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Published at 2nd of April 2024 01:23:39 PM


Chapter 51

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"Mono/Dialogue"

'Inner thoughts'

Narration

[Message/communication apparatus]

Date: November 1088

Location: High-Class residential district, Kawalerielki, Kazimierz

POV: Narrator

The high-class residential district is considered the most prestigious and spacious section of Kawelrielki. This is because it was once the fabled noble district that has been on a steady decline and being sold to the richer middle-class who are looking for status. So it brought to mind the question of why this particular place is just so eerily empty where not even a pedestrian walking their caninebeast could be seen around.

Thus one might wonder where they went off to. One of the most logical answers would be to attend the upcoming final of the 21st Kazimierz Major. The other is to spend their night reveling somewhere else within this core hub of Kazimierz’s economy where almost everything goes.

But back to the tournament. This triennial event had always charmed not only the locals but also foreigners who either came to join or tourism. A gladiatorial event that has been cleverly promoted and beautified as a modern sport where blood and gore are cheered upon like ordinary soccer or football matches.

Naturally, a lot of money is at stake within the gambling sphere. The 21st Major’s final also marked where a competition knight would reach the highest point in their career. Bestowal of Grand Knight’s title is no small thing, one could have scored a massive jackpot with luxury seemingly landing down on their lap… but not for this one though.

No matter how hard people, competitors, and even the sponsors try to deny it, the winner of this major has already been set in stone. It would be none other than the fabled 2-times-in-a-row champion, Degenbrecher the Black Knight. Such a predictable outcome had no doubt dampened the mood and excitement, especially for those who have a lot of money invested in it.

Unfortunately, we are not here to go into too much detail regarding the modern gladiatorial bloodbath. Because on this very night, an ongoing incident against one of many famous but declining noble families is about to commence. The street is empty not only because of said major but also influenced by design, a nefarious design, and gambling.

Within one of many skyscrapers that dotted the High-class residential district, a group of shadowy individuals could be seen preparing all sorts of weaponry and equipment. They are not just any group however, they are an amalgamation of rogue elements belonging to Armorless Union and mercenaries for extra muscles. They have decided to go against orders due to the passive stance of their organization and the chance of getting ahead in power dynamics.

“Assault team make sure to bring with you 2 quivers of 30 arrows each and do not forget your backup armament.”

“We got some extra armored leather here, those who have yet to get their own better haul ass since we don’t get all day for this.”

“Where is the main event monitoring team?”

“They just departed 5 minutes ago, what’s wrong?”

“They forgot some of their radios, but then again they only need 1 or 2 peeps to keep us updated about the ongoing final.”

“I’ll forward it just in case, who knows that we would need all hands on deck for this.”

“Come on dude, even if she is there, that bitch shouldn’t be that tough and who knows we would get a taste, how about that eh?”

“Sure thing, I hope you got your dick bitten off.”

“Holy hell, we got a damn cannon for this too?”

“Yep, a courtesy of someone who has a grudge with the Grey Serpent… and boy did I tell ya, she has a lot of people wanting her dead.”

“How much is her bounty again?”

“Several hundred, a disproportionate price for some who fight while running. It makes me wonder if we could somehow cultivate some losers and let them loose only to be collected later. Drugs that make people go crazy should work…”

“Doesn’t matter, that just means more pay on us. Shame that I couldn’t touch the package.”

“Yeah, yeah, keep it in your pants… creep…”

“… I don’t like it…”

“Oh quit it, will you? You have been talking like that for days now, it harms the overall unity of our group.”

“I mean the Chief has been acting off since returning from that dinner, she was a lot more cautious beforehand.”

“That was back in the East and that much makes sense. This place is much tamer than back home, it is a good thing that she stopped cradling our every move and became more assertive with a clear ambition in mind.”

“Yeah, but-”

“Listen here, you filthy lily, you sucked too much pussy’s juice that it made you a fucking liability. Stop talking nonsense and go back to your unit, now.”

“… Understood, Taichou…”

“Shina got berated by that devil again…”

“Shhh, don’t talk behind her back like that and we have better things to do.”

“All this preparation for a single family? This job keeps getting fishier by the minute.”

“Don’t tell me you believe those nonsensical rumors? Aren’t you from Bolivar?”

“I’m and all of this makes me nervous…”

Trained personnel such as assassins, spies, retired soldiers, and mercenaries worked alongside ex-convicts, thieves, and bona fide outlaws in a bid to stake their claim on the ongoing power struggle. The world of Terra is a harsh one for most, where backstabbing and treachery are a necessity to achieve stability and prosperity.

This whole situation is naturally controlled and led by a person who has a suitable level of gravitas and charisma. Said person is Aoyuki, the Oni Lazurite, who is currently laying down the plan for the upcoming raid. As always she is accompanied by some of her closest confidants and leaders of each team, some of whom are already on the move.

“We got Team Scarecrow 1 and 2 ready on 12th Avenue, a stone's throw away from the garden, they reported that our collaborators had left the vehicles within designated safe houses. Maya and her team are ready to pick up the package once we secure it.”

“Yari 1 and 2 are in position and they reported that nothing is out of the ordinary from the target building. We also just received words from Fuku’s team that he should be able to neutralize any potential security in 5 minutes tops.”

“Check up with Yoroi 1 and 2 by the west and north wing, we must ensure that no outside party is going to witness the raid. If that did happen regardless, make sure that they are unable to tell the tale.”

“Finally, this is our target.” Aoyuki shows a photo of Maria Nearl.

“A political enemy of the Nearl would pay a lot for her, so it would be in our best interest to keep her alive and unharmed. Make sure she is not in any way touched since it would drop her value otherwise.”

“Then we have several subjects of interest as well.” She shows 7 photos, these being Kiril, Młynar, Zofia, Margaret, Vogelweide, Kowal, and Nyx.

“Kiril Nearl is the current patriarch of the Nearl family, but we have confirmed that he is more or less dying and of little danger to our overall operation. Then we have Młynar Nearl, he is most likely the most dangerous among them but he has long since retired and turned into an ordinary governmental lapdog.”

“So just a family of washed-up Knights huh? Wonder why they didn’t get ousted already.” One of her subordinates scoffed, and so far this family is getting more and more disappointing. This made him wonder why Darksteel didn’t just nab them.

“That’s because they are still part of the Adeptus’ faction, but anyway… Next would be Margaret Nearl, she is off prancing in the countryside and getting fame for herself. The girl is doing all these wonderful and so honorable conduct, she is also being regaled as a paragon of virtue and those fanciful tales that won’t matter whatsoever back in Higashi.” Another of her subordinates leaned in closer and took the picture before throwing it back on the table.

“She looks pretty, wonder how many old coots she slept with to be a captain… Pretty little tramp always has it easy…” A sneer full of envy from one of her fellow Higashinese, she doesn’t hide her contempt for people who could get ahead in life just by being physically desirable and pleasing.

“Enough. Then we have Zofia Narleka who is now in a coma and would not be present during the upcoming raid. I had met her once in that little dinner, she is meek and too jumpy thus not at all dangerous. She is probably half-dead after fighting Degenbrecher. The Doctor that takes care of her doesn’t cooperate even when we break his arm, remind me to continue where I left off.”

“Aye, or I’ll do it for ya.”

“Much obliged then we have these 2 vagrants. Vogelweide and Kowal are just old men bickering and getting drunk all day. Just kill them if they’re present.”

“Lastly we have our prime whore, Nyx, if she dares to show herself now. Even if we don’t believe the full extent of her prowess, we would still need to take her seriously. Even if she ends up as a no-show, we will not neglect to go easy on her in any circumstances. Then if you managed to incapacitate or capture her, you can do whatever just make sure she is alive since that would net us a greater reward. Any question?”

“When was the last time she was reported in Kazimierz territory?”

“Our informants, the trustworthy ones, had tracked her to be somewhere in Kjerag and hasn’t been returning for months now. She works with scientists and civilian contractors for resource prospecting, I guess even she knows when to quit lying and start being a common laborer.” The people near the table chuckle upon hearing it, some of them feel disappointed that they might not be able to claim her bounty. A certain someone is still nervous about this, but he decides to shut up.

“Anything else?”

“No ma’am.”

“No chief.”

“Nah we're good, so let’s get this party on the road.”

“Since we have nothing left to discuss, we shall commence the operation as was planned. I would lead the primary assassination unit. May the gods favor the bold and fortune be upon us.”

-

-

-

While the center of attention is all mirth revelry and perhaps debauchery of the climactic peak of the modern gladiatorial tournament, the Nearl’s mansion contrasted its immediate surroundings. The mansion is shining like a beacon, while its surroundings? It is cold, dead, and bereft of any sign of activity that usually happens as far as eyes can see. Not to mention that the patrolling security units themselves are absent, enhancing the eerie vibes for the night.

Figures armed with military equipment and clad in tactical uniforms could be seen sneaking from, the mostly darkened, angles of the mansion. Their movement shows a high degree of preparation had been put into the operation, thus smoothing their overall progress in sneaking inside the target compound.

A large Sarkaz could also be seen helping his fellow vaulted over the wall, thin it may be but forcefully destroying would attract unnecessary complications. After vaulting over the walls, these figures immediately stacked up outside the main entrance. One of them gets closer and starts using a device to unlock the door, despite looking classical the door is reinforced with electronic countermeasures.

While the main team is trying to unlock the front door, another team can be seen scaling the walls onto the roof. They intend to breach from the top floor and make their way from there, this is reinforced with a bag of infiltration equipment being brought along. Not far from the situation that is currently unfolding, at least 4 dozen assassins are being stationed in skyscrapers to provide overwatch in all cardinal directions.

The team that was ordered to infiltrate from the garden found an even easier time doing it. The absence of light sources and potential eyewitness silence encourages them to be faster and bolder. Then there is another team, led by Aoyuki and Katsumaro, going to infiltrate from the west through the windows. She decides that she will eliminate Kiril Nearl along with her team. Kiril has been confirmed to be inside the Mansion with Maria and her 2 bodyguards. Fuku and most of the team will secure the package while she deals a killing blow.

Another team, this one being 30 people strong, is waiting in an underground parking lot that has been emptied beforehand. There are dozens of vehicles in case they would need to rectify the problem using this team as a QRF.

Every unit is in place, which is when they cut the Mansion’s light. Darkness now engulfed the compound in its entirety. Each team wears their allotted night vision goggles and prepares for the entry.

The main event finally started when the roof infiltration team made an entry point using drills and dropdowns. Their descent was nigh-soundless and their vigilance was at an all-time high without wasting any moment, each member of their team took position on the nearby walls and pillars to hide from potential hostiles.

They scanned the area with their bows and crossbows to see that… it was quiet. A dark and foreboding atmosphere is so thick and they could piece together that there is no one here. One infiltrator voiced their misgiving.

“… I was expecting a lot more, don’t tell me that the Nearl couldn’t even afford a security of their own now?”

“Perhaps they are. Last I heard their Knight Primus is unable to contribute anything, so the state doesn’t waste their money on them… besides what could a single office worker do with his salary?”

“Cut your chatter and clear the traffic.” Their leader ordered them to keep quiet. When they gave their affirmation, the team lead contacted Lazurite Aoyuki.

“This is Tachi lead, we had infiltrated the mansion and there is no sign of contact, over.”

[This is Godmother, copy that, Tachi lead. Break. If you can secure the package quickly would be better for us. So proceed as planned and we are making good progress toward our target’s location. How copy? Over.]

“Copy that, Godmother. Tachi leads out.” The team leader motioned their team to proceed. They move silently, avoiding sticking too close to the wall since some paintings and objects might alert their target.

Weaving through the mansion rapidly, more and more signs that there is no one here become all too clear for this team. They had checked several bedrooms along the way quietly and found them empty too. Just when they are about to make a report, the main team’s report streams into their channel.

[This is Nodachi lead, we see no signs of them either. The whole place felt like it was abandoned. Break. Godmother, we are waiting at the entrance hall for the package. Interrogative, Godmother…]

[Godmother here, go ahead, over.]

[Should we maintain our position or should we proceed to soft clear the place? I have a feeling there is more to this…]

[… Very well, you have permission to soft clear the hallway but mostly maintain your position. Break. We have a positive heat signature of potential target Kiril Nearl on our end. All infiltration teams, aside from Nodachi, are to expedite the package, and finishing up our task should be the primary goal. All teams, how copy? Over.]

Each team gives their confirmation and proceeds with sweeping around the mansion for potential hostiles and to ascertain the situation. Minutes pass by and the absence of any life signals starts to worry them all. Naturally, it made the Tachi team bee-line their way towards the package’s location. On the way there, they heard footsteps and life signals showing on their handheld radar. They should have seen allies mark being visible but this one doesn’t thus they promptly hide by the intersection. When they are about to call out contact, the other side gives their confirmation.

[Hold your fire, Tachi. This is Crow team, we are joining you for the party here. Our radar seems to have some interference too. I already told Godmother about it and she told us to be cautious but keep moving.] The leader sees from the edge of their view how the other side makes hand gestures to confirm friendlies. They replied and both teams coalesced into a single group. After a few more minutes of soft-clearing the rooms along this huge mansion, they finally reached the target area and only found a single heat signature in it.

Both team leader exchanges glances before deciding to breach it together. Putting a breaching charge at the door, they blow their way inside and swarm the heat signature while leaving 4 people outside to secure their exit.

Yet all they found was nothing more than an artificial heat source, heated slabs of meat, and a thermostat. Crow decides to inform Godmother of this development only to realize too late one critical fact.

“Godmother, this is Crow lead, priority message over.”

[Bzzzttt….]

“Godmother, this is Crow lead, come in, over.”

[Bzzzttt…]

“It’s jammed?!”

“All channel, this is Tachi lead, comms check.”

[Bzzzttt…]

“No dice, we might need to consider this operation a failure…”

“Tachi 6, how is the situation outside-”

“Hmm~ Hmm~, Hmm~ Hmm~, Hmm~ Hmm~ Hmm Hmm Hmm~”

Melodious humming stunned them, it felt so… beautiful… but also carried with it an undeniably eerie undertone. It soothes their nerves for a single, sublime, moment before filling their hearts with growing irrational fear; nothing less than pure unadulterated dread.

They were alerted after hearing 3 thudding sounds coming from the outside, absence of activities and noises made their fall even more noticeable. Then another one of theirs who guarded the exit fell right at the doorway with a tiny hole boring into his throat, enough to leave them alive but not enough to let them speak or scream. The man was still gasping for air when his body was yanked from the doorway, leaving a trail of blood in his wake… now silence reigned…

“W-What the fuck was that…”

“T-Tachi 3 and 4 to the doorway, 2 and 5 with me on the other end.”

“Crow 2 with me, 3 and 4 continue trying to reestablish our comms link, 5, 6, and 7 scour the room for potential traps.”

Despite such a shocking setback, they recovered and reoriented themselves. Splitting into 2 groups, they prepared to force their way out. Crow lead contemplated to hunker down but the chance of fragmentation weapon being used said otherwise. The point man peeked out of the doorway and found out that the 4 guards’ bodies were all gone, only trails of the blood being left to stain the floor.

He inspects the trail only to find it vanishing halfway through. It brought fear into his heart but forcefully suppressed it lest he would fall into madness and fright. The point man signaled his team to follow his lead. Once outside, the Tachi team set up a position to watch in every direction since stealth has failed and they’re isolated. The team awaited for the Crow team to follow suit… but they didn’t. Sensing something was wrong, the rear guard checked back into the room to see that the second team was gone…

All of these happened in less than 60 seconds with the gap between the second team’s disappearances no longer than a third of that. She tried to look around before drops of blood were painting her night vision, the smell of iron made her involuntarily gag. When she cleaned up her NVG, she hyperventilated seeing that there were multiple places where blood was dripping from the ceiling.

The shaken, frightened, girl doesn’t want to know what’s up there but she must. She slowly cranes her head upward and sees 7 headless bodies being suspended by their legs, arms, or even hooked with metal by what’s left of their throat. She could see how each head was not a clean slice but more like being forcefully ripped off.

She could feel how her blood ran cold, so cold she muttered weakly like a dead woman walking…

“… G-God… please help me…” She stumbles back from terror assailing her mind, wits, and guts, she is about to warn her team when she realizes that… it is quiet… too quiet. Gulping loudly, she raised her crossbow with her shaking arms. If she was scared before, then she is downright terrified of her predicament now.

She chuckled morbidly from a simple logic, she was just standing there for minutes on end that felt like another life entirely. Insanity encroached ever closer with every iota of adrenaline being pumped into her veins.

She would be a hell lot calmer if she could hear something, even a bloodcurdling scream filled with nothing but egregious agony… but there was nothing and nothing brought upon nothing less than an irrational fear of the unknown. Steeling whatever fragment of sanity and scraps of bravery she has left, she heads back and witnesses the reality after enduring her stress-induced stupor and shock.

Her team is dead, all of them. Only pools of blood and gore are left where they once stood. She watches how Tachi 1 has his whole organs messily spilled on the floor, body split in two. Then 2 has her head ripped clean with her spine intact while her body is nowhere to be found. 3 was impaled with a spear shoved down his throat before coming out of the other side and 4? He is suspended upside down in the ceiling with horror etched eternally into his face. She could see how his tongue was gone, his eyes were crushed, the top of his head was still freshly shattered, and bits of brain matter decorated the floor.

A cold sensation touches the back of her head, she knows not what it is, only that it slowly digs into her head. She whipped around, fired her crossbow, and was greeted by nothing but the sounds of her bolt hitting a hard surface. Not having enough to torment the desperate, confused, and terrified soul, the windows were slammed shut with another layer of steel.

She is now well and truly trapped.

Drip… drip… drip…

 “*sobs*… ugh… *sobs*…” She couldn’t hold it back anymore, her tears and despair are now plain for the world to silently observe or judge as it sees fit. Her psyche is on the verge of total collapse. She should at least have heard something, especially when she saw how the spear cracked the surface. Whatever is out there could render sound dead or at least slipping past her consciousness.

Tap… tap… tap…

Footsteps triggered her deteriorating fight or flight response and in her terror-induced hastiness, she yanked her crossbow trigger towards the source. A subsonic bolt of steel blitz through the hallway-turned mortuary. She could only stand agape seeing that her bolt was suspended… no, it was not suspended.

If she wasn’t wearing her night vision, she would have seen a pair of blazing crimson eyes staring at her from the dark. Yet as her rotten luck would have it, she sees the perpetrator as clear as day. Like mocking her and her team's desecrated visages, not a single part of the perpetrator’s figure was so much as dirtied and soiled by even a mote of dust. Such a thing is unacceptable, one might argue her reasoning to be.

“How dull…” A soothing pair of words, worthy of the finest songbird and diva of the night, caress her ears gently, and yet the owner of such a heavenly melody is anything but intending to be gentle. There she stood.

The Grey Serpent.

Her steel bolt was caught in between her lithe fingers. Her adrenaline had miraculously triggered her reflex, saving her from certain death when she felt something slammed her. She looked down and saw her crossbow had been masterfully broken with a single piece of needle. She still managed to pull her sword to defend herself… only for the Grey Serpent to close the distance between them. She then bends and breaks her sword… barehanded.

The poor girl screamed and fell flat upon the damp and frigid surface. Disregarding blood and the sickening scents, she crawls and crawls and crawls away, she prays and prays and prays aloud… but neither helps when an iron grip breaks her strings of pious plea and utmost propriety for providence.

First, she feels a part of her missing and lets out a bloodcurdling wail of agony nanoseconds later. Her armors failed to provide its intended service or function and she started coughing out blood. Then another agonizing scream, once more, when she realized how both of her legs were bared, ripped, and torn. Bones were cracked, nerves were severed, and fleshes flayed and torn. She pleads, begs, and prays upon the cruel serpent to shorten the length of her torment. Her wish was answered when a pair of palms were wrapped around her neck.

The last thing she saw when the last embers of her life still clung to her severed head was The Grey Serpent already slithering away, hunting for her next prey…

-

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-

-

The main assault team themselves are having problems of their own, what kind of problems? Drones. Swarms of them. These drones are made up of small and medium size. The small ones act like shuriken, they fly around like a swarm of angry hornets but instead of a single sting, they do it multiple times with their bladed structure.

The medium ones are the standard variant, fitted and kitted with Originium weaponry or a simple repeating crossbow. Instead of just flying around, they move like a well-oiled machine hivemind. Using pillars, dead bodies, and even their scrapped comrades, they scoot and shoot effectively, picking them off one by one.

It was a mistake to try and check around the mansion, a third of their number became the first casualties in this attritional warfare between man and machine. Odds are not looking good, but the main force is still mostly the veterans of the Higashinese civil war, they are nowhere near being a pushover. They fought valiantly for a bunch of assassins.

But the locals and mercenaries have little such experience. They are used for hunting down ill-equipped dregs of civilization, not systematic military-grade killing machines. Still, they had cast their lot, all that was left was to see it through to the end.

“Shit! Those tin cans got Sokol! We need to ge- AGHHHH! MY ARMMMM! AHHHHH!” A barrage of bullets had severed his arm from his body. The Armorless Union assassin in question is writhing on the ground, trying to stem the bleeding but unable to. His fortune would turn for the worse when a cluster of bladed drones swarmed him. His flesh is being cut, sliced, and diced. He screams while his colleagues try to shoot them all down.

Yet there is only so much they can do when a tornado of death is hanging above their heads. Despite the bleak situation, a large Sarkaz man becomes a rallying point. He not only withstood the countless charges of the abominable machine but also prevailed. It could be seen from a mound of scrap steel surrounding him.

The Sarkaz is Fuku and he fought less like an assassin and more akin to a raging berserker. The drones that have been turning his colleague into poorly minced meat slabs are nigh-impotent when slamming and grazing themselves on his body. He has a sort of potent Arts that could manipulate his muscle, turning it to be as tough as steel.

He is their bulwark, a single wall that stands tall and prevents them from meeting an early demise. Praise has been sung on his prowess, but even he has his limits. The small cuts that did succeed in wounding him are getting too much for his body, to have your strength slowly being shaved away is nothing sort of cruel.

“Where the hell is our QRF?! What the hell are those idiots doing?!” The punishment he had been enduring goaded him into questioning where their backup units went off to. They tried and tried to reestablish communication and even then the backup teams should have seen how the mansion had closed off and turned into a literal death trap, prompting the team to stage an emergency rescue mission.

If only they could see past the steel-reinforced window… no help is coming.

Location of said QRF and overwatch posts.

Dozens of men and women could be seen gasping for air. A thick yellowish smog had enveloped their position, the nature of this underground parking lot meant that the concentration of poisonous gases and substances became that much thicker. Especially when the plate’s section gates are closed shut, they thought wrong and paid the ultimate price. All they could do was whimper through choked murmurs, sobs, and curses of powerless indignation.

The most severely affected had even started to cough out pieces of their lungs, how it burns them inside out. Their skin turns flaked and charring, carrying along with it dead flesh and puss. These people had myriads of thoughts coursing their fleeting life but torturous journey to the afterlife.

A boy is sobbing brokenly, pieces of his organs being stuck in his throat, recalling his parents back in the village who are oblivious to his work. Another thought about the partner she will soon leave behind, the image of her partner’s despairing face brought her untold regrets. Nyx’s sick trick had even caused an assassin who was in her early stage of pregnancy to die and suffer a miscarriage. So many more disgusting acts had been perpetrated, but such is the life they thread.

Some wallowed helplessly, others cursing out a storm of whispers towards the Grey Serpent who is the source of their torment. The rest? They could only stare, cough, and bleed absentmindedly, their minds had long since given up on providing stimulus for command. The defiant, pitiful, and despondent have one singular wish however; a wish for it all to end.

Then they are not the only ones suffering from such a heinous act of violence. A crime by the virtue of morality and humanity. On the skyscrapers where once stood dozens, of rogue Armorless Union agents and mercenaries are all left dead. Arrows littered their body, and 4 or 5 unfortunate souls had plummeted onto the empty walkways below, a collection of bright red puddles of gore.

Then what happened in the garden where once a group tasked with creating an emergency exfiltration point was stationed? They are being served up as dinner buffets for the Caninebeasts and Tamed Fangbeasts, these are Nyx’s obedient, ravenous, adorable pets. She unleashed havoc upon the vigilant, but unsuspecting for this kind of foes, trespassers. They are having a hard time fending off the Kjeragian breed of beast from tearing them into shreds and pieces.

That was 10 minutes ago.

Crunching and tearing sounds of bones and flesh being gnawed reverberate in the open-air garden. Some beasts fought one another for an extra morsel to fill their belly, the biggest among them had already laid down lazily with a full stomach. Such a scenery should have caused an army of security units to contain the area posthaste and maybe summon a contingent of Campaign Knights for pest control. Ironically will never happen, the rogues have colluded with the local securities and bureaucrats to close their eyes on this night’s incident.

Their confidence had backfired horribly.

No need to worry about their hidden rotorcraft since a guest actor and their helpers had visited Nyx’s little play.

-

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-

Maya could be seen glaring hatefully despite arrows sticking out of her body. She is leaning on a wall, using the last embers of her life to stare defiantly. The rotorcraft has been destroyed but without causing an explosion, which would have been disastrous otherwise… who is the person she is glaring at?

“… Curse you… R-R-Roy…! Bastard…! *cough*”

“Your Chief did make a lot of awful kinds of mistakes, simple as.” Roy flashes his usual smile, and behind him is a hive of activities. His subordinates are hauling corpses into a dump truck for disposal and perhaps making some extra paychecks on the side. Say what you want about this sleazy somewhat lazy Lazurite, he is anything but wasteful.

He kneeled to her level, completely unperturbed when she spat blood at him. Roy looked the dying Higashinese in the eyes along with that smile of his. Even when her eyes foes unfocused, the lights waning from her pupils, she glares at him square.

“*cough* Hope you… R-r-rot…! In…! *cough* H-Hell!” After vomiting blood, she is on her way to the next life. Roy could only gaze at her with pity after the fact and then this guy just shrugged it off as just another job on the list. He looks around to see how his subordinates are checking for anyone still alive and then executing them on the spot, or slitting their throat open regardless. You couldn’t be too careful with this kind of job.

He could also see underworld collaborators nonchalantly cleaning up the puddles of those who fell from the skyscrapers, another's misfortune is someone else fortune after all. They even chatted along with one another whilst their hands were collecting bits and pieces of the deceased like spent New Year’s confetti. His vision moved towards the mansion turned into a veritable fortress and Roy doesn’t have a lick of interest in what’s transpiring inside because being selectively ignorant is his specialty.

“Hopefully she won’t get too mad with us.” His terminal then came to life and he answered just a beat or two later.

[Your task is done, exfill immediately and I’ll handle the upcoming negotiation.]

“Sure thing boss.” He closed his terminal and whistled, he signaled everyone to leave. The primary assault unit vanishes in multiple directions while the disposal units expedite their process. The Rotorcraft was of poor quality and they decided to have it scrapped.

Upon that night, hundreds of men and women were reduced to mere sixties at most… merely within half an hour no less.

Back to the battered and entrapped group.

Waves after waves of small drones keep charging at them while the medium, ranged-oriented version, keeps their distance and subtracts their already dwindling number. Projectiles from the entrapped group keep flying and hitting the drones, but their number is not something they could cope with 100% efficiency.

Fuku has all but abandoned reason, his body and mind are on the verge of breaking both from fatigue and a sense of loss. He lost a lot of his subordinates, and thus his fury goes haywire. With a monstrous burst of raw power, he unearthed a whole pillar and started swinging it around like a warhammer. Each swing scoring hits upon clusters of bladed drones.

When the situation appears to be truly hopeless, each of these mechanical nightmares suddenly leaves the premises. Buzzing sounds that have been grating their ears for what feels like an eternity are gone now. No matter how desperate they wish for a chance of reprieve, such an unusual turn of events kept them on their toes. Their confusion and desperation were answered by a humming sound coming from the doorway.

Nyx strolls unto the bloodied hall without even a care, she even crushed a wounded assassin's head by simply stepping on it. His head burst into a crimson flower of gore, and more damningly was just how effortlessly she killed him. Yet she stopped humming when seeing the large man, they felt how her demeanor changed.

“… You dared show up?” That single sentence is the start of their nightmare. Nyx half snarled with pure disgust and hate. Conrad has a special assessment for this filth… and to say she was furious was such an understatement. While Fuku was enraged seeing another one his comrade died in front of him. With a thundering bellow, he charges forth to exact revenge.

A normal person would have been intimidated seeing this monstrous figure taking the shortest path to rain hell upon them, but not her. Instead, she side-stepped him… and tore his dick and balls. Fuku regained sanity but only to let out a screech of agony. Nyx let out a chuckle of pure delight seeing how he regained sanity.

Blood flows out but Nyx is not done. She promptly break his legs, causing him to let out more screams of pain and he topple before Nyx shoved his dick down his throat. Holding his head with her hand the Grey Serpent bellowed angrily, her pure rage shocked everyone that’s still alive.

“How does it feel you fucking rapist!? How are you liking the taste of your dick?! I’ll fucking kill you! Die! Die! DIE!!!” Her vengeful fury was caused when Conrad reported that this sick bastard had not only kidnapped minors to force their parents to vacate the surrounding residency but also did an unforgivable sin to them. Nyx storms him with barrages of fists, his face is turning into mush with each swing but he couldn’t cough out blood with a dick down his throat.

She continues by shattering each of his joints with bones shattering punches. Once having a fill of breaking his body, Nyx back on keep pummeling his face. Chaffing and breaking his skulls into pieces. Nyx then simply shattered it open by pressing his head from both sides another crimson flower erupted. To end her streak of brutality, Nyx lifted his dead body slamming it to her knee. Fuku’s head is shattered, his body split into two, and every single joint of his bones is broken.

The remaining survivors are horrified, they had once expected him to crush the smaller lady yet she flipped the table on him. The Pythia had shown them true terror, and she finally unsheathed her daggers. Her face still shows how wrathful she is, she is blinded by grief about what had happened to those poor children. She screamed her ‘Arts’ flared an overdrive. Her figure had morphed into a monster in the truest sense from what the rest of these fuck could perceive.

“M-Monster…” Said a man who was bleeding on the ground, the rest were in disbelief and they tried to retaliate. A hailstorm of arrows, bolts, and even Originium bullets rained down on her. All it did is to move them up her shit list. Nyx is untouchable and even parrying, deflecting, and shattering their projectiles with her daggers.

Armorless survivors prepared volley after volley, and all were as futile as the first. Out of desperation or lunacy, some cast aside their ranged weaponry and charged forward, intending to overwhelm her by sheer numbers and mass. They are decent but she surmised that most of them wouldn’t last a week in the badlands where everything goes.

Some tried their best to flail against the reaper, others of course tried to flee only to be hit with the realization that the drones were still there and making quick work of them. The hallway and adjacent rooms are littered with corpses, then a few minutes later it has been cleared out of remaining hostile.

A horrific aftermath unfolded at every corner of this mansion. Nyx rage is winding down but the satisfaction that she used to feel after carnage is nowhere to be found even after exacting punishment on that mockery of a sentient being.

She had once again been reminded of how futile her anger was, she could try to turn the whole city upside down but there is no fixing those who had suffered. Nyx was forced to acknowledge her countless failures, but there was no rewinding time. Sighing quietly, she finally calmed herself before her defense terminal detected a breach by the west wing. Merely seconds later, she received a message from Młynar.

[2 had escaped, they’re yours since I have a business to attend to.] Too tired of this chain of onslaught, Nyx is determined to see it end soon.

Moments ago.

Aoyuki had noticed that the signal had been jammed ages ago and she had tried to re-establish communication when the mansion’s windows were slammed shut. Realizing the futility of it, she ordered her team to continue with their objective and have faith in her brothers and sisters. A vocal voice in the back of her head had been goading her non-stop that nothing would go wrong, but another smaller voice that had been grating her nerves said she had made a fatal mistake.

She arrives at the location, her team stacks up on each side, and the heat signature shows that there is someone on the other side. After planting the charge and taking cover, they pushed the trigger, and an entry point was forcefully made. Aoyuki immediately takes the lead while drawing her Katana and Tanto. Her swings were stopped abruptly… a man stood there indeed, but not someone they thought.

The man is none other than the retired Tenebrous Hero, Młynar Nearl. He blocked her strikes merely using his sheathed sword. The rest of the Armorless Union storm inside not long after, but those who are too close end up dead before they even realize it. Sensing the danger they are in, they regrouped.

Młynar, however, just nonchalantly turned on the lights. The intruders feel how their retinas burned and writhe about trying to remove their NVGs. He frowned seeing these reprobates making a mockery of his family and home. Seeing how they dared to desecrate his family like this made his blood boil for the first time in years, less about the materialistic side of things but more about how they put his family and her in danger.

“In all of my years, you lot are the first ones that ever dared to step foot inside this place with ill intents… but no matter…” He languidly unsheathed his blade, an ordinary one it may be, but for them, they saw a bright penumbra of glory long since gone dormant.

“Hmph, just a lapdog barking. We need no sermon from a failure of a man.” She tried to distract him, seeing how 3 people circled the civil worker… but that was futile.

“Better than a deluded fool who is not even in control.” 3 strokes of the blade and 3 bodies lost their heads. He moves like a whirlwind and his sword swings are nothing less than perfect. Neither too gentle nor vicious, just enough to make bones snap like a twig and flesh sliced like a high-quality butchery. Another stroke of blades and more had been sent to the afterlife.

Aoyuki was forced on the backfoot immediately when she tried to sneak an attack through his blind spot… that too had failed. He merely angled his sword and raised his armored hand to block both of her strikes, Katsumaro tried to shoot him with his bow, but he dodged just as easily.

She swings her katana and tanto alternatingly, but her opponent is faster and even delivers a cutting blow that wrecks her armor. Next, she tried to salvage the situation by throwing a hidden kunai right on his face along with Katsumaro who kept shooting, and other assassins who surrounded him. The Manager of an Archeological company simply answered by redirecting strikes or overpowering them altogether.

Młynar simply annihilated them in close combat.

A man’s head fell first, cut clean from his neck with blood gently streaming through the wound down his neck. Another has her arm cuts on each tendon and joint, such an ungodly precision would have mesmerized them if it didn’t herald the upcoming doom. A man’s legs failed to support his body but not from the sheer weight and started for rigor mortis, simply because they too had been separated from their body. Aoyuki could only flail haplessly now, her clansmen were being butchered and the only thing she could offer was pathetic resistance at best.

No one would fault them that he must have enhanced his body with Arts, the Nearl is still famous as a knightly family after all, except to these people who apparently knew better. The fact couldn’t be further from the truth, Młynar showcase his pure ability, that and only that. He is not Nyx, he won’t use a hammer to squash some ants. Not to mention that he only uses his Art when his true pride and honor are on the line.

But against them? To use his Arts is an insult to himself at best. Thus he felled foes left and right with calmness that bellied the harsh life in the wilderness, his second home before turning his sword into a shield to protect what was left. He dodged and weaved through hails of projectile with room to spare. He thrust his sword to skewer a foe before pulling it and continuing to cycle his strike into upward slash, diagonal cut, and more. His swing never missed nor was it blocked.

24 turns 19, from 19 turns into 12 and so his enemy dwindles in a blink of an eye. Katsumaro has suffered a wound on his wrist, preventing him from using his bow while Aoyuki is hanging by a mere thread. It is only that clarity dawned on her…

She has made a terrible mistake, and damage mitigation is all she can do now. She throws something at Młynar and poisonous smoke erupts from it, yet he is unaffected. When it cleared out, Aoyuki and her brother had escaped. The Kuranta doesn’t bat an eyelid at their escape and instead inspects the fruit of his labor… this room is a mess. Młynar is about to call a… cleaning… service when his terminal shows a business partner is contacting him. Clearing his throat, he answers the call with his business tone.

“This is Młynar, Manager of the General Resource section, anything you wish to discuss? … Of course, I’m more than glad to explain the stipulations for contracts of partnership… That’s quite a lucrative offer… Understood, I’ll forward your latest business proposal to the managers of Project Planning and… pardon me? Manpower shortage on your end, is it? No need to worry, I could connect your line with the section of our Human Resource Development and Utilization… Yes, Cordelia Inc. rarely has a shortage of manpower to speak of, so we are more than glad to undertake more collaborative projects… My section is available for consultation… I see… I see… We are always available and I’m more than glad to expedite an appointment, provided it is through legal and proper channels… Very well, one moment please, I’ll email the legal papers and stipulations…”

He strolls back to his study while sending a message to the cleaning service to take care of this mess, he also needs to check the entire mansion later in the day. He sighs at how much unfinished business is piling up today but then again he has standards to uphold and not even insolent intruders would besmirch his work ethic… Not to mention that someone is already hunting them down again.

Back to the present.

A pair of figures are limping away, a man and woman with the latter trying her best to support the former, they are notably wounded and badly in need of help. They are Katsumaro who starts to lose consciousness and Aoyuki who desperately tries to save what’s left of her family. It didn’t take a genius to understand that her greed and ambition had spelled the doom of her entire clan.

What’s more? She knows that the rumors are true, she wasn’t hunting for a minnow… she had attracted an angry leviathan who would stop at nothing to see her dead. She shouldn’t have tried her luck, she shouldn’t have taken Darksteel’s offer… she shouldn’t have killed the previous chief due to her immaturity and lust for power.

Regrets, that’s all she has left along with her dying brother. More and more clarity is setting in, why did she even go through with all this?

She couldn’t remember anything that was out of place. She even thinks back on how she used and tried to get closer to her target instead of outright violence… What was the trigger of her bravado? She doesn’t know, and she doesn’t have the luxury to contemplate about it. They staggered back to the underground section, the last vestige of hope for them to escape.

The underground section is also home to those Kazimierzian society had cast aside. The poor, the maddened, the outlawed, the unlucky, and the infected. These people filled the hallway, most of them had lost the ember and spirit of life, coasting and wasting away while sewerbeasts were eating their weakened bodies alive…

Most of them anyway…

Aoyuki could see how some of these people who lost everything but were far from giving up had been eyeing her and her wounded brother, no doubt gauging for any chance to make their life hell just as she used to make someone’s life a living hell. She used to look down on them, and yet she and her brother are one of them if not worse now. Thankfully none tried to act against them, it helps that she still has her Katana in hand.

Her heart sank deeper seeing how his brother was getting paler, but salvation came at last when they arrived at the emergency hideout. Making her way inside, she scanned her surroundings and found no sign of anyone ever being around.

The former Lazurite doesn’t dawdle and heads straight to the garage. Once there, she opened their transport’s door, a cheap second-hand car, and gently laid his brother to rest. Aoyuki rummaged around to find any medical equipment and as luck would have it there is enough to save his life. She cleaned his wound, dressed it, and bandaged it.

The Oni woman herself is wounded, but there is nothing more important than her brother at the moment. She just uses painkillers and hastily wrapped bandages on her body. Satisfied with her rushed work, Aoyuki proceeded to gather the necessary falsified documents, preserved foods, and medications, before finally escaping with the car.

She must hide, she cannot show her face for a good while. Like the Grey Serpent, they both have bounties on their heads, not to mention that the Armorless Union will be hunting them for the rest of their life. So leaving is the only option.

Leave Kawalerielki.

Leave Kazimierz.

Leave civilization.

Leave society.

And most importantly…

Leave the Grey Serpent’s reach…

Once making her way out of the underground section, she takes a long and convoluted path. The road is sparse since most people are watching the final. She drives and drives and drives, trying her best to avoid detection.

Fate said otherwise.

Just 300 meters away from the checkpoint, she spotted something from the corner of her eyes, high up on one of the skyscraper’s rooftops. Time slowed down when she turned her head in that direction. Nyx has been waiting for them with her giant bow drawn, her high-velocity anti-armor arrow nocked tautly… and was finally let loose.

That night, a news about car crash was just one of many usual unfortunate accidents, people just nodded and acknowledged that it happened before moving on. No one cared especially when they have a 3 times major champion that is rumored to be retiring. Now that is a much more exciting topic…

 [END OF CHAPTER]

Author’s Note:

Yo there, this is me, myself, and I, the author who doesn’t know what’s what and contemplating his other drafts.

This is a pretty long chapter (almost 9K words) plus that was a real mess…

Frankly, I found this chapter to be quite violent but then again a fucked up Arknight’s side story, such as Children of Ursus, seems to be popping up seamlessly every now and then by comparison but what do you think?

Then another piece of information you might have realized was that Nyx was even faster than before.

Update as, usual, or so I hope.

Ciao





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