His eyes as sharp as an eagle's, King Gunuo swept his consciousness through his warriors while Jiang Chen deployed the God's Eye and the Evil Golden Eye. With the young lord's keen and penetrating insight, he could see clear as day who was genuine through and through, and who had second thoughts.
Most warriors were fiercely loyal to King Gunuo, ready to follow him without so much as a blink or a thought. But there was a suspicious glint in the eyes of some. No matter how faint, it didn't escape Jiang Chen. His consciousness immediately locked onto these people.
"Since you're following me, you have to swear an oath," the Gunuo king remarked faintly. "Whether we succeed or fail, your lives and that of your families will be on the line. Everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions."
"Right, we need to swear!"
"What if some bastard betrays the chieftain?" They cooperated willingly, each swearing the oath each in turn.
King Gunuo looked at Jiang Chen, "Young lord, does that satisfy you?"
The young man responded with a mental transmission. "Those over there are suspicious. They will stab us in the back."
King Gunuo's heart sank. These happened to be the ones he wasn't especially certain of either. In fact, he'd planned on secretly dealing with them afterwards. So he responded, "Don't worry. I already had my eyes on them. I'll find an opportunity to remove them in the future."
"No need, I can do it."
With a series of finger motions, two Confounding Puppets floated down into the crowd like ghosts. None of the suspicious warriors were empyrean realm. Thus, they could mount very little resistance as the puppets tossed them out.
A frightened hush fell upon the Gunuo warriors.
"Don't worry, everyone. This young master is proficient in heart-reading. To me, their thoughts are clear as day. These fellows are wretches who'll betray you for no apparent reason. I'll dispose of them for you."
Of course, Jiang Chen couldn't truly read a man's heart.
Even so, his judgement was keen enough with the help of his eye arts. In any case, his words induced the desired deterrence. These fellows certainly harbored hidden thoughts.
"King Gunuo, I've done my part. Everything's in your hands now."
The latter nodded. "Right, let's meet again outside Veluriyam. Forefather Bamboo will be there and I'll find an opportunity to release the poison."
"Not bad, but don't be overeager. It'd be a disaster for your village if you exposed your intentions. That being said, your village will be an ally to the humans as long as you carry out this mission. There will no longer be the Embittered Savage Tribe in the future, only the Gunuo Village and the Gunuo Tribe. How does it sound?"
King Gunuo flushed with excitement. "Then I'll be relying on you, young lord."
Jiang Chen beckoned to Gu Tianqing. "You're King Gunuo's precious son, so you have to do your part as well. Eat this pill as a token of your sincerity. There won't be any problems in the short term. I'll give you the antidote once things are settled."
Truth be told, Gu Tianqing was far above Jiang Chen in cultivation.
But in the here and now, he acted with extreme deference. Though embarrassed, he didn't dare disobey. He walked up without hesitation and swallowed the pill in a smooth movement.
"Very good!" Jiang Chen clapped. "The Heavenly Dragon Sect lies ahead. I'll turn a blind eye to whatever you do there. But you'd better be more restrained once in Ninesuns Sky Sect territory. You can make a few token lootings, but don't act in earnest. The sect is currently Veluriyam's ally, I won't allow any presumptuousness."
"Yes, yes of course." King Gunuo's worries eased when he saw how the young lord valued his friends. An alliance with him might be a dangerous deal with the devil, and the young man was an unfathomable mystery; but he didn't look to be a backstabber.
Perhaps cooperating was him really was an opportunity for his village to soar to new heights.
Jiang Chen smiled mildly. "I wish you success. We'll meet again in Veluriyam."
King Gunuo acquiesced like a good sycophant, heaving a sigh of relief only after the young man's figure vanished in a blur of light. He flopped back on the limestone, completely dazed. He wanted to cry after today's bitter experience, but tears weren't forthcoming.
How had things ended up this way?
The outcome wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't one he'd have wished for.
"Chieftain, don't feel sad. We Savages have always gone where our interests lie. Since we can't defeat the humans, what does it matter if we have to lower our heads for now?" Gu Qi consoled.
King Gunuo heaved a drawn-out sigh. "Gu Qi, I don't want to betray the forefather, but… I have to think of our village. It will fall if I die here. Those left back home won't be able to resist the other three's greed."
Gu Qi nodded. "Chieftain, survival has always been our first priority. The other villages would certainly have made the same choice. It's our tribe's philosophy."
His eyes gentle yet apologetic, King Gunuo glanced at Gu Tianqing. "My son, I've let you down this time."
The latter hurried to reply, "Father, like Gu Qi said, it might not be a bad outcome for us. I've already suffered several losses at Jiang Chen's hands. This kid is as hard to fathom as the devil. As the humans say, fortune seems to favor him. He will be mankind's leader. With such a brilliant man at their helm, the humans will be united as never before, so the odds would've been stacked against us in any case."
"You mean, since we can't beat him, we might as well join him?"
"Exactly. If we'd been completely wiped out, the other villages would have swallowed our families and clansmen. They'd have made the men their war slaves and taken the women for their pleasure, leaving them no hope of a better tomorrow."
Such was the cruel life among the Savages.
The strong rose to the top. The weak was disregarded, or, if cast down from great heights like the Gunuo Village, were doomed to a bitter fate.
King Gunuo's face brimmed with resolve. "A great man has to be ruthless. We've never been at peace with the other villages. As to Forefather Bamboo, apart from setting us endless missions, what consideration has ever he shown us? We need only be loyal to our bloodline and our village's legacy. The temple is our tribe's supreme totem, but who's to say I can't become the temple's head shaman?"
Jiang Chen had roused his ambitions. He'd been moved by the future the young man painted. If he could seize the entire tribe, why would he fear becoming Jiang Chen's subordinate?
He would be far away in Savage territory in any case, Jiang Chen would be a distant emperor high up in the mountains, making him a nominal sovereign that the king wouldn't need to worry about.
Not to mention, they would be allies. He could gain many benefits from the young man, an important point for him. Why had the Savages gone to the trouble of invading the humans? Wasn't it for resources?
So why should he keep fighting when surrender worked just as well? Savage warriors were ferocious, but their numbers simply paled compared to the human race. Pitting resources or lives against them would be suicide. They could only rob and plunder like bandits.
"Alright, everyone, keep it to yourselves. If we're successful, every one of you here today will know riches beyond your wildest imagination! The Heavenly Dragon Sect is ahead of us, so let's loot our fill!" His intense gaze landed on the sect's lands.
The sect had chosen to oppose Jiang Chen, so the young lord would never shield them.
Wellspring and the others were stupefied by the young lord's return. Why was he back so soon?
"Young lord, was the plan successful?" Wellspring couldn't resist asking.
Jiang Chen smiled mysteriously. "More than that. We might solve the Savage issue in one fell swoop."
"Oh?" The great emperors looked at each other in confusion.
Jiang Chen rarely hid the truth from those he trusted, so he roughly explained the situation.
Wellspring sighed with praise. "The young lord's strategies are endless. To be your enemy is truly a foolish move."
Peerless laughed. "I hope King Gunuo will be smart enough not to be found out by that Forefather Something."
Jiang Chen had no control over that particular outcome, He couldn't be blamed even in case of failure. His own side was strong enough to face the Savage army in any case.
After handing over pursuit of the human to the experts staying behind and settling the rest of the tribe's affairs, Forefather Embittered Bamboo brought the Holy Beast with him to the human domain.
On this day, he arrived in the Moon God Sect and met the garrison stationed there.
"What? The four great villages left several days ago?" He frowned tightly. Why had they acted on their own without his express command?
Anger swelled in his chest.
"Forefather, the chieftains left us to report that they've left to surround Veluriyam in advance, but won't fight without your esteemed presence to direct them."
The words somewhat appeased the forefather's ire.
"Hmph, what an impudent bunch." Since he couldn't delay any further, he rushed towards Veluriyam with the Holy Beast.