"Your master is a truly remarkable man. I wonder if I'll have the fortune of meeting him someday. With a sage so much more my senior, even the mere passing of acquaintances would yield me a lifetime of benefit." Emperor Peafowl yearned for a conversation with and dispensation of wisdom from such a legendary figure. As always, he thought that the aforementioned master had taught and given all that Jiang Chen had and knew. What other explanation was there?
Could Regal Pill Palace be capable of such a thing? It was impossible for a fourth-ranked sect to have educated a student as excellent as Jiang Chen. Therefore, the emperor firmly believed the more reasonable alternative. The mysterious hermit who had taught Jiang Chen all he knew was, in actuality, one of the strongest cultivators in this world. As for how strong exactly, that wasn't something the emperor could begin to guess at. Jiang Chen had performed many miracles, all of them earth-shaking. If Emperor Peafowl were two thousand years younger, he might have requested to become Jiang Chen's disciple as well. Pill King Lu Feng had already set that precedent, had he not?
"Your Majesty, I still have more Pinecrane Pills here…"
Emperor Peafowl smiled placidly, waving a hand. "I don't need it. I have at least three thousand more years of life left in me. If I wanted more time, I would have made a different choice all those years ago by transcending the laws of the world and entering the empyrean realm."
When one broke through to empyrean realm, their lifespan was drastically extended once more. Eternal life was a stretch, but cultivators at this level tended to survive for a great many more years. In the memories of his previous life, the number of empyrean realm cultivators who had died due to old age was essentially zero. The vast majority perished during their harrowing journeys of self-improvement, or as a result of battles and feuds. Unpredictable circumstances were also a factor of death. As for the ones that had become decrepit and eventually passed away, they accounted for barely a fifth.
"Why not keep one, Your Majesty? You don't want it, but it may be useful to one of your good friends sometime. Why not keep it around as a possible favor?" There was no reason for Jiang Chen to be miserly about it. After the Coiling Dragon clan lord had taken one, there were eight pills left. If he gave another to Emperor Peafowl, he would still have seven left.
Jiang Chen's reasoning was sound; Emperor Peafowl had no reason to refuse. He accepted the bottle with the Pinecrane Pill in it. Scanning it with his consciousness, he was slightly taken aback. "The spirit energy coming from this pill is exceptionally concentrated. As expected of a sky rank pill. Can great emperor cultivators really use this as well?"
"Absolutely." The young lord was completely sure. "The effects are a little diminished, but it should be otherwise fine. Maybe a fifth less?"
"Just a fifth? So, if an emperor realm cultivator gets a thousand years from it, then a great emperor would get eight hundred?"
"Something like that, yes." Jiang Chen nodded.
"A veritable miracle of creation." Emperor Peafowl sighed with marvel. "It's hard to imagine that such a small pill can dictate the flow of time itself, delaying death with furthered life. Maybe my fixation on martial dao over pill dao was a biased mistake. I've underestimated how powerful pill dao can be."
Jiang Chen smiled without commenting. His own opinion had always been the same. Though martial dao was the foremost amongst all the daos of the heavenly planes, one could comprehend the truths of existence through any of them when properly applied. Pill dao had its place in the world. Besides, pills that could reverse the sands of time were not altogether too remarkable. It was only a thousand years or so of additional life, after all.
In his previous life, his father the Celestial Emperor had challenged the very laws of life and death for his son. For the sake of a mortal son, the Celestial Emperor had shattered the fortunes of the heavenly planes in an attempt to defy natural order. That was how the Sun Moon Pill had been refined, a pill that had allowed someone as frail as Jiang Chen to live more than a million years. Both the Pinecrane Pill and the Longevity Pill were insignificant at best in the face of the Sun Moon Pill's wonder. They were on entirely different planes of existence. Utterly incomparable.
The Longevity Pill and the Pinecrane Pill were much more transient in their preservation, and only affected powerful martial cultivators. In truth, neither the Longevity Pill nor the Pinecrane Pill could actually undo the effects of time. They merely kindled the cultivators' deepest sources of latent lifeforce, with the medicine's effects acting as a catalyst for transforming the body. This caused a renewal in one's metabolic functions, much like the act of reversing the flow of time. In actuality, the two lesser pills merely induced the cultivator's own body to rejuvenation.
"Since the Coiling Dragon clan lord has gained another thousand years of life and weathered his troubles, there is no question that he will be able to break through to great emperor. It seems that Veluriyam Capital's eighth emperor is going to appear early because of you, eh?" Emperor Peafowl mused.
"The Coiling Dragon Clan is sufficient in its strength. I have only offered the tiniest bit of assistance in comparison."
"Your assistance is hardly tiny nor insignificant. There is no need for excessive humility. Your pill has changed the fortunes of a great clan, and perhaps with it, the entire Capital. With the extra thousand years in his grasp, the Coiling Dragon clan lord has virtually no possibility of failure. Maybe it will prove to be a good investment for you personally, as well." The emperor smiled serenely. "If the Coiling Dragon Clan becomes the eighth imperial faction of Veluriyam Capital, its clan lord will surely support you without reservation."
As one of the staunchest supporters of Emperor Peafowl, the clan would have supported Jiang Chen with or without ascension. The young lord's Pinecrane Pill secured their backing by saving the clan's leader, and by proxy, the entire clan. Now, there was absolutely no reason for them to turn elsewhere.
"The Coiling Dragon Clan will become the eighth imperial faction sooner or later." Jiang Chen smiled. "Compared to this matter, the complications between the existing emperors' factions give me far larger headaches. What do you think about the seven emperors' current relations, Your Majesty?"
"The seven emperors support each other, but there is an internal competitiveness as well. Take Sacred Peafowl Mountain, for example. If a day comes in which I am no longer around but you haven't yet grown, perhaps Sacred Peafowl Mountain will see great trouble then. Challenges of dissatisfaction will likely abound. There exists a possibility of you being exiled, or worse yet, sent to the guillotines."
"Don't scare me like that, Your Majesty." Jiang Chen smiled wryly. "I'm the person you picked, aren't I? Hearing things like that just makes me lose even more motivation to be young lord."
"I am not scaring you, young man. I am stating the harshness of reality. Because of my presence here in Veluriyam, we have had peace for the past several thousand years. And yet, do you know how many attempted assassinations I've faced over the years? How many conspiracies I've foiled? I daresay you couldn't begin to imagine it."
"Are things really that bad?" Jiang Chen didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"Obviously. All men have a love for their own ambitions. Authority over one of the most powerful factions in the Upper Eight Regions is especially desirous—a true luxury. In fact, I originally sought my throne because I wanted to fully enjoy life from this privileged position." Emperor Peafowl made no attempt to hide his attitude. "However, as time went on and a few centuries passed, I realized more and more that the glamor of authority came with a weighty responsibility. When the excitement from the former is spent, the latter will be the primary driving force that carries you onwards. I have never relented from avoiding making Emperor Shura my successor, not because I am worried about my own authority passing into the hands of another or about Sacred Peafowl Mountain losing its place of honor amongst the factions… but because I know my peer all too well. Emperor Shura has sufficient ambition, but he lacks commensurate responsibility. He could very likely give his all for the sake of power and profit, but he would not necessarily risk his life for our city's people."
Jiang Chen remained silent. Emperor Shura's ambition was plain for all to see. However, the position of young lord had been previously absent because of young lord Fan's sudden demise. Thus, nobody thought that Emperor Shura's sentiments were inappropriate at the time.
"Won't Sacred Peafowl Mountain and Emperor Shura's faction clash sooner or later then, Your Majesty?" Jiang Chen was curious what Emperor Peafowl had to say on the subject.
Emperor Peafowl did not speak for quite a while. His eyes exuded a quiet vulnerability. "Exactly. You've touched upon the greatest of my worries."
The wise emperor had every reason to be concerned. He was clearly unwilling to pass his throne and his control over Veluriyam Capital to Emperor Shura. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for him to make Jiang Chen young lord. Without the surety of his succession, a man with Emperor Shura's ambitions was unlikely to sit still. There was the tangible possibility that the ensuing conflict would stir the city up into chaos. Emperor Peafowl was confident that Emperor Shura would not act up as long as he was around.
The problem was that Emperor Peafowl would have to leave, one day. The moment he did, Sacred Peafowl Mountain and Emperor Shura's faction would have cause to cross blades. Anyone sane enough could see that regardless of who won, it would be a pyrrhic victory for them. The biggest loser in either case was Veluriyam Capital. If the time for it coincided with the demonic invasion, Veluriyam Capital was doomed for absolute anarchy.
"It is better for our factions not to fight." Emperor Peafowl took a long pause before finally continuing, "Over the past few years, Emperor Shura has gathered a fair bit of momentum himself. I wasn't opposed to it, but I wanted him to show me his boldness and magnanimity. If he lacks the courage to bare his fangs in front of me, how can I rely on him to safeguard the Capital?
"So, the conflict may not be so set in stone after all. If your charisma can convince the other emperors to support you wholeheartedly, then no bloodshed will be had between Sacred Peafowl Mountain and Emperor Shura's men." Such was Emperor Peafowl's advice to Jiang Chen. Gather the other emperors to his side and Emperor Shura would succumb under the pressure.