"You alright there?" Garen asked walking towards Celine, carrying two the men in black.
"Well, you've grown, haven't you?" He added, glancing at Celine’s matured hourglass body with a hint of mild surprise.
What used to be children's clothing had now morphed into a few strips of cloth, barely covering her important parts. The cloth again threatened to fall off just as Celine was about to cover her mouth. Startled, she quickly reached for her clothes and clutched them tightly.
"I’m fine. You don't have to come any closer!" Celine panicked slightly and whipped her trident off the ground, bringing with it a large amount of yellow sand.
The whirlwind of dust and dirt blocked Garen’s vision, and as the sand slowly fell to the ground after some ten seconds, Celine had reverted back to her usual six, seven year old childish look with her ragged, oversized clothes . Her body was covered in blood and she carried a pale white look on her face.
With a gentle push off the ground, Celine leapt up into the air and sat on Garen’s right shoulder. The trident in her hand had shrunk back into its original shape, resting on her waist.
Garen furrowed his eyebrows.
"You'd better explain everything when we get back, or I’m afraid I’ll have to toss you out."
"It’s just a combination of the modified version of the Contortion Technique and Essence Locking Technique. I can’t maintain my real body for long, it's seriously injured. In any case, I can only move about freely in this state." Celine answered, softly.
Garen looked down at the corpse and said. "And what of these people?"
"They were sent by an old enemy of mine. They just want me dead." Celine finished, her expression slightly forlorn.
Garen squatted down to examine the white haired corpse.
It seemed as if it was gored by hundreds of knives simultaneously; dense, fresh wounds covered the corpse, leaking blood that dyed the sand on the ground crimson.
"One of my secret techniques, from the Neptune Fist. Myriad Water Jasper Technique. It’s too bad I can’t use it very often." Celine said plainly.
Garen didn’t reply her. He fished a card out from the corpse, and on it bore a symbol: the seven of diamonds.
"Did you find anything?" Su Lin asked as he hurried over from afar. He was holding up another card: the 3 of diamonds. "I found this."
"Was it on the body of the assailant?" Garen asked.
Su Lin nodded.
"It’s the Poker Organization, from Weisman. I'd heard of them in the past, but I hadn't expected to see them within the federation."
"Poker Organization… ? Do you have any concrete information on them?" Garen asked softly.
"It will take time. These people had the balls to attempt to kill us. They're not getting away with this, not on my watch." Sulin let out a cold laugh. "I will investigate this Poker Organization once we're done with the Duskdune Shura incident.
"Are you sure?"
"This isn't Weisman, and they dare to act wildly here! Do they suppose they're the Duskdune Shura, then? " Su Lin mocked. "Whoever touches me means to pick a fight against the Belfatalia household! They're picking a fight with the whole Special Agent Bureau and the government!"
"No one would come out unharmed when they go against the government!"
Garen’s lips twitched ever so slightly, as if he wanted to say something, but held his tongue.
"For now, we need to take care of the Duskdune Shura first, it's a matter of the Federation’s prestige-." stated Su Lin.
"Whatever the case, we should head back fast. We'll need to walk back or hitch a ride, since our car is blown to pieces." Celine said as she cut off Su Lin.
Su Lin nodded. "And about that other issue, you'd better see it through to the end." he added.
"Don’t worry. I'm not going anywhere." Celine replied, curling her lips
Tea cups were set softly onto a black wooden table.
Two siblings, Celine and the Aris took their seats side by side on the same row, and opposite them were Garen and Su Lin.
The four of them sat in a small study room opposite each other. Celine, bored to tears, flipped a large, black book endlessly, as if looking for something among its pages.
To her side, Aris was fiddling with a red raindrop shaped gem, not bothering to raise her head up and look at Garen at all.
Su Lin and Garen were gazing out the clear study window to their right, where an innocent looking plain sat just outside the building.
Yoda, the Eight-Arm Dragon King was scolding Erudas loudly, whip in hand.
"Straighten your god damn arm!"
"Yes, sir" Erudas replied loudly.
"Don’t stick up your ass!"
Crack! The sound of the whip rang through the air
"Do you understand human language, you brat? Don’t stick up your ass! Do you understand?!"
"My fucking God, could you be any more stupid!?"
Yoda seemed to have take a sudden interest in scolding Erudas, who was standing outside, upside down, on his head. It seemed like Yoda was teaching him Gun Art.
The sound of endless rambling permeated through the window into the study room.
Garen broke his gaze and looked at Celine. The girl was smirking as she looked out the window; it was very likely that she had something to do with it, as well.
"We have news of the Duskdune Shura, by telegram. I called you guys over the moment I received the news." Su Lin tapped the table rhythmically.
"Let’s hear it." Garen was very interested in the Duskdune Shura. To be more precise, he was interested in the Golden Sword Throne, currently in the enemy’s hands. He could imagine the huge potential it would bring; there were still remnants of the Antique of Tragedy’s power left inside the black cloth. This might be his first time coming across an Antique of Tragedy with this amount of potential.
Su Lin glanced sideways at Garen, puzzled at his change of attitude at the mention of the topic. However, he didn’t think much of it.
"The Duskdune Shura were last seen on a road towards Sin Gerro."
Not only Garen was surprised, Aris seemed taken aback as well.
"That one near Xi Fan Province..? That Sin Gerro?" Aris asked in a low voice.
"That’s the one."
"They’ve crossed the border, then.. Sin Gerro is pretty much half sealed up at the moment, it’s going to be tough; although the place is tiny, it’s rich with trade. It receives much more income than the federation" Aris said as she furrowed her eyebrows.
"I know of this, too." Garen nodded his head. "I’ve heard that Sin Gerro deals in ores and gems. To think the Duskdune Shura would bring the Golden Sword Throne to such a faraway place."
"The federation has assembled a small task force, codenamed Slash. Within it are people who are proficient against the Duskdune Shura. All of the experts in the southern region that we could gather have all been called together" Su Lin explained. "I have seen what the Grandmasters of Combat can do, so we’ve invited two of them into the force. One of them is from Crimson Sand Sword. Garen should have heard of them before."
"Oh? The Crimson Sand Sword? Could it be Beo?" Garen asked curiously.
"It is. One of the twin stars of the south, the strongest martial artist in the Crimson Sand Sword, surpassing even the Great Elder and Founder. Rumor says that he’s on par with Andrela." Su Lin nodded in agreement.
"And what of Andrela?" Garen asked, as he recalled the days fighting alongside that man with such talent.
"I heard that he had an epiphany after the match with you. He went deep into the mountains to further his training, and no one knows of his location at the moment. That guy is obsessed with martial arts, he’d stop at nothing to pursue it." Su Lin said, voice filled with emotion
"He’ll be at a different level once he resurfaces." Garen beamed with confidence. "I’ve learned a lot from that fight as well. If not, I wouldn’t have stood a chance against the Duskdune Shura in battle."
In actuality, Andrela was more talented than Garen was. If not for his own innate talent, he confessed that he would be no match against the rate at which he is improving.
"So where does Andrela stand among the Grandmasters of Combat?" Unaware of just how strong Andrela was, Garen took this opportunity to ask.
"I know this! I look up very highly to Master Andrela" Aris exclaimed, butting into the conversation. "I would have entered the Celestial Circle Gate if not for my love of the sword arts."
She cleared her throat.
"Master Andrela’s sword art has already far surpassed the Celestial Circle Gate’s elites, with the exception of Rolexia. As a Grandmaster of Combat, he is currently sitting well above average. To be precise, he is one of the best in this generation, save for the elites from the previous generation. Oh and of course, you’re currently the strongest Grandmaster of Combat in this generation Master Garen."
"What I wanted to know was against all of the Grandmasters of Combat, including the ones from the previous generation." Garen bellowed in laughter, shaking his head.
"Andrela. I met him a year ago."
Celine’s voice spoke up, from the side.
She gently closed the book in front of her and closed her eyes, as if reliving a memory.
"Even if the previous generations were included, his prowess is, without a doubt, one of the best. Assuming the Grandmasters of Combat are separated into four categories - Lower, Middle, Upper and First Class Ranks, he will probably stand at the edge of the Middle rank, skirting the Upper rank. He is climbing to the Duskdune Shura’s level at an incredible pace." Celine explained. "After that match with you, he would likely be at the Upper rank."
Garen’s heart leapt in his throat.
"Duskdune Shura… Is it even possible for a human to attain that kind of level?"
"It’s plausible. Duskdune Shura have been considered the pinnacle of martial arts for a long time. No one is stronger than them. Among us humans, they are known to be the best." Celine finished. Her gaze then fell on Garen, eyes brimming with emotion.
""Andrela is improving at an incredible rate. Aren’t you worried Garen?"
"What’s there to be worried about?" Garen asked, holding unease.
Celine’s lips curled into a sly smile.
"Your secret martial art but a low grade third rater - the White Cloud Mammoth. Under such a poor foundation, you’ve managed to reach a level so high that people have thought it impossible; but that’s the limit. There’s no way to get any better than you are now. Can you live with that?"
Everyone could read between the lines written by Celine. The duo became the focal point of the occupants in the room.
Garen was silent.
He knew; the White Cloud Secret Art had indeed reached its theoretical limit. He had stretched this secret technique to the extreme limit, so much so that even the founder of the White Cloud Gate himself was no match for him.
As he was now, he was imprisoned by his own secret technique.
Its grade was simply too low.
"If you had a higher level secret technique like Andrela of Celestial gate, you might be able to reach Duskdune Shura’s level as well." Celine’s voice had a slight tone of temptation.
"What are you trying to say" Garen looked at her calmly.
"Why not be the Dragon King of Protection of the Neptune Fist?" Celine smiled with cunning. "I can give you an even stronger secret technique."
Garen furrowed his eyebrows.
It was certainly a tempting prospect. A stronger secret technique would mean a brighter future.
However his mind was on the the promise between him and his teacher, Fei Baiyun. The White Cloud Gate had nurtured him, brought him where he was. With the Founder unconscious, he had a great responsibility upon him.
"I regret to say," Garen answered decidedly, "that I will not learn the Neptune Fist."