More and more factions arrived in Veluriyam, filling its streets with unusual bustle. And yet, the noise didn't obscure the unusual atmosphere.
Everyone had originally come with full confidence in Veluriyam to participate in the assembly. But since then, the Order of Wind and Cloud had made quite an impression, seizing the initiative at Veluriyam's expense.
Some of the surviving members from the destroyed sects secretly blamed Veluriyam for their sects' ruin. Those who'd scrambled fearfully back into their strongholds also whined that Veluriyam hadn't ensured their safety, making them vulnerable to the Order.
"Bastards, they're shifting all the blame to us! Damn them!" Coiling Dragon swore roundly at the recent developments.
Veluriyam had called for an alliance for the greater good, to alleviate mankind's situation and stop the Order of Wind and Cloud before it was too late. But the city's goodwill and effort had been repaid with criticism and rancor.
The great emperor couldn't stomach such utter unfairness.
"Young lord, aren't we being too accommodating?" Coiling Dragon huffed.
Jiang Chen was angry as well, but he quickly calmed down. Did he feel wronged? Of course. But since he wanted to become humanity's leader, he had to shoulder the weight of this position.
The title wasn't all applause and glory. It came with its share of responsibilities as well. Now wasn't the time to lose his cool. He would be playing right into his enemies' hands. So he simply chose to turn a deaf ear to the acclaim and censure of the world.
"Coiling Dragon, stay calm. Do you want the Order to see you irritated?It's probably exactly what they're going for."
Coiling Dragon took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right, I'm being too hot-headed. They're truly disgusting, much more than Pillfire ever was. We've met a fearsome opponent this time."
Jiang Chen grunted noncommittally, then ordered, "The last of the sects will soon be here. All of you get ready. The ceremony must proceed without a hitch."
Humanity's safety and very survival depended on the gathering. No matter how frustrated and aggrieved he was, he was committed to the alliance's success.
The ceremony formally started three days later in the great plaza at the city's gates.
Great sects and factions had come from every corner of the human domain. The Order had spoiled the festivities and reduced the magnitude of the assembly, but one would have been hard-pressed to tell by the scene's liveliness.
Veluriyam itself boasted of many factions under its banner. Great neighboring factions had all come as well. For example, the Skysword Sect and the Celestial Cicada Court had bought their own allies, as well as many sects from surrounding mid and lower regions, swelling the gathering's ranks.
Jiang Chen arrived at the scene, escorted by Veluriyam's great emperors. His presence caused an uproarious commotion. It was a rare opportunity to see him in person. Many third rank sect disciples in particular were beside themselves with excitement. They waved their arms and shouted, "Young lord Jiang Chen, young lord Jiang Chen!"
A smile on his lips, the young lord returned their waves in an expression of sincerity. His congenial attitude with the masses earned him even more fevered applause.
Behind him, the great emperors sighed with emotion. The young lord truly possessed a unique charm. Wherever he went, he became the star of the show, an object of acclaim and adulation. Despite their age, these old fellows had never enjoyed such treatment. Even Emperor Peafowl hadn't been so wildly popular in his youth
Cool, calm, and collected, Jiang Chen took in the entire scene, a hint of power exuding from his God's Eyes. Like an invisible blade, his sharp stare carried a strange, awe-inspiring aura that shook even powerful great emperors.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you've braved untold dangers to come here. I salute you," he started. "Many things have happened in the last few years. The layout of our world is ever-changing. But there's a hard truth that some of you might be reluctant to face. The tranquility of our lives has been shattered. Peace, safety, those are things of the past. Willing or not, present today or not, the river of history will churn everyone into its wake. No one can resist it."
He immediately sounded the alarm bell without preamble, freezing the atmosphere.
Many young people understood him only partially, or maybe not at all. But some older cultivators read between the lines, vaguely grasping the young lord's implications. Bluntly put, mankind had entered a troubled era.
It wasn't alarmism. First, Pillfire had been destroyed. Next, a celestial demon lord had escaped his prison in Agarwood Valley, a Boundary Stele had been broken, Southern Celestial empyrean powerhouses had appeared… And now, a so-called Order of Wind and Cloud had emerged in the human domain...
One thing occurred after another, a prelude to turmoil.
"But I haven't lost hope. I only had one goal in mind in convening this assembly. Let us address the Order of Wind and Cloud.
"No one should meddle in the rise of a faction. Only, the trajectory of this Order is different from all others. They've attacked the Heavenly Dragon Sect and swallowed its surrounding territory... Their actions have violated some unspoken rules. I daresay they even threaten the fabric of our society."
"Most of you must have heard by now. The Order's ambushed many sects on their way to our assembly, massacring them to the last. uch actions have crossed humanity's bottom line. Even yesteryear's Pillfire never showed such arrogance.
"The Order very existence is a tumor. Sooner or later, you'll realize it's a threat to our entire domain. Some of you might be tempted to bury your heads in the sand today and pretend none of it is your business. But think of their ambitions. Will you still be safe tomorrow? What about indefinitely the future?"
Jiang Chen's words brimmed with magnetism, inflaming the crowd with each passing syllable. In fact, many factions had joined the assembly to assuage their unease, hoping to find safety in numbers.
As to the waylaid factions' misfortune, they couldn't fault Veluriyam for the Order's savagery. After all, the young lord hadn't called for an alliance out of selfish desire. He was acting for humanity's greater good.
"Young lord Jiang Chen, men and gods abhor the Order of Wind and Cloud's depravity. Please, form an alliance and lead us to exterminate them. We must excise this tumor!"
"Agreed. Young lord, Veluriyam is the only one who can unite us all."
"Young lord, we're at your service!"
"That's right, these prancing clowns will soon become ash! How many have prospered after opposing the young lord?"
Jiang Chen's reputation resounded far and loud. He still lacked some seniority, but it didn't weaken the crowd's veneration. Shouts and appeals sounded from every corner.
The young lord pressed his hands downwards. "Ladies and gentlemen, we can't tolerate their senseless slaughter any longer. Such a dire time calls for solidarity between human cultivators."
"Young lord, where on earth does this Order come from? I hear that many masters have joined its ranks in the past years."
"The Order aspires to dominate the entire human domain. There's no end to their appetite. If our sects don't unite, they'll swallow us one by one."
Each sect had its own rumors to share about the Order. In less than four years, it'd already left its mark on the human domain.
Jiang Chen was inwardly solemn. During his seclusion, it seemed the Order had spared no effort to expand. It now rivaled Veluriyam in influence. In fact, the fear and awe it inspired was even greater.
After all, Veluriyam had always kept a low profile, careful to preserve its virtuous image. Its conduct was poles apart from the Order.
A sudden, long whistle interrupted the crowd's lively discussion.
"An assembly of the lands? How can you call it that if our Order of Wind and Cloud isn't invited?" The voice rumbled in the air.
In that instant, more than a dozen figures landed in front of them.
Their attire marked them as important figures of the Order of Wind and Cloud. Impressively, the party included four protector kings. The rest were Celestial Star elders.
More than a dozen in total had come, none of them lower than great emperor. They seemed all the more threatening for their sudden entrance. Their leader sported violet hair. Even his eyes were violet. He was one of the six wandering titans, Emperor Everviolet.
Among the six, he'd been ranked second at worst. After joining the Order, he'd been inducted as one of the eight protector kings. He lorded over the Order's vast host, answering only to the supreme lord. His boisterous laugh revealed his confidence and high spirits. "Haha, young lord, do you remember me?"