‘Mist? Where did that mist come from?’ Natalie looked to the six remaining young heroes for that answer. Just moments ago, Shin was putting on a masterful display by beating down six Spirit Adepts within a few minutes, something that would be hard-pressed for even the top mercenaries in Huuring City. While she and her protege, Latina, were marvelling over that spectacular sight, an ethereal mist hindered their vision, giving her the impression that a foreign attacker was here to split Shin off from the group.
“Don’t worry about that, Shin created the mist.” Sensing the trepidation in her eyes, Kanari re-assured Natalie with an upbeat tone. Although they weren’t that worried about Shin facing thirteen opponents all on his own, one couldn’t be too sure. After all, one of the Spirit Adepts might pull out a move that would stun him which would force the group to assist him. However, once Shin himself had created the mist, it meant that the battle was as good as over.
“H-He created that?!” The seasoned mercenary was taken aback once more. Over the past few minutes, Shin had shown a plethora of ‘spiritual abilities,’ each more unique than the other. As a Rank 37 Spirit Adept, Shin should only possess four spiritual abilities, but he had far surpassed that number. Natalie had never seen a scene that peculiar before.
“You should worry about yourself first.” Isadore, who still didn’t wholly trust the lady that brought Winfred to their doorstep, scoffed as he placed down his spear. Now that Shin had clearly told them not to interfere, the group could finally slowly interrogate their captive. “Tell us, why did you bring that rat here? Are you part of his plan as well?”
“N-No! Far from it!” Natalie waved her hands around. Why would she be part of such a vile scheme? These seven heroes had saved her Moon Mercenaries! They were her benefactors! It has never crossed her mind to betray them for some gold. “Winfred really is the best guide to the Crypts of the First Men. His expertise laid in that region and many travellers here seek him out when they needed directions. Sure, he was greedy, but I’ve never heard of him trying to claim women as a barbarian would. Perhaps…”
“Perhaps he got tempted when he heard that the Witch in the South was in the city…” Natalie’s eyes shuffled from Kanari’s symmetrically perfect face and her exceptional proportions. Let alone a depraved man, even Natalie had the urge to rip open Kanari’s robes to witness how a goddess actually looks like. “Your beauty is well-known throughout the world… So that’s why he had lost his senses and hatched this despicable plot… I’m really innocent!!! I can swear that I had no idea of this plan!!!”
The sides of Kanari’s mouth flinched as the three young maidens behind her stifled their chuckles. Over the past few months, it was true that Kanari’s beauty, which was target of envy for many girls in the Capital, had turned into a demerit. Many ruffians would eye her like a candy that had to be eaten, and the number of times they had to fight off lechers far surpassed that to the number of Black Masks that they had faced.
Natalie immediately knelt down to beg for forgiveness. The group from Imperius Academy had placed their faith in the woman, and she had brought in a wolf into their den. It was justifiable that they lacked a single shred of trust in the woman. “Please, I wouldn’t have brought you harm! I was just misguided in my trust of Winfred!”
“Kanari, why don’t you use your Mind Flame?” Taking deep breaths in to quell her laughter, Elrin suggested a solution for their problems.
“Mind Flame?” Natalie and Latina titled her heads at the unfamiliar name. “What’s that?”
“Hmmm, it may not work on a Spirit Adept at full health that easily though… Wait, since you have no guilty conscience, you wouldn’t mind if I used a spiritual ability on you to search for the truth, right?” Kanari asked.
“Naturally! I didn’t play any part in their hateful plan!” To regain their trust, the only thing that Natalie could do was to beat her chest and agree to whatever conditions that they had.
“Good.” The black-haired maiden closed her eyes and raised her right hand up into the sky. Her five fingers spread into a claw, Kanari felt her body turn heavy as mana flowed out from her Spirit Core and into the single point between her fingers. Her face may seem serene, but deep down, she was fighting severe sleepiness that would envelop her brain at any given moment.
All of a sudden, a green spark lit up in the middle of her palm and slowly grew into a ball of fire. Entirely unlike her innate foxfire, the fiery green sun in her hands didn’t increase the temperature of her surroundings, and neither did it invoke fear in the hears of her enemies. Instead, there was a light feeling of ease, where the holder of fire would seem twice as charming and ever-so-friendly to whoever witnessed those emerald embers.
“Look into this fire and don’t resist.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just do it.” Kanari didn’t really want to bother with the explanations. First, they had to decide if the woman was trustworthy.
“Okay…” Natalie didn’t know what the young heroes were planning, but they didn’t seem to be the kind to wreck her life for the sake of vengeance. Furthermore, if they really wanted to punish her, they wouldn’t go about using such a roundabout manner.
Following Kanari’s instructions, Natalie stared straight into the green flame. For the first few seconds nothing much happened. She just felt like she was just looking into a gorgeous oddity. However, as time went by, the middle-aged woman felt her vision turn blurry as a wave of fatigue hit over her consciousness. Slowly, Natalie knew that something was up and her instinctual reaction was to use her mana to purge out the foreign force within her body. Though at that very moment, Kanari’s sombre voice rang itself again within Natalie’s cognisance, saying the same exact words as before, this time, in a seemingly divine voice that came from the heavens.
“Do not resist…”
‘I… Must… not… Resist…’ Natalie allowed Kanari’s power to fully take control over her mind, and just like that, Natalie’s consciousness had begun its forced slumber. That was the nature of Kanari’s fourth spiritual ability, Mind Flame. Combining both her fire and mind elements, the owner of the Kumiho could delve deep into the consciousness of her victims to either destroy the brain from within or to manipulate them to bend to her will.
Natalie’s pupils turned grey as her head hung down. In this vulnerable state, even a Rank 1 Spirit Practitioner would be able to break through her innate defences and deal a mortal wound to the Spirit Adept. Of course, none of the Imperius Academy students would dare to do anything untoward to her, and they just asked the questions that they wanted to know.
“Did you have any part in Winfred’s plan?” Isadore asked.
“No.” A languid voice chimed out of Natalie’s throat.
Hearing the woman’s firm denial, Latina heaved a sigh of relief. She knew that her trusted Aunt Natalie wasn’t the type of person to sell someone out. Puffing her cheeks and pushing up her chest, the young girl beamed in delight as the questioning continued for a while longer.
“Have you ever, or will you ever sell our information to benefit yourself?”
“Have you told anyone else other than Winfred that we’re going to the Crypts of the First Men?”
“Finally… Do you have any malicious intent towards us?”
Checking all of the boxes, the six Spirit Adepts were finally able to rest easy. Natalie was legitimate. Once under Kanari’s spell, all of the hypnotised was compelled to speak the truth. There have been no exceptions thus far, and it seemed unlikely that Natalie would be able to resist the power of Kanari’s Mind Flame. Ending the green fireball in her hands, Kanari relinquished her control over the middle-aged woman and assisted her body while it lost all strength in its limbs.
“Is Aunt Natalie going to be alright?!” Seeing her mentor collapse under her own weight, Latina cried out in worry.
“She’s going to be fine.” Now that they were able to fully trust the pair, Kanari smiled as she stroked the soft hair of Latina’s. “Your aunt will wake up in a short while. It takes some time for the spell to wash off and for her consciousness to regain control. Sorry that we doubted you two, we just had to be sure.”
Being good-looking young men and women who wore robes as if they were travelling merchants or nobles, there was no end of troubles when they traversed into the Kori Federation. They trusted no one other than themselves and treated every soul that tried to get near to them with a certain distant attitude. Fortunately, Natalie had dared to prove herself as a trustworthy ally by allowing Kanari to mess around with her mind.
“Looks like Shin is about to finish up as well.” Ella saw that the mist that obscured their vision was thinning and noted that change to the rest. Who won the one versus thirteen? Was there even a need to ask that question?
As the mist dissipated into nothingness, the group of seven plus Latina could witness the full aftermath of Shin’s ‘experimentation.’ A few men, who were short of a few limbs, were rolling about in the dirt in agony, clutching the little stumps on their bodies, praying to any god to end their sufferings. Some other mercenaries had been knocked out cold, not figuratively, but literally by the ice that Shin had created. There was even one man who was riddled with bruises and cuts as if he had just survived a bombing attempt that failed to end his life. In fact, his eyes told the world that he was better off dead than alive.
And finally, there was Winfred. Impaled by four ice spears, the lowlife maggot was raised into the air by a water cross. In his right hand, there was one final ice spear, this one sharper than most of the others that Shin had ever created. It was his speciality weapon, one that he would only bring to life when sparring with Isadore. Mimicking the Spirit of Himmel that Isadore wielded, the spear was almost unbreakable once formed, and only Shin could melt it back to its original liquid state.
“Shape-Style Technique, Spear of Aiglos… If I pierce this through your heart, you will perish within a fraction of a second, so please be truthful…” Shin pointed his perfect ice weapon at the left side of Winfred, not at all triumphant over his win against the thirteen mercenaries. “Let me ask you this question. Are you the sole mastermind behind this attack? Was there anyone else that instigated you to do this?”
“Please… Spare me… I don’t… Want to… Die…” Gasping for air, the only thing that Winfred could do was beg for forgiveness. They had been thoroughly beaten. The only move that he could play was to tactically retreat and wait for a chance to strike again when they’re down. Being prominent figures that barely knew the rules of the jungle, Winfred hoped to pander to Shin’s soft-heartedness by appearing as if he were a renewed man that bore no threat to Shin and the rest.
“So no one instigated you for the attack?”
“No… One… I’m sorry! PPPLLLLLEEASSSEEE! Spare me!” His voice regaining its volume, Winfred continued to beg while pinned on the cross. “I’ll do anything! I’m so sorry for coveting the women, please be merciful!”
“Last question… Do you have any malicious intent towards us?”
“I…” Winfred smiled inwardly. This conversation would only lead to Shin freeing him from his chains, which meant that there was a chance for him to plot his revenge. Since thirteen Spirit Adepts didn’t work, how about thirteen Spirit Spectres? Yes, it would empty his bank account, but for the sake of tasting Kanari, what was some meagre wealth? However, just before he could give his entirely fabricated answer, a green light overcame his vision as a wave of darkness enveloped his entire being.
“I… I DO!!! I’ll seize all of the women that you have, and I’m going to wear them like a hat! Once you’re headed to the Crypts, I’ll spend all of my money to hire Spirit Spectres to kill all of you! I’ll fuck the Witch in the South all day long and I’ll-!”
“That’s enough, Kanari!” Shin’s voice thundered out, immediately bringing the blabbering mouth to an abrupt halt. Even after being defeated in such a manner, Winfred had shown no signs of repentance. Hearing the soft footsteps of the future Duchess, Shin glanced over his shoulder and asked just one thing.
“Are you out of his head?”
“That’s right.” Kanari nodded. She had long released the power of the Mind Flame and had left the rest to Shin. “Do your thing.”
“Right.” Heaving in a deep breath, Shin closed his eyes, as if he were asking for forgiveness in a cathedral booth. Eyelashes trembling while the sides of his mouth twitched, Shin steeled his drive to commit to his next act. When his eyes opened, Shin had reverted back to his indomitable state, one that wouldn’t be moved by any oceans or mountains. A conqueror that never falters for the sake of his people.
“I’m sorry.” Spinning the Spear of Aiglos into a javelin stance, Shin stepped forward and plunged all his weight into the tip of the halberd, which effortlessly pierced through the heart of the impaled Winfred. That was Shin’s last mercy to the incorrigible old man. He gave Winfred a painless death while he was still recovering from the hypnosis.
Seeing the ruthlessness of the young man, the remaining mercenaries all uniformly defecated in their pants. They too had participated in the attack. Did that mean that Shin would claim their lives next? Fortunately, the fate of their employer wasn’t their burden to carry.
“The rest of you were pulled into this asshole’s plan, so I’ll give you this mercy. You can leave with your lives. However, the next time you bother us, you would be breathing your last.” Shin gave his final warning before pulling out the Spear of Aiglos out of Winfred’s motionless body. There was no need for endless killings. The mastermind was dead, and the message had been sent. Looking into the distance, the black-haired young man squinted his eyes as he located several oddities within the bushes or trees.
Shin wasn’t naive. The moment he began to fight Winfred, dozens of eyes started to congregate in the shadows, in hopes of watching the Prince of Water or the Witch in the South fight in battle. However, that didn’t bother Shin one bit. Giving out an impish smile towards the numerous gazes all around him, the youth released his Spirit, allowing everything to return to water. Shin didn’t say a single word, but his message was received loud and clear.
‘If you dare to mess with us, this will be your fate.’
There was no need to elaborate. Turning around, Shin headed back into the inn, where he would sit lazily about with his trusted group of friends, ignoring the emotions that he had just given to his spectators.
“City Manager… What did we just see?”
Among those spectators, was the highest authority in the land. Upon hearing of Winfred’s actions, the City Manager flew at the fastest speed he could, in hopes of rescuing Shin and his friends from the miserable fates that he had imagined. Who knew? It wasn’t the seven young heroes that needed rescuing, but their assailants that boldly tried to disturb their peace.
“That’s… The Black-Haired Tyrant and the Prince of Water…” The City Manager couldn’t stop his hands from trembling. How long was it? How long was it since he felt so much excitement?!
‘I’ve heard rumours, but to think that he’s at this level…’ Initially, the City Manager was exhilarated that Shin had displayed such an overwhelming might. However, as he looked around and felt the presence of the Oligarchs of the town, his mind began to spiral with assumptions.
‘For Winfred to be that brazen, he must have had a backer. I don’t doubt that it was he was the sole mastermind behind the attacks, but there must be someone powerful behind him that enables him to take such an audacious approach.’ The City Manager wondered. ‘Looks like I have to investigate this case a little further.’