The Land of Dreams. Deus Citadel. The top floor of the Himmel Empire’s Hotel.
Amidst the chaos and turmoil that was splashing outside, the top brass of the Himmel Empire’s procession were all hunched on their seats, with doom and gloom hanging over their heads like a wired thread. Once Saint Firebird had brought Shin back to his apartment, the esteemed Spirit Saint just stared out into the distance, hiding any and all thoughts that may have come into his mind.
At the other corner of the room, Prince Koshaku was observing the black-haired boy who was nervously twiddling with his thumbs. He was currently in the presence of a Spirit Saint and a Spirit Venerate who he had almost no relations with. If they somehow felt angered by his actions, the two giants of the cultivation world could snap him out of existence, and no one would have noticed. Hence, to somewhat appease their anger, Shin remained silent and wore a blank expression, hoping that nothing bad could possibly happen to him.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Three loud thuds echoed through the room, Prince Koshaku and Shin’s attention to the door. Saint Firebird didn’t bother to turn around as if he already knew who had arrived.
“Saint Firebird! It’s us!” A familiar adenoidal voice rung in the ears of the room’s inhabitants, instantly brightening Shin’s face.
“Koshaku, let them in.”
The Imperial acted as if he were a doorman for the Spirit Saint and promptly unlocked the chains that barred entry to the room. Two gorgeously dressed beauties sauntered in, not caring in the slightest about the royal blood that stood before them.
“Saint Althea. Venerate Seraphim. Did you know about this?” Saint Firebird finally allowed himself to leave his thoughts and turned around to address his new guests.
There was no need to elaborate on what the man was referring to. Saint Althea placed her finger on her chin before replying a negative.
“I had only met Shin a couple of times when I visited Seraphim. Though I knew he was a talent, I didn’t realise that his comprehension abilities had reached this degree. If you really want to know the details, you should ask Seraphim.”
“I’d told you that you shouldn’t have considered handing Shin over to the Lantis Republic.” On the other hand, the angelic blonde woman puffed her chest out in pride. “Shin’s best trait has always been his comprehension abilities. Otherwise, how could he have possibly made history by becoming the youngest healer in history? You guys were the weird ones, thinking that it would be beneficial for the nation to sacrifice Shin.”
“…” Neither Saint Firebird nor Prince Koshaku could find the words to rebut. If the deadlock had continued any further, the Himmel Empire would have honestly considered the Lantis Republic’s proposal and surrendered Shin for the prospects of gaining a military might of a hundred thousand men.
“The Lantis Republic won’t sit idly by as well.” Prince Koshaku thought from a diplomat’s perspective. “Shin’s masterful display would only serve to confirm the Lantis Republic’s desire to obtain him, and they would be more adamant on their position. If we negotiate with them now, I will bet that they would be more hard on their terms. Hah… What are we to do?”
“Hmph! If you had considered my original proposal, things wouldn’t have deteriorated to this stage so quickly!” Lady Seph harrumphed and walked over to Shin, allowing Bingbing to jump from her bosom and onto the young boy’s body.
“Proposal?” Shin had question marks floating all over his head.
“I planned for them to make an exception and negotiate the first ever dual-citizenship between two nations for you. But some people were just too stubborn to even fathom that possibility!”
“A dual-citizenship has never been done before Venerate Seraphim!” Prince Koshaku hollered out in protest.
The three superpowers, the Kori Federation in the North, the Himmel Empire in the South and the Lantis Republic in the East, had been caught in a constant power struggle ever since the balance was first formed. Betrayals were frequent and each nation had spy operatives ingrained into the fabric of their opposing countries.
Even inter-country marriages. While they were common, it was imperative that either the husband or the wife renounce their citizenship for the marriage to become legitimate. Otherwise, they would be persecuted under the court of law and perhaps serve a jail sentence that could last decades.
In the age where none of the nations fully trusted one another and were adamant in keeping their culture and values to themselves, dual citizenships weren’t even an afterthought for the major superpowers. Thus, instead of considering Lady Seph’s suggestion, the Himmel Empire procession had just tossed it out of the window and had leaned towards surrendering the boy for the ‘greater good.’
Of course, now that they felt differently, it was a little hard to backtrack from their original position.
“That’s the only option if you want to keep Shin in the Himmel Empire. You should know how stubborn the Saint of Time is…” Lady Seph turned to Saint Firebird. He was the one who knew Longyu Tian the most, and there was no way that the Saint of Time would just let the Himmel Empire retract their offer to give Shin up. If need be, Longyu Tian will sneak into the Himmel Empire when they’re not looking and abduct Shin for herself.
“What should we do?” Prince Koshaku dropped onto his chair and rubbed his the temples of his forehead. He had just come to the Land of Dreams, thinking that his biggest obstacle would be the negotiations about the military might that each nation would send out. The Imperial was prepared to tackle the challenge of determining the fate of a Spirit Core cultivator!
“I say we call the Lantis Republic for a private negotiation. This time, no falsehoods and barriers. All of us will sit down together. Saint Firebird, Saint Longyu Tian, Clan Master Zhangyu Yaoguai, Prince Koshaku, and… Shin and me.” Lady Seph clenched her fists. This was a decision that would affect the fate of her precious disciple. She had to be exceedingly cautious. “All of us must negotiate with the intent of letting Shin obtain a dual-citizenship. That’s the only way that we can conclude this mess.”
“I concur…” Saint Firebird heaved out a deep sigh. He knew that the situation was no longer in the ball court of the Himmel Empire. They wanted to keep Shin, and the Lantis Republic wanted to take him. Furthermore, Longyu Tian made it crystal clear that if the Himmel Empire didn’t comply, the Lantis Republic wouldn’t hesitate to wage war on their nation.
“A dual-citizenship it is then…” Saint Firebird acquiesced on behalf of the entire Himmel Empire. “Koshaku… Let’s call the Lantis Republic representatives for a meeting.”
A few hours had passed since Shin had made his talents known through his fight with Lukman. The entire Deus Citadel was still shaking in turbulence in the aftermath of the battle as everyone had the name Shin Iofiel at the tip of their tongues. Restaurants surrounding the Himmel Empire’s hotel were beaming with life as hundreds of journalists, and regular onlookers hoped to catch a glimpse of the new world superstar. It was safe to say that Shin’s prestige has now surpassed that of a typical Luminary and people were now seeing him as a future Spirit Saint.
Thus, when the news broke that the Himmel Empire had called for the representatives of the Lantis Republic to come for a private meeting, the entire town went into a frenzy once more. What was the Himmel Empire’s decision? Were they going to let Shin leave? Or were they going to retract their promise to the Lantis Republic? The world wanted answers.
And it wasn’t just the journalists who were pumped up. Representatives from the Kori Federation, Healer’s Association, Blacksmith’s League and Mercenary Guild were all eager to press their ears against the walls in hopes of getting the latest leaks. Unfortunately, the Himmel Empire was cautious in their actions. Inviting the Lantis Republic’s representatives into their facility, Prince Koshaku had men surrounding the courtyard that barred entry or peeking into their discussion. Additionally, Saint Firebird requested the Saint of Time to cast her own sanctuary to envelop the few that were vital to the discussions. It was paramount that no leaks could slip out the cracks before the deal was finalised.
“Thank you all for coming on such short notice.” Prince Koshaku led the talks, just as any lead negotiator should.
On the side of the Himmel Empire, there was Saint Firebird, Lady Seph, the Imperial Eunuch Gonggong, Field Marshal Ridan Bitterdawn, himself and of course, the man of the hour, Shin Iofiel.
The Lantis Republic matched that star-studded line-up with their own talents. Saint Longyu Tian sat in the leading chair with Zhangyu Yaoguai in the adjacent seat. Behind them, a plethora of trusted Spirit Venerates that served as advisors and bodyguards for the representatives remained standing in a semi-combative stance. Should things go awry, the Spirit Venerates would strike with everything that they have and if possible, kidnap Shin and bring him back to Longyu Reef.
“I understand that we have had our differences, but the Summit is a place where new bonds are forged.” Prince Koshaku used his most salesman-like face to deliver that cringe-worthy speech. Unfortunately for him, the Lantis Republic representatives weren’t buying it.
“Cut to the chase, Your Highness. We don’t have all day.” Zhangyu Yaoguai grimaced, somehow making his hideous face even more ugly. “Have you accepted our deal or not?”
The earlier offer that the Lantis Republic still stood. In return for a hundred thousand troops to combat the Black Masks, the Himmel Empire must surrender all rights they had over Shin.
“Haha, the Clan Master sure is direct. Fine! Let’s not beat around the bush. The Himmel Empire can’t accept that deal.”
“Hmph!” Zhangyu Yaoguai snorted, but he wasn’t surprised or angry. He knew that the Himmel Empire wouldn’t cave in, especially after the match that Shin and Lukman had. However, before the Iron-Faced man could come up with a counter, Prince Koshaku raised his right hand, halting any form of rebuttal.
“However, we do have a counter-offer that would appeal to both the Himmel Empire and the Lantis Republic.”
“Hoho… Let’s hear it.”
“As we all know… Shin Iofiel here has displayed tremendous talent and would most probably go far in his cultivation life. If nurtured correctly, the boy would most definitely go on to become a Spirit Saint. So it makes sense that both nations wouldn’t want to relinquish their hold over Shin. Hence, we have come up with a solution.” Prince Koshaku raised two fingers in the shape of a V and continued with his explanation. “Dual-citizenships. Shin will retain his Himmel Empire nationality as well as getting the Lantis Republic one.”
“… Are you mad?” Zhangyu Yaoguai sat in silence for a while before a vein popped in his forehead. “Why should we allow him to have an association with the Himmel Empire?!”
“Because it brings the best benefits for you.” An adenoidal voice broke the flow of the discussion. Lady Seph knew that Prince Koshaku wasn’t capable of touching the Iron-Faced man when it came to negotiations. Thus, she decided to interject.
“Shin has lived his entire life in the Himmel Empire. He is accustomed to its culture, its ways and may even feel more attached to the Empire than he would ever to the Lantis Republic. That’s a fact that you could never change by forcing him to stay within your borders.” Lady Seph had been with Shin since he was just ten-years-old. If she didn’t understand the boy, no one could.
“Yes, the Lantis Republic could help him accomplish his cultivation goals. Your Celestial River baptism, the resources that you have… They are all catered to improve the Sovereign Koi in his hands. However, there’s something that the Himmel Empire can provide to Shin that the Lantis Republic can’t.”
“The dream to combat and eradicate the Black Masks from the face of this earth.”
“!!!” Shin’s ears perked up as he heard his master’s claims.
“The Lantis Republic is content with staying on the archipelago where the Black Mask’s reach is the thinnest. However, Shin wants to directly combat the Black Masks. To fight his corrupted brother and bring him to justice. To defeat the Allfather that brought down his family and friends. And finally, to become strong enough to chase Yggdrasil. These are things that the Lantis Republic could never offer to Shin. Let me ask you this… Are you certain that you could hold back a rebellious Shin that would feel contempt for your nation with every passing moment?”
“…” Zhangyu Yaoguai fell silent. Lady Seph was right. Shin would hate to live in such a confined environment. Where he thrived was at the frontlines, in direct combat with the Black Masks.
“How do you propose this dual-citizenship then?” Longyu Tian asked the crucial question.
“Five years!” Spreading her fingers out wide, Lady Seph declared with a triumphant gaze. “Shin would stay in the Himmel Empire for five more years! By then, the war against the Black Masks would have reached its conclusion! After that, Shin would move to your Lantis Republic for five years. He will alternate between the two nations that way. Furthermore, he is not to participate in any wars that would result in him hurting either the Lantis Republic or the Himmel Empire.”
“So you’re saying we share him?”
“…” Longyu Tian fell deep into thought. As much as she wanted the Longyu Clan to monopolise the boy, Lady Seph had brought up some great points. She didn’t want Shin to live unhappily in the Lantis Republic. After all, he had suffered enough.
“Fine. However, we have some conditions.” The Saint of Time sighed. “Firstly, Shin’s baptism will be pushed back until he’s with our country and he’s not allowed to speak of anything about our cultivation ways to any of you. Should that happen, the Lantis Republic reserves the right to keep him all for ourselves.”
“Agreed!” Saint Firebird answered snappingly.
“Next, Shin must be accompanied by people that I send. They will help him with his cultivation and aid him whenever he needs to. You also cannot prohibit any communications or resources that I would share with Shin.”
“I take it that we can monitor them when they’re on our grounds.”
“Within permissible limits. We can iron out the details at a later date.”
“… We agree.” As much as Saint Firebird didn’t like how the Himmel Empire would essentially be opening their doors for potential espionage, he still nodded his head, albeit apprehensively.
“Finally, and this is the most important part…” An impish smile crept up Longyu Tian’s mouth, bringing chills down Shin’s adolescent spine.
“If Shin has a child, he or she must be raised in the Lantis Republic.”