Long Baxiang's malice deserved capital punishment. He'd intentionally shamed Emperor Peerless both to strike at Sacred Peafowl Mountain and to evoke the wandering cultivators' hostility. His words were full of malicious undertones and incitement.
See, a giant of the wandering cultivator world has become young lord Zhen's dog! This is a heinous offense against your entire class. And yet, you're still giving him this much support?! You've been completely fooled!
Emperor Peerless's expression darkened. He was a man capable of keeping his cool and he knew Long Baxiang's motives quite well. If he were to lash out now, the young lord's plans would be irrevocably damaged.
Frowning, Jiang Chen stepped forward in front of Emperor Peerless. He glared at Long Baxiang coldly. "This is the third time you've offended Sacred Peafowl Mountain, Long. I respected you as our guest the previous two times. But this time, you're taking a mile after receiving an inch. I do not tolerate the debasement of one of Sacred Peafowl Mountain's venerated elders!
"Jiao Yun, Jiao Feng. Throw our our unwelcome guest. If he doesn't leave within the time limit, kill him on the spot!" Jiang Chen scanned the crowd. "Mutual respect is one of my principles. Anyone who seeks a quarrel with Sacred Peafowl Mountain will be struck down regardless of station! Long, watch yourself!"
Long Baxiang's two previous interruptions had gone unanswered. Because of that, he had fallen into a false sense of security. He'd thought that because the young lord had only recently ascended to the throne, he must still lack a bit in charisma. There was no way the young man would risk breaking with him. Furthermore, the sect head's typical arrogance added to his self-confidence.
He'd completely underestimated Sacred Peafowl Mountain's character. Young lord Zhen had turned on him at the drop of a hat, leaving him uncertain and hesitant.
"You dare to expel me, young lord Zhen? A great emperor?" Violence danced in Long Baxiang's eyes.
Jiang Chen glanced coolly towards Emperor Peerless. "Old Brother Mo, please back the Jiao brothers up. If that Long person over there doesn't comply, cut him down at all costs!"
The young man was uninterested in wasting words on Long Baxiang. His determination was resolute enough to kill.
The Jiao brothers weren't a pair of herbivores to begin with. With Sacred Peafowl Mountain backing them up, there was no reason for them to hesitate. Cackling, they hurtled toward Long Baxiang.
"Are you deaf, Long? Are you going to leave by yourself, or would you like some help?"
The great emperor from the Heavenly Dragon Sect had to respect the Jiao brothers' ferocity, especially since a displeased Emperor Peerless wasn't far away. Long Baxiang was quite strong, but he wasn't about to indulge his cockiness against three of his peers in enemy territory.
Sneering, he circled around the crowd. "So many other first rank sects are here. Won't someone speak up for the sake of justice? I suppose you've all fallen in line before the Zhen brat's terror. If you're all as cowardly as this, the human domain will soon defer to a singular voice!"
Long Baxiang was still attempting to rile up the audience. Unfortunately for him, there was no one willing to stick their neck out for him. They didn't want to anger Jiang Chen. And from an objective point of view, the young lord was hardly at fault. Long Baxiang had the one who'd spewed putrid air everywhere.
If he wanted to oppose young lord Zhen, then he should have done so openly and directly. What was the point of dragging Emperor Peerless into it? And connected to the emperor was a large band of his fellow wandering great emperors, amongst whom the Jiao brothers were the closest.
Additionally, Long Baxiang wasn't the kindest of people. He had a habit of doing whatever he liked. He had threatened Master Dong Ye at the auction just yesterday! When someone like him got into trouble, barely anyone sympathized.
Some of the first rank sect representatives smirked, while others remained impassive. A few were uncaring enough to display open scorn. Not a single one stood up for the arrogant emperor.
Long Baxiang felt blood well up in his face. His cheeks flushed deep red. If a fissure opened up in the ground, there was no doubt he would dive right in. Humiliation like he'd never experienced before flowed into him.
"Ah, never mind. The Heavenly Dragon Sect doesn't have a habit of asking for help anyways. Zhen, I'm on your home turf today, so I'll let you get away with this for now. But I don't believe for a second that a kid like you can run all eight of the Upper Regions! The indignity I've suffered today will be revisited upon you tenfold. I promise it!" His face too dark for words, Long Baxiang scurried off after leaving a few choice last words.
"Jiao Yun, Jiao Feng. Keep close tabs on him until he leaves Veluriyam territory. If there is any delay on his part, you may attack him without worry." Jiang Chen commanded.
"Yes, sir!" The Jiao brothers heard the youth loud and clear.
Jiang Chen's incredible swiftness and determination daunted everyone present.
Seeing the haughty Long Baxiang be so distressed and discomfited by the young lord's actions produced an indescribable mixture of feelings from the observers. Some were guarded, others deferential…
"Friends, there is no end to conflict in the world of martial dao. I've never thought of obtaining everyone's approval. Perhaps you feel that the question just now was arranged beforehand. I welcome you to mention any such concerns to me. I have no problem with them in the slightest. However, maliciously disrespecting Sacred Peafowl Mountain's people is something I will not tolerate! A man walks the world with his reputation before him. Emperor Peerless and I appreciate each other greatly, so much so that we're sworn brothers. He joined Sacred Peafowl Mountain in my time of need solely to help me. This is nobility of the highest order! But Long defiled utterly it with his vile words. Do you think I should simply endure this injustice? He has committed the first and hopefully the last offense. Any infractions in the future will face Sacred Peafowl Mountain's wrath!" Jiang Chen swept the entire place with a frigid gaze.
The wandering cultivator who'd asked the question in the first place walked out angrily as well. He looked furious. "What are you people trying to pull, eh? Young lord Zhen has looked after wandering cultivators very well at the Dragon and Tiger Meet, but you keep making trouble for him! Is goodwill and kindness toward wandering cultivators not tolerated in this world? Should anyone who does so be an instant focus of attack? Why do you say that I'm the young lord's shill?
"Those who make that claim, are you brave enough to confront me face to face? If I really am a shill, then let heaven strike me down right now with some natural disaster! But if I'm not, then heaven should strike you instead! Do you dare swear such an oath? You're shams, cheats, and hypocrites! Is there anyone brave enough, huh? I'll take all of you on!"
The wandering cultivator roared ferociously, hotly riled up. The veins in his neck pulsed as he heaved for breath, his face was flush with agitation. He was caught up entirely in the heat of the moment.
"I don't care what kind of new crap you're trying to label young lord Zhen with. I only have one thing to say. Among the large factions in the world, young lord Zhen is the only leader who I've seen is genuinely willing to promote wandering cultivators' interests! From today onwards, I will only support young lord Zhen and Sacred Peafowl Mountain! Don't mention anyone else to me. Young lord Zhen is the only one!
"Which one of you is as forthright as young lord Zhen, hmm? I admire him because he's forthright to the highest degree. If all you know are a few petty tricks, the heavens will clear things up in the end. We wandering cultivators aren't blind. It's easy to separate kindness from hostility in the long run!"
After a lengthy outburst, the man huffed back into a sea of his fellows. In the next moment, all the wandering cultivators began to clap.
"Well said! All of these people deserve to be cussed at! They're jealous of young lord Zhen!"
"Anyone who insults young lord Zhen in the future will be cursed by me!"
"That's right! Young lord Zhen's compassion is unrivaled. Who else would think for us? Before now, absolutely no one!"
"I didn't get a single stone from coming to the Dragon and Tiger Meet, but even so it was well worth my time! At least I know now that there's a young lord Zhen here in Veluriyam Capital. As long as he's here, this entire place is worth coming to!"
"Young lord Zhen, you must hold the Dragon and Tiger Meet often in the future. I'll be sure to attend. Not only that, but I'll bring my brothers and friends here as well!"
There was a tremendous wave of support among the wandering cultivators; Jiang Chen's heart swelled up in satisfaction. To say that he hadn't done much of what had occurred out of partial self-interest would be a lie.
But even so, there was a great deal of sincerity in his actions. It was plain to anyone that many wandering cultivators had benefited from the proceedings. The first person who'd done so had come out to swear rather severe oaths. There was no reason for the audience to suspect that it had all been an act.
Even the elder from the Empyrean River Palace felt a certain amount of agreement. He was both wary and concerned about the crowd's rising emotions.
What he had witnessed today told him that Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord Zhen had a magical sort of charisma that could win people's hearts. Why else were these wandering cultivators so supportive of him?
"Emperor Pillzenith has found a difficult opponent this time," the elder lamented to himself.
Jiang Chen stepped forward, pressing both palms slightly down. "I'm truly thankful for your heartfelt support. What little abuse I bear in the process is entirely worth it. Alright, let the questions continue! Let's not let the calumny of a few ruin the event for the rest."
The question and answer segment continued as planned.
Order was restored to the staging grounds. The wandering cultivators who got a chance at a question were all marvellously excited, devoting their entire intellects into devising the perfect inquiry.
Some of the lucky ones who couldn't come up with a question right away received buy offers from their powerful peers. Getting answers from young lord Zhen's own mouth was a service that fetched a high premium.
The atmosphere was electric.
As the segment went on, the price for a single question shot up higher and higher. Each question asked became more and more technical. Some wandering cultivators were able to serendipitously pawn off their chance for a modest sum of wealth.
Jiang Chen didn't interfere in these organic transactions. They were part of the larger wandering cultivator ecosystem, which he saw little need to disturb.
In the guest area, the sect representatives occasionally received the opportunity to ask a question as well. But Jiang Chen naturally didn't open the floor up to factions hostile to him. The few chances that he had freely given early on had gone to the Great Yu Skysword Sect and the Celestial Cicada Court - with the occasional leftover for the Moon God Sect and the Ninesuns Sky Sect.