Though the Black Masks were reluctant to let major witnesses go, they still had to obey the orders of their immediate superior. The seven Shudras all summoned out their Spirits while the two Vaishyas levitating in the sky circled around Shin to complete the entrapment. Flickers of flame, water, earth, lightning and wind spiralled all about the surroundings, bringing an intense spiritual energy spike that made the elements dance. The seven Shudras all possessed intense Spirits that were baptised with the Allfather’s enigmatic mana, and they were ready to bear their all into capturing the young man who stood alone before them.
Shin watched as the Black Masks continued their preparations with an analytical gaze. If he were only against the seven Shudras, Shin was confident that he was capable of defeating them all. However, there were the two Vaishyas that were flying right behind him and the top talent Junius was holding his front. Shin had to be careful in his assault. But first, he had to buy some time.
“Junius! Surrender yourself!!!” Hollering out at the top of his lungs, Shin pointed the Spear of Aiglos straight at the viridian-haired young man. “You still can redeem yourself of your sins! Leave the Black Masks and follow me back to the Alliance! Don’t you want to pay your respects to Sister Lily?!”
Shin attempted to play the dead lover card, in hopes of rattling Junius’ nerves. Of all the orphans, Shin was most familiar with Junius. He knew how much his brother loved Lily and how it devastating it might have been for Junius to kill her with his own hands. If he could somehow persuade Junius to surrender and turn over a new leaf, perhaps this entire fight could be wholly avoided. Alas, his words were just a fruitless endeavour.
“Lily is dead. Nothing can change that.” Junius coldly replied. His eyes were void of emotion as if he hardly cared about the dead woman that he had spent all of his childhood loving. “Shin, no matter what you do, the dead can’t come back to life. What’s important is for us to live in the present and live happily for the future of our family! Come with me, Shin! I don’t want to hurt you anymore!”
Junius lowered the two-metre-long odachi in his right and raised his left hand as a welcoming gesture. In his mind, there was still hope for the orphans to live happily ever after under the umbrella of the Black Masks. Junius would be the sole breadwinner and bear the full brunt of the Allfather’s orders, but at the very least, the orphans and the Awter Clan would be safe from the dangers of the world.
Many didn’t understand the depth of the Allfather’s resources and how powerful the esteemed figure was, but Junius sure does. On the surface, the Black Masks seemed to be at the end of their ropes and were on the brink of being eradicated. However, for those who knew of the real plan that the Allfather had concocted, they knew that the Black Masks were winning. It may have been a rather peaceful four years for the Alliance and the inhabitants of the land, but once the Allfather plays his hand, there was only one word for the carnage that follows.
“Come with me, Shin! I can shelter you from the dangers of the world! I can convince the Allfather to not use the orphans and you in his master plan! I can save you!!!”
“Vaishya Junius!!!” At that moment, a levitating Vaishya screamed out at the emotional youth. Realising what he had done, Junius bit the bottom of his lip and looked straight back at his subordinate. “You’ve said too much!”
“Don’t worry. As long as we bring Shin back, we can tell him everything!”
‘Use me?’ Shin’s ear picked up on a minute detail that Junius had accidentally let slip. Till this day, the Alliance has yet to determine the Allfather’s true identity and his motivations for causing that much pain and suffering. However, from the looks of it, Junius was privy to some classified information that the Alliance sorely needed. ‘Urghhh!!! If not for that meddling asshole, I would have learnt something about the Allfather!’
“Shin! Come with us!”
“As tempting as that offer sounds…” Taking a cursory glance around, Shin could see that the Black Masks surrounding him were done with talking. They were ready to take the leap to capture him with everything that they had. Scoffing, thousands of deep cerulean fish scales covered the pigment of the young man as his mana spiked exponentially. At the same time, a dense spiritual pressure mounted on the shoulders of the Black Masks while the water golems started to move into a formation that protected Shin from the menaces.
“I must decline.”
“Shin! You just don’t understand!!! Please just…”
“Vaishya Junius! That’s enough!” Unable to bear it anymore, the Spirit Spectre in the air jumped straight from the air and cast his own Spiritual Body Enhancement. Expanding into three times his original size, the Vaishya held Junius’ shoulder and declared with a serious tone. He could tell that Shin was just playing with Junius, knowing that the man would never harm him. Hence, Junius had to be taken off the driver’s seat. “You just hang back and relax. I’ll help you capture this brat.”
“Alright… But you can’t harm him! Just immobilise him!!!”
“I got it.” The Vaishya cracked his knuckles and stretched his ape-like body to release the stress in his muscles. In his heyday, he had participated in multiple wars and had thundered through hundreds of battles. Capturing a twenty-year-old Spirit Adept? That mission was well below his pay grade. “Men, encircle him!”
“YES, SIR!!!” Instantly, the Shudras closed in on Shin like snakes locking onto their prey. They didn’t have an elaborate plan. There was seven of them and one of Shin. How hard could it be to take him down?
BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!
However, just before they could even halve their distance, the water golems all rushed forward and slammed their fists onto the Black Masks bodies. At the same time, Shin summoned out tidal waves of his created water and formed numerous tendrils that mimicked that of an angry octopus, in an effort to increase the difficulty to get to him.
Raising one hand to the heavens, Shin brought up gallons of water from the surface and formed hundreds of sharp spears. Whizzing them straight at the Shudras that charged at him, Shin ensured that the Black Masks weren’t able to get within twenty-metres of him as he continued to waste time for his fellow comrades to escape.
“Wow, you’re tough for a Spirit Adept.” The Vaishya that took Junius’ place issued out a rare word of praise for the young man who repelled his forces. Though, the goodwill that the Vaishya had didn’t last for long. He clenched his fists and created a small whirlwind around his right arm. The tornado was made out of black dust and had a grim, menacing feel to each spin. Taking his stance, the Spirit Spectre released all of his spiritual pressure, which stunned Shin for a split second.
“Unfortunately… I have to take you in so you might feel a little pain.”
Charging forward with all his might, the Vaishya blew away all of the water golems that were in his way and in a blink of an eye, his fist was right before Shin’s nose. Shocked, Shin executed the first thing that came to his mind. He spun the Spear of Aiglos around and defended the tornado punch in hopes of minimising the damage he would sustain.
A deafening blast reverberated through the waterfall basin, sending a shockwave that would disturb any creature that was within a kilometre radius. Flung backwards by the Vaishya’s violent fist, Shin struggled to keep his two feet on the ground. He could feel his biceps screaming at him to let go of the Spear of Aiglos, and his blood was pumping like a motor engine after that one strike from the monkey man.
‘What the hell?! He hits way harder than Isadore?!’ Shin screamed out mentally while simultaneously casting heal on his injured parts. If that one punch, which Shin had blocked, had caused that much damage to his arms, imagine what would have happened if the Vaishya had landed a clean hit.
Shin wanted to take a few seconds to recover from the shocking monstrous strength that his opponent possessed, but unfortunately, not everyone would give him that luxury. Just moments after he finished treating his sore muscles, a dark shadow emerged from the top of Shin.
‘Shit!’ Shin cursed his own folly and spun around twice to get out of the way. However, he was just a tad too late. The Vaishya had descended down like a meteorite and crashed violently onto the slippery floor. His tornado-clad legs created an explosion-like event, where a thunderous shockwave blew apart everything in its way, friend or foe alike. Shin managed to get in the clear of direct contact, but he wasn’t immune to the aftermath that came quickly after.
Spinning around like a tumbleweed, Shin managed to diminish most of the damage that he may have sustained through pure acrobatics and somehow managed to escape out of the deadly tornado blow with light bruises and scratches. However, the same couldn’t be said about his opponent.
Drip… Drip… Drip…
Beads of thick crimson liquid fell from the sturdy, toned body of the Vaishya and started to stain the puddled ground. There wasn’t any pain and neither was there any shock. Just standing still, the Vaishya moved his shaken hands to touch the source of his laceration.
‘What’s… this?’ Feeling up his own chest, the Spirit Spectre could see a deep wound that stretched from his left rib down to his furry nipple. It wasn’t a wound that he would die from, but it would damn well impede his movements. Turning to the sole person that could have caused said injury, the Vaishya noticed that the tip of Shin’s Spear of Aiglos had a similar crimson liquid dripping from its top.
‘He managed to damage me from that situation?!’ The Black Mask cried out mentally. That hit was completely unexpected and definitely hard to prepare for. Yet, Shin somehow managed to aim for his heart while rolling out to safety. If Shin’s Spear just moved a little inch to the top…
“Tsk… Susan! Heal me!”
The third and final Vaishya jumped down from her position and slapped her palms on the wound of the Black Mask. A black liquid covered her hands as mana flowed into the cut, closing it for good and bringing the monkey man to the pink of health.
“Craig, how could you be so careless?”
“Easy for you to say. You weren’t even facing him!” Vaishya Craig complained his face turning red in anger, or maybe embarrassment for losing in an exchange with a younger foe. However, after cooling his head for a while, the Black Mask instead stood tall and faced the recovering Shin. “Susan… It looks like Junius’ ‘little brother’ is the real deal. I can’t face him without your support.”
“Honestly, if Junius weren’t that emotional, he would have made quick work of this brat. However, I doubt that he’s in any position to fight now.” Craig looked back at his boss, who had fumes spewing out his ears as he looked livid that his subordinate had nearly injured his dear brother. “We have to take down that brat quickly, and for that, I need your support.”
“Say no more.”
Vaishya Susan closed her eyes, and a torrent of spiritual energy erupted into the air. Her surroundings began to distort, and all Shin could see was a phantom of a dark figure. Though she was obscured by mana waves, Shin could somewhat make out the solid object that emerged from the depths of her chest.
‘Temporal Chains… I’d never thought that I would get to see it in person.’
Being a healer, the youngest ever in history, in fact, Shin knew the majority of spiritual abilities that a healer could learn. Like most spiritual abilities, healing skills were classified based on their rarity, difficulty of mastery, and overall potency. Among those skills, Temporal Chains was listed as one of the rarest abilities one could find in a healer. It wasn’t because it was hard to learn, and neither was there a stringent criterion needed before a healer could learn that skill. So why was it rare to find?
It was because it was a masochistic spiritual ability.
Whoever is on the opposite end of the Temporal Chains would receive aid as if a healer was standing right next to them. Whenever they were injured, the healer could cast their recovery abilities without any impediment. Whenever they needed mana, the healer could supply their own to the fighter. And finally, the side effect that truly repelled all healers from that wretched ability, whatever pain and suffering the fighter received, the healer would share half of it without any questions.
Yes, the effects of Temporal Chains was tremendous, but the consequences of using it weren’t meek either. Hence, most healers would stray far away from that godforsaken spiritual ability. However, the Black Masks weren’t most people.
With Susan supplying mana and healing straight to Craig’s monkey-like body, there were essentially two Spirit Spectres facing Shin at this very moment. Black whirlwinds swirled around the four limbs of Vaishya Craig as the seven Spirit Adepts all drew far away into safety. They knew that once their superior was at this state, there was no way for them to butt in unless they wished to get hurt. It wasn’t just the Shudras that felt fear for the immense power beating down on their skins. For a brief moment there, Shin was contemplating surrender to avoid getting pulverised by the enormous menace that was Craig.
‘God damn it! How long more until you guys fire the flare?!’ Shin cursed at his comrades while looking up into the skies. By now, the group should have reached safety, and backup should be fast arriving. No matter how much he wished to escape, he couldn’t risk the lives of Latina and Natalie.
‘Whatever, I guess I have to continue to hold on for just a bit longer!’