Garen stood in front of the memorial tower in the inner city, wearing a golden adonis flower. Standing alone in the line of people dressed in black, Garen didn’t stand out in the slightest.
Everyone in front and behind him stood in a straight line, making offerings to the Grand Duke’s body one by one. Those who had offered their flowers walked away quietly, and stood to a side. The people behind him followed suit quietly.
In the wide memorial hall, everyone somehow came to an unseen agreement to not make any sound.
In the large grey-white hall, next to a pyramid-shaped memorial tower, there were the Grand Duke’s remains. His body had been frozen by a platinum-colored, amber-like translucent metal.
Garen didn’t recognize the people in front of and behind him, but the shimmering ripples around everyone prove that nobody here was weak. With all these people lined up here, only he had a Form One totem user’s Totem Light.
Everyone else was either a Form Three or Form Two totem user, their bodies covered with the thick scent of blood.
Anyone who could survive safely in these times, would definitely be an executioner whose hands were stained with the blood of countless monsters.
Soon, it was his turn.
Garen took one step forward, and put the adonis flower in his hand in front of the crystal coffin lightly. He bowed, and turned to the left.
He glanced over. It was compact with people, but he didn’t recognize a single one.
The people were gathered in twos or threes, speaking softly. Some stood alone at a side, their expressions cold. Not far away, a heavy air hung over the nobles.
Garen didn’t see Goth anywhere.
After the Grand Duke expended his life to clash with that strange bird yesterday, the army of monsters suffered a heavy loss, and finally retreated. That strange bird was also grievously hurt, and flew away pathetically to save its life.
The situation had been temporarily stabilized.
But Goth had vanished without a trace.
Garen sighed. At first he had only come here to meet Goth for his own personal gain, but he didn’t think that after seeing the scenes from history with his own eyes, he would feel rather upset inside.
Soon enough, a middle-aged man and woman entered the memorial hall, both wearing platinum armor, covered by a white robe with silver edges.
"Lady Vesta, Lord Kanan." The receptionist went up to them and greeted them respectively.
"The situation is urgent, we can only stay for a short while." The man, Kanan, nodded solemnly. He and Vesta were now the strongest Form Three totem users in the inner city. Although they were still far from as strong as the Grand Duke, the monsters were obviously too afraid to really bear down on the inner city after the fright from the previous battle. The situation had also calmed down significantly.
A group of people surrounded the two of them respectfully as they walked to the coffin. Some asked about the situation, some were worried, some wanted a guarantee.
Most of the people went up to them, surrounding them in hopes of getting the answer they wanted.
Garen gave the center a wide berth, feeling suddenly frustrated at the rather noisy situation inside.
Turning around and leaving the hall, he raised his gaze to look. The surroundings were echoing empty, and he could barely see anyone anymore. There were only a few lonely people with numb expressions walking on the road. Most of them had already ducked into the defense fortifications that had been built in advance.
Garen had already searched everywhere, but hadn’t caught even a glimpse of Goth’s shadow.
It was empty inside the city now, there were too many places for him to hide. Walking on the main street, he wandered for a bit but eventually decided to leave the inner city through the underground tunnels.
A confused voice came from a passing carriage.
Garen turned around, and looked towards the black carriage that had stopped beside him.
The carriage door curtain was pulled aside, revealing a solemn man’s face. "I saw you that at Goth’s house. Won’t you come up for a chat?"
Garen hesitated. "Alright."
He pulled aside the curtain, entered the carriage, and sat on the man’s right.
The carriage gave a slight jolt, and started moving again.
The man looked at the street outside calmly. "That day I went to investigate Goth’s house, and just happened to see you walking out from inside. How is it? Do you know the situation?"
Garen shook his head. "I’m completely in the fog right now. Goth was controlled by someone and killed his own father, but who on earth controlled him? And what’s up with Jessica?"
The man’s face flashed with a hint of heaviness.
"We’ve already started our initial investigations on this matter, but only a few higher-ups know about it. All of this started with Goth’s mother, Jeanria Jess."
"Jess?" Garen’s gaze grew serious.
"You know about it too?" The man glanced at Garen in surprise. "As a Form One totem user, you sure are well-informed. Since I happened to meet you on the street, I might as well explain the situation to you, so you can help to advise Goth if you ever meet him."
The man fell silent, although organizing how he should explain what happened next.
The carriage also slowed down very considerately.
"Actually, be it Jessica being Empowered and taking away the Heart of the Dragonshadow, or Goth’s assassinating his own father, all of this was already planned from the start." He finally spoke slowly.
His deep voice echoed slowly around the carriage, making it seem even more solemn.
"Jeanria Jess used to be one of the higher-ups in the Obscuro Society. She infiltrated Iron Tank City, but accidentally developed feelings with the Grand Duke… sigh… and their feelings grew stronger by the day. We don’t know a lot of what happened in between, but in the end, we think Jess threw away all her standings for love, gave up everything she had before, and chose love. And she became pregnant with Goth. After she threw away everything, she realized that the one the Grand Duke truly loved wasn’t her."
The man paused.
"Jess was a very proud and single-minded person, she gave up everything she could have for the Grand Duke. After abandoning everything, and getting pregnant, she went alone to the Grand Duke for solace, and realized that the Grand Duke didn’t really love her, but was only playing with her. Back then, the Grand Duke was young and handsome, talented and capable. There were too many people in love with him, so he hadn’t taken this tolerably pretty girl seriously. And then… the tragedy began."
"So this was the source of it all." Garen breathed out softly. "The deeper the love, the deeper the hatred. She set a trap on Goth for twenty years, and now it has finally taken effect."
"Oh, life…" The man sighed, "We make a lot of mistakes in life, choose the wrong things, but never let your mistake be unsalvageable…" He seemed to have remembered his life as well.
"Then where is Jess now?" Garen asked the most critical question, the one most important to him.
"Dead." The man laughed rather helplessly, "Why else do you think Goth’s Blackfield Bird could be activated that easily? That’s a peak-level totem that only appeared once in history!"
By the time he alighted from the carriage, it was already afternoon.
The orange sunlight dyed the entire inner city a sea of golden-red.
Garen glanced at the carriage as it drove into the distance, standing at the door to the War Guild headquarters. For a while, his emotions were inexplicably complicated.
He still remembered Goth’s mother, that gentle and beautiful middle-aged woman. She gave off a feeling like a spring breeze, and he just couldn’t see through her, but to think that she was hiding such a deep vengeance within her heart.
"If she’s Jess, maybe everything can make sense now…" He touched the Derivator in his pocket. "The Derivator has to ability to connect at all times, so if Jess wanted to hide and carry out her own plans, she naturally couldn’t carry a Derivator with her. Maybe she would destroy her own Derivator directly, and ask headquarters to get her a new one. That way, that means this Derivator’s appearance near Iron Tank City was also planned ahead."
His thoughts turned quickly, and he was just about to understand everything.
"Because Jess didn’t want a Derivator at all, perhaps even Goth’s igniting the furnace explosion to destroy the base was also a part of her plan." Although this explanation was still flawed, it was nevertheless very complete as is.
Walking up to the War Guild, Garen glanced at the Grand Duke’s residence for the last time.
He didn’t know how Goth was doing now, but it was evident that right now, he was already on the brink of breakdown.
"Oh, life…" Garen sighed deeply, and turned to walk into the Guild. He knew, that this was the critical time for Goth to truly metamorphosize.
The Grand Duke had been destroyed by his own heartlessness in the end. Although his actions were very common in the world of aristocrats, it was extremely unfortunate that he chose the wrong target.
Half a month later…
Garen sat by the desk, quietly studying the second tactic.
In the scarlet study, Angel and Reylan took up one corner each.
Angel was playing with a small silver knife, tossing it up and down, a mischievous smile on her lips. Her gaze would sweep over Garen occasionally. She was wearing skin-tight brown leather armor, her long slender legs wrapped in brown leather leggings, making her look like a forest hunter on the hunt.
Reylan was wearing a grey robe, her terrifying face hidden with the hood. She sat in a wheelchair with an air of hostility, staring at Angel at the side with some jealousy.
"I wanna join in Brother’s War Chain," Reylan said in a deep voice.
Garen’s pen paused, as he raised his head to glance at Reylan.
Angel also looked at Reylan in surprise, the knife in her hand pausing slightly.
"I won’t let a woman prettier than me get too close to Brother," Reylan said darkly without holding back.
Garen’s expression looked instantly speechless. Based on how Reylan looked now, didn’t that mean even sixty-year-old grandmas couldn’t approach him now?
Reylan was totally unfazed, her icy cold gaze sweeping over Angel like a poisonous snake. "There are far too many ways to make someone wish they were dead…" she hinted, and turned the wheelchair to leave the room, closing the door quickly.
Garen smiled wryly at Angel, whose expression had obviously changed.
"Why do you have such a crazy little sister!?" Angel sat down promptly and angrily. "To be honest, if she weren’t your little sister, I’d really want to squish her dead with a slap!"
Garen didn’t really know what to say either, should he be grateful that his brainwashing was too successful, or should he be worried around Reylan’s overly extreme thought processes?
"Be a little more forgiving, Reylan is actually a good person." He could only comfort her like that.
"Good? You haven’t seen how your little maid is always pale as a sheet from fear." Angel was speechless. "The forger from my team is also so scared that he only dares to live on the first floor. Will your sister get jealous as long as it’s a woman?"