40 Final Transaction 4
"I am sure you guys don't want trouble, how about handing the sack over to me? I will let you guys go if you give it to me. Simple right?"
Vincent's heart started pounding faster. The voice sounded kind and gentle, but the intent behind it were anything but friendly. The ground beneath his feet was still shaking ever so slightly. This was different from any situation he had ever been in. Facing a gold ranked wizard was completely different. A single spell was all it would take for all four of them to be wiped out. They wouldn't even be able to put up any fight.
"Wasn't he your guy? Why would you let us go when we killed him?" Zach questioned in a calm voice. People might be fooled by his brave front but only he knew that he was anything but calm.
"I just felt like I should reward you for your hard work. I was gonna get rid of him eventually. Might as well let you guys do it and save myself the trouble."
Listening to the composed answer devoid of any care or concern for his subordinate, Casper lost his cool. "Bastard. How could you use your own man like some disposable tool. You are nothing but a beast."
"Is that how you are supposed to talk to someone who has your life in his hands?" The voice got closer and Vincent could finally make out what direction it was coming from. Looking at the source, he saw the walls make way for a silhouette. The figure was approaching with steady steps as the earthen wall parted wherever he approached. Soon, a hooded figure was standing just dozens of feet away from Vincent and the others. The wall closed up as if it had never made way in the first place.
"I am a man. I will not cower in front of a scum like you. Do your worst. At least, no one will question my courage after I die." Casper spoke in an unyielding tone. The determination behind his words set ablaze Nathan's passion as well. Chasing away the uncertainties and fear inside his heart, he puffed out his chest and prepared to draw his sword. If death came for him, he would go like an honorable warrior.
Vincent quietly listened to Casper and observed the change in Nathan. It was certainly an admirable attitude but Vincent couldn't bring himself to think like them. He still had a promise to keep. A promise he had made to his mother on her deathbed. He had been lulled by the comfort of his teacher's protection. How long had it been since he had last thought about his promise? He couldn't tell. He only knew that it had been a long time. But the situation at hand refreshed his most painful memory and he felt even more unwilling to accept the outcome.
The ground had stopped shaking but his feet were wobbling and he felt weak in his knees. His equipment that had made him feel uncomfortably hot until just a while ago failed to keep out the cold that had penetrated to his very core without him realizing it. An intense fear overwhelmed him rooting him to the spot. His instincts screamed at him to throw caution to the wind and run away while his brain desperately tried to think of a way out. In the end, his weak body that he had never trained as well as his brain which he prided himself over both failed him. His paralyzed body refused to move and his brain concluded that there was no way out.
"Hoh. You must be a very insignificant man then. After all, your courage will amount to nothing. I will make sure that there will be no trace of your last stand remaining anywhere." The hooded figure spoke nonchalantly and raised his arm. As if earth itself had willed it, the ground around Vincent and the others rose up slowly closed in on them. The moving lumps of soil and stones rose like a wave and blocked the sparse moonlight that fell on them.
Vincent's sight was entirely covered by the blanket of mud and with it, so was his heart by self loathing. All the helplessness and weakness turned into hatred directed towards himself. After realizing that he was completely powerless, he closed his eyes in resignation and waited for his end.
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A second passed by. Nothing happened.
Another second went by. Still nothing.
Vincent slowly opened his eyes. What entered his sight wasn't a dome of earth that was trying to bury him but a figure of a giant man who had crushed the rising land. The man was easily over two meters tall and carried a giant battle axe in his hand. The handle was almost taller than him and the axe head looked very blunt, almost as if it was supposed to crush its target instead of chopping it. Overall, it looked unwieldy and unsuitable to be used in combat. Any normal man would have a tough time just carrying it but the man was casually holding onto it with his right hand as he stared at the hooded figure standing across him.
"Your words are just as cowardly as your actions. Spitting on the determination of these young men, you are the one who is not worthy to be called a man. You disgust my warrior spirit." The words came like a beast's roar. Loud and gravelly. Having said so, the man lifted the massive axe and rested it on his wide shoulder.
"Hearing that from a warrior who used four kids as bait to lure me out puts a smile on my face. I must say.... I've taken a liking to you." The hooded figure spoke in a happy manner. Even in the forest filled with darkness, anyone could tell that the speaker was enjoying the conversation. "That ring in your finger. Is that the artifact that hid your presence? It even allowed you to cover these kids' tracks as they approached. How about you sell it to me? I will pay you the six thousand gold that kid is holding."
The giant man raised his hand into the air and looked at the ring adorning his finger. It was a simple ring with an unpolished blue gem. Even without any sophisticated metalworking or designs, it gave an ancient and elegant vibe. "I might have gladly sold it if you asked me a day ago. But after looking at its performance today, I think I will keep it. I really hit the jackpot this time. I really want to see the look in that cripple's face after I tell him what this ring is capable of. I might consider selling it to you if you offer me twenty thousand gold though. How about it?"
The hooded figure ignored the man and looked towards Nathan, "Hey kid. Hand over the sack and I will let you leave." As the words left his mouth, the ground around Nathan started turning into earthen spikes and pointed themselves at him slowly.
Nathan was put in a difficult position. Though he had resolved himself to die with dignity just a few moments ago. The arrival of the axe wielding man ignited his hope. The thought that maybe he could get out of this alive had creeped into his mind silently and replaced his newfound courage. The thought slowly took over his head and now the fear of death was stronger than it had been before. Looking at the spikes that were pointing at him menacingly, he subconsciously raised the sack as if to hand it over to the hooded figure.
A giant axe covered his line of sight and embedded itself into the ground in front of him. The spikes had all been crushed and the axe left a deep crater when the giant man pulled it out. Placing the axe back on his shoulder he turned around and looked at Vincent and co. His lips parted ways to reveal his white teeth and a creepy smile. "Don't worry. As a just warrior, I cannot forgive such unjust acts. My heart gets filled with admiration as I look at four strong young men such as yourselves. How commendable is it that you would volunteer to stop crooks such as that man. The value of your lives obviously cannot be measured. How about I protect you guys? 1500 gold for each of you. Reasonable, aren't I?"
Gazing up at the creepy smile directed at him, Nathan subconsciously moved as if to hand the sack over to the giant man.
The earth mage looked at the sack that was changing hands for the second time and got ticked off. The lackey who was supposed to hand him the gold got attacked and taken down by four weirdly equipped kids. He couldn't interfere to save Reuben because another hidden party was observing and helping the kids. He waited patiently hoping that Reuben would overwhelm the kids and force the other party to make their move but much to is dismay, his lackey got taken down and he was forced to be the one make his move and reveal himself.
Now that the other party had finally shown himself, he realized that the giant man was here to take advantage of the situation and take the money for himself. The man had the strength of a gold ranker as well and he didn't want to get into an unnecessary conflict. He had already made another 16000 gold out of the poisoning incident and he could forgo the gold in the giant's hand but he couldn't stand the big lump of flesh taking advantage of his hard work and meticulous plan.
The ground shook with greater intensity than earlier and spikes made from rocks and mud started assaulting the five people standing just dozens of feet away from him.
The sudden attack caught the kids off guard and they were panic stricken. Taking advantage of the chaos, the giant man snatched the sack and shouted dramatically, "Flee kids. I will hold back this evil bastard. Take this opportunity to get as far away from here as you can. Hurry.... he is too strong for me but worry not... for justice always prevails."
Having said his piece, the giant swung his massive axe with incredible speed. The spikes which seemed like they carried enough momentum to shatter anything in their path broke into tiny little pieces. The shards flew about everywhere. Some embedded themselves into the nearby trees while the rest whistled away into the darkness.
Vincent and the rest who were frozen because of the sudden attack were shocked out of their stiffness by the clash. Recollecting their senses, the group made for the nearest village in their top speed.