“They… ran? Just like that?”
Seeing the six black masks leave immediately after the Instructor and Ines gained the upper hand stunned the onlookers. Now that the sun had disappeared into the horizon leaving a canopy of luminous stars to illuminate the dark, moonless night, it was near impossible to track the movements of the black masks that specialised in covert operations.
“Did my kick really did that much damage?”
Ines even raised her feet upwards, imitating a flamingo, to inspect the leg that sent the Kshatriya flying. Although she had used all of her might in that kick, she had serious doubts that a famed Kshatriya black mask would have fallen from that single attack.
“Yeah, something’s wrong… Junius, what happened?”
With the danger passed, the Instructor dispersed his mana causing the indomitable club in his hands to disappear. A thousand possible questions formed in his mind but first, he had to know what had happened.
“I don’t know… I think Shin, would be a better candidate to explain. He was the first to confront the enemy.”
“Oh ho? Looks like the lazy bum had grown a little. Shin, tell me what happened.”
The Instructor gave a rare smirk as he heard Junius’ words. Amongst the orphans, Shin was the least hardworking and would avoid fighting by any means. Hearing that the black-haired boy actually stood up to the Spirit Lord, made the Instructor a little proud at his growth. Naturally, he knew what triggered this change in Shin. Witnessing Junius fall in battle served as a catalyst for Shin’s desire to change himself. A playful thought even flashed through the Instructor’s mind that with a few more tragedies, Shin might have a total upheaval of character but he quickly pushed away that line of thinking.
“Ah… Errrrr… Yeah…”
Shin was still trying to comprehend what had happened when the everyone’s attention had suddenly been diverted onto him. Recovering from the shock, the black-haired boy struggled to form words.
“Hahaha! Take your time, take your time! There’s no need to get tongue-tied.”
Seeing Shin stutter, Ines reassured the boy and gently encouraged him. The adorable, stunned expression of Shin’s, that resembled a startled cat, greatly amused the middle-aged lady causing her to giggle.
“*Cough!* *Cough!* I’m sorry, I’m fine now!”
Coughing twice, Shin affirmed that he had recovered. His face had turned a little red after Ines had teased him.
“It’s alright… So, Shin. What happened?”
The Instructor didn’t mind the delay.
“We were sitting in the car when suddenly, we felt the world turn upside down. The car rolled for a few seconds, and when it stopped, we found ourselves lying on the floor. Luckily, we didn’t get injured. Later, a black sword cut through the back door of the car, revealing the enemy.”
Trying to be concise, Shin recounted his experience.
“Strangely, after he sliced the door open, he just stood there without moving so I could take a good look at the man. The first thing I noticed is that the man wore a black mask with a golden crescent moon on his forehead. I was unable to see his face, but I think his hair was blue-green.”
Shin was trying to describe the features assailant to the Instructor, hoping that it would be helpful information.
“Yes, we know that. So, what happened next?”
“Ermmm, he just stood there and did nothing.”
“He didn’t do a thing?!”
The Instructor exclaimed at the Kshatriya’s eccentric behaviour. A member of a heinous organisation such as the black masks would have kidnapped one of the two orphans to use as leverage. However, the Kshatriya not only didn’t abduct the children, but he didn’t do anything at all.
“Yeah… But he did say a few words…”
“WHAT?! He spoke?!?!”
If the Instructor wasn’t astonished before, after hearing Shin’s words, he was utterly flabbergasted. The black masks are a mysterious organisation, and they were able to keep their secrecy as their members were trained to be untraceable. From wearing robes that covered every patch of their skin to putting on masks that made the faces unrecognisable, the black masks would never leave behind traces. And preventing the enemy from hearing their voice was one of the most basic procedures in hiding their identity.
“Yeah, he did… He said something about us having water Spirits…”
The more the Instructor learnt, the more confused he got. What had water Spirits had to do with the Kshatriya leaving the orphans alone?
“He was about to say something else, but senior Ines stopped him by kicking him in the head.”
“Well, excuse me for trying to save you!”
“No, no! That’s not what I meant senior Ines! I mean…”
“Hehe, it’s alright Shin. I was just kidding around.”
Ines reached for Shin’s head and ruffled his silky, black hair. The ten-year-old adorable reactions brought out her playful side.
While the brunette middle-aged lady was jubilantly smiling about finding a new toy, the Instructor stroked his unkempt beard as his wrinkles started to show.
‘Everything about this attack is raid is weird… First, they sent the Dalits to indiscriminately attack us, without caring about the supplies. Next, the Kshatriya sliced open the door of the aether car but stopped after seeing Junius and Shin’s Spirits. Finally, when Ines blew him away, they immediately retreated, leaving the Dalits behind. No matter how I see it, this incident is an overall net loss to the black masks. Why would they do something so peculiar?’
Question after question popped up in the Instructor’s mind as he attempted to comprehend the black masks motives. However, seeing that the sky had long turned dark, he decided reaching the waypoint was of greater importance.
‘Whatever, bringing the two to safety is more important…’
“Thank you, Shin. Your experience will help the clan take precautions when dealing with the black masks in the future.”
Shin tilted his head quizzically.
“That’s the name of the group which attacked us. I will explain it to you later. We need to leave this abhorrent place first.”
All around them were corpses of the Dalits that had been abandoned by the six core members of the black masks. With bodies burnt to ash and severed limbs scattered about, it was not a good place for children to stay in.
“Ines, how’s the aether car?”
The Instructor pointed at the overturned vehicle that Shin and Junius were on.
“Looks like we’re in luck, other than the sliced open back door, the car is still largely functional. Obviously, we would need to send it for repairs, but I think it should be able to make the trip to the waypoint.”
“That’s great news! How many casualties are there?”
“By some miracle, there are none. I mean some escorts are lightly injured but largely, everyone’s fine.”
“What about the bandit remnants?”
“We captured five of them, the rest either ran away when those six left or are lying dead right there.”
Questioning Ines, the Instructor got a full grasp of the entire situation. Once the six core members of the black masks retreated, the weak Dalits were no match for the might of the convoy escorts. Unfortunately, from the hundred bandits, they only managed to apprehend five for questioning.
“Alright, gag the captives and detain them in one car. Let’s leave this depressing place.”