146 Chapter 146: Getting Answers

The assassin woke up, only to find herself completely restrained to a chair. The chains binding her had enchanted runes engraved into them, which enhanced their durability and strength. Even if she cast physical reinforcement, she wouldn't be able to break them.

Glancing at her surroundings, she saw that she was in a well-lit room, with some furniture. It wasn't a prison cell, but more of a comfortable accommodation. If she wasn't tied up, that is.

So I've been captured, huh? She thought to herself. What a disgrace for an assassin of her caliber. She had no choice, then. Before her captors interrogated her and forced information out of her, she had to execute herself.

She explored the inside of her mouth, only to find it empty.

"If you're looking for that cyanide potassium capsule inside your mouth, we've already taken it." a voice caused her to turn her head around. Even though she had scanned the room earlier, like any good assassin would, she didn't spot anybody. Now she caught sight of the Hurricane Blade, Feng Hai, sitting on a chair a few meters from her. He raised one of her daggers and twirled it. "We also disarmed you. You have quite the collection of poisoned weapons."

The assassin remained silent, glaring at him defiantly. Feng Hai sighed.

"Don't worry. We have no intention of killing you." he watched as she got ready to bite her tongue, and shook his head. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. The enchantments on your restraints will keep you alive. They are a mini boundary field, the sort that students use in school arenas these days. We can always heal you after you inflict injuries upon yourself. There's no need for unnecessary pain, right?"

"It doesn't matter. My comrades will find me and ensure that I'm dead."

The assassin's voice was cold and confident.

"Will they, now? I'll just let you know. You're no longer in Jing Tian City." Feng Hai spread his hands. "You're in the base of the Silver Wolves, the most secure location in the Federation, if I may say so myself. Any assassin who attempts to infiltrate my base will be captured as well."

"It doesn't matter," the assassin replied flatly. "You can bring me all the way to the ends of the world, and they will still find me and hunt me down."

"Well…about that…" Feng Hai smiled broadly. "That's where we come in. I would like to offer you a deal. You see, I know who you are. It's a waste to kill someone of your caliber. We'll protect you, and in exchange, I want you to work for us. We could really use your skills."

The assassin stared at him blankly. Feng Hai shrugged before continuing.

"There really is no point in being loyal to an organization that cuts off its members the moment they fail or get captured. It's a complete waste of lives and resources. Failure is what allows us to grow stronger, after all. Moreover, they don't care about you, so why should you care about them?"

He hit his chest with a fist.

"But here, we are different. We're all comrades. A family. We'll watch out for each other. You're worried about the assassins from your guild coming after you? We'll watch your back ad protect you from them. In return, you protect us from blades from the shadows. After all, you're the one who's most knowledgeable about how assassins operate, their modus operandi, and fighting styles."

"That's a really tempting offer you're making," the assassins said with a snort. "But how can you be so sure I won't sell you out?"

"Like I said, I know who you are." Feng Hai's grin widened. "I know your personality. You're not the kind who would backstab others. Well…maybe you do stab people in the back, but you know what I mean. You're pretty loyal to an organization that's so ready to dispose of you the moment you slipped up. And guess what? You've slipped up. You can betray my Silver Wolves, but you think the assassin guild will care? They didn't order you to assassinate us. Your assassination target got away and even defeated you. You think they'll forgive a failure of that magnitude?" he shook his head. "Just as I know who you are, I also know what kind of organization the assassin guild is."

"…"

The assassin watched him silently, her expression unreadable under the shadow of her hood. She realized that the Silver Wolves had not touched her hood or cloak at all, despite searching her for weapons. They appeared to respect her privacy. Even so, Feng Hai still claimed to know who she was.

"Don't worry…" Feng Hai spoke her name out loud, and she froze. He smiled, rose from his chair, and headed for the exit. "I'll give you some time to consider. I hope you'll come to a decision when I return."

The assassin watched him leave the room, the door shutting and leaving her in total silence. Not darkness, though. They had kindly left the lights on for her.

*

Before I knew it, it was Friday, and I ended up being escorted by Teacher Fielding.

"Where are we going?" I asked, even though I already knew the answer. My homeroom teacher gave me a stare.

"The underground Holy Spring, of course."

"Okay, but…do we really need such an escort to get there?"

There was a convoy of armored vehicles right in front of us, for some reason. Men in suits and sunglasses were milling around, surveying the area outside the school and scaring the students. Some were speaking to their com beads and communicating.

"It's the Holy Spring. Of course this level of security is a given."

"…if you say so…"

Teacher Fielding had a point. If this was Jing Tian City's most closely guarded resource, of course they would dispatch a large contingent of guards to ensure nobody breaks into the underground Holy Spring.

But what puzzled me was that they should be guarding the entrance or the place where the Holy Spring was located, not wasting their time and resources escorting me. I wasn't some VIP or whatever, and I didn't need protection.

"Oh, they are not protecting you." As if he read my mind, Teacher Fielding turned to grin at me. "They are protecting everyone else from you."

"…the fuck?"

Teacher Fielding ignored my expletive. "You need more self-awareness, Richard. You do realize that you're pretty much a walking nuke?"

All because I chose to create spells of mass destruction. Brilliant. Well, I had no regrets.

Teacher Fielding handed me off to one of the guys in charge, another guy in a suit with a blocky head and a crew cut. He nodded at me, and silently gestured for me to climb into the largest car in the middle. The interior of the car itself wasn't very comfortable, and looked as what I expected a military vehicle to be. At least we didn't get iron seats. I plopped down on the leather couch that lined up against one side of the vehicle, facing the opposite couch, and then obediently buckled my seatbelt. I had half-expected them to put restraints on me, but they didn't. However, they had at least ten men in suits seated with me, all of them holding weapons. They regarded me silently, their expressions hidden beneath their shades.

"Seriously, are you guys wearing sunglasses inside a car?" I rolled my eyes. As expected, they didn't reply. These guys were cold. Or the studio needed an excuse to save on voice actors.

The car moved on in silence, with the only noise being the engine and the tires grinding against the road. I probably dozed off from boredom, because the next thing I knew, the armored vehicle pulled up beside a huge complex.

It wasn't a very tall building, probably because most of the complex was underground, but there was still quite the majestic gate that served as the entrance. The men in suits filed out and formed two rows, as if afraid I would run off somewhere. I tried not to roll my eyes as I disembarked and walked along the path they constructed for me.

The blocky head guy stood right next to the gate and gestured for me to join him.

"You've been granted the privilege of training next to the Holy Spring for a week," he informed me coolly as he swiped his card. The huge gate rumbled open, revealing more guards inside the complex. "It should help you boost your cultivation…"

"Please, can we stop using that word? It's not as if I'm going to become a versatile mage or something."

"Fine. It will help enhance your magic. You're a summoner, if I recall, and summoning spells consume a lot of mana, as well as require a long casting time. If you train properly, you will be able to increase your mana reserves and cut down your casting time."

"I'll do my best." I paused and frowned. "But if this Holy Spring is so miraculous, why use it for students like me? I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but wouldn't this benefit you adults more? Like Instructor Feng Hai…"

"Hurricane Blade Feng Hai has used this Holy Spring to train before." The blockhead regarded me grimly. "And you are aware of his reputation, I presume. Perhaps you will become another Hurricane Blade Feng Hai. Or you will fall in the wayside of anonymous mages…no, forgive my rudeness. There's no way you'll be anonymous after what you've achieved."

He must be referring to my spells of mass destruction.

"Nonetheless, this might allow you to reach greater heights." The blockhead paused. "And to answer your question, the Holy Spring is most effective on young people between the ages 16 to 20. Once you're over that age, it's no longer as effective. Nonetheless, it's still a valuable resource that contains a lot of natural mana, and many people covet it, regardless of how old they are. It can be used for so many other things, such as to power Strategic-scale spells…in fact, Jing Tian City's barrier is powered by this Holy Spring."

I nodded slowly. That made sense. A barrier of such a massive scale required a tremendous mana supply. This Holy Spring certainly sounded like it could provide an endless supply of natural mana to maintain such a massive barrier over the city.

"The Jing Tian City council also ruled that the future of the city lies in the youth. That's why they set it aside for you youngsters…in hopes that you will return the favor and contribute back to the city, or to the Federation in general. Just like Hurricane Blade Feng Hai." For the first time, blockhead smiled. "And since you've already contributed so much to the city, I guess they're repaying the favor. So you can think of this as a reward."

"Uh, thanks, I guess?"

I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about this. I wasn't even sure I did anything to contribute to the city. When did I ever save Jing Tian City? All I did was indulge in my own activities. Well, for now, I guess gratitude was obvious. Regardless of the reasons, I wasn't the type to look a gift horse in the mouth. I could really use something that could improve my mana reserves, and as long as it wasn't something as suspicious as steroids or drugs that had terrible side effects such as shortening my lifespan or whatever, I was all for it. Plus, as blockhead mentioned, one of the weaknesses of summoning magic was its long casting time. If there was anything I could do to shorten it, I would be more than happy to do so.

"Of course, there's another reason. The Jing Tian City Council is placing their hopes on you." blockhead glanced at me, his eyes still hidden behind his sunglasses. "You've been selected as one of the representatives of Jing Tian Magic Academy. They hope to boost your power to the point where you can compete with the top elite young mages in the Federation. Hopefully, with you in the team, Jing Tian Academy will be able to raise their rank and achieve a respectable position in the national tournament this year."

"…I'll do my best." I wasn't stupid enough to make promises I couldn't keep. I was under no illusions that this Holy Spring will suddenly turn me invincible. Nothing so convenient existed in reality.

"There's another thing you might want to take note of before training by the Holy Spring. If you're lucky, you might receive a gift."

"A…gift?" I stopped and stared at blockhead. At this point, we were walking through the complex and toward a highly guarded checkpoint at the back of the lobby. The huge man nodded.

"Some people gain an attribute. It can be any kind of attribute…increased physical strength, a new type of magic, affinity to an element, resistance to an element, rapid regenerative powers, immunity to certain types of spells…anything. It all depends on fate. Feng Hai, for example, gained the Blade Body, which allows him to convert all of his wind magic to swords."

"Cool."

Knowing my luck, I probably wouldn't get anything. Or I would get something useless. I wasn't being pessimistic, just realistic. What, you think I was going to awake a fourth element or something? I already had summoning magic, I wasn't going to suddenly have fire, lightning and shadow magic.

We went through the checkpoint, and after a series of extensive checks to make sure I didn't bring anything illegal (though I didn't know what counted as "illegal" – they allowed me to bring Gan Jiang and Mo Ye for some reason), they allowed me toward the elevator at the back.

"This elevator will bring us to the Holy Spring," blockhead explained as he stopped by the elevator.

"Okay." The elevator chimed, and the doors slid open. Taking a deep breath, I stepped through the doors. Blockhead followed me, punched in some code, and the elevator doors slammed shut. We then descended in silence for the next few minutes.

There was a soft jerk, and the elevator came to a stop. The doors slid open to reveal a colossal chamber, a subterranean space that had been occupied and converted by humans. It was clearly underground, yet the walls, floor and ceiling was lined with metal.

There was a lot more security personnel moving about this area than upstairs, all of them patrolling the space and looking out for intruders. When they saw blockhead with me, they relaxed a little and allowed us to pass by. As we traversed the enormous space, I saw that not all of them were guards. There were some monitoring holographic screens with readings and stuff, administrative staff who were penciling documents, and technicians who were handling the maintenance of equipment. There were even a few cleaning staff who were moping the floor or scrubbing the walls.

"We're here."

Blockhead stopped in front of a gigantic circular blast door made from titanium. At first glance, it looked like a vault, the kind in banks where they store all the money. Blockhead went forward and punched a code in the pad, scanned his ID card, and then received a biometric scan where a red laser light shone through his retina, before the gigantic door began to grate open. As the mechanisms pulled the door open, it revealed a much larger underground chamber within.

This time, there wasn't much metal. It was all rock, natural rock. There were several lights in place, and an artificial walkway made of metal and concrete, but otherwise the entire space was left as it originally was.

And there was a vast lake of gleaming water that gently stirred below the walkway. Much larger than an Olympic swimming pool, it stretched for what seemed like a kilometer.

"This is…"

"…the Holy Spring." Blockhead nodded and gestured for me to enter. He remained outside the door, however. "Good luck with your training, and all the best. We'll come and pick you up after a week."

"Thank you, sir." I bowed. Blockhead waved casually, and then the doors slammed shut with a mechanical click.

Left alone with the Holy Spring, I found myself completely isolated from the rest of the world.

avataravatar
Next chapter