It was definitely tougher to converse with wandering cultivators, in no small part due to their sensitivity. An offhand comment had been perceived as outright solicitation for their allegiance. These great emperors were like hedgehogs, spikes instantly popping up in resistance.
Jiang Chen couldn't help but laugh at the reaction. "Do you live inside my head? How do you know I want you to join Sacred Peafowl Mountain?"
"Isn't that the case?" The man's voice was cold.
"Of course not. You may think me stupid, but I can't possibly be ignorant enough to invite all of you together rather than talking to you individually if I wanted to recruit you." The young man grinned. "That would work a lot better, wouldn't it? Plus, there's more than two dozen great emperors here. Even if Veluriyam Capital had the ambition, we're not prepared to deal with accepting so many into our fold. We must act according to our abilities. I'm not that foolish, I assure you."
His speech assuaged the hostile attitudes somewhat. Young lord Zhen was right. If he wanted to persuade the wandering cultivators to join, a more private and personalized approach would have been much more effective. What need was there to make a semi-public announcement?
When something like that was put into the open, a single voice of opposition would evoke a chorus of defiance. It was completely counterproductive. Had they misunderstood the young man after all? Did he have something else in mind?
The great emperor in question couldn't back down verbally though, regardless of what he now thought. "What bargaining chip are you talking about then?"
What was something that everyone could offer? They were all great emperors, but there was disparity in both strength and wealth. The only other thing that came to mind was spirit stones. Was it truly possible to buy the Pinecrane Pill with spirit stones alone?
Jiang Chen cast a sidelong glance at the defiant emperor, but refrained from replying. Instead, he turned a thoughtful gaze upon Emperor Wellspring. "Senior Hui, my Pinecrane Pill needs neither spirit stones nor complicated strings. The only thing I would like is a single instance of your help."
"Helping just once?" Emperor Wellspring's eyes were impenetrable. "How?"
"Simple. I would like your help in an hour of need," explained the young lord.
"Who's your opponent?" The emperor's heart thumped with anticipation.
"That's not important right now. Would you agree to something like that?" Jiang Chen beamed.
"Are you planning to declare war on Pillfire City, young lord Zhen?" Emperor Wellspring pondered. "If so, it's hard for us to agree to that. The wandering cultivator world has never participated in inter-faction conflict, and we have no intention of disturbing that balance. If I may put it more plainly, Veluriyam won't win in the end even if we vanquish Pillfire together. Doing so is painting a target on your back."
The emperor wasn't exaggerating in the slightest. Spurring wandering cultivators onto participating in the destruction of a faction was one of the greatest taboos in the cultivation world. It would unquestionably cause backlash from all factions, possibly even panic. The other factions would gather together in a coalition for self-preservation, the tip of their spear firmly pointed toward Veluriyam.
Jiang Chen wasn't about to engage in such an ill-advised scheme.
"Do you think I lack a brain, Senior Hui?" The young lord chuckled. "If I'm declaring war on Pillfire City, then I'll do it with honesty and frankness. I won't do so by the hand of wandering cultivators. There's no glory and every shame in using an underhanded tactic like that."
"Then what do you propose?" Emperor Wellspring couldn't understand it.
"The help I want isn't to attack some faction. In fact, I'll only need your help within Veluriyam's own territory."
Within Veluriyam's own territory?
The proposition instantly sounded a lot more attractive. That geographic limitation made many things much easier. Even if they had to fight denizens from Pillfire, it mattered very little in the grand scheme of things.
Assisting in an attack on Pillfire City was one thing, but defending Veluriyam Capital was quite another. The former was invasion, and the latter was justified self-defence. The nature of the two were night and day.
"Is it really that easy?" The emperor looked back at the youth in disbelief.
In response, Jiang Chen tossed the Pinecrane Pill in his hand at Emperor Wellspring. The emperor felt his mind go blank, but instinctively caught the pill.
"What do you mean by this, young lord Zhen?" The emperor was stupefied by the gesture.
"Old Brother Mo has mentioned you many times to me, Senior Hui. He says that you're one of the rare peers that he admires. His admiration alone is worth that pill. I think it should be rightfully yours. Consider it my respect to you. We can talk about a deal later on, yes?"
The senior emperor was a little embarrassed by the courtesy. Many in the wandering cultivator world were like this. If he was displeased by something or someone, then nothing would convince him to change his mind. But if he was showered with kindness, favors, and praise, he would find it much harder to refuse a future invitation.
Emperor Wellspring was that kind of person. He found the Pinecrane Pill in his hand to be strangely hot.
"Don't worry, Senior Hui. If you at any point think my demand too much, you're free to back out whenever you like. I won't say a word about you returning the pill." Jiang Chen made a ready declaration.
There was no more reason for any hesitation. The emperor nodded. "Alright. I've heard a lot of praise about you, young lord Zhen. There are some that sing them every day. Today, I've witnessed at least part of the reason why."
Still smiling, Jiang Chen glanced towards the others. "I'll be upfront about this, everyone. I don't have nearly enough Pinecrane Pills to satisfy all of you. However, if you agree to the deal, I'll get one to each and all of you sooner or later. Of course, that requires your willingness to deal with and trust me. Senior Hui has received payment ahead of time, but you might need to provide your services first before you get paid. Moreover, I'm be sure when you'll get your pill."
He kept his voice even and composed.
The great emperors were largely hesitant. Some envied Emperor Wellspring's special treatment.
However, Emperor Wellspring was in the top tier of the six giants. Even Emperors Peerless and Inferno were slightly inferior. It was understandable that he would receive preferential conduct.
"It's fine if you pay us later, young lord Zhen, but how can we trust you? If you can't even give us a date, what guarantee do we have?"
"You have nothing to lose and everything to gain," Jiang Chen shrugged. "Why not take a bet? The only reason I cannot give you a date is because of uncertainty about when I'll get the materials again. Refinement itself isn't exactly difficult for me."
"If I may ask, young lord Zhen, what does the Pinecrane Pill require in materials? Perhaps we can supply you with them?"
"Yes, please do let us know. We've traveled all over the world, and we're no strangers to treasures. If we can't bring you the materials, I don't expect anyone can, aside from maybe the richest of sects."
Eagerness flared in the cultivators' eyes. Their yearning for the Pinecrane Pill lured them unwittingly into Jiang Chen's trap.
The Pinecrane Pill's main materials were Invisible Chameleon Cloudpine acorns and Goldencrown Cloudcrane hearts. Jiang Chen had the former, but the latter was moderately rare.
"I'd like to hear your individual decisions, first," Jiang Chen smiled faintly.
Mo Wushuang stayed silent. He couldn't guess at Jiang Chen's purpose, but he knew there had to be a reason behind the young man's actions.
"Ah, fine. If it's just once within Veluriyam Capital's territory, without directly attacking another faction… what harm is there? At worst, I'll have helped for free. No skin off my back. Even a chance at the Pinecrane Pill is something I can't ignore."
A burly great emperor was the first to pipe up, a mane of black hair trailing behind him.
The man's name was Ye Jianlei. He was a powerful and tenacious expert among the wandering cultivators, said to be very close in strength to Emperor Peerless himself.
"Excellent. You are a candid man, Senior Ye." Jiang Chen clapped cheerfully, turning his smiling eyes upon the others. He had no intent of rushing them into the decision. Something like this required personal willingness.
"Sacred Peafowl Mountain has honored its word for thousands of years. Your personal fame is far-reaching as well, young lord Zhen. I think it's worth the risk. Count me in."
"Me as well."
"Don't forget me!"
After the first steps forward, more tend to follow. Seven or eight great emperors made their willingness known.
Emperor Reliance suddenly broke into a bewitching smile. "I shall participate as well, young lord Zhen. As a woman though, we tend to seek the feeling of security… do you mind giving me priority on the Pinecrane Pills?"
The others had no room to criticize the sole woman among the wandering cultivator six titans.
Seeing this, Emperor Inferno sighed softly. "Young lord Zhen, I prefer making myself clear ahead of time. The two of us are not making a bet, but rather a transaction. If I act on your behalf, then I must receive a Pinecrane Pill sooner or later. If I find out you're trying to freeload off us… Veluriyam Capital will have an enemy for life!"
"I appreciate your candor," Jiang Chen smoothed back his smile somewhat. "If you want to say something, put it in the open. But since we're on that topic, I'd like to note something as well. If you agree to help me, then you must remember this: I won't accept a half-hearted effort. If you do not give this your all, I have the right to renege."
"It's hard to distinguish, no?" someone interjected.
"I'll make it easy. Anyone who wants to participate can swear an oath on their inner demons. Any assistance on their part has to be wholehearted and without reservation." Jiang Chen took the initiative.
He was absolutely certain of the attraction the Pinecrane Pill held. No mortal cultivator could ignore it before they broke through to empyrean realm. Experts on the doorstep to doing so were the sole exception. Anyone else would surely relish the extra chunk of time the pill offered.