Book 8: The Mercenary’s Promise || Chapter 37: Kanari And Shin (3)

Five days have passed since the Payirci made its appearance in the Estrella Region. True to his world, Alliance Head Raphael had dispatched an additional fifty thousand strong warriors from all corners of the region to join Commander Martha and her White Knights. Not only that, the three superpowers had all volunteered to send a dozen Spirit Emperors each to combat the foreign structure. In just five days, the Alliance Head had fulfilled, no surpassed Elder Baobiao’s first request. Other than the major cities, there was nowhere on Planet Earth that a more elite force existed.

Raphael was quick to accomplish the second request that Elder Baobiao had too. Scouring through the name lists of all who had studied the relics of Spirit Immortal Dream, the Alliance Head swiftly identified the best man for the job, and he was a name that many were familiar with…

The President of the Blacksmith’s League, Ingram Ragnar.

Initially, the Alliance Head was reluctant to bring this affair towards one of the leading figures in world politics as well as a prized Spirit Venerate that could prove to be vital in developing future weapons. However, while Raphael was brooding in his office, Ingram had gotten wind of the Payirci’s appearance and stormed into the Alliance Head’s chambers demanding that he be dispatched. The allure of learning something from the era of Spirit Immortal Dream had a magnetic appeal that attracted any who sought to innovate the world into a brighter tomorrow.

A Payirci, just like many of the relics of Spirit Immortal Dream, were long thought to be lost forever and enthusiasts had given up on ever seeing one in person. Nonetheless, some persevered through the ages, bearing the hope that one such relic would emerge from the shadows and take the world by storm. After all, they were talking about the most prodigious cultivator that had roamed the earth. Her innovations broke common sense, and her words were scribed into paper and resold for thousands of gold ingots.

The woman that introduced Aether to the world and shocked everyone by creating a nation that rivalled that of the three superpowers. Spirit Immortal Dream was both a legend and an enigma. If Ingram could just lay his hands on one completed blueprint that the immortal had left behind, the Blacksmith’s League would be able to create new structures that would change the dynamics of the world.

So just like that, Raphael had secured two of the three requests that Elder Baobiao had. On the other hand, the last request was far from being completed. Just as he promised, the Alliance Head had brought Elder Baobiao’s suggestion to the council, and it was met with expected backlash. No entity in the world would want to involve a Spirit Saint unless it was absolutely necessary. There were even some choice words headed to the Lantis Republic for even suggesting such a manoeuvre. Days passed, and it became increasingly clear that a decision had to made before the Black Masks moved to destroy the Alliance forces.

In a hurry, each one of the three superpowers nominated one pure attack-based Spirit Venerate from their ranks to join the fray. They would all take turns to take down the Payirci with their most powerful spiritual abilities. With strikes that could utterly obliterate countries with a single flash, if the three Spirit Venerates weren’t able to take down the Payirci from the outside, perhaps there was no possible way for the structure to be downed.

Of course, the Alliance forces on the ground weren’t idle during the past five days either. Securing the perimeter around the Payirci, the White Knights noticed something strange about the darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts. Unlike normal wild creatures, they weren’t allowed to roam past ten kilometres of the Payirci. Furthermore, they all marched in unison, much like a trained army rather than a savage beast horde and no matter how many beasts the Alliance killed, hundreds would pop up once more as if nothing happened.

After continuous investigations, the White Knights learnt that the darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts weren’t really living creatures at all. They were shadows. Copies of their original self. No matter how many perished, others would form from their residue light and take their place. On the surface, that fact sounded horrible for the Alliance as it essentially meant that the Black Masks could infinitely create Spirit Beasts with no repercussions.

Alas, creating a life outside of the cycle of samsara was never that easy. The darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts were much weaker than their original self, and a Tier 4 was barely as powerful as a full-fledged Tier 3 with years of experience under its belt. And here’s the kicker. The ten-kilometre radius that the darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts were limited to wasn’t some elaborate tactics to outsmart the Alliance forces, but a necessity to keep the beasts alive.

If the darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts strayed ten kilometres away from the Payirci, they would suffer the same fate as any shadow that strayed too far away from its caster. It would fade into nothingness, never to exist in the material realm anymore. That discovery shook the entire Alliance. They had finally found a weakness to exploit. And thus, the inspiration for the darkness-imbued Spirit Beasts was found. Umbras. Just like their names suggest, Umbras relies on the Payirci to exist. Take down the Payirci, you send the Umbras into oblivion.

Bit by bit, the mystery of the Payirci began to unravel. Ingram had arrived in the region and marvelled at the sight of the beautiful structure. Based on his knowledge, the Payirci was a tool developed to train the citizens of Spirit Immortal Dream’s country to become as combat-ready as they possibly could. Though the Black Masks had modified it, the core concept was still the same. Running on a significant amount of Aether, the Payirci was a battery that was bound to run out eventually.

Thus, the Alliance had two options. First, they could wait down the timer and watch as the Payirci turns into a hopeless pile of garbage. But there were a few problems with that choice. No one knew how long the structure will last. A week? A month? A year? There was no specified time estimate since no one had encountered a Payirci before. Next, by the time the Alliance waited for the structure’s energy tank to run empty, the Black Masks hiding inside would have long escaped.

Or they could go the other route. Based on Ingram’s research, the Payirci, just like any other object of that scale, always had a core. Reach the core, and the Alliance would be able to shut down the floating tower from the inside. It was much riskier since no one knew what dangers lay within the Payirci. Nevertheless, it was a risk worth taking. Should the Payirci fall, the Alliance would learn many details of the Black Masks, things that were never known in the four long years since the war had begun.

What was the Allfather’s plan? What ties did the Allfather have to Spirit Immortal Dream? How were the Black Masks able to procure this much resources to bring the three superpowers to heel? Why did the Black Masks massacre the Land of Dreams using a Tier 9 Spirit Beast?

There were so many unanswered questions, and the Payirci held the answers. However, the Alliance weren’t brash youths that would barge into every situation without a plan. Taking their time to craft a method of attack using all of the information that was readily available to them, the military strategists in the Alliance carefully plotted out their next move. How many forces were to attack the tower? What to do if the structure collapses? How to minimise the casualty count while ensuring the highest rate of success? These were all factors considered in the elaborate plan of the Alliance.

And among the chaos of the encampment, there were a select few that had their attention wholly detached from the entire situation. After learning that Kanari had reached the peak of Rank 39 and was about to cross the first barrier of mortality, Shin requested that their team withdraw from any operations until further notice. Naturally, Shin would love to be there for the final battle where Junius was finally apprehended, but that wasn’t of paramount importance right now.

Five days had passed, and the reinforcements sent by the Himmel Empire had long arrived. Initially, when the Duchess of Highgarden heard that Kanari was about to advance into the Spirit Spectre realm in a foreign land, the noblewoman almost wanted to kick her feet out from her throne to drag the young lady back to the Capital. However, after dozens of arguments through the Cikai Mirror, the Duchess finally relented and had sent a congregation of the best resources and personnel to facilitate Kanari’s ascension.

Among them, Spirit Venerate Kikyo, as well as a plethora of other well-known auxiliary Spirit Users, was on deck to protect Kanari should things go south. The Duchess had even requested a Registrar to watch over Kanari’s ascension. Adding together the precious materials like a one-of-a-kind Phoenix feather and the Holy Water from the Spring of Eden, there was no possible way for Kanari to be harmed even if she failed her attempt.

Through the power of the Highgarden Duchy’s connection, Kanari was able to pull some strings in the encampment and allow her to set up a makeshift cultivation chamber in a cave just a few hundred metres away. There, members of Spion worked overtime to make the environment as conducive as possible for Kanari to break through the first barrier of mortality. Crystals imbued with high amounts of Fire, Wind and Mind elemental energies were being littered all over the cave, giving Kanari the added bonus she needed.

One might ask how were the cogs falling into place so rapidly? Well, that’s because the Duchess of Highgarden had long prepared for such a scenario. When Kanari first departed on that long journey north, she was already at Rank 38. It wasn’t a stretch for her to breakthrough twice on the road and challenge the first barrier of mortality. In the event that Kanari was forced to attempt her promotion in a remote land, Spion would hand deliver the hundreds of priceless resources to her doorstep and the experts that the Duchess had hired would be immediately dispatched to Kanari’s location.

And that was precisely what happened.

Treading through the rocky path, a young man pulled his heavy thighs while observing the Highgarden guards that stood watch over the cave. Ever since their last meeting, Kanari had holed herself inside of her new cultivation chambers, in preparation for the eventual breakthrough. Due to how busy she was, Kanari wasn’t able to entertain any guests and Shin was no exception. Though there was a silver lining. Their time apart had allowed both parties to thoroughly reflect on their actions. One might say that they needed these five days to cool down and self-evaluate themselves.

So why was today special? Why was Shin being summoned up into Kanari’s private chambers that no Alliance member was allowed to step foot on? Well, the answer was simple… Today was the day that Kanari attempted to break into the Spirit Spectre realm.

Kanari’s groundwork was solid. Being the top cultivator of her generation wasn’t just because of luck. Many factors played into her rapid growth. Years of hard work. Two decades of careful planning. All lead to this moment. Kanari was more than prepared. As she said, it didn’t matter if she attempted to breakthrough in a remote cave or in the best facilities that the Capital could provide. Kanari was confident that she could become a Spirit Spectre. And even if she failed, experts were surrounding her that would save her and minimise the damage that Kanari might sustain.

Weaving up the rocky terrain, the young man was soon greeted by a five-metre tall Shinto Gate. An odd sight for something this far north. Shin squinted his eyes before a twirling wind blew his short fringe up into the air and blinded him temporarily. Before he knew it, Shin felt an ominous presence behind him, forcing him to spin around rapidly in fear.

“Hoho… Isn’t it the Prince of Water? The man that made me travel this far north!” A stentorian voice boomed, shaking the nerves of Shin’s eardrums. Recovering from the sonorous echo within his mind, the young man looked up at the woman that caused him that much grief.

Green eyes and lilac hair. That was the first colours that Shin saw of the lady dressed like a Shrine Maiden. She wasn’t a beauty, but she wasn’t a butch either. Looking at the petite, frail looking body, Shin wondered how she was able to release such a deafening sound from those small lungs of hers.

“You must be Venerate Kikyo. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” Shin ignored her comments of mockery and extended out a handshake.

“Well, the pleasure ain’t mine.” The woman pushed her chest out and slapped the boy’s hand away. Evidently, she wasn’t happy with the arrangement and wanted to vent out a little. However, Kikyo soon realised that it was too immature to bully a Spirit Adept that was many times younger than her and turned around. “Kanari’s going to start her attempt at noon. Her other friends have left so you’re the last one up. You have exactly an hour! Don’t take too long!”

Shin watched as the Spirit Venerate disappears out of his sight and into the rocky terrain, perhaps to a place where she could monitor the surroundings to protect Kanari from any other harm. As promised, Shin gets to spend a little time with Kanari before she prepares herself for the attempt to cross the first barrier of mortality.

‘Hah… Well, here goes.’ Composing himself with one deep breath, Shin dropped his shoulders and walked straight into the well-lit cave, where the young maiden awaits…

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