Hearing Amani’s words instantly caused Ndege’s laughter to resound throughout the hall. He never would have thought Amani would agree to the bet.
“Good! This is how it should be. You are truly deserving of the title, Master of Hearts.” After saying those words Ndege turned around to leave, not bothering to look at Zilan or Kifo.
His disciple on the other hand spared a few condescending glances for Kifo however, when it came to Zilan, the rock scaled youth felt that by looking at a disgusting creature he would be degrading himself, thus he just walked away.
“Interesting.” Thought Zilan.
He too did not know why Amani would accept the bet without knowing much about him. It was truly puzzling. As for the attitude of Ndege and his disciple towards him, Zilan could not be bothered to respond.
He could easily stop it all by releasing his aura and allowing these collection of high and mighty Beasts to understand that his blood was on another level compared to theirs however, he understood that now was not the time.
His current objective which would help him achieve the overall goal of learning from the Associations Chairman was simple. He needed to stand out and not just by a little.
This time keeping a low profile was not an option, only by outshining everyone would he be closer to achieving his goal. If others were geniuses who shone like stars in the dark, enchanting sky then he could only take the place of the moon and look down on everything, illuminating the world.
However, now was not the time and even if it was, he needed to be acknowledged for the right reasons, such as his advancements in the ‘way’ of Alchemy. Anything else in a place like the Alchemy Association where even uber powerful factions could not throw their weight around, was trivial.
Thinking up to this point, Zilan indifferently stared at Ndege and his disciple before rushing to catch up with Amani.
Kifo quietly stuck to him and before they knew it, they were standing alongside Amani. Clearly, he had slowed down his steps for them.
“Master of Hearts. What a strange title for an Alchemist.” mused Zilan.
He looked up at Amani and found the same tranquil smile on his face. It was almost like nothing had happened in the registration hall.
“You don’t need to worry about that, I’ll take care of Ndege.” He patted Zilan’s shoulders as he said that.
“Give me your sector badges.”
Both Kifo and Zilan took out their bronze badges and handed them to him. They watched as he poured two vials of sparkling yellow liquid onto the badges before reciting something in a strange tongue.
Bright black runes then suddenly appeared from the liquid and began encircling the badges. This continued for five breaths worth of time till finally, they sunk into the badges.
“Here, the environmental array will allow you to use the void setup of the Association. It has other uses but for now that’s all you need to know. Explore it yourselves when you have time.” said Amani before handing the badges the back.
Zilan stared wide-eyed at the badge in his hands.
“So even this is possible. Arrays may be weaker than formations but it looks like they thrive with greater harmony once their size significantly rises.” With just a glance, he could tell that the array on the badge was just a small part of a much larger array that probably covered the entire Association.
What he was not so sure about was how sector badges and the Alchemy Association were connected. It would be much harder to add an array to a foreign item and judging by how easy it was for Amani to do it, the badges were most likely not foreign items.
Just as Zilan was about to put away his badge, Amani asked him and Kifo to stretch out the hands holding them.
It was at this moment that shock seeped into Zilan’s bones.
Amani had also taken out his badge and it was neither Bronze nor Iron but actually the most powerful sector’s, Gold!
“Before I forget, in the Association the currency is completely different. Almost all transactions are done using ‘Mystic grains’. The grains are used as a form of contribution points.
I’ll give you some as an example.” smiled Amani.
He then proceeded to tap his badge and ten miniscule green grains about the size of bread crumbs floated towards Kifo and Zilan’s badges. Five each.
Kifo was slightly surprised, it was obvious he favoured Zilan yet he still gave him an equal amount.
“There are many things the grains can be exchanged for, so use them wisely.” After saying that Amani put his badge away and pointed towards a man in the distance.
“This is as far as I’ll accompany you. That man will take you to the Ceremonial grounds, after that I’ll introduce you to my nephew.”
“This man is too puzzling. His words say one thing but his actions gives one the impressions that he has other motives.” Nevertheless, Zilan still respectfully bowed for the kind Senior’s assistance.
Amani as usual nodded, smiled and left.
The duo walked over towards the person Amani pointed to but once they were close enough to see him, surprise could be the only word that described their emotions.
He was dressed in pitch black clothes and had a fire emblem on his chest. His appearance was that of a mountain goat with humanly features however, the surprising part was that his face was burned halfway. It had been covered with some form of mask but it was still hard not to notice the gruesome nature of the goats face.
“Follow.” said the mountain goat.
Zilan nodded and walked behind him.
Kifo who had yet to say a word since he departed from his home suddenly asked Zilan a question,
“Why didn’t you bring that fox girl along?”
Zilan’s expression instantly turned sour after hearing Kifo.
“It would be too hard for her to adjust.” was all he said before increasing his pace to match the goat’s.
Noticing his unwillingness to talk about it, Kifo maintained silence.
Zilan on the other hand was having an inner conflict. In truth, his original plan was to bring Jeza along even though it would be extremely difficult for her to fit in.
He thought this way because of the experiences he’d gone through with her but then he changed his mind.
The reason? Jeza was negotiating her own agreement with Mnyama.
The exact details of the agreement, he did not know but he did understand that it entailed spying on him and that was something at least in this stage of his plan he could not tolerate.
He fully intended to fulfill his promise despite her actions and this was not only because he was grateful to her for the help but also because if he was in the same situation, he would probably do the same. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately he chose to leave all he cared about aside, for example wiping Hula’s memories because he did not want to be burdened with additional weaknesses.
Leaving Jeza behind was tougher than he’d thought it would be however, this stage of his plan was too critical. Any major interference or setback would cause his goals to be nothing but the fleeting dreams of a child.
He did not leave her empty handed though. Various techniques and elixirs were given to her so that her strength could increase otherwise, if she remained the same then in the future, she too would end up becoming a weakness.
Life was too cruel and sacrifices needed to be made. Without having the will to chop of one of your arms after being poisoned, then only death awaited!
It was the same for Zilan, he was determined to succeed because his success meant a better world or at least a world where people could control their fate instead of bowing to the will of Heaven.
“Open the array and move to the ceremonial ground.”
Without knowing it, Zilan had arrived at a strange platform that had runes and inscriptions all over it.
Seeing the two kids not respond the goat-man pointed towards the platform and said,
“For most places you can just use your badges to travel around without the need of the transportation array however, special places like the Ceremonial ground require more power thus the need for platforms like this. Now, go stand on it and insert some energy into the badge.” Sometimes the man spoke patiently but then his voice would suddenly turn fierce which confused both Kifo and Zilan.
Nevertheless, they went onto the platform and inserted their energies into their badges.
A breathtaking, three dimensional overhead view of the entire Alchemy Association appeared in their minds. At first it was hazy however, soon it became clear and the sight blew them away.
A place in the top right of the Association map was labeled ‘Ceremonial ground’ and seeing as that was where they needed to go, he sent some of his energy into the location. Unexpectedly, a powerful suction force pulled all of his energy in and before Zilan could react his location had totally changed.