It had been over 7 months since Ning had seen Sophie. The last time he had seen her was in the fort town where he had left the Paradise Hunters temporarily to come to learn in the Blackhawk Academy.

It was a surprise to see her here, and it was even a bigger surprise to see her so excited at meeting her.

She was never this excited before, was she? Hmm, maybe she had a crush on him. Ning sighed. He would have to reject her gently if that was the guess.

"Alright, let go of me. They're gone," Sophie said as she herself let go of Ning.

"Hmm?" Ning saw behind him that his academy mates had moved on. "Oh," he said and let go. Only then did he see Sophie's somewhat serious face.

"Hmm, you aren't happy to see me, are you?" he asked her.

"Huh? Why would I be happy?" Sophie asked. "I was just told to act the part so they would let you talk to me."

"Is… is that so?" he asked with an awkward smile. He felt stupid thinking she might've had a crush on him. He shook his head.

"Anyway, what brings you here? I'm surprised you even left the Crowler Empire in the first place," Ning said.

"I do not know why we had to come here," Sophie said. "Kepli knows the actual mission. I'm really just here to protect him."

"Kepli? He's here?" Ning asked with a surprised look. "Wait, is this a mission from the boss?"

"I believe so," Sophie said. "Kepli doesn't move unless he thinks there is something important or is ordered directly by the boss."

"Hmm, did he send you here to get me?" Ning asked.

"Yes, you have time to come with me, right?" she asked.

"Well, thankfully I made some time," Ning said. "Where are you staying? If possible, I will need to return quickly."

"We just got here half a day ago. Everyone is still staying in the carriage by one of the houses in the village," she said.

"Alright, let's go," Ning said.

* * * * *

As Ning and Sophie walked away, a thin old man looked in Ning's direction with a narrowed look on his face.

"Isn't that the wonder kid from Blackhawk?" he asked the people beside him. He was the headmaster of the Essence Heart Academy and was speaking to the teachers of his academy.

"That is the young man with Space and Lightning attacks," one of the teachers confirmed.

"What is he doing walking away from the group?" another teacher couldn't help but ask.

"It doesn't matter," the headmaster said as he gritted his teeth. "What matters is that he's now isolated. He's going to be fighting our Grasian in tomorrow's top 16 battles, isn't he? This is the perfect time to take him out."

The short female teacher stepped up. "Do you need me to act again?" she asked.

"Yes, teacher Shina. Your last work was perfect. We only failed because we failed to consider that there would be folks that wouldn't be in the group to eat," the headmaster said. "Now, you can deal with him directly."

* * * * *

A young man walked out of the arena with an older man, surrounded by multiple people that walked along with them.

The young man was Nalen Foreman, the person Ning had a scuffle with two nights ago. He looked quite nervous and angry at the same time.

They got to a carriage that was set up close by, where they got onto it and left to go back to the city.

"Are you sure the sword is any good?" the older man asked while the carriage started moving. "That young man didn't even use it all that much."

"Father, I promise you, it's incredible. He used it yesterday and created massive rocks easily. That sword is definitely something," Nalen said.

The older man was Saburn Foreman, Nalen's father, and the current head of the Foreman family, the unofficial ruler of the Whiteowl Region.

"You aren't doing this because you got embarrassed by Genn, right?" the man asked.

Nalen stopped himself from speaking. "I'm doing it in part because of that, but I can assure you Father, that is no ordinary weapon. That bastard even used sand yesterday. SAND! Have you ever seen someone use sand using an Earth sword, Father?"

"What makes you think he used the sword?" his father asked. "You saw him use Space Essence and Lightning Essence today. Do you still think he used Sand Essence through the sword? Hell, he could even have been wearing an armor underneath that we didn't know about."

Nalen kept quiet, thinking of some sort of retort, but nothing came to mind. All he knew was that the sword Ning had was the heaviest object he had ever held in his hand and it was not ordinary in any sense.

"You will understand when you sense the sword yourself, Father," Nalen said. "Just find a way to get your hands on it, father. If you still think it's not good, I won't say anything anymore."

Saburn looked at his son and sighed. "Let's… let's not do anything rash for the next 4 years, okay? We are so close to becoming the actual ruler of this land. Please do not do anything that will ruin this for me."

Nalen frowned. "I don't think I can do anything like that," he said, cowering into his seat.

"Trying to enrage the Blackhawk Academy certainly counts as one," the man said. "Let's just take it slow for now. Once the bastard living in the north is found and killed, we can finally be worry-free."

"Until then, do absolutely nothing."

"Have you found him yet?" Nalen asked.

"I'm getting closer. People are revealing more and more information about him," the man said. "As the leader of the so-called Paradise Hunter gang, he will have to come out sooner or later."

"When he does, we'll kill him," the man said with viciousness in his voice. "Then… our journey to ruling this region will be as good as confirmed."