“The Deputy Prime Minister really is something else…” Jimga muttered under his breath so that only Yeunghi, who was beside him, could hear him.
“She’s just as the rumours say…” Yeunghi smiled in reply. While they didn’t have any beef with the Lantis Republic, it still felt great to have someone from their nation put that smug Zhangyu Yaoguai’s face in its place. “Look at the members from the Lantis Republic. They’re absolutely tongue-tied.”
“…” At that moment, the Spirit Venerate Elder that was seated next to the Deputy Prime Minister turned back and glared at the two gossip mongers. Feeling a chill run down their spine, Jimga and Yeunghi immediately closed their mouths and faded into the background as they should.
As the only Spirit Emperors that had survived the attack by the World Serpent, the two Dalgeom Sect disciples were an integral part in the negotiation tactics that the Kori Federation would use. Hence, their presence at the negotiation table was essential. Nonetheless, they were still only disciples of the Dalgeom Sect and weren’t qualified to claim a chair on the round table.
“You want us to commit five hundred thousand troops?!” Holding back his explosive anger, Zhangyu Yaoguai glared at the venom-mouthed woman, hoping that he had misheard Venus’ claim.
“What’s the big deal? Five hundred thousand isn’t that much compared to the entire size of your military. Also, you’re basically on standby, so you don’t have to commit too much.” Venus explained it as if it were a simple matter of fact. “You have about ten million soldiers, I’m sure you could at least deploy five per cent of them.”
“And where would those troops come from?” Zhangyu Yaoguai retorted. Yes, they had a robust and active army with staggering numbers, but they weren’t all seated on their ass doing nothing. Many had been deployed to strategic military bases while others had to quell the raging Spirit Beasts that terrorised the entire ocean. Essentially, if the Lantis Republic wanted to cough up five hundred thousand troops, they had to weaken many of their current forces, which could, in turn, lead to an invasion by any of the two superpowers.
“That’s not my problem to solve.” Venus frowned in displeasure. They were fighting a tremendous force that possessed an ungodly amount of Spirit Beasts and was growing by the day. Yet, the Lantis Republic was reluctant to even commit a small percentage of their overall army.
“All you need to do is cover the oceans as well as our eastern front. The Kori Federation will handle the northern areas, while the Himmel Empire would take care of the southern region. As for the Uncharted Wilderness, once we find the base of the Allfather, I expect that the three superpowers would unite and launch a major invasion. We can discuss that matter at a later date.”
“You wish to invade the Uncharted Wilderness?!” The Lantis Republic’s representative was unable to control his anger anymore and slammed his hands on the table. While his actions were out of line, the other representatives all shared his frame of mind.
There was a reason why the Uncharted Wilderness was still uninhabited by human civilisation. Taking up about a third of the continent, the Uncharted Wilderness held an untold amount of riches and resources that could have been claimed for human consumption. Thus, throughout the long history of mankind, armies had sent campaign after campaign to conquer the obscured region, but they all failed quite miserably.
Once, an ancient civilisation that possessed over ten Spirit Saints tried to bulldoze their way into the Uncharted Wilderness. With the most advanced army of their time, the ancient dominion believed that they could accomplish what their ancestors could only dream about, and entirely surmount the final frontier of mankind. Led by the legion of Spirit Saints that they had, the civilisation led the most extensive military campaign on the Uncharted Wilderness to date.
Eighty per cent of their entire force had been utterly wiped out with over half of the Spirit Saints losing their lives or being fatally wounded. In the end, unable to recuperate from the devastating loss, the civilisation crumbled and became a footnote for the history books.
Once bitten, twice shy. Humanity had learnt about the terrors of the Uncharted Wilderness the hard way, and up till this day, no armies had dared to march into the mystical land, for fear of complete annihilation.
“The Uncharted Wilderness is home to billions if not trillions of Spirit Beasts! Furthermore, god knows how many Tier 9 or Primordial Spirit Beasts inhabit that land! Launching an invasion into the Uncharted Wilderness? Are you insane?!” Zhangyu Yaoguai spewed out what everyone was thinking. While they wished to eradicate the Black Masks, all of the superpowers simply wanted to fight off lingering threats within their borders. If the Allfather decides to pull back his armies into the Uncharted Wilderness, that would be the biggest win for the alliance. There was no way that any of them would be willing to tread into that treacherous territory, that was known for eradicating armies.
“That’s the only way that we can defeat the Black Masks.” Venus ignored the stunned faces and crossed her arms. “We have overlooked the Black Masks and their leader for far too long. Each time we thought that we had the upper hand, they would pull out another trick from their arsenal. When they took down Aldrich’s Keep, the world ignored them. When they fought their way into Frie Mountain, the world ignored them. Now that they had waged a blatant war against us by killing the entire population of the Land of Dreams, are we supposed to ignore them again?”
“Yes, I’ll admit. We know nothing of the Black Masks. Who the Allfather is? Where are their bases? How are they able to reside in the Uncharted Wilderness? What is their true military might? Everything is just a patch of blur to us. However, it’s safe to assume that the Black Masks knows everything about us. Not only did they recruit Spirit Emperors from all three of our nations, but they had also operated in the shadows for this long of a time. So why would an organisation, which had been obscured for the longest time, make itself known in such a flamboyant manner?”
Putting the question to her fellow representatives, Venus allowed a brief moment of silence to sit in the room.
“They were biding their time…” Raphael, the leader of the Healer’s Association, muttered out in shock. “Now that their preparations are complete, they can finally show their faces to the world.”
“That’s right!” Venus nodded in agreement. “While we don’t know anything about the Allfather, what we do know through the Divine Healer Seraphim’s report, is that he’s at least on the level of a Spirit Saint. Just imagine it, a Spirit Saint that has never made his existence known! Do you think that he would be so brash to unite the three superpowers against him when he’s unprepared for a fight?”
“…” The room went silent. If Venus’ conjecture was correct, then what the Allfather had shown thus far must be only the tip of the iceberg. With countless of years operating in the dark, the Black Masks must have garnered an incredible amount of intelligence from the superpowers of the world and perhaps have even planted an unspeakable amount of spies.
“Who exactly is this Allfather?” The representative from the Mercenary Guild finally opened his mouth. Built like a brick wall, the tremendous colossus of a man barely fit in the extravagant chair of the round table. Whenever he moved his arms, one could see the boulder-sized biceps of his contract as they struggled to break free of the restraining white shirt that he wore.
“Guild Master Xerxes, that’s a question for all of us to find out.” The Deputy Prime Minister replied. “For that, I would require your expertise. None of us has the reach and information expertise that the Mercenary Guild possesses. If we want to delve deeper and investigate everything about the Black Masks, we need your information network.”
“About that.” Prince Koshaku realised that the Deputy Prime Minister had been calling the shots for a while, and decided to break the flow of the Kori Federation before they became the nominal leader of the alliance. “I propose that we create a central intelligence agency, one specific to the Black Masks. If we each superpower has its own unique intelligence units, it would be detrimental for the dispersion of information.”
“I concur. Withholding information from the members of the alliance will only serve to do more harm than good.” Raphael nodded.
“Aye. The Blacksmith’s League can’t help you with gathering intelligence, but we can provide the communication tools.” Ingram added on.
“That’s fine with the Lantis Republic.” Zhangyu Yaoguai had no objections. The main issue that the Lantis Republic had was the deployment of manpower. For something as trivial as providing resources for intelligence, they were more than happy to oblige.
“It can be done…” Xerxes stroked his hairless chin in agreement. “We will need to set up some facilities to accommodate the new units, but otherwise, it’s a fantastic idea!”
For the first time, everyone in the Summit agreed on something. Well, almost everyone…
“Oh ho? Mighty blood of the Himmel Clan, and who would lead this intelligence unit?” Venus turned her acidic tongue towards Prince Koshaku.
‘Tskkk, I’m next huh?’ The Royal clicked his tongue. It wasn’t a secret that the Kori Federation and the Himmel Empire didn’t get along. After all, they occupied the same continent and had been vying with one another for total dominance for centuries. While the peace treaty signed those many years back had barred any all-out wars from occurring, tensions still remained between the two superpowers.
In fact, this was the first time that the two nations had sent delegates to meet one another in a neutral land. If not for the appearance of the Black Masks, the Kori Federation would have never considered an alliance with the Himmel Empire.
“Our Empire’s Ridan Bitterdawn.” Prince Koshaku bit the bullet and tapped on the muscular man that had never left his side. “He’s the first Spirit Venerate in our military to encounter the aftermath of the Black Masks. With his track record as the Field Marshal of our Second Army, I believe that there’s no one more suited for this job.”
Ridan Bitterdawn stood up from his chair and allowed the members of the round table to examine him, all while Prince Koshaku wore a proud smile as if he were a salesman making a pitch of his company’s most exceptional product. However, Venus wasn’t convinced.
“Isn’t he the failure that allowed the Black Masks to escape? And into our territory?”
“Failure is the mother of success, Deputy Prime Minister.” Ridan placed his right palm on his chest. “I swear that I’ll never allow the Black Masks to run rampant anymore!”
“Touching stuff, but you’re still failed nonetheless.” Venus scoffed. “How can I entrust the safety of my nation on someone that allowed over a hundred thousand Spirit Beasts into my borders? I would rather let my pet hamster lead the intelligence agency than entrust it to your hands.”
Ridan was forced to eat the insults of Venus while the rest of the room did their utmost best to stifle their laughter. Those from the Kori Federation had it the worst. They were practically biting on the tip of their tongues to prevent a spit from spilling out from their puckered lips.
“I propose that I personally lead this intelligence agency.” Venus pulled out the unexpected stunt and nominated herself for the position. “I believe that I’m the most senior and qualified for the role. I don’t mind sharing the position with Guild Master Xerxes or whoever he appoints, but definitely not that bulldog that you have, Your Highness.”
“You…” Prince Koshaku wanted to rip that venomous tongue out of the slender woman. However, knowing that his actions wouldn’t accomplish anything, the Imperial took a deep breath to quell his raised blood pressure. Getting angry was precisely what Venus wanted him to do. If he explodes, Prince Koshaku would just be falling deeper and deeper into the trap that she laid out.
“Let’s start from the beginning…” With his nerves calmed, Prince Koshaku decided to restart the negotiations. Even if Ridan didn’t get the position, he couldn’t allow the Kori Federation to dictate the entire conference.
Alas, today was not his day.
“W-What was that?” A terrifying aura emitted out from the residential areas, forcing everyone in the room to halt their discussions. For Spirit Emperors and Spirit Venerates that were gathered in this room, there wasn’t much that could shock them. Yet, even though they were at the Apex of the Citadel, which had been fortified thousands of times, that dreadful aura still managed to permeate through their very souls.
“An enemy attack?” Ingram had that outlandish thought for a brief moment but immediately dismissed it. Deus Citadel was the most secure location in the entire world. There was no way that an outside attack could have made its way inside. Internal attacks, however…
“R-Reporting!!! All six Spirit Saints have gathered and are on the verge of fighting!!!” A Spirit Emperor from the Blacksmith’s League broke all protocol and barged into the room with the urgent news. “T-The six Spirit Saints that are in the Citadel had gathered!!!”
“WHAT?!” Ingram lost his nerve and slammed his fists on the round table.
Spirit Saints stood at the absolute peak of the cultivation world. Just one of them was capable of taking a million men with relative ease. If all six of them decided to go into open combat inside of the Citadel, pandemonium would be the lightest word to describe the aftermath.
“Saint Geom too?” The members of the Dalgeom Sect looked at one another with confusion in their eyes. The other Spirit Saints aside, they knew how peace-loving their patriarch was. For him to interfere with the other Spirit Saints, something major must have happened.
‘This aura…’ Prince Koshaku furrowed his brows. He evidently recognised the dreadful aura that had just been released, even if it were mixed with something foreign. ‘Why would Saint Firebird act?’
The representatives in the negotiation chamber had many questions and had no choice but to prematurely end the conference. A fight between the six Spirit Saints had to be avoided at all costs, even if it meant ending the Summit at once.