The evening sun showered its golden rays ornamented with vermilion ribbons, painting the trees and hills with a reddish-orange.
At the peak of a hillock surrounded by pine trees, white buildings stood.
The buildings looked like individual cubes and rectangular prisms huddling up together under a blanket of artichoke green roofs.
From its side, at the exit of the buildings, two people in black supported each other by the arm and walked out, drenched in sweat. They walked warily, as if trying to avoid something.
They were a man and a woman, both of them had blonde hair.
The man was ugly. He had a crooked mouth pointing upward to the right, he looked as strange as strange can be.
The woman was pleasant looking, but pale. Her blonde hair was damp with sweat and sticking to her forehead.
Both of them descended the stone stairs leading away from the monastery in quick steps.
"Be strong! He couldn’t find us, by now he should have left!" The man helped the woman descend in quick but cautious steps.
"Leo, that traitor! I’m sorry, Manila, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be hurt." Blonde woman said in sorrow.
"That’s okay, I’m willing to do that for you." The ugly man Manila didn’t hesitate to answer her.
The woman eyes glimmered, moved by his words.
"Tsk tsk… how touching."
At the stone stairs behind them, a fit man wearing black followed them. The handsome man had a hooked nose with bluish-black eyes. He's wearing a smirk on his face.
"Leo!" Manila glared at the man behind, as if he wanted to kill him right there and then. He turned around, shielding the woman behind him. "As Kings of Fist of Black Mark Association, how could you betray us? Why!"
"Why?" Leo scoffed.
"There's a saying in the far East, ‘you can't explain snow to a worm in the summer.’ Do you know what that means?" His face contorted to show a sense of fanatic enthusiasm. "I'm chasing after my dream. My justice, my determination, these are what I base my actions on. As a fellow King of Fist, as a fellow Grandmaster of Combat, I can't stand how you two are always so naive."
He lowered his right fist which was covered with a black leather glove. His knuckles were layered with scale-like silvery white metal plates.
He waved his arm, producing a sound similar to an eagle's scream.
"Manila, Ankh, for the sake of my dreams," Leo held his arms up in preparation to attack, "Please die."
"You think you can take on the both of us at the same time?" The blonde woman Ankh stepped up, "Leo, you know that if we fight back with all our might, you would get badly injured or even die," She paused, "I don’t know what your goal is, but you have already forced us into a corner, you’ve pretty much succeeded in your goal, didn’t you? There is no need to have a lose-lose situation."
"Lose-lose situation?" Leo’s sneered at them even more. "No, no, that won’t happen. You see, no amount of struggle could mean anything in front of Lord Garen."
Stunned, Manila and Ankh slowly turned to look behind. On the stone step below them, a huge figure stood, observing them. They didn’t know when he arrived.
Shivers creeped up on their skins.
The strongest elite from the Southern Martial Arts community! An undefeatable man seconded only to Palosa!
They stared at Garen’s still silhouette, feeling a strong pressure encasing them like an enormous shadow.
Garen stared back at both of the Kings of Fist of Black Mark Association, completely blocking the road downhill.
As one of the strongest fighters in the Martial Arts community, Garen’s presence itself was a serious impact toward the both of them.
He stood there, allowing his massive Bravery fill the air around him. The Bravery was thick, as though it’s going to solidify at any time. It was like a mountain, even though it’s lower than the both of them, it felt as if they can only look up to it.
"Black Mark Association… is finished…" Manila paled completely. As soon as Garen appeared, he knew this whole saga was going to arrive at its final act. They should have thought about the retribution when Black Mark Association sprang that attack on White Cloud Gate.
Ankh’s smile was one of sadness. "Let Manila go, I will ensure mother give everything to White Cloud Gate!"
Garen shook his head slowly. "You don’t have the authority to discuss conditions with me. Don’t you realize? The Confederation had been chaotic recently. A new age will come. Between Weisman and the Confederation, Confederation had been weak."
He looked at them in a composed manner.
"A war will break out. The stronger your individual power is, the safer you are on the battlefield. King of Fist Ankh, you father realized that. That was why he founded Black Mark Association. That was also why Celestial Circle Gate and Crimson Sand Sword Gate want a unified power."
Silence fell upon everyone like a blanket. The surrounded two were almost desperate enough to try and charge past their enemies.
The golden afternoon rays poured past the leaves and the branches, and finally found their spot on Garen’s figure.
His squinted slightly, his gaze still fixed on the Kings of Fist who huddled together.
"Killing you does not benefit me in any way."
The two finally loosened up, understanding the undertones of his speech.
"We will tell you about the Grandmaster of Combat who hurt Master Fei! Black Mark Association will also be appertained to Lord Garen." A voice belonging to an old lady beseeched from behind Garen.
The old lady approached with several masked men with cold eyes.
"We will surrender all the people who joined the operation." She said, in her low voice.
Garen was waiting for her, the proprietor of Black Mark Association, the mother of King of Fist Ankh, Vivian-Rita.
"Go arrange the necessary. That will be all today." Garen said, aloof. He turned around to look at the old lady. Black Mark Association no longer has any threat after the battle at Crimson Sand Sword Gate.
On the other hand, there was still no news about Behemoth Gate. Their power were too individualized, difficult to track through the grapevines.
Garen didn’t say anything more. He strolled down the stone stairs with Leo following behind, eventually disappearing from the long winding staircase.
Vivian-Rita and the two Kings of Fist stared at their leaving silhouettes. They understood Garen will definitely attack Black Mark Association if they decided to go back on their words. From the moment Garen appeared, it wouldn’t have mattered if the Kings of Fist were healthy anyway,
It was already 9 p.m. when they returned to Vilmahn City.
After witnessing the power Garen amassed through his strength alone, Black Mark Association announced their intention to be appertained under White Cloud Gate.
A negotiation like this can’t be settled within a day, of course. Black Mark Association was delaying it until the battle between Garen and White Bird Holy Fist is over.
All of Garen’s influence is based on the absoluteness of his strength. If the battle between him and White Bird Holy Fist went awry, the deal would be called off immediately.
Not only them, every organization with influences were focusing on that battle that signifies the replacement of the strongest force between two generations of fighters.
Fighters from every sect swarmed into the city in which Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate was stationed, even some unpopular fighters gathered in the dark.
Celestial Circle Gate, Crimson Sand Sword Gate, The Northern Martial Arts Union, as well as sects Garen haven’t even heard of all flocked into the city, some of them wanting to witness the higher realms of Martial Arts, some others with their own ulterior motives.
The government mobilized the army to take care of the orderliness, but there were still fights happening all over the city, dragging the whole of Vilmahn City into chaos.
During the time which people gathered in Vilmahn City, several people dressed in white led Garen, Leo and others toward the depth of Skylark Mountain.
The sky was dimly lit.
At the edge of a large still lake, the three people in white hastily led Garen and the other three, looking like a line of black and white ants beside a moss green mirror.
Greenish-yellow trees and bushes littered around the lakeside. Some of them were bent toward the water, some even had their leaves and branches dipped into it.
Garen stepped on the damp muddy road, following the people in white, as he looked toward the right at the lake.
Somewhere in front was a pier covered with undergrowths and trees. It looked just like a roll of green threads floating on the water from afar.
Garen turned his attention back onto himself and moved his neck a little. A thumb-sized red-and-black mosquito wobbled out of his collar and fell to the ground before squashed by Garen with a stomp.
Aside from him and Leo, the people in white as well as Cynthia and Jack were fully wrapped up, reproducing the effect of a hazmat suit.
A man in white saw the scene and a trace of worry flashed through his eyes.
A sudden roar came from the bank of a river in front.
A black bear stood beside the bank, watching over two little ones which are playing in the water, learning to catch a fish.
The black bear glared at the group and slowly moved its strong paws to face them. It growled in warning to the intruders. The two little bears stopped as well, staring at the group in curiosity.
A taller man in white stepped forward. He took out a small vial and gently opened the stopper.
Smelling something, the black bear shrank and growled. It took its cubs and left the vicinity of the lake, disappearing into the woods.
"Let’s go." One of the people in white murmured.
Garen and the others followed. "We’re almost there, please cover your nose and mouth with that thing and be patient just a little more." He added.
Garen and the team didn’t reply, instead they took out a small wooden white bottle and placed it under their noses.
A faint smell of green grass permeated the air around the group.