Some that knew of the Embittered Savage Tribe colored when they heard those words. The Boundary Stele of the northwestern wastes was on the verge of being destroyed! The barbarians were at the gates!
The news was positively astounding.
If those savages were allowed to invade human lands, the disaster that ensued would be nothing short of genocide. This was no exaggeration: the Embittered Savage Tribe was a ferocious race, destroying wherever they went like a plague of locusts. Typically, nothing was left alive after their devastation, flora and fauna alike.
There was also some unrest amongst the current company. Some cultivators who hadn't heard of the race before asked their fellows in hushed undertones. The others that did explained with somber expressions.
Jiang Chen allowed the whispering to go on for a while until conversations were largely finished. When everyone knew what the Embittered Savage Tribe meant, he carried on. "The sudden breaking of Agarwood Valley's Boundary Stele and the endangerment of the one in the northwestern wastes… Perhaps all of you think these are coincidences. I must admit that the stability of ancient steles isn't quite as they used to be, but who can say that there's no malicious intent in all this?
"Before the Order of Wind and Cloud, I've always thought Agarwood's stele had weakened partially on its own. That seems somewhat less plausible these days."
Su Huanzhen furrowed her slender brows a little. "Young lord Jiang Chen, do you think that the Order of Wind and Cloud is behind this?"
Jiang Chen didn't confirm nor deny. "Friends, do you remember the northern alliance's attack on Veluriyam Capital a few years ago?"
It had been roughly four years since then. Many sects here had participated in that attack and was therefore quite familiar it.
"Emperor Pillzenith had fabricated slander wholesale about my supposed destruction of Boundary Stele. I didn't care much about his ridiculous accusations at the time, but I will explain myself today. The destruction of the stele was the work of three empyrean experts from the Southern Celestial Tribe, not mine. However, I did do my best to repair them after they left. Obviously, my work can't compare to the ancients, and neither can I guarantee that experts from the Southern Celestial Tribe won't try their hand again. The celestial demon lord is another likely candidate too, after he recovers to peak strength!"
Jiang Chen spoke honestly and plainly, his eyes reflecting that fact.
"There was another thing regarding the northern alliance: those imposters pretending to be Emperor Cloudbillow and the others. Where did they come from, hmm? Do you have an answer in mind now?"
All of the experts looked thoughtful.
"So, the Order of Wind and Cloud's rise was premeditated after all?" Su Huanzhen mused. "Their actions only look recent on the surface, and the Order has had a covert hand in all of these other problems too?"
"Truly, there was mass confusion at the origin of those imposters. But now, the Order of Wind and Cloud clearly seems to be the culprit," Han Tianzhan agreed.
"I must admit that I've underestimated them. Back in Agarwood, I thought no one else other than us human cultivators had gone inside. Now, it seems that the Order had a handle on events all along! That's why they could create the imposters in the first place and use Agarwood's details to their advantage. It was a clever provocation of the relations between Veluriyam and the other factions!" The questions that had puzzled Jiang Chen for a long time were finally becoming being answered.
He was certain that the Order of Wind and Cloud was behind all recent events. The people that had been stationed at Agarwood's entrance were doubtless still in the Order's captivity.
Su Huanzhen was solemn. "The Order of Wind and Cloud isn't picky about its methods, it seems. That faction's existence is something very bad for humanity at large."
"Yes. Who knows what kind of trouble they will bring us?"
"These bastards! Aren't they human cultivators as well? What's the point of breaking these Boundary Steles? Won't an alien invasion trouble them too?"
The cultivators present were uniformly indignant. There was tremendous displeasure at the Order of Wind and Cloud's actions. This was a grand matter of right and wrong, one that concerned the survival of humanity.
"Young lord Jiang Chen, we can't let the Order of Wind and Cloud do as they wish any more! They're utterly ruthless!"
"That's right, we must band together!"
"Veluriyam Capital is the leader of the human race. We are all willing to fight to the death under your command!"
"Exactly. If not for us, then for our descendants! The Order of Wind and Cloud is going against the natural order. The human domain will be dragged into the abyss sooner or later!"
"Please give us orders, young lord Jiang Chen!"
All the sects and factions expressed their willingness to comply after hearing Jiang Chen's explanation.
"Young lord Jiang Chen," Han Tianzhan proclaimed, "only Veluriyam Capital has the right to don the mantle of leadership for the whole of the human domain. Please, don't be too modest."
Su Huanzhen nodded as well. "If Emperor Peafowl were here, he would shoulder this heavy responsibility as his own."
"The people expect your leadership, young lord Jiang Chen," the Ninesuns Sky Sect's Shangguan Yanqing chimed in. "Ninesuns is at your command."
"The Moon God Sect is willing to listen to the young lord's orders." Though the sect had only sent a representative here today, its attitude was nevertheless conveyed firmly.
The heads of the Sublime Chord Temple and the Empyrean River Palace traded a look. They were internally conflicted, but the present circumstances were clear. Either they listened to Veluriyam Capital and accepted Jiang Chen as the leader of the human alliance, or they joined the Order of Wind and Cloud as its dogs.
After weighing the two, they preferred the former. The Order of Wind and Cloud had wind in its sails, but it was too brutal and heartless for their tastes.
If they joined the Order, they would gain a bad reputation as inconstant subordinates without being assigned much value by their new leader. They wouldn't necessarily even be able to keep their own sect's heritage - consolidation into the larger Order was quite possible.
At least the sects in Jiang Chen's alliance were given sufficient independence. It was just a loose coalition. After some consideration, the sect heads for the Temple and Palace made their stances clear too.
"We welcome young lord Jiang Chen as the leader of the alliance in the unified front against the Order of Wind and Cloud!"
"May our alliance be sealed with an oath of blood, persisting unto death!" These two sects suggested a blood oath in order to prove their resolve. An oath like that was no joke. When broken, they typically resulted in well, rather bloody consequences.
The first rank sects having made their positions known, the second and third rank sects had no issues following suit. They could only survive in these trying times by depending on their stronger peers.
It was difficult to succeed in the pursuit of self-preservation in the current scene. There was mass concurrence at the suggestion. Veluriyam Capital was unquestionably selected as the leading faction of the alliance and Jiang Chen as its leader.
The young man saw no reason to refuse. He understood very well that no one else was suited if he didn't step up. His position required much more than cultivation level. It needed both reputation and overwhelming backing from one's faction. He fulfilled both requirements.
As the author and prime mover of many earth-shattering events over the past few years, he'd never lacked in prestige. Any individual deed would have qualified him in this respect. As for the strength of his faction, Veluriyam was naturally the strongest in the lands after Pillfire's downfall.
Even if Emperor Peafowl were to come back this very day, he wouldn't necessarily be as well supported as Jiang Chen was currently.
"Alliance Head Jiang Chen, Alliance Head Jiang Chen!"
"Please make a speech, Alliance Head Jiang Chen!"
"Yes, yes, say a few words at this momentous time!"
The crowd's excitement was tangible. There had been a lot of excitement at the prospect of forming an alliance. The existence of an alliance meant that each individual faction now had many allies to rely on, and no attack to any one member would have to be weathered alone.
The Ninesuns Sky Sect was the happiest of all. It was the sect most threatened by the Order of Wind and Cloud right now.
Jiang Chen didn't shirk his responsibilities.
"Alright, then," he nodded, "I'll add a few words. Today's alliance is not a joke. I don't really care about my status as a leader of some alliance. The only thing I will emphasize is that everyone should figure out for themselves why we're forming this alliance in the first place. This alliance was not formed solely to take on the Order of Wind and Cloud! We must also take on any future dangers to the human domain head on.
"Now that we are joined together in an alliance, we must consider whether we can truly act for the public good. It's natural for humans to be selfish, but the alliance may force us to make some painful sacrifices on our own and our sect's behalf. Can everyone manage that kind of selflessness?"
This was key to the success of the alliance. If the alliance was all form and no substance, there was no point to having it.
It didn't demand unconditional giving, but neither could it tolerate any penny-pinching behavior. The alliance was instituted for humanity's sake, and sacrifices sometimes had to be made for the greater good. The inability for the alliance's members to make those sacrifices was Jiang Chen's primary concern.
Han Tianzhan was the first to speak. "The Skysword Sect won't boast too much, but we'll send out as much money and manpower as we can! Whenever and wherever that may be needed. We won't hold anyone else back!"
The Great Yu Skysword Sect seemed more and more like the pinnacle of first rank sects by the day.
The Heavenly Dragon Sect had surrendered and the Ninesuns Sky Sect was in grave danger. Because the Skysword Sect had the best relationship with Veluriyam among the three strongest first rank sects, it had also received the most benefits. The sect's development in recent years had proceeded the quickest, giving it an edge in both strength and status.