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489 A Surprisingly Forced Invitation

    Contrary to most of the others, the question of the young-looking researcher of the Soul Clan was only answered by a few selected individuals, and the reason for that was obvious even for a first-timer like Daniel. The time on stage for each researcher was limited, and while those who belonged to big clans were allowed to stay as long as they would like provided that there was nobody else after them, they would rarely do so. This slightly different form of exchange was conducted more as a public conversation between a few high ranking researchers, to which, as a show of respect, those who lacked a useful take to the problem would stay out of to avoid wasting time.

    Daniel was quick to realize this, and since he was not in the position to intervene even if he wanted to, he chose to stay quiet, and let the exchange of opinions proceed without him. Instead, he spent the following ten minutes pretending to be bored by the subject that was being discussed, until finally, after only fifteen minutes since the beginning of the exchange, he extended a polite greeting to the red-robed cultivator that was sitting next to him. He then sprung up on his feet, and walked away in front of all of those present.

    To walk out in this situation was considered an offence towards a researcher's work, but Daniel had a reason for acting like that. He needed to appear uninterested and unrelated to the very existence of this young woman, so that he would not appear suspicious in the future of what he was planning to do.

    -----

    Soon enough, one question after another, the thirty minutes had passed. No one would have stopped the researcher of the Soul Clan from continuing, had she wanted to, but it was tradition that the researchers respected their time limit, both to allow the researchers of smaller clan, who would never dare to leave while in the middle of a conversation, to go back to their work, as well as to prevent researchers from finding a distraction from their work in what was being discussed.

    The Soul Clan was known as an overbearing clan, and yet, since the young woman had found this conversation useful, and had managed to find a certain level of inspiration that would fuel her research for the following few hundred years, she decided to respect this tradition. After greeting the researchers whose standing could match her own, she left the Agora, and headed back towards her research facility along with a few other researchers, who could be considered her juniors.

    The walk back lasted a few minutes, in which the researchers that had accompanied her asked for her guidance in their own problems, only to leave soon after. After roughly ten minutes, her facility appeared on sight, and she was left alone. She dragged her feet towards the familiar building in which she had spent so many years, thinking of the direction towards which her inspiration would take her research. However, just as she came close to the entrance of the formation that protected what had been her private space for thousands of years, her surroundings became a blur, and she found herself inside a large empty room.

    Her power surged in an instant, and she tried to use it to force herself out of this unknown space, but the room was protected by a spatial formation constructed with the essences of darkness.. More specifically, the concept of absorption, which would absorb a great amount of her power almost as fast as it would be produced, depriving her of the strength to escape.

    Unable to leave, she suddenly calmed down and looked around the room in hope to find her bearings. It was only a few moments later that her eyes landed on Daniel's figure, who was resting against the wall while looking at her with a composed attitude.

    "You.." she muttered before releasing more of her power in an attempt to wrestle the control of the surrounding space out of Daniel's hands. Unfortunately, it did not matter how much power she tried to use, the formation seemed to be a bottomless pit that would absorb as much as she would release at an even speed.

    "It's pointless. Even if you were to destroy this formation, there are a dozen more that will keep you trapped there.." Muttered Daniel with a matter-of-fact tone and a faint smile. Then, after suddenly turning serious, he added, "At least this one isn't painful."

    The young woman stopped trying to escape. Instead, she turned to look at him and with a calmer attitude that betrayed her seething anger, she said, "You are making a big mistake. Release me this instant, or your existence will be obliterated by the end of today." There was no fear in her voice. Just an immense anger paired with a vast degree of shock. Daniel's actions were so random, sudden and in the open, that kidnapping someone from the Laboratory was akin to murdering someone while in the middle of a large crowd.. And yet, he had had the guts to do just that.

    Daniel ignored the threats of the young woman. He used his elbows to push himself away from the wall, and walked in her direction. Once just a few steps away, his right arm became a blur that approached her face, grabbed her, and pulled her closer to him. The young woman had noticed Daniel's hand approaching, but due to the restriction of the formation, she was unable to react in time.

    While clawing at the mouth of the young woman Daniel released his emotional aura, charged with the hate, disgust and killing intent he felt for her and the other researchers he had met, and said with a bone chilling tone, "Yaqi. Tell me where he is, or I will make you wish for a quick death."

    The young woman noticed Daniel's seriousness, and yet, she scoffed at him. She then grabbed his wrist and pulled her head away from his grasp. "You don't understand.. You are already dead, and you don't even know it yet." She right before the sound of knocking reached Daniel's ears.

    Daniel silently looked at the door from which originated the rhythmic sound, and before long, he turned towards the young woman, and said, "This is your last chance to answer. I won't be as nice if I have to ask again." His tone was calm and unbothered to a point where, to the young woman, it did not seem that Daniel had understood in what kind of situation he was. In her mind that could have only been because Daniel was new, and had no idea of the degree of power possessed by the inhabitants of the spiritual world, and yet, as she saw his confidence, she could not help but feel slightly uneasy.

    Her silence was answered by a look of disappointment from Daniel, who calmly walked towards the door, and opened it. "What is it?" He asked the group of guards that were waiting outside, accompanied by the researcher in glasses whom he had met when moving into the Laboratory.

    "Sorry to bother you.. but the temporal alarm of one of the Laboratory's VIPs went off. When we went to check whether she had simply forgotten to reset it once back at her facility from the forum, we found it empty. We are currently looking for her." Said the man in researcher clothes with messy hair, and thick glasses. Despite his appearance, this man's main occupation was not his research, but the security of the Laboratory. That was a task that had been assigned to him ever since the very creation of this sanctuary.

    Daniel shrugged his shoulders in confusion. "Who is it that you are looking for?" he asked.

    "A researcher of the Soul Clan. A young and good looking woman with a cultivation at the late godhood stage. She was last seen wearing brown robes with a cut to the right side. She was the last speaker at today's forum." Said the man with glasses while taking a step closer to the door.

    With feigned confusion, Daniel pressed his shoulder against the door frame, and said, "Was there someone like that at the forum?"

    The first thing that the man with glasses had done after the disappearance of the young woman, was to check with the guards of the Agora, who had reported that Daniel appeared uninterested by the young woman's question, and left early, which gave legitimacy to Daniel's reaction, but his instincts told him that something was odd.

    "Yes. She was the last one.." He said before letting the phrase trail off. After a few moments of silence, he looked past Daniel's figure and into the room, but the interior was clouded by various formations. "Would you mind if we took a look inside?" He then casually asked.

    Daniel's expression turned from one of confusion and irritation, into one of outrage. "This is ridiculous. What is the point of having a private research facility if you barge in whenever something happens? Is this really about a lost researcher? Or is it really about my own research?" He asked with indignation.

    "It's nothing like that. There has never been a kidnapping of a high profile researcher in the Laboratory ever since it was created.. And even when it happened before that, we would at least have a trace of the spirit.. But she is just gone. We are looking for her in other facilities as we speak, starting from those who have seen her last." Responded the man with glasses with what appeared like a genuine apologetic attitude.

    Daniel appeared to be halfway convinced by these words, but before he could say anything, the man with glasses added, "We can wait right here while you gather your research, but you have to release the protective formations right now."

    With no reason to refuse, Daniel sighed in resignation, and muttered, "Fine.." he then deactivated every single cloaking formation around the facility by waving his hand, revealing a room filled with basic furniture whose surfaces were entirely covered by uncountable sheets of paper. Once finished, Daniel quickly made sure that the group of guards had no intention of barging in before going back inside, and starting to collect what appeared to be the research on which he had worked on since his arrival to the Laboratory. Daniel hurriedly recovered every single piece of paper, and erased the blackboards mounted on the wall almost as if to protect the work of his life.

    The researcher with glasses noticed this behaviour, but paid no mind to it, as it was not odd in the situation Daniel was currently in. When Daniel was visibly done, he once again moved closer to the door, "Can we enter now?" he asked while poking in with his head.

    "Come in.." Said Daniel while piling up his research, and hiding it into his spatial ring.

    "Enjoy your last moments." Said the young woman with contempt. She was standing in a cage about a third of the size of the main hall placed in the left corner, and that could only be seen once inside the residence. She could not understand why Daniel would commit suicide by letting them in, but as she saw the guards and the man with glasses enter the hall, she could not help but begin to think of all the ways she could have killed Daniel once freed. "I am here! It was him! He kidnapped me!" She shouted with anger and indignation.

    Unfortunately, her hopes for revenge were shattered as the man with glasses scouted the room with his eyes, and ignored her presence completely. "Hey! I am here!! LOOK AT ME!" She screamed repeatedly while using every bit of power left in her body to struggle against the formation.. But, alas, that was all for nothing.

    What she did not know was that the cage in which Daniel had trapped her was not a common one. Space and darkness were the essences that were incapacitating and trapping here, but there was another essence within the formation. One that separated her from the rest of the facility not by solid space, but by time. Where she was standing, the man with glasses could see nothing but an empty corner of the room, as her cage was physically there, but stuck twenty minutes in the future.
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