November 15th, sunny.
9 000 m above the ground, a private plane was flying past the white cotton of clouds, heading for Germani 1 over 8 000 km away from the capital city.
In the lounge of the cabin, Gu Yu was making some protective preparation for the old man.
"Take these with you all the time. There are five in total, all one-off protection gadgets."
He handed the old man five enhanced version of the turtle shell amulet. "The protective shield will automatically turn on when the impact reaches the triggering level."
"Can it fend off spiritual or magical attacks?" asked an official sitting beside them.
"It can, but some techniques attack the mind directly. That's why you'll also have these." With that, he took out a small gourd and a box. "There are pills in the gourd. Take half a pill immediately if you feel something is wrong. The box contains some incense sticks, which you will burn one each night in your bedroom. It will calm your mind and keep it free from the invasion of evil beings."
"Yes! No problem!"
The official took them in his hands in a hurry and put them away carefully.
The old man examined the turtle shell amulet with curiosity before hanging one around his neck and buttoned his shirt back. He then chuckled. "Haha, with all these preparations, it feels like I'm going not to a conference but a battlefield."
"Sir, this is a battlefield. We're responsible for your safety!" reminded one of the staff.
"All right, all right. I know you all meant well. And thank you, Mr. Gu."
Just then, the door of the lounge opened and another official entered holding a stack of files, seemingly having something to report.
"I'm going back to my seat, then. I'll let you know if I think of anything else."
Gu Yu was not interested in eavesdropping and got up to leave, while the old man gestured at his assistant to keep Gu Yu company.
The two went to another lounge, where they sat down on a soft and comfortable sofa. The assistant made Gu Yu a cup of tea.
The conference was to be held in the city of Bonn in Germani. They were flying to Frankfurt Airport first, from where they would drive to Bonn. The entire journey would take them around fifteen hours.
The old man was the head of the delegation, leading an entourage of fifteen—including interpreters, information officers, healthcare team, security personnel, and officials of relevant departments.
The old man was quite highly ranked, and so were the representatives of the other countries. In the name of the "World Climate Conference", they were going to discuss possible ways of communication and cooperation in this new environment.
"Hey, I've always meant to ask, why Germani?" Sipping his tea, Gu Yu struck up a conversation.
"The venue has been changing ever since the idea of a conference came up. It was said to be held in Neutral State at first, then moved to South Africa. After that, Uncle Sam proposed to host it themselves, which Europe disagreed with. After much mediating, Bonn was chosen at last."
The assistant was not trying to hold anything back from Gu Yu. Instead, he even gossiped a little. "The European countries are mostly amicable. Britannia is the only exception. They're getting all ambitious again thanks to their advantage in modern day magic. The two you killed were backbone of that AA association. I'm afraid they'll try to get back at you."
"Get back at me? Then you, I…"
Gu Yu pointed at the assistant, then himself. The assistant saw what he was getting at and explained, "Delegations attending international conference of this scale will not be the targets, unless someone has lost their mind. But, like us bringing you along, the other countries must have their own capable hands as well, only that we delegations are inside the conference room, and them outside."
"Oh, I see. Two battlefields, right? What happens outside determines what goes on inside, but the inside affects the outside as well." He nodded and felt much reassured, grinning. "That'll be much easier. I was worried back there that we'll just break into fights. I'm not sure I'll be able to confine the damage."
The assistant almost broke into sweat. 'This fellow is every bit as unrestrained as words on the street!'
He poured Gu Yu another cup of tea hurriedly and filled him in on the current situation while they still had time.
"Our study of the the western transcendent power is mainly based on ancient myths and different races.
"First of all, sorcery existed on a global scale, for the ancient beliefs were all primitive worships. Before the time of religions, myths of the remote ages were way too old for any possible textual research. It was only since the medieval times that we began to see traces of transcendent power in historical records.
"Our deduction is that powers of enchanters, alchemists, astrologers, prophets, witches, etc., have much existing inheritance; aboriginal witchcraft and 'self-study' sorcerers are rare but not non-existent; we have yet to investigate the Druids, and the Vatican definitely has their own special power. Strangely, though, the Vatican doesn't seem to have as much inheritance as expected, and they haven't demonstrated much so far, either."
"And why is that?" asked Gu Yu curiously.
"I don't know. We have little clue on that. Actually, it's not a bad thing. With the number of their believers all of the world, once the transcendent power recovers fully, if the Vatican is able to hold the supreme status, what authority would be left for the governments?"
"How about Uncle Sam?"
"Well, Uncle Sam…" The assistant paused a little to find a word, which came out rather hilarious. "Scrappy, it's so scrappy over there! They have over 250 religious groups, all of which are descendants of immigrants. How should I describe it… anyway, it's quite messy for them at the moment. Everyone is squabbling with everyone else and none of them noticeably more capable then the rest. It's almost embarrassing to look at."
Gu Yu's lips twitched. So, it was just as Mu Kun had said—weaklings!
In the beginning, the general public in all countries did not pay much attention when the countries were talking about having this conference.
World Climate Conferences were held every year and achieved nothing every year. The developed countries still emitted happily as they saw fit and the developing countries still got blamed. The earth simply kept getting warmer.
However, just like what happened back home, the other countries had to come clean on what was happening when they were no longer able to hide it. Good God! The entire world erupted!
For as long as human history remembered, this was probably the first event that had attracted the attention of the entire human race. Consequently, the significance of this conference had been raised to an unprecedented height, and the process was closely followed by over seven billion pairs of eyes.
After a ten-hour flight and another few hours of car ride, Gu Yu finally arrived at Bonn.
Being the delegation of one of the superpowers, they were naturally under the spotlight. Countless media and friendly other parties had been following them ever since they walked out of the airport and all the way to their hotel.
Even the roadsides and the roofs of the buildings surrounding their hotel were packed with curious onlookers and/or cultivators of other countries.
As arranged beforehand, the interpreter and the assistant walked on the left behind the old man and Gu Yu on the right. They had even prepared a suit for him.
To be honest, it was an awkward outfit.
"Why, he can actually pull it off."
"Teehee, Brother looks quite handsome!"
"Eww, he looks so cheesy! He'll make a very poor male escort!"
Tsk! He could almost hear the merciless comment of the three back in Phoenix Mountain watching the live broadcast!
Finally, the delegation made their way into the hotel, where the followers were stopped by the entrance; the world was quiet again. The old man slowed his pace and went out of his way to ask Gu Yu, "How was it? Got used to this yet?"
"That was a little shameful."
The old man had expected "I'm all right", "I'm nervous", "not bad", but never "shameful". He couldn't help but ask, "Why is that?"
"Um, no, it's nothing." Gu Yu waved it off. He did not want to go back to that memory.
185 countries and regions were attending this conference and each delegation had over a dozen members, which put a heavy load on the reception work. All high-end hotels and official lodgings in Bonn were fully booked.
Their rooms were on the sixth floor. As they walked in, the old man suddenly stopped and turned to look at the right side.
From a hall on that direction, a team of seven or eight people was coming out. The leading man was of a medium built and had a straight nose and bluish eyes. He looked rather mild.
Walking immediately after him were a young man and an old man. The latter had a full, bushy beard and wore clothes in the style of a robe.
Both teams winced a little at this unexpected meeting. The two heads then extended their hands simultaneously and marched towards each other.
"That's the delegation of Gaul and that man is Claude… why, that pair behind him seems strange…"
One of the entourage whispered to Gu Yu before he found something odd about the two men and looked towards their direction despite himself. The bearded man seemed to sense this and turned around, meeting his eyes.
He was taken aback, then saw the whirlpools in that man's eyes and his mind began to fall into them without him knowing it. His head was muddled up and he was suddenly overwhelmed by an excitement, driving him to gesticulate his hands and feet.
He had only just raised his hand when Gu Yu struck them down. He shuddered at that tap and resumed his consciousness.
The bearded man looked a little surprised. He then smiled, realizing what Gu Yu had just done.
"What happened?" asked the man, still a little confused.
"Someone played a little trick to mess with your head," said Gu Yu.
"Thank you, sir!" The man thanked Gu Yu right away, now beginning to fear.
While blows were exchanged under the table over here, the two heads were still exchanging pleasantries over there as if completely unaware of what was going on. They only separated after another while. When they were all in the elevator, the old man asked, "What happened just then?"
Only the most exceptional ones could make their way to attend this conference. The man soon calmed himself down and offered his analysis, "They did something to me. I met his eyes and everything became very confusing. All I wanted was to wave my hands and feet around. I think it was some kind of hallucinogenic magic. Luckily, Mr. Gu was there to save me."
The old man pondered for a while and asked, "What do you think?"
"He was just probing. It was harmless," said Gu Yu.
"Yes, that's what I thought too. Oh, by the way, do you still have that turtle shell? Could you give some to them as well?"
"I only have ten with me. There, you can decide whom to give them to."
He simply gave the rest to the old man. Seeing that the latter was obviously thinking there were not enough, Gu Yu smiled. "A turtle can only have so big a shell. We'll have to make do with what we have."
"Haha, sure, sure!" The old man put away the turtle shell and felt a little abashed. "I guess I'm a fox masquerading like a tiger here."
"You're being too modest!"
Gu Yu cupped his hands and kept his mockery to himself. 'Tsk, whom are you calling a fox and who do you think the tiger is?"
Before long, they reached their floor. Gu Yu examined every room carefully before returning to his own—yup, his was right next to the old man's.
The conference officially commenced the following day. The delegation had a series of events to go to, some attended by the old man, some by the information officer, and some by the other officials.
Gu Yu did not have to go to all of them. As mentioned before, they had their separate battlefields.
Meanwhile, in another bedroom in the hotel.
In the dim light, two people were sitting on opposite sides of a table. One of them was none other than that bearded man, while the other was a hoary caucasian woman.
On the table was a burning candle and various other irregularly shaped objects such as stones, tree bark, and metal pieces. The woman was in a caped black robe, with all her hair covered by the hood. Her skinny, claw-like fingers swept lightly across the table.
The scattering pieces formed a shape at her move—a small circle within a big one, at the heart of which were a stone and a piece of bark.
The woman chanted some incoherent spell and her right hand flipped swiftly.
The stone and the bark flipped around with it, each having a Runic letter carved into them.
The woman frowned at it for quite some time before picking up the one with a ᚪ. "This represents an oak tree."
She then picked up the one with a ᛋ. Pausing a little, she said, "This... is the sun."ED/N: It's on purpose, part of author's plan not to use countries' names directly