Cries of the bandits echoed through the chilling evening winds as the Dalits threw their bodies at the convoy. Since the leading car had been stalled, every single Frie Clan escort left their posts and summoned their Spirits to do battle. Being the lowest level of the black masks, the hundred plus men varied from regular humans who had yet to awaken their Spirits to Spirit Apostles with mediocre Spirits. Naturally, their skill level was subpar compared to the trained members of the top tier clan, but their overwhelming numbers still managed to cause a headache.
Grinding down the bandits one by one, the escorts robes started to turn scarlet red as blood splattered everywhere. The Dalits were as crazed as can be. Their red eyes hinted a burning madness that could only be soothed by drawing blood. Having no regard for their lives, the bandits cared nought that their comrades were being cut down right next to them as they focused at the prize at hand. Killing as many Frie Clan members as possible.
Being part of the Frie Clan, the escorts had all awakened fire elemental Spirits and thus, fighting with fire was their speciality. Charred bodies could be seen lying motionless on the cold floor as the smell of burning flesh masked the organic pastoral fragrance that came with a country road. As the day approached dusk, the light coming off the burning corpses served as lanterns that illuminated the path, making a rather gruesome sight.
The Instructor was currently at a deadlock with the five Vaishyas. As the commanders, they seemed to care little about the fact that the bandits they controlled were being burnt to a crisp. In fact, from their demeanour, the Instructor could even sense a little contempt and disgust. With so many of their underlings perishing at such a rapid rate, eventually, the black masks would be forced to retreat and suffer a loss. Thus, the current actions of the notorious crime syndicate baffled the burly man. If their original plan was the rob the convoy, they should have realised that the current lineup of escorts was enough to decimate their entire group. Hence, to cut losses, they would have abandoned the mission. If they wanted to assassinate someone, they didn’t have to do so when there were so many high-levelled personnel present.
No matter how the Instructor pondered over it, he could not comprehend the black masks motives for the attack. Indiscriminately attacking and wearing down the Frie Clan escorts, it was as if they wished for mutual destruction.
The more he assessed the situation, the more questions emerged. But at this very moment, he saw the Kshatriya, who ran away from him, overturning the aether car that Shin and Junius were in.
The Instructor’s eyes nearly bulged out from their sockets, and his heart almost stopped beating. Junius was his favoured pupil, and now that his life was endangered, the muscular man’s brain malfunctioned. The five Vaishyas flew in front of the enraged man, barring his path. But they underestimated the mental condition of the Instructor.
With a shout, his Spirit expanded once more to over thirty metres long and swung the colossal club with all his might. He didn’t care about holding back anymore, he needed to rush to his students. Facing a Spirit Lord, those two poor souls wouldn’t even last a single millisecond.
As the Instructor expected, Shin and Junius were being confronted by the Kshatriya. But unlike his prediction, they had survived for much more than a millisecond. Not because they managed to escape, or because they were skilled enough to deter the Spirit Lord, but because after slicing open the car back door, the Kshatriya stood motionless, as if rooted to the ground.
At such close proximity, Shin could clearly see the features of the black mask. A tall and lean man, with a healthy build, was the black-haired youth’s first impressions of the outlaw. His viridian-coloured hair fluttering with the wind made him look rather suave even though his face was covered. And then, of course, there was the obsidian black sword. With no guard, the sword consisted of only a blade and a hilt. Peering into the darkness of the blade, Shin felt his soul being altered as if a vortex of endless dread had consumed him. The light dimming from his eyes, Shin felt heavy sleepiness closing in on his consciousness.
But before the youth fell into a comatose state, a cerulean light emerged from the depths of his spiritual body. The Sovereign Koi, which had been wiggling around in his hand, jerked Shin awake, as its aura enveloped the boy preventing the obsidian darkness from engulfing him.
It was the first time since arriving that the Kshatriya spoke. His voice sounded gravelly and hoarse as if roughened up through numerous years of trials and tribulations. There was even a tinge of authority in his tone. Instead of a felon, Shin got the feeling that maybe in a past life, the black mask standing in front of him had been a well-respected officer of the military.
Taking the chance when the Kshatriya was stunned, Junius summoned his Azure Water Blade and stood up from the ground. Rushing forward, Junius pointed his Spirit straight at the black mask that was infinitely more powerful than he was. Standing in front of Shin, he seemed like a mother hen who would do anything to protect her children. A few days prior, Junius had regained the ability to walk for brief periods of time. However, under doctor’s orders, he was to remain firmly attached to his wheelchair. Hence, even though he was posing as a gallant warrior, the Spirit Apostle could barely stand.
Wordlessly staring down the Kshatriya, Junius’ poise said it all. He was declaring to the opponent, ‘If you want him, you must get past me!’
However, his appearance contrasted his unwavering presence. Looking downwards, one could see Junius’ legs wobbling as if they were jelly being pressed. It was not because he was afraid. After not using his legs for such a long time, springing up all of a sudden took its toll. Although he couldn’t control his legs, there was no way he was going to let Shin come to any harm.
“Why..? Water Spirits..?”
Thankfully, Junius wouldn’t need to protect Shin. Profoundly shaken by what he saw, the Kshatriya further voiced out his questions. He had forgotten that he was in disguise and desperately tried to seek answers. By hearing his words, the two orphans somewhat understood why the black mask was startled. The Frie Clan had traditionally produced fire elemental Spirit Users. Now that his target was two kids who had awakened water elemental Spirits, he had become slightly confused.
“What’s going o….!”
Before the Kshatriya could finish his sentence, a furry creature emerged from behind and landed a high kick straight to the black masks head. Upon coming into contact, the Kshatriya took the full brunt of Ines’ kick and broke the sound barrier as his figure bounced on the grassy floor like a rock skipping on a lake.
“Are you kids alright?”
Sending the enemy flying, Ines checked on the two orphans’ condition.
“Yeah… Nothing happened.”
“We’re alright, senior Ines.”
Only after hearing their verbal confirmation, did Ines heave a sigh of endless relief. When she had seen the Kshatriya cut open the car’s door, she felt like her soul had left her body. Although she had her doubts about how they managed to survive the onslaught of a Rank 50 Spirit Lord, she decided to save her queries for a more appropriate time.
“Okay good. Stay in the car and don’t move! I will protect you.”
After ensuring the duo’s safety, Ines stood in front of the broken down aether car and guarded the two orphans. This time, even if they had to walk over her dead body, she wouldn’t allow the black masks anywhere near Shin and Junius.
Breaking through the blockade of five Rank 40 Vaishyas, the Instructor made his way to Shin and Junius. Meanwhile, the Vaishyas darted to the distance to recover the leader that had been blown away by Ines’ vicious kick.
“Junius! Shin! You guys alright?! Were you harmed anywhere?!”
Now that he had returned to the side of the orphans, the Instructor anxiously tried to determine if his students were harmed. He had felt hopeless when he heard that the two were being evicted out of the clan and should they fall into any harm, especially under his watch, the Instructor felt that he might as well end his life for being such a failure of a teacher.
“Nothing happened, sir!”
The two orphans’ heart warmed as they saw the genuine concern in their Instructor’s eyes as they replied.
“Good… Good… Alright, time to beat these assholes up!”
The care and concern that the burly man displayed had been replaced with a bottomless rage. He wanted to rip the black mask to shreds for what they put his beloved pupils through.
Meanwhile, at the site where the Kshatriya lay, unmoving, the five Vaishyas rushed to his side, assisting the man to get up. Bringing his right hand to his head, the Kshatriya tried to quell the throbbing headache that Ines had gifted him with.
“Damn that Frie Clan! Captain, say the word, the second phase of the operation can begin!”
The black mask who wielded the poison bow declared as she angrily tried to get the man they called captain to give a particular order. Being over a hundred metres away from the convoy, they could speak with freedom as the Frie Clan members were unable to hear them from this distance.
“No, the mission is cancelled… Some complexities have arisen.”
The Kshatriya, on the other hand, was not so eager to start another conflict.
“Why?! We have them in our grasps! Just a bit more and we can wipe out this entire caravan and deal a heavy blow to that wretched clan!”
Raising her voice to her superior’s order, the Bow Spirit black mask protested.
“You will understand when I explain it to you. But it is neither the time nor the place to do so. We’re retreating!”
Although she was indignant, she had no choice but to follow her captain’s orders.
“What about the Dalits?”
One of the other Vaishyas brought up the existence of the hundred plus bandits that had mindlessly attacked the escorts while they were busy fighting the Instructor. After a few minutes of fighting, their numbers had been cut down by half, and the ones who did survive were in no shape to leave.
“They served their purpose… Let’s leave!”
Clearly, the Kshatriya held the Dalits with little regard as he decided to abandon them altogether. To him, those raving maniacs were just disposable tools that were required to serve his agenda. Now that he had no plans, it was much easier to just leave them to die than to save the survivors.
Turning into blurs, the six core members of the black masks disappeared using the cover of night, eluding the eagle-like vision of the Instructor.