On their way back, time seemed to pass by slowly. For students like Beta's group, even though exhaustion was evident on their faces, their anxiousness and wariness didn't let them rest just like how the other classes were doing. After what happened at the ruins, their senses became sharper and their body became more vigilant about hidden enemies. They thought that the journey back would be the same as when they came, but to their surprise, they were extremely wrong.
They realized that there were countless entities hidden in the shadows slightly leaking their killing intent while targeting them. Though a little subtle due to the protection of the weird carriage and the teachers, they still couldn't help but feel those eerie glares from the shadows, making their hair stand on end. The feeling kept them alert and even hindered their concentration when trying to take a break or start cultivating.
Of course, the teachers were aware of it so they strengthened the defenses of their carriages to keep their students safe. It was indeed enough to discourage the malicious stares but Beta's class was the only exception. Even after Lores doubled their defenses, he couldn't do anything to help his class calm down. After all, he believed that it was a good thing that their senses were sharpened in this expedition rather than being careless and nonchalant of what's happening. The more alert his students are, the higher the possibility that they'll survive any surprise attacks. So, the only thing he did was signal their leader, Beta, to maybe alleviate some of their tension but not completely let off their guard.
Beta already knew what Lores had in mind before he was signaled to do something. He expected something like this to happen and it made sense to him. Though he made sure to keep some of their activities at the ruins a secret, he couldn't exactly ensure that nobody noticed their achievements. They may not be the ones to free the headmaster but just the achievement of being able to reach where the location of the rune prison was and even surviving a couple of nights within the ruins, were enough to prove how talented they are. As for the class that freed the headmaster, they had already left a few days ago after finishing their mission. Hence, they were the only ones left along with the classes they shared a carriage with.
The more talented the young ones of a faction were, the more hostility and danger will befall upon them by the enemy factions. Therefore, the entities hiding in the shadows were actually from enemy factions looking for an opportunity to strike and obliterate the young seedlings. It was rare for the talents of the Malvic Academy to be outside after all, hence, the enemy factions wanted to take this chance and deal them a heavy blow. They were especially paying more attention to the shining young stars - the S class.
According to their scouts, the S class were the best and the most promising among all the students recruited by Malvic Academy. Not only did they have the best leadership, strategy, and formation, each of them was actually the cream of the crop with great talent, high elemental aptitude, as well as experienced in combat. How could they pass up the best targets among the group of students? Once they marked the S class carriage, they didn't dally and signaled the other forces to position themselves for an ambush.
Beta was about to announce to his party about an exercise that they could do to alleviate their uneasiness but then he noticed the movements outside which made him pause for a bit. Then his face turned serious and barked at everyone to stand at attention.
"Rally up and go into formation! S Class, scatter and protect the other classes. Steady your balance and brace for impact!", shouted Beta in a domineering voice.
S class didn't waste any time and followed Beta's command right away, while the other classes together with them in the carriage were baffled by their actions. They were annoyed that Beta was taking advantage of being superior to them but seeing how the whole S class surrounded all of them as if protecting them, they couldn't help but hurry and position themselves in the middle. Beta's serious demeanor and the way he positioned himself to the front with his weapon ready finally woke them up and realize that something wrong was happening.
"BOOM!" Not long after they braced themselves, a sudden explosion happened in front of their carriage which made it stop suddenly and swerve sideways. The impact was so strong that it almost made their vehicle turn over. Luckily, one of the teachers and Lores managed to conjure their soulpower and prevented that from happening. Both were High level - Earth and Wood Elementalist, one made the road softer, thus trapping the wheels on the ground and the other conjured vines to bind the carriage to stay upright.
Since Beta warned them all beforehand, S class was able to stay upright, but of course, there were some who couldn't handle the impact especially the ones in the middle. There weren't any injuries so it was nothing to worry about, but Beta was more on guard now that their carriage was not moving. He engraved "LiLi sa Gawas" on the floor, a rune which conjures a miniature spirit whose sole purpose is to take a peek outside and transmit the image in his head.
The miniature spirit rune was one of the intermediate level runes for spying. The process of conjuring it requires the caster to use their soulpower and form it into a small spirit. The small soul spirit is then instructed to head to a targeted location and imprint a picture of a fixed area. After the picture is taken, it is then transmitted directly to the caster's mind and at the same time the small spirit vanishes. The best thing about spying runes was that to engrave the runes, it requires only a short time. As a compensation, the requirement it needs was the soulpower capacity of the caster. For Beta, it wasn't a problem at all, thus, he was able to accomplish it with no trouble.
What he saw was a picture showing an overview from the top with the carriage as the center. There were four men wearing black cloaks in the front with their hands still raised in front of them. It seemed like they were the ones that fired the explosion out of their combined powers. At the back, there were also four cloaked men who were currently chanting a spell of some sort. While on both sides of the carriage, there were around fifteen to twenty men that surrounded them. The difference was that they weren't hiding their faces at all and looked like bandits or mercenaries.
"So, the real masterminds were the cloaked guys it seems. But what's baffling is the spell that they're trying to conjure. I can't hear them nor discern the movements of their mouth since I can only perceive a picture with the rune...", mumbled Beta while frowning even more.
While Beta was figuring out what to do next, the teachers of the other classes and Lores suddenly stood up and readied themselves to fight. Beta snapped out of his thoughts and went to report to Lores. He believed that they weren't the Malvic Academy's teachers for nothing after all. So, with the hopes of escaping from their ambushers, he told him what he saw outside. Lores was shocked that Beta was able to perceive what's happening outside, but it wasn't the time to question his dear student so he thanked him promptly and told the rest of the teachers about the newly gained information.
They didn't waste any time at all and assigned their duties. Lores, as the strongest out of them all, nominated himself to go outside and fight. While he instructed the rest of the teachers to guard the students, he requested his fellow teacher, the earth elementalist that helped him earlier, named Erde, to assist him and watch his back. Hearing their decisions, Beta was shocked. He never thought that Lores would fight off the enemies with just one teacher along with him. Just how strong was their teacher to be that confident?
Gripped by curiosity, Beta engraved another rune which was more advanced than the previous one. The only side-effect was that he has to use a huge amount of soul power just to be able to engrave it as well as maintain feeding it with soulpower for the duration until the caster runs out of soulpower. It was a big risk on his part since it wasn't guaranteed that they won't be fighting, but he had a big inkling that Lores wouldn't fail and that he definitely needs to see the fight outside. So, as he engraved "Tan-awa", a conjured fat sprite suddenly appeared and followed his instructions to spy outside in full-detail. He could see everything and hear everything too. Just the way he wanted it to be.
Beta was rejoicing inside for his successful engraving. It was his first time trying that since it was a risky move, nevertheless, he was satisfied. His complexion became pale and drops of sweat were appearing on his forehead. He didn't care about that at all though since his concentration was the fight outside.
Earlier, he already saw Lores and Erde jump out of the carriage swiftly. After that, apparently Erde quickly casted an elevated platform made of earth right next to the carriage for them to land on. He then proceeded to cast something and the next thing that happened was the enemies positioned in front were suddenly lifted up by an earthen platform, even higher than the carriage. Once they were in a position seen by Lores, he then fired wooden arrows for each of them but somehow all only hit the platform near their feet.
"Hahahaha! And here we thought we were goners due to your surprise attack! You, teachers, are nothing after all! Hahaha!", said the cloaked guy in the middle.
"Hmpf!", Lores just ignored their ridicule and smirked.
Suddenly, the four cloaked men were sprung way up high to the sky, not knowing how or who attacked them when Lores and Erde weren't moving at all. Beta, on the other hand, saw what transpired. His wicked teacher Lores actually intentionally didn't hit them with the arrows. It was only a distraction for his real attack which was the arrows turning into vines that flicked the enemies to the sky. Not long after being airborne, Lores fired arrows for each of them again but this time, he hit their heads accurately. They couldn't even utter a death cry since they were too busy trying to not fall on the ground, nor do they even have the ability to dodge while airborne. Hence, their end came before they could land.
Lores was smiling widely, proud of his deed while Erde just shook his head, somehow feeling pity towards the enemy. But then a sudden motion tugged him to be placed in front of Lores and a loud "Splat!" sound entered his ears as well as a splurge of something wet splattered on his body. When he looked down and saw a bloody mess, he slowly turned around and looked at the smiling Lores.
"Hehehe... Thanks for covering me?"