Rising from the cloud of dust and dirt, the Instructor trudged out of the crater he had formed. His tanned skin had turned completely charred due to the soot his Spirit caused. With an icy cold gaze, the Instructor found his opponent levitating up in the air, seemingly composed. For the Kshatriya to so easily push him back, the black mask must be at a similar level. A clash of Spirit Lords was rather rare in the empire. Due to their overwhelming strength, if two Spirit Lords fought, they would easily destroy the surrounding landscape causing maps to be redrawn.
If he was on a subjugation mission, he would have little care for the scenery and crush everything that stood in his way. However, since he was escorting the two orphans, he had to be much more passive. At their level, the Instructor could snap their bodies as effortless as popping a matchstick. Thus, he had been extremely cautious about how he attacked his opponent. The only thing that he wanted to avoid is making Junius and Shin collateral damage.
And the Kshatriya appeared to realise that fact. Instead of focusing all of his attention on the opponent, the Instructor kept glancing backwards at the convoy. The seasoned black mask had seen that look before. It was the look of a mother who was trying to protect her children. Furthermore, having a bludgeon weapon Spirit, it was natural to assume that the Instructor’s fighting style was to aggressively demolish his opponent without caring about his own body. But currently, the Instructor was meekly trying to prevent the Kshatriya from targeting the caravan.
Without saying a word, the Kshatriya looked at his five subordinates and pointed his right index finger towards the Instructor. At the same time, he flew downwards and directed the numerous bandits in a charge against the convoy.
Blood drained from the Instructor’s face as a surge of fear and anxiety trembled through his body. The worst case scenario had occurred. Finding out that the payload in the caravan was unquestionably precious, the Kshatriya ignored his fight with the muscular man that might lead to nowhere, and fixated his attention on attacking the aether cars. Bending his knees down, the Instructor tried to rush forward to prevent potential disaster. But before he could do so, a blinding light blinked through the air and landed less than a feet away from the man wielding the club.
Glancing downwards, the Instructor could see an ornate and alluring arrow sticking out of the grass floor. A purple resin seeped out from the arrow-head and corroded the nearby plants, killing them instantly. If the projectile had slightly altered its path a few centimetres, the victim of that purple fluid wouldn’t be the green grass, but the Instructor’s beefy foot.
Twitching his eye, the Instructor traced the trajectory of the arrow and found the shooter. A slim and bony woman, with her back straightened, had a firm grasp on a royal purple coloured bow in her left hand. Similar to the Kshatriya, not a single bit of skin was exposed as she wore a thick dark blue robe with a black scarf, that was unusual for a spring evening, covering her neck. Unlike the Kshatriya, the design on her mask wasn’t a golden crescent moon, but a noble green snake. Surrounding her, were four other Vaishyas wearing the exact same mask.
‘Tsk, how troublesome!’
The Instructor clicked his tongue in annoyance. A Vaishya was usually at the Rank 40 Spirit Spectre level, one realm below the Instructor. If it were a spar, he could have took her down with one hand behind his back. However, he was facing five Vaishyas. Furthermore, they were highly trained members of an infamous crime syndicate. Fighting them off was no easy task.
“INES!!! HOLD HIM OFF!!!”
Projecting his voice, the Instructor hollered for his companion to be wary of the oncoming threat.
The booming cry resounded through the air and was audible to any living being within sight. Turning her head over her shoulder, the brunette lady saw a lean and tall man, speeding over with an obsidian black blade in his hands.
“Hmph! You think you can take me on?!”
Snorting in derision, Ines raised her claws and bent her knees. Being in her spiritual body enhancement form, the Rank 54 Spirit Lord prepared herself for the impending assault.
“Come at me!”
Growling like a wolf would, Ines bared her porcelain white fangs and her talon-sharp claws. Circulating the mana in her body, Ines summoned an orange flame that started forming under her feet. Slowly climbing up her body like a snake, the menacing fire covered a huge chunk of her armour, making her look like a primordial flaming beast.
The aether cars were efficient due to their low maintenance and constant performance. However, unlike horses, the vehicles were unable to traverse at top speeds. Thus, even with the driver pumping the accelerator till its maximum, the convoy still moved at a slow pace. It was certainly not at a speed that could outrun the Kshatriya. Thus, in order to ensure the safe escape of the Shin and Junius, Ines had to stay behind and delay the nefarious black mask.
As if accepting her challenge, the Kshatriya whirled his weapon and collided with the brunette. Using her razor sharp claws, Ines was able to block the blade. However, blinding halting the sword was a mistake.
A soft metallic sound echoed into Ines’ ears as she felt the fur on her armour stand up in fear. Seeking the direction of the sound, Ines witnessed her claws, which was her best weapon during her many years as a warrior, being chipped away by the obsidian blade.
Raising her legs, Ines performed a straight kick to the stomach of the Kshatriya and pulled away her prized claws. Once a Spirit User merges learns the spiritual body enhancement, they were able to greatly enhance their physical prowess and their effectiveness in battle. Additionally, they would be able to enjoy the best attributes that their Spirits possesses. For example, a Spirit User who awakened a bear Spirit would be able to harness the raw strength of said beast and a Spirit User who awakened a falcon would be able to fly without impunity, dominating the skies.
Ines had awakened a flame Ainu Wolf Spirit, one of the most elementally superior beasts which inherited the agility and ferociousness of the wolf. In her spiritual body enhancement form, Ines would gain a boost in her speed and raw attack power. And of course, the deadliest weapons in her arsenal were the ten jet black claws that could maul the living flesh of any who dared to tread into its path.
In all her years fighting, she had never seen her claws worn down, let alone pierced through. Even if she left a battle all battered up, her claws would always remain intact. Therefore, one can imagine her panic when a random felon, who was acting as a bandit, managed to easily chip her claws. It was a testament of how sharp the obsidian black sword really was.
Unfortunately for Ines, the Kshatriya took this chance where she was out of sorts to sneak past the woman. From the short interactions he had with Ines and the Instructor, he could deduce that the most precious item in the caravan was in the very first aether car that was leading the retreat.
Ines cursed mentally in her mind. Her blunder might have cost the lives of the two she was hired to protect.
Recovering her wits, Ines pursued the Kshatriya as fast as her legs could allow.
But it was too late. Wielding a sword Spirit, the Kshatriya specialised in speed and precision. To the Spirit Lord, the aether car, that was travelling at maximum speed, was practically stationary.
Crashing down like a star falling from the heavens, the black mask toppled the aether car that Shin and Junius were in causing the two passengers, plus the driver, to be ejected from their seats. Violently knocking against the interior of the car, Shin and Junius struggled to keep their vital points safe.
Ines shrieked at the top of her lungs. Her brief moment of shock had resulted in Shin and Junius getting hurt. At this point in time, she was still a few seconds away from the vehicle. That was more than enough time for a Spirit Lord such as the Kshatriya to execute any living thing in that car. Willing her legs to move faster, Ines desperately attempted to prevent the black mask from proceeding any further.
Once the aether car came to a halt, Shin groaned while rubbing his head. Thankfully, he had not sustained any serious injury from the earlier collision. Peering downwards, he could see Junius who was sprawled on the floor, conscious and largely unhurt. Before he could verbally confirm the status of his elder brother, a black light pierced through the back door of the car, slicing the vehicle open.
With the car suspended and a broken through door, Shin could clearly see the outside evening sky. The sun had long retreated to its slumber as sparkles of starlight graced the heavens. The earlier blazing hot heat had been replaced with a cold icy breeze that chilled the insides of the car. And finally, standing in front of him, Shin had come face-to-face, or rather, face-to-mask, with the adversary that threatened to wipe him out of existence. His obsidian black sword in hand, the Kshatriya stared, unmoving at the duo.
‘Is this the end?’
Gulping down a mouthful of saliva, Shin’s eyes glistened as the thought of death loomed in his mind.