Aleran was very impressed by the battle between Grujil and the City Lord. The images both of them showed left him speechless. But more than that, they gave birth to many questions. Was it possible to use beasts as images? Does one need to dissect a beast or practice some kind of biopsy to gain a more clear knowledge of it?
It wasn't that he was interested in using such images, but he was interested in how images worked in general. He knew for sure that knowledge took a big part in it, but maybe there were other methods or other factors at play. He doubted the City Lord knew exactly what was the composition of blood and much less know about DNA. Although there was a small possibility the City Lord knew about this, Aleran found it unlikely.
And now that he thought about it, how did everyone managed to use images? Even if the City Lord didn't know about what blood was made off, he would need a deep understanding of water or something else. Or maybe, the knowledge needed to move the blood or water or to create any other image wasn't that deep.
Aleran had also been hearing people talk about the five elements and such stuff while he was in the Crimson Claw. It was mainly for this kind of talks, that he found it hard to believe that someone could have such advance knowledge. This sight of the City Lord controlling blood made him question his previous assumption and also create new ones. Whatever the case was, the City Lord somehow managed to control the blood of others, and that was an impressive feat in his eyes.
“ How in the hell did he do that?” Aleran blurted unintentionally as he saw the blood transforming into a claw.
Unexpectedly an unanswered came from a source he wouldn't have imagined. “That technique… it's not what it looks like.” Kindrav said while glancing towards Rogdo. The man had gone to another rooftop to watch the battle. It seemed he was sensible enough to put some distance between him and them. Rogdo hated them and the space he put between them was to avoid any unnecessary confrontation before the mission. Kindrav and Aleran thought this was a very professional way of handling things and that Rogdo wasn't all muscles after all.
Aleran looked at Kindrav in silence, waiting for him to continue with curiosity overflowing from his blue eyes.
Seeing that Rogdo was far away and concentrating on the battle, Kindrav told Aleran a short story about the Blood Emperor. He told him everything and how the technique ended up in the hands of the Sidrin empire. Then he proceeded to explain. “ Although it may seem like an unstoppable technique, there is a way to counter it. At least in the weakest form and when the cultivator using the Blood Script doesn't focus on you.”
“ I don't know exactly how the technique works. But I know that the cultivator using the Blood Script forces his own inner qi into the body of others and then he uses his image of blood. Inside the body of their targets, the cultivator transforms his qi into spheres of blood with his image and traps the blood of the weaker cultivator inside them. For this reason, they have to be weaker. If the target is at the same level their blood is much harder to control. In that case, the user of the Blood Script can only injure him slowly and take the blood from the injuries. While the weaker cultivators can only wait to explode in a rain of blood and gore.”
Kindrav looked at the bloody claw with mix emotions. “The way to stop this from happening is simply to close your spirit-veins. Cultivators unconsciously have them open, but if you close them is all the same as long as you are not meditating. Like that, you can avoid becoming a pool of blood to feed the techniques of the others.”
“Isn't that supposed to be something like a huge secret? How do you know so much about it?” Aleran was shocked, he could imagine the value of this information. After all, KIndrav had just told him a part of the inner workings of a powerful skill. But he didn't know why Kindrav was telling him this in such an open way.
Kindrav shook his head, not to deny, but to erase an image that popped in his mind. “ My father researched the Blood Script for a while and came to that conclusion.” Said Kidrav with sorrow. “When I was a kid I had nightmares about the Blood Emperor because of all the stories I heard. And my dad told me how to counter it and make me immune to the Blood Emperor’s power. At first, I thought he was just making up some stuff to make me feel better. But when I told my mother she looked at me with a serious face and told me to keep what my father said a secret. But now, It doesn't matter anymore.”
Aleran could see that the issue was very delicate and tried to change the subject back onto the more technical stuff. “ So, once you close your spirit veins the technique becomes useless.”
“Haha” Kindrav laughed as if he had heard something ridiculous, but he was still more serious than normal. “It's not that simple. The trick of the Blood Script is in the speed at which the technique works. By the time you notice something is wrong, you are practically dead. First of all, the cultivators always have their spirit veins open by default. It needs some training to actually close your spirit veins from the outside world in a quick way. “
Aleran nodded. “True, I feel it goes against my natural instinct to close the spirit veins from the world. But with enough training…”
Kindrav said without letting Aleran finish. “As I said, it's not that simple. There's no doubt the Blood Emperor was a monster, but he was also a genius in cultivation. Even though he kept the secret about this, the actual impact of this information on his strength wouldn't be much. The technique he created could use the residual images on the inner qi of those who died. Be it by his hands or y others. And he could also steal the power of bloodlines. That is something the Ethergel family cannot replicate and is a secret he took to his grave. The more people he killed, the more images he had, in a war that kind of power is frightening. There was a limit of time to this effect, but they lasted enough to be useful during prolonged battles.” Kindrav said with a weird mix of admiration and despise for the man he was speaking off.
Every barbarian had the same feeling about the Blood Emperor. They hated him for the cruel dictator he was, but they somewhat admired his genius. He had made himself from the bottom and even turned around the established order of their society. He created a technique which was on par with the best in the continent and, for better or for worse, put the Barbarians on the map.
Hearing this, Alerans train of thought went from the images to how the society in this world worked. He guessed this was one of the consequences of this cultivation society. Unlike how it was back on Earth, those in positions of power in this world were also the ones who held the actual power.
No matter how powerful the position of a common person in the government was, the actual power of humans was always in numbers. A man could command an army, but he could never overpower an army on his own. Even launching a nuclear bomb was something it required the consent of at least two people. And the bomb itself could only be built thanks to the effort of many people.
This led Aleran to another set of questions that plagued his mind. Assuming the stories about the Sidrin emperor were true, then, why would he bother creating an empire? According to the stories and what people said, he could wipe out entire armies with his power. Why would he need to build an empire then? There were many ‘reasons’ Aleran could think off, but none of them were too convincing. ‘I guess that's another question to answer later.’ Aleran sighed inwardly.
Suddenly a voice broke his train of thought. “The City Lords personal guards inside the mansion are finally coming out!” Rogdo jumped towards them after looking at the men rushing out in an orderly fashion.
“It's time!” Aleran jumped off the rooftop and sprinted towards the small hill, using the shadows as their cover. The plan was very rudimentary for being such a big operation and he hated to expose himself to this danger. But he could do nothing about it, and in a way, it made sense that the mansion of the City Lord was the most difficult place to break in. One could only do it with this kind of rushed and unsafe plan or a prolonged plan that would take too long.
According to Grujil, the object they were going to rob was going to be transported to the capital. That would be a good opportunity to strike, the only problem was that someone would come from the capital to retrieve the item. And that someone was not a person to be trifled with. The fact that Grujil thought they had higher chances of stealing the thing inside the city than when it was in the hands of that person said it all. They were left with no other choice but to try and steal it now.
The three of them reached the hill in a few minutes. The hill was filled with trees and plant life, but it was not of the kind that you would find in the wilderness, at least not too easily. These trees, flowers and all the plants showed a clear order that nature lacked. The whole hill was like a giant garden. And Aleran wanted very much to stop and take a closer look at the strange flowers with fluorescent colors shining in the middle of the night. But just like when he was in the forest he didn't have the luxury to do it.
Besides, the place was already starting to transform from a peaceful garden into a battleground. Unlike the fights Aleran had seen when he broke out of the asylum, the fights here seemed more organized and less desperate. The City Lords personal guards moved like a well-oiled machine, all as one. The men used shields and medium-sized spears to stop their enemies. Like an unbreakable wall, they maintained their positions and nobody even flinched at the sight of the ferocious criminals yelling for blood.
Although the members of the Crimson Claw were less organized, after some time they too started to coordinate in their movements. With the few qi circulation cultivators as the leaders, the rest started to gather together, using battle formations. As they ordered themselves, they started to use their numerical advantage to divide the enemy formations and push back the City Lord personal guards. They didn't have the perfect coordination nor the matching equipment, but it was obvious at a plain sight that almost all had military training.
This should have been enough to slowly grind the enemy force and obtain an easy victory. But the City Lord guards were all elites. From time to time some cultivator would break from the formation and lunch himself towards the men of the Crimson Claw. They would go after weak spots of the enemy formation. Then, the cultivator would kill a few individuals with his superior techniques and retreat safely behind the wall of shields. They were clearly superior individually as much as they were in a group.
Despite being an amazing sight, Aleran, Kindrav, and Rogdo didn't linger for too long. They moved with the trees and bushed as a cover and reached the back of the mansion. There, a small nondescript building was standing. It was as if the one who made the place simply wanted to put four walls together and didn't bother to make it look good.
But this plain building was where the City Lord had installed the door made of alchemic metal. A door that could withstand any attack. Moreover, this place was worth more than the whole mansion, just for the materials it was made of. For what Aleran knew, the walls also had a layer of alchemic metal. Otherwise, anyone would be able to just punch his way through the walls. That was without taking into account the treasures and other valuables inside. All in all, the building looked like a small bunker. The good thing was that the alchemic metal was so reliable that people tended to slack off in the security of such places. Why would you guard a door that could not be opened? Much more now when the mansion was under attack.
Aleran and Kindrav looked at each other, they wouldn't discuss this out loud in front of Rogdo. But they both knew the layout of the place. It had narrow hallways, making only possible for one person to go through at a time. They had also noticed that according to the size and location of the rooms, there were two places that were the best candidates to be the vault.
The first place was located at the back of the building and was big enough to be the vault. The other was a huge underground chamber. It could be a big basement but it could also be used as a vault. They could only leave it to chance. The other rooms were either too small or too close to windows and the front gate
Aleran and Kindrav nodded and they slowly got closer to the building. They were still in the bushes as they saw a few more figures coming out of it. They were rushing and yelling, but all were made with extreme order and discipline. They were all going towards the sound of battle to reinforce the few dozen guards that were fighting. Aleran didn't think it was weird, the building could very well function as a place to store weapons.
“Huh?” Suddenly, a man who was outside the line of soldiers looked towards a bush not too far away. He was clearly someone more powerful than the normal guards since he didn't follow the rules given by the commander. He was also dressed in a black robe that didn't match the other soldiers.
Although he wasn't specifically looking to their direction, Aleran, Kindrav, and Rogdo held their breaths and stayed still without moving a muscle.
A rustle came from the bush the man was looking and a small white rabbit hopped out of it. It looked at the human with ignorant eyes and proceeded to munch on a few blades of grass.
The creature had a tail that looked like it belongs to a fox and deep blue eyes that made it look even cuter. The man just snorted and followed the rest of the group. Inside the garden of the City Lord was not rare to find exotic animals.
After waiting for a few more minutes with a pounding heart, Aleran gave the other two the signal to go. No one was guarding outside, which showed how much confidence they had on the special alloys made by the alchemist. The door of the plain building was locked, but Aleran made a quick work of it. This was just a normal door, the hard one would be ahead.
The first to enter was Rogdo. This was actually Aleran and Kinrdrav's intention and even Rogdo didn't realize that they had let him pass first on purpose. Rogdo didn't know how narrow the paths were, but the other two did. If something went wrong, the first to take any hit would be the one at the front. After all, it was pretty unlikely that someone came back after they all rushed outside to fight.
Aleran was the second to enter and Kindrav the last one. The hallways were so narrow that the bulky Rogdo felt a little constricted, although it was just a psychological thing. There was plenty of space for a single person to walk. The hallway was well lit, almost blindingly bright, by crystals on the walls.
The place was deathly silent and as they crept forward they passed a few doors. But from the outside, the sound of fighting could be heard along with the strong booming sounds from the clashes of those with more power.
As they passed by the doors, Rogdo would open them. He obviously knew that they were not the treasury, but he wanted to make sure. Besides the vault, this place also worked as an archive for all kind of documents and scrolls. The only exception were the ones close to the main door. Those rooms had places to put spears and shields like the ones the guards rushing out were using. The places were empty since the guards had rushed out fully equipped, but the other rooms were filled to the brim with scrolls and books.
They kept going without looking at the scrolls, they were tight on time and had a mission to finish. As they reached a corner, Rogdo suddenly stopped. And abruptly, he went into motion, turning the corner with an explosive movement. On the other side was a guard, that despite the sudden appearance of danger, he unsheathed a very short sword that looked almost like a dagger. In this narrow space, it was a wise choice of weapon. The man had failed to hear them thanks to the loud sounds from outside.
The guard cut horizontally with his short sword as he tried to retreat. But Rogdo's hands looked like they were made of rubber as they almost wrapped around the arm of the guard. He moved his hands with a lot of grace for a man his size, and his hands started to guide the hands and blade of the guard. They looked like they were dancing, but the guard was forced to dance to Rogdo’s tune. Every time the blade moved to attack him, Rogdo would move his hands around almost without touching it. But still, the blade deviated every time as if moved by an invisible current.
With a sudden change of the rhythm, the sword passed through the guard's neck and the tip appeared at the back. This made Aleran and Kindrav look at Rogdo in a new light. The scene was so fluid that it almost looked choreographed. Rogdo moved with such ease that made it looked like fighting a trained guard was like taking candy from a kid. It almost looked like the guard had committed suicide. To Aleran It wasn't as impressive as Zarasen using his palm to receive the blade. But it was still an impressive sight.
If Aleran wasn't sure he could fry the guy at a distance, he would be really scared of this man. Nevertheless, he made sure to remember to never relax in his presence. For all the power he was capable to unleash, Aleran knew that it would take a long time to use it. And in a fight, that time was too scarce. Now, both of them knew for sure the job of Rogdo in the Crismon Claws was that of a hitman.
Rogdo slowly turned around to throw a knowing glance to Aleran and Kindrav. His face was stained with blood and he looked at them with clear anger in his eyes. He had realized why Aleran and Kindrav had slowed down before entering the building, letting him pass first.
Kindrav, who was behind Aleran, knowing what Rogdo was thinking, shrugged his shoulders as if saying ‘You really are stronger than us, what did you expect?’
Rogdo would not start cursing now, and logically speaking he was the strongest of the three. Taking a mental note of this moment in his head, Rogdo turned and asked in a low voice. “Left or right? ” Rogdo didn't know about Aleran's ability, but the two kids were supposed to be good at this kind of thing. So he asked them to show the way.
The path was divided into two, the guard Rogdo just killed was coming from the right. But Aleran thought for a second and pointed towards the left. Actually, whatever side they choose they would find one of the two rooms that were candidates to be the vault.
The three thieves advanced towards the right without noticing that behind them, from the front door they had entered before, a man also entered the building. He was dressed differently from the other guards. He had black hair thick eyebrows and a flat face. In one hand he held a white rabbit, and with the other, he was dragging an unconscious bloody man. He was the same man that had spotted the white rabbit that was now hanging from his hand.
Just as he entered, he caught sight of the shadows of Kindrav, Aleran, and Rodgo. The man knew the guards walked, in pairs at most, and never more. What's more, inside the treasury there should be only two guards. One of them to patrol and the other to guard a room with sensitive documentation.
The man looked at his hands, to the white rabbit with a long tail and sharp claws on his right. And to the leg of the man he was dragging on his left. He sighed and dropped them both on the floor. They wouldn't wake up for a while, it didn't matter if he let them out of his sight.
Kindrav was the first to notice something was wrong. Hidden between the sounds of collisions coming from the outside, there were the sounds of steps coming from behind. He rapidly turned his head with a frown only to see a hand that was chopping at his neck.
Kindrav's arms moved with a fluidity similar to the moves Rogdo had just made and they seemed to drag the incoming hand to the side. The move looked gentle but also with enough force to move anything. All this was something instinctual to Kindrav, but if Rogdo had been looking toward his side he would be shocked. It was rough, but nevertheless, it was a move from the Flowing Water martial stance. And he had never received any kind of training in the martial stances, which meant that Kindrav had learned it just by seeing him use the move once.
The man attacking was surprised, but it only lasted for a second as his arms, together with his stance turned stiff and stop the graceful movement of Kindrav. That pause destabilized Kindrav and left him open for another chop that this time landed on his neck. He felt his vision sway and his legs give up and before he could regain his stance a 4 inches long needle appeared in the hands of the man. The long needle had been hidden on his sleeve, and exploiting the small window of time, the man stabbed him on the side of Kindrav's neck.
Kindrav's vision instead of getting back to normal started to shake more. He felt his eyes closing and an unstoppable urge to sleep took hold of him. He wanted to say something, but his mouth wouldn't move. Finally, everything turned black. The last thing he heard before falling unconscious was the steps of Rogdo and Aleran coming to a stop as they realized something was wrong. ‘ I couldn't even hold him enough for them to realize in time.’ Was Kindrav last thought before falling asleep.
Aleran only realized something was when he heard Kindrav grunting. He turned around with Rogdo to see him falling to the ground and a man coming to him.
The man in the black robe didn't stop for a moment as he shoved Kindrav to the side and went directly to face Aleran. He threw the needle on his hand which was so thin and so fast that pierced Aleran´s right shoulder in an instant.
‘Fuck! Where did this guy come from?’ Aleran immediately reached to the conclusion that this man was a qi circulation cultivator at the second phase. What he feared the most was happening. He didn't have the time to actually use his abilities to the maximum. He could only wait until the man got close and try to electrocute him.
The same narrow hallways that transformed Rogdo into his shield before, were now forcing Aleran to face this man alone. The needle on his shoulder suddenly came off and went back to the man's hand. It had a thread attached to it and the man enveloped the thread and the needle with qi to move the object.
The thread was akin to the training wheels on a bicycle. It was meant to help the cultivator improve his abilities at controlling the needle with qi. When the cultivator reaches higher levels he will have dense enough qi to control the needle without the thread.
Aleran started to feel a little light headed as the man reached in front of him and went for a stab in the neck. But disregarding his neck, Aleran touched the man's arm, sending a powerful current through his body. Strangely, the qi surrounding the man seemed to offer some resistance, unlike Alerans own inner qi. But still, the man dropped the needle and his muscles started to convulse a little.
Just when Aleran was trying to focus on his image to create a more powerful current, the man sent a shaky palm strike to his chest. Aleran was so concentrated that he didn't react on time and was hit by the palm squarely in the chest. The moment the palm made contact with him, Aleran felt a huge force pushing him backward. As he flew, a deep gash split open were the palm had landed. He was sent flying towards Rogdo, who could only spectate from behind during the whole fight.
Rogdo caught Aleran by the back of his head and threw him on the floor. He didn't care if the boy was dead or alive, he could only take care of himself. The thought of using the boy as a shield popped in his head, but he dismissed that when he thought about that weird reaction when the kid touched the man.
Rogdo had noticed as they were sprinting before that Aleran and Kindrav had somehow managed to reach the qi circulation half step. But he still believed they were weaker than him as they didn't know any martial stance. But he just saw Aleran inflict some damage to the man making him wary. Now, he thought that, maybe, it wasn't so bad if the kid died here. But he couldn't just die here together with the boy.
On the floor, Aleran started to lose consciousness. Despite the pain on his chest and the situation that was rapidly deteriorating, he started to fall asleep just as Kindrav did before.
Rogdo didn't waste more time on Aleran. he charged at the man with three strides as his arms and hands stayed in a fixed position. He could see that whatever Alaren did to him, it left him not only injured but also surprised. The man was trying to regain his bearings but for some reason, he was dizzy. Rogdo would not let this chance slip away.
With the third stride, he was only two feet away from the man. He planted his feet firmly on the floor and launched a powerful punch. While his previous move looked like flowing water, this move was more rigid and straight. It belonged to another martial stance, the Unmoving Earth martial stance. The punch was a ruthless one, going straight for the head, and had Rogdo's own cultivation power to back it up.
But before the punch landed the man seemed to react with some fear and flickered his sleeve while retreating. From it, ten needles came flying propelled by his inner qi, and pierced Rogdo's chest, neck, and arms.
But Rogdo gritted his teeth and the punch continued to go forward, forcing the man to bend his back to avoid it. Since there was too little space he could not dodge to the sides.
The man faced the ceiling for a moment as he did a backflip and with both legs he pincered Rogdo's arm. This dragged Rogdo with the man as he was thrown with the momentum of the man's backflip towards the ground. The moment he touched the ground, Rogdo was already unconscious thanks to all the needles that had pierced him.
As the battle settled another guard came running, he was actually the only other guard in the whole building apart from the dead one. He was a man with blond hair and a mustache. This guard also had a cultivation that was at the second phase of qi circulation. But the guard treated the man in black with respect.“ Young Hadok, are you okay?” The guard didn't even ask for the people on the floor. He was worried about the haggard look on this man that may look older but was actually quite young, having only 18 years.
The young man nodded as he looked at his arm. “I'm fine, thanks.” The arm that Aleran touched was red with a little black. ‘A single moment of hesitation and I would have lost my arm or even died.’ The man looked at the unconscious boy. The fear he showed before was not because of his last opponent, but because of how close he was from dying when the second one touched him. He felt everything, even his thoughts going out of control. He had to channel almost all his qi onto his arms to block that weird power and to push the boy away.
“I will take them to the underground prison. I was going to help to fight this scum with the others but I'm not in my best state now. I will be able to get in a fighting state, but it will take some time and I will be weaker.” He paused as he remembered something. “Do me a favor, by the front door, there is another rat I caught earlier. He is from the Spirit Beast sect and I knocked him unconscious together with his pet. They should still be under a deep sleep from my poison needles. Bring them to the prison while I move these three. After that, you should go to fight, I may be injured but this place makes it easy for my needles to hit my targets. I swear for my family's name I won't let anyone inside.” Hadok, the man with the black robe said between gasps.
“The City Lord is fortunate to count with the help of the Sandrel family.” The guard clasped his hands and went to the front door.
Now that he was alone Hadok looked at the three bodies and picked the boy who hurt him first. He was going to question these three and get some answers. He knew they were from the Crimson Claw, and he could guess what they were looking for. Although he had no idea how they were planning to open that impenetrable vault. But he wanted to know who had opened his mouth and gave the information about the object the City Lord brought from outside. There weren't many who knew about it, it was so important that the City Lord tried everything to keep it under wraps. What's more, the news must have only reached the Crimson Claw. And its backer must not know, otherwise, there would be more and much powerful experts coming here.
Shaking his head the man in black tied the unconscious boy on a beam of a prison cell. The beam was made of sturdy Black Wood, it was not as hard as the alchemic metal but it wasn't far either. The hands of the boy were tied around this beam with a special rope made of the tendons of a high-rank earthly beast. He didn't have the fancy handcuffs that suppressed the inner qi but this would be more than enough.
He looked at the boy for a moment. Hadok not only wanted to question him about the information, but he also wanted to know the secret of that mysterious power. The boy was only half step to qi circulation, it could not be an image. Yet it was enough to almost kill him. In Hadok's mind either he had a very special and strong bloodline or an even more mysterious technique. “ I will slowly torture the truth out of you, and no matter what, I will have gained something.”
With a sadistic smile, he turned around and went for the other two.