‘Shin… Iofiel?’ Latina repeated that name in her heart. Still shook from the near-death experience that she had, the girl barely had the capabilities to form words as her mouth continued to tremble.
‘What’s this young man doing here?’ Meanwhile, the experienced Natalie held on to a sound mind as she carefully observed Shin, still deciding whether he was a friend or foe. ‘I’ve never seen this person before in Huuring City. Also, he looks no older than twenty! How’s he able to move at such staggering speeds?’
“Miss? Are you hurt anywhere?” Shin didn’t know what to do. He had rushed over once spotting the signal of distress fired by Gary and was just moments away from witnessing the death of a poor little girl. Fortunately, Emma the markswoman had sniped the bear out of existence. Otherwise, even with Shin’s top speed, Latina would have been split in half by now.
“No, thank you for sav-… WATCH OUT!!!” Before Natalie could continue probing about the true identity of their saviour, she saw the remnant bear charging straight to Shin’s back. Natalie had forgotten that there were two bears present due to her concern for Latina’s safety.
“Hmmm?” Instead of being worried, Shin just raised his eyebrows and turned around. Thinking that their saviour was just about to be hacked in half before her eyes, Natalie covered Latina, in hopes of sparing her from that gruesome scene. However, the impact that she had anticipated to happen didn’t occur.
“You can open your eyes now.” Shin’s soothing voice awakened the pair from their slumber. Natalie first looked around and saw that the young man before her was utterly pristine. There wasn’t even a crease on his shirt. That dreadful bear, on the other hand, had suffered the same fate as its compatriot.
‘Another arrow through the head?! Is this guy an archer? No, but he’s not carrying a bow!’ A series of questions emerged in Natalie’s mind, and fortunately, her answers were going to be answered soon.
A bunch of youngsters, all no older than twenty, jumped forward from a distance. Four young women, each more stunning than the other, made a soft landing near the deceased bear as if they were here to claim their hunting prize. Following their movements, two young men, one was still as short as a hobbit while the other had grown to resemble a handsome silver-haired elf, landed next to Shin and extended a helping hand to Natalie and Latina.
“Emma, nice shooting!” Shin praised his sister.
“Hehe, shouldn’t you say as expected of the Glacial Fairy Markswoman?” Elrin, who had barely grown five centimetres in the past four years, chuckled as she teased her bosom pal. Blushing immediately, Emma flailed her arms about, still holding her Ice Bow in one hand and an icicle arrow in another.
“Elrin! Why do you like to embarrass me before new people we meet?!”
“Because your reactions warrant it.”
No one in the group disagreed. Emma might already be twenty this year, but she was without a doubt, the most comical to watch when flustered. Once, a hopeful male student from Imperius Academy had attempted to court her, but all he got was dancing Emma who had accidentally bitten her tongue due to her agitation.
“Mou… Why don’t you ever tease Ella for her name! The Blizzard Fairy Sharpshooter is embarrassing too!”
“Hey, why are you trying to pull me down with you?!” A chill shivered down Ella’s spine as she looked at the sinister expression of their resident trickster. During their entire stay at Imperius Academy, Elrin was never one to spare the sword. If she saw an opportunity to tease her friends, you could bet to the High Gods that she would capitalise on it.
“Are the three of you forgetting something?” The black-haired maiden, stuck between the three knuckleheads rubbed the temples of her forehead. They were here to rescue others, not banter among themselves. Walking towards Natalie and Latina, Kanari put on her political smile and charmingly greeted the distraught duo.
‘So pretty.’ Latina thought to herself. Huuring City was a place where mercenaries gathered. The restaurants, shophouses, Guild Houses and even the entire street were filled with ruffians that had to fight with their fists to earn a living. A pale and sweet-looking lady like the black-haired beauty like Kanari would be hard to find in such an environment.
“Sorry about my friends. If it’s not too hard to ask, could you explain why a distress flare was being fired?”
“That’s right! Gary! You have to save Gary! We were attacked! The Black Masks had come to burn the forest down!” Remembering the urgent situation that they were in, Natalie cried out in angst. There was no time to ask any questions, they had to save Gary!
“Black Masks!” Shin stood upright. “Where are they?”
“A few hundred metres that way! You have to be careful they have a Vaishya there! Also, they have a handful of other forces that are supporting him! Please help Gary!” It seemed weird to seek help from a bunch of kids who were about twenty-years-old. However, for the delirious Natalie, that appeared to be the only option.
“Understood. Shizen, you keep the pair safe with your Adivinar Tree.” Shin barked his orders at the little hobbit who had the best defences and manoeuvrability in a forest. “The rest of you… Let’s do our jobs.”
“Hehe, I thought you’d never ask.” Kanari chuckled.
Speeding away, the group left Shizen to take care of Natalie and Latina. The pair had mostly recovered from their shock and were finally able to piece together what had just happened. While Latina was relieved that reinforcements had arrived, Natalie quickly realised her folly and grabbed Shizen on his shoulders.
“We have to go get more reinforcements! They have a Spirit Spectre expert among their ranks! Your friends won’t be able to deal with that!”
“Hmmm~. Didn’t you say that there was only one Spirit Spectre?” Shizen lazily yawned.
“Only a Spirit Spectre? Do you even know what a Spirit Spectre is?” Fumes funnelled out of Natalie’s ears. Cultivation was tough. Especially when it came to overcoming mortality barriers at Rank 40 and Rank 80. Among the entire human population, perhaps only one percent of all cultivators would make it past that elusive stage. Even she had been stuck at Rank 33 for almost five years, without any hope of advancing! Yet, this young boy who wasn’t even twenty dared to undermine a Spirit Spectre?
“I do…” Shizen hated conversations with nagging women. Ella was enough of a nagger herself, and he had gained enough experience on how to appropriately deal with such a situation. And that was, to tell the truth.
“But if there’s only one Spirit Spectre there’s no need to worry.”
“The six that went to save your friends, they’re all Rank 30 Spirit Adepts. And…” Shizen laughed. During the past four years, their group hasn’t been messing around. All of their cultivations were raised to the Spirit Adept realm, and their skills had been honed to an exceptional degree. In fact, Principal Erudito was also at a loss of what Imperius Academy could continue to offer them. If they truly wished for it, their clique could begin working anywhere in the Capital, and thousands of organisations would race for their signatures. Of course, for the two leading their little group, that wasn’t really an option. Why?
“The two most talented cultivators in the world are leading them. What Spirit Spectre could possibly hope to beat them?”
It took Shin and the rest less than two minutes to reach the scene of the carnage. Over twenty-odd trees were already on fire and the number continued to rise by the second. Heaps of bodies were laid in the open, both from the Moon Mercenaries and the Black Masks alike.
“ARGHHH!!! YOU ASSHOLES!!!” Gary, whose body was riddled with burns and cuts, flung his trusty battle-axe to hack through a wolf-type Spirit Beast for the final time before falling to his knees. He had expended too much mana and stamina.
“Elrin!” Kanari called out her friend as she turned into her Kumiho form. Likewise, Isadore bent down his knees, summoning out a silver-spear that had been chained at its end.
“Got it!” There was no need for any words. Elrin brought out her Rosary of Eternity and began to pray. The very next instant, two beads split off from her Spirit and merged into Kanari and Isadore. A holy light shone from the depths of their hearts as Elrin shared her Sacramental Boost with the pair.
Swooooshhh!!! Swoooooosshhh!!! Swooooshhh!!!
Kanari and Isadore moved at supersonic speeds, blindsiding the Black Masks and grabbed the five remaining survivors of the Moon Mercenaries. They were in and out in less than five seconds, bringing the entire battlefield into an abrupt halt.
“Hmmm?” The Vaishya looked at his unwelcome visitors curiously. That speed that Kanari and Isadore had just executed went beyond the limits of what a normal Spirit Adept could do. In fact, perhaps only Rank 50 Spirit Lords could reach such speeds.
“Cough… Cough… What happened?”
“You must be senior Gary. We’re here to respond to your distress call.” Shin answered on behalf of the group.
“Cough… Cough… I see. Reinforcements have finally arrived.” Gary dropped his shoulders and fell tumbling to the ground floor. He had a mesh of fatigue, agony, anguish and fear swelling up brick by brick upon his heart. Now that he was rescued, there was no need to put up a facade anymore. However, before he fell into Wonderland for his rest, there was one thing he needs to confirm. “Natalie… Latina… Are they safe?”
“If you’re talking about the lady and the young girl, yes. They’re in safe hands.”
“Ah… I’m glad.” Gary dropped his head on the leafy floor as his mind entirely blacked out.
“Will he be alright?” The kind-hearted Emma asked.
“His wounds are quite fatal. If left untreated, he would probably pass away within the hour.” Shin took one look and could accurately prescribe the fallen mercenary’s condition. “But luckily for him, there’s a healer right here.”
A white mist flowed out from Shin’s pores and covered the five injured souls that lay behind him. Regular fog would have long dispersed out into the air, but the mist that Shin had created remained firmly attached to the unmoving bodies as if it were a cloud blanket. At the same time, a golden light flashed within the soothing ‘cloud,’ resembling that of a lightning storm in the middle of the night.
“They should be alright now,” Shin remarked, never leaving his eyes off the danger in front of them. “One Vaishya, four Shudras, ten Dalits, and twenty-two Spirit Beasts. Looks like we’re heavily outnumbered.”
“Since when has that stopped us?” Isadore jokes. During their ‘expedition’ out of the Himmel Empire, how many perilous situations had they already faced when combating the Black Masks. In comparison to those times, their current predicament was just a hiking trip gone wrong.
“Haha, you’re right! Ella, Emma, can you mow down the Spirit Beasts?”
“Hmph! That’s easy!” Ella’s bow shone in bright white light, while Emma simply nocked her arrow and aimed at the furthest Spirit Beast.
“Kanari, Isadore. Can you keep the Shudras busy?”
“Consider it done!” Isadore swung his spear about, not fearing that he was about to face four Spirit Adepts. Of course, he has the backup of the world’s most dominant female cultivator, but that didn’t diminish the fact that he was brave. Possibly.
“Shin, I can’t use my fire and wind abilities, else I’ll burn the forest down even quicker,” Kanari stated her limitations straight on.
“I know. Let me deal with the fire and that Vaishya bastard that has been spewing it out non-stop.”
“You have a plan?”
“Already executed.” Shin winked. From the moment that he arrived and saw the burning trees, Shin had already formulated a plan to stop the Vaishya. “Don’t worry, I’ll stop the fire.”
“Alright.” If Shin said that he’ll stop the fire, it meant that the fire was as good as gone. Kanari could now focus her entire skillset to stopping the Shudras.
“Elrin. Support us as usual. Everyone… LET’S GO!!!”