Jiang Chen was both swift and efficient. With imposing momentum, he brought a group of subordinates with him to Pillfire City that very day.
Pillzenith had brought as much as ninety percent of Pillfire's best on his sortie against Veluriyam. The remaining ten had been left behind to hold down the fort.
When these glorified sentries heard of what'd happened in Veluriyam territory, none of them had the courage left to resist. They fled the city before Jiang Chen's arrival, taking vast amounts of the city's wealth with them.
When Jiang Chen arrived at Pillfire and announced he was taking over, not a single figure of importance was to be found. Its commoners teemed with unrest and uncertainty.
After taking control of the city, he was quick to push out a series of procedures aimed to eliminate Pillfire's original principles.
At first, the residents of the city and its surrounding powers were a bit worried about Veluriyam's takeover. Many of the smaller factions, clans, and vassals also shared this sentiment. They were concerned about the possibility that Jiang Chen would take revenge by looting and sacking Pillfire and its wealth.
However, Jiang Chen's edicts won them over after a while. Pillfire under his rule was no worse off than it had been in the past. In fact, it was improved in some ways.
The city was very stable under the young lord's rule. Moreover, many of the harsh taxes, tariffs, and mandatory bribes were eliminated. His policies were both righteous and honest, a reflection of the youth's personal nature.
After three months, the entirety of Pillfire had completely forgotten about Pillzenith. They preferred the way things currently were. There was no exploitation, no pressure, no dictatorial actions…
Jiang Chen was well aware of the strategy his administration had to take. If he resorted to brute force rather than diplomacy, he would have been resisted at every turn. It was easy enough to oppress a territory's existing factions, but extremely difficult to brainwash a people.
And yet, he had done precisely that through exerting his unique charisma and methodology, spreading his own ideology throughout the city. Without realizing it, Pillfire became a much more law-abiding place.
Of course, Jiang Chen had listened to Wellspring's advice about calling up some of the wandering cultivator experts and quartering them within the city as well.
"Your Majesty, the great emperors among wandering cultivators are no less talented than the leading experts of the largest factions. The only thing the former lacks is the vast quantity of resources available at the latter's disposal. If you lack in people and are willing to give them some opportunities, they may surprise you in the end." Wellspring's eye for strategy was perpetually superb.
He always saw things from a distance. It was better to gather the scattered wandering cultivators into a loose faction rather than have them remain completely separate like a pile of sand.
When a wandering cultivator was merely a grain of loose sand, he had the most to lose. He had no advantage against any sect cultivator because he had no backing of his own. Oftentimes, he had to swallow his pride despite abuse and hardship.
If the wandering cultivators, especially great emperors, could be gathered together, it would be a big help against the demonic invasion.
After considering it for a moment, Jiang Chen nodded. "Old Brother Hui, your perception and level headedness is second to none among your wandering brethren."
"Haha, you think too highly of me, young lord. I think about these things all the time. Even a fool like me can have his moments of brilliance, you know!" Wellspring was very humble.
"No need to sell yourself short, Old Brother Hui. There are many advantages to gathering up the wandering great emperors. It's not as simple as bringing together just any bunch of experts. Because wandering cultivators often travel around, they'll be the first target for any reawakened demons.
"Plus, if a sense of collective honor could be cultivated by gathering the wandering cultivators together, it would be very helpful to the anti-demon effort in the future. Strength and cooperation in numbers is quite potent, no?
"Finally, you are very much respected in the wandering cultivator world. If you oversee this matter, it will be as good as done. Therefore, I'm leaving all the details of this initiative up to you." Jiang Chen had no love for power and authority. Quite the opposite in fact: he was perfectly willing to give it up to anyone he saw fit.
Wellspring was the kind of person that had the morals and character to back up his outstanding ability. There was nothing wrong with placing utmost trust in him.
After giving full control of Pillfire's affairs to Wellspring, Jiang Chen journeyed back to Veluriyam. This was where his roots were. There was no reason for him to linger in Pillfire territory.
The familiar sight of his family and friends lightened his mood a great deal.
Though his battle against Pillfire had proved to be trivial, Jiang Chen was very much depressed. No matter how good the results of a civil war were, that was no cause for happiness.
"Stinky brother, my master has already gone back to the Moon God Sect. She said that she's too embarrassed to face you, and asked… asked me to apologize on her behalf." Xu Qingxuan was quite excited to see Jiang Chen again.
Still, talking about her master was a little awkward. Her master didn't have a pristine track record when it came to her family.
Jiang Chen didn't mind. "Nothing to worry about," he shrugged. "She's your master at the end of the day. I couldn't very well just let her die in front of my eyes."
Xu Qingxuan's eyes reddened. "Thanks, stinky brother," she murmured after a while.
The girl typically enjoyed butting heads with her brother, but that didn't mean she had anything against him. She admired and worshiped him a great deal, in fact!
In the past, she would sometimes consider her brother's superiority over her a product of blind luck. But after experiencing recent events, Xu Qingxuan finally understood that her brother wasn't merely lucky. He was also superbly charismatic. That was why so many were impressed with him despite his youth.
Who else would have cared for the Moon God Sect's second sectmaster in that situation? She hadn't exactly been his friend. To say that they'd been on poor terms was putting it lightly.
Ordinary people would have enjoyed a moment of schadenfreude.
Jiang Chen had done something quite different. He had made the hostage exchange, indirectly teaching his sister a lesson in the process.
After Veluriyam finally saw the return of its young lord, many covert operatives were immediately sent out to investigate.
Jiang Chen paid a great deal of attention to Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers' potential whereabouts. In fact, he wanted to go out and search himself.
That night, Dan Fei wrapped her arms lightly around Jiang Chen's waist. She rested her face on Jiang Chen's back, her voice tender. "Brother Chen, I hear that you're closing your doors to cultivate again?"
Jiang Chen nodded. "Dan'er, I've let you suffer all these years. We cultivators toil our lives away on travel and cultivation. Though we live much longer than mortals, we spend little time with our loved ones and family."
Dan Fei sighed delicately. "Sometimes, I wonder if we would have had better lives as a normal couple. And yet, wouldn't life be too mundane for us that way? A normal woman only has ten years of youth… I think cultivation is better in the end."
Cultivation extended lives and preserved youthfulness, sometimes indefinitely. Dan Fei cared quite a lot about her looks. She had been like that ever since her time at Skylaurel Kingdom.
"Yes, female cultivators definitely retain their youth," Jiang Chen laughed. "Dan'er, you look just like the day we met back in Skylaurel. Well, you do seem much more mature."
Dan Fei blushed. "I was a bit too childish back then. My girlishness must have been pretty silly."
Jiang Chen felt only warmth when he recalled the events of yesteryear. Alas, memories of Huang'er resurfaced even as he did so. The girl who had endured the best and worst of times with him, the girl whom he'd sworn an oath to.
How bitter would she be if she knew that he had another girl, and a daughter with her to boot?
He couldn't help but feel guilty. It wasn't his fault. That trial years ago had been an unexpectedly alluring misunderstanding.
Jiang Chen was remorseful to Dan Fei as well. After all, he'd completely forgotten about his one-time affair after the fact. This had led to many years of anguish for her as well. He couldn't give up either emotional attachment.
Having been with Jiang Chen for so long, Dan Fei was close enough to his heart to gain a tacit understanding of his thoughts.
"Brother Chen, are you… remembering little sister Huang'er?" Dan Fei was a bit older in terms of age.
Jiang Chen sighed softly. "You must have heard from Gouyu about Huang'er, Dan'er. I will never forget her, nor can I let her down. Whenever I think of her long days and nights of misery on Myriad Abyss Island, my heart burns in yearning and anxiety. That's why I have to cultivate more. I need to go there as soon as possible to save her!"
After experiencing the world's ups and downs, Dan Fei knew that most things were imperfect in some way. A genius like Jiang Chen was idolized by countless young girls who would stop at nothing to offer themselves to him...
It was already exceptional for Jiang Chen to not have any other attachments aside from Huang'er. Many other youthful talents could only be described as stylish dandies, womanizers everywhere they went.
There was no right for Dan Fei to complain about Huang'er in light of that.
One, Huang'er and Jiang Chen had unbreakable bonds. The strength of their relationship was one that Dan Fei could not boast the same of.
Two, Jiang Chen had started a relationship with Huang'er before he had formally been with Dan Fei.
Most critically, Huang'er was seen as the mistress of the young lord residence. Everyone admired her, and Dan Fei saw no reason to upset the others who lived here through her jealousy.
When she considered this, Dan Fei sighed once more. "Brother Chen, I know about your relationship with Huang'er. Someone like you is beloved by innumerable other girls. I'm happy enough just to have a child with you, and little sister Huang'er deserves the same happiness. I almost wouldn't be able to live without you. I'm sure she's the same way. Where would she get the courage to go through each day otherwise? I couldn't possibly be selfish enough to stop you from going."