In front of Helial was the queen of Orma, her back turned on the Goblins. Helial's pupils shrank at that sight: the sudden appearance took him aback.
The Goblins bowed and paid their respects: "All hail the Queen!" but the Queen didn't seem to take notice.
She addressed Helial instead, with a sweet and warm smile that revealed her shiny, pearl white teeth. "Already putting on trouble, little guy?"
Helial gave her a puzzled look. Was that how the Queen of Orma spoke to a human? There was a world of difference between Caesar's soldierly, cold attitude and that of Nelia.
Helial gave a sigh and said: "I'm sorry. It wasn't me," Helial's gaze turned to look at Maximum, "but I'll to take full responsibility of this little incident." He waved a hand and Curse of the Demon disappeared in a black flash, going back into his Soul.
Nelia curled up her lips in a lovely smile and said: "Time out of mind, our races tried to reach a rapprochement thanks to a great human King. We were too different though, and never managed to smooth things over. Now you're my husband's pupil, so it's your task not to worsen these relations. You're not in behalf of yourself, here. Every action of yours counts for your entire race. Don't fuel hatred, try to dispel it instead."
Nelia spoke just casually, but her words struck a deep chord within Helial. He nodded solemnly, his hands cupped.
Nelia then turned to gaze at Lumia and stretched out a hand to tousle her hair. "What about you? Haven't you already visited Orma with me? You're joining us to go with your brother, aren't you?"
Lumia nodded as she let out a light-hearted giggle.
Helial looked at that scene, wondering how such familiarity was possible already, but rather than bitter it made him quite happy to know that Lumia was fitting in there.
She deserves to feel home way more than I do.
The Queen turned towards the Goblins: "You can go. I'll put up with this silly conflict, today. But there will be no next time." At these words, the Goblins bolted instantly, gripped by a reverential fear.
"Okay, let's go for a walk then. I'll take you down the most important landmarks in Orma. Being secluded in that palace bores me to death. My husband is always busy levelling up or grinding his Skills. His Dao of Mana, like it often happens, is full of wild training. He forgets about his duties as an husband way too often."
Despite her extremely regal Aura, Nelia was speaking like an ordinary woman and just showed as the annoyed wife she actually was.
Suddenly, Helial realized there was an anomaly and asked: "No guards?"
He had seen several prominent figures in the past, but none of them would ever go out unguarded. He was surprised by the fact there was no escort around.
Nelia laughed and said: "Very few can threaten my safety, actually. And if I weren't in the Tenth Phase, I would now be dead of old age. I hope I'll become an Immortal, one day. I mean, I don't want my husband to become a widower nor force him to live with a damn old relict."
Her words struck Helial. That woman was a step away from Immortality…
"Snow, how about tasting the meat of our Storm Shark when we get home? Our merchants brought us back plenty of it, and I'm sure it would be to your liking," said the Queen with her usual smile on her face.
Snowflake raised his furry head proudly: "Someone is treating this Supreme Cat as he deserves, finally. I'm glad to accept. This two assholes would dare let me starve, and deprive the world of my magnificent existence."
Helial was about to pull out Curse of the Demon once again, when Nelia laughed and walked on.
She was a stunningly calm and kind woman. She had made the best impression on Helial since second one. After all, how many people could boast to have conquered that pile of white fur who only shouted insults from dawn to dusk?
As they stepped outside the palace, they were set against towering grand buildings made of white marble.
The landscape was a canvas out of old tales. Helial gazed at those finely carved pieces of architecture; every detail was perfectly well-finished.
"In this world of sufferings, nothing can mend your soul like art. The art forms you'll see here in Orma took inspiration from other nations', and then we evolved our own expression. Some of these sculptures were crafted by men who worked for over a hundred years to produce one single piece of art. They have a voice of their own, which often turns out to be of great use. While meditating on Mana, you need Epiphanies to grasp the deepest meanings of life, and artworks make a wonderful way to gain one."
True that. At some point, it's no use to just give you simple memories like I did. Benefit from the will get difficult, unless you've got some godgiven talent. On the contrary, art sublimates one's knowledge and crystallizes it in a shape that anyone can access with the simplest glimpse. The universe is scattered with such meaningful works of art that I would slip into a coma just by accidentally catching their sight, the Devil said.
Helial swallowed. There was still so much for him to learn. After all, he had lived in a godforsaken village all his life. He clenched his fists. He must study hard to grasp the mysteries of Mana.
"My husband must have told you about our political arrangement. The King and the Senate take decisions on the most important issues. The King's decisions have to undergo scrutiny by the Senate. When the King is absent, the Senate decides in his behalf."
They reached a majestic building guarded by several brawny Goblins holding weapons. They paid respects to their Queen, who nodded in response.
The simplicity of their greeting to one of the rulers of Orma took Helial aback. "Goblins don't need a strict etiquette like humans do. We don't oppress our brothers and we fight as one, not as just soldiers from the same Nation."
Helial stopped to observe the striking grandeur of that majestic structure in ecstasy. It was covered in the finest marble, which sparkled under the sunrays. "What's that?" he asked, enraptured.
"That's one of most characteristic places in Orma, the Colosseum. Several mortal combats took place here. Everyone comes here to train as soon as they can. Not all fights are to the death, most battles are just for training. Whoever has a feud to resolve usually comes here too."
The Queen briefly paused and looked up at a marble sheet in front of the entryway.
Helial imitated her and saw a list of names glimmer on that white marble sheet.
"This is the Heavenly Ranking of our Colosseum. Those you read are the names of the warriors who won the most battles. The contestants for every battle are selected on the basis of their Phase. Only people in the same Phase get to compete. Each victory has a score. You also can accept the challenge of a warrior in a higher Phase. If very few people can hope to possibly win against a warrior in a higher Phase though, no one would think to challenge one two Phases above."
Helial gazed in curiosity at that place where warriors and disciples took the field.
He read the first name: "Pseudonym…"
An unusual glow shone in the Queen's eyes: "He's the most talented warrior we've seen in the last century. His strength is unrivalled. He's an enigmatic individual who always wears a black armor. No one knows his face. His conduct is never in conflict with anyone, and he's a Special Court disciple, even though he never attends classes nor comes to the training grounds."
"Circe…" Helial read the second name.
"The Witch. The Guild of Life and Death leader's daughter. Her temper is… peculiar. I'd suggest that you don't bother her if you were to meet her. And most importantly, don't provoke her. She's unpredictable. But her talent is outstanding enough make her the brightest gem in Orma. Or rather she would be if there wasn't Pseudonym. That guy is way too ridiculous to be evaluated by mortal standards."
Nelia brushed aside a lock of hair that looked like a cascade of melted gold: "Pseudonymous and the Witch are no doubt our rising stars, two legends-to-be. And now, if my husband's right, we have the third one here." Nelia winked at Helial and stroked his cheek with a motherly movement of a hand. "Goblins, Humans, Elves, Dragons. We're all the same, as my husband says, and I trust him completely. But you'll need far more talent than usual to be accepted by the Goblins and make the third legendary warrior of the younger generations. Can you live up to it?"
Helial pondered for a moment and sighed: "I have no interest in honors. I'll meet the requirements to stay here as your husband's pupil, and nothing more. In the meantime I'll focus on my Dao, that's it," Helial smiled and walked past Nelia to read better the Heavenly Ranking on the Colosseum.
This little guy is way more interesting than you hinted, my beloved. I really hope he could make a miracle for Orma. The major powers of the city are stepping back day by day. The Goblins don't live as brothers anymore, they're starting to revolt one against the other. Is it a human who will turn the tables for our people?
A majestic silhouette appeared before them. She was thin and wore a tight dress that emphasized her voluptuous figure. Her skin shimmered in pale green like the purest of jades.