song Ge in the Song Household. This bodyguard possessed extremely holistic abilities, and his martial strength was at the peak of rank seven. None of these details were important, however, what was important was the fact that a bodyguard couldn’t possibly produce a sum of more than a thousand gold coins in one go. Therefore, the true mastermind behind this incident was pretty obvious. Did Song Zining do all this?

Duke Wei recalled the extraordinary attention Marquis Yiguang paid to Song Zining and the strange concession he made during the semifinals of the one on one tournament. He refused to believe that this outcome was the result of a coincidence no matter what.

But when Duke Wei requested his subordinates to collect more intel, they witnessed the conflict between the Song and the Yin Family in the process. It was only then that he learned that this Qian Xiaoye had directly caused Song Zining and Yin Qiqi to turn hostile. However, Duke Wei was not someone who would be fooled by the veil of male-female relationship cast over this matter. He had heard of the internal conflicts between the Song Family and the Yin Family before this, and it was obvious to him that both sides were using Qian Xiaoye as a pawn to make their plans.

The final outcome of this finals caused Duke Wei to return to his study and look through the intel his subordinates had collected once more. He was thinking of one thing only, and that was whether the Three Thousand Flying Leaves Art that no one had successfully cultivated for several hundred years really was the equal to the Art of Heaven’s Mystery as claimed in legends. If the answer was yes, then it was a more terrifying news than the tale of a so-called average Zhao Household descendant outshining all other outstanding aristocratic descendants.

The fact that Song Zining gave a pawn such unusual treatment and betted so much money on him in secret meant that he must have noticed his potential since a long while ago. There was no way it was the result of a whim or the happenstance of courage and luck.

At this point, Duke Wei could guess a little of Marquis Yiguang’s attention. If the Three Thousand Flying Leaves Art really was as amazing as the legend says, then Song Zining’s value was practically immeasurable. Anyone who had him would be able to unearth and bring new talents to their own cause without end.

A perfect example already existed within the empire: Lin Xitang.

Not only did Lin Xitang possess extraordinary power, he was the only person in an aristocratic family to be promoted as a marshal with his great mastery of the Art of Heaven’s Mystery. Moreover, he had countless disciples within the army and across all over the Empire, and no talent who came into his sights ever went by unearthed. The amount of capable and brave personnel he commanded was endless, and the Lin Family’s power grew by leaps as bounds as a result. In just twenty years’ time, the Lin Family grew from a small and mediocre aristocratic family into an upper-rank family.

If another person like Lin Xitang were to appear in the Empire, but was the son of a grand household instead, the shape of the imperial court might be changed yet again!

Duke Wei pondered for a moment before flicking a small, bronze bell on his table. A moment later, a scholarly looking middle-aged man walked into the study and asked, “Do you need me, my duke?”

“Please have a seat, Teacher Ji. We will speak after you test the new tea leaves I’ve just gotten,” Duke Wei spoke pleasantly before this middle-aged man. Whatever bearing he used to carry himself with as the duke was completely gone.

Teacher Ji swallowed a mouthful of hot tea before closing his eyes in quiet reflection. Finally, he sighed, “What amazing tea!”

“I have half a kilo of tea leaves right now. I’ll send someone to pack it and deliver it to your place, Teacher Ji.”

Teacher Ji smiled, “Thank you very much for your kindness, my duke. Now, it is only right that I serve you once in repayment of the amazing tea you served me, is it not? May I ask what you have summoned me for, my duke?”

Duke Wei said, “I would like to hear about your view about this entire spring hunt.”

Teacher Ji answered with a smile, “Someone in your service would automatically select and recruit the talents that exist within the landed gentry and humble born, so you’re probably inquiring about the descendants of those families, aren’t you? Of course, I don’t need to tell you about Zhao Junhong. Song Zining and Wei Qiyang are pretty interesting characters too.”

Duke Wei looked a little surprised, “It is true that I can’t quite see through the seventh son of the Song Family, and he is the one I wish to consult your intelligence about. But Wei Qiyang? Heh, the Far East Wei Clan is famous for their unusual education methods, and there is no doubt that Wei Qiyang possesses extraordinary talent. However, he’s also a rude, impetuous, and unreasonable youth who carries himself like the common folk. I would never imagine that he would turn out like this. Isn’t the Wei Family afraid that he would eventually cause some huge troubles if he keeps this up?”

Teacher Ji seemed to know that Duke Wei would think this way from the start, and so he immediately assumed a serious expression and said, “Wei Qiyang is an extraordinarily talented kid who might grow into a marshal in the future. This is something everyone knew since the day the Wei Family bestowed upon him the title of heir. I noticed that a lot of people started to look down on the Wei Family because of their heir’s temperament, but they didn’t realize that Wei Qiyang’s behavior and conduct perfectly matches the mental state demanded by the secret art Thousand Mountains. Wei Qiyang goes where his heart leads him to, and if his cultivation could keep up then it is only a matter of time before he grows into a true Chosen One! The fact that his talent and mental state complements each other well may mean that there is still room for growth left in him.”

Teacher Ji paused for a moment before saying, “Duke Wei, please remember that victory by strength is a law.”

Duke Wei’s expression immediately changed upon hearing this. There was exactly one such person who carried himself without any scruples and did whatever he felt like. He was a man who crushes through all obstacles by force and was restrained by almost no one in the entire Empire. His name was Zhao Boqian, and he was a marshal of the Empire. The only person to ever make Zhao Boqian feel impotent was Lin Xitang with his flawless schemes and his ability to identify a key moment with the Art of Heaven’s Mystery.

Empire's Twin Paragons shared the same emperor, and although they belonged to different factions they appeared amiable on the surface, they never went fully hostile against each other. That being said, they had crossed swords in private, and Zhao Boqian was the one who suffered small losses in many of their secret clashes. This outcome was related to their natural temperaments. Zhao Boqian was not good at employing schemes and trickery, and most of his aides were fierce generals who were better off storming the battlefields than playing the court. None of his men were Lin Xitang’s match.

That being said, if the twin paragons were to bring their conflict onto a battlefield, then Zhao Boqian would be the one favored to win.

Duke Wei pondered for a long time before asking, “The Wei Family’s current heir really possesses this much potential?”

“The Far East Wei Clan has always stood out from the other aristocratic families, and they are only growing more and more low key as of late. But the fact that they dare declare their heir this early and aim as far as a marshal’s seat proved just how far-reaching the game they’re playing at. Wei Qiyang may one day attain your level of height, my duke.”

Duke Wei nodded slowly, “If you say so, then I suppose that the Wei Family is worth my friendship. In fact, why don’t—”

Teacher Ji obviously knew what Duke Wei was going to say, and he cut him off without any fear of trespassing the line at all and said, “Make friends, yes; but make bets as big as the one you’re suggesting? I’m afraid not, my duke. Neither your daughter nor your granddaughter is worthy of being the partner of the Wei Family’s future patriarch.”

Duke Wei smiled wryly in response. Teacher Ji was a blunt man, to say the least, but he was also one of the few people who was willing to speak the truth before him. Duke Wei struck gold when he was young, and he obtained status and prestige just when he hit his middle age. His life had always been smooth sailing, and his seat was only getting higher and higher. However, the higher he climbed, the fewer truths he was able to hear. That was why Duke Wei respected and treated Teacher Ji so courteously all this time.

Duke Wei immediately asked the next question, “What about Song Zining. I have some of his intel with me, but I wasn’t able to make sense despite studying it for a long time.”

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