Sandy and Mark had both brown hair and a short red beard. They were of medium stature and were, apparently, brothers from two different mothers and the same father. They were quite young, as their age didn't reach the forties.
Susan was a woman nearing her fifties, with blond hair and an imponent frame and with her right ear missing.
Ethan was the youngest of the group, around his thirties, and he was the tallest between them.
They were in a room inside the guards building sitting around a circular table with cups of hot tea on the side of each of them.
Susan was explaining the information she knew about the mission.
"We know the group is formed by a former mercenary group that was going to be absorbed by the soldiers of the Shosti family. Some of them, unhappy with the status of a stable soldier, rebelled and became robbers. You all read the report about Tasart village, I don't believe they could have cleared all their traces while kidnapping so many women. Of course, our best option is to start investigating from there."
"What about their number and capabilities? And what do we do if they use the hostages?"
It was Noah speaking. He wanted to make sure that he was ready for anything in his first battle with cultivators, even if he didn't have to participate.
"We have some description of the strongest of them and their group should amount to twenty people in total. As for the hostages, we save them if we can, we cut through them if they are used as shields."
Noah nodded, he was happy with her answer.
'In this world, the weak are to blame while the strong are to revere, I won't endanger myself to save other people I don't care about.'
A village would be wiped out because, by chance, a pack of magical beasts found it in their way, weakness was indeed a sin in this world.
Having cleared his doubts, Noah listened carefully to the questions of the other soldiers.
They set up the priorities of the mission, the plan of attack and everyone's role.
Noah had to clear anyone trying to get closer to the other four, leaving the cultivators to fight themselves with no one interfering.
"Since everything is settled, let's set off immediately. We will see each other again in two hours."
The group got dismissed and went to prepare for their mission.
Meanwhile, on the side of a small mountain covered with trees, twenty or so men were camping near a campfire.
It was winter so the temperature was low but these men didn't seem to care too much as they were doing a line to enter the bigger tent of the camp.
Cries and pleads could be heard from the tent but the men outside it would just laugh and lick their lips eager to enter.
Two men got outside of the tent and proudly announced.
"Now, there are no more virgins inside!"
Disappointed sighs and curses were spat out by the men still in line but then were suppressed by a yell coming from higher in the mountain.
"Shut up you beasts, I'm trying to concentrate here!"
The men shut up but soon whispers sounded again on the mountain.
"I heard that the boss managed to steal a magic spell's scroll from the old captain."
"Shhh, he is still in the process of learning it, he doesn't want any distraction. He let us raid the village just to make us happy and stop complaining."
"What a pity though, he had been a mage for such a long time and the only way he got a magic spell was with the rebellion."
"You chose to rebel too remember?"
"Well, we are mercenaries, we follow gold and women!"
The deserters talked for some more time and then went back to enjoy the contents of the tent.
4 days later, a carriage appeared in the outskirts of Tasart village, or what remained of it.
The houses were burned to the ground and not a living being could be seen inside it.
A group of 3 men, a woman, and a kid got out of the carriage, they were, of course, Noah and his group.
"Aww man, you are too boring, you did nothing but meditate and practice during the trip. Aren't you in the age when you want to talk about women?"
"Sanford, don't try to corrupt the kid, he still has time to become a waste of air like you."
"Captain you are so mean! I'm just trying to educate him to the way of manhood!"
Sandy and Susan bickered, they basically did it through all the trip.
Mark would just laugh on their side at every word they spoke to each other while Ethan tried to imitate Noah in his compulsive way of training.
'Don't tell me that you become an idiot when you start cultivating your dantian?'
These were his thoughts about cultivators after 4 days of travel with them.
'Now that I think about it, even Master isn't too normal with his constant smile.'
He was considering the possibility that cultivating could have some side effects on the psyche of the practitioner.
They neared the remains of the village and looked around it in search of clues of the deserters.
Dead bodies were still on the ground, left there since the raid.
As the report said, no females were among the corpses and signs of dragging were present everywhere.
"What is there in that direction that can hide 20 lustful men?"
Mark asked the question while pointing where the traces of dragging went.
Ethan pointed out.
Susan massaged her temples to hold back from yelling at the 3 of them.
"They must have gone there, we should hurry while they are still busy using the hostages."
Noah could not help to feel a bit of wariness toward the heartlessness of Susan after her proposal.
"Oh, something is coming."
"Yes, they must have been attracted by the smell of blood lingering on the ground."
It was the first time that Noah wasn't the first to notice something approaching.
'Are they already mages?'
Looking at Sandy and Mark staring in the distance he followed their line of sight, focusing on a dark dot few hundreds of meters in the distance.
The dot became 2 dots and then 4.
Then the silhouettes of 6 thunder wolves were made clear.
"Kid, you take care of them, have fun."
Sandy patted Noah's shoulder and sat on the ground like he was waiting for a show to being displayed.