Book 8: The Mercenary’s Promise || Chapter 39: I Am Ascending (1)

The time, high noon. The place, deep inside of the Estrella Region. After Shin and Kanari performed their own unique version of a coital dance, the young man made his way out of the narrow cave and went down to the viewing party that was at the foot of the hill. There, the seven young heroes, as well as a mixture of prominent spectators such as Suji’s group and a few White Knights, waited patiently as the young maiden made her final preparations.

Ascending into the Spirit Spectre realm wasn’t a sight that many got to see often. Whenever a cultivator made their attempt, they would be sure to invite hundreds of their closest friends and family, to watch over them in their success. And this situation wasn’t that different. Kanari may not be in the Himmel Empire where she could draw in thousands of eyes to congratulate her, but there were still many in the region that wished to witness history being made. Even Spirit Emperors and Spirit Venerates from the Alliance forces were curious and freed an hour of their busy schedule to watch the girl make her attempt.

When it came to Kanari’s promotion into the Spirit Spectre realm, no one doubted that she would succeed. What they were interested in was her new spiritual ability, and how dominant she would be in the next realm. The flaps of the makeshift pavilion fluttered wildly with the immense wind while the spectators waited patiently for the good or bad news. The three maidens from Shin’s group all huddled up together, their eyes never leaving the entrance of Kanari’s cave.

Shizen and Isadore were less concerned. Oddly enough, it was the two guys of the team that had the most faith in Kanari’s success. Isadore has known Kanari ever since he could walk and he knew what made her tick. Crossing the first barrier of mortality was a tall task, but for a monstrous genius like her, it was basically a walk in the park. Shizen felt the same way. Being the Freak of the Dundlewoods, the young man’s instincts were much more acute as compared to the ordinary cultivator. Shizen knew that Kanari was something special, a talent that was probably second to his favourite Shin. It was his honest opinion that if Kanari couldn’t make it into the Spirit Spectre realm, then perhaps no one could.

Finally, there was Shin. His expression was placid. Not overly zealous about the prospects of Kanari failing, but if one peered deep into his eyes, they could see a fragment of worry in the man’s soul. There was no such thing as an absolute in this world. Yes, Kanari was a genius. Yes, she had been preparing for this moment ever since she awakened her Spirit. However, no matter how much one is prepared, one could not predict the future.

With folded arms, Shin waited. There were dozens of men and women surrounding, each one more distinguished than the other. The heirs of the Lasgeor, Frithron and Aldana families sat on their wooden chairs and gave out the odd yawn, bored with the state of nothingness that was happening at the foot of the hill. Standing next to them, the high lords of the Himmel Empire that had been sent over as reinforcements stood by, merrily engaging in High Society socialising. Even the White Knight Commander, who should have been swamped with paperwork and planning for the eventual raid of the Payirci, was happily downing goblets of fine wine that had been sent over from the Highgarden Duchy.

Those bystanders treated Kanari’s attempt to break through as an event to kick back and relax, just as they did other functions. It made Shin’s heart, ache in disgust. Here he was, worrying about the possible consequences should Kanari failed, yet there were random people wining and dining, watching the show that was about to unfold.

‘You have to make it…’

A half hour has passed since Shin left the cultivation chambers. Taking into account how much time it took for Spirit Venerate Kikyo and the plethora of Registrars and Meisters to settle down within the cave, Kanari should be in the midst of her attempt. To protect the girl, the Highgarden operatives sealed the exit with a high-levelled talisman and guarded it with two Spirit Kings. Furthermore, a spiritual barrier formed of Venerate Kikyo’s own mana prevented any spiritual energies from escaping or infiltrating the chambers, keeping the spectators completely in the dark about the happenings within.

“How long does it normally take for someone to promote into the Spirit Spectre realm?” Emma scratched the bottom of her chin and asked Elrin.

“It depends on the cultivator. Sometimes it would take an hour while sometimes it would take a day. There really isn’t a clear answer,” replied Elrin.

“A day? It can take that long?” Ella interjected with her own worry. Just like Shin, the twins were worried about Kanari’s safety more than anything. It didn’t matter if she failed or not. The most paramount concern for them was for Kanari to emerge out from the ashes unscathed.

“That’s right. And there is no correlation between how talented the Spirit User is and the time it takes for he or she to advance.” The knowledgeable heiress continued to narrate off her own experience. “I’ve seen geniuses take forty full hours to advance while run-off-the-mill cultivators take just five. It really depends on a variety of factors so I can’t give you an answer on how long it would take for Kanari to emerge from her chambers.”

“I see…” Emma nodded her head. “I just hope that she’s alright.”

“You guys really don’t have to worry! The Highgarden Duchess had been preparing for this moment for Kanari’s entire cultivation life! She even got Venerate Kikyo, the best auxiliary Spirit User in the Capital, to serve as Kanari’s protector. Honestly, I’m even jealous that she gets such treatment. My father has been inviting Venerate Kikyo to watch over my own ascension, but she has turned it down every time!” Pouting her lips, Elrin dropped back on her chair and continued to glare at the sealed entrance. Her eyes brimming with a passionate green fire, completely exposing her envy for the Highgarden heiress.

“Is she really that impressive? Venerate Kikyo?” For the first time since sitting down, Shin turned over his shoulder and asked the white-haired maiden. He had just met the Spirit Venerate once on his way up to visit Kanari, and his first impressions of her weren’t all that good.

“Of course she is!” Offended that Shin would even question her abilities, Elrin proceeded to educate the ignorant youth of Venerate Kikyo’s marvellous abilities. “Her control over a cultivator’s spiritual state is second to none! The Imperial Family even solicit her services during the Day of Spirits to awaken the Spirits of the royal descendants! Many request her services and are willing to pay a hefty sum to watch over their children attempt to cross the first barrier of mortality, but she always declines!”

“Is that so… So why did she agree to help Kanari?”

“That’s what I want to know!” Elrin pulled her hair, her throat hoarse from her raised voice. “I would do anything to get her to watch over me as I attempt to promote to the Spirit Spectre realm!”

“Do you have that little faith in yourself?” Suji, who had been listening in on the group’s conversation, chimed in with a raised chin and puffed chest. “As a cultivator that aims to be the best, you mustn’t doubt your own capabilities, even for a fraction of a second. Kanari shouldn’t have hired a protector if she really believed in her own abilities…”

“…” Kanari’s six comrades had their faces turn into frowns after hearing Suji’s harsh words. They wanted to rebuke the man, but they knew it would only fuel needless strife, something that they didn’t need to have at this moment.

“Suji!!!” Luckily for them, an exasperated cry screeched out on their behalf as a flabby arm covered the muscle man’s running mouth. “Sorry about that, Suji’s just bitter that Kanari has reached the Spirit Spectre realm before him. Don’t mind him.”

The brows on the sinewy face combined as Suji’s eyes shifted to the side and glared at his fat bosom friend. He felt betrayed that Danroy was taking another’s side and wanted to argue his case. Sadly, the chunky youth wasn’t interested in hearing it. Danroy pulled Suji out from his seat and moved out of sight to give the six youths some space.

“Hah… Suji really is a competitive bastard.” Natasha the swordmaiden, sighed. “I apologise for my teammate’s disrespect.”

“It really is getting annoying.” Elrin folded her arms and struck back venomously. “Can’t he just accept that Kanari and Shin are just better than him already? Must he hold on to that hopeless dream?”

“Haha… Right…” With a nervous laugh, Natasha ended the conversation, cursing Suji’s inelegance throughout mentally.

Rumble… Rumble… Rumble…

Just as the Elrin was about to bring up a new topic of conversation, the rocky ground of the hillside began to tremble slightly, shaking the cultivators off their bums and into high vigilance. Though they were celebrating Kanari’s attempt to enter into the Spirit Spectre realm, they were still in the middle of a war. A terrible one at that. If the Black Masks had taken advantage of this time to launch a surprise attack, they had to be prepared to defend.

All of the top cultivators expanded their spiritual sense, hoping to investigate the cause of the minor earthquake. However, after a few seconds, they all universally broke out into a beaming smile.

“Senior Baobiao! What’s going on?” Shin ran to the only Spirit Venerate that he could freely talk to. Right now, Kanari was in the midst of breaking through into the Spirit Spectre realm. If it really was an enemy attack, Shin would break every bone in his body, just to make sure that Kanari remained safe.

“Hehe, child there’s no need to worry.” The dragon-bearded man cackled. Releasing one of his wrinkled fingers from his right hand, Elder Baobiao pointed straight at the sky above the low hanging peak. “Look!”

All of the juniors’ eyes followed the finger and soon, audible gasps followed. Right above the cave where Kanari had claimed for herself, an aurora borealis coloured red, green and grey, graced the midday sky. It was an odd sight. A divine natural light beaming itself against the radiance of the sun. But no one could look away. No one wanted to. Though they didn’t understand how the aurora borealis formed, one could guess its origin.

“Don’t tell me…” A bubbling excitement fizzled up from the pits of his stomach as Shin stepped forward into the light. Due to Venerate Kikyo’s barrier, there weren’t any fluctuations in spiritual energies. Even the top Spirit Venerates seated below the cave could pry into the isolated cultivation chambers. Thus, they waited. Patiently? Definitely not.

All of the spectators left their seats and hurried forward out of the shade. They wanted to be closer to the cave and witness the grandeur of the successful ascendant. They wanted to be the first to congratulate the indomitable maiden that would unquestionably write her name in legend. They wanted to see how the Witch in the South was as a Spirit Spectre…

And well, they didn’t have to wait for long. Minutes after the beautiful lights graced the skies, the talisman at the centre of the cave’s entrance unfurled and crumpled itself into a ball. Its restriction lost, the boulder blocking the exit rolled open, with a little help from the Spirit Kings guarding it. The barrier surrounding the cave opened holes in itself like a honeycomb and eventually broke down into pieces, leaving nothing behind. For the more sensitive cultivators in the viewing part, they could tell that the elemental energies within the cave had been entirely sucked dry.

“They’re coming out.” Elder Baobiao remarked.

As if on cue, a few shadows emerged from the darkness, each one with their own unique expressions. Venerate Kikyo’s green eyes glistened, with a little pride in her smile. The acclaimed Registrar’s wrinkled face was free of any sweat or oils as if he had just sat back and done nothing for the entire time. A female bodyguard, who donned on a butler’s uniform like many who came before her, walked into the sunlight with her flat palm above her eyebrows. Though Shin had never seen the others, that guard was one that he was familiar with. Being Kanari’s personal attendant, there was no way that the butler would leave her mistress unguarded. Thus, her exit from the cave meant one thing…

“Kanari…”

Emerging out like a mermaid from the depths of the ocean, the maiden displayed herself for all to see. Her white priestess gown had been slightly drenched with a little sweat, sticking itself to certain parts of her body. The weak-willed men drooled as they watched the decanter-shaped waist move from side to side while the women awed at the picture-perfect figure that they hoped to achieve. Her every step seemed to bloom a garden of flowers in her wake, and her playful actions of tucking her ink-black hair behind her ear made the barren cave look like a runway.

‘She looks younger…’ Shin thought.

The youth had spent hundreds of hours next to Kanari, and he was familiar with nearly every wrinkle, every mark and every blemish that the maiden had. However, after emerging from the cavern, Shin felt like Kanari had morphed into a different being. Her face was a little smaller, her figure seemed to become more toned than before and finally, there was a mystifying air to her every step.

Kanari absorbed the gazes of everyone present and chuckled. There were many eyes, but there was only one pair that she genuinely cared about. Not wasting any more time, the maiden decided to give the spectators what they were waiting for.

Spreading her arms out wide, Kanari released a tremendous spiritual pressure, one that forced those below the Spirit Spectre realm to grimace in discomfort as they heavily resisted the urge to bend their knees. There wasn’t any malice in her actions, though. It was just purely a side-effect of the spiritual energies being poured out from her soul. Gorgeous Aurora lights embellished the air around Kanari and spread out far and wide. Each light contained elemental greatness, and just by feeling it brush over their skins, the spectators felt as if a thousand ants were crawling up their bodies.

“A domain…” One voice broke out from the crowd.

They were amazed but not shocked. Kanari was the Witch in the South after all. If anyone were to learn a domain as their fifth spiritual ability, it would be her. Nonetheless, it was still a breathtaking sight. A twenty-year-old Spirit Spectre with a domain. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements made by a cultivator over the past hundred years.

Ignoring all of the banter, Kanari gazed down upon the world, only to lock eyes with the man she wanted to see the most. The lights from her auroras brightened up her face to an astonishing degree, making her seem almost divine. Kanari smiled. Now, everything has fallen into place.  She was now a Spirit Spectre with a domain ability. The Highgarden Duchy had also sent an array of skilled Spirit Users to assist in the charge against the Payirci. Now, it was time to finally act against Junius and untie one knot in her loved one’s heart.

‘You gave me your oath, so I’ll give you mine… Shin, I’ll definitely bring Junius to justice!!!’

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