Emperor Everviolet had once seen Jiang Chen face to face when at Pillzenith's side. Both of them vividly remembered that meeting. But rather than sharing in Pillzenith's fate after Pillfire's destruction, he'd opted to defect to the Order of Wind and Cloud.
Jiang Chen glanced at him. The fellow also cultivated arts of the eye. The young man didn't mind having an eye technique showdown.
But now clearly wasn't the right time.
The young lord chuckled, his stare impassive. "It seems that the heavens created man, but has nurtured many kinds. Sir, should I call you Emperor Everviolet, or a protector king of the Wind and Cloud?"
A cold glint shone in Everviolet's eyes. Jiang Chen's derision had struck where it hurt most. The contempt, in particular, was difficult to endure. He sneered, declaiming in a mystical tone, "One of the Eight Protector Kings of the Wind and Cloud stands before you. I am crowned Holy King Shockcloud."
With a cold smile, Jiang Chen cast a sidelong glance the great emperor's way.
The latter mistook his silence for awe, and spoke with even greater pride and complacency. "Young lord Jiang Chen, I came at my supreme lord's behest to proclaim his holy decree."
"Bullshit!" Coiling Dragon could no longer endure things. "How dare you be so presumptuous in front of the young lord! Holy decree? Pah! In Veluriyam, the young lord's word is the only holy decree there is. What kind of poppycock is your Order?"
"That's right, they're mere upstarts! History is littered with countless similar sects. The higher they rise, the faster they fall!"
"That's right. Their love for war will make them sinners reviled by all of mankind!"
"It looks like reputations are definitely misleading. To think that one of the wandering titans would stoop so low!"
"Young lord, why waste time on them? Their Order is public enemy number one. Since they've delivered themselves on a silver platter, we should give them the beating they crave."
"Right. Since they'd rather be dogs, let's put them down like the rabid dogs they are!"
In the outside world, these people would shake in their boots at the mention of the Order. But here in Veluriyam, they'd found new sources of borrowed courage. The scattered shouts soon turned into a collective outcry.
With a faint smile, Jiang Chen looked Everviolet straight in the eyes. "Do you hear that? Your fellow humans have spurned you for your actions."
Everviolet laughed boisterously. "Spurned? To the victor belongs the spoils. Those hooting the loudest today may be the first ones to kneel at my feet tomorrow. Flattery and hypocrisy, isn't that what you people most excel at?"
His unbridled defiance riled the crowd. Someone of your status should be ashamed of submitting to the Order. What gives you the balls to come here strutting?
"Young lord, let's kill them first. After that, we'll exterminate the nefarious Order of Wind and Cloud down to the roots!"
"Right, just say the word!"
Everviolet threw Jiang Chen a lazy glance. "Countries at war don't kill their messengers. Jiang Chen, you're aware of such a basic rule, I hope?"
The young lord was in fact annoyed as well. But as Veluriyam's master, he had to keep his composure. Giving the word would be easy, but what if he failed to kill them? He'd be a laughingstock.
No matter how brash, Everviolet's point was hard to refute. Jiang Chen loathed the man, but the sanctity of a messenger was the most basic etiquette. In any case, it wouldn't be too late to kill him another day.
His voice loud and clear, he proclaimed, "Everyone, don't be so anxious. We'll see each and every one of them dead one day, but there will be many opportunities in the future. Let's hear what this fellow has to say first."
It would be too childish of Everviolet to come just for a mere show of strength. He had to have another objective.
Everviolet laughed heartily. "Didn't you hear me? This king comes carrying the supreme lord's holy decree. Jiang Chen, our lord heard of your fame and appreciates your talent. He's of a mind to give you a chance. Surrender while there's still time, and he'll take you in as his personal disciple and pass on his peerless arts. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!
"By the way, the supreme lord is a mighty empyrean master with immeasurably deep cultivation. You should feel blessed to have caught his eye." Judging by his carefree tone, he was satisfied with his new role and seemed unapologetic about betraying mankind.
Some of the men behind him were familiar faces, while others were strangers, but each of them wore a haughty and self-conceited expression.
Jiang Chen laughed in spite of himself. "Empyrean master? I understand now why his Order's risen so fast. For people of your status to submit willingly, he must have made you numerous promises, correct?"
Everviolet replied indifferently, "That's none of your business. The supreme lord's already offering out an olive branch. Grab it if you know what's good for you. I would hate to see a young star like you fizzle out so quickly."
"Is that so?" Jiang Chen remained impassive. "Everviolet, go back and tell your master to tuck his tail between his legs and be a good boy. An empyrean cultivator? I'll squash him all the same. I'll let you go this time, but you better lie low from now on. You're dead if I ever see you again."
There was no need to waste time with false courtesy.
The recruitment offer was nothing more than a ploy for public humiliation. How would a faction not even four years in the making dare so casually recruit Veluriyam's master?
It was merely an attempt to strike a blow at Jiang Chen's prestige and make the Order appear greater than Veluriyam. But simple and crude as this scheme was, it sometimes worked wonders.
Everviolet cackled eerily, unsurprised by the reply. "I see you don't know what's good for you."
Jiang Chen's tone hardened. "I should be the one saying this. Everviolet, it's your last chance to scram! Otherwise, none of you need to even think about leaving!"
This wasn't just a threat. His faint yet discernible murderous intent was a testament to his resolve.
Everviolet had brought many experts and come in with grand fanfare. But he was on enemy soil. He suddenly realized he'd underestimated the young man. He flushed red and white. He took in a deep breath after a long pause and spat out, a vicious fire belching from his eyes, "Good, good. Jiang Chen, remember your foolish choice today. You'll pay for it, if you don't die first that is!
"Let's go!" Despite his arrogance, he knew when to retreat. Staying any further would be pushing the young lord one step too far. If Jiang Chen were to disregard convention and order them killed in a fit of anger, the great emperor wasn't confident he could leave unharmed, no matter how strong and bold he was.
He'd seen the young man triumph over stronger enemies too many times to count. More importantly, countless powerhouses was in attendance. He had no desire to be trapped in such a place.
With a wave of the hand, he and his men left as quickly as they'd come.
Jiang Chen didn't give chase. He simply watched their departing figures with a cold, silent smile.
"Young lord, it's a pity to let them go so easily!" the Skysword Sect's head Han Qianzhan exclaimed. The glint in his eyes betrayed his long-repressed eagerness for a fight.
"They must have come prepared. We're bound to suffer casualties if we attack them without a plan. There's no need to sacrifice lives right now." Jiang Chen's anger hadn't clouded his judgment. He glanced around him. "Gentlemen, I trust you got a taste of the Order's arrogance. Their wanton conquests have swept every obstacle in their path. None of you is safe from them!"
The crowd nodded, their faces grave. All the factions present could feel the danger breathing down their necks.
"The Order isn't our only threat. Many hidden dangers lie ahead of us. Most of you must think the Order is a local tumor. But is their mysterious supreme lord truly human? Have you thought of that?"
The sudden possibility shook the crowd like a bolt from the blue.
Not human? Everyone gasped at the thought.
"That can't be, can it? It'd be too frightening to imagine!"
"Young lord, if not human, where else could he come from?"
Jiang Chen shook his head. "Truthfully, I haven't seen him face to face and can't say for certain either. But human or not, his ambitions have already pushed mankind to the brink of despair.
"The situation looks peaceful on the surface, but it's merely the calm before the storm. The demons have begun to stir. The Boundary Steles might crack at any moment. Tomorrow, we might wake up to a demon calamity or an invasion from foreign races. Even as we speak, the Northwestern Stele is on the verge of breaking. Do any of you know which tribe lives beyond the northwestern wasteland?"
Staring, the Celestial Cicada Court's Su Huanzhen cried out involuntarily, "The Embittered Savage Tribe!"
Ordinary cultivators knew little about the Savages, but most peak experts who'd come into contact with ancient secrets or records knew what that name entailed. For mankind, this race was the stuff of nightmares!