Chapter 188: Inner conflict
Han Shuo’s “Art of the Demonic Ninth Heavens” was more than a bit faster than the levitation spells that the archmages could cast. Therefore, when he circulated his magical yuan during his flight, his speed was faster than anyone could possibly imagine.
Because he had previously used the “Demonic Art of Assimilation” to absorb the flesh, blood, and souls of one of the knights, his injuries from when he’d clashed with Bob Ascher had been completely healed. When he flew now, his speed was like a loosed arrow. He flashed through the dark sky and disappeared from view.
Lawrence and Belinda were inwardly rejoicing as they drew close to Han Shuo, only to see his speed suddenly double and disappear from their line of sight.
Shaking his head with a wry smile, Lawrence was full of agitation as he became even more aware of Han Shuo’s amazing abilities.
He also made up his mind at this moment that he would recruit Han Shuo under his banner.
“Well?” Han Shuo slowed down after increasing the distance between him and the other two.
“How did you do it?” Phoebe’s voice was full of surprise.
“Heh heh, don’t pay attention to that. The reason I can fly through the air is not because of necromancy.” Han Shuo smiled with explanation.
Dawn was about to break after a night of chase. The Kerlan Grand Canyon was bathed in morning light as the sun slowly began to rise.
As he looked back, Han Shuo discovered that Gilbert, Emily, Lawrence, and Belinda’s figures were slowly approaching. When they caught up to Han Shuo, Han Shuo could also see a dense gathering of black dots in the distance.
Judging them their distance, Han Shuo discovered that his group had maintained an ideal distance from the Gryphon Legion’s soldiers. When he looked at the Kerlan Grand Canyon beneath them, Han Shuo encouraged everyone, “We’ll be able to make use of the complicated terrain within the grand canyon and use accumulated snow on the trees to conceal ourselves. The Gryphon Legion soldiers won’t be able to find us then.
Everyone knew what to do without further instructions from Han Shuo. Everyone became even more enthusiastic as they charged forward. They indeed reached the grand canyon before the soldiers made caught up to them.
The Kerlan Grand Canyon was vast. The mountain ranges, lakes, and forests within were located between the Lancelot Empire, the Kasi Empire, and the orcs. The orcs lived in the territory to the west of the Kerlan Grand Canyon, and the border of the Kais Empire was to the north. If one traveled a few days south of the canyon, one would find themselves in Zajoski City in the Lancelot Empire.
The orcs of the Lancelot Empire lived in a triangular region surrounded by the Kerlan Grand Canyon. This area didn’t belong to either empire, and the Kerlan Grand Canyon was always the focal point of conflict whenever war broke out. However, a few cities and towns still existed in such a special geographic region, with members from both the Lancelot and Kasi Empires, as well as orcs living amongst them.
They used this special geographic region to conduct mutually beneficial transactions. The merchants and adventurers from all three nations coexisted peacefully within these cities and towns before war broke out.
Of course, as runaways, Han Shuo’s group didn’t plan on hiding in these places. All of them landed as soon as they entered the Kerlan Grand Canyon. As someone who’d long since run a merchant guild, Phoebe and the highly competent Emily immediately took control of operations. The two of them discussed briefly and walked forward after settling on a direction.
Much snow was accumulated on the densely packed trees, almost completely blotting out the sky. To Han Shou’s group, this was an area perfect for concealment, and the Gryphon Legion soldiers in the sky would be hard pressed to pick up their tracks once they took the cover under the trees.
Therefore, when everyone landed, they purposefully moved towards where the trees and grass grew the thickest. It wasn’t the most convenient for Phoebe to be in Han Shuo’s arms now, so he indicated for her to leave his grasp.
As a swordmaster, Phoebe first moved her body back and forth in his grasp, seeming to be greedily taking in the warmth of his body, but when she noticed that everyone was walking on foot and Candice even seemed to be looking back at her with a trace of a smile, she finally tore herself away from Han Shuo’s grasp with a reddened face.
The frost winter wind pierced her bones. As mages, Emily, Angelica, and the others were all wrapped in thick furs. They’d been subjected to the cold wind for so long under the night sky and were now all shivering with cold. Thus, they were all moving a bit more slowly.
When he saw Emily half frozen and trembling, Han Shuo felt pained and looked around. He suddenly suggested, “We’ve made it into the Kerlan Grand Canyon already. There’s a covering of big trees here and it’ll be difficult for the soldiers to find us. I think everyone’s tired after today. It’s not a wise decision to keep going on. Why don’t we find a hiding place to rest?”
Everyone agreed after hearing Han Shuo’s words and Phoebe suddenly remembered something with a roll of her bright eyes. “I’ve walked these woods many times and remember there’s a concealed cave nearby. I’ve stored items there before, so we can rest there.”
“Alright, we’ll take a look around. It’s best if we’re able to find this place.” Han Shuo was delighted to hear this.
Phoebe thought for a bit with a furrowed brow and pointed in a direction, saying, “If I remember correctly, it should be in that direction. Let’s go take a look!”
When the group arrived, they didn’t see any signs of a cave other than a thick covering of snow. Phoebe blinked, and then said resolutely, “It should be here. It looks like the cavern’s been sealed off. We’ll know if we dig a bit.”
“Then what are we waiting for!” Lawrence roared our heartily. It looked like he quite trusted this junior sister. He took out a longsword and stabbed fiercely at the place that Phoebe was pointing at.
When they saw Lawrence go to work, Belinda and the other mages seemed to want to come help. Han Shuo called out at this moment, “Wait, don’t use any magic. We should exercise caution while moving the snow away. That way, we won’t leave any traces behind when we move the snow away and the soldiers will find it difficult to pick up our traces, even if they land to search of us.”
Everyone agreed with Han Shuo, and it was up to Han Shuo, Phoebe, and Lawrence to carefully dig away at the snow and move it away.
“This was the place alright! Heh heh!” Phoebe called out with joy when the snow was moved away and she stabbed her sword forward.”
Han Shuo and Lawrence looked at each other and moved a particularly thick chunk of snow away from the entrance, revealing a dark and looming cave entrance.
Han Shuo took a peak and discovered that this entrance was actually as large as a basketball court. It was enough for everyone on their side to enter.
“Go on in one after another. Don’t enlarge the hole, or it’ll be too difficult to cover up!” Han Shuo said and moved away from the entrance.
Angelica was the first to walk in, replete with teeth chattering from the cold. Emily, Candice, and the others all followed in one after another. Phoebe and Lawrence were the lasts ones in, with Han Shuo bringing up the rear. He set up a few branches at the entrance and shifted some of the excavated snow to cover them.
When Han Shuo felt that all was complete, he walked into the depths of the cave after taking a look around. A bonfire had already been lit at this time and the warm wave spread throughout the cave. The originally chilly cave had become a warm zone.
Thanks to the space rings, all mages carried some firewood on them during the winter time, in case they needed warmth. All sorts of tents and soft carpets were also brought out at this time and placed next to the fire. Everyone settled comfortably into their equipment to rest.
Emily and Caspian felt their limbs slowly thawing thanks to the fire. They sighed with relief as Emily slowly got to her feet. She made for the entrance, saying, “I’m going to set up a concealing boundary to prevent us from being discovered here.”
Caspian also got up at the same time and walked with her, saying, “I’m going to go help her.”
As Emily and Caspian got up to set up the magical boundary, Belinda and Johnny’s expressions grew a bit unnatural. Their eyes danced uneasily and they looked defensively at the mouth of the cave, seemingly afraid that Emily and Caspian would do something to the cave entrance.
This was indeed the case. Han Shuo had been walking back when he saw Emily and Caspian walk towards the mouth of the cave. He turned back absentmindedly and saw that Emily and Caspian had indeed set something up at the entrance of the cave out of wariness.
“Miss Belinda, you should pay us the fees that you still owe us!” Just as Han Shuo was looking on in astonishment, Candice was already looking at Belinda unhappily and spoke with an irritated tone.
Everyone had worked together before because they had a common enemy, and the relentless pursuit from the Gryphon Legion had made it so that they couldn’t relax even for a moment. This was why they hadn’t taken each other to task for debts. Now that the threat from the Gryphon Legion was temporarily abated, the already existing conflict between people began to come into play.
“You’re already quite lucky to be alive! Sorry, the Calamity Church has never had the habit of paying our mercenaries!” Belinda’s voice was quite soft as she flicked a glance at Candice, replying noncommittally.
Clang rang out as Candice’s broadsword was unsheathed. She glared ferociously at Belinda, “I escorted you to Valen City! Not only did I not receive a single gold coin of my payment, you even tried to kill me! Looks like it’s time to settle our debts.”
“I think you’ll regret trying to do anything!” Belinda was obviously not afraid of Candice. She turned to look at Johnny and took out a scroll with the image of Ansidesi on it.
“The cave is only three meters tall. Your golem won’t be able to do much if it’s released!” Candice snorted and walked towards Belinda. It looked like she was planning on making a move.
Phoebe had been standing by Han Shuo’s side and was basically a sister to Candice. When she saw that Candice was about to make a move, she unsheathed her longsword without hesitation and was already flaring milky white aura from its tip.
Belinda had had a disdainful expression in her eyes when they lit up upon seeing Phoebe’s milky white aura, seemingly surprised.
“Humph, you’re looking to die!” Johnny’s chest wound had been dressed as was now covered by gauze. The sword in his hand right now was sparkling with thunder and lightning, and he didn’t seem any weaker than Phoebe.
“Give them their payment. You should’ve paid this, otherwise you’ll die!” Han Shuo quickly sized up the situation and walked over with a cold face to Phoebe’s side, looking at Belinda and snorting coldly.
Gilbert also cackled as he cracked his knuckles. Caspian and the Battlefire mercenary band also stood on Candice’s side. It looked like a fight would break out as soon as Belinda refused to back down.
Although Belinda’s voice was soft, her temper was quite stubborn and she didn’t display any fear at this time. She seemed to be prepared for a hard fight.
“This doesn’t seem to the be the time for inner conflict. Heh heh. Miss Candice, how much do they owe you? I’ll pay it for them, so let’s not fight over this right now, shall we?” Lawrence suddenly stood up, to everyone’s great surprise and smiled to smooth things over.