"Anfey, what did you do last night?" Christian laughed.
"Nothing. Just walked around." Anfey rubbed his arm while he answered. That woman was quite powerful! It was a good thing that Anfey was strong. If it had been another person from the group, he or she might have been seriously injured.
"Come on! Let’s eat," Feller said and started getting the food ready.
"Feller, how much food do we have?" Anfey asked.
"The way we have been consuming food…We have about seven to ten days’ worth of food," Feller said.
"Um…Sounds good," Anfey nodded. "Listen! I don’t think this valley is the place for us. How about we go somewhere else? Thoughts?"
Everyone looked at each other. The group liked this valley, so they wanted to stay here for a while. Although Anfey didn’t tell them the reason, they had learned to trust each other after all these recent experiences. They knew they had to trust Anfey, even though his idea came as a surprise. No one questioned him. Instead, everyone nodded and agreed.
Anfey was embarrassed. He had prepared a few excuses to deal with questions. He couldn’t use them now. He thought carefully about what had happened. His gut told him that those two girls were in the same situation. They were also being chased! Under such circumstance, he would rather not stay near them. Anfey had no way to find out how those girls ended up here. However, if they left any clues for their enemy, they would be found shortly. That could put Anfey’s group in big trouble. Another important reason was Anfey’s mistake… If possible, Anfey hoped that he would never see them again.
Anfey nodded, "Okay. Let’s eat, take a break and meditate. I will stay outside to protect you all. At noon, Blavi, Riska, Zubin and Sanchez, you guys go separately in four directions to see if you can find a spot for us to stay. We can stay here for one more day and move tomorrow."
"There is a pond ahead. Anyone who wants a bath can get one there," Zubin offered.
"Fantastic! I stink!" Feller giggled.
"Where is it?" Blavi was excited. As mages, they could use magic power to make enough water for simple washing. However, it was almost impossible to form a small pond for a bath because it took too much magic power. There was only limited water element in the air. The more water that needed to be collected, the more magic power it would consume. It was truly a blessing to have a natural pond for a bath.
"Ahead of us. Walk along the grass," Zubin smiled.
"How about me?" Niya interrupted, "I also want to…"
The group was silent. Although they were teammates, they were embarrassed by Niya’s question. They were at a sensitive age, and they had just started to be attracted to the opposite sex. Now that Niya, a girl, was asking to take a bath, it was quite tricky.
"You may go when everyone else is done," Anfey said.
"Okay…" Niya bit her lip with reluctance. Anfey was being very inconsiderate to have her, a lady, bathe after a group of men.
Anfey tried to treat everyone fairly. He would not even give himself any privileges. As long as the group was safe, he did not care about what people did. If Niya wanted to bathe with the group, he would not stop it. When the group started meditation, Anfey stepped out of the cave and started practicing his swordsmanship. He tried to hide his exquisite sword skills; however, practice makes perfect, and vice versa. If he didn’t practice for a long time, he might lose his skills. If anyone questioned him, he could tell them about the weird old guy from the Ben Laden Village.
Still water runs deep. When a swordsman reaches an extremely high level, it would not be easy for a normal person to notice. However, this was not all true. If there was a huge gap in strength between two opponents, exquisite swordsmanship was useless. If the two opponents were about at the same level, skills became crucial. If one was holding a heavy sword without a sharp blade and the other had a magic weapon that cut through copper and iron, the outcome would be clear! For Anfey, Ernest's swordsmanship could be described as a big deal. Even if his opponent’s attack was faster and more clever, Ernest could always avoid or block the attack at the last second. What if Anfey had the same fighting power as Ernest?
Anfey was confident with his martial arts ability. His practice came in four stages: practice of movement, practice of breathing, practice of spirit, and practice of perfection. He had passed the first two stages and was entering the third one.
After one set of practice, Anfey sat on the ground with his legs crossed and started to adjust his breathing. Anfey’s method for adjusting his breathing was very special. He could practice anywhere. However, it was best to practice with legs crossed. If an enemy came, he could jump up immediately and not worry about hurting himself.
Niya was bored in the cave when everyone was meditating. No one talked to her. She walked out of the cave and sat down about ten meters from Anfey. She was staring at Anfey with curiosity while she was playing with some grass. She as least knew that she should not bother others when they were meditating! Niya was being good.
"What are you looking at?" Anfey initiated the conversation. When he was adjusting his breath, he was very sensitive. He felt that Niya was looking at his face.
"What are you doing?" Niya asked.
"I am meditating."
"Liar…You always lie!"
"I’ve…never lied to you, have I?" Anfey was uncertain.
"What do you think?"
Anfey smiled and didn’t say anything.
"Anfey, thank you," Niya said.
"Me? Why?" Anfey was confused.
"I was thinking over what you said yesterday. You were correct! If we turn to my Father now, it would bring him a lot of trouble. I am so touched that you were being considerate and brave," Niya said slowly. "Thank you for thinking about my Father."
Anfey was embossed. He giggled after a little while. "Niya, how come you are so nice today? That’s surprising!"
"Did you mean… I wasn’t nice before?!" Niya was upset and looked at Anfey with anger.
"I didn’t mean anything bad. Please don’t misunderstand me," Anfey shook his head with a smile.
"Ugh…" Niya sighed, bowed her head immediately and said sorrowfully, "Maybe… I wasn’t being nice… Since I could remember, I was a troublemaker for my dad. Now I have grown up, but Father got old. I should learn how to take care of him!" Anfey smiled and listened to Niya quietly.
"Anfey, was I bad before?" Niya asked gently, and then she immediately encouraged herself. "It doesn’t matter. I will try my best from now on. I want to make my Father proud! Do you believe in me?"
It was human nature. Once you had learned to think, you would enjoy it. People got mature slowly by thinking. Everyone's words had deeply touched Niya yesterday. As students, they were all willing to share the responsibility to protect Master. She, as the daughter of the Master, should step up as well.
"Of course I believe in you!" Anfey responded affirmatively.
"I wonder what Father is doing now. Maybe…he is worried about us." Niya started staring at the cloud.
"So, if we don’t want to disappoint him, we need to be mature. We should at least be able to protect ourselves." Anfey grasped the chance without hesitation. It was his job to educate the younger students. It had become natural.
"I know," Niya nodded and chuckled. "Continue your practice. I won’t bother you anymore. I will practice with my sword as well."
Niya was a go-getter. She walked to one side, pulled out her sword and yelled "Ah." There was a fainted red light coming from her body, which was her fighting power. The fighting power was not like a colorful painting. It consisted mostly of red and white. Before reaching the exquisite level, most swordsmen would go through a bottleneck period. If they kept pushing through this period of slower growth, their fighting power would become more and more powerful. The color would turn from red to white.
Anfey patted his forehead. How could he meditate while she was making such weird noises? He also had no confidence in Niya. What if the sword got out of her hand and hurt him?
Niya felt that Anfey’s eyes land on her. She turned her head and laughed. "Anfey, do you want to compete with me?"
"Never mind," Anfey waved his hand. He didn’t want to discourage her, since he could easily beat someone as green as her.
"What? Do you look down on me? I know you are way better!" Niya pouted.
When it came to this point, Anfey really had no way out. He slowly stood up. "Very well. Let’s go."