Solar System was hard not to notice.

Unlike the last time when it had no aura, its aura was increasing every day now. It was a difference between a dark spot and a glittering star.

The scouts of Zion Duchy discovered it early on. But they were caught in a dilemma.

If this was a base of Black Rose, it wouldn't be so obvious, would it? So, destroying it or even exposing themselves to this civilization would only startle the hidden enemies and push them into hiding.

"Split into five teams and use our stealth ships to make a quick assessment of the surroundings. If this is the space portal they used to travel, they should be within a few light-year radius." Prince Oleg commanded his team.

Two rank 6s each led twenty rank 4 prisoners and headed out in five different directions. Prince Oleg alone headed in the sixth direction.

"Master, that man is probing our civilization. He's approaching Earth. He must've sensed the concentration of powerhouses here." Oob informed Varian.

"Haa—Darn his timing." Varian raised his hands for a time break and the terrifying aura fluctuations in the training room stopped.

"Tsk." Isadora threw away the bloodied sword in her hand and transformed into Sia.

Sia walked to him in quick steps and looked at him with distress. "She's being too…harsh."

Varian flinched as her fingertips gently grazed his arm. There were six long cuts on his chest, three deep wounds on his back, and unknown injuries on his arms.

He lifted her seal to rank 5 and competed against her by limiting his own power to the peak of rank 3.

He was crushed.

Unlike the last time, Isdaora was fully prepared and didn't give him any leeway.

Varian didn't use the slivers, so perhaps he had a better chance. But he was trying to improve his natural strength—power he could use anywhere without fear of exposure.

"It's okay, I asked her to go all out." Varian winced a little as black flames burned his body and soul.

Sia bit her lip and looked at him with moist eyes. "You always get hurt."

"I can handle the envoys. Those scouts, they're all rank 6. I can handle them as well. But I can handle neither the pala princes nor the Zion powerhouses." Varian explained with a wry smile.

Sia took out a healing potion and gently applied it to his wounds. Varian exhaled deeply as he felt the burning in his body and soul cool down.

With a mix of frustration and regret, Sia said. "Isadora would've already reached rank 7 if Enigma and I hadn't pushed her so far and restricted her progress."

Varian could hear the self-blame in her voice. He brushed her head gently and whispered. "Don't be silly. If you didn't take that step, she'd have killed me and Sarah. You always keep blaming yourself."

"I…" Sia knew it was the only choice she had at that time.

But since that night, she had been taking every wrong as her responsibility. Even though she met Amanda and made peace with the hard reality, the habit was hard to drop.

"I went from a beginner in rank 4 to peak rank 4 in mere days. It came with a cost of this bottleneck." Varian rested his chin on her shoulder and patted her small back. "If I took my time, this bottleneck wouldn't exist. But I'm glad I did what I did. Else, Sarah…I can't even imagine that future."

"Now that you mention it, it's really fate at work." Sia kissed him lightly and looked him in the eyes with a strong gaze. "Think about it for a moment. If Sarah hadn't taken the risk to save me and took the Ares trials, then—"

"I would have died." Varian's voice was filled with a rare sense of dread. "If it wasn't for Sarah, Isadora would've succeeded in killing me."

"And without you, Sarah would've died there." Sia sighed deeply. "We saved each other, in a weird twist of fate."

Varian nodded strongly.

"So," Sia moved her lips closer to his ear. "I have a proposal now that both you and Isadora are having problems advancing. How about you both do Synergy?"

"W-What?" Varian's voice cracked and he held the shoulders of his wife tight. "Are you crazy?"

"It's the only solution we have now." Sia rubbed his palms that went through so much hardship. "You said it yourself, we'll have rank 7 enemies in a week or two."

"But I can try to advance by then and I…" Varian's voice grew quiet as he looked into Sia's eyes.

He couldn't lie to her like that.

He might or might not advance. It's a big risk he had. And even if he did advance, insights from someone who already reached rank 7 and even hit the peak of rank 9 would really help him grow faster.

"Will she agree?" Varian tilted his head.

"Ask her yourself," Sia shrugged. "She doesn't like talking to me much, she calls me a fool for loving you so much."

'And that's why she didn't let you use her darkness powers?' Varian raised a brow.

A light flashed. Sia's soft and cold hands changed.

Isadora in her casual black dress, in contrast to the battle uniform, appeared in front of him with her arms crossed.

"What is it?"

"Weren't you listening?"

"Huh?" Her red eyes stared at him. "It's hard to do but a lot of times, I shut myself off when she's with you. I don't want to witness that disgusting temporary affection."

Varian wanted to counter her right away but he had a more pressing issue. "We are both struck with our bottlenecks. Dual cultivate with me and we can bot—"

"No." Isadora's voice was firm and cold.

"It's not anything romantic or sexual. We'll have our clothes and just hold han—"

"Our souls will interact. That is more intimate than anything physical." Isadora clenched her fist. "Just because those two are heads over heels for you, never mistake that I'll be the same I am not your mistress and I will never be one.

I've lived far longer than you and witnessed way more things. This love that you're so proud of will fade. Your heart and theirs will break."

Varian's smile cracked and he glared at her. "You sound like that divorced woman who can't get any love and wishes every happy couple to break up. Pathetic!"

"You!" Isadora's chest heaved up and down as her red eyes glowed with fury.

Varian didn't give in. "You had your bad past, fine. But why can't you wish them happiness?"

"I am telling them the truth so they won't be disappointed! If there's any bond that will remain inseparable, it is us who are forged into this one being!"

"Truth? You lived a few years more than me and want to preach the truth? Please. Even if I consider your view as the general truth, I refuse to accept that as our fate. If time breaks the bonds, then fuck time." Varian laughed but his tone was determined.

"You choose to dig your own grave when you could've just run away. So, now die in it," Isadora snorted. "I know for a fact that if things really go bad, you'll lift the seal and ask me to go somewhere safe for Sia and Enigma. Oh, and you'll also ask me to take care of Sarah."

With a flash of light, she disappeared, leaving behind Enigma who looked around inexplicably.

Varian took a deep breath. "You're wrong. I'll take them away from the solar system if I have to. I'm not leaving them for anyone. Even for everyone else."

Oob cautiously approached him and informed. "B-Boss, that man is on earth already."

"Oh, right." Varian's appearance changed and he appeared at the bar Oleg just entered.