“Hmm-” San sighed.
“Have you made a decision?” Biyeon asked.
“We’ll have to get in the mix. The timing and attack maneuvering doesn’t seem random. There’s no reason why we should think that we’re safe right now. If we get in the mix, we’ll at least gain some information,” he answered.
“Will you go by yourself?”
“I’d really enjoy your company on this one.”
“What about our crew?”
“Those youngsters from the great clans following closely behind us should be enough of a deterrent for anyone who plans on attacking our crew. Anyways, they’ll catch up to us later on. Let’s just tell them that they can take their time.”
The two started running forward after conveying a message to their crew. They left their horses and started running off towards the merchant convoy. As they passed over the green fields, jumped over rocks, and ran along a side path, they equipped their sword, put on their gloves, and fastened their laces.
Their speed was faster than any horse, and their footsteps were lighter than a sparrow’s. They were moving so quickly that the air rustled in a spot seconds after they had passed.
“Are they planning on getting into the mix?” Dongyoung murmured as he looked at San and Biyeon’s receding image.
“They gave an order for everyone else to take their time following them,” Dongha muttered back.
“So…?” Giyoung said as she turned to Gibin.
“I guess we’ll go slowly then,” Gibin flatly stated as he rushed forward on his horse.
“Woah, it’s the horse that suddenly wanted to gallop at full speed… I didn’t do anything. I’m just a person atop a confused, unpredictable horse,” Gibin yelled out sarcastically as he moved farther away.
A confused Gun and Rain stepped out of their carriage and looked down the hill towards the unfolding scene below. The Essen crewmembers had already gotten into their battle gear and started patrolling their perimeter.
The warming noon-time winds blew down the hillside. It was as if nature expected the rising heat in the area.
The fifth escort warrior’s body fell off from his horse. A shining blade had passed cleanly through his throat just a moment ago. Another swing of the blade had cleanly taken off the bottom half of the horse along with his lower legs, which were attached to the horse with a stirrup. The horse, no longer with any legs, cried aloud as it banged its head against the ground.
“What the hell do these guys want…” Gatan, the senior warrior of the escort, let out a small cry. These attackers were a whole different level than the average bandits and thieves. They didn’t request anything or even give each party time to negotiate or talk. Without a word, the attackers had suddenly attacked with spears out. Though the escort warriors were always on alert, Gatan had lost five of his compatriots in the blink of an eye.
“Heuk-” Gatan twisted his body to the side and narrowly avoided an oncoming spear strike. At the same time, a sword strike had barely missed his head, glancing off of his helmet.
Gatan took in a quick breath of air. Another enemy’s spear strike was approaching. To his right, another escort warrior on horseback had fallen to the ground. Gatan felt like his eyes were popping out of his eye sockets. He subconsciously ground his teeth as he focused on the incoming attacks. He knew he couldn’t hold out much longer.
The enemy warriors aimed for the escort warriors’ legs with a spear in their right hand and a long sword aimed squarely at one’s head in their left hand. With two feet on the back of the horse, the enemy warriors maintained their balance and skillfully moved their hands. Gatan wouldn’t be able to defend against this attack. He fell into despair.
Dobel, a regional manager in the Doha merchant guild, despairingly stared at the battle from behind the escort warriors.
“One-sided… the enemy is slaughtering our side! They’re going to kill us all!” Dobel screamed as his teeth forcibly clattered against each other.
“What… why……?! They normally only take some loot… no one usually gets killed!” Doyo, Dobel’s niece, cried out as she fell to the ground shivering in fear.
The staff in charge of the merchant goods anxiously stared ahead while holding their breath. There were many enemies and bandits who aimed for merchant convoys. However, these clashes rarely ended in physical conflict because of the presence of the merchant convoy’s escort warriors. Furthermore, the escort warriors and the bandits usually had more in common than not.
Since their bodies were their whole livelihood, the escort warriors and bandits mutually wanted to avoid physical conflict as much as possible. If one were injured in a fight, one wouldn’t be able to work for at least three months. Additionally, because each side was essentially employed by others, the clashing warriors usually chose to compromise rather than fiercely fight for their lives. Normally, a compromise would be reached, and some items would change hands.
Gatan shivered and glanced at his left and right. The eighth escort warrior had fallen.
“We… we haven’t even downed one of them yet…!”
Two enemies were approaching him from the front. Among the two, one wore a flamboyant and eye-catching outfit. He was probably the captain of the enemy group.
Four weapon strikes were approaching him in a straight line, aiming at his body or his horse.
‘There’s… there’s no way I can defend against this.’
As he accelerated his body, Gatan saw a long spear approaching from the sky to his right. He lifted his sword and deflected the oncoming attack. At the same time, he heard a rush of wind towards the back of his head. He leaned his head to the side.
When he glanced down, he clearly saw the trajectory of a sharp blade cutting his horse’s leg. He closed his eyes.
Suddenly, it became quiet as if time had stopped. Gatan raised his head. Through the haze of his adjusting eyes, Gatan saw two attackers looking around their surroundings in confusion. One of the attackers was opening and closing his hand which was holding his spear. Blood was pouring out from a hole that seemed to go straight through his leather gloves. The other man, who seemed to be the attacking group’s captain, was staring at a specific place while squeezing his shoulder and frowning. Suddenly, the battlefield fell silent.
Everyone’s eyes were focused on the same place. There was something there that prevented further battle. Suddenly, goosebumps sprung up all over Gatan’s body as the surroundings became eerily creepy. A suffocating pressure pressed down on everyone. The pressure incited a feeling of terror and horror that made his entire body tingle.
The attacking party’s captain tilted his frowning face and spoke to the oncoming opponent.
“Who is this? It’s been a while, no? You still carry around that bloody spirit and aura,” the captain stated.
“Have we met before?” San asked as he gently threw a few stones up in the air while approaching the captain. Next to San was a slim-looking woman with her sword in her hand.
“Isn’t it time you throw away that 3-year-old Nike hat for something else?” Biyeon commented aloud.
Search – Chapter 3
A foreboding wind blew through the battlefield. The currents of the wind whipped around the plains of the battlefield vigorously and fluctuated chaotically in all directions. The waist-high blades of grass that extended all the way to the horizon swayed like a huge wave. The greenness of the grass seemed to paint the battlefield while the darkening black clouds expressed the anger of the wind in the sky.
“Nike…?” The captain muttered atop his horse. He took off his hat and looked at the simple, embroidered logo attached to the side of his red-brimmed hat. The old and torn white trademark looked exceptionally prominent against the red of his hat. The owner of the hat must have cleaned and washed the hat countless times, seeing as how the white trademark was still dazzling.
“Sorry. I don’t remember your name,” San stated with a laugh.
“I think it was Beckham… is that right? Since he kept his hat so well maintained until now, it seems like he’s still holding on to his memories of his hometown,” Biyeon added on with an expressionless face.
“Beckham, oh yeah… that was the name I was given. I completely forgot. No one calls me by name here,” the Captain replied as he lowered his spear tip downward and gazed at San.
San rested the tip of his sword on the ground, placing his hands comfortably on the handle. He looked up at Beckham and asked, “You were able to survive the flames?”
“I had a pretty hard time regenerating… but, hasn’t it already been 3 years since I died from your hands?”
“That sounds about right. You don’t seem to have any negative feelings towards me.”
“Ah- should I have kept a grudge? It wasn’t one or two times that I died. On balance, there were a lot more people that I killed. I guess I had no reason to hold a grudge, right? It wasn’t a good memory anyway, so there was no reason to hang on to it…” Beckham answered as he twirled his hat with a finger. He then continued, “But you guys were an exception. So… you were in District 27, right? At that time, when we clashed, it was both the most thrilling and hopeless moment in my previous life. That was when I died for the thirteenth time. Anyway, because I died early, I couldn’t see it in person, but I heard you guys completely smashed the entire 27th District. Is that right?”
“Well… I guess that’s how it came to be,” San answered with a smile.
“When I reviewed the video recordings, your performances were really amazing. You’re famous even among the summoners. But what are you doing here? Also, you both are still traveling together? I heard you guys were caught by Siluone, the magic dragon, once you guys left the District…”
“We managed to come to a compromise. You seem to know a lot,” San replied.
“There’s nowhere in this world where one can avoid superior beings. Who are you under now? Siluone?”
San didn’t answer. Instead, he turned his expressionless, stiff face and gazed at the entire battlefield that was thrown into chaos by Beckham’s attack. His calm gaze glanced over the attacking forces and focused on the merchant convoy’s escort guards and their desperate faces. After taking a glance at Gatan, the captain of the escort warriors, San glanced at Dobel and Doyo, the heads of the merchant convoy. San then refocused his attention on Beckham. Before he faced Beckham, the last image San saw was of Biyeon kicking some pebbles on the ground with an expressionless face.
Gatan had been listening to Beckham and San’s conversation with a blank face. He couldn’t understand their conversation. Despite the appearance of a new character, especially one that didn’t seem aggressive towards him, Gatan couldn’t relax at all. Rather, his despair grew as he listened to their conversation. The escort warriors, who had their numbers reduced to 20, were also maintaining a tense battle-ready stance.
‘Is that a man and woman in the same line of work as that attacker?’ Dobel, the branch manager, thought as he clenched his fist. His legs were still trembling from fright. His niece, Doyo, watched the situation with a rather calm face.
‘Since those people stopped fighting… there probably won’t be anything worse happening…’ Doyo, the brave maiden who was only 22 years old, thought to herself.
Beckham answered San’s piercing gaze without backing down. San stepped forward while keeping his eyes fixed on Beckham.
Beckham’s horse flinched. San then asked, “What are you doing here? It doesn’t seem like your purpose is to loot…”
“Homework,” Beckham curtly replied.
“Are you hunting people now?” San asked as he took another step forward.
Beckham turned his horse sideways in a relaxed motion. Tension started to rise in the seven steps of space between the two. On the other hand, Biyeon took a step back. Her gaze was quietly chasing the movements of the attackers behind her.
“Something like that. I’m not eating them, so it’s more accurate to say that I’m collecting living specimens. It’s actually a lot trickier than killing,” Beckham calmly replied.
“That… can’t you stop with these subversive acts?” San asked.
“Why should I change? I’m having so much fun. It’s so fun that I don’t think I can tear myself away from it anymore,” Beckham stated as he wet his lips and raised his spear into the air. The expressions of the other attackers, who were behind San and Biyeon, turned dark.
A sense of excitement began to spring out and linger in Beckham’s intestine area. A simmering madness was starting to rear its head onto the battlefield.