Coiling Dragon trailed off as he said this. Jiang Chen's expression made him realize that something was very off. He closed his mouth, not wishing to disturb the young man's thoughts.
"Keep talking." Jiang Chen struggled to calm himself down. "Tell me everything in as much detail as possible. Especially about Cloudbillow and company." He settled down his heart as much as possible.
However, Coiling Dragon didn't know where to start.
The meeting was silent for a time. Everyone's eyes became evasive. Clearly, these great emperors had all been scared off by the severity of Jiang Chen's reaction.
Noticing the delicacy of the atmosphere, Jiang Chen sighed softly. "Friends, are you sure that Emperors Cloudbillow, Castveil, and Master Vimalakhirti all appeared in person?"
"Young lord, is there something wrong about that?" Emperor Void interjected.
Everyone else was rather curious as well. What had happened to warrant such a reaction from young lord Jiang Chen?
Jiang Chen gazed grimly at his captive audience. "The words you speak make me rather doubtful. Are all of you really still you?"
Everyone was entirely confused. What did he mean by that? The young lord's words were becoming more incomprehensible by the day.
Coiling Dragon scratched his head. "Young lord, are there people that dare disguise themselves as us? Appearance is easy to mimic, but bloodlines aren't. Who can copy Coiling Dragon Clan's blood, eh?"
"But the Emperors Cloudbillow and Castveil that the world sees must be fakes." Jiang Chen choked out a dry laugh.
"Huh?" The whole room reeled in stunned disorientation. Jiang Chen hadn't made himself any clearer.
"Those people all died at Agarwood Valley."
They all died?
Veluriyam's great emperors looked at each other in collective amazement.
"Young lord, you… you're not joking, are you? Emperor Cloudbillow and a group of his cronies are spreading libelous rumors about you everywhere in the human domain. That's definitely real, and something that's only happened over the last couple of days. News of it is everywhere. If the rumors had been scarce, they could've been false. But if the entire martial dao world is talking about it, then…"
Jiang Chen nodded. "That's why I think this is strange. There has to be something afoot. I do know one thing though: all these people have already died! Aside from me, Emperor Newsun and the forefather of the Purple Smoke Sect are the only survivors. However, if Newsun has joined Cloudbillow, I assume he's met with some kind of misfortune as well."
Everyone's expressions became conflicted. They saw that Jiang Chen was deadly serious.
The young lord went on plainly. "The secret realm within Agarwood held an ancient celestial demon lord, sealed away by a formation that belonged to an equally ancient sect. He used his demonic consciousness to lure human cultivators into his domain. If not for the alertness I had from the start, I might have fallen prey to his trap as well."
He retold all that had occurred there to the great emperors present. How the cultivators had fallen into the demon lord's trap, how Newsun had escaped with his subordinates' sacrifice, and how the latter had stuck around for a bit before leaving with the Purple Smoke Sect's forefather.
He recounted the intrusion of the Southern Celestial Tribe's experts as well, and how the demon lord had finally struggled free of his seal with their help.
Jiang Chen held nothing back, even the information about the ancient legendary bow. The stakes were too high for him to conceal information. He had a bad feeling that the strange events which were currently taking place only served to hide a brewing conspiracy that was even more sinister.
Most concerning was the faction that had formulated the conspiracy. It was fearsome enough to know everything that can place in the Primosanct Sect's sacred land. This shocked Jiang Chen tremendously. He was now completely sure that there had been a third, terrifying party there.
He hadn't noticed them, the Vermilion Bird hadn't noticed them, and the eight Stone Golem brothers hadn't noticed them either. Even the arrogant celestial demon lord, with his extremely powerful consciousness, hadn't noticed them. From beginning to end, no one had paid any attention to the third party's presence.
They had been the veritable oriole in the story of the cicada and the mantis. Jiang Chen hadn't understood the tale very much before now, but a chill ran down his spine when he considered the possibilities.
The faction behind this was truly dreadful. Not just its subterfuge, but its unspeakable ambitions and unparalleled skill at disguises.
Mimicking the dead Cloudbillow and company plausibly wasn't something that just anyone could pull off! Even their own sects and factions didn't suspect that anything was wrong. The scope of the problem was bloodcurdlingly large.
The celestial demon lord and the Southern Flame Tribe were known threats. Jiang Chen was wary of them, but he wasn't going to lose any sleep over them. This hidden faction could do just that though. He wasn't going to sleep very well after today.
After a long time, Emperor Void spoke once more. "Young lord, from what you say, the culprit responsible for all this is hideously strong!"
Copying one person wasn't hard.
Copying a group of people wasn't nearly on the same level. A proficient team was required, as was sufficient knowledge and understanding of what had happened in Agarwood.
How else would they have been able to make their lie convincing otherwise?
"We can't be so passive, young lord," Emperor Coiling Dragon spat angrily. "We must step forward and unveil them to the rest of the world! This is a conspiracy!"
"Yes, we must reveal their plot. If these people all died and are fakes, it should be easy to do that!"
"Not necessarily. They have large numbers and we very few. They've pretty much made their accusations simultaneously. Young lord Jiang Chen is only one person. How can he debate so many successfully?"
Some were indignant and others worried.
"It doesn't matter who the culprit is," replied Jiang Chen. "They slander me because they are afraid of me. That's why they must resort to such a disgusting method in order to oppose me at all."
"That's right, young lord. They want to ruin your reputation and destroy Veluriyam's prestige! We can't allow this to happen!"
"Quite so, young lord. We must mount a counterattack!"
"Let's make an announcement to denounce those phonies right now! As long as we expose them, their actions should no longer matter!"
As these people spoke, guests arrived. It was none other than the Skysword Sect's head, Han Qianzhan, and the Celestial Cicada Court's leader, Su Huanzhen. These two were intricately tied to Veluriyam in their dealings.
They were evidently bothered by the circulating rumors and were here to seek the truth from Jiang Chen's mouth. Their restlessness was visible from their actions and behavior.
"Young lord Jiang Chen, things are very bad right now. If the Ninesuns Sky Sect stands with Pillfire and helps them stir things up, it will be very bad for you and Veluriyam! The excuse they've come up with is especially bad. Destroying Boundary Steles is a serious crime!" Han Qianzhan cut straight to the point.
Since ancient times, human experts have upheld an unspoken agreement: Boundary Steles and their territories were not to be touched, no matter where they were. Human cultivators, peak experts especially, were forbidden from challenging them.
If Pillfire and its associates held on to this fact, it would be an easy avenue of attack against Jiang Chen and Veluriyam's fame and influence.
There were many loyal supporters of Jiang Chen in the human domain, a group that was expanding by the day. From a broad point of view, Veluriyam had basically surpassed Pillfire to become the leading faction of the Upper Eight Regions.
Pillfire had perfect motive for doing this.
Still, Jiang Chen felt that even Emperor Pillzenith had no ability to make all the cultivators outside Agarwood disappear. Therefore, he considered it quite unlikely for Pillzenith to be the mastermind behind the operation. He was an assistant at most.
Truthfully, he was more worried about Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers' whereabouts than the malicious rumors.
He speculated that the three great emperors had been captured or kidnapped, as depressing as the idea was. Unfortunately, that was the best case scenario. Their bizarre deaths would be a much graver blow.
It was a loss that Jiang Chen couldn't afford to sustain.
Su Huanzhen's voice echoed forth. "Young lord Jiang Chen, Sect Head Han and I don't believe you would be someone so rash. We both think you should step up to condemn what they've said. Your innocence must be declared to the world. Otherwise, their lies will be allowed to propagate until they are indistinguishable from truth. That wouldn't be a good thing for Veluriyam's reputation or the human domain at large."
If Veluriyam fell off its pedestal, the entire human domain would fall into anarchy for a time. After all, many people saw the capital as the only reliable faction in the land.
"What do you think, friends?" Su Huanzhen's concern for Veluriyam's fortunes was evident. The anxiety and distress on her face were overt.
Everyone looked at Jiang Chen, hesitant to speak. Before the young lord's explanation, they didn't even dare announce that Cloudbillow and company had already died. Doing so wasn't much different from an admission of madness. All eyes settled on the young lord to see how he would respond.
"I can't hide what's happened from you, my friends. You've come a long way." Jiang Chen concisely retold the matter of Agarwood and the fakes to the two sect heads.
Their reactions after hearing the entire story were nearly identical. Shock, astonishment, then trepidation!