“A Spirit Saint?!” Raphael bottled down his urge to scream as he glared at the elderly man.
Spirit Saints were the lifeblood of every superpower. They maintained the delicate balance of this world and were revered by whichever organisation they chose to reside in. Being lofty beings that aimed to progress their cultivations to the next stage to potentially become the next Spirit Immortal, they had washed their hands off any mortal affairs and were rarely present in any army. After all, should one of them perish, accidentally or otherwise, the organisation that they supported would be sent into complete disarray, and opportunistic forces would take advantage to capitalise on their moment of weakness.
Sending a Spirit Saint on a mission to deal with an unknown structure that may or may not have the power to kill them? Even if a Spirit Saint obliges, no superpower in their right mind will allow their ultimate card to risk themselves.
“And why can’t you ask a Spirit Saint from the Lantis Republic to act?”
“The Saints on our island don’t possess the same raw firepower of those from the Himmel Empire or Kori Federation.” Naturally, Elder Baobiao had a comeback. “Remember how the Payirci remained unfazed even after taking my Xuanwu’s Yawn? We need a Spirit Saint that could far surpass my single target ability to deal out endless amounts of destruction to the structure. Only someone like Saint Geom from the Kori Federation or Saint Firebird from the Himmel Empire could dish out that kind of damage.”
A blatant lie, of course. The Lantis Republic had four Spirit Saints. Though their raw damage output wasn’t able to beat that of the most offensive-oriented Spirit Saint of their times, they weren’t too shabby with their attacks either. In fact, the Saint of Time, Longyu Tian, even had a raw damage ability that could trump majority of Spirit Saints at her level.
So why did Elder Baobiao lie? Wasn’t that answer obvious?
‘That sneaky fox… He wants to borrow another’s sword to test the whetstone…’ Raphael had to pinch himself on the thigh to prevent any change of expression.
If Elder Baobiao had got what he wanted, another Spirit Saint would become the test dummy for attacking a Payirci. If the structure fell, great! One less problem to avoid. If the structure stood firm and released a counter-attack that killed the Spirit Saint, also great! For the Lantis Republic that is. One less Spirit Saint to worry about after the war was all over. All this without having to risk a single Spirit Saint from the Lantis Republic.
“There’s no way that I can promise that.” Inside the Cikai Mirror, the figure of Raphael shaking his head was reflected back onto everyone present in the room. “Requesting a Spirit Saint to do battle is outside of my job scope. Nonetheless, the alleged Payirci does pose as a problem if your Xuanwu’s Yawn can’t take it down. How about this? I pledge to bring this up to the council where all of the leaders gather. We will unquestionably pick one of the best offensive-oriented Spirit Venerate to join the assault. Who knows, perhaps one of the Spirit Saints from either country might ‘volunteer’ to attack that oddity.”
Raphael pursed his lips and controlled the slight twitch in his left eye. As much as he wanted to flat out refuse Elder Baobiao’s request, the Alliance Head knew the importance of testing the limits of the new foreign object. If its defences were strong enough to withstand the blow of Elder Baobiao’s Xuanwu’s Yawn, perhaps only the mighty Spirit Saints could damage the Payirci.
“That’s fine with me.” The elderly man nodded and didn’t say another word. His business was now over with Raphael. There wasn’t a need to communicate anymore with the Alliance Head who may interfere with the only mission he was dispatched for.
Noticing the shift in tone, the White Knight Commander coughed twice and took charge of the meeting.
“Alliance Head! What are your orders now?”
“Commander Martha.” The red-haired man scratched his nose as a beaming smile crept up his two cheeks. “I’ve heard many compliments about your quick thinking and masterful decision-making. You have saved the Alliance thousands of troops today. The Terre Continent and the Lantis Archipelago are forever in your debt.”
“I was just doing my job!” The golden-armoured knight brought her right hand straight to her heart and saluted the Alliance Head.
“Nevertheless, your achievements have been duly recorded, and after this battle is over, I’ll make sure that you’re rewarded accordingly.”
“Thank you, Sir!!!” Her head bowed, the commander hid her grinning face from the rest of those in the meeting. Martha may have been in the military since she was a young teen, but praise from a direct superior was a deed that would never get old in her books.
“Good, I believe that you’ll continue to serve the realm greatly. However, as much as I would like to pull your troops to give you a well-deserved rest, we still need your presence there until reinforcements arrive. Right now, you have two important objectives. One, to scout out any information you may obtain from the supposed Payirci. Secondly, the Alliance needs your forces to contain the structure, keep any Spirit Beasts from pouring out and threatening any of the nearby towns or villages. Could you manage that?”
“As you command!” The White Knight trembled as she replied in her loudest voice.
“Thank you, Commander Martha. I’ll be in touch about the state of the reinforcements. Good work, I’ll see you soon.”
With that, Raphael ended the transmission abruptly to tend to other matters. Namely gathering enough forces to act as reinforcements as well as searching for a person that was knowledgable about Spirit Immortal Dream’s relics.
“Alright Commander Martha, if you may excuse me.” His business concluded, Elder Baobiao took off from his chair to return to his main job in the Estrella Region. Though Meijing Bingying and Xunyu Huanyuan were already guarding Shin within the secure encampment, it didn’t mean that the youth was completely safe from danger, especially since there was a psychotic maniac that wished to abduct him no matter the cost.
“Ah, Elder Baobiao! Thank you for your assistance back there!” However, before he left, the Commander quickly stood up as she remembered the deeds of the elder. He didn’t need to listen to the White Knight’s request, but he did anyway. At the very least, Martha owed him a word of thanks.
“No worries, commander. Attacking the Payirci benefitted both the Alliance and myself. I just hope that the information gained would help end this godforsaken war before it harms anyone else.”
“That… I agree…”
Elder Baobiao didn’t look back. Reaching the flaps of the tent, his entire visage turned blurry with each passing moment until eventually, the Spirit Venerate turned to nothingness. Though, that disappearance didn’t surprise the assemblage inside the White Knight’s quarters. Many took their leave with a humble bow while some stayed on. The soft creaks of metal on metal annoyed the Commander’s ears as the armoured officers surrounded her desk in a semicircle shape, awaiting Martha’s strict orders.
“One problem fades away, another presents itself. How fun.” The woman sneered with her back fallen on the chair. “Well, you heard the Alliance Head. We’re all going to contain the Payirci. Are the watchpoints still up and running?”
“Yes, Ma’am!” One soldier enthusiastically replied.
“How many able-bodied warriors do we have?”
“Nine thousand Alliance forces. If we include the elite teams that had been dispatched, perhaps ten.”
‘The elite teams, huh?’ The White Knight thought back to the conversation she shared with the Senior Healer. If Shin’s talents were used on the battlefield, she could potentially minimise the number of casualties that she might sustain. It was a tempting thought, and if she weren’t limited by the diplomacy, perhaps she would pen the order into a paper.
‘No, we shouldn’t involve Elder Baobiao further.’ Pinning her brows together until wrinkles started to show, the commander was reminded of the somewhat tense conversation that the Alliance Head and Spirit Venerate had. Yes, Shin’s team would be a great asset, but his involvement in any future battles would prove detrimental when it came to dealing with the Lantis Republic’s guards.
“Leave the elite teams. We’ll do the two missions with the White Knights and the Alliance’s Army. The first order of business, containment! I want no Spirit Beasts to roam free from the structure. If you see any beasts, kill them immediately! Disperse the men to all the watchpoints. Leave a thousand in camp. Once more details present itself, I’ll lay down the next order.”
The Kori Federation. Estrella Region. Former Grounds Of The Crypts Of The First Men. The Peak Of The Payirci.
The chilling twilight soon faded into black, leaving behind nothing but a blanket of stars graced by the waxing gibbous moon. Moist air tickled the sensitive skins of the sleeping creatures of the land, sending a chilling cold to creep into the organs. Most animals crept deep into their burrows and sought refuge from the dip in temperature. Roars were replaced with yawns, and for the most part, it was a peaceful night. However, not all locations under the heavenly sky were equal.
Standing up straight with his arms behind his back, a tall, lean man watched the earth from his lofty position. Surrounding the terrain around him were hundreds of shadowy creatures that patrolled the land like watchdogs. Some were colossal in size while others were barely big enough to outweigh a rabbit. It truly was an odd sight to behold, Spirit Beasts moving as they were told, but the man hardly cared about that. His gaze was plastered to the distant campfires that bellowed out smoke and light, even in this darkest of hours.
“A penny for your thoughts?” A toneless voice spoke out from the man’s side. It was the same sound that had whispered sweet temptations to him earlier this morning, so there wasn’t a need for the man to turn around to confirm the speaker’s identity. Nonetheless, out of respect, he did just that.
Just as Junius had anticipated, the World Serpent had walked over with a gourd of wine in hand. Although Tier 9 Spirit Beasts weren’t supposed to get drunk, Junius could see a slight tinge of red from Ao’s face while his footsteps were askew. An act, of course. But the man chose to play along.
“You shouldn’t be drinking this much when we’re stuck in the middle of our enemies.” Junius pulled out the ceramic gourd from the World Serpent’s hand and corked it. It was treasonous for a mere Vaishya to order around a Nine Coloured Noble Beast, but the World Serpent didn’t mind it one bit. His disgustingly wicked smile that had irked Junius to his core resurfaced as his wavering hips came to a halt.
“Just a little bit of celebration! The White Knights had no idea what hit them! You should have seen their faces when the Spirit Venerate failed to even leave a mark on it!” Ao declared while pulling the gourd back to his hands. “You know it was kind of desperate. If we didn’t use the Payirci and the Alliance had found it before it was activated, could you imagine our future loses?”
“We’re still going to lose it!” Junius snapped back. “Once activated, the Payirci will continue to stay in place until it loses mana or someone clears it! It was meant to be used in a later phase, and we had just ruined it all for the Allfather!”
Being an executive, Junius knew almost everything that the Allfather had planned for the Black Masks and the world. This structure that they were standing on was meant for a much later time when the resources that the Black Masks had were more matured due to the war. Yet, because Junius was in a state of peril, the Allfather had agreed to green light the operation. Of course, the sweet tongue of Ao played a massive role in changing the Allfather’s decision, but that only served to piss Junius more.
The World Serpent bent his neck and narrowed his eyes. Their gazes matched, Junius and Ao stared at one another for a full ten seconds before the Spirit Beast finally broke out in a peal of hearty laughter. “HAHAHA!!! You’d almost got me there!”
“What’s so funny?!” Now Junius was genuinely annoyed.
“I know why you’re really angry! You’re not angry because we activated the Payirci. You’re really angry cause it didn’t bring you your brother!”
“Y-You!” Junius nearly forgotten that he was talking to a superior and almost threw a straight jab at the suave man. Fortunately, he was able to stop himself in time. Punching a Tier 9 Spirit Beast that could move the oceans and bend the seas wasn’t really the greatest of ideas.
“You really love him, huh? How many years has it been? Five? Six? You have achieved so much with the syndicate, and yet you still want to bring him into your arms.”
“What’s wrong with that?!” The young man hollered. His nostrils flared, and pupils dilated. If there were a King of Wrath, Junius would bear a perfect resemblance. “What’s wrong with bringing my family back together?!”
“Nothing! I’m just amused!” The World Serpent wiped the tears off his face when the bellowing body came to a halt. “Ah, humans. So sentimental about everything.” Leaving it at that, Ao uncorked the wine gourd and took massive chugs. Pivoting the balls of his feet, the blue-haired man made his way to the exit with massive steps.
“Where are you going?”
“To prepare for a war of course! As per your orders!” Jesting around like a clown, the World Serpent leaned his back against the wall. “Oh, by the way, you have to prepare yourself. I estimate that it would take a week or two for the Alliance to finally crack the code and move in to clear the tower and we must be gone by that time. My job is to escort you away so if you’re going to take your brother… Better do it quickly.”
Not even waiting for an answer, the handsome man disappeared from Junius’ sights, making him question if the World Serpent was just a figment of his own imagination.
“You don’t have to tell me that…” The Vaishya’s nails dug deep into the grains of his robe. Once again, his eyes turned to the beautiful campfires, reminiscent to that of a setting sun that had disappeared into the horizon. Among those brilliant lights, there lay his target. Junius just didn’t know which.
“I’ll settle this soon.”