"Be still." Shen released his hand, which was holding Adam, and his right foot stepped forward.
It was clearly just one step. And yet, his figure instantly disappeared. In the next instant, both he and Adam had reappeared far ahead.
One step. In merely one step, he had covered one tenth of the length of the jade white passageway.
Tian Lie stared with widened eyes into the distance as he focused on the small and near imperceptible figure that was far away from them. The figure gradually increased in size before finally appearing before the palace gate.
Earlier, Zero had flown the three of them over at high speed in order to make it through the jade white passageway and arrive before the gate of the Longevity Palace.
But Shen… … he had only taken 10 steps.
Just 10 steps!
Even after Shen had stepped into the Longevity Palace, Nicole remained stuck in mid-air.
"As expected, you came. I failed to make it in time. I was just a little bit off," said Zero calmly as he observed the incoming Shen.
Despite the crestfallen nature of his words, no emotions could be detected within Zero's voice.
"No one may take that which belongs to me." Shen smiled and slowly walked toward the centre of the guard rails.
Without making any other moves on Shen's part, Nicole's body suddenly fell to the ground. She had fallen in the opposite direction of her jump.
"Shen!" Earlier, Shen's power had restricted her body's ability to move. She could not even open her mouth. After she fell to the ground, Shen retracted the shackles and Nicole quickly jumped up. With a shout, she charged at Shen.
Her Floater instantly covered her entire body and she took on the military Angel form.
"Eh?" Since his arrival, Shen had not bothered to give Nicole even a glance. Only now did he notice Nicole's military mech armour. "Floating Angel?"
He stretched out his right hand and the several blasts of light that Nicole fired at him were all blocked by a thin layer of golden light, which had appeared a few metres before Shen. As for Nicole, her figure suddenly fell to the ground, incapable of moving again.
"I was wondering how you managed to find someone else. Unexpectedly, you found an Angel. As I recall… … didn't you send away all the people within Zero City? Those that I did not kill, anyways." Shen glanced at Zero, who was standing beside the guard rails.
"They entered after that," Zero answered calmly. "Thanks to the two of them, I was able to come up with a plan to stop you from obtaining the authority. Unfortunately, it has failed."
"Excellent. You are able to accept the reality of the situation." Shen nodded before turning to face Tian Lie. He smiled and said, "It has been a while since our last meeting. Unexpectedly, we would meet here, my friend."
"I am here for you." Tian Lie grinned. "Still, there is no need to thank me."
"For me? No need to thank you?" Shen was slightly taken aback.
"If not for your sake, why would I try everything to get into this damned place?" Tian Lie reached out with his hand to rub his bald head. "Back then, you said that if you ever encounter a problem you cannot resolve, you want me to go to that Romania instance dungeon and find help. Although those two… … fellows weren't willing to come out, they did give me a way to enter Zero City."
Hearing Tian Lie's words, Shen's brows furrowed lightly. However, they quickly returned to their normal state. Then, he smiled and said, "How unexpected, you still remember that. Getting the method to enter Zero City from those two fellows was probably not easy."
"What else can I do? You have disappeared for so long now. Do you know what has happened to Thorned Flower Guild?" Tian Lie rolled his eyes. "It's becoming a dog-eat-dog situation as all of them wants to seize your position. Their fight is so horrible, you can practically see brain matter scattered all over. Although I am no longer a member of Thorned Flower Guild, I am at least still your friend. If I had found out that you had died, I could just wipe my hands off these matters. However, your state was unknown… … thus, I had to come over and check it out."
"Thorned Flower Guild?" Shen's face broke into a smile. "Something like that… for the present me, they are no longer important. Let them do whatever they want. However…"
His face suddenly took on a serious countenance. "For you to remember my words and come look for me, I am thankful. Thank you, Tian Lie."
"Like I said, there is no need to thank me. Besides, from the way I see it…" Tian Lie looked at Adam, whom Shen was now holding onto. "You don't appear to be in need of help, do you?"
"At present, I no longer need it. However, this act of friendship… I will remember this." Shen sent a sincere nod toward Tian Lie.
"Well, if you put it that way, me asking a show of face from you now shouldn't be too much, right?" Tian Lie laughed out.
"What show of face? Out with it." Shen smiled at Tian Lie and nodded his head. "As long as it has nothing to do with the Oddity?"
"Oddity?" Tian Lie glanced at the black dot within the chaotic maelstrom in the centre of the guard rails. "The Hell do I care about that? I am talking about this stupid girl. Although she really wants to kill you… … in this world, the number of people who wants to kill you is probably in the thousands. There is no point in dealing with her. If you really care about my act of friendship, then let her go."
"Just a minor Angel. What's the big deal? Even if you hadn't asked me, I myself have no interest in killing her. Once I am done with my matters, I will send her out." Shen waved his hand carelessly. "Though… … I am feeling curious. How did you end up with her? Did you forget your previous nickname?"
"You know as well, I don't kill females." Tian Lie shrugged. "Besides… … this stupid girl is too weak. Killing her is pointless."
"Is that so…" Shen cast a profound gaze at Tian Lie before giving a meaningful smile. "Fine, I won't probe your private affairs. I believe… … you will not probe mine either, right?"
"Naturally. The only reason I came to Zero City is to confirm whether or not you are still alive and if you need any help." Tian Lie spread his hands. "Currently, the first is confirmed. As for the second… … it doesn't seem like you need my help for anything. Then, if there is nothing else, I will bring this girl with me and leave."
"I don't think you have any way of leaving right now." Shen shook his head. "In order to send you two out, I will first need to obtain the Oddity."
"There is no need." Tian Lie waved his hand carelessly. "That fellow said before. As long as we want to, he will immediately send us out of Zero City. Well, send us out."
He snapped his fingers at Zero, who turned to look at Tian Lie before slowly shaking his head. "I refuse."
"Re… refuse?" Tian Lie furrowed his brows. "You mean… … you are going back on your words?"
"Yes." Zero nodded frankly.
"Why?" Tian Lie's frown deepened. "Shen is already here. There is no longer any chance for this little girl to obtain your core or Oddity or whatever you call it. As for me… … I never had any intention of snatching it from Shen. What reason do you have for keeping us here?"
"As long as you two remain, there remains a chance to turn the situation around," replied Zero calmly. "Due to the rules, I am incapable of doing anything to stop him myself. However, by letting you two leave right now, even that last chance of change will not exist."
"You brain dead fellow! What chance of change is there?" Tian Lie frowned. Letting his temper get the better of him, he slammed down on the guard rail beside him and said, "This little girl can no longer move. As for me, there is no chance I will go disrupt Shen's matters. Do you think there is any point in keeping us here besides wasting our time?"
"Maybe… … there is."
A voice rang out, reverberating around them.
However, the one who had spoken up was neither Zero nor Shen. Naturally, it was also not Nicole, who was lying on the floor, incapable of moving at all.
The voice contained a slight hoarseness, sounding like an old man. However, a somewhat youthful atmosphere permeated the voice.
Tian Lie's eyes darted around a few times and he froze.
The voice… … he had heard the voice before.
Not just that, he had heard it only not too long ago.
The owner of the voice was the pale-looking man in the third stage, Chris.
Tian Lie looked around a few times but was incapable of finding him at all. And yet, judging by the voice, he should have been close by.
"Chris? You are not dead yet? What are you doing here?" Even Shen revealed a slight frown. "Where is your master?"
"Master? I am the only one here. Although, it sounded as though you really want to meet him, Sir Shen." Chris' voice drifted about. However, there was no way to figure out where he was.
A flicker flashed across Shen's face. Ignoring Chris, he quickly walked toward the guard rails while pointing at it with his right hand. A portion of the guard rails was instantly incinerated to reveal a gap, enough for one.
Shen's next step will bring him into the centre of the guard rails, into that chaotic maelstrom.
However, it was at that moment that Shen's foot suddenly stopped, seemingly frozen.
There was only one more step between him and the chaotic maelstrom. However, Shen did not continue onward. Instead, he asked with an emotionless face. "He… … what did he give you?"
"Since you stopped moving, you've probably guessed it, no?" Chris' ghostly cackle echoed around Shen. "You can go ahead and try it. Go do what you want to do. Perhaps… … I may not be able to kill you with this."
Shen scoffed and did not reply. Instead, his right foot slowly descended.
This time, however, the expression on his face had changed. It had become like a sapper. One who knew that the area before him was a minefield as he carefully scanned around for danger.
At that moment, a ripple suddenly emerged in front of him.
The thing creating the ripple was not air. Rather, it was space.
The space before Shen suddenly twisted, swelling forward. It was like a needle was being pushed into a tightly woven fabric, causing that part of the fabric to bulge outward.
Seeing the spatial ripple, Shen's face - for the first time ever - showed an apprehensive expression.
His right foot, which had almost stepped into the chaotic maelstrom, rapidly retracted.
Likewise, Shen's figure swiftly backed away.
The ripple did not stop expanding. Instead, the rate of expansion grew at a faster rate.
Next, light erupted, covering everyone's line of sight.
However, unlike the other types of light that they had seen before, this one was… … very slow.
Tian Lie and Nicole could see the tip of the light piercing its way out from the ripple, bit by bit, as it shot toward Shen's chest.
At the same time, the rate at which Shen was backing away had also become slow.