Han Shuo shook his head firmly, and as Kelly stared at him in astonishment, he said, "It's not time yet!"
"How so?" Kelly asked, puzzled. Just looking at the master of the Hand of Goddess shouldn't be that difficult, so he could not understand why Han Shuo would give such a flat refusal.
"Just like how Tiana needed time to merge with the Origin Crystal of Water, the master of Viride Leaf is as yet slowly merging with it and requires absolute serenity. He must not be disturbed," Han Shuo explained.
But Han Shuo's explanation only made Kelly more curious, staring at Han Shuo in confusion as he continued to question, "If I did not mishear you, you said earlier that the Hand of Goddess' master is a zombie warrior. Do you actually mean to say that a zombie warrior is capable of fusing with our Druidic Order's divine artifact, the Hand of Goddess?"
"Correct indeed!" Han Shuo replied confidently.
Old Kelly, who had lived through countless seasons, grew unnaturally pale and wan. His right hand subconsciously moved over his chest, as though Han Shuo's explanation was too much to bear, then he said with his voice slightly trembling, "I have a feeling he isn't really the emissary of our Goddess of Nature!"
Ludicrous! How could a zombie warrior from the netherworld be the Goddess of Nature's emissary to the mortal realm?
"Of course not!" Han Shuo smiled faintly, eyeing the visibly disturbed trio with some interest. His gaze finally locked on the quietly muttering Kelly, and said, "He isn't your emissary of the Goddess of Nature. Once he has fully mastered the Viride Leaf, I can let you meet him."
"Does that mean that the Hand of Goddess will become his weapon?" Kelly heaved a low sigh and asked most unwillingly.
"Well, for lack of a better word, I can only say that this is indeed true," Han Shuo looked at Kelly apologetically, raising his hands in a shrug. He felt a sudden surge of sympathy, and continued, "How about I pay you all some gold as compensation? I'm terribly sorry."
From Lilian's performance, Han Shuo could tell that the Druidic Order was not a religious organization that was good at managing finances. As Han Shuo had a rather favourable opinion of the Druidic Order, and with the intention to rope in Kelly, a demigod being with truly astonishing strength, Han Shuo attempted to make some material compensation by offering them gold coins.
"Forget about it. This was a dereliction of duty on our part. We cannot let you shoulder the consequences for our failure," Kelly waved his hand sluggishly, refusing Han Shuo's offer of monetary compensation. Looking at Kelly, then at Caspian and Lilian, Han Shuo understood that there was nothing much to say if he stuck around. With an awkward laugh, he said his goodbyes. "I still have some matters to attend to, so I'll be taking my leave. If you are still interested in the master of the Hand of Goddess, you may come to find me in Brettel city, where you will be most welcome."
The Viride Leaf ought to have been something that was circulated out from within the Druidic Order. While Han Shuo had used his own abilities to snatch it out of Zofi's hands, that did not change the fact that he had taken something that belonged to them. Han Shuo understood the frustrations of the three, and knew that friendly chatter would be impossible if he stayed. Therefore, the best course of action was to leave as soon as possible and avoid the awkwardness.
"Very well, when I have the time I will certainly make a trip to Brettel City. Hmm, despite everything, it was a great pleasure to meet you," Kelly did not ask him to stay, only displaying a rather bitter smile as he bid Han Shuo farewell.
"Likewise. Goodbye," Han Shuo replied politely, nodding at great druid Caspian before turning around and left the valley.
After Han Shuo exited the valley, he did not immediately return to Ciro City, but instead, he pondered over his next recourses for taking care of the Shrine of Ice.
In Han Shuo’s eyes, the Shrine of Ice had greatly weakened with the death of Ice Celestial Corey. Snow Celestial Tiana could alone pose no threat to Han Shuo.
Han Shuo never forgot the hatred which stemmed from the betrayal he had suffered on the Church of Light's sacred mountain. It’s just that Tiana had suddenly disappeared, and Han Shuo had no idea where she had escaped to. But he reckoned she was probably within the icy peaks of the Shrine of Ice.
For the purpose of mounting the sneak attack on Ice Celestial Corey earlier, Han Shuo had concealed his consciousness. And now that he had left the valley, Han Shuo immediately unfolded his consciousness again. He planned to continue provoking the six-horned tribal king of the Soul Race, lead him to the Shrine of Ice, and teach Tiana and her people a most painful lesson.
However, when Han Shuo unfolded his consciousness, he discovered the six-horned tribal king still and inactive, not continuing his long, tiring journey of chasing Han Shuo. This caused Han Shuo some confusion, as he had no idea why the six-horned tribal king would suddenly stop.
Could it be that old monster Stratholme had not yet fused his soul with the Crystal of Fighting Aura, and just happened to have hidden along the path of the six-horned tribal king's approach, and that the latter had sensed his presence, and dealt with him first?
Han Shuo was shocked by the thought. He concentrated his attention and carefully sensed for a while, and approximated that the six-horned tribal king was somewhere within the borders of Angel Empire.
Shaking his head with some frustration, Han Shuo felt concerned for Stratholme. However, he did not rush recklessly to Angel Empire to find out what exactly was going on. And, surely, if things had indeed gone that way, Stratholme the old monster would have been killed long before Han Shuo could even step foot on Angel Empire.
Two days had passed. Han Shuo found that the six-horned tribal king was still within the Angel Empire's borders. No matter how Han Shuo taunted him, he would not budge.
With that, Han Shuo was almost certain that the six-horned tribal king had not stopped over because of Stratholme the old monster. After all, Stratholme's strength was not nearly enough to hold him back for two full days.
Although Han Shuo had no idea what was going on in Angel Empire, it was obvious to him that the six-horned tribal king had been tarried over there with no clue as to when he would leave Angel Empire. Although Han Shuo was very curious as to what business the six-horned tribal king of the Soul Race met in Angel Empire, he made a wise decision not to go there and see for himself.
Without the Soul Race's six-horned tribal king, even if Han Shuo ran into Snow Celestial Tiana, he did not have complete certainty of being able to kill her. Thus, after weighing for a moment, Han Shuo decided to temporarily give up on hounding Tiana. He would wait until the little skeleton's fusion with the Origin Crystal of Death was complete, and the water and earth elite zombies had progressed into being able to form the Penta-elemental Undead Formation, before he dealt with her properly.
Having lost one of their two core pillars, the Shrine of Ice had sharply reduced in strength. Han Shuo believed that the Druidic Order would make good of the opportunity in one way or another, a thought which gave him a sense of schadenfreude.
At a mansion in the northern district of Ciro city…
It was noon, and the flaming sun hung high in the sky. Han Shuo snuck in quietly, intending to check on Sophie's condition and bid her farewell before he left Kasi empire.
After all, Sophie had entertained him for quite a number of days and had been a gracious host. Furthermore, Han Shuo had grown rather fond of Sophie, and was worried that she would be ruined by that good-for-nothing Braque, so he decided to visit before he left.
Once Han Shuo arrived at the mansion, he unfolded his consciousness to seek for Sophie's presence, and in no time he had found her.
However, his brow furrowed deeply when he arrived at her location. Three intricate, sturdy magical boundaries were set up within a vastly spacious room. One could tell that the person who had deployed them was rather proficient in it. Without altering the space and items in the room, they managed to trap Sophie inside.
Even though they were separated by three magical boundaries, Han Shuo could still clearly see the expression on Sophie’s face. Under house arrest, she wore a face full of misery and looked much wearier than she had two days ago. It was clear that she hadn’t been well.
Frowning as he looked at Sophie behind the three magical boundaries, Han Shuo gradually released his consciousness, and slowly detected where her father, sacred knight Sulo, was. At the moment, sacred knight Sulo was hard at work, training himself in his practice room. It appeared that it had not been by chance that he'd been able to become a sacred knight.
After some hesitation, Han Shuo placed a hand on the three magical boundaries, and demonic light radiated from his palm. There was a cracking noise, and the boundaries shattered like broken mirrors.
“Who's there?” Sophie cried out in shock and terror.
“It's me!” Han Shuo answered quietly, striding towards her. Looking at the rather pleasantly surprised Sophie, he asked, "What's going on?"
“Nothing much. My father wouldn’t let me run around, and is planning on marrying me to Braque in a few more days,” Sophie's smile was bitter and resigned.
For some reason, Han Shuo actually felt a faint sense of discomfort in his heart upon hearing that Sulo was going to force Sophie to marry Braque. A tinge of fury flashed across his eyes as he spoke, "Your father's gone senile, how can he be so overbearing!"
Sigh… Sophie shook her head and replied rather lethargically, "He's not senile. It is precisely because he's too clever that he’s doing so. Because, otherwise, it won’t be just a matter of him and myself, but my entire family will no longer have a place in Kasi empire."
Han Shuo went blank before exhaling heavily when he realized that Sophie was indeed correct.
The might of a nation was not something that a single person could counterbalance. Well, unless that person was somebody like Han Shuo, who possessed strength so formidable that it allowed him to be above worldly rules. Otherwise, there was surely no way one could go against an entire nation.
In Kasi empire, sacred knight Sulo had made quite a name for himself. But nevertheless, he could hardly counter the House of Pillon. Not to mention that there was also the existence of the Shrine of Ice in the Kasi Empire. Sulo could only scarcely save his own skin, let alone his entire family.
Just as Han Shuo's thoughts were still in a jumble, Sophie looked deep into his eyes, and asked with mixed expressions on her face, “Bryan, will you take me away?”.