Emperor Peafowl had indeed given Jiang Chen a line of thought and even predicted Emperor Shura's eventual breaking with Sacred Peafowl Mountain. Not wishing for this day to actually come, he had advised Jiang Chen to garner the support of the other great emperors. The young man had worked to this end by visiting them rather frequently, but his shallow foundations and preoccupation with rescuing both his father and Wei Xing'er had put a temporary damper on that goal.
He hadn't expected the situation in Veluriyam Capital to deteriorate so rapidly, and so soon. The suddenness of the drastic change left Jiang Chen feeling slightly unprepared.
"Friends, His Majesty entrusted a grave responsibility to me. Success or failure, it is my duty to see this through. Don't be too worried. Sacred Peafowl Mountain has ruled Veluriyam Capital for three thousand years, and its fortunes will not disappear overnight. Those who aren't fated to rule will be left with nothing, despite all their scheming." Jiang Chen's words were uniquely infectious, giving the four monarchs some peace of mind.
"You all are Sacred Peafowl Mountain's fundamental pillars. Whether it will hold together through this trouble is up to you. Though I am the young lord, I am also relatively inexperienced. Only through your unwavering loyalty can Sacred Peafowl Mountain remain a fortress of iron. Otherwise, I will be able to accomplish nothing without your comprehensive support."
Plumscore spoke up. "His Majesty was born with wisdom. Everyone that he had an eye on has proven themselves in time. There must've been a reason that he made you young lord, and so my words are just as before. As long as you have the responsibility and the bearing for it, I will be behind you every step of the way. Let the heavens decide the rest."
"My thoughts exactly," agreed Chronobalance.
The eagerness in Cloudsoar Monarch's eyes was palpable. "Young lord, His Majesty has spoken to me of many things about you in the past. I firmly believe that you will be able to lead Sacred Peafowl Mountain to prosperity. His Majesty has even prophesied that you will be able to bring this city to greater peaks of fortune than he did, all those years ago."
Wildfox Monarch blinked, glancing towards his fellow. "Did His Majesty really say such a thing?"
Everyone knew that Cloudsoar was the emperor's closest confidante. That was why he was the steward of Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
"I hadn't mentioned it before," sighed Cloudsoar, "because of my own uncertainties about the matter. But the Vassal Meeting is one of the best proving grounds for verifying whether His Majesty had spoken truly."
Though the other three monarchs all displayed varying degrees of shock, they nodded at Cloudsoar's follow-up statement.
"If that is His Majesty's prediction, then it gives us all the more confidence."
"Quite. Under these circumstances, we must support young lord Zhen with all of our strength. We will fight Shura's faction to the bitter end!"
Only after renewed declarations of fealty did the monarchs depart. However, Plumscore Monarch returned halfway.
Jiang Chen was surprised to see her do so. "Plumscore Monarch, do you have something else to talk about alone?"
"Young lord, do you remember your visit to Plumscore Retreat?" The monarch's expression was as frigid as ever. It was one of her unique characteristics.
Of course Jiang Chen remembered his trip. He'd visited after the Ranking of Young Lords, before his ordeals in the Veluriyam Pagoda.
"Yes, I do." A slight smile hung on his face.
"The things I said to you back then still apply now. I've seen your accomplishments here in the capital, but don't think they can be counted as particularly magnificent feats. Certainly not enough to elevate you to a heroic status. But if you can pass this trial ahead of you, if you can save the day despite the odds against us… then I shall defer to you without fail for the rest of my life."
Plumscore Monarch had indeed talked to Jiang Chen about this a few years ago. She naturally appreciated his acts in Veluriyam Capital, but was of the opinion that only in a time of dire crisis could one's ability and nature truly be discerned. "Young lord, whether you will be able to shoulder responsibility in times of hardship-this, and only this, will decide your future level of achievement."
Jiang Chen broke out into laughter, then nodded. "I remember your words still. The Vassal Meeting seems rather more interesting now."
There was no lack of challenges in the world of martial dao. For the present young lord of Veluriyam, the Vassal Meeting was one such experience. Since his arrival in this new world, he had encountered many challenges big and small. In terms of danger, his recent fight against Demon Emperor Bloodmalva had been fraught with it, though victory for that was purely decided with martial dao.
In terms of overall difficulty, the amount in this challenge was unprecedented for him. A first.
Martial dao was not the only deciding factor here. It was even more so wit and intellect, and personal charisma on top of that. Perhaps it could be classified as a clash of fortunes. Would Emperor Shura's faction seize the day? Or would Emperor Peafowl's forces hold fast? That was the answer lying behind the curtain of the Vassal Meeting.
Plumscore Monarch scrutinized Jiang Chen carefully before nodding once more. "Do you remember the girl you met when you came to my retreat, young lord?" It was a sudden change of subject.
"Nian'er?" The adorable little girl's figure popped into Jiang Chen's head. She had been as delicate and charming as porcelain. Thinking of her warmed his heart. Because of his strong impression, her name rolled off his tongue in an instant.
Jiang Chen's emotion elicited a rare tinge of warmth on Plumscore Monarch's face as well. "Yes, Nian'er. She's been asking for you for quite a while. There are sometimes strange and invisible ties that form between the unlikeliest of people. My Plumscore Retreat has housed a plethora of people, and Nian'er's seen no shortage of outsiders, but you're the only one that she keeps on her mind. She's always talking about your good points, young lord."
Images of the kind, innocent little girl filled his thoughts. Her expressive eyes, her snow-white outfit…
Jiang Chen swelled up with affection.
"Nian'er has heard of your name, young lord Zhen. She knows your exploits here in Veluriyam. You're her hero and one of the greatest of this city, in fact."
Jiang Chen laughed in spite himself. He knew he had a lot of fans in the city, but he hadn't expected the girl to be one of them. It had been so long since the time they'd met, and she wasn't even ten, yet…
His heart felt a bit peculiar.
"Is Nian'er still at your Plumscore Retreat?" He recalled that the girl was the daughter of Emperor Peafowl's foster daughter, Miss Dan'er.
"Emperor Peafowl asked me to instruct her. Alas, my unexceptional skills are wasting her talents somewhat." Plumscore Monarch paused, squinting at Jiang Chen again meaningfully. "Young lord, I simply wanted to tell you that Nian'er sees you as her hero. I hope that you don't let her down during this Vassal Meeting.
"Plus, you have supporters in great numbers here in Veluriyam Capital. The hearts of the people are a useful resource. Since this is such an important time, maybe you should take a few walks. The kings and lords who are participating in the Vassal Meeting should be arriving soon, and you would do well to win at least some of them over.
"And now, I must take my leave," said the monarch with a cupped fist salute. She drifted off without further ceremony.
Jiang Chen didn't know what to feel as he watched Plumscore Monarch's figure disappear in the distance. He hadn't expected the typically frosty Plumscore Monarch to talk to him alone like she had just now. For someone as distant as her, the comments had been nothing short of heartfelt. That was an extraordinarily rare occurrence for her.
The hearts of the people are a resource? Admittedly, the monarch had a very good point. The vassals from Veluriyam's territories were almost upon them. If he remained within the young lord residence all this time, they would likely have a poor opinion of him. Either they would think he was a coward that shied away from the grand occasion, or that he was a haughty youth who thought he was above the rest of them.
A proper leader must garner the love of his followers. The young man found nothing wrong about this axiom.
Why had his father in the previous life been able to sit so securely on his throne as a Divine Emperor? His father hadn't been simply competent. He had also maintained a strong grasp over the hearts of his subjects. They were bought, quashed, appeased, and intimidated in various ways.
Grace and authority had played equal part in maintaining his rule. Both the light rain of generosity and the thunderous storm of punishment were necessary. In this way, the rebellious were daunted and the loyal, rewarded.
"Brother Chen, Plumscore Monarch's advice is very reasonable," said Huang'er suddenly, who had been silent up until now.
"Our minds are one, Huang'er. I was thinking about it as well." Jiang Chen laughed. "I hadn't paid much attention to such details in the past, but our viewpoint is different now. They must be given serious consideration."
Because Jiang Chen had not been Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord in the past, he had only passively bought the hearts of others. Historically, his actions had only done so as an added benefit. However, he was now a holder of power. As a young lord, he had to do things that he previously hadn't cared for.
"You already have a starting point for it, Brother Chen. Veluriyam Capital's peoples are disturbed in large part due to the circulating rumors. If you can step forward, a large portion of them will be rendered ineffective." Though Huang'er had a serene nature, she saw problems from a vantage point that was often higher than most others. She had a clear view of the majority of affairs.