The junior empress led Star Swordlife and Yang Qi into the depths of the Woodfern Couple Palace. For the most part, Destructionless Castle was split into two sections, one controlled by the Woodfern Couple Palace and the other controlled by the Genesis Sanctum. And both factions were constantly holding banquets and feasts in an attempt to recruit people onto their side.
One reason why Yang Qi so readily accepted her invitation was that she hadn’t acted as overbearing as the junior pontiff. Another reason was that although the Will Manifestation Heaven Sect was by no means a tiny and weak organization, they obviously weren’t strong enough to truly throw their weight around. It made sense to form a temporary alliance with the Woodfern Couple Palace, then worry later about how to grow even stronger.
He was truly acting as the junior sectlord should, if for no other reason than to ensure the safety of the members of the Yang Clan and the other experts he had brought out of the Myriad Worlds Monarch Chart to join the Will Manifestation Heaven Sect. There were plenty of young ones that were flourishing in the sect, to the point where Yang Qi really did think of it as something he couldn’t do without.
A lavish banquet had been prepared in a big hall in the Woodfern Couple Palace.
Among the guests were quite a few young women, all of them incredibly beautiful, and with powerful energy arts as well. The young men present were elegant, handsome, and moved with a natural grace that indicated they had long since gained the most profound of enlightenment. It was obvious that all of these people were far from being ordinary in nature.
Yang Qi even spotted a few Inheritors among them.
When he entered the hall, some of the guests looked over with faint smiles and nodded in greeting. Others didn’t spare him a glance, while some looked at him with open disdain. A few simply looked at him thoughtfully.
Yang Qi immediately got the impression that these were top experts from important sects, unlike the general riffraff he had encountered up to this point.
There was no way the junior empress of the Woodfern Couple Palace would invite nobodies to a fancy banquet like this.
The junior empress nodded in greeting to everyone, then raised her voice and said, “I've invited two more young heroes here to join us in heating alcohol and discussing heroism. This is the junior sectlord of the Will Manifestation Heaven Sect, Yang Qi, who only just now personally killed the Flower-Seizing Marauder. As for the second hero I've brought, he just....”
The junior empress paused in thought for a moment. She was just about to say that Star Swordlife had helped the Flower-Seizing Marauder, but realized that wouldn’t be particularly appropriate. The Flower-Seizing Marauder had been a treacherous rapist who everyone hated to death, so describing Star Swordlife as his ally would obviously be a mistake.
“This second hero has incredible sword technique and is an Inheritor of the Great Necropolis. Please meet Young Hero Star Swordlife.”
She then went on to introduce the other guests to Yang Qi. “This is the junior bishop of the Church of Warfare Champions.... And this is the junior chieftain of Mount Heavensnow....”
No one present dared to interrupt the junior empress as she made the introductions, making it clear that she was in the position of power.
As the introductions were made, Yang Qi noticed that everyone carried themselves with casual grace, and no one seemed particularly shocked that he had just killed the Flower-Seizing Marauder. A few people seemed more interested in Star Swordlife, probably because he was an Inheritor.
“Everyone, please be seated,” the junior empress said. She took the seat of honor at the front of the banquet, then asked Yang Qi and Star Swordlife to sit on either side of her. Gesturing to her side, she drew attention to a burning furnace, atop which sat a simmering cauldron. “This furnace is called Chaos. When chaos arrives, it’s like a fire that can burn anything and everything. The cauldron is called the Deer Cauldron. Of course, the deer represents the world. The alcohol in the cauldron is called Hero. When chaos reigns, and the fires of war rage, whoever seizes control of the deer emerges as the hero. Clearly, this banquet of heating alcohol and discussing heroism is about more than just making friends.” 
The valiance and heroism in her voice made it clear that she was in no way inferior to any man, and instantly inspired admiration in the hearts of the listeners.
“The Great Necropolis has come to block the Ancient Road to the Gods, and the only hope to achieve godly ascension is to gain control of it. The Executors of the Ancient Road are acting oppressive and overbearing, while at the same time, the Fiend-Devil League is cooking up evil plans. The native savages of the necropolis are forming alliances and the future world is glaring about like a tiger eyeing its prey. We face many enemies, so we must stick together to stay safe. As heroes of the ancient road, favored by the heavens, you have come to this assembly to select a league-lord, someone to lead all of us. Have any of you given any thought to who you think the leader should be?”
Just like that, she got down to the most important aspect to discuss, seemingly asking who these people supported, the Genesis Sanctum or the Woodfern Couple Palace.
One of the elegant looking young men said, “Whoever leads the alliance needs to be a person of virtue and prestige. Other than the imperial couple of the Woodfern Couple Palace, who else could possibly be qualified? The pontiff of the Genesis Sanctum and his son are both of them sinister schemers, and are by no means straightforward and upright. They definitely can’t come close to the Woodfern Couple Palace.”
This young man was the junior bishop of the Church of Warfare Champions that Yang Qi had been introduced to moments before. Clearly, he was hoping to win some approval from the junior empress.
In response to his words, quite a few people nodded and openly said that they too would support the Woodfern Couple Palace.
Yang Qi decided to add to the discussion and said, “The junior pontiff of the Genesis Sanctum used underhanded means to try to steal two female disciples from my Will Manifestation Heaven Sect. He’s a dirty schemer who can’t be allowed to rise to power.”
In the end, Star Swordlife was the only one who didn't say anything.
“You’ve all gotten the wrong impression,” the junior empress said. “Apparently you thought I invited you to this banquet to get your support, to get you to back the Woodfern Couple Palace. If that’s the case, then you’ve really underestimated my organization.”
Everyone was stunned to hear these words from her, and even Star Swordlife suddenly looked a bit suspicious.
Yang Qi also found it to be a bit strange. The Woodfern Couple Palace had obviously expended a lot of effort to hold this big assembly, which was said to be needed in order to select a league-lord. So why would they suddenly change their mind and not compete to get the position?
One of the junior houseladies couldn’t hold back and said, “Big Sister Mu, I think we're all a bit confused now.” Based on the introductions from moments before, Yang Qi knew that this junior houselady was from the House of Clear Heaven Erudition. It was a famous sect that no one would take lightly, and the houselady from there had a heaven-shaking, earth-shattering cultivation base. Supposedly, her psychic scale was higher than seventy. Because of that, they were actually considered to be bigger and stronger than the Will Manifestation Heaven Sect.
“I understand,” the junior empress said. “However, if you think about it for just a moment, you’ll understand. Both the Woodfern Couple Palace and the Genesis Sanctum have boundless mid Terrifying experts on our side. Neither is in a position to subdue the other, so if one becomes the leader, the other will, of course, refuse to accept the decision. And that will lead to infighting. So what should we do? The imperial couple and the pontiff can’t very well openly fight each other, lest they become laughingstocks. Besides, if we started fighting amongst ourselves and devolve into chaos, our enemies could easily swoop in and destroy us.”
As the gathered experts considered her words, they realized that there was truth to what she was saying.
Everyone knew that the Genesis Sanctum and the Woodfern Couple Palace had been fighting each other for years, with no obvious victor rising up. If they truly went to war, both sides would definitely suffer huge casualties. And to do something like that just to win leadership of the alliance of sects would be profoundly idiotic.
But considering that, why would the leaders of those two groups call for an assembly like this if they didn’t intend to compete with each other?
There could only be one leader, not two. And without a leader, the sects would be as disunited as a dish of loose sand.
“Don’t worry, I’ll explain everything,” the junior empress said. “The truth is that before calling for this assembly, our two great sects had many meetings to discuss this subject. In the end, some of the chief elders proposed a very clever solution.”
“What solution might that be?” Yang Qi asked.
“Simple. The older generation will act as the council of chief elders, while the league-lord will be selected from among the younger generation.”
Everyone present was flabbergasted by this revelation.
“How could this be?” a junior sectlord asked. “Although some of us are indeed spectacular, how could someone as weak as one of us possibly win the support of the masses?”
“Yeah, exactly. It seems to me that something else is going on here.”
“This is really a bit too unusual.”
“Come on, everyone, quiet down and let the junior empress finish explaining.”
After the hall quieted down, the junior empress continued, “Ladies and gentlemen, as you suspect, the matter is not so simple. However, it's the only solution, and the only way to resolve the tension between our two great organizations. Both of us have already sworn oaths to run the sect assembly with this goal in mind. Furthermore, we’ve already decided how to address the issues many of you just mentioned. Once the new league-lord is selected, the council of chief elders, in other words, the top leaders of our two great organizations, will personally bless him or her, providing immense levels of power.”
The awkward glances that people were exchanging quickly changed, and many people present were starting to look excited as they realized that perhaps they had a shot at becoming the league-lord.
“In that case, I throw my support behind you, Junior Empress,” Yang Qi said. “Why don’t you step up to lead the heroes?”
All of a sudden, other people realized that the junior empress must be throwing this banquet to earn support for her own bid for leadership.
More people began giving voice to similar sentiments as Yang Qi, however, the junior empress quickly interrupted them with a wave of her hand. “No, no,” she said. “Our two great organizations already decided that, to keep the peace, neither I nor the junior pontiff will be allowed to become the league-lord. It must be someone from another sect.”
Everyone present was shocked that the two enormous sects would come to an agreement like this. After all, even though this new league-lord would obviously be a puppet, they would still be blessed with immense power, and that was nothing to scoff at.
1. The concept of the deer and the cauldron is a real-life thing from Chinese history and literature. It's also the title of one of Jin Yong’s most famous novels, The Deer and the Cauldron. For a basic explanation of what the deer and the cauldron generally represent, check out this explanation from the novel's Wikipedia page.