An awe-inspiring aura exuded from the mysterious supreme lord's every word, giving one the feeling of looking up to a towering mountain. Even great figures like Everviolet couldn't fathom his meaning.
Instead of explaining himself, the supreme lord ordered, "Attend to me, Ardentwind, Gentlewind."
"At your order!"
"Take four Celestial Stars, eight Earth Fiends, and a group of skilled disciples to the Celestial Cicada Court. Pretend you're doing so covertly, but make sure you're discovered. Make them think you're going to attack."
"But should we really attack or not?" Ardentwind needed exact clarification.
"Don't. Simply surround them and create some panic."
"Shockcloud, Howlcloud, attend," the supreme lord commanded once more. "Take eight Celestial Stars, sixteen Earthly Fiends, and twice as many disciples. Your destination is the Ninesuns Sky Sect. Likewise encircle them but don't attack."
Encircle but don't attack?
A disgruntled Everviolet protested, "Supreme Lord, I guarantee I can overwhelm the Ninesuns Sky Sect with so many men!"
Two kings, eight Celestial Stars, and sixteen Earthly Fiends was indeed an overwhelming force.
The supreme lord's face darkened. "Shockcloud, are you questioning me?"
Everviolet shivered at the chill in the supreme lord's tone. Cold sweat trickled down his back. He'd just returned from Veluriyam and hadn't been reprimanded despite his failure to recruit Jiang Chen. The relief had made him forget himself.
The warning made him realize how impetuous he'd been. Questioning the supreme lord's order? Wasn't that suicide?
"I dare not. Your subordinate will obey your holy decree." Everviolet had obviously suffered a great deal at the supreme lord's hands, or else he wouldn't have remained so loyally docile after the rebuke.
"Protector Kings Stormwind and Galewind, continue observing the Moon God Sect. Hmph, trying to hold back impending disaster and repair the Stele? That trivial sect truly doesn't know its place!"
The derision in his voice made clear how little he thought of the Moon God Sect trying to bite off more than they could chew. Jiang Chen was the only one he feared. No one else was worth his attention in the entire human domain. The Moon God Sect, Skysword Sect... none of these first rank sects were a threat. Right now, all his plans were directed at Veluriyam and its young lord!
"The others are to stay in the headquarters and remain available for future missions." The supreme lord dismissed the gathering after this last order.
Those assigned a task went back to prepare before setting off. The others remained within the sect. No one dared leave without permission. The Order of Wind and Cloud was a young faction, but its discipline was unusually strict. Despite their status, even protector kings didn't dare violate the rules.
Inside a certain palace, a cultivator sat, back not long ago from the gathering. He wasn't among those sent off on a mission. His attire impressively marked him as one of the eight lords, titled Protector King Scourcloud.
His origins were mysterious. Some said he had been a wandering cultivator once, but even a wandering titan like Everviolet had never heard of him.
As a fellow protector king, Everviolet had previously attempted to rope the other to his side.
There was no clear-cut ranking among the eight lords. But inside the Order, it was public knowledge the eight lords were split into two camps, Wind and Cloud, either of which had its own leader.
Ardentwind headed the Wind camp, while the Cloud camp's leader was none other than Shockcloud, also known as Everviolet. For that reason, the latter naturally wanted for all four Cloud kings to be united. But Scourcloud had continuously turned a blind eye to his hints.
Like a woman scorned, hell hath no fury like Everviolet scorned. He couldn't rein in his anger at his gestures of goodwill being rejected. So he'd resorted to force and underhanded tactics.
But throughout it all, he realized that he couldn't gain any ground. His opponent matched him move for move. He'd even felt vaguely powerless. His instincts told him that, in a real all-out battle, his life would be at risk.
This experience had taught him to keep a respectful distance. He became mindful of staying amiable and not offending his fellow protector king if possible.
As time went on, most people had also come to realize the taciturn Scourcloud was a fierce character not to be trifled with, despite always keeping a low-profile.
As a man neither Ardentwind nor Shockcloud could order around, Scourcloud was an independent entity unto himself. He obeyed only the supreme lord, and no one else dared provoke him. The supreme lord also seemed to admire him very much and didn't even bother him for small errands.
As Scourcloud sat there, a profound glint flashed in the depth of his eyes.
"The supreme lord is as mysterious as ever. What's his objective this time? A diversion? To confuse the enemy? Or does he have some other agenda?"
Many questions whirled in his mind.
"He's pulling out all stops before he reaches his goal. He doesn't even think twice about damaging the Boundary Steles. How can he be a secluded human empyrean master? He's roped in the protector kings with the possibility of breaking through to empyrean realm. But even now, it's impossible to see if that's true or not."
Scourcloud had been one of the first to join the order. He'd coolly observed everything from the sidelines. But to his surprise, he still couldn't unravel the core of the Order after so many years.
The Order had grown year after year, expanding at a speed defying imagination. More and more experts had swollen its ranks, especially wandering cultivators. Much of the latter were given to blind obedience.
They were attracted by the Order's aura or had come to abhor their wandering lives. The sect's ambition and unstoppable momentum resonated with them. They felt that they'd finally found their rightful home. Thus, wandering cultivators had been the basis of the Order's expansion.
In fact, wanderers made up the bulk of the cultivation world. Sects were strong, but their numbers were limited. Moreover, few great sect members would choose to defect, unless the Order destroyed their former sect. Thanks to this almost savage growth, the Order's power had inflated explosively!
Lost in thought, Scourcloud suddenly received notice of someone paying a call.
"You again?" To his surprise, the one he saw outside once he'd lifted his residence's restrictions was Everviolet.
The latter smiled insincerely. "Daoist Scourcloud, I'm envious of your good life but also sympathize with you. The supreme lord is so fond of you that he's reluctant to send you away on missions, whether big or small. As to myself, I'm sadly destined to be a beast of burden. I've barely returned from Veluriyam before I have to leave again for the Ninesuns Sky Sect."
Scourcloud said indifferently, "So why are you here blabbering instead of following the supreme lord's holy decree?"
Everviolet stretched lazily, a mischievous smile on his lips. "I will of course carry out my mission without fail. But why should I be worried? I won't even need to fight, I just need to scare them."
"Are you telling me all this just so I can repeat it to the supreme lord?" Scourcloud turned frosty.
"Haha, give me some credit. I know you're not that type of man." Everviolet laughed as if it were a joke.
Scourcloud scrunched his face imperceptibly at his visitor's shenanigans. He wasn't duped at all. Would someone who'd once ranked among the three strongest wandering titans clown around? Of course not.
Annoyance welled once again in Everviolet. Thankfully, he was already accustomed to Scourcloud's standoffish character. He chuckled. "Hehe, fellow daoist, let me be frank. I really wonder if you're a wandering cultivator as you say. I used to be someone in the wandering world and knew everyone, especially the elites, but I've never heard of someone like you."
"So? There are many things you've never heard of. Are you going to investigate them all one by one?" Scourcloud wouldn't have any of it.
"Why do you reject me? I genuinely want to be your friend. It's hard to get close to you when you're so aloof."
Scourcloud smiled coldly. "We have little in common. There's no reason for us to become close."
"Little in common? Don't we both serve the supreme lord?" Everviolet took exception at his words.
Scourcloud remained silent, refusing to explain.
Like a dog trying to bite a hedgehog, Everviolet didn't even know where to begin with the man.
"Fellow daoist, do you perhaps disapprove of the supreme lord's actions?" These were treasonous words!
Scourcloud remained indifferent to Everviolet's sinister goading. "You seem fond of your own voice, so just talk to yourself. I won't be wasting time with you any further."
Everviolet seethed with rage. He'd come to rope in the man once again, but as always, he seemed to be talking to a brick wall.