"You mean, besides his usual dick-face?"
Lumia scowled at him and delivered a swift kick to his shin.
"Ouch! Dirty little snot! You can't kick your Master!" Snowflake shouted. Despite this pantomime though, he too had the feeling that something was off. Helial had looked weird. His face had revealed a concern not even the Goblin horde hunting them in the forest had aroused in him. What could have shaken him so full-tilt in a split second?
Snowflake licked his hit paw and looking at Lumia, he sighed: "Stay put."
Suddenly, flashes of silvery light appeared under Snowflake's feet. A second later, Lumia couldn't see him anymore.
The cat reappeared on a roof overlooking the alley Helial had disappeared into. He pricked up his ears, trying to intercept every single sound.
He heard Helial's upset voice: "What are you doing here?!"
"Why, can't I pay a visit to my beloved brother?" the other one had answered. "They say Caesar took you as his pupil. Remarkable. Did you forget about our little deal?"
"How many years have you forced me to live in the rat-hole, Hades? Did you even count them?"
Snowflake was shocked but what he had just heard. "What? Is that his brother?" Snowflake curled his whiskers, a grave light flashing in his eyes.
The figure in green suddenly vanished. Snowflake was ready to reach Helial in one quick jump, but another figure in a shiningly black armor approached the guy instead. The cat resolved to stay on the spot and kept overhearing in silence.
"Who are you?" asked Helial as he stared at that person in astonishment.
It was a dark and blazing Aura. Despite the fact that his irises were almost completely covered by the helmet, the Flames gleamed visibly in his eyes. The warrior's phase seemed to be high, but what Helial was more concerned about was the mysterious nature of that barely endurable Mana.
The Devil suddenly froze. The fork he was holding fell from his grip and landed on the table with a sharp sound. That Aura was familiar to him.
"Who are you?" Helial repeated. The majestic warrior was now a yard away from him and seemed to be gazing intently at him from behind his visor.
The armor slowly raised a hand to let the guy know he had no bad intentions. "Your interlocutor looked quite bloodthirsty while you two were talking. He did his best to conceal it, but it was impossible not to notice it."
Helial's eyes opened wide. Not even him, whose senses were now sharpened and developed, had detected some specific intention in his brother's Aura.
"I suggest that you keep away from that person."
Helial frowned and said: "It's not like I need you to tell me."
The one in the black armor shrugged and said, laconically: "I warned you."
Warn? Who the hell was he? Did he know something about Hades?
"Cat, you can come out now," the hoarse voice resounding from the armor changed subject.
In a split second, Snowflake appeared near Helial together with a silver flicker. Strangely, he uttered no sound.
Helial and the cat exchanged a meaningful look.
"Third Phase Intermediate stage," the Devil said, "but his actual strength is way greater than that…"
Helial held Curse of the Demon tight as he said, for the third time: "Who are you?"
"What is a human doing here?" the other one said in a peremptory tone.
Helial ground his teeth. "I'm Caesar's pupil."
"You'd better leave Orma. Goblins will never accept you."
"Why shouldn't you?" Helial asked, a flash of disdain glimmering in his eyes. Helial had grown up with the notion that Goblins were an uncivilized race, and a less than twenty-four hours stay in Orma could not eradicate a prejudice he had always had completely.
"I warned you. Twice." After speaking these words, the armor turned and began to slowly walk away.
Helial was about to stop him, when he felt Snowflake's puffy paw touching his shoulder: "Don't."
Helial glanced at Snowflake and his words died in his throat. The silence between them was only shattered by the sound of the hobnailed steps tramping away. Only when the sound could not be heard anymore did Snowflake speak again: "That was Pseudonym."
At these words, Helial's eyes narrowed. "Are you sure?"
"One hundred percent. Very few people in the Third Phase can detect this Supreme Cat when he relies on his Speed, unless they master Speed as well, and I've heard that Pseudonym is the only one in the palace who is capable of almost everything.
"And anyway," the cat went on, "Pseudonym wears a pitch-black armor and is known to be a laconic person who never shows his face. And he's in the Third Phase Intermediate stage. He's enigmatic and ruthless, someone you'd better not provoke. Him and the Witch make two sides of the same coin, but if the Witch is moody, Pseudonym is way more dangerous, because he's cold-hearted. Don't provoke him."
Helial slowly nodded and tried to process all that information.
"Well, so you met the two greatest geniuses in Orma and a brother who seems to want you dead. Not bad for a day's work," Snowflake remarked sardonically.
When he heard Snowflake mention his brother, Helial grew gloomier and gave a sigh: "My brother is a delicate matter. One day I'll explain everything to you. All you need to know for now is that he's our sworn enemy."
Who would have ever imagined it? Only a few days before, Helial wouldn't even dream that he could ever defeat his brother. And now he knew he would become the strongest of all, one day - strong enough to destroy him and avenge himself for all the suffering Hades had made him go through.
"Master," Helial let his voice echo out inside his Soul, "if I reached my brother's Phase, who would to be the stronger?"
"You, obviously. You own the Legacy of an Ancestral Creature, along with my Meridians, my Breathing Technique and me as a guidance."
"Will it be enough though?" Helial asked, his eyebrows furrowed.
"Kyeheheheheh, I don't think you realize the extent of your possessions. There's no wiser master, there's no resistant Meridians, there's no stronger body of that of a Qilin. Everything else is up to you. Will you be enough to prove yourself the strongest?"
Helial's eyebrows furrowed even tighter as he said: "Will I gain freedom?"
Do you really think that the freedom you yearn for lies in power? whispered the Devil to himself without letting Helial hear his words. Then, he went back to laying the table. How come he was never done?
Helial and Snowflake walked in silence and went back to Lumia. They looked thoughtful. In the past few minutes, they had opened their eyes. They both had to face the fact that, if compared to those two geniuses' brute force, their talent was no more than a downright mediocrity. They both felt their desire for strength burn fiercer than ever.
A few days later
In the library, Helial and Snowflake were leafing through some manuals that listed out countless Skills and general information. It was a week now that they studied all day and trained all night, together or separately.
The Devil still hadn't begun to teach Helial how to read Runes. Instead, he was focusing on Helial's progress in fighting.
Every evening, that black-haired kid whose straight bangs was as sharp as a blade cut held a copy of Curse of the Demon made of Mana and brutally knocked Helial to the ground. He left him very few openings, so as to make that boy overcome his limits and strain every fiber of this body.
Within the first days, Helial had started assimilating a particular attack pattern, while changing, tempering and twisting it with every move he made.
Now, as he sat in the library, Helial was holding an ancient textbook about Runes he had detected through Perception. It had been shining like a burning sun over a bunch of books piled up disorderly.
Every evening Helial made a step forward in tempering his body. Every strike that hit him made Body of the Qilin level up. His limbs could now exercise a 5000 pounds strength each. No one in the First Phase could possibly keep up with him, at this point. But still, he was too weak to face someone in the Second Phase.
He had to gather far more Mana, reach the highest peak before First Phase, and then level up.
During the time he spent in the library, Helial had taken notice of a very peculiar servant. He looked overly poor; he was dressed in rags and his face was always covered in dirt. And yet, under the dirt, his eyes shone brighter than stars. When nobody was watching, the Goblin opened some books and skimmed through them, trying to assimilate as much information as possible before someone noticed him. After all, that was the library of the Royal Academy and he was a common plebeian.
However, his swift readings would prove useless, since the Goblin had no Mana-related capabilities. Only those who mastered Mana could have learnt a number of pages in a second, and not even them could memorize an entire book's content while taking it from a shelf to another.
One day, Helial wound up in front of him just while the Goblin was devouring a manual on Elemental Skills. He accidentally hit him and the book slipped off of the servant's hands.
The Goblin gazed at him like a wounded animal. Fierceness and terror glowed in his eyes. If Helial had told anyone, he would have been harshly punished.
Helial calmly bent over to pick up the book. The Goblin felt a jolt of terror through his body and his eyes started stinging, when suddenly Helial handed the book back to him and patted on his shoulder.
"Looks like you dropped this while putting it back. Everything alright?"
The Goblin swallowed, astonished by the nonchalance of that human. He had clearly seen him devour that book. Could it be he was not aware of the rules of the Royal Academy?
Manuals were consultable by disciples only, and with a few restrictions as well. The only ones who could study every book in the library were the big wigs of the city.
"This isn't the first time I see you. What's your name?" Helial asked.
"Frankenstein," was the Goblin's answer. He still felt quite terrified, but something in that boy's eyes managed to reassure him.
Lumia contracted her facial muscles in a worried frown. She glanced at Snowflake and asked anxiously: "Did you see his expression?"