A portal coalesced below Icarus and the rest a few meters before they were about to crash into the ground.

The portal was not large and it could only be maintained for a few seconds before the unstable energies dispersed in all directions. But those few seconds were all they required to rescue Icarus, the female Greater Eagle and Michael.

Icarus and the rest disappeared inside the portal, only to be spit out from the portal's exit in the next moment. The exit was also a small portal that hovered above the ground vertically. Michael, Icarus and the female Greater Eagle's position changed all of a sudden. Their momentum decelerated and their fall slowed down further. One moment they had been falling to the ground like a meteorite shower and in the next second their position was swapped, their momentum changed, and they slumped to the ground without sustaining any major injuries.

Icarus was still screeching in pain as the black flames continued to burn his plumage, but that was taken care of as the Elemental Empress interfered. She was dead-tired and could barely move. However, the Elemental Empress forced herself to keep going. She waved her hand to create a suctioning force that pulled the black flames toward her.

The Elemental Empress gathered the black flames in her hand before shrouding the flames with her blazing fires. She started to devour the black flames and annexed them.

Devouring the black flames didn't take a lot of time, but it felt like an eternity to the Elemental Empress. After creating a portal to rescue Michael, Icarus and the female Greater Eagle, she still had to move and devour the strange black flames. That was a little bit too much for her to handle, especially since her spatial affinity was not that great.

Her proficiency and comprehension of spatial affinity was still not up to the mark. The Elemental Empress never had the time, or permission to study the elements. All she was allowed to do was create all kinds of Elementals. Therefore, it was a big thing for her to regain freedom.

She might be bound to Michael, but the Elemental Empress was glad that she could learn so many new things. Her revenge was also on the way. It was only a matter of time before she could set the Kitsun Lord's body on fire and witness his miserable death. At least, that was what the Elemental Empress hoped to happen.

But, for now, all she wanted was to take a break. After spending the last two days fighting and traveling, the Elemental Empress was tired, but also excited after a long time. How couldn't she not be excited? Fighting for such a long time allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of her powers and she advanced to the 1st Tier.

By killing hundreds of Tier-1 Kitsun and contributing to the death of many Tier-2 Kitsun, the Elemental Empress received more than enough energy influx to break through her first threshold, and advance to the 1st Tier.

That was a great achievement, which was accompanied by a major increase in her combat prowess and better control of the elements.

The Elemental Empress was not the only one who was tired. Opars heaved heavily as well. His face was covered in a layer of sweat and his ragged breathing was clearly audible.

Opars' use of Energy Imprint on the Elemental Empress allowed the Elemental Empress to rescue Michael and the two Greater Eagles. The use of Energy Imprint consumed Opars' stamina, which was also why he ended up in a worse condition than the Elemental Empress.

The Elemental Empress would feel better in a few minutes once her energy storage would be considerably filled. Meanwhile, Opars had to rely on natural recuperation to replenish his stamina which could have been worrisome in the current circumstances. Fortunately, he possessed the Soothing Waves Soultrait which stimulated natural recuperation.

Opars would be refreshed and all ready to fight in half an hour.

Unfortunately, Michael was not sure if they had that much time.

"Stay vigilant. This is going to be…difficult," He ordered, his head flicking to the settlement walls while his mind was rattling.

'The Greater Eagles are done, the Elemental Empress shouldn't overexert herself for a while, and Opars won't be able to handle a full-blown battle without running out of stamina.'

As Michael's mind worked tirelessly, he glanced at Icarus and the female Greater Eagle for a moment. The female Greater Eagle had sustained some more or less serious injuries while overexerting herself to rescue her mate. She had strained a few muscles and her claws looked awfully disfigured. It was nothing that couldn't be tended, but it would take a while to heal her. As for now…the Greater Eagle was probably not even in the condition to fly.

Icarus couldn't fly either for obvious reasons. Thus, Michael's means of transportation had been destroyed at once.

He looked back to the settlement with Eagle Eyes fully unleashed.

'Hmm, isn't that…' Michael thought, his eyes narrowed as he noticed a black blazing bullet forming in the palm of a Kitsun.

The Kitsun's head was covered in blood, and a lot more blood seemed to gush out of his nose and eyes. However, the Kitsun didn't pay attention to his wounds. His eyes were fixated on Michael, who stared back without batting an eye.

All of a sudden the black blazing bullet disappeared. The bullet turned invisible, barely leaving some minor traces of its existence behind. Michael activated the strongest form of Spirit Gaze as well. Distorted energy fluctuations entered his sight and the black blazing bullet disappeared. But not even a second later the distorted energy fluctuations moved. They shot straight at Michael with great velocity.

Michael raised an eyebrow and twisted his body. He took a step aside, predicting the trajectory of the distorted energy fluctuations, and evaded the incoming attack.

"Invisible bullets, huh? So that's what I missed earlier…" Michael mumbled to himself as the invisible black blazing bullet brushed past him.

The bullet exploded upon coming in contact with the ground farther behind Michael, creating a small crater. The dry grass around the crater burned to ash and the surrounding temperature increased drastically.

'Evading the invisible bullet without being able to see distorted energy fluctuations seems quite difficult. What a hassle.'

Michael figured that the others wouldn't be able to evade the invisible bullet. He looked over to Icarus and the female Greater Eagle, who refrained from moving too much. They were the easiest targets for the bleeding sniper on the settlement's walls.

"Move Icarus and his mate away," Michael ordered the Golden Stinger Wasp and the Elemental Empress. Even if the Elemental Empress was tired, she could create a tiny spatial portal for the Golden Stinger Wasp to go through.

Meanwhile, the Golden Stinger Wasp could easily move the Greater Eagles using its unique racial ability to swap places with everyone it stung in the last ten minutes.

Michael channeled some energy into the Elemental Empress to ensure that she had enough to create a small spatial portal. After that, he looked over to the EmeraldLeaf Adventurer team and Tiara.

Recalling the death of his army in the Elementals Cave, Michael's heart felt heavy. However, the thought of Tiara and the members of the EmeraldLeaf Adventurer team dying as well stung even worse. It felt almost like hundreds of searing hot needles pierced through his heart at once.

'I don't want to lose them. Not them as well…'

"I want you guys to return to the Untamed Jungle with Icarus and his mate," Michael thus ordered, his voice as calm and composed as possible.

"Huh?!" Tiara blurted out subconsciously. Her eyes darted to Michael, a deep frown plastered on her face, "Are you serious right now??"

"You shouldn't joke around at times like this. That's not fun, at all," Lilica added, her frown even deeper than Tiara's.

However, Michael's expression remained stoic. He stared at the others grimly and repeated himself, "I want you guys to go home. This fight is a little bit too much to handle…"

"For us, you mean?" Tiara asked, looking like she was about to throw a fit for being called weak.

"No…well, yes. In some way it is too much for you guys to handle. It might even be too much for me to handle. There should be 25,000 Kitsun waiting for us inside the settlement, after all," Michael answered, not even trying to hide the overwhelming number of enemies that were waiting for them in the settlement.

"25,000? How about we retreat and wait until the other Lords respond? They should have heard about the two settlements we set on fire. Maybe, their forces are already gathering. We should retreat, organize our military, and focus on protecting what's important to us…" Liopham voiced out hesitantly.

Retreating never felt great, but facing 25,000 enemies with a few Awakened at the 2nd Tier didn't seem like a good idea. There must also be Tier-3 Awakened and Adventurers among the Kitsun army. It would be much better to stay calm and retreat. Even Michael had to agree that it was more logical to retreat and prepare a second overwhelming attack.

"If the Kitsun Lord can bring 20,000 Kitsun to this settlement through a portal, he should have done something similar in the other settlements. Sun Demos informed me earlier that the reinforcement from the Untamed Jungle should roughly have 30,000 members. If 20,000 came to this settlement, the remaining reinforcement must have split up to help out in the other settlements," Michael said, shaking his head.

He saw that the Kitsun Sniper created another black blazing bullet. However, this time the target was someone else.

With Eagle Eyes and Spirit Gaze activated Michael could roughly pinpoint the trajectory and the target. He moved over to Pheli and pulled her to the side as the bullet turned invisible. The bullet was released and exploded on the ground exactly where Pheli had been standing a moment ago.

The Forest Elves and Tiara stared blankly at the crater and smoke. It was not difficult to understand that Pheli would have died if Michael hadn't intervened.

However, the Forest Elves and Tiara couldn't bear to say anything. They didn't want to retreat and leave Michael with the heavy responsibility.

"I don't want to see the Kitsun Lord's forces invade our territory. Attacking him inside his territory will inflict much less damage to my territory, and my people. I don't want to take the risk of facing a counterattack after retreating. The Kitsun Lord is too scummy and crafty. If I don't deal with him today, I am not sure if I will ever have the chance to eliminate him…not without losing far more than I already did," Michael grit his teeth as the last few words escape his lips.

He knew that it was suicidal to fight the Kitsun Lord right now. But Michael could also tell from various memories of the Kitsun that Haro Ki would do everything in his power to eliminate Michael and everyone close to him the moment he retreated.

The Kitsun Lord was fully focused on him and the Elemental Empress right now. However, that would change once they retreated.

The Kitsun Lord would attack his territory and hunt down his people one by one…and that was not something Michael could accept.

Thus, he did something he never wanted to do. He used his power as Lord to command his subjects.