Hallway stretched flat, surrounded on both sides by rooms, encompassed wholly in silence. The only source of light was a bay window at the far end through which a few faint traces of moonlight touched the floorboards, yet not much else. Just beyond the reach of the moon’s rays were a few shadows pressed tightly against the wall, inching closer in complete silence. In total there were six, three on each side, masked in black with leather-armored chests and legs as well as shoulder pads.
The six figures suddenly stopped as the foremost one rose its hand flat into the air; they bounded nearly to the edge, all focused solely on the single door with a clearly etched number in the upper center: 11. It was spectacularly unremarkable door, just like any other along the floor, yet it meant to them more than all others combined.
The foremost figure heaved up onto its feet followed closely by the rest as they slowly encircled the door, still making no sound. Two figures flashed their arms forward whereupon two greatswords appeared within their hands, held up straight, while the rest withdrew slightly back from the door. At the leading figure’s signal, the two who held the swords let go of their inhibitions and drew a full, downward arc across the doors, interrupting the hollow silence.
Splinters flew in droves around and sound of the cracked wood bellowed out through the hall startling many who’d heard it. One of them was a young man within the room itself who immediately jumped onto his feet and almost instinctively bound over the bed that was closer to the door. Just as he arrived there he saw four shadows meld into the room like smoke and begin their encirclement.
Although confused, Felix didn’t think much; he perceived it all as an ambush and acted accordingly. As a First Son of a man who’d spent most of his life on the battlefield, Felix was taught not only combat but military tactic since early age. Quickly assessing his situation, he realized stiff confinement of the room was to his disadvantage as he was outnumbered, making it easier for one of his enemies to venture into his blind spot.
The moment he came to that conclusion he clasped his hands together whereupon a bright flash of cyan erupted from the darkness, molding into a shape of a massive, glacial sword. Felix swung it sideways over the bed, causing a flash of frigid light to blast outwardly, crashing against the opposite wall and blowing it to smithereens. Due to sudden action, one of the figures was caught unaware and was dragged outside by a sudden pull. In panic, however, he also retaliated, sending a blindingly bright sphere of crimson light the size of a fist at Felix who didn’t have a chance to repel it entirely, but only to block it using the glacial sword.
The collision led to another explosion upon which Felix found himself scaling the sky in an arc, blasted out of the room. His eyes immediately began dancing around, trying to locate a figure. However, fear and anxiety assailed his heart when he was unable to do it. Just then, however, before falling flat to the ground while being distracted by his thoughts, he felt a gentle touch which repelled the downward force of his fall and allowed him to land gently, jolting him back to reality as well. Felix looked sideways and immediately sighed in relief as he saw his Master standing there, seeming completely unharmed.
“Master... I’m glad you’re okay!” Felix immediately exclaimed as he jumped forward in front of Lino.
“What are you doing?” Lino asked, tilting his head slightly.
“... I can protect myself, though.”
“That doesn’t matter! Disciples always ought to protect their Masters. It’s the creed of the relationship.”
“It’s a dumb creed. I’m stronger than you. You’ll just get yourself killed.” Lino said, rolling his eyes.
“... dying in an attempt to protect my Master... that doesn’t sound so bad...” while Felix was indulging himself in a fantasy, he suddenly felt a strong bump on his head only to realized his Master had suddenly punched him.
“You’re too young to be thinking of dying,” Lino said, sighing and wondering what the hell were they teaching the poor kids these days. “Go to those guys at your right. There’s two of them and both are Mid Mythic Realm.”
“... but... but they’re Mythic Realm!”
“Go. Whoop their asses for your Master!” Lino exclaimed flamboyantly.
“... yes Master.” nodding with a slightly sunken shoulders, Felix moved right, circling the pond past which the two of them landed, to meet the two - now uncloaked - men holding greatswords.
Meanwhile, Lino remained standing in the same spot, focused on the pond itself over which four figures were approaching him, all taking a casual walk. All four were, strangely enough, women. Though, after a short inspection, he realized it wasn’t that odd after all; they were Kvalends. Those pairs of crimson eyes... even Lino had to admit they were eerily beautiful.
The leading woman appeared to be no older than thirty with smooth, yet freckled skin. She had full, crimson-red lips and long, wavy hair sinking down to nearly her waist. She, like all others, donned leather armor and wielded a pair of knife-like daggers. Even Lino was slightly surprised that he was suddenly ambushed, so he didn’t try to initiate the attack despite the fact he was rather itchy to test out just how strong he was.
“Oh my,” he said, instead, smiling lightly. “What an honor it is to be graced by presences of four beautiful maidens at such an hour of the night. You could have just knocked, though. I would have happily opened the doors.”
“... who are you?” the leading woman halted before leaving the pond’s surface, her expression tightening somewhat as she grew even more alert facing this strange-looking beggar.
“But a humble traveler and admirer of all beauties of the continent,” Lino imitated those noble bows he’d seen repeated all the time in the City of Sun as a greeting, though he was certainly he butchered it decently enough. “And who do I have pleasure of speaking to?”
“... I am Dame Freya,” Lino’s heart suddenly shook as his eyes sprung into a brief flame of madness which he quickly worked to suppress. “Chief Matriarch of Kvalend Mainland Tribe.” the woman replied in a somewhat cautious tone.
“... unfortunately, I sire no titles to match the Dame’s,” Lino brought himself under control quickly, realizing Freya is a rather common name across the continent. “What brings you to my humble abode?”
“... I cannot tell whether you are mocking High Language or whether you are genuinely trying to use it.”
“Oh, I’m definitely mocking it,” Lino said, smiling somewhat cheekily. “Don’t be insulted, though. I mock many things in life.”
“Right, I guess ‘Don’t be insulted’ doesn’t actually prevent people from, you know, being insulted... oh my, what a blunder.”
“... are you headed to the Demonic Battlefield?” the woman called Freya suddenly asked, surprising Lino.
“Aye, I heard there’s many-a-beautiful-vista to visit there. I’m quite a curious spirit like that.” Lino said.
“I wish if you could accompany us.”
“Eh?” it wasn’t only Lino who exclaimed such utterance in shock; it was also all three companions of Freya who looked at her in bewilderment. “A-accompany you? What the heck for?” Lino asked, taking a step back.
“My-- my Grandmother’s Lineage has been banished from the Tribal Lands for over a thousand years,” Freya said as her voice cracked slightly. “In seven full moons, it will be time for the Grand Chief to open up Ancestral Grounds. I wish to return and bury my Grandmother and Mother there.”
“... then... do that?” Lino said, confused.
“I am not strong enough.”
“What makes you think I am?”
“I have a feeling.”
“... and I have a feeling you’re a nutcase.”
“What does that mean?” Freya asked.
“It means you’re insane.”
“Be that as it may-”
“What do you mean be that as it may?! Are you admitting to being insane?!”
“Fate binds us, humble traveler and admirer of all beauties across the continent,” Freya said, suddenly smiling. Within that smile, Lino noticed a strange familiarity, a sense of impossible closeness. “Will you come with me?”
“... how did we come from you busting into my room most-likely to cut my guts to you trying to get me to be your bodyguard for free?” Lino asked, looking at the strange newcomer with odd gaze.
“I never had any intention of ending your life... merely... scarring you a bit.”
“You meant scaring, right?! Tell me you meant scaring!”
“Hey, Felix, come back.” Lino called out to the youth who immediately left the battlefield and joined Lino, standing respectfully behind him. “These ladies are asking us to be their bodyguards. What you say?”
“It’s beneath you Master.” Felix immediately replied.
“Khm... I mean, yeah,” Lino lowered his voice slightly. “But, uh, they’re quite pretty, right?”
“It’d be a shame if we, you know, missed opportunity. Especially because they’re Kvalends. I hear they’re quite... foxy.”
“Master?” Felix looked at his Master with worry, wondering what the latter was talking about.
“Fine ladies, you’ve convinced me,” Lino exclaimed with strange gleam in his eyes. “I shall accompany you and protect you. And all other stuff, too.”
“What other stuff?” Freya asked.
“... uh, just, y’know. Stuff.”
“Well, seeing as you blew up my room,” Lino said, changing the subject and looking up at the massive hole in the inn. “I assume you have alternative lodging somewhere around here.”
“Let us depart immediate--”
“Ha ha, no, fuck that,” Lino interrupted Freya, shaking his head. “It’s barely halfway through the night, and I’m sleepy.”
“... but... are you not a cultivator?” Freya asked.
“Yes, yes I am. So what? Does that I mean I don’t deserve to sleep? Let me tell you,” completely ignoring befuddled expressions of others, Lino suddenly stepped forward, strapped his arm around Freya’s shoulder and led her away from others. “Sleep isn’t just for mortals, you know? It improves your vision, your lungs, your libido---anyway, point is that it’s quint-essential element of human existence, cultivator or not. I’m telling you, it’s just a massive conspiracy that cultivators don’t need to sleep. In reality, if you don’t sleep, you’re just increasing your chances of reaching a bottleneck in the future. See? That’s their plan! To stifle the young and promising talent, to make them miserable! Haii, but let me tell you, I’d seen through them; sleep is a wonderful thing so....” while everyone looked on in wonder, confusion and silence, Freya wondered whether she misinterpreted silent whispers of Fate she’d heard when she landed her eyes upon the strange beggar...