Ever since the demise of the country, the Land of Dreams had become a hotspot for tourism and commerce. Why? Conveniently, the now rebuilt country was located in the middle of all three superpowers, and the allure of Spirit Immortal Dream’s legacy easily captivated millions who made the pilgrimage here.
Depending on who you asked, Spirit Immortal Dream was a legend or a monster. On one hand, she was the most prodigious Spirit User the world had ever seen. Discovering Aether, advancing technology by hundreds of years and even making a name for all mind-elemental cultivators out there. However, the ethereal woman was also responsible for the worst genocide in living memory. For reasons still unknown to man, she wiped out her entire country in less than a fraction of a second.
Love her or hate her, everyone could admit that the Spirit Immortal was an integral part of history, and till this day, there are thousands of wannabe detectives trying to unravel the mystery that was Spirit Immortal Dream.
After dropping off Madam Warulee at the Premier’s house, the carriage continued on moving west until a humongous red Shinto gate was seen. Opening the door, the trio could have a good look at the path which led deep into the field before them. Vendors were outside selling souvenirs in shops, and hundreds of tourists were browsing through their merchandise. At the foot of the Shinto gates, two white ticket stands were selling entrance permits, while the path towards the historical landmark was blocked by dozens of gentries and armed Spirit Users.
Even though Shin couldn’t tell the cultivation levels of the guards, just by their intimidating presence and distinct battle scars, he could tell that they were trained professionals that would maul anyone who dared to break the rules of the landmark.
“Shin, I’ll buy us the tickets. You go wait at the entrance. Isadore, come with me.” Elrin hopped off the carriage and casually sauntered towards the ticket stands. Evidently, she wasn’t overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the tourist hotspot.
Taking in a deep breath, the youth walked cautiously towards the large Shinto gate. ‘So this was where a Spirit Immortal once resided…’
He attempted to go within one metre of the gentry to get a closer look but was stopped by the glare of a burly guard. There was no need for words. If he tried to jump the barrier, Shin had no doubt that his head would roll. Thus, he stepped back and observed the golden plaque at the top of the Shinto gate.
“No touching any items that are labelled. Listen to the guards at all times. Do not break anything in the heritage site…” Mumbling out all of the regulations that were written on the plaque, a wry smile crept up Shin’s face. “Those rules are quite straightforward… I wonder how many idiots actually tried to break them?”
Spirit Immortal Dream was a legend, and it goes without saying that many idolised her. Stealing some of the items in the place that she had once resided in would be an allure that was hard to resist. While Shin thought about the fools who tried to overstep their boundaries, a young girl handed out a small pamphlet containing information about the heritage site to him.
‘Spirit Immortal Dream was researcher through and through. After founding her country, she left all mortal matters behind and focused solely on her projects in her personal laboratory. Never leaving even for parties thrown in her honour, the Spirit Immortal stayed in this location for the remainder of her life. Some say that her cultivation had brought a cluster of mind-elements into the personal laboratory, making it a special haven for all mind-elemental cultivators…’ Shin read the details in the pamphlet in his mind.
‘Perhaps it would be beneficial for Kanari to come and cultivate here for a while…’ Shin thought about his good friend that possessed the ability to control three elements. Places where mind elements thrived, were a rarity not just in the Himmel Empire, but the entire continent as a whole.
‘The heritage site had been preserved and rebuilt to imitate how Spirit Immortal Dream lived in her heyday. From her favourite spot under a shady tree to her bedroom that contained the bare amount of living materials.’ After reading through the brochure, Shin closed his eyes as his desire to learn more about the enigmatic Spirit Immortal intensified.
“Urghhh, why did you have to follow me?”
“Bwahahaha! Why are you so cruel? I too wish to see the relics left behind by Spirit Immortal Dream.”
While the youth was deep in thought, a bellowing laugh broke his concentration. Turning around, the teen saw a middle-aged couple, walking straight towards the Shinto gate with their tickets in hand. The woman was rubbing her wrinkled forehead while trying her best from exploding out in anger. Even though she was wearing modest clothes, one could tell that she boasted a spectacular figure unlike many females her age.
Standing next to her, a goliath of a man beamed in delight. Over two metres tall, the man was undoubtedly one of the most striking men in the vicinity. Dressed in an airy robe that showed a significant amount of his tanned skin, the man fully epitomised the image of a tourist enjoying his vacation to the fullest. Of course, there was one oddity with his choice of clothing.
‘Why is he wearing an eyepatch?’ Shin wondered.
A huge black cloth covered his left eye, making him more distinct from the crowd than ever before. Shin assumed that the man wished to hide whatever happened to the left side of its face but instead, it drew curious eyes more than ever before.
“Just shut it… Don’t stay too close to me inside. I don’t want others to think that we’re an item.”
“You’re too cruel!” The burly man faked his tears at the venomous words of his partner. “You toyed with my heart, and that’s what I get in return?”
“Shut it, St-… Steve! Stop disturbing the public!” The woman chided the man.
Naturally, the couple that Shin was observing were precisely the famed mercenaries that the Black Masks had hired. Entering into the Main Hub, Star Face and Cyphia had to play the role of a couple spending some vacationing time. They weren’t the most covert of people, but their jobs in the Main Hub was quite simple. Liaison with some of their friends and listen to the whispers of the night. However, that, in turn, brought out some new problems.
If the two of them stayed in their rooms all day and only moved at night, it would raise a little suspicion from the intelligence agency that was continually monitoring the citizens in the hub. Therefore, they had to act like they were a real couple that was thoroughly enjoying their vacation.
“Hehe, don’t be shy! We’re here to enjoy ourselves! Come, let’s see what the famed Spirit Immortal Dream has in store for us!” Putting his muscular arm around Cyphia’s shoulders, Star Face dragged the poor woman straight to the gentry, much to her reluctance to be touched.
“Ah, pardon me.” Unaware of the black-haired youth that stood before him, the tall man accidentally bumped into Shin while he was dragging his partner along.
“No, it’s fine…” Shin shook his head as he examined the colossal man before him. Unlike the guards that stood in front of the gate, the man’s presence was much more amiable, and he seemed to be an approachable dude. However, the moment Shin made contact with the man, he could tell that his friendly demeanour was just a front.
‘A Spirit Adept perhaps?’ Shin theorised. Although he wasn’t perfect at judging a person’s cultivation level, he could roughly guess how powerful the eyepatch-wearing man was. ‘As expected, this place is like another Capital! Hordes of crouching tigers, hidden dragons everywhere!’
“Excuse me.” Lightly bowing his head down, the burly man continued to drag his unwilling partner pass the gentry and into the heritage site to sightsee.
“Shin! We’ve got the tickets! I’d even got a discount!” At that moment, Elrin happily skipped towards the stunned youth. Behind her, Isadore was rubbing his head in agony after witnessing the white-haired girl’s amazing bartering skills. Getting three tickets for the price of two, Elrin fully showcased her merchant blood.
“Wow, that’s great!” Shin praised the girl while taking hold of his ticket. “However, we should get going… We have to be back at the Premier’s office in three hours.”
“Hmph! You’re such a spoilsport! Fine, let’s enter!”
After lightly protesting a bit, Elrin smiled and continued on into the gentry. Showing off their tickets, the youths entered the area without any issues and had complete freedom of where they wished to go. Even though the heritage site provided paid tours, they were often very restrictive, making it impossible for them to leave on time. Thus, the trio had to figure out the place all on their own.
“I think that we only have time for a few locations so let’s go to the most interesting ones first!” Elrin suggested. “Here, we should go see the personal laboratory! I’ve heard many good things about it! Furthermore, it contains the remnant words that Spirit Immortal Dream had left behind.”
“The Mystery of the Dream right…” Isadore frowned. “Yeah, I too want to see those two words.”
“What are you talking about?” Of the three, only Shin wasn’t informed of the legendary words that stumped historians for ages.
“Oh, you don’t know?” The white-haired girl tilted her head. “They are perhaps the most famous words in the entire world though… Nevermind, you’ll see it when we get there!”
Taking hold of Shin and Isadore’s hands, Elrin dragged the two straight towards the heart of the area, where the Spirit Immortal Dream’s personal laboratory was. While they were exploring the path, Shin carefully observed his surroundings. If the site had been preserved and replicated in the same state as it was five centuries ago, the flora, the architecture and the intricate details were all things that Spirit Immortal Dream greatly admired.
With all those details in mind, Shin could infer what kind of person Spirit Immortal Dream truly was. As the old adage goes, to honestly know a person, look to their surroundings. Simplistic in nature, but bold in execution. That was the common theme that Shin had gotten from the well-preserved heritage site. All of a sudden, Shin felt himself being pulled deeper and deeper into the enigma that was Spirit Immortal Dream.
It didn’t take long for the trio to reach their first destination. Thankfully, the day was still early, and there were very little tourists queuing up to enter the famed laboratory. After fifteen minutes, the three youths finally managed to step foot into the well-lit room. Damp and humid, a jaded aroma filled the noses of Shin and his friends.
The chambers were vast with dozens of workbenches all tightly packed next to one another. Although the contents of the room had been emptied out, Shin could imagine towers of paperwork and experimental flasks littered all over the abandoned workshop. In some sense, Shin was placing Spirit Immortal Dream on the same level as his Master. Cultivators who were obsessed with chasing the arcane arts and unravelling the mysteries of the world, Lady Seph and Spirit Immortal Dream were two peas in a pod.
Walking through the designated pathway, the trio made sure not to overstep their boundaries lest a guard came to ‘escort’ them out. When they first entered the ancient laboratory, they were overwhelmed by the historical significance of the place. However, as time flew by, Shin and the rest started to get bored of seeing the same things over and over again.
“Couldn’t they at least showed some of the research papers that Spirit Immortal Dream was working on?” Elrin complained. “It’s all empty! I don’t want to see emptied tables!”
“What can we do… Spirit Immortal Dream ascended five centuries ago. Any relics that she left behind had all been stored safely or sold to the highest bidder.” The silver-haired boy walking next to Elrin explained. Still, Isadore was as disappointed as she was. “I guess we can just get our money’s worth from looking at her final words.”
“You two had been talking about the two words for quite some time… Could you at least give me a little backstory?” Shin frowned and protested. He didn’t like to be the only one kept in the dark.
“Haha, you’re right…” Isadore giggled and slowed his footsteps. Matching his pace, Shin and Elrin opened up their ears to listen to the silver-haired boy’s explanation. “Shin, are you familiar with what Spirit Immortal Dream was researching on? Her lifelong goal?”
Shin was stunned at the sudden question. He knew that the woman was a researcher that studied multiple disciplines. Spirit Immortal Dream discovered aether, brought the world into a new technological age and even founded her own country. However, those accomplishments were not her ultimate goals. “If I were to guess… Maybe finding out a way to ascend to the Immortal Realm without entering Rank 100?”
“That’s right! She was researching the way to immortality without breaking through Rank 100. Based on her theory, once someone enters the Immortal Realm, there would be no turning back. That’s why there had been no contact from the Spirit Immortals that ascended. Hence, Spirit Immortal Dream’s lifelong goal was to find a passageway towards the Immortal Realm, so that commoners would have a chance to ascend as well.” Isadore happily explained. “However, the concept was too incomprehensible that even she wasn’t able to crack the code. She did, however, leave behind her laboratory which housed the last two words she carved before ascending.”
“You can’t mean…” Finally understanding where Isadore was coming from, Shin widened his eyes in horror. Just on cue, the trio finally arrived at the final destination of the laboratory. The true place that all pilgrims journeyed to see.
On one wall, Shin could see a gorgeous painting that depicted an eternal beauty, with silky white hair that flowed to her back and crystal white eyes that made her seem ghostly. Her icy expression gave her an air of aloofness and superiority that was commonly seen in members of High Society, while the diamond tiara on her small head made anyone who dared to look at it directly, fall into a state of eternal slumber.
“Exactly!” Isadore felt his blood pumping as he looked at the adjacent wall. On it, two words which had been carved with extreme finesse graced all who witnessed it. “The two words that Spirit Immortal Dream had left behind may give the key to cracking the eternal code. Commonly known as the Mystery of the Dream, should one decipher this mysterious code, they would be one step closer to immortality!”
At this point, even Shin could stop his heart from palpitating rapidly. He too wished to ascend into the Immortal Realm, in search of Yggdrasil. Taking one step closer, Shin widened his eyes, not wanting to miss a single letter on the wall in front of him. His pulse increased as a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. Finally, after gathering his bearings for a bit, the youth decisively read out the two letters on the wall.