Faced with no response, Tallpeak added, "Young lord, we're at fault for underestimating your strength and charisma. We know now that fighting against Veluriyam would be detrimental to the human domain. Surely, you too realize the chaos it'd create? The flames of war would destroy the entire domain overnight. Senior Peafowl was a peace-loving man. Will you betray his legacy as soon as you inherit his seat?"
Alas, he shouldn't have mentioned Emperor Peafowl. Jiang Chen bristled with rage.
"Emperor Peafowl? Have you no shame? Pillzenith, if you hadn't plotted against him with Shura, would we be here today?" he rebuked.
Pillzenith was indifferent.
"The strong prey on the weak. It's the way of cultivators. His style of martyring himself and bemoaning the fate of mankind was no longer fit for the times. If I hadn't gotten rid of him, would you be Veluriyam's young lord? Jiang Chen, you should be grateful to me. Under his rule, Veluriyam was riddled with internal strife and wallowed in mediocrity. Isn't your city more united now? Aren't you stronger? A ferocious leader like you is better for the region. The process notwithstanding, the result was favorable for you."
The twisted argument angered Jiang Chen so much he laughed. Pillzenith's shamelessness knew no bounds. For him, the ends justified the means. Perhaps he believed everyone to be like him. A man like him was very dangerous.
"Should this young lord thank you then?" Jiang Chen replied with a cold smile.
"No need for thanks. I merely thought to take advantage of your city's momentary weakness. But since you've assumed power, Veluriyam is stronger than ever. The best choice for us both here is to bury the hatchet."
"Hehe, Pillzenith, what a glib tongue. You plot against Veluriyam's riches, scheme against Emperor Peafowl, and think you can bury everything with a few words?"
"Jiang Chen, don't forget you've killed three of my great emperors. That makes us even." If not for his son, Pillzenith would never have tried to placate his enemy.
"Even? Even ten of your great emperors couldn't hold a candle to Emperor Peafowl. He's both a teacher and a friend. You can't begin to fathom the relationship between us. You better pray he's fine, or I will never let this end!" The young man had no desire to trade nonsense back and forth.
"Jiang Chen, do you really want to fight to the bitter end? Do you think I'm powerless simply because my son is in your hands?"
Jiang Chen calmly responded, "Feel free to do whatever you like. I can tell you clearly that you won't be getting him back for now. The moment you take up arms, he dies!"
If not for the palace's powerful restriction, Pillzenith would have charged in regardless of the consequences. He wanted Jiang Chen cut into a thousand pieces! To be so helpless in front of a youngster… This was his life's greatest humiliation. He smoldered with rage.
Tallpeak quietly advised, "Your Majesty, he's purposely provoking you. Please rein in your anger. Allow this subordinate to speak with him on your behalf."
Be calm, keep your composure, Pillzenith continuously reminded himself. However, how could he when his most beloved son was in enemy hands?
Tallpeak cupped his fist. "Young lord Jiang Chen, I'm certain you're ready for battle, but the human domain truly can't bear a clash between us. Are we to forever cling to the past? Let bygones be bygones. What will it take to make peace?"
Jiang Chen had little desire for peace, but now wasn't the right time for all-out war. He replied with a faint smile, "I'm too angry to think of that for now. I can consider the issue once I calm down, depending on your sincerity of course."
"Then, can you release Sir Tian Lin?" Tallpeak couldn't help but ask.
"How naive." Jiang Chen smiled coldly. "Why would you be so humble, if not for him? Should I release him so you can stab me back?"
His stubborn refusal left Tallpeak helpless.
"Jiang Chen, what would it take for you to let him go?" Tallpeak also had some trouble keeping his anger in check.
"It'll depend on my mood. For now, get lost unless you want to fight!" These fellows are afraid of the palace's defenses. No fight is to be had today, it seems.
Tallpeak refused to give up. "Young lord, as long as you release him, we vow never to seek revenge against Veluriyam again. Everything that happened before will be water under the bridge. You're also welcome to any material compensation you want. Gems or pills, it's yours for the asking."
He had obtained Pillzenith's agreement for this offer beforehand.
"Gems and pills. How generous of you. Too bad, these toys interest me very little."
"What do you want then? You have but to ask. Everything's on the table as long as you release Sir Tian Lin."
"Everything?" Jiang Chen's eyes shone, feigning interest.
"Everything, as long as it's within our power," Tallpeak hurriedly added.
"I have but to ask?" Jiang Chen blinked innocently with a teasing smile.
"Please do. We'll do everything we can."
"Fine. I do have some requests, as it happens. And it's also within Pillfire's power." His lips curved in a lazy smile.
"What is it? We're all ears."
"Very simple. You must be aware of my enmity with the Eternal Celestial Capital? Eradicate them and I promise I'll send back Tian Lin unharmed. I won't touch a single hair on his head," Jiang Chen responded in all earnestness.
The holy emperor paled. He looked at Pillzenith, shouting, "Your Majesty, he's trying to drive a wedge between us! Please don't listen to the bastard's malicious drivel."
The kid's ploy wasn't the most subtle one, but it was extremely difficult to counter. It would be child's play for Pillfire to eradicate his sect. He was deathly afraid Pillzenith would agree on the spot for the sake of his cherished son. If that was the case, his sect was in grave danger. With Pillfire's strength, the Capital would be easily wiped out.
Pillzenith smoldered. "Jiang Chen, are you playing me for a fool? The Eternal Celestial Capital is a first rank sect with deep roots and inheritances dating back to ancient times. Each of the eight first rank sects is a pillar of Upper Eight Regions. The collapse of a single one would send the entire region reeling. Do you want Pillfire to be forever reviled?"
"Hahaha." Jiang Chen smiled contemptuously. "Pillzenith, don't be so self-righteous at the drop of a hat. This isn't like you. Veluriyam is also a pillar of Upper Eight Regions. Why didn't that cross your mind when you plotted against us? Why didn't you fear being reviled then?"
The reply rendered Pillzenith speechless.
Tallpeak came to his rescue. "Young lord, please make a more realistic request. The Eternal Celestial Capital is our friend. Would you attack the Celestial Cicada Court if I asked you to?"
"Friend, hmm?" Jiang Chen smiled, looking very accommodating. "What about the Heavenly Dragon Sect then? There's little friendship there, correct? I saw Long Baxiang bicker with you lot repeatedly. Who knows what he's scheming? You must be quite put-out with his sect. After Veluriyam, they must be next on your agenda. See, I'm even giving you a legitimate reason to destroy them. If you do, I swear to the heavens I'll return your son unharmed."
It was Long Baxiang's turn to blanch. He shouted, "Kid, using someone else to do your dirty work? Aren't you afraid of heavens' wrath?"
"Haha. Long Baxiang, is it any nobler killing and robbing in broad daylight like you? At most, I'm simply giving you a taste of your own medicine!"
Flustered, Long Baxiang turned to Pillzenith. "Your Majesty, this kid is sowing dissension among allies! He's as vile and poisonous as a viper."
Everybody knew what the young lord was doing, but no one could stop him.
However, Pillzenith was a giant of his time. He knew Jiang Chen was simply making things difficult for him with unrealistic demands. Destroying a first rank sect would wreck Pillfire's status and reputation in Upper Eight Regions. More importantly, it would result in unacceptable losses for his city.
Three of his great emperors had already fallen. If more were to die against the Heavenly Dragon Sect, it would harm Pillfire's fundamental strength. Hence, it was impossible for him to accede to Jiang Chen's demands.