Chapter 826: Provocation from Pillfire City
The Peafowl Gathering was now concluded, and the participating clans were about to depart. However, the Coiling Dragon clan lord and Jiang Chen were given a new command, to stay. No one else had this honor, not even young master Ji San. All of the clan lords were bewildered by this turn of events. Since when had this Pill King Zhen become more important than them? Especially someone who'd popped out of nowhere. That the Coiling Dragon clan lord was able to stay was at least somewhat understandable. He was the lord of the foremost clan, after all. But, even if this Pill King Zhen had obtained the emperor's grace, surely that didn’t correlate with an increase in his position?
What was up with this sudden promotion? Did he now outrank them in importance? Though they didn't understand, they dared not defy His Majesty’s orders or resent him. Their time with Emperor Peafowl had taught them well of his tendencies. His Majesty’s choices always had good reason behind them. There had to be a reason for His Majesty to send them away now, and simultaneously, a reason for Pill King Zhen to stay. They were also somewhat curious about the message in the glyph. Why had it caused Emperor Peafowl's face to color so? The people departed with a bellyful of questions, no different from the two who stayed behind.
Emperor Peafowl looked meaningfully at Jiang Chen, his lips curved in a faint smile. “Pill King Zhen, more trouble has come to us.”
Trouble? Jiang Chen did a double take. Is there really a need to tell me that? Am I supposed to solve all of Sacred Peafowl Mountain’s problems for you? The Coiling Dragon clan lord was very curious, but refrained from immediately voicing his questions given Emperor Peafowl’s stance. Despite their uncertainty, the four monarchs present stayed similarly silent, choosing instead to probe Jiang Chen with strange looks. Evidently, they wanted to know what was so unique about this Pill King Zhen as well. Why did His Majesty value the young man so much? What did that glyph have to do with him?
“Forgive my slowness, Your Majesty.” Jiang Chen smiled wryly.
“It's news related to the Longevity Pill you presented. There’s a rumor circulating in Pillfire City that the Longevity Pill actually belongs to them. They say that we from Veluriyam Capital have stolen their concept. The rumor has spread in private circles there like wildfire, and though it’s not been publicly declared yet, that day is not far off.”
Pillfire City? Jiang Chen was no stranger to the name. It was where Mu Gaoqi and Elder Yun Nie had been sold to by slavers. He'd found out about the faction back when he'd interrogated the Myriad Puppets Pavilion's Shopkeeper Li about Mu Gaoqi's whereabouts.
If there was any faction in the Upper Eight Regions that Veluriyam Capital had scruples about, it would be Pillfire City. In terms of absolute martial strength, it was unlikely that Pillfire City surpassed Veluriyam. However, with respect to pills, Pillfire City undoubtedly held the upper hand.
In the Upper Eight Regions and even the entire human domain, Pillfire City amassed over seventy percent of the profits in the pill industry. A leading force in the business, countless pill factions rallied beneath Pillfire City's banner. They had branch stores and regional headquarters in various cities and territories. Anywhere a pill faction existed, one could also find them.
Yet, Veluriyam Capital was an exception to that rule. The capital's pill business was held entirely in its own hands, as was that of its surrounding territories. Besides Veluriyam Capital and its neighbors, the remaining lands had their respective pill industries essentially monopolized by Pillfire City and its associated factions. Insignificant locales and minor factions aside, of course-Pillfire City had no interest in them. Everywhere they did have interest in, it was virtually impossible to shake off their shadowy influence. In terms of pill-related influence, Pillfire City could exert far more of it than Veluriyam Capital.
In the human domain, Veluriyam Capital could claim ten or twenty percent market share and power at most. Pillfire City, on the other hand, had more than three times that on its worst day. The difference between them was quite marked. Though Veluriyam had undertaken numerous efforts over the years-training many pill kings and genius pill masters-they had not been able to close the gap in the face of Pillfire's strong foundation. Thus, the faces of Coiling Dragon clan lord and the four monarchs instantly colored at the rival city's name.
"Pillfire City?" Cloudsoar Monarch furrowed his brow. "Can they not bear to see even the slightest sign of growth from us? Is suppressing any and all attempts their agenda?"
"Majesty, don't you think they're going too far? We can't let them bully us like this." Chronobalance Monarch's fiery temper had been roused.
Wildfox Monarch's eyes glittered with insight as he focused his gaze on Jiang Chen. "Pill King Zhen, you were the one to submit the Longevity Pill recipe. Did your teacher tell you how many factions in the world knew how to refine it?"
The others looked at Jiang Chen with curiosity as well. He was completely calm about the whole matter, his tone sanguine. "'The Longevity Pill is an exclusive recipe, and no one else in the human domain can possibly know how to refine it.' Those were the words directly from my master's mouth."
"Is your master that sure?"
"I don't know how sure he was exactly, but I know my teacher well. I don't think any pill expert in the human domain could even compete with him. Thus, I have complete faith in his wisdom." Jiang Chen couldn't say that the Longevity Pill was a product of the heavenly planes, or that it was impossible for anyone on the Divine Abyss Continent to know how to refine it. But he didn't require even his toes to guess that the Eternal Celestial Capital had to be responsible for Pillfire City's sudden intervention. They knew that they could not beat Veluriyam Capital when the latter announced their copyright over the Longevity Pill. Knowing that, they'd resolved to turn to cooperation with Pillfire City instead.
Jiang Chen hadn't seen the exact proceedings, but he was almost certain that this was the truth of the matter. The raw sensibility of its logic was almost as good as seeing things first hand. There was little need to suspect something else at play.
The gathered crowd had mixed reactions at Jiang Chen's confidence. Neither Emperor Peafowl nor the Coiling Dragon clan lord questioned Jiang Chen's veracity. Cloudsoar Monarch wasn't particularly suspicious, either. On the other hand, the other three monarchs had varying degrees of doubt. Perhaps this Pill King Zhen was over exaggerating a little. Maybe the Longevity Pill wasn't exclusive after all, and Pillfire City had seen the recipe for it from someplace or another.
The skepticism in the monarchs' eyes did not go unnoticed, and Jiang Chen wasn't exactly pleased to see it. "The Longevity Pill's exclusivity is unambiguous," he began softly. "But if you seniors don't have the courage to compete with Pillfire City, and are fine with giving it up, then I won't comment on the decision." Jiang Chen took a breath, his tone stiffening. "However, what belongs to me cannot be taken away by force. Even if they can do so now, I will make them pay up one day with interest."
It wasn't an idle boast; he was entirely serious. He was sick and tired of the Longevity Pill being used so by others. The Eternal Celestial Capital, the Majestic Clan, and now Pillfire City… they all treated the Longevity Pill as a mere tool to stir up chaos, in order to gain an advantage. How could he not be upset?
The three unsure monarchs were astonished by Jiang Chen's firmness. There was even a hint of anger on their faces. No matter how much His Majesty appreciates you, shouldn't you still respect your seniors?
However, Jiang Chen had no intention of retracting his statement. He raised a cupped fist salute to Emperor Peafowl. "Your Majesty, the Longevity Pill was first taught by my master to the head of Regal Pill Palace in the Myriad Domain. When the sect fell, the recipe was snatched away by the Eternal Celestial Capital. The Longevity Pill that Pillfire City has now is merely their unjust offering, made after Sacred Peafowl Mountain's announcement. There was no way the Eternal Celestial Capital had a chance against Veluriyam Capital, so they turned to Pillfire City for support instead. In the pill world, Pillfire City is accustomed to great gravitas. Their authority has remained unchallenged for a long time. It would be strange if they were not worried about Veluriyam Capital's claim to the Longevity Pill!"
The speech removed the anger from the monarchs' faces, replacing it with the shock of realization. They hadn't thought about that aspect. They were only concerned with their own misgivings about Pill King Zhen, without considering Pillfire City's potential malice. Sacred Peafowl Mountain's acquisition of the Longevity Pill recipe was an opportunity for rapid growth and the realization of great ambition. As the current tyrant of the pill world, how could Pillfire City simply let a possible competitor rise unchecked? How could they allow their dominion to face such a severe challenge?
Emperor Peafowl nodded admiringly. He had realized the rationale in Jiang Chen's words all along, but he hadn't thought the youth would have a vision which saw much higher than his station. Jiang Chen had pierced through the smoke and mirrors of the situation to reach the core of the issue. The emperor had already previously found Jiang Chen's talent commendable, but this display of broad contextual awareness served to elevate the youth further in his esteem. Smiling faintly, Emperor Peafowl probed further. "Then, Pill King Zhen, do you have any stratagems to counter this?"
Jiang Chen knew that question to be a test, and took some time to consider his answer. "Well, I have three stratagems-best, better, worse."
"Oh?" The emperor laughed in spite of himself. "I haven't even fleshed out one, but you have three already?"
"The worse stratagem is to fight it out with Pillfire City on a military level, using the logic of might makes right. In terms of strength, Pillfire City cannot edge out Veluriyam Capital so easily. However, in terms of influence in the pill world, they have the advantage, which might cause future complications. Therefore, this is the worst of the stratagems.
"The better stratagem is to ignore them entirely. They can produce their pills, and we can produce ours. We shall speak purely in terms of production volume. As long as we do not lose to them in terms of quality, they can complain all they like. In these matters, each side has their own version of events, and it is difficult for observers to discern the truth. If Pillfire City really did own the Longevity Pill, where was it prior to now? So, their claims don't really have much factual basis."
Everyone nodded at Jiang Chen's analysis, including the three monarchs who had doubted him. His words so far were quite reasonable.