Chapter 15 – Pursuit
Regal, Veronica, Piora, Astore, Aqua, and Kilde silently dash parallel to the community wall just outside of the glow of torches that the patrolling guards are using to illuminate the area around the wall. There are still some guards who have supportive Divine Arts that would allow them to see in the dark such as ‘Night Vision’, ‘Thermal Vision’, and ‘Ultraviolet Vision’, but thankfully most of their attention is focused on the community inside as well as the explosion, and are still searching for Regal’s squad. They haven’t yet realized that Regal and his squad have already escaped the wall, and are currently fleeing toward the battlefield.
Not long after the event, several guards arrive at the location where the Blood Flint Bullet barrel exploded. They quickly determine that this was not an attack launched from outside the wall as there are no invaders anywhere near the current location, and it is unlikely for an attack of a Divine Art to stray this far away from the main battlefield.
The corpse of a guard, not yet dissipated into the world, as it has been less than an hour since his death, is then discovered by the inspecting guards. The situation is quickly reported through a transmission plate to Bryn privately, who quickly pieces together what must have happened.
“All guards are to stop guarding the inside of the walls. Regal and his squad have currently escaped outside of the walls and are fleeing. For the future of our community, we will recapture them immediately. I shall personally head over to the southwest section of the wall to track them down. Merik, your scent tracking abilities are required so meet me there. The guards inspecting the site shall remain and join us with this task. Everyone else, annihilate the invaders and make them regret ever coming here!”
Bryn’s commands were heard from all the guards’ transmission plates at the same time and everyone responded promptly and aggressively, pushing back against the attackers that were getting closer to the wall by the minute.
Bryn didn’t put his transmission plate away after passing on his orders, but instead changed the recipient to privately message Lord Solace who was commanding the defence from the front lines.
“Lord, Regal and his squad have escaped the community and are on the run. Not to worry, several of the guards and I are on our way to capture them.”
An extended silence pervades as no reply is heard from the transmission plate, but then Lord Solace’s stern voice finally comes.
“Do not disappoint me.”
The four simple words place an enormous pressure on Bryn, as he knows just how ferocious Lord Solace can be. Death is meaningless in this world as the Immortalis are true to their name – immortal. With an absence of the threat of death, the truly cruel experimented and found other means, particularly in the form of physical and mental torture. An Immortalis can face death quite easily, but such torture, if the captor is truly determined, can go on endlessly for years. This shows the truth in the original saying passed down from the last humans – sometimes there are things worse than death.
Bryn leaves the Greyhorn Guard Barracks with a calm visage. Anyone who knows him however, will understand this is but the calm before the storm. Below his simple expression, is a rage boiling and seething like a volcano about to erupt.
Bryn arrives at the scene where the explosion went off several minutes later, a speed in which would make Regal break out into a cold sweat if he had witnessed it. Merik, who Bryn called, arrives several minutes later a little short of breath, obviously using up his stamina in order to arrive here as soon as possible.
“Find the scent of the runaways and track them. We need to catch them as soon as possible,” Bryn says coldly, gazing at the wall where Hades’ new ‘Black Iron’ claws had gouged out the Silverstone foundation as he clawed his way over the wall.
Merik, without enough time to let his stamina regenerate, uses a Divine Art which causes his nose to become highly sensitive and his pupils to turn slightly pink, allowing him to see a visual representation of the lingering scents and where they traveled off to.
“They left not very long ago, this way,” Merik resolutely said before leading the guards over the wall and following the tracks of the scent.
At the same time, Regal and his squad were getting closer to where the main battle was. The sound of gunfire rang heavily in the air, only drowned out occasionally by high tier Divine Arts being used like artillery to try and take down the wall.
He had noticed the guards turning around and paying complete attention to outside the wall and immediately deduced that their escape had been noted. It was also highly likely that they had pursuers coming after them as well. The only part that made Regal feel better was that until they had visual confirmation of Regal’s squad, they would have to slow down in order to ensure they didn’t lose their tracks. That gave Regal and his squad a slim chance to successfully escape.
Regal shared the vision of Hades with his own as he focused on their bond, allowing him a thermal vision of everything in front. The battle up ahead was truly a cacophony of people. The fire based attacks they released were almost blinding to Regal’s sight while sharing thermal vision. Strangely enough, while Regal had to squint his eyes to shield them from the extremely bright light, Hades was completely unfazed. Regal tried, but couldn’t discern where the difference between Hades and him was when they are both sharing the same vision, though only Regal felt the pain.
Passing a few jagged rocks and sparse trees, Regal is close enough that he can finally see the battle going on with his own eyes, unlike when he was inside the walls and the crowd of defenders blocked him from seeing anything other than Divine Arts flying through the sky like a rain of arrows.
All kinds of attacks are being launched at the southern walls and gate of Greyhorn Townsend, shaking the earth with every collision made. The extra defensive layer on the wall that Regal designed truly did a marvellous job, far better than he had expected. Whenever an attack would hit it, the thick, hardened bronze plates attached to the outside would depress with the springs and disperse the force throughout larger sections of the wall. The attackers could see this as well, and no matter how powerful their attack was, it would do little damage.
Regal and his squad, along with Hades, emerge from the darkness as they run toward the rear of attackers, just behind their rearguard. Seeing the squad’s emergence, a large number of the attackers, particularly those in the rear line, are greatly surprised. Many people quickly ready their attacks to wipe out the surprise attackers with sheer numbers, but most of the strong people notice that these potential ambushers are not very powerful and change their targets back to the main walls.
“Focus on evading! Don’t retaliate!” Regal commands to his squad over the deafening sounds of the battle.
Three weaker attacks are still released toward Regal and his squad, in which they follow Regal’s orders and begin moving evasively in a jagged pathway, weaving through the attacks and emerging out from the other side after only losing a quarter of their health. Piora was a little worse off.
Fortunately, these attackers are unaware that is was Regal who designed the new wall defences, else they wouldn’t hesitate to capture him, string him up, and torture him for several days just to vent their frustration about the wall on him.
After Regal broke out of effective attack range of the rear line and continued fleeing, the three people who still released attacks at them looked on in confusion before shaking their heads and turning back towards the community. Regal took advantage of being past their first real danger and stopped to drink emergency health elixirs before veering the squad’s path away from the community.
“Can’t you be a bit faster?” Bryn questions as he coldly glares at Merik who is currently tracking the scent of Regal to follow the path they took.
“I can’t. If we go too fast, I won’t be able to follow the tracks correctly. It also runs the risk of dispersing the current scent and making it impossible to trace the direction they were going,” Merik timidly replies, trying his best not to get on the bad side of this guard captain.
“Then can’t we just dash forward and slow down to check the scent every hundred meters or so?”
“No, ignoring the dispersing of any scent we charge through, there is a chance they may have abruptly changed directions and we could lose them entirely.”
Bryn was furious, but he was truly helpless in this situation. He wanted to rush ahead and capture Regal, and his instincts were screaming at him to hurry up, but this rush could be exactly what helps them get away.
“Don’t worry, captain. While we aren’t moving very fast, we are still gaining on them. I suspect we will be able to spot them within the next twenty minutes or so.”
These words pleased Bryn greatly, and helped appease his burning instinct. He followed Merik’s lead as they arrived at the rear lines of the enemy community attackers. The members of Yuith Community who were assaulting the town walls were once again shocked by the people of Greyhorn Townsend emerging from the darkness around them. This time they quickly noted that the people are much stronger, and some even had a ferocious glint in their eyes as they recognized Bryn.
Hundreds of attacks suddenly focused on Bryn, whose face twisted into something incomparably ugly to behold. He realized too late that the tracks wouldn’t just pass by near the battle but go straight through the rear lines. Bryn was about to retreat when one of the aggressors who was about to attack Bryn let out a snort and stated,
“The great Bryn’s reputation resounds like thunder in the ear. I’ve heard many great things about your ferociousness, but you don’t quite look as mighty as I had imagined.”
Bryn mustered every ounce of willpower within him to restrain his impulse to turn the loudmouth into a pincushion and forced a smile.
“What would it take for you to ignore me passing through?”
The man stared dumbfoundedly before roaring out in laughter.
“The rumors truly are overstated. You are but a coward who doesn’t want to fight. But very well, you want a condition. Surrender to us and let us take over this town and we will no longer be enemies, but friends instead.”
There was a strong hint of mocking in his tone, but even he was greatly surprised when he saw Bryn seriously considering it. He secretly wondered who was the group that ran through earlier that Bryn considers to be just as important as the entire community itself.
Only Bryn and Lord Solace knew the true value of Regal being in the community, which is precisely why Bryn honestly felt like agreeing to the enemy’s condition. Lord Solace explained to Bryn that currently, the community is like a lifeless husk that is hovering on the line between living and dying. Occasionally, a few new people came and joined the community, while occasionally some left, opting to either join a different community or enter the eternal rest.
The community would never grow, and would only stagnate in its current condition, which is why Lord Solace said that it was about to die off. Regal’s appearance in the community, along with his innovative ideas and talent in crafting, especially the new Blood Flint Bullets, could truly be the resolution of the community to attract attention toward it and help it thrive. More traders would come for the specialty product, more hunters would become aware of it and several may even join at a time, new craftsmen would come with a burning passion and would strive to learn the community’s crafts.
Lord Solace and Bryn consider Regal to be the lifeline their community needs, and as such the both of them would probably agree to give up the current location and find somewhere new if they could capture Regal and bring him with them. They would work him for the sake of the community and both Lord Solace and Bryn would have a royal treasury’s worth of fortune come their way.
Unfortunately, Bryn couldn’t accept such a demand, as not only would the enemy start making more outrageous demands, but it would also highlight the importance Regal has to them.
“I am stunned at such a stupid demand,” Bryn uproariously states, covering up his consideration of Regal’s importance. “You insult me and treat me like some kind of paper tiger! I will show you why people fear me, I will reduce you to the shit on the ground that you are!”
Bryn’s voice is laced with an icy chill, his rage finally getting a chance to release itself. He begins releasing both alchemical and martial Divine Arts in conjunction to one another just as over a hundred alchemy Divine Arts of various elements are released at him. The other two guards and Merik quickly step forward to act as support for him, protecting him from the incoming assault and also launching a counterattack.
While it didn’t go exactly as he had thought it would, Regal’s plan of leading any pursuers toward the enemy attackers was a resounding success.
After leaving the vicinity of Greyhorn Townsend, the light from the city vanishes and is replaced by the silvery glow of the moon. It is a full moon this night, so the world portrayed beneath its glow is quite eerie in appearance and seems to be full of sinister intentions. The sounds of gunfire and alchemy being fired behind them, along with the distant howls of mutant beasts, also adds to the malevolence of the night.
Ten minutes later, Regal and his squad, along with Hades, meet up with Lande and Lore, who were waiting in hiding at Regal’s instructions. They emerge from behind an overly large rock that protrudes from the ground like a small mountain while gazing at the incoming squad with steely eyes.
The two Iron Mountain Wolves, Lande and Lore, have become one and a half times as large since Regal last saw them. Despite sharing a soul link with them, even he had no idea they had grown this much from levelling up.
Lande and Lore transmit their feelings of loyalty upon seeing Regal, moving closer to him and rubbing their iron scaled heads against him. Regal quickly transmits his need for haste to them, and they immediately set off further south, away from any pursuers.
“We should have some distance between us and any people trying to catch us, but that will quickly vanish unless we do something. They are much faster than us, even when tracking, so we can’t be complacent,” Regal states to the squad, Aqua and Piora solemnly nodding their heads in response.
Veronica stares at Regal protectively, unwilling to let them be separated again like last time when her mind was confused. She secretly decides that if they are captured, she will cling onto Regal and refuse to part from his side. Even while imprisoned, she will do anything to not leave his side.
“Should we contact my father for backup?” Aqua dejectedly sighs, feeling an invisible pressure bearing down on her.
Regal truly doesn’t want to, as it would hurt his pride. He wants to be able to survive out in the world with his squad on their own, without having to rely on the support of others. At the same time, he knows they are currently in over their heads and possibly won’t be able to escape on their own.
With a sigh, Regal takes out his transmission plate while merging his consciousness with Lande to sense the vibrations in the ground through the Iron Mountain Wolf’s feet. The greatest vibration is coming from the squad themselves, especially Hades with his ‘Black Iron’ claws, but there aren’t any signs of pursuers nearby.
Regal turns his head toward the direction of Greyhorn Townsend and gazes at the flashing lights on the horizon and residual red glow of flame alchemy Divine Arts still burning.
Safe from anyone catching up immediately, Regal slows the pace of the squad to find King Tanner’s name on his list of contacts and opens a communication channel with him.
“Tanner, our squad has run into trouble. One member was locked away in the prison you mentioned may exist, we rescued her and are on the run, but it is highly likely we are being pursued! If we don’t make it back to Grand Theore, can you please send people to rescue us?”
Any other person should respectfully call him King Tanner, but Regal doesn’t, as he still thinks of him as the same person who taught him forging and set him on his path of being a crafter.
After a brief silence, King Tanner’s heavy voice resounds from Regal’s transmission plate, “I thought I told you to call me Uncle Tanner?…”
“Umm… Uncle Tanner…”
“Good! Now, what are you overlooking?”
“What do you mean… Uncle Tanner?”
“What I mean is that the big question you should be asking yourself is, why are they chasing you?”
“I honestly don’t know, there is currently a war going on between an invading community and Greyhorn Townsend, but they were extremely attentive toward stopping us from escaping. Once we were outside, they no longer paid attention to inside the wall. They were also actively trying to separate our squad.”
“Regal, I think you’re being a bit paranoid on this. While there are many unscrupulous Immortalis, including lords of communities and even some of the kings ruling other grand cities, everything has its limit. It is usually determined by profit. Unless you have something they greatly value, while they may mistreat you while you are in their grasp, once you escape they won’t bother anymore.”
“Something of value? I did help improve the community defence walls, and I did create a new type of bullet.”
“Har har, you need something more than that to attract their attention. You are overthinking this Regal. You need something much more valuable than just that to make them so adamant to hold onto you.”
Regal began to question his intuition about people chasing them after hearing what Tanner said. He truly couldn’t see anything he had of being worth a value great enough to warrant pursuit from Greyhorn Townsend. Of course, he had no idea that what Lord Solace values most about him is his talent and the impact it would have on the future of Lord Solace’s community.
The other squad members can also hear the conversation and each have their own opinions. Kilde and Astore think logically, and agree with Tanner’s reasoning. Aqua frowns defiantly as if she believes otherwise while Piora is completely biased against Greyhorn Townsend. Meanwhile, Veronica has no opinion for or against, only placing her trust solely on Regal’s decisions.
“I still think we are being chased though…” Regal mumbles under his breath while trying to reevaluate the situation.
At this moment, danger signals transmit from Lande and Lore via the soul connection Regal has with them. Focusing his mind to share the Iron Mountain Wolves’ senses, Regal can feel the vibrations of people running toward them along the same path Regal’s squad took. What makes it even worse is that they are moving extremely fast, much faster than the pace at which Regal’s squad have been escaping.
“We are being pursued! Everyone, pick up the pace. Kilde, support Piora so she can keep up,” Regal hisses under his breath, rapidly thinking of a means to throw off the pursuers.
Kilde twists his body while running, picking up Piora and throwing her onto his back. Piora yelps in panic and quickly clasps onto him as the squad pick up their speed.
Regal can tell that they still aren’t going fast enough and thinks to himself, ‘I want to hide and let them pass by, but they’ve been following our tracks exactly. I don’t understand how exactly they are tracking us so fast. Following our tracks would be much slower thank this. Could it be scent? They are moving too fast to be checking for traces of our path. If it is scent, that’s a big problem, we can’t hide, and I have no items to remove our scent.’
Regal wants to contact Tanner again but doesn’t have the ability to do so while running at full speed. He glances at the rest of his squad helplessly as his innermost feelings turn to a disparaging sobriety.
Regal notices Piora, arms wrapped around Kilde’s neck while riding him piggybacked, keeps avoiding his gaze. Curious and somewhat concerned about what she is trying to hide, he can’t help but quickly ask between difficult breaths, “Piora… what… is it?”
Piora, much more comfortable being carried by Kilde, awkwardly meets Regal’s gaze and states, “Well, I wasn’t sure how to say this, but… I contacted my mother a while ago and they’re on their way.”
Regal was shocked. He wasn’t upset with her, in fact he wanted to cry as if he’d seen a light of hope from within the abyss. What he really wants to ask her is why she didn’t say anything about it sooner.
“When did you contact your mother?” Veronica chimes in, seemingly unfazed whilst running as fast as she can.
Regal notices a draft of wind coming from behind her and realizes she must have used the Tier 5 Divine Art ‘Speed Enhance’ from the Lesser Gale Alchemy skill, and has the sudden urge to interrogate her as to why she didn’t use it on everyone earlier. But he also understands that using mana can leave behind residual marks that can be used to trace them easier, which is why he didn’t consider using such a skill in the first place.
“She contacted her mother as soon as we left the Lord’s Manor. She had a lot of anger to vent apparently,” Kilde stated matter of factly, ignoring Piora who’s glaring and considering strangling him on the spot.
“When… will she arrive… here then?” Regal asks Piora, trying to fully understand the scenario.
“I’m not sure,” Piora shakes her head softly, no longer feeling awkward. “Mother just said she would leave immediately and would track me based on my transmission plate.”
Regal isn’t sure exactly how someone can trace another person based off their transmission plate, but he can only place his trust in this. Even if they are captured before any help can arrive, the help should know where they are being held.
Just at this moment, Regal hears the sounds of boots crunching on loose rocks coming toward them. Quickly syncing his senses with Lande, Regal extends his feelings into the ground and traces the footsteps that are coming toward them.
“Everyone… Stop,” Regal stated helplessly and realizes they have been caught.
The squad quickly stop running and turn around to face their pursuers. They don’t wait unprepared though as Piora gets off Kilde’s back and everyone prepares their weapons.
Just as four members of the Greyhorn Guard rush out from the bushes, Regal’s squad fire in conjunction with an unspoken coordination. Almost immediately, however, one of the guards waves his hand and an abstract alchemy circle radiating a green color materializes.
The Blood Flint Bullets should have hit the guards and knocked them back, especially the one fired by Veronica with her ‘Warlock Penetrating Rifle’. The bullets, however, are struck by a wall of wind and blown off to the side, where they explode after colliding with random rocks and half dead trees, lighting up the confrontation between Regal’s squad and the guards with a crimson hue. Seeing this, Regal actively commands Hades, Lande, and Lore to stay back behind the squad and wait for the opportune moment to attack.
“You know, you caused me a lot of problems chasing you,” Bryn states calmly in the face of the gunfire, also being the person releasing the wall of wind to blow away the fired bullets. “Unfortunately, I already know how your bullets work, so they can’t harm us anymore. Now, how about we discuss how you are going to make it up to me after causing such a convoluted mess.”
“Like you can talk, all of this was caused by you kidnapping Piora! Why can’t you just let us go?” Regal asks while raising his hand to stop the rest of the squad from firing to save their bullets.
Bryn seems to think about something briefly before smiling sinisterly.
“You are the one we want, Regal. You are more valuable to us than you realize. I can make a deal with you. You agree to follow me back and work for us forever, and we will agree to let everyone else go free and never bother them again.”
Before Regal can even consider the deal Bryn proposed, Veronica glares at Bryn more violently than anyone else and shouts, “NO!”.
Veronica then adjusts her aim with the ‘Warlock Penetrating Rifle’ and fires toward a dead tree. The bullet, however, gets caught by Bryn’s wall of wind and gets thrown off course. The redirection of the bullet is not some random location as one might think, and its changed trajectory leads it straight to the side of Bryn’s head.
The explosion happens before Bryn can even express his surprise, as he is knocked off his feet and thrown face first into the ground from the force of the explosion. He gets back up quickly, an ugly expression on his face while glaring at Veronica before shouting, “Follow the original plan! Kill everyone, we’ll snatch them back up at the Rebirth Pond in the community!”
Merik, the guards’ tracker, and the other two guards rapidly jump out through the wind wall and aim their weapons at Regal and his squad. Hades, Lande, and Lore are poised to attack and Regal is also about to give the signal to fire when a low buzzing sound emits from the sky.
Before anyone can react, a meter-wide rain of burning, finger-thick lights fall from the sky and onto the guards. Each light beam burns with a scorching white color that gives off a dangerous heat and forces anyone looking directly at them to squint their eyes.
Bryn and the other guards are so shocked they can’t react as the rain of lights sweeps across, tearing apart the ground and guards alike. Even Bryn’s wind wall is torn to shreds by the attack and he suffers the same fate as the thin beams of light pierce his body repeatedly and leave him as only a half charred honeycomb on the ground. His physical body not instantly recovering shows that he is already completely dead.
Several spotlights fuelled by sunstones and mana then turn on and illuminate the area around Regal, and reveal a terrifying airship floating barely a hundred meters above them.
The airship isn’t like the ones used by the traders that came in the other day, and is clearly built for war. Large, mannable cannons and revolving rifles are attached at strategic points of the outer hull, for one. The airship itself is pitch black, and on the side is a red and yellow emblem of a phoenix.
Regal feels sweat beading on his forehead and thinks to himself, ‘How terrifying! Rather than calling this an airship, I think saying it is a warship is more accurate. The most frightening thing is that I have no idea when they appeared above us.’