Currently, Jiang Chen was indeed on his way to the Ninesuns Sky Sect. The information he'd been given was nebulous as to the Order of Wind and Cloud's intentions, but he still had to try to counteract them as best he could.
According to his analysis, there was clearly a bigger force over at Ninesuns. It seemed reasonable enough to assume that there was a full-out offensive planned there. As for the Celestial Cicada Court, Jiang Chen had sent Emperor Wellspring, the Skysword Sect's Han Qianzhan, and company there to defend it.
Aside from that, he had left half of his troops as well as the Vermilion Bird back at Veluriyam Capital. Four of the eight stone golem brothers were stationed there as well to assist the bird in defense.
Jiang Chen himself led the alliance's forces upon the path to the Ninesuns Sky Sect. He was ready for a decisive battle in their territory.
As part of the vanguard, Devourcloud was a bit anxious. "What is the supreme lord waiting for? If we're going to attack Veluriyam Capital, we should just go for it. Hanging around aimlessly is burning a hole in my chest."
Though he couldn't show it on his face, Emperor Peerless was even more anxious than he. Suddenly, the emperor's ears moved. His consciousness detected something familiar. Judging by his reaction, Devourcloud had picked up something as well.
With a flash of movement, Peerless shot outward, grabbing towards the earth. A single motion was enough to retrieve what he was looking for.
It was a golden rat.
A Goldbiter Rat, to be precise!
The emperor was no stranger to these rats in particular. He was quite happy to see one around here as expected. Devourcloud strode over as well, curious at the commotion.
Truthfully, Emperor Peerless had had an idea when he sensed the rat's aura at the outset. He took the initiative after perceiving that Devourcloud had also noticed the beast. If the other man were to have captured the rat, it would be dead by now.
"Haha, my luck's not bad today. I caught a spirit creature." Emperor Peerless waved the rat about nonchalantly before putting it in his sleeves.
Devourcloud laughed. "What a dumb beast, running into our sights like that. What do you plan on doing with it?"
"Doing with it?" Emperor Peerless played dumb. "What do you mean? I've been a bit bored in the Unbounded Mid Region. A spirit creature should spice up my life a little. Daoist Devourcloud, you're not planning on fighting over it with me, are you?" The emperor's tone was half-joking.
Devourcloud was verbally backed into a corner. "Ah, no, you got it first," he smiled embarrassedly. "How could I take your prize from you? Still, we're in Veluriyam territory now. We must be wary about whether they were sent by Veluriyam Capital."
"Haha, it doesn't matter even if they are. Now that I have it, it only has one choice: become my contracted beast, or else!" Emperor Peerless said forcefully.
Devourcloud had nothing else to say. His investigations yielded no further movements from the surroundings.
Both men went back to their camps. Sitting down cross-legged, Emperor Peerless took out the rat and proceeded to play with it.
Devourcloud shook his head to himself. Emperor Peerless looked like he was actually making the spirit beast as his own. "Daoist Scourcloud sure has a lot of free time on his hands. That's a pretty average spirit beast on all counts. What's the point of taking it as a contracted beast?" Clearly, Devourcloud didn't hold the emperor's actions in high regard.
Emperor Peerless, on the other hand, had just begun communication with his consciousness. "Little rat, I know you're a Goldbiter Rat. Your leader is Old Gold. Remember carefully that I'm Mo Wushuang, young lord Jiang Chen's sworn brother. Right now, the supreme lord of the Order of Wind and Cloud is preparing to attack Veluriyam Capital. You have to get the news back to the city and the young lord. Otherwise, the city will be in grave danger!
"Don't fret, I'll pretend to take you as my contracted beast. If you have friends nearby, tell them immediately and then come back to me. They will suspect something is afoot if you just leave outright."
Emperor Peerless was very attentive to detail. He knew that if he let the rat go now, Devourcloud would assuredly inform others of his irregular behavior. There would then be unnecessary attention and suspicion on him.
As one of the rats designated for scouting duty, this rat in particular was quite clever and keen. It immediately expressed that it did in fact have companions nearby.
Emperor Peerless remained impassive. He secretly let the rat go when Devourcloud wasn't paying attention. Every second was precious right now. A small differential in time potentially meant the difference between life and death.
The rat was very smart. It knew to be even more cautious in the face of danger. In no time at all, it had informed its nearby peers of the looming danger. The other rats passed the message onto their king.
The rat king panicked when it heard what was currently transpiring. The Goldbiter Rats had remained in Veluriyam Capital to safeguard it. It immediately contacted the Vermilion Bird.
As they were both members of ancient bloodlines in a sense, this made communication easier. After getting wind of this, the bird's first idea was to contact Jiang Chen.
Because Veluriyam Capital was very far away from the Ninesuns Sky Sect, a remote messaging ability was required to send the message as quickly as possible.
This kind of ability was very difficult to use and control. The Vermilion Bird knew about it and was capable of using abilities of that kind, but it had insufficient vitality to do so. Instead, one of the stone golem brothers was delegated the execution.
Faraway at the Ninesuns Sky Sect, Jiang Chen was still painstakingly poring over the battle plans with the Order of Wind and Cloud. Near him, Big Stone's consciousness twitched. His expression moved with the thoughts in his mind.
"Savior, things aren't good!"
"What isn't?" Jiang Chen raised an eyebrow.
"I just got Third Stone's message. He says the Goldbiter Rats have found Emperor Peerless. The emperor told them the Order's main force is already at Veluriyam. They can attack any time! Ninesuns and Cicada Court are both tricks. The Order wants Veluriyam Capital for real!"
Big Stone's words sounded in Jiang Chen's ears like a thunderclap. He was stunned and stupefied. It took a few moments for him to recover himself. "Anything else?" the young man asked.
"No, that's it." Big Stone was quite honest.
"Emperor Peerless?" Jiang Chen muttered to himself. "Old Brother Mo's disappeared for four years… so he was at the Order of Wind and Cloud during this time?"
He'd implicitly trusted that both Emperors Peerless and Peafowl were too fortunate to have died so casually. He was overjoyed to hear news of the former, though that was swiftly accompanied by doubt. Why had Emperor Peerless made contact right now, of all the possible timing?
However, he quickly pushed that out of mind. The news was unlikely to be false. The Goldbiter Rats were no stranger to the emperor. There was no way a fake's aura would fool them.
Given that the rats found the man trustworthy, Emperor Peerless was probably the real deal.
The message was most likely out of extended inconvenience. It was the soonest Emperor Peerless was able to get the message out.
Jiang Chen stood up suddenly at this conclusion, his eyes filled with determination.
"Old Brother Mo, it doesn't matter why you're sending me the message right now. You wouldn't lie to me. It seems that I've underestimated the Order. I thought it was a simple kind of misdirection, but the deception is double-layered. The real goal is my Veluriyam Capital, huh?" Jiang Chen drew a sharp breath when he came to this point. He had to admit that the supreme lord was especially wily. The stratagem was more complicated than one might have expected, which meant it was difficult to defend against. Who would've thought that Veluriyam was his real goal?
Jiang Chen certainly hadn't expected such a ravenous appetite.
"The Order's army is at our borders, ready to attack at any time. If I go back the way we came at the fastest speed possible, the trip would still take one or two days. More concerningly, I'd probably be walking straight into an ambush. If the Order is smart enough, they'll set up an expert-fueled ambush on my return route. To return like this would only leave me unprepared!"
Now that Jiang Chen knew of the Order's conspiracy, he had to peruse what the enemy's future plans were as well. He himself was scared by the possibilities.
If things proceeded as they currently were, wouldn't going back be falling right into his opponent's trap?
"No, I can't lead the army back without alerting the Order's spies. It would be trivial for them to lay an ambush then."
Jiang Chen knew that speed and time were both a problem if he were to lead the alliance's army back. The biggest problem of all was the potential ambushes lying in wait for them.
After plenty of consideration, he settled on sending the army onward to the Ninesuns Sky Sect. There was no reason for them to delay.
He would split off from the group with the four stone golem brothers, his spacetime seal allowing him to instantly return. Only the spacetime seal could send him back to the city in a flash!
Because the stone golem brothers were inhuman, they could separate their bodies and consciousnesses with a secret method and thereby be brought along.
The Veluriyam Pagoda didn't allow illegal entry, but inanimate stone golems weren't banned.
Back in Agarwood Valley, Jiang Chen had studied the necessary secret method in the Primosanct Sect's sacred place. It was quite viable for him to make use of it now! There was minimal effect if the duration of separation was short.