That evening, Jiang Chen enjoyed a happy family reunion with Dan Fei, Nian'er, his parents, and his sister.
"Chen'er, we couldn't be prouder of you and your sister." Xu Meng tried valiantly to keep her husband in check, but he felt compelled to broach the subject. "I have nothing to be dissatisfied with as a father. Only, your mother gave birth to two children in the Moon God Sect. Apart from Qingxuan, you also have a younger brother. Ai, I wonder where he is now!"
His heart ached everytime he thought of his second son. How could a parent not be distressed by the unknown whereabouts of their own flesh and blood, thrown out by the Moon God Sect to wander to the world, perhaps even to die?
Many times, he'd almost left the residence in search of his offspring. The chances were dim after so many years, but Jiang Feng refused to give up. After all, hadn't he reunited with his wife in the end?
An unwavering conviction fueled his own belief, just like when he'd searched for Xu Meng.
"Don't worry, father. I haven't forgotten. Provided he's… I'll find him one day, as long as he's alive." Jiang Chen reiterated the vow he'd made on the day of his parents' reunion.
Xu Qingxuan had grown under the second sectmaster's wing. She knew of her twin brother, but had had few dealings with him. She held no deep feelings for her twin, but her parents' longing stirred her own emotions. She felt somewhat guilty, not for her own actions, but for her master's.
If not for her master's willfulness, her brother could have lived under the sect's protection. He'd been exiled out of her master's stubbornness, and perhaps she'd even secretly sent assassins after him? Knowing the second sectmaster, it wasn't out of the question.
She couldn't speak of her worries out of consideration for her parents' feelings. But she swore to herself she'd find him for her family's happiness and to redeem her master.
The next morning, Jiang Chen summoned all of Veluriyam's great emperors. He explained their current relationship with Pillfire, as well as the broader state of Upper Eight Regions.
Emperor Coiling Dragon seethed. "Insufferable! We haven't repaid them yet for Emperor Peafowl. How dare they scheme against the young lord? Do they really want to fight to the bitter end?"
"Young lord, we need to stay vigilant. Emperor Pillzenith is a spiteful man who always gets his revenge. Even Daoist Peafowl used to be wary of him. He won't take this loss lying down," Emperor Void warned.
"Young lord, should we make the first move and catch them off guard?" Emperor Coiling Dragon offered a radical suggestion.
"Absolutely not, my friend. Up north, Pillfire is protected by a ring of first rank sects at their beck and call. And when it comes to great emperors, we can't match them in quantity." The experienced Emperor Petalpluck immediately opposed the risky endeavor.
Emperor Skysplitter said after a moment of reflection, "War will come one day, but now's not the right time." He glanced at Jiang Chen. "With Pillzenith's son in the young lord's hands, we're the ones to decide when to open hostilities."
Out of Veluriyam's great emperors, Vastsea was in Great Scarlet supervising the three great sects while Peerless supported Dan Chi at the Regal Pill Palace. The Jiao brothers were Jiang Chen's bodyguards and rarely expressed their opinions. But this time, they couldn't restrain their anger.
"Young lord, we brothers have had many dealings with Pillzenith. I guarantee he won't forget this grudge. He might shy away from war for now, but he'll attempt to capture those dear to you. You must be careful."
Jiang Chen nodded. "Don't worry, I'll be on my guard."
"That being said, going to Pillfire City to capture Sir Tian Lin? We bow to your skill and boldness, young lord. It would have been impossible for us." The two of them were gobsmacked by Jiang Chen's intrepidness.
The daring plan had afford Jiang Chen a perfect trump card and stopped Pillzenith dead in its tracks. Otherwise, Veluriyam might soon have had to face the combined attack of Pillfire and four first rank sects.
Emperor Void advised after some reflection, "Young lord, four first rank sects seem to be siding with Pillfire. That's bad news for us. To curb their ambition, we must rope in the rest as fast as possible, even the Ninesuns Sky Sect."
Among the other four sects, the Skysword Sect and the Celestial Cicada Court were Veluriyam's allies and wouldn't jump ship.
Thanks to Xu Qingxuan, the Moon God Sect would also steer away from Pillfire. However, demanding outright allegiance to Veluriyam would be far more difficult.
Lastly, the Ninesuns Sky Sect wasn't so easy to deal with. Like the Heavenly Dragon Sect and the Skysword Sect, it was one of the strongest first rank sects.
Veluriyam would benefit enormously from their assistance. That would make the layout of Veluriyam against PIllfire evenly matched. But if the Ninesuns Sky Sect were to lean the other way, Veluriyam's position could be immensely weakened.
Thankfully, that was unlikely to happen. They were mortal enemies with the Eternal Celestial Capital and wouldn't join the same camp. Moreover, Jiang Chen had reached a deal with them and mended their fences. At the very least, Sect Head Clearsky wouldn't stand against him, an extremely important detail as the Ninesuns Sky Sect tipped the scales of whichever side they chose.
Of course, this was just the situation for now. As long as Jiang Chen continued growing, he wouldn't need to fear the entire human domain one day, to say nothing of a single Ninesuns Sky Sect.
"Young lord, can we rope in the Ninesuns Sky Sect?" Coiling Dragon couldn't help but ask.
"That won't be easy. They don't lack for ambition," Petalpluck interjected, his words true.
Jiang Chen smiled. "A little ambition is normal. They already stand at the peak of the first rank sects, how would they not aspire to greater heights?"
In Upper Eight Regions, Veluriyam and Pillfire stood above the first rank sects. The latter naturally dreamed of superseding the two. However, dreams alone were useless. They had to be backed by strength.
"Young lord, you clashed with them back in Myriad Domain, but Shangguan Yanqing clearly tried to mend fences during the Dragon and Tiger Meet. I think we can win them over."
"Indeed. They're located right at the center of Upper Eight Regions. It's a strategic position. A good relationship with them is vital." The great emperors shared their own views.
"It's almost impossible to make them submit wholeheartedly, but they won't be our enemy for at least ten years," the young lord asserted.
He'd made a deal with Sect Head Clearsky to borrow their refining formation in exchange for a Pinecrane Pill to be provided within ten years. Hence, he was confident they would never become enemies in that time frame. "That reminds me. Where are Emperor Wellspring and the other wandering great emperors? Are they still in the city?"
"They are," replied the Jiao brothers. "They'd never leave without the Pinecrane Pill. Hmph, when you need these fellows…"
Jiang Chen interrupted with a wave of the hand. "Jiao Yun, Jiao Feng, don't blame them. I'm the one who asked them to leave. It was unfair to expect them to risk their lives for a pill they haven't obtained yet. "
After all, their tenuous relationship was solely based on the Pinecrane Pill. It was nowhere solid enough for them to put their lives on the line.
Jiang Chen left his residence after the meeting in search of Emperor Inferno and the others. They were also delighted by Jiang Chen's safe return.
"Everyone, I apologize for the long delay. Thankfully, you're all hale and hearty. Today, I've come to honor my promise."
The wandering great emperors beamed with excitement. Was the Pinecrane Pill finally close at hand? They'd waited so long for this moment.