The brownish-yellow eyes of the owl glowed in the dark, fixating on Lumian as it perched on the branch.
Lumian was no longer as intimidated as he was during their previous encounters. He yelled, "Whatcha looking at? Say something if you dare!"
Lumian didn't have to provoke the owl, but he hoped it would reveal the owl's true motive. He couldn't bear the thought of the creature lurking around and staring at him in the dead of night.
To his surprise, the owl remained silent and didn't make a sound.
After a few tense seconds, the owl spread its wings and flew off into the darkness.
"Crazy!" Lumian let out a frustrated curse, but he didn't dare let his guard down.
Lumian remained focused on scrutinizing the dark shadows outside, trying to detect any signs of danger.
He recalled that the last time the owl had appeared, he had seen Naroka's figure and learned of her death the following day.
I wonder if something similar will happen this time… But after careful observation, he didn't notice anything abnormal and breathed a sigh of relief. He drew the curtains and lay back on the bed.
In the deep darkness, Lumian opened his eyes, contemplating his next move.
I wonder what this owl is trying to do… It's acting so strange and mysterious. It shouldn't be up to anything good…
Whatever. With the situation in the village, I have to leave with Aurore as soon as possible. I don't believe that it can follow us to Trier!
If I don't receive a reply tomorrow, we'll leave Cordu the morning after tomorrow…
If there's a reply, we can leave Cordu openly from the village entrance. If not, we'll have to improvise. It's Lent tomorrow, and everyone will still be celebrating the day after tomorrow, so we won't attract too much attention. Aurore can borrow Madame Pualis' pony and spend some time in the nearby alpine pastures. We don't need to go down the mountain, so it shouldn't attract the investigators' attention. When the time comes, we can use a dangerous trail to leave the mountain…
The path is treacherous, with several broken parts in the middle. Even the shepherds don't think it's passable. However, with my newfound abilities and Aurore's witchcraft, allowing her to fly a distance, she'll have it easier than me…
There's a good chance we can hoodwink the investigators…
Becoming a Hunter had allowed him to do what was previously impossible. It gave Lumian a newfound sense of confidence, allowing him to quickly formulate a plan.
His heart became more certain, and he slept soundly.
The next morning, Lumian rose early and got to work in the kitchen.
His thoughts turned to how he had become a Beyonder and how he was about to leave the abnormal village of Cordu with his sister. Lumian's mood brightened, and he even found himself eager to hum a tune.
When Aurore came downstairs, there were already two bowls of minced meat noodles on the table.
"How did you know I was about to get up?" she asked, pleased.
"I started cooking noodles when I heard movement in the washroom." Lumian grinned, inwardly noting, You are always in a groggy state after waking up. How don't you realize this?
Aurore nodded. As she sat at the dining table, she casually asked, "That owl flew over again in the middle of the night?"
"That's right." Lumian knew that his sister had discovered him looking out the window, so the owl's appearance had been a fortunate distraction. Otherwise, he wasn't sure how to explain himself.
He couldn't risk telling Aurore about his newfound Beyonder abilities just yet, as he would be given a dressing down by her.
However, Lumian planned to divulge the truth to his sister sooner than later. He wanted to avoid Aurore from having considerations that might hinder their escape.
He planned to tell his sister about this the day after tomorrow when they escaped from Cordu to prevent her from diverting her attention to take care of him.
By then, she wouldn't have the time to give him a dressing down.
Aurore furrowed her brow in confusion. "What a strange owl…"
She was still trying to decipher the bird's true intentions—all it did was come over to take a look.
Lumian slurped up the last of his noodles, then turned to his sister.
"If there's a reply, we'll leave Cordu this evening and take the usual path down the mountain.
"If not, borrow a pony from Madame Pualis tomorrow morning and we'll head to the nearest alpine ranch. I know of a trail that leads down the mountain, and the investigators won't be aware of it."
Aurore fiddled with her hair, deep in thought.
After a while, she grinned and said, "Sure, the probability of this plan succeeding is quite high."
She clicked her tongue and added, "My stupid brother has grown up."
Lumian couldn't help but feel smug, basking in his sister's praise.
After breakfast, Lumian made an excuse to go see if Ava was finished with her Spring Elf blessings tour. He left the subterranean building and headed straight to Ol' Tavern.
As a newly-minted Beyonder, Lumian was eager to gain more knowledge, and the lady had promised to share some with him.
Not far from the tavern, Lumian spotted an old acquaintance walking towards him.
It was Pons Bénet, the younger brother of the local padre.
He's alone… Lumian couldn't help but smile at the thought of how he had been chased by Pons and his thugs in the past.
Having just obtained supernatural powers, he was already eager to test out his new supernatural powers.
"Hey, my illegitimate son," Lumian greeted him. "How dare you go out alone without daddy's permission?"
Lumian hoped to provoke Pons and goad him into a fight instead of letting him run.
Pons Bénet looked in the direction of the voice and saw him.
The villain's expression changed slightly. He turned to run away.
Thud. Thud. Thud… Lumian watched in disbelief as Pons sprinted away, disappearing at the intersection not far away.
He sure ran fast… Quite an alert one…
Lumian sighed silently.
He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he could take down Pons Bénet in a one-on-one scrap, even before he ascended to Beyonder status. But it seemed likely that Pons Bénet had the same notion. The two of them had never properly thrown down, but they both had confidence in their own abilities. So, it caught him off guard when Pons Bénet bolted the second he caught sight of him today, like he'd come face to face with a bloodthirsty beast.
It's impossible for him to know that I secretly became a Beyonder last night… Is he so dense that he's developed animal instincts and can sniff out danger? Lumian slandered Pons Bénet in his heart.
He refrained from pursuing Pons Bénet because he regretted the moment he "greeted" him.
The village was riddled with aberrations, and the situation was perilous. Lumian knew better than to stir the pot before he left.
If he had pummeled Pons Bénet, the padre and his goons might spring into action prematurely, thus jeopardizing his and Aurore's escape. It would be too late for regrets when that happened.
Furthermore, the padre's group was an enigma, and there could be something off about Pons Bénet. Lumian suspected that if he engaged in fisticuffs with him, his Beyonder identity would be exposed, and that would spell trouble in the future.
Being a Beyonder has made me too haughty and overconfident. I need to rein myself in, Lumian mused, reflecting on his behavior, as he entered Ol' Tavern.
Today, the lady was garbed in a pearl-gray dress and a light-colored lady's bonnet. Lumian noticed that there wasn't any food in front of her.
"Have you had breakfast?" he asked, taking a seat opposite her.
The lady replied nonchalantly, "Not yet. I'm meeting someone here, and I'm still waiting for her."
Her? Not me…? Lumian scanned the area but saw no one else except the tavern owner.
He looked at the lady again and sincerely said, "I've become a Hunter."
It's time for you to keep your promise and give me more common knowledge.
The lady wasn't surprised at all. She remarked with a smile, "It seems you're in pretty good shape."
She spoke in a voice that sounded almost otherworldly, "What you need to master now are two laws and one method."
Why does it feel like I'm studying physics… Lumian didn't dare speak his thoughts aloud.
The lady continued to speak, "For most Beyonders, this knowledge is incredibly valuable. They'd trade everything they have just to acquire it. But for you, fate has brought you here, and so I'll give it to you for free."
Free things often come at the most hefty price. How will I pay the price? Lumian felt a weight settle on his shoulders.
Ever since he became a Hunter, his intuition and observation skills had improved significantly. He could sense a strange, indescribable emotion in the lady's eyes, much stronger than before, but he still couldn't put a finger on what it was.
The lady straightened up.
"All supernatural powers come from the Oldest One, the Creator. As a believer of the Eternal Blazing Sun, you should know that His eyes became the Sun."
"Yes." Lumian had heard the padre's sermons about it before.
"That's a symbolic description," the lady clarified. "In essence, the Oldest One created this world and many deities. Eventually, He disintegrated Himself and split into Beyonder characteristics of different pathways."
"So that's why they're called the paths of the divine?" Lumian connected the dots.
The lady nodded slightly.
"Yes, every pathway's Sequence 0 is equivalent to a true god. For instance, the Bard pathway's Sequence 0 is known as the Sun, which is also the Eternal Blazing Sun you believe in."
Lumian was surprised and a little apprehensive. So every Beyonder can become a god in the end?
If he were a devout believer of the Eternal Blazing Sun, he would have accused the lady of blasphemy. But he wasn't that kind of person. He was just a casual believer who didn't give it much thought.
He even asked, "What's the Hunter pathway's Sequence 0? And what about the Mystery Pryer pathway?"
"Didn't I already tell you? It's the Red Priest, and the position is currently vacant," the lady replied with a chuckle. "As for the Mystery Pryer pathway, the Sequence 0 is known as The Hermit, and it's currently occupied by an evil god called the Hidden Sage. He likes to impart knowledge to Beyonders of the same pathway, earning Him the nickname 'Knowledge Pursuer.' Your sister's troubles stem from Him."
"Is that so…" Lumian felt a twinge of dislike towards the Hidden Sage.
The woman redirected the conversation.
"Since Beyonder characteristics come from the Oldest One, they won't disappear or increase. They only transform from one form to another, moving from one object to another. This is known as the Law of Beyonder Characteristics Indestructibility or the Law of Conservation."