Han Shuo was very clear about the footing the Shrine of Ice had in Kasi Empire, and therefore he was most unwilling to bring Sophie any unnecessary troubles. Even though her father was a sacred knight, once implicated with Han Shuo, the probability of things ending well for her was slim.
The only thing that Han Shuo did not quite anticipate was that Sophie would actually chase after him in the eyes of the public. Seeing Sophie charge at him on her pegasus, Han Shuo was between laughter and tears.
“Hey! That’s Miss Sophie!” The people always loved noise and excitement. As onlookers raised their heads one after another and saw the beautiful Sophie soaring over their heads on a pegasus, a huge commotion erupted.
They looked ahead in the direction Sophie was flying. Han Shuo’s rapidly departing figure immediately gathered the attention of the crowd. The pleasant surprise on Sophie’s face made it apparent that Han Shuo was running away not because he had done something bad. The scene of Han Shuo, who was exceptionally well-dressed, escaping with a bitter smile, with Sophie happily pursuing, could definitely bring about countless wild and fanciful thoughts. Consequently, the crowd got perhaps the wrong impression.
Could it be that this man was, in fact, the one that the beautiful Sophie actually fancied?
Momentarily, such a conjecture somehow arose in the minds of many as the scene played out. They then turned to look at the son of the prince, Braque, and saw that he was anxiously reproaching from where he stood. Every commoner in sight seemed to take pleasure in Braque’s misfortune, and began discussing in whispers without the slightest scruple while exchanging meaningful glances.
“Ha. Interesting. It seems that Miss Sophie already had a sweetheart.”
“Yah yah. It appears that Braque is showering affection on an uninterested party. I had long heard that it was a one-sided relationship. He made oldman Sulo agree to the marriage by exploiting his father’s influences. Now it seems that this was indeed the case.”
“That’s right. Those amiable and approachable nobles like Miss Sophie are true nobles. Although Braque’s family is wealthy, he pursues fame and profit a little too much to be a suitable match for Miss Sophie.”
From time to time, such a conversation would ensue from among the crowd of people jam-packed on the clamorous street. One after another, these people who rejoiced in Braque’s misfortune would cast looks of despise at Braque’s luxurious carriage, as though mocking Braque for his inaptness.
“Damn it! What is the background of that asshole? Sophie is such an honorable character, how could she get acquainted with somebody muddled with those peasants?!” Braque saw Han Shuo’s back distantly from inside his carriage. His ears unintentionally picked up certain remarks that infuriated him, filling him with fury.
“Young master, never have I ever seen or heard of that man before. I believe that this was just an excuse Miss Sophie made up to keep away, young master. She wasn’t willing to go to the auction sale with you and therefore did this on purpose!” a knight beside the carriage said in a low voice.
Suddenly, a cry of amazement sounded from afar, “Lift off! He lifted off! Damn, that’s fast!”
Braque was shocked and immediately gazed into the distance. He saw Han Shuo’s outstanding body take off to the sky, leaving behind a streak of fine thread as he rapidly flew away. Behind Han Shuo, Sophie tightly pursued him on her spotlessly white pegasus. Her silhouette transformed into a white dot, and finally faded away completely from sight.
“Now that was impressive! He must be an honorable magus. Perhaps even a grand magus! No wonder, no wonder Miss Sophie would do such a thing. Ha, only such a young, outstandingly talented magus would be deserving of Miss Sophie.”
“That’s right. Definitely a talented but modest chap! Oh yes, he is definitely an amiable nobleman just like Miss Sophie. He even bought a rock from me just a moment ago. Ha, only such a character could match Miss Sophie.”
Sitting inside his carriage, Braque was, at first, only somewhat angry. But when Han Shuo streaked across the sky, Braque became truly furious. Immediately, in a deep voice, he said to the knight beside him, “Thuram, get to the bottom of who the hell this guy is!”
“Understood, young master!” Thuram knew what it meant for a person with the ability to fly. As a servant, he was well-versed in what he had to do next given the emergence of this character who could threaten Braque.
Han Shuo incessantly cried and laughed in his heart as he sped away using the Art of the Demonic Ninth Heavens. He was absolutely unwilling to let Sophie catch him and land herself in trouble. Otherwise, not only would Sophie be at stake, but her entire family could possibly be exterminated because of him. Who would have imagined that this woman would be so insistent. Even as she clearly saw Han Shuo avoiding her, she went as far as to actively chase after him. Han Shuo would have never expected such a thing.
With one running and another pursuing, very soon, the two came to a fairly remote block. Seeing that there was no one around, Han Shuo intended to deploy his demonic arts to the fullest to shake Sophie off. But all of a sudden, he heard a shout with pauses in between gasping for breath, saying, “Han! You stop right now!”
Han Shuo was bemused. Seeing that he could not shake Sophie off, he decided to explain the situation to her instead. Looking left and right, he weaved through the deserted streets at a moderate speed. After a short while, he leads Sophie, who was vigorously running after him, to a silent, spacious public square.
Han Shuo finally stopped, and stood still on a stone step in the square. He turned around to look at Sophie who had chased him all the way here, forced a smile and said, “It’s been a while!”
“You, why are you avoiding me?” Sophie’s pegasus gently touched down. She looked at Han Shuo, confused. Her tone exuded a sense of grief.
“I don’t want to cause you any trouble. You have been living fine and well here in Kasi Empire. But if you were to be implicated with me, you and your family will suffer.” For the fear that Sophie would persevere and continue her vigorous chasing, Han Shuo explained to her in a stern and deep voice.
When Han Shuo said those words, there was no hiding Sophie’s shock. The expression on her beautiful face immediately changed. After glancing around and seeing that no one else was around, she carefully asked in a very low voice, “Have you done something bad? Are you in trouble?”
Nodding, Han Shuo open-heartedly admitted, “That’s right. Something very bad!”
“Tell me about it. My father is rather powerful in Kasi Empire. Maybe I can help you!” Sophie was kind. She did not just want to stay and talk to Han Shuo, she wished to aid him however she could.
“Forget about it. Not even your father can help me,” Han Shuo flatly declined. Then, looking unflinchingly at Sophie, he continued, “I will stay in Kasi Empire for some days. You must not come in any form of contact with me. Just act as though you don’t know me.”
“How will that do!” Sophie wouldn’t let off easily, and in a most conscientious voice, she said, “Back in the Dark Forest, you once saved my life. And no matter what, we are friends. Now that you are in trouble, how could I pretend to not know? Besides, I promised you at that time that if you came to Kasi Empire, I would receive you well.”
“I’m not in trouble. It is you that will be in trouble if you so insist,” Han Shuo explained. The more Sophie acted this way, the more unwilling Han Shuo was to let her attract troubles.
But well, who knew that this woman was really quite the stubborn one. Sophie replied to Han Shuo in a righteous tone, “What trouble could I get into?! Calm down, nothing will ever happen to me. Haha. It’s such a rare occasion to have you in Kasi Empire. Therefore, no matter what, I, as the host, must properly thank you for you saved my life.”
“Lady, the one I offended is the Shrine of Ice. Do you think you can handle them?” When Han Shuo saw that Sophie was being so persistent, for the lack of a better option, he revealed the identity of his enemy, the Shine of Ice.
As expected, when the three words ‘Shrine of Ice’ were uttered, Sophie gasped. She stared at Han Shuo in appall for a while, before gently and cautiously asked, “Han, what's going on? Why would you offend the Shrine? I know that you are a citizen of Lancelot Empire, but I don’t know you particularly well. How did you get yourself into this?”
Listening to Sophie’s words, Han Shuo realized that Sophie likely hadn’t been informed of his actual identity. Back then during their encounter at the Dark Forest, Han Shuo called himself ‘Bryan Han’ without thinking the matter through. Sophie had never heard of this name and assumed that the name Han Shuo informed was a false name. She probably had yet to associate Han Shuo with that city lord of Brettel City in Lancelot Empire.
“As for how or why we became enemies, that’s none of your concern. In any case, the Shrine of Ice will never let me off. So you better not be associated with me,” Han Shuo replied.
“But as long a the Shrine doesn’t find you, there won’t be an issue, won't there?” Against Han Shuo’s expectations, Sophie made a crafty smile and took out two round, brownish fruits from her space ring. She handed one of them to Han Shuo and confidently explained, “My friend gave me these. After kneading it for a while and applying it to your face, you can alter your appearance. No one will be able to make it out.”
As Sophie spoke, she demonstrated to Han Shuo. She slowly kneaded the round fruit between her hands until it formed a thick, sticky substance. Then, she pointed at her own charming face before slowly applying the substance to her face and massaging her cheek and edges in front of Han Shuo.
From the looks of things, this as certainly not the first time Sophie had done this. Without using any mirrors, but merely relying on her practiced hands, after just a short moment, her face underwent an enormous transformation. Sophie’s fair skin turned wheat-brown. Her cheeks and face contour transformed as well. From a beauty, she turned into a most ordinary-looking young lady. Even the skin on her neck and hands altered. Certain pharmacist possessed remarkable skills in formulating medicines. In fact, Han Shuo was also in possession of these drugs called Polyfruit, previously gifted by Cecilia. This time at Kasi Empire, as Han Shuo was emphatically not afraid of his identity being revealed, he did not use the Polyfruit.
“Ha! Magical isn’t it? You definitely can’t recognize me now!” Sophie proudly exclaimed after altering her appearance. Afterwards, she took out a small mirror and pointed it at Han Shuo. All smiles, she said, “Hurry, you just gotta change your looks a little with the fruit, and no one will recognize you. If the Shrine of Ice can’t find you, I cannot be implicated.”
Well, even the materials were all prepared. Han Shuo truly could not find another reason to decline. With no choice, he forced a smile and began kneading the Polyfruit. When the medicine liquefied into a sticky substance, following Sophie’s instructions, he slowly applied it to his face.
But Han Shuo was obviously not skilled at this. More often than not, his unpolished hands would turn his appearance into something hideous and frightening. Even after fiddling for ages, Han Shuo could not shape a passable appearance. Considering that the effect would fade as time passed, Sophie hesitated for a moment before suggesting somewhat bashfully, “Let me do it for you!”
Without waiting for Han Shuo to answer, Sophie suddenly extended her slender jade-like hands and placed them on Han Shuo’s cheeks. She began altering the outline of Han Shuo’s face bit by bit in accordance with her familiarity and understanding of the Polyfruit.
Although the skin colour on Sophie’s two hands had changed, they were still gentle and smooth as they rested on Han Shuo’s cheeks. Especially when Sophie rubbed with her palms, which looked like two lovers flirting with each other, giving Han Shuo a kind of peculiar sensation.
Sophie was evidently also somewhat embarrassed. Although, due to the changes to her skin, her blushing was barely visible, Han Shuo nevertheless caught her uneasiness from her eyes.
“Done. What do you think?” As Han Shuo indulged in flights of fancy, Sophie suddenly stopped and said in a self-congratulatory manner.
In the mirror Sophie held up, an appearance unfamiliar to Han Shuo revealed itself. This person had a mellow chin and thick cheeks, a face only a morbidly obese man would have. Looking at the face in the mirror, Han Shuo involuntarily recalled Jack the little fatty.
“Hah! Exceptionally ordinary!” Han Shuo replied in a bitter smile as he looked into the mirror.
From the mirror, when he made a smile in the simple and honest face, he saw a guileless and honest look from every angle. And yet again, Jack the little fatty came to mind. This further intensified his forced smile.
“Let me tell you, a fatty is the least eye-catching! Hehe, it’s true. There are fatties all over the streets. No one will think of your original appearance,” Sophie explained with an air of professionalism before she giggled and added, “Moreover, the edges of your face are too prominent. Not the best material to disguise. It is only with a chubby face that they could be concealed. Ha, I didn’t expect that after turning into a fatty, you would look quite so cute! Hehe!”
Seeing Sophie in a giggly manner, Han Shuo felt as though Sophie intentionally turned him into a fatty. It was as if she would be happier the uglier he became. “Whatever. Do as you please,” Han Shuo said helplessly, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
“Here, stuff this into your stomach!” In a chuckle, Sophie took out a small pillow from her space ring handed it to Han Shuo. She clarified, “As you should know, a fatty should have a potbelly… Otherwise one can’t be called a fatty!”
When she said those words, a trace of mischievous glee flashed in Sophie’s eyes, which Han Shuo coincidentally caught sight of.
With that, Han Shuo could be absolutely certain that Sophie did so on purpose. But Han Shuo knew that Sophie did not have any intentions of malice. In any case, his face was already plump. Without voicing any opinions, he took the small pillow that Sophie handed him and stuffed it under his robes. With that, a slightly rotund tummy took shape.
“Ha, not bad! Not bad at all! You take a look!” Seeing Han Shuo with a bulging stomach, Sophie let out a somewhat malicious laughter. She took multiple looks at Han Shuo’s little belly with the mirror in her hand, and even complacently patted it. Convulsing with laughter, she said, “I shall pardon you this time. Let’s see if you dare turn on your heel and flee like a bat out of hell when you see me in the future!”
It was only now that Han Shuo became aware why Sophie did so. As it turned out, this was to retaliate against Han Shuo’s evasion earlier. It seemed that women were indeed vengeful and unforgiving creatures. Even a lady as kind Sophie was no exception, stubbornly punishing Han Shuo with this practical joke.
Indeed, women must not be offended. Even beautiful, kind-hearted women are no exception! Han Shuo lamented as he forced a smile.
“Alright. Now you just need a change of clothes and to deliberately hunch your back. Then no one will recognize you for sure!” Sophie ceased her laughter and looked at Han Shuo satisfyingly, putting forward suggestions to further polish up her work of art.
Han Shuo grudgingly took out a new set of outer garments. Originally, he had planned to have Sophie look away but he immediately recalled her mischief. He decided to play tit-for-tat. Right before Sophie, as though she wasn’t there, he took off his clothes.
Han Shuo only had one item of sturdy, durable warrior’s gown on his upper body. When this outer layer of clothing was removed, the majestic bare body of his was completely revealed. His perfect physique, like the cutting edge of a sharp blade, gave off a most piercing impression, while brimming with an extraordinary charisma unique to men.
Sophie turned into a fool and stared blankly at Han Shuo’s magnificent naked body. Other than amazement, there was even a thread of intoxication in her eyes. Perhaps she had never before seen a physique of such perfection, and therefore couldn’t react momentarily.
Suddenly, Sophie roused from her daze. She anxiously turned around. Stomping and panting with rage, she said, “Hoodlum! How could you do that in front of me! You thug! How infuriating!”
Seeing Sophie so frenetic, Han Shuo felt incredibly light-hearted, as though his bad luck was completely washed away. He chucklingly said, “Hehe, I'm not concerned about it. Why are you concerned for my sake?”
“You, you wretch! I knew you weren't a good guy the first time I met you, and sure enough, I was right!” Sophie indignantly denounced Han Shuo. Shortly after, she softly talked to herself, “This chap, he’s really well built!”
When Sophie said so, Han Shuo suddenly recalled the time back at Dark Forest, the two once had a good time together. Han Shuo’s heart was inevitably swept away.
“Humph! Are you done yet? Hurry up, we are going back there!” Sophie angrily asked with her back facing Han Shuo.
“Done. Where to?” Han Shuo asked in astoundment.
Sophie turned around and said, “The auction place of course. Where else would it be more lively than the auction place today in Kasi Empire?”
“Sure!” Han Shuo gladly agreed. It was exactly what he was hoping for.