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An invasion on a grand scale? Certainly, Pillzenith could blow off some steam if he ordered one. Alas, he was Pillfire's master and had to consider other aspects

A word from him could spark a no-hold-barrels clash between the two strongest factions of the human domain, creating an enormous maelstrom engulfing the entire domain. He wasn't worried about the fortunes of humanity, but rather, that he might become public enemy number one. All the factions might find common cause and take up arms against him.

After the perverse Jiang Chen's rise, the young man had taken a series of measures and won the favor of many parties, stealing much of Pillfire's thunder. If war broke out, many wandering cultivators might lean toward Veluriyam.

Wandering cultivators weren't the greatest of threats, but it'd be a disaster if their entire community stood against Pillfire. For one thing, they were the city's biggest customers rather than the various great factions. The city's business and cash flow depended on them.

Long Baxiang's suggestion was tempting, but Pillzenith remained collected. Perhaps the Heavenly Dragon Sect wanted to goad both sides into a deadly confrontation, then profit when both suffered heavy wounds.

Long Baxiang smiled strangely at his silence. "Your Majesty, I'm quite disappointed with you. Everyone lauds your grand resolve and ambition, but the reputation of a hero of our times seems undeserved."

Tallpeak humphed. "Do you think we're afraid? You're too naive if you're trying to scheme against us and profit from the conflict. Do you think no one sees through your plan?"

Long Baxiang chuckled eerily. "No matter how you put it, your Pillfire still lacks charisma!"

Pillzenith snorted. "Long Baxiang, I should conquer your sect first before attacking Veluriyam. That would actually be the best choice, to prevent you from stabbing us in the back."

He was pulling no punches either. If Pillfire wanted to attack the Heavenly Dragon Sect, few could stop them.

Hence, Long Baxiang was actually still wary of, and loath to fall out with Pillzenith. He laughed immediately. "Your Majesty, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Our blade is pointed at Veluriyam too. How could we stab our allies?" 

Something abruptly registered on Pillzenith's consciousness. "Someone's coming."

Indeed, Emperor Cloudsurge and the other five had returned. Battered, each of them were riddled with injuries. Two among them sported particularly heavy wounds and looked very dispirited.

Leading at the front, Emperor Cloudsurge exhibited no lethal injuries, but his abject expression betrayed his failure.

"Cloudsurge, what's happened? Where's Xu Qingxuan?" Restless, Pillzenith looked left and right, but couldn't see the girl.

Cloudsurge sighed with shame. "Your Majesty, please forgive our incompetence. We've betrayed your trust. When we reached the Moon God Sect, it was already ready for battle. They'd even activated their formidable territorial defense formation. We thought they wouldn't dare defy your authority, but they seemed determined to break all ties with us. They treated us like enemies as soon as we arrived."

"What of Xu Qingxuan?" Pillzenith's face darkened. Rather than excuses, he only cared about her.

Cloudsurge stammered, "Your Majesty, she wasn't in the sect. It seemed they'd seen through our plans and had long been prepared."

"What do you mean, not in the sect? Did you investigate?!" Pillzenith shouted.

"We did. They let us inside to prove their innocence. We searched but found no trace of her.

"Since persuasion didn't work, we threatened them. But instead of caving in, these harridans became more and more excited. We even ended up fighting.

"Their formation is extraordinary. With an inheritance like the Moon God Precious Tree at the core, it creates a perfect defense. We attacked without cease for ten whole days, but we made no headway. So… So we decided to report back to Your Majesty."

What a bunch of trash! Pillzenith fumed. He wished he could swear at them, but most of them were from Pillfire.

Admonishing his own men in front of outsiders would be unwise. He restrained himself and murmured, "Perhaps I've looked down on the Moon God Sect? Should I have sent more men? Do I need to go there in person?"

They did all they could. Seeing the six great emperors' exhaustion, he couldn't rebuke them too harshly. Without Xu Qingxuan, he had no way of forcing out Jiang Chen.

Long Baxiang cackled sinisterly. "Look, isn't my way the most straightforward? Why should we care about the girl? Let's just attack Veluriyam. Just like when the Eternal Celestial Capital invaded Myriad Domain, we'll burn them to the ground and exterminate their experts to the last."

Inside the palace, Jiang Chen eavesdropped on their every word. He frowned at Long Baxiang's malicious proposal and silently added the Heavenly Dragon Sect to his blacklist

"He's nursing such a deep grudge because I refused to hand over a true dragon? I have to watch out for his sect in the future." He was gaining a new understanding of the vindictiveness of these sect giants.

"Your Majesty, my Eternal Celestial City is firmly in favor of an attack. Didn't Veluriyam invade Great Scarlet? With a little propaganda, they'll become every cultivator's enemy." That was the holy emperor of the Eternal Celestial Capital

"Your Majesty, if we don't act now, no one will be able to oppose Jiang Chen once he grows into his own. His word will be law in the human domain and will be the greatest blow for all of us."

"Your Majesty, the kid's killed Big Horn and Old Ma. We have a perfect reason for our actions."

"Indeed. He can buy favor, but his foundation is shallow. Once things become rocky, who will truly stick their necks out for him?"

"That's right. Your Majesty, we should proceed with this plan."

Everyone urged Pillzenith for an invasion, even Pillfire's own. The long wait had been a depressing one. For great emperors, every day was precious. Whether they caught Jiang Chen or not, to waste time was to waste their lifeforce. No one wanted to persist with a pointless task.

"Tallpeak, what do you think?" Pillzenith asked after some deliberation.

Tallpeak hesitated. "Pretext and motive are no issue. However, there are three unanswered questions."

"Which three?"

"First, how deep is the kid's relation with Myriad Abyss Island? If they're only casual acquaintances, the island naturally won't fly to his rescue. Second, how deep are Veluriyam's foundations? How certain are we of victory? It would a joke if our entire force fails to conquer them. Finally, do the wandering cultivator titans have a vested interest in the kid? It'd be troublesome if they take his side. If by any chance public opinion tilts in his favor, all the wandering cultivators in the human domain could band together against us."

Words flowed from Tallpeak's tongue, each striking at the core of the issue, echoing Pillzenith's deepest concerns.

They could use revenge or justice as a reason to invade. The problem was whether Veluriyam could call upon on Myriad Abyss Island. Also, how many trump cards was the kid hiding?

In fact, he was deeply wary of Jiang Chen after seeing the kid's seemingly inexhaustible bag of tricks. If his invasion failed, his own men could end up dead or captured.

What was the right choice?

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