Chapter 52: Joining the Battle, Nighthawk Captain
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Chapter 52: Joining the Battle, Nighthawk Captain

Only a couple of minutes had elapsed since Ain and Hugo encountered Frans and Paula, automatically formed an alliance, and subsequently introduced their abilities. Next, they confirmed their identical missions before quickly forming a rudimentary plan.

“Alright, let’s head over,” Hugo said seriously. The rest nodded in agreement. The brief introductions weren’t sufficient to erase the unfamiliarity between them. Hence, their plan was to simply stay close and look out for each other. As they approached, the situation on the battlefield became clearer. As expected, with the sudden attack, Nighthawk presently held the advantage. Small reinforcements were constantly arriving, but the numerous smoke clouds in the distance were a testament to Nighthawk’s intentions to split the reinforcements. Several other sites had been attacked as well.

“Let’s focus on the peripheral enemies first,” Frans suggested with prudence.

“I’m fine with that,” Hugo replied. Ain and Paula didn’t have any differing opinions. Once within range, some of the Nighthawk members shot red energy bullets at them.

Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

Instantly, four Aether Shields were conjured, effectively blocking the attacks. The glowing square membranes remained perfectly intact.

“The bullets’ power is at Rank-0, and they aren’t too fast either. We should be able to withstand some with our bodies and even dodge from a distance,” Ain stated astutely. With Nox on his shoulder, he cast Spectral Blast from several meters away, striking a Nighthawk combatant square in the chest!

Boom!

“Argh!” The Nighthawk combatant screamed in pain. His voice was digitally altered by the helmet as the small explosion propelled him backwards. The black armor on his body was utterly destroyed, revealing a bloodied torso as he crumpled to the ground. Beside Ain, Hugo launched an Aero Blast while Ace used Wind Slash from the skies, both attacking different opponents. Frans and Paula weren’t to be outdone either. Frans’ spirit pet was a Brilliant Fae, an illusively rare light-aspect spirit pet. Its form was a beautiful white fish with a single white horn adorning its head. Its pearly white fins were long and wavy, appearing like smooth flowing ribbons. Strangely, this fascinating spirit pet was floating midair, free and unfettered from aquatic restraints. As Frans pointed his finger, an arrow of light manifested, shooting towards an enemy with tremendous speed. This was Radiant Arrow, a light spell! Similarly, the Brilliant Fae pointed its white horn, releasing another rapid light arrow! This was its skill – Radiant Bolt! The two light arrows struck at great velocities, incapacitating their targets. Behind her shield, Paula aimed her armored palm towards an enemy, launching a green blast of energy which exploded upon contact. This was a basic wood spell – Vital Blast! It appeared similar to Ain’s Spectral Blast, just embodying a different aspect.

“Sergeant! We need assistance!” shouted one of the Nighthawk combatants in an altered voice. Suddenly, a figure rushed out from the crowd, wielding a black sword in hand, yelling, “You vile bastards! Face your demise!” This was a Nighthawk Sergeant! With an enemy approaching, the group naturally concentrated their attacks on this figure. Immediately, the Nighthawk Sergeant was drowned by a storm of brilliant spells and skills. Without even a squeak, the Nighthawk Sergeant collapsed to the ground, his body bloodied and bruised from the attacks. He’d been instantly defeated!

“Is it just me or did this guy seem a bit different?” Hugo suddenly said. Ain, who’d been keenly observing, replied, “They called him ‘Sergeant.’ His strength was likely at Initiated Rank-1. Take a look at their helmets.”

From behind the shields, they all glanced at the Nighthawk Sergeant’s helmet, comparing it to the others. “His helmet has two pairs of wings,” Paula stated upon careful scrutiny. Frans also added, “And the ones shooting at us only have one pair.”

“That’s right. I’ve discovered three types of enemies. The ones with a single pair of wings on their helmets are Rank-0 Privates. These guys only attack from afar with guns. If an enemy gets too close, they resort to hand-to-hand combat. If the helmet has two pairs of wings, it represents Initiated Rank-1 Sergeants. Unlike the privates, the sergeants wield various weapons, capable of attacking from all ranges. Finally, I briefly saw someone with three pairs of wings, likely at Branded Rank-1. They were wielding different weapons like the sergeants.” Ain quickly summarized. Some of the Nighthawk Privates shot red energy bullets, but they were blocked by the Aether Shields. Hugo said, “The one we just defeated was a Nighthawk Sergeant?”

“Sounds like it. Stronger opponents should grant us more points. We need to defeat the Branded Rank-1s.” Frans revealed his thoughts. Ain nodded, instructing Hugo, “See if Ace can guide us to the Branded Rank-1s. While the NCDF is currently at a disadvantage, the reinforcements haven’t stopped arriving. At this rate, Nighthawk will soon lose their advantage. We need to move quickly and take out as many Branded Rank-1s as possible before the battle ends.”

Hugo nodded, transmitting his thoughts to Ace. Soon, while they eliminated more Nighthawk Privates, Ace reported back to Hugo, who hurriedly informed the rest, “Ace discovered several Branded Rank-1s scattered around. Moreover, it also found other participants mixed in.”

“Enemies?” Ain inquired. Hugo replied, “There’s a group of six assisting Nighthawk and a team of two helping the NCDF. The former is probably an alliance.”

Paula cast a new Aether Shield, saying, “That lone pair should be able to join our alliance right?”

Frans nodded, “Most likely. It’ll be helpful to expand our alliance in case we encounter the enemy alliance.”

Hugo was of the same mind. Ain naturally didn’t disagree. He said, “Then, let’s join up with that team. Also, we don’t need to fight the other alliance.”

“Why?” Hugo asked with confusion. Their missions were obviously in opposition. Frans, possessing an inkling to Ain’s thoughts, glanced over. Ain explained, “Although they’re participants like us, they’re still only at Initiated Rank-1.”

“Oh, right.” Paula quickly caught on. Ain continued, “Moreover, the mission was for us to join the battle against Nighthawk, not achieve victory. Even if the enemy alliance damages the NCDF’s forces, it shouldn’t concern our mission.”

The rest gave it some thought, acknowledging his perspective. Indeed, eliminating Nighthawk’s Branded Rank-1s was the optimal choice. Before the group set off, Hugo mentioned, “There are a couple Branded Rank-1s on the way.”

“Let’s take care of them,” Frans answered confidently. Saying that, he opened his palm to conjure a one-and-a-half-meter-long sword of light exuding a lethal intent. Hugo gasped in amazement, “What’s that!?”

“Luminous Sword. It’s a light-aspect martial art!” Frans announced with a smile. While saying so, he moved towards the direction pointed out by Hugo, attacking any Nighthawk Private in his proximity. Ain also entered the Possession state, accurately slashing with Phantom Claws. They inevitably failed to defend against some energy bullets, but the damage suffered was inconsequential. Hugo and Paula weren’t suitable for close-combat, trailing behind Ain and Frans while casting spells to snipe opponents. In the skies, Ace used Piercing Gale as a gust of sharp winds eliminated several enemies at once. Immediately, a Nighthawk Sergeant took note of the casualties. He sprinted over with a powerful momentum, raising his wide battleax overhead, yelling with fury, “You scoundrels will pay!”

Frans moved to intercept the Nighthawk Sergeant. Feigning a direct clash with the battleax, he swiftly dodged and cut through the black armor with two precise strokes. The Nighthawk Sergeant had yet to recover when a radiant light arrow pierced right through his broken armor, courtesy of Frans’ Brilliant Fae. The Nighthawk Sergeant was defeated in less than three seconds! Ain caught sight of this from the corner of his eye. As he noted Frans’ abilities, a Nighthawk Sergeant also blocked his path. Compared to Frans, Ain’s approach was much more brutal and straightforward. His physique already overreached into the realm of Branded Rank-1. Before the opponent swung their sword, his powerful claws slashed through their lightly-armored neck! The opponent was instantly killed!

This exciting scene was vastly stimulating for the other two, but they refrained from blindly rushing in. They simply followed behind Ain and Frans while attacking. Soon, following Ace’s warning, the first Nighthawk combatant with three pairs of wings on his helmet entered their vision. This signified Branded Rank-1!

“I’ll go first. Paula, try to control him. We’ll attack together after that,” Ain said to Paula, who nodded seriously. Hugo and Frans expressed their readiness. When they defeated the Nighthawk Privates surrounding them, one of them shouted, “Captain! We need assistance!”

Captain? So Branded Rank-1 are Nighthawk Captains, Ain realized. The Nighthawk Captain cut down some NCDF combatants before turning around. He raised his left arm, revealing a shotgun aimed at Ain! 

Bang!

Just before the shot was fired, Ain had already reacted by pulling over two Nighthawk Privates to use as shields. The unfortunate, black-armored combatants suffered miserable fates.

“Bastard!” The Nighthawk Captain grunted furiously. Dual-wielding a sword and a shotgun, he charged at Ain but unexpectedly lost sight of him. Just as he turned to glare at Frans, Ain appeared behind him like a specter, having dispelled Haunt before slashing at the Nighthawk Captain’s neck!

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