As the representatives from each one of the superpowers dispersed back to the Apex of the Citadel, the Saints remained stationed in their own respective seats as a force field covered their vicinity. Now that peace and quiet had been restored to the land, the Saints could finally settle their differences without their bothersome juniors.
In the midst of the saintly affair, Shin was standing just two metres behind Saint Althea and Saint Firebird. Being the person responsible for damaging the trust between the Spirit Saints, it was only natural that the boy stayed behind while Longyu Tian settled her differences with the Himmel Empire.
“Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?” The black-haired woman scoffed as her sparkling azure eyes glistened in murderous intent. “I’m taking Shin back to the Lantis Republic after the Summit. Where he belongs.”
“Saint of Time, please calm down.” The owner of Deus Citadel played the mediator, albeit in a clunky fashion. “If you take such a combative stance, negotiations would break down even before it begins.”
“…” Longyu Tian didn’t say a word. Her beef was with the Himmel Empire, not some outsider. Staring, no, glaring straight at Saint Firebird, the Matriarch from the Longyu Clan waited for some sort of counter.
“As I mentioned before, Shin is part of our Empire. Not to mention, a future talent that could be groomed to represent our nation. If we just hand him over as you demand, doesn’t it undermine the Himmel Empire’s sovereign power?”
“Hmph! Since when did you care about mortal affairs, Saint Firebird?”
Spirit Saints weren’t known to be particularly empathetic towards the matters of the common man. They had lived for centuries and already had their fair share of drama during their younger days. The majority of Spirit Saints would much rather cultivate their hardest to cross the final barrier of mortality or enjoy their last days drinking mead while playing with their descendants. Saint Firebird was one such cultivator.
In his heyday, the flaming Spirit Saint was a feared strike force for the Himmel Empire and had once razed countless of his nation’s foes without mercy. However, now that he had reached his third century, the man couldn’t care less about politics or international relations. So long as he could live his remaining days in peace, he was content.
“I have no obligation to answer that question.” Saint Firebird sneered, completely unlike his stoic character. “Either way, I can’t hand over Shin to you.”
The two Spirit Saints continued to go back and forth, not willing to budge a single inch.
“Saint Firebird… Saint of Time… May I interject?” The handsome looking middle-aged swordsman raised his hands, bringing all of the Saints attention onto himself. “The two of you have been going back and forth about that boy there, but we have yet to hear from the person himself. Shouldn’t his intentions be noted before we proceed?”
“Saint Geom has a point.” The Mercenary Guild’s Spirit Saint placed both her elbows on the table and rested her supremely light head on her hands. “We can’t just decide someone else’s fate for him, can we?”
Longyu Tian and Saint Firebird closed their mouths. The reasoning was sound. They weren’t talking about an inanimate object that could be passed around with no repercussions. They were discussing the destiny of a living, breathing human being. If Shin wanted to leave for the Lantis Republic, who was Saint Firebird to stop him? If Shin didn’t want to betray the Himmel Empire, who was Saint Longyu Tian to force him?
The six Spirit Saints turned to the young boy, whose face had turned flustered at the sudden attention. One Spirit Saint was already a nightmare, imagine having six of the top entities in the world staring straight at you. Shin felt as if his supple skin was pierced by a thousand pine needles.
“Shin, was it?” Saint Geom asked.
“Tell us… What do you want?”
“…” Momentarily stunned, Shin contemplated on the best words to put forth. If he outright rejected Longyu Tian’s demand, he may lose the only chance he had to get baptised by the Celestial River. If he came out in support for the Saint of Time, he would be branded as a traitor by the Himmel Empire.
‘What would Ariel do?’ The youth grasped on the amethyst pendant around his neck. Whenever he was feeling low or felt like he had no path forward, Shin would always consult the ghost of the one he loved the most.
‘What I would do? Of course, I would take everything!’ Shin was brought back in time, as he heard the nostalgic voice. Back in the Frie Clan, Ariel was known as the little tyrant, who did everything to get her way. If there were any obstacles in her way, Ariel would just leapfrog over the hurdle, as if it were natural.
‘Take everything huh?’
“I… Can’t leave the Himmel Empire.”
“Hmph!” Saint Firebird beamed as he threw his chin up in pride. If even Shin was on his side, Longyu Tian had no claim to bring the youth over to the Lantis Republic. Folding his arms, the Himmel Empire’s Spirit Saint was ready to put the arrogant Saint of Time in her place. Unfortunately for him, Shin wasn’t done speaking.
“But, I can’t pass on the opportunity to get baptised by the Celestial River.” Shin raised his right hand and summoned out his Sovereign Koi in front of all those Saints.
“Hoho…” The remaining Saints gasped in wonder.
From that one action, Saint Thor, Geom, and Atossa could somewhat guess the twisted relationship Shin shared with the Himmel Empire and the Lantis Republic.
“I’m a born citizen of the Himmel Empire, and I can’t betray my motherland. But I have to get stronger! Stronger so that I can take on the Black Masks and bring justice to that vile organisation!” Shin laid out his truth.
“I’m still far too weak… I know that I’m just a drop of water in the vast ocean of the combined forces, but I too want to contribute! The Black Masks must be stopped, and I want to play a part in the fight!”
That was his answer. It was an exceedingly selfish notion. Trying to remain part of the Himmel Empire while having one foot into the Lantis Republic. Nonetheless, it was the only solution, the only answer that Shin could possibly come up with.
“HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!” A bellowing laugh boomed out. Saint Thor, who was wholly unrelated to the issue at hand, couldn’t hold back his emotions as tears of laughter trickled down his face.
“Boy, you sure are greedy! You want the Himmel Empire and the Lantis Republic to both bow to you?! HAHAHA, what an amazing thought!!!”
Thor had lived for the better part of two centuries, and this was the first time he had seen a Spirit Core cultivator asking for two of the world’s greatest superpowers to bend to his will. Arrogance wasn’t the right word to describe the youth. It was more along the lines of absolute lunacy.
“Shin, I don’t think that’s the right way to go…” Saint Firebird frowned. He had thought that Kanari’s friend would stick with the Empire through thick and thin. Yet, Shin had gone and made such an outlandish remark.
“I-I…” In any normal circumstance, Shin wouldn’t be afraid to speak his mind. However, he was in the presence of the most powerful beings of the cultivation world. Naturally, he had to think twice for every sentence.
“I’m sorry, Saint Firebird. I might sound ungrateful, but ultimately, I have to be selfish.” Clenching his fists, Shin gritted his teeth as he spewed out the words he had ought to swallow. “I live for myself, not the Empire. I must become strong, not for the Empire, but for my own sake.”
“Phew…” Saint Atossa whistled as the plot thickened. As a bystander, she had no say in the affairs of the Himmel Empire and the Lantis Republic. Nonetheless, the Mercenary Guild Matriarch was impressed that Shin actually had the guts to go against the wishes of two Spirit Saints.
“Hahaha! My god, Shin! You’re starting to resemble more and more like your Master!!!” Lady Althea broke out in laughter.
“Ah, you guys don’t know! This boy’s master is none other than my prized brat, Seraphim!”
“No wonder…” A flash of understanding was shared among all the Spirit Saints. If Shin’s master was that infamous brazen Divine Healer, then his behaviour made a tonne of sense.
Saint Geom turned to Shin with the most dazzling smile on his face. Through Jimga and Yeunghi, the Dalgeom Sect had connected a string of fate with the young boy, and the Spirit Saint grew more curious about his destiny.
“Saint of Time, how do you respond?”
“My stance remains firm.” Longyu Tian showed off her domineering personality as her opinion hasn’t shifted in the slightest. She still firmly believed that Shin should abandon the Himmel Empire and be raised by her to become the Longyu Clan’s next beacon of hope. “However, I understand the difficulties that he’s under. Saint Firebird! Let’s negotiate a deal.”
“What do you propose?”
“Give us Shin. Don’t label him as a traitor and allow him a free passage back into the Empire, as and when he desires. In return, the Lantis Republic will comply with whatever demands you have during the Summit.”
“…” While his facial expressions hardened at the first part of Longyu Tian’s reply, when he heard the following section, Saint Firebird instantly turned speechless. “You would go that far?”
“I never jest.”
“Do you even have the authority to command Zhangyu Yaoguai and overturn the High Elder Assembly’s orders?”
“No, I don’t.” Longyu Tian shook her head. Spirit Saints weren’t allowed to partake in affairs of the mortal realm. That was an indisputable fact. Nonetheless, it mattered nought for the fabled Saint of Time.
“I don’t have the authority, but I can make my own.”
“Haha, as tyrannical as ever, I see.” Saint Thor laughed. Among all of the Spirit Saints present, Thor was the one who knew Longyu Tian the best. On the surface, she may look like a reasonable and kind person, but there was a reason why she was the most feared Spirit User of her generation.
“Saint Thor, I would prefer it if you don’t slander my name.”
“My bad, my bad.”
“So, Saint Firebird? What say you?”
Longyu Tian was willing to move the entire Lantis Republic’s military just to obtain Shin for the Longyu Clan, and now the ball was in Saint Firebird’s court. Should he accept the terms, they would have access to the entire Lantis Republic’s forces in the upcoming war. However, at the same time, he would be breaking the promise he had with his beloved Kanari.
Alternating his gaze between the black-haired youth and Longyu Tian, Saint Firebird weighed the pros and cons in his mind before finally coming to a painful decision.
“Give me some time to discuss with my juniors…”
“Good.” Hearing his response, the Saint of Time let out a brilliant smile. Those words from the grey-robed elder were enough to seal the deal between the two. “I’ll wait for your good news.”
Longyu Tian got off her seat and walked in the direction of her hotel. As she was passing, the Spirit Saint took one final look at Shin before letting out a whisper that only he could hear.
“Shin, wait for a bit. I’ll definitely reunite you with your real family.”
And with that, the Spirit Saint vanished into thin air.
“She was the one who caused this mayhem, and she casually waltzed away.” Saint Thor threw his arms up above his head and bellowed out in a disjointed laugh. “She hasn’t changed one bit, that Saint of Time.”
“That’s just her nature.” Saint Atossa added on. “But for her to go so far for you… Boy, what else are you hiding from us?”
“Don’t scare my precious Grand-Disciple! He’s not for sale.” Saint Althea jumped from her seat and pulled Shin away from the predatory eyes of the Mercenary Guild’s Spirit Saint.
“Honestly, all of us had to gather for this one kid. Don’t you think that we deserve answers?”
“No, you don’t.” Saint Firebird slapped his hand on the table and abruptly got to his feet. “This is a matter between the Himmel Empire and the Lantis Republic. I apologise for inconveniencing all of you, but I would hope that you refrain from meddling. Shin, we’re leaving.”
Saint Firebird grasped Shin by the wrists and immediately dashed up into the sky. Lady Althea gave a curtsy and flew off in the same direction.
“Ah, they left.” Saint Atossa jeered. She wanted to learn more about the enigmatic youth, but Saint Firebird didn’t even give her the slightest opportunity.
While the boy had already left, the three Spirit Saints that remained had their minds firmly set on that particular name. Shin had nearly ripped the entire Summit apart before it could even conclude its first day, possibly etching his name in the history books for the rest of eternity…