Jake, in the end, decided to just be normal and enter as everyone else would. Besides, it wasn’t like that much border control was going on, as the entire gate was more than ten meters wide and without any real defenses while open.

When he got closer, he saw a simple-looking registration booth with a sign advertising how to get citizenship, with another slightly larger office for the merchants to go and register. There wasn’t really any visitor center or control of who entered or exited, but he did feel like he passed a barrier when he entered the city as well as a few pairs of eyes on him.

He kept walking a bit further into the city, seeing a mull of people even though it was in the middle of the night. People didn’t really need to sleep much anymore, if at all, making the nightlife as buzzing as the daytime most often.

It did vary, as many professions needed to prepare things, and it just came most naturally to fall into old customs. For example, if a blacksmith needed to craft, they would spend most of the night smithing away and then sell during the day. Of course, it could be the other way around, but most others just copied and did the same if the majority began doing something.

Besides, it gave rise to other kinds of businesses, as Jake saw a bar district quite close to the entrance. It appeared that most commercial activities were centered around the entrance area of the city, with the residential part further in towards the mountainside.

Sadly, Jake was not in the mood to check out the local cuisine or watering holes but instead went into a small alley between two bars where he stopped and waited. He looked to the side, straight into a wall, as he felt the person peer at him through it, making it clear he was aware of them.

While waiting, he took out the compass and saw it pointed to a building nearby. He planned to go check it out in a bit, but first, he would deal with the police force or whoever was keeping an eye on him.

Ten or so seconds later, three people landed in front of him. The person in the front was a woman at D-grade and regarded him for a moment before she bowed.

“Lord Thayne,” she said respectfully. “We were not aware you would visit this soon. May we know your order of business?”

So much for stealth being an option…

“I am here to visit my brother and deliver some things from the resident space mage of Haven,” Jake answered.

“This…” the woman looked a bit unsure as she hesitated. “Would you mind following us to the city hall so we can discuss? I think that will be easier, and we can avoid unwanted attention.”

Jake considered her words, and with his suspicion of the area already not being what it seemed… he would mind.

“Here is just fine,” Jake answered as he activated Pride of the Malefic Viper as well as summoned an arcane barrier sealed off the entire alley. “Now no one can listen in. Tell me, where is my brother?”

The woman looked hesitant still but finally relented. “This is against protocol… but… sir, the Judge is not in this city.”

Jake frowned. “Isn’t this Skyggen?”

“Yes and no,” she answered. “As a defensive measure, there exist two cities named Skyggen. This one is the publicly known version, and the other one is hidden and holds the true headquarter of the Court of Shadows.”

“That is… actually pretty smart?” Jake said as he thought about it. It was a bit like how the Fort acted as a buffer to Haven, then this place also worked as a front of sorts for the Court. Maybe the larger factions did know, but it sure as hell had him fooled, and he was certain Miranda would have mentioned it if she knew.

It also made sense to place a public teleportation circle here.

“It is standard protocol to always set up a second Pylon city if possible to mask the headquarter,” the woman explained. “The Court also still needs to operate somewhat publicly to procure resources and recruit, as well as allow us to expand our presence, so it serves several purposes.”

Jake nodded along as he asked: “So, where is the true city?”

“Approximately a thousand kilometers to the northeast, located in a valley,” she said as she took out a small device and handed it to Jake. “This is a locator showing the direction, I have already unlocked it, but it requires a solid understanding and manipulation of dark mana to-“

“I got it,” Jake said nonchalantly. The device clicked as a small mark appeared on it. Having unlocked it, Jake also knew it was pointing him towards the real Skyggen, even though the mark didn’t look like an arrow, but more an odd eclipse of sorts.

The woman stared at him a bit as she just nodded. “Very well. You mentioned something for the space mages?”

“Yep,” Jake said as he fished out the cube Neil had given him. “I’m sure they can figure out what to do with this.”

He tossed the cube to her, and she caught it, nodding once more. “Final thing… we had an intruder a few days ago, so the security is quite high at the headquarter.”

“Duly noted,” Jake said as he didn’t hesitate to take off right away, dispelling the arcane barrier as he summoned his wings and soared upwards and out of the city, following the locator. He was only a tiny bit miffed that he had to travel again, but at least it was only a small journey this time around.


Caleb sat in his office, staring at a picture on the wall as he occasionally glanced down at the report in front of him. It was transcribed based on direct communication with the Augur, Jacob, related to the presence of an off-world teleportation method. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof.

Which meant even the Holy Church had no idea who or what was behind William’s trip to Nevermore. And speaking of William…

Before he had the time to process the odd encounter again, it knocked on the door.

“Sir… we have another intruder,” his aide said, though with far less urgency than last time.

“Who?” Caleb asked as he got up in a hurry, still not taking it lightly.

“It appears to be your brother,” the man answered.


Caleb went out of his office as he didn’t bother turning to lightning this time. Mainly because he wanted to make his brother wait for breaking in for some fucking reason.

Jake had a good reason to break in. At least he believed it was a great reason. You see, when he came to the valley with the hidden Skyggen in it, he encountered a barrier meant to camouflage it. Of course, it mattered naught before the power of Jake’s Perception, but he still found it interesting.

As interesting as the detection barrier. Jake really wanted to see if he could sneak past it, and lo-and-behold, he could. All it took was his arcane barrier being used to hide as he used One Step Mile to quickly phase through - Pride of the Malefic Viper active all the meanwhile to stabilize the mana around him and make his barrier more potent.

Now, once inside, the real fun began. Jake wanted to see how far he could make it in before being discovered as he activated Expert Stealth and snuck in. He made it to the wall and over it, using his sphere and overpowered eyesight to keep track of the movement of guards, like he was playing a stealth game.

It all went fine and dandy for a while until he suddenly felt a gaze upon him, and he knew the jig was up. He looked up at a tower and saw a woman he recognized from the World Congress look back at him through the scope of what looked like a sniper rifle. Jake waved at her, and she also raised her arm to wave while taking out a small token of sorts.

Realizing there was no point hiding, Jake exited stealth and went back the way he had come towards a fancy little pastry shop he had passed on the way. By now, it was early in the morning, and if he was visiting his parents, it would only be polite to bring cake and breakfast.

It didn’t take him long to find some cake and other pastries, and the woman at the counter didn’t even question him wearing a mask or anything. So he just paid and left, finding himself on the main street outside. Looking about with his sphere, it quickly became apparent why no one cared about his mask or even that his level was hidden – more than half of the people on the street wore them and had hidden levels.

I guess that’s a city of assassins for ya, Jake thought as he found a bench and took a seat as he waited.

The real Skyggen was quite a bit smaller than the other one, but the overall power level was far different. Just sitting there, Jake had already detected more D-grades than he had seen in the other city, and the overall presence of the place was just on another level.

He also felt that the atmospheric mana was slightly different compared to the outside of the barrier. It was a bit darker everywhere, as the dark mana in the environment was prevalent. If Jake had to guess, then the barrier erected around it helped transform the mana, or maybe it even had something to do with the Pylon? Jake knew it could affect atmospheric mana, so he could see Caleb have a skill to affect it as the city leader.

A few gazes upon him threw him out of his thoughts as he turned his head and saw Caleb walk towards him. The observers seemed to be hidden in the area around his brother, Jake deciding to pay them no mind as he got up.

“Hello, I come representing the space mage guild of Haven, and on behalf of my client, I have come to serve you a lawsuit for false advertisement by having two damn cities named the same thing,” Jake said as his brother got close.

“On behalf of the Court of Shadows, I vehemently deny all such accusations as the teleportation coordinates were placed in Skyggen as per the terms of the contract. Having two cities with the same name is just a loophole and not my client’s fault,” Caleb answered as he walked over and gave him a hug. “Good to see you again, Jake. You got here faster than expected.”

“You did tell me to come,” Jake answered with a smile, not bothering to continue with the half-joke, half-jab. Okay, he could continue a little. “Smart trick with the two cities, even had me fooled for a moment. You got two Pylons for it?”

“Yeah,” Caleb answered. “The proximity means we can link them up quite soon and essentially make it one city, at least when it comes to bonuses and such. It also serves as a nice shield and allows this Skyggen to serve as the main headquarter and living space of the members of the Court and their immediate family.”

“As I said, smart,” Jake said as he pulled back a bit and frowned. “Now, what’s the problem?”

“Huh?” Caleb exclaimed, confused.

“Something is clearly bothering you, and you’re as shit at hiding it now as when you were as a kid. So?”

Caleb sighed as he motioned with his hand, and Jake felt several gazes disappear off him. “Let’s go to my office first, then we can go to mom and dad after.”

Jake raised the bags of pastries. “Can’t be too long, or these get cold.”

“The bags are enchanted, so they won’t,” Caleb answered, shaking his head. “This is pretty standard for all shops, even in other cities… Jake, how often do you leave your house?”

“So, what way to your office?”

Jake took a seat in the armchair in Caleb’s office, finding the place overly fancy and very domineering. But then again, he was titled the Judge, so maybe it was good for him to be a bit intimidating when dealing with problems.

“So?” Jake said again as Caleb had also taken a seat.

“William came by a few days ago,” Caleb said in a grave voice.

A few moments passed as Jake frowned. “Oh… him… he was still alive, huh?”

Returning his frown, Caleb asked: “Didn’t you have a conflict or a fight with him?”

“I wouldn’t call it a fight,” Jake answered, shaking his head. “Honestly, I haven’t thought much about him for quite a while. Last I heard, he was with some therapist or something. Either way, did you kill him?”

“No… it isn’t as simple as that,” Caleb sighed. “A few days ago, he managed to break in while everyone was absent going to the Treasure Hunt, and…”

Caleb explained what had happened, and the more he said, the more Jake began frowning. After he finished, Jake sat in silence for a while.

“172, huh?” Jake commented. “So, he’s trying to get revenge or something?”

“That’s the thing...” Caleb begun. “I don’t think this situation is that straightforward. He didn’t kill anyone when he came, and he didn’t even do any real lasting damage. He also possesses some powerful mental skills to the level where I believe he has maxed out his profession or is at least close to it. I can also admit that he is more powerful than me… but despite it all, I never felt any killing intent.”

“Then what did he want?”

“Just information, it seems. I followed him, fully expecting a battle, but instead, all I got was a questionnaire about you. Who you were growing up, what you did for work, your hobbies, your likes, dislikes… honestly, it was just damn bizarre. But I did manage to pick up some things myself,” Caleb answered.

“First of all, he seems to have grown a lot both mentally and power-wise based on prior information, so I estimate he has spent the full five years D-grade can be in Nevermore. This means he must have gone there shortly after the World Congress.”

“Villy did tell me it isn’t super hard to leave the universe, but last I heard, no faction was able to yet, so how could he leave already?”

“I don’t know, but I have some theories. Anyway, the second thing I learned was just how little William knew of you. Even the current you, meaning I doubt he has many human companions who are in the upper echelons of humanity. Thirdly, and this is a weird one… he didn’t use your name even once,” Caleb said.

“Did he forget it?” Jake asked, half-jokingly.

“Based on his reaction when I said it? No, no, he did not. He winced back when I mentioned your name directly, swiftly trying to wrest back the flow of conversation. He only referred to you as “your brother” or “that guy” or other generic terms during our talks. He didn’t even use other words used like “hunter” or “Chosen” or anything like that,” Caleb explained.

“Okay, that is weird,” Jake agreed.

“Maybe… maybe not. I don’t think you are a person in his mind, at least not right now. William is trying to make you into a person again by discovering how ‘human’ you are. I sensed genuine fear just at the mention of your name, so to answer the question if he is coming for revenge? Not right now, I don’t think so. But maybe soon, as he seems to be building up both strength and courage. If it is to kill you or merely face you, I don’t know.”

“So?” Jake asked, Caleb instantly getting what he was asking.

“I can’t tell… but if I had to guess, I honestly still don’t think he has a chance. He is powerful for sure, stronger than me… and maybe even stronger than you before the Treasure Hunt. Now, though? It is hard to determine without a true fight, and he didn’t really display much, so this is primarily guesswork,” Caleb admitted.

“Any idea where he is right now?” Jake asked, the implications clear. If the little fucker wanted to fight, he would gladly come to him, also just to tie up a loose end. If he had just stayed out of Jake’s way for good, he wouldn’t care, but now he dared show up in front of his parents? Yeah, that ain’t gonna fly.

“No, but I have an idea who he is with,” Caleb began. “As I said, he teleported off-world months ago, which I would think to be impossible… at least for humans.”

“You mean?” Jake asked, getting it.

“William isn’t working with another human faction – he is working with monsters.”

A note from Zogarth

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