"Lord, is there anyone you've ever admired?" One particular Cultist asked the Demon Lord frankly.
"You sound as if there's someone better than me."
"That wasn't my intention." He responded after Alan gave this large man a glare, then heard:
"There was one person." This answer surprised even the people around him, someone as prideful and filled with vanity like Alan could actually bring himself to admire a human other than himself?
"Was this person strong?"
"Obviously, but he was nothing compared to me."
"Then why admire him?"
"Heh~" A smile formed on his face and chuckled before saying: "He was the only friend of my younger brother, and someone who was similar to me in one aspect. Compared to 'normal' natural talents, that mixed martial artist was a freak that rivalled myself and the female disciple that brother of mine took in. He was abnormally gifted.
However, that in itself wouldn't make me care enough to remember him. There was something else about him that made him a legend." These words caused them no small amount of anticipation towards what Alan would say next.
"The lucky bastard was able to create an unbroken record of entering The Zone four times. He even cleared out all wasteful movements from his martial arts to reach an unfathomable state that even I will never be able to reach." Alan shook his head.
Just thinking of that man who died early before he could ascend caused this self-proclaimed Demon Lord to think of it as a waste... Though that could also be said for his little brother who saw die with his own two eyes before 'that incident' happened.
After Alex's 'boring' death, there was such a big opening to the Higher Realm that nearly the entire upper half of the Secret Martial Arts Society all over the world on Earth immediately left for Gaia.
It was suspicious that this only happened after his little brother's death, but he chalked it up to a coincidence. After all, there was no way Alex could have done anything after having his skull shattered once he fell off the skyscraper and hit the ground.
The Devillight Dragon (Alan) smiled mockingly as he remembered the devastated expression on Godlight Dragon's face (Rosetta) that day , as he felt it was fortunate that the Ouroboros Dragon's fall had such an impact on that annoying woman.
If Alex's past life's friend made him feel admiration since the guy was dead, then someone with the same unreasonable talent as him and still living like Rosetta only made him feel animosity towards her.
Little did he know that the clones of he and that young disciple of Alex were running around while scheming something towards him. The only thing he was focused on right now was coming up with the choreography for a performance and practicing until the day of the 'War' arrived. The Collective Radiance he and those he imparted a lesser version of his power to made things easier.
Though not everyone focused on that battle...
The Sentinel Class individual who asked the question didn't know the whole backstory. All he knew was that the person that was most admirable in his Lord's eyes was martial artist of the highest calibre. That's what he heard several years ago.
Recently, he gained more comprehensive details of what would gain the attention of his Cult's 'God'.
To also gain recognition in his Lord's eyes, the Cultist started his training to gradually grow strong enough to become a Mirror Priest back when he first got hints about it. Although he had gained that level of power he was dragging for too late, and could only yield the position he was aiming for to Jasmine once she surpassed his fighting prowess.
As there were limited spots, he could only stay as a Mirror Cultist with the prospects of becoming a Priest if the current Weapon Mistress was to unfortunately die. Though that didn't change that he had garnered quite a lot of respect in the Cult.
After coming to a party organised by the First Princess, he decided to be more useful to the Cult and find more people he could ally with. He even brought some beautiful girls who entered the later than him to become honey traps while there.
It was fortunate that the Collective Radiance Spell Slot had effects of beatifying a individual's looks.
While they were trying to 'persuade' people to join and become members of their Cult, he only assessed the situation at the side while drinking some alcohol blend in with the rest of them.
Although everyone seemed to be mingling with each other without any animosity, there were still some 'lines' that can be inferred between the people who came to this enjoyable party.
He thought back to his 'Master', one of the secret powers of the Mirror Cult who never revealed themselves. These were the seven Ascenders who have been following Alan since he came to Gaia.
Known by only his title as 'Arsonist Imoogi', the man had the most volatile relationship with the Demon Lord who ruled over the Mirror, so naturally, he was sent far from their most respected Lord's sight lest he unfortunately gets killed by accident...
Although the Arsonist Imoogi was the scariest among the hidden powers, the Sentinel Class individual who self-proclaimed himself as the future 'Shield Master' and backup to the Weapon Master believed that man to be quite intelligent.
He taught this 'Shield Master' how to use his eyes and ears to seek opportunities, and find just what he needed from the people around him. This is what allowed him to identify the different 'factions'.
The more chiseled individuals who were gathered at one side were definitely from the Sword Kingdom (Eteropin). While they looked like people from Lancia, what gave them away was their natural disposition sharpened through battle.
There was a confidence within their hearts that seemed to blend into each interaction they had as Warriors who normally didn't think of the consequences before doing something. This made him happy at the unexpected fortune before him.
As long as he could get into their 'circle', he should be able to slowly be able to infiltrate Eteropin and spread his Cult's teachings. Thinking about their personalities, he first decided to test the waters.
"You guys seem bored. Do you not like the music being played?" He asked not while holding a glass of champagne, but after getting a few meat skewers and sharing it with a Warrior before him.
Seeing the drool that was inconspicuously hanging on the lips of the others that were eyeing the multiple skewers that were left, he knew he hit a jackpot and hid a sinister smile under his facade.
"The music is good. I just like Pop, Rock, and Electro Swing better." Despite how suspicious it would normally be for people to fit into the stereotypes so well, the self-proclaimed Shield Master didn't doubt that they were being truthful.
After all, since when did Warriors who loved upbeat and high tempo music the type to like slower music genres? They were always out hunting and pumping with adrenaline 24/7. There were so many of them who loved 'Battle Music'-like songs...
Some might think that some more nuanced and melodious music genres would help calm them after battle. However, that went against the standard practices of the Sword Kingdom.
If Lancia had laidback citizens who only cared about creativity and arts, Eteropin only had people that were on edge whether day or night. As they were at the forefront of the kingdom where people were fighting everyday, the average strength of citizens were all mostly beyond that of the Ruling Kingdom. This was just the empire's simple politics.
As Warriors were mostly all battle maniacs who enjoyed fighting, the only reason they would travel all the way to Lancia was if they had a mission on hand or a wanted a change of pace. It wasn't weird for high-ranking Nobles to request the help of Warriors of the Sword Kingdom since the more laidback battle type Classes of Lancia were weak.
Eteropin Warriors also had confidence that they were an entire tier beyond Lancia Warriors. They didn't feel there was anything wrong with those battle type Classes believing themselves to be inferior to them since they earned their strength.
It would be the same if Lancia Bards met Eteropin Bards... Though the power difference would be the opposite direction. After all, those of the Ruling Kingdom were swimming in different kinds of 'Arts' that invoke different feelings from each of them.
Drawing of fire would press different buttons than one of the vast seas... and the Artist Association made sure to connect with different areas of the Human Empire to gather inspiration into Lancia.
Unlike the competitive Warriors who were materialistic in nature, the different kinds of Artists of Lancia were nice to each other and were always willing to share their inspirations with others.
Perhaps this was just a difference in culture...
As Shield Master was getting cozy with the Eteropin Warriors, the inconspicuous Vhalen who was able to hide in plain sight just by not speaking watched from afar. He had gotten friendly with the exes that attended and got information on the Cult.
Most of his exes became successful people in their industries not from relying on him, but by being the independent girls they were. They had enough ambition and drive to fully utilise their talents to fight4( for the influence they had been growing.
"I don't like seeing this..." Vhalen spoke after he had already split up from those girls and sat with .his current girlfriends(?). It wasn't like they could interact with each other all the time since they each had their own lives, but on times like this they would get together to interact with each other and talk about the things they were interested in.
As expected, the most popular topic was about the Mirror Cultists and the current political climate that hasn't changed ever since the tragedy that caused the death of billions of citizens at once.
They were able to recover from the tragedy that happened a long time ago thanks to the efforts of the Church. Their charity and respect for the martyrs who died that day appeased the hearts of the resentful citizens who lost too many people at once. True, Warriors liked to battle, but that didn't mean they were death prone or liked killing themselves, and their families were aware of this.
Even now, deaths of Warriors and the despair from losing a loved one was manageable due to it just being an unfortunate result of their role. Dying as a martyr at the border gave people more peace of mind than dying meaninglessly for no reason.
Earthlings would find this twisted, but Gaia Humans didn't consider this a 'darkness' of the Human Empire. They were close with nature and accepted death too as long as it was meaningful
Let me get back to the main point after that random ranger: Vhalen didn't like the Cult.
His older brother may allow they to do whatever they want in Lancia, but he despised every single one of them after hearing about how they took citizens as hostages while fighting the Church...
Although Shield Master was able to read the room most the time, the moment his attention shifted to the Eteropin Warriors, those who were aware of his secret identity maliciously stared at him once his head was turned, and they didn't hide their hatred.
No, the reason they were holding back was because those who had the connections to figure out his true identity still didn't have the physical power to do anything about him. After all, he was someone who made a name for himself outside the Capital of the Ruling Kingdom as the Flashing Shield, someone known for his Lord Rank speed.
He was similar to the Weapon Mistress in that he had unlimited Half-Spells with no restrictions.
Perhaps, the only one being that he currently could only stick with his Sentinel Class with no changes.
As the people who were opposing the Radiant Sword Mirror Cult were biting their nails in anxiety on what to do, Vhalen chose to be someone who would take on the mantle of social justice. The collective must be appeased, this was the role and responsibility of Royalty...! His eyes turned to the different people affected before stepping up.
The host of the party, his dear older sister, was talking to Noble Rankers from the Sword Kingdom to the side, but gave him a meaningful nod when she noticed his stare. After all, she was also one of the people feeling irritated after what happened.
The worst thing you could piss off Royalty was mess with their citizens, and this was a stereotype embraced by every one of the Royal Family. Their eyes were a lot more violent and red compared to the others as they felt each other's intentions.
After getting the go-ahead from Mary, he looked at the and saw the three quintuplets cheering him on in their hearts. Their eyes expressed that they would have his back as they also nodded at him.
And lastly, he looked at a little opening in the ceiling and nodded his head. This was a signal to his bodyguards who got permission to hide from the guests using whatever means they chose.
He then got up from his seat and walked towards Shield Master with a dominating demeanour.
Even the Mirror Cultist wasn't dense enough to not realise something was up when the music suddenly stopped. It only made the heavy footsteps of Vhalen more clearer as he strode towards the man with a face that clearly displayed his resentment.
Shield Master got up as he recognised the person in question that was walking towards him, but was about to try and smooth things over since he didn't remember the Mirror Cult doing anything bad.
He remembered the incident with the Knights, but he didn't see what happened as their fault. The Mirror Cult was the state religion, and what they did was more respectable that following the law.
But just before he could say anything, everyone watched as champagne was spilt on the head of Shield Master. The other Cultists at the party widened their eyes in shock before hearing:
"You have some nerve to come here...!" Vhalen spoke in a threatening tone filled with spite...
He wasn't going to let him walk away without humiliating him... This was the least he could do!