As soon as someone took a stand against the two esteemed elders, many started following suit.
"I think Daoist Shangguan's words are sensible. Inspectors who frequent the outside have a better understanding of the world at large than the rest of us. Young lord Zhen's exalted fame reached all the way to our dwellings, so there's no doubt he's a dragon amongst men. We can't challenge someone of his ilk."
"Indeed, I feel like Lord Zhen is a once in a generation figure destined to leave his imprint in human history. Are you saying we should volunteer to be stepping stones for his irresistible rise? Sheer idiocy!"
"It'd be unwise to become mortal enemies over our currently insignificant grudge."
"Sectmaster, rather than fighting an uphill battle, we should seize the occasion to mend our ties with Veluriyam Capital and earn some benefits!"
Shangguan Yanqing's persuasive words along with Emperor Clearsky's attitude convinced many among the upper ranks that their sect couldn't make enemies out of Veluriyam Capital.
Someone suddenly barged inside, interrupting the heated debate. "Sectmaster, there's a group outside of four seniors and a young man. They have an extraordinary look about them and possess unfathomable strength. They say they're from Veluriyam Capital, and they're asking the sectmaster to go and welcome them in person."
"What?" Everyone froze. Talk about the devil!
Shangguan Yanqing was delighted. "Sectmaster, could it be young lord Zhen here in person?"
Young lord Zhen?
Chen Lie and Wu Gong seethed with rage.
Emperor Clearsky murmured after a moment, "Chen Lie, Wu Gong, The sect comes before private quarrels. Whether it's him or not, you aren't to be swayed by your emotions. Everyone, come with me. Let us see if our guest is the famous young lord Zhen."
He walked out with great strides. Most of the upper ranks hurried closely behind. Chen Lie and Wu Gong looked at their peers' departing figures, then at each other. Their faces reflected their anger and helplessness.
The sound of Emperor Clearsky's hearty laughter reached the mountain gates.
"I heard the trill of magpies early this morning and wondered what wonderful news we would receive. It turned out to be honored guests from Veluriyam Capital!" He cupped his fist and offered Jiang Chen a wide smile, approaching with large steps.
"Young lord, this is the Ninesuns sectmaster Emperor Clearsky. His cultivation is even higher than mine," Mo Wushuang sent to Jiang Chen.
With a smile, Jiang Chen stepped forward and offered a courteous greeting. "I've long since heard about Emperor Clearsky's might and prestige. Today, I see your repute is well deserved. I'm Jiang Chen. I hope the sectmaster won't mind the sudden visit."
"And what words are these?" Emperor Clearsky held Jiang Chen's hands and smiled amiably, as if greeting a long lost friend. "We're greatly honored by your presence, young lord Jiang Chen. Please come in, come in!"
The four great emperors in Jiang Chen's party dogged the young lord's footsteps. Given the group's strength plus the young lord's own on the same level, they weren't that concerned with venturing deep into Ninesuns Sky Sect territory. There might not even be five great emperors to be found inside the whole of the Ninesuns Sky Sect. It'd take at least two or three first rank sects to equal a Veluriyam Capital. Hence Emperor Peerless and the others strode easily behind Jiang Chen, full of assurance.
Emperor Clearsky personally introduced the elders and inspectors to Jiang Chen. The latter smiled when it came to Shangguan Yanqing. "Inspector Shangguan is a splendid person. You must have reaped some gains at the Dragon and Tiger Meet. I haven't had time to congratulate you yet."
Shangguan Yanqing had noticed the young lord was calling himself "Jiang Chen" rather than "Zhen Shi". He too switched names without missing a beat. "Haha, it was all thanks to young lord Jiang Chen's good fortunes."
Jiang Chen in turn introduced the four great emperors to the Ninesuns Sky Sect. Seeing their deference to Jiang Chen, the amazed crowd wondered what kind of charisma the young lord exerted to tame these unruly great emperors.
Winding through several mountain paths, they were about to reach the main gate when two figures suddenly landed in front of them. The two were Chen Lie and Wu Gong. Both of them held a token. Full of anger, their expressions stern, they blocked the way forward.
Emperor Clearsky's face darkened, but Jiang Chen remained as collected as ever. His gaze flitted past the two of them, then landed on Emperor Clearsky. "Sectmaster, these two are?"
With a slight nod, Emperor Clearsky stepped forward and hectored, "Chen Lie, Wu Gong, do you not understand the rules of the sect? Do you fail to see the larger picture?"
Chen Lie lifted the token in his hand. "Sectmaster, this is the Esteemed Elder Token, a privilege granted to us by the sect. The rules of our sect say that two esteemed elders are enough to convene a sect meeting as long as they hold the tokens."
There was indeed a sect rule like this, but a sect head like Emperor Clearsky wouldn't be fazed by such trivialities. "Hmph, what command? Chen Lie, Wu Gong, my mind is made up. I've always indulged the both of you, but today, you better first weigh the consequences of opposing me!"
Shangguan Yanqing also shouted, "Esteemed elders, we can talk things out! It's no use waving about the token with only the two of you. Remember, there are four esteemed elders in the sect."
Chen Lie and Wu Gong looked at each other. They needed the four esteemed elders acting in concert to veto the sectmaster's decision.
Chen Lie's eyes fell on two men standing beside Emperor Clearsky. "Brother Ximen, Brother Lu, all of us rose to prominence together with the previous sectmaster's rule. We carry the sect's fate on our shoulders. Are you really going to allow this nonsense?"
He was calling out to the other two esteemed elders, Ximen He and Lu Yuan. Like Chen Lie and Wu Gong, these eminent elders had experienced two generations of leadership and did indeed have greater seniority than the sectmaster.
However, Ximen He shook his head without the slightest hesitation. "Daoist Chen, I don't see anything wrong with the sectmaster's decision. Our sect has always acted according to the circumstances. On the contrary, I would be worried if we were blinded by personal spite."
"That's right," Esteemed Lu Yuan echoed. "Daoist Chen, Daoist Wu, it's your prerogative to use the Esteemed Elder Token, but the sect comes above all. It would be unreasonable to continue with your petty grudges."
"That's right. Please stop, Esteemed Elders. You're challenging the sectmaster's authority. This is much too unbecoming!" The upper ranks of the sect also advised them.
Chen Lie and Wu Gong were livid. Blinded by personal enmity, they had been counting on the other two esteemed elders to stop Emperor Clearsky from mending ties with Veluriyam Capital. But their cohorts hadn't supported them at all!
His face expressionless, Emperor Clearsky suddenly lifted three fingers. "Three breaths. You have three breaths to consider the bigger picture and take a step back. If you do, then everything will be water under the bridge. We're still one family from the same sect. But if you don't..."
His face suddenly hardened and he started counting down. "Three."
Emperor Clearsky was a domineering sectmaster with supreme strength. When he flared his aura and expressed his attitude, Chen Lie and Wu Gong received the impression that they couldn't withstand the incoming displeasure.
Wu Gong mumbled with a soft sigh, "Forget it, forget it. Maybe I'm old and confused. I'm dropping this matter here. This old man's dignity is in shambles, so I'm going into seclusion for a hundred years. I hope all of you will take good care of the sect."
Too ashamed to stay, he turned into a blur and disappeared in a stream of light.
Chen Lie glared at Jiang Chen, his eyes full of hostility. But he didn't dare persist now that he'd been isolated. He stomped a hateful foot on the ground and flew away.
Jiang Chen was puzzled. "Sectmaster, it seems these two elders came here because of me?"
The Ninesuns sect members looked a little embarrassed. Shangguan Yanqing responded with a wry smile, "Elder Chen Lie had a disciple named Cao Jin…"
Cao Jin? Jiang Chen had killed him back on Mt. Rippling Mirage. As he seemed to recall, that lowlife was one of the ten true disciples of the Ninesuns Sky Sect. No wonder.
"Sectmaster Clearsky, Cao Jin was the one who went to Myriad Domain and provoked me. But it's true I killed him, so if Elder Chen Lie wants to blame someone, he might as well look to me." Jiang Chen didn't care either way.
"Not at all, young lord. Our sect may keep grudge and gratitude in mind, but they're common occurrences in the world of cultivation. We also realize it wouldn't be a smart choice to be enemies with you." Emperor Clearsky was rather plain-spoken. "Not that I'm afraid, but I have to evaluate the circumstances when managing a sect. Young lord Jiang Chen heads a powerful faction. Rather than enemies, I'd like to be friends."
His forthrightness both surprised and caused Jiang Chen to be on the alert. Emperor Clearsky wasn't to be trifled with. Discretion as the better part of valor, making friends if he couldn't afford enmity. In other words, a friend like him might very well become an enemy at the drop of a hat if the situation were to change.