The battle between Veluriyam and the Order increased the former's fame to even greater heights. The announcement of the antidote to the Exultation Pill meant that many who had capitulated to the Order surged into the capital instead.
Jiang Chen didn't absorb these defectors into Veluriyam's own forces, but those that wanted the antidote were required to make a vehement oath not to work for the Order ever again.
These hadn't felt much of a sense of belonging to the sect in the first place. They had only bent their knee due to being captured. As such, they didn't oppose this oath at all. Everybody was a winner in the end.
"Young lord, these cultivators are the elites that remain of the human race. Why not make them part of Veluriyam to strengthen our forces?" Coiling Dragon was perplexed. This was the perfect time to attract talent and open up recruitment.
"How many cultivators did we deploy in the fight against Emperor Pillzenith? What of our sortie against the Order?" Jiang Chen smiled.
Coiling Dragon considered this before cracking a wry smile. "That's true. With the Goldbiter Rats, we're not at all pressed for manpower."
"That's not my consideration. Veluriyam doesn't need these fairweather troops. In the world of martial dao, many are placed in harsh conditions and go where the wind blows. I sympathize with their plight, as long as they retained some sort of bottom line. That's why I gave them antidotes in the first place. Ruthless criminals like Emperors Pillzenith and Shura are the ones truly beyond redemption."
"However, just because I can forgive them does not mean I'm happy to share the same air with them, much less trust them with any important tasks." This was Jiang Chen's principle.
He didn't kill innocents and he was able to commiserate with them, but he wasn't going to be friends with them. The cultivators that had joined the Order weren't at all suitable for Veluriyam.
Veluriyam was strong not because it had some kind of advantage in numbers. Compared to the Pillfire of yesteryear, it was actually disadvantaged in both resources and great emperors.
But it came on top in the end, easily crushing Pillfire and the northern alliance's conspiracy in the process.
Had that been because of numbers? Not at all.
Elite soldiers were better than a horde of untrained peasants. Every person Veluriyam took in had to pass Jiang Chen's rigorous testing before he allowed them into his inner circle.
Currently, people like Petalpluck were being gradually sidelined in favor of newcomers like Coiling Dragon.
Time and time again, tribulations had proven that though Emperor Petalpluck wouldn't betray Veluriyam Capital, he didn't possess the kind of resolution needed to suffer through turbulent situations. At the end of the day, people like him had different ideals than Jiang Chen.
Thus, though Emperor Petalpluck was nominally the second great emperor after Emperor Peafowl, Jiang Chen's esteem of him had sunk lower and lower.
Against Pillfire's northern alliance, Petalpluck had expressed pessimistic thoughts and belittled Veluriyam.
Against the Order of Wind and Cloud, he hadn't taken sufficient responsibility. In terms of contribution, he could not be compared to Emperors Peerless and Wellspring.
Peerless had gone undercover and disfigured himself to deliver crucial news at a key moment, allowing Jiang Chen to deliver a brutal counterattack. Wellspring had served to distract the Order's forces elsewhere.
Jiang Chen's philosophy with subordinates was thus: in order to become a member of Sacred Peafowl Mountain's inner circle, one had to be of the same mind with him. Emperors Peerless, Wellspring, Coiling Dragon, and Void all exemplified this fact. The Jiao brothers were included as well.
Though Sacred Peafowl Mountain could definitely use a few more experts, he wasn't going to relax his personal standards for them. He preferred frugal expertise to an excess of incompetence.
"Young lord, Miss Qingxuan is here." Xue Tong came in from outside the door.
Jiang Chen knew instantly what she had come for. He'd been making arrangements for it these past few days.
Xu Qingxuan entered with worry on her face. "Brother," she said with some concern. "It's been quite a while and there's no news from the northwestern wastes. I'm worried about master and…"
Jiang Chen was conflicted himself. Should he go to the northwestern wastes himself?
If he'd managed to successfully kill Xiahou Jing prior without the interference of the mysterious human hermit, Jiang Chen would've had no hesitation whatsoever.
But Xiahou Jing had fled with his life intact, and the mysterious hermit expert only added to his concern. If the Order made a renewed attack during his departure, what was he supposed to do then? Veluriyam couldn't sustain continuous damage.
Most importantly, Jiang Chen suspected that the northwestern wastes' Boundary Stele was beyond repair.
It wasn't so easy to fix one. The one in Agarwood VAlley had been bolstered by the Primosanct Sect's resources. The spirit stones and other miscellany had guaranteed that the process would be successful.
Would the same be present in the northwestern wastes? Jiang Chen was doubtful about that. The realm around a Boundary Stele wasn't a simple formation or restriction.
As the demarcation of the boundaries between the races, it cost an insurmountable amount of work and resources to construct.
The Nine Sparks Petalstorm Formation around the young lord residence had already cost him an astronomical sum. But compared to what a Boundary Stele expended, it was virtually nothing. Due to Jiang Chen's previous repairs on another Boundary Stele, he knew very well what it required.
"Brother, say something." Xu Qingxuan stomped her feet anxiously. Just like Jiang Chen, she valued relationships very much so. Both the Moon God Sect and her master were dear to her.
"I respect the Moon God Sect's responsibility in this time of trouble, Qingxuan. However, the battle cost us a lot of time. I assume the situation has only gotten worse in the northwestern wastes. I don't know if it is possible to repair the Boundary Stele there, and we must prepare for the contingency that it's not."
"Impossible to repair?" Xu Qingxuan's face became pale. "Then… the Embittered Savage Tribe…"
Her eyes radiated despair when she thought of the coming eternal nightmare with the Embittered Savage Tribe. The Moon God Sect lay foremost in the path of the invaders.
"Fortune and misfortune are both fated, and the latter sometimes can't be avoided. I've thought about a great deal these past few days, Qingxuan. I've worked tirelessly for the sake of the human race and its future, but what did I receive in return? The primary troublemakers haven't been the demons I was most worried about."
Xu Qingxuan looked puzzled. She couldn't quite understand what Jiang Chen meant.
"In the secret realm in Agarwood Valley, human experts joined the celestial demon lord without hesitation. When I came out from there, Pillfire had organized the northern alliance to wage war upon me. After that was done, a so-called Order of Wind and Cloud rose up from nowhere. When the Order was about to be destroyed, a human hermit expert showed up to save it… I can't deal with being led around like that! They've practically got me by my nose."
Xu Qingxuan began to understand now.
"In the end, these troubles are being caused by humans and our internal struggles! I've been wondering whether I've done too much. Most people in the human domain have no sense of danger, and are completely irresponsible and spineless in these trying times. Perhaps the arrival of the Embittered Savage Tribe will be a good thing for humanity!"
Jiang Chen's words were filled with indignation. These were the conclusions he'd drawn from mulling things over recently.
The human race had enjoyed peace and quiet for far too long. The hot-bloodedness of its ancient ancestors had all but disappeared. A race like this required baptism through fire and blood in order for it to come to its senses. Otherwise, it would be stuck forever in its current muddled state.
He'd acted as a caretaker for the past few years, dealing with trouble wherever it arose. But the human domain was like a straw hut. It leaked everywhere, and worsened rather than improved over time despite his efforts.
He doubted whether his efforts had any point to it at all, given the direction things were going on a grand scale.
To the side, Wellspring suddenly spoke up. "Young lord, your words have reminded me of a quote from an ancient master, recorded in an equally ancient text."
"What is it?" Jiang Chen asked curiously.
"That ancient master participated in the demon-sealing war in his day. He said that war has the power to both raise up or destroy a race. He made a comparison too. Even a flock of sheep on a prairie is made more hot-blooded and wary by the appearance of a wolf pack. War is not what usually destroys a race, but peace and ignorance."
Jiang Chen slapped his thigh when he heard this. "Well said!" his eyes brightened. "This ancient master was a wise man. He and I think the same."
He'd been toying with that idea in his head for a while now. He'd been worried about the demons and other factions' invasion of the human domain and a massive loss of life.However, if the people he was fussing over were unconcerned and oblivious themselves, did they deserve his protection and exertion in the first place?
Emperor Peafowl's influence had directed his thoughts before; a man who was more powerful should shoulder more responsibility.
But his mindset was beginning to change these days. For the current incarnation of the human race, a war could stir up this stagnant puddle of water.