21 Ambush (2)

"We're under attack!" Alfred's voice boomed through the sudden chaos.

The camp came to an abrupt halt, and swords were unsheathed as everyone swiftly gathered around Celastrina's carriage.

I rushed to Loic, who lay slumped on the ground with a deep wound in his stomach. Blood continued to seep out, and I instinctively covered the injury with my arm without removing the arrow.

"Loic!" I called urgently, shaking his shoulders. He coughed up blood, his face growing pale, yet he remained alive.

"Hold on, Loic," I reassured him, extracting a small bottle containing healing properties.

"Be careful!" Loic suddenly warned, pushing me away with his weakened hand.

A sword sliced through the air, narrowly missing my head and cutting some of my dark hair. Glancing around, I identified the assailants—roughly ten individuals clad in simple leather armor, their appearance indicative of bandits.

Drawing a dagger from my back, I positioned myself in front of Loic and swung it at the bandit. Our blades clashed, and though he was stronger, I held my ground. Muttering audibly, I invoked a spell, "Tier 2 Spell: Swirling Wind Sphere."

The magical gust knocked the bandit away, affording me the opportunity to refocus on Loic. I quickly moved him to a safer distance.

"You've got nerve attacking us," Cornelius remarked, descending from the carriage with hearty laughter.

He wasn't wrong; the audacity of attacking our group, especially with Cornelius and Alfred present, was akin to seeking death.

The bandits hesitated, taking a step back as Cornelius joined the fray. His mere presence intimidated them; he was a force to be reckoned with.

"Cornelius Alasmira. What a delightful surprise," a voice echoed behind the bandits. A figure cloaked in black robes appeared, a white mask concealing their identity. I sensed an unsettling aura, enough to recognize the danger this person posed.

Cornelius's gaze turned stern. "Alfred, handle these miscreants."

"Yes, milord," Alfred acknowledged.

Cornelius smirked and vanished in an instant. With a thunderous boom, he engaged the mysterious figure, and both disappeared into the depths of the forest.

The remaining bandits redirected their attention toward us, particularly Celastrina, who was peering out from the carriage.

"Milady, you should stay inside," I urged, guiding Loic into the carriage.

"What happened to him?" Celastrina asked, visibly shocked.

"He took an arrow," I explained, gently slapping Loic's cheeks to keep him conscious.

"P-please tell—"

"Don't speak useless things," I interjected, pressing my hand against his wound before swiftly extracting the arrow in one decisive motion.

Loic grimaced, spitting blood as I ignored his discomfort and poured the healing contents of a bottle onto his wound.

"Do you have a wife?" I asked, cleaning and bandaging his stomach.

"Y-yes..." Loic replied, tears streaming down his face.

"Any children?" I continued, focusing on my task.

"Yes... a son..." Loic smiled despite the precariousness of his situation.

"Then pull yourself together and survive," I encouraged, finishing the treatment. I stepped out of the carriage.

"You should stay here too!" Celastrina insisted, her voice tinged with concern.

"No, I need to assist Alfred and the others," I responded, shaking my head.

"It's an order!" Celastrina raised her voice.

Observing the worry hidden beneath her anger, I softened my tone. "Please stay inside, Milady."

Drawing my daggers, I sprinted toward the bandits, aiming to catch them off guard. Their physical strength surpassed mine, so I relied on swift, surprise attacks. I slashed at their backs before swiftly maneuvering away, assisting the other knights by striking from behind.

An unsettling feeling crept over me—there seemed to be more bandits than before. Was it just exhaustion clouding my judgment?

"You brat!" one of them growled, attempting to land a punch. I narrowly evaded, countering with a dagger swipe that left his arm bleeding. The metallic gleam of my dagger, tinted with a green hue, brought a slight smile to my face—a testament to its enhanced sharpness, courtesy of a coating of wind.

"What a cunning brat."

The unexpected voice sent shivers down my spine, and before I could react, a sharp pain seared through my left arm. I rolled on the ground, but it was too late.

"Arughh…" I bit my lip forcefully as blood flowed from my severed left arm, which landed on the ground with a heavy thud. 

"Night!" Alfred's shocked cry pierced the chaos as I struggled to catch my breath, sinking to my knees.

In the grip of excruciating pain, I clung to consciousness.

"It should have been your head, but you managed to dodge it? Not bad for a kid," the man chuckled.

Through my blurred vision, I glared at him. His dark hair, dark eyes, and scarred lips slowly came into focus.

Wait.

I widened my eyes, staring at the man with sudden recognition.

I know him.

I saw him in that place.

Before my family abandoned me.

Anger surged within me as fragmented memories flashed through my mind. My eyes turned red with fury, fueled by the recollection of what he had done.

"Brat, what are you looking at?" he taunted, amused by my anger.

Awkwardly, I forced my weak knees to lift me back up, maintaining my glare.

No!

He shouldn't recognize me.

I subtly covered my mouth, taking a step back.

He was too powerful for me to confront directly.

A sense of impending unconsciousness overwhelmed me, and even biting my tongue failed to clear my foggy mind.

"Move away!" Alfred's sudden intervention was futile as the dark man deftly dodged his kick and retaliated with a powerful punch. Alfred, despite his defensive stance, was flung away by the sheer force of the impact.

Alfred stood no chance against this guy.

The bandits multiplied, gradually overpowering the knights.

Just as despair began to settle, a magenta lightning bolt struck the dark man, sending dust flying. I shielded my eyes and turned to Celastrina, my frustration boiling over. "Milady! What are you doing?!"

Celastrina ignored my question, her murderous glare fixed on the dark man. "You will pay for this."

"Vanessa Alasmira's daughter. Interesting!" the dark man remarked, licking his lips.

Celastrina raised her hand. "Tier 3 Spell! Thunderbolt!" Another bolt descended, but this time the dark man effortlessly evaded it.

"You should have run away when you could have!" he sneered, aiming his hands at Celastrina. "Tier 5 Spell, Bind her."

Four shimmering cuffs appeared and shot out at Celastrina's limbs, pinning her to the ground.

"It's been a while since I have tasted someone this young, it will be fun!" He mentioned climbing Celastrina.

"NOO! Leave me!!!" Celastrina shouted with fear.

"Look, noble warriors of Alasmira. "Watch your young lady be defiled by me." He remarked with a sneer as he ripped Celastrina's top garment, revealing her bra.

"!" Celastrina was speechless and motionless as she stared in fear. She hastily closed her tear-filled eyes.

Seeing it, my thoughts went blank.

The man who was ready to lick Celastrina abruptly paused and shifted his look around.

When I met his stare, my dark eyes flickered to gold as a vertical slit appeared in them.

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