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237 Ice & Blood

    Kiba stood with his arms stretched as the chilling winds swept past him, carrying snowflakes as gentle and pure as a goose feather.

    The trees continued to be covered in snow and ice just like the ground, though occasionally grains of vivid saffron came in sight.

    Kiba took some of those grains in his hand along with delicate snowflakes and observed them as a smile blossomed on his face. His smile was filled with innocence and happiness just like a toddler who has been armed with crayons.

    He was no longer the infamous debauchee the world has known. The crystalline snow has touched a part of him that he never knew existed.

    "Are you fine?" Ashlyn's voice came from behind.

    "Ah! Yes!"

    Startled, Kiba let go of the snow in his hands. Not to mention Ashlyn, even he was surprised by his own behavior.

    Ashlyn raised her towards the sky which was now shrouded by the darkness of the night.

    "It is late," Ashlyn said as she stepped beside him.

    "Yeah," Kiba observed the sky and the surrounding before continuing. "Not the best time to find Iceblood Flower."

    Ashlyn nodded in agreement.

    The frost energy in the domain of ice and snow was obviously higher in the night compared to the day. This also meant the night was not the best time to search and pluck an ice-attribute flower.

    Kiba stretched his hand and a white beam of light shot out of his index finger. The light beam landed some distance away on the ground and transformed into a metallic cube.

    The cube opened up in a blinding flash. When the flash subsidized, instead of the cube on the ground, there was a camping house.

    Kiba and Ashlyn stepped in the house and walked to the kitchen section. The kitchen was advanced, filled with modern equipment and amenities.

    Kiba took out vegetables from a drawer and washed them under a tap in the sink. He then opened the refrigerator where meat was stored. Earlier during their journey, he has hunted for wild chickens and other beasts. Now, they would serve as their meal.

    Behind, Ashlyn took a seat across a table. She was not a good cook, no, she was no cook at all. She didn't even know how to peel an onion much less the actual cooking.

    Her cold, poker face was slightly flushed from embarrassment at her inability to help. She didn't like owing favors but she didn't know how to pay this favor.

    She has brought energy pills with her which could substitute for the real food by providing the required nutrition. Obviously, if freshly prepared food was available, she wouldn't prefer to use the pills.

    Kiba didn't even think much of cooking or her inability to share the workload.

    For years he hasn't really cooked himself. He would either have food out in restaurants or Claudia would prepare through the droids. But even with that, he has enough experience in cooking thanks to the life he lived in the slums. Obviously, in the slums, he never had nutritious food much less tasty.

    Yet his expertise in food was top notch. This was mainly due to the professional life he lived as Kiba. In his line of business, a man like him needs to be skilled in various fields if he has to succeed. After all, his targets have various tastes and hobbies, and just being witty and handsome wouldn't get him to bed.

    Some twenty minutes later.

    Kiba placed the dishes on the dining table: Cobb salad, winter minestrone, porra antequera, fajita, tomato bisque, and chicken quesadilla.

    The two started their dinner with no conversation. It was strange for Kiba to not have a talk while sitting across a woman, but he didn't really focus on that any longer. He just enjoyed the food and so did Ashlyn.

    After the dinner was completed, Ashlyn cleaned the table and placed the plates on the dishwasher. She felt this was the least she could do.

    Kiba was rather amused and he allowed her to do as she pleased.

    "Good night," Kiba said as he stepped inside his bedroom.

    Ashlyn nodded and she walked to a room opposite to his.

    Inside the room, Kiba opened the window and looked outside. Snow continued to pour heavily while strong breeze swept forward, carrying chilling air.

    "Why is this sense of familiarity turning stronger?"

    Kiba thought before shaking his head. He latched the window close and after ensuring the security arrangements were working, he lay down on the bed.

    He looked at the ceiling, and in a few minutes, the sleep embraced him, and a dream engulfed his consciousness...

    In a land of snow and trees, icy mist swirled in the air along with countless snow crystals. The enormous trees seemed desolate while the air was bitter and chilling.

    Suddenly, a faint cry broke the silence.

    "Congratulations, my lady, you have a son," A middle-aged woman's voice came.

    "Zed...that's his name," A young, soft voice followed, filled with weakness and exhaustion. "That's the name he wanted."

    "Zed? A nice name, my lady. Here he is, whimpering, eyes filled with misty tears."

    The silhouette of a woman appeared, shrouded by mist.

    "Zed."

    "My lady, he would definitely make a name for himself."

    The world suddenly turned dark, as if the veil of sleep has masked it.

    In the darkness, heart-wrenching screams followed. The darkness ripped apart and a misty sky came in sight.

    The sunlight filled the cold air with a warm embrace and vibrant colors. Smoke and colorful streams of light materialized along with growls of beasts.

    "That kid doesn't deserve to live!"

    A rough and arrogant voice followed with a burst of laughter, and the sky was instantly replaced by a haughty figure.

    Just like everything in this world, the figure was blurred, as if seen through the teary eyes of a toddler.

    As the figure closed in, a sigil of an endless knot overlayed everything. The knot was half red and half black, the borderline being gold.

    Suddenly, a strong screeching sound of the air being ripped apart overpowered every sound in the world.

    "Red Wolf! AHHH!!"

    The world started shaking with heavy rumblings as if a giant was smashing the ground.

    Once again, darkness shrouded everything.

    Some time later, the light broke through the darkness like a piece of frail glass, and snowy trees appeared. One tree proceeded another as if the world was moving while soft snow floated.

    Two thin and short hands stretched to catch the snow. The hands caught a snowflake, pure and unadulterated.

    Just then, a drop of blood seeped with the snowflake, turning it into crimson. The snow melted, dying the fingers red.

    Screams, yell, shouts, and indistinct sounds followed.

    A bulky man with long hairs appeared above the hands, sporting a sinister grin.

    "Kid, this is just business."

    A crystalline claw, with sharp and glittering edges, moved towards the source of the world.

    ...

    Meanwhile, in the camping house.

    Kiba lay on the bed, his eyes closed. Suddenly, his hands rapidly moved on his neck as if trying to free from some formless pressure.

    Kiba twisted around while his body rapidly drenched with cold sweat. His heartbeat and breathing rate turned a notch higher.

    In his throat, the hot, wet and metallic taste of blood appeared...
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