Shangguan Yanqing was a perceptive man. He surveyed his surroundings, then glanced thoughtfully at the nearby Cloudsoar Monarch before smiling. "Young lord Zhen, may I speak to you privately?"
Objectively speaking, his request was rather impolite. After all, he was standing within Sacred Peafowl Mountain, face-to-face with its very own young lord. What unspeakable motive did he have for a private audience?
Jiang Chen glanced nonchalantly at the inspector. His face was emotionless. "Cloudsoar, please give us a few minutes alone."
Cloudsoar Monarch blinked in surprise, but obeyed the command. After he departed the room, only Jiang Chen and Shangguan Yanqing remained. Their eyes met. The latter suddenly began to laugh.
"Young lord Zhen, it is often said that hearing of someone is far inferior to meeting them in person. I came today for two reasons. Part of it was because I wanted to see exactly how amazing the legendary young lord Zhen was for myself. That aside, I do have something important I'd like to discuss with you."
"What?" Jiang Chen's tone was flat. He knew very well that the Ninesuns Sky Sect likely knew of his real identity. After all, he was borrowing Shi Zhen's Pill King Medallion. The pseudonym 'Zhen Shi' only made things more obvious.
Since they already knew each other's thoughts, there was no need for any more unnecessary niceties. A man in Jiang Chen's current position didn't need to be scared of Eternal Celestial Capital, much less the Ninesuns Sky Sect. Rather, the reverse should be true.
Shangguan Yanqing smiled. "There's no one else here, so I won't beat around the bush. Others may not know of young lord Zhen's identity, but we surely do."
Not a hint of emotion flickered through Jiang Chen's face. "What, did you come all the way here just to say this to me?"
"Of course not," Shangguan Yanqing smiled back. "I am here on the sect head's behalf to parley with you."
"Parley? What's there to discuss between us?" Jiang Chen frowned.
"Let me speak more plainly, young lord Zhen. Many years ago, our ambitions brought us to Myriad Domain. We acknowledge our offenses and duly apologize for them. However, we weren't the mastermind behind the domain's destruction. In fact, that has nothing to do with us at all. The Eternal Celestial Capital has swindled us both. When two dogs strive for a bone, the third runs away with it. Our sect head has always regretted what's happened since then between us… especially now that your fame is spreading far and wide, I'm sure you understand."
Jiang Chen maintained a half-sneer, coldly gazing at Ninesuns' emissary. He wasn't in a hurry to respond just yet.
"You wasted many of your days in the sixteen kingdom alliance and the Precious Tree Sect, but we were the ridiculous ones in the end. Our inspectors only slaved over the minor details without discovering you in the rough. It's our blindness that's at fault, truly."
Shangguan Yanqing's words were a little exaggerated, but they sounded plausible to a certain extent. Jiang Chen found no real reason to trust these half-truths the man was spouting. He didn't care much about praise from them given his current position.
"The Purple Sun Sect's total defeat at the Precious Tree Sect is entirely because of you. After that, our plans in the Myriad Domain went entirely awry. The Tristar Sect's destruction and various other misfortunes led to our schemes being completely crushed, and the Purple Sun Sect being bankrupted in the region. We were furious at the time, but I can see now that the results were a foregone conclusion."
The smile on Shangguan Yanqing's face didn't recede a bit. "Look at how Emperor Shura is doing these days. Look at Pillfire City. They've both experienced defeat at your hands, young lord Zhen. How does the bit of trouble we had in the past match up against that? Not at all, I say, not at all! I'm thankful that there's no bitter vendetta between us, no mortal enmity. Truly."
The inspector paused a moment, his eyes looking fervently toward the young lord. "This is what I came to say, young lord Zhen. Our sect head wishes to make peace with you. Let our past animosity be settled. Yes, we did commit some unbecoming acts towards you at the time. You've also killed two of our best disciples, along with a few other young geniuses. But even so, I don't think there's any need for us to fight to the death. What do you think?" After a long-winded talk, Shangguan Yanqing had finally arrived his main purpose.
The Ninesuns Sky Sect was looking for a reconciliation? This defied Jiang Chen's initial expectations. As one of the strongest among the Upper Eight Regions' first rank sects, they had a habit of acting recklessly and with impunity. But apparently, they now sought an armistice from the young lord of Veluriyam Capital! He considered the proposition thoughtfully, assessing the truthfulness in the man's proposition.
Shangguan Yanqing's eyes were sincere and plain. "We at the Ninesuns Sky Sect value pragmatism. If young lord Zhen hadn't grown up to be such a character, we would never have offered our invitation. But since your meteoric rise can't be stopped, it's unwise for us to hold onto old disputes. That's right, Cao Jin and Xiao Paohui were two true disciples. But such disciples cannot sway the path of an entire sect. You have a vicious fight against Pillfire City in your own future, young lord Zhen. Surely you don't wish to make an additional enemy?"
The Ninesuns Sky Sect's attempt at reaching out for peace was honest, but Shangguan Yanqing wasn't exactly going to grovel. That was an unrealistic expectation. They were a first rank sect, after all. While Ninesuns was unwilling to have Veluriyam as its opponent, it was unlikely to toss away its own dignity in the process.
Any request for peace had to be tempered with reasonable respect.
"I'm beginning to believe that the Ninesuns Sky Sect is genuinely seeking reconciliation. That's right, I killed Cao Jin because he threatened my life. As for Xiao Paohui, I guessed that he belonged to your sect when I fought him."
"If we're looking to resolve our conflict, the past shouldn't matter so much," smiled Shangguan Yanqing. "The dead can't be revived. Not to mention that we gave great offense back in the day. Why don't we call it even? We don't wish to be enemies with young lord Zhen, and I'm sure you would rather have one less enemy?"
After some thought, Jiang Chen realized that his dislike of the Ninesuns Sky Sect was far outweighed by the deep acrimony he had of the Eternal Celestial Capital. In fact, Ninesuns probably hated him more than he did them.
"I can accept your request, Inspector Shangguan. However, I must take some time to observe the trustworthiness of your sect's actions."
"Naturally." Shangguan Yanqing chuckled. "Though I will say that our sect head always makes good on his promises. If he's decided to stop fighting with young lord Zhen, why would he change his mind?"
Jiang Chen knew that the Eternal Celestial Capital was the real mastermind behind Myriad Domain's destruction. The Great Scarlet Mid Region was also a faction directly under its control.
The Ninesuns Sky Sect had participated a fair amount in earlier days, but it wasn't responsible for a majority of the damage. They had nothing whatsoever to do with the fall of Regal Pill Palace. As for their pursuit of him much later, the men they'd sent had all been slain at the Valley of Infant Shriek.
The crux of the matter was that the Ninesuns Sky Sect had suffered much more at his hand than the reverse. If they were willing to take the loss, Jiang Chen was willing to reciprocate by allowing them to step back.
"Our sect head is coming in a few days to visit you himself, young lord Zhen," continued the inspector. "If you don't believe me, he'll swear an oath with you then. I hope that will be expression enough of our sincerity."
"Hmm, if the Ninesuns Sky Sect is indeed so forthright, then I am obliged to respond in kind. I maintain my position from earlier. But if this is a lie covering up disruption, I have plenty of ways to respond. If that happens, the sect will forever be classified alongside the Eternal Celestial Capital as a faction I must destroy." His tone hardened as he uttered the threat.
"Bold words, young lord Zhen." Hearing those words upset Shangguan Yanqing somewhat, but he had enough self-control to say nothing. Successful mediation was at hand. There was no need to jeopardize it through idle squabbling.
"Alright, I'm sure you're tired from your trip. Come, take our guest to his rooms. Make sure he rests well in preparation for the Tiger and Dragon Meet." Jiang Chen dismissed his guest.
After Shangguan Yanqing's departure, he mulled the matter over a little while longer. The Ninesuns Sky Sect's olive branch was likely authentic.
The situation was clear. As Veluriyam Capital's young lord, he occupied a position that the Ninesuns Sky Sect couldn't challenge. Because of this, there was no reason for them to renew hostilities with him. It was better to put their problems in the open and resolve them.
Shortly after, another subordinate reported in. "Young lord, representatives from the Moon God Sect and Eternal Celestial Capital have entered the capital."
"What? Did they come together, or separately?"
The young lord furrowed his brow. What was the meaning behind this gesture? The Moon God Sect was definitely unaware of his difficult history with Eternal Celestial Capital, so they didn't necessarily mean anything by it. But Eternal Celestial Capital definitely had ulterior motives for the action.
His mind alert, Jiang Chen asked, "Who's come from the Moon God Sect?"
"Its third sectmaster, young lord, and two holy maidens. And their entourage, of course."
"Which two holy maidens?"