Scourcloud was uninterested in Devourcloud's attempts to coax information out of him. This depressed the latter a little.
In fact, the entire Order was sensitive about the protector king's former identity. There were some internal rumors about it, but nobody could say anything for sure. The only prevailing sentiment was that this protector king was very mysterious indeed.
Devourcloud was mildly upset. His colleague wasn't giving him a lot of respect. They were both protector kings, weren't they? They were equal in status and position. Scourcloud should have been much more polite rather than distant.
"Daoist Scourcloud, you have a lot on your mind. Where do you think the supreme lord is taking us?" Not entirely satisfied, Devourcloud tried once more.
"The supreme lord's thoughts are beyond our knowledge. I'm not sure either. Listening to his orders is good enough." Scourcloud finally replied with a longish sentence.
Devourcloud sighed softly. "The supreme lord is unreadable indeed. I'm curious… I wonder if the supreme lord spoke true in his promise about empyrean opportunities?"
Scourcloud smiled, but didn't pick up the conversation.
Another order came from the back as they walked onwards. "Protector Kings, the Supreme Lord commands you to take to the southeast."
Devourcloud blinked. "Southeast again? This… we're heading toward…"
His tone and expression both froze. The objective was almost immediately obvious once he thought about it! "Daoist Scourcloud, we… we're going to Veluriyam Capital, huh?"
Veluriyam Capital was the only major city to the southeast.
"Whatever the supreme lord says," Scourcloud retorted coolly.
Devourcloud took a deep breath, a glimmer of keenness appearing in his eyes. Finally, he nodded. "Yes, as the supreme lord commands."
He'd actually been observing Scourcloud all this time. The latter had maintained undisturbed calmness throughout. Though Devourcloud was a bit angry, he also found reason enough to respect the man. The other protector king's composure was first-rate. Every protector king had his own personality, but most were impulsive and tooted their own horn far more than Protector King Scourcloud.
There was mutual competition between the eight protector kings for the sake of gaining the supreme lord's favor. More favor meant more of a chance at the empyrean opportunity promised.
This rivalry for approval meant that there was plenty of unseen strife between the protector kings. This was the main reason for Devourcloud's endless questioning along the way.
Scourcloud's composure was unrivaled, however. Was he really this calm or was he pretending? Devourcloud found the other man's indifference to power and glory incredible.
"Daoist Scourcloud…" he made to speak once more.
"Daoist Devourcloud, we are leading the vanguard. We have a lot of responsibility to prepare the way for the supreme lord. It would be very bad if we miss any scouting details due to idle conversation." Scourcloud evidently had no interest in chit chat.
Devourcloud laughed dryly despite the curt response he received. "Yes, yes, fellow daoist. You're absolutely right."
Scourcloud actually wanted to propose that they split up, but he was concerned about the possibility of suspicion from his colleague. The supreme lord was far more paranoid about such things as well. He could only restrain himself and slowly press on.
What a pity that the two brothers aren't in the vanguard. Otherwise, I could have sent them to scout ahead and deliver a message. Protector King Scourcloud was bothered and irritated.
He was none other than Emperor Peerless who'd been waiting for Jiang Chen at Agarwood Valley's entrance.
The young man's trip had involved the emperor and the Jiao brothers waiting outside, disguised as wandering cultivators. Alas, Jiang Chen and company had lingered inside for a long time. Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers couldn't follow despite their worries.
While they tensely awaited his return, there had been a strange smell near Agarwood's entrance that'd put everyone waiting there to sleep. The supreme lord of the Order had brought a group of diehard loyalists from Myriad Abyss Island, capturing all of them in one fell swoop.
Because Emperor Peerless had once fallen victim to the Moon God Sect's Seven Emotions Poison, Jiang Chen had given the great emperor a little bit of his own blood essence way back when as part of the antidote.
The young man's blood had an antitoxin attribute from his golden cicada bloodline, allowing Emperor Peerless to stay conscious despite the poison. Initially, there had been a chance for the great emperor to flee. However, before he did so, he'd noticed the absurd strength of their captors.
Even if he had taken that chance, he would've had twenty percent success at most. Moreover, since the Jiao brothers had already been taken, he found it more prudent to pretend to be poisoned instead.
Thankfully, there had been no immediate probe into their identities before and during their trip back to the Order of the Wind and Cloud's headquarters.
While everyone was still unconscious, Emperor Peerless had been decisive enough to destroy his facial appearance utterly, disintegrating his former identity. Because he had refined the kunpeng blood Jiang Chen had given him, his abilities concerning that bloodline had been gradually strengthening all the while.
This gave him the necessary preconditions to hide his former martial style and make his identity undetectable.
When the Order began to investigate their identities in more detail, he styled himself as the Wandering Kunpeng Master. No one in the wandering cultivator world had heard of that name.
Emperor Everviolet hadn't managed to provide much of a clue either. Because of Emperor Peerless's unrecognizable face and strange aura provided by his kunpeng blood, the other great emperor wasn't able to figure anything out. Though the two emperors had fought many times in the past, Everviolet had experienced only the original Peerless, rather than the one enhanced by kunpeng blood.
Because of the lack of flaws in Peerless' disguise, Everviolet had never even considered his real identity as the remotest of possibilities. Using his new identity as the Wandering Kunpeng Master, Peerless had leveraged his bloodline and martial strength to become one of the eight protector kings.
As for the Jiao brothers, they'd received hints from Emperor Peerless after awakening to hide their strengths. As a result, the Order only knew them as emperor realm experts.
Because of the number of prisoners they had taken and the relative normality of the brothers, they had only been able to become Earthly Fiends - three levels below the supreme lord. Not many people paid attention to individuals at that rank.
All three were able to survive uneventfully, with no one the wiser about the true relationship between the three. Nevertheless, Emperor Peerless and the Jiao brothers had taken the Exultation Pill as well. Because of this layer of insurance, the supreme lord was unafraid of trickery or betrayal from anyone.
At the bottom of his heart, the seventh master treated the human domain with derision. He felt that everyone who lived here was disgraceful and cowardly. There was the stick of the Exultation Pill and the carrot of the empyrean opportunity, wasn't there? There was no way anyone could possibly be disloyal given these two incentives. Therefore, he'd never seriously considered the likelihood of anyone betraying him.
The only reason he was exercising caution this time was because of how important the offensive on Veluriyam was.
After realizing the supreme lord's conspiracy, Peerless was very anxious. Though they were very distant from Veluriyam Capital presently, Jiang Chen wouldn't make it back to the city in time after being pulled to Ninesuns territory.
Moreover, doing so carried the possibility of being ambushed in itself.
No, I must think of a way to deliver a message to the city. They need time to prepare! Since first meeting Jiang Chen, Emperor Peerless had formed a deep friendship with the youth. Veluriyam Capital was where he felt he belonged. Plus, his dao partner Madame Yun was still in the city.
He had more than enough reason to protect it with his life, both professional and personal.
Emperor Peerless was someone who cared a lot about relationships. Though he hadn't known the Jiao brothers as a wandering cultivator, they were colleagues and peers under the same Sacred Peafowl Mountain banner. Emperor Peerless couldn't just leave them to rot.
This desire to take care of his peers and investigate the mysterious individuals had kept him from leaving when he could. Still, his attention to detail hadn't helped him find out the supreme lord's identity and origins yet.
The lack of a way to send a message to Veluriyam made him suspect that Devourcloud's incessant questions had been for the sake of watching his behavior. He could very well be planted by the supreme lord.
Peerless had no intention of revealing any flaws in his disguise right now.
The army neared Veluriyam Capital with the passage of time. It finally arrived within the city's demesne one day, which meant that the walls were within another day's travel. Thankfully, the supreme lord ordered a rest and break.
"Seventh Master, why not press the attack? We're already very close, aren't we?" Elder Peng asked.
"We're not in a hurry. I'm waiting for news from the Ninesuns Sky Sect. When it is verified that Jiang Chen is indeed over there, I will give the order to besiege the city!" The supreme lord had a specific plan in mind.
He knew well that Jiang Chen's presence gave Veluriyam Capital a spine. It would be much more difficult to take the city then. Without its young lord, a leaderless city was liable to fall into chaos. There was no way it would stand against his attacks.
Elder Peng nodded. "Very wise, Seventh Master. That kid is a pillar of the city; Veluriyam Capital is nothing without him."
They weren't wary of Jiang Chen's cultivation level, but of his effect on Veluriyam Capital as a whole. Furthermore, the eight stone golem brothers and the Vermilion Bird were very dangerous as well. Though they weren't scared, the eight stone golem brothers were clearly tough opponents. It was better to avoid them if possible!