Brendel swore that if he had known what being buried under sand and dirt felt like, he would have rather surrendered than chosen to run.
He first felt his body plunge downwards, accompanied by the sound of countless other things rolling down alongside him, and the only light was a dim ray coming from the direction of the quickly collapsing underground great hall.
After a second or two, he felt a violent impact.
A normal person probably would have been crushed to death by the impact, but for someone whose body has reached Golden Peak, it wasn’t too bad. Brendel only felt his body hit a sloped ground and roll off several sharp rocks. He tried in vain to grab onto something in the dark, but the momentum of the mudslide pushed him along until he slammed into a flat rock.
Brendel felt the first impact and then another one when a soft body slammed into him. He immediately realized that it was Scarlet. As more rocks and mud came their way, he hurriedly pulled the girl towards him and then flipped their bodies so that he shielded her with his own body.
Just a moment later, he heard a boom and felt the weight of several boulders crash heavily into him. Brendel wasn’t too worried about it since it just felt like he got hit with a stick, but the huge amount of dirt and sand was what made him suffer.
He had only coughed once and already, he tasted a mouth full of dirt.
And that wasn’t the worst of it. The most important thing was that when he lowered his head instinctively to spit out the dirt in his mouth, he ended up looking into a pair of shining eyes. They looked demure, curious, but also shy. Clearly they belonged to a certain Highlander girl who liked to tie her hair in a long ponytail. Shielded by Brendel, Scarlet was staring up at her Leader with those compliant eyes.
For both Brendel and Scarlet, seeing in the dark wasn’t a problem, so they could both easily see what the other was doing.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the first time they had experienced this. The last time they went through something practically identical to this was in the Loop of Trade Winds when the Fog Nightmare had chased after them. After experiencing it once, the second time was at least less awkward.
“Leader,” Scarlet whispered as she blinked, “Thank you.”
Brendel mumbled something with a mouthful of sand. He couldn’t describe the dilemma he was in. He and Scarlet were practically cheek-to-cheek, he couldn’t very well spit the sand onto her face. And booming outside, it was obvious that the great hall was still collapsing.
But Brendel didn’t answer. The Highlander girl examined him closely for a while, then Brendel thought he felt Scarlet shift and lightly rest her forehead against his chest.
This seemed to subconsciously touch something in Brendel’s heart. He instinctively looked down and saw Scarlet curled up in his arms like a child.
“Sorry…,” Scarlet seemed to jerk awake at his voice. She seemed surprised and quickly let go. Brendel watched as she carefully backed off and couldn’t help but feel pity. “It’s really okay… are you scared?”
Scarlet furrowed her brow but lightly shook her head.
Brendel fell silent. In all honesty, he couldn’t tell what the girl was thinking. In fact, ever since the Battle of Ampere Seale, Sir Makarov had gone to see her several times, but she always refused him. Scarlet was usually a quiet person and only occasionally kept Romaine company. But according to the Grey Wolves Mercenaries, she wasn’t like this before.
He thought about it but decided he wasn’t one to try to guess what girls were thinking. After all, he had been crap at it in his previous life. He tossed his head and decided to change the topic, “Scarlet, how did you get through Ovina’s Elemental Power?”
“Hmm?” The Highlander girl looked up at him in shocked surprise.
“You don’t know?” It was Brendel’s turn to be surprised as he didn’t see a hint of pretense in her eyes.
Scarlet shook her head in confusion.
“That’s weird…” Brendel was even more confused than Scarlet. He understood very well what Ovina’s Destiny Elemental Powers meant. Ovina’s Destiny Elemental Power was akin to a prophecy but more powerful. If you can’t break through your own destiny, then you won’t be able to strike her, much less defeat her.
But the problem was that, for someone who existed in the Golden Realm to escape the legendary heroic Elemental Powers of someone who mastered the Power of Being was clearly an impossible task.
Forget about either him or Scarlet. This was probably impossible even for Mage William the Silver Storm.
Was this because of the Dragon blood? He had never heard that those with Golden Folk blood were able to challenge those with higher ranks in power, just that they have better talent.
Brendel frowned but remained clueless. Just then, he sensed something and raised his head. He discovered that it seemed like the rocks were falling at a slower rate, which was the best news he could hope for right now. He immediately tossed aside those useless thoughts in his mind, reached out his hand, and easily lifted the boulder on top of him. With a shove, rock fragments tumbled off in the same direction as the rest of the mud and dirt.
In a blink of the eye, Brendel clambered out of the debris and pulled Scarlet out after him. With some effort, the two found their way to the top of a flat rock, where they looked around. They realized that the great hall had collapsed into a giant shaft and that they were located about halfway through it. All traces of human activity above them were gone without a trace.
Brendel looked all around. Theoretically, when the great hall collapsed, Ovina and William, who had been there along with him and Scarlet, should have also been caught in the resulting mudslide. The others had been bound by the lightning net against the wall, so they probably weren’t in much danger. But despite Brendel’s efforts to find signs of William and Ovina in the dark, he could see any trace of them.
“That’s weird.” He paused momentarily. Judging by Ovina and Wiliam’s skill, they should have freed themselves before he could. Though the collapse had looked dangerous, for someone of their skill and power, it couldn’t even be considered troublesome.
“Leader, look there!” Scarlet had remained quietly standing next to him ever since Brendel dug her out of the debris. But as a half-Dragon, she definitely had the better eyesight.
Only then did Brendel turn towards the direction she was describing. After staring for quite a while, he saw a light point fly out from the dark. But he didn’t realize that it wasn’t a point of light until it got closer. It was William, flying in the air with his glowing staff in his hands.
And when they got even closer, Brendel suddenly realized the Great Mage was grasping someone else in his hands -- based on the platinum body constructed of lightning, who else could it be but Ovina?
William’s aviation spell moved quickly and he appeared in front of Brendel in the next second. He descended, robes fluttering, before landing steadily in front of Brendel. With a toss of his hand, Ovina landed in front of Brendel.
“She passed out?” Brendel stared, dumbfounded, at Ovina, whose eyes were closed. He refused to believe that this was the same egotistical Elite Elf. Normally, once a body has been perfected, one wouldn’t even pass out from falling down several thousand meters. This was just pitiful.
“You guessed it, little mortal. Her powers weakened rapidly as soon as we left the great hall.” The Great Mage answered instead. “When I found her, she was probably Upper Silver rank at best and her magic was still leaking out. I think that if this continues, she would probably have a hard time even maintaining her physical body.”
“So that’s how it is.” Brendel hesitated, unsure what to do next. He couldn’t help but look at the girl on the ground and ask, “So what does this mean? Does this mean we’ve won or lost? She won’t try to get out of this, will she?”
“Who do you think I am!” As Brendel finished asking the question, Ovina spluttered awake from her prone position on the floor. Though she looked fragile, she still glared at Brendel. “Even though I hate people who use tricks, but winning is winning and I won’t deny it!”
The girl sighed, and then the color came back into her face. William and Brendel frowned slightly because they detected that Ovina’s powers seem to be gradually increasing.
“Your powers can come back?” Brendel blurted out impulsively. “Wasn’t the great hall destroyed? Wait, you…”
He squinted his eyes as if suddenly realizing something.
Clearly, the leader of the Silver Mages thought of the same thing a split second faster, for a look of realization dawned upon his face.
“Looks like you have got some smarts after all.” Ovina scoffed unpleasantly. “As you might have guessed, my powers aren’t greater when I’m closer to the great hall. But rather, the closer I am to the Holy Lance of Heaven, the more powerful I am. You must have guessed by now, I’m not the Azure Knight -- I am the Holy Lance of Heaven itself.”
Brendel felt like he had just been punched in the gut. “So everything was just an act you put up?”
“Not really. As a Divine Artifact, I have the right to choose my own master.” Ovina lifted her chin and declared proudly.
“Fine. It doesn’t really matter to me.” Brendel shrugged. This wasn’t the first time he encountered a magical object with a soul. The Wind Ring on his fingers had an Elite Elf from the War of the Holy Saints sealed inside, and a lot of the famous magical objects in the Amber Sword had a similar mechanism. But this was the first time he encountered a sealed Elite Elf of this power magnitude.
But this only made the Holy Lance of Heaven worth more. He thought about it and then continued, “Regardless, you admit that we have defeated you, right? So now you can choose who your new master is, right?”
“Yes,” Ovina gritted her death and concurred. “But before then, I have a question.”
“I want to know how she got through my Elemental Powers!” The lightning girl stared at Scarlet and incredulity once again appeared on her features. She, like Brendel, couldn’t figure out how a Golden Being managed to escape the influence of her Destiny Elemental Powers.
Brendel looked at Scarlet, thought about it, and then asked, “Maybe it’s because of her Dragon blood?”
“Not possible!” Ovina firmly denied that. “As a mere Golden Folk, when would its bloodline possess such power? Unless some mutation happed during the last ten thousand years, but that would be rare.”
“Mutation?” Brandon mulled it over. Did the Amber Sword have such a feature?
But the lightning girl merely snorted again and refused to answer.
In the dark, silence once again settled upon the party. Until the Great Mage William asked after several minutes of contemplation, “Maybe I know why?”
“Yes?” Everyone turned to look at him.
“In our history, there are some things that can change destiny and help someone escape the bindings of their fate.” The Great Mage answered slowly. “Brendel, you know the little girl Aloz, don’t you?”
“Ah!” Brendel called out in understanding, “That’s it! I know why!”