Protector King Devourcloud was quite the snitch. He quickly reported that Scourcloud had obtained a spirit beast, despite how trivial it was.
Unhappiness clouded the supreme lord's paranoid mind at the news. He soon visited their area and found Peerless.
"Lord Scourcloud, I hear you've obtained a spirit creature?" Despite his calm tone, his manners radiated superiority.
Peerless had anticipated everything and instantly feigned astonishment.
"That's true, my lord. It's merely an impudent, common beast. I've already fused it with my consciousness and made it my contracted beast." He brought forth the Goldbiter Rat.
The supreme lord took a glance. "You shouldn't fool around with a creature of unknown origin. Be more careful next time."
"I will," Peerless replied with a bow.
"Then we're done here. Since you've already tamed it, keep a close eye on it. Don't let it run around and expose our whereabouts." There was little else the supreme lord could say, since nothing seemed untoward.
"Understood," Peerless agreed respectfully. A vulgar rat wasn't enough to raise the supreme lord's suspicions, no matter how distrustful he was.
"Jiang Chen should have arrived in the Ninesuns Sky Sect by now. Ready yourselves, we'll attack in a day or two!"
"We hear and obey," the crowd replied deferentially, Devourcloud included.
Back in the camp, Elder Peng asked, "Seventh Master, what happened?"
"A spirit creature, nothing important. Devourcloud is too eager for petty achievement." The supreme lord had his own opinion about the protector king's enthusiasm. Among the eight lords, the man was prone to making a fuss out of nothing. He was also quick to flatter and take credit for himself.
Elder Peng smiled. "That's precisely the type of men we can use. At least, he isn't likely to stab us in the back."
That was quite true. The supreme lord agreed with a sigh. "Sadly, what I need is genuine skill, not flattery. Devourcloud is too crafty for his own good. If only he had the strength to match!"
Elder Peng nodded. "Seventh Master, we should beware of Veluriyam's defenses. I've learned of a Vermilion Bird defending the place."
The supreme lord turned grave. "It was torpid and about to die the last time I saw it. Why is it still alive?"
"Ancient divine beasts have tenacious vitality. I'm afraid we won't be rid of it so easily." Elder Peng exclaimed.
"Elder Peng, what should we do? That's not an easy foe to handle." The supreme lord seemed to fear nothing in the world, yet he tensed at the mention of the ancient creature. Thankfully, it was already at death's doorstep. Otherwise, what he knew of the divine bird was enough to make him turn tail and leave without a second thought.
Even with the two elders' assistance, an ancient, divine beast was too difficult an adversary. They didn't lack for strength, but ancient creatures were simply on an entirely other level. Even among them, Vermillion Birds, as one of the four divine beasts, were peerless existences. His forebearers would have had no choice but to retreat against a Vermillion Bird at full strength.
"In its condition, the bird's fighting potential must be at less than ten percent. It failed to kill a mere human in Agarwood Valley, although it was one who'd borrowed the celestial demon lord's arts and treasures," Elder Peng advised.
Elder Mo nodded. "There's nothing to fear. It's a spent arrow at the end of its flight."
"As to the golem warriors, they're simple minded. They're no threat to us without Jiang Chen by their side," Elder Peng added with a smile. "Ultimately, everything depends on Jiang Chen. Seventh Master, I have an idea. Once he learns Veluriyam's under attack, he'll rush back no matter the cost. If we set up an ambush…"
A delighted grin appeared on the supreme lord's face. "You must have read my mind. I was considering this very idea. Elders, do you think it's feasible?"
"It should be, as long as we're prepared." As ever, Elder Mo stayed curt and concise.
Elder Peng stayed silent for a moment. "It won't be so easy. Jiang Chen will definitely take the golems with him. Then again, what's our House Xiahou good at, if not surprise attacks? Do you remember how we caught those men at Agarwood Valley with the Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud?"
The Exultation Pill was a specialty of their house, used to control other cultivators, while the Soulless Powder was a medicine specifically in mental attacks. It was invisible once scattered in the air, tasteless and formless, but as soon as someone breathed it in, his consciousness would sink into a coma and be captive to its poison.
"Elder Peng, do you perhaps mean...?" The supreme lord's eyes shone bright.
"In war, one ought to pit one's strength against the enemy's weakness. If Jiang Chen is willing to risk his golems' lives and orders them to charge straight at us, we'll be the ones to suffer!" Elder Peng's opinioned.
They couldn't afford casualties, while golems didn't fear harm or injury.
The elders and protector kings were disposable. They were more than enough to cope with human sects and cultivators, but even if they were to swarm the golems, they'd stand little chance against the empyrean warriors.
The golems hadn't recovered fully, but no matter how weakened, they would prove too tall an order. Only the supreme lord and his two retainers, Elder Mo and Elder Peng, could withstand them.
It seemed that the three descendants of Myriad Abyss Island would need personally go into action against the exotic creatures.
However, a dangerous frontal clash against the rugged stone warriors was definitely not in their best interest. Their strategy had always first and foremost to play dirty.
The supreme lord mumbled to himself for a long while, then cackled eerily. "Alright, let's do so then. We'll surround Veluriyam and bait out our real prey. What do you think?"
What did he mean by that?
Simply encircle Veluriyam, but rather than a no holds barred offensive, they would lie in ambush for their genuine prey: Jiang Chen.
"The seventh master is wise. All the other dominos will fall by themselves once we capture him!" Elder Peng snickered.
"Elder Mo, what do you think?" The supreme lord turned to the other elder.
The later stayed silent for a long moment. "It can work, but we need to arrange for everything properly. We can't let word leak out."
"Of course. Secrecy is key. Our plan would be for naught if exposed. Alright, it's so decided. Tomorrow morning, I'll order an assault on Veluriyam and have them surrounded!"
Early the next morning, he summoned all of the elders and protector kings. "Gentlemen, our time has come. The army is to set off and besiege Veluriyam."
"Simply besiege?" Someone immediately reacted.
"Encircle first, fight later! I have my own plans. Don't be too anxious, just comply with my commands." The supreme lord naturally wouldn't expose his intentions at this stage, or it would be the death of his plan.
Be good tools and surround the city. You're of no use against Jiang Chen himself in any case.
In fact, his distrustful nature wouldn't let him use them either. A Jiang Chen admirer might be mixed in the crowd and disrupt the plan at a crucial time, thereby alerting the enemy.
"I trust I don't need to state Veluriyam's importance? With the city in our hands, we'd be in control of the entire human domain. Our Order will become the one true ruler of mankind!
"Before joining me, have any of you stood at such a height and looked down on the mass of all the heroes in the world? What authority did you have among your kind?
"None! Because Veluriyam and Pillfire have always been the ones to dictate everything. If not them, then the eight first rank sects! You are mere wandering cultivators, pawns, and second-rate characters in their eyes! But are they truly stronger than you? What right do they have to occupy such a lofty position and treat you with disdain? Don't you want to stand above them? Don't you want to look down at them and repay them in kind for all the humiliation you've suffered under their yoke?"
One had to say, the supreme lord was truly gifted when it came to riling up a crowd. Each of his men felt their blood boil. Whether a protector king or an elder, no one had ever attained the status of humanity's top figures.
They had been either wandering cultivators or led mediocre lives in their sects. In brief, none of them had ever wielded absolute authority. No matter how high their cultivation, they had to defer to their superiors. But today would be the prelude to a new dawn. How could they not rejoice?
Even Peerless couldn't but secretly praise the supreme lord's eloquence. The man was indeed extraordinary to inflame the crowd in so few words.
"Jiang Chen, I hope you can come back in time. The supreme lord is much more fearsome an opponent than Pillzenith ever was." He could only endure in silence for now. Before a critical opportunity presented itself, he couldn't discard his current identity!