“You… That spiritual pressure… So you’re one of the High Elders of the Frie Clan?” Malgen theorised after feeling the power that the First Elder was supplying.
Standing in the way of Malgen and the Frie Clan Master, an elderly man, who was way past his prime, was holding on to a crimson whip that spewed out embers at every slight movement. His wrinkled face was furrowed into a frown as he watched the Black Mask that had caused so much damage to his clan while he was away. Although he was in his twilight years, the First Elder was no different than when he was twenty years young, a warrior that would do anything to protect his brethren from the hands of people who sought to harm them.
“Malgen Chaxrala… How deplorable of you to fall into the netherworld… The once prideful Spirit Emperor now answers to a crook that hides behind a mask…” Snorting in derision at the Brahmin, who was battered all over, the First Elder gently lashed his whip on the floor.
“Hahaha, as you’d said! I have fallen into the underworld! But who were the ones who drove me there in the first place? Isn’t it orthodox sects and clans such as your own? Unable to stomach my methods, they chased me into the ends of the world, hoping to see my head on a spike! At that moment, the only one who saw value in me, the only one who reached out his hand, is the mighty Allfather!” Malgen shouted out in anger.
The broken down Thargrak Golem armour of his that had turned obsidian started to regrow, protecting the battered down flesh and bone of the Spirit Emperor. Even though he was injured beyond regular repair means, Malgen was still able to put up a decent fight for a while longer, a testament to his title as the world’s strongest earth elemental Spirit Emperor.
“What a shame… Looks like I’ll have to put you in your place. I wonder how much the Kori Federation would give me if I deliver your dead body straight to their doorsteps!”
“Haha! I would like to see you try!” Once his armour had been fully recovered, the Brahmin kicked off from his stationary position and charged straight at the First Elder, like a wild bull that thirsted for the man’s blood.
“Junius! The First Elder of the Frie Clan has returned! Additionally, our scouts have picked up the mana signatures of the Second Elder and Lady Seph fast approaching! We have to quickly find the orphans before they arrive! Otherwise, we would be forced to fight to our deaths!” When the First Elder returned sooner than the Black Masks had expected, one of the remnant Awter Clan members notified the viridian-haired youth of the news.
The original plan of the Black Masks was to rescue the orphans and deal as much damage as they could to Frie Mountain, and once the two High Elders returned, they were to immediately retreat. However, even after an hour since the operation has begun, the team sent to retrieve the orphans haven’t found a single clue of their whereabouts.
“Damn it! They’re not at the designated safe house! I don’t know where they could be!!!” Junius desperately replied to the concerned Black Mask. Their mission was to find the orphans and leave the mountain as soon as they could. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they tried, the nine little lives that they were seeking were nowhere to be found.
“The safe house that we were supposed to go to in times of crisis had been destroyed by the lava flowing out from the mountain. The only other place that they could have gone is the First Elder’s abode, which is completely empty right now! I don’t know where else they could be!!!” At this point, Junius was downright frantic.
When he flew into the airspace of Frie Mountain alongside his compatriots, he had expected a swift recovery of his family. After all, all he needed to do was reveal his face to them, and they would run off with him no questions asked. However, as every ticking second passed, the dream that he had of reuniting with his entire family had suddenly seemed to be so far away. Once the two High Elders returned to the mountain, the Black Masks were to return, with or without the orphans. In fact, now that the First Elder had returned, they were under increased pressure to retreat immediately.
“Damn it! Damn it! DAMN IT!!! Senior! We should circle the mountain! Let me have a clear look at all the residents below! Perhaps I would be able to find a clue about where Lily and the rest are!” Out of options, Junius opted to go for the most primitive way of locating his friends.
“Alright! However, we can at most do it once! Brahmin Malgen is under high pressure after that deadly attack by that bitch Enfen. Not to mention the two other Spirit Emperors coming our way… We probably have only five more minutes before we need to go!”
“Understood!” Nodding his head, Junius controlled his flying mount and sped rapidly down towards the mountain, with many of his fellow clansmen behind him.
While the Frie Clan were slowly but surely fighting off their assailants, Shin and Lady Seph were seated quietly atop the back of the enlargened Bingbing. Flying at an incredible speed, the Tier 8 Spirit Beast was only a few kilometres off from Frie Mountain and would reach it within a few minutes. In fact, they were so close to the headquarters of the Frie Clan that when Enfen used up all of her mana to cast the Final Petal, Lady Seph and Shin could clearly make out the dazzling light being cast out from the explosion.
“Looks like the battle is rather fierce… To force that lass to cast that accursed ability…” Lady Seph muttered out in light shock.
Being one of the Clan Master’s former mentors, Lady Seph knew many details about Enfen’s cultivation methods. The Final Petal was a trump card that the Clan Master had theorised back when she was just a little Spirit Apostle that was dreaming for the future. Studying various scholarly articles and researching on her Eternal Burning Rose, the young Enfen realised that a concentrated attack that collected all of her mana into one single petal could cause a devastating explosion, due to the nature of her Spirit. Naturally, she didn’t know the full extent of the power until she created that spiritual ability later on in her life.
With the power capable of destroying an entire battlefield with one strike, the Final Petal was the most destructive spiritual ability created by a Frie Clan member in its entire history. During the war that ended the Awter Clan, Enfen had used the ability just once, and it caused shockwaves all over the nation. But, with every mighty ability, came its drawbacks. Due to the violent nature of the Final Petal, the Clan Master would be instantly immobilised as her spiritual body goes out of order for a good seven days. Additionally, with every additional use of the Final Petal, the lustre of her Eternal Burning Rose would fade, hindering her future progress in cultivation. Therefore, unless it was absolutely necessary, the Clan Master would never choose to use the Final Petal.
“That… That mushroom cloud of smoke… It resembles a rose…” Mesmerised by the beautiful technique of the Clan Master, Shin seemed to have forgotten the reason why he was rushing back onto the mountain.
“Yeah… But every rose has its thorns. Remember Shin, when created an ability to advance in the future, never chose one that could injure your entire body!”
“Yeah…” Not taking his Master’s advice too seriously, Shin watched the beautiful rose, bloomed high up in the stratosphere.
‘Ariel… Elyse… Please stay safe!’ Calling out the names of those he cared for the most, Shin felt his heart tighten. However, at the moment when he remembered the scarlet-haired girl, the black-haired youth dropped his eyes as a wave of melancholy brushed past his very soul. ‘Ariel… What should I say when I meet you? Would I still see you as Ariel, the childhood friend that I grew up with? Or would I see you as Ariel Frie, the successor of the clan that wiped out mine?’
Stuck in the dilemma that had been plaguing his mind for the past few hours, Shin tried his best to picture the reunion scene that was soon to come. In just two days, his entire life had been changed entirely. If he weren’t kidnapped by the Black Masks, perhaps he would have met Ariel in the waypoint and confessed. If he didn’t know about the Awter Clan, maybe he would have lived his life in matrimonial bliss, heading towards a happily ever after. However, now that he knew of the Awter Clan, and the atrocities committed by the Frie Clan, could he honestly watch as his loved one inherits the very same clan that killed off his?
“Shin? Are you alright?” Noticing that something was amiss with the black-haired teenager, Lady Seph asked.
“Master… It’s nothing… Please hurry.” Replying a negative, Shin shook his head and remained quiet, much to the dismay of the elderly woman.
‘I’ll guess I’ll know what to do when I see her…’