GDK 708: Search and Investigation

***It was the dead of the night, outside the City of Shadows.

At the core of a man-eating shrub appeared a dark shadow accompanied by a thud. The dark figure crashed onto a swaying man-eating flower, instantly snapping it.

An intense reeking of blood was emitted from the dark figure. The smell seemed to carry the most intense temptation power, arousing the excitement of all the man-eating plants in the shrub.

Tough, thick vines covered with thorns and large leaves oozing strong corrosive liquid which had been stationary rapidly moved towards the dark figure. In just an instant, the dark figure was completely wrapped with leaves and vines. 

The man-eating plants that had enveloped the dark figure were wriggling, tearing and tightening their grip with all their strengths. It was obvious that the plants wanted to strangle, grind and swallow the trapped living thing alive.

Creak… Creak… Strange noises came from the wrapped figure. The tenacious vines that strangled hard gradually started to loosen up and even started retreating.

Splat! The leaves and vines that did not retreat in time disintegrated into pieces and splattered all around, revealing Han Shuo at the center.

After some time, Han Shuo began to move his arms and legs. He felt that every action had become ten times more difficult and exhausting than usual. Even his eyelids felt much heavier and extremely difficult to open and close.

Finally, with great difficulty, Han Shuo managed to sit cross-legged on the ground. After recovering a little bit of his energy, Han Shuo had both his avatars emerge from his body. One of them stood on his left while the other stood on his right, carefully observing the surroundings and vigilantly protecting him. 

Han Shuo decided not to return to the City of Shadows. Instead, with his two avatars carrying his main body, he located and hid in a well-concealed underground cave in one of the many mountains surrounding the City of Shadows. His two avatars then fixed up the outside of the cave and made sure to conceal and erase all his trails. His avatar of death then left silently.

Late in the night, the City of Shadows lacked the clamor and activity seen during the daytime. Instead, the city was quiet and still.

Han Shuo’s avatar traveled to the city wall closest to the Lavers Residence and silently released a few demon generals. Multiple boundary towers surrounded the city which would relentlessly attack any trespassers. Han Shuo had no confidence in evading the boundary towers and therefore decided to stay outside the city walls.

The formless demon generals, however, could evade the detection of those boundary towers. Han Shuo hid in the dark and observed the condition inside using several demon generals.

The demon generals, easily evading the defensive barriers in their paths, headed straight for their destination - the Lavers Residence.

The boundaries found in the Lavers Residence were even more advanced but still, they could not prevent demon generals from entering. After circling through the Lavers Residence, the demon generals located the room where Cage and Eve were staying and proceeded with surveying each and every move they made.

“Brother, why is father not letting us out of the house?” The gods on Elysium didn’t need much sleep and most of them would be silently cultivating at night. Eve obviously wasn’t one of those people. Instead of cultivating, she was complaining to her brother, Cage.

“Father has his own reasons behind his decisions. All we need to do is listen,” Cage appeared very calm. He shot a glance at the agitated Eve and said solemnly, “Father is truly angered this time, I’m very certain of this. We had better be very obedient and not make any trouble for the moment. Understood?”

“But, but that fool has destroyed three of our shops. He is stepping over our heads. Don’t tell me that we aren’t going to retaliate?” Eve replied in a slightly softer voice. She had rarely seen Cage being so well-behaved and knew that there had to be a reason.

“Don’t worry about it, father has said that he will take care of it!” Cage then put on a sinister, cold smile and continued, “I have heard divine guards told me that father has drunk a lot tonight. Do you know what happens after father drinks?”

Eve was puzzled for a quick moment before her eyes lit up and she stammered, “You mean… You mean…"

Cage nodded and affirmed, “That someone is going to run out of luck!”

“Fantastic! I knew that father wouldn’t just stand by and watch us get bullied. Haha! I guess we will never see that fella ever again!” Eve said as she put on a cheerful smile. Her mood had suddenly improved a whole lot.

Han Shuo commanded the two demon generals spying on Cage and Eve to return. They started noiselessly retreating back to Han Shuo’s avatar hiding outside the city wall.

Han Shuo did not continue to probe using his demon generals as it had become obvious to him who was the person that attempted to assassinate him. The strong smell of alcohol on his attacker matched the person discussed in Cage and Eve’s conversation. Han Shuo could not be more certain of the identity of his attacker - Chief of the Fifth Corps, Avery Lavers!

He understood that if Avery had succeeded in slaughtering him, even if the Sainte Family made it out that Avery had committed the murder, they likely wouldn't denounce and go to war with Avery over his death as after all, Avery was the Chief of the Fifth Corps and he would have the backing of the entire House of Lavers.

Han Shuo thought to himself, I might have some importance while alive. But in death, I would be absolutely worthless. A dead man who could not produce any medicine can never be worthy enough for the House of Sainte to go to war over. I guess if it comes to that, perhaps only Carmelita would take revenge for me?

However, if Carmelita doesn’t know who did it, how is she going to avenge me?

A series of thoughts rapidly flashed through Han Shuo’s mind. Although Avery’s assassination attempt on his intoxication seemed impulsive, after carefully reflecting on it, Han Shuo discovered that it was actually a very hefty decision. Avery definitely did not do so without thinking. He must have thought about it thoroughly before he pretended to be drunk and attacked.

After all, how is it even possible that a highgod be affected by alcohol?

As the realization dawned on him, Han Shuo suddenly felt a cold shiver run through his heart. He no longer dared to underestimate any highgod in the City of Shadows. If a mere Avery was this formidable, then the other chiefs of divine guards and patriarchs of large family clans who were mightier than Avery’s must be even more terrifying.

After Han Shuo calmed his mind and thought about the situation carefully, he came to realize that because everything had been going smoothly with his Celestial Pearl Pharmacy, he had underestimated the experts in the City of Shadows. Especially, he had misjudged just how terrifying Avery and the House of Lavers were, thereby bringing about his near death!

Han Shuo gasped in surprise. The demon generals that were retreating from the Lavers Residence suddenly discovered a shadow outside Cage and Eve’s room. The shadow had completely fused with darkness and it was moving about as though trying to look for something… 

“Where is it? I’m sure there must be something nearby. But what is it…" The shadowy figure that Avery referred to as ‘Number Three’ was looking all around from within the darkness, attempting to locate an unknown threat.

Han Shuo ordered his demon generals to retreat rapidly. He was certain that the shadow hiding in the dark must be a midgod of excellent strength who was expert in concealing himself.

On that night, Han Shuo’s avatar of death silently returned to the cave where his main body was hiding. Han Shuo intended not to return to the City of Shadows for the time being. 

***Two months later… 

Thanks to Anito’s efforts, the Celestial Pearl Pharmacy had completed its renovation and it looked brand new. During the two months, many from large family clans would come to visit and ask Anito about Han Shuo’s whereabouts, desperate to buy more of his medicines.

Most of those who lined up and bought medicines from the Celestial Pearl Pharmacy had personally tried them themselves. They would praise highly of the pharmacy and tell others about the brilliance of the medications. More and more of the rich and powerful members of the city started to pay attention to this inconspicuous shop called the Celestial Pearl Pharmacy.

Anito knew nothing about what happened that night. Naturally, he wasn’t able to provide the crowd with a good explanation for Han Shuo’s mysterious disappearance. Erebus, the Chief of the Third Corps, had called on Anito a few times during those months but as Han Shuo wasn’t around, Anito couldn’t get his hands on any medicine.

Yet another month had passed. The reputation of the Celestial Pearl Pharmacy grew even greater in the City of Shadows. The large family clans started to grow suspicious about Han Shuo’s abrupt and rather lengthy disappearance. Some of the family clans even dispatched their men to search the mountain ranges around the city for Han Shuo.

It was during this time that Carmelita finally emerged from her secluded cultivation. Her skin tone had become more and more normal. Although her appearance was still far from being called a beauty, her looks now were merely ordinarily ugly. 

The excited Carmelita, who had even thought of how to repay Han Shuo’s favor, was disappointed about Han Shuo’s mysterious disappearance. She began to worry after learning from Anito that Han Shuo had returned with all the medicinal ingredients he needed the day before he disappeared. 

The fourth month into his disappearance, not just Carmelita but by any account all the members of large family clans wanting to purchase Han Shuo’s medicine were convinced that something sinister must have happened to Han Shuo. Many even believed that Han Shuo was murdered.

Carmelita, however, did not!

Having returned from the Miasma Cloud Mountain Range with Han Shuo, Carmelita knew just how skillful Han Shuo was at preserving his own life. Being able to escape from the extremely dangerous situation at the Miasma Cloud Mountain Range while carrying a wounded person had left Carmelita with a deep impression.

Feeling anxious, Carmelita commanded the divine guards under his House of Sainte to look for Han Shuo. Not just the City of Shadows, but even the towns and forts under the sphere of influence received Carmelita’s order. A most thorough search for Han Shuo began.

Simultaneously, Andre, another significant character of the House of Sainte, started his own investigation into Han Shuo’s disappearance.

“What did you find?” Andre asked with squinted eyes. His left pupil turned a dark violet shade, shimmering with ice-cold murder. If Han Shuo was present, he would surely discover that Andre at that moment was nothing like his polite and amiable self in usual times!

A person whose face was covered by a white mask was crouching before Andre. Its pair of eyes, not covered by the mask, was as lifeless and empty as the dead. It would give any observer a most uncomfortable feeling.

“Avery of the House of Lavers drank heavily that night,” a toneless voice that seemed to be devoid of all emotions sounded from behind that white mask.

“Continue,” Andre gently closed his dark purple eye and looked at the character with only his right eye.

“On that day, Avery’s son, Cage, had been to the Fifth Corps. The two had a discussion in a secret chamber with Cage returning to the Lavers Residence soon after that. He has not taken a step outside the Lavers Residence even till this day,” the emotionless voice took a short pause and continued, “However, there are eyewitnesses claiming that Avery did not leave that building of the Fifth Corps all night. He had fallen asleep on top of the building after drinking and only woke up at daybreak.”

“He who excuses himself accuses himself. Since there are people who saw him remain out in the open at the top of the building, he must be the one who did it. It seems I have to pay him a visit!” Andre stood up and opened his left eye. It returned to its original dark gray color, the same as his right eye. His entire demeanor also transformed and he was again that gentlemanly and beaming Andre.

Out of nowhere, Andre appeared at the top of the tower where Avery drank. He sat composedly on that chair which belonged solely to Avery, calmly looking at the blue sky, as he rocked the chair.

Avery, who was below the building and in the middle of something, suddenly creased his brows. He said to the few people before him, “This will be it for the time being. You are all dismissed.”

“My Lord, there are a few more things that need your…"

“I said dismissed!” Avery groaned in a cold voice before the person could finish.

The few were astonished. They hastily withdrew from the room without giving another word.

Avery’s figure became blurred and he appeared before Andre at the next instance.

“I did not expect your arrival, Lord Andre. How may I help you?” Avery opened and poured a bottle of wine as he said to Andre. He then handed Andre a crystal goblet filled with amber-colored liquid, saying, “Fruit wine from the northwest forest of the Life Dominion. Have a taste.”

Andre received the crystal goblet smilingly, took a sip, and praised, “Mmm… Not bad, not bad at all… You really know how to enjoy life, don’t you!”

Avery said nothing but smiled modestly.

Andre downed the goblet of wine. As he gently swayed and stared into the empty goblet in his hand, in a most natural manner, he asked, “So, is Bryan dead or is he still alive?”

The smile on Avery’s face turned stiff and froze in the middle of pouring a cup of wine for himself. After a long while, he resumed the act. He put on a rather bitter smile, shook his head, and replied, “I don’t know…"

 

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