Shangguan Yanqing roared with laughter. "Everyone knows how easy name-calling is. If the sectmaster wishes me to die, I will go to my death without so much as a frown. However, you are completely mistaken if you think that killing me will give the sect a brighter future.
"My friends, I'm sure everyone knows the true identity of Veluriyam Capital's young lord Zhen by now. Back when he was still in Myriad Domain, he crushed our plans for the sixteen kingdom alliance. He escaped notice simply because the issue was minor at best. When the Eternal Celestial Capital succeeded in their conspiracy to invade Myriad Domain, we were a bit slow on the uptake and therefore didn't benefit nearly as much. Everyone thought that we lost out on a great deal, but in fact, we should be thankful for that stroke of fortune. Otherwise…"
"Otherwise what?" Esteemed Chen Lei sneered.
"Elder Chen Lei," Shangguan Yanqing remarked coolly, "yYu shouldn't use such a judgmental tone. Your loss and our decision here are separate matters. We will see the Eternal Celestial Capital's fate very soon."
Emperor Clearsky waved. "There's no need to argue. Shangguan, go into a bit more detail."
Shangguan Yanqing knew that the sectmaster wasn't actually going to kill him. After all, he had received personal instructions before his journey to Veluriyam Capital.
"To put it more simply, sectmaster, one phrase is enough to sum it up. Discretion is the better part of valor." The inspector cleanly summarized his stance.
"How so?" asked the emperor.
"It is better for us to have young lord Zhen as an ally rather than an enemy. In the latter case, it is possible that our ten thousand years of heritage will be destroyed overnight. The Ninesuns Sky Sect won't necessarily benefit a great deal with him as a friend, but neither will it risk destruction!" Shangguan Yanqing's words caused an uproar in the audience present.
Many thought he was exaggerating. Even if Veluriyam's young lord was reasonably capable, he was still a young man at the end of the day. How could what the inspector was suggesting possibly come to pass?
Esteemed Wu Gong snickered incessantly. "Keep making things up, Shangguan Yanqing. I'd like to see how far you can go."
"I'm sure most of you won't take me seriously, my friends," Shangguan Yanqing continued. "You've cloistered yourselves in the sect for far too long and lack understanding of the world outside. Or perhaps you're not interested in learning of the outside landscape, caught up in your dreams that our clout as a first rank sect will overcome any problems. It's the inspectors' job to travel around and gather information. We can't claim to have made any great contributions to the sect as a whole, but we do pride ourselves on knowledge about current events. Is there any disagreement about this?
"I bore witness to the Dragon and Tiger Meet from start to finish. If you had been there, you would've been even more shocked than I was. Young lord Zhen's martial dao prowess surpasses anyone else of his generation. However, his comprehensive pill dao knowledge and natural knack for leadership are even more terrifying than that. It's as if he was born to lead on a grand scale. No matter their alignment, the experts present were strung along at his rhythm.
"From the wandering cultivator world: Emperor Peerless, one of its six titans, is now one of the young lord's loyal followers. The Jiao brothers of Mt. Huai, known for their ferocity, have also become his retainers. Emperor Wellspring, another of the six titans who is loftier than even Emperor Peerless, has expressed his indirect support for the kid as well. I'm not exaggerating when I say that if Veluriyam Capital wages open war against the Ninesuns Sky Sect, young lord Zhen would be able to enlist the aid of Emperor Wellspring, Emperor Inferno, and Emperor Reliance at minimum. All of them are members of the six titans, I might add.
"We have deep pockets and an abundance of resources, but can we truly compare to Veluriyam Capital?
"The next part is what intimidates me the most. The young lord has the backing of an expert from the mythical Myriad Abyss Island! When that mysterious expert made his presence known at the Dragon and Tiger Meet, every great emperor expert cowered before him like children! They were as docile as lambs.
"Even if Myriad Abyss Island's expert doesn't participate in these affairs, young lord Zhen still possesses pills that defy the human domain's understanding. The Pinecrane Pill and the Emperor Supremacy Pill are both capable of buying a vast number of powerful experts for mercenary work. They would be satisfied with only a single pill of either type in return. What ability do we have to stand against the combined wrath of Veluriyam Capital and ten additional wandering cultivator great emperors, if I may ask?" Shangguan Yanqing posed a harsh question to everyone present.
Some of the complaining executives were already pale with terror. They could no longer sit still. The inspector's analysis made them realize that the youth they'd ignored for so long had become strong enough for the entire sect to look up to.
Disregarding everything else, who at the Ninesuns Sky Sect could resist a mysterious expert from Myriad Abyss Island? The threat of that alone was enough to strike fear into the hearts of all.
"Daoist Shangguan, is everything you've described about young lord Zhen true? Your words sound… a bit overblown." A few still held out in disbelief.
"Overblown? To tell you the truth, I haven't even gotten started. The real young lord Zhen is several times more incredible than what I've described. Pillfire City's Emperor Pillzenith is pretty capable man, isn't he? After he failed to benefit from the civil unrest within Veluriyam Capital, young lord Zhen scared him off in person at the Vassal Meeting.
"Emperor Shura, Veluriyam Capital's second-in-command, was cut down in secret after an attempted rebellion.
"The missing leader of Veluriyam Capital, Emperor Peafowl, is a commanding figure among the people. After his disappearance, many thought that the city would fall into chaos. It took only a few months for young lord Zhen to take full control, managing it so well that the city is bursting with new vigor rather than discord. Veluriyam Capital may not have as wide a sphere of influence as Pillfire City yet, but it has significantly greater potential."
Venerated Elder Chen Lei was furious. "Greater potential than Pillfire City? Pillfire City takes home more than eighty percent profit from the entire pill industry. Are you dreaming?"
"More than eighty percent? It wouldn't matter even if it was more than ninety." Shangguan Yanqing smirked nonchalantly. "As long as young lord Zhen lives, the pill industry will be turned upside down sooner or later. Pillfire City won't get to make the rules for much longer! Esteemed Chen Lei, your time behind closed doors has rendered you sluggish. You don't follow the trends in the outside world any more!"
The inspector's tone was very disrespectful. Hearing his disdain was almost enough for Chen Lei to cough up blood.
"He's just some immature kid who hasn't grown up yet," Esteemed Wu Gong rebuked. "It's hard to say if he'll even make it to great emperor. What does temporary fame matter in the long run? How could someone like Emperor Pillzenith allow him to enter into his full potential?"
"That's right. Pillfire City won't let him get his way so easily. You're heaping too much praise on that kid, Shangguan Yanqing. Did you take a bribe of some sort?" Esteemed Chen Lei followed up with further stigmatization.
"Pillfire City? The Pill-Martial Summit was clearly their response to Veluriyam Capital's Dragon and Tiger Meet. How did things end up for them? Only a few wandering great emperors attended the Pill-Martial Summit, compared to the twenty-odd who went to the Dragon and Tiger Meet. This was the first time, too! If Veluriyam Capital were to hold another one soon, I am sure there would be a much more significant gap." Shangguan Yanqing scoffed.
"Even great emperors feel the clutches of old age. Who wouldn't want a Pinecrane Pill? And the Emperor Supremacy Pill is perfect for those who want to break through too.
"Do you think they won't be able to make the rules, given these two pills? Pillfire City has a lot of history and knowledge, but young lord Zhen's pill dao methods have clearly surpassed the entire human domain. Pillfire City was strong before because of the lack of competition. But a veritable tiger has arrived upon the scene, and Pillfire's stores are rendered worthless."
Shangguan Yanqing smiled coolly. "That's as far as I'll go. It's up to you whether or not you believe me. Time will show the veracity of my words."
Emperor Clearsky smiled. "Shangguan, you've done good work by going to Veluriyam Capital. All that you've said today is valuable information for the sect. The Ninesuns Sky Sect has an ancient adage: when an opponent cannot be defeated, the best solution is to make them into an ally."
Emperor Clearsky's gaze was thoughtful. "We are a first rank sect. However, Veluriyam Capital has strength that surpasses any of our brethren. Even though Emperor Peafowl has disappeared suddenly, Veluriyam has strengthened rather than weakened. They are more united and more aggressive than ever before. Make no mistake about it: they're on a meteoric rise. From what I foresee, a clash between our sect and young lord Zhen can only result in a loss for either side. Because young lord Zhen has Myriad Abyss Island's backing, any bit of outside pressure from there will smash the Ninesuns Sky Sect utterly. From the sect's perspective, I'd like to ask all of you a single question: should we be friends or enemies with Veluriyam Capital? Feel free to speak your minds."
As the head of an entire sect, the emperor had to consider things more holistically.
"Sectmaster, are we supposed to forget about our grudge with that kid?"
"Indeed. When has the Ninesuns Sky Sect suffered such a indignity?!"
"Don't be like that, my friends. Grudges are relative. His killed ours and we've killed his. Technically, we're the instigators in all of this."
"You're right. We were the ones who first sent pursuers after him. Cao Jing died after striking out on his own. That's pretty typical for martial dao conflicts and it's hard to say who has the right of it."
"I agree with the sectmaster. It is impossible for us to fight Veluriyam Capital publicly! Their near-destruction of a first rank sect is not ancient history." Aside from the esteemed elders Chen Lei and Wu Gong, the others were diametrically opposed.