‘Give up on him?’ Junius’ mind went blank. This entire time, he had served the Allfather under the impression that he could rescue Shin from the clutches of Lady Seph, and bring him back to his real home. A home with the Awter Clan.
“Pardon for my insolence, but may I ask why?” For the members of the Awter Clan, they can’t just be told to give up on Shin. His existence was the glue that kept them together. By bringing him to their side, the Awter Clan would have the chance of resurrected from the ashes, and the children that he had would become the bloodline that would overthrow the Frie Clan and the Himmel Empire.
They can’t just give up on Shin!
“You have been busy with your base and rightfully so. The Allfather’s orders are supersedes anything else after all.” Ao started off with a word of praise to help ease up the tension. “However, that single-mindedness has made you ignorant of worldly affairs. During the recent Summit that was held on Deus Citadel, the most prominent name that came out of the floating fortress wasn’t the Saint of Time, and neither was it the Sword Saint Geom. There was one name that shook the world and turned everyone’s heads. And that was your younger brother, Shin.”
“What?!” Junius resisted the urge to grab the World Serpent by the collar of his shirt. What had Shin got to do with the Summit? Wasn’t he with Lady Seph in the Capital?
“I know it sounds hard to believe, but as it turns out, Shin had been scouted by the Lantis Republic’s Saint of Time. Something about having the same bloodline as her own ancient clan. Because of that, a fight began between Saint Firebird from the Himmel Empire and the Saint of Time. Unfortunately for us, the two Saints didn’t cut each other down.”
Nothing would delight the Black Masks more than if the two superpowers killed each other off. That way, there would be fewer interferences with their future plans. Pity, that didn’t happen.
“After that, Shin showed why he was the most sought after talent in the entire world by beating a Rank 43 Luminary from the Tuareg Sect. Those who witnessed the match says that it was the most thrilling bout they had even laid eyes on. Something about copying techniques the moment it was executed. The reports were a little unclear, but that was the gist of it. After our investigators return, we would be sure to get the bigger picture of what happened in the Summit.”
Hearing the news of his younger brother for the first time since god knows how long had made Junius somewhat sentimental. He had always known that Shin was an exceptional talent, but for him to beat a Rank 43 Luminary was something else entirely. Even if there were two of Junius, there was no guarantee that he could take down a Spirit Spectre. Such was the difference between the two realms. Based on the information Junius had gathered, Shin should still be in the Spirit Core realm. Yet, he was able to defeat a Spirit Spectre? How ludicrous was that?
‘Hehe, looks like I’m getting left behind…’ Junius chuckled. He wasn’t jealous that Shin had surpassed him. Instead, he was elated. Before he was a member of the Black Mask, Junius was an elder brother and a proud guardian of the youth. Junius had seen Shin grow from an infant to a teenager and was even an integral part of his training.
Their ways may have parted for now, but that didn’t mean that Junius had stopped caring for Shin. In fact, it was the contrary. No matter what he did in the Black Masks, no matter how heinous the deed, Junius had done it to reunite the orphans.
‘I wonder what he’s doing now… How much has he grown? Is he eating well?’ Junius pondered to himself before remembering the World Serpent’s words. ‘Now’s not the time to be reminiscing!’
“W-What… Are the plans the Allfather have for Shin?” Junius mustered up all that he had to ask that crucial question. The Allfather had ordered the Awter Clan to stop looking for Shin. Did it mean that the Black Masks wanted to kill the cancerous tumour before it could grow even further? If they wanted to kill Shin for his talent, Junius would immediately question his allegiances and would most likely defect from the Black Masks.
“Hmmm, to be honest, I’m not sure.” Ao frowned and stroked his chin. “When the Allfather learnt of the news, I was there with him. He said something very… Peculiar.”
“W-W-What did he say?” The viridian-haired young man was shaking like a leaf.
“He called your friend… Interesting…”
‘Interesting?! The Allfather had taken notice of Shin?!’ Junius cried out mentally. Never in the history of the Black Masks had the Allfather placed such emphasis on a single individual outside of his organisation. Did it spell a tragedy? Or a blessing? Junius just had to know.
“Not to worry. Based on his actions, I don’t think that the Allfather wants to eradicate the young boy. He probably thinks that Shin should remain on his path and a move to the Black Masks would be detrimental for his development.”
‘The Allfather cares about Shin’s development?!’ Junius and Shia opened their eyes wide. Why was it that the enemy cared how strong Shin would become? Shouldn’t he kill off the menace before it gets too strong?
“Ah, right. You still don’t understand what the Allfather really wants right.” Ao laughed at his folly. Not everyone was privy to this knowledge and yet he had just run his mouth.
“Isn’t it to launch a Great War so that he could rule the world?”
“Pffftt!!! Where did you get that idea from?!” The World Serpent spat out his saliva. The members of the Black Masks were zealous fanatics that obeyed their master’s every will. Yet, they had misunderstood the Allfather to this extent!
“Was I mistaken?”
“Hahaha! You’ve got the first part right! The Allfather indeed wishes to launch a Great War where he would raze the pretty stone palaces of men and annihilate half of the human population! However, he doesn’t want to rule anything! Heck, he doesn’t even care if any of us sits on the throne!”
“So… What is it that the Allfather wants?”
“Hehe… You really want to know?” The World Serpent regained control over his convulsing body and leaned in closer to the pair.
Gulping down a mouthful of air, Junius and Shia held their breath as they quietly waited for Ao to reveal the secret… The mystery behind the Allfather’s intentions.
“Come… Let me tell you a story… A story of a young boy with big dreams…”
Two weeks had passed since the mayhem at Deus Citadel. All representatives from the three superpowers had returned to their respective nations each one bringing good news to the leaders of their country. The trip to the Land of Dreams wasn’t a waste! The Alliance that many said was doomed to fail, had finally been formed, with each nation producing sufficient manpower and resources to combat the Black Masks.
The first major hurdle that the Alliance was faced with was the demolition of three Black Masks’ bases within the Kori Federation. Not knowing if their intelligence was exposed, the Alliance moved quickly and gathered a division of ten thousand men each to strike at the heart of the three bases.
Regrettably, when the Generals arrived at the scene, a large portion of the Black Masks forces had already been relocated, and the Alliance was forced to grit their teeth and gather the remnant scraps. They did, however, kill about a thousand Spirit Beasts and captured a handful of Shudras. Sent to interrogation units that were formed by the Mercenary Guild, the Shudras were grilled for information about their organisation and the enigmatic Allfather.
However, instead of giving in to the torture, the numerous Shudras all claimed their own lives, showing how committed they were to their mysterious leader. The investigators weren’t even able to gather a single useful detail about the Black Masks. Which begged a few questions:
- Who was the Allfather?
- What is the purpose of the Black Masks and what was their plan for bringing the world to chaos?
- How did the Allfather get so powerful?
- How many forces do the Black Masks really have?
- Where are the remaining Black Masks’ bases?
These were the five most pressing questions that the Alliance had to answer. As the old adage goes, if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Right now, the Alliance knew of their own might but were entirely in the dark about anything related to the Black Masks. Thus, the first order of action that the new Alliance Leader had made was to launch a full-scale investigation, using a combination of the Mercenary Guild’s information network and the central intelligence agency that was formed by the Alliance.
Of course, none of those issues mattered to Shin and his fellow friends, who had long retreated back to Imperius Academy. After the hectic few weeks that he had at the Summit, all Shin wanted to do was sit back in his cultivation chamber and reflect on all of his experiences.
Seated in a lotus position, Shin was meditating serenely while emitting a tremendous amount of mana. Coloured as a profound cerulean aura, the spiritual energies that seeped out of his pores made the entire stone chambers into a densely packed ocean within a room. If an ordinary Rank 1 Spirit Practitioner were to stumble into the room, he or she would most definitely suffocate on the immense pressure, bringing their lives to an early stoppage.
‘Omnipresent… Water is omnipresent. It is in the air, the ground, the oceans, the mountains, the trees, the canyons…’ Chanting the familiar line from the Celestial Water Mantra, Shin continued to deepen his understanding about his Spirit. For the most part, his cultivation has progressed after beating Lukman in a one-on-one battle. While he hasn’t advanced a rank yet, the aura that he could create had been purified, making it a spectacular ‘ocean’ for the Sovereign Koi to swim within.
Being stuck in his chambers for almost five hours, Shin finally decided that it was enough. Halting his chants, Shin opened his eyes, feeling as refreshed as can be. Jumping off the stone bed, the black-haired youth stretched his tense muscles from sitting down too long and breathed it the hot air of humidity and sweat.
“Bleurgh… It smells disgusting in here.” Shin dry-heaved. To create the most optimal environment for cultivators, Imperius Academy had ensured that the cultivation chambers were entirely sealed, with little chance for spiritual energies to get in or out. However, as a result, the nauseating stench of sweat and body odour would accumulate over the hours. “Let’s get out of here.”
Taking a clean white cloth from the nearby drawer, Shin wiped himself while opening the door for airing. Taking a glance up at the sky, Shin was greeted by a blazing hot sun that was at the peak of the firmament.
“It’s already noon? Time really flies when I’m cultivating.”
After releasing all of the knots that had built up in his muscles, Shin headed to the signature location that his clique had always gathered at for lunch. Walking down the familiar path, Shin marvelled at the quiet pathways and never-ending serenity. Closing his eyes, the boy could hear the soft chirping of summer bird and splashing of water from the nearby fountain. Such tranquillity was hard found ever since the world learnt of his name. Whenever he moved out in the open, hordes of journalists and influential figures would flock in his direction, hoping to catch a conversation with the new wonder boy.
“Hah… Imperius Academy is really the best…” Shin sighed deeply to himself. If possible, Shin wanted to stay within campus grounds forever to cultivate. Alas, Imperius Academy was too far inland. For the foreseeable future, Shin had to travel to nearby water sources for his studies into the world of water.
“Shin! Shin! You’re finally out!” Just as the black-haired boy was busy admiring the scenery, a familiar adolescent voice called out to him with great fervour.
“Isadore? What happened?”
After returning to the Himmel Empire, the first person to welcome Shin back was the absent silver-haired androgynous boy, who had been held back from attending the Summit due to personal reasons. The face that Isadore had shown Shin and Kanari when they came back was something that perhaps none of them would ever forget for the rest of their lives. But that was a story for another time.
Isadore’s face was flushed. Evidently, something significant must have happened.
“Remember how the Saint of Time had told you that she’ll be sending people to monitor you?”
“They had finally arrived!” Isadore cried out.
Shin had been cultivating peacefully. Thus there was no way that he would have known. There was no way that he would have known of the tremendous commotion the Lantis Republic’s caravan had made when the barged into Imperius Academy.
“They’re waiting for you at the quadrangle outside!”
“Got it!” Shin understood the urgency of the matter and immediately followed Isadore out.
The cultivation chambers were located in a remote part of Imperius Academy, and not many people had access to the luxurious rooms. Only the top three students from each year, as well as a plethora of staffers from the institution, had free reign to move to and fro into the cultivation chambers. Nonetheless, the quadrangle outside of the cultivation chambers wasn’t that private. Packed to the brim with an endless amount of curious students, the courtyard was now the most cramped place within the entire academy.
“Woah… There are so many people.” Shin gaped. He knew he had the spotlight on him right now, but what he was witnessing was on a whole other level.
“And whose fault is that?” From the corner of the entrance, Kanari came out with a slightly miffed expression. Initially, she was the one that wanted Shin to join her faction and had spent a considerable amount of resources and time garnering his respect. Now that he had shown himself to the world, the world as a whole now wants a piece of him for themselves.
“Why’re you in such a bad mood?” Isadore asked.
“Hmph!” Kanari rolled her eyes and didn’t answer. Fortunately, her nemesis was right there to sabotage her.
“Hehe, the Lantis Republic actually brought a pretty girl along to accompany Shin, of course, she’s pissed.” Elrin chuckled as if she were a sinister rat. “Why don’t you go see for yourself?”
Pushing Shin from the back, Elrin gave the young boy the first nudge as he revealed himself to the dozens of Lantis Republic members. While there were some who were confused in the beginning, one particularly familiar face came forward with a dazzling smile.
“Shin Iofiel, we meet again.” A sky-blue haired maiden took centre-stage, beaming in delight at their quick reunion.
“Senior Meijing Bingying…” While he was momentarily stunned, Shin somehow managed to find his manners and returned the greetings.
‘To think that Saint Longyu Tian would send the Pearl in the East to be my guardian!’
Before Shin left Deus Citadel, Longyu Tian had actually left him with a few words. She said that a procession consisting of a few esteemed members from the Lantis Republic would personally come over and act as his guardian and mentor until the five-year agreement was up. It was a godsend since Shin literally knew nothing about the Lantis Republic’s culture and cultivation techniques. Having a mentor was a good move on Longyu Tian’s part. However, little did Shin expect that the Saint of Time would dispatch their most famous Luminary to look over him.
“This here is Xunyu Huanyuan. He’ll be my assistant during our stay here.” Meijing Bingying gestured to the tall man beside her, and he similarly gave a bow.
‘A member of the Xunyu Clan as well?’
For Shin to be more comfortable with his foreign guests, Longyu Tian had deliberately sent talents that were similar in age to Shin. Although they were eight years older than Shin, their maturity as crucial members of their respective clans would play an essential role in preparing Shin for his eventual arrival on Longyu Reef.
“There are others that would be on their way soon. The Saint of Time has dispatched a Spirit Venerate Elder to look after you should the Himmel Empire have second thoughts.”
“I see…” Truth to be told, Shin didn’t know how to feel about his current status as a dignified citizen of both the Himmel Empire and the Lantis Republic. Nonetheless, for now, he could only go with the flow.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Remembering something important, Meijing Bingying took out a ornate chest from the centre of her wagon. Decorated and sealed with extravagant charms and talismans, one could tell that the contents from the chest were far from ordinary.
“That’s right. The Saint of Time has agreed to your request and had sent the item here.” Meijing Bingying chuckled. For the next five years, the young Luminary was going to act as his guardian and mentor. Thus, it brought her joy that Shin could further improve under her tutelage.
“Hehe… I look forward to what you’re going to accomplish once you assimilate with this item…” Beaming with a gorgeously charming smile, Meijing Bingying looked forward to the next five years. The five years where Shin would be properly trained in the ways of the Lantis Republic.
~~~ End of Book 7 ~~~