Book 6: Foundations For The Future || Chapter 2: A Fresh Start (2)

Kori Federation. A Certain Temple Obscured In The Woods.

Himmel, Kori, and Lantis. These were the names of the three superpowers that kept the world in check. After aeons of constant strife, it was decided that the remaining powers banded together to form their own alliances, and to keep the peace, all three of the superpowers signed a peace treaty to never ignite a world war ever again.

Countless bodies were slain during each war that humanity had waged, and the dense rivers of blood seeped into the grounds to lay the foundation for future generations. The atrocities that were done in the war were so barbaric, so inhuman that just mentioning some of them would make one sick to the stomach. Therefore, it was imperative that humans never engaged in such hostilities ever again.

Alas, time was a bitch. The endless years of peace had made humans forget how brutal how ghastly the effects of war were. The millions of bodies that lay deep underground had all been forgotten as the dark side of human nature begun to creep out once more.

Skirmishes around the borders of the Himmel Empire and Kori Federation became more and more commonplace, and the total damages incurred on both sides had only increased over the years. Even though the final bullet that would ignite a full-scale war on both fronts has never been fired, many experts theorised that it wasn’t long before it would.

A dark-robed figure entered into an isolated forest, where little to no human settlements were around. Each time she took a step, the crackles of dead leaves echoed through the eerie woods, further intensifying how spooky the night was. Unlike the neighbours down south, the Kori Federation was surrounded by an abundance of harsh climates. From dry deserts that burnt human skin to a crisp, to snowy mountains that never experienced the warmth of sunlight, it was a miracle that any regular human could withstand the harsh conditions of the federation.

However, with adversity, came power. Climatised by their environments, the clans had long become accustomed to the sufferings that their surroundings had enforced onto them, and had even found ways to trump the deadly sandstorms or blizzards that plague their area.

The forest that the woman was sauntering in held the same principle. Littered to the brim with deadly Spirit Beasts, some of which were mighty enough to take on Rank 70 Spirit Emperors, the woman had to be extremely cautious with every step she took. Although she had the power to completely decimate regular Spirit Beasts, she was still powerless against those who reigned in the jungle.

Ensuring that he didn’t stray from the path, the dark-robed woman quickly made her way to an abandoned temple. Decrepit and full of verdant life growing from each crack, the settlement didn’t seem capable of housing human life. In fact, without any proper maintenance, the temple would have easily crumbled if a torrential downpour decided to flood the area.

“Mademoiselle, we have been expecting you.” The moment the dark-robed figure entered the temple, a tall man, whose face had been hidden by a thick obsidian mask, welcomed the woman.

“I didn’t know the syndicate now specialised in sweet-talking? Calling an old woman like me Mademoiselle…” The dark-robed figure removed her hood revealing a middle-aged woman, who had just started to form wrinkles on rosy cheeks. Her hazel eyes shone in an intelligent light as her smile brilliantly shown her pearly white teeth. If she were in her prime, it was inevitable that thousands of men would have fallen for her charms.

“Forgive me, I meant no offence.”

“Don’t worry about it. Haha, I used to hold the entire town’s most influential men at the palms of my hands, but the moment my appearance changed just a little bit, they went for the newcomer that has absolutely no skill in bed.” The woman mocked. “Whatever, it was just a tale of the past… I’m assuming that the meeting has yet to start?”

“We are just short of a few more people… The night is still young.”

“I know, I know… I shouldn’t have come so early then.” The woman waved her hands and stepped foot deeper into the temple. Escorted by the Black Mask, the woman was led to an underground chamber that housed an enormous round table.

“Cyphia! You actually came?!” The moment the woman entered the stone chambers, a bellowing laugh entered her attentive ears. Crossing her arms, the dark-robed woman squinted her eyes at the herculean man that called out to her.

Seated on one of the comfortable chairs, the man waved at the woman with a scintillating smile. Wearing a single tank top, the man’s bulging muscles burst forth as nothing was left to the imagination. Bald and well-shaven, the alpha male’s body was a textbook definition of a muscle-head. However, what caught Cyphia’s attention wasn’t his chiselled body that would make the Gods cry out in shame, but the large star mark that covered his left eye.

“Star Face… It’s been a while.”

“It really has been! Are you still working at the brothel downtown?”

“What do you think? Is someone my age worth anything in a man’s eyes?”

“Hahahaha!!! In my eyes, you can easily go for a hundred more years! You know, some men would pay a premium for that!” Star Face rubbed his index finger and thumb with a disgusting expression that forced Cyphia to unconsciously take a step back.

“Don’t announce your dirty fetishes for the world to hear, Star Face. Even if you gave me a million gold, I wouldn’t lay on a bed with you!”

“Hahaha, don’t be so quick to judge! I’m sure my techniques could easily best the old fogeys that you normally fool around with.”

“Star Face, stop teasing her. We’re here on official business.” Before Cyphia could retort, an ally came from the most unlikely of locations. Seated next to the sturdy hulk of a man, a brown-haired woman, possibly in her late-thirties, stopped her business partner from harassing Cyphia anymore.

“Fine, fine…” Star Face rolled his eyes and laughed heartily. “Sorry for the offence, Cyphia… I was just fooling around. Take a seat, our employer will be here soon.”

Star Face was a renowned mercenary who had reached Rank 37 all on his own. Since the peace treaty that barred the three superpowers from fighting was signed, the Kori Federation had to get creative with how they instigated conflict. Instead of marching their troops to contest with the Himmel Empire or the Lantis Republic, they made use of proxy wars where they controlled smaller states. However, there was no way that weaker powers had the military force needed. Therefore, the mercenary trend was born.

Random cultivators, who had little to no backings, banded together and took on jobs that placed them on the frontlines of any battlefields, in exchange for a good sum of money. One of the rising stars of the mercenary industry was a muscular man that goes by the name of Star Face.

A veteran of a thousand battles, Star Face had been fighting in skirmishes since he was fifteen years of age. For the right price, the renowned mercenary would brave the dangers of war, and his services weren’t limited to legitimate organisations either. Delving into the underground market, Star Face had fought for revolutionaries, prostitute rings, intelligence agencies, and his latest employer… The Black Masks syndicate.

“Hmph!” Cyphia snorted out in derision and took her place on the round table. At this point, there were only a few empty seats left, so she hurried took the closest one that was as far away from Star Face as possible.

‘To think that they had summoned so many of us… This time’s job must be big…’ Cyphia lit up a cigar and carefully observed her surroundings. She had done jobs for the syndicate many times before. However, this was the first time she had seen so many prominent faces gathered in one location.

Fifteen minutes passed, and the remaining guests had finally gathered. With the table filled, the concrete gates that led to the bottom of the temple firmly opened, revealing four figures. Three of them were wearing Black Masks, the staple of their organisation, while the other was just a handsome young man, with prime viridian hair.

“Hoho, since when did the syndicate hire pretty boys?” Cyphia mocked while carefully observing the newcomer. Initially, she thought that the young man was an old cultivator that had made himself look youthful again. However, after a little probing, she could tell that the viridian-haired man was just in the Spirit Core realm.

Her mind ran wild on the possible uses the young man had for the syndicate. Perhaps he was a reward for the middle-aged ladies to enjoy after their hard work? The viridian-haired man had looks that would even make Princes shy away in inferiority. His chiselled body and prominent features instantly caught the eyes of the women who worked in the underground. Often times, they had to sleep with disgusting men to further their agenda. A handsome man like him would definitely be a breath of fresh air.

“Don’t be rude, Junius here is a messenger from our branch in the Himmel Empire.” The foremost Black Mask waved his hands to quiet down the room. “Even though he’s still at Rank 26, the moment he promotes to the Spirit Adept realm, he would be granted the Shudra mask. Do treat him well.”

“Hoho, a future talent that already joined the Black Masks huh? What a shame…” Cyphia shrugged her shoulders.

“Alright, now that everyone has gathered, let’s get into business. Star Face, have you secured the shipments?” The Kshatriya took his rightful seat and wasted no time.

“Of course, you don’t pay me for nothing.” The burly man laughed once more. “I can deliver it within a week if you wish for it.”

“No, leave it. Those are the supplies for your next mission, make sure that they are stored safe and sound.”

“Already done!”

“Don’t be complacent, this job that I’m giving out won’t be an easy one… We might be antagonising one of the Master Sects of the Kori Federation this time.”

“Hoho…” The moment the Kshatriya mentioned the Master Sects, Star Face whistled out in amazement.

The Kori Federation was unlike their two major superpowers. The Himmel Empire had an established line of Imperials that shared the blood of a Spirit Immortal while the Lantis Republic relied on the Eight Ancient Clans of Water. The Kori Federation didn’t have any of that. With thousands of family clans, martial sects and ruffian villages, the Kori Federation allowed each one of the recognised entities to rule over a domain. These entities were called the Houses of Kori.

To enter the Houses of Kori, one must at least have a Rank 50 Spirit Lord governing over them, and they must have at least have a connection with the land that they stood on. Due to the low entry requirements, there were at least a thousand Houses of Kori, and each one had a place in the House of Commons, which governs over the minor laws of the country.

Above the Houses of Kori, were the Core States. Entering this class was much more stringent. Firstly, they were limited to a hundred states and only established Houses, with hundreds of years of history, or significant economic power could firmly remain within the Core States. The Core States votes on vital issues that pertain to the country and wields the authority to mobilise troops for protection of their borders.

However, the real power that runs the Kori Federation wasn’t the Houses of Kori or the Core States, but the Master Sects. Each Master Sect contains at least one Rank 80 Spirit Venerate, and a select few of them have the untouchable Spirit Saints that could dominate the entire nation. Currently, the Kori Federation consists of thirty such Master Sects, and they congregate in the Grand Council to determine the macro issues of the country. If war was declared, it must have been done inside the walls of the High Council.

“Are you sure that we can afford to offend those from the Master Sects?” Star Face switched off his flippant attitude. “We are just agents for hire. We won’t be able to do much firepower if a Spirit Lord or King shows up.”

“That’s why we have to be discrete… The Kori Federation still doesn’t see the Black Masks syndicate as a threat, so we have the element of surprise in our hands.” The Kshatriya assured the worried Star Face. “Of course, we won’t shy away from your pay… If the mission is successful, we will pay you ten times the usual amount.”

“T-Ten times!” All of a sudden, Star Face stood up and slammed his two palms on the round table, crushing it almost instantly.

“That’s right. After this mission, I expect that you all would need to lie low for a while. So through the Allfather’s magnanimity, we will ensure that you lead the best of lives.” The Kshatriya’s words resonated with those on the round table, as a greedy smile crept up their faces. The Black Masks paid exceptionally well, and now that they were multiplying it tenfold, it wasn’t a stretch to claim that they could retire right there and then.

“We thank the Allfather for his grace.”

Even though those present weren’t religiously attached to the enigmatic Allfather, they knew that it pleased their employers everytime they praised their leader.

“Of course, the Allfather is great. Alright, let’s get right into business. Junius here would be briefing you on the details.” The Kshatriya gestured for the viridian-haired man to step forward and lead the explanations.

As if he were waiting for this moment, Junius brought out a map and laid it out on the table. At the same time, the assistants at the back brought out the same exact map and gave a copy to each one of those present in the stone chambers. A devilish smile appeared on the lips of the young man, one that would stir the hearts of any female to do his bidding, and sure enough, the middle-aged ladies in the room had the widest of ears for what he was about to say.

“Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to attend this meeting. I know how valuable your time is so I won’t proceed to waste it.” Junius had just one goal for coming this far out north, and he wasn’t going to screw it up. “Our target for this mission is… Mort Bay!!!”

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