Chapter 1661: Elder Wanjun

“Grandson Qingsang is here to greet grandfather.” Yan Qingsang was casual and true to himself before his grandfather.

Yan Wanjun sighed inwardly. One of his sons was of mediocre talent, the other locked in Boundless Prison, and his only grandson had grown up to be headstrong and tactless because of his indulgence.

But now, his grandson had proven himself in the jade festival.

“You’ve done me proud, Qingsang. Those in the family who like to criticize you won’t be able to find faults with you now, haha!” Yan Wanjun’s expression turned smug. He was the one who’d vehemently argued for Yan Qingsang to go to Bluesmoke with the other youths.

Before the departure, it was greatly debated if Yan Qingsang should be allowed to go. Many elders believed that he was too stubborn, blunt, and inflexible. He was unlikely to play well with the others and could be an unstable factor in the group.

In fact, what Yan Qingsang had done in the Jade Revel Lodge did indeed prove their concerns correct. 

But his performance in the jade festival had been extraordinary. His singular gains had been more than the other youths combined. As a result, many who wanted nothing but to make trouble for Yan Qingsang could only swallow their frustration.

Yan Wanjun was rather pleased with the outcome. His grandson had made him look good and he could now lift his head proudly in front of the rest of the family.

“Don’t praise me, grandfather. I’m not going to lie to you. Most of the credit should go to Brother Shao Yuan.” The boy didn’t bother with pretenses with his grandfather.

Jiang Chen piped in, “It’s also thanks to Brother Yan’s extraordinary talent and open-mindedness. Things wouldn’t have gone as smoothly if it had been anyone else.”

Yan Qingsang blushed. “That’s not me at all, brother. I feel like an imposter being described as talented and open-minded.”

Jiang Chen smiled in lieu of a response.

Yan Wanjun laughed and responded disapprovingly, “Can’t you be serious for one second? You’re thirty already, but still so undependable. Haven’t you learned anything from your brother?”

“I have! I’ve learned a lot about ancient jade from him.”

“Balderdash. I’m not telling you to learn about ancient jade. I’m telling you to learn from his bearing. Let me tell you, you have much to learn when it comes to how you bear yourself and interact with others.” Yan Wanjun might have been reprimanding his grandson, but his eyes were filled with fondness.

Jiang Chen snorted silently. Now he knew why Yan Qingsang was the way he was. He had been spoiled to death by his grandfather. It was said that an indulgent mother would raise a hopeless son. In this case, it was an indulgent grandfather harming the grandson. Nevertheless, that was between the two of them. He was in no position to make comments.

“I have a favor to ask, little brother Shao Yuan,” Yan Wanjun said seriously, his curious gaze fixed on Jiang Chen.

“Please be frank about your instructions, elder,” Jiang Chen hurried out.

“They’re not instructions. I just want you to offer Qingsang some guidance in the future. This brat isn’t the most talented in the family, but he’s among the top tier. His personality, however, leaves something to be desired and can use some tempering. Please help him out in that regard. The two of you should care for each other within the family and work hard to stand out from the rest.”

“Of course.” Jiang Chen nodded.

“Qingsang has never been popular in the family. He finds faults in everyone around him. It was uncharacteristic for him to befriend you.” Yan Wanjun sighed. His grandson worried him greatly. While his two sons’ fates were already set in stone, his grandson was young and his future malleable.

That was why he had high hopes for Yan Qingsang. He hope that the boy would one day achieve greatness. However, his grandson’s cultivation currently didn’t even rank in the top five of the house, let alone the top three or even rivaling Yan Zhenhuai.

Even Yan Zhenhuai, recognized as the top genius of the youths in House Yan, could only be considered average among the great factions in Eternal Divine Nation.

At the end of all this, the elder knew that the most talented person among the younger generation in House Yan wasn’t Yan Qingsang or Yan Zhenhuai, but his granddaughter Yan Qinghuang.

Sadly...

He felt a sharp pain in his heart when he thought of the girl. His son had made a grave mistake, but his granddaughter was innocent. However, the elder had unable to disobey the family out of consideration of the greater good.

Still, he was remorseful for his inability to help Huang’er. If there was an alternative, he would never allow her to be sacrificed for the sake of clan.

But there was nothing he could do by himself. He alone wasn’t enough to fight House Yan. Even if he could, he was no match for House Xiahou. It all came down to House Yan being too weak. If it’d been strong enough to rival House Xiahou, they wouldn’t have suffered the abuse and humiliation.

Yan Wanjun raged, but he didn’t know whom to direct the anger at. The anger drove him to put high expectations on Yan Qingsang. He wished that his grandson would be able to succeed and reap honor and glory, pushing his line of the family to the top of the clan.

To do that, Yan Qingsang would have to live up to his expectations.

Before the jade festival, the boy had been far from impressive. His performance was at its best decent, at worst disappointing. But this time, he’d won the festival by a large margin.

This was why Yan Wanjun was so accepting of Jiang Chen and allowed him to accompany Yan Qingsang. The innate bearing and potential of this newcomer would be a positive influence on his grandson. What was more, the young man would never be a threat to Yan Qingsang.

After all, Jiang Chen didn’t bear their surname.

No matter how talented he was, no matter how great his potential was, he would never be a candidate for a core member of the family. At most, he could be a venerated, foreign elder.

Dinner was set up in the garden. Grandfather and grandson had a drink with Jiang Chen beneath the moonlight.

The elder was also using the opportunity to observe and test Jiang Chen, which the latter was prepared for. His answers were naturally perfect, further alleviating Yan Wanjun’s doubts.

“By the way, little brother Shao Yuan, there’s a place called Cloud Camel Mountain at the border of House Yan territory. One of the elders said that there could be a spirit vein of stunning capacity there. However, his talent doesn’t lie in excavation. How about you? Do you possess such skills?”

Jiang Chen was thoughtful. “If it’s a regular spirit vein, it can’t be that difficult to extract, can it?”

Yan Wanjun perked up. “Do you mean that the spirit vein is a special one?”

Jiang Chen remained cautious. “I can’t say for sure without inspecting the place with my own eyes.”

“If you do, how confident are you that you’ll be able to come up with a conclusion?” Yan Wanjun couldn’t help but ask.

If a spirit vein was discovered in Cloud Camel Mountain, much of the credit would go to him. It was a good opportunity to earn credit for a meritorious deed. He didn’t want to let it slip by.

Jiang Chen paused. “I don’t like to make empty promises. I can only give you a concrete answer after seeing the area for myself. Baseless predictions are meaningless. My assessment may differ depending on timing, location, terrain, and internal structure. There’s no point in making guesses now.”

His answer further convinced Yan Wanjun that he possessed real knowledge. If he had immediately given an answer, Yan Wanjun would be much more skeptical.

“If I asked you to survey Cloud Camel Mountain, would you be willing to?”

Jiang Chen didn’t immediately respond.

After some deliberation, he gave the elder an apologetic smile. “Elder, excavating a spirit vein—especially one that is difficult to extract—can take decades, even centuries. Even observing the environment will take a few years. I haven’t achieved great success in martial dao yet, and this is a crucial time for me to cultivate. If my cultivation is delayed for a few years, I’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. That’s why I don’t dare give you an answer now.”

That wasn’t the whole truth.

He wasn’t worried about his martial dao, but that House Xiahou might come take Huang’er away in his absence. He would regret it for his entire life if he wasn’t able to make it back in time because he was away on the border.

That was why he wouldn’t agree to go anywhere faraway within the next ten years. That was, unless he was sure Xiahou Zong wasn’t in the capital or at House Xiahou.

Yan Wanjun smiled. “If it’ll take years, we won’t force you to take on the task.”

“Brother Shao Yuan has just arrived at House Yan, grandfather, and you’re already assigning him missions,” complained Yan Qingsang. “Where’s your sense of hospitality? Besides, he’s right. Don’t you always say that we’re at the critical age for cultivation?”

Yan Wanjun was defenseless against his grandson. He smiled wryly. “You sure know how to run your mouth, you brat. Grandfather didn’t say Shao Yuan has to help me. This is just a personal request. The family isn’t forcing the task on anyone either. Oh, didn’t you acquire some ancient jade in the Bluesmoke Isles? Pick two of the best quality...”

“And what?” Yan Qingsang’s hackles rose. “You’re not going to deprive me of the fruits of my labor, are you, grandfather?”

“You! I fed you and raised you. Is it going to kill you to give me two pieces of ancient jade?”

“Tell me what you’re gonna do with them first!”

“One of the daughters in House Xiahou is holding a birthday celebration soon. The young geniuses in the capital will be invited. I want you to bring your ancient jade...”

Yan Qingsang’s face turned red. House Xiahou? The two words were make his heart flood with rage.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

etvolare's Thoughts

The whole JC being a useful outsider thing was something that folks discussed a lot in Discord. Someone wondered why the houses weren't just recruiting wandering cultivators left and right, and what was with the obsession with blood. 

I tried to draw an analogy with adopted VS biological children. They're both the family's children, but there's a very definite subset of folks who think the latter are the 'real' kids and/or the only ones that matter/can be trusted. Erroneous quotes of blood being thicker than water are often bandied around. It makes no sense, yet such is how the human mind works sometimes.

Then the conversation shifted to, well, why not just have the wandering cultivators swear a heavenly oath of loyalty? 

The whole concept of heavenly oaths has been really interesting in SOTR. I see it as a contract in the martial dao world, with the heavenly law being an impartial, non-sentient judge that brings down the hammer of thunder and lightning solely based on the exact wording of the oath. I don't believe we've seen anything in the novel itself that suggests heavenly oaths are administered by a sentient presence that also judges intentions.

Therefore, the issue with these oaths is that while they seem super useful on the surface, they're actually really limited in use. There are so many loopholes that one can exploit through wording (ergo why we have so many lawsuits in the real world), and there's no way an oath can cover every single eventuality.

"I swear a heavenly oath that I will remain loyal to House Yan until the day I die, never seeking to do harm to its members."

Straightforward enough? Say House Xiahou shows up and JC accidentally lets them because he forgot to lock a door. (Just roll with this impossible situation lol.) 

But wait! He broke the oath. We-ell, he wasn't intending on harming the members. He just forgot to lock a door. So technically he hasn't broken his oath, as again, we see no evidence that a conscious mind is behind judging the oaths.

Ya see what I'm getting at here? Thoughts? Agree/disagree?