The short bulky man hurriedly walked behind Willard. Although the short bulky man was prideful, he still wasn’t willing to die for his pride. He was absolutely sure there was no offending the youth in front of him. Willard gave him a couple of quick instructions, which further confused the short bulky man. “Why would he be interested in all that?” The man thought. Within a couple of minutes, they both arrived at the scene of their earlier exchange. A look of surprise filled everyone’s eyes as they watched both of them walk towards Willard’s mount.
When the short bulky man arrived at the center of all the bandits that were just starting to regain their mobility, he yelled: “Everyone listen up!” He said as he paused for a second. “My lord over there has chosen to take pity on me, Ahmed, and grant me the blessing of being his servant. From today henceforth the Silver tooth bandit will be under the control of Zalik.” He said with a somewhat pained expression on his face.
“Zalik your primary focus from today is building a statue of Thanus and spread the worship of Thanus to everyone that passes through this forest.” As he finished saying all that, everyone gasped in complete shock. No one understood what was happening except for Baya, who was still a little-shocked hearing it. The bandits turned to one another and started whispering. When did their leader become religious? Was the question that they were all discussing.
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“Silence!” Ahmed yelled as he turned to viciously stare at the bandits. Zalik walked towards Ahmed and started whispering to him, “Whats going on boss?” he asked
“Zalik listen to me carefully if you want to still be alive. You must never anger that young man right there.” Ahmed said slightly pausing. “From now on you are the new leader of the silver bandit group. Your only true requirement as of now is to build a statue of Thanus. Nothing else!”
Zalik was confused, but from the tone his boss Ahmed had been speaking, he knew it was serious. Zalik could tell that the youth was quite formidable, but he had no idea how terrifying he had been to scare Ahmed to such a state. From his memories of Ahmed, such a thing had never happened in the past. Even when they kidnapped and killed people of noble standings with vast armies in their control.
Zalik turned and bowed towards Willard. Following his suit, the rest of the surviving bandits all bowed, even though they were still confused. Zalik gathered the bandits that were still alive, taking some of the mounts they had originally brought, he led them back to their camp. On the way, not so much as a single sound was made. Ahmed walked towards where he had left his spear and picked it up.
The old man who was still on his knees had a horrible expression. None of what he saw made any sense what so ever to him. “How did all that happen?” He questioned with a look of disbelief. He was completely shocked at the turn of events, and what frightened him the most was how swiftly Willard had settled the entire situation. He was someone that had dealt with a varying number of warriors, mages and a host of other martial artists. None had ever settled a fight with an elemental energy expert as swiftly as Willard had done. And worst of all, he could not sense the slightest bit elemental energy from Willard.
The old man thought about his previous actions towards Willard and immediately felt a sense a danger. At this point, he was seriously rejoicing at the fact that Lyda had stopped him when he almost berated Willard. He couldn’t help but think about what could have happened to him. A cold shiver ran through his body as he took in a huge gulp of saliva. “He must be in the middle stages of the elemental energy level. A true expert.” He thought to himself. “No wonder he seemed so carefree and could employ some as strong as that.”
Apart from the old man, the remaining travelers had the same expression. Even Lydia Bastich had an expression of shock. She couldn’t believe this was the same person she had thought about saving the previous night. Now everything seemed more like a joke. Who was the arrogant one? Who actually needed saving?
Without saying much, Willard got back on his mount and gestured to Baya and Ahmed to come along. Ahmed had a placid look on his face as he quickly got on a mount and followed behind Willard. Ahmed turned to look at Baya who was beside him and frowned deeply. Although he had given up all ideas of fighting Willard, he still hated Baya from the depths of his heart. As a matter of fact, if he had the opportunity to kill both Baya and Willard he would do so.
Luckily enough for Lydia and the rest of her party, they were able to get some mounts from the ones the bandits had left behind. As they rode behind Willard, Baya and Ahmed, the old man to the side of Lydia was in a deep thought. After what he had witnessed, a new idea started brewing in his mind. Although the man was older, he still had endless ambition. He was able to make it this far in his life because of that ambitious nature and drive. Witnessing Willard’s outstanding performances he started thinking of ways to benefit from it. “What a fantastic opportunity,” he said with a smile on his face.
Baya who caught a glimpse of the vicious stare Ahmed had been giving him, remained calm. He thought back to all the actions Willard had taken since he started following him, and was rather confused as to why Willard had not killed him. Although he felt rather certain that Willard had a use for him, he still couldn’t quite figure out how Ahmed would be of any help to Willard.
Over at some corner of the Southern continent, there was a seemingly peaceful waterfall. Hidden behind this waterfall was a well-hidden cave. Within the cave laid the body of a woman surrounded by flashes of green. If Willard was present, he would immediately recognize this woman as Aorah. She laid there unconscious. Surrounding the bed in which she laid were green beads that flashed off and on. The cave wasn’t fancy, it served one purpose, which was seclusion. To the side of the bed was a wooden chair that was currently empty. Although the cave was small, it still gave a warm comfortable feeling.
Moments later, the waterfall that endlessly continued in its motion, hiding the cave in an ever cascading sheet of water suddenly stopped in its movement. For that moment, it seemed like time itself had stopped, giving way to an old who casually floated into the cave holding a black staff and a bag. The moment he landed in the cave, the waterfall continued in its motion. The old man walked towards the bed. He stared at the unconscious Aorah and sighed. He opened the bag he held in his hand, taking out more of the green beads. He replaced the beads with new ones, that glowed even more brightly than the ones that had originally been there.
“Little princess, I have done all I can. The rest is up to you.” He said with a loving look in his eyes.
“Etimoah! I failed you. The little princess is in this state because of my indecision.” After a brief moment of contemplation, the old man sat on the wooden chair and continued staring at Aorah before moving his gaze to the north.
“Something dangerous is brewing,” he said softly. “My hope is that we can avoid all of it.” he finished and stopped thinking about it.
It was dark now, leading Willard and everyone to find a random place in the forest to set up camp. This time around the atmosphere was cold and quiet. No one dared to provoke Willard, as they mostly stayed a distance from him except Baya. From his earlier display, they knew he wasn’t the kind of person to casually annoy. Baya was currently roasting some meat, and like the night before, it was a wild rabbit.
When Baya got done with the meat, he gave some to Willard who casually ate. Baya looked towards Ahmed and was met with more hostility. Clearly, Ahmed still held some animosity towards Baya. Baya knew just because Willard had brought him along did not mean he had forgotten the death of his younger brother. Baya did not feel annoyed or bothered after all Ahmed was a bandit to his core. The preservation of his life was the most import thing to him. Baya looked towards Lydia and her group noticing how quiet they were. He walked towards Lydia and her group and gave them some of the wild rabbits he had roasted.
“Thank you!” Lydia said receiving the food. “Why don’t you eat with us?” She asked with a longing look in her eyes. Baya nodded and sat within their encirclement. Seeing how things were playing out the rest of Lydia’s group loosened up a bit and began to converse with Baya. Baya himself did not talk much, he just listened to the conversation. The old man was the loudest and most conversational. He led the vast majority of the conversation. Baya did not mind the atmosphere, he actually enjoyed it a bit. This was a vast difference from the usual weird things Willard randomly spewed.
Over at Willard’s corner, his eyes were closed as he meditated. Willard entered the strange red energy space within his subconscious. He watched the process of the red cloud gathering and gradually condensing into drops of red fluid like substance. Willard stretched his hand to touch the drop of red fluid that floated in his subconscious. The moment his finger made contact with the fluid, the ring on his finger in the real world glowed brightly. Willard could sense the boundless natural and elemental energy that filled him. “This substance is quite strange. Only when I channel it through a medium before it reacts.” Willard thought before moving his finger away from it.
“Whats even more strange is the ring father gave me. It’s almost as if everything was planned.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter. When I’m strong enough I’ll know the truth behind all this. Whoever thinks they can control my destiny would be disappointed.” Willard said with a bright gleam in his eyes.
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After Willard came out of the coma, he had realized some things were rather strange about his path so far. It was almost as if someone had been pulling some strings behind his back since he had been reincarnated to this world. Willard knew trying to solve that mystery will be an effort in futility. The only path left for him was to increase his strength.
After spending some time with Lydia and her group, Baya walked back towards Willard. When Baya got close to him, he sat down and looked at Willard. Willard opened his eyes and smile in a mischievous manner. “What is it?” He directly asked Baya.
“Why did you bring that one with us?” Baya asked as he glanced at Ahmed for a second.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Willard responded before slightly pausing. “Well, it shouldn’t matter. You have been stuck at the 10th level of natural energy for quite some time now. This should be the perfect opportunity for you get past your bottleneck.” He finished before shutting his eyes closed again.
Baya silently thought about what Willard had told him. Although he did not fully understand it, he knew there was some truth to what Willard had said. What he couldn’t understand was how Ahmed was supposed to help him break through his bottleneck. He was currently in the state where one needed inspiration and natural resonance to an element. Baya had an inclination to what element e had the best resonance to, but still had no idea on how to get to the next step.