Little Tanuki leaped from Ye Chen's lap and a.s.sumed its rightful spot on his shoulder. Glaring at Ye Rou's joyful smile seemed to have put it in a sour mood as it puckered its lips.
Ye Chen and Ye Rou chatted on the way as they headed to the clan's meeting hall.
"Big Brother Ye Chen? I was wondering, are you going to attend the Grand Martial Tournament of the Eighteen Houses on the day after tomorrow?" Ye Rou raised her head and looked into his eyes, her dilated pupils reflected a deep-seated concern for his wellbeing.
"Yeah," Ye Chen replied with a swift nod. Now that she mentioned it, Ye Chen was reminded of how close that momentous day was.
"Can't you just, well, not go?" Ye Rou mumbled and lowered her head.
"Come on, Rou. I have to go," Ye Chen a.s.serted determinedly as he burst out in hearty laughter and patted her head before continuing, "Don't you worry about me! I'm going to be just fine."
"Big Brother Ye Chen, if you really "have to" go, then I'm coming with you!" Ye Rou looked up again with yearning eyes. "I'm already at the Mid-Seventh Stage. I won't slow you down at all!"
Ye Chen understood the enthusiasm in her eyes but he was sure that it would be unacceptable to bring Ye Rou to the House of Yun. Since he did not have the heart to refuse her request right there and then, he automatically deflected the decision to the one person he knew that would be able to stop her. "Er, you'll have to… ask my father about this!"
After all, there was no way his father would have allowed her to go.
Ye Rou did not seem to be bothered. In fact, she held on confidently as if she remembered something important from their discussion.
"Big Brother, you're the Chief now, aren't you?" She reminded clearly. "Everything that happens in the clan is ultimately based on your permission, isn't it?"
Ye Chen had forgotten that he recently become the Chief of the Ye clan! It was announced by his father a few days ago, though apparently, the young Chief had not mentally updated himself on his new job since the announcement.
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Ye Chen forced a smile. "Oh. Right. Um, I know I'm the Chief. It's just… I think you should ask my father regarding matters like these."
"Oh." Ye Rou quietened and her expression sank. If she had to seek Uncle Zhantian's permission, she knew better than to try.
It was at that moment when both Ye Chen and Ye Rou had arrived at the large square before the clan's meeting hall.
Every clansman present in the square immediately stopped in mid-action before obediently standing on Ye Chen's sides, greeting the duo with heavy-handed respect as they pa.s.sed.
Ye Chen admitted that he still found the tonal shift in his clansmen's behavior to be uncomfortable and now he was visibly squirming under their excited looks again. He smiled uneasily as he turned to Ye Rou for some form of support only to be greeted by the sight of the girl cheekily grinning behind her hand, obviously enjoying his awkwardness.
The girl was beaming so widely, her lovely dimple began to show like dew resting on a leaf. Ye Chen felt that if he poked it, it might just melt in his finger.
He could understand the difference in his people's tone and manners. It stimulated a brand-new sense of dutiful purpose within him.
Ye Meng, who had been present in the square that day, stopped his training to greet him with a stern yet solemn "Chief."
"Hey now, that's not necessary Ye Meng. A simple 'Big Brother Ye Chen' would have sufficed," Ye Chen said upon hearing him as he turned to the boy.
"No, that won't do. The seniors had made it a point that a proper display of respect is a.s.serted towards the Chief. Our clans' codes emphasized just as much too," Ye Meng replied. His face wore a serious expression, while the last traces of childlike innocence still lingered.
Ye Chen could only admit defeat after hearing the kid's rationale.
To the clan, the Chief was the closest thing they had to a protective deity. He was their guardian and benefactor, one who would ensure their survival in this socially Darwinian environment, so that the clan's bloodline would never perish. To many of the clansmen, the chief was their surrogate for the archetypal father figure; the Chief's age hardly mattered
This was why his father and granduncle readily pa.s.sed the position to him at such an early stage. They had hoped to teach Ye Chen about the responsibilities of being the Chief as early as possible.
Now that Ye Meng joined them, they entered the clan's meeting hall. There, sixty to seventy people were already waiting for him with his father and granduncle sitting right at the back.
It took Ye Chen's astral senses only a split second to instantly gauge everyone's current power level. His father was just one small step away from breaking into the mid-Ninth Stage, while Uncle Ye Zhanlong, who had been stuck at the Mid-Eighth Stage for a long time, was at the peak of the Eighth Stage. His other uncle, Ye Zhanxiong, as well as three other Zhan-cohort seniors, even managed to break through into the Eighth Stage as well.
In other words, the family was now backed by two Ninth Stage and five Eighth Stage masters, who were supported by seventeen Seventh Stage and thirty-one Sixth Stage fighters!
Ye Chen shifted his attention to his two older brothers, Ye Peng and Ye Mu. He was pleased to see that they had progressed to the Mid-Sixth Stage too.
Ever since adopting the Thunder Emperor Technique as their cultivation system, the House of Ye's combative abilities was twice as powerful as its previous strength!
However, what Ye Chen found most surprising was the fact that he could now easily a.s.sess everyone's powers through his astral senses under such a short amount of time. He was quite delighted with the versatility of his astral powers.
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Turning his attention to his seniors, Ye Chen started addressing them formally. "Good day, Father, Granduncle, Uncle Ye Zhanlong..."
"Very well." Ye Zhantian nodded. "Your examiner would be your third uncle, Chen!"
Ye Zhanxiong strode to the middle of the hall while the crowd automatically backed away which put a distance between themselves and the spot where the spar was going to be held.
All eyes were on Ye Chen. They were curious, excited even, of Ye Chen's prowess. He was their Chief after all and would have to formally lead the clan should his father ever truly retire. This test would serve as the perfect window into Ye Chen's real skills and powers; They wanted to see if their future leader had what it takes to fill the shoes the previous Chiefs had left him!
Ye Chen admitted that he could feel pressure stacked on him as everyone in the hall stared at him, their eyes loaded with expectations. At that moment, he could feel the heaviness of the responsibilities on his shoulders.
Ye Zhanxiong emitted a commanding expression like a lone mountain bracing against the onslaught of the sea as he stood tall in the middle of the hall.
Every pugilist who had attained the Eighth Stage would have the purity of their Celestial Chi improved drastically, enough to manifest a Chi Construct armor over their body; Ye Zhanxiong was no different with his body covered in a very thin layer of Chi Construct. As Chi coursed slowly and circulated above his skin, Ye Zhanxiong looked at Ye Chen and said encouragingly, "Alright, Chen. Muster your all and give it a try. Let us see how powerful your Celestial Chi has become."
With that said, his powerful Pressure started cupping over the hall. Unable to stand against the pressure of an Eighth Stage master, the juniors subconsciously took a few steps backward.
Yet, Ye Zhantian, Ye Changxuan and the rest of the elders had their eyes fixated on Ye Chen. They smiled as they saw their boy standing just as bravely and undisturbed by his uncle's Pressure.
"He should be more than equipped to fight a person on the peak of the Sixth Stage now." Ye Changxuan ran his fingers through his beard thoughtfully and smiled.
"Here you are, always harping on his cultivation progress, Big Brother!" Ye Zhanlong immediately took the chance to tease Ye Zhantian. "You should have known that, with his talent and diligence, Chen could only be as great and quick as everyone else in his cohort."
Ye Zhantian said nothing, but his pleased and radiant expression was as loud as any word.
Ye Chen revolved his Celestial Chi and the Pressure his uncle emitted suddenly and abruptly died down. At the same time, his own Celestial Chi slowly flowed to his right palm.
At that moment, everyone was unwittingly taken in by Ye Chen's strange shift of appearance. It was one of harmonic radiance, as if he had become completely one with the surroundings.
Even stranger still, the Celestial Chi coursing within the audience's body was beginning to swirl and sway, as if Ye Chen's Celestial Chi was leading the crowd's Celestial Chi into an uncontrollable movement through means that no one could explain.
"Eh?" Ye Changxuan, the most veteran pugilist in the room, let out a yelp of surprise just as his amused eyes met Ye Zhantian's. Reflecting on each other's pupils were their own expressions of bewilderment.
'How did this mysterious Celestial Chi that Chen was emitting even lead an Eighth and Ninth Stage masters' Celestial Chi?'
They could tell that the Celestial Chi from the young man's body was a kind of its own. Not only that, it was immensely powerful too. Judging from how he revolved his Celestial Chi alone, the two seniors started to believe that the young man's powers had far exceeded the Sixth Stage!
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