As the largest leading faction in the Upper Eight Regions for the last three thousand years, Pillfire City had a shocking stockpile of both raw strength and resources.
In stark contrast to Emperor Peafowl's visionary outlook, Emperor Pillzenith was a man of pure ambition. He lusted after power and authority and above all else, supremacy over others. It was difficult to say which of the two emperors was stronger.
But in terms of character and aura, Emperor Peafowl was widely recognized as a gentleman in the Upper Eight Regions. Even his enemies respected and admired his honor.
Emperor Pillzenith lacked equivalent compassion and morals. He didn't have the noble spirit of putting the world before himself, nor did he hold any feelings for the misfortunes of the world.
In summary, Emperor Peafowl was empathic while Emperor Pillzenith was ambitious.
Under the compulsion of his ambition, Emperor Pillzenith took Pillfire City to greater and greater heights. The city's visible assets placed it in a publicly acknowledged first place position.
Even though the southern Veluriyam Capital was often held to be its parallel, the city never expanded in nearly the same fervent way under Emperor Peafowl.
Therefore, the past three millennia of expansionism and growth had put Pillfire solidly ahead of its rival. Though they were still competitors in the open, Pillfire had secretly surpassed Veluriyam in most respects.
Most importantly, Pillfire played almost perfect politics with its surrounding factions. Therefore, Emperor Pillzenith held many more cards than Veluriyam Capital did.
When the emperor heard the news, he immediately summoned all of his city's great emperors.
Pillfire City originally possessed thirteen great emperors under its name. The thirteen represented discrete factions, each with its own heritage.
Aside from these, Emperor Pillzenith had two more great emperor retainers under his personal command. Moreover, the emperor had close relations with quite a few wandering cultivator great emperors as well. They had a close working relationship.
Much of the time, he used this to his advantage by asking them to act in situations where it would be inconvenient for himself. They were paid accordingly, of course. Because of how wealthy Pillfire City was, it had plenty of benefits that wandering great emperors were interested in. The nature of these transactions was roughly the same as what Jiang Chen was doing now with his group of recruited great emperors.
Not counting the two great emperors who had died in Skylaurel Kingdom, the eleven great emperors - Emperor Pillzenith included - were gathered together in the same room.
"My friends, I'm sure you've already heard the news from Myriad Domain." Emperor Pillzenith was very grave.
"Your Majesty, that news is nothing more than a baseless rumor from wandering cultivators. There's no proof yet, is there? Our investigating disciples don't work that fast."
"I sent disciples to investigate as a last-ditch effort. Both Old Ma and Big Horn have had their soul lamps snuffed out."
Many prominent figures of large factions had soul lamps forged for themselves. If those lamps shattered on their own, that meant their owners were dead. With these words, the great emperors present could no longer sit still.
"Your Majesty, Old Ma and Big Horn… did their lamps really break?" A great emperor with a lion's mane of golden hair looked incredulous.
"I'm the master of Pillfire City. Why would I lie on a matter as important as this?" frowned Emperor Pillzenith.
"Your Majesty, Veluriyam Capital no longer has Emperor Peafowl. Even with the addition of Mo Wushuang helping them, they shouldn't have such incredible combat power. Old Ma and Big Horn were middling proficiency amongst us, but they weren't exactly weaklings. Old Ma in particular was definitely above average. How could Veluriyam Capital have killed them? Even if they couldn't win, couldn't they have run for it?"
"Yes, I find it hard to believe that Veluriyam Capital has anyone strong enough to prevent them from escaping."
"Plus, their excursion was very well-hidden. No one from Veluriyam Capital should know about it. That means an ambush was unlikely to have been waiting for them. Killing Old Ma and Big Horn at the same time in an incidental encounter… I find that hard to imagine."
"Is it possible that Emperor Peafowl hasn't died? Did they meet Veluriyam's leader in their misfortune?" A particularly imaginative emperor voiced the idea.
"Don't be ridiculous," Emperor Pillzenith rebuked. "Peafowl can't possibly appear again. There is a less than one percent chance that he's alive. Even if he is, he'd be crippled."
Emperor Pillzenith had led the sortie for the ambush of Emperor Peafowl. He was sure that the wounds his enemy had suffered couldn't be recovered from. If he had suffered the same kind of injury, it would be impossible for him to save himself.
Moreover, Emperor Peafowl had fled into the desolate wildlands where many demons were sealed away. Even if he had been lucky enough to live, the wildlands were an untamed and dangerous place. Countless demons made their homes there. A tiny bit of trouble was tantamount to mortal peril.
"Your Majesty, far-fetched ideas aside… if Old Ma and Big Horn are dead, the culprit surely is Veluriyam Capital. Since when did we allow Veluriyam Capital to trample over us like this?"
"Yes, Your Majesty. If we do not respond in kind, how are we supposed to strike fear into the hearts of the rest of the world?"
"Your Majesty, Pillfire City's limelight has been stolen away quite a bit by that kid. If this keeps happening, our influence over pill dao will be obliterated over time. We can't take this lying down any longer. If this persists, he'll become an even more fearsome threat!"
"Yes, we should declare open war on Veluriyam Capital with this opportunity. We can overwhelm their erroneous ways through crushing force!"
"If Pillfire City doesn't bare its fangs now, the entire world will believe that we are afraid of Veluriyam Capital. We need to show the bystanders that we aren't afraid of Veluriyam one bit!"
"What do we have to be scared of? It's preposterous to fear a Veluriyam Capital without Emperor Peafowl. They're led by a brat who's still wet behind the ear! How can they stand up to a veteran faction like us?"
"Everyone, calm down. Veluriyam Capital's young lord is rather peculiar. Aren't there rumors he's backed by Myriad Abyss Island? I think that it's important for us to be careful."
A patron from Myriad Abyss Island was a matter of serious consideration. The merest mention of the place was enough to douse the heated meeting with a bucket of cold water. Everyone quieted down instantly. They had all forgotten that Jiang Chen was able to mobilize even a senior from Myriad Abyss Island.
All eyes settled on Emperor Pillzenith. After all, the leader of Pillfire City was supposed to come up with the plans.
"From ancient times, Myriad Abyss Island has scorned connections with our continent. Therefore, information about it has existed only in legends. That means it's not as easy to come and go from the island to our continent." Emperor Pillzenith spoke with measured tones. "If Myriad Abyss Island really was as powerful as rumors say, its experts wouldn't possibly stay long in the human domain. The senior from Myriad Abyss Island has clearly already left after the Dragon and Tiger Meet. Whether or when he's going to come again, who knows? As long as he - and the rest of the island's experts - are far from us, a Peafowl-less Veluriyam isn't much different from the average first rank sect."
A first rank sect wasn't comparable to Veluriyam Capital in terms of raw strength. After all, the latter had always had seven titled emperors. In recent days, the addition of several more great emperors was a significant consideration as well.
Still, Pillfire City didn't much care exactly how many great emperors its rival city had. Veluriyam's potential connection to Myriad Abyss Island was its only concern.
"If so, Your Majesty, then we should take a harder stance. We can't keep going on like this. Veluriyam Capital's reputation is growing more and more every day. If left unchecked, Pillfire will be replaced in only one or two decades."
"Your Majesty, if two ride on a horse, one must ride behind. It's high time for the human domain to see a shift in power, especially the Upper Eight Regions. If we act now, we have plenty of just cause for war."
"What cause?" A confused emperor piped up hurriedly.
"Veluriyam Capital stamped out Great Scarlet Mid Region's imperial family, House Yan. After a while, they ended up taking over the entire region. If we seize on this misstep, we can use it to start a war with Veluriyam Capital. Plus, they've killed several of our men. It's a chance to publicly get revenge."
"Your Majesty, Emperor Heartcloud has summarized it well. Why should we let a kid sit on top of our heads?"
"Your Majesty, that kid is an oddball. He has a seemingly infinite supply of amazing pill recipes. Pinecrane Pill, Emperor Supremacy Pill… the entire human domain is abuzz about them. This is a big blow to our city's reputation."
Pillfire City styled itself as the foremost faction in pill dao. If it continually lost to Jiang Chen in pill dao, its difficulty of further expansion would increase drastically.
Such was the power of reputation. Building up a good one required a slow buildup. Destroying it on the other hand, could occur with the slightest mishap.
Pillfire City was in a miserably awkward position. Many cultivators, wandering ones especially, had announced their intent to participate in only Veluriyam's meets from now on. The Dragon and Tiger Meet had been too spectacular and rewarding for them to miss.
Though many valuable things and events were present at the Pill-Martial Summit as well, comparison with Veluriyam made the event lose its luster. Attention was drawn away almost instantly from Pillfire because of it.
Now every cultivator in the human domain was discussing the Pinecrane Pill, the Emperor Supremacy Pill, and other miraculous pills they hadn't even heard of before.
In the world of martial dao, it was typical for the weak to blindly follow the strong. Furthermore, those without much power often followed their peers in the idolization of an individual. Right now, Jiang Chen fit all the criteria of a good idol.