Anfey was moved, but he was not the type of person that expressed his feelings easily, so he changed the topic. "Where should we head to next? Let's make a decision as a group."
"We should find the professor," Christian said.
"We can go anywhere except to the professor." Anfey shook his head.
"Why?" Christian was very confused.
"They will assume that we will seek out the professor, so they will just wait there for us," Zubin suddenly spoke.
"Nice guess." Anfey nodded and cast a quick glance at Zubin. "That's why we must go somewhere else. Once things are more settled, then we can figure out the best option."
"A desolate place. You guys, be prepared for some hardship," Anfey said.
"A desolate place… Anfey, are you talking about the magic beast forests?" Riska asked.
"Magic beast forests?"
"Yes. Except for the magic beast forests, I can't think of any other location with no people."
"Are there any nearby?"
"No. The closest one is eight hundred miles away from the Sacred City," Riska replied.
"Is that Forest Clarm?" Christian asked.
Zubin replied, "Yes. Forest Clarm isn't big. There used to be orcs there, but they were often caught by hunters and were traded in the market. Gradually, there were fewer and fewer orcs, until they were all gone. My home was near Forest Clarm, and our village was attacked by orcs quite frequently when my father was young. I never saw any orcs, though. In addition, there aren't any high-level magic beasts either. It's a relatively safe place."
"Well then, Forest Clarm it is! Let's find a spot to settle down first." Anfey nodded.
"Well, I will let Miss know to turn around and head south," Riska responded.
"Wait a second!" Anfey tipped his head to the side and focused on listening. "What is that sound?"
With four horse-drawn carriages and over ten horses running on the road, Christian and the others could not recognize any sounds besides clops. Everyone was now looking at Anfey, waiting for him to say something.
Anfey opened the curtain and went out of the carriage. His arrival startled Niya. "What's wrong?" Niya asked.
There was no time left for Anfey to respond to Niya. He stood up and looked back. There seemed to be some torches moving off in the distance. He knew that something wasn't right. Anfey sat down, thought for a while, and then said to Niya, "Pursuers are after us. Slow down a little. We will have to deal with them before we change direction."
Anfey was quite irritated. He was used to detailed action plans and really didn't appreciate the current situation that he had to play by ear. If he could go back in time and had more time to prepare, even if just one more day, there would be no way these chasers could find them.
As soon as Anfey finished his words, all of sudden, a blare of horns arose behind them. Niya's body trembled abruptly.
"Niya, are you ok?"
With desperation in her eyes, Niya exclaimed, "They are… the Flame Crusaders!"
These words meant nothing to Anfey, as he knew very little about this world. But soon he understood why Niya was so desperate. From the time Anfey looked back until now, within such a short time, those crusaders had almost caught up. Although Niya had slowed down the carriage to avoid potential accidents at Anfey's request, the fact that those knights could get close so quickly demonstrated their outstanding horsemanship.
What was more, the Flame Crusaders were now gathering their combat power. Anfey couldn't estimate their exact level, but undoubtedly, all seven of them were at least senior knights.
The knights rode past Anfey's group, stopped their rides, and formed a clear line about 20 meters ahead of the group. Niya was still in shock and forgot to control the carriage, but the horses sensed the danger and slowed down voluntarily, stopping six or seven meters away from the knights.
"Miss Niya, His Highness ordered us to bring you back." The chief knight spoke out.
"No! I won't go with you. Get out of my way! Now!" Niya was finally awoken from her daze, screaming aloud.
Christian and the others popped their heads out of the carriage and nervously stared at the soldiers.
"Forgive us, Miss Niya. We have to obey our orders, so you must come with us!" the knight responded. His tone was neither aggressive nor conciliatory.
"No way! I'd rather die here, then!" Niya shouted, pulling out her long sword.
The latter carriages had now arrived as well. Sante, Feller and the others all jumped out and were about to rush forward. Just then, they heard Anfey shout, "Go back to your carriages and stay there!"
Sante and Feller exchanged a look and returned to where they had been.
"Miss Niya, you were wrong. Please stop challenging our patience!" The lead knight started to get agitated.
"Pooh!" Zubin spat on the ground and got ready for a battle.
"Very nice. Your rudeness has done it." The knight sneered and gestured at his men. The other six crusaders moved as one man and pulled out something from the back of their horses, aiming to the front.
"A crossbow?!" Anfey's eyes were wide open, while Christian and the others turned pale. A crossbow was life threatening to mages at such a short distance. The speed of a crossbow was too fast for a mage to even cast an immediate spell. The problem was, crossbows were banned by the empire and no one should be allowed to use one. Why were these crusaders daring to publicly wield a crossbow?
"Miss Niya, your fellow will suffer due to your stubbornness," the Chief said coldly. "You have until the count of three to reconsider. One!"
Anfey felt Zubin reach his back and write two words there: "Earth Wall."
"Two!" the lead knight broke the silence and counted aloud again.
Around 60 meters away from the battlefield, a figure appeared out of nowhere. Under the light moonlight, one could tell this person was relatively young and quite handsome. He was the trusted mage of Prince Wester, Brufit. He quietly observed from far away and started to smile.
He could advise Wester and lead Wester to threaten Saul with Niya, but he could not let Niya die or be brought back to the Sacred City.
The original plan was ruined by Anfey. Brufit intended to rescue Niya from the palace after she was captured, so that he could win her trust. Then he would have his men accompany Niya back to Saul, and have her fill Saul in on what she had experienced. Furious, Saul would then be even more loyal to Granden. At that point, a civil war within Maho would be imminent.
Even though things did not happen as expected, it could still work. Brufit was not interested in women. His task could be completed as long as Niya returned to Saul.
"Three!" The chief finally launched the battle.
At the same time, Zubin threw a magic scroll out. An earth wall rose up and cut off the confrontation between the two sides. Anfey quickly dove onto the ground and began to charge forward while keeping himself low. As soon as the crusaders had released their arrows, Anfey would jump over the wall and start the fight.
Although his rivals were all very powerful, Anfey was still hopeful. He had three mighty mages on his side, one of whom was Christian, who partnered with Anfey perfectly. As long as the they utilized proper intervening magic, they still stood a good chance to win.
However, Anfey was shocked when he reached the wall, as was everyone else. Although they could not see beyond the earth wall, they could all sense the dramatic magic surge and the panic-stricken combat power.
A few moments later, the Earth Wall fell into shuddering elements and a terrifying scene was shown. All seven crusaders were dead, as were their rides. But the ways they were slaughtered were different. Some lost their heads by shaped blades, some were burned to ash, and others were turned into rotten flesh!
Brufit levitated and applied all the magic he could to fly back to the Sacred City. It was unbelievable! After he had cast a horror magic, Dead Bone's Touch, on these knights, a master swordsman also appeared in the middle of the battlefield and started attacking the same targets. Then, all of sudden, lava emerged and ended the bloodshed.
Brufit did figure out two things. First, that swordsman was short and thin, and most likely a woman. The one who cast the lava magic had to be a senior fire mage.
Second, the women and that fire mage were not together, because the woman was surprised and almost injured by the dual attack of Dead Bone's Touch and the lava.
Of course, they were not on his side either. But… who were they really? Brufit couldn't find a good explanation. He had used death magic, would this alert either of them? Did he expose himself by accident? Question after question flashed into his mind.