Jiang Chen didn't have the requisite flying swords for the Heavenly Chalice Sword Formation. However, the other formation that he'd received from the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect was available for refinement. The Great Dream of Spring and Autumn Formation was a deadly one.
Having braved the formation twice, Jiang Chen had firsthand experience of its power. Plus, Venerated Skysoarer hadn't given him just the formation's diagrams, but a set of flags made from Divine Trees of Dreams with which to create the foundation. Wood from that type of tree was one of the best materials for the Great Dream of Spring and Autumn Formation.
Three more days passed before Jiang Chen finally exited his closed door cultivation. His first order of business after doing so was to summon the four monarchs.
The quartet had remained at Sacred Peafowl Mountain ever since their last visit. The situation in Veluriyam Capital put them at considerable unease. Though they'd previously not entirely been satisfied with the young lord, they were acutely excited at his new summons.
"You're finally, finally back, young lord!" Cloudsoar Monarch was moved by the mere sight of the youth.
"Come, everyone. Let's sit down before we talk," waved Jiang Chen. His laid-back demeanor was infectious, cooling down the four's emotions somewhat. "I know the gist of what's happened in Veluriyam Capital."
Jiang Chen was very upfront. "Emperor Shura and his minions are showing their true colors. They have declared war on Sacred Peafowl Mountain. The anxiety on your faces is likely because of this."
Cloudsoar Monarch inclined his head. "So you knew already, young lord. We…"
"Young lord, if you've summoned us when you know already, you must already have a plan, correct?" Plumscore Monarch cut him off.
"It'd be a pretty incredible claim if I say I have a perfect plan. It'd also be an irresponsible and unrealistic statement. But, I can clearly tell you that as long as we stay calm, no faction will be able to wrest control from us." Jiang Chen's eyes were placid as he looked towards the four monarchs. "I summoned the four of you to judge the strength of your resolve and see how determined you are to defend Sacred Peafowl Mountain's glory."
There was assessment in his gaze as he brushed it across the monarchs' faces. Jiang Chen wasn't afraid of Emperor Shura, nor was he worried he would lose control of the situation in the capital. However, one had to put one's house in order before tending to external affairs. He had to at least know whether the four monarchs would back him fully. The alternative was failure at a key moment.
Plumscore Monarch harrumphed. "We were all cultivated personally by Emperor Peafowl. Our lives were dedicated to Sacred Peafowl Mountain a long time ago. What can we be scared of? We will stop at nothing to defend this place!"
"That's right, young lord. There is no need to probe us. Heaven and earth can bear witness to our loyalty to Sacred Peafowl Mountain." Cloudsoar Monarch chimed in as well.
Jiang Chen nodded slightly. "I'm not concerned about your loyalty," mused the youth. "I simply wanted to ask whether that loyalty extends to me. This is extremely important. If all of you decide to act against me, I cannot give you any guarantee whether Sacred Peafowl Mountain will survive this incident."
There was no time to beat around the bush and Jiang Chen cut straight to the chase. The question was the heart of the matter. The four monarchs looked at each other, uncertainty reflected in their eyes. To tell the truth, none of them suspected each other's loyalties to Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
But how loyal were they to its current young lord? They had to probe their own hearts for this answer. It wasn't that they were opposed to young lord Zhen. Quite the opposite, they all felt quite supportive. However, deep down, their concern of whether he could take command of these turbulent circumstances was very real. No matter Jiang Chen's excellence prior to this point, his youth could not be denied.
To the four monarchs, he was not yet mature enough to lead Sacred Peafowl Mountain's counterattack against the likes of Emperor Shura. But the young man's eyes keenly pursued their own. The four monarchs all felt the pressure on them.
"Please, my friends. Speak your minds," Jiang Chen said coolly.
Suddenly, Cloudsoar Monarch lost his evasiveness. His eyes gained a new clarity. "Young lord Zhen!" he shouted, "Emperor Peafowl was the one who made you young lord. I still remember him talking to me about the decision. Since you are the young lord, we will absolutely support you with all of our strengths. As long as you do not retreat, we'll be behind you every step of the way."
"Quite so, those words exactly!" Chronobalance Monarch clamored. "We'll be behind you every step of the way."
Wildfox Monarch chuckled. "We only have one hope in this eleventh hour, and that is that you don't let us down. Don't be frightened into fleeing the scene and leaving a mess behind."
Plumscore Monarch was uncharacteristically silent, but her eyes said everything.
Jiang Chen smiled serenely. "Do I look like a coward to you?
"If I'm brave enough to venture the depths of Pillfire City, what reason do I have to retreat in home territory?"
Jiang Chen's acts in Pillfire City and the Tilted Moon Region had spread far and wide. The Great Yu Skysword Sect's intentional embellishment of the events had informed the entirety of the Upper Eight Regions that young master Shao Yuan and Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord Zhen were the same.
The news brought honor to the four monarchs' faces. After all, their young lord's increasing fame meant the same for them as well. And as young lord Zhen's reputation grew, so did Sacred Peafowl Mountain's. A strong reputation helped to solidify the faction's control over Veluriyam Capital.
They had been quite pleased until the abrupt change in the city's circumstances, and specifically the rumors about Emperor Peafowl's downfall. The appearance of this piece of hearsay took Veluriyam Capital for a sharp nosedive.
Gossip was a potent tool. It alone was sufficient to rewrite the structure of the capital. Within the storm, Emperor Shura's faction began to rear its ugly head, taking general initiative and ownership bit by bit into their hands.
As for Sacred Peafowl Mountain, Emperor Peafowl's disappearance and young lord Zhen's inaction amplified suspicions about it from the outside. Because the problem was allowed to fester, the four monarchs gradually became discontent with Jiang Chen. Under these circumstances, they thought that Jiang Chen had the duty to show himself as Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord.
Unfortunately, the young man in question had been in the Great Scarlet Mid Region's Cloudshatter Mountain at the time. Immediately after that, he had been sucked into the Veluriyam Pagoda. He had known nothing about what was going on. Thank heavens that he had been able to show up at the last minute. Whether the four monarchs actually believed Jiang Chen, they had no choice but to stand staunchly behind him.
If even they doubted young lord Zhen, how could Sacred Peafowl Mountain instill confidence in the capital's other factions? How would it continue to hold the reins?
"Young lord, things have been quite awful lately. We've been worried sick about your apparent absence. In light of that, there may have been a few misunderstandings. Please don't dwell on that," explained Cloudsoar.
"Not at all. I had some serious matters to attend to recently, and I didn't expect this sudden storm to descend. But I suppose that's good in a way. Emperor Shura has restrained himself for an astoundingly long time, and this ticking liability is finally about to blow up. Better now than later, hmm?"
"Better?" Plumscore sounded displeased. "If you underestimate Emperor Shura, young lord, then I can already predict your abject failure in the Vassal Meeting soon after… perhaps even your widespread infamy!"
Plumscore Monarch was an ill-tempered woman. Aside from Emperor Peafowl, she showed decorum to no one. Jiang Chen was too youthful to have fully won over this monarch, despite his repeated shows of mastery.
"Young lord, Plumscore is well known for her directness and attitude. Please be generous towards her. However, she's not wrong. Emperor Shura is an ambitious villain and cannot be underestimated," urged Cloudsoar.
"It's not just Emperor Shura you have to worry about. Emperor Vastsea and Skysplitter have allied themselves with Emperor Shura. I hear that even the normally neutral Emperor Petalpluck and Mountaincrush have been convinced. There is a momentum in Veluriyam that gives off the feeling that Emperor Shura is going to inherit the throne."
"Ah, if only Emperor Peafowl were here. Emperor Shura wouldn't have dared to stir anything up in the first place!"
Jiang Chen understood the four monarchs' dismay, but he didn't accept it a bit. His face darkened. "Friends, I hear zero confidence in your collective tones. Is your show of support just a facade? Do you not have the courage in your heart of hearts to stand against Emperor Shura?"
His own tone was harsh and candid and the young lord's rebuke rang loud and clear. The four monarchs were momentarily lost for words.
"Excuse us, young lord. We're simply dejected because of His Majesty Peafowl's absolute silence," Cloudsoar Monarch sweated.
"Emperor Peafowl is busy with greater things right now. This city and region is no longer his center of attention. Besides, if Emperor Shura really had the ability to rule Veluriyam Capital, Emperor Peafowl would have been more than happy to pass it to him. What would be the point of all this power-hungry scheming?" Snickering, Jiang Chen continued. "Why has Emperor Shura never received Emperor Peafowl's approval? There's only one reason, because he does not qualify!
"What does that mean? He has neither the strength nor the charisma, nor any other characteristic required of a great ruler. That's why he's destined, this time as every time, to just waste his time!"
Though the four monarchs didn't know where Jiang Chen's confidence had come from, his speech reassured them.
"Young lord Zhen, did Emperor Peafowl give you a plan when he left?"
"That's right, perhaps Emperor Peafowl predicted Emperor Shura's betrayal?"
"Yes, everything should be easy with a plan from His Majesty. No matter how much Emperor Shura prances around, we will prevail in the end."
However, Jiang Chen's only response was to shake his head. "His Majesty didn't give me a plan. What he did give me was a line of thought."
This wasn't a flat-out lie.