"Emperor Coiling Dragon." Jiang Chen looked at his old acquaintance with an easygoing smile. He hadn't wanted to mobilize any of the great emperors of the capital, but Emperor Coiling Dragon was insistent on repaying the life-saving favor he owed.
The other great emperors also expressed their willingness to participate, but Jiang Chen politely declined them all. A single Great Scarlet Mid Region was nothing to worry about. It was hardly something that deserved so much attention, at any rate.
"Shall I lead the vanguard, young lord Jiang?" Emperor Coiling Dragon was ready for a fight.
"Haha, I only have one task for you. Can you lead eight vassals in surrounding Great Scarlet Mid Region? No one is to enter or leave."
"That's a piece of cake. What's hard about that?" Emperor Coiling Dragon was a bit disappointed. "Actually, I wanted to take down the Great Scarlet capital."
"I'm going there myself," Jiang Chen smiled. "Emperor Peerless, take a group of men to back Emperor Coiling Dragon up. In fact, please reinforce any team that needs it. That's a bit of a tougher job than the rest, I know."
"Oh, no, no trouble at all," Mo Wushuang laughed.
"Emperor Vastsea." Jiang Chen looked toward the other emperor he named. "Take your men to crush the three third rank sects in Great Scarlet. Can you do that?"
The strongest cultivators in a third rank sect were sixth or seventh level emperor realm at best. Though Emperor Vastsea had fallen in stature, his old subordinates were still as strong as before. There was no concern about any inability to meet Jiang Chen's command.
"Heheh, I'll get the job done. The crushing part though… do we kill them all, or...?" Emperor Vastsea asked.
"Execute anyone who resists!" Jiang Chen voiced only those four words.
"Alright, I'll cut a path through them to start then. If the ones left aren't happy with that, they can die with their compatriots. The ones who surrender will be left for your judgment, young lord." Emperor Vastsea cackled viciously.
Jiang Chen nodded. "Jiao brothers, come with me to the Great Scarlet capital."
"Yes, young lord." The two brothers were tremendously excited. This was amazing news for them. The Great Scarlet capital sheltered the criminals fundamentally responsible for the attack on Myriad Domain. There was sure to be rivers of blood on this excursion. Lethal engagement was perhaps the brothers' most enjoyable pastime, so they relished getting an opportunity to enjoy it.
"These are the preliminary orders. Make your preparations before we march. The only path before us is to victory! If there are any changes to our arrangements, I'll give commands in the field." With a wave of his hand, Jiang Chen finalized the battle plan.
"Young lord Jiang," Palace Head Dan Chi asked from the side. "What of the dozen or so fourth rank sects in Great Scarlet?"
"Don't worry. As long as Great Scarlet Mid Region is sealed off, they'll be nothing more than a bunch of sitting ducks. When I deal with the imperial family in a savage takedown, I'll visit them one by one. The Thunder Note Hall and Great Roc Sect are priority targets. These two sects were directly responsible for destroying Regal Pill Palace…"
"Please take us along, young lord Jiang!" Palace Head Dan Chi and Elder Yun Nie both volunteered.
"Haha, of course I'll bring you along to such a momentous occasion. All of you shall come with me to eradicate the imperial family. How could I deny you the satisfaction of taking vengeance on our foes?"
Though Great Scarlet appeared as peaceful as ever, recent undercurrents of activity began to surface. Information of all kinds about Veluriyam Capital had made its way into the ears of the imperial family as of late.
Although only the royal family was first to be privy to said information, it eventually propagated to the rest of the region via the wandering cultivators.
"Have you guys heard? The young lord of Veluriyam Capital is Jiang Chen from Myriad Domain's Regal Pill Palace! From all those years ago!"
"I've heard a lot of people say so. There's no way it's true though, right?"
"I heard that Emperor Coiling Dragon from Veluriyam Capital admitted it himself."
"That's not good at all. We did some pretty brutal things to Myriad Domain back then. If young lord Zhen really is Jiang Chen, he…"
"He'll take revenge on Great Scarlet for sure."
"Who cares? We wandering cultivators shouldn't care about conflicts between the big factions. We weren't the ones invading Myriad Domain. I doubt the young lord will bother us innocents."
"That's right. I hear young lord Zhen is a man of principle. There's no way that'll happen."
Similar conversations took place in Great Scarlet's every corner in great abundance.
Great Scarlet's emperor had been living incredibly uneasily in recent times. Sleep had been scarce for several nights in a row, and he was losing large handfuls of hair from his scalp. The spies that he'd sent out were feeding a lot of information back to him, each piece verifying the truth of the rumors more and more.
"Your Majesty, I've heard the spies' reports. Emperor Coiling Dragon did indeed confirm that Veluriyam Capital's young lord Zhen and the Regal Pill Palace's Jiang Chen are one and the same." The person speaking was the minister of chambers, Old Guo.
"Is there any news from those sent to the Eternal Celestial Capital?"
"Not yet, Your Majesty. We should hear from them soon though." Old Guo paused before continuing. "Sire, I have a few words that I'm not sure I should say."
"Do so. You've followed me a long time as my most trusted confidant. What need is there for you to withhold your thoughts?" There was deep fatigue in the emperor's voice.
"I think that if the news proves true, even the Eternal Celestial Capital may not defend us. Therefore…"
"Therefore what?" The emperor's tone took a sharp turn.
"I think that Your Majesty should make contingency plans." Old Guo sighed. His own voice was lowered and his eyes became evasive.
Though he'd followed Great Scarlet's emperor a long time, he knew how explosive His Majesty was. If he didn't speak cautiously, even a confidante as him would suffer a tongue lashing.
"Contingency plans?" The emperor sounded bitter. "If young lord Zhen really is that Jiang Chen kid, what plans can we possibly make? How can Great Scarlet possibly defend against a lightning-fast strike from Veluriyam Capital?"
An officer of the imperial guard, Commander He, broke his silence. "Your Majesty, I think there's no cause for concern at all. So what if Jiang Chen is young lord Zhen? He spent barely any time at the Regal Pill Palace in the first place. What feelings could he have for that sect? It's been so many years too, right? Wouldn't he have taken revenge far earlier than this if he were truly interested? One more thing, can he really command all the other great emperors' forces? He's only the young lord, after all. Veluriyam Capital is without Emperor Peafowl right now, so it's rather occupied with internal affairs. What reason would they have for attacking Great Scarlet? Wouldn't they attack the Eternal Celestial Capital first?"
"The Eternal Celestial Capital?" Old Guo smiled wryly. "Reports indicate that that sect was the only first rank sect absent from the Dragon and Tiger Meet. That's more than sufficient evidence."
"Evidence for what?" Commander He was not satisfied.
"Evidence that young lord Zhen is preparing to bare his fangs." Old Guo prostrated himself before the emperor and begged, "Your Majesty, we must take countermeasures as soon as possible. If we're too late, unmitigated disaster will strike."
The possibility of something as huge as Veluriyam Capital setting its sights on Great Scarlet… it was enough to make the old minister's head spin.
"Old Guo, you've been talking about plans and countermeasures. What do you think His Majesty should do exactly, huh? What kind of plan and countermeasure should we take to mitigate Veluriyam Capital's attack?"
"Are we supposed to just sit here and await our doom then?" Old Guo retorted angrily.
The statement pained Great Scarlet's emperor. He remembered his tremendous past ambitions. With a few simple commands, he'd zealously destroyed Myriad Domain in one fell swoop. How glorious and awe-inspiring he'd been back then!
Alas, a terrifying nightmare ensued after that greatness. A single disciple from the Regal Pill Palace wreaked havoc upon both Great Scarlet and the Eternal Celestial Capital's plans, forcing them to take loss after loss.
At the end of their squabbling, both factions had lost a good deal of men. More painfully, the leaders of Great Scarlet's fourth rank sects who'd pursued Jiang Chen alongside Gong Wuji were beheaded. Afterwards, their heads were delivered to him in an act of intimidation.
The emperor still couldn't forget the sight of it. Ten chests, each one filled to the brim with heads. Several hundred pairs of wide-open eyes stared at him from beyond. It was enough to terrify even a ruler like him.
"Don't listen to his lies, Your Majesty. I don't believe a kid from the Regal Pill Palace can control Veluriyam Capital. The rumors…"
"Shut up!" Great Scarlet's emperor rebuked. He glanced at the prostrate Old Guo. "Rise, Old Guo. Tell me what I should do at this point in time. Do you have any ideas?"
The old man hung his head in sadness. "If Great Scarlet really has become Veluriyam Capital's target, a clash between us would be like an egg striking a stone. In light of that, I don't have any particularly good ideas. There are a few bad ones, Your Majesty, that you might choose from."
"First, submit to Veluriyam Capital. Apologize them in the most humble way possible and push all of the blame onto the Eternal Celestial Capital. This idea won't necessarily guarantee the imperial family's continued rule, but it will prevent a massive loss of life in Great Scarlet as a whole."
The emperor's expression darkened as soon as the proposal left the old man's mouth. This was completely ridiculous! He was to kneel to Veluriyam Capital? And the Yan family wouldn't be able to continue to rule regardless of that?
Could that really be considered an idea at all? What was the point of surrendering if he wasn't emperor?
What would he even be doing it for? The people that lived in the region? It'd be a shame to give up what he had for them. He'd been on the throne for a long time and he cared only for his personal interests. The rest of Great Scarlet could crash and burn as long as his family's possessions and status were intact.
If the Yan family couldn't be preserved, he would rather the rest of the region follow them to the funeral pyre!
"What other ideas do you have?" The emperor's tone was a bit remote.
"An alternative would be to join up with Pillfire City. We can seek their intervention and aid. Unfortunately, because they're in the distant north, we can't rely on them to deal with our present plight."
"What else?" Great Scarlet's emperor asked coldly.
"Aside from that, we can only disband the Great Scarlet Empire and other regional factions. We must scatter and take refuge in other regions, which means that Veluriyam Capital will miss us entirely. This…"
"Enough!" The emperor became visibly upset. "What terrible ideas are these? They're either impractical or shameful. Don't you have a more dignified idea, Old Guo?"
"I do." Old Guo was emotionless himself by this point. "We can fight to the death. Let us lay down our lives for our nation. If you choose this, Your Majesty, I will willingly lead the charge."