Chapter 117:

Ambush (2)

Mad God

The air was filled with electricity. It was raising everyones hair upwards, both on their heads and arms. Xendar looked at them, waiting, standing in the sky with the dark clouds as his backdrop.

“The fact that you are still here and not running,” He spoke up with a clear voice, watching the two cultivators hovering before him, “Can mean two things. One, you don’t know who I am. Two, you are overestimating your own abilities.”

“The one who overestimates his abilities here, is only you, General.” came the first word from them since they appeared, echoing out from under the mask of the one with the earth affinity.

“I am no longer a General.” Xendar tilted his head. “That accent… So… You are someone from the Nervadask Kingdom. The staunch supporters of the Naulin bloodline, second amongst the ten, first amongst nine. Isn’t that your proud declaration to others, all the time? Should’ve guessed they would send out their doggies to play.”

“...” both of them stayed silent after that but their bodies tensed up immediately.

“I'll give you another chance! Give up now and you are going to be treated as prisoners. Resist and I’ll beat you like the dogs you two are.”

Their answer was predictable as they immediately covered themselves in armor, rushing up towards Xendar.

“I hoped you would choose this!” Xendar murmured as he stabbed out with his energy spear, releasing a blue bolt of lightning towards them.

“Let me!” the one covered in earth shouted, looking like a golem from tales of old, stepping before his partner, receiving Xendar’s strike.

Although it made him flinch, the electricity streaked around his armor, partly absorbed and partly deflected, withstanding it in full.

“We told you, you are overestimating your own ability!” The prism covered stepped forward as speaking, with stretched out palm, shooting out sharp, needle-like small spikes, whizzing towards Xendar,

“You do not understand.” He answered calmly as an electric field sprang up around him, trapping the needles before they could reach him.

“YOU do not understand! Your arrogance is going to be your downfall!” His enemy roared as he flashed a hand signal. His needles absorbed the electricity, storing it, before going critical and exploding.

His partner followed up with a fist strike, letting his hand be covered in giant rocks, enlarging it to triple its original size. He was punching towards the smoke, left behind the previous explosion. He clearly felt hitting something, as a deep, metallic sound echoed out far and wide.

When the smoke cleared Xendar was standing there, unharmed, wearing silver, heavy armor with a soft, bluish hue around it. It covered his whole body and was crafted masterfully. It was decorated with runic inscriptions around his joints, strengthening the weak areas of the armor set, transforming his figure completely. Xendar was emitting a proud presence, as if they were standing before a thunder-dragon. His aura’s intensity and strength doubled when the armor appeared. With a flash, he was grabbing onto the hand of his enemy, cracking the rocks and earth around his wrist, clamping down, right until his armored fingers reached his real hand, not letting him get away.

“As I said. I understand.” Xendar said, his voice turned into thundering booms behind his helmet. ”You expected my daughter to accompany her disciples. You two were selected just because of this possibility alone. Your friend with the quartz affinity could deflect Lulu’s light and even could store and regulate electricity. You were planning for my daughter to show up. On the other hand you…” He looked into the eyes of the earth attributed assassin. He could only see blue electricity flashing under the closed, skull shaped helmet of Xendar. “…could absorb and feed on Yanda’s water affinity and do the same with electricity. A great strategy. On paper.” Xendar chuckled, gripping even harder as he broke his arm.

“Let him go!” His partner attacked, summoning a giant hammer, made out of crystals. Every hit he landed, sounded like someone pummeling on a metallic door, without any success in breaking it down.

“You can try as long as you want, but you are bound to fail.” Xendar laughed in an aggressive tone. “Your weapon is not an artifact. You can not hurt me. You are blind but I’ll open your eyes now, so you can see the strength and wealth of our Sect!” He raised his other hand, punching out, destroying the hammer easily. Its owner was dismayed, that simply should not be possible. Even if he is wearing heavy armor, it should have been hammered into oblivion by now. It was his first and last time, fighting against someone who had a real artifact on hand.

“Run! Escape!” The still captured assassin shouted at his friend. He felt Xendar’s powers flow into his body, making it even hard to speak, not to mention move as his muscles tensed up constantly. Xendar was using the technique he learnt from his daughter, paralyzing his enemy’s nervous system. His partner only hesitated for a quick look, before rushing off with all of his might.

“Too late.” Xendar shook his head, flicking his fingers, producing a small coin.

Next came a blinding, loudly thundering flash as it was shot out, hitting the fleeing opponent. It blasted a hole through his back before he just fell out from the sky, landing on the ground like a meteor, kicking up thick smoke of dust.

“If we would have met before I joined the Immortal Wonders Sect…” Xendar looked back at the remaining man in his hands. “You would still be captured by me. Only, I would need to put in more effort.” He explained calmly before headbutting him, cracking his skull in yet it was not enough to knock him out. Next he just punched into his sides, breaking his ribs. Then stomped on his legs, breaking both, bending them in the wrong direction. The captured assassin could do nothing, just wail and shout as Xendar maimed him, leaving him with an inch of his life. Only then he let him faint. “Go, collect the body of the fallen one. Finish the transfer of goods and bring it back to the Sect. I’ll be going first, I need to further entertain our guest.” Xendar ordered before disappearing from the sky, dragging a half-dead prisoner back to the Sect.

“Man… now I want a full set of armor!” Lulu whispered, looking where Xendar was standing.

“You wish! I am sure it costs a ton of materials to craft something like that… Even if you add up everything we earned through the years, it wouldn't be enough for it.” Yanda rolled his eyes.

“Maybe Master can…” She whispered just to be shut down by Yanda.

“Forget it.”

“Haaah, way to bring down someone's mood!” She rolled her eyes before flying out, to recover the fallen body, leaving Yanda behind to guard the ship.

The disciples slowly emerged from the decks below, still amazed by the fight they watched from the windows, unable to keep calm or silent. They were constantly discussing the events from the start to the finish. When Lulu arrived back, the limp body of the other cultivator was examined closely, making sure he was dead… but seeing how his heart was vaporized by the impact of the coin, he clearly posed no threat of coming back from the dead. Soon they were on their way again, continuing the journey as if nothing happened at all.

“Say, who are those that Elder Xendar mentioned?” Yanda asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Mmm? Oh, the Nervadasks? One of the ten kingdoms.” She started to explain. “You never learned about the Kingdom of Ten?”

“N-no…” He answered a bit ashamed as he was so immersed in cultivation, he ignored everything else that was not related to it.

“Haaah… you!” Lulu chuckled. “Let me explain it then! The Kingdom of Ten is made up of ten kingdoms’ alliance.”

“I could gather that much from its name…”

“Let me finish! The Kingdom itself is broken up into ten regions, in varying size and strength. Let’s start with my family, the Elroths. Then there is the Nervadasks, Enjins, Jakarts, Olgors, Astrans, Kadences, Piltas, Lotharins and finally the Naulins. Every region is loosely independent in itself. We call ourselves kingdoms, the originals who formed a coalition against the rising Empire in the west, established by Aerthus.” Lulu explained to him. “The leader of that alliance and the first kingdom to bring the others under one umbrella were the Naulins and its leader; Zelig. He was the only cultivator who could keep up with Aerthus and even bested him on the battlefield.”

“Sect Head has lost against him?” Yanda asked surprisedly.

“You never read history books? I checked the ones from the Empire, they are not even a secret there, even though I thought they surely would be! They are even taught about it in schools!” She rolled her eyes, gently flicking Yanda’s forehead. “Anyway, Sect Head did lose some battles but never the war. He always came back stronger! I admire that, I really do!” She crossed her arms before her chest. “This is why the Naulins get to be the leaders of the Kingdom of Ten! They were the only faction to be able to go toe to toe with him. Later on, when the Empire got unified and established, we also followed suit and the Kingdom of Ten was formed. Through the years the battles subsided and peace was made. Kinda. Yet now there we were… On one side of the river a strong, unified Empire, on the other, an alliance of ten.”

“I am surprised the Kingdom did not disband. There were no more threats, no? They made peace with the Empire. They banded together because they were afraid Sect Head would invade them after setting up his Empire, no?”

“Yes and no.” Lulu shook her head. “Peace was made, yes, but the threat remained. The Naulins always said; If the alliance fails, they are going to invade and conquer us one by one. Soon centuries passed, then a thousand years and it became the norm. Every kingdom of the alliance ruled over their lands independently. Had their own laws and jurisdictions, following their own interests… and when those interests conflicted with each other, battles would be waged. In the end the Naulins always stepped in, quelling the flames of war, building and reinforcing the thought that we need to stand unified or we risk the Empire getting ideas of an invasion!”

“Would they? Really?” Yanda asked without even thinking about it.

“I don’t know. Ask this from Sect Head or Aerthus X!” Lulu shook her head. “But really, it doesn't even matter. What is important is that; By these repeating events, the Naulins became the de facto leaders of the kingdoms. The voice of the union, the family who has the last say in every argument. Now their strength is something unrivaled inside the ten, sitting above the rest. That is why there is a saying inside the Kingdom; Being second is being first. Nobody can rank higher than them. So most of the common people stopped considering them part of the kingdoms and looked at them as royals amongst royalty. That is sometimes why you hear people only talking about 9 kingdoms instead of 10. The commoners don’t see the Naulins as part of the alliance, they see them as the emperors above their kings.”

“I never knew that. So this Nervadask family is considered the strongest? Beside the Naulins?”

“Yes. For about… 900 years now. Back then, 2000 years ago they were only vassals to them. Later on they gained a sizable territory and the Naulins “recognized” them as a legitimate, independent kingdom. In reality they are the die hard followers of theirs. I am not that versed in the minute details in the political intricacy amongst the territories. You need to ask my father or grandfather about it if you want to know more. What I can tell you is that, if someone from the Nervadasks attacks us, it was because a high ranking Naulin noble wanted them to do so.”

“And they would try to assassinate someone of their own family…” Yanda murmured, thinking about the situation with his Master and Elder Anya.

“To stay on the top amongst 9 others, amidst constantly conflicting interests… Do you think they wouldn’t do something like this? Please!” She snorted at his naivety. “They are ruthless. Always were! That is why they sit on the top of the others. They are the ones who hold the leash yet let it be loose enough so it does not snap. Sometimes they pull on it when their dogs go wild but never too hard! Not to mention… Inside their own kennels… they breed selectively.” She explained with a disgusted voice. “I learned it from dad, the thing with Elder Anya was an opportunity. You could either see it as an offering of friendship to get the two sides out of the cold war, they had for two thousand years. Or as a plan to later on, maybe hundreds of years even, have a claim for the throne of Aerthus. Anyway, it failed, she did not marry Aerthus IX! She instead fell in love with a General, coming from a common background nonetheless! Elder Anya got exiled and her name struck from the family register because she followed her heart and not what was ordered of her.” Lulu smiled with clear admiration on her face, gently looking at Yanda.

“And now they go after her…”

“No. They are targeting our Master.” She sighed looking away from Yanda, towards the direction of the Naulin’s territory. “They cared not about a woman, She was dirtying the purity of their bloodline, so she was cast out. They did not even bother about her, not until she gave birth to a strong daughter. So typical! Now they want what they casted out, at any cost!” She whispered, turning towards the horizon as they slowly neared her home city of Irgimith, the place where she grew up.