Yoda coughed twice.
"I won't be able to make it. The injury on my shoulder would take a few months to heal."
"I have been remiss in my considerations," Crohn nodded to show that he understood.
Garen contemplated for a while.
"I need to recuperate too. I can't fight immediately. Even if I did, I would be no match for Duskdune Shura. Although I'm unwilling to admit it, Duskdune Shura's martial arts have reached a peak level."
The atmosphere in the room was temporarily subdued.
Crohn sighed. He gestured for the soldiers to open the doors. Several maids entered to serve breakfast: a type of pale blue baguette paired with some apple slices, large chunks of pineapple, and a cup of unknown red drink which was fizzing.
Everyone didn't speak much. They just silently started having breakfast. Only the sound of knives clashing with forks could be heard from time to time.
Garen ate silently, while at the same time carefully estimating Duskdune Shura's true strength, as well as the time he needed to recover from his injuries.
"Duskdune Shura painstakingly schemed to get a hold of the Golden Sword Throne, it's apparent he has a certain level of confidence in succeeding. I wonder how much any of you knew about Duskdune Shura before?" Crohn asked in a hushed tone.
Garen was the first to shake his head, expressing ignorance.
Su Lin shook his head too. He merely shifted his gaze towards Yoda, the Eight-Arm Dragon King.
Yoda had thick bandages on his shoulder. He swiftly reached for the food on the table with one hand and stuffed it in his mouth.
"Don't look at me. I'm not too clear about it either. Duskdune Shura and I are experts of the same generation. This organization was something he joined or established later, I've just heard about it for a long time."
Even though they knew his words were not entirely reliable—it wasn't that he didn't know, he was merely reluctant to reveal what he knew—Su Lin and the rest didn't force the issue.
Garen finished the drink in one gulp, and gently put down the cup.
"In fact, regardless of what motives Duskdune Shura harbors, regardless of what ruins he's gone to, it's impossible that he doesn't reappear. When he emerges from the ruins, we'll know what he really wants. What we need to do now is figure out how to deal with him. Previously, we had so many people but were still defeated. If we had to do it again, based on the true strength and power we have here, do you think we would actually be able to hold him off?"
Upon hearing Garen's words, everyone fell silent.
Only Lieutenant Lenny who had just joined them frowned.
Garen shook his head.
"I'm just a martial arts practitioner; I don't want to get too involved. Whenever you come up with a plan to deal with Duskdune Shura, Su Lin, you just tell me. I need to go down to recuperate now. Regardless of what the plan is, now everyone is injured, and won't be good for anything if we don't recover. Excuse me."
He stood up, turned around and left through the door.
Walking through the red-carpeted corridor with soldiers standing guard along it, Garen exited the small building.
The sky was bright outside. Small patrol motorcycles would come over from a distance from time to time.
The originally empty space in the estate was now full of patrol guards in yellow uniform. Temporary security fortifications were built in corners which were easy to defend and hard to attack. All around the buildings, on the roofs, were patrol guards on duty.
The whole estate had transformed into a large military camp.
Garen took a deep breath. The smell of smoke and blood remnant from the battle yesterday still filled the air.
He strode towards the lake outside of the estate. He planned to have a good rest and go for a swim to relax.
Suddenly, a guard wearing a yellow helmet ran towards him from a short distance away. He stopped in front of Garen and saluted him.
"Mr Garen, a young boy is asking for you outside the estate. He refused to leave no matter what."
"A young boy?" Garen instantly recalled the kid with a runny nose he met near the home of the Eight-Arm Dragon King. "Could it be him?"
"Thanks for informing me. Please lead me to him."
"Certainly. Please follow me." The guard nodded, turned around, and jogged towards the entrance of the estate.
Garen followed at a moderate pace. His one stride equaled two to three of the guard's. It looked as though he was striding casually, but in fact his pace was not slow.
Soon, going past the heavy defense, in the temporary guardhouse constructed on the right side of the entrance, Garen saw the young boy with a runny nose.
The boy looked pale. Both his arms were swollen beyond recognition, almost double their original size, like he had two adult arms affixed to his shoulder. He was wearing a sleeveless gray linen shirt and his hair was messy like a chicken coop.
Once Garen walked in, he recognized the kid who had previously asked him to teach him how to fight. But what made him speechless was that the kid had a burden with him: an adorable petite young girl.
When he saw the young girl, Garen squinted.
The atmosphere in the entire guardhouse became somber. A terrifying sense of oppression lingered overhead like dark clouds, as if the sky was about to collapse on them.
It wasn't just the boy, even the two guards supervising by the side shivered, and almost pulled out their guns in alert.
This was the strong sense of oppression that Bravery had towards all living beings; it was their biological fear towards danger and predators.
The boy was trembling from head to toe, and his face seemed paler than before. His chapped lips were almost bleeding.
"Shenanigans!" Garen sat in a chair and looked at the boy and girl indifferently, without a hint of compassion in his eyes.
But the strange thing was that, when everyone was trembling in fear, the expression of the pretty little girl who had a pitiful expression on her face changed, from one of terror and panic, to a calm and sly look. A trace of surprise flashed across her face.
"How did you discover me?" Her voice was clear and subtle, like a bird call.
"Looks like it was you who instructed him previously…" Garen didn't give a straightforward answer. He stared fixedly at the girl. "I wondered how a young kid could have possibly noticed my true strength. You're so old yet you pretend to be young. It's really my first time encountering a martial arts practitioner like you."
"Bastard! What do you mean by 'old'?!" The girl's gaze changed; it looked as though she had been stabbed in a sore spot. "Don't you recognize the virtue of respecting your elders and caring for the young?! If this kid were not unsuitable to inherit my martial arts, do you think I would have specifically asked him to find you?!"
The girl's words instantly shocked a few guards around them. They swiftly drew their guns and aimed at her.
"Keep calm. She's merely an expert trained in a unique martial art." Garen raised his hand to calm the guards down. "Please leave us. I want to have a proper conversation with them."
"I'm sorry. Towards unknown foreigners, we have to supervise the whole process. This was the highest command given by Lieutenant Lenny," a captain walked in and said calmly. "Mr Garen, please don't put us in a tough spot." Upon entering the guardhouse, he felt a strange sense of danger triggering the hair on his body to stand on end, and his hand subconsciously clasped the gun on his waist. He stared at the strange little girl.
Garen shifted his gaze to the young captain.
"It's fine. I understand your difficulties. We'll speak outside then."
He retracted his Bravery, and everyone instantly let out a sigh of relief.
He stood up and walked straight out of the guardhouse towards a small forest outside the estate.
The boy, led by the little girl, followed closely behind. The three soon disappeared into the woods.
Walking at a fast pace for a distance until they couldn't be discovered, Garen turned around and stopped walking.
"Well, who are you and what are your motives?" Garen calmly looked at the girl behind him.
This seemingly adorable and petite girl who looked no more than eight or nine years old gave him the sense of an old monster inhabiting a child's body; she was definitely not an ordinary martial arts practitioner.
The girl's height only reached his waist. She was wearing a shabby currant strappy dress. Her maroon long hair was straight and smooth, with horizontal bangs on her forehead. On her feet were thick black cotton socks and red leather boots. Her skin was supple and fair as snow, and her wine-colored eyes were blinking.
Walking through the woods thick with foliage, she had a skip in her step as her long hair fluttered with her every move; it gave the impression of innocence and charm.
But ever since Garen attained the level of Grandmaster of Combat, he had stopped judging people by their appearances alone.
"What are your motives?"
He silently looked at this strange little girl.
"You can call me Celine. My motive is simple. I want you to receive Erudas as your disciple," the girl Celine skipped the nonsense and got straight to the point. "Originally, I didn't intend to expose myself. But to be on the safe side, I think it's better to be honest, in case it would affect future relations."
Garen glanced at the gullible young boy who followed behind her.
"I've heard that, in the Secret Martial Art world, there is a type of Secret Martial Art that shrinks the body to reduce the loss of spiritual essence in order to prolong life. I didn't expect to actually see an example of it."
"I'm glad you recognize this old lady's power." The girl proudly raised her chin. "I intended to accept him as my own disciple, but my martial art does not match him. That day, I saw you at Yoda's house and realized that your martial arts style fits this kid's characteristics perfectly. Most importantly, Erudas seems to be determined to follow you. He was actually foolish enough to complete the training as you instructed!"
At this point, she looked as if she had a headache.
"I have just witnessed Duskdune Shura's true strength, rumored to be the peak of the previous generation. I wonder what your true strength is like," Garen changed the topic and said casually. He began to slowly gather a surge of strong, terrifying Bravery.
The large amount of Bravery surrounded him, and condensed into the invisible shadow of a mammoth.
No roars, no movement, the mammoth just silently shrouded over Garen. It stood there with a murderous look in its eyes.
An invisible pressure fell on the girl, Celine's body.
"Duskdune Shura…You've actually met him before?" Celine was shocked. Her petite body somersaulted away as she gently evaded the oppression of Garen's Bravery.
Garen narrowed his eyes. She had evaded the oppression of his Bravery with such ease and avoided a direct confrontation with him. It was apparent that she was no ordinary character. To be able to accurately sense the speed and extent of the Bravery oppression of another martial arts practitioner, she must have been a Grandmaster of Combat with Bravery of her own.
He gradually raised his right arm, ready to fight.
"Keep calm! It's not your style to bully children at random, is it? If it were to get out that the Divine Marshal of Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate bullied a seven year-old little girl, sob sob…" Celine's expression turned in an instant. Tears streamed out of her eyes. She tugged her clothing down a little to reveal her fair shoulder and started screaming, "Ra…!"
Garen's face twitched as he rushed over to cover her mouth.