Chapter 87: Joining the Dark Mantle organization
After parting ways with Phoebe, Han Shuo went returned directly to the Academy. However, he once again avoided entering through the front gate and decided to enter through a secluded corner from the mountain in the back.
Han Shuo suddenly became wary in the woods that he had spent time with Phoebe last time, an unexplainable feeling of unease rising in his heart. This shock made Han Shuo immediately release his three original demons. They flew out from the back of his neck and patrolled the entire woods, but didn’t find anything.
The feeling of unease didn’t vanish after the original demons failed to find anything. That exceedingly uncomfortable feeling grew stronger and stronger, making Han Shuo incredibly wary.
The Demonslayer Edge appearing in his hand, Han Shuo took a deep breath and readjusted his facial expression to be at his best. He tried using his own senses to detect the abnormalities around him and called out, “Who is it? Come on out!”
Han Shuo had only randomly called with this line and hadn’t actually thought that anything would happen, because if it was an enemy, an enemy at this level definitely wouldn’t appear just because Han Shuo had called out.
But unexpectedly, a low, eerie laugh rang out from the thick woods as soon as he’d finished speaking. A human shape slowly took form in front of Han Shuo within the shadows of the large trees.
“Kid, you have a good level of awareness. How did you discover my existence?” When the figure within the shadows of the tree had materialized, a ruthless-looking old man, who was exceedingly tall, skinny, and wearing grey clothing, walked out. The old man’s beard was grey and his eyes were the color of ash. They looked completely lifeless.
“Due to my instincts, who are you?” Han Shuo gripped the Demonslayer Edge firmly and watched the approaching old man with a hostile gaze, ready to make a move at any moment.
“I can give you the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m acquaintances with Phoebe’s master and mean you no harm, you don’t need to be so nervous!” Han Shuo could feel a strong sense of danger exuding from this person. This was probably the strongest person he’d met since coming to this world. Han Shuo even felt that if the old man were to make a move, he’d be hard pressed to escape.
“Phoebe? So Phoebe sent you, what do you mean by all this?” Han Shuo reined in his impulse to flee from this person and asked with a darkened face.
The old man suddenly halted in his tracks and didn’t continue forward. He just stood there, sizing up Han Shuo, like he was observing an item he expected to sell at a high price. He kept nodding his head and a smile blossomed on his face after a while, but when this smile floated out from his ruthless features, it only made one feel that his face became even more sinister.
“Phoebe doesn’t know of my existence, but I know everything about your recent actions. I heard the conversation between you and Phoebe just now and have an offer to make you, but if you choose this path, you can obtain all that you want, but you may also die very quickly.” The old man said slowly as he looked at Han Shuo.
“Who are you?” Han Shuo was a bit lost and had no idea what the old man wanted. He immediately asked again.
“Bryan… parents died when he was young and was then sold off to the necromancy major of the Babylon Academy of Magic and Force by his uncle to become a slave. Six years as an errand slave. Started displaying extraordinary abilities during an outing to the Dark Forest and seems to possess another wondrous way of training in addition to training necromancy magic…”
Han Shuo’s heart sank slowly as the old man started listing details from his life. Apart from a few secrets having to do with the little skeleton and the Cemetery of Death, most of the doings that he’d experienced in this period of time were all ferreted out. This made Han Shuo feel that a pair of eyes had been fixed on him in the darkness, and a sense of fear rose in his heart.
“Who are you?” This was the third time that he asked about the old man’s origins.
“I’m called Candide and I belong to the Empire’s ‘Dark Mantle’ organization that directly answers to His Majesty. Heh heh, there’s a covert organization behind every nation. I think you understand the need for such an organization’s existence. The people of ‘Shadow Ghost’ have appeared in the Boozt Merchant Guild several times now. You guys have caused such a great disturbance. Did you really think that we wouldn’t know anything?” Old man Candide looked at Han Shuo with a vague smirk as he said slowly.
Han Shuo was greatly startled after he heard these words and heaved a silent sigh as he finally realized that he really was still too naive. He’d never heard of “Dark Mantle”, but immediately understood after Candide’s explanation that this organization must be similar to the Western Depot and the Eastern Depot of the Ming Dynasty, government agencies that directly answered to His Majesty, the Emperor.
“Alright, what do you want from me?”
“I’d like to absorb you into our Dark Mantle. I’ve carefully investigated your birth and think there shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve also kept my eye on you lately and feel that your working style and special abilities will enable you to handle the jobs of ‘Dark Mantle’ with competence. If you join the ‘Dark Mantle’ and achieve exemplary accomplishments for the Empire, you can obtain everything you want.” Candide looked at Han Shuo and gave this invitation.
Han Shuo’s brows knit together and considered it carefully. Candide’s invitation wasn’t as simple as it appeared on the surface, but with Han Shuo’s status and strength, if an enormous organization like “Dark Mantle” wanted to make a move against him, only death would be in his future.
There was a path in front of him now, and although it was dangerous, the destination remote, and full of uncertain factors, it was indeed an opportunity. This presented quite a bit of strong temptation to the now hotly ambitious Han Shuo. After weighing his gains and losses, Han Shuo felt that he didn’t seem to have much choice.
Han Shuo nodded firmly after a while and said lowly, “I accept.”
“Wonderful! Although you might be placed in more dangerous situations in the future, as long as you can climb high enough, you’ll have the chance to see beautiful sights that many will be unable to ever see in their lives.” Candide laughed lightly and took out an iron badge, handing it to Han Shuo. “This is the badge that symbolizes our status as members of the ‘Dark Mantle’. Put it away carefully, you’re under my command from today onwards. Your first mission is to keep an eye out for Duke’s movements. Oh, he’s the wind archmage that came flying out of the house that you guys brought the members of ‘Shadow Ghost’ to last night.”
There was a certain heft to the black iron badge, with the words “Dark Mantle” carved on the back. There was also an image of the crown carved in back. The crown was floating above a patch of black clouds and was also black colored.
“Who is Duke, where is he now, and how should I keep an eye on his movements?” Han Shuo was greatly startled and wondered how astonished Duke would be if he discovered that Han Shuo was keeping surveillance on him. He might even guess that the “Eye of Darkness” was with Han Shuo. If Han Shuo were to keep tabs on Duke, then he himself would also bear greater risk.
Hesitating, Candide explained, “Duke isn’t a person from our Lancelot Empire. He’s from the Kasi Empire and is here as a representative of the Maya School of Magic from the Kasi Empire. He’s here to conduct an exchange of magical knowledge with your Babylon Academy of Magic and Force. Of course, these are all excuses that they’ve come up with. Their true goal must not be this, but they’ve hidden it well. We don’t know what they’re up to at the moment. That’s why we need someone to keep an eye on them.”
“Therefore, he’ll visit your Academy often during this time. As a student within, you’re the most convenient person to keep a watch over him. Oh, right. Since you’ve joined ‘Dark Mantle’, no more killers from ‘Shadow Ghost’ will bother you. I will tell them to behave themselves.”
Nodding, Han Shuo said, “I see. Alright then, I’ll keep an eye on Duke’s movements. How should I find you if I discover something abnormal?”
“These are our three strongholds within the Empire. Destroy this after you look at it. This badge represents your identity and you can use it to exchange information with others in the strongholds. However, your level is too low thus far and you won’t have the right to ask about many things. If you can advance to a higher status, you’ll be able to use the resources of ‘Dark Mantle’ and can even deploy the Empire’s army. Heh heh, you must work hard.” Candide said to Han Shuo.
A thin piece of paper landed in Han Shuo’s palm. He looked it over once and ripped it to pieces in front of Candide after he’d memorized the contents. He then said, “Alright, my mind’s a mess right now and I need some time to think. I’ll report to you if Duke does anything out of the ordinary.”
“Mm. I’m going to leave now as well. The members of ‘Dark Mantle’ have a lot of freedom. We won’t intervene in your private affairs, and will only come for you when there’s a mission that needs to be conducted. We won’t affect your life under normal circumstances.” Candide was surrounded by a cloud of black mist and his figure became fainter and fainter. A thin pulse of magic traveled out of the mist, and he then vanished from Han Shuo’s sight as the breeze blew past, like he’d never appeared.
Han Shuo had clearly identified what he needed under Phoebe’s persuasion not too long ago. Who would’ve thought that an olive branch would be extended as soon as he’d left Phoebe. He’d joined this “Dark Mantle” organization after a round of discussion with Candide. This made Han Shuo subtly feel that something was wrong, and he started to suspect whether or not Phoebe knew of Candide’s existence. This would simply be too much of a coincidence otherwise.
However, even if Phoebe and Candide were acquainted with each other, then Grover wouldn’t have been anything in the face of Candide’s enormous power. Phoebe wouldn’t have so many troubles either. This made Han Shuo quite confused as well.
Han Shuo carefully sorted out his thoughts within the woods and went over everything that had happened recently in his mind. He then set off towards the Academy grounds again with a look of resolution.