"Enemy attack! Enemy attack!" Lane was the first to call out and react.
Whooshing sounds came breaking through the air, one after another. Another guard fell, and the handmaiden next to him also collapsed, clutching onto her bloody chest.
The shadow guards immediately reacted. A dozen people quickly formed a square formation to guard the princess in the centre.
The rustling sounds came from the depths of the forest. Under the shelter of the dark night and foliage, they could not tell how many people were rushing over.
It's finally here, Lane thought. After finding out about the few traitors in the unit, Lane had long anticipated that there would be an attack. For this reason, Lane gave up taking the path leading through Bideslane, and chose the uninhabited Morphey Forest. He didn't expect to encounter an attack just as he came out of Morphey Forest too.
Wait, no! There were spies too! Lane suddenly realised why they were attacked right after they got out of Morphey Forest. Someone must have reported on them. Lane quickly jumped off the tree trunk and ran towards the princess.
Lane was very aggrieved. Although their trail could be hidden with the help of the dense forest, it also blocked his sight at the same time. Lane had no idea when this group of enemies had appeared. If he was elsewhere, Lane believed that he would have noticed them long before they got so near.
When Lane rushed to join the soldiers that were guarding the princess, something happened. The last remaining guard of the princess drew a knife and slashed at a nearby shadow guard. The two shadow guards on the other side suddenly attacked a colleague next to them. Suddenly, the formation of the guards dissipated, and arrows rained ceaselessly from their surroundings. Torn limbs, broken arms, and blood spattered all over the place. Although the shadow guards were Faustian's elite unit, even they couldn't survive an attack from inside and out. Everyone could only try to protect themselves.
Lane was furious and slapped the guard in front of him. He didn't know if there were any traitors left so he rushed straight to the princess. In the chaos, the guards couldn't see who was approaching. Instead, they gave Lane a few stabs. Lane dealt with them, one by one.
"Princess, let's go!" Lane pulled the panicked Angelina with her book in hand and ran towards the forest. The arrows gradually stopped and a dozen men in black dashed out.
This group slashed through every person they saw and did not care about the chaos one bit. "Don't! I'm on your side!" one of the traitors yelled before his head was chopped off by two masked men the second he raised up his hands. The look in the guard's dying eyes was one of horror and confusion.
The chaos continued as the remaining shadow guards struggled. This group of men in black were not too strong, and dozens of them were temporarily held back by the remaining shadow guards. Lane did not dare to bother about the life and death of his men. Without turning back, he pulled the princess and ran forward. At this time, there were only two shadow guards accompanying them. The others either died in the chaos just now, or were surrounded by masked men at this moment.
Lane gave his surroundings a rough scan and decisively gave an order. "Go! Run southeast!" He dragged along the terrified Angelina. Two guards hurriedly followed behind them.
The killings at the campsite continued. The guards' numbers thinned, dropping sharply from more than ten to four. The four remaining ones pressed their backs against each other to resist the waves of attacks by the masked men around them. Although more and more masked men fell, a steady stream of them continued to rush out of the forest. The situation was bleak and hopeless for the shadow guards.
Finally, when the last shadow guard was subdued due to exhaustion, the fight ended. A strong, burly man walked out from behind the crowd, "Tell me! Where are the rest?" the man asked with a grimace.
The shadow guard merely wore a silent expression.
"So you want to do this the hard way, huh?" The huge man kicked the guard's right leg, causing it to contort at an irregular angle with a clean snap.
The shadow guard turned pale but didn't utter a word. As an elite of Faustian, as the king's secret dagger, every member of the shadow guards had experienced unimaginably tough conditioning. Moreover, most of the members were orphans or street children. Their loyalty was beyond doubt. It was only a coincidence and exception that Lane, a nobleman, joined the shadow guard.
"Hmph! Faustian bones," the huge man muttered in disgust, "Get rid of him!"
This shadow guard didn't have a single change in his facial expression until the moment of his death. There was only a weak flash of desire for life in his eyes.
From what the huge man said, it was obvious that the assailants were not Faustians.
"Is the account from Viscount Marxip reliable?" the brute asked. Indeed, they were not Faustians, but Shalorians. This group of masked men were the private soldiers of Viscount Marxip of the Southern province of Shalor. The man leading the team was a powerful man recruited by Marxip for a high price in his territory. He had the strength of a low-rank Knecht.
"Continue searching! Find me the target!" the brute ordered. Viscount Marxip didn't make it clear who the target was, and I had to come in person, thought the brute unhappily.
This brute was proud of himself, and it was for good reason. Although he was a low-rank Knecht, he was one of the best. He had reached the peak of the low rank and might advance to the mid rank at any time. What he lacked was just an opportunity.
Lane took the princess and continued to run towards the forest. If he didn't care about the princess's noble status, he would have carried the princess in his arms and ran. Although the princess had participated in court swordsmanship training and her physique was much stronger than ordinary women, she still couldn't match a Knecht like him. Palace swordsmanship only consisted of gorgeous moves and was more akin to a graceful dance. It did not help in actual battles. Angelina was already running with all her might, and yet she could barely keep up with Lane's steps.
Lane proceeded decisively. He could obviously tell that among the attackers, there was one similarly strong to him. It should not be a problem for him to hold the attacker back. However, what he had to do now was to protect the princess rather than mindlessly fighting back. The number of incoming enemies was several times more than them. He was only a mid-rank Knecht. Even if he could fight more than a dozen men at a time, he would be consumed alive. In the end, the princess would be abducted, and he would die in battle. Fortunately, Lane left in time to save them from that fate.
A few hours later, the four of them were still weaving through the forest quickly. Although there were no soldiers behind them, they still did not dare to relax. The woods were too dense and there were many cliffs, so they could not see into the distance clearly. Lane and the two guards were panting after a long journey, while Angelina's face was flushed red. She could no longer feel her legs as she continued to run mechanically.
"To the cave in front!" Lane also noticed that the princess had reached her limit. After looking around, he saw a stone cave not far away, and his eyes lit up. He then immediately led the three of them over.
After Lane smashed the head of a coyote in with one hand in the cave, the several of them finally breathed in a sigh of relief. The place was safe, for now.
After a short break, the two shadow guards walked to the entrance of the cave and took over guard duty. Lane did not leave the cave entrance, and stood there along with the two men. The two guards were different from Lane, a properly knighted man. Both of them were orphans. After being adopted by the king, they had dedicated their lives to the Kingdom of Faustian. The current predicament was nothing to them. As long as they had not fallen, as long as the mission was not over, they must persist to the end. This was what Faustian's most elite force was made of.
Angelina wiped the sweat from her forehead embarrassedly, her petite body trembling unceasingly. She was numb from all the running, so she did not feel anything. Once she could finally rest, her ankles started to cramp up. However, she could not scream as she was afraid of worrying Lane and others. As an unmarried princess, men other than her relatives would have to break their hands to atone for the sin of touching her. This was the sacred and inviolable dignity of the royal family. Therefore, Angelina could not ask the three subordinates who guarded her for help. It was too embarrassing and she had to bear it herself.
It would be great if my handmaidens were still here, Angelina couldn't help but think. The two handmaidens who accompanied her from childhood died in front of her not long ago. She could still clearly remember their screams at the moment they died, as well as the spilled blood and flying limbs.
How did a trip out of the palace cause such serious repercussions? Angelina thought in confusion. Before she left the palace, she had expected her stepmother to make some moves, but she did not expect the consequences to be so serious. Although she was intelligent and was even always praised by her mentor for her talent, Angelina was still too young. Angelina, who had always been under the protection of her father and brother, had underestimated this sinister world and the conspiracies of the court.
If she could do it over, Angelina would never have gone out so recklessly. Maturity was something the 16-year-old princess learnt on this trip.
In the dense forest, a group of masked people who had just checked for any survivors, were about to leave. Out of a sudden, a swoosh could be heard as the tree trunks on both sides shook. Just as the masked men grew alert, a group of people were already standing all around them. There stood soldiers in blood-red armour.
"Who are you people?" The leading brute asked. He smelled a whiff of blood coming from them. This was obviously a group of killers who had just come from the battlefield. The brute also sensed death; something he had not felt in a long time.
The men in blood red leather armour did not say a word. Their number was roughly half of the masked men. Despite that, the soldiers merely stared silently at them. The oppressive and quiet atmosphere caused the brute to shudder. This feeling was very similar to the Faustian men in black whom he had just met. However, the number of men in black attacked by them was much smaller, so the pressure didn't feel as intense. But this time, the larger number of red-armoured men put him under a lot of pressure. He believed that as long as he made it out alive, his breakthrough would come soon.
Finally, as the brute was about to crack, two men in dark-red armour appeared. The two seemed different from the ordinary soldiers. They looked around, and one of them asked in a hoarse voice, "Which parts are you from?"