The sudden downpour that saved Huuring City from the intense forest fire quickly came to a stop within thirty minutes. By that time, hundreds of mercenaries had rushed into the woods in hopes of saving the Moon Mercenaries from their miserable plight. Skilled warriors, ranging from Rank 30 Spirit Adepts to Rank 50 Spirit Lords were all dispatched out. If there were indeed a Black Mask attack, the interim force would be more than capable of neutralising the threat while the rain put out the fire. However, instead of getting the ferocious battle that they were all anticipating, the mercenaries were stunned when Shin and his group greeted them graciously.
Ever since the signal flare was fired, Huuring City had virtually gone into lockdown mode, in preparation of the war to come. If there were a beast horde, their walls would repel them. If it were a forest fire, their firefighters would quell the orange tongues before it came too close. Yet, with the arrival of Shin’s group, all of their preparations were for nought and the tension that hadn’t been released still lingered on in the air.
Which had led to this moment, where Shin and his friends were sent to the City Manager’s office, to explain their purpose for arriving at Huuring City and to give a report about the happenings in the forest. Shin, Kanari, Isadore, Elrin, Shizen, Ella and Emma were all seated on one side of a couch, with the leaders of Huuring City staring straight at them from the other. They may be Himmel Empire bigwigs, but the group were now in the Kori Federation. They had to be cautious of what they said, lest they got charged on another country’s rules.
“So… What brings the Witch in the South and the Black-Haired Tyrant this far north?” A bald husky man, whose muscles seemed to be sculptured on by a veteran stonemason, got the ball rolling with the first question.
“Oh? You’ve heard of us?” Kanari replied, half-impressed that someone so far away from home could recognise them that quickly.
“Two black-haired youths. One with rose-ruby eyes that would mesmerise any who stared into it, while the other kept an azure sky within his pupils. Talented beyond their years and capable of taking down a Vaishya as well as prevent a forest fire from spreading. If you aren’t the Witch in the South and the Black-Haired Tyrant, I would be quite taken aback.” The City Manager folded his arms in akimbo. The events of the Summit were well-documented and well-spread. Perhaps a common fishmonger wouldn’t know of the two names, but there was no way that a Rank 60 Spirit King City Manager would be ignorant to the names of Kanari and Shin.
“That hastens the discussions then.” When it came to diplomatic affairs, Kanari always took the driver’s seat. In battle, Shin may be their nominal leader. However, Kanari’s experience as the heir of Highgarden Duchy made her the most suitable negotiator among the group. “We were travelling north and just happened to stop by Huuring City. On the way into town, we saw a distress flare and thought to check it out. That’s when we saw the Moon Mercenaries getting attacked.”
After spending some time with Natalie and Latina, their group gained a cursory understanding of the Moon Mercenaries had how they ended up in such a plight. Kanari explained everything as transparent and concisely as she possibly could, bringing the leaders up to speed. There was nothing much to hide after all.
“I see…” The City Manager nodded while scratching his head. “First of all, I thank you for saving one of our mercenary troops and preventing a forest fire from devastating Huuring City. If not for your prompt arrival, the casualty count would unquestionably be much higher.” Placing both his palms on his thighs, the City Manager dropped down in a respectful bow. He was at three times the youngster’s age, but he wasn’t beneath paying his respects when respect was due.
“Please, raise your head, City Manager.” The black-haired beauty lifted her left palm regally. “We were just doing what any sensible person would do. Our fight against the Black Masks transcends nations and borders. There’s no way that we could sit still while innocent lives get murdered right before our eyes.”
“Thank you, young heroes.” The City Manager had changed his tone when addressing Kanari and the rest. While they were at a temporary truce, the Himmel Empire and Kori Federation were still enemies at heart. The survivors of Huuring City may be dispatched in a future conflict where the two nations fought. Nonetheless, the Himmel Empire youngsters didn’t care about that fact and still saved them like they were their own citizens. That was a noble deed in itself.
“However, if I may be so rude…” After giving praise and thanks to the group, the City Manager’s voice instantly sunk by three octaves. “You have yet to answer my first question. What are you doing this far north?”
Yes, Huuring City owed a debt of gratitude towards Shin’s group. Nonetheless, their names were too dazzling, and their reputations preceded them. If the Witch in the South and the Black-Haired Tyrant, the two most talented cultivators of their generation were on an expedition into the Kori Federation, there must be a motive. As a proud member of the Kori Federation, the City Manager had to ascertain whether their purpose here was nefarious or not.
“Please don’t worry about that too much.” Knowing that fact, Kanari simply smiled the tension off and continued her speech. “We’re here on a mission for the Alliance. The Himmel Empire has no part in our journey north. In fact, the Master Sect controlling this region is aware of our presence here.”
Taking out a rolled-up scroll, Kanari untied the bindings and handed it over to the City Manager. “Here’s the proof that we’re here with permission.”
The City Manager and his aides all sped through the document, carefully examining the details of each word. At the bottom, there were two significant seals, one from the Alliance Chief, and another from the Kori Federation’s Prime Minister Office. As a government official, the City Manager breathed a sigh of relief after recognising the paperwork. At the very least, the youngsters before them were trustworthy, and there was no need to start a needless conflict.
“Sorry about my insolence!”
“No, no. You’re just doing your job.” Kanari assured the City Manager. If she were in his position, the future Duchess would have probably reacted the same way if say the Flower of the North trespassed on her Duchy. “You don’t have to worry. We would probably stay in town for less than a fortnight. After instructions are passed down from headquarters, we will be on our way.”
“May I ask what important mission have the Alliance given you?”
“My apologies, that’s top secret.” Kanari’s expression didn’t change. Over the past few months where they had been travelling, the group has come across numerous double-crossers that had leaked sensitive information to the Black Masks for a quick buck. To protect the nature of their mission, Kanari decided to keep the City Manager out of the loop for now.
“I see…” The leader of Huuring City didn’t care that his question was being sharply refused. Matching Kanari’s expression with a smile of his own, the City Manager changed the conversation before it went awry. “We have arranged some accommodations for you as well as a thank-you feast. That’s the least that we could do for the ones that saved our city.”
“I apologise, but that’s a kindness we can’t accept. We have already booked an inn at a remote corner of the town and are rather fatigued from fighting the Vaishya and his minions..” Fearing that traps may have been laid out by the City Manager, Kanari politely rejected his offer. They were on a mission far from home. It was better to be safe than sorry. “If there’s anything you need from us, feel free to send a message. There might be some remnant Black Masks on the loose, after all.”
“…” This time, it was the City Manager’s turn to be speechless. Compared to Kanari’s experience in diplomacy, the country bumpkin leader was just a frog at the bottom of the well. Kanari decided how the conversation started and how it ended. There was no way for the City Manager to dispute her words when they were supported with facts.
“If you would excuse us, we need to have some rest.”
The leaders of Huuring City could only watch with their jaws dropped as Kanari, and the group left the cramped room and headed back to their own abodes. They wanted to stop them, but honestly, who dared to call out the Witch in the South? Though she was only twenty-years-old, she was almost in the Spirit Spectre realm and had the backing of the entire Highgarden Duchy behind her. Furthermore, a Spirit Saint was her direct mentor! Only a fool would dare to go against her wills.
“City Manager, what are we going to do about them?” A trusted aide questioned.
“What else can we do? Their paperwork is legitimate.” The husky man shrugged his shoulders while pouting his lips. “We can’t move against them. We can’t get them drunk to get information about their mission. We can’t even monitor them too closely.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you honestly think that those seven geniuses aren’t accompanied by some of the world’s greatest bodyguards?” The City Manager scoffed at his subordinate’s ignorance. “I may be a Spirit King, but from what I’ve heard, the Black-Haired Tyrant would always move with a Spirit Venerate watching close by, and the Witch in the South has a few shadow guards by her side at all times. Although I don’t know the identity of the other kids, the fact that they’re all in the Spirit Adept realm at twenty means that they’re talents that must be protected at all costs. If we dared to move against them, those experts in the shadows would rip out souls from our bodies before we could even touch their shoes.”
“So what do we do?” The aide held back his fear.
“Nothing… They said that they’re only staying in Huuring City for a few weeks, so we let them do just that. Perhaps send some people to watch them, but whatever you do, DON’T antagonise them. They might only be Spirit Adepts, but for them to take down a Vaishya, a few Shudras and a significant amount of Dalits and Spirit Beasts, they must have some trump card. Also, please oh, please, warn those idiots on the street not to touch them!” The City Manager cautioned, hiding the angst within his voice. Huuring City consisted of many ruffians and crass individuals, due to their mercenary nature. Once they see the beauty of Kanari, Elrin, Ella and Emma, the City Manager was sure that a significant incident would occur.
In fact, it wasn’t just the girls that would be in danger. Shin, Isadore and Shizen were all prim-looking, with hardly a single blemish on their bodies, nothing like an average person in the town. Some powerful ladies quite enjoyed the taste of a young man and could hire some mercenaries to drag them into their lair. If anyone of those lawless idiots attempted the move on that group of seven, there was no doubt in the City Manager’s mind that carnage would soon follow and perhaps dozens of lives would be lost.
“I understand! I’ll relay the message to the Oligarchs in the city.”
“Not just them! Warn those drunken tavern dwellers as well!” The City Manager could imagine it now. A funeral procession for a faceless drunkard that tried to get lucky with Kanari. “I don’t care how you do it! Huuring City must be peaceful for the two weeks that the group are in town! Double law enforcement patrols if you must! Please, just… Don’t give them a reason to burn our town to ashes!!!”