Chapter 51 – The Eye Of The Array

  • by lemuel moo

It was shortly after dinner, and the students had their break. Athena and Clere drew [东南西北][1] on the ground in the east, south, west, and north entrance of the camp with their [Cursed Ink Technique]. Together, they activated the [Four Corners Of Protection]. In the middle of the camp, the lines converged at a single point.

Together, the four symbols created a spherical aura surrounding the camp. As soon as intruders enter the field, both Athena and Clere would know.

Victor Spectre wanted the campers to have an early night in their tents while the combat instructors would be on full alert. However, the students wouldn’t comply with him because they were excited about what was going on with Gale and the royal assassins.

Suddenly, Athena’s and Clere’s left forearm flashed [紧][2], and they knew the assassins arrived.

“What a pretty defensive array, but why doesn’t it do anything other than alerting for enemies?” A female voice asked.

“They are probably right. We aren’t here for a massacre,” another male voice said.

Twenty assassins appeared before the campers, and they wore full body armor. Each of them had two flags behind them, and they carried different weapons in their hands. They looked menacing, and they were ready for a battle.

Victor stepped forward to address the intruders.

“We’re from Aelfsige Academy, and we have a training camp here. What can I do for you?”

A short lady stepped forward, removed her mask, and said. “We’re looking for Gale Gainsborough. Is he here?”

“He has retreated to the north-east of here, in the forests nearby. You can find him there,” Victor said.

“I see.” The lady signaled to one of the assassins, and that assassin disappeared.

Nineteen assassins were left, and Victor asked, “are you all going to stay here?”

“We need to find a couple more people. Is Clere Sigrun and Jacinta Heywood here?”

Clere and Jacinta looked at each other in bewilderment, and said, “we’re here. What do you want with us?”

“You’re friends with Gale Gainsborough, right?” The lady asked.

“And what about it?”

“Prince Regulus would like you to join him in his harem. Riches and honor will befall you for the rest of your life, and you’ll get to reunite with Princess Reyna as sisters.”

Those words alarmed the camp, and Kasumi stepped forward to address the assassins. “What’s the meaning of this?! They are students and not marriage candidates for Prince Regulus!”

The lady noticed Kasumi’s beauty, and she turned to her companion. The companion nodded, and the lady asked, “who are you?”

“I’m their combat instructor!” Kasumi said.

“We’ll like you to audition for the harem as well,” the lady said.

Valerian and Hideki stepped forward to shield Kasumi and the girls. “You can’t take them with you! They are innocent citizens!”

Upon seeing Valerian, the assassins hesitated for a moment, but they didn’t waver at their goals.

“Valerian Tze, son of General Tze from SPAW. Please don’t make it difficult for us,” the lady said. “We are well aware of your strength, and we’ve made sufficient countermeasures against you.”

Valerian observed the assassins’ outfits and understood what the lady meant. “That’s why you guys are wearing full body armor. My [Iron Sand Palms] isn’t going to penetrate through them easily.”

“Exactly. It will not be a one-on-one fight, Valerian,” the lady assassin said. “With your strength, you may be able to take down a couple of us, but nineteen is too much of a stretch.”

It was evident that the assassins were not going to balk from their position. The combat instructors were duty-bound to protect the students, and they girded their minds to fight. Lizzie Velmont yawned and stretched, and she got up from her seat to face the enemies.

“It’s been some time since I have had a decent workout. Wouldn’t you say that, Ms. Ayumi?”

Ayumi unsheathed her ninjato and readied herself. “Yeah.”

The combat instructors readied themselves to fight, and Athena spoke to Clere. “Protect everyone in the tent areas. I will face them with the combat instructors.”

Clere nodded. “Okay.”

“I don’t need this protection!” Dylan yelled as he stepped forward. “These guys have been pissing me off! Why are these fools getting the upper hand with the girls here?! I’m going to whip their ass!”

“For once, I agree with you, Dylan,” Vanessa smirked. “Perhaps I should fight too.”

The lady said, “Vanessa Cyneburg, you’re a royal too. If you interfere with Prince Regulus plans, you’ll have to answer to him.”

“He has to answer to me!” Vanessa retorted. “We’re right here holding an annual camp, and he wants to pick his brides among the students?! Who does he think he is? Unless Prince Regulus believes he’s bigger than the World Alliance.

He may be the son of Emperor Sebastian, and Navarre is one of the four major empires in this world, but he’s not above me!”

The royal assassins paused for a moment. They were unwilling to make trouble for Vanessa, whose prestige and rank were not any inferior to that of Prince Regulus. One of them called Prince Regulus through phone and spoke with him. After a brief moment, the assassin put Prince Regulus on speakerphone.

“Ah, Lady Vanessa. You weren’t in the campers’ list, so I beg your pardon. Would you like to join me for supper now?” Prince Regulus asked.

“No, thank you. I’ll like your royal assassins to leave our campsite,” Vanessa replied.

“I really can’t do that. You see, Gale Gainsborough interrupted our royal protocol. He will be put to death for interfering in my relationship with Reyna, and for his accomplices, I merely invite them to be part of my family. I have been very gracious all this while.”

“Who says Gale Gainsborough interrupted the royal protocol?! He’s going to be a marriage candidate for Reyna, and it is in his right to stop the marriage until further notice!” Vanessa yelled.

Silence emanated from the phone for a while. “Who permitted Gale to be a marriage candidate for Reyna? He isn’t a royal, and he’s not highborn!”

“I did. I spoke to my father today and registered Gale as my fiance!”

The combat instructors and students stared at Vanessa in bewilderment for her sudden announcement! Vanessa continued. “Because I intend to do a double wedding with Princess Reyna, Gale will be registered as Prince Consort under my family’s name!”

Kasumi, Clere, and Jacinta could not believe their ears. They only knew Vanessa was going to endorse Gale for challenging the marriage duel, but they never expected Vanessa to declare Gale as her fiance!

Clere was getting angry because Gale stole another maiden’s heart yet again, and Kasumi sighed as there would be another sister in Gale’s harem.

The announcement provoked Prince Regulus’ wrath, and he snarled, “Vanessa Cyneburg. Do not mess with me. Just because your family is one of the founders of the World Alliance does not mean you get to do whatever you want!”

“Likewise, Prince Regulus,” Vanessa said. “My father will be on my side for this one. He is pleased with Gale as a son-in-law, and he looks forward to meeting him soon.”

Silence emanated from the phone in a brief moment before Prince Regulus barked orders. “Royal assassins of Nevarre, clean this up tonight! Don’t harm Vanessa Cyneburg, but make sure you accomplish what I have tasked you to do!”

It was an unstoppable fight, and Athena stepped forward to begin. “I will initiate the fight. All of you can start after I give the first signal.”

The combat instructors nodded and readied themselves for a brutal evening.

———-

Agatha had a mysterious man who smoked a pipe in her office, and that man had two bodyguards with him. He had a mustache and short black hair.

“Arthur Cyneburg. I can’t believe you beat me to getting Gale into your family.”

Arthur smoked his pipe and laughed. “Of course! Who wouldn’t want the successor of the Purple Phoenix to be part of their family?! My dear Vanessa has been researching about him ever since he displayed his dominant killing aura when he first stepped into Aelfsige Academy.

You are very sneaky, Agatha. If it weren’t for the Phoenix Arrow, we wouldn’t be able to connect the dots.”

Agatha sighed. “What’s the plan then?”

“Gale will marry Vanessa and Reyna, and your daughters can join them in Gale’s harem,” Arthur said.

“But I have reservations about SPAW,” Agatha said. “You’re too closely connected to their operations.”

As the Cyneburgs were one of the families which founded the World Alliance, Agatha had every reason to be careful. She looked at Arthur intently to observe his every move.

“Don’t say that,” Arthur said. “Even my daughter and I have reservations about SPAW these days. We can clean things up when Gale is on board. I’m sure he will help us weed out problems in the World Alliance and SPAW.”

“Good luck trying to tame Gale,” Agatha said. “He’s not the type to follow your plans. Moreover, he doesn’t know he’s engaged to Vanessa yet. What makes you so sure he’s going to accept Vanessa’s proposal?”

“I trust my girl,” Arthur said. “Isn’t Vanessa one of the top three beauties in Aelfsige Academy? I’m sure her seductive wiles will win Gale over.”

“I’ll have to admit, Vanessa is something else.” Agatha conceded. “But you’re not getting extra information or help from me because we’re connected through Gale. Business remains business.”

“Absolutely. Gale himself is worth the effort. Agustin doesn’t seem to be aware of Gale’s identity, though.”

Agatha sipped on her tea and soothed her throat before speaking.

“To be fair, King Agustin is under severe pressure from Emperor Sebastian. Prince Regulus has been demanding his bride for a year now,” Agatha said. “King Agustin wouldn’t have time to look into Gale.”

“That’s really unfortunate,” Arthur said. “Shortsightedness is costly.”

———-

Athena stepped forward with her custom-alloyed pen. [Cursed Ink] floated in the air as it flowed out of the tip. The four letters (东南西北), from the entrances of the camp, began to glow and the black lines extended towards Athena.

Jacinta asked, “What’s happening with Athena?”

“The [Four Corners Of Protection] is originally a ninja technique to keep enemies out, but with our [Cursed Ink Technique] which has magical properties, we could augment and enhance the ninjutsu into various forms,” explained Clere. “She is drawing power from the original ninjutsu and transforming it into another form.”

As the black lines converged unto Athena, the top of her forehead flashed red with a [中][4]. Immediately, black lines crept up onto the combat instructors, and power channeled through the black lines into them.

“Athena is gathering natural energy from our surroundings using our [Cursed Ink Defensive Array], and our powers are amplified as long as the array remains intact,” Clere explained. “We are at least thrice more powerful than we are before, and Athena becomes the [Eye Of The Array][3]. As long as Athena is not defeated, we receive a boost in our powers.”

Arrays are battle formations where the synergies of a fighting crew are stronger than the sum of its parts. It could be pure martial arts, where position and fighting styles are aligned, or a mystical array, which harnesses the natural elements of the world for warfare, or magical where enchantments could empower allies.

Athena’s [Cursed Ink Defensive Array] was magical because it was based on the magical properties of the [Cursed Ink]. She could maintain the array if her allies allowed her to transmit her powers through her [Cursed Ink]. As a result, Athena’s allies’ body was able to sustain several times more damage than usual, and she would replenish their depleted strength if there were a need.

The lady assassin put her mask back on her face. “Wonderful. The Gatekeeper of Sigrun is something else.”

The royal assassins took both flags from their backs and planted them onto the ground. A tall and stout guy in the middle activated the [Golden Flag Array], and the flags shot up to the sky and formed a fan behind his back. A golden aura radiated energy through the armor of each assassin like a spider web.

Clere studied combat arrays in her spare time, and she explained to Jacinta, “that’s a magical utility technique, where they sacrificed defense boost for versatility.

However, they have set their [Eye Of The Array] up to fight against Athena, and they channeled most of their power to their champion to defeat Athena. The first to fall is going to turn the tide of the fight.”

The assassins’ champion rushed up to deliver the first attack by with a sword, but Valerian stepped forward and parried it with his [Iron Sand Palms].

“You can’t take our queen in the first turn,” Valerian said. As Valerian’s [Iron Sand Palms] could take on any blade attacks without scratches, the sword bounced back from Valerian’s parry.

The other combat instructors stepped forward to defend Athena, knowing that her support in battle was vital. Dylan received Athena’s power boost as well and was itching for a fight.

“I will show you who’s the strongest around here.”

Instantly, a black pillar of aura crashed onto Dylan, and static energy surrounded his body! He activated his [King Of Hades] technique, and a protective aura enveloped him.

“This [Cursed Ink Defensive Array] is something else,” Dylan said as he looked at his hands. “I’m brimming with so much power that I can take all of them on!”

Dylan rushed forward and unleashed his [King Of Hades’ Claws] at the assassins’ champion, but the latter blocked with his blade. Valerian attacked the champion’s legs too, but the champion’s armor on his legs nullified Valerian’s [Iron Sand Palms] significantly, and the latter was able to parry Valerian’s palms with his legs!

Dylan and Valerian formed an unlikely alliance as they noticed the champion’s armor was taking very little damage from their attacks. Moreover, the champion could match them in techniques and pushed them back. Overall, both camps were even, though the assassins outnumbered the royal assassins.

The rest of the royal assassins charged forward to attack Dylan and the combat instructors.

Ayumi ran forward to challenge two assassins. With the power boost from Athena’s [Cursed Ink Defensive Array], she was able to pierce the assassins’ blind spots in quick successions. But the wound wasn’t deep because the armor was too strong, and also the [Golden Flag Array] strengthened it.

Lizzie Velmont took on two assassins too. She tapped her walking cane on the ground, and it became a [Dragon Staff]! With a swing of her staff, a vast energy shockwave swept through and injured the assassins even when they wore armor!

“Armor may be able to protect you from the [Iron Sand Palms], but it’s useless when my attacks ignore armor,” Lizzie said. Lizzie was exceptionally efficient in her attacks, and her sweeping strikes wounded the assassins significantly. The two assassins looked at each other in despair, and they beckoned their allies for help.

The Four Abominations each took an assassin individually. Gwen’s specialty was poison, and so she was at a disadvantage against armor, but her unarmed combat techniques were decent, and she was able to hold her own with Athena’s power boost.

Asti activated her [Monkey God Technique]. When she trained with students, she set limiters in her body by piercing needles on various parts of the neck to affect her mind. However, against the royal assassins, she took the limiters off. Every swing from her staff sent shockwaves through the armor, and her opponent was at a losing end as they fought.

However, Asti was noticeably weaker than Lizzie. Despite her age, Lizzie’s experience and strength far outclassed Asti.

Porneia’s forte was speed and agility. She was weaker than her opponent, but she could hold her position well despite her flaws because her agility helped her to dodge her opponent’s attacks well. Being the weaker fighter, Porneia focused on observing her opponent’s weak spots and attacked them mercilessly once she found them.

Beatrix used [Armor Piercing Fists] and punched into her opponent’s armor. Each fist sends energy blasts into the assassin’s armor, and her opponent experienced explosions within his armor. She was stronger than her opponent, and her opponent was getting crushed. Another royal assistant came to help and was barely able to even the matchup.

Blacky Chan was evenly matched with his opponent, and his kick techniques were causing problems to his opponent despite not having a weapon. He was able to land several kicks onto his opponent’s body, and it pushed the assassin, but it did next to no damage. However, his opponent couldn’t land a strike at Blacky either because Blacky was dancing around like a ballet dancer, and it was challenging to catch Blacky.

Victor Spectre took on two assassins as the camp commandant. His powers were a mixture of magic and martial arts, and he was able to inflict damage with his [Ghastly Kicks] by channeling energy attacks through the assassins’ armor. But Victor’s skills were primarily used for one-on-one combat, and the two assassins were able to fight Victor to a standstill.

Allan Mckenzie was a generalist, and he used a saber to fight. However, he’s only an average “A” class fighter, and his opponent was overpowering him in techniques and power. Athena sent more energy to Allan and harassed his opponent with her [Cursed Ink] to help him out, and Allan could barely manage.

Kasumi and Hideki stood together with their katanas and purposed to defend Athena from attacks. Each took an assassin, and Kasumi fought evenly against her opponent with Athena’s power boost.

But Hideki’s opponent was an assassin with giant hammers. His [Water Serpent] katana shook under the shockwaves of each clash, and Hideki struggled to hold his katana properly as his arms and hands ached with pain.

Clere saw that Hideki was struggling, so she used some of the [Cursed Ink] from Athena’s body and pinned the legs of the opponent down. Clere and Athena were able to use each other’s [Cursed Ink] interchangeably, and that’s why Clere was able to fight from a defensive position.

As the legs of the opponent were pinned down, Hideki unleashed his [Mizushima Waterfall Slash]. Enhanced by the [Water Serpent] katana and the power boost from the array, the assassin took the full brunt of Hideki’s attack!

However, Hideki’s sword couldn’t penetrate through the thick armor of the assassin, and the defensive power of the [Golden Flags Array]. Undeterred, he followed up with another attack, but his opponent swept Hideki away with his hammer like a fly.

“Hideki!” Kasumi shouted as she struggled to break free from her opponent to help her brother.

Hideki was enraged as he picked himself up from the ground. Memories of Gale’s heroic aura, and Dylan’s display of strength haunted him, and he gripped his katana with frustration. As those feelings channeled into the [Water Serpent] katana like a mighty river, the blade glowed in his hands as though Hideki’s cry for power reached the katana’s ears.

“What’s this?!” Hideki said as the sword was guiding his hands to a stance.

Suddenly, Hideki could visualize a sword technique which he had never seen before. They were after-images of a silhouetted figure, and a trance took over Hideki’s mind. Following the visions in his head, he unleashed a new sword technique.

“[Mizushima Water Serpent Slash]!”

An energy blast shaped like a serpent charged towards his opponent and pushed the opponent several hundred feet away! The opponent crashed into the trees, and the impact injured him!

Clere, Jacinta, and Kasumi were astonished by the new technique!

“Where did you learn that, Hideki?!” Clere asked.

“I-I just learned it! The sword taught me!” Hideki stuttered. From then on, Hideki used his [Mizushima Water Serpent Slash] to push opponents back and away from Athena.

Vanessa activated her psychic powers and loaded her guns with it. Her weapons absorbed psychic powers for ammunition, and she could fire energy pulses at will. Those energy pulses pushed the assassins back and kept the assassins from overrunning Athena with their numbers. However, it didn’t do much damage because of their armor.

A couple of assassins attacked Jacinta and Clere. Jacinta didn’t want to hide her psychic powers anymore as her friends were in danger. She blocked the assassins using her telekinesis and repelled them into the trees violently.

The royal assassins were shocked that there was a skilled psychic user in their midst. They immediately turned their attention on Jacinta because Jacinta’s powers could turn the tide of the battle swiftly.

Jacinta realized five assassins came running in her direction, and she stood forward to meet the challenge. She didn’t want Clere to fight as the latter was the last bastion before the assassins could attack the students in the tents.

However, before the five assassins could reach Jacinta, chains fell from above and blocked the assassins’ path. Celinda and Camelia emerged from Jacinta’s shadow using Camelia’s [Shadow Walk], and Celinda emerged.

“You’re powerful, Jacinta, but you’re still too immature in your techniques. All you have been doing is to use your brute strength to throw your enemies into walls, but you could hurt your allies if you go all out. Stay out of this fight, and I’ll handle it,” Celinda said.

“Celinda! Camelia!” Jacinta exclaimed. She least expected Celinda and Camelia to help, and she was immensely relieved at their presence.

Camelia turned to Athena. “We’re not here to help you, but Jacinta. You don’t have to share your power with us.”

Athena nodded as she reserved strength for the combat instructors and the students who were fighting.

Celinda raised her hands and carried a multitude of huge rocks with her telekinesis. She began to twirl them like a cyclone, and the royal assassins couldn’t get to her. Her use of telekinesis was precise and efficient as she blocked every attack with ease.

One of the assassins struck their spear on the ground and sent energy waves to attack Celinda. However, Camelia planted her chains into the ground too and blocked the attack by sending her energy waves through the ground. The ground exploded where the chains were, and Celinda threw the rocks at the assassins when she saw an opening. As a result, the assassins suffered numerous blows, and they could not get to Jacinta at all.

The royal assassins realized it was impossible to fight the Celinda-Camelia duo. But Celinda and Camelia were not actively attacking the imperial assassins because their priority was to protect Jacinta. Thus, the imperial assassins mostly kept away from Celinda-Camelia duo and focused their efforts on the combat instructors. Celinda sent rocks to the imperial assassins when she felt like it.

The fighting became a standstill as both camps could not break the will of their opponents. It became a battle of attrition, and the combat instructors were losing their stamina because there were more assassins than there were allies.

The royal assassins sensed victory as the combat instructors’ strength waned, and the assassins went for a final push to take down Athena. Without Athena, the [Cursed Ink Array] would break, and the combat instructors would lose indefinitely.

However, Clere noticed someone intruded into the camp, and she couldn’t help smiling.

“What’s the matter?” Jacinta asked.

“He’s here.”

A bloodied head rolled on the floor in the middle of the battle, and the royal assassins recognized the head as one of their compatriots! Gale walked in with the full force of his killing aura, and everyone paused as they experienced thirty kilograms of weight upon their shoulders.

Gale was incredibly incensed that a fierce battle broke out at the campsite. He saw that the students hid in their tents and peeked to watch the fight, and Clere and Jacinta were the students’ only vanguard.

“If you want to fight, pick someone of your size,” Gale declared. “You fools kept me waiting out there like an idiot.”

Silence emanated the battlefield as Gale was like a dragon roused from his sleep and in a bad mood.

“Something tells me I’m not welcomed here,” Gale said. “Which of you said you’re going to take my love and give it to Prince Regulus?!”

None of the royal assassins dared to make a sound. Gale then pointed to the assassins’ champion.

“Was it you, big guy?”

Before any of the royal assassins could say a word, Gale vanished from his spot and sliced the champion into two! Gale’s sword cut the armor like butter and the [Golden Flag Array] instantly vanished!

“T-That’s impossible!” The lady assassin stuttered. The [Golden Flag Array] ensured that there was a defensive aura that protected their armors, and their armors were top-quality from the finest blacksmiths of Nevarre!

“What’s so impossible? You think your armor was so good that it would be impenetrable?!” Gale mocked. “My sword is made of [Void Stone], and it can absorb energy. Your armor is weaved and strengthened by energy, but my sword will eat that energy as food.

Do you get it now?”

The assassins immediately shed their armor as though it was a pile of junk. It took significant amounts of energy to wear the armor, but it was useless against Gale’s sword.

Each assassin wore a black outfit within with soft armor.

Gale continued. “Now which of you said you’d take my pretty friends and offer them to Prince Regulus?”

Instead of the royal assassins dishing out threats, Gale was dishing out death sentences like candy.

The lady assassin knew they weren’t going to win in the long haul, and she called for backup with her phone.

“Oh, calling for backup huh? I’ll wait here for your backup,” Gale said. “Go on, ignore me. I’ll like to meet your backup and send all of you to hell.”

———-
[1] [东南西北] means “East, South, West, North”.
[2] [紧] means urgent.
[3] [Eye Of The Array] is derived from [阵眼].
[4] [中] means “center”.

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