Lorist felt as if he was afloat in the sky, free and unrestrained. He was a light and swift feather floating in the wind...
The ground was right in front of him and it seemed rather familiar, just like the maps he had pondered upon in the past.
Lorist quickly realized something and thought, isn't this the Northlands?
The land before him moved quickly. It didn't take long for him to arrive at the dominion of his family. There was the Salus Settlement, Firmrock Castle, Felicitas Settlement, and the various small factories and workshops, as well as the black iron refinery base which he named the Ironforge Castle, and Windstorm City, the main military equipment production base within the dominion.
At that moment, it was as if Lorist had turned into a bird, flying high in the skies and looking down at his own dominion. He traveled along the Bladedge Mountains and could see the Nico Academy, which was still under construction. Telesti could be seen inspecting some blueprints with her maidservant, Vinny, hugging little Olijess and humming her a relaxing tune. Lorist later passed above Maplewoods Bastide and saw his chubby and energetic son Waldbeck naughtily playing hide-and-seek with Irina.
After that, Lorist passed by Poplar Town and Blackmud Marsh, managing to take a look at the busily working soldiers, as well as the hectic shipyard. Be it the navy camp, the port, the endless seas -- which raged with fierce waves -- or a small fleet of six whaling boats that were riding the winds, Lorist could see it all.
It didn't take long before Lorist realized that he was back in the skies above Silowas Island. The mist of dawn that covered the island made it seem ever so calm and peaceful. The island was no doubt a precious treasure that the oceans had to offer.
This island is part of my family dominion. I will not allow anyone to take it away.
What made Lorist wonder was, no matter where he flew, there would always be a small, red dot following him on the ground. The dot sped up and slowed down in lockstep with him. In the end, Lorist could no longer resist his curiosity and decided to fly to the ground to check out what that red dot was.
The ground enlarged as he approached it. He landed on the ground lightly and eyed the little red mark. It was almost as big as a basketball. It wasn't the least bit eye-catching, and seemed like nothing but a small bloodstain.
Lorist stretched his leg and put it into the red mark. All of a sudden, nothing but red flashed before his eyes until the whole world around him seemed tinted with the familiar blood-red color. The blood-red color expanded around him at breakneck speed. Anything the color touched became part of the blood-red world he was in.
Within that blood-colored world Lorist felt like a fish in water; he was free to swim around as he pleased. Not a single being in that blood-colored world, be it the hibernating snakes, the burrowing rats, the hard-working ants that were moving food, or any plant, down to the smallest stalk of grass, not a single one of them nor their movements could escape Lorist's awareness.
A sickly-sweet stench permeated the air around him...
Lorist breathed in deeply, and could tell that the scent was one that he would detect when he was slaughtering away. The cries and curses of the slaughtered enemies crescendoed into a symphony of war. The hum of the song that rang out eternally within the blood-colored world made one's blood boil.
In this blood-colored world, I am sovereign! thought Lorist excitedly.
At the same time, he felt incredibly fatigued. After a while, the blood-colored world began to fade. The blood-colored tint receded around him gradually, until it gathered up into a basketball-sized blob around Lorist's feet. Eventually it fused with Lorist himself.
Lorist opened his eyes. He found himself in his cabin on the Flying Fish of Dawn. He turned to look at the right side of the cabin and saw that Howard wasn't on his bed. The light of dawn that shone through the round window of the cabin indicated that the sky was already brightening.
After he ascertained that nothing was out of place, Lorist closed his eyes and began circulating his internal energy to inspect his internal condition. When he finished a minor cycle, he found that his body's condition was in normal. He felt incredibly invigorated; in fact, he felt far more energetic than usual.
Lorist put both his hands behind his head and laid down to feel the light swaying of the ship caused by the waves as he began to recount what had happened to him.
It was as if he had entered a frenzied, demonic state, when he boarded the three large-class three-masted merchant vessels and killed everyone there. Even the old blademaster dressed in brown was no exception. In the end, he was awakened by Els's shouting. But when he attempted to return, he lost consciousness.
Given that he was on the Flying Fish of Dawn, it was apparent that Els, or someone else, had hauled him back on board. Lorist could hear the familiar sounds of the marines, guards and Captain Wilson above the cabin. He could tell that the Flying Fish of Dawn had already escaped from the encirclement of the other ships and was heading for Silowas Island. However, he didn't know how long he had passed out for.
What intrigued Lorist was how he entered that berserk state in the first place when he got onto the three-masted merchant vessel. It was as if the whole world around him had turned blood red. In that world, he couldn't see the faces of others clearly. All he saw was fumbling red humanoid figures that moved around in a laughably obvious and slow manner, just like puppets that were suspended on strings.
Due to Lorist's dynamic vision ability, he had always been able to see each move of his enemy clearly. When Lorist was in the blood-colored world, the enemy had moved just as slow. However, what differed from usual was how he felt that he had entered a completely different realm. The world had turned blood red, and not a single move made by his enemies, regardless of whether they were in front of behind him or not, as long as they were on that three-masted ship, escaped Lorist's senses.
Taking their lives was as simple as raising his hand. Lorist could still recall how he felt at that moment. He had turned into an unfeeling robot that never tired. No matter how badly the red humanoid figures begged or turned tails to run, Lorist would harvest their lives without a single shred of emotion passing across his face. Some of them, those who had jumped into the ocean for their lives, still managed to be killed by the javelins thrown by Lorist.
And why did I have that weird dream after I passed out?
'People thought during the day and dreamed during the night.' Lorist felt that the saying he heard from his past life made a lot of sense. In his dream, he saw his family dominion and loved ones, possibly a sign that he missed them dearly as well as his dedication to protect them as best he could.
But why did he see that blood-colored world again at the end of that dream? Also, why did he feel that he was the ultimate sovereign of that world?
Lorist started when he suddenly recalled the final words of the brown-clad blademaster he had killed. He mentioned something along the lines of a Sword Saint's domain. Perhaps, he wasn't bringing up a Sword Saint-ally in desperation in hopes to be spared, and was instead referring to the blood-red color he saw? Was that realm of freedom and debauchery actually the domain of a Sword Saint?
Forget it, Lorist thought.
He found it hard to believe that he could become a Sword Saint that easily. It was practically impossible.
Even though Lorist was training in the Aquametal Technique from his past life using battleforce, he wasn't willing to believe that he could break through to the next realm that easily. That was especially the case given how he still didn't know how to progress in his training at the Dark Stage. It was mainly because he didn't have any other reference and didn't truly understand how the mythical Transformative Stage of his technique would look like, nor how he should train in order to progress to that stage.
Before he was involved in the assassination attempt by blademaster Zarinan, Lorist's combat ability could only compare to a rank 2 blademaster. That was because he was able to fight to a stalemate with blademaster Xanthi. But when blademaster Zarinan attacked, Lorist realized that his skills weren't of much use at all against the blademaster who was known to be a quasi-Sword Saint, causing many of the lives of the soldiers of his house that attempted to save him to be sacrificed. Additionally, Josk and Potterfang were heavily injured, and more than ten Silver ranked knights and upwards of 400 other brave and loyal soldiers had to give their lives heroically in order to save him.
Even though Reidy managed to save his life, he later lost his memories. In the end, Lorist had fallen into the hands of the mountain barbarians because of his injuries, and experienced the worst kind of humiliation ever to happen to him, in both his lives. When Lorist recovered, he resolved himself to train his swordsmanship and internal energy painstakingly. Even after returning to the dominion, he did not let up and found time to train even on the busiest days. Lorist was determined to never be on the receiving end of another assassination attempt.
It's impossible... It's only been a little more than one year since then. There's no way that I could've become a Sword Saint already. At most, I'm only at the level of a rank 3 blademaster. And even if I become a Sword Saint, my domain should be snowstorm, or some other frost-based phenomenon, right? What is with the blood-colored world?
Viscount Kristoph, who was a rank 1 blademaster, had said that when he first sparred with Lorist, he was still able to receive more than 100 strikes. Each following spar, however, he found that he lasted for shorter and shorter periods of time, until he wasn't even able to resist 40 strikes. It got so bad that Viscount Kristoph felt it was too embarrassing and refused to accept Lorist's challenges anymore.
He had complained that it wasn't because of Lorist's swift strikes that he lost. Instead, every time he received a strike from Lorist, he felt a sudden, unbearable, icy chill. Given that his battleforce was of the water attribute, it was perfectly countered by cold chills like that, and it didn't take long until he wasn't able to continue fighting. That was the reason he felt that if Lorist ever became a Sword Saint, his domain would be based on the same frost attribute.
When he made a visit to Dawn Academy recently, Instructor Claude felt pumped and insisted that he wanted to give Lorist pointers in swordsmanship. He said that he would break through to become a rank 2 blademaster soon, perhaps no more than seven years of training still had to be done. Lorist couldn't refuse him, so he reluctantly accepted the duel. As Instructor Claude's battleforce attribute was fire, he was able to last a little bit longer, but not more than 80 strikes.
That was the reason Lorist believed himself to be equivalent to a rank 3 blademaster instead of a Sword Saint. If the latter were the case, he would've taken care of a rank 1 blademaster like instructor Claude in a dozen strikes.
Still, what is the matter with the blood-colored world? If that was a result of my killing frenzy, then why did I dream about it? The feeling of absolute control over the environment is so unique that it's incredibly hard to describe. It's like I'm somehow addicted to it and unable to forget it.
Lorist sat up straight, and circulated a major cycle. After ensuring that nothing was wrong with his body, Lorist felt rather incredible.
When he opened his eyes, he saw a shocked Howard standing before him. "Milord, you've been asleep for two days and nights, but you're finally awake now. I didn't want to interrupt you when you were training just now. Are you alright?"
"Hehe, I'm fine. I feel great, even. But I'm a little hungry," said Lorist.
The deck of the ship was a big mess. A dozen injured soldiers wrapped up like mummies were basking in the sun. The moment they saw Lorist, the cried out with surprise, "Milord..."
"Milord, you're awake!"
Lorist nodded to answer their calls before heading to the helm of the ship. There, he saw Captain Wilson with one arm wrapped up as he steered the ship.
"You got hurt?"
"Yes, milord. I got hit by an arrow accidentally..."
"Why are you steering with your injuries? Where's Old Jack?"
Wilson lowered his head and said, "Old Jack is no more. When we were retreating, he got hit by a crossbow bolt and died on the spot."
Lorist stayed silent in solemnity as he took the wheel for himself. "Let me do it. Tell me how you guys managed to break out of encirclement when I was unconscious."
"Milord, back when you boarded the three-masted ship, the enemies just kept rushing at you, causing us to worry so much. However, we didn't think you'd be able to unleash the beast and kill off all our cursed enemies without even leaving their armor intact. Milord, you seemed like you were having an easy time killing them. Both the we, who were witnessing the scene, and the enemy were completely stunned.
"Only Sir Josk was still alert and reminded us to use the opportunity to push away the two middle-class ships sticking to us and remove the chains, allowing us to escape. By then, you had already killed off all the enemies on the ship, and were laughing maniacally with an old man's head in your hand. That laughter of yours was so cold that it gives me goosebumps even though I'm only talking about it...
"At that time, the whole sea was devoid of noise. The enemy was completely frightened. Sir Josk said that at that moment, your eyes were red, and that you had entered a demonic state and was unable to differentiate friend from foe. Sir Els could only shout at you from afar. It was fortunate that you were conscious back then and turned back after hearing Els shout. That was when we stopped worrying.
"But right at that moment, you collapsed unmoving on the deck. Sir Els then rushed to your side and hauled you back while we hurriedly set sail. At the same time, the enemy began to act when you fainted and fired their ranged weapons at us. Fortunately, we were still trapped between two ships, which helped us take most of the fire before they were set aflame. The smoke from the flames shielded us while we retreated.
"It was only after we left the two ships that we received a critical blow. The other large-class three-masted merchant vessel fired a large number of flaming ball projectiles and crossbow bolts at us. Old Jack was steering the ship at that time. One of the fire balls fell at the front most mast and it began to catch fire. I took care of it by having our naval soldiers hack the mast down under enemy fire. To tossed the mast into the sea. When I called out to Old Jack, there was no response. It was only after I got to the helm that I found him nailed to the helm by a crossbow bolt, dead.
"Due to losing one of our masts, we traveled at a much slower speed. Our enemy's ship was able to catch up after spending quite a while cutting away at the chains. But Sir Josk revealed his skills in the end, and shot down the masts of the enemy ship with only three arrows, before shooting at the middle mast's upper section, causing the ship to lag behind us. The enemy stopped pursuing us after that," Captain Wilson described the situation in detail.
"How many men did we lose?"
Wilson laughed bitterly and said, "Only 7 of our 28 sailors remain, with 13 out of commission, and 8 dead. 3 of your 10 guards died, with 5 others injured. Of the 5 steel ballista shooters, 2 were injured. However, our guests are fine. Apart from Old Jack, the rest are still here..."
"What about Josk and Els?"
"Sir Josk said that he was incredibly tired and has been sleeping for a day and night without waking. Sir Els was on duty for the whole night yesterday and just went to get some rest. Milord, it was fortunate that you regained consciousness. The speed the ship is traveling at is lesser than 6 knots right now. We're just about to enter the Sea of Grief and I'm worried that we'll be robbed. We're incredibly short-handed right now, with most of us injured. If we truly were to encounter the pirates, there's no way we can resist," Captain Wilson warned Lorist in a serious manner.
Lorist smiled and said, "Alright, don't worry. You'll have yourself some good sailors and ships soon."