Chapter 71

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From a golden cloud floating two hundred feet above Ringtown 5, Helani watched the elephant eater swallow the Pettygod whole. With the eyes of a Saint, she could make out the exact facial features of the Pettygod the moment before he disappeared into a gullet bright with Poison aura, but she was more interested in what her stoneiris told her.

A cursory scan revealed his soul to her. Dual aspects, not common, but not so rare as to warrant attention. Flame and Water too, a tough balance but rudimentary. That piece of information alone was enough to piece together most of why his ascension had failed. Elemental auras were good for creating robust bodies, but they needed a healthy balance between elemental, ethereal, and chaotic auras for the type of progression that produced stable Pettygods.

Or Saints, for that matter. Tri-aspect soul cultivation was a closely guarded secret among the greater clans of Deserteye, and only Cloudriver had refined it to the point where they could consistently produce some of the most powerful mages in the world. That didn't stop rogue mages from trying. Most died, very few got just enough right to even achieve what the iron one below did. Of course, the punishment for illegal practice of the technique was death... so the dragon was a convenience.

A second mage leapt into its mouth, but not before they flexed their soul with enough force to make Helani's cloud ripple.

"Steady," Anasii said on a black cloud beside her. "That elephant eater, my senses suggest its Judge-level, borderline Saint. Did that mage just stun it?"

"Yes," Helani said. "Will you sort that out?"

"Beg yours, Great Saint?"

"The dragon, the mage, the Pettygod... whoever between them is alive by the time you get down there, kindly arrest them."

"Of course, Lady Cloudriver, I just... assumed that's what you were here to do."

"It is, but no reason I can't delegate in the face of competence. I believe a Judge-level arrest won't harm your performance review when the public audit comes around."

Anasii's white eyebrows rose then fell as he bowed. "Thank you, Lady Cloudriver."

With a shrug of her spirit, Helani dispelled the golden cloud and fell the two hundred feet to the desert town below. The wind made her sleeves swell like silk bells, and as her hair splayed around her, she had a moment to contemplate the wisps of Cloudriver aura still hanging in the atmosphere. Expensive aura, that. By the time she pieced together exactly whose stormcloud technique had caused it, she had fallen half the distance the ground.

She made a slight adjustment in midair that took her trajectory two streets away from the dragon Anasii was racing towards. When her feet hit the muddy street, her knees barely bent, but the ground beneath her threatened to explode with the force of her landing. Threatened, but it held. Earth aura was counterintuitive with her path, but one didn't reach Saint without a basic ability to manipulate most aspects.

It took the blink of an eye to quiet the soil under her slippers, another blink for her hair to fall in perfectly straight sheets around her face, and little more than half a heartbeat before Cloudriver II Rhazula sprinted round the corner onto the street. Ah, her timing was off there. It still didn't stop the boy from skidding to a half twenty yards away. The look of shock hadn't melted from his face before he sank to hands and knees and pressed his forehead into the mud.

"Aunt Helani."

"Please stand up, Rhazula. Surely you're not dumb enough to bow when there's a dragon chasing you."

To his credit, the boy didn't look behind him as he rose. Why would he? Helani thought. She was a Saint and family, and he had the right blend of arrogance and softness to believe she was here to bail him out of his mess.

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