If news about the Pinecrane Pill got out, all eyes would be on him. Jiang Chen had naturally already prepared for this consequence. The Pinecrane Pill was also a piece of bait. He wanted to see how many large fish he could catch with.
How many factions with ulterior motives were hiding in Veluriyam Capital?
In fact, though revealing the pill had been somewhat involuntary, doing so was also quite clever. It was possible that cracks might develop in Emperor Shura's alliance with his external help if they squabbled over it. It wasn't that part that was clever, however.
Of the eight titled emperors currently residing within Veluriyam Capital, Emperor Dragon Coil and Void naturally supported Sacred Peafowl Mountain. The two neutral parties, Emperor Petalpluck and Mountaincrush, were shocked by the rumors about the Pinecrane Pill. They both attempted to verify its veracity. Having been convinced of it, their hearts were greatly disturbed by the new discovery.
"Young lord Zhen… young lord Zhen…" The usually forthright Emperor Mountaincrush was heavily conflicted. "I know what's right and wrong, but Emperor Shura went too far this time. If I didn't have my own difficulties, there's no way I would have agreed to his convening the Vassal Meeting… ah…"
On the other hand, Emperor Petalpluck remained relatively calm.
The rumors about the Pinecrane Pill continued to fester. Though Emperor Shura was incensed by the new development, he didn't have a good counter to Sacred Peafowl Mountain's temporary advantage. On the other hand, Jiang Chen had no follow-ups either.
Time passed very quickly. Soon enough, there was only one day remaining before the Vassal Meeting. Gazing to the southeast, the young lord of Veluriyam sighed softly. "So, the Celestial Cicada Court isn't coming after all?"
Deep down, he'd been somewhat expectant. Since he had already decided to invite external factions, two was definitely better than one. As he lost himself in idle speculation, an abrupt secret report arrived.
"Young lord, the Celestial Cicada Court's foremost sect head has arrived. She has a vice sect head in tow, as well as a group of her most loyal subordinates. They're already at Vermilion Bird Street. Shall we lead them to Taiyuan Tower, or is Taiyuan Lodge better?"
"Taiyuan Lodge is fine." That the Court had arrived on the last day before the Vassal Meeting was wholly unexpected. Still, Jiang Chen was pleased. "It seems that my lure was effective enough, haha!"
The Celestial Cicada Court's willingness to come meant that they were very interested in what he'd mentioned in his letter. As long as that was the case, Jiang Chen was absolutely certain about his ability to draw them close.
An appropriate secret room was swiftly prepared for the meeting. The Court evidently attached a great deal of importance to this event; their main sect head, Su Huanzhen, personally led the expedition. Accompanying her was Sect Head Xia, who had first met Jiang Chen back in Pillfire City.
Su Huanzhen was the most senior sect head, but Sect Head Xia was the most junior vice sect head. Besides the two sect heads, there were a few young genius disciples along for the trip as well. It was the cream of the sect's crop.
"Young lord Zhen. Should I call you Pill King Zhen, hmm? Or would Sir Shao be better, perhaps?" After both guest and host were seated, Sect Head Xia opened with an amused expression.
"Anything you like, Sect Head Xia," chuckled Jiang Chen. "Thank you for gracing us with your radiant presence."
In terms of seniority, Su Huanzhen was the same generation as Emperor Peafowl. In fact, they'd been involved in a brief liaison when they were younger, but things hadn't worked out in the end. Naturally, Emperor Peafowl had mentioned nothing of the sort to Jiang Chen. Su Huanzhen, however, hadn't forgotten entirely about that portion of the past.
Her emotions had become complicated ever since stepping inside Veluriyam Capital territory. Jiang Chen's sentence snapped her awake, returning her to a sect leader's composure.
"Young lord Zhen, I've heard stories of your fame even in the southeast. Truly, the younger generation surpasses the older, and the pupil surpasses his master. You haven't made your way into the world for more than a decade, yet you're already as well-known as Emperor Peafowl. I'm quite impressed."
Her words were largely a token of nicety, not meant to be taken entirely seriously. "That is praise much too high for me. You make me blush, Sect Head Su," grinned Jiang Chen.
"You know how direct of a person I am, young lord Zhen, so let's cut to the chase." Sect Head Xia smiled as well. "You sent me a letter about some formation diagrams, yes? You said that they were quite relevant to the Celestial Cicada Court's origins. Is that correct?"
Jiang Chen immediately presented her with a scroll. "Please take a look, Sect Head Xia."
Opening the scroll, the junior sect head didn't look at it straightaway. Instead, she passed it to Su Huanzhen. "Senior Sect Head, you should look over it first."
Respecting seniority was important, especially in public.
Su Huanzhen opened up the scroll. One look instantly magnetized her eyes to the writings within. She seemed entirely glued to them. Her expression elicited Sect Head Xia's own curiosity. She began to peruse the scroll from the side as well. Her reaction was exactly the same as the more senior sect head's.
The two were unsatiated even when they reached the end of the scroll and started over from the beginning. They did so five times in total before they put the scroll away carefully and set it off to the side with reluctance. Their expressions were an interesting study now.
"Well?" Jiang Chen asked merrily, a composed smile playing around his lips.
"Young lord Zhen, where did you get this formation scroll?" Su Huanzhen asked forthrightly.
There was no use in a formation diagram by itself. Without the foundations of the formation or further content, the most they could tell was that this formation was tremendous, but had no idea how to set it up.
But one thing was certain, and that was the formation was the same style as the ones of their sect. They shared the same heritage, and the one within the scroll surpassed the Celestial Cicada Court's own in terms of both rank and content.
"Last time at Pillfire City, I heard you talk about the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect," said Sect Head Xia. "Those four words are also mentioned in our sect's ancient writings, but there's no clear indication that our Court is descended from one of their branches."
Su Huanzhen nodded as well. "If I may ask, young lord Zhen. Are you and the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect related in some way? How else can you draw such detailed diagrams?"
As a real expert, she perceived that the diagrams hadn't been made up on the spot to trick them. A great deal of mystery was contained within those diagrams, deep knowledge that was difficult to decipher.
"One guess is enough for you to discern the truth, Sect Head Su," laughed Jiang Chen. "As expected of the leader of a prominent sect."
"Young lord Zhen, are you really related to the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect?" Su Huanzhen's expression became rather serious. "Does that mean that you share a common origin with the Celestial Cicada Court as well?"
"That depends on what you think, Sect Head."
Whether there was a connection or not depended on whether the Celestial Cicada Court recognized the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect as its ancestor. More importantly, did it want to identify with its ancient forebear?
Su Huanzhen exchanged a sober glance with Sect Head Xia. "Over the generations of the Celestial Cicada Court's heritage, our writings have mentioned the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect more than once. However, our descent from that sect has never been stated in no uncertain terms. At this time, I cannot make a decision about the restoration of our proper ancestry."
Jiang Chen completely understood the caution. Without overwhelming evidence, it was indiscreet and inappropriate to declare ancestry so arbitrarily. The Celestial Cicada Court was a first rank sect. If it affiliated itself carelessly and the decision turned out to be incorrect, then the sect would look quite foolish.
Moreover, foolishness was the least of their concerns. If there was a certain mastermind with ulterior motives who was trying to steal away the Celestial Cicada Court's foundations, there would be a bigger problem.
Therefore, the sect heads could not stomach the prospect of identifying with an ancestor so quickly. Regardless of what they thought about its veracity and unmistakability, they could not afford to make rash decisions. Moreover, the sheer amount of time that had passed between the ancient times and present day was more than enough to erode the closeness associated with ancestry.
There was no reason for them to deny it outright, or do so at any time with any amount of vehemence. The Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect was one of the greatest formation sects in the ancient times. The diagrams provided by young lord Zhen were also definitely profound, unmatched by anything that the Celestial Cicada Court had. There was cause for a great deal of internal struggle.
Tapping his index and middle fingers against the surface of the table, Jiang Chen was contemplative for a while.
"Young lord Zhen, your formation diagrams have inspired the Celestial Cicada Court a great deal." Sect Head Xia was the first to break the silence. "More than worthy of us having made this trip, at any rate. Despite our distance to the capital, we've heard of the housekeeping problems you're having at the moment. Even without any benefit from you, we would still unconditionally support Sacred Peafowl Mountain without hesitation. Your faction has ruled Veluriyam Capital for several thousand years. That's a situation that we're not interested in seeing a change to."
The Celestial Cicada Court was situated in the southeast of the Upper Eight Regions, and Veluriyam Capital, the southern region. The two factions could be said to be relatively similar. In fact, they had quite a bit of adjoining territory.
Though they had superior strength compared to their neighbor, Veluriyam Capital had never invaded a single inch of the Celestial Cicada Court's territory. It was true for all of their adjacent factions, in fact. At minimum, the Court and Veluriyam Capital were on fairly good terms.
Jiang Chen was mildly surprised by this. They would support Sacred Peafowl Mountain unconditionally, without any benefit? Was that merely a courtesy?
"You shouldn't consider our words idle wind, young lord Zhen. Our foremost Sect Head Su here has some past history with Emperor Peafowl-a friendship of sorts, even. You probably just don't know about it," smiled Sect Head Xia.
Past history? An old friendship? Jiang Chen was more interested in striking a deal. It was an age-old truth that relationships were often maintained at the cost of money. With the discussion at this point, could he really withhold the diagrams from them?