“How far more to go?” The green-haired lady flipped her long hair with her wand in one hand and wiped the sweat off her forehead with the other. She was Billie, a beginner-rank Lehrling adept at spells that could manipulate plants.
“I think we’ll be arriving at our destination soon!” said Joaquin, wearing a red dress.
“We’ll be arriving in about three hours,” said Locke as he looked at the map. He was the only one among all of them who could understand the crude map that was drawn by the locals.
There was supposed to be a road in front of them, but since the place was off the beaten track, the weeds and trees around them hadn’t been cleared away for ten years, covering the path that used to be there. So, they had to pave a new way. So, they left the carriage outside the forest, leaving the coachman and guide there to wait.
The low-rank Knechts, Bob and Chris, took the flanks. The mana density in this forest was weak, so there wouldn’t be any minor monsters around. They just needed to prevent the ordinary beasts, insects and snakes from attacking them.
The casters found it most challenging to trek through the forest. Angelina’s ankles had been cut by the weeds twice. Though Locke wanted to carry her on his back, she was too shy to allow it.
Joaquin, on the other hand, was carefree as she walked in the front with the knights. She didn’t seem to mind the mosquitoes and the leafy blades, though her arm bled a little when she scratched them against sharp tree branches. Daenie, Billie and Mina followed closely behind the group as they held their magic wands in their hands.
“It’s nice to have such a caring and thoughtful fiancé.” Billie looked at Angelina, who eventually relented and got on Locke’s back, enviously.
“You can have Chris carry you too.” Mina smiled and glanced at Chris who was on the left side of the group. Everyone in their group knew that Chris had a crush on Billie, but she wasn’t interested in him at all.
“Him? Forget it!” Billie shook her head. Although Chris was a noble knight and a charming gentleman, he just wasn’t her cup of tea. She preferred guys who were responsible and capable of great things.
After walking for the whole morning, they finally arrived in front of the abandoned manor.
“We’re here!” Joaquin leaned against a big tree and panted from exhaustion. Prolonged physical exertion simply wasn't what casters were trained for.
After putting Angelina down, Locke took a quick look at the surroundings, spotting broken stone pillars, debris and dust everywhere.
“Let’s go in and have a look!” Joaquin took the lead.
The lethality of fire spells towards spirits was second only to light spells, so Joaquin was confident about this. Locke and the others followed behind closely. The formation they took saw the five casters surrounded and protected by the three knights.
“I think we’re the most powerful group out of all the students.” Chris laughed. The other groups consisted of more knights than casters, but theirs was just the opposite.
Although everyone knew that the mission was relatively easy, they didn’t let their guards down. As they walked into the manor, a gust of wind blew by. It was scorching hot outside, but it was ridiculously cold in the manor.
“Be careful, everyone.” Joaquin’s face turned pale. The strength of the two spirits seemed to be stronger than she thought, as the temperature difference suggested.
Suddenly, the sound of a branch breaking caught Locke’s attention. When he turned his head around, he saw that it was Bob who’d stepped on it by accident.
The small mansion was located in the middle of the ruins, and they could see the surroundings from all sides. Only ten damaged buildings around it could be seen as the rest of them had been eroded.
“Let’s search the rooms one by one!” It would be rather foolish to split up, so the safest choice was to search the rooms as a group. Locke pushed open the broken door that was covered with cobwebs and went inside. He held his longsword in one hand and used his shield to cover his head with the other.
There were only one bed and a few chairs in the room. Shattered glass was all over the ground, crunching beneath his footsteps as he entered.
Angelina and Daenie each held a crystal ball in their hands as they searched both sides of the room. Joaquin raised her wand and a faint red light emanated from the top of the wand. She was ready to cast at any time.
After Angelina and Daenie had finished searching the room, the crystal ball didn’t show any signs. Angelina shook her head and everyone exited the room slowly.
They’d rented the crystal balls from the caster’s faculty. One of their uses was to detect the elemental fluctuations around them. It was very useful for finding ethereal creatures such as spirits. So far, nothing had been detected yet.
“Let’s go to the next room,” said Joaquin as she put away her magic wand.
As the others exited the room one after another, Locke noticed that there was a strange colour on one of the walls in the room. When he walked closer to it, he realised that it was a parchment stuck to the wall. After stripping it off, he saw nothing behind it. He then peeled the parchment off the paper, getting dust all over himself.
It turned out to be an oil painting. Locke had seen a lot of them on the walls of the academic buildings. They were all portraits of their Ritter alumni. Since the oil painting was old and it hadn’t been cleaned for a long time, the image had already faded considerably. He could only vaguely see a green hillside under the setting sun and a small figure in red sitting on the hillside and looking at the sun in the distance. Although the drawing of the person wasn’t clear, he could tell that it depicted a little girl.
“Locke? Why are you still standing there? Come here quickly!” urged Joaquin from outside the door.
“I’m coming!” Locke put the old oil painting down. He was attracted to the painting because the sunset view had reminded him of the scenery on the mountains where he’d gone with his father when he was a child.
They pushed open another dusty wooden door. There was nothing in the room except for dust and cobwebs.
“On to the next room!” said Joaquin as she squinted slightly.
There were only two rooms left. Locke walked in the front and Angelina followed closely behind him. Bob and Chris each walked by Locke and Angelina’s sides while holding the myst orbs in their hands.
As they pushed the door open gently, they felt a chill down their spines. Although Locke didn’t know how the spirits looked, his muscles tensed and he gripped his longsword tighter.
As soon as a ray of light entered the room, they heard a loud, dizzying scream before two shadows rushed towards them from above at lightning speed.
Joaquin was the first to react. As a low-rank Lehrling, she had strong mental power to resist the cry. “A banshee’s howl, huh?” she scoffed. She then raised her magic wand and cast Fireball.
Locke was the one who reacted next. Having been in many battles, he could react very quickly to surprise attacks. He immediately swung his longsword and rushed towards the shadows in front of him.
Although spirits could resist physical damage towards them, he wasn’t sure whether they could withstand Falconim. He activated the impetus vortex in his abdomen, channelling impetus to his hands through his meridians.
The difference between low-rank Knechts and mid-rank Knechts was that the latter could manifest impetus externally for a short time, though it was different from impetus projection high-rank Knechts could use. Mid-rank Knechts could only infuse a small amount of impetus onto their weapons or armour. Even so, it was already good enough. Weapons with impetus were far sharper and they could also harm ethereal beings.
The two spirits swerved in the air to dodge Locke and Joaquin’s attacks, before rushing towards those behind Locke and Joaquin. Joaquin then cast another Fireball. Using her mental power, she willed the spell to arc across the room and strike the spirit on the left. The spirit whimpered in pain and its speed decreased drastically. Upon seeing this, Locke lifted his sword and rushed towards the wounded spirit.
Just as when he was about to attack it, the other spirit on the right stopped moving towards the people at the back and rushed towards Locke instead. It seemed like it wanted to stop him from harming its companion.