Once Ingram had finished his speech, the crowd broke into thunderous applause. Members from the Blacksmith’s League gave a standing ovation for their illustrious President, whistling at cheering at the grandeur of the kingly man.
“What a bold speech.” Lady Seph chuckled from Shin’s side. She had come in a little late to avoid the annoying social gathering before the banquet began, and as a result, she had been thoroughly enjoying her evening thus far. Now that she had heard the President of the Blacksmith’s League speak, her day peaked even further.
“What do you mean, Master?”
The blonde beauty shook her head. “The Summit hasn’t even begun, and nothing has been set in stone. Yet, Ingram dared to make all of those declarations as if they were absolute. Any hopes of them pulling out from the Summit would have been flushed down the drains. If I were leading the talks for any of the organisations, I’d probably be fuming.”
If Ingram had said those words behind closed doors, the representatives from the major superpowers could have issued an immediate rebuttal if the terms didn’t favour their country. However, now that he had implored them in public, especially before the talented younger generation that each superpower had brought, it would reflect poorly on the representatives should they decided to pull out any support.
“Set aside their differences for the greater good. What an excellent quote.” Lady Seph pivoted her head left and right to observe the riled up youths in the ballroom. If the leaders of any superpower dared to back out now, they would undoubtedly receive a substantial amount of backlash from those hot-blooded youngsters. “Tying their hands even before the first day of negotiations. What a beautiful move.”
To win a game of chess, one didn’t have to just play with the pieces on the board, but their opponent’s mindset as well. If Ingram Ragnar’s speech could be analysed in terms of the age-old game, it would be akin to provoking his opponent with a sudden insult before the game had commenced, destabilising their entire game plan in the process.
“Listen, Shin. These are the types of people that you will encounter as you climb up the ladder. Calculative monsters that would do anything to get a win. Fortunately, Ingram is on our side and wishes to annihilate the Black Masks as well. If he were against us, I highly doubt that the Summit would have proceeded so smoothly.”
Shin nodded in agreement. “So we have to thank the lucky stars that there are some good people left in the world.”
“A good person? I think you’re misunderstanding something here, Shin.” Lady Seph folded her arms. “Ingram isn’t kind-hearted in the slightest. I would even argue that he has the heart of a demon.”
“Hmmm? So why is he supporting the Summit?” If the President of the Blacksmith’s League wasn’t an altruistic human being, why would he have offered Deus Citadel, which required a tonne of resources to operate, as a location where all the superpowers could congregate?
“Just stop and think about it. If the whole world goes to war, who benefits the most? Who stands the most to gain financially?”
After thinking about it for a brief moment, Shin came up with an answer. “The one who manufactures the weapons?”
“Exactly! The Blacksmith’s League are the only force in the entire world that can mass produce high-quality Spirit Armaments and weapons of war! Also, since they don’t have any armies to send out, they have no military forces to lose, as compared to the forces from the three superpowers. In the end, a war with the Black Masks would only yield endless amounts of gold for the Blacksmith’s League, and they don’t lose anything. That’s why Ingram has gone above and beyond in the planning of the Summit, even going as far as spending his own money to construct a monument for the victims of the Land of Dreams.”
“…” Shin instantly turned speechless. Thankfully, he had a sage of world politics at his side. Otherwise, he would have naively believed that the President of the Blacksmith’s League really possessed a noble soul
“Either way, whatever Ingram does has no implications on your objectives for the Summit. Look over there.” Ignoring the middle-aged man who was basking in the limelight on stage, Lady Seph pointed towards the Lantis Republic tables.
“That’s Zhangyu Yaoguai.” Following Lady Seph’s finger, Shin could see a sturdy matured man with a face of steel. His darkened face hung a fierce frown, making him resemble a pissed-off lion that was ready to unleash its wrath upon any that dared to tread its path. Compared to the many Spirit Emperors or Spirit Venerates that he had seen, Shin was confident that the man possessed the most hideous face, and was perhaps the ugliest human that existed within the compounds of the ballroom.
“Although he looks atrocious, that man is the Master of the Zhangyu Clan, and a Spirit Venerate that possesses one of the Eight Scions of Water, the Abominable Cthulhu.” Lady Seph explained. “I don’t know him personally, but Zhangyu Yaoguai’s fame as the stern Iron-Tongue is legendary. If you somehow encounter him while you’re mixing with those from the Lantis Republic, just walk away. He isn’t someone that you can deal with.”
“Speaking of those who you can mix with, do you see the twelve youngsters seated just one table away?”
Shin’s eyes landed on the assortment of young adults that were happily sipping on their champagne. At the head of the table, there was a chiselled young man that boasted a rich turquoise hair. Dressed in a black and white Changshan that possessed multiple golden pins and luxurious embroidery, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that he came from a rather affluent background.
The same went with the other young men and women that were seated on his table. All of them wore ostentatious clothing and possessed a certain regal air that was blinding at first glance. There was even a young girl among them that had a beauty rivalling that of Kanari, something that was rare to find even if one scoured the entire Empire.
“All twelve of them are Luminaries.”
“All of them?!” Shin exclaimed in horror. Excluding the future talents that could become Luminaries in the future, such as Kanari and himself, the Himmel Empire only had seven Luminaries among their ranks. Yet, the Lantis Republic nearly had double that amount.
“There’s no need to be that shocked. The Kori Federation had brought over fourteen Luminaries as well.” Lady Seph nonchalantly explained. From her position, a Luminary was a glorified title that was given to outstanding youths. There have been countless times in history where a Luminary would fall from grace, and perhaps only one in ten of them would make it all the way to become a Spirit Venerate. For her, their status as Luminaries wasn’t important. What’s vital was…
“Those twelve are the ones that you need to befriend. The one seated at the head of the table is Qilong Hu, the heir of the Qilong Clan. Among all of those from the younger generation that are gathered today, he has the highest cultivation, at Rank 43.”
“If you can befriend him, that will be the best. He has the influence to sway those in the Lantis Republic to allow you to participate in the Celestial Baptism.” Lady Seph pointed out the best person for Shin to work with. “Of course, he’s the safest one to work on since he’s probably the nominal leader of the Lantis Republic’s younger generation, but if you can’t approach him, the other eleven aren’t bad choices.”
Lady Seph began to introduce the twelve Luminaries one by one.
“The girl that’s seated next to Qilong Hu is Xunyu Feifei. She possesses the Heavenly Sturgeon, the closest relative that the Sovereign Koi has among the Eight Scions of Water. From what I’ve heard, she’s quite a docile figure, so you should be able to approach her with relative ease. The man to her right, on the other hand, you shouldn’t bother talking to him.”
“Why is that?” Glancing at the gentle-looking youth that seemed way younger than twenty-five, Shin assumed that he would be an easy target to befriend.
“He may be a talented Luminary, but he doesn’t have the background.” Lady Seph brutally explained. “As you know, not all members of the Lantis Republic are from the Eight Ancient Clans. Many cultivators simply possess a water-elemental Spirit. While they aren’t technically discriminated against, only those who have either one of the Eight Scions of Water would be able to inherit important posts. Even if you bring him entirely over to your side, there’s no guarantee that he would be able to influence the Elders to accept you in.”
“Is that so…”
“Don’t worry, Shin. I will try to influence those Spirit Venerates as well, but you have to do your part. Other than Qilong Hu and Xunyu Feifei, there’s still Jingyu Taiyi, the wonder child of the Jingyu Clan, Meijing Bingying, the famed Pearl in the East and finally, the Longyu Clan’s very own Longyu Linji.” Lady Seph pointed all of them out in a blink of an eye.
“Of the twelve, these are the five that has the most influence over their Clans. Jingyu Taiyi is the frontrunner in the race to inherit the Jingyu Clan. If you can’t win over Qilong Hu, he should be the second best bet for you. Meijing Bingying is not a bad choice either. To put it simply, she’s the Lantis Republic’s version of Kanari.”
“What about the last one? Longyu Linji?” Shin couldn’t help but notice that Lady Seph left out the sole Luminary of the Longyu Clan. If Shin wanted to obtain the acknowledgement of the Lantis Republic, shouldn’t he start with the Longyu Clan?
“I… Don’t know enough about him.” Immediately turning sour, the blonde beauty furrowed her brows and squinted at the young man. “While I know that he’s a Luminary, not much is known about his character and overall ambitions. Since he’s someone from the main branch of the Longyu Clan, it might be worthwhile to befriend him but don’t stress on it too much. God knows how he’ll react if he finds out that you exist.”
Longyu Linji was perhaps the most talented youth from the Longyu Clan, and he has stayed King for many years now. If Shin, a sixteen-year-old Rank 24 cultivator with the Mark of the Celestial Dragon, makes himself known, then Linji’s domination at the top would finally be toppled. If he had a malicious personality, it wouldn’t be strange to find Shin poisoned on his bed the very next morning.
“I understand.” Shin burnt the faces of the five Luminaries into his memory. When the new day arrives, the younger generation would have the freedom to move around and mingle while the representatives from each superpower congregate in one room to discuss the alliance.
‘Qilong Hu, Xunyu Feifei, Jingyu Taiyi, Meijing Bingying, and Longyu Linji…’ Shin gulped down a mouthful of saliva. His future prospects of attaining a Celestial Baptism rests on how he interacted with those five individuals.
Meanwhile, on the Lantis Republic table, the Luminaries had no idea that they had become the target of a particular black-haired boy.
“What a pompous speech.” Qilong Hu applauded the Blacksmith’s League’s President for daring to come up with such a self-righteous sermon. “I wonder how Master Yaoguai will react to him.”
“Possibly in anger.” Xunyu Feifei was all smiles as she replied the man seated next to her. “Master Yaoguai isn’t one to spare his opponents after all.”
“Honestly, what’s the point of trying so hard?” Qilong Hu sighed. “The terms that the High Elder Council has decided on can’t be changed.”
While the Lantis Republic had agreed to attend the Summit, they had already decided on the number of resources that they were willing to allocate for the war against the Black Masks. Coming here was just a formality and an excuse to buy up some of the best weapons that the Blacksmith’s League has to offer.
“They can’t possibly know that.” Meijing Bingying interjected with a frown.
“Haha, Junior Sister Bingying is right!” Jingyu Taiyi heartily laughed along. “Let’s just enjoy our stay here!”
“Hmph! Aren’t you enjoying it a little too much? I’ve heard that you went down to spy on those from the Himmel Empire!” Qilong Hu chided the happy-go-lucky figure who didn’t know his place. “Try not to think of the guards that protect you! Right now, the Land of Dreams is littered with Spirit Emperors and Spirit Venerates. Just one false step and you could have been kidnapped or killed!”
“Sorry~.” Jingyu Taiyi stuck his tongue out, clearly indicating that he wasn’t genuinely repentant.
“Urgh… Junior Sister Bingying, talk some sense into him.”
“Junior Sister Bingying?” When the expected reply didn’t come, Qilong Hu turned to the gorgeous young lady once more, only to see her staring at Longyu Linji, as if she were examining a specimen.
“Hmmm? Ah, I’m sorry I zoned out a little.”
Instead of continuing his question, Qilong Hu decided to continued scolding Jingyu Taiyi, giving Bingying the freedom that she needed.
‘The resemblance is truly terrifying…’ After finding Shin in the crowd, Meijing Bingying’s gaze alternated between the two throughout the entire banquet. Eyes, hair, skin tone, nose height. If someone pulled them together and introduced them as cousins, no one would have doubted that claim for one second.
‘I have to investigate even further… If I’m right, and that boy is a remnant of the Awter Clan, there’s a high chance that he has the bloodline from the main branch of the Longyu Clan!’