Richard did not pull the metal bar out, instead releasing his grip on it. He then pushed the hitman’s back, sending him flying high and far. He then shadowed the assassin, whose limbs didn’t respond to him anymore. The man could still think a little despite the shock, and he suddenly remembered that his companion was inside!
A couple of dull thuds sounded as two daggers thrust into the hitman’s body simultaneously. One pierced into his heart through the gaps between his ribs, and the other bore a hole through his backbone with enough ruthless precision to take his life in one go. Sadly, these attacks of his companion’s had found the wrong companion, a fatal mistake.
Richard dodged away like an apparition, his red hands swiping at the assassin. The mage’s hand seemed to possess a certain sharp energy that took the assassin’s head off, blood gushing out of his neck.
Richard stretched to grab the head that had been sent flying, bending over and pushing it on the ground like a ball. The face was still a mixture of shock and fear as the head rolled into the depths of the alley, stopping in front of a dark shadow. Meanwhile, his open eyes stared emptily at the shadows.
The person in the shadows seemed to feel uneasy upon seeing this, finally moving slightly and opening two tiny slits. Wild, bestial eyes met those of the assassin, a slight change that was practically impossible to notice. However, the numbers jumping in Richard’s vision told him that the shadow didn’t match its surroundings at all, and he was able to notice right away.
A blazing fireball flew into the alley with a whoosh, exploding in the half-sealed space. Its might was amplified manifold by the walls, giving it nearly 50 degrees of damage that was basically fatal to any being below level 10. A pitiful cry rang out amidst the surging flames, and a figure on fire danced within.
A heat wave rushed out, still unbearable despite the impact being ten or so metres away. Richard chose not to evade it, instead entering the alley as it struck. He stood by the wall at the entrance and retracted his aura, raising his right arm slightly and aiming his palm at the entrance.
The surging wave of heat finally stopped, and the magic flames were faintly discernible now. However, the half-charred body in the depths of the alley still continued to twitch, releasing pitiful moans that signified he was about to reach his end. At this moment, a slim male appeared at the mouth of the alley, and peeked to take a look inside. This new entrant wielded a heavy single-handed axe emitting a dull, chilly luster that did not match with his physique.
The first thing he saw was Richard’s palm spitting out fire! The flames were aimed directly at the man’s face, causing him to cry out in pain as he felt his face burn and everything go black. He quickly drew back; although Hand of Flames was a grade 1 spell with only two degrees of damage often used to light the way in expeditions, it could display an immense power itself when used appropriately.
The man took several steps back and suddenly felt a chill at the side of his abdomen. He then roared, the heavy axe chopping down lightning quick to practically flit across Richard’s scalp.
Richard, who wanted to take advantage of this time to make a sneak attack, immediately broke out in cold sweat. Who knew the man could still counter him with such speed and precision despite losing his axe? The surging energy from the axe told his this was a warrior of at least level 10!
Richard immediately dropped down with a strange motion, beginning to crawl around like a lizard until he was ten metres away. The decision proved correct, because the man continued with a barrage of attacks at his earlier position. The axe had already brushed over his head thrice in succession, getting closer and closer every time. The most dangerous one had even sliced the clothing on his back!
Richard stayed and pressed himself into the wall, remaining unmoving. The pit of his stomach was hurting and he felt like he was burning up, the feeling of suffocation continuing to assail his senses. He felt like a fish on land, forced to open his mouth wide to breathe, but he controlled himself and endured the splitting pain in his stomach. He breathed far slower than normal, just in case the warrior who’d lost his sense of sight managed to find him.
The effects of Eruption had passed, and having burst forth with such strength several times greater than usual he would feel drowsy and fatigued for a while. Even if he drank a potent energy potion immediately it would still take him half an hour to return to normal. For that half hour, he basically wouldn’t be able to move at all.
Richard’s gaze was focused on the ground in front of the warrior’s feet. He used the little light there was to observe his movements, a small technique from the the underworld that allowed one to avoid a direct gaze that would alarm the other party. He calculated the mana he had left in the meanwhile.
His body had grown very frail, and having cast two spells already he only had enough mana to cast a regular fireball. However, that would have limited effect on a warrior above level 10.
When the warrior found that his axe had cleaved through air a few times in succession, he was quite shocked. Never had he thought he would miss all of his blows; even if he was blinded his senses and techniques were still active. With his memory of the target’s last position and the sneak attack, as well as a judgement of the opponent’s speed, he could figure out where the youth would dodge and seal all of the escape routes off. He’d even touched him once, but he’d still failed? Unless Richard had crawled away like a lizard.
The man held his breath and turned slowly, preparing to find the darned kid. However, he suddenly felt something cold at the side of his abdomen as he moved. A near forty-centimetre-long wound appeared on his body, splitting up his insides to release intestines and other organs into the open. The warrior swayed, a look of disbelief on his face as he released his grip on his weapon. The axe crashed down to the ground, while his own body felt like a sack of potatoes.
The flickering light of magic was beginning to light up in the distance, and it was starting to get clamorous. Hurried footsteps closes in, those of the mage enforcers that had already been alarmed. Even at the borders it was forbidden to cast ranged, dangerous spells in public, and the fireball was a classic example of such a spell. The arrival of the enforcers was obviously good for Richard, and he relaxed to let loose a breath of warm air.
Just as Richard relaxed, a series of hoarse and low chuckles sounded. This was followed by a charming voice that seemed to speak into his ear, “You can die peacefully now, Richard!”
However, the hitman herself was nowhere as close as her voice was. The moment she finished speaking, a dull dagger that did not emit any rays of light stretched out from three or four steps away, piercing towards Richard’s lower back. The dagger was a strange deathly-grey, with toxins smeared on the surface. Even if his vital areas were not struck, just having it swipe across his skin could take Richard’s life in half a minute. Just as the dagger was about to touch the middle of his back, the outline of the hitman’s body appeared like a translucent being.
However, the attack she prepared for did not work. A strange-looking dagger with a dark-red lustre wound around it appeared out of nowhere, blocking her own with skill that surpassed her’s.
This was no nameless dagger. On the contrary, the strange groove on its blade and signature blood-red luster was well-known in the world of darkness.
“The Blade of Calamity!” The female hitmen yelled. Her figure now was extremely clear, and even her face grew somewhat discernible. She just stared as the crimson dagger disappeared into her body, instantly recalling the many legends in the past regarding the Blade of Calamity. The decade-old memories surged into her mind.
The most terrifying thing about the Blade of Calamity wasn’t the sharpness of the dagger, instead how exquisite and outstanding the technique was. There was also the mysterious and unpredictable curses of calamity.
Everytime the dagger killed someone, it absorbed part of the other party’s soul, using that power as fuel to activate the curses of calamity. There were a total of six, and while they could only be used once a day those who were struck by the curse wouldn’t be able to tell when they’d be attacked; the longer the Blade of Calamity had his eye on someone, the more dangerous it was.
The dark red lustre being emitted from the dagger didn’t feel like anything at all once it entered her body, but the assassin knew that the Blade of Calamity had unleashed the Blood Trace on her. This was his most well-known curse, allowing him to determine her position at any time for the next three days.
The assassin jumped high and performed a backflip, silently landing ten metres away. She crouched low on the ground like a shadow panther, a pair of lifeless eyes staring at the blood-red dagger.
A hand appeared at the hilt of the dagger, followed by an arm that seemed slender. Next was clothing so normal that it seemed unpresentable, followed by an average-looking face. However, the smile on it seemed philistine and vulgar. If not for that malicious and terrifying dagger, Naya could definitely be taken to be the boss of a little restaurant or tavern, using the little earnings he had to fill his stomach, so busy everyday that he could only fantasise about beautiful women to pass time. Whatever it was, it was difficult to connect him and the handsome man who had sparkled in the world of darkness a decade or so before.
Naya was completely opposite of the female hitman, who looked as if she had seen a great enemy. Instead, he made a show and began to flaunt his skills with his dagger, gazing vulgarly at the powerful curves of the assassin like a dirty old man, “So it’s you. What was your name again? Let me think, it’s Blood Parrot, or Ash Sparrow… It doesn’t matter what you’re called. In the blink of an eye, it’s been ten or so years since I last saw you. I didn’t expect your body to become this hot! But your level, tsk, how should I say this… How is it that there’s no change even after so many years? You’re still level 14? Have you been spending all these years accompanying old nobles to bed without the time to train?”
Blood Parrot maintained her stance, ready to attack at any time. However, despite his casual posture and loud boasts that made him look like a vulgar street thug, there were actually no gaps in Naya’s defence. There was no way for her to even attack, much less escape. She was a level 14 assassin and she was rendered almost completely unable to retaliate; how powerful did Naya have to be in his prime?
Naya had no intentions of attacking right away, instead continuing to mock Blood Parrot. He made ample use of his ability to make scathing remarks about his opponent, “Oh my, look at that posture. Why is your bottom sticking out so high? Are you trying to seduce me? While I have been earning quite a bit of extra income, how did you know I have money? Hehe, hehe…”
He laughed weirdly a few times, but his tone abruptly changed. He stopped the exaggerated vulgarity and boorishness, saying coldly, “Blood Parrot, how can people of your calibre dare come to the Deepblue and behave like this? Tell me who hired you, and I’ll let you go. If you don’t want to, I wouldn’t mind practicing some techniques I haven’t used in a long time. Oi Richard! You can stand up already, don’t be so nervous. This is my territory, she won’t touch a hair on your head.”
Richard voiced a reply, but didn’t get up the normal way. He first shifted to the corner of a wall, and pressed himself to it like a lizard before he stood up. The entire motion was nimble, and he’d moved in tricky directions. If someone tried to attack him while he was standing up, they would likely misjudge his position and fail.
Richard’s movements left Naya extremely pleased. It was Blood Parrot who was astonished by the youth’s actions, and only then did she understand the situation. An ugly, hoarse voice sounded out, “Blade of Calamity, you taught this boy all your assassination techniques? No wonder those people failed.”
Naya shook his head in dissatisfaction and spat out, “You think this is everything? Pfft, it’s just the tip of the iceberg; it can’t even be considered the art of assassination. But this little guy learns fast and never forgets to keep his guard up, so he does have a bit of talent. However, my dearest Blood Parrot, are you trying to stall for time? Haven’t you noticed that I’m doing the same? This is my territory, and no matter how many reinforcements you call in, you won’t be able to escape my grasp…”
Just at this moment, an aggressive voice full of energy called out from the distance, “Her reinforcements have been taken care of, and so have yours! Also, there’s something I need to correct you about. The Deepblue is Her Excellency’s territory! Since you’re standing in her territory, you need to pay taxes!
Despite the huge ruckus, it was only now that the mage enforcers reached the scene. Blood Parrot’s body trembled, but she didn’t dare change stance in the slightest, lest Naya immediately deal her a fatal blow. A small yet imposing figure walked over from the end of the valley; Blackgold.
The grey dwarf’s imposing gait was only thanks to the huge crowd of mage enforcers around him, numbering more than a dozen. They were even guarded by about ten heavily armed foot-soldiers. These large men with steel on their bodies were all extremely mighty, using heavy weapons. They would have great power in these small alleys, something that gave Naya a headache. On top of that, there were more than ten mages behind them that were full of vigour!
The foot-soldiers were escorting three corpses and two men. The men were the ones Richard had seen in Naya’s tavern, but even seemingly taken hostage they appeared to be relaxed. Blackgold was just here for taxes, which was Naya’s business since they themselves had no income at all. Those three corpses, on the other hand, were reinforcements Blood Parrot had been waiting for. Unfortunately they weren’t all that smart, and had dared to retaliate against the enforcers. They died without causing any damage to the grey dwarf’s forces; in a frontal battle between assassins and regular soldiers equipped to the teeth, the assassins would face a heavy tragedy.
Truth be told, the grey dwarf’s troop was strong enough to deal with even thirty of Naya’s comrades, forget just three of Blood Parrot’s companions. Naya himself would have to drop everything and escape alongside his group if faced with them. This was why the smile on his face turned into one currying favour with the dwarf, even if it seemed awkward and pained.
Blackgold’s eyes flashed with a dangerous glint, “You only taught Richard the tip of the iceberg? You haven’t taught him the essence of the art of assassination, but you still dare to take a thousand gold coins a day… You must know; when it comes down to it, this is Her Excellency’s money you’re taking. Her. Excellency’s. Money!”
Naya smiled as if he was ridiculed and pulled the grey dwarf aside, speaking in a low voice, “Wasn’t I boasting just now? Look, Richard can even take care of four assassins alone, so how can it just be the tip of the iceberg? That’s the essence of everything I’ve experienced over the years! That’s why it’s understandable to take fees like that. Besides, I paid all my taxes last month. Your bringing so many people here is just…”
The grey dwarf too spoked in a hushed tone and glanced at Blood Parrot, “I heard there was a tiny issue here, which is why I brought more people here to take a look in case you couldn’t take care of it and injured Her Excellency’s little Richard. Who knew they’re all at this level? How are you planning to take care of this woman?”
Naya furrowed his eyebrow, saying, “This is actually hard to say, and I’m not certain I’ll get any answers. Would you like to stay and watch?”
“No no, I’m only in charge of collecting taxes. This has nothing to do with me!” the grey dwarf rejected straight out with a wave of his arms, “And I don’t want to hear what she has to say. If you get any answers, take care of it yourself. Don’t you people of the underworld have your own laws?”
Naya frowned even more, “But this is the Deepblue, so everything works according to the laws of the Deepblue…”
The grey dwarf waved his arm and vulgarly interrupted Naya, “The law of the Deepblue is to pay your taxes honestly, that’s all. I’m off! Remember the taxes this month, I’ll pretend I didn’t see anything else here!”
The troop immediately tossed the corpses and men to the ground with a wave of Blackgold’s hand, escorting the dwarf back.
Naya turned grim. Blackgold’s tone had implied that the Deepblue had enough military power to destroy the underside of the city, an obvious warning and demonstration of power. He’d implied that, even without Her Excellency acting herself, those of the Deepblue could definitely take care of anyone without good intentions no matter how impressive they were ten years ago in the outside world. This was the Deepblue, Sharon’s Deepblue.
Blood Parrot remained with her buttocks raised high even as the grey dwarf left, as if she had some kind of fetish. The ground she was lying on had long grown damp with her sweat, but Naya’s killing intent that had remained locked on her from the start left her with no way out. Blackgold’s troop was even more terrifying than Naya himself, and she wouldn’t dare move at all.
When Naya’s gaze landed on her once more, Blood Parrot finally understood there would not be any lucky breaks. WIth a yell, she pounced towards Naya!
With a dull crash, Naya’s dagger wondrously appeared at the back of Blood Parrot’s head and knocked her unconscious. He kicked her a few times after she collapsed to the ground, confirming that she was unconscious before he turned to Richard, “I need to interrogate her after this. The entire process will be exciting and bloody, and you can watch from the side and even give me some help; it will be extremely useful for your understanding of the dark arts. That isn’t necessary, however; it might be a little too early for you, giving you too much of a shock. Decide for yourself whether you’re going to participate. What do you think? Want to give it a try?”
Richard turned slightly pale. He’d already been instructed in the dark arts Naya spoke of, understanding the excitement and bloodiness he mentioned. He still nodded with resolution, however, the sheer speed of the decision surprising the former Blade of Calamity. The killer who’d been unmatched in the underworld a decade ago couldn’t understand quite how someone with Richard’s illustrious background was so determined in his pursuit of the dark arts. It was to the point that one might suspect Richard had been born with perverted tendencies.
Actually, Richard’s mindset had been pretty simple when he made the decision. What would Gaton Archeron do? he asked himself, would he cower in fear? The answer was obviously no. Gaton had seen far more blood in his life, creating more scenes like this himself. Most importantly, his mother had told him— and he’d seen it for himself— that the man was completely fearless. That was why he decided to participate.
Seeing Richard starting to look pale yet determined, Naya shrugged, “Fine then, come. But first, prepare a bucket and make sure it’s big enough. You’ll need it.”