“Good, now that you’re ready… Let’s depart.” Sword Tyrant Jimga let out a joyful smile as he puckered his lips together with two of his fingers in his mouth. Emitting out a sharp whistle, Jimga waited as a dozen figures flew out from the forest and made their way into the encampment.
Sensing the flying creatures, the soldiers in the encampment prepared for an aerial assault and readied their weapons to fire at the beasts. Fortunately, Colonel Tychris caught on to the identity of the newcomers and ordered his men to stand down in time.
“Gryphons?” Shin mused as he accurately recognised the mounts that ferried the disciples of the Dalgeom Sect. Bearing the head and wings of an eagle, with a body and tail of a lion, the Tier 5 Spirit Beasts were terrors of the sky. Ordinarily, to subdue even one of them, an entire squadron had to be mobilised, and yet, there were a dozen of them flying about at this very moment.
“REEEEEE!!!” While the flock of Gryphons were cautiously landing inside of the camp, a piercing cry burst out from the outer regions of the firmament as a shadowy figure descended at blinding speeds. In a blink of an eye, the shadow soon turned into a massive creature that broke its fall with giant flaps of its golden wings, sending shockwaves all around the encampment.
Even though the creature dived down like a comet, it managed to land gracefully on the ground right next to the Sword Tyrant, allowing Shin to get a clear view of the monster. Just like its companions, the Spirit Beast had an eagle’s head with a lion’s body. However, unlike the measly Tier 5 Spirit Beasts, this Gryphon was over twice their size and boasted an array of golden and grey feathers, giving it a rather regal appearance. For Shin, who was just at the Spirit Core realm, just looking at the monster sent shivers down his spine.
‘Tier 6? No, Tier 7?’ Shin tried to guess the cultivation level of the Spirit Beast that was snuggling its head on Jimga’s body, completely unlike its threatening demeanour. ‘Whatever its tier, its impressive that the Dalgeom Sect could get this many high-levelled Spirit Beasts to act as mounts.’
Although Lady Seph had Bingbing, a Tier 8 Kamaitachi, the snowy-white gerbil was more like a family member or valued mascot. However, the Gryphons gathered by the Dalgeom Sect served one purpose and one purpose only, to act as mounts for their esteemed disciples. Not many family clans in the Himmel Empire could afford such a luxury.
“We’ll go there by Gryphons. They move much faster than any cultivator, and we won’t have to waste our mana flying.” Jimga explained while stroking the fur of his mount. “Shin, you’ll ride with me, as for the others… Improvise a little.”
“…” The three Spirit Emperors with Shin were rendered speechless. The Sword Tyrant actually expected them to share a Gryphon with his disciples, some of which weren’t even Spirit Lords yet!
After a brief heated exchange, it was decided that three of the Dalgeom Sect’s disciples would cede their mounts, allowing the three Spirit Emperors to control one Gryphon each. Elrin rode with Reginald, Isadore was being accompanied by his own bodyguard, while Madam Warulee had the comfort of riding by herself. Initially, she wanted Shin to join her, but Jimga was adamant that the youth was behind him at all times. However, since no one knew if the Sword Tyrant would ride off with Shin, a compromise was made that Madam Warulee’s mount would fly next to Jimga’s at all times.
“Hmmm?” As the group was preparing to depart, Jimga ears twitched as he heard a familiar sound. Turning to the skies above, he could see two more descending Gryphons, each as grand as his own golden one.
“Senior Brother Wangu, Junior Sister Yeunghi?”
“Jimga! We’ve heard your whistle! Have you found something?” A frantic woman got off her Gryphon and ran towards the smartly-dressed man.
“Yeah, a breakthrough. This kid here claims that he knows where the Black Masks base is at Mort Bay.” Jimga tapped on Shin’s shoulder and displayed the youth for his fellow sect mates to see.
“Really?! He knows where those bastards are?!” The woman, who seemed to be in her early thirties, hurriedly looked at Shin with expectant eyes.
When Yeunghi first came to the Land of Dreams, she had been focusing on dealing with the Lantis Republic as well as building the route from the Kori Federation. Not paying more attention to Mort Bay was her oversight and she had resented herself for letting the situation degrade till this point. Hence, among those from the Sect, Yeunghi was the one that wanted to see the Black Masks burn the most.
“Apparently he got into a huge fight with his commander because he wanted to attack the Black Masks.” Jimga had a favourable opinion on the young Shin, who was confident enough to talk back to Colonel Tychris as well as himself, even though he was at a far lower cultivation level. “Not to mention he has his own request for us.”
“What is it?” The man that came with Yeunghi calmly asked.
“Senior Brother Wangu… He wishes for us to convince the other Master Sects that the Black Masks are a real threat that has to be dealt with.”
“That’s all?” Wangu had the same reaction that Jimga initially did. Given how the Black Masks played them for a fool, the Dalgeom Sect wouldn’t let them off lightly anyway. For a child to request for something that odd was completely baffling for the eldest brother of the bunch.
Shin gave two firm nods to answer the Spirit Emperor’s query. “I request that you bring the Black Masks to justice. That’s my wish.”
“If that’s all you want, then sure…” Wangu wanted to ask a follow-up question. However, he was stopped by a hurried junior sister of his.
“Less talking, more moving!” Yeunghi exclaimed. “Boy, ride with me. My mount is much faster than that warhorse of Jimga’s.”
“I can’t… I have to stay close to my guardian…”
“Geez, then your guardian can hop on as well! Don’t be so wishy-washy! Time is of the essence! Let’s go demolish the Black Masks right away!”
At the swordmaiden’s fervour, both Shin and Madam Warulee were taken aback. A wry smile crept up Shin’s face as he thought back on how scary Sword Tyrant Jimga was. Compared to her senior brother, this Yeunghi swordmaiden was much more approachable.
‘Now that’s a person that I can work with.’ Shin did his best to contain his laughter. The straightforward nature of Yeunghi reminded him of the clingy Shizen, which greatly amused the youth.
“I would much prefer that plan as well.” Shin turned to Jimga while grasping the hand of Madam Warulee. That way, it looked like he was just a feeble Spirit Core cultivator that needed the protection from his guardian.
“Fine…” Jimga rolled his eyes and mounted the golden Gryphon behind him. However, before he flew off, the Spirit Emperor’s eye lit up, as if remembering something significant. “Oh, one word of advice though… On Junior Sister’s mount, try your best to hold on. If not, you’ll die.”
“Hehe, happy flying. Shin Iofiel.”
The Land of Dreams. The Main Hub.
While Shin flew off from the Imperius Academy encampment, back in the only commercial hub of the Land of Dreams, numerous defences were being fortified as soldiers worked overtime to help secure the borders. After Spirit Immortal Dream massacred all of her countrymen, the barren land had been slowly developed back into a thriving metropolis, thanks to the combined efforts of the three superpowers.
Although it was a neutral zone, the three superpowers all pooled in some troops and resources to help the inhabitants to ward off any possible attacks. The walls were raised as sentries begun to patrol the barricades. For the more vulnerable members of society, such as the children and the elderly, they were safely tucked inside of the numerous shelters built inside of the Main Hub, as the able able-bodied men and women got to work.
“Reporting to the Premier!” A trooper brought a scroll towards the Chief Executive of the entire Main Hub, and read its contents out loud. “Our scouts have counted ten thousand Spirit Beasts marching from the east. The strongest Spirit Beast that we can observe is a Tier 5 War Monkey. Estimated time of arrival, thirty-six hours..”
“Thirty-six hours, huh? That’s not a lot of time…” The Premier stroked his beard and deeply frowned. Turning to his second-in-command, the elderly man asked. “How much longer do we need to adequately prepare our defences?”
“We’re on pace to finish it by the end of the day!”
“Good. Make sure that there are no slip-ups. Facing ten thousand Spirit Beasts is unprecedented territory for our town, so there’s bound to be some mistakes made by our men. Hence, I want to you personally check every nook and cranny of the barricades. I don’t want the Land of Dreams to fall again.”
“Is there something else?” Seeing that the messenger wasn’t done with his scrolls, the Premier edged his subordinate to continue.
“Y-Yes! The Himmel Empire had prepared a division from the Second Army, and they’re ready to march into the border. However, fearing diplomatic actions, the Imperial Army has made a formal request for you to declare the need for foreign aid.”
“The need for foreign aid? It’s been a while since I last heard that term.” Remembering some matters of yesteryear, the Premier gave out a nostalgic smile. However, it didn’t take long for the elderly man to come back into reality. Taking out a piece of parchment, the Premier wrote a few words and notarized it with his office’s seal. “Permission granted. Deliver this to the division commander. Tell them to hurry in.”
As much as the Himmel Empire wanted to help, in the end, the Land of Dreams was still an independent nation that had a neutral stance. If the Empire carelessly brought in troops, the other two superpowers might see it as a hostile takeover of the country, which was illegal under international law. Hence, it was imperative that the highest authority in the land, the Premier, declare the need for foreign aid, giving the army a legitimate reason to cross the border.
The messenger received the scroll with great care as if his life depended on it. After all, once delivered to the Himmel Empire, the chances of the Main Hub surviving this ordeal would increase exponentially.
“Is it truly wise? Bringing in thousands of military men from the Himmel Empire?” As he watched the messenger scurry away, the second-in-command narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “The timing is too perfect. A beast horde shows up, and a division had been prepared at the border… Perhaps…”
“Your imagination is running wild.” Killing his subordinate’s line of thought in its crib, the Premier stood up and stared down at the barricades. Seeing how hard his men worked to reinforce the walls, the Premier heaved out a deep sigh. “Right now, we need all the help that we can get. The less blood that we shed, the better.”
“Don’t look so gloomy! We’ll definitely survive this predicament! Once we do, we will come out stronger than ever-!”
The ground shook violently as the ominous winds started tunnelling down upon the Main Hub. From the horizon, a tsunami of Spirit Beasts congregated together and charged blindly towards the underprepared parts of the barricade walls. Once they saw the tides of death crashing straight at them, the soldiers of the Main Hub scrambled to assume their positions as they braced for impact.
“Tch, they’re here already…” The Premier clicked his tongue and rose up high into the sky. As a Rank 63 Spirit King, as well as one of the few elites in the Main Hub, he had to be the first to enter battle, but first…
“Calling for all cultivators above the Spirit Spectre realm!!! The threat of the beast horde has finally arrived! If we don’t do anything, our city will become overrun by the vile creatures that plague this earth! To combat this bitter fate, I implore all of you to unite as we combat this menace, and free the Land of Dreams from danger once and for all!”
The Main Hub consisted of multiple independent organisations, each one with their own agendas and assets to protect. Naturally, those who swore allegiance to the Premier had all ascended to the skies, in preparation for an all-out assault on the beast horde. However, the rest had no obligation to assist the Premier in defending the area. Typically, to move all these money-minded residents, the Premier would put up a hefty sum as a reward, but in this limited time-frame, there was nothing that the elderly man could offer up. Hence, the only thing that the elderly man could do was plead.
Fortunately for him, dozens of shining lights, akin to that of dazzling starlight, jumped out from the ground and surrounded the Premier. Over fifty cultivators, who were above the Spirit Spectre realm, gathered in the skies above the Main Hub, all determined to give their all to save this land. Himmel Empire, Kori Federation, Lantis Republic… It mattered nought. All of these Spirit Users were men and women that had gained something from the Land of Dreams and were now unified to combat the common enemy.
“Thank you…” Overwhelmed with emotions, the Premier joyfully thanked the cultivators that had embraced his rallying call. With such a potent force, the elderly man felt like he could take on the world.
“Alright…” Releasing a tremendous amount of spiritual pressure, the Premier felt his body changing as he summoned out his very own Spirit. Staring down the wild beast horde that was edging closer and closer by the second, the elderly man roared out:
“LET’S GIVE THEM HELL!!!”