A hundred miles, fifty, thirty, ten…
The four stone golem braves expanded from small dots to big blots before Elder Peng's eyes. It took only a few moments before they arrived on the ambush site. Though the golems were still on the outskirts, they were nevertheless already enclosed in the trap.
"Keep your calm. Don't move before I give the word!" Elder Peng was a Myriad Abyss Island expert through and through. His calmness in the face of overwhelming joy bore testament to his status as an elder of House Xiahou. The closer the goal was, the more rational he became.
He knew very well the frenzied strength the stone golems possessed. If they were discovered now, that would be no benefit to the Order.
As the golems had only just entered the area of the ambush, the Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud hadn't taken full effect yet. Given their incredible combat prowess, it was unwise to fight the golems before they were put out of commission.
Someone backed into a corner often entered a maddened state of mind. In particular, self-destruction for common ruin was frequent. An explosive finale before death was certainly something to be wary about. There was no need to make things harder for oneself.
Elder Peng waited for the four stone golems to notice that things were awry.
Soulless Powder wasn't a fast-acting poison, but an imperceptible and invasive kind. Anyone afflicted by it would lose the ability to resist without even noticing. When they did, it would be too late.
This was also why they had been able to capture so many cultivators at Agarwood Valley's entrance. Not that they didn't have the raw strength to do so - instead, the goal had been to reel them in without a fight. That was unlikely without the poison.
The Soulless Powder had been extremely efficient to that end.
Poisons were unique in that anyone could be susceptible to them, regardless of whether the victim was spirit or empyrean realm. An unwary cultivator was also a dead one.
In ancient times, countless capable men were slain by strange and curious toxins. Because of their wide applicability, poison use was a perennially popular discipline spanning from time immemorial all the way to the present. Moreover, poison-related heritages were also popular.
Everyone held their breaths. No one dared make a peep, that they might unwittingly startle the four stone golems and alert them ahead of time.The ambush site was very large and the poison dispersed over an immense area. The Goldbiter Rats had steered clear of it ten miles out because of this precise reason. No living thing could survive it.
Time passed little by little.
Elder Peng's joy mounted with each ticking second. He could see the four stone golems gradually slowing down. That meant the poison was already beginning to affect them. When signs of their intoxication became clear, it meant the poison had progressed very far along.
Elder Mo glanced at his colleague. Elder Peng inclined his head a little, signalling that his fellow should wait a little more.
It was at this time that the stone golem brave running at the forefront slowed his step. A distressing shriek came out of his mouth. He seemed to utter something to his fellows, who responded with the same kind of unintelligible language. They were evidently roused over something.
Elder Peng was utterly jubilant. He knew that the four golems had finally realized they were poisoned. It was time for the trap's jaws to snap shut.
"Go!" With a wave of the elder's hand, the Order's men shot out from the darkness one by one. They formed a circle a hundred meters or so out from the four stone golems.
The ambush party wasn't large in size. There were only a few dozen here. However, Elders Peng and Mo were clearly a cut above the rest given their empyrean expertise. The remaining were uniformly great emperors. Their average ability far surpassed their human domain brethren.
Myriad Abyss Island produced remarkable people indeed. These were the core forces of the Order of Wind and Cloud, the supreme lord's hidden trump card.
The human domain experts he'd gathered into the Order of Wind and Cloud - the eight Protector Kings, thirty-six Celestial Stars, and seventy-two Earthly Fiends - they were only a portion of the Order's full strength. These men present today were the real elites he'd brought from Myriad Abyss Island, the men that gave him a backbone in this wide world.
The four stone golem brothers affixed these people with angry, wide-eyed glares. All sorts of weird noises came from their mouths.
Elder Peng snickered. "Stop shouting. Speak normally."
Of course the golems were only acting. Acting was their natural weak point because of the tribe's penchant for honesty, which meant that the brothers couldn't exactly do a stellar job.
Pretending to be poisoned, angry, and fearful in the absence of any actual poison was a tremendously tough job.
Jiang Chen had kept their limited acting skills in mind during the planning for this particular play. The only thing he'd asked of them was to shout loudly at the right time. Eschewing speech in favor of incomprehensible shouting made things much easier and much more plausible.
Elder Peng smirked when he saw the four golems' fury.
Thump, thump, thump, thump!
Their gigantic bodies toppled to the earth amid incensed shouting.
The elder could no longer hold back his brazen laughter. "Elder Mo, we've landed four big catches today. The Order's fortunes are unrivaled, no?"
Elder Mo nodded, but he did utter a word of caution. "Elder Peng, the shouting from those four just now sounded pretty strange."
"Anyone would do strange things upon finding himself poisoned." Elder Peng didn't seem to mind all that much. "Come," he waved, "let's get a closer look."
The four stone golem braves were splayed on the ground, groaning.
Elder Peng approached them, coming to a stop before one of them with a kick. "How does the Soulless Powder taste, you big oaf?"
"Coward!" The stone golem in question cursed.
"What a shame. The Primordial Stone Golem Tribe, fallen in servitude to some petty brat. Hilarious, truly!" As the victor today, Elder Peng found it easy to gloat. "Now you see. Neither Veluriyam Capital nor Jiang Chen can give your tribe a bright future. You only have one way forward, and that is with the Order of Wind and Cloud!"
"What is Order? I'm not joining!" The golem called out.
"Tsk, tsk. The Order of Wind and Cloud is destined to rule the human domain in the future. The supreme lord is a high-born aristocrat from Myriad Abyss Island. How can these dogs of the human domain compare?"
The giant furrowed his brow, seemingly hesitant about something.
"You four are just the appetizer," Elder Peng said coolly. "When Jiang Chen comes back from the Ninesuns Sky Sect, he will become my prisoner too. Remember, no one in the human domain can stand against the supreme lord. Not Jiang Chen or anyone else!"
Elder Mo moved his mouth when he heard his fellow elder's words. However, he didn't say anything in the end. Still, he felt that something wasn't quite right about this. But what? He couldn't say exactly.
The burly man sighed. "Ok, we give up. Antidote."
Elder Peng chuckled. "The antidote? Sure, that's easy enough. However, you must swear your loyalty first. I can't trust you otherwise."
"We swear." The golem nodded. "I, Third Stone, do swear…"
The elder was glowed with pleasure. Once an oath was given, the four stone golems could never betray them.
It was at this moment that something extremely unexpected happened.
The wheezing giant bounced up from the ground like he had been injected with adrenaline He threw his titanic body at Elder Peng with lightning speed.
This rapid shift in circumstances caused made the color drain from the elder's face and his heart to sink. His reflexes were quick enough to allow him to dodge out of the way in the nick of time. Unfortunately, the other three chose to strike in the next second.
Elder Peng was able to dodge the first attack, but not the second or third. The stone golems had just executed one of their secret techniques, the 'Flying Boulder Leap'. It was a remarkably potent attack that treated the user's body as a meteoric object, combining strength and speed into a single blow.
Indeed, the impact might as well have been a meteor from outer space. Even an empyrean expert like Elder Peng suffered tremendous internal injury after being smashed several times over. He coughed up an excessive amount of blood.
"This isn't good!" Elder Mo understood the gravity of the situation when he saw his colleague being hit. He was upright enough to attempt to escape alongside his wounded comrade as a cloud of light.
A few more forces surged towards his back from outside, cutting his plans short. The sheer threat behind them was enough to apply a heavy weight to the elder's entire body. The possibility of fatality was almost certain.
Given the danger they were in, Elder Mo could no longer rescue his colleague. He veered instinctively, choosing another direction to hurtle away in. Getting Elder Peng out of there was impossible. Escaping with his life was the top priority.
He felt more than slight regret at what had happened; the strangeness of it all hadn't escaped him, but Elder Peng had been too insistent on his own strategy, so much so that there hadn't been an opportunity to interrupt.
It seemed that his instincts were correct after all. Elder Peng's optimism had been false!
"I must escape to inform the supreme lord!" Elder Mo had only one thought on his mind now. He had no energy to take care of his fellow elder.
The disabled Elder Peng was happy to see Elder Mo shooting towards him. The other elder was more than likely on his way to bring him out of this bind. Uninjured, Elder Mo was more than capable enough of bringing a rider along on a one-way trip out of this place.
He hadn't quite expected the other elder to suddenly swerve and leave.
In the midst of his shock, a powerful aura blasted into being behind him. A cleaver of an axe slammed down into the earth. There was a scattering of light. Both the elder's body and soul were sliced into two, blood and guts spilling everywhere!