In the middle of a vast lush grassland, a white train was moving forward slowly along the tracks; it looked like a white thread in the middle of a green handkerchief.
In a carriage in the middle section of the train, light was almost nonexistent; only traces of white light shone in through both sides.
A one-eyed man with long hair down to the waist was silently standing in the dark.
"Silvard once told me: give up your eyes for a broader world," the man said in a low voice as if he was talking to himself. He had a black eye patch over his left eye, while a sparkling glow faintly reflected on the dark golden eyelashes of his right eye.
"My heart will tell me what higher realm I intend to pursue…" he inexplicably muttered.
"Andrela." With a bang, the carriage door opened. An old man with green eyes and white hair stood at the door. "Still contemplating? You have reached the level of Grandmaster of Combat for more than a year now. Dealing with an average guy doesn't require such extensive preparation."
"It's alright. I don't underestimate any single opponent, that's my principle." Andrela gave a warm smile.
"Your characteristic is having the fastest speed and strongest penetrating power, which by chance neutralizes the strengths of that Garen. No matter how you see it, you have much better odds of winning." The old man shook his head and continued, "Fine, it's up to you. Oh yeah, the fine metal blocks for testing that you requested have arrived." He turned around and left without closing the door behind him.
Soon, more than a dozen people gradually carried in five black metal blocks and laid them out one by one in front of Andrela to form a straight line.
Each metal block was cast from fine iron and extremely tough, all half the height of a person.
After laying down the metal blocks, they silently exited the carriage of their own accord and gently closed the door.
Andrela slowly unsheathed a fine sword from his waist.
A silver strand flashed in the dark then instantly vanished.
The five metal blocks were punctured in the middle with round holes. The round holes pierced straight through all five fine metal blocks. The edges of the holes were rounded and smooth, and still had a faint redness on them.
Heat waves gradually dispersed in the air: it was the residual heat created from piercing through the metal blocks at high-speed.
Andrela looked at the metal blocks calmly. No one knew what he was thinking, but he seemed to be deep in thought.
Outside the door, the green-eyed elder stood by the carriage window. He quietly watched the grassland scenery passing by rapidly outside. A girl in a crimson dress silently stood behind him.
"Even though we have confidence in Andrela, but for the sake of precaution, we still have to be well prepared. Are the people from Manleyton Corporation ready?"
"Yes. According to the report that came back to us, they are ready and have probably gained the trust of the kid from White Cloud Gate," the crimson-dressed girl replied in a hushed tone.
"That's good. Prepare them to take action and administer the drug in batches. This drug can lie dormant for three days, that's when we'll arrive. Moreover, there will be no signs of the drug after the fact. We can't lose this time. Defeating White Cloud Gate is beside the point. The main issue is that old geezer from Seven Moon Gate. Andrela needs to conserve his energy. Unfortunately, I'm too old, I can't personally participate. Otherwise, I could have cleared the path to make it easier for him." The old man sighed with regret.
"You've done enough," the girl said softly.
"Grace? Why are you here?"
They were in the train station in Dinah City by a busy platform with the crowd coming and going.
Garen frowned as he looked at Grace in front of him. She hung her head low and was carrying a black handbag with both of her hands; the way she dressed made her seem like a traveling college student. Her white sweater and white jeans accentuated her high breasts and slender legs. Long light blonde hair casually draped over her shoulder, tied with a black hair band in the middle. This was a change from her cool and alluring style; it was now replaced with an air of innocence with a hint of sexiness.
"I just wanted to follow you…" Grace calmly replied. "After all, you'll need someone to help you deal with sundry matters."
"Have you arranged with the others?" Garen helplessly massaged his temples.
"Yes, all done."
"Let's go then."
Garen was speechless. Since she had already come over, he couldn't possibly send her back.
Based on the address that Rampas gave them, they hailed a horse carriage, negotiated a price, then stepped into the carriage and rushed straight towards the headquarters of the Seven Moon Group.
When they arrived at the headquarters building, there were already people stationed in front of the entrance. Apparently, as a local, Seven Moon Gate was very good at obtaining intelligence: Garen was discovered as soon as he had arrived.
The people stationed at the entrance escorted them into the building without wasting any time and led them straight to Rampas, who was training hard in Secret Martial Arts.
"I thought, Senior Brother Garen, that you would have come sooner. I didn't expect you to be late." A white towel draped over Rampas' shoulder; his body radiated heat as he walked out of the room. He sat across from Garen. The attendant on the side served some aromatic milk coffee.
"Miss, why aren't you sitting?" Rampas looked at Grace; he didn't know what her relationship with Garen was.
"It's fine. I'll just stand," Grace declined respectfully. She silently stood behind Garen and insisted on not sitting down.
After dismissing the attendant, Rampas sat up straight, picked up the coffee and took a swig. Compared to when he was fleeing danger, now he seemed more confident and had the relaxed and calm manner of a master.
"Apologies, Senior Brother Garen. All the other elders of the Gate are busy entertaining the masters and representatives from other sects. Now, most of the strength of the whole Southern Twelve Gates is gathered here at Seven Moon Gate, so they're a little preoccupied to receive you. And since you saved my life, and we're both familiar with each other, it has fallen to me to entertain you. I hope you don't mind," Rampas explained apologetically.
"Not at all. Receiving guests is merely a formality. In these pressing times, I don't really mind." Garen smiled. "Just that this time I'm here, I'd like to take a look at some low-level Secret Martial Art collections from Seven Moon Gate. We've been fighting all the way back. I want to see if I can read more on other Secret Martial Arts to broaden my martial arts perspective."
"This Secret Martial Art…" Rampas seemed to be put in a tough spot. "Senior Brother Garen, you should be clear that Secret Martial Arts, albeit at low levels, are the foundations on which sects are established. On this matter… I'm afraid I can't make the decision."
"Just tell me outright what conditions you have," Garen said calmly.
"I need to consult the Elder Deputy Sect Master. Please wait for a moment." Rampas didn't want Garen to go home empty handed either. After all, he had witnessed Garen's powerful true strength along the journey. A Secret Martial Art practitioner with such great potential, the only option was to stay on his good side, particularly in such critical times.
"I'll wait for you here then," Garen took a sip of his coffee.
"Alright. I'll be back in a moment." Rampas stood up and left from the side door.
"He's just a junior. For the fact that he escorted the Sect Master back, we'll give him some money and have him on his way. These small sects keep coming to us for refuge and support. What support? It's just money they want. Do they think money falls from the sky for the Seven Moon Group? Just a few words, open their mouth and they can get a few million? What a joke!"
"But Elder, Senior Brother Garen isn't here for money…" Rampas frowned as he tried to draw a distinction. He found Great Elder Cayman resting in the conference room. It was obvious that the Great Elder had been angered by someone; he was furiously chugging his tea.
"Not money? What then?" the Great Elder was curious, and immediately stopped what he was doing.
"Senior Brother wants to have a look at low-level Secret Martial Art…"
"What? Secret Martial Art! Ask him to get lost right now!" the Senior Elder stood up at once, infuriated. "Have him leave immediately! Secret Martial Art? Is that something to be requested by a small sect like White Cloud Gate?! Forget about having a look, they don't even have the right to think about it! What does White Cloud Gate think it is anyway? Nothing but a puny third-grade sect. How dare they threaten us at this hour? They think we can't fend off Celestial Circle Gate without them? What a joke! Any random Secret Martial Art from Seven Moon Gate would be far more powerful than their Secret Mammoth Technique!" The Great Elder trembled with fury.
"Great Elder—" Rampas wanted to keep arguing but was cut off by the Great Elder.
"Say no more. In this incident, the Sect Master was heavily injured and is now unconscious, but I see that you're safe and sound. Good for you! Very well done! I still haven't disciplined all of you for that. Now you're asking for a favor on behalf of someone else?" The Great Elder stood up and furiously walked out the door. He passed through the corridors and was soon out of sight.
Rampas hastily got up and gave chase, persuading him all the way.
In a corridor connected to this corridor, Garen walked out of the room with Grace, a terrible expression on his face.
The conference room that the Great Elder was in was not far from the previous room. With his current physical fitness, having attained the powerful hearing of a Grandmaster of Combat, he could naturally hear every word being said.
"Let's go. I thought Seven Moon Gate needed my help, and we could join forces to defeat Celestial Circle Gate, but it seems that they couldn't care less about a mediocre sect like ours. " Garen said in a calm tone, then turned to leave from the way he came.
Grace followed closely behind him.
Not long after Rampas gave chase, he got wind about Garen and Grace's departure. He instantly knew that this spelled trouble. Apart from overhearing what they had said, there was no other reason that Garen would have left abruptly without saying goodbye.
He guessed it immediately: Garen must have been impatient when he didn't return, so he walked out of his room and overheard the conversation in the conference room.
"Great Elder!" he roared as he couldn't hold it in any longer.
The Great Elder walking in front turned around in shock.
"You're… shouting at me?"
The more Rampas thought about it, the more he got angry and felt offended. His face was red with anger as he stood panting in the corridor.
"Great Elder! Senior Brother Garen has left. Are you happy now?"
"What gives you the right to shout at me?" The Great Elder's expression turned somber. "What does it have to do with me, whether he's left or not?"
"Senior Brother Garen saved the Sect Master and all of our lives! Is that the way Seven Moon Gate should treat him? Very well! That's amazing!" Rampas had always thought that the Great Elder had a hot temper but was still good-natured. He didn't expect him to not know right from wrong in this matter and act out impulsively like this.
"No one needs his saving! Who begged him to save anyone? What a joke! Saved the Sect Master? Saved all of you?" the Great Elder sniggered. "I'm telling you Rampas, Celestial Circle Gate is powerful, but Seven Moon Gate is no lightweight either. Even without that Garen, would they dare touch any of our people? Even if the Sect Master is unconscious from the challenge, would Celestial Circle Gate dare touch him even once? You know nothing, and yet you dare shout at me?! Do you even know what the true assets of Seven Moon Gate are?!"