Chapter 96:

Ambush

Mad God


It was almost noon when the kids finally woke up and gathered to have a late breakfast. The trio were still sleepy as they were up until late, only falling asleep close to dawn, still turning and tossing from the experience they went through.


“Where is Sis?” Valen asked, rubbing his eyes.


“She had to go, got an… important message.” Anniel smiled softly, who took care of them and luckily for her, the kids didn’t notice the worry in her eyes.


“Oh? A mission? So cool…” Elyse murmured.


“Mmm, an important one, but she will be back, until then you stay with us.” She patted Valen’s head gently.


“Yey! I like being here!” He grinned without worry, happy to spend more time with his cousins.


..Hours earlier..

….


It was still before dawn, as Ren waited patiently at the observatory’s top, watching the starry sky when Aerthus came up to her.


“Was it her hobby?” Ren asked gently.


“Yes. Even before I met her. Honestly, it was because of her fascination with the night sky that I met her.” Her Master nodded “She had a vivid fantasy, always making up wondrous tales about the stars and I never met a more optimistic and happy girl in my life! Even when things weren’t going well, you wouldn’t see her complain or cry.”


“I can see why you have fallen for her.” She smiled softly


“Yeah…” Aerthus chuckled a little. “I hoped she could accompany me… she tried to cultivate but she couldn’t. She had a fragile body, it couldn’t take the strain of cultivation so she never went past the 2nd stage of body refinement and even reaching that… she did so only with my help. She never gave up, but there were no results and when I tried to share… I almost killed her with it.”


“That was when you developed the technique, passed down in your family? To keep her young like what Father-in-law did?”


“Yes. I couldn’t let go of her nor did I ever want to. We spent centuries together.” He smiled with a nostalgic expression, looking up at the sky “I still think back to those years with fondness. It was amidst the time I established the Empire. She was my Queen, sitting next to me as we laid the foundation. But after a while she got tired… seeing her children grow up and grow old before her…”


“You had…?” Ren asked surprised but then stopped.


“What?” Aerthus laughed, looking at his disciple. “Yes, I had 6 kids. Only one became a cultivator and inherited my position, the rest chose the mortal life. Do you think I would force my children to follow in my footsteps? No. I offered every one of them the chance but if they found happiness elsewhere, why should I force it on them? Some of my lines are already broken but there are others that still continue to this day. Maybe not even knowing they are connected to me after 2000 years! That is how it should be. Life goes on, no matter what, as time flows forward mercilessly and you can’t stop it.”


“Not even if you are a God.” Ren added.


“Exactly.”


“I understand. Yet…” Ren pursed her lips “No matter how long I live I’m not able to let go if I hold someone dear to me!” She shook her head.


“Ahahaha, you say it like you lived long enough, girl! You are not even past 50 or a 100! Come speak to me about it when you pass your first 1000!” Aerthus laughed loudly, knocking on her head as Ren just stuck her tongue out.


“Ahaha… um~” Ren nodded, not explaining more as her thoughts already slipped out a little, without thinking.


She was about to stand up when a hurrying aura closed in, alerting both of them. From the shadows a panting, injured figure appeared, wearing the Shadow Corp’s uniform, bleeding from multiple, deep cuts. His codename was Ink, the member of the organization who previously kept an eye on Ren and Leinor, when they were still teens.


“Ambush… west… Lady Anya… injured…” He moaned before fainting and just falling face forward.


Hearing his words Ren was already standing in front of the man, catching him, but he was out cold by the time he opened his mouth. Everything he told them he did so instinctively, with the last shred of his energies. He was dying from the loss of blood and overuse of his ability to get here as fast as he could.


“He… he burnt his own life force as energy to get here.” Aerthus whispered, placing his fingers on his chest.


“Master!” Ren stood straight as an arrow and she needed not to say anything more as her Master just nodded, throwing a ball of white light at the fainted Ink, quickly healing his most serious injuries, while they disappeared into thin air.


Ren was dragged along behind her Master, who was speeding through the air, high above everything. When people down below heard the explosions, produced by Aerthus’s speed, they were long gone. It only took them at most an hour to arrive, the sun barely rising above the horizon behind them. The western Region of the Empire was an arid place, not unlivable yet the closeness of the great Western Desert and the usually hot weather made it the least populated area of the Empire. It was where most of the military’s training took place, where thanks to the harsher conditions people could challenge themselves and train to be more resilient. It did not mean there were no cities here, quite the opposite, there were 7 great cities, containing 80% of the region’s population.


This year was especially dry since spring and no rain or clouds blessed them, draining the local water supply quickly. Relief caravans and help were sent here by Feynor when the first reports of drought came in. One who also came in the previous month was Anya, using her powers to revitalize the few water sources, deep underground, so the cities can keep functioning without strict crackdown on water consumption. For weeks everything went without a hitch but two days ago, as Anya and her accompanying helpers from the Empire were working on a digsite, unearthing an underground river, coming from the northern Grindstone Mountains, they were attacked by a bandit group.


It was an unknown gang, wearing weird clothes, their origins and features concealed. Their strength was something that overwhelmed the group of Anya in the end. Beside her there were just a few Harmony Realm cultivators present and not even another one like her, someone who passed their tribulation at the 9th stage. Yet the enemy who ambushed them were all in the Harmony Realm, numbering 14 people and what was more surprising, at least two exuded the same strength in aura as Anya. When Aerthus and Ren arrived, the forward base was burnt to the ground and destroyed, dismembered corpses littered the dry ground, left there in the hot sun, already rotting as the earth below them was soaking up all the blood that was splashed onto it.


“Mother!” Ren cried out as she flew down, noticing Anya, floating in water, deep inside a hole they dug out previously.


It was a 4 meter deep gush and the water in it went almost just as deep. Now it was dyed red from blood and with a mix of a greenish, yellowish, oily mixture. Ren flashed next to her mother, gently turning her, revealing multiple, deep wounds on her body. The black and purple robe she wore was tattered, showcasing multiple attacks’ residue, be it burn marks, frozen strands of fabric or still having the foul smelling poison sticking to it.


“They clearly focused on her, this was not a robbery or anything, this was an assassination attempt.” Aerthus flew down, putting her hand on Anya’s stomach as his energy quickly flew into her. “She was smart...” He twitched his eye a little.


“Of course, she is my Mom!” Ren nodded, still kneeling on the water’s surface, holding her gently as Aerthus supplied lifeforce into her body. “The injuries would be fatal if not for the uniform’s resilience.” Ren murmured with a calm but cold voice as she checked out the injuries on her body. “Luckily she fell into the water and used it to seal off the most serious wounds… also…” She put her finger into the water, scooping out nasty, greenish, slimy poison, still in a watery bubble. “It helped her contaminate some of the poison that got into her body.” She sighed, gently stroking her face.


“Yes. But it is still serious. She won’t die now as I am here but she is in critical condition, even with my help, I can’t force too much into her! If I try I risk breaking down her organs or even destroying her energy points and cultivation.”


“Master, can you bring her back to the Sect?”


“Of course. Are you confident?”


“If you send others or come back, I won’t complain.” She looked at him with a calm expression. “But it may be unnecessary.”


“Still, be careful!” Aerthus stood up, holding Anya’s unconscious body as he disappeared.


Ren slowly flew up, looking around, scanning the bodies and clues left behind by the battle, walking over to a body which wore white garments from head to toe. Unraveling his face. There was nothing distinct about it, there were no tattoos or old scars that could help or distinct features like rare hair or eye color. What really bothered Ren was the fact, she recognized the poison. She already met the one whose affinity had the same tinge of smell and taste to it. A rabid dog who she already let to escape once.


Holding the corpse’s head, she shook her own, returning her focus to the body. Ren’s powers flowed into the dead body, stimulating its nervous system, taking control of it, ordering the heart to move once again and start pumping the blood, making it flow again. Only after a minute or so, the body was working and “living”, as Ren started to tap into the brain, trying to read some of its latest, somewhat intact memories. The dead body constantly convulsed before him as electricity circulated inside, giving random orders to muscles, making it “breath”, even opening his eyes yet there was no light in them. When she finished, letting it go, the body still trembled once in a while but Ren was already flying upwards and towards the north.


“I hope you are going back to your little lair.” Ren murmured, flying forward as the wind fluttered her hair wildly, giving her a savage appearance. “I don’t want to hunt you down one by one but I will if I must.”


….

…..


Far, far away, in the city of Rozex, or more precisely the city where the Naulin’s ruled over their and the other kingdoms, King Rudrick stood at a balcony of a tall spire, painting a picture of the morning sun.


“I have a report to make.” an old man came in in a butler uniform.


“Mhhm. Go on.” Rudrick nodded, continuing to paint, not looking at him


“The water has been drained successfully.”


“Oh, really?” He chuckled, looking at him sideways, gently putting down his brush. “As the message didn’t say the rotten wood has been burnt, I guess they failed.” patted his hands, shaking his head “Cut every connection, eliminate those who knew about it before it can be traced back to us. Tell the King of the Enjins to come and meet me.”


“Yes.” The butler bowed, quickly leaving to carry out the orders.


When he left, Rudrick turned back towards his painting, marveling at his own work as a voice resounded near his ears.


“You did good. I like your decisiveness. That is why I chose you as the King back then!”


“Forefather!” He gasped, immediately going to kneel towards the east, lowering his head.


“Stand. You only need to kneel when we meet in person.”


“As you order!” He stood back up, still lowering his head towards the rising sun.


“Knowing that my old rival is back, you did good. Ordering to destroy the body of the targets we mark for death, is the best option. They failed to do that so she must have survived. That cockroach can even bring himself back from the dead and most people would live through anything around him, if not beheaded or chopped up to pieces!” chuckled the source of the voice, belonging to Zelig, the Forefather of the Naulin line. “They are going to pay with their lives for their mistake.”


“Yes, Forefather.”


“I’ll be out of seclusion somewhere between 1 or 2 years. I have already finished, I am just consolidating what I learned.”


“That is great news!”


“I can’t play around now, can I? Especially as he is back! What he did is so typical of him. I heard they already intruded into one of our territories?”


“Yes, they are trading heavily with the Elroths. We let it be as we obtained plenty of pills and other useful things through them, boosting my chosen candidates even further. Should I put a stop to it?”


“No. But we are going to make a move.”


“I am listening, Forefather.”


“Announce that I am going to establish a Sect when coming out of seclusion. I am going to be its Master.”


“...” Rudrick just blinked his eyes slowly before forming a wide smile, cupping his hand “Yes, Sect Master.” he caught on quickly.


“Good, good… Sect Leader Rudrick.”


“M-master?” he asked with a surprised voice


“He calls himself Sect Head, then I’ll be a Master to everybody but I need someone who is going to lead them.”


“I am honored by your decree, Sect Master!” he went to knees once again with an excited voice


“Mmm… plan out everything and make it public as soon as you can! I want those fools in the Empire to hear it, loud and clear! Two can play the same game…” Zelig chuckled before his voice slowly disappeared.


Rudrick slowly stood back up, unable to wipe his grin off of his face, finally laughing out loudly.


“Hah! Maybe I’ll see one of the legendary battles of Aerthus and Zelig reenacted? What a sight it would be…” came a hearty laugh, with a tinge of a weird and slimy tone mixed into it as he hurried inside his spire to start organizing everything.