GDK 996: A Sigh
The God of Death Nestor didn't continue the conversation with Han Shuo and instead vanished, leaving Han Shuo feeling rather odd about the situation. Back then, after rescuing his family and escaping from the Dominion of Death, he was still a little worried if Nestor would still seek him out at the Fringe and deal with him on account of Hill and Sha-t'o. Although he had a few guesses, he couldn’t be certain.
Yet, decades later, he actually made a return to the dominion on Nestor's invitation. Not only was he not worried about Nestor digging up old grievances, he could even talk to him normally. It would have been unimaginable to him back then.
When he thought about it, the only reason he could talk with Nestor as equals was the fact that he was now on a wholly different level, earning Nestor's acknowledgement. The reason Nestor had left him alone the whole time was because he felt that he still had some value, though he didn't take him that seriously yet, hence him having not shown up before him at that time. It appeared that it was only through gaining power that one could change one’s status and fate, and having true peace of mind.
Han Shuo smiled and shook his head, abandoning that train of thought as he made his way to the Dominion of Darkness at a leisurely pace. He had many acquaintances there, for instance, the citizens of the City of Shadows, namely, Erebus, Andre, Aobashi, Carmelita and so on. Apart from that, there was Donna from Hushveil City. The thought of Donna always sent a pang of guilt through him.
The meeting with the Gods of Destruction, Darkness, and Death would take place in the Dominion of Darkness, so Han Shuo intended to visit his acquaintances in the meantime before heading to Hushveil City to have a good talk with Donna. After making up his mind, he flew a little faster, all the while working to fuse the energies of his two avatars.
Meanwhile at the Sainte household in the City of Shadows, Erebus, Andre, Carmelita, and Aobashi were discussing the battle of the gods in hushed voices. Ever since Wallace had been killed at the City of Gorging Clouds, Andre took up the position of city lord of the City of Shadows. While he wasn't as powerful as Wallace, he was great at managing city affairs. In the past years, the city had developed considerably under his watch. Andre's charisma and amiability allowed him to deepen his relationships with the other great households, and unlike Wallace, didn't push the other households away just because they were powerful and could be a threat to his reign.
It was thanks to Andre's qualities that the city had developed even further. Unlike Wallace, violent conflict didn't break out often in the city. However, him being relatively weaker had impeded his authority somewhat. The patriarchs of the major households in the city weren't too respectful towards him because he couldn't dominate them in brute strength. If not for the fact that Andre was personally appointed by the God of Darkness to be the city lord, they might have long attempted to work together and depose him.
"Yarus had sent word for us to gather all the guardians to prepare for a joint attack from the Dominions of Light, Life and Water. Sounds like they are planning something huge rather than a simple probing attack." Andre seemed rather troubled. After some hesitation, he said, "However, the Kinson, Kisa, and Buller families all have their own plans and don't intend to utilize the forces of their households so soon. They are hoping that someone else will take the brunt of the attack and are going against my orders. Things really are tough."
Carmelita humphed her displeasure. "Those fellows are going more and more overboard. I think we should make it clear where the authority lies and even use force if we have to."
Andre started and hesitated. After a pause, he sighed. "Carmelita, I know what you mean, but the three families are rather powerful. It isn't the right time to act against them when we're in such a critical juncture. Do you think we're powerful enough to pull them in line?"
Carmelita shut up after hearing that, though she looked rather grim. No matter how reckless she was, she knew that the Sainte family could no longer overpower the three other families. Not to mention, this was the time when they needed to unite the most. If the Sainte family really did something like that, they might end up angering the God of Darkness and lose his favor entirely.
While the heads of the three other families weren't really obedient to Andre, they at least had to maintain a semblance of respect for him and didn't dare to act against the Sainte family, all thanks to the message from the God of Darkness that Yarus had relayed. They feared the Overgod rather than the Sainte family themselves.
"Oh well, we can only endure this. Once it all passes, I will enter seclusion to cultivate. As long as I reach the late stage, those three will settle down," Andre said, "We have to make sure that we stay united at all costs. We can't afford otherwise."
"But the unity simply won't hold! If they don't obey your directives, we will be unable to consolidate the city's strength. If Yarus comes asking about it later, we will be the ones to take the fall. The God of Darkness might even fault us for it too," Erebus said.
"Then what can we do?" Andre said with a hint of desperation.
"I heard that Bryan is doing pretty well for himself in the Fringe and even managed to get rid of someone as powerful as Gyál. If he does come to the City of Shadows, those folks won't even dare to let out a single fart," Aobashi whispered after some hesitation and careful glances.
The moment she said that, Carmelita and Andre's expressions changed. Carmelita yelled, "Why did you bring him up? Didn't we say that we will never mention that name ever again?"
"Sigh, we can't blame Bryan for that..." Erebus muttered, having always been rather close to Aobashi.
"No matter what, that doesn't change the fact that the Sainte family, my father especially, treated him very well. Yet, he didn't even spare my father! I don't want to hear the name of someone so sinister ever again!" she snapped.
"That's right. No matter what, Big Brother was killed by him. Even if we used to have a good relationship, we can never get along ever again," Andre growled uncharacteristically.
"Then why did the City of Shadows not take part in the plan Yarus suggested to kill Bryan in the Fringe?" Aobashi asked.
Andre and Carmelita didn't say a single word, but their expressions were terrifying. Sighing inwardly, Aobashi didn't say anything else. She knew better than anyone that the grudge between them and Han Shuo wasn't something that could be resolved with just words.
Before Han Shuo killed Wallace, he was the best of friends with Andre and Carmelita. Yet, when Wallace wanted to deal with him, those two crossed family boundaries to defend him from Wallace and even helped the Han family on various other occasions. However, Wallace had undeniably died at Han Shuo's hands.
This was a conflict so complex that even Aobashi had no resolution to. It wasn't that she and Erebus hadn't tried to talk the other two out of it, but they had decided that Han Shuo shouldn't have killed Wallace no matter what and had never forgiven him for it.
Just then, a long sigh could be heard coming from the outside. It sounded really sentimental, but seemed to slowly fade away into the distance.
"Who goes there?!" the guards of the Sainte family yelled. They were within a secret meeting room, access to which was forbidden to anyone and everyone. So, the innocuous sigh provoked the strongest of reactions from the guards as they armed up to track the person down.
Andre, Carmelita, Erebus, and Aobashi were all stunned when they heard the familiar voice. After a long moment, Erebus stood up suddenly and said, "Was I hallucinating? I think I heard Bryan's voice."
"It can't be. He should be in the Fringe now. There's no way he'd show up here. Erebus, you're too tense these days," Aobashi said, before she snapped alert too. "Wait, I also heard it too, so it can't have been a hallucination. But there's no way Bryan can be here now... It must just be someone who sounds similar. Let me go out to take a look."
Just as she got up and was about to go outside, Carmelita snapped, "It's him! It's definitely him!" She was biting her lip so hard that she almost bled.
Andre also stood up abruptly as if he had thought of something. He turned to look at Carmelita before slowly sitting back down. "Let's leave him be. Let him leave."
"How could we?" Aobashi said, "That person probably heard what we said! If it isn't Bryan, then we have to find out who he is! If he is Bryan, even if you don't want to meet him, Erebus and I do! We're still his friends! If he's in the city, we'll meet him no matter what!"
Aobashi turned to Erebus, who quickly nodded and agreed. However, they didn't leave immediately and instead paid attention to how Andre and Carmelita would react.