Gerd already suspected something when he saw that magus. But after listening to what the soldiers said, he instantly knew that something was up. There must be!
Even though it was normal for people to come and go with materials, that magus just now was definitely abnormal!
It wasn't that he looked odd. Instead, his attitude seemed to be highly uncharacteristic of magi. He was too amicable to the point that it stoked his suspicion!
Even though the status of magi in Hocke wasn't as high as it was in Stok, magi were still rare in the empire. And that person had introduced himself as a court magus. How could someone of his stature endure being ordered around by a lowly warrior guard? Even if he didn't punish the guard, he would at least scold him once or twice. But that magus didn't mind it in the slightest and even asked nicely for a compromise.
Not only that, he even attempted to bribe that guard. There definitely wasn't a single magus in the whole world that was that easygoing. It was too bad the explosion triggered before Gerd was able to do anything about it.
"Get in, quick! Find Miss Innilis!"
Gerd spat out a mouthful of blood. The impact with the metal door had caused him considerable damage, and he required a few seconds to recover. He had no choice but to shout at his two absent-minded subordinates.
"If something happens to her, I will make sure to kill you first!"
There was a hint of despair in his cries. He had a rough grasp of Leguna's personality after working with him for quite some time.
Overall, he found Leguna to be someone rather pleasant to get along with. He didn't have much of a temper nor throws around an air of importance. His happy-go-lucky attitude was completely unfit for someone of his stature, that was only how he was usually. Gerd knew that there were few people that shouldn't ever be touched. If anything happened to them, Leguna would change entirely into an existence to be feared, and Innilis was undoubtedly one of them.
He understood that misfortune befell her, being killed by a frenzied Leguna was a real possibility. Since that was the case, he would make sure those two fools paid for their mistakes before that happened.
"Yes, Sir!" the two shouted as they snapped out of their stupor and rushed into the lab.
Kadir was moving about in the chaotic room calmly. He was a Stokian spy that had infiltrated the court magi association long ago and always kept a low profile. But lately, he had finally been given a mission by the empire to destroy the magical cannon research project.
He saw an alchemist crawling on the ground, struggling and walked over to him with a smile.
"It's such a shame, Mister Marventel. I was under your care for quite a while, so I decided to pay you back today."
Before the alchemist could finish, Kadir sent a glacial blade through his skull. Blood spurted out and splashed onto the ends of Kadir's robes.
Not that he minded it. He took two more steps forward and saw two figures emerge from a dark corner. The guards had undone their disguise and revealed themselves to be bureau agents. They surrounded Kadir from the front and back and prepared to cripple his arms so that he may not dictate.
But the magus merely snickered. During his long years of training in Stok, he had learned about some assassination techniques as well. Those two agents were only second-rate, and it was laughable for them to even dare challenge a 13th-stratum magus like him!
He activated the barrier field from his ring. Even though it was a weak barrier, it was enough as long as the first attacks from those two could be blocked.
The blades of the agents crashed on the barrier before it shattered like glass. But Kadir had already finished his spell, and he gave a push and spat out flaming hot dragon breath towards the assassins.
The poor agent in front let out agonizing cries. Kadir didn't bat another eye and turned to his back towards the other assassin and reduced him to a burning pile moments later.
He looked around and spotted Innilis on the ground, whom he didn't know was still alive or not.
This lass... seems to have quite some ties with Dark Requiem, thought the magus as he approached the girl.
He grasped the girl's blonde hair crassly and pulled her close to his face.
"She does look rather fine."
The dirt and smudge on her face gave her a pitiful air, which he could appreciate. But to a cool and trained agent like him, beauty was something insignificant. He put his hands around her neck and prepared to snap it.
A youth clothed in black leather armor barged in. There was a pitch-black sword on his back.
Kadir turned around and smiled.
"And here I was wondering who it might be. None other than the great Leguna Dark Requiem!"
Leguna's eyes turned bloodshot when he saw Innilis. Seething murderous intent ruled his mind. All he wanted to do was cut the bastard into a million pieces, but his last remaining bit of rationality reminded him Innilis was still in his hands.
"Are you a Stokian assassin?" Leguna asked coldly.
"That's for you to guess."
Even though the head of the bureau himself had come, Kadir didn't think it was the end of the line for him. Instead, he thought Innilis would be his greatest betting chip. Leguna would be his shield to ensure Innilis's safety.
"Let her go."
"Of course. But only once I'm safe. How about it? I know how important she is to you. I'll trade her life for mine. A good deal, no?"
Leguna didn't say a word.
"Hesitating are we?"
"I'm a nobody. I don't have any grudges with you. Why would you risk hurting this girl to get me? I doubt it's worth it. I'm sure you'd be torn if something happened to her. I'll snap her neck if you try anything though. I'm a magus, but I can snap her neck before you get to me. Time to make your choice?"
Leguna grit his teeth, but his expression blanked.
"If you promise me my safety, we are."
"Let her go."
"Sure, when I'm safe."
"No. You will die today. But your death will be painless if you let her go, now."
"Do you really want me to take her down with me?"
Kadir asked, his face tight with anger.
"She won't die today no matter what you try."
Innilis's eyes strained to open. She didn't cry at all after getting ahold of her situation. There wasn't the slightest bit of fear or panic in her eyes, only deep trust. He had come, so she believed that he would solve everything no matter what. She already believed she was safe, even as the stranger's hands were locked around her neck.
Leguna was relieved to see that she wasn't hurt by the explosion.
"Big Brother... You're here..." she smiled weakly.
Leguna turned his gaze to Kadir.
"I was late last time. Not this time. I promised you I'd protect you. Trust me, I'll save you!"
"Take another step and she's dead."
"She's already saved. You can do nothing to her."
"We'll see about that. Time to die, little girl!"
Kadir's hands tightened around the girl's neck and she started coughing.
Things didn't play out as he wanted, however. Leguna was aiming for the moment his mind fell apart as he talked all along. He had already grasped the moment! As the energy coursed through Kadir's hands, his right hand was completely severed from his body. Leguna appeared beside him before he noticed and slashed his arm off with Ebony.
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