The Kori Federation. Estrella Region. White Knight Encampment.
Evening fell on the cold and desolate rocky terrain of the region. The blistering heat of the sun had ebbed into a comforting warmth. The shadows were now twice in length as compared to their casters, and the brightly lit sky had been replaced with a grey patch of clouds and fog. If one looked carefully, they would be able to see the mischievous twinkling stars that were hidden behind the overcast twilight. It was the perfect weather to cosy up indoors with family members and friends, singing hymns about stories passed down from generation to generation. However, not all who shared the velvety dim skies felt the same way.
“Hurry! Bring the wounded to the healer’s tent! Don’t you dare drop any of them!” Officers barked out orders desperately at their soldiers, forcing the men and women to double up their efforts. Stretchers filled with unconscious warriors were being ferried from station to station, all while the troopers did their best to facilitate the healers in the camp.
Some soldiers had a hole blown through their innards while others had lost an entire limb. White-robed healers all scurried from place to place as they did their best to treat as many injured as they possibly could. While the fallen were wailing and screaming, the White Knight Commander, who had just been freed of her immediate duties, rushed into the opened tent and gazed straight at the wounded laid on white sheets. Seeing her entrance, a middle-aged man with greys coming out from the side of his head immediately put down his charts and rushed to give his superior a bow.
“What’s the damage?” Asked the commander.
“We are fortunate.” Luckily for the White Knight leader, the healer brought good news. “There’s only a few dozen who are in desperate need of attention. The rest have suffered minor abrasions and bruises that could be healed within a few days. No fatalities have been brought to my attention.”
“That’s good…” The commander heaved a sigh of relief as her tensed-up shoulders dropped. There was now one weight off her chest.
“Your decision to move the troops back immediately was wise. If not for your quick thinking, there’s no telling how many would have died out in the field.”
“Don’t pander me.” The commander replied. She wasn’t that fond of compliments, especially when she had made a blunder that may have cost her the entire army provided to her by the Alliance.
“Oh, but I was telling the truth.” The Senior Healer chuckled. “People talk. I know that the Black Mask having that structure was completely unexpected. It takes a wise leader to know when to pull back and when to advance. Your speedy reactions had resulted in many lives being saved, and I must thank you for that.”
“Alright, alright…” Unable to take the earnest praise, the golden-armoured commander blushed a little before coughing dryly once. She knew when she was beaten. Now that she had confirmed the situation with her own eyes, it was best for her to retreat back to her quarters. There were other pressing matters to handle.“When the treatments are done, report straight to me in my office.”
“Wait, commander!” Before the White Knight could even take one foot out of the door, the Senior Healer raised his voice, breaking the chorus of the wails within the tent.
“Just now… The Prince of Water paid us a visit. He helped us heal the lightly wounded, giving the other healers more freedom to take on the harder tasks.”
‘Him again?’ The Commander grabbed her chin and thought about the black-haired young man that had begged her to join the vanguard of the invasion force.
“What about it?”
“I’m not sure if I should say this but… If you’re considering another assault on the Black Masks, I would suggest that you have the boy in the frontlines.” Boldly giving his opinion about the war efforts, the Senior Healer gazed straight into the commander’s eyes, never faltering in the slightest. “The Prince of Water’s ‘Healing Mist’ is the real deal and his skill is equivalent to that of an Intermediate Healer. I’m not sure if you know this, but ‘Healing Mist’ is one of the best auxiliary skills for armies to have during a battle. If you could utilise him correctly, the number of men or women entering this tent would be massively minimised.”
“Hoh… But wouldn’t that leave you guys without a job?” With a sly smile, the commander jested.
“HA HA!!! If it meant that no more valiant warriors would fall on the battlefield, I’d wear that unemployment badge with honour!!!” The Senior Healer bellowed out, his oily face opened up with all sorts of expressions in the meantime.
“Don’t worry about the battles. We’re not even sure if the Alliance would allow us to battle that monstrous thing levitating in the air yet.”
“But if there is one… A battle… Promise me that you’ll at least consider that option.”
The White Knight Commander cocked her head back and drowsily rolled her eyes. She knew how honourable the Senior Healer was and she knew that everything he would do was for the betterment of the troops. If he had suggested that Shin should join the vanguard, the least that she could do was to consider that as an option.
“Sure thing.” Smiling, the commander left the white tent and sashayed back to her own abode, where hundreds of other matters had been piling up on her desk. Though it was technically a defeat for her forces, no one in the camp blamed her. Who could have expected that the Black Masks would hold such a malicious trump card that was still unknown to human society?
Before the commander could even make an entrance into her shelter, the seasoned warrior could sense a few figures pacing up and down within the canvas. Judging by their spiritual energies, they were mostly top-notch authorities that could easily outstrip her in power.
‘Hah… This day just keeps giving, huh?’ Composing herself, the commander took enormous strides into her own room, revealing her face to the rude guests that had made their way into her quarters.
“Commander!” Her guests all stood straight and watched as the woman stepped into the tent. Oddly enough, there was only one person that didn’t bother to stand and had his butt firmly attached to the comfortable oak chair. Though, his rude behaviour to the master of the abode wasn’t reprimanded. In fact, the commander went out of her way to bow down to the venerable old man who seemed too lazy to move.
The two exchanged short greetings before the woman took her place on the throne behind the desk. For the Spirit Venerate to personally visit her even though he had a mission of protecting Shin from harm, it meant that the issue was far greater than she could have imagined. There was no need for further pleasantries. It was time to get into the crux of the matter.
“Bring out the Cikai Mirror.” Elder Baobiao ordered. As if practised thousands of times before, the man behind of the Spirit Venerate brought a reflective glass straight from an opened chest and placed it in front of the entire congregation.
Static dominated the Cikai Mirror for a full ten seconds before a prim figure started to form within its glass. Within the communication tool, a prim and proper red-haired man appeared. His pursed pink lips echoed the tense atmosphere that was in the residence of the White Knights and his strikingly sharp eyes pierced through the soul of any that looked straight at him.
“Alliance Head!!!” Seeing the familiar handsome face, the golden-armoured commander stood up from her seat and gave a solemn bow. Raphael, the Alliance Head who happens to run the Healer’s Association at the same time, waved his arms like a regal monarch, turning all the dropped heads to jovial smiles.
“Be at ease. We have pressing matters to discuss.” When it came to the war against the Black Masks, Raphael was the figurehead that made most of the decisions. There was literally, no one in a higher authoritative position as compared to the Divine Healer that was giving the assemblage an audience.
“Yes, Sir!!!” The juniors in the room all heeded the man’s advice and returned to their respective places. All except that one elderly man with the dragon’s beard.
“Raphael, how caught up are you?”
“Not much.” The Alliance Head scratched the undersides of his chin while pulling up the scroll that had been sent to him. On it, there were many words, but they were barely able to fill up a quarter of the pristine cloth. “The information the transmission sent was rather vague, but I can tell that it’s serious.”
“Do forgive us! We have been swamped since we got back! We could only send a rushed transmission.” The White Knight Commander immediately apologised for their lack of professionalism.
“No matter, if you don’t know anything, I’ll explain it to you.” Elder Baobiao straightened his rested head to look Raphael through the Cikai Mirror in the eye. “I suspect that the Black Masks had obtained the technologies left behind by Spirit Immortal Dream. The Payirci is something that had only been theorised in the blueprint stage, and yet, there’s one such relic present under the Crypts of the First Men!”
“How dangerous is it?”
“Very.” Elder Baobiao’s eyes never wavered. He looked at the Alliance Head straight in the eye like a fierce beast that needed its prey. “It housed a tremendous amount of spiritual energies, one that would match any Spirit Saint. It summoned out heaps of Spirit Beasts that would have enveloped the entire army if not for this lass quick thinking and command. And worst of it could withstand my Xuanwu’s Yawn.”
“Let me tell you this. If that structure really is the Payirci of legend, the Black Masks would theoretically have an infinite supply of Spirit Beasts, and their reign of terror would continue on for decades!” The Spirit Venerate gave his two cents with a cry.
“I understand the implications…” Raphael folded his arms and crossed his right leg over his left thigh. Now that the message had been relayed to him in full, there had to be a plan to resist the Black Masks. “So, how do you propose we proceed from here?”
“First of all, we need more White Knight Elites in the region. If possible, bring in ten times the amount of soldiers we have now. I can help assist from the Lantis Republic’s side, but I would need the Kori Federation to send in some capable Spirit Lords and Kings as well.”
“Done.” It wasn’t hard for the Alliance Head to decree such a simple matter. They needed to eradicate the Black Masks, and the three superpowers wouldn’t disagree about taking out a potential Spirit Beast generator before it was too late.
“Next, I would need someone knowledgeable about the relics of Spirit Immortal Dream, perhaps someone from the Blacksmith’s League, to examine the structure and help to confirm if it truly is a legendary Payirci. If it is, we would need to be educated on how to stop it.”
“That would prove a little tricky…” The red-haired man dropped his head into thought while he pondered about that request. Relics from Spirit Immortal Dream’s time weren’t that extensively studied since most of it was lost or destroyed. Nonetheless, there were still some fanatics that may have gotten their hands on the blueprints of a Payirci.
“I can try to spread the word, but I can’t give you any promises that I’ll find anyone suitable within the week.”
“Your word is good enough.” Elder Baobiao bowed in gratitude. He knew how difficult of a task it was and didn’t pressure Raphael on that matter. The next issue that he had, on the other hand…
“Finally, and this is probably the hardest request that I’ll ask you…” The old man stroked his beard and massaged his wrinkles. Elder Baobiao didn’t know if he should even bring this up since it was a near impossible task. Nevertheless, time was ticking. Every passing minute was a minute that the Black Masks could use to bolster their forces within the Payirci. Swallowing his saliva, the Spirit Venerate said those fateful words:
“We need to get a Spirit Saint to act. Could you invite one over?”