“Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it!!! FUCK IT!!!” A pained cry echoed through the Black Mask temporary settlement as a muscular man, who towered over the average person, desperately punched on the dry bark of a pine tree.
After leaving the audience of Malgen, Vellan ran into the woods and vented his frustration on a poor tree. In his mind, he had pictured the downfall of the clan that he had loathed, and that everything would end in a picture-perfect manner. The young master was safely retrieved, the orphans were soon to be reunited with Junius, and the Frie Clan was about to start their unquestionable demise into the annals of history. However, the Allfather seemed to have different plans.
“Senior Vellan!” Behind the muscular Spirit King, various concerned voices rushed in from a distance, hoping to figure out what had happened to their senior.
“Senior Vellan, what happened in there?” Unaware of the changes in the plans, Junius anxiously asked the heartbroken man.
“I’m sorry… We won’t be able to exact our full vengeance today… The Allfather had changed his mind about annihilating the Frie Clan. We are to just retrieve the orphans and deal as much damage before the two High Elder returns.”
“…” The remaining survivors of the Awter Clan all looked at the distressed elder of theirs with mixed expressions. For the older members, they all had downtrodden faces and were frustrated that their revenge was unable to be completed, but the younger members like Junius had a less drastic reaction.
“Senior, even if we can’t eliminate the Frie Clan today, I’m sure that we will be able to one day in the future! Saving Lily and the others are much more important!” Junius exclaimed. Worried about the lives of the ones he loved, the viridian-haired youth didn’t see the issue about delaying any plans for vengeance to a later date. For him, saving the orphans outweighed any other programs that the Black Masks had.
“No… You’re right… We should reunite all of our brethren before we continue down this path! We can easily trample the Frie Clan in the future!” Instantly cheering up after hearing Junius’ words, the Spirit King’s eyes brightened as he affirmed his resolve to save the orphans.
“Junius, you lived in the Frie Clan for a large portion of your life. I presume that you know where they would evacuate the orphans in times of distress?”
“Yeah! I participated in the drills! I know where they would be!” Junius flashed a broad smile.
“Great! Take one of the flying mounts with you! Guide us to where they would be kept! Since we can’t eradicate the Frie Clan, the least that we could do is rescue the orphans trapped there!”
“Thank you, senior!”
“Hehe… Hopefully, you’d get to introduce me to that Lily girl that you fawn over daily. I really want to see what kind of beauty could enthral our young prodigy!” Unwilling to pass on the opportunity to tease the young Spirit Apostle, a mocking smile crept up Vellan’s face as he brought Junius’ head closer to his chest and nudged on it.
“HAHAHA!!! Come! Let us finish this gorgeous night by blasting Frie Mountain into a ball of flames!” Screaming out in a war-cry, the bulky man regained his vigour, forcing a smile upon the faces of his subordinates, Junius included.
‘Finally… I get to meet you again, Lily! Once we’re all reunited, we can finally live our lives, free of the reign of the Frie Clan!’
Sirens screeched as the Frie Clan warriors rushed towards their defensive positions. The moment the beast horde was detected, the Frie Clan had jumped into action. Tall metal walls were raised at the foot of the mountain as the high-levelled Spirit Users of the clan all donned defensive armour and flew rapidly in all directions. Heavy anti-air assault ballistae and powerful steel catapults that was able to fling boulders weighing over a hundred kilograms graced the frontlines in preparations for the fight ahead.
Being a combat family clan, the Frie Clan had numerous procedures in play whenever the mountain was facing a significant threat. Hence, when the beast horde first came into sight, although they were taken aback, the overall mood of the clan was peaceful, since their operations were so organised. In fact, a certain air of glee could be detected from the battle-thirsty warriors, that had been holed up in their seclusion for that long. Only their supreme leader didn’t share their sentiment.
“Why must there be a beast horde now, of all times?! Senior Edward has gone to track Shin, and Senior Ash is nowhere to be seen!!! God damn it, they must have been planning to strike at us since the very start!!!” A rageful voice bellowed down the Main Hall, stunning all those that were near.
“Enfen, calm yourself. Losing control over your emotions won’t help to ease the situation…” From her side, a placid and soothing tone urged the seething mad Clan Master to calm down. The Shrine Maiden, who was the only person near the Clan Master at that time, was giving her two cents about the dire circumstances that they were facing.
“Lien! How could you be so collected at a time like this?! A bloody beast horde is at our doorstep! Not to mention, our scouts had said that the Black Masks have started up camp nearby! I knew that bloody organisation was a threat to our peace!!!”
“Enfen, cursing the Black Masks won’t get us anywhere. Our forces are strong enough to withstand the thirty thousand beasts with ease. The only problem is those Black Masks… What do they gain by attacking us? Money? I’m sure that they know that flattening our mountain is next to impossible, so the assumption that they want to loot our vaults shouldn’t be true. Fame? The Black Masks are notorious enough, even without attacking Frie Mountain, many government officials are on the hunt for their heads. I just can’t wrap my finger around what they a truly after…” Rubbing her smooth and spotless chin, the Shrine Maiden theorised on what was driving the Black Mask syndicate to go to such lengths.
“Who cares about that?! What we need to do is drive them off to ensure our survival! I had sent a message to the Himmel Empire so reinforcements would be arriving in a few hours. For Senior Edward, he had just sent word that he’s rushing back to the mountain. The only force that we’re lacking is Senior Ash, and I have no bloody clue on his whereabouts!” Miffed that the High Elder that was supposed to protect the clan wasn’t around, the Clan Master scowled in anger.
“Have you contacted the executives at the Second Elder’s division?”
“Naturally! Bates is on his way here now! Hmph, there better be a satisfactory explanation for Senior Ash’s absence… ” Just as the Clan Master was speaking about the One-armed Kingslayer, a lanky figure could be seen approaching the Main Hall, which acted as the central brain of command for the defence of the mountain.
Pale white like a sheet of paper, the usually valiant warrior seemed to be so feeble, regardless of his mighty stature. Bates’ eyes were dreary, and his mouth was hanging with a tinge of shame as if he wanted to find a hole to hide himself in. Evidently, he didn’t like that he had to be put in front of a furious Clan Master that demanded him to air the dirty secrets that the First Elder had.
“Bates! Although there are so many things I want to ask you, since we’re short on time, I’m just going to cut to the chase… Where’s senior Ash?!” The Clan Master’s annoyed cry echoed through the Main Hall, forcing Bates’ body to jerk slightly
“This… The elder had gone out on an errand duty…”
“STOP BULLSHITTING ME!!! I know all the duties that the Second Elder has to do, and there have been no pending matters. I’m not one to say this, but my spies in your camp have reported some dastardly things about senior Ash. Let me tell you this, when he returns, whether we win this battle or not, I’m going to personally wring his neck out, so I suggest that you stop covering up for him or else you would be next in line!!!”
“…” Bates stared intently at the Spirit Emperor that held the Proof of the Sovereign in her hands. Knowing that she might have a hard fight restraining Bates, Enfen had brought along the Proof of the Sovereign to restrain his bloodline. Essentially, Bates was currently at the Clan Master’s mercy.
‘Elder… I told you not to ally with an outsider! I told you not to leave the mountain! See what you have gotten us into?! @#$%^!’ Blaming the elder that he served with a flurry of colourful words in his mind, Bates decided that it wasn’t wise to hide the truth any longer.
“Clan Master… The elder… The elder he… Went to the Ferumris Clan.”
“Hargh?! Why the hell would he go to the Ferumris Cla-… Oh…” Initially, Enfen was pissed off that one of her High Elders would leave the mountain to mingle with another clan, however after a split second of deliberation, she understood what Bates was implying.
“You mean… He…” Pointing her shaking fingers at the fearful one-armed man, the Clan Master’s eyes quivered in pain, with the Shrine Maiden doing the same.
“Exactly… I’m so sorry… We tried to stop him, but he didn’t listen… I…” Falling to his knees, Bates opted to beg for forgiveness.
“…” Stunned speechless by the Clan Master’s outburst, Bates fell silent, leaving an awkward air of stillness between the two.
“To think that senior Ash was that far gone…”
“Clan Master! Our loyalties still lie with the Frie Clan, it’s just…”
“What dogshit loyalty makes you ally with a rival Clan just to USURP ME?!”
“Clan Master, please… We will fight for the survival of the Frie Clan, please just trust us this once! After the beast horde is dealt with, you can mete out our punishments!” Afraid that Enfen would pull his forces out from the battle, risking the lives of thousands of Frie Clan lives, Bates kowtowed with all his might, causing blood to flow out from his damaged forehead.
“Bates…” The Shrine Maiden was unable to watch her longtime friend act in such a derogatory manner. Thus, she averted her eyes.
There was no question that the Second Elder’s division loved the Frie Clan. It was just that their methods lay on the extreme end of the spectrum and they would have little care for those outside of their bloodline, the orphans included. However, now that the Second Elder had apparently lost his mind, Bates no longer felt the need to cater to his every whim. What was most important right now, was for the Frie Clan to pull through this crisis.
“You! Haaaah… Fine… Bring your men to the front line and lead the charge against the beast horde. Kill as many beasts as you possibly can. When the horde is about to reach the walls, Lien and the other shrine maidens will create a flaming force field that would slow their approach. We cannot allow the villains to step foot into our sacred mountain!” The Clan Master ordered Bates for the first time since she had assumed office. Although it seemed like a minor milestone, it was one step forward to mend the broken bridges that the Second Elder had personally burnt.
“You wish is my command! Clan Master!” A stunning orchre light illuminated the area as the senior official of the Second Elder summoned out his Flaming Gauntlet, turning into a ball of light that charged straight for the beast horde, leaving the two ladies behind.
“Enfen… Are you really going to trust Bates? After finding out about the Second Elder?” The Shrine Maiden cautiously inquired, knowing that the mental state of her best friend was in a volatile state.
“Hmph! We’ll cross that bridge when we get there! I’m sending Bates to the vanguard just to test his loyalty. If he really is a turncoat and wants to damage our clan from the inside, he would join ranks with the Black Masks. When that happens, we can just trap him outside with your flaming barrier, preventing him from causing any chaos. If he’s not, at least we have the firepower of the One-armed Kingslayer on our side… His power is the real deal after all…”
“Is that so… Well, I agree with your actions, but what do you plan to do when the Second Elder returns?”
“For that bastard… I have my own plans. He will regret the fact that he was born once I’m done with him!” Intending to severely punish the Second Elder for treason, Enfen sinisterly grinned, causing her good friend to grimace in displeasure.
“Hah… The elder really has done us in this time. Because of him, we have to fight in the frontlines!” A vengeful shriek echoed through the open plains of the chilling night.
At the foot of Frie mountain, over a hundred members of the Second Elder’s division had been gathered by the command of Bates to face off against the savage beast horde that was waiting for orders from their leader. To regain the Clan Master’s trust, Bates opted to bring together some of the most powerful Spirit Users in his division and offer their assistance at the forefront of the defences. Being the most dangerous position, the risk of survival was small, and not many would dare to volunteer their services. Naturally, to show that they had not betrayed the clan, Bates felt that it was a necessary measure.
“If you have the guts, why don’t you tell that to the elder yourself?” Bate sharply replied the sny comment given by his compatriot.
“Oh, pardon me from that hell~! You know that I’m all bark and no bite!”
“Tsssk, your attitude is as annoying as usual…” The Orchre Flaming Gauntlet in Bates’ sole hand shimmered in a brilliant light as he said those words.
“So… What’s the plan, boss? It seems like their preparations are done.” A sluggish feminine voice beckoned to the one-armed man.
In the distance, in the skies above the beast horde, there were about forty flying mounts that carried dark hooded figures. Although it was in the middle of the night and the distance between the two forces was rather substantial, the superior eyes of all the Spirit Users present could clearly see the discernible features of the Black Masks. Evidently, they were about to launch their attack.
“We bring the fight to them… There’s no way that we can allow them to enter into our sacred mountain!”
“Haaa, so it would be a direct attack without any elaborate plans huh… How very Bates-like of you…”
“What do you mean by that?!”
“Nothing~ You’re the best boss!”
“Whatever… Anyway, we should change the battleground into something more suited for our fighting style…” With a cunning smile, Bates gathered a considerable amount of mana into his gauntlet, forcing the temperature of the frosty night to rise significantly. Realising what their senior was about to do, the members of the Second Elder’s division all took a step back, ready to sit back and watch the show.
“Descend upon the earth… *Blazing Pyre!*.” Snapping his fingers, the darkness of the night was broken as booming explosions filled the fields, leaving behind a trail of hot burning fire that illuminated the witching hours of twilight. Every so often, a new explosion would occur, long after Bates had cast his ability, reigniting the dissipating flames and forcing the battlefield to stay in a state of perpetual luminescence.
“With this, we can fight to our all!” Flashing a satisfactory smile, Bates admired his work.
Being part of a fire elemental clan, it was better for the Frie Clan fighters to battle on a pit of flames that massively disrupted their opponents and significantly enhanced their own abilities.
“Hehe, thanks boss! Look at the faces of the Black Masks! They’re all shook!” One of Bates’ subordinates laughed out. Naturally, since their faces were hidden behind the infamous mask, none of the Frie Clan members could see what expressions their attackers had, but based on their frozen dispositions, one didn’t need to look at their faces to tell what emotion they were feeling.
“This is just the appetiser… Men! ARE YOU ALL READY?!”
“Alright then! Let’s kill these sons of bitches!!!” Raising his gauntlet firmly into the air, Bates signalled the start of the battle, compelling his men to charge forward with impunity. And so, the Battle of Frie Mountain had finally begun.