68 Start of War

Inside Come and Dine.

The tavern was bustling this morning. New faces could be seen around. Few of them wore hooded cloaks, hiding their faces. Though rare, such an outfit was not uncommon.

After breakfast, Artix would go out and take a walk outside. It may be a side-effect of the road or maybe his own habit, but Artix liked to walk aimlessly.

Artix found several groups sneaking here and there. He didn't find humans among them.

"Two more days, two more days..." he muttered in an inaudible manner.

He would not pay attention to them. If these few groups found him then good, if they didn't, he did not care. His goal had already been achieved. He could leave anytime he wanted to.

Artix arrived at a shopping street. People were walking up and down the street. They were carrying bags and many items as they conversed with each other. Haggling and advertising were common scenes.

Artix walked along as he thought about many things. His thoughts were only known to himself. He didn't hide from the world. He walked like a Mortal.

Suddenly, a black-hooded woman arrived on the street. She walked normally in the opposite direction of Artix. When they crossed each other. The woman whispered something to him.

"My lord, could you please follow me to have a chat?" Her voice was pleasant and soft, enough to cause stirs in the hearts of men.

Artix nodded slightly before he continued walking like nothing happened. The woman also continued walking before she entered a secluded bar. She sat down at a table in the corner.

No one paid attention to her, like she didn't exist. Suddenly, a man appeared near the table. He wore a black suit and a top hat. He had four eyes.

The woman stood up as she removed her hood. She had long red hair and a pair of blue eyes. She was Beatrix. Her cleavage was slightly revealed. She bowed in greeting.

"Thank you for accepting my invitation, my lord," Beatrix said while smiling elegantly.

Artix, too, bowed, "It is nothing."

"Please do take a seat, my lord," Beatrix said.

Artix nodded as he took his seat. He didn't wait for Beatrix to say anything as he started first, "Could you perhaps be from Luminous Visage?"

Beatrix was shocked slightly before recovering her calm. "Indeed, have you heard of us my lord?" She said.

"No, I have not," Artix said.

Beatrix froze for a moment.

"So, what did you want to chat about?" Artix asked, ignoring her expression.

"Before that my lord, would you like something to drink?" Beatrix asked after she recovered.

"No, I am fine," Artix said.

"Are you sure, not even tea?" Beatrix asked gently.

"No," Artix replied directly.

Beatrix shook her head slightly as she took out two cups from her storage tool. She elegantly filled them with tea as she put one in front of Artix, "Please have a taste, my lord," she said as she took a sip from her own cup. Her manners impeccable.

Artix looked at the cup and then looked at her. She was smiling at him.

"They sent you to seduce me?" Artix asked.

Beatrix titled her in confusion, "I do not understand, my lord."

Artix nodded as if he confirmed his guess, "You think I am an inexperienced kid?"

Beatrix was slightly flustered, but she didn't show it on her face, she appeared slightly aggrieved and fearful as she said, "I dare not, my lord, was it not just serving you tea? If you don't like it then I will take it away."

She then extended her hand to take the cup back. Artix didn't say anything as he looked at her with his usual smile.

Artix nodded again. His behaviour was causing Beatrix to become more and more tense. But, she didn't show it. Not even her heartbeat was affected. She took the cup back as she put it away.

"You thought I would apologise and stop you from taking the cup?" Artix asked again.

Beatrix displayed a slightly angry expression, "My lord, it is rude to judge people arbitrarily."

"Indeed," Artix nodded, "I completely agree."

Beatrix became confused inwardly.

"Time is one heck of a monster," Artix said, sighing slightly.

Beatrix became even more confused.

"Time gives birth to free time. Free time gives birth to wandering thoughts. Wandering thoughts give birth to devious thoughts. Devious thoughts plant the seed of thought. Thought can be anything, it can be desire, it can be doubt, it can be love, it can be rebellion or even degeneracy. Thought increases naturally if left unattended. Until the dam floods. There is no stopping it if that happens," Artix said with his smile.

Beatrix was totally lost now.

Artix continued, completely ignoring her, "A man and a woman sitting around a table, having a nice chat. They have plenty of time on hand. Naturally, devious thoughts will be born. It is inevitable."

Beatrix was starting to get nervous.

"But, planting requires a hole. The mind is a solid surface, full of barriers, not suitable for planting," Artix said.

"These barriers need to be removed first, only then will the seed take root," Artix said after a slight pause.

"A man and a woman sitting around a table. Total strangers. They will naturally have barriers against each other. So, how do we crack it?" Artix asked.

Without waiting for her to reply, he continued, "One is to force your way through. Two is to use an impact. Three is to leave it to time. Four is to let them open up for you. Different situations require different actions."

Beatrix didn't drop her act yet.

"You don't have much time on hand. So, you have to resort to the other three options. To force your way in is to take the lead. To serve me tea though I refused. If I took it, then it would be me accepting you. The barrier would crack slightly. But, I didn't. I made a fuss. Albeit, not in the way you expected. You then made it look like it was wrong of me to make a fuss over nothing. I would then apologise, since my actions went overboard. Then, I will subconsciously treat you better. My barriers would crack slightly. I was dealt an impact. If, on the other hand, I didn't apologise and became displeased with you instead, you couldn't have asked for anything better. Consciously guarding against someone is as good as not guarding against them. Many loopholes will be exposed making it extremely easy to force your way through," Artix said.

He then continued without giving Beatrix a chance to speak, "That's how it should have gone. Everything was under you control. Or so you thought.

Indeed, these might all be my own baseless speculations. There might not be a deeper meaning behind your actions. But, you forgot one thing. I know that you're from Luminous Visage. A bunch of crazy women who think they're fighting for the rights of women, yet they don't even know how to write the word right."

Beatrix looked at Artix silently as her smile disappeared.

Clap! Clap!

"Marvelous," Beatrix said with a cold expression, "You don't seem mad at all," she remarked.

"Done acting?" Artix said, his smile unchanged.

"I have a question," she said.

"You want to ask how I concluded these things? Even though I don't have much experience?" Artix said.

Beatrix nodded.

"Simple," Artix said as his smile broadened to the extreme, "I had plenty of free time."

His smile brought chills to Beatrix. But, she quickly calmed down.

"So, what do you plan to do with me?" Beatrix asked, completely unafraid.

"Nothing," Artix said, "A dog needs to be returned to its owner."

Beatrix then disappeared and appeared outside in space.

[Tell your owner that if your group appears before me again, then please forgive me for being impolite.] Artix's voice resounded in her head.

Beatrix gritted her teeth as she flew away. Unknowingly, a small dot was placed in her brain.

**********

Beatrix was kneeling in front of the black-dressed woman.

"I have failed, your eminence," Beatrix said, "I will accept any punishment."

The black-dressed woman shook her head.

"It was not your fault," she said, "Who would have thought that he still retains his reason? You may take your leave."

"Thank you, your eminence," Beatrix said before leaving.

Only the black-dressed woman was left in the hall. She raised her head slightly. Her mouth was revealed. She had a strange smile on her face as she thought of something, "Filthy man, I will see you growl in front of me."

**********

Somewhere else, along the borders of the Gods Cluster, several spaceships were making their way stealthily to the bases at the borders. They escaped detection as they began to get closer and closer.

They stopped when they reached a certain distance. This was as far as they could go without being detected.

More and more spaceships gathered as the space became densely packed.

Several commanders were seated in a planet-sized spaceship. They were inside a meeting room. A rectangular table with seven seats around it was in the middle of the room. A hologram that depicted the map of the Gods Cluster was floating above the middle of the table.

Seven men were sitting on the chairs. The man sitting at end of the table was a middle-aged man with short black hair and a pair of black eyes. He had two pairs of hands. He was the head of Heart of Devotion. A faction that worshipped the Ancient Ones. Apart from the Gods and Devils, there were 1513 Ancient Ones. All ex-Gods were killed.

His name was Gaius Trajan. He was the Supreme Commander. The hierarchy inside Heart of Devotion was largely different from Temples. At the top, stood the Supreme Commander. Below were Commanders, Generals, Colonels, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants and finally Soldiers.

Much like the human empire, Heart of Devotion was a military-based faction.

Heart of Devotion was much more united than the Temples. There was only one Heart of Devotion! The Ancient Ones did not have much thought. They just wanted the Gods to die quickly, so that they could return to their sleeps!

Gaius and the six Commanders were discussing the battle strategy.

Though the temples attention was not distracted much, since they were focusing on only one system, it was still better than nothing. There was also a chance that this was a trap. No, most likely it was. But, they would still use it to cause some damage. At least, they were aware that there was one.

They weren't the only ones who thought about this. Since there were God Worshippers and Ancient One Worshippers, there will naturally be Devil Worshippers.

Devil Worshippers were many, since Devils only acted on instinct, they were just guises for these factions to do what they wanted to.

There were four prominent Devil factions. Luminous Visage was one of them. The other three were End Harbingers, Hydra and True Orthodoxy.

Hydra was the strongest of them, but it was nowhere near the temples or even Heart of Devotion.

In terms of power and warriors, the strongest would naturally be the Ortuses Empire, no other faction owned as many Law Kings as they did, but without Ancient Ones backing them, they were reduced to third position.

At the top would be the Temples, followed closely by Heart of Devotion. Then, it was the Ortuses Empire followed by hidden kingdoms, Loria's Red Ant Kingdom was among these. These kingdoms, mostly insect demons, were gathering their powers silently. After that would be the Devil Worshippers and finally small factions and others who were focused on research. Alchemic Head and the other two were among these factions.

In fact, versions of research factions existed inside every major faction. For example, Supreme Seekers and Ultimate Pill Association. The difference was that the people in these factions were lunatics and didn't want to be restricted. They were a bunch of individuals who gathered together, since their goals aligned with each other.

Small factions were many. But, the most famous one was Sacrilegious Brotherhood. They hated Worshippers to the core. Only Heart of Devotion was free from their harassment. They were a bunch of powerhouses gathered with righteousness as their banner!

The three Worshipper factions were mortal enemies. Only one of them could exist in the end. The Blasphemer factions were better with each other, albeit not friendly, they weren't enemies either, at least not on the surface. Alliances were formed between them from time to time. Alliances between Worshippers and Blasphemers weren't uncommon either. Especially between Heart of Devotion and other factions. There wasn't much enmity between them.

This time, many factions were gathered to deal a blow to the Temples. Yet, apart from Heart of Devotion and few other factions, none of them actually wanted the temples to be eradicated. Only the Temples could contend with Heart of Devotion.

Although the Ancient Ones didn't have much ambition, they were still viewed as thorns by many, especially commanding figures. No one was sure that they wouldn't become like the Gods in the future. The best course of action would be for both of them to perish together.

Humans were also viewed as a scourge. They were extremely troublesome to deal with when they reached the Law King Realm. Many understood that if the Ancient Ones were to disappear, it would be the humans turn to rule. Thus, Ortuses Empire needed to guard itself from all sides, not just the Temples. Other human factions were in a better position, Chadlier Federation being one of them, since they had only a teeny-tiny amount of humans.

This was also why Ortuses didn't risk sending a group to meet up with Artix. They understood that Artix would still seek them in the future. So, it was better to lay low and gather their powers for now.

"We will attack in two days," Gaius said.

**********

Two days later.

Artix woke up as he made his way downstairs. He appeared slightly regretful. "They didn't come," he muttered.

It was 5:30. Gavin was behind the counter wiping glasses while Teresa and Cecilia were wiping tables.

"You're early today Tom," said Gavin, "Why don't you help out?"

"Not today boss," Artix shook his head, "I am leaving."

Gavin froze for a moment. So did the two ladies.

"What do you mean Tom?" Gavin probed.

"I mean that I am quitting," Artix said.

"Is there anything bothering you?" Cecilia asked.

"Nothing," Artix said.

"Then why?" Gavin questioned.

Gavin and Cecilia were actually quite satisfied with Artix. They had labelled him as a good kid. Although they had only been together for less than a month, Artix had become quite close to the bunch. It was mainly because Artix was approachable. He wasn't arrogant and was genuinely respectful to those around him. He would sometimes act weird, but overall, he was a nice person.

"There are people waiting for me outside, it would be impolite not to greet them," Artix said.

The trio were confused.

Artix didn't bother explaining as he took out three candies. He restored his original shape which made the trio freeze on the spot.

He placed the candies on the edge of the counter. He then removed his hat as he bowed at the trio, "Thank you for taking care of me in this period."

With that, he disappeared. The trio were frozen for sometime before they regained their senses.

"He was actually the Sinful Mortal!" Gavin exclaimed. The Sinful Mortal actually called him boss! He could brag about it for the rest of his life!

"No wonder," Teresa said, slightly sad.

Her mother noticed her change of expression, "For him, we are only passersby," Cecilia said, consoling her daughter.

"I know," Teresa sighed.

Gavin then remembered what Artix said before leaving, "This is bad!" He exclaimed as he took the candies.

"What do you mean dear?" Cecilia asked.

"A fight will occur nearby," Gavin said as he unwrapped the candies, "I am afraid that the system will take the brunt of it."

The ladies then remembered what Artix said. They understood what he meant now.

"We can only hope that these candies will help," Gavin said.

"What about everyone else?" Teresa couldn't help but ask.

Gavin looked at his wife and daughter. As an ex-adventurer, he understood the cruelty of the world.

He sighed, "Ants die when giants fight, such is the natural order," he said, "no need to think too much about it."

He then gave them the candies, "Although I don't know what these do, but we have nothing to lose."

The two ladies took the candies.

"Let's eat it together," he said, "three... two... one!"

The three put the candy in their mouths. They disappeared without their clothes.

**********

Outside, Artix was gazing at E-1984, his smile a bit melancholic.

A blue star with a green planet orbiting around it was ahead.

"My path is filled with blood, the innocent tear and cry~

Many become what I am, the children wail and die~

Parents, mourn and grieve, sudden all of it seems~

Stars, dim and die, in rage of what it deems~

Utopia, was never a place found in this world~

Hell, as they say, might be closer to this cold~

They say sin is bad and sinful they deem I~

What is sin in the end? Just a word full of lie~

The universe shakes, it hears them from up high~

The sky shall tremble, for their judgement is nigh~"

Artix stared silently before turning around and condensing a system-sized avatar. A kraken was in front of him.

"Did you like my poem?" Artix asked with a smile. His smile was extremely broad.

Ladvyxenos didn't say anything. Artix didn't continue speaking either. They stared at each other silently as the mana and laws trembled.

Spaceships began their attacks all over the Gods Cluster.

War started.

Next chapter