Pillzenith wasn't an irresolute man. On the contrary, once he made a decision, he followed it through to the end. He simply needed to consider every possible angle. Once he mobilized his troops, it would be too late to change his mind.
He thought for a long while. A vicious glint flashed through his eyes as he raised his eyebrows and scanned the crowd.
"Gentlemen, I've never been afraid of decisions, however difficult they are. Only, how staunchly will you stand by me? Do you plan on fishing in troubled waters, or do you genuinely desire an alliance against a common enemy?"
This was the most pressing issue.
The latter would be for the best. A sincere alliance born out of common interest made for the most solid of relations. On the flip side, he could do without a coalition that merely wanted to sit by and watch both sides crash and burn.
If they proceeded just along their current path, it'd be a case of all sides rejoicing if they won, but him being the scapegoat in the event of failure. The other factions could easily withdraw whenever they pleased.
Veluriyam's destruction would be an earthshattering event never seen in millennia. No one could predict the course of events. Were they brave and resolute enough to persist until the end? He needed to ascertain their trustworthiness.
The Empyrean River Palace's head stepped forward first. "Your Majesty, we're naturally like-minded in our determination to put to death the brutish Jiang Chen, uphold righteousness, and restore peace and clarity to the human domain!"
His flattery had somehow transformed Jiang Chen into mankind's enemy, while they were the embodiment of justice.
"My Sublime Chord Temple will follow Your Majesty through thick and thin." This sect expressed their intentions as well.
"My sect's enmity with that kid is as deep as the sea." The Eternal Celestial Capital sighed after a moment. "There's no reason for us not to stand by Your Majesty. Count us in."
The Empyrean River Palace and the Sublime Chord Temple were Pillfire's loyal sycophants. Put bluntly, without Pillfire's backing, they wouldn't have maintained their position as one of the eight first rank sects in Upper Eight Regions. They might've been replaced long ago. Therefore, they would never waver in their support.
The Eternal Celestial Capital's relation with Pillfire was shallower, but a common enemy ensured the firmness of their partnership. With their addition, three out of the present four factions had expressed their stance.
Only the Heavenly Dragon Sect was left. Their presence here was due to nothing else but Pillzenith's promise of a true dragon. In other words, they were the weakest link. It would be a predicament if that link were to break.
The war would only have a single outcome: one side falling, or even exterminated.
"Long Baxiang, you were the loudest earlier. Why are you silent now that you have to take a side?" Tallpeak coldly mocked.
Long Baxian laughed. "What do you want me to say?"
"Does your sect pledge to do its utmost against Veluriyam?"
"That depends on the benefits." Long Baxiang smiled leisurely.
"Hmph, how greedy!"
"Right back at you. They say a ruler doesn't neglect his soldiers' welfare. Do you want to rope us in without giving us benefits? What a cute little fantasy!"
Pillzenith waved Tallpeak silent and gazed at Long Baxiang with indifference. "You'll naturally have your share as long as you don't betray us."
"Oh? Your Majesty, does that mean you've decided?" Long Baxiang's lips curved in a supercilious smile.
"What kind of benefits will buy your diligence? I'm listening."
If the Heavenly Dragon Sect and three other first rank sects fully supported Pillfire, there'd be no suspense left about the outcome they went all out against a Veluriyam without Emperor Peafowl. Pillzenith was confident he'd destroy Jiang Chen in the blink of an eye.
"The true dragon is ours. No one else is to touch it. We also want all of the kid's pill recipes." Long Baxiang made incredulous demands. Of course, Pillfire wouldn't agree to this daylight robbery, but it was common sense to start negotiations with sky-high proposals.
Pillfire's great emperors shouted at this display of impudence.
"Long Baxiang, did I hear that right? Why don't you ask for all of Veluriyam's treasures while you're at it?!"
"This is pure extortion. Have you no shame?!"
"Your Majesty, do we truly need them? Such shameless people are never reliable."
Long Baxian remained unflappable and didn't lose his lazy smile.
Frowning, Pillzenith fixed him with a cold stare. "Your sect can't afford such avarice. Ask for something more reasonable."
Long Baxiang laughed. "Hehe, is greed reserved only for Pillfire? Fine, I'll make some concessions. The true dragon, plus one recipe: either the Emperor Supremacy Pill or the Pinecrane Pill. Also, if the kid has that kind of supreme pills stowed away, we must be given one first. If there's more than enough to go around, we'll discuss again how to split them..."
Pillzenith frowned with displeasure at the lowered, yet still shocking conditions. "A true dragon is worth as much as the Pinecrane Pill's recipe. You're asking for the lion's share."
"That's my sect's bottom line." Long Baxiang leered. "If it's not feasible, we'll take our leave. Who knows, maybe we'll befried Veluriyam and get some benefits from Jiang Chen, just like the Great Yu Skysword Sect and the others."
This was blatantly a thinly veiled threat. I'll withdraw if you refuse, and I'll even notify your enemy.
Killing intent flashed through Pillfire's heart. At this very moment, he was truly tempted to kill Long Baxiang. However, he ultimately resisted the urge. No matter how shameless, the man was a prominent figure of the Heavenly Dragon Sect.
He wasn't the sect head, but his influence was outstanding nonetheless. His death would turn a top first rank sect into an enemy. Of course, Pillzenith wasn't afraid of them, but dealing with them would weaken Pillfire.
"Long Baxiang, I'd heard of your sect's shamelessness, but you still managed to surprise me. Here you are, plotting to kill Jiang Chen. Do you think you can still mend fences with Veluriyam?" He sneered.
The great emperor cackled in answer. "But we haven't killed him. Moreover…"
Pillzenith cut him short. "The true dragon is yours, the Emperor Ascension Pill's recipe is yours. Forget about the rest."
Long Baxiang shook his head with a chuckle. "Hehe, that won't do. We want the Pinecrane Pill and the Emperor Supremacy Pill as well"
"If we find more than five of them, I'll assign one to your sect. That's my last offer. Don't test my patience." Pillzenith had already made consecutive concessions because the Heavenly Dragon Sect was the most powerful out of the four sects. He could use their strength against Veluriyam.
However, he would settle his accounts with them once the war was over. He'd make them spit out everything they'd eaten.
Long Baxian remained unperturbed. "One last thing. After conquering Veluriyam, Pillfire can't doublecross us for any reason. We'd rather not give up what we just earned, and then some."
As a crafty old fox, of course he'd think of this possibility.
Did he see through me? Pillzenith quavered inwardly, but his face betrayed none of his surprise. "How devious. My goal's Jiang Chen, not your sect. Don't be paranoid."
"Haha, the world is full of danger. A man can't be too prudent." Long Baxiang sniggered. He obviously didn't trust Pillzenith at all.
All of a sudden, a derisive laugh interrupted their haggling.
"Each of you is an old monster who's lived for thousands of years. Daydreaming in broad daylight doesn't become you." Filled with taunting mockery, the voice naturally belonged to Jiang Chen.
He'd been eavesdropping while these old fellows shamelessly boasted about invading his city and haggled over the loot. How could he sit still?
The crowd froze. Pillzenith in particular, turned murderous.
"Kid, you were really hiding here!" he swore ferociously. "You've killed two of my great emperors. This debt can only be repaid by bathing Veluriyam in blood!"
"Hahaha, why stop at two? What about the fellow who came in before?" Jiang Chen laughed lazily.
Without exception, everyone froze.