Reynard had an ugly expression on his face as the space surrounding him finally calmed down. His dark eyebrows were furrowed tightly, making dark lines crease his forehead. His lips were pursed into a thin line, and his eyes glinted with a savage light.
The place the Guardian had sent him to was a wide hall. Walls of a blazing scarlet surrounded Reynard, embroidered with swirling and twisted patterns made with what seemed to be gold. Such gold, however, had a glow of its own, serving as the source of lighting in the hall. It gave a warm, gentle light that reflected on the white tiles of the floor, making them seem to be burning with golden flames.
Reynard, however, couldn't care less. The moment he felt that he was again in a stable environment, he looked around abruptly, searching for someone that was not there. The glint in his eyes turned fiercer as he realized he was truly alone.
Who was it? Who had stepped on the peak before him?
His mind raced as he questioned himself, trying to reach an answer. His foot unconsciously started tapping the floor restlessly as his eyes darted around nonstop.
Reynard suddenly came to a halt when he realized he was getting agitated. Closing his eyes lightly, he took a few deep breaths and slowly eased his expression. When he opened his eyes again, his lips contorted in a strange, ominous smile. The golden light mixed with the red of the walls as it shone ominously on Reynard's face, giving him a sinister appearance.
Just like that, the fierce rage he showed before was gone, giving place to something simpler. Something purer. Something darker.
How long had it been since he felt like that? How long had it been that he had tasted defeat?
Ever since he met his master, Reynard's strength had soared. His innate talent, coupled with his ambitions, made him grow at a rate that sometimes astounded even his master. His greatest strength, however, was his ability to read his enemies and use their information to his advantage.
It was a talent he had since young and was something his master greatly treasured in him. Thanks to that Reynard had only been defeated twice, throughout his life, both times by people far above his own level. No one in his generation had ever been his match.
If an exception existed, it had to be Derek Tyrell, the inheriting disciple of the Storm Peak Sect. Reynard had never managed to see through him, not even once. This made him deeply uncomfortable, almost restless. He couldn't help but hold deep apprehension towards Derek, even if the later somehow managed to avoid all situations that would lead to a fight between them.
Reynard did not understand his reasons to lay low, but he did not believe Derek to be a coward. If anything, Derek Tyrell was extremely dangerous. Derek might be able to fool most people, but not Reynard.
Even if Reynard was confident in defeating him, he knew it would be no easy task. The price he would have to pay would be enormous. Just the thought alone was enough to put a smile on his face. He really just wanted to punch that sly guy on the face and fight once and for all.
Nevertheless, pondering about such things was meaningless. Derek was not taking part in the Hellblaze Trials. This fact alone was something that made Reynard worried. Thomas, Clarice and Helen hadn't appeared either. Something had certainly gone awry at the Storm Peak Sect.
Still, even if things on Storm Peak Sect were not looking so good, Reynard had the confidence to deal alone with the mission. The problem was that an undetermined variable had just appeared.
This made Reynard frown again. All of the inheriting disciples had been far behind him when he managed to reach the misty peak of the mountain. He did not believe any one of them could have surpassed him while facing their Heart Devils.
Alden Bren was a simple-minded fool but the ghosts that haunted him were not so easily dismissed. He would certainly have some trouble.
Anna Hale was a stubborn woman. Reynard knew very well what bothered her, and he couldn't help but smile lightly. However, something in the Trial of the Will changed her. The lines that once clearly divided her were starting to blur. She was getting rid of her weaknesses and she would probably have an easier time than what he first expected.
Even so, Reynard did not believe she was ready to simply storm through the mist and into the peak as he did.
Jake Meyer had potential, but he was but a foolish youth that had been raised with a golden spoon. It didn't matter if all he had was a complicated family since he lacked the maturity to deal with it. His hardships could have been easily solved if he used his position as inheriting disciple and the attention his father gave him in a proper way, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He was too keen on avoiding real conflict, he was still too hesitant to make a proper decision and follow through with it, even if he showed glimpses of true leadership here and there.
Being overly flexible and to care too much about others was the kind of weakness that made Reynard's eyes roll. Such lines were so clear he couldn't be bothered in drawing them.
Reynard shook his head. None of them could have done it.
His companions had also been specifically instructed to not stand out, and Reynard knew them as well as he did the inheriting disciples, so it couldn't have been them either.
All that was left was the trash, so who did it?
Suddenly, Reynard's expression faltered. He remembered when he finished the Trial of the Mind, when all remaining competitors gathered. The first to arrive had been himself, followed suit by Anna. The third one, however, had not been Alden, nor had it been Jake.
A figure came to his mind. Strange ashen hair and those insufferably bright golden eyes. Reynard slowly squinted his eyes, as his mind worked.
"His name was Amon…" Reynard started remembering their conversation. The boy never stated his surname, but Reynard still knew who he was. He had all the information he needed about most of the participants of the Hellblaze Trials, the exception being the substitutes of the Storm Peak Sect.
"Amon Kressler, but always presents himself as Amon Skoller." Reynard muttered lightly. "A failure that somehow managed to get good results in the Promotion Competition. The reason behind his presence in the Hellblaze Trials is a mystery to all but a few. It certainly involves the inner politics of the sect, as well as his father."
"Of course, the more important information is his surname." Reynard said while a savage smile contorted his face. Whoever was faster than him was not important anymore. This was a chance. Like a beast stalking at prey, his expression turned ferocious and his eyes showed expectancy.
His smile turned wider and the fire in his eyes burned fiercely. It didn't matter if he changed the plans a bit as long as the end result was satisfactory. To his path in the pursuit of strength, defeating that man was unavoidable. Risking it all for a chance to take him on was worth it to Reynard.
It would all be worth the risk if he managed to see a line that he could draw on that person. No matter how faint, thin or small it was, as long as it was there Reynard would eventually be able to draw it, no matter how long it took.
A blinding flash of light interrupted Reynard's thoughts as a deafening roar started echoing inside the scarlet hall. Space started distorting wildly, making the golden lights flicker and giving Reynard an unpleasant sensation.
One by one, figures of all sizes and ages started to materialize. From those that couldn't even make it past the Trial of the Will to those that managed to reach the peak in the Trial of the Heart, all of them were sent to the hall.
A corner of the hall drew Reynard's attention. There, the silhouette of a thin-looking boy was taking form. Eventually, the form solidified and Reynard couldn't help but smile again as he saw the ashen hair the boy had.
"Well, things will certainly become more interesting now." Reynard muttered to himself.