A sword glow flashed as brightly as the stars in the darkness and approached at blinding speed. From Lorist's point of view, the hastily created blades of light seemed to form a large net that sealed off all his surroundings.
The figure that rushed towards Lorist was the annoyed junior assailant. His strikes were lethal and aimed to take his life, despite what the senior assailant said to only take his arm.
Lorist let out a cold snort and drew his sword without backing down. The moment Lorist's sword struck out, the countless light blade attacks that flew towards Lorist dissipated without a trace.
"Wha..." The opponent was caught off guard by Lorist's successful attempt at deflecting the light blades. Not only that, Lorist instantly took the initiative and lashed out at the assailant without sparing a single moment. In but an instant, the assailant took a defensive stance as he struggled to block Lorist's flurry of attacks.
The opponent tried to use brute force and take advantage of the disparity in power between a Gold rank and an Iron rank to break Lorist's stance. However, Lorist's swordsmanship was too unpredictable and managed to suppress the enemy's move before it was even able to be unleashed and followed up with a flurry of incessant attacks like a rush of floodwater which forces its way through any gap, however small. The constant flow of strikes forced the opponent into a situation where he could only defend without being able to counterattack. Lorist's swings also changed trajectory often before it landed and aimed for the attacker's openings, forcing the attacker to gradually move backwards.
The enemy was already sweating all over. Had it not been for Lorist's constant pressuring that didn't allow him to catch any breath, he would've already called for help from his senior apprentice brother long ago. Not even while dreaming could he ever imagine fighting against someone with swordsmanship as fearsome as this that rendered the difference in raw power between a Gold rank and an Iron rank nonexistent. At this moment, Lorist's performance wasn't like that of an Iron rank's at all. The assailant has only felt pressured like this when he sparred against his other Blademaster senior apprentice brother.
Behind Lorist, loud constant sounds of swords clashing rang out and stopped. Only Potterfang's ragged breathing and the other assailant's cry of despair could be heard.
"Ugh... Agh! It hurts... You madman! Ugh... It hurts as hell... Junior, how are you holding up? Quickly settle that bastard and come help me out! This Silver rank is a total madman I tell you! Ugh..." The senior assailant actually got a large cut and groaned away in agony.
Potterfang laughed softly before saying, "Come on. This was how I took care of Gold ranks on the battlefield. I take two of your strikes to deal one back. Three for one if I have to. Let's see who can take more attacks before collapsing..."
That senior assailant no longer dared to attack Potterfang head on and only gritted his teeth as he circled around Potterfang while unleashing ranged light blade attacks as he called out for his junior to help out. He even berated his junior nonstop for taking so long to kill a mere Iron rank.
Little did the senior assailant know about the junior's woes. Hearing that Potterfang got injured, Lorist increased the ferocity of his attacks and didn't give too much heed to technique and forcefully struck towards the opponent's chest. The junior assailant hastily took a few steps back while deflecting several waves of attacks with much fear in his eyes. Initially, he was happy that Lorist took the offensive against him and thought that he would be able to break Lorist's longsword with his higher ranked Battle Force. Even if the sword didn't break, he would still manage to make Lorist suffer a huge lost based on the pure difference in power.
Before, the assailant found it hard to parry Lorist's swift and careful strikes. Currently, Lorist no longer cared much for finesse and technique and attacked with brute force. The junior assailant gladly brought his sword to meet Lorist's only to discover that what he had expected to transpire didn't happen and instead, he felt a strong wave of force passing through his own sword that caused him to loosen his grip on his weapon. The longsword was knocked out of the junior assailant's hands and he instantly scrambled backwards in fear and somehow still managed to escape certain death.
Lorist was incredibly frustrated. Before, he had thought his opponent would take quite an effort on his part to defeat given how much he had boasted before. But now, all the assailant did was defend and dodge all over the place without any intention of counterattacking. No matter how formidable Lorist's swordsmanship was, it wouldn't be of much use against an opponent who didn't dare to take a single one of his strikes.
This won't do, thought Lorist as the junior assailant flocked around the place after picking his sword up like a frightened little bird. It seems that I must come up with some other way to take care of him.
Slowly advancing towards his enemy, Lorist swung his sword in an elegant manner like a peacock dancing under the lights of the lamps around him to attract the opponent's attention. Without any giveaway, he slowly raised his left arm. Twang! A soft sound of a spring decompressing could be heard as a thin projectile flew out from Lorist's left sleeve without a noise towards its target.
The junior assailant let out cold sweat when Lorist's attacks intensified. The cries and curses of his senior apprentice brother from afar only served to increase his anxiety. As he prepared to take on the attacks from the approaching Lorist, he felt an urge to scream out loud in frustration. It was like the roles of a Gold rank and an Iron rank had reversed between them!
Lorist instantly leaped towards the junior assailant with his sword letting out a loud swishing sound as the light of the lamps reflected off its cold metal edge. Preparing to evade the flurry of attacks with no intention of parrying any whatsover, the junior assailant suddenly felt a blinding pain coming from his left foot. He quickly lowered his head to look at his leg only to discover that a thin, long black dart had buried itself into his foot and nailed him to the ground.
Terrified beyond his wits as he looked at Lorist's approaching form, the junior assailant quickly begged for mercy to no avail. Lorist's longsword hit his target and broke through the Gold ranked Battle Force aura's defense with little to no resistance and with the sound of flesh being cut, the longsword dug itself deep into the assailant's body.
"You... Ugh... Sh-shameless bastard..." groaned the junior assailant with all the energy left within his body while rolling both his eyes.
Not ashamed at all for using the hidden dart, Lorist said sincerely, "Thanks for the compliment."
As Lorist pulled out his longsword, the body of his dying opponent slumped down to the ground like a sandbag that was leaking sand. Lorist turned to his back and moved towards the grumbling and shouting senior assailant as fresh blood slowly dripped all over the floor from the tip of his sword, creating a trail of crimson in the wake of Lorist's passage.
The senior assailant had taken a slash to his inner thigh. While it wasn't a lethal strike in itself, it sent waves of pain to the senior assailant and effectively decreased his mobility. That strike caused the senior assailant to stop taking Potterfang head on and circle around him instead while he waited for his junior apprentice brother to come back him up. This only served to worsen the wound as every step he took sent torrents of pain down his nerves. It wasn't surprising that he would be grumbling and cursing from all that suffering.
However, Potterfang didn't look like he held up well either as his left shoulder blade and right lower abdomen looked rather bloody. However, the former injury wasn't as bad as it seemed as the cut wasn't that deep. It was a different story for his right lower abdomen however as the injury was created from a piercing attack rather than a slash. It would be bad if that strike had pierced any of his internal organs. The senior assailant also sent one light blade attack after another which caused Potterfang to parry each of them; an action that further intensified the bleeding from his right abdomen.
The senior assailant stopped moving around and launched a few more ranged attacks before looking down to the injury on his thigh. He had already wrapped it with a makeshift bandage made from the cloth from his garments. Blood still leaked out from the bandage nevertheless. The assailant pulled on the bandage lightly and grimaced in pain.
As Lorist slowly approached him, the senior assailant was under the impression that his younger apprentice brother had come. With his head looking downwards, he complained, "What the hell is wrong with you for taking so long to take care of a mere Iron rank? Gosh! This fucking hurts! That Silver rank is a total madman. Watch out when you attack him as he'll take your attacks with his body to land a hit on you! Don't fall for- Ah! Ah! AHHH!!!!"
Upon raising his head, the senior assailant discovered that the figure approaching him was Lorist instead and his face paled in an instant. After stammering unintelligibly for quite a while, he finally exclaimed, "Why! Why is it you?! W-w-w-where's my junior apprentice brother?!"
Lorist pointed to the back with his sword and said, "He's lying on the ground over there. He really did end up paying his life for attempting to take my arm. Well, he failed at it anyway. It's your turn now."
The footsteps continued without stopping.
"You... Don't come any closer..." said the senior assailant as he pointed his sword towards Lorist and scrambled backwards in fear. Having heard of the death of his junior, his mind was already in a chaotic state. Lorist's form slowly morphed into that of a demon king in his vision.
The senior assailant retreated to the flower patch behind him before stopping and looking around. He threw his sword towards Lorist and circulated his Battle Force before stomping down to the ground and leaped, enduring the excruciating pain as he made his escape.
A sharp sound reverberated through the plaza as a longsword flew through the air like a javelin and penetrated the senior assailant's back and reemerged from his front chest. The assailant let out a deafening cry as he crashed towards the flower patch in mid-jump before struggling to get up and finally exhaling his final breath. The longsword was actually Potterfang's. When he saw that the senior assailant intended to escape, he flung his longsword without thinking and collapsed on the ground afterwards.
Lorist knocked the senior assailant's airborne sword away and thought that that the assailant had successfully escaped. He was surprised to discover that Potterfang had thrown his own sword and taken the senior assailant's life.
"That sword was very well launched. It was really impressive," praised Lorist as he made his way towards Potterfang quickly.
Potterfang let out an unenergetic laugh as he said, "It's nothing special. I learned back when I was in the military. Even so, I still couldn't match up to you. Even though we both fought against Gold ranks, you actually emerged unscathed and helped me fend off my enemy whereas I got a few injuries myself and only got the kill when the enemy was frightened into escaping by you."
Lorist helped Potterfang up and carefully placed him on the bench before inspecting his injuries. The slash on the left shoulder blade wasn't that detrimental, however seriousness of the jab to his right lower abdomen couldn't really be determined under the poor lighting of the street lamps.
Seeing Lorist so worried about his injuries, Potterfang felt moved and said weakly, "It's okay. I've already taken that into consideration when the sword came at me. It shouldn't have injured any of my internals and will recover after resting for a month or two. I've been hurt worse when I was in the military and still managed to survive to this day."
Lorist removed his linen undershirt and used it to wrap up Potterfang's injuries before going to check on the corpses of the assailants. He returned with two bags of money, two swords and two Gold ranked Battle Force badges.
"Weird, these swords are rather common but the badges have a different design compared to the ones issued by the trade union... They're pretty rare around here," said Lorist.
Potterfang also nodded his head helplessly, unable to recognize where the badges were from.
The two pouches of money contained more than 20 gold Fordes and 30 plus large silvers. Lorist put the gold coins and large silver coins into two different pouches and handed the one with the gold Fordes in it to Potterfang. "Brother Potterfang, let's split the two pouches of coins among us. I won't hold back and will be taking the one with more coins in it."
As Lorist stuffed the bag with the gold Fordes into Potterfang's shirt pocket, Potterfang was totally stunned as he wore an expression of immense gratitude. "Mister Norton... You..."
Lorist interjected and said, "Just call me Locke. The moment you fought alongside me as a comrade, you've already become my friend. And friends don't speak so formally among one another."
"Okay..." Potterfang's face revealed a smile. "Alright, Locke. you can call me Pog. That's what my comrades in the army used to call me."
"Alright, Pog," replied Lorist.
Sounds of horses galloping on the road could be heard. It turned out to be Reidy who drove the carriage with many people within it as well as several others holding on to the luggage racks on the roof and the back. Seven or eight people loudly rushed over with Els and Charade running at the front. They all let out a breath of relief when they saw Lorist unharmed.
"Where's the enemy? Did they run away?" asked Charade as he breathed raggedly.
"No they didn't. Look, they are lying down dead within the plaza," said Lorist as he pointed towards the dead bodies. "Do you have any medicine?"
"Yes, yes..." said Charade as he scrambled to take the medicines out from his pockets. Els waved for Terman and the others to go inspect the corpses.
"Daddy, daddy!" A boy and a girl rushed over and held Potterfang's hand tightly while letting out streams of tears from their faces. This was Howard and Alisa, Potterfang's beloved children. They had been jolted awake during the carriage ride and saw that their father was no longer around. Had it not been for Charade who told them they were on their way to rescue their father, who knew how much harder they would've cried? Nevertheless, they still burst into tears upon seeing their father's injured state.
"Don't cry, Howard. You're a boy. You must learn to be strong and protect your sister in the future. Boys can't simply let out tears like that. Daddy's fine. It's only a couple of flesh wounds that aren't really anything to worry about," said Potterfang as he stroke both his children's heads.
Charlando limped over with a cane in his hands and said, "I know these two. Just this evening, they were the first to arrive at the inn and sat at a corner by themselves and drunk without talking to each other. I've been eyeing them for quite sometime but I stopped thinking too much about them since they didn't bother the other guests. They started to leave the moment Lorist came back in after checking the carriage out and even paid the money to Louise!"
Charade said, "Did they leave the inn early to ambush Lorist on the way? Lorist, do you have any leads from their corpses?"
"Other than the money pouches they carried, there were two of these badges and nothing else. Oh, the swords they used were pretty common too," said Lorist as he tossed the two Battle Force badges over to Charade.
Flipping the badges around, Charade said, "The design is indeed different from the normal ones, but I can't remember where these badges came from..."
As he passed the badges to Els, Charade grumbled, "Hey, this is your territory you know. Thank goodness Locke is fine. Otherwise, let's see how you will be able to make up for it to the rest of us. Quick, bring these two bastards' corpses away and try to see if we have any clues on where they're from."
Els took the badges and said, "Wow, they're indeed One Star Gold ranks. I was rather skeptical when Reidy said that two Gold ranks ambushed Lorist... What's more surprising is that both of them ended up dead! Sol, Locke. You're truly a monster!"
"Hey, Brother Pog here is injured you know. Had it not been for his help, I wouldn't have fared this well either. Help me bring him to the carriage first and send his children and him back to my house. By the way, where's Instructor Marlin?" asked Lorist.
Charade replied, "He's still sleeping very soundly within the carriage..."