The battle on the borders of Bluesky Nation was destined to go down as a pivotal event in human history.
When Emperor Pillzenith had formed his northern coalition, almost every cultivator in the human domain was pessimistic about Veluriyam's prospects. The faction seemed certain to be crushed under the barrage from their neighbors in the north.
However, both process and conclusion were nothing short of astonishing.
Pillzenith had been crippled like a dead dog, then eaten to the bone by countless Goldbiter Rats. Though his veins and meridians had been destroyed, his life essence hadn't dissipated. Therefore, he was superb nutrition for the rats.
The rapid skeletonization of the once-proud great emperor inspired shocked awe in his former followers. Pillzenith's fall was like a monument in their hearts being demolished. They hadn't at all expected the near-invincible great emperor to be so easily crushed by Veluriyam's young lord. This was a real, measurable gap!
Pillzenith had conspired time and time again to topple Jiang Chen. This time however, he'd clearly gone too far. The young man had returned the favor by utterly smashing both the emperor and his faction in a lightning stroke.
This made everyone came to a shocking realization that Veluriyam had never feared Pillfire even from the start. Instead, young lord Jiang Chen had never even seen Pillfire as a long-term rival of any kind. In his eyes, Pillzenith was little more than a dancing clown!
Pillfire City's men were all dead, but Jiang Chen didn't call for his Goldbiter Rats to retreat yet. They swarmed around the defectors.
Jiang Chen didn't believe for one second that ethics had to do with their defection. They had only caved due to their collective fear of death.
"The eight first rank sects of the Upper Eight Regions are supposed to be its pillars. Look at what you've done instead! Day in and day out, all you manage is trickery and deceit of each other. You do the common people a great disservice simply by existing!
"I'm letting you go today with your lives, but it's not because of your innocence. Spend some more effort in thinking about what you should do in the future." Pausing, Jiang Chen tossed a frigid gaze towards the Eternal Celestial Capital. Its holy emperor shivered when he detected the young man's eyes. "Luo Jue, I can absolve the other sects of their responsibility as they were strong-armed into it by Pillfire. The Eternal Celestial Capital however, cannot be forgiven!"
The sect had made its way onto Jiang Chen's hit list a long time ago.
"Young lord Jiang Chen!" Luo Jue spat resentfully, "are you turning on me after tricking me into surrendering?"
"There's no need to defend yourself," Jiang Chen smiled faintly. "I'm not interested in hearing your excuses. Whether you resist or not, your fate won't change."
Panic flashed across the sect head's face. "Jiang Chen," he called out, "if you're willing to forgive these other Pillfire loyalists, why can't you show some mercy to us as well? Yes, we were responsible for Myriad Domain all those years ago. Still, hasn't survival of the fittest been the unspoken law of the human domain since time immemorial? What difference is there between us and the Ninesuns Sky Sect? Why do you solely target us, young lord Jiang Chen?"
He hadn't given up on weaseling his way out of his fate.
"Survival of the fittest?" Jiang Chen burst into laughter. "Is that how you understand it? Very well then, since I am now more fit to survive than you, that means you should die because I say so. Right?"
He was using Luo Jue's own argument against him. Because of this, the lord of the Eternal Celestial Capital had no response. Yes, why couldn't survival of the fittest apply here, too?
The sect head wanted to say more, but Jiang Chen wasn't interested in giving him the chance. "Big Stone, take him out!"
The young man was set on clearing away all of his enemies. Both the Eternal Celestial Capital and its holy emperor lacked a great deal when compared to Pillfire City. There had been nothing that the latter had been do, which made the former's case all the more hopeless.
The holy emperor wanted to make a last stand, but he could barely move a finger before the eight golem brothers subjected him to the same fate as Emperor Pillzenith.
The layout of the Upper Eight Regions were henceforth completely altered. The Eternal Celestial Capital was struck from the list of the eight first rank sects.
In the clash between two superpowers, Veluriyam was the final victor. Pillfire was forced into decline, marking the end of an era.
For Veluriyam, the victory had been nothing short of total. It was a golden opportunity for the faction's development. Coupled with the many advantages it already possessed, it felt like it was on top of the whole world.
Jiang Chen however, was quite unhappy.
The imposters sent by the mysterious faction had committed suicide before his very eyes. He hadn't been able to question a single one of them, despite his extremely strong desire to do so.
Jiang Chen was unafraid of Pillfire or any other first rank faction within the Upper Eight Regions. After extended exposure to them, he knew them like the back of his hand.
All their cards and resources were an open book. Even when the situation for Veluriyam had been at its worst, Jiang Chen had never been particularly pressed. The mysterious faction, though… its ability to create so many imposters within such a short span of time made him wary.
He ignored the fearful looks from the others after eradicating the cultivators from the Eternal Celestial Capital.
The Heavenly Dragon Sect, the Sublime Chord Temple, and the Empyrean River Palace - none of the three sects had a mortal grudge with Jiang Chen. There was no reason for the young man to cut them down.
"If I followed my emotions, gentlemen, I would find killing all of you to sit perfectly well with me. After all, you acted as Pillfire City's hunting dogs on its incursion into Veluriyam territory."
The others muttered half-hearted assent. They could neither agree nor disagree.
"However, I'm not exactly the bloody, murderous type. The human domain can't tolerate further struggle and strife. Emperor Pillzenith has seen me as his biggest threat for a long time now. I was supposedly some kind of challenge to his personal authority. He was a complete and utter fool! Danger has long brewed over the human domain, the kind that you cannot hope to understand.
"Demons and aliens outside the Boundary Steles are prowling for weaknesses in our ranks. It's absurd that as the nominal leader of the human race, Pillfire never thought about how to handle a potential invasion. Instead, it focused solely on opposing me. Is that appropriate behavior for a real leader? He could have led you from rags to riches, but it's far more likely he would have led you into a bottomless abyss!
"But never mind that." Jiang Chen waved a hand. "Take care of yourselves. The demons will invade sooner or later. If you're still only interested in civil unrest and petty politics, you will be the first to perish when the demons arrive!"
These people were humiliated by Jiang Chen's criticisms. However, they were overjoyed to hear that the young lord had granted them permission to leave. It rather felt like they'd been granted amnesty.
The tide of Goldbiter Rats finally receded.
Under relayed orders from the rat king, his children began to retreat. In about fifteen minutes' time, all of the rats had vanished from the scene, as if they had never been here in the first place.
The uneasy sects immediately asked leave from the young lord.
Jiang Chen reacted with nonchalant coolness. He had given these people clemency, but that didn't mean he liked them one bit. He simply had no desire to gain the reputation of a brutal tyrant.
Moreover, these sects were sure to have nightmares upon hearing his name after today's loss. It was extremely unlikely they would oppose him ever again.
On the very off chance they did make a return visit, Jiang Chen had no qualms about wiping them out.
The disgraceful departure of the three former Pillfire allies elicited an exclamation from Han Qianzhan. "That first rank sects in the Upper Eight Regions would stoop so low… Miserable! Absolutely miserable. Am I supposed to think them the Great Yu Skysword Sect's peers?"
"Daoist Han," Su Huanzhen giggled. "I don't think you should think of it that way. At the end of the day, they're still strong enough to be considered first rank sects. If they're willing to recognize the error of their ways, their potential effect on the Upper Eight Regions shouldn't be underestimated."
The Moon God Sect's second sectmaster was strangely silent. Her expression was a mixture of uncertainty and shock.
"Congratulations, young lord Jiang Chen." Her tone was as conflicted as her look.
"What is there to congratulate me for?" Jiang Chen sighed softly. "There was no joy in that battle. What good is there if I kill a group of my fellow humans? I only hope that all of the human sects and factions can coexist peacefully from now on."
Emperor Wellspring sighed as well. "The toppling of Pillfire may indeed prove to be an opportunity for the Upper Eight Regions. In the north especially, Pillfire has had a monopoly over every pill-related channel and resource. Because of this, the other first rank sects will be revitalized now that the cloud looming over them is gone. There will be changes for sure, possibly even radical ones."
The emperor's viewpoint was sharp and incisive. He instantly saw the effect of Pillfire's destruction on the world. The biggest change was that Pillfire's monopolized profits would now be divided among its sufficiently powerful neighbors. A lot of money was going to change hands.
Jiang Chen became ponderous at the proffered opinion.
"Young lord, I think that Veluriyam must take over what Pillfire has left behind. Otherwise, there may be severe infighting arising from the power vacuum, perhaps on an unaffordable scale. Moreover, Veluriyam must command both the south and the north if it wishes to rule over the entirety of the human domain!" Emperor Wellspring's suggestion was equally thought-provoking.
Just as he had said, Pillfire's void could only be filled by Veluriyam. The amount of profit on the table could elicit the bloodlust of the staunchest pacifist. How could a warring human domain stand against a demonic invasion?
Jiang Chen completely agreed with the great emperor's analysis.