"This is an order of the utmost importance. Hearken to me, Order executives. I have important news to announce. All executives at headquarters must report immediately."
After the heavy losses in the last battle, only thirty percent of its original strength remained. The ranks of the eight Protector Kings, thirty-six Celestial Stars, and seventy-two Earthly Fiends had been measurably thinned.
Disguised among the Earthly Fiends, Jiang Chen was both excited and a bit expectant.
He had even split up with the four stone golem brothers. After some cosmetic efforts on his part, the brothers were hiding elsewhere in the Order's headquarters. Only executives were allowed to attend a meeting of this nature, which meant that any followers were expressly barred.
Jiang Chen sat in his spot, completely silent and introspective. He didn't make any small talk with the other Earthly Fiends.
Thankfully, there was enough pressure in the air to justify this. None of the executives dared display much excitement, lest the supreme lord be angered.
Jiang Chen observed the supreme lord with a sidelong glance. There was an old man near him with an oddly familiar aura.
I knew it. This so-called human hermit expert is in cahoots with the Order. Why is it so attractive to him? How can a human expert deign to align himself with such an ignoble faction?
Xiahou Jing's eyes swept sternly across the congregation. "Everyone, Veluriyam Capital has overstepped its bounds. Its announcement of a campaign against us is living proof that it doesn't know what's good for itself, especially at this juncture. It's heaven's will that that city be destroyed. If you have any ideas to deploy against the enemy, feel free to speak your mind."
Emperor Everviolet was the first to speak. "Supreme Lord, Veluriyam is at the apex of its power. I think we should take a more measured approach rather than facing them head on."
"But how?" Everyone knew that, but was uncertain about how exactly it could be done.
"The key to Veluriyam lies with Jiang Chen. If that kid can be taken out, its army will crumble without a fight. The members of that rag-tag coalition will be virtually useless, and no one will be able to stop your plans of unifying the human race."
At the end of the day, getting rid of Jiang Chen was top priority. However, this was also the most difficult thing to do. In the attack on Veluriyam last time, a perfect plan and opportunity had been squandered by a single mishap.
Jiang Chen waited in complete silence. It's almost time.
In the midst of his thoughts, the chair under him shook violently, with the entire hall following soon thereafter.
"What?!" This tumultuous quake caused most to shoot to their feet in shock.
"Has Veluriyam Capital attacked?"
"Impossible! There's no way its army is this quick!"
The executives' unsettled moods were worsened when the Order's headquarters was wracked by another series of explosive sounds. Those were followed by screams and cries from all over.
The shaking beneath their feet intensified.
Not good! The supreme lord paled. A frightening suspicion had dawned as to what was happening. Someone was destroying the headquarters' foundations!
How would the complex remain intact if its foundations were upended?
Boom, boom, boom!
Thunderous bangs echoed, each louder and more terrifying than the last. The same was true with the floor's shaking.
Xiahou Jing himself could barely sit still. Even if they could relocate elsewhere, this would still be a tremendous blow to the Order.
"Shockcloud, go with a few others to scout things out!" he commanded.
Everviolet saluted with cupped fist and picked a few men. "Come with me, you lot."
Jiang Chen snickered to himself when he saw the great emperor's group leave. A mere handful like that was just cake for the stone golem brothers. He showed no outward signs of doing so, but showered praise upon the brothers in his heart.
When the Order's fortress was besieged from the inside, its members would definitely panic. Once that happened, opportunities were sure to arise. Actually, Jiang Chen had an impulse to act immediately.
However, too many experts of the Order remained for him to move on instinct. It was better to wait a bit more. He had to repress his urges before the ideal window arose.
From the supreme lord all the way down to ordinary elders-in-waiting, every person of the Order had sobriety written on their faces. Their eyes radiated anxiety.
This completely unpredicted shaking had applied even more pressure on an already stressed Order. The atmosphere became even drier. The smallest spark could cause the whole place to burst into flame.
Everyone awaiting Everviolet's report was greeted by the return sight of a disheveled great emperor charging in recklessly. He gasped out in horror. "Supreme Lord, this is terrible… terrible… Jiang Chen, he…"
"Jiang Chen's here?" Xiahou Jing tensed.
"N-no… Jiang Chen's giants… that kid, he hasn't shown himself. His golems are destroying the foundations!" Everviolet's bedraggled appearance struck everyone with a flash of unease.
The disruption in the great emperor's typically dauntless behavior meant that the situation must be extremely bad.
"That scoundrel Jiang Chen is vicious indeed!"
The Order headquarters in Unbounded Mid Region wasn't a long-term solution. However, a new location hadn't yet been decided upon. This meant that the headquarters couldn't be allowed to fall just yet.
"Xiahou Jing, you are a cowardly turtle. The young lord says that you hiding in your shell is fine. He's not interested in poking you. But your low ways make the young lord very angry. There will be very serious consequences!"
"Veluriyam Capital will think you're brave if you attack the Embittered Savages because you hate them. But you ambush their prince and direct the problem to Veluriyam. You deserve to die!" The stone golem brothers' voices were uniformly coarse, but was incredibly penetrating with a magnetic quality to them. They didn't have the linguistic intelligence to say all of that, but Jiang Chen had taught them what to recite beforehand.
Xiahou Jing's eyes flared. Jiang Chen has gone too far!
"Daoist Shu…" he glanced toward Shu Wanqing.
The old empyrean expert was perfectly calm. "Supreme Lord, have you thought of this? If Jiang Chen's golems are here in the Order's headquarters, where could that kid be? If you head over now, you may be walking into a trap." Shu Wanqing was wise enough to convince Xiahou Jing with his advice.
"Daoist Shu, what do you think we should do now?" The young man from Myriad Abyss Island mused.
"If we'd been planning to move elsewhere in the first place, this place being trashed would be of no consequence. However, if we show our lack of preparation in the face of Jiang Chen's attack… you should know better than I what the consequences will be, hmm?" Shu Wanqing's age contributed to a wealth of experience.
It was quite possible that if taken unawares by Jiang Chen, the Order would instantly shatter.
There was more news from the foot of the mountain at this time.
"Supreme lord, Veluriyam Capital's army is three hundred miles from here. The city's young lord, Jiang Chen, has sent a message."
"What?!" Xiahou Jing was greatly upset.
"Veluriyam's people say that they're not interested in old grudges today. They only want the criminal responsible for ambushing the Embittered Savages and pinning it on them. And..."
The messenger glanced at Shu Wanqing fearfully, mumbling in his unwillingness to continue.
"It's fine. Say what you have to say," Shu Wanqing commented coolly.
"Go ahead. Daoist Shu is an understanding and straightforward man."
The messenger nodded and worked up some courage. "Veluriyam knows that the one responsible for the strike e isn't someone of the Order. Rather, it's Senior Shu here. Your name isn't known to them, senior, only the fact that you are a human secluded expert."
"What else?" Xiahou Jing pressed.
"Jiang Chen says that as long as we give up the culprit, he will depart immediately. He promises not to account for our past crimes!"
The messenger didn't dare look at Shu Wanqing as he said this.
Shu Wanqing cackled malevolently. "What a weak and despicable attempt to sow distrust. If you think me extraneous, Supreme Lord, I shall leave now. That is perfectly acceptable."
Clearly, he was more than confident in his own abilities to not care about Veluriyam's hunt.
"Despicable indeed," Xiahou Jing sighed. "How could our relationship be so easily broken? Come. If Veluriyam's men are here, how can I leave them alone? I must respond with a present in kind, no?"
Having said this, the supreme lord grinned strangely. "Protector King Gentlewind, bring forth those people that I told you to capture!"
"Yes, Supreme Lord."
It didn't take long for Gentlewind to return with prisoners in tow. They were none other than Ye Chonglou from Skylaurel Kingdom's Precious Tree Sect, Tang Hong, and the rest.
"Daoist Shu, these people are all old acquaintances of Jiang Chen. If we sacrifice them on the field of battle, how do you think that kid will react?" Xiahou Jing sneered evilly.
"Contemptible knaves!" Though Tang Hong was bound, he was free to curse. "You villainous devils. You can't beat Jiang Chen, so you're resorting to these underhanded methods to give yourself an upper hand. Even if I have to commit suicide, I won't let you use me as hostage against my senior brother!"
Ye Chonglou was thoroughly morose. Regret suffused his heart. "This is all my fault. If I'd withdrawn a bit earlier, we wouldn't have been captured in the first place. Now, we're being used as tools against Jiang Chen. Ah…"