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Aether Beasts

Chapter 12 - 12

Chapter 12 - 12

The sect camps were larger than they seemed at first sight and weren"t set up as haphazardly as I"d first thought. Both sects had set up their largest tents near the center while the living areas were clearly set up furthest away from the other sect. The no man"s land was bare of anything, though people of both sides watched the other.

While I"d known about the sects I hadn"t known that there were this hostile. That added another layer to any possible decision I might make today. If I chose one then I damned any possible relationship with the other.

"Which one do we go to first?" Leyton asked.

"Steel heart," I said at the same time Thomas said, "Twin Horn."

We glanced at each other.

"Rock, paper, scissors?"

I nodded and after a quick match where my rock lost to his paper, we headed towards the twin horn sect but stopped as Leyton didn"t move.

"Why don"t we just go to the auction house the merchants set up every year then choose a sect. We can ask about sects there as well."

Thomas nodded in agreement.

"Another smart idea," I said. "You sure the real Leyton didn"t go missing in the forest and you"re just a doppelganger."

He rolled his eyes while Thomas chuckled.

The auction house was a large stone building that the merchants set up every year when they came. It was three stories high and was set up and formed by earth-core arcanists. Its design was plain and if we didn"t already know what was inside we would have never guessed it was an auction house.

It was set up away from either of the sect camps and unlike other years there were guards patrolling the area around the building, more specifically they were watching the sect disciples and it was clear why.

Any time a twin horn disciple passed a steel heart disciple they glared at each other.

"Man they really don"t like each other," Leyton commented as we neared the auction house.

"We need to take care to not get involved with any of them if we"re not planning to join either sect."

"He"s right," I agreed.

We entered the stone building and my eyes were immediately drawn in half a dozen directions. The auction house had stands and stalls showing off various products, and a reception area for anyone who needed help. There wasn"t anything too shocking since it was only the first floor but it was better than almost anything we had in town.

"Come in I wanna check out the spears," Leyton rushed over to a rack of spears, Thomas and I following behind.

"Can you actually even afford anything here?" Thomas asked.

He had a point. Even the cheapest item probably cost a high amount of silver or a few gold, not that it wasn"t worth it, but it was obvious to anyone we were being charged more since there was nowhere else we could get it. It wasn"t like we could hop on over to Orton

"I"ve been saving up," Leyton replied, looking over a spear with red markings and a gleaming steel point. "I may not be as rich as him–" He pointed in my direction. "But I still have quite a bit."

I sighed. Not this again. My aunt was the only aether healer in town and the mayor made sure she was kept happy and well paid, which meant I never needed for coin. At one point in time, Leyton had started calling me a rich boy but after a match in the sparring ring, he"d stopped.

"It doesn"t matter anyway," I said. "I"m not getting anything today."

"Yeah well–"

Leyton"s reply was cut off by a familiar voice.

"Well, look what we have here," Jason said, walking up to us with his two hanger-ons to either side of him. "I heard you died, a shame that it wasn"t true."

"Oh look it"s dumb, dumber, and even dumber," Leyton said as though he hadn"t heard Jason. "Guys we better be careful. I heard they learned a new technique that lowers the IQ of anyone around them. It"s called passive stupidity, their masters of it."

Jason"s face went red with anger and he took a threatening step forward as I held in my laughter. Thomas had a hand over his mouth and even a nearby stall keeper had a smile on his face, his lips twitching as he tried to hold back his laughter.

"You wanna say that again?" Jason growled, his hands balled into fists and a red shimmer appeared around them.

"Did you not hear the first time, oh yeah I forgot, the passive stupidity also affects hearing."

Jason raised a fist but Leyton didn"t blink or move, which may have seemed stupid to anyone who didn"t know the rules of the auction house.

A guard appeared next to Jason and laid a hand in his raised arm. "No fighting."

Jason turned his glare to the guard. "He insulted my honor and the honor of the twin horn."

I hadn"t really paid much attention to his clothing but looking closer, I saw that he was wearing the white combat robes of a twin horn disciple, although his seemed fancier than the others I"d seen.

Leyton scoffed. "You have no honor you shit stain and if the twin horn sect took you in then they must be really bad at picking disciples."

I didn"t think that Jason"s face could get any redder but it did and for a second I thought steam might start coming out of his ears.

"That"s enough disciple." A loud voice rang out and in walked a short and lean man with slicked-back brown hair. He was dressed in the same combat robes as Jason and had an air of self-importance and arrogance.

His eyes moved over the three of us and he drew closer and I saw a flash of hate and anger as they moved over Leyton. "Keep to the rules. They can mock all they want in here but outside well…"

He let his words trail off and a dangerous glint appeared in his eyes. He was only a first-core arcanist, but from what I could sense he was at the peak, not to mention he was part of the twin horn sect. We didn"t need the trouble.

Just as Leyton looked like he was about to say something else, he"d never been good at stopping once he got going, another voice rang out.

"That"s enough kid, you"ve given me a good laugh so I"ll handle this for you."

A man in his early twenties with short steel-colored hair that looked like actual metal pushed off a wall he"d been leaning on nearby and I realized I hadn"t noticed him at all. He"d been masking his aether but not anymore. His second core was clear and he moved with an aura of self-confidence that was hard to mistake. Compared to the Twin horn disciple who was short and lean, he was tall and muscular.

He stopped next to Leyton and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Still bullying and picking on juniors I see, Ewin."

He nodded to Jason. "And teaching your own disciple to act the same. And here I thought your sect couldn"t get any lower."

"Markem," Ewin growled. "You mean to interfere? I didn"t realize the steel heart sect protected weaklings like these."

"Oh, I plan to do more than interfere." He smiled, although it was more feral than friendly. "I"m afraid these juniors are under my protection and well if you touch them…"

He didn"t need to finish the sentence, the meaning was clear.

Ewin looked like he wanted to strike Markem but held back. He turned around and began walking away, Jason and his hanger-ons following behind him. He glanced back just before he left. "This isn"t over."

With those words said, he left the auction house.

Leyton let out a relieved-sounding breath.. "Well, that was dramatic."

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