A Single Sword
“Ley, what do you think of that Miss Jenne? She’s quite something, isn’t she?” Lowndes said with a quiet chortle.
“She is quite something.” Linley nodded in praise.
Next to them, Luther walked over. “She isn’t just ‘something’. In all these years I’ve been roaming about, I’ve seen countless beautiful women. But Miss Jenne…heh heh…she’s absolutely tops. Ley, are you interested in Miss Jenne?”
Linley blinked in shock.
Lowndes also glanced at Linley with a wink that all men understood. “Ley, it’s quite normal for powerful people to have beauties with them. If you don’t seize the opportunity, after you leave the caravan, you won’t have another chance.”
“You two…” Linley didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Alice had long ago caused Linley to seal off his heart with respect to romantic love. And right now, Linley wasn’t yet at the stage where he was ravenous and would just go chasing after every beautiful girl he saw.
“Miss Jenne and her little brother just came out.” Luther suddenly said in a soft voice.
Linley turned to look. Indeed, Miss Jenne and her younger brother Keane were headed towards a campfire, which was currently manned by her elderly servant.
That young noble, Keane, couldn’t help but turn to look at the Blackcloud Panther again.
The Blackcloud Panther immediately revealed its gleaming, cold fangs. Keane was so terrified that he tightly clutched his sister’s hands. Miss Jenne, as though sensing something, turned to look in Linley’s direction as well.
Nodding somewhat apologetically at Linley, Miss Jenne led her little brother to sit next to the campfire.
“Big sis, that magical beast is so handsome!” Keane’s eyes were as bright as gems and filled with longing. “It’ll be great if one day, I too have a powerful magical beast.”
The old servant chuckled. “Young master Keane, taming a magical beast is no easy feat. To tame a powerful magical beast, you must totally subdue it, and to subdue it, you must defeat it head on. From what I know, the weakest type of panther-type magical beasts are all of the seventh rank. That Lord Ley is a truly powerful combatant.”
“The weakest is a magical beast of the seventh rank?” Keane sucked in a cold breath. “Grandpa Lambert, is it as powerful as you, Grandpa Lambert [Lan’bo’te]?”
In Keane’s mind, the person he worshipped the most in the world was his Grandpa Lambert.
When him and his sister were in the Holy Union, they had no one to rely on at all. The entire time, it was Grandpa Lambert who had protected them. If it wasn’t for Grandpa Lambert, those nobles in the town they lived in would’ve sent people long ago to seize his sister. He had personally seen Grandpa Lambert shatter a noble’s guard’s shield with one punch, then easily defeat ten guards.
“Me? I just have a bit of ability. He could kill me in one blow with ease.” Lambert chuckled, rubbing Keane’s head. “Young master Keane, when we arrive in the O’Brien Empire, you must be careful. There are many experts in this world. I’m only able to protect you in places like those small towns. But when we reach the big cities…”
“It’s fine! This time, we’re going to assume the position of city governor, right?” Keane arrogantly raised his little head up high. “When I’m the city governor, who will I fear?”
Looking at Keane, Jenne couldn’t help but also affectionately pat Keane on his little head. “Keane, in the future, you will be a majestic city governor.”
“Of course.” Keane was very confident.
Slowly, most people in the caravan began to drift off to sleep. Only a few mercenaries remained awake in a defensive perimeter around the caravan. Linley was seated cross-legged on the ground, the adamantine heavy sword placed on his lap as always.
Linley didn’t know how the ancestors of his clan had trained in the third level of using the heavy sword, the ‘impose’ level. But Linley’s training method was to allow his soul to become one with the great earth and one with the boundless wind.
The earth possessed a wondrous throbbing pulse of its own.
That unique pulse had its own unique rhythm, which Linley submerged himself into. As for the boundless wind which filled all the skies, it had a deep, intimate connection with space, which was also an important part of being able to understand the essence of the ‘impose’ level.
Submerged within nature…understanding nature…
In this state, Linley didn’t notice the passage of time at all. By the second half of the night, when the vast majority of the caravan was asleep, only a few hired mercenaries maintained their watchful vigilance.
Deep night. The cold wind was blowing, and it rustled against the tips of Linley’s hair. Linley’s closed eyes suddenly opened, and then he sheathed the adamantine heavy sword onto his back.
“Get up.” Linley patted Lowndes and Luther twice each.
Lowndes and Luther were both mercenaries who lived by the edges of their weapons. They slept very lightly. Immediately, they woke up. Lowndes and Luther quickly saw that it was still midnight.
“Ley, it’s late at night. Why aren’t you sleeping?” Lowndes was a bit unhappy, but he didn’t dare to complain.
“Bandits are coming.” Linley said casually.
Luther’s eyes were drifting closed again, but then suddenly they snapped open. Staring at Linley in shock, he said, “Ley, what’d you say? Bandits are coming?”
“A group of roughly a hundred or so bandits are approaching us from approximately three hundred meters in front. They’re slowly making their way here.” Linley continued.
Just then, Linley had been communing with the throbbing pulse of the earth and the flows of the wind.
Linley could clearly feel those hundred or so feet coming from hundreds of meters away. Naturally, under normal conditions, Linley wouldn’t have been able to detect them so early. But after having become one with nature, he naturally was far more sensitive.
Luther was frightened.
“Don’t stand there like an idiot. Wake up all of our brothers.” Lowndes was far calmer.
“Oh. Got it.” Luther immediately left to wake up one mercenary after another, while Lowndes went to warn all of the mercenaries who were on guard.
Being woken up from their sweet dreams in the middle of the night, the mercenaries were naturally all unhappy.
“Bandits coming.” But that phrase was enough to shock them into scrambling up.
“Where are they?” Staring in all directions into the pitch black night, the awakened mercenaries couldn’t even see the shadow of a bandit. All of them began to grow unhappy.
The leader of the mercenaries, a heavily bearded man, grabbed Lowndes by his shirt. “You said there are bandits. Where?”
“Not me. It was Ley who said there are bandits.” Lowndes hurriedly explained.
“Oh?” The heavily bearded man was shocked. With regards to this expert whom they picked up mid-way through their journey, just by looking at that black panther, the heavily bearded man knew that this was no one he could afford to offend. For an expert to make this claim, he clearly wouldn’t just be playing a prank.
And just at this moment, the heavily bearded man could also begin to hear the extremely soft sounds of stealthy footsteps coming from afar.
Given the heavily bearded man’s power, he could make out the sounds quite clearly now.
“Bandits. Prepare, prepare!” The heavily bearded man’s terrifying roar immediately woke everyone up. Even many slumbering merchants as well as their carriage drivers were woken up.
These hundred or so mercenaries lined up in an orderly fashion.
“Haha, Big Beard Malone. I didn’t expect you to be so alert. You’ve made some progress over these years. Looks like our ambush failed. We’ll have to make a frontal attack then.” A loud laugh could be heard, and then a figure dressed in black appeared in front of the caravan.
“It’s you?” The heavily bearded man’s face changed as he stared at that one-eyed, golden-haired man.
McKinley [Mai’jin’li], the One-Eyed Viper. In this long road which nobody controlled, this name was a very famous one. This person was famed for both his viciousness as well as his power.
“Waaaaa!” An infant in the caravan behind began to cry.
“Bandits!” Many people began to panic.
“QUIET!” The heavily bearded man roared angrily. Many people in the caravan immediately began to arrange themselves in groups, making sure that everyone was together. A number of youngsters armed themselves with weapons, preparing to resist.
The heavily bearded man looked at the one-eyed golden-haired man. “One-Eyed Viper, don’t push things too far. How about this. I’ll offer you five thousand gold coins for you and yours to allow us past. Deal?”
“Five thousand gold coins?” The one-eyed man laughed coldly. “Malone, do you take me, McKinley, to be a beggar? Listen up. A hundred thousand gold coins, and I’ll let you go. Otherwise…hmph.”
The faces of all the mercenaries sank.
A hundred thousand gold coins? Their compensation for this escort mission was only sixty or seventy thousand gold coins. If they were to offer a hundred thousand gold coins, they would be paying out of pocket. After all, according to the mercenary escorting rules, once they accepted an escort mission, even if they had to pay off some bandits, the mercenary company would have to pay out of pocket.
“One-Eyed Viper, don’t go overboard. You should be satisfied to earn 5000 gold without a single man of yours dying.” The heavily bearded man hefted his battleaxe. “Otherwise. We’ll just have to see who is stronger.” Big Beard Malone was quite confident. In the past, he had battled against McKinley, and they were about equal in strength. He believed that with the ambush a failure, McKinley wouldn’t dare to risk everything in an all-out assault.
“That’s how it should be. Brothers, attack!” McKinley shouted in a high voice.
Instantly, all of the bandits drew their weapons and, howling angrily, began to charge. This really did completely shock Malone.
“Swish!” “Swish”! “Swish!”
The archers on both sides began to release their arrows without mercy, but in a small-scale skirmish like this with only a hundred people on each side, archers didn’t have too great an impact on the overall battle.
“Malone, die!” McKinley charged forward, a sharp polearm in his arms. Leaping into the air, with all his might, he delivered a tremendous blow against Malone.
Malone swung his battleaxe upwards, unwilling to show any weakness.
“Thruuum.” The dark aura covering the polearm suddenly dramatically intensified.
Malone felt his hands grow numb, and he couldn’t help but take a few steps back.
“You…?” Malone stared at McKinley in astonishment. He knew exactly how powerful McKinley was. In terms of frontal assaults, his own weapon held an advantage over McKinley’s. But just then, the opponent had an advantage over him. This…
“Your guess is correct. I’ve already entered the eighth rank as a warrior.” McKinley’s face was filled with arrogance.
“No wonder you weren’t worried about making a frontal assault at all.” Malone now understood.
“Boss, there’s a pretty woman here.” A voice suddenly rang out.
McKinley immediately turned his head and saw Jenne, her face pale from terror and shock. Right now, Jenne was frantically protecting her little brother. The pitiable look on her face was quite stirring indeed.
“Haha, that woman is mine!” McKinley immediately grew excited.
The mercenaries were battling against the bandits. A bandit decapitated a mercenary, and then was run through the chest by another mercenary’s sword.
“Retreat, retreat!” Malone bellowed as he quickly retreated. All of his mercenaries retreated with him as well.
“Lord Ley, I beg of you, please rescue our caravan.” Malone said respectfully towards Linley, begging him for aid. Right now, the mercenaries had formed into a circle, with all the merchants and the others inside the ring. Linley and Malone were both located at the outermost layer of the circle.
Faced with Malone’s plea, Linley nodded once.
“I’ll only help you deal with the leader.” Linley said. Malone instantly was so excited that his eyes shone. If McKinley was killed, how could they be afraid of those remaining bandits?
Jenne was tightly holding her younger brother near the campfire.
“Sis, that mercenary captain seems to be begging Lord Ley.” Keane’s eyes were glowing as he watched all of this. Jenne turned to look at Linley as well.
Linley was standing in the middle of the road, calmly looking at the bandits.
“F*ck off!” Wielding his polearm, McKinley charged forward at high speed. He was advancing at an extremely fast speed, and his body was also flickering from left to right, as though he had transformed into two separate figures, making it difficult for one to determine who the real McKinley was, and which was the illusion.
This was the trademark special skill of McKinely, the One-Eyed Viper!
“How laughable.” Linley, having already reached the level of ‘impose’, held techniques of this level in absolutely no regard at all.
“Die!” A terrifying, ferocious gleam appeared in McKinley’s eye.
Linley drew the adamantine heavy sword from its sheath on his back. This drawing motion carried with it an astonishing, imposing aura, as though all of the space around it had suddenly become frozen.
The adamantine heavy sword chopped towards McKinley in a very simple manner.
McKinley immediately wanted to dodge, but to his terror, he discovered that the space around him seemed to have become suddenly compressed and locked. In that moment, not even sound could escape from the area.
He had nowhere to dodge, and in fact, he couldn’t even see anything else. His eye could only watch as the adamantine heavy sword drew closer and closer.
He wanted to raise his polearm to block, but he felt as though he had been mired in an endless pit of quicksand. The polearm felt as though it weighed ten thousand pounds, and was extremely slow.
The adamantine heavy sword landed against McKinley’s body. Suddenly, McKinley’s entire body, from head to toe, transformed into meat pulp. The bandits, the mercenaries, Jenne, Keane, and the others all stared in astonishment, their mouths hanging open.
“The rest of those little bandits are for you to handle.” Linley replaced his sword into its sheath as he spoke calmly to Big Beard Malone.