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340 Not To Turn Hope Into Grief

    In one of the high end restaurants placed within Hiel city, were two guards in their lunch break. Both of them were cultivators at the high immortality stage, and their dark tan and skin covered in scars, showed that the two of them were amongst the many mercenaries that had been hired to patrol the city.

    The two were the only customers of the restaurant, as it was still too early for the restaurant to welcome guests open. Nevertheless, the employees of the Golden Karma Company were granted this privilege. Tenting to the restaurant hall, were a girl and a boy in their early teens, while in the kitchen, was the cook that was preparing the dishes in advance for when the customers would arrive.

    "Something is strange with this company.." muttered one of the two men while in between bites, interrupting the silence abruptly.

    The second man, who appeared to be slightly older as demonstrated by the higher concentration of white hair in his hair, turned to look at him, and said, "A low level company that was able to create good connections, and that ended up in a few lucrative deals.. What is so odd about it?"

    "I don't know.. Isn't our pay a little too high? Also, we are in a city, but why is there no production. Only three buildings are being used." Asked the younger guard before taking a small pause to eat a bite of his food. He then added, "Their whole production must be within one of their rings, and that is careless.. If they lose it, the mercenary faction will end up taking the blame because we were unable to protect them!"

    The more the younger guard complained, the more serious the other became. He was significantly older than the other, and while neither of them needed to eat, he was used to having lunches with the mercenaries he was partnered with during every shift, in an attempt to bond with them. His quiet and attentive behaviour would make him pass as a person who would listen to anybody's opinion, and that would keep his ideas to himself.

    This would usually allow him to study the true character of his partners, who by seeing him as a reserved person, would usually end up showing their true character. All of this was done for the purpose of finding people worth befriending, after all, the older cultivator had spent the past twenty thousand years living multiple lives, and while his friends, past wives and even children died out in time, he was only able to bear his long life when he had someone to listen to.. Be it a co worker, or his current wife and children.

    However, for as bored as he was, he still was a mercenary. He had been one for his whole life, and the rules were above all to him.. So when the conversation reached this point, he had started to feel uneasy.

    "Also, how are these merchants so weak? How is it possible that nobody has ever robbed them of their company?" Asked the younger looking cultivator.

    The eyes of the older warrior narrowed, and his actions became almost mechanical. The fork moved into his mouth and down towards his plate, while his pupils were pointed right towards his ranting companion. ".. isn't that the point? How powerful must their connections be-" Said the older warrior in an attempt to eradicate any strange idea from the mind of his partner, before being interrupted..

    While raising his left brow, the younger warrior pointed his fork towards the older guard, and said "Somebody will, sooner or later.. A smart bastard.. I just hope he won't kill us while he does. It would be easier if, by absurd, we took their company.. At least we would have a chance of keeping it for a few years.. Hehe."

    As soon as these words left the guard's mouth, the young girl that was standing near the kitchen's entrance turned towards the door, and entered it nonchalantly. The young boy who was next to her kept moving the chairs and tables around as if nothing was happening, but the expression of his face, showed an increased amount of seriousness.

    The old warrior noticed both of these odd events, so he placed his fork by the side of his dish, and moved his hand closer to the sword he carried.

    While in the middle of a rant, the younger guard was still a high human with tens of thousands of years of experience, and the moment his companion moved, he noticed him, and said "Are you done already? You have been bothering me to come eat every day for lunch since the day we have been partnered together, and now you don't want to eat?"

    The older warrior did not respond, and instead looked at his companion with a stern expression.

    From the door of the kitchen, came out the young girl that was tending to the restaurant hall, along with a woman dressed in simple clothes covered by a white apron. These clothes were dirtied with stains of different colors, and she was drying her wet hands on the tissue that was hanging by the string that kept the apron tightly wrapped around her athletic body.

    This young woman approached the table, and once she arrived in front of it, she bowed in salutation to the older warrior before turning towards the younger one. She then said with a polite and calm tone, "Your contract with the Golden Karma Company has been terminated. Please, leave Hiel city, and report back to the mercenary faction."

    The younger cultivator was taken aback by the words uttered by this young woman, but it was not the same for the older warrior, who after seeing the appearance of this woman, shook his head, and muttered "You should have stopped talking sooner.." At the same time, his fingers touched the hilt of his sword.

    "What? What are you talking about, kitchen girl? Haha!" Said the younger guard before bursting out in laughs. He then turned towards his partner, and asked rethorically "Did you hear what she said?"

    However, what he found in the old warrior's face, was dead seriousness.

    "Article nine, paragraph two, subsection four. 'If a member of the staff expresses a clear intention of harming, stealing, killing, or betraying the Golden Karma Company, his or her contract will be immediately terminated, and he or she will be sent back to the mercenary faction to report.'.. " Said the young woman in order to avoid any sort of confusion.

    Once again, the younger warrior was taken aback. To see a simple cook have that level of knowledge regarding his contract, was ridiculous, so he responded with indignation by saying "That is madness! You are a cook, you have no right to terminate my contract. You better shut your mouth before I throw you into the void like the piece of garbage that you are!"

    The young woman did not seem to be intimidated in the least, and instead said, "Your words were in breach of your contract, which has already been terminated. Please, leave the territory of the Golden Karma Company, or I will be forced to have you dragged out."

    While this would not seem to be a big deal for a person who did not belong to the mercenary faction, it was not the same for those who were. Each mercenary belonged to a certain rank, and each rank was granted based not on the power of the individual, but by his affidability.

    Finding the object that had been requested, being a crucial part when at war, being a model employee.. They would all affect the ranking of the mercenary, which would allow them to receive safer, and better paid jobs.

    Each type of mission had been evaluated, and matched the rank of the warrior to which it was assigned. The result of all of these missions were impossible to predict, as many things could go wrong, but in order to positively affect the mercenaries to which they were assigned, each type had specific rules and indications. For example, in the context of guarding a city, the mission would be considered a failure if a warrior expressed or displayed his intentions in robbing, or harming the client of the faction in any way.. And that was exactly what had happened.

    If the word that he had broken a contract for the mercenary faction in the worst way possible came out, the rank of the younger-looking cultivator would be decreased, and he would be banned from taking part to another protection job for who knows how many years.

    So, when he heard a simple cook come out of her kitchen and fire him on the spot, the first idea that came to his mind, was to grab the knife he was using to eat with, and take the heads of this young woman, and the little girl who had told on him, so that is what he did. He tightened his grip around the metallic knife, and waved his arm with enough speed to turn his arm invisible, but before it could reach the skin of the young woman's neck, a few sparks appeared a few centimeters away, and his arm was pushed back.

    The younger cultivator turned to look at his partner in shock. He was holding his sword, and pointing it directly at him. "I have to kill them! You know I did not mean to do anything! I can't let my rank be lowered again!" He exclaimed in a matter-of-fact tone, almost as if their lives meant nothing at all.

    The older warrior stared at him with a look filled with disappointment, and after shaking his head a couple of times, he said, "Article nine, paragraph one, subsection one, 'The first priority of every guard is the protection of every individual within Hiel city, no matter what their occupation, social status, or economic situation is.' Go back to Militia.. And next time, think before you speak."

    The young woman was pleased by the words of the older warrior, which caused her to let out a faint smile which the younger warrior could not help being irritated by. Unfortunately, that was the straw that broke the camel's back, as he stood up and grabbed his own sword.. but before he could swing it, something odd happened.

    Everything started moving much faster than before, be it the rhythmic breathing of the young woman, or the sword of his partner, who was able to reach him with a speed that he did not believe him to be capable of. Luckily, this lightning fast sword simply struck the back of his hand, right before a large scarred fist approached the back of his head, and knocked him out cold.

    "I apologize on behalf of the Mercenary Faction, Miss Imblen." Said the old warrior to the young woman who was lowering the hand that she had lifted at some point before the attack of the younger warrior, in order to activate the formation that covered the whole city. A formation which was embed with mental power and time essence, and allowed for its wielder to slow, or stop time not only for one's physical body, but also his consciousness.

    "There isn't a tree without bad apples." Said Imblen before letting out a faint laugh. She then added, "Please, report what happened to Lady Saullet, she is already waiting for you in the attic." She then left without waiting for a response, and went back into the kitchen.

    Surprised about how this young woman could be so calm when in front two high immortals, when her cultivation was barely at the immortality stages, the old man approached his unconscious companion, and grabbed him by the chestplate.

    He then opened a portal that led to a point in space trillions of light years in the distance, into a galaxy which belonged to the mercenary faction, and into a building where the mercenaries would need to go to, in order to report the reason why their missions had failed.

    From behind this portal, a middle aged warrior clad in steel armor nodded at him almost as if he knew exactly what he was going to do, and that after the old warrior threw the unconscious cultivator through this portal, he grabbed him, and took him away.

    -----

    Five minutes later.

    "Come in." Said a modulated voice that came from within the office.

    The warrior immediately opened the door, entered the room, and approached the desk behind which a beautiful and noble-looking woman with silver hair was sitting at. "You wanted to see me, lady saullet." He said. His tone was polite, and devoid of any sense of superiority despite his higher power.. after all, to a member of the mercenary faction, a customer was more important that cultivation.

    "Yes, I wanted to talk to you about what happened a few minutes ago.." She said after placing her arms above the desk, and crossing the fingers of her hands into a joined fist.

    An expression of embarrassment appeared on the man's face, as he said "About that, I apologize on the beh-"

    "Let us talk about the chance of becoming the captain of the guards of Hiel city."

    "Oh.." Said the warrior in shock. He had spent the past few minutes wondering whether the whole contract with the mercenary faction would be terminated, but instead, he was here for a promotion. Unfortunately, it was a promotion that he did not wanted. "My apologies Milady, but I am no captain material. I don't want to be feared or excluded by the other guards because I outrank them, if you could simply assign another partner to me, that would be great."

    Emelnie was taken aback. For a mercenary to refuse a better paid job, was unheard of. "Are you sure you won't even consider it?" She asked after right after.

    "Is this a reward for my behaviour?" Asked the warrior with curiosity. A question to which Emelnie responded by nodding her head in confirmation. "Then I would like to make a request instead, if possible.." He then said.

    "Ask away." Said Emelnie.

    "I have heard that the Golden Karma Company has created connections not only thanks to its products, but due to its academy. If possible, I would like for my youngest daughter to attend it.." Said the warrior with a hint of nervousness. He then tried to sell her talents by adding, "She is very smart, and she is much more interested in the study of essences that in becoming a mercenary like her old man. She is extremely well behaved, and as pretty as her mother! Which is one hell of a lot more than I am. Stubborn as a tri-horned mule as well.. Ha! This one time, she tri- Oh, my apologies milady." stopping his rant only after noticing that he had gone full on proud father at some point in the middle of his pitch.

    Worried that his employer might have found his ranting annoying, the warrior immediately apologized, only to notice that the expression on Emelnie's face was not one of annoyance, but one of sadness.

    In his tens of thousands of years, he had seen this expression more than once before.. It was the expression of worry that a parent that hadn't seen their child for a long time would have.

    "You have a daughter?" Asked Emelnie with a broken voice.

    "Yes milady, more than one." Responded the warrior while noticing the eyes of the woman move in the direction of the two plaques on her desk. "Is that your family, milady?" he then asked.

    Emelnie kept looking at the two plaques for a few moments, before saying "Yes, we were separated.. Too long ago." She responded before clearing the tears that had formed in the corners of her eyes, and saying to the warrior "It would be our honor to have your daughter attend our academy. I have no doubt that she will fit in perfectly."

    The warrior bowed his head in a thankful way, then turned around, and began walking towards the door. Before leaving, however, he turned around one more time, and said "As a father, I am sure that your family is doing anything in their power to see you again. The burden of not turning hope into grief, belongs to those who are waiting.. Milady." He then bowed one more time, and left the room.

    After listening to the man's words, Emelnie caressed the faces depicted by the plaques, and muttered "I know you will both come back to me.. Come back soon."

    -----

    Meanwhile, inside what appeared like a planet sized room surrounded by walls of slimy flesh, were two spheres of fully stable spatial essence. One of them was empty, while the other contained a middle aged man with messy hair, dressed with clothes that appeared to have gone through hell. If Daniel could have seen this man, he would have immediately recognized him as his third teacher, the person who had pushed his comprehension of spatial essence into his head by torturing him mentally with it.. Edmund.

    On his face was an expression that was beyond that of irritation, which he used to look around in exasperation, almost as if the worst possible scenario he could have thought about, had just played out right in front of him.

    "I told you! I TOLD YOU A HUNDRED TIMES!" He shouted in the direction of the other sphere. ".. 'No they will ignore us!', 'They look so silly!', 'They are mostly harmless'... MY ASS! You got us both eaten!!" he said with anger after repeating a few phrases he had heard over and over again in the last couple of years.

    He and the spatial elemental whom he traveled with, were now in the stomach of one of the monsters of the void.
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