“Kill him!” shouted one of the ruffians with a beard almost covering his entire neck.
The six Novices rushed at Robert with their swords drawn and Arcane infused into their limbs.
Robert stowed away the axe and flung one of the headless corpse at the rushing group, catching two Novices off their guard. Robert smoothly evaded a slash from one of the Novices and caught the attacker’s arm. Robert struck the man’s bicep and his abdomen before surprise was caught on by his face. Grabbing him by the throat, Robert used the man’s body as a shield against a stab and two Arcane Bolts.
The meat-shield howled in pain but soon fell into absolute silent. He was dead.
Stunned by their own accidental friendly fire, Robert ceased the opportunity and tossed the corpse into the two who fired the Arcane Bolts. The swordsman recovered his focus and swept his sword at the charging Robert.
“What?!” the man exclaimed in disbelief as his sword broke against the boy’s fore arm which was covered in vermilion scales.
Robert wrapped his arms around the dazed man’s arm and threw him into the ground. Infusing his sole with Arcane, Robert stomped the man’s head flat. Blood and bits flew everywhere.
Trains of shrieks erupted from the girls and bewildered glamour came from the Rieans.
“Four Novices to go.”
“You bastard!” cried the Novice who received the headless corpse and was now back on his feet. He charged straight at Robert with two short daggers in his hands.
Robert took out the axe and threw it at the man’s feet.
The man stopped short of having his feet chopped off by the hurled axe. Relief that his feet was safe, he raised his head up to give a smirk at Robert but it was the last thing he ever did. It had been a distraction. Robert had already conjured up an Arcane Bolt and fired straight into his head.
A bolt of Arcane pierced through the falling corpse’s torso from the back and flew at Robert. The dead man’s own companion had used him as a diversion.
Robert let the Arcane Bolt come. It hit him square in the face but he was unharmed. The vermilion scales retained it’s parents properties; Dragon’s Scales were impervious to Arcane attacks.
Robert rushed at the dumbfounded thin man who aimed at his face. The thin man snapped himself back to reality as his other two companion had also regain their composure from seeing the Robert’s prowess.
The thin man brought his palm together, intending to cast a stronger Arcane Bolt. Robert raised his hand in kind, casting an Arcane Bolt. But for Robert, he had other intentions. Robert aimed for the axe which remain impaled firmly in the floor, and kicked it at the thin man. Of course, it was normally impossible to kick an axe without hurting one’s own foot but Robert control his feet strength and with the right amount of Arcane infusion. Strong enough to move the axe but weak enough to not shatter the axe. A trick he learned from Lily.
The thin man dodged the flying axe but the blade took a chunk of his shoulder. The thin man screeched but his cries were cut short by an Arcane Bolt going through his temple. The axe flew until it went straight out of tavern through a window.
Robert wasted no time and turned his focus to the remaining two Novices.
The last two were affix to the floor by their fears. They could not comprehend the movements of the boy in front of them who was probably less than half of their age.
One of the two let off a maddening scream as he hurled himself at Robert.
“Damn you!!” the deranged Novice shouted his battle cries as he charged at Robert with his Arcane-infused fist raised.
Robert easily apprehended the ruffian’s thrown fist and gave it a strong twist. A series of snapping sounds radiated from his arm. He was about to scream but Robert gripped him tight by his jaws. Pouring Arcane into his grip, Robert tore his jaws off his mouth.
Leaving the jawless ruffian twitching on the floor, Robert moved his attention to the last Novice.
Robert slanted to the side and dodged an Arcane Bolt coming from the last Novice. He was about to conjured another Bolt but Robert cast a small but quick Arcane Bolt of his own and aimed at his foot.
It was easy to dodge but his confusion at Robert’s tiny Arcane Bolt brought about his own bane.
The Novice ruffian screamed in agony as his foot was pulverize by the tiny Arcane Bolt. His brief moment of affliction caused his conjuring Bolt to misfire and sent the Bolt through the ceiling. The roof trembled and the hanging candles were shaken off of its hinges. They fell right behind the counter and the meagre fire was quick to spread and grew into feral flames that engulfed all the liquor barrels and food stocks.
“No…” Ilynn gasped as she feebly reached out to the sight of her dream drowning in literal flames, but that’s all she could do. The assault had left her in quite a worrisome state but there was no immediate to threat to her life, but her mental health was another story.
Robert noticed her state but he steeled his heart as there were more dire matters to be resolved.
“Not another step, boy!” One of the two Elites, a bearded man, shouted as he placed his hand around the neck of the blonde hair Sunny. “Do as I say, or she dies.” Lightning sparked around his arms.
“Lubac, no doubt,” Robert recalled the conversation the two watchers’ conversation.
The other Elite, who was a short man, was snickering complacently behind the bearded man, Lubac but the shuddering of short man’s legs betrayed his confident front.
“If you don’t want this girl to die,” Lubac licked the girls’ face, “collect all of these idiots’ pouches and gather up all the foods and liquors now!” Lubac demanded as he gestured at his now-former companions.
“No,” Robert gave an immediate answer.
“Are you deaf, boy?!” the men shouted as he tightened his grip on Sunny’s neck. “I’m going to kill her if you don’t—”
“You will do no such things,” said a tranquil yet dangerous-sounding voice.
Lubac loosened his grip on Sunny and immediately rolled over a silver streak that threatened to take his head.
When he was back on his feet, he witnessed his last companion standing upright with only half of his head. The short man’s body twitch a few times before slumping to the floor.
At the door, there was a tanned skin, silver haired girl in the infamous Mavern’s Academy uniform much like Robert, wielding a scythe that was a few size large than her own body. Just behind the girl, was another girl. And this girl was huge. She was almost as tall as a boy who had just come of age and her frame was nothing to disparage about, especially in such circumstances.
Creed trailed into Tavern slowly behind the two while bearing a conflicted expression.
“Oh boy…” Creed muttered as he swallowed the scene into his eyes.
“Creed, take everyone here to a safe place. Samara, Suri, the two of you will help him.” Robert asked but any who heard it would know this was more of an order than a request. “Come back in ten minutes, Creed”
“Wha—” the two girls was about to raise a string of questions but Creed stopped the two.
“Fine,” he assented. Creed did not want to argue. He knew Robert was not in a stable frame of mind. After giving some minor explanations to both of the girls, they got to work by helping out the tavern maids.
“Who are you guys?!” the bearded man roared. “And what are you all blabbering about?!”
“You don’t need to know,” Robert told him in a tone dried of his normal merry.
Lubac yelped as Robert was suddenly right in front of his face. Before he could think of any response, Robert kicked him straight in his torso, sending him flying through pillars and walls, and out of the tavern, tumbling over patches of grass.
By now, the fire had grown larger and taken over a third of the tavern but Robert trust Creed to save everyone inside— no, it was wrong to say that. Robert did not trust him, he merely expect Creed to obey him out of obligations to his own failures, his failures of informing Robert of his women’s perils.
Anger. Sorrow. Anxiety. Frustration. Regret. Fear. Everything was in a jumble in Robert’s mind. It had been far too long. He thought he could no longer being genuine with his emotions but he could. A part of him was glad while another part of him was dubious of the advantages of having such emotions.
However, for now, those were of little concern.
Locking his gaze on Lubac, Robert strode out the tavern through the hole he made.
“W-who are you!?” the bearded man shouted the same question again as he struggled back on his feet.
Robert remained silent.
The burning tavern cast the perfect backdrop for his fury, and his rage was plain to see for the Elite Magus, Lubac who had nothing on his mind but concocting ways to flee. Lubac wasn’t a Sentry nor was he sensitive towards Arcane but he could tell, he was not this boy’s opponent. For reasons he couldn’t describe.
However, he had to fight. The boy had his eyes seared on him. He could never outrun the boy, Lubac knew, somehow.
Lightning crackled and coiled around on his arms.
Robert scoffed at the sight..
“Be grateful, boy,” Lubac pronounced, in spite of his shivering shoulders, “for you’re about to witness Clan Riean’s—”
“Don’t care,” Robert cut him off and closed in on the Riean with his palm straightened and Arcane coated around the contour, transforming his hand into a pseudo-blade.
Lubac thrust out his palm in panic but his lightning struck on empty ground. The man widened his eyes at the fact that his lightning attacks missed his target at such a distance. Robert did not rolled out of the way nor did he dodged with his whole body. He simply canted his head enough to allow the lightning grazing softly by his cheek.
Paying no heed to his singed skin, Robert pressed on with his hand-blade.
Lubac grabbed Robert’s arm, who’s fingers almost reached his throat. Lubac gripped tighter and poured his lightning into the boy’s hand with a menacing and triumphant laughter.
Robert grimaced but there was all there is to his reaction to being electrified, a simple grimace. With his other hand, Robert formed an Arcane hand-blade and swung at the man’s gripping hand.
Lubac acted on his instincts and let Robert go. He shoved the boy away before his Arcane hand-blade could rip his face off.
“What sort of Arcane is this? To be unharmed by the rage of the clouds, preposterous!”
Robert brushed his chest of the man’s boot print.
“Lightning… it’s been far too long,” Robert reminisced as he caressed his charred arm. It had been three years ever since that time, that time he encountered a lightning wolf in the woods near his house. It was twice the size of a man and strangely, smarter than most man. It couldn’t talk but it understood— it understood that the ten year old Robert was no threat to it. It wanted to eat him but when the wolf saw he was unfazed even after being shown its ferocious lightning thrash, the wolf let him go.
Till this day, Robert could still remember the sting of the lightning from the wolf like it was only yesterday. Robert wasn’t unhurt by Lubac’s lightning but he wasn’t in any danger. He could have defended his arm from the lightning with Mystic Scales but his own intrigue got the better of him.
“Fine,” Lubac said. “Take your secrets with you to your grave.” He charged with his lightning crying sharper and louder than ever.
Robert sidestepped an attack that gouged deep into the dirt and soil. Robert countered but Lubac riposted with his other lightning-clad hand. Robert swung his leg but the man reeled himself back and avoided the boy’s boot.
The man pushed at the air with his thundering palm.
Robert conjured an Arcane Shield augmented with Mystic Scales as the lashes of piercing shrills clashed against the vermilion thin membrane that was only slightly larger than his face.
When that attack receded, Lubac shrunk their distance with lightning fostering his speed. He punched with lightning but Robert parried his fist away promptly. Lubac threw his other fist and Robert equally led that fist astray. Lubac swung a heavy hook but Robert guarded with his scale-clad arms and countered with a straight into his shoulder.
Lubac staggered back but he held on to his posture. He stared at the boy.
Robert kept his stance and confined his gaze at his opponent. Although victory was certain for him, he did not believe there was zero chances of him losing. Until he was sure his opponent was dead or utterly incapable of any actions, Robert would never allow his focus to waver.
And Lubac saw through Robert’s conviction. Although Lubac himself had his fair shares of battles and fights, his numbers of clean victories could be counted on one hand. He was used to dirty tactics but with a concentration of this degree, he wasn’t sure any tricks would go unnoticed.
When Robert understood Lubac wasn’t going to attack, he moved. Robert sent blows after blows with his Arcane-infused fists which Lubac found it harder and harder to keep up his defence as it went on. Robert was nearing the Realm of Elite but Lubac was already an Elite, and yet, Lubac was losing. Various factors contributed to his loss but prime factor was that Lubac was way past his prime. Unlike Robert, he did not have the teeming stamina to spare with reckless abandon, not that Robert was impetuous with his movements. It was actually the opposite, which further widened the gap in advantages. What’s more, Lubac reached the Elite-level in his thirties. When he was Robert’s age, he wasn’t even half as good as him.
Lightning razed the ground but it never could scorched Robert. He wasn’t fast by any means. He was merely too perceptive. Robert knew when to dodge and how to dodge.
Lubac understood this and resorted to ranged attacks, which was where his actual advantage lay with his Lightning Arcane.
A few of the attacks faintly grazes by Robert’s skin. While it was nothing to write home about, wounds could accumulate, no matter how small. Robert knew that and he was doing everything he could to nullified the distance between them.
Lubac was no fool, however. He hurled lightning bolts after lightning bolts at Robert. He grinned exultantly when Robert dodged a huge blast of thunder and dashed straight for him.
One of Lubac’s most prominent trick relied on his opponent’s underestimation of him. When they saw he began to only attack from afar, they would always rush to close the gap. When that happened, Lubac enveloped himself with lightning and turned the fools who wandered in too close into cinders.
But he couldn’t do that to Robert.
“This fucking brat!?” Lubac snarled when Robert gave him a light jab before retreating back a few distances away.
Of course, Robert saw through his trick long ago. After all, Robert too relied on tricks and schemes to win fights. Takes one to know one.
Robert made use of light and swift attacks and backed right off from Lubac whenever he saw the lightning around his body burst with fury. He repeated this motion until Lubac was drain of his breath and strength. This routine was practically a counter to Lubac’s usual trick.
When Lubac’s focus plummeted below a certain point, Robert dashed straight at the man with full commitment in his right fist.
It was the perfect time for the man to spring his trap— however, he couldn’t. He was exhausted. He had been on the run ever since he heard of his clan’s demise at the hands of the Dragon Knights. He never caught any sleep for more than an hour and never did found time to replenish his Arcane Pool.
When Lubac found this tavern which was faraway from the gathering of peoples, he intended to take refuge here. He chased off the patrons with his name and status, and took this tavern as his. It was fortunate for him that his clan’s demise was still unheard by commoners and all the usual city guards were reassign to guard the roads leading out of the city. And the women were great bonuses. He thought his luck was beginning to change.
He was wrong and this was the result of his inattention to the smallest details he had taken for granted.
Before any solution or ideas appeared into Lubac’s thoughts, he went stumbling heads over heels over the patches of grass after feeling a heavy force being drove into his chest, presumably a palm thrust or a fist but he was too much in a daze to see what hit him. He was even spouting blood as he tumbled in circles.
Lubac reached an epiphany as he rolled into a stop.
This young boy had more experience than him, which he found absolutely absurd but the boy’s actions attested to it. Not just in prowess, he realized he had also lost to Robert in experience.
Lubac knew Robert had tremendous ability in the arts of Arcane despite not being an Elite like the man himself. Robert could beat him in a battle of Arcane due to the his rigorous control over Arcane. Lubac then thought he could at least have a chance at winning by taking advantage of the gap in experience as a forty-five year old man going against a boy who yet to come of age, but was he so wrong.
“Who thought you?” the man asked while being barely able to even stay on his knees. The last attack had broken a few things in his body. Even if he still had some reserve of Arcane in him, it wouldn’t make any difference if he couldn’t move his body.
Robert stayed his silence and strode composedly towards the man.
“Just so you know, I enjoy what I do and I won’t apologize for what I did,” the man snarled.
“I don’t care,” Robert said and uppercut the man into the air.
When the man fell back to the ground, Robert crushed his manhood with an Arcane Bolt.
Lubac howled with great woe but Robert too crushed his throat with a stomp. Squeezing the bearded man’s cheek, Robert forced his tongue and tore it right off from its mouth.
Lubac went into a fit of throes.
After that, Robert proceeded to disable his arms and legs. Robert pressed on the man’s right hand slowly with his boot, reveling in the man breaking finger as he let out wordless agonizing cries. Robert twisted the man’s left arm until the bones snapped out of his flesh and skin. Lastly, Robert bent his legs until the man seemingly begged for death soundlessly.
“No,” Robert denied Lubac’s desperate pleas with a gentle smile.
Gripping the man by his mangled leg. Robert dragged him to the tavern which was completely swallowed in flames.
Lubac struggled but he could only try in futility. His limbs were no longer responding to his demands. Even his voice failed to expressed his grief and agony— and his regret. He had always knew he would die a dog’s death but he wanted to die without any regrets, but now… he could only cursed himself and his lust.
He continued to struggled as Robert effortlessly dragged him until they were just right before the burning building.
Robert took a burning timber and sealed any of Lubac’s bleeding wound.
Lubac gagged at the torture as he could not scream nor cry.
Content with his work, Robert took one last look at Lubac but he offered no words to to the Riean— only his condemning gaze and heinous smile.
Lubac pleaded one last time but it was all for naught for his limbs and voice was rid from him. He could only accept his fate as he was thrown into the fire.
Lubac never knew how slow could a fire kill a man but he was about to find out, firsthand.
Robert clutched at his own arms as he trembled before wildfire that fully consumed the building. He got his just deserts but it wasn’t enough. He wanted more. He wished he could make them suffer more but at the same time, he wanted nothing more to do with them.
“Lynn… I’m sorry.”
His heart throb with ache as the tavern’s signboard finally melted off its hinges.
After a few seconds, Robert felt the shadows shifted around him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked without parting his gaze from the burning tavern.
“I heard about what happened from Seven,” Valena answered as she stood closer to Robert. Like usual in her excursions, she was don in hood and cloak. Her shadows danced leisurely and gracefully as she moved.
“I know why you’re here.” Robert turned to face her. “I’m asking what do you hope to accomplish by being here?”
“We’re friends, Robert…” she said softly while gazing down at her feet. “I know about your… meetings here. And…”
Robert lifted her chin up with his fore finger. “And?”
“And I thought you will be sad…?”
“A-and…?” Valena stuttered. “I-I just want to c-comfort y-you…”
Valena stared with quivering hands.
“Sure you don’t mean you’re here to celebrate with me? You hate them, don’t you?”
Valena widened her eyes. “W-what? No, I-I don’t—”
“Seven found you when she just happened to be on a stroll. Seven found out the many other secrets while she was on a stroll. She stumbled upon a lot of things when she’s just strolling.” Robert approached her, staring down at her. He was now taller than her. “Yet, a place that I favor, being desecrated, somehow, she didn’t stumbled here on her stroll, of all nights?”
“Robert… I-I….” Valena stammered.
“You don’t need to say it.” Robert touched her cheek but his finger was cold. “I know you hate all the girls and women who approached me.”
“R-Robert, I don’t—”
“I know what you are, Valena,” Robert uttered.
“No, you don’t, boy.” a cold melodious tone drifted into his ears.
Valena’s shadows rose into tendrils, barbed with anger.
“Are you accusing my mistress of being a liar?” Seven’s voice trembled with fury.
Robert stared blankly at the shadows.
“I did not went on my stroll tonight because more guards were gather in the noble streets, thanks to Aeryeon’s hounds. I stayed with my mistress the whole time. So, are you saying my mistress is a liar?”
Robert smiled, out of the two expectations. “I was,” he said.
“If she was lying, you wouldn’t be so angry. You would condone your mistress’ actions and merely simper and taunt me, but you didn’t. Instead, you got angry.”
“You—!” Seven flared as the shadows grew like wildfire.
“It’s alright, Seven,” Valena assured and the shadows died down.
“But mistress, he—”
“He is correct. I hated them and I wanted to ruin them…”
“But you did not, mistress. This was not your fault.”
“I wish I did…” Valena admitted. She looked Robert in the eyes. “I-I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too…” He gently caressed her face. “I was… it was a tough night.”
Valena closed her eyes and let Robert brushed his fingers on her cheeks.
Robert pulled back his hand when he felt her cheeks were getting hot. “Go back for now. If a Dragon Knight saw you, it would be extremely bad.”
Valena mumbled with a nod.
And the unthinkable happened.
Without the slightest notion, Valena stood on her toes and bit down lightly on Robert’s neck. She didn’t kiss him. She marked him. When she parted from him, she smiled like a child who had succeeded in her prank. “I’ll be going now,” she said and melted into her shadows.
Robert stood frozen on the spot. He didn’t see it coming. There were no nuances or any sign of her that indicated she wanted to do such a thing but it happened, she did something out his expectations.
Rubbing at the love mark, Robert sighed. “This is going to be tough.”