The entrance to the cave was narrow and wrapped with verdant ivy. Unlike the blistering heat of the outside, there was a smooth, moist cooling effect in its interior and Shin instantly felt rejuvenated as the cold fog touched his pores. Entrenched in nature, the cave was supposedly void of light as not even the slightest of sun rays could reach its core. However, contrary to Shin’s expectations, the cave was beaming with light as thousands of small luminous marbles stuck on every corner of the structure.
Each advancing step he took, Shin’s skin began to crawl and his spine wildly tingled. The musty air filled with earthen goodness enveloped every membrane of his expanded lungs, and the soft droplets of cave water calmed his tense nerves. Though it wasn’t the atmosphere that the cave naturally gave off that gave him sensations that would rock his entire body, it was the abundance of prosperous spiritual energies that permeated through his every pore and infiltrated his Spirit Core.
‘Such spiritual density!’ Shin cried out internally. He had his fair share of cultivation chambers back in the academy. Once, Principal Erudito had even brought over a ten-thousand-year-old fossil that was found deep in the ocean to aid in Shin’s cultivation. However, the young man was confident that this cave was far more spiritually dense than anything that he had ever encountered. And he wasn’t even at the core yet!
‘The Highgarden Duchy really pulled out everything for this…’
Now, Shin felt terrible for forcing the Duchess to send this many resources to the north. No matter how much she tried to spin her reasons, everyone knew that Kanari was attempting to cross the first barrier of mortality in the Estrella Region only because Shin wouldn’t return. For the first time ever, Shin apologised to the gorgeous unaging lady in his mind before making the final steps down the pavement and into the door of light that lay at the end of the corridor.
The bright, radiant light consisting of each colour of a rainbow burnt the virgin eyes of the young man as he finally emerged out of the pathway. What greeted the boy was a humongous dome that spanned almost twenty metres high. Littered all around its grey dampened walls, thousands of mana crystals, each storing record amounts of elemental energies, beamed with everything that they had.
And it wasn’t just the walls that were perfect. On the ground, rows of precious materials, each expensive enough to feed a peasant family for a year, decorated the otherwise mundane cave floor. For a cultivator like Shin, the resources kept in this cave were so tempting that he could organise a heist for the sake of taking just a percentage of it.
‘Sometimes… I tend to forget that Kanari is a rich girl too…’ Shin scoffed at his inferior mindset. Walking into the light, Shin noticed a bulky mattress, one large enough to bed a family of eleven, tucked silently in one corner. Three chromatic crystals enveloped the bed in the shape of a triangle, each one bearing their own unique powers.
The red one emitted an explosive heat, that soaked through the veins of any that crossed its path. The green one brought out a sharp aura with a cooling effect that spread throughout one’s bones. And finally, the grey crystal blurred the visions of any that dared to tread too close to its centre all while radiating out an emotional brilliance that saturated one’s soul.
Shin watched each one of the crystals and nodded approvingly. It really was a cultivation chamber fit for a High Noble. His mind freed, the young man turned his attention to the final being that completed the extravagantly distinguished room.
A young maiden, dressed in a pure white priestess robe, sat in the centre of her feathered mattress, eyes closed and legs crossed. Mediating, her ample bosom rose and fell as elemental energies from the crystals flowed into her slender body. When Shin walked closer, he could hear soft chants, akin to that of a monk’s prayer, echoing out of Kanari’s mouth. Was she cultivating? No way. Kanari had been cultivating for a decade, each day murmuring the same mantra over and over again. Kanari was doing something similar to any sportsmen who went on a tournament. The maiden was practising something routine just so that she was prepared for the final stretch.
Nonetheless, feeling another’s presence in her own personal chambers forced Kanari to break her train of thought and halting her chants. Opening up her gorgeous ruby eyes, the maiden turned to the black-haired boy, who had unknowingly reached the side of her bed. Flashing a smile, Kanari felt her bones crack as she straightened her back to address her visitor.
“Shin, you’re here.”
“Yes, I’m here.” Shin wryly chuckled. Though they had a minor quarrel and hadn’t seen one another for almost five days, Kanari acted as if nothing had happened. Her mind was focused on the task at hand, which was something that Shin greatly admired in a cultivator. Extending his palm to the edge of the mattress, Shin asked politely. “May I?”
“Please!” The smile on Kanari’s lips grew even larger as she stood up from the centre and shuffled herself towards the corner. Both now seated on the soft bed that the Duchess of Highgarden had prepared, Kanari nestled right next to Shin and was tempted to go in for a hug. However, being the prim and proper lady that she was raised to be, the young maiden held back her urges and coughed twice.
“I thought that you wouldn’t come. You were so against me advancing here.”
“To be clear, I’m still not convinced that you should.” The edges of Shin’s mouth twitched.
“Ah, I see…” Not expecting the answer she wanted, Kanari dipped her head slightly. Shin watched that subtle movement and heaved out a deep sigh. Bringing forth his hand, the young man stroked the luscious black hair of Kanari’s all while lowering his tone to sound as comforting as he possibly could.
“But, I can’t really say anything when you’d brought an entire royal procession here, can I?” The young man raised his hands, defeated. “Spirit Venerates, Registrars, Phoenix feathers, Elemental Crystals… If I were to deny you now, I’d be the dumb one.” Shin just took one glance around and was once again blown away. Even an Imperial Prince wouldn’t have the capability to afford such extravagance for his ascension into the Spirit Spectre realm.
“That’s right! You don’t have to worry! I’ll definitely cross the first barrier of mortality in one try! I have absolute confidence in myself!” Kanari puffed her chest out in pride. Sometimes, boasting would make someone seem pretentious. Yet, when Kanari bragged about her own talent, Shin could feel that she thoroughly trusted herself. Then again, who wouldn’t?
Kanari’s achievements spoke for themselves. Fastest cultivator to reach the Spirit Apostle, Core and Adept realm in the past hundred years. Youngest Spirit Apostle to take down a deluge of Spirit Core cultivators. The most dominating elemental user that created the ‘Mind Flame,’ a spiritual ability that could hypnotise the consciousness of any that had lower cultivations. If Kanari didn’t become a Spirit Spectre in one try, that would be the real travesty. Nonetheless, Shin still felt guilty that Kanari was about to take a risk that she shouldn’t have to.
“You’re… really going to do it huh?” A feeble voice crept out of Shin.
“Are… You going to try to persuade me again?”
“No… Not this time.”
Over the past five days, Shin had plenty of time to think. As the day crept closer and closer, his mindset had taken a one-eighty, and Shin had given up on trying to send Kanari back to the Himmel Empire, where her chances of ascension might be higher. Breaking through into a higher realm required a variety of factors. A spiritual ability to create was one. A firm cultivation base was another. However, those were just secondary factors at best. There was one variable that had to be set in stone for a cultivator to succeed in their promotion.
And that was to have an unwavering mind.
Kanari was about to face the first barrier of mortality, a bottleneck that was near unbreachable for a vast majority of the population. She knew that, and so did the Duchess of Highgarden. Why else would she prepare this many resources for Kanari to splurge? However, everything that Kanari had prepared, everything that the young maiden had struggled so hard for… It would all be for nought if the girl didn’t have a resolute determination to succeed.
So, if Shin continued to mistrust her… If Shin continued to let Kanari down… Perhaps it would just be detrimental to all. Putting his personal feelings aside, Shin had decided to wholeheartedly support Kanari through this monumental time in her life, no matter how uneasy he felt. Shin’s roughened palms stroked over Kanari’s supple white hands, gripping it in its entirety.
“I trust you, Kanari. I’m here to tell you that.” The young man leaned in, bringing the lychee-like arms of the maiden closer to his lips. Kanari’s face had instantly turned hot as her face became as red as a rambutan. “You’re the most prodigious cultivator I know. I’m confident that you’ll break through into the Spirit Spectre realm, taking one more step into immortality.”
“T-Thank you for that…” Flustered, Kanari pulled her hands away, albeit unwillingly. She wanted to reach back in, but that would seem too vain for a lady of her stature to do. Thus, she waited.
“Kanari… Do you remember our promise?” Unaware of the turbulence in Kanari’s heart, Shin’s mouth twisted into a frown as he sat upright on the bed.
“The one where I said I would never belong to another organisation other than yours.”
A tale long passed. Back in the day, when Shin first came to the Capital and was relatively unknown, Kanari had cut a deal with him. If Shin wanted to be shielded by any organisations, the Highgarden Duchy must be the first one he considers. In the present day, those terms were obviously void, due to his affiliation with the Lantis Republic. Oblivious to why Shin had brought that promise up, Kanari cocked her head to the side while shooting the man an inquisitive gaze.
“What about it?”
“I think… I can make you another promise. One that supersedes that one.” With hurried breaths, the young man quelled his rapidly beating heart while swallowing down a mouthful of saliva.
“What is it?” Kanari sensed that there was something wrong with Shin. It was as if this decision of his was about to alter his life forever.
“Kanari… I promise you this. No, to you, I give this oath!” Not backing out now, Shin looked the gorgeous maiden straight in her eyes. Kanari’s watched as his azure-lake eyes glistened wetly all while her body throbbed with every passing moment.
“In this life, in the mortal realm. I will not belong to any other. I love Ariel, I still do, and I will always chase Yggdrasil to see her again! But I don’t want to lose you either! I know that this decision of mine is selfish and it might not be what you want to hear, but nevertheless, I will promise you this!” Shin didn’t falter one bit. Yes, this answer was to give the girl peace of mind as she advanced, but it was also part of Shin’s own self-acceptance by confessing to his own feelings. “I will not love another, Kanari. Not in this life. This is my oath… to you.”
A silent cry.
That was Shin’s answer for his heartfelt confession. Kanari’s shoulders trembled while her ruby eyes dropped sweet, translucent nectar down on her cheeks. To call it a sudden confession would be an understatement. Kanari had expected that Shin would try to convince her once more to return home and yet he came up with this curveball that brought sent her emotions into disarray.
“Say… Say that again.” Kanari didn’t even have control over her five senses. That’s how shaken she was. She had waited almost five years for those words. Five long years of painful waiting. Sitting at the corner while Shin yearned for his deceased partner, clenching on to the last relic she left him. Kanari had turned down stud after stud, heir after heir, genius after genius, just to wait for Shin. And finally… Finally, her patience paid off.
“Kanari, I love you.”
“Hiccc!!!” A sharp cry, far above the octaves reached by human speech, pierced through Shin’s ears as the maiden jerked back abruptly. It was hard for her to remain composed after the man she held so dear said those magical three words.
“Hey, Shin… You love me, right? And today is the day that I break through the first barrier of mortality right?” Kanari held the lid on her emotions from bursting forth as she tried so hard to retain her pure appearance.
“Yeah?” Confused as to why she was asking those questions, Shin widened his eyes, sending the two prominent brows of his up high.
“So… Can I be selfish? Just once more?”
“Hmmm? What do yo-!!!”
Before he could even complete his sentence, Shin felt his neck being pulled straight onto the bed as if he was a magnet being sucked down. Touched by the angel’s hand, Shin felt the nape of his neck being constricted by ten long fingers. It was a heavenly touch, completely unlike a murderer’s grasp. The pungent aroma of rose-scented lipstick crept up the opened nostrils of the young man and brought a tingling sensation down his spine.
“Just once more…” Kanari’s switch was flipped. Gone were the proper upbringings that her parents had drilled into her. The only thing on her mind was to replicate that memorable night that still gave her happy fantasies in the middle of her dreams.
There was no room for discussion. The ethereal beauty was going in for the kill. Shin’s heart beat faster and faster as Kanari’s hands pulled Shin’s face closer to her own. Shin knew that if he kissed Kanari once more, those emotions that he had kept buried, those primal urges that he hid when he kissed Kanari back, would come pouring out like a broken dam. He wanted to stop. But which man could say no to that enchanting white face with rich garnet lips?
Kanari took advantage of that brief moment of weakness and dropped the head of the man she loved, squarely on the tip of her lips. There was no resistance. Kanari’s tongue invaded Shin’s like a sea serpent, wiggling and twisting about in the motion of the waves. It squirmed, it pulsated, it pleased. Tasting the sweet nectar of a maiden’s tongue stunned the youth, as all of his senses were ripped clean from its rational faculties. Kanari wasn’t a prodigy for nothing. After that one experience that she had, Kanari had dreamt of this moment every night. She had even ‘borrowed’ Elrin’s stash of books for reference. All that, for the next kiss that may share with Shin.
It took Shin ten seconds before he finally understood what was going on. His body laid upon hers on the gigantic bed, Shin saw a tender loving woman right under his chest, trying to get the most of her interaction with him. How shameful must it be? For a girl to initiate the loving kiss not once, but twice. Yet, Shin just sat back and took advantage of her feelings. Even now, Kanari was leading the kiss with everything that she had. No… Something had to change.
Removing himself from Kanari’s Medusa hold, Shin pushed his body up, both hands on each side of the maiden’s head. An erotic silver string connected the two mouths that had been slugging at one another, and the pair soon found themselves in a reverse position than they did six moons ago. Before Kanari was on top and now, Shin had taken hold of that place all for himself. The beautiful young woman felt reluctant that the kiss was that brief, but she couldn’t force something on Shin that many times. If he didn’t want to make out, it wasn’t wise for Kanari to pressure him into doing it once more. Just as Kanari was about to sit up and apologise, she felt a tremendous push strain down on her neck.
Shin opened the holy vault with his own distinct key, slipping down sacred liquids from above. Kanari’s eyes went wide, but Shin didn’t care. Forceful and dominant, the alpha male within the man awoke from his slumber and took hold of the woman beneath him. Like their tongues, Kanari and Shin’s bodies intertwined, as if they were two snakes performed a coital dance.
Once wasn’t enough. Twisting about until they were deeper into the bed, Shin released his hold on Kanari’s mouth to catch a quick breather and replenish his saliva. Second time’s the charm. While Kanari was still dazed, Shin went in for round two without any permission. This time, he already knew which pleasure points triggered Kanari the most. Attacking them with his dolphin-slippery tongue, Shin sent waves of tremors that could be felt at every corner of Kanari’s body, bringing forth a swimming giddiness that couldn’t be controlled.
Kanari felt that she was on cloud nine. She forgot that she was about to break through into the Spirit Spectre realm. No, Kanari had even forgotten that they were in the middle of the battlefield. Throwing all caution into the wind, the young maiden locked her legs on Shin’s waist breaking all sorts of modesty codes. But Kanari didn’t care. It was her moment. Kanari feared that Shin would leave and bring all of the feelings away, so she held onto him with dear life.
And well, Kanari got her wish. Though, not in the way that she anticipated. Awakening something even more primal in Shin’s veins, the young man got up once more and looked straight into her ruby eyes. Was he done? Definitely not.
Shin went in for the fourth, the fifth. Each minor kiss fell specks onto Kanari cheeks and neck, while the major kisses lifted both their yearnings for one another. For Kanari, it was as if angels were singing hallelujah at the side, celebrating her victory in the battleground called love.
The pair continued their waltz of kisses. Sultry, mucilaginous fluids dripped out from their mouths and stained the sheets of the luxurious mattress beneath them. Unrelenting in his attacks, Shin continued on dominating Kanari’s uvula like the tyrant he was. Many times, Kanari would choke on their amalgamation of saliva, but every time, she would just swallow it and acted as if nothing happened. The funny part was, she didn’t even do it knowingly. The primordial woman in her was screaming out actions, and Kanari’s body obeyed.
Alas, all good things had to come to an end. Playing around for almost ten minutes, Shin felt the lust and desire within him die down, as his logical brain took over. Kanari was just about to take on the most significant obstacle in her life thus far… Shin should really let her prepare.
Splitting off from the maiden on the bed, Shin sat up in hopes of having one final proper conversation. However, Kanari didn’t like their sudden separation. Jumping into his chest, the young woman nestled happily, rubbing her cheeks on his neck, longing for another kiss. A wry smile crept up Shin’s face while he stroked the smooth and long hair of the woman.
“I have to go.”
“We can continue this another time.” Kanari tried to protest but was shut down by Shin’s authoritative finger. “What’s more important is that you cross the first barrier of mortality and ascend into the Spirit Spectre realm. When that’s done… I’ll be there for you again.”
“Hehe…” The maiden smiled. It wasn’t a dream. She wasn’t about to wake up horrified that everything had been just an illusion. Once Kanari ascended, Shin would be waiting right there, with the best present that she could ever receive. Kanari allowed her soft head to fall lightly onto Shin’s chest, whiffing up the manly musk that he emitted. “Right now… I feel like I can do anything!”
“That’s right!” Shin pushed the girl’s shoulders and looked her in the eye. “You’re Kanari Saniela, the Witch of the South and the future Duchess of Highgarden! You’re sure to succeed!”
“…” It was dreamy. To have someone having this much faith in her. Kanari was dazed for a moment but recovered quickly after.
“Right. Shin! The next time we meet! I’ll be in the Spirit Spectre realm! And when I do that…” Kanari went on all fours and crawled slowly until their noses were close to touching. But she didn’t stop there. Kanari’s soft and tender lips reached the side of Shin’s ear, and a faint whisper echoed through his cochlea.
“I will collect my prize.”
With that, Kanari separated from Shin, bearing the smile of a mischievous imp. For a moment there, Shin really felt that his life was in peril. Though, it was just a figment of his imagination. Or was it?
‘Oh… What have I done?’