Before he'd visited the Moon God Sect, Jiang Chen had told the Goldbiter Rat King to hide Tian Lin underground, somewhere deserted. This was where he was taking his sister.
Xu Qingxuan observed the surroundings, mildly surprised by the absence of human activity within a hundred miles. "Stinky brother, cultivators would never deign to come to a place with such scarce spirit energy. Who are we meeting?"
"Hehe, you'll know soon."
When the young lord's consciousness contacted the rat king, the latter immediately drilled out of the ground. "Young lord, it seems everything went without a hitch."
Xu Qingxuan had traveled the world and seen her share of strange monsters, hence she wasn't shocked by the sight of a golden rat as tall as an older child.
"This big rat can dig underground. How interesting! Stinky brother, is that your contracted beast?" Like a little child, she instantly forgot her previous sadness.
The rat king naturally understood human language after following Jiang Chen for so long. He bared his teeth at the girl, making her giggle.
"Stinky brother, is it trying to scare me?"
Jiang Chen smiled. "Qingxuan, don't tease Ole Gold. He's usually even-tempered, but you don't want him angry."
The girl tilted her head. Her eyes sparkled with curiosity. "Is it really that powerful?"
The rat scrunched his face, as if in protest.
Jiang Chen mediated, "Ole Gold, don't mind her. She's my younger sister.
"Qingxuan, Ole Gold is the Goldbiter Rats' leader. When his countless descendants swarm out of their nest, they can destroy entire countries. You tell me if he's powerful or not!"
Despite slight surprise, his sister still looked half-skeptical.
"Never mind that. First, let's take a look at our Tian Lin." Jiang Chen smiled lazily.
"Tian Lin?" The young girl shook. "What did you just say? Tian Lin? W-Where?"
"Ole Gold, bring him here."
With an odd squeak, the giant rat scurried underground, coming back with the prisoner.
Tian Lin lay paralyzed like a feeble dog, his eyes vacant. Like the living dead, he showed no reaction to external stimulus. Even his consciousness had been sealed.
"Qingxuan, do you know him?" Jiang Chen asked, smiling.
"Of course I do, he… he's Emperor Pillzenith's younger son."
"Correct. To think that Pillzenith has such a young son!"
Qingxuan stared, flabbergasted. "Stinky brother, where did you find him?"
"In Pillfire, of course. This guy never leaves his lair, so I went through fire and water to smuggle him out." Jiang Chen smiled. "Let's see if Pillzenith still throws his weight around now! The old thing wanted to kidnap you, so I had no choice but to strike first."
The shameless Pillzenith had wanted to use Jiang Chen's sister against him, so despite a distaste for such methods, the young man had paid him back in his own coin.
Xu Qingxuan stood speechless. Despite her brother's casual tone, she knew capturing Tian Lin alive in Pillfire was next to impossible. The task required great skill and courage.
She'd always had the urge to challenge her brother, but now, she couldn't deny the gulf between them.
"Stinky brother, this man is a hot potato," she said after some consideration.
"Hehe, I'm not afraid of burns, or else I wouldn't have captured him. That reminds me. You go back first to our parents in Veluriyam."
"What about you? You're not coming?" The young girl blinked in surprise.
Jiang Chen smiled leisurely. "Pillzenith is waiting for me. How can I disappoint him?"
"Waiting for you?" She found herself speechless. Her brother really did seem to be on another level.
Qingxuan's horizon and competitiveness were limited to young geniuses of the region. However, despite his age, her brother already stood at the pinnacle of the Upper Eight Regions.
She took pride in her own talent. Yet, even if she loathed Pillzenith, such a personage was a senior, a future goal to chase. But her brother was facing him as an equal, even cornering him, creating endless trouble that left the great emperor helpless.
Somewhere in the Eternal Celestial Capital.
Pillzenith and his group were still keeping watch in the palace half a month later.
Shouldn't we have gotten news from the Moon God Sect already? Pillzenith remained calm, but his men's morale declined by the day.
They'd tried every method possible to force Jiang Chen out. Yet they hadn't even spotted the young lord's shadow. Were they being paranoid? Perhaps the kid wasn't inside at all? Or perhaps he'd already snuck away.
"Your Majesty, shouldn't Emperor Cloudsurge have captured Xu Qingxuan by now?" Tallpeak asked.
Pillzenith snorted. "It might not be so easy if the Moon God Sect persists with its foolishness and mounts a last ditch resistance."
A first rank sect with homeground advantage was a tall order even for six great emperors.
"There's been no sign of Jiang Chen for so long. Is the kid really inside?" Tallpeak sighed. He too had lost some confidence.
"This must be a dirty trick of his!" Pillzenith snorted. "This palace is definitely his. No matter. Once Xu Qingxuan falls into our hands, let's see if he can continue holing up!"
The girl was now his last hope.
Jiang Chen sent off his sister back to Veluriyam via a detour through Great Yu Skysword Sect territory. As for himself, he returned to the Eternal Celestial Capital and slipped back inside his palace. With a trump card like Tian Lin, there was little pressure on him.
It's been a long time, but Pillzenith's bunch's still here. Well they're certainly quite dedicated. However, they didn't look very focused. Pillzenith was as resolute as before, but the rest seemed impatient, including those from the Heavenly Dragon Sect.
Jiang Chen didn't show himself. There was no need to, now that he had ace up his sleeves. He could simply wait until Pillzenith got wind of his son's disappearance.
An entire month flew by.
On this morning, Pillzenith suddenly stood up, a little fretful as he had a bad premonition. He murmured, "It's been a month, why aren't they back yet?"
This was outside his expectations. A month should have been more than enough to bring back Xu Qingxuan.
Yet, there had been no news.
"Your Majesty, we can't continue sitting back like this," someone urged.
"Hehe, Your Majesty, I admire your patience, but the Heavenly Dragon Sect can't keep wasting time here." The discontented Long Baxiang requested to leave.
"I've already told you, Long Baxiang. This emperor will be fine without your sect. You may leave if you wish, but it will void our agreement," Pillzenith responded coldly.
"Hehe, there's wiggle room in any agreement! I don't mind waiting if the kid's really here. But who can say for certain he is? What if he's already made his getaway?" Long Baxiang advised, "Instead, we should gather our forces and mount a direct attack on Veluriyam. That's more like it!"
His daring and fearless idea appealed to many people's violent sides. They hadn't spotted Jiang Chen for an entire month and needed an outlet through which to vent their frustrations.
The holy emperor's eyes also twinkled with excitement. "Your Majesty, the suggestion isn't without some merit. Why waste our energy in complicated schemes? Why make life so difficult for ourselves? Let's make a beeline for Veluriyam!"
Attack Veluriyam? Pillzenith had already considered the option, but the city was some distance aways.
One wrong step could trigger a century-long war and forever alter the situation in the human domain. Such a decision involved countless unseen ramifications. No matter how ambitious he was, it necessitated careful consideration.