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458 Illusion and Directional Disorientation, An Ambush Destroyed in a Short Momen

 Day ▊▊ - ▊▊:▊▊ ▊▊ - Trade Area, Stone Fortress, Eastern Mountain

Because of Pefile's outburst, they decided to go on an area clear of people to talk.

There, Mei, Spera, and Amihan learned the reason.

Things were still all fine when everyone separated at first since the places where everyone had gone to were in the close vicinity. Karlene and Alana were looking at ethnic looking accessories in one stall, and others could do the same without trouble.

However, when Mei and those that came with her went to a place that did not have a stall or trader at all. More than that, some sort of power seemed to be at hand as Edzel and Pearl got separated from them for some unknown reason. When the way was cleared out, the two could not find Mei and the others they were trying to follow.

Pefile also lost sight of them, even though he was keeping his eyes at everyone. Furthermore, aside from Mei and the others missing, he did not feel anything strange. As if everything remained natural. And it was too natural that it was suspicious.

Mei, Amihan, and Spera felt their backs cold. No wonder Pefile seemed panicked. They suddenly vanished from their sight, with no sign at all. It was strange, though, as they were staying in one place all this time. Furthermore, they could see all of the other people in the trade area passing by.

"Now that we mentioned it, it's really unusual."

Mei said with a solemn expression.

"What is it, Mistress?"

Spera asked.

"Remember? When we are talking to the old man, the other people are not paying attention to us even though we garner their attention where ever we go. Like now."

Mei said as she glanced at the Spirit Races passing by that were looking at them.

"That's true, isn't it?"

"Yeah..."

Both Spera and Amihan agreed.

The strangest thing, none was able to sense anything unusual in the way they disappeared and reappeared. As Pefile had said, everything felt too natural to the point of being suspicious.

Seeing the three discussing things, Pefile looked exasperated.

"Sir Pefile. You should calm down." Morana tried to appease him. "We will investigate what had happened just now. I suggest that everyone should return early and stay inside the fortress until things are affirmed."

"Hah..." Pefile sighed. "Alright, we should return."

"Pefile, you should really calm down." Karlene followed up. "Something might have happened, but everyone is okay in the end."

Not only Karlene, but others also felt the same. Mei, Spera, and Amihan also did not feel any danger from that old man. Furthermore, the old man traded good stuff to them. Mei knew that Mark would be happy to see these things when he returned.

And because of this, instead of calming down, Pefile became even more exasperated.

"Alright! We are lucky that nothing really happened to them! If something did, we can start counting down about how long this place will last! Don't you get what I mean? Damn it."

Hearing those words made Morana and the guards frown. Counting down on how long their fortress would last? That should be a joke.

However...

"Ah..."

That was the only word that Karlene could reply with. Not only her, almost everyone in their group, even the little girls, had realized the severity of the situation.

Those reactions made Morana and the guards feel like Pefile was not joking at all. Still, from their beliefs, this fortress was impenetrable. Thus, they could not fathom why this group felt that this place would not last long at all.

With those emotions, they finally decided to leave the trade area and return. This place would still be here tomorrow, after all. They could visit it again tomorrow with Mark.

Also, the situation that happened just now would surely reach Mark. Mei would tell him, it was the same for Amihan and Pefile. The existence of the old man would surely interest him.

But still...

Just who was that old man?

That question came over and over in their minds, but none of them could not find any answer.

As they returned, they passed through the same area where they saw the old man and saw nothing.

***

Unbeknownst to them, the old man saw them pass by. After all, he never left in the place. He was sitting there, waiting...

Waiting for those interesting people with the destiny to see him. Nevertheless, there were times that they would find him because...

...They were not bound to the destiny of this plane at all.

While seeing their backs, the old man noticed something and smiled.

"I wonder if they will be able to get over this new trial."

The old man sighed. It was true that not everyone was good. And now, those blessed girls would face an annoying impediment.

***

Everyone walked towards the fortress and walked at the path beside a moat near the walls.

All of them were quite absentminded because of what had happened. Morana and the guards were the same as they tried to think of what could cause the fall of their fortress if Mei and the others were harmed.

But then...

"Is it just me, or we are taking too long?"

Mei suddenly voiced out.

None of them noticed, they already traversed a distance more than twice than what they should have to return to the gates of the fortress.

Mei's question snapped everyone out. It was as if everyone was in a trance. This made her frown. She looked to the direction that they were going and then, behind. Both ways looked the same.

"Are we... Lost?"

Pearl voiced out as she saw the same thing as Mei when looking around. Everyone was the same. They looked shocked while scanning the surroundings in high alert.

Without a doubt, they all entered some sort of trance that disabled them from sensing their surroundings and impede their sense of direction.

The situation was a dangerous one. Everyone immediately gathered around with their backs facing another's. The guards also surrounded everyone to ensure their protection.

"Should we wear our clothes inside out?"

Karlene suggested. It was not hard to tell what was happening.

If not that they accidentally entered a place under a Tikbalang's magic, a Tikabalang must be targetting them on purpose.

Moreover, whoever did this, it was a powerful one. None of them felt anything after all until Mei spoke.

However, taking off their clothes, especially that the majority of them were females, seemed inappropriate.

"It's fine, we don't have to," Mei replied with a serious expression.

She then smiled. A mesmerizingly smile, even though that smile told that whatever or whoever the enemy was, this illusion was nothing.

"Crimson."

Mei called out.

Black smoke gathered on her right shoulder which formed the reddish-black colored [Blood Child]. And with his jiggle, the very same black smoke scattered in the surroundings.

Morana and the guards felt terrified. They were not new to this black smoke and knew the feeling of Miasma when it was close.

Then, the surroundings started to distort. The infinite loop of the moat and the wall vanished, and they became surrounded by trees, bushes, grass, and vines.

The black smoke then gathered once more. Mei patted Crimson and thanked him before the [Blood Child] vanished once more.

Morana wanted to question what that creature was. However, their current situation took precedence. She scanned the surroundings and spoke.

"We should be in the forest, east of the Trade Area. This is the only part of the forest surrounding the fortress where these vines grow."

It seemed like even though the scene they saw was an illusion, it was true that they walked quite a long way.

Just when Morana finished her sentence, Pefile shouted.

"Whoever you are, come out!"

That shout from Pefile was replied by a dozen of rustling sounds coming from different directions.]

Tall silhouettes came out from behind trees, vines, and thickets after some distortions in the surroundings.

Having the head of a horse, muscular body of a man, and an elongated pair of legs with hooves instead feet, there was no doubt. It was a group of Tikbalangs.

Morana then noticed the markings on the bodies of these Tikbalangs.

"So, it's these brigands."

"Know them?"

Pefile asked her.

"They are a tribe of wandering Tikbalangs. They are known to target women of any race and copulate with them. After new members of their tribes are born, they kill the women and move somewhere else. But that's not the problem here."

"Then, the problem is?"

"I'm sure you noticed that the representative of the Tikbalangs and Anggitays was a single person? The representatives for multiple tribes of the same race are chosen as to who was the strongest. Among the Tikbalangs, the leader of this tribe is the strongest. But his notoriety devoid him of access to the fortress making the strongest of the Anggitays to take over,"

Hearing that, Pefile did not ask anything anymore. That surely was a problem. They were talking about the strongest of the Tikbalangs in the area, after all.

"Finished talking?"

A Tikbalang with red mane and fur walked upfront with an arrogant expression.

"Narquico..."

Morana recognized the Tikabalang. Without a doubt, he as the one she was talking about.

"Good that you recognize me. It will be easy then." Narquico said with a smug expression of a horse. "The women should just surrender. We'll let the children and men go. Also you two, female Duende and female Sylph, we don't need you two. Go away."

"It is better for you not to touch them." Morana threatened. "They are under our protection. Diwata Danaya will punish you all when she returns."

"Heh, fret not. Although it is such a waste for such beautiful women, well return them later. With our offsprings, that is. Neigh!!!"

"Neigh!!!"

The laughs of these Tikbalangs echoed in a way irritating to the ears.

"Morana..." Mei spoke calmly, which for some reason, made the Aide feel unsettled. "There's no problem to eliminate these trash, is there?"

Gulping her saliva, Morana replied.

"I-it's fine. Although it is preferable if we can just take three golden hairs on their manes to tame them. Even if their personality is unwelcomed, they are still strong and can become assets to battle."

"I see. Maybe, Gege will want one too."

Mei said in a way that made both Duendes and Tikbalangs stare agape. The way she spoke made it as if the Tikabalangs were easy pickings. Not to mention that even the weakest Tikbalang, at a young age, could run up a tall mountain in a few minutes. Even their kicks would be able to take down a Sarangay, that had a very large body.

"Neigh!!! You all hear that? This female human wants to capture us! We haven't started yet, and she is already dreaming!"

"Neigh!!!"

Another set of annoying laughter ensued.

"Annoying..."

Mei spoke with a fierce glare.

With that word, her body disappeared from her initial position, with a bit of flashing light.

Then, with the shock of the Duendes, the laughter of the Tikbalangs came to a deafening halt. They all froze on their positions with their eyes wide as if they had seen something too terrifying to fathom.

Mei then walked out from behind Narquico, making Morana and the Duendes look back where she initially stood, and to where she was now in soul-shaking shock.

"Kneel."

Mei then said, which made all twelve Tikbalangs feel something heavy pulling them to the ground. All of them, except for Narquico, immediately fell to the ground on their knees.

"YOU!!!"

Narquico resisted as much as he could. However, his body would surely not last.

"I said, Kneel!"

Mei spoke with a glare.

BAM!

A heavier force fell on Narquico's body, slamming his whole body to the ground.

"D-Damn i-it!!!"

Narquico was still trying to resist. It was just futile resistance, though.

"W-what happened..."

Morana and the guards are in utter confusion.

"Because Mama is strong!"

Miracle was the one replied accompanied with the shrug of everyone in their group.

Mei then showed the thirty-six strands of golden hair in her hand. She used all her abilities as both an Evolver and a Psychic to gather all of these in a short moment.

After all, what was faster? The Tikbalangs who could run fast, or her who could instantly appear behind them?

Unfortunately for the brigands, the way they surrounded her group made them all enter the distance she could use her [Force Blink]. It could have been a different thing if even just one of them were far away.

With the enemies dealt with magnificently, they returned to the stone fortress. Now, without any hindrance.

Along the way, everyone turned to them like before, but with a different reason. Before, because it was a group filled with beautiful women. Now, because there were a dozen Tikbalangs, chained, and was following behind them like slaves.