A little longer than two hours later, Lith was woken up by a clerk, prompting him to go back to the Headmaster\'s office.
The sleep hadn\'t been much, but enough to take some of the edge off his mind and partially reset Invigoration\'s effectiveness.
Velagros welcomed him, giving Lith a copy of their agreement and keeping the other for himself, before Warping out the office.
They materialized on a grassland, in the middle of nowhere.
Lith looked around, instinctively searching for familiar landmarks, finding none.
The only structure in sight was a circle, formed by rectangular wooden rods, from which they had emerged from.
The rods were about 2 meters (6.5 feet) high and 3 centimetres (1.8 inches) thick.
Each of the four sides was engraved with bright red runes, pulsing with power, that went opaque as soon as the portal closed behind them.
Waiting for them there was a group of three women and two men, all dressed like Velagros, and with various weapons dangling from their belts or backs.
They immediately started to disassemble the circle, storing the rods in dimensional amulets.
Is it your first time seeing a temporary waypoint Lith nodded in response.
Crossing hundreds of kilometres at once would be impossible without such a device.
By knowing its frequency, I can use it to lock into these coordinates, while the others pumped their own mana in it, allowing for us to get here with minimum mana consumption on my side.
- Solus, how strong are these guys
Each one of them has a blue mana core, so in theory they are stronger mages than you.
Also, everything they have is heavily enchanted.
Compared to their clothes, your uniform is like a firefly besides a torch.
They were all of different ages and builds, the youngest one seemed to be barely over twenty years old while the oldest seemed to be nearing the fifties.
Our destination is in that direction. Velagros pointed towards south-southeast.
It shouldn\'t take much by flight.
Half an hour, tops.
At his command, everyone cast his personal flight spell, advancing with a wedge formation with Lith as its center.
He used that opportunity to activate Life Vision, discovering that despite they had superior cores, their magical forces weren\'t much stronger than his own.
On the contrary, Lith\'s physical prowess outclassed everyone else\'s, even without using fusion magic.
After a few minutes, though, their spells disappeared abruptly, sending them into a free fall to the ground.
Luckily, they were flying low, around 5 meters (16\') high, to avoid being visible from a distance, so they ended up tumbling on the ground instead of splattering.
The corps\' protective vests absorbed much of the impact, but Lith wasn\'t wearing one, and his uniform\'s weak point was offering no protection against blunt impacts.
He made the earth under him soft and elastic, bouncing and rolling to disperse the momentum.
Ambush! Captain Velagros roared, while he and his men assumed a defensive position.
Lith and Solus activated Life Vision and mana sense respectively, discovering that they had stepped into a very complex array.
- This is clearly a high-level Warden formation. Solus observed.
Besides disrupting air magic, making flight impossible, somehow it also compresses space.
I can\'t access to our dimensional pocket, and I bet that even Blinking or using Warp Steps is impossible. –
Cursing his bad luck, Lith alerted Velagros of Solus\' discovery, while readying both fake and true spells.
He would do everything to keep his secret, but dying for it was not an option.
Cr*p! The kid is right. Velagros had just tried to Warp them away, but to no avail.
Fall back, we are sitting ducks here!
Velagros had no idea how Lith had assessed the situation so fast, but that wasn\'t the time for questions.
With no movement spells, escaping the encirclement would be difficult, and with their dimensional amulets sealed, their resources had been dramatically reduced.
How deep are we into the array He asked noticing how Lith\'s eyes were burning with mana.
They probably waited for us to be in the middle before activating it.
Makes sense. Velagros nodded.
I would have done the same.
Any direction was good as another, they were still in the open, with no natural formation offering them cover or protection.
Velagros picked one at random, making his team move fast but keeping the formation, to not leave blind spots.
To his surprise, despite being the shortest, Lith had no problem keeping the pace of their jog.
- Since this was a last-minute operation, the only possible explanation is that there is a spy in the Royal palace.
Otherwise it would be impossible to set up a trap like this on such a short notice. –
Velagros inwardly swore to find the traitor and give him a slow and painful death.
Suddenly, several Gates opened in the air, from each emerged a person wearing a guerrilla combat suit, that unleashed a tier five spell on the corps unit.
The air filled with countless spheres of fire the size of a house, while the ground all around them exploded in razor-sharp rock shrapnel.
Lith realized that the Queen\'s corps unit was doomed.
The aggressors could turn on and off the jamming field at will.
Wiping them out with hit and run tactics was just a matter of time.
He quickly activated all the barriers he had ready, only around himself, opening at the same time a deep hole in the ground right under his feet with earth magic.
The assault continued for several seconds.
The earth trembled like there was an earthquake, forcing Lith to keep digging away.
The shockwaves from the surface only grew in intensity over time.
- Dammit, and to think that Yurial always nag about useless a Warden is! I can\'t believe a whole unit of the Queen\'s corps was done so easily. –
One after the other, the life forces of the six people assigned to escort him faded away.
Lith was shocked and angry, there was nothing he could have done to save them, even by revealing his status of Awakened one.
The attack had been too quick and well-coordinated to open a hole big enough for everyone.
And even if somehow he managed to, the enemies would have noticed, using tier five earth magic to squash them like bugs.
It wasn\'t the first time that Lith had been forced to retreat, but it was the first time that such an act left him with a bitter aftertaste.
He had never experienced such helplessness before, making him aware that he could only cower ad hide, like a rat.
A few hundred meters to the east, the leader of the Talons was admiring the result of their work through a surveillance mirror.
Once again, no survivors, no witnesses, no proofs.
Farion Negal and his men were the best at their job, and they were proud of it.
The Talons was a mercenary unit, whose members were once part of the elite troops from the armies of all the three great Countries, but had been dishonourably discharged for violating the warrior code, by either pillaging, raping and/or murdering in the territories that they were supposed to protect.
A few of them were actually wanted criminals, but the Talons knew how to take care of their own.
Offering their services to the highest bidder, they lived a life of luxury, being the living proof that their countries had made a big mistake by discarding them like trash.
Captain Seephit, check for survivors. Negal ordered to their Warden.
Come on, General! There\'s nothing left but a crater.
It\'s a waste of my considerable skill! Despite not being part of the army anymore, each one had a military rank and a status in the unit, according to his/her talent.
Do it anyway.
We have a reputation to uphold.
Yes, sir! Seephit was the third in command, yet sometimes he forgot how anal retentive the General was.
Seephit disabled his arrays, allowing him to open a Warp Steps right above the crater and then cast the Life Detection Array, a Warden spell that in many aspects resembled Lith\'s Life Vision.
From underground, Lith was still able to see the magic portal opening with Life Vision.
- What the heck are they doing now In their place I would either wipe down any trace of the massacre or check for survivors, if not both. –
Good gods, General, you are right for once! We have a rat!
Thanks to his heightened senses, Lith was able to hear the Warden\'s snarky remark, and react accordingly.
In all his years as a soldier first and a mercenary later, Seephit had never seen anyone moving so fast.
Charged to the brim with air fusion, it took Lith but a second to get out of his hiding spot, cross the Warp Step, and rip Seephit\'s head from the neck with his bare hands.