Grendy ran wildly as the screams behind him turned clearer and clearer. He turned back only to find the young lady, as pale as a sheet, gasping for air. Her expensive robe was torn, revealing bloody gashes on her soft and delicate skin. As they dashed through the pitch-black forest, the bright flames behind them were vaguely in sight and the echoes of dogs barking were getting increasingly closer.
"Hurry up, Natasha."
"I-I can't do it, Grendy."
The struggling young lady named Natasha followed closely and clumsily behind Grendy. Even though she was on the verge of collapsing, she tightly held the wooden box in her arms with no intentions of letting go. Grendy knew she was almost at her limit. Without any choice, he grabbed her right hand.
"Follow me, Natasha. We will have a chance of survival once we pass through this forest and swim to the other side of the White River!"
"I... I don't think I can swim, Grendy. It's better if you go alone!"
"What are you talking about?! How can I leave you behind?"
Grendy sulked at her selfless answer. He slowed down his pace and lifted the young lady on his back. However, at this moment, a huge black hound howled and leaped out of the bushes which left Natasha screaming in horror. Grendy swiftly turned around and slashed his sword at its skull. After the hound collapsed to the ground, the young man stomped on its body angrily before booting it back into the bushes.
Although this ambush happened in merely a few seconds, it allowed the flame torches to catch up significantly. Not only that, both of them could sense that the danger fast approaching as the rustling in the bushes and roarings of the hounds became louder.
Grendy struck another hound with his sword. This young man knew that he had lost precious time and opportunity to escape and the chances of him escaping from these people were next to nothing now. Even so, Grendy continued to push on with his companion. As they ran, he brandished his sword at another hound that was darting towards him. But, to his surprise, another hound had pounced over from his back and bit his arm.
Natasha screamed as blood flowed from his arm. Grendy steadily flung his arm to shake off the hound and at the same time, he pierced the sword in his right hand into its skull. The unfortunate hound howled in grief and landed heavily on the ground. Then, a voice sent chills down both of their spines.
"I found them! They're here!"
"Sh*t! Go go go!"
Grendy was gobsmacked. He took off frantically with the young lady before he could attend to his injured left arm. Although Grendy knew that the chances of survival were next to nothing, his human instinct for survival continued to support him.
However, it was this moment that Grendy witnessed a few flame torches in his escape path.
Are we surrounded by them?
Grendy's heart sank. He knew he had no other choice but to brandish the sword with his life and dart out of this forest with the young lady.
"Come on, you..."
Grendy was only halfway through his sentence before he realized. Those people before him weren't the fully-armored soldiers on the chase to capture him.
What was revealed in his eyes was the peaceful flowing White River and its crystal-clear water letting off a dreamy reflection of the moonlight. A merchant-looking chariot was parked beside the river and there were three people sitting by a nearby bonfire. Right before him, a senior chariot driver startled by Grendy and Natasha darted out of the bushes, stumbling to the ground.
Is this the commerce road?
Grendy couldn't believe his eyes after turning over and witnessing a flat commerce road. He knew that this was the road that one must take, in order to reach the White River Valley and it was also a preferred resting point for many merchants. Grendy didn't expect that their frantic escape would lead them here so soon.
However, this wasn't the time to lament on how much potential humans could erupt in the face of danger. Before Grendy could react, a group of fully-armored soldiers had charged over. They instantly surrounded him and blocked off all his possible escape routes. At the same time, the soldiers raised their bows and aimed towards Grendy and the group of travelers.
Grendy swore in his head and guarded the young lady with his body while taking a few steps backwards. The soldiers standing before Grendy moved to the side and made way for a fully-armored soldier to step forward.
"Hide and seek is over, kid... Eh?"
The man paused and shifted his attention to the group of people by the chariot.
Grendy's heart sank as he knew clearly how vicious these soldiers were. As he didn't wish to implicate those innocent people, he hurriedly stepped forward and said as he trembled in fear.
"They got nothing..."
"We have nothing to do with them."
However, before Grendy could finish his sentence, one of the three travelers by the bonfire turned around and interrupted.
"I don't know and don't care who you guys are. I also do not wish to get involved with your affairs. So please go ahead if you only wish to capture those two. We will act as though we never saw anything."
Grendy's words were stuck in his throat and even the man was slightly surprised. Never did he think that there would be such a self-righteous person who dared to announce that he was only a passerby... Heh heh. It seems that these people are kind of interesting too. However, it's a pity that no one should be aware of this matter. Since all of you witnessed it, you all can only blame yourselves for being unlucky!
The man lifted his arm.
"Kill them all!"
The soldiers instantly raised and aimed their arrows towards Grendy and the travelers. Grendy's heart sunk to the bottom because he knew all that he could do was to hopelessly brandish his sword to protect Natasha against all the incoming rain of arrows.
However, it was this moment when an accident occurred.
As the soldiers locked on to their targets, their arrows erupted in bright, scorching flames which instantly overwhelmed their bows. The soldiers shrieked at the intolerable heat and tossed their weapons to the ground.
"W-What is going on?"
The man who seemed to be the soldiers' commander was astounded. He observed the surrounding for answers as he had never met such an odd occurrence before. Before his questions were answered, one of the three travelers by the bonfire stood up.
Everyone managed to catch a glimpse of her looks under the bright flames. She was a beautiful young lady who had a full head of pink tied into a vivacious ponytail. A pair of fluffy ears and a large, bushy tail swaying from her back revealed her identity to the group of soldiers.
"Aiyo, what a pity... Master has given all of you a chance to not mess with him. If you refuse Master's kindness, you're gonna lose out, okay?"
This is... a Mage?
The man froze in terror and forced two steps back before cautiously gazing at the group of people behind Grendy. After witnessing their amazing feat, he was at a loss for words because he had never seen any Mage who possessed the ability to burn all the soldiers' bows without hurting them.
Damn my luck!
The man was somewhat regretful. He reckoned that he should've been more cautious when the three of them were so calm in voicing their disinterest in involving with their matters. However, he wasn't too concerned about this problem because of his persistence in completing this task. After all, the identity of his target was way too sensitive and there would be major issues if this news was leaked out. So even though the group of travelers had declared that they didn't wish to get involved, he didn't want to take the risk.
But now, he realized that he had made a wrong choice.
Since they destroyed their weapons in a split second, would they also instantly turn them into a barbeque pit too?
The man was quick to his feet and took a step backward in a fluid motion before bowing respectfully.
"I'm very sorry for disturbing everyone. We will be leaving with these two right here immediately!"
As the man beckoned for his soldiers to capture Grendy and Natasha, suddenly, a wall of flames rose from the ground. In an instant, as though the wall of flames was under a mysterious guidance, it extended in both directions and covered their way of retreat entirely.
The man's expression sunk instantly as he knew the situation was turning grave. It was obvious that the other party wasn't letting it go just like this.
The young lady with a pair of fox ears cupped her delicate hand over her mouth elegantly, letting out an adorable chuckle.
"Aiya, didn't I tell you that Master didn't want to invite trouble? It's a pity that you guys refused his kind intentions. Now, it seems that we have no choice but to clean this mess up."