Claude was still dissatisfied despite the money pouch he kneaded in his hand. He'd stolen from six people, but he didn't even get a thale for each. Even though the sack looked filled to the brim, most of it was copper. He wouldn't even have bothered if not for his horrid financial situation. He didn't know why those poor folks would join the gang if it didn't make them much, anyway.
He put the sack into his backpack and placed his hopes on the second-in-command instead. That man better not be as embarrassing as his other subordinates and have a few silver or gold coins in his pockets. Copper coins would be horrible as it would only trouble him to have to count them.
He decided that if the other minions didn't at least have one thale on them, he would break a limb of theirs. He wanted to make them gain the habit of bringing at least one thale with them to keep their limbs, otherwise he wouldn't be able to afford a single box of whiteroot powder after a busy night like this. It would be a huge waste.
The apothecary near the open market sold whiteroot powder for 18 thales per box, almost half as much as what Hurian charged, yet these six Blacksnake thugs only carried five thales between them. Hold on, if he included the ring, it should be more than five thales. He hoped to get 13 or 14 thales for the ring, which would at least give him enough for a box of whiteroot powder.
With the powder, he would be able to continue his experiments in the hut. One box should be enough for him to finish research on flintlock guns if he were savvy enough. The thought of him having to rob thugs to afford materials for experiments as a one-ring magus embarrassed him. He was no doubt a failure of a magus.
As expected, the thugs were gathered at Kesline and Kefnie's home. It was the small two-storey building at the end of the alley.
This time around, the Blacksnake thugs were different from the ones Kamadi led there the last time. At least, Kamadi had respected the truth and only tried to provoke them without landing the first move.
But the second-in-command of the gang occupied the whole building outright. Claude could hear the cries and shouts from the house.
There was a small yard before the building which was lit by some four torches on the walls. Five to six figures could be seen moving about there.
While Claude was still some ten meters away, someone in the yard spotted him and thought him as one of their own. "Something went down just now. I was wondering what that coward Roben was screaming about. Did he get punched by Elliot again? Hahaha..."
Claude didn't reply and continued making his way to the yard. He stood there without moving as he analysed the situation within. Apart from the six he saw, there were three others laying on the ground, seeming to be groaning in pain. They should be Jerad's bodyguards.
"Eh? Who are you and where are you from? What are you doing here?" Someone finally noticed that something was amiss. Claude's getup wasn't the same as those on their side. However, none of them understood why Claude just stood there like that.
"It's a robbery!" Claude declared, "Kneel and place your hands behind your head!"
The six thugs in the yard were flabbergasted. They exchanged glances before laughing out loud. Some even clutched their stomach from the painful, convulsive laughter.
Even the Sharks who were groaning couldn't stifle their laughter. One Blacksnake thug nudged a bodyguard with his leg and said, "Oh, god, I thought you were hurt the worst and didn't want to hurt you too bad, but I see you were feigning injury all this time..."
Claude's expression was dark. What was so laughable? Did he do something wrong? His getup was just fine, damnit! He waved the handaxe.
"What's with all the laughing? It's a robbery, I tell you!"
The moment the words left his mouth, the thugs laughed even harder, looking like they couldn't contain themselves in the slightest. They were just shy of rolling on the ground in laughter and becoming completely defenceless.
Claude suddenly understood why laughter was the best tool for provoking an enemy. He felt his blood boiling. What was so damn funny? They should just tell him! What the hell were they laughing at?!
Just as he was about to use a Magic Missile to show them who's boss, two of the thugs tried to stop laughing as they reached out for a hunting crossbow and arbalest respectively and aimed them at Claude.
"Haha, friend, you better drop that handaxe of yours. Hahaha... You're trying to rob the six of us with a measly handaxe? How did you even come up with that idea? Hahahaha!"
He finally knew why they were laughing so hard. They had thought that he was trying to rob them with a little handaxe. Compared to their arbalest and crossbow, the handaxe did look a tad inadequate.
He didn't expect them to carry those two ranged weapons. It's no wonder they treated the handaxe-wielding Claude as a joke. Claude loosened his fingers and let the axe fall to the ground. But by the time he pulled his hand back, he cast a Projectile Barrier spell on himself.
"Hey, kid, walk here slowly and kneel with your hands behind your head like you said," the man with the hunting crossbow said as he stifled even more laughter, "I've really never seen this pattern before. I don't know how you came up with it."
"How I came up with it is none of your business. I'll just demonstrate it for you to see."
"I like you, kid. You're pretty dauntless for wanting to rob us with only a handaxe. You aren't even afraid even though we have six people on our side. Not bad, kid. You have potential. I'm rooting for you, pfffft!"
"How do you know he's not afraid? His face is all masked up! Maybe he's so terrified that he's already in tears! You just can't see it! Hahahaha!"
"Come here, kid. Didn't you hear me? Don't make me open a hole in your body. Walk here slowly and remove your shawl. Let me see who you are."
The Blacksnake thugs in the yard began to talk casually and didn't take the disarmed Claude seriously. As far as they were concerned, Claude was already their prey, given that they had two bolts aimed at him already. They were free to do with him as they pleased.
Claude sighed and waved his hand once, sending out two Magic Missiles and causing two of the happily chatting grunts to groan in agony. They collapsed to the ground with their hands clutching their belly.
Two audible twangs resounded. The arbalest and hunting crossbow bolts shot towards Claude with lightning speed, but they seemed to be blocked by an unseen barrier. They paused in the air and lost their momentum before falling to the ground.
It was a complete turn of events. The remaining four thugs stared wide-eyed and the smiles that were still on their faces contorted horribly. Their jaws seemed to have been locked open. Never did it occur to them that the masked robber was none other than the terrifying magus.
The man holding the hunting crossbow reacted quickly. He took two steps backwards slowly before tossing his weapon towards Claude when he thought the latter wasn't paying attention and turned to run. Too bad Claude waved a Magic Missile and opened a hole in his back, causing the man to collapse on the ground after taking his final breath.
Claude was as brutal and ruthless as he could be to the thugs who shot people without concern.
Just as he was about to shoot the arbalest-holding man, another thug snapped out of his stupor after witnessing the death of the crossbowman. Knowing that escaping was pointless, he steeled himself and threw a paper bag that seemed to be releasing some kind of white powder into the air at him. "You want my life? You'll have to take it!"
He drew a sharp knife and leaped towards Claude.
He was only around six meters away. He threw his paper bag first before dashing forwards with his blade. In a flash, he made his way before Claude and tried to pierce his knife into Claude's upper left abdomen. That was a vital point which would take Claude's life if struck. There was no struggling against it. It appeared that the man was an experienced thug that probably took quite a number of lives before. Otherwise, his methods wouldn't be that ruthless.
Claude saw a puff of white smoke come his way and ducked to avoid it. He didn't catch it with his hand as he had a bad feeling about the bag. As expected, when the bag fell to the ground beside him, it let out a white smoke. Claude smelled it and thought, Damn! Isn't this lime powder? It's even the third-rate kind!
But his curses were short lived as the man who tossed the bag had appeared beside him with his knife piercing towards his ribs.
Claude ducked backwards quickly. Without a weapon in hand, he couldn't take on the armed thug in a close fight. That dagger-wielding man also seemed to be an experienced fighter. He hurriedly quickened his steps when he saw Claude retreat to maintain the distance so that his dagger would always remain a threat.
With him holding Claude back, the other thugs also snapped out of it and drew their own weapons to charge. "Kill him!" they cried.
The arbalest-wielding man was a tall and hugely built figure. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to hold something as huge as an arbalest. The moment he saw his two comrades entangled with Claude, he dropped his weapon and picked up a wood-chopping greataxe and joined the fray.
Claude was forced to retreat further and further. There were a few times when the knife of the thug passed him by a hair's breadth. He really wanted to block the knife so that he could launch a counterattack, but the knife user was careful and didn't commit fully to his stabs and swings, choosing instead to launch probing attacks. He seemed like he only wanted to land the slightest cut. Yet, that style of fighting was currently Claude's bane.
If only he had Energy Barrier... Claude recalled the time he was assaulted by the magus in the small forest. Energy Barrier nullified Claude's threat against the magus completely. Both his shortsword and crossbow bolt were useless against the magus. Had it not been for his fish bone dagger that happened to be a spellbane dagger, Claude's corpse might've rotted by now.
Though, Claude seemed to forget that Energy Barrier was a tier-one spell which he couldn't use even if he had it before he became a two-ring magus. Currently, Projectile Barrier was useless against melee weapons, which seemed rather weird in itself. Even though it could defend against powerful bolts and arrows, a simple knife swung with relatively less power could easily pass through the barrier.
All of a sudden, Claude suddenly fell backwards as if he was tripped. The three thugs behind the knife-wielding fellow were stunned. Claude was three meters away from the gates and the ground should be flat behind him. How, then, did he trip?
But the moment's hesitation became Claude's opportunity to strike back. The moment he fell backwards, he made some distance between him and the others. He launched two Magic Missiles into each of the chests of the ones at the front. They shook and groaned before falling with their hands on their wounds. They were already beyond saving.
The last greataxe-wielding man didn't think that the tables of the fight would suddenly change. He raised his axe up high and roared, but he wasn't sure whether to throw it or to charge with it. Claude didn't give him the time to decide though and used a Magic Missile to shut his mouth up for good.
It was finally over. He sat back up and wiped the sweat off his forehead.