Even the Vermilion Bird could feel the strangeness in the atmosphere. It couldn't say for sure what was off, but neither could Jiang Chen. As they approached Veluriyam Capital though, the bizarreness thinned out.
Maybe I'm being overly suspicious. Jiang Chen reassured himself. I've been in Agarwood too long and I'm used to being tense. Paranoia after that experience is natural.
The thought relaxed him a little.
The accustomed hustle and bustle of the Veluriyam cheered Jiang Chen up greatly. Things in the city hadn't changed much since he had left. The familiarity of the scenery came rushing back to him.
Thank heavens that Veluriyam Capital is still largely stable! Jiang Chen was extremely anxious as he flew towards Sacred Peafowl Mountain.
The mountain was as fortified as a fortress. The young lord breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the Nine Sparks Petalstorm Formation operating as it should. As long as it was still in effect, Sacred Peafowl Mountain and the young lord residence were safe for now.
"The young lord has returned!" His appearance outside the young lord residence immediately caused a commotion.
Jiang Chen heaved a long sigh when he saw the faces he knew so well appear. The family, friends, and daoists that lived here were his greatest sources of motivation. His heart settled back down after seeing them safe and sound.
"Have Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers come back yet?" He asked immediately when he saw Xue Tong.
Jiang Chen's cousin blinked, then shook his head blankly. "Not yet. Didn't they go with you, young lord?"
The young man's heart skipped a beat and his expression became conflicted. He maintained his composure. "We'll talk more inside," he waved.
Everyone within the young lord residence was present and accounted for. They were as relaxed as ever. A burst of joy filtered through the young lord residence at the sight of the young lord. Though Jiang Chen was himself a bit downcast, he didn't let it show through.
Now was not the time to announce what had happened to Emperor Peerless and the rest. Doing so would only create unwanted fear and terror. He wasn't interested in ruining the daily lives of these people for no reason. After all, he didn't want them to worry on his behalf.
There was no need to panic. Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers were unrivaled experts in the human domain. Unless a power as irresistible as the celestial demon lord came about, no one could eliminate them without causing a ruckus in the world. And in fact, it was impossible to have killed all of the cultivators at the entrance of Agarwood Valley.
Jiang Chen felt that there was something more suspicious afoot. But what exactly was it?
He was back to his usual scramble after spending a few days of peace within his residence. Last time, he had only refined the Pinecrane Pill. This time, he was going to refine the Emperor Supremacy Pill as well.
After the Dragon and Tiger Meet, Jiang Chen had made it known to the public that he was purchasing Heavencloud Ganoderma. There were a few accumulated over at Taiyuan Tower now. This was tremendously good news.
He'd paid a high price for them, but the expense was nothing compared to the profit that would come from the pills. It was no less difficult to refine Emperor Supremacy Pills than Pinecrane Pills.
He had the advantage of his improved cultivation level this time, however. His pill dao efforts were becoming easier and easier because of this.
In his previous life, he had become a pill dao master renowned in the heavenly planes without any martial cultivation whatsoever. Now that he had a certain amount of cultivation to back him up, his control and stamina far surpassed what he'd been capable of in the past.
In only half a month's time, Jiang Chen successfully opened his doors once more: a batch of Emperor Supremacy Pills was complete.
He was in a hurry because of his trip to Agarwood. The terror of the celestial demon lord had served as a warning that Veluriyam Capital needed to increase its strength.
When he emerged from seclusion, he called the city's great emperors to him immediately. Since he hadn't been seen for a while, his summons was met with excitement. Their young lord was becoming more mysterious and impenetrable by the day.
There were rumors in the outside world that even wandering cultivator giants like Emperor Wellspring had joined young lord Jiang Chen. This unquestionably increased the worship of Veluriyam's emperors toward their leader. Even Emperor Petalpluck had to offer sufficient respect to Jiang Chen.
"Friends! These past few days, I made a trip to Agarwood. I'm sure you haven't heard any news of that trip yet and I came…" He scarcely finished his sentence when he noticed the others' odd expressions.
Frowning, Jiang Chen glanced at Emperor Coiling Dragon. "Coiling Dragon, is there anything you would like to say?"
The emperor smiled wryly when he was named. "Young lord, have you been behind closed doors since you came back from Agarwood?"
"Yes," Jiang Chen nodded. "I've been refining the Emperor Supremacy Pill for half a month with some success."
Coiling Dragon's eyes lit up. "Have you finished a batch?"
The emperor had desired the pill for quite a while now. The very news of the pill was enough to make his eyes gleam. He tossed all the words he had to say to the wind. His eyes were on the pills alone.
"Serious issues first," waved Jiang Chen.
Emperor Coiling Dragon chuckled, recovering his wits. "Young lord," he laughed, "don't keep it to yourself. Let's talk about the Emperor Supremacy Pill for a bit."
"You'll get one in time. It's not going anywhere."
Everyone else laughed as well. Only Emperor Coiling Dragon could be this casual with Jiang Chen. Before his rise to power, the Coiling Dragon Clan had served as his patron and compatriot.
The other emperors were mildly envious of Coiling Dragon's relationship with the young lord. It was obvious that he would have priority in receiving the pill.
Jiang Chen's solemnity sobered Emperor Coiling Dragon up too. "It's no wonder then. If you've been spending time behind closed doors these past few days… There've been an increasing amount of rumors about Agarwood in the outside world."
"Oh? What of it?" Because Jiang Chen had been refining pills, he hadn't heard any news of the outside world. He knew nothing about the goings-on outside Veluriyam.
"Don't take it to heart, young lord," said Coiling Dragon. "They're just a bunch of liars. They only want to throw dirt at you and slander our Veluriyam Capital."
"Be more specific. What are they saying about me?" Jiang Chen inquired coolly.
"There's a rumor in the outside world that you broke the Boundary Stele within Agarwood without permission. They say that you are a double agent of another race… there's lots of weird and unfounded claims about you, young lord. Nobody who lives in the city believes a word of it."
Currently, Veluriyam Capital was too dedicated and unyielding for the outside world to sway.
Jiang Chen frowned. The Boundary Stele?
The problems at there had been witnessed by Jiang Chen, the Stone Golems, and the Vermilion Bird. The celestial demon lord and his demonic servants had been party as well of course, and the empyrean experts of the Southern Celestial Tribe.
Out of these witnesses, Jiang Chen and company couldn't have been the ones to spill the beans. All of them was here, within the young lord residence.
The celestial demon lord had stolen Zhongli Yan's body and fled to Southern Celestial territory. The other two experts had run back to their homeland as well. It couldn't possibly be one of them here in the human domain.
The only ones left over were the demonic servants who had joined up with the celestial demon lord. But those had been slaughtered wholesale under Jiang Chen and the golem brothers' pursuit. Not a single one had been left alive. He was entirely sure on this point.
Even if there were one or two that had gotten away, how could they have started up such a malicious storm in the entirety of the human domain? There was something very strange about all this.
"Where did the rumors come from?" Jiang Chen frowned.
"The usual suspects, you know? Pillfire City's Emperor Cloudbillow, Eternal Celestial Capital…" Emperor Coiling Dragon looked unconcerned.
"What did you say?!" Jiang Chen cut him off before he could finish. The young man stood up with such vehemence and suddenness that he shocked everyone else present. He was a far cry from his usual calmness.
Emperor Coiling Dragon was amazed. "Young lord, those guys are only a bunch of clowns. They're fabricating rumors and chaos to shake the world into disarray. Most people in the outside world don't believe them. They think that Pillfire is slandering you in particular!"
Jiang Chen looked very serious as he gazed intently at Coiling Dragon. He took a deep breath. "What did you just say? Pillfire's Cloudbillow? The Eternal Celestial Capital's Emperor Castveil?"
"Yes! The Empyrean River Palace's vice palace head and the Sublime Chord Temple's Master Vimalakhirti as well. The worst part is that the Ninesuns Sky Sect's Emperor Newsun is part of them! I thought the Ninesuns Sky Sect wanted peace with you, young lord?" Coiling Dragon was furious when he came to this part.
Jiang Chen's face grew darker by the second.
His excessive reaction worried everyone else as well. They didn't suspect him of any wrongdoing of course, but they realized the gravity of the potential situation on their hands.
Jiang Chen took another deep breath before asking once more. "Coiling Dragon, are you sure that these words were personally spoken by Emperor Cloudbillow and the rest?"
"Yes! Pillfire City and its associate factions are gathering others to their side in order to make a public demand for an explanation. The entire human domain has two voices right now: one that supports you, young lord, and the other… the people who are making trouble with Pillfire."