Chapter 839: A Hot Reception
“Look, they’re coming out!” Someone with keen eyes shouted in the middle of the crowd, putting an end to the heated discussion that was taking place. Their collective gazes moved to the front.
At the end of the long hallway, the four monarchs led the way. Emperor Peafowl and a youth dressed like a pill king trailed behind them. Further behind was a group of other pill kings, all dressed in Sacred Peafowl Mountain's pill king uniforms. Only the strongest had been chosen to be in the entourage. Simultaneously on the other side of the corridor, Pillfire City's representatives made their entry. Emperor Pillzenith was at the head of the pack, followed by a group of his elite guard. A scholarly, middle-aged man was the object of their protection.
"It really is Pill King Ji Lang! Pillfire City is certainly attaching a great deal of importance to this occasion."
"Pill King Ji Lang is a half-step pill emperor. The average ninth-level pill king has no right to even think of seeking him as their master. Tsk tsk, Pillfire must really want to win."
"If Pillfire City wants something, it's hard to say if anyone can deny them. That's definitely the case when it comes to anything pill related, anyway."
"Look at Veluriyam's side. The young man who's walking with Emperor Peafowl… is that the so-called Pill King Zhen?"
"That should be him. He's calm enough—what a surprise."
"How's that surprising? He's probably aware that he's just there for show. He's going to lose anyway… why should he feel pressured?"
"That sounds about right. I don't think Veluriyam Capital expects him to win either—he's so young. No pressure accompanies being the sideshow and learning from his superiors."
"I'm not so sure about that. Even if he's not intent on being the star of this event, it's still difficult to maintain one's composure. I think that Veluriyam's Pill King Zhen isn't as simple as everyone thinks."
"You have a point, my friend. Someone who can rise up in such a short amount of time in Veluriyam must be a rather remarkable individual. Just look at his mental composure… I doubt this Pill King Zhen will be content with being the sideshow." Everyone had their own point of view, but the sounds of discussion once again ceased when the two groups approached one another other.
"Brother Pillzenith, we have known each other for several millennia, but this is the first time that we've had the fortune to see our juniors compete in our stead." Emperor Peafowl laughed sonorously. As the master of Sacred Peafowl Mountain, Emperor Peafowl was playing the role of a sufficiently good host. He wasn't being overbearingly aggressive at all.
Emperor Pillzenith faintly smiled. "Brother Peafowl, it is indeed true that we can take a break this time, but I'm not so sure about the compete part."
"Oh?" Peafowl's smile was undiminished, even a little inquisitive.
"If I may, I don't think that the youth you've delegated has the qualifications to duel Pill King Ji Lang. They're not in the same weight class." Pillzenith's voice exuded arrogance. His overwhelmingly gate-crashing tone made everyone from Sacred Peafowl Mountain frown. Emperor Peafowl's strict ruling came through, however, and no one forgot themselves in spite of their anger.
Emperor Peafowl curved his lips, unaffected by the provocation. "Brother Pillzenith, we cannot jump to conclusions too quickly." he smiled serenely.
"I'm not one to make hasty conclusions in most cases, but when it comes to pills… there's no reason for us Pillfire City people to be humble, is there?"
Peafowl grinned, "Then, Brother Pillzenith, you haven't considered what you'll do if your side loses?"
"Lose?" Emperor Pillzenith laughed. "Brother Peafowl, do you think that Veluriyam Capital has even the slightest chance of victory?"
"The world is transient and ever-changing." Emperor Peafowl's eyes gleamed with a curious mysterious quality. "I, at the very least, will refrain from making comments about things that have yet to be decided."
"Words alone will prove nothing." Emperor Pillzenith chuckled derisively. "If Veluriyam Capital is so confident, then let everyone here be witness. Let's see how much substance there is behind your poise."
"Ji Lang, some youngsters don't know their place in the world. A bit of appropriate education isn't bad." Pillzenith tossed Jiang Chen a sidelong glance, a hint of contempt creeping into the corner of his mouth.
Ji Lang inclined his head in a slight smile. "I understand, master."
Jiang Chen viewed Pillfire City's actions with some disdain. He'd seen many powerful factions in his previous life, with no shortage of pretentious ones amongst them. The ones who were the most pretentious generally suffered the greatest losses. Educate me? He couldn't help but sneer. There had barely been anyone who could teach Jiang Chen anything regarding pills in his previous life within the heavenly planes, much less here on the Divine Abyss Continent.
Pill King Ji Lang appeared to be stronger than all the other pill kings he'd previously seen, stronger than even all of the top pill kings from Sacred Peafowl Mountain. But so what? Someone like that wanted to educate a known master of the heavenly planes? What a joke!
Ji Lang's gaze was as deep as the starry sky, and anyone who locked eyes with him felt his incredible acumen. He looked at Jiang Chen thoughtfully before making a gesture. "Please, go ahead."
"The host should favor the guest. After you," Jiang Chen replied quietly.
Ji Lang paused a moment. He'd expected that Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young pill king was only here to put on a show. There was no way that the youth's ability could precede his reputation. He had not expected to be wrong about this aspect. The young pill king didn't seem to be here on half-hearted measure. Even so, Ji Lang's heart was tranquil. No external events could alter his confidence. At the Pillfire City of the present, there was no one besides Emperor Pillzenith himself who could make him feel nervous.
The contestants settled into their respective competition areas. Emperor Peafowl and his men returned to Veluriyam's staging area. The competition was a major event for the city, as the seven emperors were all present, Emperor Shura included. Numerous clan lords sat beside them in the gathering. The Wei father and son duo were normally ineligible to attend such occasions, but they had been granted special permission because of Jiang Chen's status as House Wei's guest pill king. The expressions of the people from Veluriyam Capital were mixed as they saw Emperor Peafowl walk towards their area. Some were confused and inquisitive, others were expectant, and still others were indifferent, as if they didn't care who would win or lose.
"Daoist Peafowl, is this Pill King Zhen reliable?" The one who spoke was a bald, elderly man. His robes were plain and unadorned, appearing uncommonly noble. He was nominally the second-ranked person in Veluriyam, Emperor Petalpluck. Though the elderly man possessed a great deal of seniority, he also had little ambition and primarily treated others with kindness. Though he was allegedly second only to Peafowl, his actual authority and command were inferior to Emperor Shura's. However, because of his superior seniority, he had always been ranked second behind Peafowl. His special position allowed him to ask such questions without appearing too forward.
Emperor Petalpluck's inquisitive look only made Emperor Peafowl smile. "If he wasn't reliable, us sending out another pill king would still elicit the same result."
It wasn't a direct answer, but it showcased Emperor Peafowl's attitude. Given his response, there was no room for inappropriate comments from the other emperors. Further questions would indicate that they questioned Emperor Peafowl's decision-making ability. Emperor Shura was silent all this time, his expression diffident. It was as if his heart had left his body. As to what he was exactly thinking, who knew? Emperor Peafowl certainly didn't pay him much mind, and sat down in his assigned spot. There was no trace of nervousness in his demeanor.
When everyone was seated, the pill kings from all over the world stood up and introduced themselves. Any one of these pill dao experts were the cream of the crop in the human domain. Being half-step pill emperors, they possessed extremely high statuses and prestigious reputations.
"We are here on both parties' invitations, to observe this pill battle. You've come to an agreement that the winner of this battle is the true owner of the Longevity Pill, and this will settle that matter once and for all. The ownership will be exclusive, of course, and attempts to refine the pill by any other faction will be seen as copyright infringement and be subject to prosecution, including the loser of today's battle. Do both sides agree to this?"
Emperor Pillzenith boomed with laughter. "That is the way it should be! History is written by the victors. Losers do not deserve the Longevity Pill! Of course it should be exclusive to the winner. Brother Peafowl, what do you think?"
Emperor Peafowl was the picture of placidity. "I have no objections. However, brother Pillzenith, I'd like to ask you once again… is the Longevity Pill really related to Pillfire City?"
Emperor Pillzenith was expressionless. "Asking this now is merely a dispute of words. Is there any meaning in that?"
"I suppose not, but I have no doubt that the pill will revert to its true owner in the end. That is all I wanted to say. Evil shall never prevail." Emperor Peafowl laughed.
"Well said. I could say the same to you." Emperor Pillzenith responded, his voice a bit wooden.
"Alright, since there is no objection from either side, shall we discuss what exactly the competition for the Longevity Pill should consist of? You should collectively discuss the subject. As the referees, we will not give you any suggestions.. We're responsible for only the judging portion." The jury of referees made a second announcement.
"Brother Pillzenith, how do you propose we compete?" Emperor Peafowl smiled softly.
"Since the Longevity Pill is at stake, of course we're refining it." Emperor Pillzenith wanted to get straight to the point.
Emperor Peafowl glanced at Jiang Chen. Having stayed silent until now, Jiang Chen suddenly smiled. "If we're betting on just refining the Longevity Pill, that is pure blasphemy against this miraculous pill. Sacred Peafowl Mountain has researched the pill for several hundred years, and there are many intricacies to the pill. Limiting this competition to only refining it… that puts a damper on things."
Emperor Pillzenith frowned at his words. "It's a battle between pill kings. If you're not betting on refining the pill, what are you betting on instead? How absurd!"
Jiang Chen's expression was laid-back, his eyes focused on Pill King Ji Lang. "You're here on Pillfire City's behalf. If the Longevity Pill really belongs to you, surely you're not scared of the contents of this competition?"
"What do you propose?" Ji Lang was impassive.
"It's common for pill battles to have three rounds in order to decide the victor. I have three ways here for us to compete. If you're not up for it, then we'll go with your method and simply refine the pill. If that really is the case, though, I wonder how guilty Pillfire City's conscience truly is. I doubt you obtained the pill's recipe from a legitimate source."
It was a crude application of reverse psychology, but oftentimes even crude methodologies yielded unexpected results. Not accepting the bet could be construed as proof of guilt. That was a hard-hitting thought.