Jiang Chen apprised Peerless and Wellspring of the formation as well as his own thoughts.
Wellspring was complimentary of the idea overall. "Exquisite! It'll make us all the stronger on the battlefield. Our current force is somewhat of a motley crew, but this will shape us into a focused and coherent whole."
No one would turn down such a formation.
Peerless nodded in agreement. "Not bad indeed. It seems very feasible. But since it organizes people in groups of eight, we need to be meticulous about the assignments. How they complement each other and level of mutual understanding will be key. Otherwise, the formation will become a weak spot instead."
Indeed, fighting alone would be better than bad cooperation. The formation's greatest nemesis was the presence of a weak link, or worse, several of them.
"Old Brother Hui, you have undisputed status and prestige among wandering cultivators. Are you willing to divide them into groups?"
Wellspring responded firmly, "Naturally. I won't shirk my duties!"
"I'll handle the sects myself. Wandering cultivators are one thing, but sects are the real issue."
Sect powerhouses were many, each of them a figure of import with great authority in their own sect. Whether they could be tolerant and adapt to each other was up in the air. The many elements of uncertainty in such a coalition were much more of a headache.
Peerless nodded. "There are definitely many things to take into consideration when it comes to the sects."
"We need to thoroughly think it over. That reminds me. Are either of you starting to vaguely perceive the principles of heaven and earth?"
The Kunpeng blood both great emperors had obtained from the young lord was genuinely a possible gateway to the empyrean realm.
Wellspring had been close to peak great emperor to begin with; thanks to his progress in the last few years, he was now only half a step away from empyrean realm.
Of course, countless peak great emperors in the human domain had failed to cross this mere half a step in their entire lifetimes.
Peerless' cultivation used to be slightly lower, but he'd obtained the Kunpeng blood earlier and was ahead of Wellspring in comprehending the bloodline. This compensated for his disadvantage in cultivation, so both had progressed roughly at the same pace.
They should now be close to reaching the heavenly principles. One step further and they might break through to empyrean realm in a flash of enlightenment, reaching a whole new level of existence. It would also be of momentous significance for the human domain.
After all, no new empyrean master had publicly appeared in the domain for many years. That the domain couldn't foster any empyrean masters had become the general consensus.
But if it were to be proven false, it would launch the domain into a new craze of cultivation.
Peerless murmured, "Insight indeed seems to come much faster of late. Between heaven and earth, each flower, each tree, and each blade of grass seems filled with abstruse and profound principles."
Peerless agreed. "Old brother, you feel that way as well?"
Jiang Chen's eyes shone with delight. "It's a sign that you're close to the heavenly principles. This is good news. You need to latch onto such inspiration the moment it appears. Soon, it will multiply and converge with the momentum of a torrent, breaking your shackles and ushering you into a new level of existence!"
Upon comprehending the principles of heaven and earth, empyrean masters gained the acknowledgement of the heavens and an empyrean decree.
If one were to reach empyrean realm by refining someone else's decree, he would forever be a cheap imitation. Whether in potential or real strength, they could never rival self-enlightened powerhouses.
The two great emperors had never experienced this process and seldom had any interactions with empyrean masters. For them, the empyrean concept was hazy at best.
But Jiang Chen was different. As the son of a celestial emperor, empyrean cultivators had only been fit to lace his shoes. All his servants, even his pill-refining pageboys, had been at that level.
Empyrean realm was the most basic prerequisite in the heavenly planes. Otherwise, one was just a babe who hadn't learned to walk yet. Therefore, Jiang Chen wasn't unfamiliar with it.
For some reason, both Peerless and Wellspring accepted his guidance as the most natural thing in the world. Neither found it suspicious.
"Gentlemen, persevere but don't be impatient. Let nature take its course." Jiang Chen offered but one piece of advice.
Preparations to subdue the Order of Wind and Cloud were in full swing when Jiang Chen secretly summoned the eight golem brothers. As usual, four brothers were to stay behind while the other four were to follow him to the Order.
When Veluriyam's army was set to march, Jiang Chen had already left ahead of time with four stone golem brothers. He had two clear goals. First, eradicate the seed of future trouble that was Xiahou Jing. Second, find the human empyrean master.
Truth be told, Jiang Chen loathed the latter even more than the former.
Xiahou Jing came from Myriad Abyss Island, a descendant of deserters from the ancient demons-sealing war. He had little attachment to the human domain, so his villainous conduct was at least understandable.
But the human master had been born and raised in the domain. Instead of using his power for his homeland when things came to a head, he'd secretly wrecked destruction instead. How could that be tolerated?
Jiang Chen had conducted deep investigations of the Order, but once inside its territory, he could still feel the great changes that Xiahou Jing had brought to the bunch of misfits in a few scant years.
With more time and stable foundations, he truly might have gone on to achieve great things.
On this day, Jiang Chen had slipped inside the Order via borrowing the identity of an Earth Fiend elder to observe the sect.
Thanks to his adept skills, he'd found an opportunity to kill an elder and take his place. An elder-in-waiting had low status and didn't know many secrets, so there were fewer chances for the young lord to blow his cover.
The Order had been gravely wounded, but Xiahou Jing was a master when it came to controlling his followers. Despite the crushing defeat, his position was as unassailable as ever.
Jiang Chen combed the sect as he made inquiries about the supreme lord. His borrowed identity made his activities inconspicuous, but also gave him few opportunities to approach his target without a direct summons, to say nothing of killing the sect leader.
The man truly is a wiley fox.
He had been on the lookout ever since slipping inside, but Xiahou Jing was still nowhere to be found. Thankfully, the young lord was in no hurry.
If Xiahou Jing hadn't left the human domain yet, he'd show himself sooner or later. More importantly, Veluriyam's army was already in motion, ready to march on the Order and assault its stronghold!
Let's see this supreme lord hide once the army arrives!
Sure enough, Veluriyam's main force crossed into Unbounded Mid Region two days later, heralding a great storm to come!
Back from the northwest, Shu Wanqing was currently in Xiahou Jing's secret chamber.
"Elder Shu, your trip was a great success. Veluriyam's gone mad! They've mobilized the bulk of their troops and bark about eradicating us. I fear nothing and no one, but our forces have suffered too much lately to prevail in a frontal clash. What do you think? Do you have a good plan to extract us from their siege?" Xiahou Jing was as fearless as they came, but the opponent this time was the greatest of threats.
Shu Wanqing spat, "That Jiang Chen punk is bold enough. The Embittered Savages will soon put the domain to fire and sword, but he's in the mood to deal with us?"
Of course he mentioned nothing about his ambush in the northwest, the one that'd caused all this trouble for Veluriyam.
"Daoist Shu, there's no sense dwelling on this question. Jiang Chen is a decisive man. He seems determined to destroy the Order before facing the Savages! Hmph, does he really think a brat of his caliber can subdue us?"
Xiahou Jing thought little of the young lord still. The kid was merely an upstart, not even worth a second look were it not for the golems.
Shu Wanqing's eyes lit up. "Supreme Lord, do you perhaps have a good plan in mind? Or an ace in the hole you haven't used yet? I'm looking forward to it now."
Xiahou Jing shook his head. "There's simply no need for a direct confrontation. We merely need to delay them for ten days to half a month. The Savages will do the rest!" He was a smart man with a keen grasp of the broader situation.