The stars spread far across the darkness of the night.


A cold gust of wind blew, sending a mellow chill across the bare plains that was established as the team’s base.

The night’s moon was hung high up in the sky, and the small—yet brilliant—glows of the stars spread their light upon the world.

Everyone was fast asleep, preparing for the day of training that would commence very soon, unable to witness just how glorious the night looked.

Everyone except one.

***********

“Haa…” I heaved a sigh as I looked above me.

A lot was going through my mind—so much so that I could do nothing but sit still while watching the world from my position.

Sleep eluded me, and my body was too full of energy to fall into slumber.

‘Rest is important.’ I thought to myself, but deep down I knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

I was troubled, after all.

The Nether Cult frightened me, in all honesty.
There was something about the group… about this mission… that seemed to send shivers down my spine.

Underneath all the bravado and all of the planning, I had a sense of foreboding within me.


And that scared me plenty.

“And there’s also the issue of the team…”

I was in some sort of uncertain area at the moment, as regards to their trust.
The most obvious gulf existed between me and Ana… and our last encounter didn’t show any signs of things getting better.

The silent treatment she gave me, and the dissatisfaction I sensed from her… they all proved one thing—that she was still upset.

‘I can’t make this all about me.
I know she’s still mourning Kuzon’s death, and she can’t exactly be the same as she was.
But…’

Aloe Vida was also acting strange.

‘No one is raising the issue of my Reincarnation.
I guess they want to focus on the mission first…’

I understood things from that aspect.
However, I still felt uneasy.

Perhaps sitting and watching the night, all alone, caused me to go too deep into my thoughts.

‘Who knows…?’

“What’s wrong, Jared?” A voice suddenly echoed in my ears, causing me to swiftly turn in the direction of the sound.


I was so lost in thought that I hadn’t even perceived the presence of someone else in the vicinity… not until she spoke.

“A-ah, Maria…” I stuttered, my eyes meeting hers.

Underneath the allure of the night, Maria’s sudden appearance had a certain charm to it.
Her silver hair seemed to gleam brightly, and her blue eyes glowed like gems.

I was so captivated that words failed me.

“Jared… are you okay?” Once she said those words, I finally snapped from my gawking state.

“Y-yeah.
I am.” I nodded, looking away as I raised my head to once again admire the canopy of bright darkness above my head.

Maria drew closer, and I could hear her gentle footsteps.
It didn’t take long before she sat right beside me, her hair tickling my face slightly.

“Hey, talk to me.
What’s the matter?” She nudged me—both with her words, and with her shoulder against mine.

“Haha… well…”

What could I really say? How was I supposed to begin? I was the leader.
The one with the plan, as well as the certainty, that would guarantee our victory.

Yet… why was I suddenly so unsure about everything? This moment of weakness felt so crippling that I didn’t want to reveal it to anyone else—especially not to Maria.

However—


“I’m scared, Maria.”

—I didn’t even know when I started to speak.

“Scared about what?” Her melodious voice rang in my ears, causing me to divulge even more.

“This mission.
Everything that has been happening.
I have a bad feeling.”

Silence took reign for a moment.
Maria was probably speechless by my words, but I had to give it more context.

“The Nether Cult has existed for so long, Maria.
Its members are not only powerful, but they’re also experienced.
They have brilliant people like Legris on their team, and their First Seat can devastate an entire nation with one strike.
I’m not saying those things in themselves are scary, but…”

How could I explain this in words? How could I really translate my suspicion into speech? It eluded me greatly.

“They’re currently weakened, I understand that well.
We also have the advantage and everything seems ideal..
However, why do I feel so hesitant now? My true identity being revealed has caused a major crack in the team, but I fear that many more might appear.
I… I just…”

Maria’s hand touched my shoulder, causing a wave of warm sensation to course through my body.

‘Her hand is cold.’ My mind thought.

“Should we postpone the mission?”

“No.
That’s the worst part, I can’t do that.
The longer we take, the worse it’ll be.
It’s best we act fast.
The moment the team gets the hang of the Arcanas, and we’ve attained the desirable level of power for this mission, we have to strike fast.”


If we were to take our time, the chances of being struck unprepared was very high.

“And that’s what scares me.
It’s the fact that we have no other choice but to attack now, yet I’m nervous about it.
It’s like we’re stuck in a situation where this is our only chance.”

I felt like I was being played once again.
If anything, this could be one of Legris’ plans.

‘If I choose to use this perfect opportunity, it could be a trap.
However, if I refuse, they’ll cause more damage.’

Either way… I felt like a predetermined outcome existed.

“If the First Seat alone should strike… he can wreak havoc on an entire nation in seconds.
The Soul Project: Omega, can only handle so much.
I can’t possibly withstand the deaths of many people possessing my Soul Brand, and we lack enough facilities and time to revive them—not to talk of energy.”

I could see risk after risk.

The best means was to spearhead a team to go all-out on the enemy and cause whatever damage we could on their territory.

“And we only have one shot.”

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