The supreme lord smiled at their reaction. He'd deliberately stoked the crowd's anger and hostility towards their common enemy.
When he'd first established the sect, he'd been worried Veluriyam would be too intimidating a threat for him to gather enough powerhouses. But things had gone much smoother than he'd anticipated, and he'd successfully roped in a group of experts thanks to underhanded tactics.
Afterwards, the order's ambitious creed had gradually spread through word of mouth, attracting equally ambitious masters to its doors.
Wandering cultivators, sect figures, remnants of Pillfire and of the Eternal Celestial Capital, or even some old monsters hidden from the world for many years — an assortment of people from all walks of life had joined the rising faction.
The supreme lord had even lured most of the Eight Overlords with a promise: an opportunity to break through to empyrean realm. No great emperor could resist such a temptation.
Even the most famous of wandering cultivators such Sabledeep and Everviolet of the six titans had succumbed to the siren call and joined the Order. Of course, their strength and status had granted them both one of the Eight Overlord seats.
Any of the eight was either a wandering titan, a hidden sect heavyweight, or a master of mysterious origins. But eight wasn't the limit. If more cultivators of their caliber were to join, they might become the Ten Overlords, or the Twelve Overlords...
In short, other than the supreme lord, these were unrivalled existences.
"Jiang Chen is like no other, this seat has to admit. A few years ago, I snuck into Agarwood Valley and saw him in person. This kid is blessed by the heavens. Many among you have a higher cultivation, but I wonder how many could overcome him in a real fight. Maybe... not a single one." The supreme lord couldn't prevent admiration from seeping into his leisurely tone at the mention of Jiang Chen, vexing his subordinates.
"My lord. He's alright, but he's merely savvy at using the circumstances to his advantage. His personal strength is nothing to speak of."
The speaker was Emperor Everviolet, one of the exalted overlords. He'd been close to Pillzenith in the past and the two had plotted together against the young man. As a result, he'd personally experienced the young lord's tactics.
True enough, the kid had some skill, but it was nothing but unorthodox tricks. The wandering emperor didn't feel that Jiang Chen really was invincible. At least, he was confident he could subdue the young man with ease. Well, in a fair duel; it would be a different story if Jiang Chen were to summon the fearsome empyrean golems.
"Supreme Lord, the kid does have notable achievements to his name, but as Daoist Everviolet said, he's simply an opportunist. He first borrowed Emperor Peafowl's might, then Emperor Wellspring, Emperor Peerless, and others... And now, he has the golems."
"Alas, isn't he a lucky one. The human domain hasn't seen an empyrean powerhouse in ages. How did he…"
But the kid's successes was all due to sheer luck. There was nothing exceptional about his abilities at all.
True, the Pinecrane Pill or the Emperor Supremacy Pill were landmarks in pill dao, but in the world of cultivation, martial power was the foremost way to gain recognition.
Jiang Chen's triumphs should have allowed him to unify mankind long ago. Yet, because of their nature, many dubious, dissenting voices remained. Few first rank sects in particular wholeheartedly admired him, no matter the caution Veluriyam inspired.
In other words, only overwhelming strength would allow him to be generally acknowledged as mankind's leader.
Why had the Order's supreme lord received widespread acceptance in four short years? Why had many surrendered to him?
Because in front of him, great emperors were mere buffoons dancing in his palm. He'd demonstrated a power far exceeding theirs. This absolute strength on top of the sect's militantism offered many eager experts a way to assuage their ambitions.
Strength trumped everything else.
Who was the supreme lord, where did he come from, what powers stood behind him? None of it mattered.
The only thing that did was that he was an empyrean master, standing far above great emperors!
The supreme lord smiled faintly. "Gentlemen, you seem biased against Jiang Chen. He is indeed our enemy, but for that very reason, we ought to remain fair and lucid. Blind arrogance will only harm us. To be frank, he's the only one I'm somewhat wary of in the human domain. As for the others…"
He didn't continue, but the implication was clear. No one else was worth mentioning.
"Supreme Lord, since you think so highly of him, why don't you head directly to Sacred Peafowl Mountain, suppress the kid with your peerless power, and force him to surrender?"
"That's right! Once we cut off the head of the snake, who else in the entire domain can oppose us?"
"Supreme Lord, didn't he call for a grand alliance? We should hack our way into the venue. You can capture the kid and replace him at the head!" This suggestion was met with widespread support.
A faint smile appeared on the supreme lord's impassive face. "Not a bad idea, but a little premature. First of all, Veluriyam is a land of ancient inheritances. They have hidden cards you can't even imagine. A brash attack could trigger one that might stump even me."
"Oh? Ancient inheritances?" the crowd puzzled.
"Indeed. Veluriyam was born in the age of the ancient demon-sealing war. Its pagoda founder was one of the ancient leaders of mankind. Tell me, is that worthy enough an enemy for you?" His words instantly silenced the loudest and most zealous members. No wonder Veluriyam had always thrived so. Its origin were this immeasurably deep!
"What should we do then?"
"Indeed. Apart from violence, what other option do we have?"
The supreme lord smiled faintly. "Veluriyam only has its ancient glory to its name. It was on a long downward slope before Jiang Chen's emergence. Even Emperor Peafowl's reign was a mere stopgap."
The opinion sent the crowd abuzz.
Even the unruliest members of the Order couldn't but acknowledge Emperor Peafowl as one of this era's leaders. His character was acknowledged by all. At the very least least, he'd never used Veluriyam's strength to tyrannize others. On that front, he'd showed a morals a hundred times greater than Pillzenith.
"You look unconvinced. You might wonder, why do I disregard someone you hold in such high esteem? I don't actually despise him, but his rule was too conservative. Or perhaps hegemony was never his goal.
"Idealistic, given to excessive commiseration, perhaps even possessing a savior complex. But he forgot something critical. Without power, what can a hero hope to achieve? Under his rule, Veluriyam didn't even rank first among mankind's factions. How would he ever realized his grand dreams? Even a fool like Pillzenith made him suffer time and time again."
The crowd fell silent. They couldn't refute his arguments. "But Emperor Peafowl was one of the strongest men of his time. He merely lacked the ambition to rule the world."
"Strongest?" The supreme lord chuckled. "Don't be so short-sighted. Mankind's decline isn't as steep as you think. There are empyrean masters in the human domain, and not only one or two. You can take my word for it. These old fellows have simply become so selfish they refuse to move, deathly afraid it might shorten their lifespans. After all, the energy in the human domain is far too lacking to sustain empyrean powerhouses."
Empyrean masters? More than one at that?
This was shocking, no, incredibly momentous news that overturned everything they knew of mankind's hierarchy...
"Supreme Lord, is it true?" Sabledeep suddenly looked pensive, his eyes shining bright.
Everviolet's violet eyes also twinkled, his face inscrutable.