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A note from dotturndot

Some of you must be wondering why I have so many stockpiled chapters and not use the time to edit? Well.. I remember hearing Stephen King say something like: giving his story draft a buffer time of 6 months before coming back to edit it-- and it will look like a totally new story. Yeah, I'm trying to apply that concept.

"A.." Ruth was about to say something when she realized there was something sharp lightly touching her throat.

A guy wearing a mask, milk-white. An overly small long sleeved brown coat over his too big of a burly body. Armor plates connected to both his shoulders and other joints. His ruffled black hair. No, it was somewhere between being bold and having hair.

Curtis want to do something but...

"Don't do anything stupid," a voice boomed from behind.

There was a another person, thin, unlike the big guy taking Ruth hostage. A person with a black suit looking like a rough tuxedo for shady businesses purposes, wearing a blood red mask. Past his shoulders were more milk-masked people.

{Zephyr Sensing}

Where had he heard about these people again?

Right. In a similar incident about before, although a hearsay, it was said that masked people assaulted a certain noble somewhere. They belonged to a dark underground organization that had recently started growing like a tumor in Haital.

"Come, let's talk. Cooperate, and this will be over very soon," The red mask jested, his voice containing a hint of joy and delight, "I'll even guarantee the little miss' safety."

Of course, he wouldn't. Curtis didn't take any chances and evoked {Coat O' Arms} layered multiple times around her.

"Ruth, I got you, stay calm," Curtis said in a low voice. Ruth seemed to have understood, feeling a tinge of warmth around her neck.

The wind finished its course.

Unusual information flowed into his mind. Feeling every uncomfortable inch of the library, he turned his sights toward the upper floor, an archer. Seeing that, the white masked man readied his bow.

 

Curtis knew that he wasn't the only one. He could feel other archers hiding on the upper floors, nocking their arrows ready.

From the whisper of the wind, Curtis assumed that there were also a few other non-archers, including innocent victims.

Supplementing more mana into {Zephyr sensing} to extend his search domain.

"Oh, you're fast to react aren't you,"

"Ah?!"

Curtis stopped.

The burly man had his arm wrapped around Ruth.

"Don't try anything stupid," The voice of the ruddy masked man commanded.

So it was the mana crystal. It started glowing subtly when Curtis extended {Zephry Sensing} 's range. His eye was good, for someone who had a mask obstructing eyesight.

Curtis had to utilize the other option: to use his own mana. Then it wouldn't show, just like with {Coat O' Arms}. To Curtis, casting a familiar spell was akin to breathing, so it wouldn't be able to alert anyone. Curtis didn't have the habit of making gaudy movements when chanting, the most he would do was gesturing his hands.

 

So how come {Wind Sensing} was a spell he was familiar with? He didn't know.

Supplementing the spell with his innate mana, he extended the search area.

The wind whispered once more.

Based on the presence of condensed mana, there were about 80 mages from all floors including the mentors.

Besides the mages, there were around 20 something people with a weak mana signal. But they were either masked people or normal civilians. So Curtis couldn't rule out all of them as enemies.

More whispers.

17, apparently, there were 17 masked people here.

Where were the guards?

There should be guards standing outside, but, they weren't there.

Outside help was not possible.

{Oh, found them, they were lying on the ground near the entrance, drugged to sleep.}

There was a movement in air current, Curtis turned to see a running mage stopped by a white masked man. That person was, Cordelia.

A decoy.

Merlin bolted up the stairs with the opportunity created. Curtis could sense him use a magic similar to {Gale Steps}.

Kelp was on guard to cover Merlin. His face showed regret when he noticed the masked man not acting against their escape attempt.

Merlin disappeared from sight; Curtis wasn't too optimistic. He knew that they had already taken over the library. There were many more masked people on the first floor, it would only be a matter of time before—

A shout. Merlin's shout.

Kelp's eyebrows wrenched, Cordelia's face turned ashen.

Then came Merlin's flying figure in the air, hurled into from the first floor as if a cheap rubber ball.

Curtis knocked his chair accidentally when he stood up in reaction. Moving his hands, the mana crystal on his necklace shone.

{Wind}

Merlin who was shooting through the sky became enveloped in a wind cushion. Slowly, he was let to descend to the ground, where he fell to his knees, absolutely terrified.

"I'll give you a second chance," his cold, penetrating voice echoed. Then turning his body to face the trio, "I've said it before, don't do anything stupid," and towards the crowd of mages, "try to do anything stupid, and I'll make sure nobody gets out alive."

Kelp and Cordelia couldn't move. Their minds went blank.

The knife was pushed closer to Ruth's neck, the grip around her tightened once more. Tears started to condense in her eyes, "Curtis."

"Don't speak," the man holding Ruth whispered to her.

"So you were that mage after all," the blood masked man, after finishing his threat, voiced his surprise.

"Sir, violence wouldst solve anything. If possible, lets..��� Professor Liam voiced his opinion when—

"My business is with him, not you, " one could feel the piercing gaze directed from behind his red mask, "Scram."

Professor Liam shuddered.

"Now, would you tell me your secret?" walking closer towards Curtis.

"What secret do you want..."

"Oh, you know. As the respected founder, I'm sure you know the location?"

Curtis then realized, this was the guy Ellis was referring to.

"I'm sure there's nothing you can do even if I told you."

"I'm sure there's nothing you can do to save the girl can you?"

With that, the burly man pushed the knife even closer to Ruth's neck. The man found it unusual that blood hadn't appeared yet, but he didn't question. His role was to incite fear, a means of threatening the other party.

Ruth could feel the tingling sensation constraint around her neck, and voiced out a cry. Though she was protected by Curtis's magic, to have a knife up your throats would still remain a scary thing. And Ruth wasn't good with scary things, unlike Ellis. Probably.

"You don't want her hurt correct?" he goaded, pulling out a map and slamming it down on the table, "The location."

With an expression cold as ice, Curtis snapped his fingers. A small fire could be seen on the paper, quickly dissipating to create a small charred ring hole. It was the location of the pillar, a little off to the left but the location was pretty much accurate.

In a way, even if they knew about the pillar, they wouldn't be able to claim anything. Curtis was the founder, and from Ruth's previous statement, his name should have already been known by the person in charge of the matter. He wouldn't be dumb as to think that the king would allow a second national protest to happen.

"Incredible, you didn't even need to look," astound by the burnt mark engraved on the paper. From one viewpoint, Curtis was a skilled mage, from another, he was a danger to their plan. "As an arrangement, we will now take her as a hostage."

"I didn't agree to that.."

"We never had an agreement," Curtis could feel his devilish smile. "You will provide us with all your rewards bestowed by the king, your title, your resources, everything. Then after careful consideration, we will return her to you. Sound good?"

Curtis closed his eyes to think.

"My patients is waning," he glanced at Ruth. Her eyes closed with tears flowing out a little. 'What a brave woman,' he thought. "Counting from 10, if you don't make your decision then we'll move on with plan B."

Plan B. That would be to kill Ruth, kill Curtis, and every other mage around. A bloodbath.

In truth, the location of the pillar was all he needed. Then, the organization would only need to quickly snatch the land and set up a new base camp, or better, create a faction. With the size of their organization, something like this would be a brilliant upgrade. Haital was only the beginning.

Blackmailing Curtis? That was only extra. Having him work for the organization would bring numerous benefits... On second thought, that wasn't a correct statement, he could turn his back on them at any given moment, even if young miss was a hostage.

Curtis was weighing his options, even if he followed what they've requested, they might not keep their end of their deal. Moreover, he wasn't planning to become their puppet. But, what other options did he have. Retaliate? With this many enemies?

Curtis moved his finger, and the mana crystal started to glow subtly.

"Your really testing my patience's aren't you!" The blood masked man rushed forward and grabbed Curtis by the neck.

'No. It wouldn't be possible to cast a large terrain alteration spell. But what other options do I have?!'

"Last chance, I'll mascaraed everyone here if you don't comply!" He shouted directly at Curtis' face and hurled him to the ground. His countdown began, "10, 9...."

To retaliate, Curtis would need to cast an absolute spell, in order to deal with the enemies, all at once. He needed to supply large quantities of mana into his Spellbook to achieve that. However it would be too conspicuous if he did. Either be killed right away by the blood masked man or shot dead by the archers above. Even if he were to evade both, he couldn't guarantee that some else wouldn't become new hostages.

Not only his and Ruth's life were at stake; everyone's life was dangling on that same, thin line.

Getting up on his two feet, another possibility came to mind.

'I could always add decorations to the spell couldn't I?'

A distraction.

And.

An a booster, simultaneous dual channeling.

For the latter, Curtis decided he would push in both mana from his mana crystals and innate mana to forcefully speed up casting. Doubling the supply to overclock his Spellbook]. That could help cut down casting time by half. With his current rush of adrenaline, make that three-fourths.

Then, for the distraction— a certain person came to mind.

Will Everett.

That feeling he got—Bloodlust.

Magic induced {Bloodlust}.

Such a thing he knew existed. But not here, not in Haital nor in any other Kingdom.

He remembered that feeling. The stifling air, the sudden blur of his vision and that grip on his soul.

It was just like that time he encountered the Forest Sprite. An unfamiliar feeling he knew. His past.

A smile appeared on his face.

The smile of a devil.

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A note from dotturndot

Point is, I'm still a newbie. So I'm still trying to adjust my writing process. Moreover, I had to do such a thing (leaving my draft untouched for a few weeks before editing) because I don't have an editor to fact check and the irks (am I using this word correctly?). I'm a kid, so I have a lot of leeway to screw up.


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dotturndot

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