Levitation magic can treat city walls as if they don’t exist. The chief in the city had been dealing with the turmoil of the horrible death in Flaming Legion. It was just like Anfey anticipated: they did not chase after Anfey’s legion too closely because they did not quite understand the ability of Anfey’s team and did not want to have any unnecessary losses.
At dawn, they saw the outlines of the mountains in Forest Clarm. Everybody had a surprised and excited look on their faces. Since they the start of their escape, Forest Clarm had always been their destination. They had treated Forest Clarm as a dream land, peaceful and safe. Very few people were thinking about the dangers they might experience and the defense they had to plan in the forest. This was the job of their leader. Not everyone could be a leader. Everyone wanted to be a leader, but it was not an easy job indeed.
Anfey had a great deal of experience, what with all of the danger, mistakes, hesitations, and regrets he had faced as an assassin. He would not have been so mature without these negative experiences. He had never felt so tired before. This time, leading a group of escaping kids made him exhausted. The exhaustion was not physical, but mental.
Seeing Forest Clarm ahead, Anfey sighed in relief. Everybody was encouraged, flying towards it with full force. Right before arriving at Forest Clarm, kids had used up their magic power and landed on the ground one after another, sitting or laying everywhere.
"All stand up, and walk forward now!" Anfey yelled.
How many people failed right on the edge of success? Anfey knew that number was as many as the countless stars in the sky! On the brink of success, with hope right ahead of them, most people relaxed without knowing they were at the crucial moment!
"Anfey, everybody’s magic powers were used up. Let’s take a break," Christian tried to convince Anfey.
"No." Anfey was firm about it. "Without magic power, you still have legs! Everybody get up. We need to leave right now!"
"Everyone, follow Anfey’s order. Get up, get up," Zubin said loudly.
To better lead the legion, Anfey needed to choose a relatively mature assistant. After observation, Anfey chose Zubin. He even tested Zubin with some of his real purposes. It looked like he had chosen the right person. Zubin was mature compared to these kids. Zubin still felt uneasy when he saw at the beginning there could be a dark side. But after giving it some thought, he accepted the role and agreed with Anfey.
Everybody stood up unwillingly. Under Sante’s leadership, they wobbled into Forest Clarm. In fact, Anfey had the most energy, then Niya. She had been carried by Christian for the first half of the trip. Zubin and Sante took turns carrying Niya for the second half of the trip. She had not had to do anything to get to Forest Clarm.
Anfey wanted to try to fly on his own, but he did not know much levitation magic, so it would have been great if he could have just vertically departed and landed. It was too far away for him to fly.
Niya had a great deal of energy, but was disconsolate. She walked like a puppet, and tripped over stones and tree roots a few times when she was not even far into the forest. Christian had to follow her to catch her in time. To a mage, it was impossible to get lost, because even in cloudy or foggy weather, mages still could feel the moving elements in the air and find the source of light.
The group walked straight ahead into Forest Clarm. Anfey had been in physical training all year, but Christian and his companions rarely got the chance to train. They started to breath heavily before they even had walked far. Riska ran to Anfey from behind and said quietly, "Let us take a break. Look, everyone is exhausted."
Anfey looked at the people in front and behind him. He could not help shaking his head. "OK, Zubin, go and tell Sante to stop."
This was just the first hill, and they had only climbed half way anyway. Looking back, they even could see smoke from the kitchen in the village at the foot of the mountain. This area was not that much safer than the area outside the forest. Some of them had already crawled with both hands on the ground. Anfey had to make the decision to take a break.
Everyone cheered when they heard Anfey would let them rest. Some fell on the ground instantly, not even caring about the dew. Anfey had to act like a kindergarten teacher and ask a few people to get up and find a dry spot to rest. From the Taoist perspective, dew is water in its most negative form. People had an 80-90 percent chance of getting sick by sitting or sleeping on it. More than anything else, Anfey was afraid of them getting sick.
Niya quietly avoided everybody’s attention and found a corner to sit. She leaned against a tree trunk and curled up like a ball. Sante was passing around food, and everyone seemed to tug the food from his hands. They devoured large morsels of food. Only Niya shook her head and did not take any food. Sante held the food out to her again. Niya pushed the food away. Sante turned around without any attempt to comfort her. With peace and safety, many of the kids in the legion admired Niya in many ways. They felt she was cute even when she threw a temper tantrum. However, it was a different time now, and they were on the run. Everyone felt like they were under the gun. When Niya lost her temper, it seemed inappropriate.
"What happened? She did not eat?" Anfey asked Sante quietly.
"No, but it’s fine. She will ask for food when she is hungry," Sante shrugged.
"Give me two sausages. Let me talk to her."
Sante looked at Anfey weirdly, but he did not say anything. Sante took out two sausages and gave them to Anfey.
Anfey walked slowly toward Niya. When he got close to her, he realized why Sante’s look was so weird. Niya had clear fingerprints on her face, which could be attributed to Anfey. Of course, he had never learned cinnabar palm style martial arts, but he still slapped with too much force, which had the same effect as if he had used cinnabar palm. If Niya had a mirror, she probably would be even more furious. A women’s looks were her second life. Even regular women knew to take care of their looks, let alone pretty girls like Niya.
Seeing Anfey walking towards her, Niya looked nervous. In her memory, Anfey was the first one to have hit her, with a slap, which was even worse! Niya felt a barricade between her and everyone else. No one was willing to defer to her any more. Previously, she had felt that she was the center of the world. This change had made her feel left out. Anfey was a lot more powerful than her, and her father was not near her, which all made her scared of Anfey.
"You need to eat." Anfey passed the sausages to her. "We have to keep walking during the day. You will not be able to do it without eating anything."
Niya was in shock for a second, and then she took the sausages. She did not eat, and said quietly, like a mosquito humming, "I am not hungry."
"You have to eat even if you do not feel hungry." Anfey sat next to Niya, biting a sausage in half. He ate differently than the others. Anfey did not eat casing. He was worried about hygiene. Besides work hours, Anfey was very picky in life. He had been pushed by his fate and lost his pickiness by far.
"I …will eat later," Niya said quietly. She did not dare to treat Anfey as Sante had, smacking the sausages away. She could only act in a subtle way of non-cooperation.
"Why? Do you hate me?" Anfey smiled.
This time, Niya refused to answer him. She turned her head away.
"Let me tell you a story," Anfey started, but then was lost in thought for a little while. "A long time ago, I had a friend, a good friend. He was over ten years older than me. When I was ten, he was getting married. His fiancé was a nice woman with a bit of a temper, but a good heart. His fiancé had a …magic pet named Pug. That magic pet was cute."
"Pug? Why haven’t I heard of it before?"
Anfey smiled but did not answer her question. He continued his story. "One day, they took the magic pet out. They had a great time talking with each other, but forgot about the magic pet. The magic pet fell into the water. By the time they realized it, the magic pet had almost drowned."
"My friend’s fiancé was so worried that she jumped into the water to save her magic pet. However, she forgot she could not swim. My friend could not either, but…what should a man do in such case? Haha…He had to jump in without any hesitation. My friend used up all his energy to push his fiancé to the shore. He sunk to the bottom himself."
"Yes, he died," Anfey sighed. "What was more ridiculous was the magic pet crawled back to shore on its own, without any help. The magic pet cried to the fiancé on the shore."
"How could this happen? What happened to her?"
"Her? After my friend’s body was taken to shore, she choked her magic pet to death. She became crazy herself." Anfey went silent for awhile and said, "Niya, this story tells us that acting impulsively could cause others to pay! My friend’s fiancé and my friend were in love. If they had known the outcome, she would have never saved her magic pet! Alas…my friend’s fiancé passed away in sickness two months later. One impulsive action caused two people in love to die. Shouldn’t it give us some insight?"
Niya was so shocked that she could not come up with a single word.
"Niya, I am not against you helping others, but I hope you can think before you act. Your one impulsive act caused those two sisters’ deaths. Next time you act impulsively, any one of us could die. Do you want to see that happen?" Anfey wiped off his behind and stood up. "Niya, think about it. If you think I am right, you should eat the sausages. Keeping the energy is the most important thing right now. If you think I am wrong, if you really want to bring us trouble, then…do whatever you want."