As we approached the open, front gate of the Kinkou grounds, we could see Neiya in the midst of a standoff with the heads of multiple families, who barked out their concerns.
“We cannot trust that such a being can remain tamed as you say! Even more so if it is a child!”
“One that has not received proper training has no defense against the temptations of darkness!”
“Rather than face calamity, we need to rip out the seedling before it grows any further!”
These people had such Draconian views, even towards children. Had they no empathy? Could they not see beyond appearances? I could detect none of the malice that they thought they were seeing within the small girl clinging onto Katsys.
However, as we approached, several of them reared back in surprise.
“Th-There are more of them?! You, you’re harboring more of those with purple flames? This cannot be allowed!”
“Just one isn’t enough? Are you gathering them to oppose us- to oppose our Holy Land?!”
This conversation took a strange turn. I looked around and saw expressions of confusion and surprise from Katsys and Ludmila, but the Kinkou sisters had a downcast look suggesting that they understood what the statements had meant. Lau stepped forward and placed himself next to Neiya.
“I am well aware of your aversion to Electi. We are strange beings that don’t fit the norm of the people in this world, but that does not mean we will fall unless guided by the teachings of the Oracle.”
“But you are risking our country by harboring such anomalies!”
“Harboring? No, they are merely passing travelers who have asked for a place to stay. They have chosen to seek proper guidance to contain their powers, and as a person who has tread the same path as them, I could not refuse such an earnest request.”
The leaders looked over at us.
“Proper guidance? Them? Aside from the demon girl, I only see a kitchen servant and a scrawny brat who lack the proper posture to shoulder the burden that they have been given!”
Cries of support and swords raised in the air. The situation was slowly turning against our favor. At this rate, not only Chrys, but all of us would be in danger!
Lau smirked. “If that’s what you really think, send your men to take them down. We won’t stop you. Judge for yourselves of their intentions.”
My jaw dropped at his statement.
“I can’t go against her Holiness, so this old man is going to step aside.”
Lau shrugged and turned around, walking back towards us. Neiya slowly followed behind him after her eyes flashed a hint of surprise. As he walked past us, a few whispers tickled my ears.
“Give ‘em hell, kid.” He gave me a wink.
‘Easy for you to say, old man. You’re not the one fighting them!’
I looked back at the crowd of men that had raised their weapons. There were roughly 100 men of different physiques, all appearing as if they had been through years of training. Some were fist fighters, some carried weapons, but they were all dressed in light clothing like Lau. Likely, they were trained in mana manipulation for defense, so bulky armor would just slow them down.
There were many questions that I wanted to ask, but it didn’t look like I would get any answers unless we could convince them to stand down.
On our side, Ludmila and Katsys stepped up to join me, leaving Chrys to Kanade for the moment. Other than the three of us, the others had retreated toward the house.
“100 to 3. What kind of odds are these?”
“Not betting ones, certainly.” Katsys pulled out her magic guns, striking a duel-wielding pose that made my heart skip for a moment. “But we’ll have to make it work.”
“Master, your orders.” Ludmila looked at me with a calm expression. The front locks of her hair covering one side of her stoic gaze.
“The two of you put too much faith in me. Argh, whatever! Let’s just knock out as many as we can. If you guys get in trouble, then we’ll pull off an escape with portals.” I drew my chef knife.
As the sunlight gleamed across the surface of my knife, the signal of battle erupted. The first wave of men behind the family heads charged forward. Activating ‘Eyes of Providence’, I saw mana materialize around their bodies.
The first thing I noticed was how thin the mana was surprisingly. Perhaps, I had grown too used to fighting Lau and Ludmila, but I could see areas where the mana flow was weak.
My own mana flowed through my knife, coating it with the essence needed to disrupt my opponent’s defenses. As I dashed into the first warrior, my knife easily sliced through his mana shield. Since his flow was interrupted by my mana, the rest of his shield had crumbled, leaving him completely open to my pressure point attack. The man soundlessly flopped to the ground, barely understanding what I had hit him with.
Looking to the side, Ludmila had dispatched her own opponent by disappearing in a burst of speed before ending up behind the guy and striking him in the spine with a Mana Strike. As two more swung their blades at us, a sudden burst of ice magic collided into those two, slamming them into the courtyard wall. The remaining men hesitated, having seen that we weren’t who we appeared to be.
“What are you doing?! You are trained fighters! Why are you backing away from weaklings that rely on demonic power?!” an older muscle-bound warrior with an intimidating aura yelled at them from behind.
From the reaction that the warriors collectively gave, he appeared to be the most important figure. Even the other family heads looked startled from his fury. No longer treating us like weak rabble, the auras of the warriors changed. The mana around them thickened. A slight bloodlust seeped from them, as if they were aiming to kill.
“Katsys, shall we put them on ice?” Looking over to her, she nodded before twisting the dial on her guns. “Alright, let’s play defend the princess, Ludmila.”
The two of us dashed toward the crowd to intercept the closest ones. Behind us, Katsys was rapidly firing her guns, creating a wider spread of ice magic that hit the feet of the warriors to stop them in their tracks. Since I had the least range of action, I dove straight forward, into the thick of the warriors. As multiple swords swung in my direction, I focused a larger amount of mana into my knife.
Bigger, longer, so that I could intercept it all.
Through mana control, a long blade of mana extended from the dinky weapon I held. My eyes shone purple as I waited for my chance to act, like a ninja carving through virtual fruit. Seeing the weak points line up for three swords, my mana blade drew a horizontal arc that intercepted each approaching blade. Like cutting through a candlestick, their weapons snapped in half. Continuing the assault, I waved the knife like a rapier and jabbed their bodies with several successive thrusts. Their mana shields were weak compared to Lau’s, allowing me to overpower them due to my denser packed mana.
A few follow up thrusts caused the men to stiffen before falling over unconscious. The areas that I had struck were pressure points. In a clash of mana, the individual stats of a person did not matter, only the density of mana. However, once the mana strike landed on a physical object or person, my special stat kicked in. Therefore, the best way for me to deal with this type of foe was to overwhelm their mana before striking their weak points. If they had been smart, focusing their mana on their weak spots, like Lau had done in training, would’ve given them the most advantage.
Rather, they were in a panic as their fellow kinsmen were taken down with a single flurry. Their image of me as ‘merely a chef’ had taken a drastic turn.
Further away from me, several warriors had been knocked unconscious on their feet. Katsys had frozen their legs to the ground, preventing any of them from advancing. These restrained men barely saw a blond-haired blur coming at them before they had been rendered unconscious with a swift blow to the head. A few of them looked like they had slumped over in a rather uncomfortable position due to their lower halves being stuck. Oh well, the ice would eventually melt, letting them fall to the ground.
By now, the family heads were in disbelief that we had taken out about 30 of their warriors with hardly any effort. It did not seem to them that we were the untrained cheaters that they had made us out to be. Sending in the minions would do nothing more than raise the number of unconscious. I heard Lau chuckling behind me, acting like he knew this outcome from the very start. Gritting their teeth, the family leaders drew their weapons and stepped forward.
I could immediately tell that these men were on a much closer level to Lau, particularly the old warrior who yelled before.
“I, Zhao Lei Dao, shall be your opponent then. I’m not going to let some fresh brat Electi get the best of me!”
Though the man appeared to be around Lau’s age, his finely chiseled arms held a pair of blades that shone menacingly with a blue aura. If his hair weren’t graying, I would’ve mistaken him for a bodybuilder that was half his age. Casually swinging the swords in front of him, an immense pressure blew around him, indicating the ferocity of the mana that he possessed.
I gulped nervously. This man was more intimidating than Lau, who I hadn’t given a clean hit yet. There was no way that I had enough mana to pierce through his shield.
The other men next to him paled in comparison. They were likely great fighters, but this man was on another level. It was no wonder that they all followed him. I was about to signal Katsys to fire up the portals when another two young men with spears walked through the crowd and ended up on either side of Zhao.
However, instead of squaring off against me, one of them placed a hand on Zhao’s shoulder to stop him.
“I think that’s a bit excessive, don’t you think?”
The other man with an identical face chimed in.
“The agreement was to investigate the strange presences, not obliterate them. Miss Kaguya would not be happy if you went on a rampage without her consent.”
The two men had casually approached the menacing form of Zhao like it had been nothing to them. Their eyes showed no fear despite the aura flowing out that sent their hair flowing to the side like a swift breeze.
After taking a deep breath, Zhao sheathed his swords and grunted in response. “Fine! No point smashing an ant with a sledgehammer.” His aura died down as he signaled to the other family heads to withdraw. Parking themselves by a carriage further back, they had left a good distance for the two men to face us. If someone that strong obediently stayed out of the way, then I feared what these two newcomers could do.
The two young men, who appeared to be twins around my age, were so identically dressed that they appeared to be a mirror reflection of each other. Unlike the other warriors, they possessed some decorative armor over their fancy robes, making them look like one of those romanticized generals from the Three Kingdoms games. Brandishing spears, the two handsome men gave off a smirk of confidence.
“I am Sun Wen Lu!”
“I am Sun Wen Zhi!”
The two men posed with their spears aimed toward me.
“And together, we are the Impregnable Shields of the Holy Oracle, Mitsubishi family’s Lady Kaguya!”