The dusk seems beautiful in this new world changed by the White explosion.
The breeze of the wind, the sound of the grass and leaves manage to create a picturesque scene like a painting of an Immortal enjoying life.
Azief was sitting on the wooden chair looking perplexed. His eyes are calm or as calm as he can be.
No use panicking now. It is a miscalculation on his part.
He was in front of the barrier with his leg crossed, a hundred men behind him all wearing battle armour ready to go into battle if he orders them.
Sitting on his left was Loki who is closing his eyes like he was contemplating something. On his right was Wang Jian standing beside him like an unmovable mountain.
A hundred meter in front of them is a fortress made by wood, and even now even as Azief stares at them from afar, they are still building.
But Azief could not do anything other than watch them built the fortress. And the people there also couldn’t do anything other than watch Azief looking at them murderously.
Ten thousand people congregated around the fortress wary of Lord Shadow, bearing the pressure of death, waiting for Arrayist Master Lee Sangmin to come out of seclusion.
Then one of them was looking murderously at Azief. Azief was annoyed. His heart is already in fire after these few days.
‘What you are looking at!’ Azief said but his voice reverberated around the area making the air in front of him slightly waver and resonate all across the area.
Loki who was thinking of something was startled, while Wang Jian maintain his composure. The hundred men behind Azief was the one receiving the brunt as they had to cover their ears.
The wooden seat was cracked by the pressure of Azief voice. IF not for Azief essence encompassing the wooden chair, it would have exploded.
The man quickly lowers his gaze with fear but Azief was already angry. So, he made a grasping motion and the pebbles around him gravitate towards his fingers.
He was still sitting on the wooden chair, looking like a sovereign looking at his subject.
And then he flick one of the pebbles with his fingers and like a bullet the pebbles shot through the translucent barrier and hit the man.
‘ARGH!’ The man yelled as he collapsed.
The builders of that fortress congregate around the injured man looking both angry at Azief and shocked at the injury of the man.
Loki who was on Azief left just shakes his head as he look at Azief back.
The man arm was pierced by pebble making a hole in his arm. A healer quickly come to the man and began healing the injury.
Azief looking at the man injury snorted
In the end the barrier diffuses his essence.
If the barrier did not diffuse the essence he embedded in the pebble, the man arms would have exploded into bits of flesh.
The horn was sounded as a man wearing a tiger armour quickly went to the site and look with dread at Azief.
Then he looks towards Loki and Loki shakes his head.
‘Sorry, Anuta’ Loki mouthed towards the man. The man then look at Wang Jian but Wang Jian was at the ready and his face was stoic.
If his liege asks him to march, he will march. If he ask to stop he will stop. Wang Jian owes a life debt towards Loki and has sworn fealty towards Azief.
Wang Jian is a peculiar character, hard to find in the world. He is loyal and honorable to the end.
That kind of virtues is oddly different then the virtues of the people around Azief.
‘What!’ Azief shouted as he looks towards Anuta
Anuta is a black man and he look at Azief with a sign of resignation. Then he began saying
‘The Forest Alliance has been accommodating towards my Lord. We already negotiated the safety of your troops, Lord Shadow. And in show of good faith, we the Forest Alliance have even allowed the White Tiger, Wang Jian and even the Trickster to scour the Forest Region to their heart contents without interruption. I hope Lord Shadow could give the Lords of the Forest some respect.’
But Azief was not afraid a bit and he didn’t intend to give some respect. It has already been three days, but there is no news about Sina yet.
His patience is wearing thin.
‘Tell your men to lower their gaze. I don’t like the way they look at me. It annoys me.’ He said arrogantly and domineeringly.
Anuta also feel angry as he felt that he was being underestimated.
He was one of the Generals in the Forest Region and has quite the following with 5000 soldiers under his command.
His men are watching him yet Lord Shadow still wanted to humiliate him.
‘This is not appropriate. I hope Lord Shadow can give me some form of apology’ Anuta still try to gain some respect.
‘You’re not satisfied?’ Azief asked.
‘Then come on out from the barrier and fight me face to face.’ Hearing this, the man gulped.
Inside his mind he wanted to curse the man who is stupid enough to provoke this Seed Forming expert.
After all, even he is just a Low Realm Energy Disperse Stage User. How could he fight a Seed Forming High Realm user?
He would be flattened to the ground in a matter of second. How would he dare to venture outside the barrier?
Then the man said
‘It is fine then. In a way, my subordinates have his faults. I hope next time Lord Shadow could show some leniency. So we, the Forest Alliance will also be lenient with your troops. After all the Forest is dark and full of monsters. Deep and dark with twisting paths.’
‘Is that a threat?’ Azief ask his voice was full of murderous tone. Anuta did not say anything but walk away with a slight bow towards Azief.
‘Tch’ Azief snorted.
It has been three days since this stalemate began.
The first day began with him trying to use all means possible to break the barrier. He even summons the Sabers and use the Eternal Rings to no avail.
For the Sabers, it was not like the power is not enough, but more to the fact that the translucent barrier absorb its attack, like a thirsty man getting water in the desert.
When he uses the Rings Azief discovers that it distort the barrier but is incapable of breaking it.
Azief hypothesized that if he could master the Ten Eternal Rings he would be able to destroy the barrier which spoke the volume of the power of this barrier.
After all, the ring was used by a Demon King who manages to topple the Heavens and shatters Hell.
In the first day, he camp out of the barrier and was attacked by a hundred men from the Forest Region who travel outside the barrier.
All of them were Pillar Forming so Azief only uses a swish of his hand to pressure them to kneel and surrender.
By the first dawn of the second day, his army led by Wang Jian arrived with Sofia and Loki arriving after.
A hundred people manage to arrive because of Loki Teleportation Stone. Loki uses almost all of the Teleportation Stones in the Warehouse.
Considering that not everyone can rides Pegasus and fly like Azief, to reach the border of the Forest Region would take months and to those who is only Pillar Forming, that would take years.
After all the distance is no joke.
Azief who has mastery over flying of course could traverse through regions as fast as lightning but what about the others?
So, not all the forces of Eden is here.
So, when Wang Jian marches from the villages, Loki and Sofia catch up to them and use the Teleportation Stones to transport them to the border.
Teleportation Stones are scarce in material so Wang Jian could only bring a hundred of his troop.
The forest people as Azief termed the people of the Forest Region was made prisoner as Wang Jian quickly made a makeshift prison guarded by his troops.
Sofia also tries her best using every arsenal she had. Wang Jian even uses his Ruyi Jingu Bang and tries to shatter the barrier to no avail.
Loki on the other hand just observe the barrier and keep muttering ‘Incomprehensible’ and ‘Impossible’.
He also mutters ‘This is too early’ though Azief don’t know what he means.
It was also at the second day that the forest people no longer dares travels outside the barrier as they began station their troops on the edge border of the barrier while waiting for Lee Sangmin to offer explanation.
Arrayist Lee Sangmin was informed in his Array Tree in the middle of the Forest Region but seems to be stalling for time as he did not immediately come and just began to march to the edge on the third day.
But Azief did not give up his provocation to destroy the barrier even though the Commander of the Borderlands came and send envoys for negotiations and hopes Azief will wait for Lee Sangmin to come.
The second day, Azief flies all around the Forest Region searching for any passage into the Forest Region.
Azief discover that trying to enter from the top is as pointless as trying to enter from the front.
At the height of 7 story buildings the barrier will take effect as Azief realized he could not dive down and collide with the translucent barrier again.
It was also at the second day that Azief orders Wang Jian to lead fifty men to dismantle the fortress.
Wang Jian with his elite fifty men rampaged and destroyed the fortress and capture about a hundred men and wounded a hundred more.
But by evening, Wang Jian had to retreat because the reinforcement from the Anuta troops come.
Anuta is an Angolian warlord.
He works in the mines when he was child, her mother and father killed by the armed groups around there.
He got out.
And then he immigrated to America.
The way which he did this was not legal, but at the time, anything is better than being a child soldier.
He grows up and managed to become successful.
He then returns back to Angola, protesting the armed groups and begins a campaign of protection for the villages around the mines from the armed group violence.
Anuta was a good man in a world ruled by bad people.
It is no wonder when the whole world gone mad after the Fall, people flock to him, looking at him like a leader.
When the world falls apart, not everyone wanted to descend to madness with the world.
And Anuta was the prime example of this.
When the White Explosion happens his followers fortunately ended up in the same region as he is and he managed to unite back his organization and it became even stronger.
In the forest region Anuta organization has a vocal voice in determining the policy of the Forest Region.
Of course at the top of the forest region hierarchy stood the man that ensures the safety of the Forest Region.
Arrayist Master Lee Sangmin.
Anuta brought three thousand troops to push back Wang Jian army back to the barrier.
But the moment Wang Jian and his troop moves out from the barrier Anuta troops did not cross to capture Wang Jian troops.
That is because outside the barrier, even though three thousand troops sounds a lot, compared to one Seed Forming user, they were like an ethereal clouds, dissipated in one blow of the wind.
By the third day, Azief has formed his conclusion about the barrier.
First, no one above Energy Disperse Stage High Realm can enter.
Second, the barrier is shrouded with ancient laws.
Azief could sense it a bit.
Third, while Azief could throws stones and projectiles to the barrier without the projectiles rebounded back, Azief discovers that any energy attack or abilities he has that he employs will be absorbed by the barrier maybe because he is a Seed Forming and his attack possess the power of a Seed Forming entity.
Third, Azief is sure that this barrier is not Lee Sangmin abilities alone.
To maintain such defense even under the Ten Eternal Rings, Lee Sangmin must have uses external help.
Something more powerful than an artifact though Azief don’t know what that is.
Fourth, Azief also hypothesize that even if he met Lee Sangmin today, even Lee Sangmin will not be able to give him permission to enter.
The Forest Region is like a closed off world, with its own Laws and Principles.
The purpose of the region and Azief bitterly smiles as he thought of this most probable explanation, was to train newbies.
Why does Azief reach such conclusion?
It is the perfect place for newbies to grow. Azief could even believe it if this was the construct of the World Orb.
Azief believe that any moment that a person reaches Seed Forming inside the forest region; they will be teleported out by the Laws and Principles inside the Barrier.
Not to mention, that Seed Forming was the dividing line between extraordinary and common.
Energy Disperse Stage while powerful, it focused on body refinement.
When a person steps to Seed Forming and Form their seeds, then that is the same as sowing seeds to understand Laws and Principles.
The Seed Bloom when Divine Comprehensions is reached.
When someone steps inside the Seed Forming, his energy would be truly like Immortals in stories of lore’s of the Chinese people, or like magicians and wizard in European folklore.
Fantastical abilities, domineering strength all will be achieved in Seed Forming.
The Seed Forming paved the Road for Disk Formation. Disk Formation paved the Road for Divine Comprehensions.
Divine Comprehensions gives birth to Essence Creation.
If there is no region to protect newbies, what will stop some maniacal psycho to kill all low level users when they reach Seed Forming becoming a super predator that hunts lower beings?
By the third day, the forest people and Wang Jian troops have reached an understanding.
As long as the forest people don’t interfere with Wang Jian troops searching for Sina in the forest region, Wang Jian will not attack the forest region.
The forest region is not afraid of Wang Jian meager troops but they do fear Azief. Nothing good ever come out of offending a Seed Forming User.
Wang Jian on his right side was receiving a report and went to his tent for a while before coming back and then he said to Azief.
‘My lord there is still no news from the scout teams. In the last two days we have been searching around fifty meter radius. And then he hesitated to say but then Wang Jian said
‘The safety of our troops in Eden is also not secure. I have reports that The Seven Fairy of the Plains is coming towards our village. I hope that my lo-‘
But Azief cut off his words and ordered Wang Jian
‘The forest region is wide. We need more men.’ Wang Jian bitterly smiles and then he responds.
‘Everybody is already mobilized, my lord.’
‘We have to consider the-‘
But then Azief held up his hand, his dark aura billowing and Immortal Presence wafted around him making the land where he sits on sunk in by one meter because of the pressure he emitted and Wang Jian stop speaking.
Loki chimed in from his left side.
‘We are around a lot of hostile forces, Azief. And there are also the threats of the Seven Fairy. They are a group of powerful people. Their Seven killing Star formation is famed throughout the Plain that enables them to even fight Sasha to a standstill. And they brought with them an army of ten thousand people.’
Azief shakes his head as he disagree.
‘They won’t fight me so readily. At least not for a while. Is it easy to cross the Plains? With so much people, it is that numbers that will pose a threat to them.’
Loki stands up in anger and stomp his feet and the soil beneath his feet cracked and web like lines formed on the ground
‘You must know, this is meaningless. We can’t send 100 people to scour the entire forest region which is as big as a continent. It will take us years even with the use of artifacts. This is the work of a fool.’
Azief glares at Loki and Loki glares back.
‘Enough. We will find her.’ Azief decided
‘Any report from the scouts team?’ he ask Wang Jian
‘Nothing. They are already spread out all around the forest region. Wang Jian replies. Loki sighed again as he calms himself down and try to speak reason to Azief again.
(Remember, Wang Jian has 300 hundred troops with him. The four hundred people is the people Sofia and Loki found in their search and rescue operations. This three hundred troops is Wang Jian old unit that escape with him from Yue dynasty)
‘Azief, you should consider to pull some troops and send them back to the village to secure the villagers. Me and Sofia got three hundred people in the village and Wang Jian manages to bring back a hundred. That is four hundred people, not protected by anything other than some walls. Our two hundred troops are still marching here, to fulfill your order. It has been good enough that a hundred troop manages to come here the day you order them to march. But, what about the people in the village? Most of them are capable people, but even they could not withstand an attack of the Seven Fairy and ten thousand troops.’
‘No!’ Azief said gritting his teeth.
‘Keep all the soldier in search. I will not leave her behind.’ Sofia who was just back after her patrol was watching this scene from afar.
‘I’m just saying, Azief, committing the entire forces of our village to search for one wom-‘
‘I SAID NO!’ And Azief got up from his wooden chair and at the same time the chair exploded into bits with Azief glaring at Loki like he wants to kill him.
The wind around him was compressed as it exploded and gales of sharp wind collide with the barrier and get absorbed while some of the other slices some rocks nearby him.
Loki swish away one of the gale slice with his bodily strength but he could his arm feel a little numb from deflecting the gale slice.
‘We are going to find her, and we’re going to bring her home! Loki, you were her friend.’
‘Humph’ Loki said shaking his head.
‘Yes, but I won’t risk the lives of hundreds of people for one person’ he said it in a whisper as he turns invisible and walk away from the scene.
Sofia ran to Azief and was standing beside him as she holds Azief hand, trying to calm him down
‘Calm down Azief.’
Azief look at the forest region with eyes full of regret.
‘We need more eyes.’
Sofia also looks at the forest region and sighs. She can enter and most of the time she acts a deterrent for other troops in the forest region.
Since she is not Seed Forming she can enter and her strength itself is formidable but she knows she is not invincible.
If she was ambushed by a troop, she would fall. The true deterrent is Azief who possesses the power of a Seed Forming.
After all, one day, even the people inside this forest region has to come out.
And if they have to face the wrath of a Seed Forming expert the moment they came out, nobody likes to imagine the outcome.
But she already gone in the morning and just got back. She searches from the other part of the Forest Region while Loki also looks yesterday for 48 hours without sleep.
But….even she knows that Azief is being irrational. So, cautiously, she ask
‘More eyes? Where we going to get them, Azief?’
Azief sighs and then with determination he said
‘Recruit the villagers. I will order Loki to go to the village and recruit people to become soldiers. Maybe there is a unique class of tracker in the batch of people you found.’
‘No’ Sofia said this time as she looks straight at Azief eyes.
‘We already use all our force to search for Sina. I know you are what are feeling. I feel it too. But if all of your soldiers are fucking around here, when the Seven Fairy come calling, we’re dead meat. I fought them once. They are not to be underestimated. If you’re not there, then that village will turn to ashes if they decide to attack.’
There is also the reason that the new villagers might not appreciate to be force drafted into Azief personal army but Sofia didn’t mention this.
But Azief is not Azief if he is not stubborn
‘No, there is no certainty that the Seven Fairy would attack my village. Maybe there is other reason that forced them to march.’
Sofia shakes her head with a look of pity.
‘Don’t do this. Sina would be the first one to tell you not to do this.’ Azief look deep into Sofia eyes and he slowly shakes his head.
‘Leave her behind?! Are you asking me to do that now?’ Sofia slowly moves her hand and touch Azief cheek as Azief becomes a bit startled.
Her touch was gentle and was full of compassion. Then she said, with a heavy tone
‘We left many people behind before. In our city Azief, tell me how many survives? How many people we’ve seen then and leave behind? How many friends we’ve lost? Sina is not just my friend, Azief! She’s almost like a sister to me. So……You are way out of line!’ She yelled and her eyes were full of tears now.
Then she comes closer to Azief, one step forward as Azief take a step backwards, pressured by Sofia words.
And she was not done.
‘But, you, you, in your hands right now, the lives of hundreds of people. Hundreds of lives depend on you. They pledge loyalty to you. Both of us are way too close to this because she’s our friend. We….lost perspectives. But…’and she look behind her and look at the weary faces of Wang Jian troops and the uncertainty in their eyes, their tired bodies and she sigh.
Azief push away Sofia hand from his cheek as he walk away from the scene as night began to come and Sofia follows him from behind.
Wang Jian was already preparing for another scout team to enter the forest region but it is clear he doesn’t like this order at all.
The injured troops which had to fight monsters are being treated by Healers class. And now, Wang Jian had to send his brothers again to the Forest, to risk the lives of his brother again.
‘You know I’m right’ She said as she herself was feeling bad even uttering the words. She feels heartache and pain.
Because, it almost seems like she wanted to give up on Sina.
But she has her reason for saying all of this. She knows that the only one who can stop the Seven Fairy all-out attack on Azief village is Azief himself.
As a Seed Forming fighting the Seven Fairy will not be that hard to Azief even if the Seven Fairy employed the Seven Killing Star Formation.
But it was the ten thousand troops that the Seven Fairy possesses that frightens both Loki and Wang Jian and Sofia understand that.
And Sofia knows Azief also understand this. What baffles Sofia, was that this time, Azief seems to be ruled by his emotion instead of his cold logic.
Even though ten thousand Pillar Forming High Realm users will not pose any difficulties how about a ten thousand Orb Condensing soldiers?
Even though Azief can fight the Seven Fairy, Sofia knows that to contain the ten thousand soldiers from wrecking Eden, it needs the village full fighting force which includes Wang Jian and his troops.
And Sofia has decided that if Azief returns she will stay here, looking for Sina.
But Sofia knows that Azief will not agree with this so she has to persuade him to return while she will secretly remain here.
Loki will surely help.
After all, from what Sofia knows of Loki, he would do anything to make sure Azief survives.
Though, why he would have such determination has always been a big puzzle in Sofia mind.
Then she said looking at his back, as Azief keep walking around the perimeter of the barrier looking absentmindedly at the large forest that reaches the skies.
‘We have left people behind before Azief. You know this. So, what’s different this time?’
Azief even without turning back his face to look at Sofia replies in harsh tones.
‘Not this time.’
‘You have always looked at the big picture Azief. Always.’ And Azief slows his pace of walking and replies
‘Not this time! There is still a lot of option to rescue her. I know that Sasha is planning to use Sina to buy her ticket to the World Government.’
‘Then we can wait her to come out. Any number of troops can be stationed here to wait for her to get out. We can also negotiate with the Lords of the Forest’
‘You don’t think I’ve thought of that? The question is…..Will she?’ And then he turned back and pointed his finger at the barrier.
‘If she could remain safe inside there why would she come out? I know too little about this new world. I didn’t know that there existed such barrier before. Even Loki knows. Even you know. If I know that there exist such barriers, I would put it inside my calculations. And you are talking about the invasion of our village like the Seven Fairy has already declared war! Nobody even knows what they are thinking. Maybe, they did not intend to invade.’
‘Prepare for the unexpected. That is what you say to me one night. Maybe they aren’t coming for the village, but maybe they did.’
Sofia moves forward and holds Azief hand and look at him.
With the sound of the wind and the light of the moon, she look at him with teary eyes and she said sincerely with all of her heart.
‘I’m in pain too. I know you feel regret. You never liked when you are proven wrong. I know you are in pain. But you have to consider that maybe, Sasha would find Sina burden and already dispose of her.’
Sofia said, trying to be the kind of leader Azief used to be. The normal Azief. The man who uses cold hard logic to plan and anticipate the threat
‘Then, I need to see her body! I will make sure of it myself. I refuse to believe she is dead.’
‘We are putting lives at risk here. Every day we stay here, there is a risk for conflict to erupt with the Forest Alliance. There are also monsters that roam inside the forest. We are lucky enough that there is yet any casualty, but for how long could we be this lucky?’
‘We are not giving up on her and that is final!’ He said as he pushes away Sofia hands away from him.
‘Tell me why!’ Sofia shouted as she grabs Azief hand and they look at each other eyes and in whispers Azief said.
‘Because….she is family. And she suffers because of my mistake. She…was family. You do whatever you have to do.’
‘But you have to leave. Stop being stubborn. You know that right?’ Sofia said. Azief closes his eyes and then nodded in resignation.
‘Yes. I’ll give the order tomorrow. You’re right. I’m just stubborn. I’ll handle the Seven Fairy and then I’ll return back.
But they both know, that to return again would decrease the possibility for Sina to survive in the Forest Region.
And there must be some opportunistic bastards inside the forest region that will try to make Sina a bargaining chip if she were to be found by the Lords of the Forest.
Azief is not naive enough to think that the Lords of the Forest are not using covert method to search for Sina and use her.
But before Azief could go, Sofia wanted to ask something else.
Sofia gritted her teeth and then in her anxiousness she asks, half hoping.
‘And if it was me there instead?’ She asks, looking straight at Azief eyes.
Azief slightly shakes his head a bit and he said with a hurt tone.
‘You don’t have to ask that.’
‘That’s not good enough. No, I want to know.’ She tightens her grip unconsciously. Then Azief moves a step forward, looking deep inside her eyes and he sighed.
‘Do you really have to ask that? If it were you….if it were you Sofia, I never leave’ and Sofia hold slowly loosened as Azief walk away.
Sofia looks at his back and a tear drops from her cheek. She then looks at the moon trying to contain her feelings and sighs as she walks in a different direction.