At the end of the day, the Shen Family was not anyone’s causal pushover of a clan regarding their influence.
Their influence stretched over the three primary territories of land directly underneath Jiang’an, and was even considered a member of the Hundred Clan Coalition of Great Yong.
To the Shen Family, a small rural region was insignificant, much less a pinprick on a map that was the Bone Spirit Town.
As for the Hundred Clan Coalition of the empire, it was simply the mass alliance of the empire’s greatest family clans that were below the rule of the capital city.
The hundred clans operated in a feudal structure with regards to their interaction with the remainder of the empire’s vast territories, serving as the domestic rulers of each province.
The dragon soared throughout the heavens, followed by the tiger of the mountain.
The empire’s capital city oversaw the general policies to be enacted by the entire empire, and the Hundred Clan Coalition adopted the regulations to be fitting of their specified region to the best of their capabilities.
Depending on the climate, political tension, or demographics of a province, the laws enacted in there could differ from that of Jiang’an to a certain extent.
In the eyes of the commonfolk living in Great Yong, the Emperor was the divine figure of the gods, but the Hundred Clan Coalition were the local ministers and kings.
The Emperor may chase malignant rains away and divert calamities, but it was the Hundred Clan Coalition that ensured that the majority of the citizens were well fed.
The Hundred Clan Coalition consisted of both cultivator clans and secular clans, at a relatively even proportion.
The clans affiliated with the jianghu were tasked with the continuation of the empire’s safety from external opposition, as well as the gathering of exquisite treasures, medicines, and cultivation techniques to maintain the grandeur and prestige of Great Yong.
Many of the members within such clans were endowed practitioners on the lonesome and desolate path of cultivation, and the lack of strength was equivalent to a miserable life in those environments.
The secular clans consisted of the empire’s businessmen, scholars, and military generals.
These clans retained the responsibility of maintaining the immediate functions of Great Yong as an empire that spanned across tens of thousands of kilometers in influence, ready to serve the Emperor in conquering uncharted lands, suppressing a rebellion, or preventing the empire’s culture from suffering the sorrowful fate of extinction.
The clans affiliated with the jianghu were widely respected for their strength by the public of Great Yong, and served as the leaders of the towns and cities in their provinces.
On the other hand, the secular clans abstained from seizing local influence, instead attempting to obtain an ironclad influence over the commonfolk by integrating into their daily lives and blending into the atmosphere without a single blemish.
The Shen Family was a clan that emphasized partaking in the pursuit of cultivation, and was considered one of the minor powerhouses amongst the Hundred Clan Coalition.
With their brief history of two hundred and fifty years, the Shen Family had expanded their influence to include the three primary provinces of the empire – an astounding feat for a clan ignited by a sole man’s momentary flare.
Alas, great strength failed to reap any extravagant benefits, but succeeded in inundating the surroundings with a fearsome tide of foes and rivals.
The Shen Family, the Guo Family, the Gu Shi Clan, the Heavenly Jade Manor, and the Fang Family were the bitter contenders in seizing the primary authority over the Du Zhou Province, each equally matched in strength by the other.
The five clans had risen from the same province, and thus were seeking to establish total domination over the subjects within the region – all the whilst preventing the others from obtaining a breath of relief.
The conflict over the legacy of the Nine Yellow Reincarnations was not a minor one that could be contested over solely by the powerhouses of the Du Zhou Province.
Even the ancient clans that stood at the pinnacle of the Hundred Clan Coalition glared upon the issue of the jianghu’s hope of breaching through the barrier that stood at the peak of the Nascent Soul Realm, much less the two empires whose mouths watered whenever they gazed at Great Yong’s lush and thriving lands, or the Three Great Sects that dictated the regimes of the jianghu itself.
The divination of a young mortal girl in possession of a small seven-tailed fox that could impart a substantial clue towards obtaining the legacy of the Nine Yellow Reincarnations was not restricted to the Shen Family, nor was it a relatively private manor.
Some of the secular clans amongst the Hundred Clan Coalition were privy to the information, and were already contacting their connections to obtain a viable lead.
Having a branch outpost standing directly next to the target of the divination, the Shen Family could not hesitate to become the first to contact the young girl.
If they could gain possession over the fox within An Fei’s grasp, the clan could shake off the chains of a minor powerhouse and soar directly towards the pinnacle.
“Stinky little girl, we meet again!”
A young girl and a pot-bellied, middle-aged man was to reunite before the iron gates that guarded the Shen Family’s Residence.
“Stinky little girl, fate truly shines upon us both, to encounter the other so often in such a short period of time!”
Shen Haoren’s cheeks jostled in laughter as he beamed at the young girl seated across from him, venting her anger onto the plate of meat before her.
The middle-aged man couldn’t help but snicker at the turn of events that had lead to this consequence, his heart full of praises for his Second Elder Sister’s wit.
“What fate shines upon us both, it probably shines on your overstuffed belly!” An Fei’s lips rose into a grim snarl, her scarlet irises flaring with suppressed anger.
“…and don’t call me stinky little girl, you pot-bellied old man!”
The little raven screeched with appreciation towards the towering wrath emanating from the young girl’s body, its wings spreading to its sides to expand its presence and aura onto the newcomer.
At the angered display of owner and pet, Shen Haoren grudgingly restrained his bloated and prideful smile, though he couldn’t help but take a final jab.
“Well then, little girl, you should admit that my Shen Family is quite the powerful one, ah?”
“What powerful?” the young girl snorted with derision as she speared the most delicious piece of spiced pork before the middle-aged man could notice its presence.
“Your Shen Family can’t even stand its ground against its opponents within the same province, how can you call yourself powerful?”
For a brief moment, Shen Haoren found himself unable to retort at the needle that stabbed directly into the weakness of the Shen Family.
His mouth flapped open in hesitation, before his potbelly convinced him to fiercely respond to An Fei’s question.
“Well, you’re not much better off, are you?” the middle-aged man waved his chopsticks in sore pride.
“You’re wanted by the entire Hundred Clan Coalition, the three Great Empires, and the Three Great Sects – I don’t think that you could say such a thing to me, ah!? Besides, didn’t I pay for this meal?”
“Shut up, old potbellied man! I don’t need to hear that from you, when you can’t even complete an errand without relying on your Second Elder Sister!”
“Y-Y-you…” Shen Haoren glared with speechless rage.
“I…I…I-I, I at least have a wife, a handsome son, and a charming little daughter! How about that, do you have a delicate wife, a son that is in the later stages of the Body Tempering Realm at the tender age of fifteen, and a charming little daughter who is about to start cultivating at thirteen years old!?”
The young girl blinked in bemusement as she tilted her head in confusion, her chopsticks stealing another delicacy from Shen Haoren’s blindspots.
Fondling a gingko nut before tossing it towards the little raven’s direction as she directed a glance towards the fuming middle-aged man.
“I’m not even fifteen years old, so why would I even be married to another person? Are you that perverted to want even a child to be married?”
“You stinky little lass, this Father is loyal to his wife and his principles, don’t slander me like that!”
Within the Eight Immortals Pavilion, a middle-aged man of the Shen Family of the Hundred Clan Coalition and a young girl of the Wei Family of Jiang’an bickered over lunch, with a little raven and a small fox serving as the dedicated spectators.
Granted, nobody was aware of the small fox’s presence except for An Fei… and a little raven.