The evening sun cast a depressing orange glow over the tattered rubble of Leinster, as if prophesying the impending end of the City of Academies.
Be it the initial evacuation of its citizens or the following war and massacre, there was little question that Leinster was already a dead city. The Saints Convocation Leinster Branch was going to be cast away as pawns, just as its executives had planned, and the Salvation Brotherhood had also sustained significant damage.
Corpses were strewn all over the streets, and the noxious smell of blood and decomposing corpses challenged the tolerance limits of one’s olfactory system.
From time to time, there would be lucky survivors who managed to hold on to this day despite the ongoing chaos, but even these hardy individuals couldn’t help but reveal looks of fear toward the setting sun.
The night breeze cloaked the city in a layer of eerie blood mist. Shadows started squirming in whatever remaining buildings there were around as countless black-armored soldiers emerged from the darkest corners of the city. They were going to continue their pilgrimage under the lead of the black-robed figures.
Leinster was a city mired in despair, but not all hope was lost.
On the walls of Saint Freya Academy stood countless guards and students. Their faces were pale and their bodies trembled—it was hard not to know fear when they were aware of the horrors lurking in the darkness out there—but they still courageously stood their ground.
In the academy behind them, the few remaining staff members were currently evacuating the populace toward the Fog Forest with the spirits’ help. Amongst them were expecting women and innocent children, and many of them were their family members.
Rather than escaping in a fluster, these guards and students would rather show their dignified backs to the next generation and protect the future of humankind.
Protection and sacrifice, despair and hope—these were the main themes in the current era. Very few warriors were able to take death in stride, but many were still able to garner the courage to confront their fears.
There were simply too many things that they had to put their lives on the line to protect.
Under the dusk sun, Antonio stared at the main hall where Astrid resided as various emotions flashed across his eyes. Many sentiments he had bottled up over the years gushed through his heart, and they eventually manifested in a fearless chuckle.
The sky gradually darkened as night started to settle in. More and more enemies stepped out from the shadows of the city and started roaming the streets. Amidst them, an old man holding a sinister green lantern appeared in the distance.
Dressed in his usual black garbs, Priestley’s lanky figure seemed to meld into the darkness. Unlike before, the Magician King traversing amidst the monsters had an awful complexion. The green lantern he held cast an eerie glow on his face and eyes, which were completely devoid of warmth. His appearance was chilling.
Even the dullest of men would know of his betrayal just by looking at his current state, but Priestley couldn’t care less. What tales could the soon-to-be-dead possibly tell?
The pale green flame in his lantern flickered along with the night breeze, releasing a long trail of fog in its wake. More and more silhouettes were emerging from the fog at every passing moment, as if they were coming from another dimension.
The aura released by the lantern guided the scattered black-armored soldiers and black-robed figures, and they began converging around Priestley.
From the perspective of the academy walls, Priestley was already surrounded by a sea of squirming darkness. Vague whispers floating in the air were relayed to the ears of the guards stationed on the wall, making them frown in nervousness.
It was then that the old man standing in the middle of all horrors lightly raised his lantern, and just like that, the fight commenced.
There were no fluttering flags or blaring of war horns. The sea of darkness charged toward the academy walls under the guidance of the lantern, and the guards swiftly responded to their aggression.
In the final slivers of the dusk sun, the garrison troops pulled their bowstrings and rained arrows down on the dense army of monsters.
Arrows worked best when the enemies were clumped up together, and the results verified it.
The arrows shot by transcendents easily pierced through the monsters’ black armor to burst their hearts before smashing hard into the concrete ground, raising small clouds of dust. The black-robed figures were even more vulnerable as their heads exploded upon contact with the arrows, causing their blood and brain matter to splatter everywhere.
The successful initial assault from the garrison troops heightened the guards’ morale. It revealed the monsters’ greatest weakness—long-range attacks.
The black-robed figures were still able to cast chaotic mana blasts, but the ordinary black-armored soldiers had no means of attacking over a long distance. On top of that, their lack of intelligence made them incapable of strategizing, so the only thing they could do was to charge mindlessly.
While the guards were shooting down the monsters with their arrows, the students released their spells with coordinated timing to unleash blazing lava. Firestorms enveloped huge swathes of land outside the academy’s barrier, burning up any monsters that came into the slightest contact with it.
Still, despite the destructive spells they were unleashing one after another, it didn’t seem like they were achieving much against the seemingly endless army of monsters. While thousands of monsters fell under the furious onslaught from the soldiers and students, more marched forth to take their place.
It was a human wave attack. It was crude but indubitably effective.
Arrows were being swiftly used up, and the faces of the students unleashing the arrows soon grew pale. More and more laborious panting could be heard on top of the academy walls.
Yet, those repulsive whispers were slowly growing louder as the monsters closed the gap.
Despite the disadvantageous situation they were in, the exhausted warriors didn’t despair. Instead, they turned to their commander expectantly.
Antonio didn’t respond to their gazes, choosing to bide his time. It was only when the carvings on the monsters’ armor became clear to their sights and the blasphemous whispers became wholly unbearable that he finally issued his order.
“Activate Light Crossblade. Cover as much area as possible. Fire the flares.”
Amidst the shouting of the soldiers to relay the orders, mana flares were quickly fired into the sky, enveloping Leinster with such blinding light that it looked as if it could have been daytime instead.
At the same time, the academy’s protection mechanisms whirred into action. Colorful stones embedded into the walls started to glow brightly under the influx of mana, forming brilliant crosses all over.
Over a hundred Light Crossblades were released simultaneously the moment the order was issued. It caused such a strong quake that the soldiers on the walls had no choice but to hold onto one another so as to not tumble over.
The crosses swiftly swept out from the academy walls at a terrifying momentum, tearing through the sea of darkness. Countless monsters were dissected before they could even respond to the onslaught. Murky blood splattered all around the area. Long crimson depressions were left on the vast battlefield like the claws of a massive beast.
Under the overwhelming prowess of Light Crossblades, the walls of Saint Freya Academy seemed to have been padded a layer taller. The mutilated carcasses lying all around the field would have looked gruesome on any other occasion, but it came as a relief to all of the humans guarding the academy.
The humongous devastation caused by Light Crossblade made the guards cheer joyously, and the students revealed excited smiles too. However, Antonio’s face turned grim.
He knew from the very start that the key to winning this war wasn’t to defeat these monsters. His gaze wasn't on the battlefield but on the old man holding onto a green lantern a distance away. As intense as the current fight was, the war couldn’t be said to have truly begun until Priestley made a move.
Seemingly threatened by the prowess of Light Crossblade too, Priestley finally made his move. He stared at the academy walls with eyes as composed as ever.
While Antonio thought that this was a battle of attrition, the truth was that those black-armored soldiers were all expendable to him. They were just convenient tools that felt like a waste not to use them. In the first place, he never really expected anything from those black-armored soldiers, and it looked like he was proven right.
Priestley shook his head in disappointment before raising his hand. Mana began gathering around him, morphing into crackling lightning sparks. The mana pulsation coming from him was so intense that it surpassed that of the Light Crossblade. Even the sky billowed ceaselessly before his powers.
The Magician King hadn’t unleashed his fury yet, but the pressure was already unbearable. It was as if they were going against a divine being.
The brilliant lightning sparks revealed the pale faces of the guards and the flustered students on the academy walls. Antonio’s face turned graver than ever. This was the first time he was experiencing the true might of an Origin Level 1 transcendent, the highest fighting power of humankind.
They were fighting against this kind of monstrous being yesterday night?
Antonio thought about the two severely injured children yesterday and widened his eyes in amazement. He suddenly understood why Astrid was so determined to preserve the Ascart Bloodline.
“If that’s the potential they wield, it’d indeed be worthwhile for us to put our lives on the line to protect them,” murmured ‘Guardian’ Antonio as he began releasing his mana outward.
After the previous encounter, Astrid was no longer able to return from the Dream Realm any time soon. As the next strongest transcendent currently in Saint Freya Academy, Antonio was the last shield protecting Roel and Lilian.
A faint silvery glow began scattering gently from the top of the academy walls down to the ground, gradually turning corporeal. What looked no more than a thin sheet of barrier was actually far more resilient than thousands of shields.
“At the very least, before he succeeds…”
Antonio’s words were cut short by the deafening explosions of lightning bolts on his barrier.
Meanwhile, in a dark room inside the academy behind him, a pair of golden eyes sensed a presence and abruptly opened. For a brief instant, they seemed to glow dusk yellow.