Eirinn heard the commotion within the fort and looked up doubtfully.
Alpacino narrowed his eyes and saw a silhouette of a person letting out a bright light in the sky facing another person standing not far away. Were they going to duke it out?
"Light…" Alpacino mumbled, before he snapped, "It's the crimsonflame demon! It's Saron!"
Eirinn tilted her head in confusion. Her silver eyes showed only puzzlement.
"It's the number-one expert of Stok," Alpacino explained simply. He thought back at the night and noticed it was incredibly abnormal. In Hocke, there was Golden Sacred Eagle Alissanda and Leguna Dark Requiem. Even the less famous champion of the tournament, Annelotte, should be able to rank among them. They were the new generation of elites Hocke had garnered over the recent years.
However, in Stok, only Saron had the same degree of infamy. But since he was acknowledged as the number-one genius on Chino, he ought to be stronger than the Hocke geniuses. He was Stok's only absolute talent, as well as the strongest among the young in the continent. There was no way someone like that would be mistreated by Stok.
If that was the case, why did Saron bother to attack Fort Kesta personally? Would Stok be willing to waste such talent on a mere fort?
The answer was obvious. Alpacino soon had a hunch that a great deal was going to happen in Fort Kesta that night. After a few moments' consideration, he made up his mind. Solemnly, he turned to Eirinn and said, "I need you to calm down and listen to me."
"What is it?" She blinked innocently, still unaware of the encroaching danger.
"There might be a siege in Fort Kesta tonight and this fort might just fall," Alpacino said with a shudder. He didn't think the fort would be able to hold up against Saron. That fellow was far too infamous for his cruelty and was the only double gifted. Such a powerful entity could even match up against an army of a thousand! Since Stok was willing to mobilize such an asset, they were almost certain that they would succeed. Alpacino already figured out the impending danger despite the fact that the fort wasn't under total attack yet.
Eirinn clutched her mouth with her hands. She seldom doubted the words of others and didn't even think of second guessing Alpacino's words, appearing distraught right after hearing them.
Though he was completely terrified, he bravely said to Eirinn, "Don't be afraid. I'll protect you. Let's head back to your quarters immediately and take some necessities with us like food, clothes, water and some money. We'll think of a way to leave Fort Kesta immediately. Don't worry, it's not guaranteed that the fort would fall just yet. But for the sake of your safety, it's better if we head to the rear to hide. Quick, let's move!"
"Oh… okay…" she muttered with a nod. She didn't have any ideas of her own and went with whatever Alpacino suggested.
"We need to leave, Teacher!" Eirinn shouted as she knocked on Nancy's door.
"Leave? To where?" the medic asked. The commotion outside was brewing, and she had noticed the oddness of that night. However, she hadn't arrived at the conclusion that the fort would fall just yet.
"The crimsonflame demon is here! You and Eirinn had better hide out at the rear!" Alpacino summarized.
"Saron, huh?" Nancy knew the weight that name carried, but she shook her head firmly. "While it might be dangerous here tonight, I can't leave."
"Why?!" Alpacino was almost freaking out. The Stokians would be on them before long. They had to leave immediately.
"When there's war, there'll be injured. I have to stay to treat them."
Before Alpacino could go on, Nancy interrupted, "No buts. I won't leave. This is my duty as a medic. Take Eirinn with you! Make sure to protect her. At least, try to send him to Leguna's side!"
"Alright…" Seeing how insistent she was, he could only give up.
"If teacher isn't leaving, then… I'm not either!"
"Eirinn, don't mess around! You can't stay here!" Alpacino was on the brink of breakdown.
"Why not? Teacher's a medic, I'm a medic too. Why can she stay but I can't? I want to help the injured too! I want to help teacher! Big Brother Alpacino, I'm not leaving!"
"No, you have to leave!"
"I--" Before Eirinn could finish, Nancy snuck up behind her with a handkerchief and pressed it to her nose.
"Madam Nancy, you…" Alpacino was shocked to see Eirinn faint in a few short seconds.
"There's no time to waste. It's better to just knock her out. Don't worry, it's a kind of anesthesia I concocted myself. She's out cold, but she'll be fine. Just wait here." Nancy handed Eirinn to him and turned to enter her room.
Half a minute later, she came back out with a small black pouch and hung it on Alpacino's belt. "I had predicted something like this would happen sooner or later, so I made some preparations. This is a dimensional pocket. There are daily necessities inside that will last you a week. Take Eirinn northward to a safe place first before trying to contact Leguna and handing her over."
"Won't she ever come back?" Alpacino asked. He had only wanted her to get away from the fort temporarily. He didn't think she'll be leaving the place for good.
"Since Saron's here, there's little doubt that the fort will fall. I don't know what that Leguna is doing! The bureau should've notified the army about this before it even happened!" Even the ever patient Nancy was frustrated with Leguna's way of handling things. "That's why you have to take her and leave now! Even if we manage to hold on, I doubt Leguna would want her to remain here now that it has become a zone of conflict."
"Alright." Alpacino had wanted to try persuading Nancy to leave with them, but he knew it would be futile.
"Alpacino," Nancy said as she patted him on the shoulder, "Look after her well."
"I will!" He saluted her before leaving.
"Ahahahahaha!" Saron's wry laughter reverberated through the air in the fort. He turned to look at the old magus and said, "Old fellow, you reached your limit that fast? I only used three spells!"
The high-order magus looked pale like he was drained of all his blood. He thought that even if his talent and stratum couldn't match Saron's, he could at least hold on for a time with his years of experience.
But it seemed that the heartless hammer of reality crushed his fantasy. Saron's spells had grown powerful to an unimaginable degree, and his Host of Flame and warrior physique enabled him to fight up close as well.
All the crimsonflame demon did was use a fireball to easily breach his magical barrier, before using a single magic missile spell to force the old magus into running into an air barrier Saron made. After using a teleport spell, he punched the old man with a flaming-impetus-infused fist to send him groveling.
"It is my loss," the magus said unwillingly, before he attempted to dictate a transference spell to leave.
But he was shot by a dimensional hook spell. Magi in that condition wouldn't be able to use any spatial spells.
"What do you intend by doing that?" the magus said with his eyes narrowed. Usually, duels between magi concluded without either side getting injured or losing their life.
It was an unspoken rule in the world of magic. Magi were far and few in between in the first place, to say no more about high-order magi. The death of any high-order magus is a huge loss to the world of magic. Given that magi were exalted entities revered by most, while some pledged loyalty to certain powers, most also identified with their other fellow magi. They were their own faction in all but name, and duels between magi were akin to internal conflicts in an organization.
"Do I need to spell it out for you?" Saron yawned and kicked against his air barrier to speed towards the old magus.
He focused his impetus to a critical point and sent his lava-hot fist towards the old magus' torso. His sternum shattered from the punch without the protection of a barrier.
Saron extended his hand into a claw and grabbed onto the magus' heart before crushing it to pieces.
He then licked the sizzling blood off his fingers and said, "I'm killing you, of course. Well, that's enough messing around! Even though you're not here, I recall that you left your woman here, right? I wonder what you'll do about it if I capture her…"
Though Saron wanted to capture Eirinn as soon as he could, he had another mission to fulfill. He took out a talisman from his pocket and looked at it in awe for a few seconds.
I wonder if there's anything my teacher can't do… thought Saron. But he didn't mull on it and threw the talisman into the air before injecting a trace of mana into it with his finger. "Activate!"
The talisman glowed brightly above Saron's head and a circle with a radius of a kilometer gradually appeared.
Saron hesitated before smiling bitterly. "I didn't think there'd be a time when I'd be doing cumbersome work like this."
He drank a mana potion before raising his hands up high and infusing all the mana in him into that gigantic magic formation.
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