“T-That was nerve-wracking…” Shin did his best to quell his beating heart. When Saint Firebird asked if he was using Kanari just for the sake of his own convenience, Shin felt as if a bucket of ice cold water had been doused all over his body. Even though the Spirit Saint didn’t let out even a single ounce of mana, just his mere presence alone was capable of scaring the youth out of his wits.
“Elder Firebird isn’t normally like that…” Kanari tapped on her friend’s shoulder with a comforting smile. “He’s just concerned about me. Also, it looks like he likes you! So all is good, right?” Kanari was the first one in the Capital to figure out Shin’s potential and actively scout him. Hence, now that young boy, who was relatively unknown just a year back had gotten recognition from a Spirit Saint, Kanari felt as if her eye for talent had been validated.
Shin’s mouth twitched as he observed the black-haired beauty’s brightly-lit face. It was because of her that he was pulled out of the crowd to face the intimidating Spirit Saint. “Yeah, at least he likes me…”
Ignoring the annoying happy expression that Kanari had, the group returned to the auditorium where the briefing had begun. Since everyone was immersed with the speaker on the podium, Shin’s return went relatively unnoticed. Finding a remote spot in the corner, Shin ardently listened in to the briefing, hoping to pick up any details that he possibly could.
“That’s Imperial Eunuch Gonggong.” While Shin was wholly focused on the rundown, Kanari helped the twins and Shizen identify the lavishly dressed speaker.
Just as his title suggests, Imperial Eunuch Gonggong was the prime assistant to His Majesty, Tenno. Not only was he responsible for the logistics of the entire Imperial Palace, but he was also responsible for planning out the Sovereign Emperor’s daily life. Who he met, how he travelled, what he eats… Anything that was related to Tenno’s life, the Imperial Eunuch had to know about. Not to mention, Gonggong was a Spirit Venerate that specialised in speed, making him the best last resort card that the Emperor could play in times of peril.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Imperial Eunuch was a crucial part of the Imperial Emperor’s life. Yet, here he was diverting his attention away from his job, and planning the logistics for the Himmel Empire convoy.
“On the first day, we will be visiting the monument that had been built for those who were massacred in the Land of Dreams.” The Imperial Eunuch read out the schedule from a yellow parchment.
“Food and refreshments would be provided throughout the entire event. Once everyone has paid their respects, we will be headed towards Deus Citadel, which will be stationed nearby. We are arriving on the last day, so the members of the Kori Federation and the Lantis Republic would already be waiting for us in the Citadel. Expect to be ogled.” The feminine man joked sarcastically.
“Remember not to stray away from the group before we enter Deus Citadel. On the night that we arrive, the barriers of the Citadel would be fortified, and no one would be allowed to enter or leave. If you’re outside during that time, your trip there would have been wasted.”
The crowd gulped.
“The following day, the Summit will formally begin. Prince Koshaku, as well as a few delegates from the Imperial Courts will be leading the talks. As for the rest, you will have free time for about a week to socialise around. However, you must be wary. We might be allying with the Kori Federation and the Lantis Republic for now, but no one knows what would happen ten, twenty years from now.” Gonggong reminded the members in the auditorium to keep their behaviour in check. “Also, if we find out that you have leaked any information to the other superpowers, the Himmel Empire will charge you in court for espionage. So do be careful with the people that you meet.”
Gonggong smiled as he saw the anxious faces of the crowd. There were many here who were super talents and had an inflated ego. To keep them all in check, he had to employ some scare tactics. Now that he had given them the stick, it was time to offer up the carrot. “Once the week-long talks are over, some entertainment would be needed. Members from the younger generation! That would be your job!”
“…” Gonggong’s words placed question marks on everyone’s face, particularly those from the younger generation.
“Each organisation attending the Summit would want to show off the talent that they have nurtured. You will be required to show off your skills, in whichever format you choose. Some try to lift heavy weights while others just display their beautiful martial arts. However, the most common method is naturally the exhibition match.” Gonggong’s expression turned impish. No matter how old one got, the competitive essence in a cultivator’s heart would never diminish. “On this regard, whoever shows the best performance during the exhibition match would be rewarded accordingly by the Emperor. If you beat every single one of your peers from the other two superpowers, I will make sure that His Majesty hears of your magnificent deeds!”
“AAAAAAHHHH!!!” The crowd cheered out in sheer joy. Gonggong had borrowed some tactics from his military counterparts and boosted the morale of those attending the Summit. So what if the Himmel Empire was allied with the Kori Federation and the Lantis Republic? They had to show the world that the Himmel Empire’s talents weren’t pushovers to be trifled with.
“What a moving speech.” As Gonggong returned backstage, a suave green-eyed man applauded the eunuch with a satisfied smile. “Now we have a bunch of motivated, hot-blooded kids in our ranks. Facing those from the other superpowers wouldn’t be that much of a challenge.”
Recognising the man, Gonggong immediately bowed down in respect. In the entire Empire, there was only one bloodline that possessed such beautiful emerald-green eyes which screamed of majesty.
“Your Highness, I was just doing my job.”
“And I’m praising you for being so good at it.”
“Thank you for your praise.”
Gonggong simply smiled and let the matter go. If a member of the Imperial Family expressed admiration for any ordinary commoner, that would have been the highlight of that plebian’s life. However, Gonggong had become immune to such praise. In fact, many Imperials wanted him to praise them instead!
“Highness Koshaku. Looks like Gonggong isn’t really that impressed by your flattery.” A two-metre tall giant mysteriously emerged from the shadows and teased the middle-aged royal. “If you want to surpass the Iron Tongue, you should practice on Gonggong more.”
“Field Marshal, you’re going to make me blush. How could I ever compare to the Iron Tongue?”
“You guys…” Prince Koshaku narrowed his eyes as he thought about the overwhelming task that lay before him. The Lantis Republic was one thing, but he had to convince the Kori Federation, the Mercenary Guild and the Blacksmith’s League to supply enough resources to fight off the Black Masks. Due to the massacre in the Land of Dreams, getting them to agree to an alliance wouldn’t be that difficult. However, the challenge lay in the degree of help that the superpowers were willing to provide.
Would the Lantis Republic send troops inland? Would the Blacksmith’s League provide Mythic-grade Spirit Armaments? Would the Kori Federation allow the Himmel Empire to march troops into their territory? All of these were talking points that had to be sorted out during the Summit, and unfortunately for Prince Koshaku, the other powers weren’t going to play nice.
From the Lantis Republic sending out the ‘Iron Tongue,’ Zhangyu Yaoguai, to the Blacksmith’s League bringing in the sole Immortal-Grade fortress in the world to act as the host site for the Summit. Every single power attending the Summit was bringing their all to the table.
“Honestly, I’m more worried about the exhibition matches that the younger generation have to go through…” Seeing that the two Spirit Venerates were just teasing him, Prince Koshaku quickly changed the topic. “Among the leaders of the younger generation, Eikyo does look the most promising, and the talents among his ranks are geniuses among geniuses. However, compared to the monsters that the Kori Federation and the Lantis Republic have…”
“You’re right.” Gonggong agreed with Prince Koshaku. “I’ve read through the names of those who are representing the two other superpowers. Compared to them, our side looks rather… Lacklustre.”
It was a statement that no executive in the government should ever utter out. Acknowledging the Himmel Empire’s inferiority, Gonggong bit his lip. “If only Kanari were a few years older… Based on her current trajectory, she has the chance to break through into the Spirit Spectre realm before she reaches twenty-one! Compared to the Tuareg Sect’s Lukman, or the Meijing Clan’s Pearl in the East, Kanari is far superior! It’s a shame that she’s only sixteen…”
“…” An awkward silence descended upon the trio.
Becoming a Spirit Spectre was tough. Becoming a Spirit Spectre before the age of twenty-five was near impossible. However, due to advancements in cultivation techniques and a considerable surplus in resources, there were a handful of prodigious young cultivators in that were able to cross the first barrier of mortality.
Labelled as Luminaries, those that transcend into the Spirit Spectre realm before the age of twenty-five would have their entire lives heavily scrutinised as reaching that level at such a tender age meant that their future prospects would be set. After all, the Luminaries were almost as rare as Spirit Saints, and they had a high likelihood of becoming Spirit Saints themselves. To put it in perspective of how rare Luminaries were, including the Young Drake Duke, Eikyo, the Himmel Empire only had six of them.
While Kanari and Shin were on pace to becoming Luminaries, it would still take them a few years to reach the standard that the current Luminaries had. For instance, the Kori Federation’s Lukman and the Lantis Republic Meijing Bingying had both transcended their mortalities when they were just twenty-three. Now that two years had passed, they must have advanced multiple ranks. So much so that the Luminaries of the Himmel Empire could never hope to match up.
“Hah… That’s fine. We can take a loss every now and then.” Field Marshal Ridan Bitterdawn chimed in. In his mind, the Himmel Empire’s younger generation had already lost. He didn’t even fathom the possibility that they were able to triumph against the monsters that were being sent out from the other superpowers. “The significance of the Summit isn’t the performance of the younger generation after all. The most important aspect is to completely eradicate the Black Masks from the face of the earth.”
“Agreed.” Gonggong nodded with a neutral smile on his face.
“Let’s just hope that they would surprise us during the exhibition matches.” Prince Koshaku prayed for a miracle as he prepared to enter his aether car that would finally bring them towards the new Land of Dreams.
The Land of Dreams. One Day Later.
Straight after the briefing that Imperial Eunuch Gonggong gave, the participants of the Summit were all filtered into their aether cars that would ferry them towards their destination. While it was expensive to send a convoy of over a hundred aether cars just to shuttle a few men across the border, to boast to the other superpowers of the Himmel Empire’s wealth, such opulence was necessary.
“To think that we’re back here so soon…” Elrin muttered out with a dejected sigh as she glanced out of the car.
“Yeah… It seems like we were here just yesterday.” Shin sighed as well. “To think that over a month had passed.”
Of everyone in his group, only Elrin and he had participated in the training exercise in the Land of Dreams. While Isadore was also present, the silver-haired boy wasn’t allowed to attend the Summit. The official reason that was given for his absence was that he lacked the cultivation level to even act as a squire. However, those who knew of his true identity understood that there the Himmel Empire wouldn’t risk sending Isadore into the jaws of international politics.
“Elrin! Tell us more about your time here with Shin.” Emma, who was bored after the long journey, opted to engage in some gossip, even though the subject in question was seated directly opposite her.
“Hehe, you really want to know? That would be one gold!”
“Urghhh, so stingy…”
While the girls were busy blabbing, Shin’s attention was wholly focused on the reconstructed landscape of the Land of Dreams.
‘Let’s hope that things don’t go as bad as they did before…’