Chapter 401: The alliance based on benefits
It didn’t take Han Shuo much effort to thoroughly understand the situation through the mystical demons snooping around. The one behind this hostility directed at Trunks and the Soul Destroyer was Florida of the Rainbow Sickle mercenary band. The other participants included the House of Menlo as well as Laureton of the Cairo mercenary band.
In this world, there was no eternal friends, only eternal benefits. These words had accurately summed up the situation!
In the past, when Laureton and Florida had been competing for power, Han Shuo and Trunks had sided with Laureton. The night Laureton had been surrounded by the four great powers in the small mountain valley, Han Shuo had even aided him to come out of it alive.
From that time, the Cairo mercenary band and Soul Destroyer mercenary band had close relations with Laureton and Trunks constantly cooperating. In the eyes of outsiders, the Cairo and Soul Destroyer mercenary bands had seemed to have formed an alliance.
However, with the Soul Destroyer rapid development in addition to Han Shuo's blazing reputation in the Lancelot Empire, it had pushed the Soul Destroyer mercenary band to become the fifth great power in the Valley of Sunshine. In the recent days, Trunks killing Butcher Gustav had caused the residents in the Valley of Sunshine to be alarmed. Laureton and Florida who were originally the two most promising contenders for the control over the Valley of Sunshine had finally realized that the situation was delicate.
When one's own interest was threatened, friendship and alliance were as fragile as the vows of politicians. Florida and Laureton immediately joined forces. Since Adam Menlo had been heavily injured by Han Shuo previously, he was extremely happy to also participate in this long-planned insidious scheme.
The result was Trunks being ambushed by Laureton and the rest while on the way back from Janet’s place and the mercenaries with him completely annihilated. Trunks himself had been captured alive and imprisoned in a hidden cave within the belly of a mountain valley. The major powers had all sent their experts to keep watch over him.
They didn’t immediately kill Trunks because although Laureton and the rest coveted the wealth of the Soul Destroyer mercenary band, they didn’t have much information on the detailed layout of the Soul Destroyer mercenary band's base. Therefore, they intended to get it from Trunks' own mouth before making their next move, which would also help decrease the losses on their side.
However, Trunks' tenacity was beyond their expectation. Under the rounds of torture and extortion, he still hadn’t revealed any information that they’d wanted. Hence, his body was tormented black and blue till he was on the verge of death.
Presently, in a mansion defended by the Cairo mercenary band within the Valley of Sunshine, the three powers were discussing when to launch their attack on the Soul Destroyer mercenary band. The Soul Destroyer mercenary band had existed in the Valley of Sunshine for a long time. Laureton and the others had long since known its exact location even without Trunks telling them.
Were it not for them not understanding how dangerous the terrain of that area truly was, they’d have already joined hands to wipe out the Soul Destroyer mercenary band, instead of waiting until now to make their move. In the past several days, the three powers had constantly sent people to that region to explore. They had clearly seen the defensive layout on the surface and were about to make a move in a few days.
The major powers in the Valley of Sunshine had been through repeated wars, from which all the parties had sustained a great loss in strength. After Han Shuo had killed light grand magus Ferguson, the relationship between Florida and the Church of Light had been somewhat frail. However, with the existence of the secret silver mine in this area, their relationship slowly stabilized again.
Because of Han Shuo, Calamity Church's dark archmage Edwin naturally wouldn’t deal with the Soul Destroyer mercenary band. The Calamity Church and Edwin had originally been cooperating with Laureton, but they had gradually drifted apart. Edwin had sought Trunks out a few times to offer his help, but Trunks had refused his goodwill.
Following Trunks' disappearance, the Calamity Church’s Edwin had actually made quite an effort to find out the truth of the situation. However, with the alliance of the three powers in the Valley of Sunshine and the Rainbow Sickle mercenary band being backed up by the Church of Light, Edwin didn’t dare to act rashly even though he knew the truth.
The twelve mystical demons had dispersed, scenes of what they see constantly being reflected in Han Shuo’s mind. His brain that’d been expanded by demonic magic methodically took in those images, analyzing the contents of speech and actions to gradually discover what was going on.
Finally, he found out the exact location where Trunks was imprisoned!
As dark dragon Gilbert floated in the sky above the Valley of Sunshine, puffs of white clouds drifted around him. The glorious sun shone down upon the entire mountain valley, causing even the pitch black body of the dark dragon to be glistening under the sunlight.
Sitting cross-legged on Gilbert’s back which was much wider than a horse carriage, Han Shuo had his eyes closed as he collected information. Suddenly, he slowly opened his bright eyes. As he glanced down at the lush forest within the Valley of Sunshine, his eyes became increasingly bright.
"I must quickly settle the problems in the Valley of Sunshine. My steps can’t just stop at this place!" Han Shuo murmured.
The matters of Brettel City, the seven grand duchies, the internal struggle in the Empire, the unceasing disturbances from the Church of Light, the secrets of the Cemetery of Death and the skeletal staff, the study of demonic magic and necromancy magic, the rivalry of the women. Too many matters were constantly piling up, waiting for him to handle. Han Shuo now had this feeling of wanting to be able to use the doppelganger technique.
Han Shuo’s increasingly heightened vision was proportionate to the growth in his ambitions and strength. Now that he looked at the various disturbances in the Valley of Sunshine, he felt that it wouldn’t be very hard to deal with all of them. From the time he learned that Trunks was captured, Han Shuo wanted to take care of all of the matters in the Valley of Sunshine in one go.
"Go, fly downward!" Han Shuo instructed dark dragon Gilbert, showing him the exact location.
"Master, you’ve found Trunks?" Seeing that Han Shuo, who’d closed his eyes and been silent for a long time in the air, suddenly pointing out a location for him, Gilbert couldn’t help but ask suspiciously.
"Of course, the direction we’re heading is where Trunks is held." Han Shuo replied before urging, "Alright, hurry up a little!"
In the depths of a dark, gloomy mountain cave, thunder archmage Asa was still tirelessly torturing Trunks. Trunks had been roaring in madness, but after the violent electric currents had pierced through his body in addition to Asa pressing a burning red iron piece on his body, Trunks couldn’t bear it anymore and had fallen unconscious.
However, Asa clearly had no intention of letting Trunks get off easy. Every time Trunks passed out, Asa would be sure to ruthlessly woke him up. After a few rounds, Trunks was on his dying breath and no longer had the strength to roar anymore. His unfocused eyes carried a deep-rooted hatred as he calmly glared at Asa, his eyes containing a light which frightened Asa.
Asa's guilty conscience churned in fear of Trunks' deep-rooted enmity. However, this feeling of guilt quickly turned into even more insane torturing as the burning red iron once again pressed upon Trunks' chest. Trunks could only stretch his mouth wide in agony, not even letting out a single groan. His face twisted into a terrifyingly savage expression like a demon from stepping out from the eighteenth level of hell.
"Lord Asa, you should stop now, or he might die!" A swordsman named Trulla came over with a frown, reaching his hand out to forcefully seize the burning iron which Asa had been clutching tightly.
Asa's face darkened, he glared at Trulla and said in a displeased manner, "Trulla, my matters isn't something your House of Menlo can care about!"
"I have no interest in caring about you, but Trunks' life is to be kept. This is the decision agreed by all three leaders. No matter how you tortured Trunks, I have no problem as long as he doesn’t die. But if you kill him, we will have to bear the blame of negligence. Do not cause troubles for us!" Trulla wasn't afraid of Asa, placing the iron in its original place as he said coldly.
Some of the injuries on Trunks' body were starting to rot, there was even pus flowing from his neck and chest. Trulla who standing nearby involuntarily covered his mouth when he smelled the nauseating smell, disgusted as he fanned with his hand, "F*ck. You can still stand it?! Forget about it for today. Wait until his body gets better before toying with him again. Otherwise, everyone will object."
As Trulla said this, he had already lost his patience and walked out. A few members of the Cairo mercenary band looked at Asa in annoyance. One person chimed in, "Asa, your Florida has also agreed. You’d better be more content, don’t break the rules."
The others people in the mountain cave all revealed an annoyed expression. Even the members of the Rainbow Sickle mercenary band who were stationed here with Asa also persuaded him to not make a fuss. Thinking for a while, Asa turned his head to glance at the unconscious Trunks who was on the verge of death, the fury in his heart subsiding a little.
With that many people dissuading him, Asa also didn’t dare to recklessly act on his own accord, so as to avoid rousing the anger of others. He understood that his position in the Rainbow Sickle mercenary band was no longer as firm due to the death of his father Gustav. What was more loathsome was that the bandit group had split up after his father died and simply didn’t remain under him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have had to stay in the Rainbow Sickle mercenary band and suffered humiliation.
While Asa was drowned in hatred, sounds of heavy steps resounded from the outside. The sounds were very faint at first, gradually becoming clearer.
"Who is it?" The still unhappy Asa shouted loudly, "Since you’ve already come, don't you know to report your name?"
The sounds of footsteps were still approached slowly. However, the person didn’t respond. Asa couldn’t help but curse again, "F*ck, are you mute? Don't you know how to speak?"
"Something’s not right!" Trulla frowned, suddenly taking out a long sword as he said to the people next to him.
"Only we know about this place, what can go wrong? You’re overly suspicious. Don't those fellows always deliver our food at this time? It must be them!" Asa took this opportunity to say a few words to Trulla.
The footsteps were still approaching. The sound of each step contained a strange rhythm, giving rise to a sense of terror in people’s hearts. It was as if a demon was slowly nearing, its ghastly huge mouth hidden within the darkness, ready to bite into your neck at any moment.
Trulla threw a disdainful glance at Asa, thinking that this bandit's son was indeed not a true mercenary. Be it Cairo mercenary band or the House of Menlo, they were both strict and well-disciplined organizations. There would absolutely not be such a conduct of coming without giving a signal.
"Brothers, be a little careful. The situation is a bit strange!" Trulla tightly grasped his long sword and warned the people on his side.
Some experienced mercenaries from the Cairo mercenary band didn’t need Trulla's reminder and had already gathered together cautiously. Even Asa's group from the Rainbow Sickle mercenary band had also clearly separated from the other two powers.
At this critical moment, as the three powers had only joined forces for profit, they still only trusted their own people rather than the fake allies who reluctantly cooperated for the sake of benefits. The Valley of Sunshine was precisely such a place. They were enemies, be it past or future. However, they currently stood together peacefully in the face of a common enemy.
Tap… tap… The footsteps were getting closer, becoming clearer!
Trulla glanced at the fire adept mage next to him and said, "Cast a flame!"
When that fire adept mage heard Trulla's order, a fire snake meandered its way into the passage, the brown-gray wall could be seen clearly when it glided through.
At this point, even Asa knew that something was wrong. He stared raptly at the only entrance. The members of the Cairo mercenary band had a tacit understanding among themselves as they formed a square formation, ready to face the incoming person's attacks at any moment.
While everyone was focusing their attention on the only tunnel, a string of clear, crisp sounds suddenly rang out from Trunks' location behind their backs. All of them who had their eyes glued on the tunnel turned around to look when they suddenly heard such loud sounds breaking the silence.
Right next to Trunks was Han Shuo with the Demonslayer Edge in hand and a darkened expression as he cut off the iron chains on Trunks' body. The durable iron chains which were made from the recently mined mithril broke apart with each crisp sound. The slender chain piercing through Trunks' shoulder blade was also carefully taken out by Han Shuo.
Trulla’s group who had suddenly turned around didn't know how Han Shuo got in. There was only one tunnel which they heard the sound of footsteps from within the cave and they’d all placed their full attention there. Yet, they really hadn’t seen anyone coming in from the tunnel!
However, Han Shuo had indeed suddenly appeared out of thin air, as if he’d been standing there all along. His sudden arrival was in such an eerie way that it gave people an extremely vexed feeling.
Seeing the gloomy-faced Han Shuo appear, all of the people keeping watch on Trunks inside the mountain cave felt their hearts tremble momentarily. They saw that Han Shuo had acted as if he didn’t see them and only focused on breaking Trunks' shackles with a dark expression. Unknowingly, a feeling of terror couldn’t help but gradually form from the bottom of their hearts.
Although Han Shuo hadn’t been present in the Valley of Sunshine, stories of him were always spreading around the Valley. The people in the mountain cave, including Asa and Trulla, were all experts of the three powers. Not only did they know of Han Shuo, some of them had once witnessed with their own eyes Han Shuo's actions.
Presently in this narrow belly of the mountain, Han Shuo had noiselessly appeared like a ghost, only silently removing Trunks' shackles. The invisible suppression was as heavy as a mountain, causing palpitations as they grew flustered.
Asa's lips were dry. He once had his hand chopped off by Han Shuo. At that time in the mountain valley, he had witnessed Han Shuo's every blow as he struck Ferguson to death. When Han Shuo left, the stories of him didn’t disappear and were instead spread throughout the Valley of Sunshine by the mercenaries who traveled extensively. In particular, the deed of Han Shuo beheading the dragon knight Celt was even more rapidly exaggerated.
Asa knew full well the relationship between Han Shuo and Trunks. He watched as Han Shuo worked on removing the bindings of the dying Trunks with a somber countenance, an icy cold chill abruptly spreading through his entire body. Asa's mind spun rapidly and he suddenly came to a very wise decision after watching Han Shuo for only a dozen seconds.
Whoosh! Asa was the first to rush into the tunnel to leave the cave, fleeing without a fight!
"Damned bastard!" Trulla turned to take a quick look, lowly cursing at Asa's shameless cowardice. Shortly after, he also felt a bit terrified, tightly gripping the long sword in his hand as he put on a strong front and looked coldly at Han Shuo, "Count Bryan, this has nothing to do with you. You can’t dictate the matters in our Valley of Sunshine. If you leave now, we won’t stop you. Otherwise…"
"Ah? Asa, why do you already returned?" Not waiting for Trulla to finish, the fire archmage next to him suddenly cried out in surprise.
Trulla was stunned. He didn’t rebuke the underling for cutting off on the threat that he’d summoned his courage to say. Trulla promptly turned around to see Asa having a bitter expression as he really returned step by step. Tap, tap… The footsteps in the cave still echoed within everyone's hearts and actually became heavier!