The ground was trembling lightly.
A riding team of over a hundred riders stormed past Kieran and the others with lightning speed.
Based on their advancing path, Kieran knew that their destination was Tita Town.
"They should be Sergourney's reinforcements but how could they arrive so fast?"
Bosco muttered to himself in confusion, standing on top of the hill.
"Just like what you said, that Madam Jeanne James's forces are much stronger than we expected. Maybe she has her spy within Tita Town!"
Kieran was not too surprised over the appearance of the riders.
After knowing who his enemy was, he had already made plenty of preparation, even more so when he asked Bosco about his enemy's name and life.
Jeanne James, the elder sister of King James VIII.
A person unwilling to remain out of the limelight after the decision of the previous king robbed the throne away from her.
The secret organization that she founded under her was quite big. Her men were all over every corner of the imperial city, including the men around King James VIII who were her spies.
As for the forces in the light, according to Bosco, the military minister was one of her most faithful guardians because he tried to woo Jeanne when they were younger.
Over 60% of the entire kingdom's military force was related to that military minister. If it wasn't for some older noble families that stood loyally beside King James VIII, the king that Bosco mentioned would have been dethroned before he even ascended to the throne.
Even still, it was not an easy life for King James VIII. Not only did he fail to protect Mary's mother, he couldn't even look after himself.
Kieran asked Bosco about the details of the monster attack during the king's winter hunting. It could only be described with one word, coincidence.
It was coincidental to the extent that it looked like it was arranged beforehand by someone. In fact, when King James VIII was in a coma, Jeanne has practically taken over the palace and the kingdom.
As for why she didn't kill King James VIII on the spot and ascend to the throne herself when she had the chance?
It was not because they were brothers and sisters; it was because there was a sorcerer who claimed to be Warren's strongest beside King James VIII. His persistence prolonged the king's life numerous times, but it had its limits as well.
Since that sorcerer didn't pay much attention to the politics, he didn't have the ability to stop Jeanne and her influence from seeping into every seam and gap of the palace, imperial city and the Kingdom of Warren.
Kieran had enough confidence now that he knew that the assassin he met that night in Swusters Castle was one of Jeanne's. Only then did everything make sense.
The assassin saw Sergourney and his men dead and thus sent the message back. Then, Jeanne sent out a bunch of reinforcements right away.
The hundred riders before them were just a portion of the reinforcements; there were more troops following behind.
"This means trouble! We have to get to Lightning Fortress as soon as possible. Only then we can wait for the only reinforcement we have!" Bosco said with a heavy expression.
"Lightning Fortress?" Kieran asked.
"That is the ace card his Majesty left for me!" Bosco said but didn't reveal further details.
Kieran didn't press on the topic either; he looked at Mary.
"Are you ready? There will be countless enemies standing in our path, if you want to leave, this is your last chance!" Kieran said.
"You said you will escort me to the imperial city!" The little girl emphasized, looking stern.
"Well then Shall we?"
Kieran leapt on one of the warhorses, and under Bosco's guidance, they chose to deviate from the main route and journey through the smaller and secluded ones.
To avoid the potential pursuers, they had to hide in the day and travel at night; still, the battles were inevitable.
Jeanne James possessed very powerful abilities and was extremely resourceful; waves after waves of pursuers attacked Kieran and co. with utmost precision, preventing their progress.
However, all of the attacks were only battles to increase more Magic rank loots for Kieran.
Hour after hour, day after day.
Jeanne's pursuers had stopped on the tenth day, but Kieran, Mary and Bosco were not enthusiastic about it. They knew that with Jeanne's persistent character, she must be preparing something even bigger.
The next attack from the pursuers would be the one where she revealed her ace card.
Though Kieran and co. were still progressing forward.
During the end of the second week and the beginning of the third, Kieran and co. arrived at a mountain cave not far away from Lightning Fortress.
The chilly night breeze was blocked by the mountain backs.
The exhausted Mary fell asleep hugging her long sword beside the warm campfire.
Kieran was busy beside her as well. When the pot water was boiling, he threw in meats and vegetables.
The vegetables were collected on the way there, and the meat was from a hare he had caught. The wild hares during fresh autumn were quite fat and meaty; it was a good choice to either grill it or boil it. Though, after considering the temperature at night, cooking a pot of soup was the best option.
After an hour of boiling, Kieran opened the cover and stirred it with a wooden spoon. The soup was white as milk, the chunks of meat were swirling in the essence of the pot.
Transcendence level [Cooking] allowed Kieran to easily cook up the dish before him.
Even with insufficient spices, Kieran purposely picked the vegetables that could remove the meaty stench and enhance the freshness of the soup. The soup instantly brewed out an alluring aroma when the cover was lifted.
Mary instantly woke up from her deep sleep despite her exhaustion.
When Kieran took out the dried bread that he carried with him, the little girl had prepared her bowl and spoon out of habit.
Throughout the journey, the thing that the little girl anticipated the most was definitely Kieran's cooking.
The relentless pursuers from the back and countless obstacles in the front. The seemingly endless journey was supposed to be torturous to Mary, but even under such circumstances, Mary's growth surprised Kieran every time.
Mary only spent around two weeks from struggling to hold the [Thorn Blade] to carrying it casually on her back.
"Here, have some and get some rest. We might have a big battle at dawn!"
Kieran split the dried bread with a hardened stick and passed it to Mary. He reminded her while watching her dip the bread into the soup completely.
Kieran planned to arrive at Lightning Fortress at dawn; that was in the middle of the route to Riverdale.
"Em!" Marry nodded.
No matter how Bosco emphasized throughout the journey that they could get help at Lightning Fortress, but after two weeks of traveling with the envoy, both Kieran and Mary had understood the fact that the words that came out of Bosco's mouth had only 30% of reliability.
The reinforcements or help that he was mentioning?
Neither of them held any hope to that. Therefore, when Bosco brought a man before them, Kieran and Mary were quite surprised.
"Why are you people looking at me as if I'm lying?"
Bosco opened his arms with a shrug. His face was utterly delighted, but when he saw that the pot was already half empty, the delight of the imperial envoy disappeared instantly.
"Hey! I thought we agreed to start the meal when I came back!" Bosco ranted.
When Bosco discovered Kieran's magnificent cooking for the first time, he felt disbelief, like watching a comet landing on earth before him.
Even to the very moment, he couldn't believe that Kieran, a sorcerer, would be an outstanding cook as well. The characteristic didn't fit his looks at all. However, there was one thing Bosco was certain about. Even with insufficient ingredients and spices, Kieran's cooking was still delicious.
Bosco was wondering whether Kieran casted some spell over the food, but his wondering didn't stop him from chasing after the delicious foods.
Bosco was very much eager to dash over to the pot, but the man beside him made him stand in his place.
"This is Sir Fandral, Warren's strongest sorcerer!" Bosco said after pretending for a bit.
He was anticipating surprise from Kieran's face, but Kieran was as calm as ever.
"Fine, I'll leave you big fellows be. I'd like to have my dinner!"
Bosco then ran over to the pot, leaving Kieran and Fandral inspecting each other.
Fandral was a middle-aged man with a head of dense black hair and a beard-covered face. His eyes were extremely sharp though. His body was quite buffed and tall, wielding a really heavy staff as tall as himself.
Kieran didn't even doubt his melee fighting abilities a bit.
If it wasn't for Bosco's introduction, Kieran wouldn't relate the man before him with Warren's strongest sorcerer.
First was his age. Although it wasn't a fact that a sorcerer's power grew with his age, but enough learning and absorbing knowledge still would take quite a long time. Thus, most of the stronger sorcerers were the elderly or similar.
Second was his buffed physique and temperament. He looked more like a knight than a sorcerer. It might be innate for his height and physique, but his temperament was something acquired through training.
"Honed his skills in the battlefield?" Kieran guessed.
"So you are 2567? I've heard that woman has caused quite the trouble for your recently? This is joyous!"
Compared to Kieran who was guessing left, right and center, Fandral the sorcerers was much more direct. With the body and temperament of a knight, the sorcerer revealed a bright smile and said, "Come, let us make way to the imperial city!"
Right after he finished, he started drawing on the ground.
An unknown magic circle was drawn before Kieran on the ground.
After Fandral signaled everyone to stand inside the magic circle, his lips muttered as he chanted some incantations to activate the power of the magic circle.
After a bright flash, nothing happened. Kieran and co. were still standing inside the cave.
Kieran frowned right away.
Gandalf when he was young.
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!