Forefather Bamboo forcibly suppressed his temper. “You have us in the bag. What do you want, Jiang Chen? Speak plainly.”
“I can show mercy… with a few conditions, of course,” Jiang Chen rolled his words out slowly.
“What conditions? State them.” A ray of hope flashed across the forefather’s heart.
“The first is very easy. You will be my servant, Forefather Bamboo.”
Like a bolt of lightning, Jiang Chen’s words crashed into those who heard them.
“Are you crazy?” the forefather blurted out.
Jiang Chen’s smile grew only wider. “So you’d rather die? Alright, that’s the end of our discussion then. I hadn’t planned for diplomacy from the start anyways.” His face darkened after dropping this.
The forefather had wanted to bargain with Jiang Chen, but the human’s lack of reception and contrarian demeanor revealed someone more experienced than even the forefather.
“Hold on!” The Savage’s heart sank when he saw Jiang Chen pull out his Holy Dragon Bow once more. The young man looked ready to strike at any moment.
Jiang Chen sneered. “I see no reason to delay the proceedings. You should be more aware of your status as the loser of the conflict! Do you think dilly-dallying here will somehow change the outcome?”
“Is there no more room for discussion?” Forefather Bamboo sounded forlorn.
“Sure. I’ll make an exception and tell you something extra. If you follow me, you may hope to break through to great empyrean realm in your lifetime. Otherwise, you’ll finish at mid empyrean at most.” His tone was even-handed, but the content of his words shook the forefather to his core.
“You? You can do that?”
Jiang Chen smiled faintly. “You can choose whether or not to believe me, but you have no other choice either way.”
Forefather Bamboo heaved a long sigh. “I’ll ask the others.”
“No need. I have no interest in the other three tribes. I will let King Gunuo decide their fates. If the king wants them to live, they may live. Otherwise, they will die when he says so.”
King Gunuo’s eyes lit up when he heard this. Jiang Chen was giving him a lot of face. His choice had been worth it! The king had been worried about the possibility of the young man reneging, but that no longer appeared to be the case.
The three other villages’ leaders colored one by one. “Forefather Bamboo,” they pled, “we will surely die in King Gunuo’s hands.”
The forefather looked at Jiang Chen dismally. “Must it be like this?”
“I promised King Gunuo that I would place him in a position of leadership. I keep my promises, so you should appeal to King Gunuo instead.”
King Flowerback suddenly stepped forward, his face blanching as he bowed deeply to King Gunuo. “King Gunuo, I was stupid before for arguing with you. Please, allow us to live and we will ensure your position as the ruler. The ancestral temple will be yours.”
There had been enmity between Flowerback and Gunuo from before.
King Gunuo snickered. “I can let the others live, but you are too wily and cunning, King Flowerback. I can’t keep you around!”
With this, he slammed his palm into King Flowerback’s chest.
Because he was poisoned, Flowerback had only a tenth of his cultivation left. He was no match for the healthy King Gunuo. The palm hit him squarely where it landed.
King Flowerback flew backwards like a broken kite. King Gunuo strode forward and stomped his foot on his fallen peer’s face.
“If you hadn’t suggested that we divide our forces, none of this would have happened! You pretend to be clever, but you’re nothing more than a fool in the end!” Gunuo applied tremendous force on his leading foot.
King Flowerback’s head burst open like a watermelon.
The other two village chieftains were white as ghosts at Gunuo’s display of might.
King Yuanqiang squeezed out an ugly smile. “King Gunuo, I didn’t make things worse when you were quarreling with King Flowerback. I mediated the best I could. You…”
King Gunuo nodded nonchalantly. “If you had openly supported me, I would treat you as a close friend now. Unfortunately, you only tried to reconcile us. I can let you and your tribe live, but you must pledge your loyalty to me as the emperor of the Embittered Savages. The ancestral temple and head shaman will both be mine.”
“Of course, of course! You’re so talented, King Gunuo. It’s our tribe’s greatest fortune for you to grasp the ancestral temple. I believe that you will do even better than Forefather Bamboo one day.” King Yuanqiang sang Gunuo’s praises.
To the side, King Greenplume let out a sigh of relief. “We have no grudge, King Gunuo, right? I see no reason for us to fight to the bitter end.”
“Same thing. Pledge your loyalty to me and you will live,” King Gunuo replied coolly.
“Not a problem.” King Greenplume was very straightforward. Savages were unfettered by courtesies and social mores. As a result, they tended to be a rather fairweather bunch. Surrender wasn’t an issue provided things looked hopeless enough.
There wasn’t much of a difference between Forefather Embittered Bamboo and King Gunuo at the ancestral temple’s helm. In fact, they were a bit closer to the latter due to past relations.
Looking with indifference at King Greenplume and Yuanqiang, Gunuo continued smoothly. “If you pledge your loyalties to me, you must listen to my every order.”
“Of course.” The two other kings nodded.
“Very good. Swear your oaths. Your entire village must swear with you: I will consider leaving even one man as out a gesture of insincerity.” Now that he had a lot more authority in his hands, King Gunuo was soaring with pleasure. He was on top of the world! The mere thought of it gave him a rush.
This was his highest point as King Gunuo. He was now the forefather of the ancestral temple, ruler of the Embittered Savages.
Jiang Chen saw little reason to participate. His delegation followed an implicit trust that King Gunuo would be able to perform his duties to the best of his ability. If that turned out not to be the case, he could intervene afterwards.
“I must admit, Jiang Chen… you humans aren’t very good at martial dao, but your plotting and stratagems are admirable in their own right. Without internal conflict in the Embittered Savages, Veluriyam Capital wouldn’t have won nearly so easily.” Clearly, Forefather Bamboo wasn’t quite persuaded of his defeat.
Jiang Chen was quite dismissive of this conclusion. “War is deceit,” he smiled serenely. “The Embittered Savages have existed for countless years since the ancient times. How come you haven’t learned even that much?”
The forefather could only sigh in response. The logic was simple: the winner had the privilege of writing history.
“Embittered Bamboo, you must accept my brand upon your consciousness as my servant. Only then can I ensure your continued subservience.” Jiang Chen cut to the chase.
The forefather had no other choice. He knew that accepting said brand meant that Jiang Chen would have the power to decide his life and death in the span of a thought. If the young lord wanted to exterminate him, a small movement of the consciousness would destroy him utterly.
In the world of martial dao, these brands were very popular in their use to control others.
A powerful consciousness entered Forefather Bamboo’s mind. The brand was intensely personal, like a large protruding nail.
The forefather shivered; he sensed a powerful will taking root in his own.
“Such a powerful consciousness!” He could feel how vast Jiang Chen’s own was through the link in his consciousness ocean. It was actually quite shocking.
Jiang Chen was only half-step great emperor, but his consciousness ocean was like an infinite sea, surging with untapped potential.
Forefather Bamboo resigned himself to his fate. This restriction upon him meant that he had no recourse to turn the tables any more. It was doubtful that Jiang Chen’s consciousness would miss any disrespectful or dangerous thoughts, regardless of how fleeting they were.
“Sacred Beast, you’ve been dragged into this as well.” Forefather Bamboo caressed the spirit creature rather lovingly. “I found it as a cub on a hunt,” he introduced. “I didn’t expect it to grow up so well. Young lord Jiang Chen, will you let it come with me?”
“Feel free.” Jiang Chen wasn’t much worried.
The forefather himself had been defeated; there wasn’t much to be concerned about with a single spirit creature.
On the other hand, it seemed King Gunuo had nearly finished his organizational efforts.
“Young lord, everything is almost done. Aside from a scant few from Flowerback Village, the others have all sworn absolute loyalty to me.” King Gunuo was very excited – though not too much so, given that Jiang Chen had been the fundamental reason for his multiple successes.
“You have a good eye for the bigger picture,” Jiang Chen smiled. “It’s good for you to lead the Embittered Savages. It was wise to have helped you into your position of leadership.”
“All you, young lord,” King Gunuo replied humbly. “And the power of the Soulless Powder of Wind and Cloud too, of course.”
“Alright. I leave the rest to you. You have half a month to get every Savage alive out of the human domain. Any that remain will be put to the sword!”
“Yes, I guarantee it!” A fortnight was more than enough time.
“Remember to work hard. You will be paid according to your efforts, rest assured.” Jiang Chen wasn’t going to openly declare their covert relationship. Instead, he pricked King Gunuo with both insinuation and reward.
Forefather Bamboo glanced at the king from the side. “I forgot to congratulate you, King Gunuo,” he declared emotionlessly.
King Gunuo was a bit embarrassed. “Embittered Bamboo,” he harrumphed, “you shouldn’t feel wronged by this conclusion. What did you do as leader of the ancestral temple? Aside from flinging out tyrannical orders, what else did you do for your people? If you had been just a tiny bit wiser, do you think I would be here today?”