Chapter 33: Negotiations

Ro: “Do you know how much time has passed since we left the tomb?”

Barry: “Not exactly, but roughly around two hours.”

Ro: “That much, huh? This place sure is big, isn’t it?”

The two converse while walking towards the pond.

Ro: “Still, it was pretty surprising that the first direction you looked in, you found the pond.”

Barry: “Yeah, but not just the pond.”

He says while reminding himself of the faces they would see when they reach the pond.

Barry: “Kais, Sona and the dragon were present there along with someone else with the aura of a psychic.”

Ro: “And you didn’t try to read their auras, right?”

It would have been very problematic if they could notice that he was using Aura Reading at them.

Barry: “Yeah”

So he nods.

Barry: “From what you have told me, Kais has become really cautious and I certainly have seen a few glimpses of it myself. So I didn’t want to risk doing something that would cause him to go on alert.”

Ro: “True, if it ends up turning into a chase, catching him won’t be easy at all.”

When it comes to running away, psychics are experts. Abilities like teleportation to instantly teleport large distance away as well as photokinesis to make one invisible are extremely troublesome abilities to deal with.

The two continue walking as they exchange their thoughts.

Ro: “But are you really sure we shouldn’t be trying to run right now? Aren’t we just giving them more time to slip us by?”

Barry: “Well, I can’t deny we are lowering our chances of catching them, but if we run, there’s a high risk our bodies, which are made of energy, will cause minor disturbances in the energy surrounding us. If one of them is able to pick up on that, it will be much more difficult to catch them then.”

Ro: “Hmm … not to mention the animals around here would probably pick up on that and seeing how much time the dragon has spent on this island, he should have some understanding of their behaviors.”

So, in order to be safe, the two are walking fast and steadily through the forest, so they don’t give the three (or four) near the pond the chance to slip by.

Barry: “So, I have been curious, but how much do you know about the flow of supernatural energies and auras?”

Ro: “Only as much as I could from reading about it from Vermillion’s database.”

Barry: “You mean as much as is made available to you Embers, right?”

Ro: “Right.”

Ro didn’t feel any belittling in Barry’s voice but still felt that phrasing was unpleasant.

Barry: “If I remember this right, you call your leader the Phoenix and the ten most powerful guys right under him are called Hellfires.”

Ro: “Yeah, that’s the upper echelon of Vermillion.”

Barry: “And then under them are leaders of various divisions of the group, called Volcanoes.”

Ro nods to affirm it as Barry continues,

Barry: “That’s kinda stupid name by the way. But anyway, in each division there were people who are assigned the tasks by Volcanoes, called Embers. That’s what you were.”

Ro: “And then, there are members of the organization who we Embers could use in order to fulfill our missions, called Flares. What about it?”

Ro says as he looks at Barry with a bored yet curious expression.

Barry: “Vermillion could have easily overpowered Kais if they sent in about ten Embers or a Volcano came in. Why didn’t they?”

Ro: “Well, we didn’t have that much time. Pretty much everyone was busy with something.”

Barry: “Shouldn’t this mission be given priority over the others?”

Ro: “It was, or they would have never sent in three Embers at the same time.”

Barry: “Three?”

Barry asks ‘who’s the third’ with his eyes.

Ro: “Technically, she wasn’t an Ember but that’s more or less what her status was in Vermillion.”

Barry: “You are talking about Sneha, huh?”

Ro nods. Barry ponders about it for a while before saying,

Barry: “Why were you guys so busy?”

Ro: “Well, I don’t know how to answer that because I think I already did.”

Barry: “Oh I get that you were all getting jobs one after the other but is that how it has always been?”

Ro narrows his gaze in suspicion over the questions Barry raised, but then sighs and says,

Ro: “There had been a sudden increase in the jobs we had to carry out ever since the chances of a war became more apparent.”

Barry: “About that, there are two things I am curious about.”

Ro: “Let me guess, you want to know what I mean by the chances of it becoming more apparent when it has been apparent for centuries already.”

Barry: “Yeah, that’s the question I am less curious about, but what is this answer. Were they trying to hide this war from you all?”

Ro: “Well, every new member is immediately told that ‘a war may happen in the near future’, so I guess that’s not exactly true. But, they never elaborated on what this means.”

Shifting his gaze to see if Barry is listening, Ro continues after confirming that he is.

Ro: “But about four years ago, right when I first heard about rumors of vampires existing, an announcement was made that the war will begin shortly.”

Barry: “And since then, your schedules got tighter.”

Ro: “Yeah.”

Barry: “Still though, there is different question that’s been bugging me more.”

Ro: “You want to know who we thought we were going with war at when we didn’t even know about vampire’s existence.”

Barry nods.

Ro: “That’s kind of hard to answer.”

Barry: “Try me.”

Ro sighs.

Ro: “Fine, so we were never told who the war is with. What we were told is that we will not fight.”

Barry: “Oh?”

Stretching his words, Barry displays his curiosity at what he just heard.

Ro: “The information given to us was that we have allies in this war who are going to be the major force that is going to fight.  We were just support.”

Barry: “Does that mean that Kais was supposed to be sent to that ‘major force’?”

Ro: “Precisely, we were told that once he understands everything, he will willingly become a member of that force, not that we were ever told what that ‘force’ is.”

Barry: “Seems like you guys had a lot of reasons to distrust your superiors.”

Ro: “Yes, and we did.”

Barry widens his eyes in surprise when he hears so.

Ro: “However, there was just no way to go up against a member of upper echelon or a Volcano and stay alive.”

Barry: “And leaving the organization was not an option?”

Ro moves his head from side-to-side to say ‘no’.

Ro: “So, most of us convinced ourselves that there’s no need to be so alarmed about it because we weren’t going to fight in the war.”

Barry: “That’s how it went, huh.”

Ro: “Of course, the overview of it might make it seem like no Embers or Flares even tried to do anything, but whoever did try anything, their efforts were in vain.”

Barry closes his eyes as he sighs and turns to look at the road ahead of them. On opening his eyes, he says,

Barry: “Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t expect you guys to be able to do anything against the likes of them. No offence.”

Ro: “None taken. It’s the truth after all.”

The two keep walking towards the pond, only about 200 meters away from it. But, something they didn’t expect happens.

*******************************

Dyne states his objective. Hearing that, Ethan and Sneha stand half-surprised and also half-surprised.

Ethan: “Well now, that’s something.”

Firstly, surprised that he actually wants to kill Barry, and then surprised that he would just say it out loud.

Sneha: “You sure you want us to know about it.”

Dyne: “Well, it depends.”

He says as he looks at the two with a tone indicating he is smiling beneath his mask.

Dyne: “Now that you do know about it, what do you plan to do? Will you get in our way?”

Ethan: “If we do?”

He asks with a smirk, needless to say, a fake smirk.

Dyne: “Well, that would be quite a bit of problem and I don’t want any nuisances in my way, so …”

He purposefully trails off as his intentions become clear by the formation of a huge mass of energy on his hands.

Dyne: “Of course, if you have no intentions of getting in our way, then we don’t have any reasons to hide the truth from you when you ask for it. We aren’t like those vampires after all.”

He says while keeping his hands still with the mass of energy in his hands turning into a ball of energy with black shades.

Dyne: “So then, which one is it?”

Ethan, as someone whose eyes could look clearly at the aura surrounding people, knows that Dyne is serious about his threat, which is why …

Ethan: “Well, neither.”

Dyne: “Huh?”

Dyne makes a stupid expression as he doesn’t understand what Ethan meant by his denial of both options. Fortunately for him, that stupid expression won’t be visible to anyone from underneath that helm.

Ethan: “Barry is doing something that may end up fulfilling my goal. I need you to wait till he’s done. Kill him after that.”

Staying silent as he looks at Ethan with suspicious eyes, Dyne feels a presence at his shoulder.

Dyne: “Um … something wrong, Walter?”

Dyne asks while glancing at the man in black garments standing beside him.

Walter: “First of all, I guess I should introduce myself to you two.”

He says as he steps forward while looking Ethan and Sneha in the eyes with a calm and serious expression. He says in a soft but audibly loud and pleasant voice,

Walter: “My name is Walter Schmidt. I am an ally of the Ghost Nation and have come here to assist Spectre Dyne on his mission.”

Taken aback by the formal introduction, the two glance at each other.

Ethan: “Right, nice to meet you.”

He says while trying to compose himself.

Sneha: “Yeah, same thing here.”

She says as she notices the uncomfortable smile on Ethan’s face.

Walter: “Right, so about what you were previously saying,”

He dismisses all the uneasiness by bringing them back to the topic.

Walter: “Can I ask how much time it would take for Barry to do whatever he is doing that you will be benefitted by?”

As he says that, Ethan sees a hint of smile on his face. This is no surprise to him. Because he had been seeing his aura, he knows Walter is only acting formal, but it still makes him uneasy.

Ethan: “Well, I don’t know how long it will take him.”

Dyne: “That will be a problem.”

Dyne says while staring at Ethan. However,

Walter: “Yes, it might inconvenience us but there’s a way to avoid conflict between our groups despite of that,”

Ethan senses malicious intent in Walter’s aura, which he had been sensing ever since he started speaking, grow heavier.

Sneha: “What’s that?”

Walter: “Why don’t you tell us what your goal is?”

He says while spreading his arms wide as if to say doing so would not harm them in any way.

Dyne: “Wait, what?”

Dyne looks at him in surprise. Walter turns his head to look back while smiling a little as if to say ‘it’s okay, leave this to me’. The Spectre sighs.

Dyne: “… I guess we can listen to what it is. It may not be something that inconveniences us.”

A smile comes on Ethan’s face as he hears that.

So if I say I won’t tell you; that would mean it is something that inconveniences you, huh? That wasn’t half bad, he thinks as he prepares his answer.

Ethan: “My goal here is to bring Kais into this war.”

Dyne and Walter flinch in surprise.

Dyne: “And what would that gain you?”

Ethan: “That’s not something you need to know, do you?”

Dyne looks at Ethan suspiciously while Ethan looks back at him with a smirk. Walter stays calm and composed and Sneha keeps her guard up for anything that might happen. But, after a brief stare-down, Dyne says,

Dyne: “I suppose it’s not. Anyway, what was your proposal?”

He asks while turning towards Walter.

Walter: “Well, I thought it will be a good idea to help him reach his goal in exchange for not interfering with us.”

Dyne: “Huh. That … isn’t a bad idea, but I don’t know if it will work. I don’t personally know Kais. All I have is other people’s impressions of him.”

As Ethan thinks that he needs to remember what Dyne just said, Sneha suddenly says,

Sneha: “I’m against letting you guys do the job.”

Dyne and Spectre turn to her in surprise while Ethan clears his throat.

Ethan: “You guys may have misunderstood something here. We are working together but it is because our goals can be achieved with each other’s help and not because we have the same goal.”

Hearing that, Walter regains composure and asks,

Walter: “I see. So then, Ms. Sneha Stone, what’s your goal?”

Sneha: “I am afraid I can’t tell you. That said, it’s not something that’s against yours but just something that you guys will be no help in because of being ghosts. Only someone who’s is at least half-psychic like Barry can help me reach it.”

Widening their eyes in surprise, the three men on the beach look at Sneha.

However, the reason for their surprise is completely different from the other.

Ethan is surprised because he didn’t know her goal would have that kind of condition.

Dyne is surprised because he had started to get the impression that she might turn into an enemy but she doesn’t seem to be doing so.

Walter is surprised because her remark didn’t make sense.

Walter: “Well, in case you don’t know, I am not a ghost.”

While being surprised at what she just heard, she immediately regains composure and asks him,

Sneha: “Oh, then who are you?”

She says as she looks at him with a suspicious expression as if to evaluate him. Ethan had known that he isn’t a ghost from the start because of the aura Walter had around him, but apparently Sneha didn’t.

Walter: “I am a psychic.”

He says.

Dyne: “Or to be more precise, he is Walter Schmidt, the psychic hailed as the strongest man in the world.”

Ethan and Sneha widen their eyes in surprise by the contents of the addition Dyne made in Walter’s introduction.

Walter: “Oh, don’t be so surprised by that. I might not be the strongest anymore. After all, it’s been a long time since I was given that title. Someone we don’t know about may have already surpassed me.”

Ethan: “No, your title’s not all that surprising.”

Walter: “Huh?”

He asks as he looks at Ethan with a smile,

Walter: “Then why are you surprised?”

It’s because of your disturbingly evil aura. He answers in his head.

Ethan: “Well …”

Walter: “My aura, huh?”

Eyes widen in shock, and fear, for once, goes out of hand in Ethan’s mind as he listens to Walter’s menacingly calm tone.

Walter: “Now now, you don’t need to be that shocked. All I did was read your mind. I already told you I am a psychic so it should have been obvious I could do that.”

Yeah, of course … except I should have known when you did that; my eyes should have picked up on something. Ethan says in his head.

Walter: “Come now, surely you know your eyes aren’t omnipotent.”

He continues in his calm tone as he answers Ethan’s thoughts.

Walter: “All I did was put more power in hiding the ability than your eyes can see through.”

Sneha: “Wait! Is what this looks like really happened just now?”

Ethan gulped.

Ethan: “Yeah, he read my mind … without me noticing anything.”

Sneha understands how much of a bad news that could be. Spectre Dyne is already supposed to be on par with, if not better than Barry. And this man is supposedly even more powerful than him. Even the Eyes of Truth can be deceived by him.

Sneha: “But that doesn’t make any sense. Aren’t those eyes something that can never be deceived?”

Dyne: “He isn’t considered the strongest for no reason you know. The fact that he has that title means that he has left any rivals far behind. Simple rules like that can be easily bent by this man.”

Dyne makes it very clear what the title of ‘strongest man in the world’ means with that sentence and Ethan and Sneha both fall silent.

Dyne: “Well, it’s unfortunate but we need to go now. We have already lost a lot of time.”

Dyne says as he starts walking.

Sneha: “Wait-”

Dyne: “I’m afraid you’ll have to look for another way to fulfill whatever objective you have since the negotiations seem to have broken down.”

As he says this, Jack and Jill come to stop him from entering the forest.

Dyne: “What a bothersome mission this is going to be!”

He says while lifting his finger. He points his finger at Jack and moves it around, which causes Jack to be flung around in the same way.

Ethan: “Ah!”

Sneha: “What was that?”

Walter: “Come on, you didn’t need to do that.”

Walter says as he follows Dyne with a little smile on his face. He turns to glance at the dog that had been flung around only to land on the tree and have his back broken.

Dyne: “Well, we don’t have time to handle this peacefully.”

Dyne points his finger at Jill but the dog runs away before he does anything.

Dyne: “That certainly saves some trouble.”

He says as resumes walking and heads into the forest. Before going in himself, Walter stops and looks at the other two with a smile.

Walter: “Well, we couldn’t start off on a very good footing, but I hope it doesn’t get any worse.”

He says the word that sounds to Ethan like a threat – ‘Don’t make this any worse.’

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