Jiang Chen relaxed at this moment instead. He stepped forward with leisure and changed the subject. “King Gunuo, you make it sound like you four chieftains don’t have the highest authority in your tribe?”
“The highest authority naturally belongs to Forefather Embittered Bamboo. All four villages obey him because he’s the master of the Temple, the center of our faith. He can communicate with our gods.”
“Communicate with your gods? Do you really believe that?” Jiang Chen smiled lazily. “Tell me about his cultivation.”
King Gunuo felt a bit awkward. “I don’t know exactly, but his cultivation is above us four chieftains. Some even suspect he’s sixth level empyrean realm!”
“Oh?” The young lord quirked an eyebrow. Such a master would be an existence to be reckoned with.
Even in the heavenly planes, this strength would result in a decent status. Once at greater empyrean level, a man of common birth could be bestowed a noble title, albeit a lesser one. Was the forefather this strong?
Surprised, Jiang Chen asked again, “Then why hasn’t he arrived yet?”
“I heard he’s busy with a human powerhouse who’s gone to our domain to cause trouble. The man even threatened the Temple’s safety, so the forefather can’t afford to take it lightly. The Temple is our holiest of holies. Our entire tribe’s fortune would suffer if anything were to happen to it.”
Jiang Chen tried to organize his thoughts.
“Forefather Embittered Bamboo, a human powerhouse…” His eyes lit up. “To think a human secluded expert would finally assume their responsibilities! I wonder who it is?”
That was highly unexpected. He’d stopped counting on human empyrean masters ever since meeting Shu Wanqing. Yet, one of them had gone to Savage territory to delay Forefather Bamboo and paralyze the Savage army’s march.
People in Veluriyam had hazarded many guesses, yet it seemed they’d been far from the mark.
Looking at the Savage king wilt where he laid, Jiang Chen asked with an easy smile, “Do you think your tribe is truly strong enough to conquer us?”
The older man closed his eyes, his voice heavy. “The victor is king. What else is there to say? If not for our barren lands and lack of resources, you humans would have nothing on us! You have such vast territory, yet you waste it in petty squabbles among yourselves. What wastes of existence you are! Why do we hardworking Savages have to toil on barren wastelands while you lazy pigs wallow in these fertile soils?” His tone bristled with frustration and injustice.
Jiang Chen laughed despite of himself. “Each race is bestowed its own lot. You don’t seem to recognize that. Such is destiny. Would your kin truly be so hard working without your difficult environment? With an easier life, are you certain your warriors wouldn’t become indolent pleasure-seekers?”
It was the honest truth.
Who would willingly live an ascetic life? The Savages’ nature had been shaped by the limits of their environment.
The king sighed softly. “No matter. Give me a clean death. I simply hope you will abide by your promise and spare my son.”
Whether human or Savage, a son was always an object of constant worry.
Jiang Chen smiled. “I’m not the bloodthirsty sort and have little to gain by killing you. I can actually spare you. Do you want to listen to my offer?”
His survival instincts stirred, the king’s eyes shot open. “What is it?”
“Have your village pledge allegiance to me. Not only will I spare you, I’ll even make you the supreme ruler of your tribe and help your race flourish.” He drew a perfect vision of the future for the older man to see.
Hesitation was writ large on the latter’s face.
The proposal was certainly tempting. The Savages had little qualms about both attacking or surrendering to the humans. Integrity or honor wasn’t high on their list of priorities. They were a pragmatic sort who’d always followed the profit. In this instance, survival.
After a moment of contemplation, King Gunuo looked at Jiang Chen with bright, piercing eyes. “Young lord, there’s only one question. What about the forefather? How will you cope with such a powerful existence?”
Become the ruler of the tribe? As long as the forefather lived, such talk was a simple joke. A sixth level empyrean master was a thorny issue.
Jiang Chen didn’t answer directly. Instead, he fired back another question with a subtle smile on his lips. “Isn’t that your problem to solve?”
King Gunuo blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I’m merely offering you a chance to live. Are you going to rely on me for everything? Even if I’m looking for a puppet, I’d rather have a capable one, don’t you think?” Jiang Chen responded lazily.
Since the king wanted to live and accomplish his ambitions, he should come up with a solution himself. Even if not, he ought to appear proactive at least. Otherwise, Jiang Chen might as well kill him right then and there
King Gunuo finally remember this wasn’t a negotiation between equals, but a choice between life and death. He became lost in thought. How to deal with the forefather?
The issue was a great taboo he wouldn’t even have dared to contemplate before. But other choice did he have now? Every man for himself, that was the rule of the martial dao world.
He seriously considered possible plans, before finally sighing. “Young lord, it’s impossible to quell him with force. According to my understanding of Veluriyam, you don’t have the power to either. But I might try the method you used against me.”
He’d come to admire the young man’s skills after unwittingly falling into his trap.
“Heh, that happens to be my idea as well. But you need to personally act as bait.” Jiang Chen smiled.
The stratagem had been effective against King Gunuo. The same trick might not work against the forefather, but things might turn out differently with the king as a double agent. An inside enemy was the most poisonous kind.
Looking at the emptiness below his knee, the king lamented, “How can I go back in this shape?”
“If I could pierce your knee, so I can heal you as well. You just decide whether you’re in or not,” Jiang Chen responded uncaringly.
King Gunuo clenched his teeth. “I’m a dead man if I’m not, but I might have a chance if I am. Is that really choice?”
He’d made his decision. I’ll do it!
Jiang Chen clapped with a chuckle, then glanced at the warriors behind the king. “What about your village? Can you guarantee they’ll follow you?”
The king replied. “Please be at ease. Everyone I’ve brought is trustworthy! I’ve personally nurtured all these warriors!”
“Very well. Let’s hear your oath then.”
Realizing his impasse, the king clenched his teeth. “I, the king of Gunuo, hereby swears my surrender to young lord Jiang Chen. I will be wholeheartedly loyal. I will do whatever he tells me to do. May celestial thunder strike me dead if I lie!”
“And your son?” Jiang Chen turned his gaze to Gu Tianqing.
The latter had no choice but to follow suit. “I, Gu Tianqing, follow my father in surrendering to young lord Jiang Chen. May the heavens smite me if I renege on my oath.”
Jiang Chen turned stern. “King Gunuo, not that I don’t believe you, but each of your men has to swear the same oath, or I won’t let them live.”
“Don’t worry, this I can promise you. Young lord, can you heal me now?” As a man who cared about his appearance, he didn’t want to go about without half a leg.
There were many miracle cures in the world, but it would inappropriate for Jiang Chen to leave him hanging, so he started the treatment at once. He had many elixirs at his disposal that could restore a man’s flesh and vitality. The king’s wound was naturally no exception.
After a moment, the man’s legs were roughly healed.
“Here’s the antidote. Suit yourself.” Jiang Chen handed it over to King Gunuo, releasing the latter’s experts from the Nine Labyrinth Formation at the same time.
The king embraced this crushing defeat wholeheartedly.
“Young lord, not that I want to haggle, but I hope you can provide me with enough resources. I promise to be loyal unto death once I sit on my tribe’s throne.”
Resource shortage was the reason for the Savages’ warlike nature. Plunder had been their only way of survival.
“Don’t worry about that. Of those truly loyal to me, I’ve never treated any of them unfairly!” Jiang Chen promised with a generous wave of the hand, setting the older man’s face alight with delight.
After detoxifying everyone, King Gunuo announced to his warriors, “Gentlemen, everyone is witness to today’s events. Humans easily routed our entire army with a simple stratagem. Devouring mankind? That’s nothing but a daydream! Our lands are barren and our numbers few. We’re destined not to be the continent’s main characters. But young lord Jiang Chen promised me that I’ll become our tribe’s sole ruler. Once I come into this supreme authority, you, my loyal companions, will also have your share. Just think of it! Are you willing to die in vain, or will you follow me on another glorious journey?”
His speech roused his warriors.
They had been ready to die for him to begin with, hence they immediately proclaimed, “We swear to follow the chieftain wherever he goes!”