"Attack the palace?" The three elders blinked.
Not in a million years would they have imagined this requirement. Since they'd played no part in the invasion, they'd assumed a show of humility would be sufficient to obtain Jiang Chen's understanding and preserve their status in Great Scarlet.
If the imperial clan was outed, the three sects would still be the greatest sects in the region. If the emperor stayed on the throne, he would be too wary of the sects' power to fall out with them. Either way, the results didn't matter.
It was quite a good plan. Only, the young lord had shattered their beautiful dream with a few words, leaving them without a single inch to maneuver!
"Is there a problem?" Jiang Chen's tone grew sharp as an indifferent smile floated on his lips. Trying to be fence-sitters? Dream on!
"Nonono! In fact…"
"This isn't a negotiation. I'm already showing mercy by giving all of you a chance. I came here to kill and exact revenge. Do you think a cheap trick like sealing off your gates would be enough to keep you safe?"
The three elders couldn't repress shudders when they sensed the cold menace in Jiang Chen's tone. How could a young man reportedly not even thirty exude such a terrifying aura?
"Young lord Jiang Chen… You're picking on the wrong target! We had no part in the invasion, so your enmity with the imperial family has nothing to do with us."
"That's right, young lord Jiang Chen. You can ask anyone, they'll tell you we're innocent and didn't send any troops."
Jiang Chen barked a laugh, but his face remained hard. "Innocent? Aren't you factions of Great Scarlet? Even if you didn't participate in the invasion, have you not obtained any indirect benefits? No resources allocated by Great Scarlet? Don't go thinking you can wash your hands of this simply because you sent no troops! If you had, you wouldn't even be standing here right now."
Seeing Jiang Chen's fury, the Jiao brothers also shouted, "The three of you must be blind! Our young lord is already doing you a favor by giving you a way out! It seems you don't treasure his benevolence! You must still be holding some delusions about the imperial family, so you want to sit on the fence without offending either side. Isn't that right?"
"Young lord, no need to waste words with them. Didn't you order Emperor Vastsea to keep an eye on the three great sects? We might as well wipe them out!"
"Agreed. Great Scarlet killed off every sect when they invaded Myriad Domain. They never bothered to ask who did what, so we should copy them, young lord. Why waste your time?"
The three elders paled, but they didn't dare make a squeak. They could only keep their grievances to themselves.
Jiang Chen waved a hand. "I give you half a day. If you don't show me your sincerity in half a day, I'll deem you accomplices of the imperial family!"
His words scared the three elders witless. They could tell Jiang Chen wasn't bluffing randomly. He meant every word he said.
"Young lord Jiang, in that case we'll take our leave and notify our sects."
"Young lord Jiang, please show mercy. We'll convince our sect heads to lay siege to the imperial family, you have our guarantee!"
"Yes! House Yan has oppressed Great Scarlet for too long. They're guilty of untold crimes, it's time to do away with them."
The three sects might be unrivalled in the region, but they were mere babes who'd barely learned to walk in front of Veluriyam Capital. Young men were rash and impulsive. What if the young lord ordered them eradicated in a fit of anger? The prospect was too terrifying for the three elders to contemplate.
The crestfallen three scuttled back to their sects as fast as they could, only to find their territory completely blockaded by Emperor Vastsea's army. People were allowed in, but not out.
"What? He wants us to attack the imperial family?" Sky Eagle's sect head was already frustrated enough by the encirclement. This shocking request added insult to injury.
"Yes, Sectmaster. He said that we can either attack the imperial family and prove our sincerity, or be suppressed."
"How can young lord Jiang be so unreasonable?" the indignant sectmaster complained. "We didn't participate in Myriad Domain's invasion, why is he forcing our hand?"
"Sectmaster, it's too late for that. To be one of the three great sects of Great Scarlet is crime enough. Jiang Chen gave us only half a day. If we don't act by then, he'll order an assault on the three sects."
Sky Eagle's sect head gnashed his teeth. The decision to seal the gates was in fact self-preservation. No matter what happened to the region in the days to come, they could happily wallow in their status of craven cowards. But it seemed young lord Jiang Chen had no intention of letting them do that.
The same news reached the Myriad Buddha Sect and the Scarlet Parting Sect at the same time.
Surrounded by his subordinates and blockading the three great sects, Emperor Vastsea was in high spirits. He'd spent a lifetime fawning over Emperor Shura and all he had to show for it was a narrow escape from death. He was still a sycophant, but just look at his accomplishments now!
"The young lord is truly merciful. I would've destroyed the three sects myself. Why waste time with them?"
He knew that the young lord planned to make the two greatest Great Scarlet factions clash against each other. But it seemed too much of a bother to him. The force he'd brought was more than enough to flatten the sects.
"Great Emperor, there are people here to see you."
Emperor Vastsea was presently stationed near the Sky Eagle Sect. His war plan had been to raze this sect before moving onto the other two. The ones who'd come were Sky Eagle's sect head and several sect elders.
"The sinners of the Sky Eagle Sect are here to pay respect to the great emperor." Circumstances were stronger than men. In front of Emperor Vastsea, the sect head could only be as well-behaved as he could be.
"Senior, my sect is willing to obey young lord Jiang Chen's command and mount an expedition against the cruel tyrant in the name of righteousness!"
He and his men were no fools. They knew that, put bluntly, it was treason for subjects like them to march against the imperial family. It wasn't a reputation they wanted to shoulder, no matter the pressure they were under. They needed a lofty pretext, and what better pretext could they ask for than to rise against a despot?
The indifferent Emperor Vastsea responded, "Our young lord is magnanimous enough to give you a chance. Remember, I can level your sect whenever I see fit, so don't try to hoodwink the young lord and give it your all. I'll be watching you."
Emperor Vastsea was submissive in Jiang Chen's presence, but as one ranked fourth amongst the seven great emperors of Sacred Peafowl Mountain, he was a mythical existence to a trivial Great Scarlet Mid Region.
"We wouldn't dream of it. Please be at ease, Great Emperor. We'll accomplish our mission no matter what it takes."
The other two sects also followed suit in declaring their intentions. In the face of such formidable pressure, their only choice was to attack the imperial family. Fortunately enough, the imperial house had never treated them all that well, making promises by the dozen but never delivering on them, so the sects didn't feel much guilt.
Each sect dispatched three thousand elites who made haste for the capital at Emperor Vastsea's prompting. But when they neared their destination, their blood ran cold when they took in the ocean of Goldbiter Rats. The almost ten thousand cultivators wouldn't even qualify as a snack to these beasts.
But the most shocking was yet to come. The ocean of rats split apart when the three great sects' army appeared, creating a path for them.
Emperor Vastsea snorted. "The time has come for you three sects to show your worth. Follow me into the city and pay your respects to the young lord."
The Goldbiter Rats had occupied the four gates. They were ready to flood into the capital as soon as Jiang Chen gave the word. The capital would be a paradise for them.
"Young lord, your subordinate Vastsea has brought the three sects to meet with your august self," Emperor Vastsea piled on the flattery in an obsequious greeting.
Jiang Chen glanced at the men from the three sects with a small smile. It seems they sent all of their elites this time.
"These crude ones pay their respects to young lord Jiang Chen," the three sect heads greeted.
Jiang Chen waved a hand. "You came right on time. The imperial family refuses to budge even with their backs against the wall. If you want to prove your sincerity, you can be the vanguard. What do you say?"
"We hear and obey, young lord Jiang Chen!" The three sect heads knew they couldn't refuse.
"Go on then. I await your good news," Jiang Chen responded mildly.
The three sect heads shouted, "All of you, look sharp! The imperial house's corrupt tyranny will plunge the region into the abyss. As Great Scarlet's greatest sects, we can't sit by and do nothing. It's our duty to declare loud and clear that we'll excise the malignant House Yan for the sake of our homeland!"