Denial, refutation, or outright attack were within Pillzenith's expectations. But Jiang Chen being so casual about everything took the great emperor wholly off guard.
"It seems that you won't give up until you're at the end of your rope, Jiang Chen. I don't see the need to waste words given your admission. You have two choices today."
Jiang Chen maintained his half-smile. Pillzenith belaboring his performance was infinitely amusing to the young lord.
"One, your immediate surrender on the spot. I guarantee the innocents will be spared if you do so. And the alternative!" Cackling, Pillzenith swept his gaze across Veluriyam's other emperors. "The alternative is that the entirety of Veluriyam is buried with you."
"Take your pick." The emperor proclaimed the two outcomes with the finality of a haughty judge.
"Why waste time talking to him, Your Majesty Pillzenith? He's the scum of humanity. He has no right to choose anything!"
"That's right, we must crush him to pieces. To do otherwise is to disappoint our ancestors!" Pillfire's dogs clamored in agreement.
Jiang Chen squinted at his enemies. He hadn't yet erupted because he wanted to see the extent of their repulsiveness.
"Did you hear that, Jiang Chen?" Pillzenith snickered. "Do you still imagine you'll be allowed to live after betraying the human race?"
"Are you done now?" Jiang Chen retorted with a faint smile.
Pillzenith had dealt with his young opponent multiple times before. He knew how difficult the youth was to contend with. That was why he had tried to dismantle Jiang Chen psychologically.
From the reactions he was getting though, it seemed that Jiang Chen had experienced minimal disturbance. The calmness of his response was a perfect illustration of that.
"So you want to flail to the bitter end, eh, Jiang Chen?" Pillzenith was greatly displeased. Wasn't the great emperor already in a position to sentence the criminal before him? And yet, the convicted had no appreciation or awareness that his fate was being decided by another!
Jiang Chen glanced at Pillzenith ponderously.
"It must be tiring for you to dance around like this for this long, Pillzenith. You've certainly mounted a respectable effort in opposing me these years.
"I know that you came in high spirits, intent on consuming Veluriyam whole. You've thirsted for my genius pill recipes for a long time. Maybe you've discussed how to divide the spoils, hmm?
"And you." Jiang Chen turned to the other factions' leaders. "Your self-righteous declarations only reveal your deep-seated hypocrisy. Are you not tired by your pretenses?
"You envy me and yearn for my treasures. It's normal to feel that, really, and I'd respect your honesty if you'd made your intent clear from the start. However, the fact that you put yourselves forward as the arbiters of justice for humanity is utterly revolting."
Jiang Chen spoke with incredible speed, as quick as a series of popping firecrackers. Within a single breath, he insulted everyone once over.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm not insulting you. Before, I occasionally wanted to do so to inspire you to become better. Now, it seems that you don't even deserve that. As leading factions of humanity, you don't seem to care the slightest bit about the differences between good and evil. Any criticism I make fall only on deaf ears!"
Jiang Chen's face darkened. "I don't care why you came here today. I'm going to teach you a valuable lesson on some very personal terms. We'll see who lives and who dies very shortly!"
As he finished his sentence, his consciousness passed a message to the king of the Goldbiter Rats.
Having received the command, the rat king passed it along to his descendants. The entire colony of rats swarmed out, causing the earth to roil for dozens of miles around.
Countless golden shadows shimmered, their glares as bright as the convergence of a dozen suns. The witnesses could barely open their eyes, so blinding was the radiance. Those with trypophobia felt their hairs stand on end and goosebumps rise everywhere on their skin.
After the past few years of reproductive time, the Goldbiter Rats had increased in numbers yet again. Furthermore, evidence of their evolution was very striking. Currently, the species was at least ten times its former strength.
Rats teemed everywhere the eye could see. No individual rat was particularly large, but the existence of so many of them side by side filled the space from their line of sight to the horizon. There seemed to be no gaps in their formation, with rats oftentimes stacking upon one another. This kind of density was nothing short of nightmarish!
Jiang Chen's gaze was cold and inhumane. He looked impassively at Pillzenith.
"Pillzenith, you've spent every day and night scheming against Veluriyam and me. However, I consider you nothing more than a clown, a pathetic failure of a man. You only know the joy of civil conflict. In my eyes, your ambitions are an absolute joke! Experience well how small you are before me!" He gave further instructions to the Goldbiter Rats to accelerate as he spoke.
A tremendous golden tide surging towards the northern alliance was the obliging result.
Everyone - Pillzenith included - could do little more than watch, their mouths agape.
There had been rumors about Veluriyam's young lord using a rat tide to besiege Great Scarlet Capital. At the time, Jiang Chen had kept a lid on the rats' momentum in order to make sure the innocents remained unscathed.
There was no need to do that here today. None of his enemies gathered here were innocent. The only thing left for Jiang Chen to do was teach these ignorant fools a painful lesson.
"Your Majesty, has… has Jiang Chen allied with a beast tribe?" Someone shuddered even as he offered this comment, his face pale.
"This doesn't look good, Daoist Pillzenith."
"What shall we do, Daoist?" Others could no longer remain calm.
The surging tide of golden rats that rapidly approached caused the weaker cultivators' very consciousnesses to shiver uncontrollably. Even Pillzenith, someone who had lived for several thousand years, felt his scalp tingle.
One Goldbiter Rat by itself was quite weak. Most cultivators here could easily crush a few dozen or hundred. When millions or billions of them came together however, the offensive momentum they brought forth was terrifyingly unrivaled. It was catastrophic, especially for the weak-minded among them.
The rats were imposing in their own way. When faced with this many living things at once, even an expert among experts would still be affected by their momentum. After all, these Goldbiter Rats weren't common animals. They were heirs of an ancient bloodline in their own way, and possessed their own kind of grandeur.
Distrust, fear, and other negative emotions began to unstoppably spread through the northern coalition. Besides the very few staunch enemies of Jiang Chen or the best of experts, most were unsettled enough to want to retreat.
"Your Majesty, this rat tide is quite fearsome. Maybe we should steer clear for now. There's no way these rats know how to fly, so we…" One person offered some helpful advice.
Displeasure was plain on Pillzenith's face. He could see very well the delicacy of the situation. Still, was he going to give up his plans on the day of their fruition? Were these golden vermin going to ruin everything? He simply couldn't accept such a turnaround.
Jiang Chen's derision towards him had also built up a lot of pent-up anger to boot.
Pillzenith had experienced only success for several thousand years. Everyone everywhere gave him the respect he deserved. Who dared openly oppose him in the Upper Eight Regions - nay, the human domain in general?? No one!
That a young man so much his junior had the gall to do so… wasn't a junior like him supposed to show respect and humility to his elders?
Meanwhile, Jiang Chen's own allies were hypnotized by the display of force.
They were deeply impressed and thankful that they were on Jiang Chen's side rather than the reverse. The despair experienced by someone stuck in an inch of space in the midst of the boundless rat tide was unnerving just to imagine.
Great astonishment also radiated from the imperious eyes of the proud second sectmaster of the Moon God Sect. Her perception of the young lord had suddenly became much more complicated.
"Ah, it seems I've underestimated young lord Jiang Chen in the past as well. Qingxuan is lucky to have an older brother like him. Alas, I was too ignorant enough to perceive his value back then. If…" The second sectmaster didn't dare think on.
If Jiang Chen had brought these Goldbiter Rats to the Moon God Sect, would the sect have had the room to choose their response to him in the first place?
From this day forward, it was safe to say that the second sectmaster had no ground to stand on before Jiang Chen.
After all the things she had done and attitude she'd given, especially to Jiang Chen's mother Xu Meng... what had Jiang Chen done in return? He had repaid her with gratitude, and his willingness to redeem her using his enemy's son was illustration of that in spades.
Though Jiang Chen hadn't done it for her sake, obviously. It had been for his sister Qingxuan.
Still, the lengths he'd gone to nevertheless had an impact on the second sectmaster's opinion. She'd been taught a lesson of her own today: there is always another peak higher.
Presently, her eyes were filled with surprise as she beheld the endless tide of vermin. She felt nothing but shock at what she was watching. The sheer awe had almost made her forget about hating Pillzenith because she could tell that it was a very good question whether he would even survive the day!