Book 8, The Ten Thousand Kilometer Journey – Chapter 11, Hands
Under the glow of the campfires, everyone’s faces were half-lit, half-shadowed. The smell of blood still infested the area, but now, the men on both sides of the battle only stared in shock at that corpse that had been transformed into a pile of flesh and blood, then at Linley and the adamantine heavy sword he carried.
A combatant of the eighth rank had been killed in one sword stroke…
Was hard to believe!
“My brothers, let’s kill these bandits!” Big Beard Malone was the first to react, and he immediately shouted in excitement. “Kill these bastards and avenge our slain comrades!”
Hearing this roar by Big Beard Malone, all of the bandits woke up as well. Their leader, the One-Eyed Viper, McKinley, was killed in one stroke. Even if the mercenaries weren’t there, Linley alone could lay waste to them all with that heavy sword.
“Vengeance! Vengeance! Kill!” The mercenaries’ eyes were blazing as they were suddenly filled with confidence. One after another charged forward, weapons at the ready.
The bandits shouted loudly, as they all began to flee, forgetting everything else. The archers of the mercenary company immediately began to nock their bows. Staring coldly at the backs of the fleeing bandits, one sharp arrow was shot out after another. “Swish.” “Swish.” Six bandits were hit by arrows and fell to the ground.
In the blink of an eye, the seventy or so remaining bandits disappeared into the darkness.
The mercenary company didn’t engage in pursuit for too long, chasing after them for only a hundred or so meters before returning. After all, their prime responsibility was to protect the caravan.
The many merchants and travelers in the caravan all sighed in relief. But at this time, the faces of the mercenaries were quite ugly to behold, as they began to collect the corpses of the ten or so comrades who had died.
“Everyone, you can get back to your rest.” Malone said loudly.
Quite a few mercenaries had been wounded as well, and had to rest and be treated. Those hundreds of people in the caravan began to calm down, each returning to their own places. As long-time travelers, they often experienced such events, and wouldn’t be too shocked or concerned now.
One campfire after another was lit, and the ten or so mercenary corpses were buried within the desolate earth at the sides of the road. Mercenaries who lived by the edges of their blades could die at any time. And once they died, their bodies would all be buried thusly, with the other mercenaries at most bringing some keepsakes of theirs back home for them.
Leaning against a large tree by the roadside with the adamantine heavy sword on his back, Linley quietly watched everyone else.
“Lord Ley.” Many of the caravan merchants ran over, expressing their gratitude towards Linley. Many of them even wanted to give gold coins to Linley as a gift, but Linley respectfully declined them all.
“Brothers, a good journey to you!” Malone roared loudly.
All of the mercenaries present were standing in front of the graves. In unison, they bowed deeply towards the graves. In the lives of these mercenaries, death was a common occurrence. After paying their respects, all of them returned to their normal positions.
The captain of this mercenary company, Big Beard Malone, headed towards Linley with Luther and Lowndes alongside him. Very gratefully, he said, “Lord Ley, thank you. If it wasn’t for you, our mercenary company…” Malone fell silent, shaking his head.
“Ley, thank you so much for saving our mercenary company.” The young Luther said gratefully.
Linley’s initial warning to them as well as his assistance at the end had both been utterly invaluable in saving the mercenary company.
“No need.” Linley said with a calm laugh.
“Lord Ley, here is ten thousand gold coins.” Malone withdrew a magicrystal card from his pockets. “This magicrystal card is an un-bound one, and has ten thousand gold coins within it. Lord Ley, you must accept it. If it wasn’t for you, not only would our mercenary company have failed our mission, we most likely would’ve all died as well.”
Linley shook his head with a laugh.
“Ley, please accept it,” Lowndes immediately urged. Mercenaries were usually quite magnanimous. These people who spent their lives living by the edges of their blades generally held in high regard the codes of valor, brotherhood, and friendship.
“Do I look like someone who needs money to you?” Linley looked at the three of them.
Within his interspatial ring, Linley had twenty two magicrystal cards, each with 100 million gold coins. 2.2 billion gold coins! Even the Dawson Conglomerate wouldn’t be easily persuaded to bring out such a vast fortune at once.
Some of the clans in the Four Great Empires were very powerful and very wealthy, but no matter how powerful they were, they couldn’t compare to the wealth of a royal clan.
After all, those extremely large and powerful clans in the Four Great Empires still had to pay an enormous amount of taxes each year to the Emperor.
By comparison, the ruler of the Kingdom of Fenlai, compared to those major clans, had much more power in his own domain. The wealth that had been built up over thousands of years was a frightening sum indeed.
After hearing Linley’s words, Malone was briefly startled, but then didn’t press it. He didn’t dare to keep squabbling with a powerful combatant such as Linley. And in addition, it truly wasn’t easy for his mercenary company to make a living either.
“Captain Malone, go take care of your mercenaries. I see that quite a number of them suffered serious injuries.” Linley said.
“Then Lord Ley, I leave you to your rest. I’ll take my leave now.” Malone said respectfully. Powerful combatants were treated with respect no matter where they were.
The campfires blazed. Many of the people in the caravan weren’t able to fall asleep. Many of them hunched over campfires. Aside from a minority who had managed to fall asleep, most were talking about what had just happened. Every so often, glances would be sneaked towards Linley. Clearly, the topic of their conversation was Linley.
Right now, Linley was seated cross-legged, attuning himself to the vast, boundless earth, as well as the wind which spanned the skies.
After having spent three years training in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, Linley had learned quite a bit about the proper way of training. Both warriors and magi, in the end, had to learn how to understand and become attuned to nature.
For example, just now, both Linley and McKinley were warriors of the eighth rank.
But in terms of true understanding, McKinley was still on the most basic level of attack, while Linley had already reached the third level, and was able to ‘impose’ in battle. This ‘imposing power’ was the power to impose upon the heavens and the earth to constrain his enemies. When he struck out with his sword, he had disrupted the entire surrounding space.
The difference between the two of them was too great. For him to be killed in a single stroke wasn’t strange at all.
“If I had not trained within the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts and forgot about everything besides training for three years, no matter how long I stayed in Hess City, I probably wouldn’t have been able to rise to another level of understanding.” Linley mused to himself.
Many of the people in the caravan were discussing Linley, but Linley didn’t pay any attention to them as he quietly meditated.
“Ley, Lord Ley?” A nervous voice rang out next to Linley.
Hearing this voice, Linley turned around. It was that young nobleman, who was standing up as straight as a ramrod. Keane. A hint of a smile appeared on Linley’s face. “Keane. Right? What is it?”
Hearing Linley call him by his name, Keane felt very proud. He said quietly, “Lord Ley, I have a request.”
“Sit first, then talk.”
Linley’s attitude made Keane relax just a little, and he sat down next to Linley. His eyes filled with worship, he said to Linley, “Lord Ley, just then, your sword blow was so powerful. I’ve been bullied ever since I was a kid. I want to be a powerful warrior as well. Can you teach me?”
Linley was startled.
Warrior training wasn’t a matter of just a few days. It required many years of accumulated hard work, as well as good natural talent. It also required good instructors. Only when all three criteria were fulfilled could a powerful combatant be produced.
“That’s a bit difficult, and I don’t have enough time to train you.” Linley laughed.
Keane hurriedly nodded, waving his hands frantically. “No, Lord Ley, I don’t need to learn too much. I don’t need to be too powerful. I just want to learn that sword stroke you used just now. Just that one sword stroke.” As he spoke, Keane even pantomimed the actual sword blow.
“Just that one sword stroke?” Linley didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
Although that sword stroke of his had seemed easy, it had required over ten years of hard training as well as changes to both his mind and spirit. Only then was he able to understand this ‘impose’ level. Not even most warriors of the ninth rank were able to grasp any level of ‘impose’, much less those of the eighth rank.
According to the Baruch clan’s records, that ancestor who wielded the heavy warhammer, upon reaching the Saint-level, was still only capable of reaching the level of ‘wielding something heavy as though it were light’. Only after being at the Saint-level for more than ten years did the ancestor begin to understand how to ‘impose’.
Magi found it naturally easier than warriors to become one with nature.
For a pure warrior to truly understand and comprehend ‘impose’ was far more difficult than a dual-class combatant such as Linley, who was both magus and warrior.
“Is it very….very hard? I’m not afraid.” Keane said.
“Keane.” A gentle voice called out, and Jenne rushed over, dressed in light blue and holding some clothes in her hands. She said towards Keane with concern, “The night is growing cold. Bundle up.”
Keane pouted, shaking his head. “No.”
Jenne couldn’t help but frown, but there was nothing she could do.
Keane continued, “Big sis, look, Lord Ley is only wearing a thin shirt. I’m already wearing a lot, and you want me to wear even more?”
Linley couldn’t help but let out an unexpected laugh. This Keane was actually comparing himself to him? Even in the most freezing of winters, Linley wouldn’t feel cold, much less now.
“Keane, bundle up.” Linley said.
Linley’s words seemed to have more of an effect than Jenne’s. “Oh.” Keane accepted the clothes from Jenne, then put them on. Jenne gratefully looked at Linley. “Thank you, Lord Ley.”
Linley smiled and nodded.
As Jenne and Linley exchanged glances, Jenne immediately blushed red slightly.
But Linley, quite by accident, noticed Jenne’s hands. When he saw them, he was quite surprised. From what Linley could tell, Jenne was without question a young noble lady, but Jenne’s hands seemed rather coarse.
“Keane, don’t disturb Lord Ley for too long. Lord Ley needs to rest as well.” Jenne smiled apologetically towards Linley, and then she went back to her own carriage, face still slightly red.
Linley looked at Keane.
“Keane, does your sister often do chores at home?” Linley was very curious. Most noble ladies had hands that were extremely tender and soft. In terms of both bearing as well as clothing, Jenne was definitely a noble lady, but her hands…
Keane nodded. “Right. Lord Ley, you probably can’t tell from the way I’ve dressed, but I feel really awkward in these clothes. It’s been a long time since I’ve dressed this formally.” Keane tugged at his collar. “Actually, my sister and I were living in an ordinary mountain village. Only Grandpa Lambert was there to take care of us. Big sis usually had to do most of our family chores.”
“Oh?” Linley was beginning to grow curious. “But your sister’s demeanor doesn’t seem like that of an ordinary village girl.”
Keane nodded. “Of course. Our father was the governor of a prefecture-level city and had an exceedingly high social status. When we were young, we stayed in the governor’s mansion. But when I was six, my mother, my sister, and myself were forced out by our aunt. Thus, my mother took my sister and I back to her home. My big sis, when she was young, received all the education that a young noble lady should have, and when we left our father’s home, she was already ten. So she naturally continued to maintain the noble customs which had already become ingrained within her. But I was young, and my mother was never in good health. Grandpa Lambert couldn’t take care of both of us by himself, so big sis often had to do housework. Big sis can do anything!”
“I remember in the heart of winter, big sis’ hands had begun to split from the cold, but she’d still cook for me. I wanted to help, but she wouldn’t let me.” Keane bit his lips, eyes starting to turn red. “This time, when I take over the position of city governor, I definitely won’t let big sis do any more chores. I’m going to let a huge number of servants take care of sis.”
Hearing this story, Linley couldn’t help but admire this Jenne, who outwardly looked so fragile and so shy.
“You are going to take over the position of city governor? Didn’t your aunt expel you though?” Linley asked.
Keane didn’t hide anything. “At first, my aunt used every method available to her to make us leave, so as to guarantee that her son would be the next city governor. Unfortunately…that garbage son of hers did nothing but drink and fool around. Immediately after my father died, that piece of trash felt delighted as he had nothing to fear now, and became even more dissolute. From what I heard, not too long ago, he died in the arms of some woman. After he died, naturally the position of city governor falls to me.”
Keane looked at Linley with excitement. “Lord Ley, please teach me. Once I become city governor, I’ll definitely give you a really, really high position!”