Twenty percent of profits? Emperor Shura burned with fury at this. Is he fobbing off a beggar?
"Daoist Shura, if the Pinecrane Pill is real, then the profit should be an even split between us. Veluriyam Capital should fully participate in the pill's development and production. Our cities must operate with equal importance." Emperor Shura never backed down from profit. In his opinion, an even split was already tremendously advantageous for Pillfire City.
Emperor Pillzenith was furious, but the current situation did not allow him to erupt in anger. In an unusual display of acquiescence, he accepted the offer. "Let it be as you say. We shall have an even split. However, you must try as hard as you can to acquire the recipe."
It wasn't going to be easy to get one's hands on Pinecrane Pill's recipe. Emperor Shura didn't have a clue about the Longevity Pill's, much less this elusive, more wondrous variant. He couldn't show weakness however.
"Remember this, Shura. You must listen to my instructions during the pill dao battles. Test for the Pinecrane Pill's veracity first, then make an attempt to procure it," advised Emperor Pillzenith.
"Don't worry. If your method is effective, then I will follow it to the letter. You shouldn't forget though, that none of this will matter if I cannot ascend to Veluriyam Capital's throne through this gathering!" Emperor Shura was keeping the true goal of the Vassal Meeting closely in sight.
The Pinecrane Pill belonged to Sacred Peafowl Mountain, which meant that it belonged to Veluriyam Capital at the end of the day. As long as Sacred Peafowl Mountain continued to exist, he could get his hands on the pill recipe sooner or later. But if he failed to snatch up the right to rule, then Shura Retreat would still be second fiddle to Sacred Peafowl Mountain. How would he get his hands on the Pinecrane Pill then?
"Daoist Shura, we've discussed things for a bit. These five subjects are what we've decided on: martial dao, pill dao, formations, talismans, and beast taming. Do you have any other opinions?"
"What is there to compete for beast taming?" Emperor Shura asked, frowning.
"It was chosen from everyone's opinion. The preliminary version is four martial dao rounds, two pill dao rounds, and one each of talismans, formations, and beast taming. Victory shall be decided in nine rounds. Four people must step up from each faction. You and young lord Zhen are obviously mandatory participants, and you can bring two followers and one personal disciple."
"Two followers and a disciple." Mulling things over a bit, Emperor Shura was reasonably confident in his best student, Li Jiancheng. The young man excelled in every category. Though he was probably a bit less capable than young lord Zhen, he would clobber the young lord's disciple nine times out of ten. Did young lord Zhen even have any personal disciples? As for followers, Emperor Shura's three monarchs-Sun, Moon, and Star-were very even with the four monarchs of Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
"I'm fine with the rules for the lineup," answered the ambitious emperor. "Isn't two rounds for pill dao too few, though?"
There was an uproar from the crowd. Two pill dao rounds was too few? Wasn't Emperor Shura worried that young lord Zhen would defeat him with pill dao? Why had he suddenly changed so drastically?
Even Emperor Vastsea and Skysplitter were mildly astonished.
"Daoist Shura, there's only four martial dao rounds. Two rounds for pill dao doesn't sound too few in light of that, does it?" Emperor Petalpluck looked at Emperor Shura with some confusion, baffled at the hundred-eighty-degree turn.
"No, no. There should be at least three rounds. Maybe we should cancel the round for beast taming, hmm?" Emperor Shura was rather shaky on the last subject.
"Shura, there's no need to cancel beast taming. Tell them to add another round each for pill dao and talismans," messaged Pillzenith.
Having received his commands from Emperor Pillzenith, Emperor Shura changed his tune. "Actually, what if we add one pill dao round and one talisman round? Make it eleven rather than nine rounds, eh?"
"An extra round for talismans?" Emperor Petalpluck glanced at Jiang Chen uncertainly.
The young man flashed back a faint smile. "You're certainly an astute schemer, Emperor Shura. Are you perhaps good with talismans? If we're going to add extra rounds, then let's add more than that! One each for talismans, formations, and beast taming. Four martial dao, three pill dao, and two for talismans, formations, and beast taming. Thirteen in total."
Jiang Chen's sentiment garnered far more popular support. "We agree with young lord Zhen!" Many vassals shouted from beneath the stage.
"Right! The Vassal Meeting is rarely convened. Why not let us watch a few extra rounds of fascinating demonstration?"
"Thirteen sounds better. The more fights there are, the better the comparison." The vassals exhibited a marked preference for adding extra rounds. Nine rounds weren't nearly enjoyable enough. Watching thirteen would be far more fun! All eyes were on Emperor Shura, awaiting his answer to the proposition.
Feeling the collected heat from the audience's gazes, the emperor became somewhat uncertain. He silently calculated his odds.
Of the four martial dao rounds, I can take at least two. If the remaining two are between my Sun, Moon, and Star Monarchs and Sacred Peafowl Mountain's four, it shouldn't be hard to tie. If there are two tied rounds, then only results from eleven of the rounds will count. If I can win six of those eleven, then my victory will be absolutely guaranteed. If there are three pill dao rounds… those not young lord Zhen are nothing. It'll be easy to win against them. I should win at least one talisman round, and perhaps even both. That way, even if I lose all the formation and beast taming rounds, I should still have the six needed to win.
His mental estimation revealed a pretty good chance of winning. A casual appraisal showed five or six guaranteed wins. As for the two rounds each accorded to formations and beast taming, he should be able to scrape one out of those, right? Maybe even two, if he was lucky.
"If everyone thinks that it would be more enjoyable to add a few rounds, then I don't see why not!" The ambitious emperor smiled graciously. "Holding thirteen rounds is perfectly fine. Four martial dao, three pill dao, and two for talismans, formations, and beast taming.
"Though, I do have a small suggestion" he followed up with a chuckle.
"What is it?" Emperor Petalpluck inquired.
Emperor Coiling Dragon and Void looked warily towards Emperor Shura, concerned that there would be yet another last-minute change. At such an important time, each and every detail was devilishly important.
"I think that each and every round should have a time limit. Martial dao rounds, for example. If the two parties are evenly matched, then dragging on a fight would only result in injury to both. It's damaging to both the participants and public peace, and I don't see how it could possibly be beneficial for Veluriyam Capital as a whole." For once, Emperor Shura's suggestion actually sounded like a good idea.
"I'm very pleased that you've thought of that, Daoist Shura," nodded Emperor Petalpluck. "You're thinking of the bigger picture. What say you, young lord Zhen?"
Jiang Chen didn't believe that Emperor Shura had anyone's good in mind except his own. He had to be scheming about something new, even though the young man didn't know what yet.
Thankfully, he found the emperor's suggestion quite agreeable. "Alright," he feigned some difficulty. "I suppose it's better to foster mutual goodwill to a degree."
Emperor Shura was secretly overjoyed at this development. He had made the request out of very selfish reasons. His followers would be picked from the three monarchs: Sun, Moon, and Star. For the most part, Sacred Peafowl Mountain's four monarchs were their near-equals in martial dao. It was possible that a winner would be decided after an extended, grueling fight, but Emperor Shura was only interested in two tied rounds with them. Indeed, his plan hinged on the two victories that his disciple Li Jiancheng and he himself would achieve instead.
Crushing young lord Zhen would be very easy. As for Li Jiancheng's fight against Jiang Chen's personal disciple, that was even easier. What disciples did Jiang Chen have right now? He couldn't send out old men like Pill King Bu and Lu Feng out, could he?
Those two old men were not Jiang Chen's martial disciples, and neither were they part of the younger generation. Therefore, it would be illegal for them to participate in that capacity. Because there was no opposition from Jiang Chen, Emperor Petalpluck moved forward with the proceedings.
"Then let us continue. The martial dao rounds have a time limit of four hours. If no winner is declared in that time, then it shall be declared a draw. Does that sound acceptable?"
"I have no objections," Emperor Shura readily answered.
"Nor I," Jiang Chen concurred emotionlessly. Four hours? A jolt of satisfaction pulsed across his heart. He didn't know what Emperor Shura was thinking, but the four-hour limit was a wonderful advantage for him. There was no way that the current him could defeat Emperor Shura. But if all he needed to do was last four hours without losing, then he had quite a few more ideas.
Emperor Petalpluck nodded at the two parties' mutual concession. "Alright. Start picking your candidates now then. Remember, you cannot change your pick for whatever reason. Furthermore, each of them must take the stage at least once, but cannot be sent out more than once per subject. Finally, as the leaders of the two factions, the two of you must take the stage once, and only once, for each and every subject of competition."
The process of choosing three others was also a test for the two candidates. As the leaders of their respective factions, Emperor Shura and Jiang Chen had to participate five, and only five, times. The remaining eight rounds would be battled out by the three picks from each side.
"You may begin discussions about your strategies now. Remember, two followers and one personal disciple. Those are the rules, and any picks found to be breaking them will be swapped out."
The people of Sacred Peafowl Mountain gathered together, including Emperor Coiling Dragon and Void's entourages.
"Young lord, I would like to take the field!" Cloudsoar Monarch volunteered.
"If you have need of me, young lord, I will withhold nothing in the oncoming fight," matched Plumscore Monarch.
Monarch Chronobalance and Wildfox expressed similar sentiments.
Jiang Chen swept his gaze across the faces of everyone before him.
"Young lord Zhen, count this old man in." There was a sudden, unexpected voice. It was Emperor Peerless! He usually called Jiang Chen 'little brother', but 'young lord' was what he had used just now.
Everyone else looked at the emperor in surprise. They knew that Emperor Peerless was Jiang Chen's sworn brother, here to ensure his safety and lend strength. The competition required the picks to be from among followers. Emperor Peerless wasn't young lord Zhen's follower. He didn't even formally belong to Sacred Peafowl Mountain.