Every blow struck Emperor Shura and his allies in their weak spots, making them both upset and powerless. However, the emperor managed to kept his cool. He knew that he had no chance of gaining a lead in further debate with Emperor Coiling Dragon.
Both Emperor Coiling Dragon and young lord Zhen were both eloquent men. If they were allowed to continue their grandstanding, they would only end up converting more and more people. He would end up with an even greater disadvantage than he had now.
"Daoist Petalpluck, we must come to a decision. The eight hundred vassals are all here. Why don't you preside over the proceedings?" Emperor Shura turned to his more neutral fellow.
Emperor Petalpluck smiled slightly, inclining his head in turn to the Emperor Coiling Dragon and Vastsea. "Gentlemen, now is not the time for an emotional dispute. The recent chaos in Veluriyam Capital requires resolution. A nation should not be long without a leader. For the people to be satisfied and placated, we must always have a ruler at the helm."
"That's right. Anyone who tries to act up again is an enemy of the public peace. Clearly, it would be against the city's interests and improvement!" Emperor Vastsea quickly followed up with this lofty label.
Jiang Chen waved to the two friendly emperors, signaling an end to the argument. "Emperor Petalpluck is correct. A nation should not be long without a leader. I can refrain from opposing to the events today, but I must say something harsh ahead of time."
"Please do, young lord Zhen," smiled Emperor Petalpluck.
"When His Majesty Peafowl returns, the throne must be returned to him," stated Jiang Chen flatly. "Does anyone oppose this motion?"
The serene emperor pondered this a moment, then nodded. "I do not at all. Daoist Peafowl is the best ruler we've had in a long time and certainly the most suited to lead." Saying this, he turned to Emperor Shura. "What do you think, Daoist Shura?"
The man harrumphed. "If Daoist Peafowl comes back, then there's no contest. Of course the throne should be returned."
"I feel the same way," smiled Emperor Skysplitter.
Since Emperor Coiling Dragon and Void belonged on Emperor Peafowl's side in the first place, there was no reason for them to oppose, either.
"While we're at this point," Emperor Vastsea cut in suddenly. "I'd like to be upfront about something else as well. If Emperor Peafowl comes back, I hope that Sacred Peafowl Mountain will not suppress the vassals that vote for Emperor Shura today. Doing so would be taking revenge!"
Emperor Vastsea was quite sure that Emperor Peafowl would not return. He was saying this to accomplish two goals. One, to alleviate the worries of those who'd agreed to side with Emperor Shura, and two, to win free goodwill from the audience. It was essentially a clever pretense.
As expected, many vassals were reassured upon hearing his words. A current of warmth ran through their hearts. Emperor Vastsea cared a lot about their feelings, after all!
Jiang Chen saw through the tirade effortlessly. He knew that the emperor was gesturing to gain popularity. Smiling faintly, he maintained the same confident expression that he had adopted since the beginning of the meeting.
"Emperor Vastsea, you speak as if you're not acquainted with Emperor Peafowl at all. Do you not understand the type of person he is? If Emperor Peafowl was the sort of man to hold vendettas, then Emperor Shura wouldn't even be standing here to challenge him in absentia. To put it more plainly, Emperor Peafowl isn't scared of anyone who's able to rise up and surpass him.
"On the contrary, he's concerned that no one will be able to take up his mantle when he's gone. Do you think that he has any attachment to worldly power? He gained knowledge of more potent and fundamental truths about heaven and earth a long time ago. He could ascend to empyrean realm at any time. He sees things from a much higher point than everyone else. To be quite honest, you sound like you're putting him in your-I daresay much smaller-shoes."
His tranquil demeanor won him a fair bit of approval in his own right. Even those who disliked him had to admit that he was showing stellar decorum. This was a young man of considerable wit and temperament. Any other youth would be scared out of their own minds by the sole fact of having to sit beside seven titled emperors, much less be able to compete with Emperor Shura. But there was no hint of fear or nervousness in Jiang Chen.
The calmness he exhibited alone was enough to classify him as an extraordinary character. It was an old saying that the young shouldn't be bullied just for their lack of experience or resources. Many wavering vassals began to consider things anew.
A few others, previously already leaning towards Emperor Shura, were also shaken. There was an impenetrable aura of greatness on Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord. It was a feeling that forced every onlooker not to ignore him, and seemed to say, 'let anyone who does taste the consequences'!
Emperor Petalpluck chose this moment to chuckle. "Any move that we great emperors make will affect the grand scheme of things here in the city. Thus, I advise that all of us refrain from voting. No matter whose side we take, voting will only lay down the seeds of future strife. There is everything to lose and nothing to gain by doing so."
"What, are we titled emperors not to vote? How does that work?" Emperor Vastsea was shocked.
"Daoist Petalpluck has a very good point. The actions of we titled emperors have too much influence upon the rest. It would not do for cracks to develop between us at this juncture. If Veluriyam Capital sees civil unrest and a subsequent weakening, then we will all go down in history as criminals." Emperor Mountaincrush was clearly more than willing to abstain.
Deep down, he wanted to support Sacred Peafowl Mountain, but Emperor Shura's pressing demands had compelled him to acquiesce. Because of this, he was very conflicted. If he could abstain, then there was no longer anything to worry about.
"I have no objection to that." Upon seeing Emperor Petalpluck and Mountaincrush declare their stances, Emperor Coiling Dragon hurried to agree.
There was no reason at all for him to object. The two neutral emperors' solidarity only reinforced his statement. He had originally been anxious about their potential support for Emperor Shura, which would render young lord Zhen in a dangerous position.
Emperor Void inclined his head as well. "Daoist Petalpluck is a true voice of reason. We may have a few minor disagreements from time to time, but us titled emperors should maintain a good rapport."
Now that four titled emperors had voted on the resolution, the opinions of the three remaining emperors on Shura's side no longer mattered. The minority had to obey the majority.
"Let it be so, then. We great emperors shall refrain from voting," Emperor Shura affirmed indifferently. He had said those words unwillingly, but appearances were important to maintain. Otherwise, his intentions would be far too brazen to stomach.
"Hold on," Jiang Chen grinned.
"Hmm?" All eyes gathered on him.
The young man had turned toward Emperor Petalpluck in the interim. "I was feeling that something felt out of place, and I finally realize what it is. Why are the candidates only me and Emperor Shura? In theory, Emperor Petalpluck is the second-ranked great emperor in Veluriyam Capital. If there's only two candidates, shouldn't the second be ahead of the third?"
Everyone knew how disinterested Emperor Petalpluck was in power and fame. That was why he had been automatically ignored. The interjection from Jiang Chen, however, made it seem like something was genuinely awry. That's right! Why was the second-ranked emperor being put below the third?
Jiang Chen hadn't expected his ploy to push Emperor Petalpluck forward. He had only done so in order to cause Emperor Shura a bit of extra embarrassment, as well as douse his flames of arrogance.
Emperor Vastsea was the first to lose his cool. "Daoist Petalpluck is a sage above the problems of the world! His outstanding integrity tipped him off about Emperor Shura's wisdom and heroism. He knows when to step aside, unlike a certain ignorant youngster. It's important for people to know what their limits are!"
"Emperor Vastsea, I wonder what you were doing when you were my age?" smiled Jiang Chen serenely.
"Well said!" Emperor Coiling Dragon clapped cheerfully. "You were still living under the protection of your seniors, eh, Vastsea? My guess can't be far off the mark. What right do you have to criticize young lord Zhen? He has only been famous for a handful of years, yet he's made more contributions than you, a great emperor of over a thousand. You're very brave to talk about people's limits, hmm? I wonder where your courage comes from? Were you the one that defeated Pill King Ji Lang?"
Once again, Emperor Vastsea was at a loss for words.
"Alright, alright. Enough is enough. I can smell the gunpowder in the air already." Chuckling, Emperor Petalpluck came forward to mediate. "There's no need to argue. I'm pleased that you think so highly of this old man, young lord Zhen. However, my nature has always been a placid one. I don't have the heart needed to rule over Veluriyam Capital. I see great determination and diligence in Emperor Shura, and remarkable youthful flair in young lord Zhen. One is experienced, the other energetic. You two are the best candidates. For the sake of this city, I will stand and bear witness."
Emperor Petalpluck's announcement nipped the impending conflagration in the bud. Despite that, Emperor Shura's hatred for Jiang Chen only grew stronger. Before now, he'd mostly hated Emperor Peafowl for not passing on the throne to him. But now, ever since he'd ambushed the senior emperor, his next obstacle was this young lord Zhen!
I'll let you run amok for a few more days, kid. When I hold the reins, you'll be the first person I get rid of! The emperor gnashed his teeth internally with frustration.
Emperor Petalpluck turned to the eight hundred vassals. "Everyone, I'm sure you know why we've convened this Vassal Meeting. The waters of Veluriyam Capital are too turbulent at present. We need a proper helmsman to navigate them, a captain that can grasp the situation firmly. Even if the job opening is only temporary, we still require someone to fill it. Is the diligent Emperor Shura more suitable? Or the energetic young lord Zhen? The choice is yours. Remember, this isn't a game. Please carefully consider the question and vote in who you think is the most appropriate. Very likely, it will decide what path the city walks down."
"Why vote? We'd rather have the strongest rule. We'll pick who's stronger!" A vassal shouted from below.
"That's right, Emperor Shura is the strongest after Emperor Peafowl. Of course he should lead. Young lord Zhen? We have more than enough geniuses to go around. We can discuss him after he becomes a great emperor!" As soon as Emperor Petalpluck finished speaking, a large swathe of Shura supporters began to clamor in disagreement.