After staying in the estate for a few days, Garen hadn’t received any news.
But now, it was finally time to go on a quest.
Everyone in the Secret Service’s Crimson Team, under Old Man’s arrangements, had gathered at a fixed place, that was the large clock tower, the tallest building just behind the Kingdom.
This was the stone wall of a cliff, with some green forests on top, and a small lake.
"Alright, let’s go down." Old Man nodded, and led the way to the outskirts of the jungle.
The others followed suit.
Garen followed at the very back of the team, not too fast or too slow, carefully scoping his surroundings.
All the trees in the forest were rather short, and a glance over them showed they were sparse as well, sunlight falling onto the green blanket of plants, shining with a jade green glow.
The six of them entered the little forest one by one, and walked straight to the edge of the cliff.
Old Man led the way, and actually turned his step, walking down the edge of the cliff as though he’d just jumped off. It gave Garen quite a scare.
And others followed suit, Garen the last, all the way until he reached the edge of the cliff, where he looked down.
There were many intricate black boxes built on the cliff under him, each smaller than a palm. That was when he noticed that there was actually a downward sliding staircase on the cliff beside his feet. Ahead of them, Old Man had already gone quite a distance ahead.
The stone steps stuck tightly to the cliff, like trenches dug out of the black cliff, going all the way down.
Garen glanced at Fox, who was beside him. She didn't look surprised in the slightest, and as evidently used to seeing this kind of thing.
He hurriedly followed them down, following the stone steps one by one as they advanced towards the bottom right.
Holding the black stone handle on the left with his hands, he felt a cold touch coming from his palm, and Garen continued down the steep stone steps.
On the left side of the stone stairs tunnel, a lot of cold wind due to the high altitude was blowing in, billowing up their hoods and making them flutter.
The six of them didn't say a thing, walking down quietly.
On the black cliff walls, the stone steps were like a split, stretching from the top of the cliff to the center.
The six of them walked on the inside, like black ants crawling in the crack, soundlessly, inconspicuous.
After about two minutes.
The path ahead them opened up, into a wide circular hall. On the ground in the center was a huge bird's nest, more than ten meters in radius.
The bird's nest was woven out of dried, earth-yellow tree trunks, oval in shape, and had a giant black bird crouched in the middle. The bird looked like an enlarged version of a crow, completely pitch black, with only scarily pearly yellow eyes, glimmering in the dim cave with a yellow glow.
The giant bird was more than seven meters long, crouching quietly in the nest, and it actually had a natural dent in its back.
Old Man walked over first, the black light patterns under his feet disappearing after a flash. With a ding, his whole person leaped up lightly, as though he had springs on his feet. While in mid-air, the black light formation at his feet lit up again, propelling him directly into the dent on the bird's back.
"Everyone gets a Black Crow each, the ones at the back, make sure you don't get left behind." He yelled loudly from that height.
In an instant, everyone walked towards the edges of the cave and walls, and saw that there were tunnels leading to other caves.
Garen chose one and walked over too, after following the tunnel for a bit, he found another huge Black Crow crouched in their nest. The Black Crow glanced at him, a hint of viciousness in its yellow eyes, but it immediately sensed the special aura on Garen and instantly calmed down.
Garen touched the diamond shard ring on his hand, the ring was made from a black metal, and had four diamond shards embedded in it to form a diamond shape.
"As expected of the three departments, they sure have many good things."
Garen touched his ring, and the same black light formation flashed past his feet as well, like a trampoline, exploding with a light and gentle bounce.
Borrowing this power to jump into the sky, Garen took another step in mid-air, the black light formation circle flashed again, and he landed lightly in the dent on the crow’s back.
The dent was warm, and the area under his feet was soft, the swathes of feathers in front of him functioning as grips.
"Nineheads, you ready?"
Old Man’s voice came from his waist-pouch.
Garen opened the pockets on his waist, and took out a small round black box, the voice was coming from here.
"Ready," he replied softly.
"It’s your first time riding a Black Crow, watch your safety, and always keep in contact," Old Man advised him.
"Why are you bothering with him, if he doesn’t even know that much, he should just scram!" For some reason Kitten just didn’t seem to like Garen very much, and kept geting annoyed at him.
"Then let’s go," Old Man agreed.
Garen patted the yellow diamond ring on his hand, and the Black Crow under his feet gave a slight jolt.
The Black Crow stood up in the nest, and started running urgently forward.
After taking a few steps, the way forward lit up with a white light.
That was the sound of the Black Crow opening its wings, its huge wings spanning more than ten meters as it pounced out of the cave.
On the black cliffs, six Black Crows rushed out of the cave one after the other, and flapped their wings, shooting into the sky. They created six round flight paths in the sky.
Kitten’s whoops came from the left.
Garen’s eyes got used to the sudden burst of blinding sunlight, facing the strong winds as he narrowed his eyes to look around him.
He felt as though he was going diagonally up, the intense cold wind beating against his face, flowing into his nostrils and down his neck.
Everything around him was slanting, and shook non-stop.
He gripped the black feathers tightly, ordering the Black Crow to follow the Black Crow in front of it, and then just let it go on auto-pilot.
With a whoosh, Fox’s Black Crow brushed past on his right, and rushed to the very front with extreme speed. After that, Kitten caught up as well, the two of them chasing each other, and soon they became two tiny black dots in the distance.
"The two of you, don’t break away from the team!" Old Man’s voice came from the black box.
Garen glanced downwards.
The whole Kingdom was now just the size of his palm.
The whole Kingdom was sunk in the middle of a mountain range, all alone with nothing around it, as though it was a city built on mountaintops. It seemed ancient and mysterious.
The Kingdom became smaller and smaller, further and further. Garen’s hood couldn’t stay on, and was pulled down by the strong winds, his long golden hair flying in the wind.
"Careful, we’re going above the cloud layer." Old Man’s voice came from the Black Box.
Garen clipped the Black Box onto his collar, and it happened to fit perfectly on the golden iris, hanging there securely.
Before the voices faded.
Garen had no time to reply when he felt the large swathes of white cloud mist assault his face. It was cold and moist, as though someone sprayed mist into his face.
Everything around him became a sea of white.
The Black Crow in front of him made a sound.
The Black Crow he was riding also cried out.
The Black Crows seemed to be using that to determine each other’s locations.
The cries rang out and echoed by Garen’s ear, lasting an entire half minute.
Finally, with a whoosh, they went through the cloud layer in an instant.
The golden sun hung quietly in the distant deep blue sky, and below them were the sea of white clouds.
Some clouds sunk in, so they could see the earth and mountains down there, as small as grains of sand.
Some clouds protruded, like strangely-shaped pillars. Some clouds were just bunches of cotton.
Above the endless layers of clouds, six giant Black Crows were like six sesame seeds, flapping their wings and soaring almost indistinguishably.
"We need to keep flying for two hours, it’s a bit far away. Be aware of your own waist-pouch, don’t let it get blown away," Old Man reminded tirelessly.
Garen turned around and looked in the direction they came. He instantly felt a slight jolt.
In the sky above the Kingdom, seen from a distance, there was a grey-black light all over the sky above the Kingdom.
That light was like a fog, floating and twining all above the Kingdom, there were even many black tentacles poking out here and there, waving in the sky.
"Do you see that? Ninetales." Old Man’s voice came again. "That’s the Kingdom’s strongest tactical defense formation, without permission, no flying creature can go past the sky above the Kingdom."
"It’s quite the sight." Garen sighed.
The Black Crows flew forth in parallel with each other, in a V-formation.
The time passed, and soon half an hour had passed.
"Careful, everyone, we’re coming up on the West Farm defense lines, there might be high-flying monsters attacking." This time it was actually Red Umbrella’s voice, how rare for him not to be yawning.
Garen focused a little more as well, raising his guard.
It wasn’t long after the reminder that two strange birds immediately rushed up from beneath the sea of clouds.
Cries that sounded like children weeping came from in front of them.
The strange birds were completely purple-black, like bald eagles, with a snake-like neck, and four red eyes on the top of their heads.
The two strange birds were about seven or eight meters in size, but as soon as they rushed up and saw the six giant Black Crows, each more than ten meters long, the two birds panicked immediately, turned around and dove into the clouds again, disappearing without a trace.
"They’re Four-eyed Birds, one of the rare few bird-type monsters that can fly at altitudes above seven or eight thousand meters. They’re powerful, equal to a Form Two totem. But unfortunately, we’re riding on Giant Black Crows, which are even stronger. One Death Glare can kill those two in an instant," Old Man laughed, in a light mood, but mostly he seemed to be explaining for Garen’s sake.
"I wanted to taste what Four-eyed Bird meat was like, but they run so fast every time!" Kitten’s voice sounded disinterested.
"We need to go low in the area ahead, it’s that crazy monster’s territory, so everyone watch out and go lower with me," Old Man said loudly.
"Got it.""As usual, Red Umbrella takes the rear."
Everyone replied one by one.
Garen was slightly curious as to what kind of monster could let the Form Three totem users from the Secret Service all decide to avoid it. But they were high in the sky, so he didn’t ask.
The Black Crow kept close behind the ones in front, and suddenly sunk, reducing their altitude and dashing down.
They dove into the fluffy white sea of clouds in an instant.
After more than ten seconds, the cloud sea burst open, and below was a large sweep of white mountain ranges, dotted with dark green forests and lakes.
The Black Crows rushed down, flying towards that mirror-like lake, the lake-water reflected the layers of clouds, clear and clean.
A few giant black turtles were basking in the sun, like so many black stones, heavy and clumsy.
A herd of light yellow deer was drinking water next to a dried up and collapsed tree trunk, taking tiny sips, their ears occasionally twitching nimbly.
The six giant Black Birds suddenly rushed down, dipping past the mirror-like surface of the blue lake, the gusts of wind causing the water to shake, creating large ripples.
The deer yelped in shock, and left the lake in a hurry. The black turtles immediately pulled their heads back into their shells, and didn’t move at all, playing dead.
Garen stood on the Black Crow’s back, watching the lakewater retreat rapidly backwards, to be replaced by forest. Many birds were spooked and took flight, escaping towards the left and right in flocks.
There were even three female campers surrounding a fire and barbequing something. Two of them heard the commotion and immediately stood up, looking towards the sky, their mouth wide open and their expressions spooked.
"Wooo~~~!" Kitten was crying out again.
The six Giant Black Crows swept past the forest, causing the leaves to rustle.