I felt like a small ferryboat being tossed about in rough seas. I regretted it. I regretted being so free with my mana senses. I had grown overconfident in the confidentiality of my spying. I had assumed no one would be able to detect my affront to their privacies.
Then I had accidentally peeped upon a Demigod.
Just a glance. Just a single glance and the Demigod of the Waves had me inextricably ensnared in this illusion world of hers. There was no escape. I could just hang on for dear life and hope and pray for her to deem the punishment enough.
I was in her power. Completely and utterly at her mercy. We all were.
A Demigod, we were taught from a very young age, was a synonym of invincibility. Only another Demigod could hope to stand up against one. Anyone else would be straw tossed against the wind. Or, in this case, a ferryboat in rough seas.
This wasn't the first time this had happened to me. Just half-an-year prior, during the Territory Distribution Congress that was held after the Tournament, I had mistakenly bumped gazes with the Imperial Legate – a Tier 5 shadow mage. He had exerted a similar punishment for my disrespect. An illusion where I dropped into a well without a bottom. I was only an ordinary Tamer with two Tier 2 wives then… nothing compared to my current strength. Now, I would be able to break free of the Legate's illusion, if not with ease, then after a struggle.
But in front of a Demigod, I might as well have been a mortal with how helpless I was to resist.
I regretted not taking the Legate's lesson to heart.
With all the sincerity I could muster I projected my feelings of repentance towards the sea. I vowed never to use my gifts to spy on my allies… not without their knowledge and express permission.
As suddenly as the illusory seas had engulfed my consciousness, they retreated, leaving me high and dry.
I was back in the real world. Not even a moment seemed to have elapsed. The General was in the same position as I had seen him last, as was the woman… as was everything else. Taking back her gaze, she took the next step and as if she had given it permission, time began to flow again. The soldiers and officials filed out neatly, the crowds cheered and waved, the sailors finally managed to collapse the main sail of the Cloud Whale and lash it around the main mast… and I stood there, frozen, with cold sweat soaking my shirt.
I exhaled a shuddering breath. Fearful.
General Kron strode confidently up to father and they greeted each other formally. Some ceremonial platitudes later, father invited him to stay over at the Felidae Estates but the General tactfully declined, citing his urgency to visit the military outposts at the border.
I absentmindedly audited it all, not daring to let out even a wisp of my mana senses lest I offend the Demigod again.
With only my sight, I couldn't detect her form. And when father didn't seem to notice her either, I realized that neither could anyone else. She had arrived in secret and she didn't want anyone else finding out about her presence here.
My mana senses had somehow pierced her camouflage. Well, at least I knew now that not even a Demigod could sneak up on me. If I was targeted by one, I would at least see my death coming.
A soft, melodious voice came from beside me, making me nearly jump out of my skin, "That's an interesting skill you have there, boy."
I didn't have to turn my head to see that she was now beside me. Okay, correction, I wouldn't see my death coming even with my mana senses.
"You're Mars Felidae, correct?" she inquired. "Ah… you can talk to me freely, nobody else will notice any difference."
Turning to face her, I bowed crabbedly and replied, "Yes ma'am."
Gracefully raising her finger, she touched the middle of my forehead lightly. Looking me in the eye, she asked, "Do you mind?"
She was a tall woman, with a couple of inches on even me. Her dark blue, almost black hair seemed to undulate gently of its own accord like the tides of the ocean. Every action and every movement of hers seemed to follow some rhythm that connected her to the very world. For a brief moment, I wondered what would happen if I said yes before I shook my head. "No. Not at all."
Favouring me with a smile, she closed her eyes and after a short moment, opened them again, retracting her finger. "Thank you. You let me experience something new today," she said, curtsying to me slightly.
"Ah… it's my honour." I bowed back hastily.
Turning her gaze beyond me, her expression turned contemplative. Following her gaze, I saw she was looking at mother. "Hmm, was that something you did?" she asked.
"Mind telling me the details? You can ask me a question in return. I won't boast but I think I might have some nuggets of equally valuable information tucked away in here," she said, tapping the side of her head with a slender finger. Only now did I notice that her nails were lacquered – the blue of a lagoon on a summer noon.
I couldn't believe my luck. An opportunity to pick the brains of a Demigod. I could practically feel the hope for Phobos' mother's recovery increasing. "Of course," I agreed enthusiastically. "Though I would prefer if you didn't disclose where you got the information from to others… if you choose to share it."
She nodded with a smile. "Good. And what would you ask?"
"Phobos, my wife's mother… she was widowed in the war… I, we, wanted to do something for her…" I looked at her hopefully.
Her smile dropped and her eyes grew a bit regretful. "Yeah… another victim of that senseless slaughter…" she sighed, "I don't know of any means to solve Vita's Curse completely except for promoting to Demigod. At Tier 5, one can resist it's influence but they'd be stuck in their Feral form. Your wife's mother was probably at Tier 3 so unless you find a way to promote her by two Tiers, I'm helpless."
"But," she continued, "seeing the state of your mother, I can guess what you want to do. And, it might even work."
She paused, considering something for a while before deciding. "Fine. I was supposed to escort the Cloud Whale here on the last leg of its journey as it flew over Shogunate occupied territory. I planned to get off over the Northern District on the trip back after ensuring that the airship was safe and let you fly to the Capital on your own with the crew. But I guess I can make the trip to the Capital with you… a week should be enough to make some headway..."
"Thank you." I said gratefully.
She shook her head with a smile. "You've got it wrong. This research is quite significant. If it succeeds, then Regiis, no, the world will be thanking you."
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