Wandering cultivators had pride, for sure. The Jiao brothers of Mt. Huai had their own pride, but they were forced to relinquish their grasp on it when confronted with life and death. Moreover, young lord Zhen had given them an easy way out. They weren't obligated to be slaves, but esteemed guest elders instead. What more could they ask for?
Not surrendering at this point was completely foolish.
"We are willing to submit to your will, young lord Zhen."
"Is that what you really think?" There was no hint of joy on Jiang Chen's face yet. "I repeat: the choice is yours, but you must live up to it. Inconstancy or disloyalty will not be permitted at Sacred Peafowl Mountain."
The Jiao brothers were smart enough to understand that they were being pushed to make a declaration.
"We brothers swear to the heavens that we shall be part of Sacred Peafowl Mountain henceforth and perpetually stay loyal to it. Young lord Zhen's wish will be our command. If we break our word, let heaven and earth smite us!"
They would be idiotic not to take the offered way out. A declaration of loyalty was well within reason to demand. There was no reason for them to hesitate. The oath to the heavens instantly made them closer with the young lord and their new faction.
"Excellent. From today on, you two belong to Sacred Peafowl Mountain." Chuckling, Jiang Chen saluted Emperor Inferno with cupped fist. "You've kept to your promises well. Our deal stands. There is one spot of trouble that remains over there, though… what say you?"
Jiang Chen glanced coolly over in Emperor Shura's direction. Under the encirclement of Emperors Wellspring, Peerless, and Vastsea, the former second-best of Veluriyam Capital was becoming increasingly desperate. Instinct alone carried him onward.
The Jiao brothers cackled. "We're fresh inductees into Sacred Peafowl Mountain, young lord Zhen, so we haven't contributed much yet. I think it's we should show our sincerity. Daoist Inferno and the others can take a break. We'll take their places instead. Shura is at his wit's end, and his strength is almost out."
"Sounds reasonable," Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "We'll have Emperors Inferno and Reliance back you up then. I'd like to ensure that he does not escape."
Though he knew clearly that Emperor Shura had been trapped, Jiang Chen wanted absolute surety. He could not afford to allow a vital threat to live another day. A destructive unknown like Emperor Shura had to be destroyed immediately. Left unchecked, it was a thorn in his side that continually pained him.
The Jiao brothers' participation only made the situation more lopsided. Emperor Shura still thought they were his helpers. He hadn't paid much attention to the fight nearby, and was therefore completely unaware of the brothers' change in allegiance.
"Good that you came, friends," he shouted energetically. "Let's put our strengths together and get out here. We'll come back another day!"
The Jiao brothers traded a look, snickering internally despite themselves. How had they followed such an idiot to Veluriyam Capital? Wordlessly, the duo raised their weapons on Emperor Shura.
The desperate emperor was completely unguarded against them. In fact, he'd had high hopes for their helping hand. There was no time for him to react to their unexpected assault. He was suddenly mired in the middle of five belligerent opponents.
Shrieking incessantly, he and his defenses began to weaken as more wounds appeared on his body.
Intent on impressing the young lord of their new faction, the Jiao brothers put a hundred and twenty percent into their efforts. Individually, a single brother was weaker than Emperor Peerless. In tandem, however, they were unquestionably mightier. Their fresh participation meant that Emperor Shura's only recourse was to take the incoming beating.
Thump! The attacks landed upon Emperor Shura's body simultaneously, disintegrating his Shura Rings of Life and Death completely. The seven violet rings dissipated into thin air.
Because the Rings were the emperor's most intimate defensive treasure, his body was laid bare to the five assailants after it was destroyed.
Another combined attack was enough to smash the spiteful emperor's last hopes into smithereens. The terrifying energy reduced the man to dust and ashes. The man who was once the number two great emperor of Veluriyam Capital was dead. What remained of him was scattered upon the wind, lost in the breeze at the foot of Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
Letting out a loud bark of laughter, Emperor Wellspring returned his blade to its sheath. "I've done as you asked, young lord Zhen. I can finally have some peace of mind for taking your Pinecrane Pill."
"That is so. Well done, and thank you for your hard work," smiled Jiang Chen.
Emperor Wellspring waved a hand. "Now that I have the Pinecrane Pill, please excuse me. I'll pass on the Dragon and Tiger Meet."
Today's events were evidently more awkward than the senior emperor would've liked. Out of so many great emperors here, he was the only one to have gotten a Pinecrane Pill ahead of time. The others were still waiting in line. Making his exit would help restore some of his personal dignity.
Jiang Chen laughed. "Senior Hui, today's happenings were only a small prelude to what is to come. There are many more causes for excitement down the line. Why are you leaving so soon? What a pity if you do."
Mo Wushuang chuckled as well. "Old Brother Hui, don't blame me for not reminding you later: young lord Zhen has prepared an excellent program for the Meet. If you miss out, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Don't you want to hear the mysterious expert from Myriad Abyss Island lecture?"
When he heard that, Emperor Wellspring couldn't lift another foot. "Young lord Zhen," he coughed bashfully, "you're definitely an expert at tantalizing others."
Jiang Chen flashed a winning smile. He knew from those words that the senior emperor was no longer leaving. Emperor Wellspring was a heavyweight in the wandering cultivator world. The Dragon and Tiger Meet would be much less grand without his presence. There was no way the young man was simply going to let him go.
As for the others, they wouldn't leave now even if he tried to dismiss them. They hadn't gotten their Pinecrane Pills yet; in what world would they be willing to leave?
Saluting with cupped fist, he addressed them once more. "After the Dragon and Tiger Meet, I'll refine the pills as soon as I get my hands on the materials. I guarantee there will be no trickery involved."
"Hehe, we'll wait patiently for the good news." Emperor Reliance giggled.
"Of course. I won't let any of you down. Right, one more thing. Please keep today a secret. After all, Emperor Pillzenith had something to do with this. I wouldn't want you to antagonize Pillfire City over factional affairs."
These words improved the wandering cultivators' impression of him. Veluriyam's young lord wasn't attempting to blackmail them into joining Sacred Peafowl Mountain. That was something they absolutely did not want to happen.
They had helped for the sake of the Pinecrane Pill, not for a long-lasting relationship with Sacred Peafowl Mountain. Similarly, they had no intention of making an enemy out of Pillfire City. The enmity between the two megfactions was theirs and theirs alone. No wandering cultivator wanted to get himself caught up in the chaos.
"Please inform the other great emperors that came today as well. Let's not let any wind of this out, eh?" Jiang Chen continued.
"No need to worry, young lord Zhen," Emperor Wellspring stated smoothly. "We are more than capable enough of shouldering any consequences from our own decisions. Besides, is Pillfire City stronger than all of us here put together?"
"That's right. If Emperor Pillzenith knows what's good for him, then he'll know that we had nothing to do with what happened today. If he diverts his anger upon us regardless… well, we have ways of dealing with him."
"That's right. We are in the right on this matter and need not consider Pillfire City's stance. If we had been hired by you for an attack, then we would be the ones at fault. But defending you outside of your home is no problem whatsoever."
"Plus, we had no idea this had anything to do with them beforehand anyway."
"Heh heh, even if we did? Are we wandering cultivators scared of Pillfire City? It's fine if there's no trouble, but even if there were… we wouldn't just take it lying down."
No expert in the wandering cultivator world could be considered meek. Their actions had been preceded by the willingness to take responsibility. What was a little risk compared to the payoff of a Pinecrane Pill?
Their upbeat attitudes took the words out of Jiang Chen's mouth. He amiably escorted the wandering cultivators down the mountain with a wide smile.
A little after all of them were sent off, Emperors Void and Coiling Dragon arrived. Clearly, they had sensed the great battle occurring at Sacred Peafowl Mountain. Emperors Petalpluck, Mountaincrush, and Skysplitter swiftly followed.
"Vastsea, why are you here?" Emperor Coiling Dragon's keen eye spotted the other emperor from afar. He pounced on the man furiously. "Do you feel no shame at showing up here? Do you think we won't kill you for real?"
Emperor Vastsea felt quite awkward. Emperor Coiling Dragon was the man he was most afraid of, and not of the man's martial prowess, but his acerbic tongue.
Jiang Chen put a stop to his friend's impulsive with a wave.
"Calm down, everyone. Please hear me out. A little while ago, Emperor Vastsea decided to return to the light. He has done Veluriyam Capital a great service."
"What?" Emperor Coiling Dragon thought he'd misheard.
Mo Wushuang stood forward to resolve the situation as well. "It happened just now. Emperor Shura, in cahoots with Pillfire City, snuck into Sacred Peafowl Mountain to assassinate young lord Zhen. Emperor Vastsea turned at a critical moment to inflict a serious wound upon Emperor Shura, allowing us the opportunity to decimate our traitorous foe once and for all!"
"Huh?" Emperor Coiling Dragon-no, all of the freshly-arrived emperors-froze in place. Emperor Vastsea had turned… to inflict a serious wound on Emperor Shura? Why did that sound so very strange?
Wasn't he one of Shura's loyal followers?
"There is nothing to suspect, gentlemen. Emperor Shura pushed even his most intimate confidants away from him through his reckless behavior. Emperor Vastsea turned back to the light because he wanted to avoid certain death. That's not a bad thing for our city as a whole. I would like to request your charity in this matter. We all make mistakes, some graver than others." Jiang Chen attempted to help the former turncoat out of his bind.
"Hold on!" Emperor Void suddenly intensified his gaze. "Vastsea, there's only one thing I'd like to ask you. Did you participate in Emperor Peafowl's disappearance?"