After bandaging her palm, she ordered a servant to lay the table for them to eat. Gin had left the compound, although Chiaki had someone to wrap some food for him to bring home. The undelivered dishes were left open to cool down on the table.

Gin had long expressed his willingness to live separately from his aunt, showing his early independence. When he returned to the South Generals manor every school holiday, he split his time living in Sentalu house and a house he purchased outside. He built it using his savings and wages from extra jobs, so the humble home would be completed in a long time.

By the time he graduated this year, the house was supposed to finish the furnishing. Chiaki assumed Gin would stay there for the entirety of his life now. Their fight today officially marked the separation.

She sighed upon this development in their relationship. Although Gin was not her romantic partner, a relationship was still a relationship, be it in a familial context or a friendship. Todays separation with Gin was another failed relationship on top of the piling failures she accumulated over time in her origin and now metaverse world.

Since she also lost her appetite,

”My lord can eat by himself if thats appropriate. I can stomach any food right now. ”

”Your servant tried to kill me. ”

Huh? Now what?

”Look at the menu. ”

Bird-eye chilli cuts sprinkled over the rich, red soup of vegetables and fish, different sauces of black, brown, and red colours . . . All salivated her on more ordinary days, but obviously not now after the showdown with Gin.

”Ah, sorry . . . These are my favourite foods. What do you want to eat? ”

Lance Hua waved his hand lazily. ”No need. Ill cook my own food from now on if you guys can only cook these. ”

”But whats wrong? The cooks never fail to satiate my appetite. ”

”Northerners never eat this much spice. ”

Chiaki wanted to bash her head on the nearest wall. How ignorant could she be, disregarding the culture of the Northern regions?

What an impolite reception of hers as the wife here.

”Im sorry, my lord. I didn realise . . . For this, may I make amend, please? ”

”Just accompany me to the Crystal Garden. Ill eat later. ”

Rushing to tell the servants to prepare a more bland menu, she walked with her husband to the garden, passing the same sinuous path walk.

The Crystal Garden was the courtyard of the compound, surrounded by many other buildings and bluestone paths. As the central command room of the South defence point, all eyes of the South mansion had to be trained on this place. Some personnel had duties to grow the crystals, some monitored the energy level, and others worked in their night shift to garner the energy and shoot the focused power upwards to the sky, strengthening the atmospheric barrier.

The guards on duty saluted her and Lance as they stepped over the bluestone threshold to the garden.

As mentioned by the grand elder, the aura here felt solemn and sacred. Now that Lance and she were legal spouses, he had the right to enter and exit this garden as a family member from the Spring family, the same privilege Gin had.

”The vortex youll generate will probably suck people in. Ill tell the guards to vacate this garden for the next hour. ”

Lance Hua nodded and waited. He stood next to the biggest amethyst chunk hed ever seen and felt the energy gently lap at his inner power in an ebbing wave fashion.

”Lets move slowly so we won break any of the crystals here. ”

Chiaki pointed to a neutral spot, and she stood next to him.

”Same spell? ” she asked.

Lance Hua said yes, so they recited the exact words they said at the gazebo at their wedding. But this time, there was no blood rain. Instead, the vortex rising from the top of Lances head was enlarged. It sucked in the rainbow-like visible energy from the crystals around.

The outer wind of the vacuum tunnel even touched Chiakis hair, pulling a big lump of it from her head, causing her to yelp in pain.

Lance shifted his standing position, so the floating vortex changed coordinate mid-air, releasing Chiakis silky strands. He pulled Chiaki closer to him and shielded her head by placing his forearm over the back of her head.

At the end of the ritual, a similar marble appeared and disappeared into the void, marking it complete.

”Are you okay? ” Lance showed concern and smoothened out her long hair.

”The men of the north are proud of their long hair. Although you don share the same value, I don want you to get hurt there. ”

Oh, thats why he didn care when my palm was dripping blood to protect his life, but now his power just licked my hair and acted like a knight in shining armour.

They separated quickly.

Chiaki glanced at the energy level monitors and saw a significant rise on overall bars. Tonight, the projected energy would strengthen the barrier even more. It could even close the smaller holes in some districts. She would deploy her people with the vortex-infused crystals for the bigger ones over the capital.

Having no more concerns about the gardens state and calling the workers back, Chiaki addressed something she brushed off earlier.

”My lord previously said that I had been involved with many men. Does this bother you and affect your view of me? ”

Lance Hua jiggled a cut of obsidian on the back of his hand; his closed lids set a distance between him and Chiakis presence. ”I merely stated a fact. Why are you offended? Weren you like that? ”

He was right. Lance Hua didn call her out; it was a natural response to argue against Gins statement.

So, this was why she needed the path. Without it, all the problems in her heart seemed triggered by external causes, while they were actually her reactive state of mind.

The fifth chapter of the handbooks gist was that all problems were in your mind.

Moving on, she asked about another pressing topic that she was still unclear about.

”As for the living arrangement, will this work for you? Because I know you have your own tribes and duties. Living in the South manor will be troublesome for you by regularly going there and back here. ”

Lance Hua opened one of his lids, gazing at her with his stinky side-eye. ”Are you chasing me away? ”

”No, no. Im just asking what the best arrangement for my lord is. I have no preference. ”

”Are you sure? ” Lance Hua temptingly sauntered over to her, walking around her body, asserting dominance. She chose silence.

”Isn this your cunning way to ensure your petty claim of the master bedroom goes according to your wish? ”

”What? No! Im not that petty. I was just asking because I don know how we will live with these different domiciles. Lord Hua would probably make a scene if living here for too long, ignoring the affairs of the Northern regions. ”

Lance Hua answered dismissively; the stubborn strands of hair that fell on his eyebrows bobbed with his words. ”The Northern regions are my business, not yours. If I choose to stay here, what does it matter to you what happens over there? ”

Chiaki sighed. This person was difficult to talk with. How could she master the advanced chapters of the path if discussions with her husband had her run in a circle?

The notification box from her acquired device — there she had it, she called it as she wished since she hadn heard how everyone else called that in passing — floated up the air. The text said the Council required Lance Hua and her at the City Hall.

”Whats wrong with them? ” Lance Hua eyed her expression.

Only when she reached the bottom of the message she got the complete picture.

”Gin has made a case in front of a few Council members. He criticised them for arranging our marriage and threatened to drag you down and everyone involved in that trap accident fifteen years ago. ”

”What a spine he has. ”

Chiaki didn understand. This man was the central point of Gins revenge. And, if all the pieces of evidence pointing at his negligent scheme causing the death of the Burtenshaw couple were proven valid, he would be executed. But this man didn cower or double his vigilance.

Is it true that one is innocent if one shows bravery before an accusation? Their conscience must be free of guilt; thats why they can still stand proud against the world.

But her rumination put her in a difficult position once again. Gin behaved that way because he upheld righteousness as his virtue, and this was something she had a role in. She was his tutor in many arts. Compared to the usual aunt-nephew pairing, their relatively little age difference allowed her to become his big sister, too; she was the person he confided freely in.

Righteousness was a value they studied and committed to together. It was also the value that pulled Chiaki down like a deadweight at her feet.

”Why didn you lash out at him? He deserved severe punishment, ” Lance commented as they let their horses change hands to the stable help.

They ascended the City Halls staircase in a rush, not wanting to give Gin an extra second to cause more scenes.

”Using anger as a tool to make the other person submit to you will only cause retaliation. The purpose of his provocation was to only challenge me to a power struggle. ”

”A power struggle? ” he sneered.

The heavy wooden doors were already opened when they stepped on the landing. Inside, Chiaki saw no sign of her nephew.

”He wanted to drive his point forward. If I let him, hed keep the wrong idea of taking you as a murderer forever, regardless of the investigation result. If I beat him up, hed submit only today but plot revenge in the future. Hed think I side with you and uproot our years of kinship. ”

”Interesting. ” He glanced at the wife next to him with a glint in his eyes.

What Chiaki did next forced him to swallow his words. Once again, he would take a backseat to another drama.

”This general apologises to the Council members for failing to educate my nephew. ” She extended her arms to lay one hand above the other and held both at chest level.

Lance Hua understood that she wanted to portray acknowledgement by staring down at her boots. Still, he found no remorse under those long eyelashes.

His faint smirk went unnoticeable.

”General Spring can take this matter into her backlog. But for now, you have to concede your wrongdoing to Gin Burtenshaw because you might need his armour for repairing the holes above us. ”

The realisation mortified Chiaki.

System, am I taking this wrongly?

[The armour granted to Gin is impenetrable against the lightning strikes above the capital.]

Chiaki did a quick recalling. Only then she realised she had made a blunder. She would need her power as usual to fight the source of the lightning anomalies. But, one didn simply walk under the incessant attack of millions of volts with only a battle robe.

If she had to do this mission without Gins armour, she might as well sign her last will beforehand.

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