It felt as though the black cloud itself was alive.
Garen narrowed his eyes slightly and felt a tremble in his heart, as he activated the Eye of Isaiah and looked towards the black cloud.
The black cloud continued to move along normally, except that it had slowed down slightly, with no other signs of abnormalities.
He returned his gaze and took a look around his surroundings. He did not notice anything suspicious.
Returning via his initial route, he passed through a few stone forests filled with large rocks and noticed a medium sized, oval shaped hot spring pool in front of him.
Large clouds of steam rose up as the air suddenly became humid and damp. Garen felt as though his skin had been covered in a sticky layer.
He heard vague laughing noises coming from the direction of the hot spring which sounded like female voices.
The exterior of the hot spring pools was barricaded by a circle of large stone pillars, an obvious sign that people had moved them over as blockades.
Near one of the outer stone pillars, Red Umbrella and Old Man sat cross-legged on the floor while chatting about an unknown topic. Kid was drawing on the surface of one of the stone pillars with his fingers to amuse himself.
When he saw Garen walking over, Old Man waved the jerky in his hands.
"We were planning to use the water here to cook some meat soup. Would you like some, Leader?"
"Have you found the whitebait fish?" Garen asked immediately, as he walked over to sit cross-legged on the floor with the others.
Old Man shook his head as a hesitant expression appeared on his face. "It’s strange, I easily got a net full of whitebait the last time I fished here, but now it seems like I can’t even see one. It would be an unlikely assumption to say that a monster had dived underwater and eaten all of the whitebait. We used our Totems to dive deep into the water, but we couldn’t find traces of any creatures even when we reached the bottom."
"We didn’t find anything in the surroundings either," said Garen, shaking his head. "This place seems kind of strange. We’ll let them finish bathing first and then we’ll leave at once. I wouldn’t want to wait around here."
"That’s fine," Old Man nodded his head.
"Don’t, I still want to soak… It’s been three months without bathing…" Red Umbrella groaned suddenly.
"Three months…" Garen and Old Man were speechless now.
"Every time I’ve thought of bathing before I sleep, but every time I just fall asleep first…" Red Umbrella was beginning to feel embarrassed now, and laughed it off.
"Just go and rest for now, while we still have time." Garen glanced at Kid and noticed that the usually strange Kid was now acting normally, a sign that this place was not entirely problematic.
He crossed his legs and closed his eyes, before sitting on the rock and meditating slowly.
He had planned to investigate his surroundings earlier to see if there were any monsters that he could use to obtain Potential Points, but unfortunately there was not a single monster to be seen.
Garen adjusted his state of mind properly, before he slowly immersed himself in the state of practicing his Secret Techniques like he did in the previous world.
Practicing Secret Techniques in a world where Totems were mainly used, occasionally allowed him to reminisce on his past mistakes.
He calmed his heart as he focused his attention towards the core of his vital energy.
Unlike the Divine Statue Technique, the vital energy and blood roadmap of the Myriad Water Jasper Technique were extremely complicated, and required the flow of all of his bloodlines, regardless of whether they were large or small, main blood vessels or capillaries.
This Secret Technique was an ancient martial art passed down to him from Neptune Fist, and Garen knew the uses of some of the roadmaps, but was unclear of the uses of a large number of roadmaps.
While practicing the Divine Statue Technique, his control of his physical body reached an unprecedented degree, and bloodline flow roadmaps that he himself did not understand appeared as well.
He followed the instructions of the Secret Techniques.
The first level of the Myriad Water Jasper Technique resulted in the effect of being able to control the flow of vital energy from a one meter radius. This type of control overlapped between the categories of humans and nonhumans, and would affect all living things that had blood flowing through their veins.
The second level was used to enhance the range, while the third level was used to enhance strength and to control power.
However, he was unclear regarding the following levels, as Celine had only trained until the third level, while the fourth level could only be achieved successfully by professionals from Neptune Fist. He was unclear about its exact abilities.
The Myriad Water Jasper Technique was one of the hardest main Secret Techniques to be learnt from Neptune Fist. Some said that other than the creator, no one else had managed to achieve such a high level.
Once Garen had closed his eyes, he concentrated and began to adjust the flow of the vital energy in his body to circulate towards a specific roadmap. There were far too many blood vessels that he had to operate, and even if his energies were stronger, one large circulation required at least two hours.
Moreover, this type of flowing movement was extremely difficult because the movement of vital energy required a fixed speed, and the slightest change would result in a huge setback.
An illusion began to form in Garen’s mind, telling him that if he wanted to combine with the Nine Headed Dragon, he would need to pass through this Secret Technique Roadmap as well.
The noises in his surrounding began to echo as though from a distance, as time continued to tick pass. His consciousness slowly drifted towards the stage where he had forgotten himself.
Old Man and Red Umbrella sat beside Garen. One of them closed his eyes and held a black box in their hands, listening to an unknown sound, while the other remained in his old ways, yawning constantly and dozing off to sleep.
Meanwhile, Kid lay on his back on the floor, unbothered by the heat of the ground, as he stared upwards at the white gas. Occasionally, he would glanced at Garen who was doing cross-legged exercises.
The noises surrounding the hot spring pools changed from excited comfortable sounds to soft voices, as sounds of people getting out of the water could be heard as well. It seemed like Kitten and Fox had finished bathing, and were getting ready to get out.
Old Man, who was listening to the black box, opened his eyes suddenly.
"After this quest is over, do you have any plans, Red Umbrella?"
"Plans?" Red Umbrella covered his mouth and yawned a few times. "Going home to sleep properly for a few days… No I can’t, it’s too difficult."
"With Leader around, don’t you plan on doing any level upgrading quests?" Old Man wiggled his eyebrows.
"Won’t you guys still be around?"
Old Man remained silent as he looked at Kid who was standing on the sidelines.
"Kid, after this quest is over, do you have any plans?"
"Going back to the farm," said Kid in a crisp, abrupt manner.
"Do you want to stay with us in the Kingdom?"
"Why?" Kid asked hesitantly.
"There’s nothing wrong if you choose to stay on the outskirts alone. The current situation has almost calmed down by now. The monster lairs in most places have mostly already been confirmed as dangerous zones, and the activity areas have been clearly stated on the maps. Hence, as long as we don’t loiter around, we won’t be in serious danger. The situations in most countries have calmed down, and the defense lines have also been solidified. Without exterior threats, orderly rebuildings of new societies will come next. This kind of order is still being tested out, but under these circumstances, we as part of the armed forces will receive much greater benefits than before if we stay in the Kingdom, unlike during the tumultuous period when the armed forces was the department that had the highest casualty rates."
Old Man paused for a moment.
"Our Kovitan, Daniela, and Ender built the West Farm defense together. After that we built the three major areas. As well as a few small organizations that survived in the secure catch. In this era, one cannot live on without power, and thus, those that control powerful abilities like ourselves will benefit greatly."
"Old Man, you’re thinking of becoming a solicitor for the princess, right? I remember you putting yourself under her command last year?" Red Umbrella brought up lazily.
"Since you already knew about that, that’s why I brought it up," nodded Old Man. "It’s true that I’m working for the princess. Although His Majesty Avic has great talents and strong forces, he is still dispirited sometimes, and thus under all circumstances, the princess is naturally the best choice. After my family pledged our services to Her Majesty the Princess, we received great care, and thus this was the obvious decision."
"That’s your problem. I don’t want to hang around someone else and do their work. Remaining in the Secret Service is fine by me. The benefits are good, the treatment is good, the positions are high, plus it’s also relaxing," said Red Umbrella, as he smiled with both of his hands behind his head.
"What about you, Kid?" Old Man looked towards the little guy on the side.
A similarly bored expression appeared on Kid’s face.
"I’ll go with Leader."
"What if Leader joins me as one of Her Majesty the Princess’ subordinates?" Old man smiled suddenly.
"I’ll just go with Leader," nodded Kid confidently.
"That’s good. Look, Leader will surely join us as well," smiled Old Man as he patted Kid’s head.
Soon, Fox and Kitten who had just changed into a new set of clothes walked towards them after getting out of the hot spring. Both of them had changed into white clothes that resembled figure-hugging swordsman’s uniforms, except that there were short cloaks hanging off their backs, which made them look exceptionally cool. Both of them were exposing their beautiful, pale legs.
Unfortunately, not a single person there was giving them a second glance.
Kid did not understand anything, while Old Man had a lot of past experience, as shown on his calm expression. Red Umbrella was busy dozing off.
All that was left was their sane male leader Garen, who was still closing his eyes and resting, as if he were meditating.
Kitten twitched her lip regretfully and glanced at Fox, as she began to feel like it was a wrong decision to hang around in this group.
Fox continued to cover her face, making it impossible to read her expression.
Old Man explained Leader’s actions to them, before Kitten and Fox expressed their understanding.
Garen opened his eyes slowly at this moment as well.
He glanced at the sky and noticed that the dark clouds were still the same.
After hesitating for a while, he realized that he had not bathed for a long time.
Although he could prevent dust and dirt from sticking on his body as a Totem User, he could not do the same for the sweat that his body released. He used his Secret Technique to control his body, allowing his secreted sweat to be released out of his body through other methods. However, the others did not have this ability.
Looking at Kid and Red Umbrella’s pleading expressions, he felt that he had been slightly cruel towards them. Allowing someone who had gone three months without bathing to not be able to enter a hot spring…
"Okay, okay. Since we’re here, we might as well bathe," sighed Garen. "I’ll go soak for a bit as well."
"We’ll guard the door!" Kitten exclaimed immediately.
"Wise Leader!!" Red Umbrella was the first one to jump up, before he ran to the white rhinoceros that was not far away and quickly found four black towels, which he gave to each of the men. After that he brought a little bottle of shower gel that had dark red flower petals floating inside. There were filament like red flower petals.
Garen and the other men each took a towel and walked into the man-made hot spring in the stone forest.
There was an oval shaped pool inside that was steaming with clouds of hot air, while there were stone pillars of different lengths that surrounded the pool in a circle, forming only one entry point.
The four men took off their clothes quickly, exposing their once hidden body shapes.
The white mist made it hard to see clearly, but Garen could still see the faces of the three other people.
Old Man had a kindly, elderly face and wore a pair of silver-rimmed spectacles, and was currently using a white cloth to wipe the glass. If he was seen at a library or a similar place, people would assume that he was a university researcher or scholar. However, there were rumours that he was actually once a scholar.
Red Umbrella had short red hair, a pair of slanting, flyaway eyebrows, and unusually handsome features. Coupled with his red eyes and porcelain skin, he definitely looked like a well-bred aristocratic prince.
Kid removed his clothes, and exposed his bony slender body that lacked flesh. His skin was dry and it was obvious that he was underdeveloped. His eyes were also sunken, his dark brown hair was coarse and messy, and there were freckles on the tip of his nose.
But none of these were important. The strangest thing was that Kid’s skin completely lacked the colour of blood. He was terribly pale.
Garen glanced at him a few more times unconsciously.
Only then did he remove his clothes and throw them onto the stone by the side of the pool carelessly.
Garen walked into the water and sat down, allowing his golden, shoulder-length hair to float on the surface of the water. He immersed his entire body into the water, exposing the parts above his chin only.
The temperature of the water was just right, at almost forty degrees.
Garen closed his eyes, and finally let go of the tight nerves that he had been holding on for so long.
Excluding the moments when he was in the outskirts such as this, Garen could never let go of his nerves completely. He always needed to keep his guard up in case a strange phenomena occurred, or in case a strong monster decided to attack out of the blue.
However, his own team mates were keeping guard now, and some of them were even soaking with him, which allowed him to not worry about issues regarding his safety for awhile.
Unconsciously, Garen drifted into a half asleep state.
Before he’d upgraded the Myriad Water Jasper Technique, this scene had appeared once, and now, it was appearing a second time.