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475 I Will Protect You From the Shadows

    Empress's palace, midnight.

    Anima was a constructed planet, and as such, it did not possess a night and day system which would separate its opposite sides into two different times of the day. Just like the ground and sky, the time of the day was carried by a formation, which would cover the planet with a layer of solar light during the day, and remove it during the night, allowing the entire globe to fall into the familiar darkness of the night.

    Despite this odd detail, neither night time or day time appeared different than that of any other planet, and yet, while Alesia looked at the expanse of grass that extended far away into the horizon from behind her room's window, she felt uncomfortable.

    What was making her uncomfortable were not the numerous seamstresses who had been tasked with sewing her dress on her body, nor were the looks of hostility that she had had to bear for the last few days. What was making her feel weird was the unnatural silence caused by the complete lack of animals and insects.

    Trapped in her own mind, she had tried to take comfort into the beautiful scenery, just like she used to do after a long day of training on Daniel pocket dimension, but for some reason, this planet felt infinitely colder. Not a living sound was produced by the constructed planet, and the otherwise noisy night was now uncomfortably quiet.

    "Please, do not move." Said an old woman right before starting to adjust the waist of the dress, which so far, looked like a crude mess of snow-white silk and golden threads.

    Alesia had become dull to other people's interactions, and at this point, she had decided to live these days in her own mind, not paying attention to what was happening to her body. Not even when one of the seamstresses had erroneously pierced a needle into her pale skin, and sewn the dress onto her body, did she react, causing the seamstress to panic as soon as she noticed the bloodstain ruin hours of work.

    Her dull expression was only disturbed once by a faint shine that came from a few kilometers in the distance, right behind a treeline that marked the beginning of a thickly constructed forest. However, this faint shine disappeared as soon as it appeared, leaving her to guess what its origin could possibly be, and a few seconds later, back into her estranged state of mind.

    -----

    Right where Alesia had seen a shine of light, was now a crowd of cultivators whose appearances were covered by large hooded robes. This crowd was divided into different smaller factions, whose leaders were grouped up in a clear patch of ground in the middle, and busy discussing an important matter.

    "Why are you here?" Asked a tall man with pale skin, long sharp nails, and two glowing eyes that shone through the shade produced by the hood. Despite his disguise, all of those present were aware that this man, along with those that followed him close behind, were the members of a faction called 'Dark Crawler', a form of vampiric kind of ki warrior which would cultivate through the consumption of human blood at the expense of a weakness to light.

    "We are just enjoying the majestic view.. We don't have many chances to enjoy the work of our Emperor." Responded a woman covered in a similar, yet slightly more refined black robe. She was the leader of a small faction called 'Spirit Hunters', a minor group of spiritual cultivators that since the day of its creation, had been subjected to the spiritual emperor, and was tasked with hunting talents spiritual cultivators for the faction to accept as apostles.

    After giving a vague answer, the woman turned to look at the leader of the Dark Crawlers, and asked, "What about you? I am really curious about what reason would bring a group of ki warriors to wander a planet constructed by spiritual essence."

    "Oh, you jest. Darkness is the moment in which we are the most comfortable. If we could have wandered this beautiful planet during day time without feeling weakened, we would have." Responded the tall and pale man with a smile shrouded in a darkness that could not hide his oddly long and pointy canines.

    Similar exchanges were happening between the leaders of many other groups, who fabricated the most ingenuous excuses to justify their presence. However, no matter how clever or reasonable these excuses were, all of them knew that they shared the same objective. As part of those visited by the first bishop, after listening to his words, they had decided to try their luck, and gamble their whole existence for a chance at breaking through the limits of their universe.

    However, there was only one Alesia.

    While these groups stood in a stalemate, perched over a tree branch a few kilometers away from this odd assembly of cultivators, was Daniel. He had been lying in wait for hours, and now, he had finally found the first wave of cultivators who had decided to fulfill the request of the first bishop.

    Since he could not use his senses to feel his surroundings, Daniel had decided to observe the entire continent with the use of some boulders he had collected from his planet, and released into Anima's atmosphere right after Yuto's visit. These boulders contained his power, and with them, Daniel had created a net of satellites with which he could observe the entire area around the castle where Alesia was being held.

    After discovering the group of cultivators, Daniel did not act, and instead maintained his position, observing how things would evolve. If he was lucky, the various groups would see too many risks in acting after being discovered, and would soon disperse.

    But, alas, his incredible luck was not high enough to counter the desire that these cultivators felt towards changing the destiny of their factions, and after no longer than twenty minutes, they seemed to agree on sharing the possible rewards they would obtain by giving Alesia's body to the envoy of the soul clan.

    When Daniel saw them preparing an attack, he sucked air through his teeth. He then looked at the dark sky, and pointed his opened hand towards it.

    In the dark sky, where the individual lights of thousands of stars could be seen, a few of these lights started to behave abnormally, growing in size, and changing color from the faint white light they possessed before, to a reddish glow.

    The assembly of cultivators seemed to have reached an agreement, but right before they could send the designated assassins to kill Alesia, the leader of the Dark Crawlers turned to look at the sky, "What is that?" He asked with confusion.

    This confusion was immediately erased from his mind as the many individual star-like lights kept growing in size, forming long trails as they moved closer to the surface. Horror appeared on the pale face of the ki warrior as he barked, "A meteor outburst! Disperse!"

    After hearing the words of the ki warrior, the other cultivators turned to look at the sky, and quickly noticed the impressive number of meteoroids that seemed to be heading in their direction. Without waiting a second longer, any form of agreement was forgotten, and in fear that this odd event would attract unwanted attention, the groups dispersed without leaving any trace of their presence behind.

    A few minutes after the disappearance of the assembly of cultivators, the many bright meteors dissipated before even landing on the planet's constructed surface, leaving the terrain completely unaltered.

    Daniel looked at the now empty area with a smile, as numerous spiritual cultivators appeared on site, and started to wonder what had happened.

    "How the hell did you miss a meteor outburst until just after it entered the planet's atmosphere?" Asked an old woman dressed in bishop's clothes to an even older, yet lower ranked cultivator.

    "Ninth bishop, there is no damage to the planet's crust, nor are there residue of the meteors.. It is likely that it was just a small cluster of fist-sized rocks that escaped our control. We usually don't pay attention to these events.. Because it's nothing worth mentioning." Said the old man in an attempt to calm the anger of the ninth bishop. He knew that she was amongst the most loyal members of the spiritual faction, and to her, this small event constituted a  potential threat for the future empress, who was resting in the palace just a few kilometers away.

    Naturally, neither of the two could have imagined that this event would have never been a threat to Alesia even if ten thousand times in magnitude. After all, it was Daniel who had created it by using the fragments of his planet to ruin the plans of the scheming cultivators, not unlike turning on the lights around a building that was about to be robbed. Not to mention being a threat to Alesia, this action had likely saved her life.

    Unhappy about his unbothered reaction, the ninth bishop scolded the old man's incompetence, and then, went back to her palace along with the rest of the spiritual cultivators.

    With Alesia out of danger, Daniel leaned onto the tree's trunk, and closed his eyes, but soon after, he was shaken awake by an oddly sweet voice that reached his ear from far away. Daniel turned to look at the deeper part of the woods, right where this enticing voice was coming from, and after a few moments, he jumped down the tree, and walked towards the voice's origin.

    Daniel casually threw a hundred more small rocks in the sky as he went deeper and deeper into the woods, only stopping when, after a few hundred meters, he finally saw a group of hooded cultivators.

    This group of cultivators was composed of around ten people, a group which Daniel would have preferred to avoid, if only the woman to which the voice belonged, hadn't spoken directly in his ear. Since this group was already aware of his presence, and Daniel had felt some sort of familiarity with the voice, he had decided to investigate.

    After sensing these warriors, Daniel felt surprised to learn that virtually all of them belonged to different kinds of cultivation paths, with ki warriors, spiritual, mental, immortal, and odd kinds of cultivators in their midst. However, while such a diversified group was strange to see, for some reason, his attention was taken by the shortest person within the group, who due to the curves present on the chest area, Daniel guessed to be a woman.

    "It has been awhile.. Host." Said the woman before bringing her slender fingers up to the hood that was covering her face, and removing it, revealing a face which Daniel recognized right away as that of one of Iewah's children. Kreah, also known as 'The Lover'.

    Kreah's voice sounded extremely sweet to Daniel's ears, to a point where, if not for his mental fortitude and mental cultivation, he would have undoubtedly fallen on his knees and confessed his love for her.

    However, after a few minutes of struggle against the seductive methods of Sewah's sister, his expression relaxed, and he found peace by looking at the young woman with an enamoured smile.

    After seeing that her powers had succeeded, Kreah approached Daniel in a seductive manner, and cupped her hands over his handsome face. "Oh Outcast.. So special and powerful, and yet no different than any other man.." She said with contempt as Daniel grabbed her wrist, and lowered his head in an attempt to kiss the back of her hand, but he was quickly stopped by the young woman, who added, "Just like a little pup.. I have wanted to kill you for such a long time, but maybe, before I do, you can show me how much you love me, and be of use to me."

    Daniel responded with a sweet smile which reflected his desire to do anything that the young woman would ask him to do.

    Satisfied by Daniel's response, Kreah said, "Bring me the corpse of the girl. Then, attack the spiritual emperor." Her intention was not only to force Daniel to kill Alesia and bring her corpse back to her, but also to send Daniel to his death once he would complete his first task.

    The smile on Daniel's face turned into an expression of pure happiness.. One that showed how important it was for him to fulfill his love's desire, but right as he was about to accept the task, his enamoured expression turned into one of amusement, followed by a loud chuckle.

    Kreah looked at Daniel with confusion, and for a moment, she felt a feeling of flashback thunder in her mind, but before she could react, Daniel's fingers were already wrapped around her throat, and her power was being siphoned by Daniel's comprehension of dark essence.

    "I can't believe you have fallen for the same trick twice.." muttered Daniel while shaking his head in disappointment.
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