The four monarchs had scarcely left before two emperors came to the young lord's residence. It was Emperor Coiling Dragon and Void. The situation in Veluriyam had made these two slightly restless as well.
"Miss Huang'er, please excuse our uninvited arrivals. Didn't young lord Zhen return home recently? Has he gone into seclusion or departed once more?" As someone who knew Jiang Chen quite well, Emperor Coiling Dragon found no need to hold his tongue.
Huang'er smiled slightly. "Your Majesties, please come with me."
Exchanging a look, the two emperors followed the girl inside. They came to a quiet place in a few moments.
"Your Majesties, how have you been?" Emerging from the shadows, Jiang Chen smiled with genuine affection.
"There you are, kiddo! I didn't expect you to be home." Emperor Coiling Dragon was stunned for only a second before he broke into a smile as well.
It was the same for Emperor Void, though his typically stoic expression showed only muted joy.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't been back long at all. I don't know very much about the happenings in the city recently, so it's not a good time for me to walk about in public." Jiang Chen was entirely truthful.
"Hmm, quite so. It is good for you to be cautious." Emperor Coiling Dragon looked meaningfully about the young lord's residence. "If my eyes don't fail me, you've laid a very potent defensive formation around this place, correct?"
Jiang Chen half-smiled in tacit agreement. "You talked to me the last time I came back. I was worried, so I set up this formation as a precaution."
"How well does it perform?" asked the emperor.
"Once it's fully activated, even two or three great emperors working in conjunction would have some difficulty breaking through."
"Oh?" Emperor Coiling Dragon's eyes lit up. "Is the formation that sturdy?"
Jiang Chen nodded. "As long as the flow of energy to the formation is uninterrupted, there should be little problems with the barrier. It can withstand the attacks of multiple great emperors working together."
Emperor Void's eyes glittered as well. "To think that there was a formation as powerful as this… Sacred Peafowl Mountain's caches of knowledge are truly deep."
Jiang Chen smiled faintly, but didn't explain further. The formation wasn't Sacred Peafowl Mountain's, but rather one of the ten formations of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect. In actuality, the Nine Sparks Petalstorm Formation was only the formation's first form. Its more advanced version was the Hundred Sparks Petalstorm Formation, a true empyrean rank formation that was several dozen times stronger than the Nine Sparks version.
The Nine Sparks Petalstorm Formation had already cost Jiang Chen quite a pretty stone. There was no question that the Hundred Sparks one would be exponentially more expensive. Jiang Chen didn't have nearly enough money to set up something of that scale.
Emperor Coiling Dragon slapped his thigh. "No wonder the young lord's residence has remained so impassive for so long. You have this ridiculously strong trump card up your sleeve! Alright, alright. Daoist Void, it seems that we're standing here worrying about nothing, hahaha. Perhaps our young lord Zhen of Sacred Peafowl Mountain already has a plan fully fleshed out."
A glint of fire flashed across Emperor Void's own eyes. He stared at Jiang Chen, his voice low. "Young lord Zhen, Emperor Shura found us a few days ago to demand that we send out the summons so that a discussion on the future of Veluriyam Capital can be held. Daoist Coiling Dragon and I vehemently opposed it, but… having received the support of the four other emperors, Emperor Shura was able to send it off without obstacle. The Vassal Meeting will take place in another half-month."
The tradition of the Vassal Meeting had always been present here in the city. When Emperor Peafowl had been around, he rarely ordered one to be held without grave occasion. Sometimes, one wouldn't be held in over several centuries.
After all, Veluriyam Capital held monstrously expansive territories, containing a daunting plethora of factions and sides. There were thirteen great nations alone, with just one of them equalling the size of the entire sixteen kingdom alliance. Besides these thirteen nations were eight hundred cities of varying sizes, each with their own dedicated regions. All in all, the capital had holdings easily more than ten times that of the Myriad Domain. It was a humongous undertaking to summon everyone.
Additionally, the vassal medallions issued by the capital were different from the ones distributed to the dukes of the Eastern Kingdom. Anyone who received one here was a veritable giant in their local sphere, certainly noteworthy even if they came to the capital itself.
The kings of the thirteen nations naturally possessed the most important versions. The lords of the eight hundred cities were similarly eligible for the medallions, being handed ones of different ranks according to their strength.
Still, even the lowliest of medallions earned one remarkable honor and prestige. When the ruler of Veluriyam Capital sent out a summons, they all had the privilege and mandate to come together to discuss the affairs of the state. This was a duty that nobody could shirk.
Anyone who didn't come at the call of the medallions was branded as a traitor, and subject to punishment from the city's great emperors or even their peers.
Emperor Peafowl wasn't a man that enjoyed belaboring his people. During his rule, he never sent out the summons unless there was something vitally important. A meeting was never convened otherwise. Because the Vassal Meeting was so rarely held, it became a festive event whenever it did occur. There was greater jubilation than even the Veluriyam Pagoda gathering.
"I've heard about the Vassal Meeting already," mused Jiang Chen. "I'm just curious what gives Emperor Shura the confidence to convene it in the first place? Why is he so sure that His Majesty Peafowl won't come back for it?"
This was a mystifying fact for Jiang Chen and the two emperors alike.
"There are growing rumors in Veluriyam Capital that His Majesty was ganged up on by a group of demon experts and died in the aftermath." Emperor Coiling Dragon sounded frustrated. "Emperor Void and I have been trying to suppress these rumors in secret, but the person who is spreading them clearly has a more sinister purpose in mind. He has used a variety of channels to spread them everywhere across the city and its lands. The people are thoroughly afraid… creating a perfect opportunity to convene the Vassal Meeting."
"Emperor Shura is no longer content to hide his activities." Emperor Void was none too pleased, either.
Emperor Coiling Dragon looked fiercely at the young lord. "Young lord Zhen," encouraged the emperor, "we cannot investigate the safety of Emperor Peafowl at the moment. But Emperor Shura cannot be allowed to rule over Veluriyam Capital. I say this not because we are jealous, but rather because both Daoist Void and I know that once the city is in his hands, it will be unable to maintain its present glory. In fact, it is quite likely that it will head down a slippery slope of decline."
The emperors' judgments were both affected by Emperor Peafowl's impression of their ambitious peer.
Emperor Peafowl had considered simply allowing Emperor Shura to succeed him, but abandoned that idea in the end. At the end of the day, Emperor Shura was just not up to the task.
Jiang Chen nodded slightly. "Emperor Peafowl has mentioned that to me as well. Shura wants to call for the Vassal Meeting solely because he's jumping at the chance to take the city."
"We must foil his plans. Otherwise, there'll be no room for us to exist here," Emperor Coiling Dragon declared rather sternly.
"You are the current heir of Sacred Peafowl Mountain, young lord Zhen. Since Emperor Peafowl isn't around, you must take up his mantle and decide. I've come to an agreement with Daoist Coiling Dragon already that we'll stand by Sacred Peafowl Mountain no matter what. However, this is what we don't know: how much resolution do you have? Do you have the courage and assurance to see the struggle with Emperor Shura to the end?" Emperor Void was keenly interested in the young man's answers.
If Jiang Chen himself had no spirit, then no amount of support from the Emperor Void and Coiling Dragon meant anything.
Jiang Chen calmly returned their gaze. "I have an agreement with His Majesty. No matter what, Veluriyam Capital must not fall into another's hands. So don't worry. As long as I am still here, Emperor Shura will not have the city."
The emperors traded a look, mutual relief evident in their eyes.
"Good. Now that we've heard those words from you, we'll win this fight even if we have to lay down our lives."
"Daoist Coiling Dragon is right. Sacred Peafowl Mountain has ruled Veluriyam Capital for the past three thousand years. We don't know whether Emperor Peafowl has fallen yet, but even assuming the worst, Sacred Peafowl Mountain won't fall into obscurity with you around."
Both emperors trusted Jiang Chen implicitly. They saw undeniable talent and ability in the youth. This insight was the most important reason for their continued loyalty. Their typically congenial relationship with the faction was a strong contributing factor, but Jiang Chen's future abilities was more crucial.
"Young lord Zhen, our forces are still somewhat weak with only two emperors' support. If you can win the allegiance of Emperor Petalpluck, Emperor Shura will almost certainly be shut out of the picture."
"Emperor Petalpluck?" Jiang Chen frowned, remembering the low-key emperor who maintained neutrality.
That emperor's heritage was Buddhist in nature, requiring peace, serenity, and detachment from the world. This made Jiang Chen all the more perplexed. If Emperor Petalpluck was so detached, why would he decide to cast his vote for Emperor Shura? How had Emperor Shura convinced this relatively indifferent emperor?
Among the seven emperors remaining in the city, all five besides Coiling Dragon and Void had shown support for the convention of the Vassal Meeting. That meant that the supposedly aloof Emperor Petalpluck had taken a side in the end.
"Young lord Zhen, we've visited Emperor Petalpluck in private as well. He says that his choice was based on concern for the city's future prospects. If you can persuade him with a show of your talent and ability, I think it's quite possible that he'd be amenable to switching sides instead." Emperor Void evaluated in a low voice.