“So who is it you wish to learn from?” asked Jeza as she leaned on a nearby tree to rest.
Zilan who was following behind scanned the area with his eyes before squatting down and using the time to catch his breath.
“I don’t know his name. I’m only familiar with his work!”
The duo had started trekking three days ago when Zilan was back to full heath. As they moved they had already encountered two groups of five people, each sent to hunt them down and each time they managed to slip away in the nick of time either by way of trickery or just plain luck.
Thankfully, once they approached the outskirts of the Beast lands, it seemed that their pursuers were quickly becoming things of the past.
“It looks like there are still some things in this world capable of causing that Order to be wary!” was the thought Zilan was pondering on as they travelled deeper into the dense forest that was, the Inje outskirts.
“If you don’t know who he is, then how are we supposed to find him?” questioned Jeza, clearly confused.
Zilan cracked a smile as he flashed the stars in his eyes.
“I just need a good vantage point and I’ll find him. He left quite the impression the first time I saw his work that finding him will be like spotting a rose among weeds.”
Jeza rolled her eyes as she too smiled. It took a while to adjust to this Zilan but it was obvious that she enjoyed his company more than his emotionless counterpart.
“What are you going to say to the Lieutenant?”
“Whatever it takes to get into Brivata!”
Zilan calmly drank down bottle after bottle of water however, Jeza on the other hand seemed to be hesitating over something.
“You…can’t go to Brivata!” Unable to hold it in anymore, she finally let it out.
“Hmmm..?” wondered Zilan.
“Only Beasts can enter and even then there are many requirements, you….you can’t enter!”
She had been bothered by this but still decided to keep quiet since she feared Zilan would relapse once again. However, now that they were nearing the stronghold it was better to say it now than have “water splashed over your his head” later.
“You don’t have to worry about that.” An interesting grin graced his face as he moved to stand up.
“We should get moving!”
Without giving her a chance to say anything Zilan started walking ahead.
“What’s wrong with this human?”
She quickly packed up and rushed towards Zilan however almost as soon as she reached him a loud voice suddenly rang out, reverberating through out the forest.
“Halt! Inje Brigade patrol.”
Jeza immediately grabbed Zilan’s shoulder, signalling him to stop moving.
“What’s going on?” whispered Zilan.
“They’re scouts from one of the Inje barracks. Do as they say and we’ll be fine.”
Zilan nodded his head in understanding.
Two people suddenly dropped from the sky and landed six feet away from him. Both of them resembled male deer but it was clear they had evolved quite a bit.
For one they stood on two legs just like man and their bodies had distinct changes that made them appear less beastly and more human like for example their posture, limb composition and overall demeanour.
The two examined both Zilan and Jeza but it was clear Jeza had caught their attention.
“Remove the disguise. Who are you?” asked the older of the two deer.
“Shadow faction. Scout team Hare, under Captain Tort of North Inje.” said Jeza calmly.
She didn’t remove her human disguise nor did she state her name as those were essential things in her line of work. Not to mention it was one of the Shadow factions core rules never to expose your identity to anyone that could use it against you.
“Tort? Isn’t he?”
The younger scout carefully reached for the blade behind his back however he was quickly stopped by the older one, who glared at him.
“Your captain is a suspected traitor. You will need to come with us.”
Zilan looked at Jeza before locking eyes with the younger deer who was secretly eyeing his voidless sack.
“Now?…… Not yet!”
“What do you mean suspected Traitor? Captain would never….”
“That is not for me to decide. I am simply doing my job. As for the human…..” He took his time as he eyed Zilan. “He’ll come with us too!”
Needless to say, the younger deer was shocked. He thought that he could stay behind and loot Zilan who was dressed in robes that although appeared worn out, still looked expensive.
“Fisi! Go inform the captain that we’ve captured one of the Traitor’s people and someone else. We can’t let this get out to the others through the speaker.”
Fisi reluctantly nodded before launching himself forward, and running at an incredible speed.
“You…who are you?”
Zilan thought for a moment before pointing at Jeza and saying,
“I’m the reason you think her and her captain are traitors.”
Jeza’s body trembled as she listened to Zilan. She quickly turned and glared at him.
“You’re going too far!”
Zilan ignored it though as he continued to stare at the man-like deer.
“Is what you say true?”
“My answer won’t matter. All you can do is take me to whoever issued the capture of Tort, if you believe my words then compensation awaits you and if you don’t well….that doesn’t matter either!” replied Zilan as he calmly looked around.
“I’m not taking you anywhere…it looks like her commanding officer is coming here instead.”
“Hmmm?” Zilan was confused for a moment on what was going on but then he noticed a green clay-like object stuffed in the human-like deer’s left ear.
“A communication device? Wait…why is her commanding officer rushing over here?”
Zilan’s expression slightly changed as he thought about it.
“Tort probably lied! I should have seen it. There’s no way a mere scout Captain could attain that Book, he absolutely had a backer. Ha! So when I lied about me being the reason for Tort’s title of traitor, I actually ended up right? Haha.”
Zilan had gotten it right. When Tort hadn’t come back nor given any communication, his backers came to the conclusion that he had run away with the goods that Zilan was supposed to make. This was further confirmed when news of people who could body-shift ,escaping from Morning Dew city reached their ears. Thus, it was decided that in order to find him dubbing him a traitor was the most effective and least suspicious way of doing so.
But one thing Zilan had yet to realise was, how could he have deduced all of this in such a short span of time? He was indeed naturally clever but that was in terms of research. When it came to deduction and investigation, Zilan could be regarded average.
He himself had yet to become aware of it but the way his mind operated had clearly reached another level through the combination of the ten thousand year old ginseng’s power and the second level of the Gift of love.
The secrets of the second level had yet to be fully discovered by Zilan, so it wasn’t surprising that he didn’t notice that it was working in the background even now. It was not suppressing any of his emotions at all, as that was not needed. Rather, it was simply carrying out its primary purpose by helping Zilan in the analysis and processing of data.
“Jeza, I need you to do something for me when whoever is coming, gets here.” spoke Zilan.
“Act as calm and normal as possible!” His voice was firm but also had a hint of anticipation.
Jeza didn’t understand as usual, but at least this time she could prepare for whatever Zilan was going to do.
Suddenly ahead of them, Zilan could see a black shadow approaching at an unbelievable speed. If Fisi’s speed could be compared to a shot arrow then the approaching shadow was lightning.
The deer scout immediately lowered his head and moved out of the way for the shadow to appear. He said nothing, only shrinking back to the point that he blended with the forest.
The shadow appeared directly in front of Zilan not even bothering with Jeza.
“You are the Alchemist?” the voice coming from the shadow sounded grainy and distorted but the underlying scepticism could not be masked.
“I am.” said Zilan confidently.
“Good! Then they are no longer of use.”
Before he could even blink, the shadow had already shredded the deer officer to pieces and was turning towards Jeza.
“Stop! Kill her and you will suffer the same fate.” In a hurry, Zilan blurted out those words.
There was no threatening tone or anything just hurried words spoken in a state of shock.
Nevertheless, it proved to be effective. The shadow stopped moving.
“He killed him! Why? Because of me? No,no, stay calm….”
“What do you mean by that?” the distorted voice sounded out once again, this time a bit more clear.
Zilan inwardly tried to calm himself but it was having no effect. Then without notice, the second level fully kicked in, though this time it wasn’t as powerful as only his fear was being suppressed.
The shadow seemed to notice the change but remained quiet. Zilan on the other hand smiled confidently as he exposed the scales on his neck and let the aura of the Spring Dragon burst out from his body.
“Do you understand what I mean now? I may not be a full fledged dragon but my bloodline is infinite times stronger than yours and lets not forget my dear father!” Zilan’s smile grew even wider. “I wonder, can you or your people handle an enraged Dragon that has already passed through its growth period?”
The shadow quickly dissipated revealing a highly evolved Jaguar-man, dressed in light armour, but looking more like a scholar. Horror and shock were clearly apparent on his face to the point that his body was trembling.
In disbelief his voice quivered: “Son of an Emperor Beast….A dragon!”