The Kori Federation. The Estrella Region. Junius’ Payirci.
Junius was standing at the very precipice of the floating tower, binging down columns of written reports brought forth by his loyal subordinates. Though he was known as the Blade of Death and an assassin of the night, Junius’ primary role was that of a trained officer. It didn’t matter if they were an organisation in the dark or the light. No man could escape paperwork as they climbed up the corporate ladder. During times like these, Junius actually wished that he wasn’t the outstanding executive that he was. Just as he read the last of the documents, yet another Shudra climbed up the tower with another pile of reports from their scouts.
“Vaishya Junius! These are last night’s scouting reports!” The Shudra said.
“Right. Leave them there.” He wanted to frown and scream, but Junius kept his cool. Pointing to the adjacent desk using his feathered pen, Junius finished signing that last document before standing up for a stretch. He had been seated for the entire night now. If Junius were back home, Shia would have offered to release all of the stress from his tensed up body. Physically and mentally. Alas, he was almost an entire continent away from the Uncharted Wilderness…
“Tell me. Has there been any attempts by the Alliance to attack us?” Watching the sunrise from the peak of his tower, Junius sipped on a goblet of wine and casually asked.
“Not yet! Though, there have been some movements by their Commander to push into the ten-kilometre radius. Some scouts even predict that their attack would come within the next few days!”
“That sounds about right…” It was within Ao’s calculations that the Alliance would figure out the trick of the Payirci in about a week. The Alliance now had almost ten times the firepower than they did before. They had recruited Spirit Venerates and Spirit Emperors, alongside a standing army that would decimate any of the Black Masks’ forces. Losing to them was inevitable. Though, if one looked at it through the lens of the Allfather and the ultimate plan that he had, what the Black Masks had accomplished here wouldn’t be a loss, but a resounding win.
“We’ll stick to the original plan. Once the Alliance forces march in, we will withdraw all of the Umbras into the Payirci. Then, we’ll escape using the route that Senior Ao had created for us. Remember! Your safety is the most paramount! Don’t go risking your lives for a tower that we’d already abandoned!”
“Yes, sir!” The Shudra clicked his boots and gave a firm salute. His zealous face brimming with patriotic light. Junius’ eyes dilated as his subordinate disappeared from sight and returned back to completing his mundane tasks. The die had been cast, and it was time for the final minutes of the game. Everything had been set in stone. Whether Junius would emerge victorious from this conflict would solely depend on the actions of his younger brother.
“Shin… Oh, Shin… Please take the bait…” The Vaishya begged as he watched the sun awake from its slumber. It was a new dawn, but whether the light was shining in the Alliance’s or the Black Masks’ favour, only time would tell…
Sunk deep into the luxurious feathered bed that was meant for a family of eleven, Shin counted the jagged grey rocks, wrapped with verdant plant life above his head. Those majestic crystals that lit up the entire chambers had dimmed drastically in quality, and they were now as bright as a broken firefly. In spite of that, there was still enough light to make the dome-shaped cave a comfy place for rest and a romantic tryst. Five, six, seven… Shin’s pastime hobby turned wearisome a few minutes after he started it and thus he turned to the only person that could end his misery.
“Ermmm… Mistress Kanari?” Shin pivoted his head to his right, where a young maiden was lying comfortably on his extended arm. The rubies within her pupils beamed brighter than any of the dimmed crystals that were hanging overhead. Like a spoilt kitten, Kanari purred at her name being called as she tunnelled out of Shin’s armpits and touched the weighty neck of the young man. Moving her lips close, Kanari laid down a small peck, leaving a little red mark on the neck that she loved so much.
‘She really loves kisses…’ Shin thought. They had been making out for hours now, and yet, the maiden still wasn’t satisfied.
“What is it, Master Shin?” Kanari played along with a blissful smile. They were both lightly robed, so Kanari could gawk over the toned chest muscles that Shin had trained all his life. She was tempted to continue touching them, but Kanari could tell by his expression that Shin wasn’t in the mood.
“How much longer must we keep this up?” Shin asked. “We have been here for a few hours now, and I think that people would be suspicious if I don’t return soon.”
“But I’m not done claiming my prize!” Kanari pouted and complained.
After Kanari’s successful promotion into the Spirit Spectre realm, many came over to congratulate her on her success. There was even a feast prepared for her by the men and women from the Highgarden Duchy, where almost all of the esteemed members in the camp attended, even if it was for a short while. Many prominent faces lined up to shake Kanari’s hands, and some even brought extravagant gifts to applaud her achievement. While those presents were great, there was only one true prize that Kanari had her eye on.
When the dust had settled, Kanari handed Shin a note, asking him to visit her chambers early in the morning, a few hours before the sun rose and when the misty cold still remained. From then on, the two had shared the bed, cuddling and kissing as many couples did on their honeymoon period when everything was seen through rose-coloured lenses. However, even the most dedicated connoisseur would get bored after tasting the same thing over and over. Their bodies had been intertwined for almost four hours, and Shin had enjoyed his fill. Kanari, on the other hand, was still unsatisfied and she continued to cling onto the man as if she were a koala bear.
“I know, I know. But I really have to leave soon. Me being alone with you is already a stain on your reputation. If word gets out…”
“So what?” Kanari didn’t care one bit. She had been chasing Shin for almost five years. Now that she finally obtained him, there was no way she’s letting him go that easily. “Let them talk! It’s not like it’ll bother me anyway!”
‘But it would bother me!’ Shin retorted mentally. Kanari was by far, the most sought after maiden in the Himmel Empire. The list of her potential suitors was as long as the World Serpent itself, and each one of them possessed tremendous amounts of power and influence. Even without being in a relationship with Kanari, Shin had been getting threats from nearly every organisation under the sun. Just imagine if the news broke that the pair had been cuddling and kissing for hours on a bed. The whole world would be sent into an uproar, and a bounty would be placed on his head, one that wasn’t inferior to that of Junius’. Oh, and who could forget Fred? That devoted lovebird that nearly killed Shin when he and Kanari were still friends? How would Fred react? Shin didn’t even want to think about it.
Kanari was still in a delirious mood after Shin’s confession, and the man couldn’t bring himself to throw cold water at her. Thus, he remained silent. Recalibrating, he thought of a different approach that would appeal to the young maiden.
“Let’s just ignore that for now. The Commander said that there may be a plan to attack the Payirci today, so we ought to be prepared.”
“Really?” For the first time, Kanari’s eyes sparkled at something that wasn’t Shin-related. Climbing up the man’s chest, Kanari pushed herself closer to Shin as her right thigh released its hold over Shin’s waist. As she rose from the bed, a flowery fragrance followed and filled the lungs of the man lying beneath her. “Tell me more.”
Kanari had been busy planning her promotion into the Spirit Spectre realm for the past five days and hadn’t caught up on the happenings in the encampment. And boy, were there developments. The investigation into the Payirci continued to push out new information by the hour. Its internal structure, how sturdy was it, the amount of Umbras it could potentially create before it maxed out… All of these were mysteries that had been unravelled.
The three offence-oriented Spirit Venerates from each superpower had taken turns to test the toughness of the Payirci. The lights from their savage attacks sent the world into disarray. Each time they struck, the terrain changed. From rocky contours to open flat land. From flat ground into a lake of clear liquid. From a lake to nothing but dust and smoke. Everything changed in the godforsaken area. Everything, but the Payirci itself.
It was a defeat for the entire Alliance. How were they supposed to beat an artefact that could reflect the best attacks in the three superpowers? Not even the Imperial Castle in the Himmel Empire could bolster such an effective defence. So what could the Alliance do?
Well, luckily for them, they possessed a maniac in the Blacksmith’s League President, Ingram Ragnar when it came to relics from Spirit Immortal Dream. Searching through his own personal research library, Ingram had brought forth an idea of how the Payirci’s blueprint may look like. It may have been modified by the Black Masks, but there was no doubt in Ingram’s mind that the Payirci still possessed the base features that it was intended for.
Ingram toyed with the Umbras and sent scouts to test his hypotheses during the brief period that he had. Some were debunked, while the majority of his theories were confirmed. The Payirci behaved much like a dungeon from folklore, where the heroes party had to dive down deeper and deeper to reach the dungeon core. Though, in the case of the Payirci, it was the other way round. Spirit Immortal Dream was known for her fixation of opposites after all.
It was just a theory for now, but Ingram believed that to clear the Payirci, one had to ascend the tower and reach its peak, breaking down the final obstacle and claim their prize. At outlandish thought, many said. Some even questioned the Blacksmith’s League President’s motives. Maybe he just wanted the Alliance to keep the Payirci intact so that he could replicate it in the future. But as time went by, the evidence brought back by the White Knight scouts confirmed a large chunk of Ingram’s speculations.
Soon, the operation to contain the Payirci had evolved into a mission to conquer it. Commander Martha had sent small teams of White Knights to test the waters by barging into the first level of the Payirci, and they had managed to ascend the tower, bit by bit. As more information began to surface, the Alliance had gained confidence in their plan. They readied their weapons and drew up new plans each day. Learning from their earlier mistakes, they had even made contingency plans should things go south within the Payirci. Now, even if the entire structure came crashing down when they were inside, the Alliance knew how to escape unscathed.
“I see… So are they planning to carry out the operation today?” Kanari asked.
“Unclear. That’s why we have to return back to camp! Your ascension yesterday had boosted the morale of all the soldiers in the camp. So it wouldn’t be that hard to believe if the Commander wanted to carry the momentum forward and lead the Alliance to victory.”
“That makes sense.” The maiden fell into thought.
For a slight sliver of a second, Shin could see the rational Kanari that he adored return back from her slumber. However, as Shin got up from the bed, the right side of his robes fell from his lean shoulders, giving Kanari a full view of his right nipple and broad chest. At that moment, the logical Kanari faded into oblivion as the love-drunk Kanari took her place once more.
“Just one more hour!” Hearts could be seen in the maiden’s pupils as she dunked the man down on the bed once more. It was hopeless. Shin should be thanking his lucky stars that Kanari’s noble modesty was keeping her from going all the way. Otherwise, based on how needy Kanari was when her switch was flipped, perhaps it would take just a few weeks before a mini-Shin would be baked in the oven…