As he dashed through the tall trees, Kallen immediately removed his outer robes revealing a jet black inner vest, his hand then slid onto his chin and pulled out a dark mask to cover his face.
In his hand was the combat knife he got from Levi, the gauntlet on his other hand was pretty useful, but he didn't use it as it would take too much time to boot it up.
Stopping a few dozen meters away, his eyes spotted a couple of burly men in black standing guard on the mine's entrance cave.
"They don't belong to any mercenary force." No matter if there was no banner or crest on their clothes they way the four men ported and stood by the entrance wasn't something mere mercenaries could compare with. There was no way to know their cultivation, but just with the dangerous aura they had made him believe they were part of some elite force of some family or faction. However, for some reason those four men weren't that unfamiliar to him, like he had seen their faces once before.
Closing his eyes, he tried to force out those memories and soon the memories belonging to the pitiful blacksmith appeared on his mind. One day when heading to the Ji family's medicine shop in the upper city, he had once seen people with the same eyes standing as the guards of the Family.
"If those memories are correct, then they are servants of the Ji family. The guy on the front is Lie Bin, he used to be the chief of the guards in the Ji family's shop." Lie Bin, just like the Ji family weren't natives from the soul empire, but citizens of the eastern side of the continent. Like he just mentioned, the entire Esethia continent had three major regions, the central region, the eastern region and the western region.
Each region had its own different cultures and traditions. The eastern for example was where the culture of cultivation is the strongest, most of the high level cultivators and strongest martial arts. If he recalled what the teachers told him when he arrived at the sacred soul sect, the founder and the current sect master were both from the eastern region.
"I am afraid of what is going to happen if I take too much time here..." Kallen didn't have any other connection to Erin as well as a reason to risk fighting powerful cultivators other than the thin fragment of memories from her lover on his mind.
"Levi, do you think the force field of the gauntlet can handle it?" Before he initiated the fight, he asked Levi and the latter confirmed.
Putting the gauntlet in revolver form, he aimed at the head of the man on the back of the group, the one that seemed the weaker and pulled the trigger.
The thin laser ripped through the wind and swiftly closed the distance between it and its target. The man in question felt a chill down on his spine, and with the reflexes of a true and experienced cultivator, he gave a side step just giving enough space for the laser to pass by a few inches away from his ear leaving only a scratch on his face.
"Shit!" Kallen's face darkened. Seems he underestimated the cultivators, but thinking again the only change he had on doing this on stealth didn't even start before it ended."
"What was that!?" The missed shot attracted the attention of Lie Bin and the two others who immediately came towards his direction.
Seeing they move ten meters with each step, Kallen realized those weren't just the everyday cultivators without any martial art and techniques.
"Urg, I don't think I can win even one of them, wait, I think I know how." Jumping above the tree, his eyes saw just the trails left behind by the guards, their speed was too great for the eye. However, not far away, in a direction deeper within the woods was a movement in the bushes and an occasional trembling of the ground.
Aiming again, this time his shot hit the ground just a few inches away from another guard. This time they could clearly see from where the laser came. Soon a dozen more lasers came out from nowhere hitting two of them in the forearm.
"Arg." "What is this?!" The pale green vital power erupted from the veins and muscles to protect the body, but the thin concentrated laser left a thin charred black mark and the smell of burnt meat.
"Take cover, don't let yourself be hit by the red light. It must be some sort of evil technique!" Lie Bin immediately recognized the man behind the laser was certainly another experienced cultivator with knowledge of some rare techniques.
"3, 2, 1..." A young man shot a gaze at Lie Bin and the other three, and with a loud noise there was an explosion coming from the laser's direction. The laser attacks stopped soon after, making the guard a bit suspicious.
Slowly they approached from different directions and upon arriving at the exact same place all they saw was a large hole on the body of a tree, some black marks on the ground and pieces of scrapped metal.
"Tua! Who Dares to walk in my domain?!" A powerful and ferocious voice echoed through the wood, Lie Bin, and the other guards, Kiki, Opal and Lie Ban all felt their bodies washed with cold water.
In the entire mountain range, there were some pretty powerful beasts and other than the Green-Heaven Serpent who is the King, there some beasts even scarier, the Mystic Beasts!
Mystic beasts were the ones with the ability to cultivate, their intelligence is not below fully-grown humans even after just being born, and their talent was monstrous. The power of such beasts was always one level higher than its present cultivation level. Fortunately they were as rare as the feathers of a phoenix, and even the Green-heaven Serpent King would treat such beasts with most respect.
"Shit, we're surrounded." They four of them could feel the stares of more than a dozen beasts coming from almost every direction, and they walked close revealing beautifully-sculpted Ebony-scaled bodies with the shape of a tiger and a tail made of a jet black blade.
"Ebony-Scaled Blade Tigers! Then the owner of the voice must be..."
Back at the mine, Kallen could already imagine himself hearing the cries of despair of the four cultivators.
"It was worth sacrificing my gauntlet." In order to attract both the beasts and the cultivators to the same place, he had to leave his gauntlet there.
Dashing into the mine, his ears could already hear sounds coming from deeper inside, they were talking about an artifact?
As he delved deeper, to his surprise all the members of the obsidian pavilion other than Erin were tied up. Some blacksmiths' tools were also spread across the cave as Erin melted a couple ores in the green fire on the ground.
Nothing surprising, the only men from the Ji family were those standing guard outside while all others were the mercenaries the young master Ji must have brought with money. His tension decreased when seeing object being forged before him, through the pitiful blacksmith memories he knew some of those forging techniques of the obsidian pavillion, but other those those nearly useless memories the information pack he got drilled in his brain when becoming a pilot which had a million times more knowledge told him this was of making objects wasn't the most efficient and many ways to refine the impurities of the mineries and other things such as physics, and more in-depth information about all sorts of materials.
Just seeing Erin do her work made him feel his hand aching to do the same, especially when he saw Erin removing the perfect black sphere from the fire and drawing a dozen runes according to the blueprint lent to her by the young master Ji.
What no one noticed in that dark cave was the disappearance of some of the members of the misty leaves gang one by one while the others weren't looking.
"Maybe I should learn something or two about the Artificers." Kallen's eyes shone, he was thinking what the limits would be if he learned something like this.
"Its finished. I made it just like in the specifications left in the blueprint." Erin held the black sphere with curiosity. She now knew fully well that only following the expedition and taking the others as hostages was with the objective of having her make such an artifact. But if he wanted this why not ask the pavilion for a custom order? With the Ji family's status, he could easily invite an Artificer much better than her from other cities to do the work.
Then she recalled hearing about a sealed crypt left behind an ancient powerhouse forty thousand years ago before the great collapse where all high-level cultivators suddenly vanished from the world while the rest faced a mysterious death. It's said this powerhouse roamed the world with his supreme craftsman techniques, the same he used to forge an entire artifact city where the capital of the soul empire was located today.
Everyone knew about the Sacred Soul Sect building the capital of their empire over the ruins of an ancient city, the main reason was the take possession of any precious relic still found there.
Erin already found strange the set of runic formation described in the blueprint, nothing about the sphere could make it look like something new, no, there were some rumors that only that powerhouse's relic could open the path to the interior of crypt...
"Oh god..." When her thoughts reached this point, Erin felt terrified. She was a smart girl for her age and knew that something this big couldn't come from the Ji family alone and if they had all the work to lure her away from the city just to craft the ancient artifact, it was to keep this a secret from the all-knowing Sacred Soul Sect which means another Faction of a similar level is backing them up.
Being in this mess, she already accepted there was no way those people would let her and the others leave this place alive, especially with the other four cultivators standing guard outside. She knew the strength of those four were stronger than anyone else here.
"Good..." With an evil smile plastered across his face, the previous gentle-looking young master revealed his true colors. Picking the black sphere from Erin, his eyes reflected the shiny black color of the sphere. "If it was in another moment I would love to enjoy such a beauty as yourself, but some things are worthy more than a moment of pleasure. Kill them, and leave no traces."
The moment they heard Ji Mu's order to kill, some of the servants and members of the pavilion immediately tried to escape only to have her throats cut by a knife.
Shiiiing! The man standing closer to Ji Mu held his sword high as fiery red vital power was infused into the blade making it shine as he approached Erin with a cold gaze, but what was standing before him was a short figure dressed in black with a knife in each hand.
This man, the son of the misty leaves gang's leader surely had trained in some sword technique as Kallen felt his internal organs burning just from getting closer to it, but other than the vital power that could easily take his life, the man's body wasn't that strong as a initial-phase Body Refinement Stage cultivator. In fact, in order to kill him he had to hit him first.
The left hand which wielded the special knife that Levi said was nearly unbreakable to deflect the sword. He could feel his arm burning upon being less than a few inches away from the blade. Then he threw this same knife upwards before jupimp high and kicking the knife handle, making it travel across the cave hitting another of the mercenaries on the neck.
"Arg!" The man suddenly coughed a mouthful of blood before collapsing on the ground just before a terrified female servant.