“Kikikiki. Hahaha. You’re a funny guy. I like you. By any chance, do you want to switch masters? I’m sure I can strike you a better deal than the dead emperor.”
“Hmm. Sorry, but the relationship between the Emperor and I is too deep-seated to be severed so easily.”
“What a joke when those punks from the Guild were the ones who sold you out.”
Azadine was taken aback. The reality of the Korasar Peddlers Guild being run by the Messenger Clan was a closely guarded secret, yet the Count knew about it.
Had Derek disclosed it to him?
“Oh, rest assured. I only know this because I have my own ways of finding out. Right now, I’m the only one who knows that people of the Messenger Clan run that Peddlers Guild. So, will you stay loyal to that organization even when the guild rat you out?”
“Even if I’m not that keen on staying loyal, I don’t want to be the lackey of a man who makes a habit of bathing in blood.”
“You can live for eternity and even gain power. Are you really going to turn down power, eternal life, wealth, and harmony, just to stay a messenger and be loathed by all? Huh?”
“I’m sorry, but you don’t align with my philosophy of aesthetics.”
Azadine slung his arrowless bow across his torso, drew his sword, inhaled deeply, and channeled the power of the Kazas Grimoire- Flower, Bird, Wind, and Moon through his entire body.
He felt a vastness along his spine as if it was connected to the universe. Despite seeing an unholy blood bath before him, a profound power flowed through his body.
The Count seemed to sense something from Azadine.
“How arrogant. How dare a mere soulless blasphemer like you speak in such a manner to a descendent of the Great gods?”
The Count glared at Azadine while the two women wrapped around him slithered away, vanishing into the blood like serpents.
“Well, that’s okay. You see, I’m well aware of methods to rouse people’s loyalty.”
Instantly, a few figures emerged from the pool of blood.
Two men wearing hawk masks stood with their eyes glowing blue.
Azadine recognized them as soon as he saw the hawk masks.
‘That damned District Head! He didn’t tell me anything about what happened to the messenger who came here before. Why the hell is he here?
Those two figures were Harad and Kevna. One was the messenger responsible for Salasma before Azadine’s appointment, while the second managed the neighboring region to the north.
Both were said to have died in the line of duty. They must have gone missing nearby since they were in the Count’s castle. The district head must have stayed silent to avoid any potential blame.
“This right here is my key to discovering that the Peddlers Guild are people of the Messenger Clan. Their loyalty is absolute, to the point that they can easily disclose the clan’s secrets.”
Having said that, the Count stepped back.
“Okay then, I’ll get dressed and ready. In the meantime, either kill him or capture him alive and make him loyal to me. Also, find out the whereabouts of the copy of the Grimoire of the Heavenly Kings.”
The two former messengers replied to the Count’s command before he disappeared under the surface of the pool of blood.
Azadine wanted to go after the Count, but he wasn’t familiar with the layout of the bath of blood. Also, he couldn’t act rashly with two former messengers blocking his path.
“Anyway, look who it is? Aren’t you the famous Azadine? Don’t tell me you’re my replacement! It looks like the Aragasa has really run out of talented people!”
The men, their eyes glowing blue behind their hawk masks, drew their bows.
Typically, a Moon Horn Bow would decay rapidly if it got wet. It was made using composite materials and boasted overwhelming strength despite its small size. However, it was equally demanding in terms of maintenance. Painstaking care was necessary, especially when used on rainy days.
There was no way that these Moon Horn Bows, which had just emerged from a pool of blood, would be working optimally…
Arrows flew towards Azadine.
The bows that were submerged in blood still worked perfectly fine. Azadine caught the arrows, but the momentum was strong enough to force him back.
While he was physically stronger than other messengers, he was up against two of them right now. His opponents had more experience, shot their arrows at the same time, and the blood also made them slippery. This was perplexing.
Harad and Kevna were surprised to see him catch the arrow.
“He caught the arrows at this distance? Arrows shot by ‘us’?”
“Did the blood weaken our arrows?”
They did not entertain the thought of Azadine being so remarkably skilled but instead thought that something was wrong with their bows. Since Azadine was notorious for being incompetent, it was hard to dispel that preconception.
‘It’s even better for me. Go on, let your guard down.’
Azadine held on to the arrows he’d caught earlier.
Should he shoot these arrows with his bow? But if he did, his own bow would be stained with blood.
‘Seeing how their bows are fine, it shouldn’t be affected if it gets wet with blood. But if that’s not the case, repairing it will be a pain in the ass.’
At that moment, droplets of blood rose from the bath and created four spheres around Azadine.
The four spheres bombarded Azadine with drops of blood through the darkness. The ultra-high-pressure streams of liquid flew at him like spears. He spun around and landed on the ground while dodging all the blood aimed at him.
“Did he dodge that?”
“Not bad for someone I heard was the biggest idiot in the clan!”
Harad, Azadine’s predecessor as a messenger, rammed his sword into the surface of the bloodbath and thrust it upwards with great force. A blob of blood splashed up toward Azadine.
Azadine swung his sword, slicing apart the blob. In the meantime, however, the two former messengers moved to his left and right. As they surrounded him from both sides, they fired spittles of blood from their mouth and tossed daggers at him.
Azadine extended his left hand. He held the arrows the two former messengers shot at him, sandwiched between his fingers. He waved them like a fan to block the flying daggers and spittle.
An arrow was jammed into the former messenger, Harad’s, chest.
Azadine had shot the arrow without stringing it on the bow, similar to a dart, which penetrated Harad’s chest.
“No, I’m not. That bastard’s throw is way faster than I expected.”
Harad, Azadine’s predecessor, made an excuse even with the arrow sticking out of him.
‘They’re way too unbothered.’
Azadine clicked his tongue as he glanced at his foes. They were clearly wounded, but neither was screaming in pain.
“Are they undead? Or did the arrow not hit deep enough?”
Sure, the arrows had penetrated into the former messenger’s body. Still, since it was thrown by hand, the force was limited. The arrow had caught on the leather armor and didn’t even penetrate the flesh.
‘But no. I suspect it wouldn’t have worked in this situation even if it reached the flesh.’
He bemoaned the fact that these two messengers had been turned into monsters by the Count. Even though they saw him as a joke and ridiculed him, it still pained him to see members of his clan become puppets of an evil Count.
“Kekeke. How did a fool like you become a messenger? I guess the honor of the Imperial Messengers has hit rock bottom, huh.”
“If the honor of the Imperial Messengers has hit rock bottom, it’s because of you, Harad, not me. Did the Count transform you into a vampire?”
“We volunteered to do it. Why would we pledge allegiance to a dead emperor when we could enjoy eternal life, riches, and fame?”
“Besides, the Aragasa has gone to the dogs. They’ve forgotten their true sense of purpose and only live to serve the interests of the Five Great Families and the Senate of Elders.”
“Well, I won’t deny that Aragasa has fallen, but I don’t see that as a reason for you to become dependent on the Count. Still, at least the young children still look up to the Emperor’s Messengers, don’t they? But what are you two right now? Aren’t you just moss-eating snails at the bottom of a pond? What sort of wealth and fame do you think you’ll get clinging to at the bottom of this bath?”
Azadine’s mockery of their situation infuriated the former messengers. They once again shot arrows at him, but Azadine simply spread out his hand and turned the arrows upwards with a twist of his wrist.
The blood made it too slippery to catch, but he had no issue deflecting then. Then, at the same time as when he released the arrows between his knuckles, he flicked his wrist as well.
Azadine launched the daggers that had been thrown by the former messengers from his hand, and they went flying through the air.
The former messengers dodged Azadine’s attacks and marveled at the skill.
Their blurred forms closed in on Azadine.
‘Tch. The Kazas Grimoire… can’t be used in knee-deep water.’
Azadine’s version of Twilight required movement. Unlike the spell used by other messengers in the clan, his version could not be used in water.
The former messengers appeared on both of his flanks and pressed him with a series of attacks. At that moment, Azadine unleashed his own counterattack.
A pillar of water rose, or rather, a pillar of blood, and the two former messengers bounced off the water’s surface and rolled around.
“How is this….”
This unexpected turn of events stunned the two former messengers. They had been confident while surrounding Azadine and decided to press their attack. However, Azadine’s body seemed to be fully charged with electrical energy.
The moment they came in contact with him, their body was overwhelmed by tremors and shock. Using this opportunity, Azadine counterattacked using his sword and fists. He stabbed the enemy coming from his right while slamming his fist into the one on the left.
“Flower Bird Wind Moon, Thundercloud, Kazas Grimoire!”
The original version of the spell used electrical energy that catapulted the target with a single touch. However, Azadine stamped on the ground to charge the electricity momentarily and released a bolt at the person in contact with him. One bolt was enough to send them flying away.
“I th-think we-”
“I think our skills have just dulled a bit after becoming immune to pain. I can’t believe we’re taking a beating from the clan’s idiot, Azadine.”
They were in denial of the reality in front of their eyes. They were well aware of Azadine’s history of powerlessness and incompetence.
Azadine was notorious in their clan. They could not understand how the incompetent Azadine had knocked them out with a single blow.
“No. You’re so pathetic. After all that, the difference in our abilities is way too clear. So go live at the bottom of the Count’s bathtub eating moss or whatever.”
Azadine could not help but say a comment to Harad and Kevna, who were still deep in their denial.
“Thank you for being careless and off guard. And indeed, if you two keep denying reality, it’d be way easier for me. Still, even if the Count turned you into one of his monsters, you’re the messengers that the whole clan is proud of, looks up to, and yearns to be! So, fight me with all you got so that when I take you down, I can at least tell your families that it was an outstanding fight from both of you till the end. Stop denying reality!”
Harad and Kevna flinched in shock at Azadine’s words.
“You are right. We apologize for our discourtesy until now.”
Harad and Kevna, who had been acting like spiritless idiots, snapped back to attention.
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