Undoubtedly, Kilian had no interest in Lukas' past friends. Why then did he choose to appear? Bjorn's scent.
From Bjorn, Kilian's fehl senses smelled an uncanny scent that instantly made this human youth the center of his attention. Though she too felt it, Jezebel didn't pay the scent much attention. As a high-ranking fehl, she could effortlessly identify its root and implications.
It was evolution's scent. Fehls were an evolution-based race. Be it mutants, beasts, or daemons; all were driven toward evolution. The growing madness in mutants wasn't merely an inevitable consequence, but a warning hurrying them into finding the means to rise to daemonhood. Only by becoming daemons could mutants stop the crushing corruption of fehl magic and regain control of their existence. Likewise, through their barbaric frenzies, fehl beasts innately sought the means to increase their fehl energies, transcend their fate, and rise to the next level.
But they weren't the only ones. Fehl Daemons spent an essential part of their immortal lives attempting to rise to the Fehl Noble Rank. Fehl Nobles to the Fehl Lord Rank, Fehl Fehl Lords to Fehl Princes, and Fehl Princes to Fehl Overlords.
But though they stood at the pinnacle of the fehl race, even the Overlords sought a higher form - a stage intrinsically linked to the Eye of Fehl - that after billions of years still eluded them all. If not for that reason, Ashera would never bother forming a pact with Kilian. And due to their profound understanding of its roots, fehls could effortlessly detect evolution processes in other races.
With his body currently comparable to that of a low-level Fehl Daemon, Kilian naturally didn't miss the scent. Bjorn's DNA bore striking similarities to that of the nobility, thereby making him immune to 99% of the diseases that plagued human life. But beyond that, he was at a crossroad, and with the right input, could morph into a terrifying killing machine.
Butchering Klaus was a minor task, a simple matter of time. Changing the established world order was the real challenge. To achieve his goals, Kilian would undoubtedly need talented subordinates. If he could put this Bjorn to use, why not?
But as Kilian settled on his fate - with an abrupt spin - Bjorn spun to face him.
"Lukas, heartless bastard, how dare you?!" Bjorn snarled with bulging veins, trembling fists, and a rage-reddened face. Thinking of the hours he'd spent attempting to put down the fire and the waves of despair that assailed his mind once the house burned to ashes, he couldn't help but feel cheated. Now, before he could throw blame, "Lukas" even dared play such a prank on him?
When did he become this heartless?
But seeing Bjorn's sudden rage outburst, Kilian arched an eyebrow. A 1.9 meters tall man whose biceps made twice the size of his head suddenly leaped onto him, and he was supposed to just stand there? Bjorn should be grateful that he didn't send him to fly with the pigeons!
Of course - for the sake of recruitment - he couldn't say those words. Switching to humane mode, Kilian curled his lips into a smile mixing gentleness and helplessness. "Apologies, I'm still recovering from recent events," Kilian explained, and Jezebel couldn't help but praise the accuracy of the lie.
Hearing this, Bjorn recalled the eldritch fate of Kilian's house, his rage dispersed, and his face contorted into a frown. Many questions swirled within his mind. Why did the house burn, what happened to Lukas' mother and sister, where was he across the last 72 hours. But believing answers would come without questions; he suppressed the words. Playing the Lukas role, Kilian stretched his hand toward Bjorn—helping him rise from the ground. Without hesitation, he took it and stood up.
With blond, shoulder-length dreadlocks and striking blue eyes, Bjorn would have looked quite handsome if not for those absurdly large muscles fit for a culturist. They contrasted with his amiable gaze to give him a somewhat threatening look. And before the 1.81 meters tall Kilian, the contrast only became sharper.
Meanwhile, unlike Bjorn who now beamed with joy, as she stared at Kilian, Lena's eyes flashed vigilance. Bjorn might be a simpleton, but as a woman that managed to establish her own gang of ruffians amidst Ostria's cutthroat slums, Lena wasn't easily deceived. Better, as her long-standing crush, she paid special attention to Lukas' appearance and every move.
Two things puzzled her. First, and most glaringly, the eyes. Although Kilian used fleshcrafting to adjust his too handsome face to match that of the fallen Lukas, their eyes spoke different tales.
In the previous Lukas, Lena always felt a contradictory mixture of silent rage and helplessness. But when he stood beside Bjorn and his sister, Tamara, those feelings would make way for palpable warmth. But now, although Kilian's eyes spoke familiarity, Lena could sense none of that warmth. Worse, she didn't doubt that - unlike the previous Lukas who wouldn't easily unsheathe his blade at her - a wrong move and the new one would gut her on the spot.
Second, the threat level. Although she knew herself unable to contend with him, the previous Lukas never gave her such a crushing sense of helplessness. It was as if a world-sized gulf now stood between them. Either Lukas experienced drastic, magic-related changes across those three days, or this simply wasn't him. She leaned on the latter.
After all, how much change could one man experience across three days?
Eager to expose the fraud - as Kilian readied to give Bjorn an explanation - Lena made various hand signs toward her ten subordinates, motioning for them to stand ready for a fight. Though surprised, they answered the command and silently unsheathed their daggers.
Hunter households aside, the law forbade commoners from owning weapons besides kitchen knives, daggers, small hammers, and other forms of indispensable tools. Even then, they had to make an inventory of all their potentially lethal weapons. Although the aristocracy didn't fear the common man's rebellion, the law was a convenient excuse to conduct impromptu raids and keep their servants in perpetual fright.
The slums may not suffer the same monitoring as the city proper, but not many dared overtly break the law—unspeakable consequences awaited. Worse, in major cities such as Kars or the capital, magical detectors sweeping the entire city could determine who possessed what without fail. Although Ostria didn't reach the major city tier, caution harmed none.
But as Lena's group readied for the assault, an uncanny scene occurred. Unanimously, all felt the weight of their shoulders skyrocket while their limbs stiffened without apparent cause. They could not move an inch.
Their limbs then took control, returning the daggers they'd stealthily pulled out back to their sheaths!
Instantly, their eyes widened with fright!
But the worst had yet to come! As the eleven-man-strong group shivered in utter silence - with their lips unable to part - guided by a force they couldn't comprehend, they all raised their right hands toward their faces. The foreign force tore their flesh from the inside out, engraving three bloody words on their hands:
"Behave, or die!"
They thundered within the ruffians' minds, making their hearts threaten to leap out of their chest!