The tug-of-war between the cities was finally concluded with this last bit of news. No matter how much it struggled, Pillfire discovered sadly that Veluriyam's tide could not be stopped.
Myriad Abyss Island? Most in the human domain didn't know about the place. Only a few experts of the highest caliber were privy to bits and pieces about it. Whether the place existed at all was a long-running mystery.
But today, Veluriyam Capital brought an end to the debate. A mysterious expert from the island would lecture on pill and martial dao for everyone to attend. Regardless of whether the rumor itself seemed true on the surface, young lord Zhen had already taken on a mantle of credibility in everyone's minds. The youth's rise to fame was studded with fulfilled promises. Never once before had he taken back his words.
Myriad Abyss Island was a mythical place. A holy land in the dreams of countless martial cultivators. The three words alone held countless magic and mysticism in them. They were an irresistible power that could not be ignored.
The moment that name was brought out, the invisible competition between Veluriyam Capital and Pillfire City concluded. The two parties no longer competed on the same level. Pillfire City was forced to back off. It had the will to carry on, but not the strength. Furthermore, there was nothing they could do that could remotely overwhelm Veluriyam Capital's three offerings.
"Your Majesty, any further efforts on our part will be in vain. I think Veluriyam Capital has gone crazy. They dare bring out Myriad Abyss Island? Does that Zhen kid really know some mysterious expert from there?" Baili Shengzhi looked unconvinced. He only half-believed the stories surrounding the ancient isle. Moreover, he instinctively refused to believe the possibility that young lord Zhen was able to invite a mysterious expert from there.
"Shura, you've been at Veluriyam Capital for three thousand years. How much do you know about Sacred Peafowl Mountain? What's with that young lord Zhen?" Emperor Pillzenith couldn't make neither heads nor tails of the situation.
Emperor Shura was as displeased as any of the Pillfire natives. His one consolation was that they had as much difficulty in dealing with young lord Zhen as he did. If an entire Pillfire City couldn't put down that brat, his own loss seemed much more reasonable in comparison. But Emperor Pillzenith's question was one he could not ignore.
"Emperor Peafowl enjoyed making friends in the outside world. He rarely told me what he did. Sacred Peafowl Mountain didn't originally have this young lord Zhen. There was a certain young lord Fan who was a martial dao genius, but unskilled with pill dao. But young lord Fan died under mysterious circumstances one day. I thought Emperor Peafowl would leave the city to me then, but he managed to find that kid out of nowhere."
"So you're saying that even you don't know where he's from?" Emperor Pillzenith was very dissatisfied.
"Sacred Peafowl Mountain's version is that young lord Zhen has always been its true young lord. Young lord Fan was only ever a candidate. But I think that they're full of it. Young lord Zhen isn't someone that Emperor Peafowl could have taught." Emperor Shura spoke of his former superior with unbridled resentment.
"Does Sacred Peafowl Mountain have relations with anyone from Myriad Abyss Island?" This was the point that Emperor Pillzenith was most concerned about. The mere possibility of it was enough to strike fear into his heart. Like everyone else, the great emperor harbored an indescribable wariness for that uncharted place.
If Sacred Peafowl Mountain had a connection to Myriad Abyss Island and Pillfire City did not, the latter would be in a horrendous place. The more he considered things, the more panicked he became.
Without this unexpected factor coming into play, Emperor Pillzenith wouldn't have cared too much about the Pinecrane Pill. Pillfire was entrenched and well-established. Veluriyam Capital had a long way to go before it could truly challenge its rival in pill-related matters. But Myriad Abyss Island introduced uncertainty into the mix.
Emperor Pillzenith thought it quite likely that young lord Zhen had a Myriad Abyss Island-related background. Where did his blind confidence come from otherwise? He wouldn't have dared to challenge Pillfire City directly if he didn't have something he could rely on.
What faction in the human domain was brave enough to contest pill dao with Pillfire City? Young lord Zhen was the first in several millennia with the courage to do so!
Unfortunately, Pillfire City was in a difficult position to respond. Should they respond? They were more than willing to issue a counterpoint, but who would they make their representative?
Pill King Ji Lang? He'd lost twice to young lord Zhen already. He didn't have the spirit to face the youth any more.
There were others in the city with superior pill dao skills, of course. Pillfire City's history meant that there were always a couple of pill emperors in the older generation, however troublesome it was to spur them into action. There was a bigger problem, though. Old-time pill emperors embodied the peak of Pillfire City's pill dao prowess. They were obliged to win any contest they participated in. Any public loss would have far-reaching consequences.
Repeated failures had made Emperor Pillzenith afraid. He was uncertain how expansive young lord Zhen's pill dao knowledge was. Could the older generation defeat the kid convincingly?
The emperor was confident enough that he felt he had a good chance at defeating the young lord. However, it was condescending for a ruler of a major faction to participate in a contest. Furthermore, he risked even more by losing than those old-timers. His loss would mean Pillfire City's total defeat at Veluriyam Capital's hands. Therefore, Pillfire's final response to young lord Zhen's provocation was to ignore it completely.
Emperor Shura was a little ashamed. He knew very little about any of the three or four questions that Emperor Pillzenith had asked. He had discovered far too late that he knew extremely little about his supposed rival. No wonder his usurpation hadn't succeeded. Did young lord Zhen have relations with Myriad Abyss Island? He had no idea at all.
Emperor Pillzenith was quite irritated at Shura's silence. Working with Emperor Shura was completely unproductive. In some aspects, the exiled emperor was no better than a good-for-nothing.
Emperor Shura felt a wave of guilt wash over him when he saw Emperor Pillzenith's frigid eyes. The other emperor's evaluation of him had probably already fallen a mile. If he didn't assert himself now, Emperor Pillzenith's impression of him would worsen even more.
"Your Majesty Pillzenith. There's not much point in investigating the relationship between the Zhen brat and Myriad Abyss Island. We can't use conventional tactics in dealing with our current predicament," Emperor Shura ventured.
"Do you have something you want to say?" Emperor Pillzenith asked coolly.
"The only reason Veluriyam Capital is able to do all of this is because of young lord Zhen. If young lord Zhen is out of the picture, so is the entire capital," Emperor Shura spat viciously.
"What do you mean?" Emperor Pillzenith asked coldly.
"Isn't he hosting the Tiger and Dragon Meet? We can take advantage of this by sending a few experts to infiltrate Veluriyam Capital and assassinate its young lord. I know the city very well. If we find the right window of opportunity, there's no reason we shouldn't succeed."
Emperor Pillzenith found this suggestion stupendously attractive. He hadn't thought about such a simple solution because of his prior desire for the Pinecrane Pill. But young lord Zhen had become a real threat to his own faction. If the kid was allowed to grow, Pillfire City would lose its dominant position sooner or later. He absolutely did not want that to happen.
The answering pensiveness prompted Shura to put himself forward. "Your Majesty Pillzenith, if you give me three great emperor realm cultivators alongside Brother Vastsea and myself, I'll have a seventy to eighty percent of cutting young lord Zhen down."
"Are you sure?" Emperor Pillzenith inquired somberly.
Pillfire City had plenty of great emperor realm cultivators, though the emperor wasn't necessarily willing to delegate any them out. He had many other channels through which he could hire great emperors. They were definitely scarce, but not so much so to be impossible to find, especially for someone like him. Given the emperor's own level of cultivation, most he associated with were great emperors also.
Emperor Shura was resolute. "I am sure. I, Vastsea, and three more great emperors. We'll get the job done."
Emperor Vastsea's heart pounded at those words. He wanted to urge Emperor Shura not to speak so hastily or make such bold promises, but the madness on the other man's face told him that he would only make an enemy of his erstwhile friend. There was an inexplicable sadness in his heart. He felt a hint of regret. Why had he been so obsessed with following Emperor Shura's lead?
What was wrong with a carefree lifestyle in Veluriyam Capital as one of its titled emperors? His choices had only turned him into a homeless dog. Moreover, Emperor Shura was proving to be far more reckless than he had signed up for. Putting his own life on the line without asking first upset him quite a bit.
Shura wasn't entirely wrong, but a shadow crept into Vastsea's heart whenever he thought of young lord Zhen. Jiang Chen was a lingering nightmare for him. The kid's sheer monstrosity and invincibility intimidated him. Regardless of how well-planned things seemed initially, the results were always less than satisfactory. It was very possible that this was yet another easily-foiled plot.
Once that happened, they would be utterly disgraced as criminals. Emperor Vastsea had no desire to become a sewer rat in the Upper Eight Regions.