The air was still. Nobody spoke even when they noticed the death of the priest. The knight holding the priest's corpse let out a sigh. He slowly closed the priest's eyes and retreated inside the formation. The priest was the leader of their group, but his death would not affect the knights. Power struggles existed everywhere, and the church was no exception. Now that the priest was gone, the knights no longer had to take orders from him just because he had a higher status.
Without a word, the atmosphere became tense. All the church's executioners were carefully looking around them. They did not know how the priest died and although the prime suspect was the Wandering Ram Tribe leader, the latter had not made a single move for quite a while.
Nevertheless, the knights were cautious. They instinctively tightened up their formation as they drew their weapons.
The barbarians' face turned black. The barbarian representatives did not give any command, but the barbarians were already getting on their guards. They all waited for the Wandering Ram Tribe leader who did not seem to be concerned by the events.
"What a mess... How did the priest die? Now, it seems like a battle is unavoidable and I don't think the barbarians have the upper hand considering that the Tolden Encampment is just 5 minutes away..." said Five to himself.
The situation was strange; he expected the Knights to scream or at least accuse the barbarians but instead, they did nothing.
As Five was thinking about what the best course of action would be, a change occurred in the camp outside the Tolden Encampment. One of the tents suddenly started to glow. Even though the sun was still high in the sky, the glowing tent immediately attracted everyone's attention.
Despite the distance, Five was clearly able to see a glowing white sphere suddenly fly out of the tent and immediately rush toward them.
"Be on your guard and prepare to retreat!" As soon as the glowing sphere appeared, the Wandering Ram Tribe leader unceremoniously broke the silence. He did not appear to be shocked by the sphere. The confidence in his voice was subconsciously calming the barbarians; as long as he was here, there was nothing to fear.
The white sphere flew very quickly to the hill and in less than one minute, it slowly landed next to the priest's corpse.
"Hmmm, he is really already dead... Fascinating... I did not know that someone like that still existed among the barbarians! The gods were right to send me here!" A calm and charismatic voice spoke as the sphere landed.
Slowly, the sphere became dimmer, revealing the silhouette of a man. The man had an ordinary figure; he was neither tall nor short and did not have impressive physical features. He only wore a light golden armor with a rapier hanging at his waist.
However, despite his ordinary looks, the man had a powerful aura. Just based on his skin, Five could tell that the man was older and more experienced than the other knights. He was wearing a strange mask, hiding only the top portion of his face. Why is he wearing that carnival mask? Trying to act mysterious?" said Five to himself.
"My Lord! Lord!"
As soon as the features of the man were revealed, the church's executioners immediately kneeled on the ground. They respectfully bowed to the masked man, completely ignoring the barbarians. Only the players did not move but they still respectfully looked at the man. It was clear that the man's identity was not simple.
"Are you the real leader?" asked the Wandering Ram Tribe leader as he stepped forward. He was the only one who appeared to be unfazed by the masked man.
The latter turned his attention toward the barbarians, "Mmm, you are not bad too... I did not know the barbarians had that much strength left..."
"What is it that you want?" asked the Wandering Ram Tribe leader.
"From you? Nothing. I observed you carefully, there were no fluctuations around you at that time... There must be someone else," said the masked man.
The next second, he completely ignored the barbarians and looked at the sky. He spoke calmly but his voice was strangely loud, "Hey! You said you would reveal yourself if I came here? Where are you now? Hiding?"
"What is he doing? Is there someone stronger than the Wandering Ram Tribe leader?"
"Who is that guy? Is he crazy?"
"The lord must have his reasons, just prepare to back him up!"
"Have faith in the lord!"
Both the barbarians and the knights started to whisper among themselves. They had no idea why the masked man was acting like that. Even Five was having a headache, "It was a really bad idea to come here... Now I'll probably get caught in this unnecessary skirmish."
Despite the murmurs rising up, the masked man remained unfazed. He did not move an inch as he closely observed his surroundings. On the outside, he appeared to be standing up like a statue but in reality, his senses were continuously scanning the surroundings in search of the mysterious voice.
At that moment, Ariel suddenly nudged Five, "It's him... He is here."
"He? Who's that he?" asked Five. He was puzzled by Ariel's sudden behavior but he quickly understood what she meant. There was only one 'he' that Ariel could know who was strong enough to instantly take down the priest.
The space in front of Five slowly started to distort. Five expectedly looked at the strange phenomenon in front of him. 'Was it how it was when he used it on me?'
He could still see in front of him, but everything appeared to be distorted. A few seconds later, as Five was expecting, an iconic tall muscular body suddenly appeared in front of him. Five did not understand why he was here but at least, Five knew that he was not an enemy.
"So you finally appear! Who are you? Were you the one who targeted us for no reason?" asked the masked man as he noticed the spatial distortion.
"The name's Noon. Do I need a reason to attack you?"
"So proud and cocky... I see but you still targeted the church for no reason. We were faithfully carrying the orders of the gods. Even if this priest is already dead, I still need to ask for an explanation," said the masked man.
The tension was slowly rising as the two powerhouses spoke to each other. It was faint at first but soon, they no longer hid the hostility between them. The knights and the barbarians naturally felt the change and both sides were already ready to fight.
"Your gods? Huh... Those three idiots are not even gods and yet, you are blindly listening to them. As for Phronêsis, he is even more stupid... If I did not appear, there is no doubt in my mind that quite a few innocent barbarians would perish during your expedition. All because we do not follow your religion... Besides, I have my own reasons for coming here!" answered Noon. He appeared to be calm and confident as he stared at the masked man.
The masked man warmly smiled, hiding his previous hostility. "I respect your beliefs but please do not blaspheme our gods. Even if you don't follow them, it is inappropriate for someone of your status to tarnish the reputation of our church. Don't openly mention the name of the Pope for no reasons either. Trying to sway us is useless; our faith is unshakable. I apologize if the priest offended you in any way. As long as you have a valid reason for dealing with him, we will let this matter slide."
"Ohhh. I simply protect that man behind me," said Noon as he carelessly pointed at Five behind him. "I have a short deal with him to protect his place for a while."
"I do not understand, if you are protecting his place then why are you here?" asked the masked man.
Five was equally puzzled. He was glad that Noon suddenly appeared to protect him but nothing if their deal forced him to do so. He knew that Noon looked hard on the surface but in fact had a kind heart; he could see that from the way he treated the little sheep that was summoned. However, based on his personality, Noon would not have intervened without a solid reason. If he was so generous to do so, why was he so stingy when it came to the few extra DP he could have left when selling his items at the dungeon shop?
"It has everything to do with this. In just a few days, you were going to invade his place. Compared to him, I am a proactive person and I would rather deal with the problem before it even comes. I have nothing against reactive people but this is just my way of doing things. I have a child to take care of at home, I cannot afford to wait that long at the dungeon; and since you've appeared, after I deal with you, I doubt your army will dare to cross the border."
As Noon spoke, he no longer hid his original intentions. Compared to the masked man who looked like a diplomat, Noon had the typical appearance of a troublemaker. If one did not follow the conversation since the beginning, he would believe Noon was the one looking for trouble.
"I see. So you are siding with those demons... It is so unfortunate that we stand on opposite sides. However, as I said, as long as the reason is valid, we would let this matter slide. Fighting you right now could be troublesome. However, we won't give up on the expedition."
As the masked man spoke, he shrugged his shoulders and took a step back. The barbarians remained on their guard as they watched the masked man turn and walk away; having just witnessed the priest's behavior, the barbarians did not fully trust the men of the church.
As it turned out, they were not wrong. Just a few moments later, the masked man spoke without turning to look at them, "It is impressive. Seems that you already no longer trust us. Sadly, although I said I will let this matter slide, it does not change the fact that a devil's envoy is standing here in front of me; I can see it very clearly and that woman next to him is also a monster. The church's reputation would still be affected if I let people like them escape. It's my job to clean up... At least, you are not too bad at level 72. Maybe you'll be a challenge. Once I deal with you, I'll take care of the rest of the barbarians and no one would ever know what happened here."
As he finished speaking, the masked man suddenly turned to face Noon. Nobody knew how it happened, but a small runic stone was now glowing in the masked man's left hand. The next second, the man vanished.
Five was barely able to process what just happened; he did not see how the masked man did it but now, in front of him, a thin blade was pointing at him, merely a few centimeters away from his face. Noon's body was still firmly standing in front of him, protecting him from the masked man. However, despite his powerful appearance, Noon failed to block the masked man's attack.
The masked man's long rapier had instantly pierced through Noon's chest. Even Noon had been unable to react in time. His heart was stabbed in an instant but at least, Noon's muscular body successfully stopped the masked man's weapon.
As he noticed the blade, Five instinctively took a step back. His back was already drenched in sweat. He did not even see how the masked man had attacked. He did not know much about Noon but from his observations, it was clear that Noon was unbelievably strong. 'Could it be that this man was even stronger than Noon?' thought Five.
The possibility that even stronger powerhouses existed was enough to scare Five. It would have been fine if they fought each other but the masked man was obviously coming after him. 'This game is so unbalanced... It has only been 2 months and I am already encountering those powerful NPCs? Am I doomed this time?' As Five was lamenting in his heart, he soon realized that something felt wrong. The rapier had effectively stabbed through Noon's heart but something was missing; to be more precise, the blood was missing.
"I am very sorry. It looks like we won't even get to fight properly. The gods were right in sending me here. I will soon eliminate another devil's envoy!" The masked man spoke while smiling at Noon. His right hand was still pushing his rapier through Noon's chest while his left hand was holding the glowing stone.
He did not notice it at first, but the runic stone was already starting to crack. Its glow was no longer consistent and soon, the rune engraved on the stone started to break apart. At that moment, the masked man widened his eyes in surprise. The runic stone was a rare treasure that would have normally been usable for at least two or three times more. Yet, the stone was already crumbling apart in his hand.
It could only mean one thing; the people around him were more powerful than he expected. The stronger the people were, the more energy would be consumed to freeze them in time. The runic stone had the unique property of affecting the other people's time but the energy consumption was absurd. When he first faced Noon, the masked man knew that this fight was not necessarily in his favor and so, he decided to immediately use this treasure to get rid of the major threat of the group. After that, he could easily clean up the rest of the barbarians and that devil's envoy.
The runic stone cracking was a big loss but if he was able to take down Noon, it would all be worth it. Afterall, someone who could exhaust the energy of the runic stone should have some good stuff in his possession. However, at the same time, the masked man also noticed something unusual. He did not notice it in the spur of the moment but now that the situation has calmed down, he immediately felt that his rapier was weird.
It was definitely not the first time he was killing someone by stabbing his heart; he knew how his rapier would feel after each time. But now, that feeling was different. The consistency of Noon's body differed from anything he had encountered before. He tried to pull the rapier out but felt and strange resistive force. He tried to twist the rapier but failed again; no matter what he tried, the rapier refused to move.
The masked man started to panic; he had never liked to encounter these unpredictable situations. He slowly raised his head, only to meet Noon's fierce stare.
Since the very beginning, Noon did not move a single inch despite receiving the masked man's powerful attack. The condescending look in his eyes did not vanish at all even as his heart was pierced.
"Had you really been that strong, I would have been in trouble. But now... You can only do something like that thanks to the Temporal Runic Stone. It's just too bad. Since you've attack first, I guess it's my turn now! I did not think that the Faith was that weak. You are just like your predecessor... Always using items instead of training yourself."
A rare smile appeared on Noon's face as he slowly raised his right hand.