Assassin's Pledge: Revolution

Assassin's Pledge: Revolution

The Revolution in Veilbrand reaches new heights as the Red-Eyed Demon chooses a side and takes to the field. But can even this legendary Assassin turn the tide enough to change the course of history?

596 readers have visited this universe since KumoriRyuu created it.

Introduction

This RP is private, so please don't ask to join.

But if you'd like to observe the RP unfold and read the story, you're more than welcome to do so. And if you'd like to talk to me in the "General Discussion" thread of the OOC, you're welcome to do that too!

Anyway, about the world!

The story takes place on a continent known as Cre' Est. The first nation founded shares the continent's name, and is in a centralized location bordering the Western face of a massive mountain range which splits the continent into two halves. To the Northwest of Cre' Est is the Nation of Water, Triveila. To the South of Cre' Est, past a mountain range extending out as a natural border between the two, is Veilbrand, the Nation of Stone and Wealth (where our story takes place). To the East of the mountain range and covering much of the northern hemisphere is the Desert Nation of Shaharan. And to the South of Shaharan, separated by another natural mountain range border, is the Nation of Trees, Gweynura.

As stated, our story takes place primarily in the Nation of Veilbrand where a Revolution has been underway for the last 8 years. The reason being is because of the tyrant, Egruus To' Veilbrand, who took power from the former King after killing him in single combat in a formal challenge for the throne. He now hoards the nation's wealth for himself and his closest allies in Veildbrand's nobility, taxing the common wealth out of existence and suppressing any efforts to stop him with extremely deadly force. It didn't take long for his excuse of ruler ship to become too much for the people of Veildbrand, and a resistance was formed early on which slowly became the Revolution it is today.

Our journey begins in late Fall. August. The ground is getting harder and the winds more frigid. Snow has begun falling in the mountains, but hasn't reached sea level as yet. The leaves are changing. Evergreen trees getting slowly closer to a dormant state. And the cloud cover grows slightly denser every day.

Cheers!

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Browse All » 8 Settings to roleplay in

Kruutzag

Kruutzag by KumoriRyuu

The city of Kruutzag

Veilbrand

Veilbrand by KumoriRyuu

The Nation of Stone and Wealth

Caelen

Caelen by KumoriRyuu

The Town of Caelen

Orktusk

Orktusk by KumoriRyuu

The Village of Orktusk

Cre' Est

Cre' Est by KumoriRyuu

The Mother Nation

Triveila

Triveila by KumoriRyuu

The Nation of Water

Shaharan

Shaharan by KumoriRyuu

Nation of Sands

Gweynura

Gweynura by KumoriRyuu

Nation of Trees

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

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North Road, Veilbrand


Amidst the rolling waves of greenery beneath a gray and cloud-filled sky, a soft, yet chilled breeze, flowed over the landscape. And as the flowers and grasses swayed lazily too and fro accompanied by the sounds of the wind coursing through and between them, a heavy boot step broke the zen-like tranquility of this late-Fall day. Another black boot fell to the unforgiving dirt, accompanied by the tap of a stick helping support the weight of its carrier. Hunched slightly forward and hidden beneath a light brown cloak, the figure leaned on the stick with every other step to balance a slight limp in the right side. Gripping the stick's innately carved handle were a pair of rough, calloused hands framed by a pair of black sleeves partially obscured by the cloak. And with each breath, a thin plume of steam billowed out in front of his mouth and nose.

As he reached the top of a hill, he spied a traveling caravan further along the path to the right heading his way. As he observed the condition and numbers of the caravan, he stood up straight and grunted through clenched teeth as his right hand slithered down to his side just below the rib cage. Upon removing it, fresh blood smeared his hand and dripped to the ground below. His dark gray shirt split at the site of a knife entry wound, stained black with his blood as it seeped from the wound. Taking in a deep breath, he leaned on the stick again and reached up with his cleaner left hand to pull a white headband down over his eyes feigning the universal mark of a blind man. Trudging slowly down the road holding his side, he headed down the road towards the approaching caravan.

Several minutes later, the caravan's leader spotted him turning along their route and called for his companions to halt their progress. And as the man trudged closer, the sight of red between his fingers caught the merchant's attention. He set his horse's reins around a spike on the front of the carriage, and hopped out on approach towards the wounded stranger.

"Hoi there, my good man. Do you require medical assistance?" He called.

The limping blind man came to a halt and lifted his head.

"Hoi, stranger. I do."

The merchant shifted on his heel.

"Julianne! Grab your bag, quickly!" He called.

A woman in her mid-30's peeked out from a cart further back along the caravan, and disappeared back inside. A moment later, the fair woman with athleticism and serene grace belying her age hopped out of the cart and jogged towards them with a large bag slung over her shoulder.

"By Lemnia's grace!" She exclaimed. "Please, come this way. There's an old tree stump just over here you can sit on." She said, gently taking his arm with one hand and his stick with the other, allowing him to lean on her for support as she walked him over and sat him down.

"Please, lift your shirt, sir." She asked calmly.

The stranger did as asked, lifting his shirt along the right side as she sat on her knees and opened her bag. And when she looked up again, her breath caught in her throat as her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the stranger's remarkable musculature. Each muscle group looked like it was chizzled by the Gods themselves, all in perfect condition and pressing against his skin as if not to be contained by his mortal coil. Julianne's face flushed pink as she swallowed a lump in her throat and fanned herself a moment before remembering why she was there.

"Pardon my asking, stranger. But where on Lemnia's green Earth did that wound come from?" The merchant asked.

"Geralt, that's hardly a question you need ask. I need him to keep still." Julianne quickly interjected.

"Mmph." Geralt grunted in response.

"Don't mind Geralt, good sir. Pray, keep still please. Your wound is infected and needs to be cleaned. And this..." She began, removing a bottled concoction from her bag with freshly gloved hands, and removing the cap. "... Is going to sting." She continued, pouring it into a clean cloth pulled from a box and gently dabbing it against the bruised and green flesh around the cut.

The stranger's mouth twitched, and his body jerked ever so slightly away from Julianne's hand. But not a moment later he settled into a slow, deep breath routine as she carefully cleaned the infected area and removed the puss which had gathered around it. Gently, she pried the flesh apart and cleaned inside as well which earned a clenched-tooth hiss as his core flexed causing his musculature to pop that much more. Julianne felt her face flush again as her eyes strayed for an instant, but she recovered quickly and focused on her work while Geralt sat down nearby.

"You don't need to speak. A nod or shake of the head will do. So. Was it bandits?" Geralt asked.

The stranger shook his head.

"Thieves?"

Another shake.

"Maybe it was a rogue? Or a berserk homeless man?"

Again, a shake.

"Geralt, patience please. He'll speak to you in a minute. Just let me stitch this wound and wrap his stomach and you can finish your conversation." Julianne remarked.

Geralt grunted in frustration once again, but Julianne paid him no mind. She set about her stitch work with expert skill, finishing in less than two minutes and wrapping him up in fifteen seconds.

"There. Now you can enjoy Geralt's bombardment of unnecessary questions." She joked with a laugh.

"'Unnecessary' indeed. Hmph. Oh, by the way. I didn't ask your name."

The stranger lowered his shirt and turned his head towards Geralt.

"Kyero."

"Kyero'? That's a new one on me. What nationality is it?"

"It's just a weird name. Don't worry about where it came from."

"Fair enough. So what did this to you?"

"May I ask why you're inquiring?"

"You have a Cre' Itian accent. And a strong one, at that. It would seem your wound wasn't caused by anything I know of in these parts... I'm concerned that my caravan might be in danger of falling prey to whatever did this to you. So please, enlighten me as to how this happened."

"... Very well."

The stranger shifted his weight, feeling out Julianne's work as he slowly stood up and grabbed his walking stick.

"It was a soldier."

"Bah. I should have known. More of that tyrant's forces, no doubt. Where did you encounter them?"

"Him'."

"Hi-wait. What? Just one?"

"Yes."

"That's... Not right. Those cowards never travel alone. Not when they know the entire nation is against them."

"This one did. Or at least he claimed he was a soldier, so perhaps I'm wrong and he was something else."

"That must be it. Anyway, where was this?"

"Two and a half days ago. Northeast, within the Cre' Itian border."

"Definitely wasn't really a soldier then. They never cross the border. Too far from their 'protection'."

"Whatever he was, he's dead. So I wouldn't worry about it."

"Mm. Good. Well then, where are you headed?"

"Orktusk, to see a friend."

The stranger began walking away.

"I... Wouldn't go there if I were you."

Pause.

"Why not?" He asked, turning his head slightly.

"Because it was attacked right about the same time you were, two days ago. It... Well... If you're intent on seeing a friend, you may as well go. But I can't guarantee your friend will still be there."

Geralt hopped into his cart and picked up the reins.

"Safe travels to you, Kyero. Hyaa!"

The horses began trotting away with the rest of the caravan close behind. Kyero waited for them all to pass before turning down the road from whence they came towards Orktusk and started walking. Once he was over the hill and clearly out of sight he lifted his white headband revealing a pair of glowing red eyes which flashed brightly as a menacing snarl crossed his face. He picked up his walking stick and immediately threw himself into a sprint.

"If any of you so-called Gods exist, you'd better pray you saw fit to spare them from whatever happened!!" He yelled.

Kyero raced down the road as fast as his legs would carry him, with the sun setting slowly below the horizon to the West.

The setting changes from Cre' Est to Orktusk

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


Orktusk Village, Veilbrand

The Following Evening...



As the sun descended beyond the horizon cloaking the land in darkness, Kyero skidded to a halt through the slick grass as he observed the faint flickering of lantern and candle lights ahead.

... There should be a lot more of them. He thought.

Pulling his bandanna down over his eyes, he once again leaned on his walking stick and resumed his limp. Using the stick, he felt out the difference between the grassy plains around him and the dirt road ahead. It was harder than it looked, and he found himself subtly altering direction frequently before he heard the sounds of feet skittering about just up ahead. The tip of his stick hit something hard, and he lifted it up and felt it was the wall of a building.

He made it.

Feeling along the wall, he found a gap and walked past it into the heart of the village. And as he broke free of the small alley created between the two buildings beside him, the sounds of human voices were soft and sparse. A far cry from the last time he was here. Kyero continued walking, eventually feeling the stick hit something small, but hard. The stick skipped as he tried to move it around the object, and Kyero lost his balance and fell forward onto his right knee and elbow trying to catch himself.

"RRGH! Blast it!" He growled.

"Oh!" Came a soft voice to his left.

The pitter patter of soft sandal-like footwear smacked the unforgiving cobblestone ground, and a pair of gentle hands came to rest on his shoulder and forearm.

"Hoi, stranger. Are you all right?"

"Yes. Thank you."

"Of course. Here."

Helping him to his feet, she brushed him off and gave him back his stick which had fallen from his hand during the tumble.

"Are you looking for a place to rest for the night, by chance? We don't have much in the way of accommodations at present, but-"

"Not exactly. I came to see a friend."

"O-oh... Um... Where did your friend live?"

Kyero turned his head towards her slightly.

"His name is Drake. Mercenary. Have you-"

"I don't think he wants to see anyone right now, good stranger. I'm... I'm very sorry."

"Why? What happened to him?"

"He-... Um... It's not what's ha-no. No. Something did happen to him. But it's not for me to say. So um... If you want to talk to him, he's staying at what's left of the inn just up the road this way-" she said, gently turning his body to face the direction she intended him to go. "Just walk straight and the steps to the inn will be just on your left side before long. I pray you have luck reaching him." She said, slowly walking away.

Kyero took a breath and limped in the direction she pointed him. And sure enough a set of steps hit his stick on the left side. Feeling them out, he walked up one step at a time and entered the establishment.

"Inkeep." He called quietly.

"Hoi, stranger. We don't have any rooms left."

"I'm here to see Drake."

"Oh. He's upstairs. Second door from the end on the left. But he's not taking visitors, so good luck."

Kyero was shown the stairs and assisted in reaching the top by a room attendant, whom he thanked before making his way to the door in question.

"Drake. Are you in there?" He called.

Heavy footsteps slowly approached the door, and a click was heard as the lock was released and the door opened revealing the shadow of a towering figure. A moment of silence passed, and a large hand wrapped around Kyero's left arm and gently pulled him inside. The door was closed softly, and the lock reset.

"Why are you here, Kyero?" Drake asked, taking a seat on a chair which creaked under the weight of his impressive muscular bulk.

"I came to check in on you." Kyero replied, removing the bandanna as his glowing red eyes opened and blinked several times adjusting to the light.

"Well you couldn't have come at a worse time." He said, his voice dropping slightly.

"I heard about the attack. What happened, exactly?"

"You're the assassin, Kyero. You can figure it out, can't you?"

"... I only know that something happened. The merchant who told me was very vague on details."

Drake's eyes welled up as he looked Kyero in the eyes.

"A rumor. It was just a rumor." He began, the first tear falling from the corner of his left eye. "But that was all Egruus felt he needed. He sent his forces here and-..." Drake covered his mouth, fighting hard to breathe and continue speaking through his sobbed gasps. "Orktusk was half burned to the ground."

Kyero's eyes widened slightly as he stood up a bit straighter as Drake covered his eyes.

"The rumor was that the Revolution passed through the area. That's all it was. But that was enough for Egruus to order his men to burn all the crop fields, the barns, and the village itself. On top of that, his men took the liberty to attack the populace at the same time. Men, women, children, the elderly. They spared nobody. The things they did to some of them, Kyero..."

Kyero's skin lost some of its color as he swallowed a lump in his throat. His fists clenched at his sides and his eyes began glowing brighter.

"... Drake... Why are you alone?" He asked quietly.

Drake hunched forward in his chair and buried his face in both his hands. Kyero remained still as stone and waited patiently for Drake to find his voice, which he did a few minutes later after emptying his eyes of tears.

"Beth's dead, Kyero." He finally managed. "And do you know what she was doing?... She was trying to save a group of children trapped in the school house up the road as it was burning down. And I watched it happen. I was running to help her and-... And-..." He had to fight once again to brace himself against the reality of his own words, sobbing and gasping in an effort to keep his voice. "It was like slow motion. One moment she looked at me and smiled with hope, and the next... The side of her head exploded."

Kyero's left fist clamped down producing an audible crunch as his fingernails tore through the flesh of his palm allowing blood to seep between his tightly clenched fingers. His eyes grew brighter still, lighting the room just as well as any lantern could, and a black aura slowly began to appear around his feet as his body began radiating heat. Feeling the heat against his hands, Drake looked down and immediately was on his feet putting his hands on Kyero's shoulders to shake him.

"Kyero! Hey! Get a grip! It's over! Just... Just drop it!" He pleaded.

Kyero's eyes snapped to his, and Drake swallowed a lump in his throat as the glow began to dim and the aura slowly vanished. But the glow in Kyero's eyes remained as bright as ever as Drake took a seat once more.

"She was dead before she hit the ground, Kyero. She didn't suffer."

Kyero's head turned almost robotically in Drake's direction.

"But you are suffering."

"Of course I am. Our wedding was only three weeks away." Drake shook his head and wiped the tears from his face. "She was just trying to be a good person. And those pigs shot her in the head just for fun. The one who did it was laughing as he started reloading the rifle."

"Tell me he no longer breathes."

Drake looked up at Kyero grimly, and Kyero closed his eyes slowly with a nod as he walked over and placed his hand on Drake's shoulder.

"I'm sorry, my friend... I liked Beth."

"She liked you too, oddly enough. I'll still never understand why." Drake chuckled.

Kyero chuckled with him, and Drake slowly stood up as the two embraced one another for a moment. Upon parting, Drake sat down again and took a deep breath.

"I don't know what to do anymore, Kyero."

"If I felt I had any right to give you advice on what you could do, I'd gladly do so. I'm sorry."

Drake shook his head.

"No, no. It's fine. I was just thinking out loud."

Kyero looked towards the window and observed the reflection of his eyes against the glass, and immediately closed them and lowered his bandanna. His jaw set as he heard the faint sounds of a woman crying outside. Obviously another victim who lost something important in the attack.

"Good luck, my friend. I wish you well."

"Where are you going?"

Kyero made it to the door and gripped the door knob.

"Egruus just made this personal... And I intend to ensure that he receives a visit by the wings of death, which has long been overdue."

Drake rose from his chair and walked over as Kyero tried unsuccessfully to open the door. Drake released the lock, and the door opened on Kyero's next try. Kyero sharply turned his head in Drake's direction, and Drake chuckled at him.

"You sure about this, Kyero?"

"Have I ever been uncertain once my mind was made up?"

"I guess not." Drake laughed, clapping his shoulder. "Maybe you should join the Revolution, eh? Certainly they could use a man with your skills."

Kyero slowly looked ahead, and smirked.

"I suppose there's no harm in at least giving them a helping hand from the shadows."

"Yeah. I gu-wait. I was joking, Kyero."

"I'm not." Kyero said with a smile as he closed the door behind him.

The setting changes from Orktusk to Caelen

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


Town of Caelen, Veilbrand

3 Days Later...


In the center of Veilbrand extended a long and spindly arm from the Central Mountain Range grasping for the center of the nation. The end of this range branched into five distinct “Fingers,” and thus this region became known as Lemnia’s Hand. And at the tip of her thumb rested a town known as Caelen.

Whispers in the underground were that the Revolution housed a safe house here, which made it a prime target for Egruus to attack. In fact, his forces were already on their way. 400 strong, and armed to the teeth, ready for war.

Kyero slowly entered the city, leaning on his walking stick sporting that limp (which he’d grown rather fond of in an odd way). Silence seemed to track him as he moved through the streets. Conversation halted as he grew closer, and resumed once he had passed. He could feel the eyes following him every step of the way. And even to Kyero this level of caution and wariness seemed excessive. Then again, the town was officially under attack. It just hadn’t arrived yet.

Kyero paused as he neared a fountain in what he presumed was the town’s central market space, and sat down on a bench. Taking a breath and listening carefully, he managed to pick out through the chatter around him that Egruus’ men were only two days away.

Not a lot of time at all, he thought.

Continuing his eavesdropping, he also heard from another conversation that local businesses were packing up and beginning to leave the town for the sake and safety of their businesses. Two days was a long time to go without income in a nation as impoverished as this one. But after hearing about what Egruus’ men did in Orktusk, Kyero couldn’t blame them. An unconfirmed rumor burnt a village and half its people to the ground. So what kind of horrors did they have planned for a town nearly eight times the size of Orktusk?

Kyero didn’t dare guess. But what he did dare was to call out to a group passing by.

”Hoi, there. May I inquire directions to the local pub? I’m rather parched after my recent journey.”

The group murmured amongst themselves a moment before one of them came forward.

“Hoi, stranger. The pub is down the main road to your left. But it might be closed, so don’t get your hopes up too high.”

”Many thanks. But if I may, what seems to be the big concern around here? Everyone seems worried about something.”

“You haven’t heard? Egruus has sent a four hundred man detachment to this town because of the rumors about the Revolution being here. Most of us are preparing to leave the city before they get here. Hence the warning about the pub.”

”Oh dear. That’s quite a shock. He’d attack this place over a rumor?”

“He’s attacked other locations for even less. Mae’da, Jilthran, and Atluum just to name a few cities were all attacked because they were close to where rumors of the Revolution’s presence were being spread. None of them ever confirmed either. He attacked just because.”

”Dear, oh dear. Sounds like he’s quite desperate to stop the Revolution.”

“Ha! He is. He’s a coward, and the Revolution, thanks to the Maiden leading them, has been kicking his arse all over Veiblrand for the last several years! One day soon we’ll all be free of him. But for now, we have to stay ahead of his rampage. So if you’ll excuse us, stranger. Good luck with the pub.”

Kyero waved to the group as they departed, and headed down the dirt road to the pub by listening for tells as to where he was by the way people spoke, how they walked, and what they were talking about. Finally, he stopped and asked a young man where the pub was, and was told he’d passed it about a block back. After receiving direction and guidance, Kyero made it to his destination and walked up to the door.

Knock, knock.

”Hello? Is anyone in there?”

Silence.

”Hoi, in there! I’ve got coin if you’ve time to sell a drink or two!”

Silence... Followed by the soft pitter patter of footsteps. The lock clicked and he was quickly ushered inside. Even with eyes closed and his bandanna covering them he could feel it had gotten much darker. All light sources had been extinguished, and it seemed like the windows had their blinds fully closed. That, or they had been boarded. One of the two.

“Hoi, there. What can I do ya fer stranger?”

Kyero leaned over the counter and slid a single Silver coin across the wooden surface.

”Ale, please.”

“Comin’ up. One sec, there.”

The pub master disappeared into the back room, and returned a minute later.

“There ye are.”

”My thanks.”

Kyero took the cup in hand and turned it around so the handle was facing the pub master, who arched an eyebrow. But as Kyero removed a Gold coin from a pouch at his waist, the pub master understood what was happening as Kyero set the coin down and kept it pressed under his fingertips.

”I don’t suppose the whispers of the Revolution’s presence here in Caelen are true, by chance?”

“Not that I’ve heard, there. Best I got fer ye is that rumors are all Egruus needs these days ta send his men a runnin’.”

The pub master reached for the coin, putting his fingertips on the exposed surface that Kyero left. But as he tried to slide it towards himself, the coin didn’t move.

”I heard a shift in your voice between the first phrase and the second. One was true. The other, a lie. For another Gold coin, tell me which was which.” He said, holding a second coin in his other hand up off the counter.

The pub master looked at all the windows and the door, making sure no shadows could be seen beneath it. He leaned in closer and tapped the back of Kyero’s shoulder to make him lean in closer as well.

“I told ya the truth when I said I rumors are all he needs.” He whispered.

Kyero slid the second coin on top of the first, but kept both pressed beneath his fingertips as he brought out a third coin, holding it aloft like before.

”Three if you tell me where I’m most likely to find information regarding where I can find the Revolution...” He leaned a bit closer, sliding the coin beneath his fingertips on the counter. ”And double it all... If you give me a name.”

The pub master gulped down a lump in his throat as a bead of sweat gently dripped down his temple. He looked at the gold under Kyero’s fingers, then to his own hand which was currently missing half a pinky. Memories of Egruus’ soldiers coming through and lopping it off after questioning him about this exact topic flashed through his mind before he swallowed again. Taking in a deep breath, he glanced to the drink Kyero had offered him.

“Illiaster San’Tor... That’s who ya wanna find. He wanders the North district during every day when there’s gonna be a full moon.” He said at last, grabbing the drink and chugging it as a smile slowly spread on Kyero’s lips.

”Why full moon nights?”

“Fuck if I know, lad. That’s all I got fer ya.”

Kyero slowly slid his fingers off the coins, allowing the pub master to take them. He then handed the man three more Gold coins from his pouch, all of which the pub master quickly pulled in. Checking their quality, he then shoved them into a small, personal safe box.

“Pleasure doin’ business with ya, lad. You watch yer back, ya hear me? It’s real easy ta lose coin in these parts these days.”

”I’ll keep that in mind.”

With that, Kyero left the pub in silence. Once outside, he stood in the middle of the street as he considered the man’s words.

The full moon isn’t for another six days...

Kyero turned his head slightly as a family passed by.

“Why are we moving, mommy?” A little girl asked.

“We’re just going on a little vacation to stay with mommy’s sister in the next town over, sweet heart.”

“But I didn’t get to grab my teddy bear!”

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I’ll buy a new one for you when we get there, okay?”

“No! I want my teddy bear!”

“I-ugh... Dear? Can you please?”

The husband picked her up.

“Come on now, kiddo. Behave yourself. It was just a bear, and we’ll get you a bigger one okay?”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Kay.”

Kyero took a deep breath as he flashed back to the conversation with Drake. He didn’t need to say anything, but the phrase “the things they did to them...” stuck out in Kyero’s mind as his hands gripped more tightly to his walking stick.

Not this time, Egruus. He thought as his lips tightened.

With a single stamp of the stick into the ground, Kyero set off down the main road leading out of the city.

”Four hundred against one...” He said with a confident smile. ”I like those odds.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


Town of Caelen, Veilbrand

Day of the Attack...


Scattered throughout the grasslands surrounding the town of Caelen were ruins of a much larger, ancient city. Sprouting from the dirt and grass, as if growing from the Earth itself, were numerous rises, pillars, partial remains of walls, even streets would occasionally dot the landscape, the longest of which stretched for a solid mile and a half before sinking beneath the Earth once again. Caelen’s forgotten city was a common tourist attraction, and was Caelen’s primary source of income throughout much of the Spring and Summer seasons when the grass was greenest and the skies bluest. But now, in fall, the grass was receding and the land growing harder and less forgiving on wary feet.

But where others saw beauty and tourist attractions, Kyero saw strategic opportunities. And having spent the last two days gathering materials and laying traps everywhere he could manage, he was well-prepared for this encounter.

His chosen perch while waiting for Egruus’ forces was the remains of an old bell tower, the tower of which was tilted almost twenty degrees off axis and also missing its bell. While it wouldn’t be ringing in the dawn or celebratory occasions ever again, it served as a perfect vantage point being nearly three stories tall. Boasting a photographic memory, Kyero had long since memorized the layout of the scattered ruins and the landscape, and had set dozens upon dozens of traps and small weapons caches to ensure his continued efficiency and tactical advantage.

It was going to be one versus four hundred... But it made him excited.

And at long last a long black line appeared on the horizon. Slowly, that line turned into an elongated rectangle which moved slowly across the land in his direction. Without being able to see them clearly, he guessed they were marching in eight rows of fifty which suited him just fine.

Kyero’s wardrobe had changed for this encounter as well, sporting an outfit near identical to the colorings of Egruus’ forces. Dark brown pants, black boots, a red long-sleeved tunic with black trim. The only thing it was really missing was Egruus’ insignia over the heart, but he could live without it. Insignia or no, the colors were close enough that in the chaos of what he had planned, it would take too long for them to realize the difference.

Time ticked by, and as they drew closer Kyero slowly slid down from the tower and used the scattered ruins as cover to sneak forward towards the furthest partial wall to hide behind. A trap waited between this one and the wall across from him some fifteen meters away. And it was almost assured that they would march directly through it. He just had to wait a little longer...

Twenty agonizing minutes later, the time had finally come. Kyero, crouched with his eyes closed and listening intently to the sounds of their marching, could practically see in his mind’s eye where they were at this very second.

Forty meters... He thought.

Their footsteps grew louder.

Thirty meters...

Louder still...

Twenty meters...

Even louder, and Kyero slowly drew two daggers from behind his back, each with a blade fourteen inches long made of a translucent green metal with a black, liquid-like core; the mythical metal known as Orichalcum.

Ten meters...

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!

Kyero’s eyes snapped open as his head turned sharply to his right, catching the first wave of feet in his peripheral vision as the first of them triggered the snare by stepping on it. The finely adjusted and near-invisible wire spread low and through the grass instantly triggered the release of a small wooden pin attached to a device with a nozzle pointed at the oncoming forces at the edge of the ruined wall opposite Kyero. The device had two chambers, one on top and one on the bottom. The chamber on top held a flammable chemical which, when mixed with the chemicals in the lower chamber, produced an explosive flamethrower-like effect for about ten meters. When the pin was pulled, the chemicals in the top flooded the bottom chamber, almost instantly triggering the explosive fiery wave which rapidly overwhelmed the first marching line save for the last twelve or thirteen men. With just under forty men now on fire thanks to the flammable fabrics they wore, chaos had erupted throughout the force as they took up defensive positions and attempted to help their men put the fires out.

But this was only the beginning. At Kyero’s side was a wire attached to a makeshift lever which, once he pulled it, produced the same exact effect from an identical device planted in a bush towards the rear line’s position. The fiery wave engulfed about half of their ranks in the back, now creating fiery chaos on two fronts. With their attention split, Kyero took his opportunity to rush out from his position and carefully, but quickly, stab one of the men in the back where his armor was weakest. Because of the attention the fire had taken, nobody noticed this first death until it was already done. And Kyero’s wardrobe was providing the perfect cover as he took up a position near the one he’d killed and waited until another wandered just a little too close before slamming his dagger into the man’s back and rapidly pulling it free.

This strike, however, was not so lucky as to be invisible like his first. One of the man’s allies saw the blow and immediately shouted while pointing at Kyero and charging him with his sword drawn. Kyero had no choice but to retreat, and his withdrawal saw a wave of around ten men give chase as he dashed back towards the ruins while the rest remained in defensive positions and tried to put the fires out.

Rounding a corner of the nearest broken wall, Kyero flattened himself into a small hollowed crevice in the wall and watched as they ran past him in confusion.

“What the? Where the fuck did he go?!” One of them yelled.

Kyero watched carefully as they marched just a little further into the ruins before exiting his tiny chamber and following at a distance using the ruins as cover. They wandered in and out of the walls and broken buildings, checking every corner for signs of his presence.

“The fucker was wearing our colors! How’d he get our uniform!?”

“I dunno! Just keep lookin!”

They were close to another trap. Now, if they’d just... Dammit. They began moving the wrong direction. Kyero growled quietly and darted out from behind cover while smacking the blades of his daggers together to get their attention. They all spun around and immediately took their stances. That is, until, in the shadow of the clouds now passing overhead, they saw the glow from his eyes.

“Wh-wh-wh-what the fuck!?”

“It’s the Demon!”

Kyero smiled wickedly, opening his eyes wide as he flared his daggers out to each side and began stalking towards them. They all began backing up with weapons pointed at him, arguing amongst themselves as to who’d go first and become the “Demon Slayer!” Finally, their backs hit the walls behind them. And that was the moment he was waiting for. With a flick of his wrist, Kyero tossed one dagger into the air. Kneeling down, he grabbed a chain attached to the midsection of the wall and yanked it as hard as he could. The wall trembled before leaning towards them. And as they all looked back to see what had happened the wall fell on top of them, cutting off their screams as it hit the ground and shattered into numerous large chunks.

Kyero stood up, and caught his dagger with a single chuckle before walking away.

Back at the main force, nearly half those who caught on fire had perished. Their forces had been reduced from four hundred to three hundred and thirty seven, and Kyero had only just gotten started. The force had since marched further in, and several had been caught in traps Kyero had left behind. Four men got caught in traps which, when the sticks were disturbed from their pressurized resting places, triggered the release of carved darts which shot into their legs opening arteries. They’d be dead soon enough. Half a dozen were caught in a larger trap where, once the pressurized wire had been stepped on, released a trigger that sent a bucket of flammable liquids onto their uniforms.

All it would take to set them off would be a single spark, kind of like the one... That Kyero created a moment later when he lunged from behind the corner and slashed at nearest soldier who blocked with his shield. The scrape of the Orichalcum daggers against the metal of his shield created hundreds of sparks that instantly ignited the man’s uniform, and the heated air ignited the rest of them in turn when they got too close to try and help. Kyero turned the corner and left them to their fate.

Little by little Kyero’s traps, accompanied by his hit and run tactics, chipped away at their numbers. Within the hour he had thinned the herd to just over two hundred men.

However... Fatigue is a dangerous enemy in its own right.

Kyero’s hit and run tactics, the need to flee through the ruins while avoiding his own traps, and entering close combat with those who avoided them or fought through them, all took their toll on Kyero who had retreated to the bell tower to catch his breath. He was sweating, panting, and had to sheath one dagger due to its weight and having taken a slice to the arm when he failed to avoid a spear thrust from one of them. It was just a scratch, but sometimes that was all it took in the long-term, even for the most hardened veterans of combat, to cripple an entire exterior limb. If Kyero wasn’t careful, that’s what would happen to him.

Making his way up to the top of the tower, Kyero carefully crouched low and looked out across the ruins. A couple hundred dead bodies, and signs of his traps having gone off such as burnt grass, blood stains everywhere, acid burns in the dirt and stone, and ruins made... Well... All the more ruined than before.

Still, for having thinned the herd this much on his own, it wasn’t half bad. But, he was running out of time. His best traps for thinning larger numbers had been completely used up. Only small traps affecting individuals were left, and those only numbered in the double digits. With two hundred still left to go, Kyero was rapidly running out of options. There was no way he could fight that many on his own. He may have had a Demonic Spirit residing within his body. But he was still human in every sense of the word... Much as he liked it when people believed otherwise.

The enemy soldiers had bunched together for safety and moved as a single solid unit, back to back, weapons out. There was no approach. Kyero watched from the tower as they slowly advanced towards Caelen, barely visible over the hill beyond the ruins. Kyero checked his arm by rotating it in a circle, and was satisfied in its rotation. Sliding down from the tower, he stalked the group as they inched further and further towards the clearing leading to Caelen.

Then, the world went a little bit darker. Kyero looked up and saw the cloud cover growing thicker. And within minutes rain would begin to fall. And this gave Kyero an idea.

The men had almost cleared the ruins as the rain began falling.

“Tighten formation!”

They all huddled together a little more closely, weapons all still drawn and ready for combat.

And then, from behind the final wall between them and Caelen, Kyero slowly emerged, now dressed in his usual garb which consisted of a purely black ensemble and with both daggers drawn and held out at his sides.

“Hold!”

The mass of men stopped moving, pointing their weapons at Kyero who stood with his eyes closed.

“Are you responsible for all this?!”

Silence, but for the rainfall.

“Hmph! It doesn’t matter! Prepare to die!”

They all lowered their stances together and inched towards Kyero. And as a lightning bolt flashed through the skies accompanied by a loud thunderclap, Kyero’s eyes snapped open revealing a bright red glow which halted all two hundred of them in their tracks. And around Kyero’s body, a black aura began flaring to life whipping about him like a wicked inferno and obscuring his silhouette. The men all began shouting amongst themselves, some trying to make sense of this and others trying to give affirmations that it was going to be all right.

Kyero slowly began advancing on them, but the men all held firm. Step by step by step, Kyero advanced. And with each step his aura grew thicker and his eyes glowed brighter. Step by step by step, he continued his advance, and the men all began taking subtle steps backwards. And as they inched further back into the ruins, the memory of the traps began creeping in as men began looking around their environment trying to see if they’d catch fire like the others or suffer the darts and other mishaps which befell their comrades. Step by step by step, Kyero continued his ominous march with daggers drawn and his body all but completely hidden in the fiery black darkness of his aura save for the glow of his eyes, now little more than two glowing red spheres within.

Finally, as they backed up further, a few of them backed up against one of the ruined walls and couldn’t go anywhere as the others crammed up against them. The pressure spread all the way to the front line, until they all stopped... As did Kyero.

Standing in his flickering aura with only his glowing red eyes piercing the haze, one brave soul finally screamed out in challenge and rushed at Kyero with his spear pointed directly toward the middle of the darkness. The spear penetrated clean through, but struck nothing solid. An instant later a flash arced across the man’s neck, and a red line appeared before blood sprayed free from between the flesh of his head and shoulders before his head slowly fell off to one side to the ground below, followed by his decapitated body. Murmurs and fearful groans and whimpers filled the air, and Kyero’s eyes flashed as the black aura darted forward.

Every man for themselves.

The entire gaggle of two hundred men turned around and pushed each other out of the way to escape the oncoming wrath of the demonic being behind them. Several men were too late to escape, being cut down in short order by the two daggers hidden in darkness. But after the sixth man fell, Kyero stopped and watched as the rest fled into the ruins and the fields beyond.

The rain began to pour down even harder, and Kyero’s aura suddenly shattered and disappeared. His daggers dropped to the ground with blood from the blades staining the grass. Kyero dropped to his knees, right hand clutching his chest, as his eyes flickered violently like a dying candle flame before the glow vanished fully. Panting and wheezing, Kyero hunched forward before coughing up a small amount of blood which then proceeded to drip from the corner of his mouth. Wiping his lips, Kyero grabbed and sheathed his daggers before pushing himself to his feet.

”In retrospect... Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” He said, coughing more blood into his sleeve.

Kyero’s arm felt like it was being removed, slowly, with a rusty bone saw. His chest felt like it had caved in. His heart rate was still through the roof. And his body ached everywhere.

”At least the town is safe... For now.”

And with that, Kyero disappeared into the heart of the ruins for a much-deserved rest.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


Town of Caelen, Veilbrand

Four Days Later...


Caelen had become a ghost town on the day of the attack. But now that Egruus’ forces had been driven away it had returned to life. Those who evacuated had since returned and the streets were once again alive with activity. People were still wary and keeping their ear to the ground for any signs of a return force, but the general consensus was that his forces weren’t coming back.

The only problem was that Kyero’s presence had been revealed. News of the Red-Eyed Demon being responsible for the soldier’s retreat spread like wildfire. Rumors also began popping up everywhere about why the Demon would interfere. Some were beneficial for Kyero and the Revolution, some were not. The rumor which had him the most concerned, however, was that he acted in defense of the Revolution... That couldn’t be allowed to stand.

But before he could deal with that issue, he had to find Illiaster.

Having asked around in his blind man’s disguise, complete with the limp and walking stick, Kyero made his way to the region where the pub master said he could be found. Walking slowly through the streets, he asked as many people as he could about where he could find a man named Illiaster. But the search was not proving fruitful. After almost two hours of frustrating failure, Kyero sat down on a bench beside a blacksmith’s shop to rest his feet.

A few minutes later, as he was relaxing to the sounds of the town’s activities, he felt someone sit down next to him.

”Hoi there, stranger. Are you all right?”

It was a woman’s voice. Smooth. Silky. Just deep enough to convey her mid-30’s age, but just high enough to remain unquestionably feminine and filled with life.

”Hoi ma’am. Yes, I’m all right.”

”You seem tired. Might I invite you to grab a drink with me at the coffee shop? It’s just down the road.”

”My thanks, good woman. But I’m not really a fan of coffee.”

She chuckled warmly.

”Aww. Who doesn’t like coffee? Perhaps a cup of milk, then?”

”No, thank you. I’m not really thirsty.”

She placed a hand gently on the back of his own.

”Then might I tempt you with a more... private activity?” She whispered in his ear, using her other hand to gently stroke his chest, feeling his musculature.

”Um... No, thank you.”

”My, you’re a tough nut to crack.” She said calmly, gripping his hand more tightly. ”What can I offer to get you to come with me?” She asked, inching her lips close enough to brush the side of his face.

”I would really prefer to simply be left alone. But-”

Kyero thought a moment about her advances. The shift in tone and purpose...

”On second thought, there is something you can do to convince me.”

”Name it, stranger.” She said sensually, leaning up against him.

”I’m fond of feeling the wind against my face while on rooftops. You don’t happen to know of a rooftop we could retreat to, do you?”

”I, um... C-certainly. We can do that. Come. I know a place.”

Her stammer as she began speaking confirmed Kyero’s suspicions. The tone of her voice shifted from flirtatious to cautious in less than a second. But she recovered quickly. He had to give her that. Kyero mentally checked the daggers at his back, hidden beneath his cloak. No sense not being cautious himself, after all. He was playing the role of a blind man.

The woman led him for almost ten minutes before they entered a building and began ascending the staircase towards the back. Counting the steps, Kyero knew they had to be at least five floors up when she finally opened a door and invited him out onto the rooftop of their destination. As he felt the wind on his face, he removed the hook of his cloak while taking in a deep breath.

”My thanks for agreeing to my unreasonable request, good lady.”

”Not at all, good sir.”

”May I inquire as to why you requested we have privacy?”

”Um... Well, I-”

”It’s all right, Caitlin. You may leave now.” Came a deep, male voice from behind Kyero.

He heard her footsteps carefully move around him to the door. And as the door was shut Kyero turned around to face this new arrival.

”You’ve been asking around about me for some time. Such persistence is rare in these parts.” He said.

”so you’re Illiaster?”

”I could be.”

Cautious.

”I came here to lend aid to the Revolution.”

”Quite bold of you to speak of them so openly. You know what would happen if Egruus heard of you searching for them in a town like this, don’t you?”

”A repeat of the recent attempt, but with more men, no doubt.”

”Indeed. Do you think so little for the lives of the people who live here?”

”Not at all. But to find and potentially become of use to them, I must take risks. But given Egruus’ forces being defeated as they were, I felt now was the safest time to inquire before any travelers or wandering patrols move through the area and hear about my inquiries.”

”A dangerous presumption, don’t you think?”

”It was that, or risk never finding you.”

”A selfish gambit.”

”Perhaps. But my expertise is worth it.”

”Oh? An arrogant one as well, I see? And what makes you think even if I were with the Revolution, we’d have need or interest in one such as yourself?”

”Because the Revolution is comprised of average people. Not soldiers. The Maiden’s careful planning has minimized casualties. But the Revolution can have more than just caution on their side if you let me train them to fight.”

”You think you can take the Revolution’s forces to new combat heights on your own? Pfff. You’re even more arrogant than I thought.”

”Then send one of them at me, and see for yourself.”

”Pardon?”

”I can hear them shifting their weight from one leg to the other. You have three bodyguards standing behind you. Send the most skilled among them at me, no holding back.”

Kyero dropped the walking stick and took a stance.

”I’ll give him thirty seconds to try and land a blow.”

Silence was the reply, followed shortly after by an ocean of laughter.

”Very well! If only to indulge my own amusement, we’ll play your game.”

A snap of the fingers, and heavy boots thudded towards Kyero. A jacket was removed and tossed to the ground, and a stance was taken. Laughter and chuckling continued in the background as they criticized Kyero’s stance. Body tall, bladed sideways, one hand open and flat just above his chest, the other held out at waist level, palm down, and relaxed. A few shuffles of the feet, and the man lunged at Kyero with great speed belying his size.

However, all laughter came to a sudden end when the man was lifted into the air over Kyero’s head and thrown down hard onto his back. Stunned to silence, the onlookers observed as Kyero stood up and backed away to give him space.

“What the-...”

The man blinked several times and rubbed the back of his head as he stood up and faced Kyero, who was already back in his stance.

”You have twenty four seconds left.”

The man rushed again, but suddenly slid to a stop and lifted front leg aiming a kick at Kyero’s midsection. The instant the man’s boot came into contact against the side of Kyero’s hand, he instinctively pushed the foot out and away to the side causing the man to fall forward towards him. And with his other hand, Kyero reached out and planted an open palm strike into his jaw. The man tumbled backwards onto his rear and blinked as he rubbed where Kyero hit him.

”Eighteen seconds.”

The man got to his feet and growled furiously. Pride shaken. Kyero’s mouth curled into a smile as he heard the man draw a sword.

”Teagan! No! We didn’t agree to a weapon’s match!”

“I don’t care!!”

He screamed in rage as he lunged with the sword towards Kyero’s stomach. Kyero slid to the side and felt the sword brush past him, followed by the sensation of Teagan’s arm brushing against the fabric of Kyero’s shirt. In an instant, Kyero’s hands clamped down around the arm that brushed his clothing and twisted it violently to wrench the weapon out of Teagan’s hands before he pushed it up behind him back and kicked his left knee out, forcing him to the ground. Kyero then dropped back swiftly onto his own back, pushing Teagan to the left as his arm snaked around his neck and put him into a choke hold. With one arm pinned and the other unable to pry Kyero’s arm free, Teagan was helpless as time ran out and Kyero suddenly let him go.

Both men stood up, and Teagan grabbed his sword and prepared another attack before he was stopped by the other two.

”Enough! I’ve seen what I need to see.”

Teagan was forced to sheath his weapon and return to where he had stood before the challenge was issued as the last man approached Kyero.

”You’re blind, but you defeated one of my best with no effort... Who are you?”

”My name is Kyero. I am who I am. And that’s all anyone needs to know.”

”... That explanation will work for me. But it won’t work for my superiors... Come with me.”

”Who am I following?”

The man paused and shifted his wight.

”Illiaster San’Tor. One of two Intelligence Leads for the Revolution. And I won’t extend my invitation to follow again.”

With that, he opened the door and descended the steps with Kyero in tow and then followed by the three body guards.

I hope I can back up my mouth, Kyero thought.

The setting changes from Caelen to Veilbrand

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


???, Veilbrand

That Evening...


Thwack!

Saliva and a few drops of blood flew from the corner of Kyero’s mouth as his head was wrenched to the side by a large fist connecting with it. With his wrists bound behind his lower back, and then double-bound to the chair itself, the blow nearly caused him to tip over. However, he and his chair were caught by the one who threw the punch and straightened up.

”That’s enough, for now.” Illiaster said calmly.

Kyero panted slowly and deeply while Illiaster leaned forward on the desk, resting on his elbows as he took a sip of tea.

”So, Kyero...” He began, ”I’ve asked you several times now who you really are, yet you insist on being stubborn. The pain stops when you tell me what I want to know.”

Kyero spit out a mouthful of blood and smiled calmly.

”You’re tough, I’ll give you that. But how long can you keep this up, I wonder?”

A jerk of Illiaster’s head sent another punch flying into Kyero’s stomach causing him to cough out more saliva as he leaned forward as far as his body would go given his hands-bound predicament.

”Your body can only withstand so much punishment, you know. Muscles start swelling and tearing. Bones start cracking. Veins and arteries begin rupturing.”

Another head jerk, and Kyero’s hair was grabbed and his head lifted as another punch found his stomach.

”You can make it stop.”

Illiaster waved off his men, who backed away to the corner of the room.

”The Revolution doesn’t take requests, Kyero. We find the talent, and we make the approach. It’s safer for everyone that way. But you sought us out. A foreigner and outsider. Conveniently blind and appearing just after the Red-Eyed Demon drove away Egruus’ forces. You wear the blind man’s white bandanna, but you fight like a master who can sense every technique before it happens.”

Illiaster keeled down in front of Kyero and forced his chin up. Drool and blood leaked from his mouth, dripping over Illiaster’s fingers.

”Who are you?”

Kyero’s smile slowly returned as he lifted his head on his own.

”I am who I am. A humble blind man who seeks to aid the Revolution against a tyrannical psychopath.”

Illiaster stood up tall, hands behind his back as he glared down at Kyero’s bandanna.

”The truly blind get hit more often than not, and they don’t get by on pure skill like you did. Somehow, you knew his attacks and reacted to them as I’ve never seen before. I don’t want to give you too much credit, but your skill makes you dangerous. And if you think I’ll allow the danger you pose into the Revolution that easily, you’re obviously unaware of who you’re dealing with.”

”And here I thought the Revolution needed all the help it could get.”

”We are few, but we aren’t helpless. Nor are we stupid enough to accept help from sources as unreliable as you.” He barked, lashing out and backhanding Kyero across the face.

Kyero chuckled as he spat out another mouthful of blood.

”Your backhand is stronger than that one’s punches.”

The one who’d been punching took a step, but was halted by Illiaster who gestured for him to back down. He did so with a scowl on his face, returning to a neutral position.

”This is your last chance, Kyero.”

A cold, metallic barrel gently came to rest against his forehead.

”Who. Are. You?”

Kyero’s smile had temporarily vanished, but quickly returned.

”Do you know the definition of insanity?”

The barrel was pressed against his head more forcefully, metal digging into his flesh as Kyero pushed back and refused to budge.

”I am who I am. A humble blind man named Kyero seeking to aid the Revolution in the best way I know how. And what I know best is combat. If you let me teach your forces how to fight, their survival rate will skyrocket. I don’t need, nor do I want anything from you but that opportunity.”

Click.

”The Maiden would benefit from an increased survival rate in her forces. Wouldn’t you agree?”

The barrel pushed against his even harder.

”Speak not of the Maiden!”

Kyero chuckled.

”I wasn’t speaking of her. I was speaking to her.” He said, turning his head slightly to his right. ”That is who’s sitting in the corner, is it not?”

A figure in a black cloak whose face was hidden from view lifted their head ever so slightly.

”I can smell the perfume stuck to your clothing. Likely clinging on from days prior.”

The figure slowly rose and waved a hand. Illiaster immediately backed down as the figure approached Kyero’s chair, and all of Illiaster’s men backed up a step and stood up a bit straighter.

Slowly, the hood was removed. And the dim candle light softly illuminated the face of a beautiful young woman, brunette but for a hint of natural red highlights. Her cheeks curved gently into her smooth jaw and softly pointed chin. Her bangs neatly framed her face, falling into subtle curls towards the ends while the rest fell around her shoulders down to her mid-back. But the most striking detail was her eyes, shimmering a brilliant emerald green which seemed not to reflect the candle’s firelight, but engulf it, as if to sap it of its vitality while fueling her own.

She stood tall and calm behind Kyero with her face betraying not a single hint of emotion. Slowly, she reached for a small knife at her hip and pulled it free, the soft, subtle hiss of metal scraping the leather sheath rang in Kyero’s ears. And in an instant the blade was pressed at his throat with a hand gripping the side of his neck.

Kyero let out a slightly strained breath as he felt her lean down towards him, speaking softly.

”Well, Kyero,” she began. Her voice, despite its edge, was perfectly calm. The smooth, creamy texture filled his ears and, for the briefest instant, made him question whether or not she was in fact the Maiden. However...

”Do you know why you’re tied to a chair?”

”You don’t trust me.”

”That's obvious, but no. Think deeper.”

”Then I’m afraid you have me at a loss.”

The knife pressed a bit more firmly into his skin, slicing the first couple layers of flesh.

”Just how gullible do you think we are?”

Kyero forced another breath through his nose to avoid using his throat.

”You show up out of nowhere after rumors of the Red-Eyed Demon forcing back Egruus’ soldiers. You play the role of a blind man. Convincingly. You even stumbled about somewhat as you entered this room earlier. But from what I heard of your combat abilities, and given your physical stature and your durability under these interrogation conditions, to say nothing of the convenience of that bandanna...” She pressed the knife harder, drawing a single drip of blood. ”What happens when I remove it?” She hissed.

The hand on his neck reached up and gripped the bandanna, but didn’t pull it free.

”Answer me very carefully, Kyero.”

He took a deep breath through his nose, carefully manipulating his chest so as not to allow the blade to dig in any further. Upon his exhale, she stood up a bit straighter and gripped the bandanna a bit harder.

”Remove it.” He replied softly.

The bandanna was flung skyward, and Kyero’s hair was immediately clenched into her fist as she pulled his head back and pointed the tip of the blade towards the center of his throat. Kyero’s eyes were firmly shut, but as they slid open a crimson glow emerged from beneath his eye lids and reflected off her face. The men around her all fidgeted for an instant before subconsciously reaching for their weapons, as did Illiaster who reached for his pistol.

The Maiden kept a firm grip, glaring down unflinchingly at him as their eyes locked.

”Give me one... Good... Reason... Not to kiss your spine with the tip of this blade.” She said calmly.

”There aren’t any that you’d accept.”

”Humor me.”

”Because our goals are the same.”

”What goals could we possibly share?”

”We want Egruus to die.”

”And for that, you want us to let you into the Revolution?”

”Of course not. The Revolution can’t be associated with me. But-”

”You drove back four hundred of Egruus’ soldiers by yourself when they came to attack Caelen in search of us... If your goal was to disassociate, then I'd say you've royally failed.”

”Not yet, I haven’t.”

”Explain, quickly.”

”I have other targets in Caelen that I’ve been meaning to take down. If I can get to them, it will seem as if I only stopped Egruus’ men for my own benefit. The Demon served himself, and the Revolution’s presence remains nothing but a rumor.”

”You think we’d just let you kill people like that? And why do you think it’s going to be that simple?”

”Why wouldn’t it be? Egruus isn’t a fool, but he is a coward. If I take down my intended targets, he’ll see the pattern right away and know that I’m coming for him. I become a separate threat to deal with. One he has to split his forces to deal with, especially after Caelen.”

”So you admit that it was you?”

”Yes.”

The knife pushed into his skin drawing a single drop of blood which dripped lazily down his throat to his shirt.

”And just why did you expect us to accept your help, again?”

”I would maintain my role as the blind man and train your forces to fight. The Revolution may be comprised of simple, honest, common folk. But even they can be honed into efficient warriors capable of great things with the right approach and method.”

”... For the sake of pure curiosity... Why would you want to help us like this? What’s in it for you?” She asked, yanking on his hair to pull his head further back as she lifted the handle of the blade a bit higher to point the knife towards his lungs. ”There’s always an angle, and you must want something from us. Why else would you bother to help unless you had something to gain? And don’t tell me it’s Egruus’ death. Even a dead man benefits from that.”

”All I want is to know that I was a thorn in his side when this is over. If I can accomplish that, then any part I can play in this will be worth it.”

”... You can’t be serious.”

”I am. Egruus has made this personal. And one way or another I will be there to witness his demise.”

Slowly, Kyero’s hair was released. But the Maiden kept the knife at his throat as she walked around in front of him.

”How is it personal for you?”

”It may be impossible for you to believe, but even a monster like me is capable of meeting people without killing them. I’ve even grown quite fond of those I've met. And during the attack on Orktusk, they, and all of the people living there, suffered in ways even I wouldn’t dare imagine nor ever wish to visit upon anyone.”

The blade was slowly being withdrawn until his eyes began glowing brighter, at which point it was instantly back against his throat.

”It may be hypocritical of me, given my history and reputation, but I don’t care. My best friend is a man who’s never done wrong a day in his life. And his fiancé was shot in the head while helping children escape a burning building... I wasn’t there to prevent this, but I can prevent it from happening again if given the chance.”

Slowly, the blade was withdrawn and the Maiden backed away a few steps, her silhouette outlined by the moon shining through the window behind her.

”I will pledge my blades, and my life to you. I will follow your orders without question, and see every mission through to success with swiftness, precision, and efficiency. I will become your personal sword that strikes from the shadows where the enemy doesn’t dare to look until it’s too late... If you'll but give me the chance to prove it to you.”

The Maiden turned her body slightly, angling herself so the moon shone fully on his bruised and bleeding face. Taking in the full sight of him, she narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice.

”And if I were to order you to embark on a mission with no chance of success and was certain to kill you, would you still follow me?”

”Yes.”

Her eyes narrowed further and her hand slowly slid over her hip where the holster of an ornately crafted pistol waited.

”... Why?”

His eyes began glowing even brighter, and her hand found the clip of the holster and popped it free.

”Until my final mission of eliminating Te’i Sai from this world is complete, death itself will never embrace me. You can send me on as many suicide missions as you want. I'll always find a way to succeed and return. Only when Te’i Sai is gone will I allow death to welcome me into the depths of the Underworld. And there, I will ensure the eternal torment of Egruus and all of Te’i Sai for what they did to me and so many others!” He growled.

The Maiden’s hand was firmly around the handle of her pistol, finger hovering over the trigger. But as Kyero’s eyes dimmed and he slowly got control of his breathing and his body relaxed, her grip relaxed. Slowly, she turned towards him and her hand lowered to her side. Advancing towards him, she stood tall and loomed over him like a volcano over a village.

”You pledge your life to me and this Revolution, and swear to obey my every word without protest? To protect the Revolution beyond simply in body, and to ensure the safety of all those who call this nation "home"?”

Exhaling a deep breath, Kyero looked deep into her eyes.

”I do.”

The Maiden took a breath and looked at Illiaster, giving a nod of her head. And begrudgingly, he walked over and cut the ropes binding Kyero to the chair. His men all kept hands on their weapons, as did Illiaster. Even the Maiden’s hand had unconsciously returned to her pistol, resting safely in its holster. Kyero’s arms swept around in front of him as he brushed the ropes off and stood up.

She didn’t move, and held his gaze as their eyes met once again. He stood half a head taller, but their posture was nearly identical. Heads up, shoulders back, chins up, and a hard glare locked onto the other.

”You begin training our forces tomorrow. Groups of fifty at a time. Two hours each. Sunrise until sunset. No breaks in between groups. One ends, the next begins immediately. As for meals, you get one break to eat at around midday between the third and fourth groups. But keep this in mind...”

She stepped forward, invading his space and leaned up slightly.

”I don’t know how you were taught, nor do I care. You will treat our forces with respect, dignity, and positively reinforce their successes. If there is a single complaint, I won’t hesitate to have you killed. Do we understand each other?”

With no hesitation, ”Yes.”

”Then get yourself cleaned up, and make sure your bandanna stays on. As you said, the Revolution can’t publicly be associated with you, nor will it. You will remain in disguise at all times, only ever removing it when I give you leave to do so. And those times will be few and far between, so get used to the look.”

”Yes, Maiden.”

”... Go then.”

She handed Kyero his bandanna, which he promptly returned around his head and eyes before he was given his walking stick and escorted towards the exit as the blind man he was when he came in. The Maiden walked to the desk and placed her hands upon the top and leaned forward to exhale a long, exasperated breath.

”Kyero!” She called.

Pausing at the door, he turned towards her. Continuing to look out the window behind the desk, she said ”Don’t make me regret this.”

Kyero smiled.

”Of course, Maiden.”

With Kyero escorted from the room, the Maiden was left by herself lost in deep thought.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


Revolution Base (Theta), Veilbrand


The day of reckoning, as one might say.

Preceding the rise of the dawn, Kyero stood in a small room before four individuals all dressed in two layers of armor; one leather, one steel. The leather armor was a deep brown with tones of gray around the shoulders and elbows. Clearly a sign of wear and tear. Over the heart and midsection were thicker layers of the material, obviously for extra stopping power. The leather was cut out around the armpit for flexibility, with a long collar around the neck reaching all the way up to just below the jawline. Not likely to be comfortable, but very practical. The stitch was tight and well crafted, nary a seam out of place. But it was the steel portions of the armor which distinguished them from one another.

To the far left stood General Sol, retired blacksmith in his mid-50’s, nearly seven feet tall with a large, well-built frame and an aged, near permanent frown etched across his face. His black steel chest and shoulder protectors sported a gold trim, connected via a series of black leather straps. At the center of his chest armor was the Veilbrand Sun, a special interpretation of the sun’s rise over the horizon originally painted by a woman named Helena Gould over four hundred years ago.

The Veilbrand Sun was one of Veilbrand’s most famous art pieces, as it symbolized Veilbrand’s rise to military dominance following the conclusion of its war for independence from Cre’ Est the year before its creation.

Connected to his chest armor was a matching tasset, black with gold trim around the edge of each layer. A pair of black greaves with red painted over the curved, spiked toes... Or was it paint at all? At his hip was a large sword, the blade alone being near four feet long with an impressive mold of the sun across the guard. And to finish the ensemble, an impressively ornate helm beneath his right arm bearing the Veilbrand Sun across the back. On the visor of said helm gleamed a pair of golden eyes amidst a black hand print, signifying the darkness of adversity and the golden eyes of Lemnia piercing the darkness to lead her Children into the light.

All things considered, this was not a man Kyero would wish to cross blades with if he didn’t have to.

Center left was General Comet, former seamstress and school teacher, and the one responsible for the basic design blueprint of the leather armor they (and the rest of their forces) all wore. She stood five foot six with short, straight black hair, a somewhat stocky build for her height, and a no-nonsense glower with a pair of gleaming amber eyes aimed right at Kyero’s bandanna. Even with the bandanna and his eyes closed, he could sense her stare piercing through him.

Though a relative stranger to the world of combat before the Revolution began, her work ethic and gifted of hand-eye coordination saw her become a fierce combatant and protector when it mattered most. She was the only one not wearing steel armor. Instead, she donned a gray leather set with a streaking blue-white comet across her chest, the tail of which trailed off around her left shoulder and the body just below her right breast.

Center right stood General Luna, a former combat instructor from Triveila who moved to Veilbrand to realize his dream of opening a meditation house shortly before Egruus took power. Standing just shy of six feet in height with a lean build, donning gray armor with white highlights and the crescent moon painted across the chest plate of his armor, he may not have been the most imposing figure anyone had ever seen physically. But certainly it was clear he wasn’t to be underestimated.

Being a foreigner, he bore a Triveilan accent and their signature sun kissed skin tone. His hair was cut very short, and was dark brown with occasional hints of gray around the side burns. With an angular jaw and eyes, along with larger cheek bones, he stood out from the crowd a little more than he was comfortable with. He spoke the common tongue well, but occasionally struggled with finding the right words, particularly when it came to adjectives.

And finally, the most intimidating of the lot, standing far right, was General Star. Bearing an eight-pointed star on his chest plate amidst a sea of the deepest blue possible before black, he stood six foot six with a powerfully built frame, a rigid, squared off jaw, short cropped dark blonde hair, piercing sky blue eyes, and a natural scowl that would frighten any child unfortunate enough to look upon him. Even his own.

Hailing from the heart of Veilbrand, General Star was well recognized as a former tradesman who’d seen all five nations and learned much of their various cultures. His experience in negotiation had served the Maiden well many a time, and gained the Revolution numerous trade allies and partners to work with despite Egruus’ fiercest attempts to sabotage the trade system while maintaining his own connections.

These were the Four Generals of the Revolution, and it was in collaboration with these individuals that Kyero was now tasked with training the Revolution’s forces.

”I doun’t like it. You mean to train our delicate fources with such... Such... Brutality?” General Luna demanded.

”With all due respect, General Luna. There’s nothing brutal about this method. I prefer the word ‘meticulous.’”

”It doesn’t matter what you call it, Kyero. Your methods are too forceful for our people. Please try to come up with something better.”

”May I ask why you think the method to be harsh, General Comet?”

”Repetition builds habit. And habits become second nature after a while. There’s no arguing that. But expecting them to repeat the same action for thirty minutes without rest is unreasonable.”

”I must agree with General Sol. Even if it’s a simple action, variety is necessary to maintain and facilitate an interest in learning which stimulates a desire for further exploration of the subject. As well, it’s hard to trust an instructor who thinks you need that much time devoted to a single action.”

”I believe I’m starting to understand your point, General Star. You think that they’ll see this method as my way of saying they’re not ready to progress? Correct?”

”Correct.”

”Our forces may be meager in number and bred of common blood. But they’re not so incompetent as to need that much time devoted to a single action.”

”I see... Very well.”

”You defeated uone of Illiaster’s men, no? Your skills are excellent, but have you ever taught befoure?”

”Admittedly, only once.”

”Then why would you request, let alone agree to taking charge of teaching so many all at once?”

”Because even if my methods are a bit unrefined, I believe I have much to offer the Revolution’s forces in the ways of combat.”

”That would seem to me a dangerous assumption. No matter how skilled you are, if you’ve never taught before, how can you expect to yield the best results to people who’ve already been instructed in another manner? Clashing teaching methods don’t often go over well with students, you know. Trust me. I know better than most.”

”I understand your concern, General Star. General Luna. You were a long-time combat instructor. Where would you suggest I start?”

”Uwell first, you must gain an undourstanding of their present skills. Gauge what they knou and what they don’t knou. Then you can figure out where they need the moust work.”

”Understood. Then I’ll start there.”

”How do you plan to do that, if I may ask? I mean, you-... Well.”

”I can’t see. Yes. You needn’t mince words with me, General Comet.”

”Well, still. If you are unable to watch them, how will you gauge their current strengths and weaknesses?”

Kyero smiled.

”My ears are better than most.”

General Sol arched an eyebrow.

”Now you’ve caught my attention... Very well. I look forward to seeing how you figure this out.”

”We’ll be present to help out if you need us.”

”Thank you, General Star. I may do that. But for the most part, please refrain from interfering otherwise.”

”Of course. I wouldn’t want to miss the show.”

”General Sol, please.”

”That was a good uone.”

General Comet sighed while the others smiled and waited for the hour to strike. And strike it did. Within the next ten minutes, Kyero was out in the training courtyard with the first wave of Revolution troops lined up in ten rows of five in front of him, and the four Generals in back observing quietly.

”Stance!” Kyero shouted.

All the troops took the same position. Feet shoulder width apart, body bladed about forty-five degrees, both hands up to protect the face, knees bent about fifteen degrees. The four Generals looked to one another questioningly, eager to see what Kyero would do to gauge their skills.

”Half-step forward, and punch with the lead hand. On my signal........ Punch!”

All fifty men and women lifted their front feet, pushed with the back foot, and half-stepped forward throwing a lead jab with a yell. Kyero’s ears subtly twitched in response to the motion, and his head slid slightly to the left.

”First row, fifth in line. Step forward.”

The troops looked at one another for a second, and the two in the middle of the row both stepped forward. Kyero pointed to the one on his right.

”You may step back.” His finger slid to the one on the left. ”What’s your name?”

“Oh, uh, Goulden, sir!”

”Goulden. Please demonstrate the technique again, on my mark... Punch!”

Goulden did his half-step lead jab with a yell, and then went motionless as Kyero told him to freeze once his punch was extended. Kyero approached him slowly, leaning on the walking stick until he reached Goulden. Kyero placed an open palm up and gently pressed against his fist.

”Resist me.”

Kyero started pushing, and Goulden resisted as best he could. He grunted as he tried to push back against Kyero, but the difference in strength became obvious as Goulden started leaning back slightly before Kyero relaxed and stopped pushing.

”Face your left, and repeat the action... Punch!”

Goulden did as ordered, repeating the punch and freezing on extension as Kyero told him to do so.

”Can everyone see his position?”

”YES, SIR!” Came the reply.

”Can anyone tell me where his fault is?”

Heads turned and murmurs erupted. Even the Generals seemed confused as to where Kyero could possibly find a fault in the man’s technique.

”Don’t overthink this, everyone. Just look at him. Where’s the fault?”

More head turns, more murmurs.

”Excuse me, Kyero. But please remember these are-”

General Comet was silenced by Kyero raising his hand.

”Where is his center of gravity?”

Eyes looked him up and down, and finally someone spoke up.

“In the middle?” He asked.

”Of what?”

“Oh... Him?”

”Specifically, where?”

The four Generals began growing impatient.

“Um... I don’t know. His chest?”

”Close. It’s just below the belly button, at around hip level. Now, observe something important here.”

Kyero put his open palm against Goulden’s fist and pushed hard, forcing him to lean back despite his efforts to resist. Holding him in that leaning position, Kyero asked, ”Where is his center of gravity now? In front of or behind his front foot?”

Eyes trailed down, and a collected understanding seemed to be brought on as the Generals too took in deep breaths.

Kyero relaxed on his pressure.

”Lean forward a bit.”

Goulden did so.

”A little more.”

Again, he did as instructed.

”Good. Now, resist.”

Kyero began pushing hard against him, and Goulden found it much easier to resist Kyero to the point where he barely moved at all. However, Kyero was slowly beginning to overpower him.

”Bend your front knee a bit more.”

A quick adjustment, and Goulden suddenly found the resistance even easier. Kyero couldn’t move him, and thus relaxed his pressure and gave Goulden a pat on the shoulder, asking him to return to his position.

”Your center of gravity is of utmost importance to your technique. The further back your center of gravity is from your front leg, the easier it is to push you off balance. Now, everyone take your stance!”

A unified shuffling of feet.

”Half-step jab and hold the punch out like Goulden did, on my mark... Punch!”

A unified shuffle and yell of effort, and all held their punches.

”I want every other row, starting with row two, to relax and turn to the individual immediately to your right. Test their punch by pushing back against it. The one punching should resist as best they can. If you can push your partner off balance, help them make the adjustment. If you require assistance, call for myself or one of the four Generals. Go!”

The Generals looked to one another in surprise, but a few smiles were shared as they watched the men and woman all take to Kyero’s instruction. Every other row turned to the right and helped their partner adjust their punches and position until they couldn’t push each other over anymore. And then, it was time to return the favor. All in all, it took around five minutes for both sides to complete the exercise.

”Time’s up! Return to your positions!” Kyero called.

Everyone did so.

”Now, stance!”

Stances taken.

”Half-step reverse punch and hold, on my mark... Punch!”

A shuffle and a yell, with Kyero listening intently.

”Second row, second from the far right. Stand before me.”

The individual approached, stopping in front of Kyero.

”What’s your name?”

“A-Allenia, sir!”

”Allenia. Turn to your left, take your stance, and be prepared to throw the half-step reverse punch on my mark.”

She did as instructed.

”Punch!”

She slid forward and yelled with her punch, holding it still. Kyero walked in front of her and, just as with Goulden, pushed against her fist. In doing so, he managed to shove her arm and shoulder backwards until she nearly toppled over.

”Can anyone tell me why I was able to push her arm back?”

Head turns and murmurs, like before.

”I’ll give you a hint. Her center of gravity is sound. There’s something else going on. Something to do with her upper body.”

He turned her once more to her left so she was facing everyone else.

”Can everyone see how her punching side shoulder is roughly aligned with her non-punching shoulder?”

Several affirmative murmurs echoed.

”When throwing a punch from the reverse hand, your shoulders should be-” he gently used his right hand to force her to move her punching shoulder forward until it was out in front of her opposing shoulder. ”... Here, with the punching side forward ahead of the other. Something that helps with this-” He gent used his walking stick to tap her back foot until she turned it far enough to lift her heel off the ground. ”... Is having your heel up to allow for maximum rotation from the hips on up to the shoulders. Allenia, hold that stance, please.”

“Y-yes, sir!”

”If you are unable to see, please move to an area where you can see, now.”

Shuffling of feet here and there and everywhere, until they came to a stop.

”Can everyone see her new ship to shoulder alignment, and how the punching side is out front?”

“YES, SIR!”

”Excellent. This is the ideal position for a reverse punch. It’s a powerful finishing blow capable of knocking out or even killing your opponent if you know where you’re aiming.”

At the mention of killing their opponent, gasps and murmurs erupted like wildfire.

”Silence!”

Silence.

”Yes. It’s possible to kill someone with a simple punch. But that shouldn’t be your primary concern right now. Look at her mechanics. Her raised heel, the position of her ankle, hips, shoulders, elbow, and wrist.”

Soft murmurs of understanding and recognition.

”If everyone understands, return to your designated positions!”

Shuffling of feet, and silence.

”Allenia, you may return to your spot.”

“Yes, sir!”

She dashed back in line as Kyero turned his head.

”Generals, will you step forward, please?”

They did so.

”Everyone ready?... Stance!”

Stance taken.

”Punch and hold on my mark... Punch!”

Unified shuffling, yelling, and silence.

”Generals, please assist me in checking their position and whether or not their mechanics are sound.”

Kyero and the Generals all went around testing everyone’s mechanics. For the most part, everyone seemed to have it down. Only a few were still iffy and needed corrections. And when they were finished, they all gathered at the front, save Kyero, who had to take his time limping back to his spot. Once there, he faced everyone again.

”Well done. Let’s try that twice more as a group. Stance!”

Stance taken.

”Punch and hold on my mark... Punch!”

Shuffling, yelling, silence.

”Every other row, check your partner, now.”

Everyone did so, and then returned the favor before returning to position.

”Excellent. Now, we’ll use both in combination. Stance!”

Stance taken, followed by two punches in succession on a single half-step. Kyero had them repeat a few times more before he instructed them to check each other again. When all was said and done, and all necessary corrections made, Kyero had used up almost exactly thirty minutes of time. Be it coincidence or skill was up for debate. But it was impressive nonetheless.

”It’s time for some practical application. First line, line up in front of me. Second line, General Sol. Third line, General Luna. Fourth line, General Comet. Fifth line, General Star. Go!”

Shuffling and murmuring ensued before all fell to silence.

”Generals. Do you all count ten in your lines?”

”Yes.” Came their unified response.

”Good. Then if my atrocious math skills don’t fail me, I have ten as well.”

A few scattered chuckles emerged before falling silent.

”Myself and the Generals will extend a hand, like so-” He held out his right hand, palm up and facing his line. ”Your job is to strike it with both punches. If you miss a punch, you must do ten push-ups before returning to the line. Understood?”

“YES, SIR!”

”Excellent. Generals, keep an eye on their mechanics and take note of the most common mistakes, please. Begin!”

The drill began, and throughout Kyero’s line he could feel the mechanics in each punch as they came through. Several were excellent. Several more, not so much. Simple faults such as not fully rotating the hips and shoulders, or allowing the wrist to bend on contact could be felt. As they were, he halted the individual responsible, asking for their name and saying a quick word to correct the mistake for next time. Before long, Kyero knew everyone’s name in his line.

”Stop!”

The drill came to an end.

”Generals, what was the single most common mistake in your line?” He asked.

”They let their back hands drop a lot.”

”Over routating and swinging the punch through too faur.”

”Back heel wasn’t up.”

”Not turning the shoulders all the way.”

Kyero raised his chin.

”And in my line... It was turning their front foot out too far which let me push them back almost as easily as if their back foot hadn’t rotated up onto the heel.”

Everyone looked around.

”I want every line to rotate one to the right. So General Sol’s line, face me. My line, face General Star. Etc. Go!”

Done in fifteen seconds.

”Now, again!”

The drill and critique was completed in each line for each General and Kyero until the lines returned to their original hand target holder.

”Good. We’ll take a quick break for ten minutes. Get some water, and be prepared to run when you return. We need to work on your conditioning.”

As everyone broke for a water break, the four Generals gathered around Kyero.

”I have to admit, Kyero, you had me a little worried for a bit.”

”Indeed. I was under the impression that you would most certainly begin belittling them when they couldn’t say what you saw wrong.”

”Good to know you seem to understand what ‘restraint’ is.”

”Pourhaps it would be prudent to challenge their footwork next? Focus on both uppeur and loweur body in equal measure, no?”

”Yes, General Luna. Their footwork could still use some attention. We’ll touch on that after they finish their run.”

”How far are they running?”

”How wide is this courtyard?”

”About two hundred meters each way. A near perfect square. Why?”

”I’d like them to jog ten laps around the yard, hugging the walls as closely as possible.”

”That seems... A little excessive.”

”Why ten?”

”How tired were your lines by the end?”

Everyone exchanged looks.

”Mine too. They need more conditioning. So I’m going to have them run now, while their bodies are still recovering from the fatigue of the last drill. This will help stimulate a second wind by the time they’re finishing their third or fourth laps.”

”Hou do you knou?”

”Call it ‘faith’.”

General Comet smiled, despite her initial disapproval.

”Very well. But if we see someone looking like they’re going to collapse, we’ll pull them from the run. Understood?”

”Of course. Collapsing is not the goal.”

All in agreement, the second phase of training was about to begin...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK

#, as written by KumoriRyuu

Revolution Base (Theta), Veilbrand

Three Days Later...

Frosas, the final day of the seven day calendar week. The improvements in basic body mechanics, accuracy, and confidence in the Revolution’s forces were small, but noticeable. All four Generals, as they watched the final group of trainees completing their final exercise for the night, glanced to one another silently before observing Kyero as he raised a hand and called for everyone to stop.

”That’s enough, everyone. Find your partner and begin your cool-down stretches. Once you’re done, you’re free to leave.”

Everyone partnered up and began stretching together. Assisting each other with both forward and side splits, back stretches, chest stretches, and core stretches. And within five minutes, everyone had finished and was on their way to their quarters in the barracks.

Meanwhile, the Generals approached Kyero.

”Not bad for your first week, Kyero.” General Sol stated plainly.

”I believe congratulations are in ordeur?” General Luna added.

”They’ve obviously gained confidence in you as an instructor, and that’s good.”

”Yes. If they doun’t trust you, the woun’t wourk hard for you.”

”I would suggest that you take this time to review the progress they’ve made and immediately plan for next week’s instruction.”

Kyero remained facing the departing trainees.

”I already have my plan for next week.”

”And that would be?”

”Kobas, Muras, and Legas will be strength and cardio conditioning, as well as partner exercises to increase combat synchronization. Illas, Sutoras, and Oelas will focus on speed, accuracy, and reaction times. And Frosas will be a day to rest, focusing on meditation and discussion about topics which they may be concerned about.”

The Generals glanced to one another.

”I can understand Kobas through Oelas, but Frosas being about meditation and discussion? What purpose would dedicating a full day to them be?”

Kyero turned towards General Star.

”General. How many times during this Revolution have you found yourself feeling tired in a way unrelated to combat fatigue?”

”A few times. Why?”

”Take it from me, General. Devoting all of your time to training yields... Mixed results. There must be time for rest to let the mind and body both cool down.”

”I agree with the point that we must give them time to rest their bodies. But discussion? I agree with General Staur that this is confusing to me.”

”Before I answer, I’d like to ask a question of my own. Have any of you ever discussed with them what their personal fears, goals, and motivations are?”

Silence.

”I didn’t think so. You receive your orders, relay them, and then you’re off to the field of battle. It’s a simple approach, but it lacks something important: Trust.”

The Generals expressions hardened slightly as they glanced between one another.

”Before you argue, hear me out. You know this well enough, but I’ll say anyway that these are ordinary people. They’re not soldiers. You’ve all become Generals in this Revolution. A title granted to soldiers with great experience in most circumstances. And you now lead them as if they were soldiers. But they’re not. They’ll never be soldiers. They’re just people fighting to reclaim their homeland. And right now their only connection to you is their orders...”

Kyero trailed off a bit, his lower lip twitching slightly as he lowered his head.

”If orders are all they have, they’re no better than mindless weapons...” He said quietly.

Lifting his head, his voice regained its edge.

”Without a connection to you, they lack anything other than their personal motivation. They’re individuals, not a unified body acting as one.”

The four Generals eyes all opened a touch wider and they each took a deep breath as they remained silent to let Kyero continue.

”Requesting a discussion between myself and them will help me connect with them on a deeper level. I won’t take to the field with them when they’re deployed. But if I can help build a sense of common understanding between them and unify their mentality, their survival rate will skyrocket.”

General Comet stepped forward.

”I understand. You seek to create a brotherhood among them, if you will. More than just “we are the people of Veilbrand.” You want to give them a common understanding to share despite their differences in background and social class before joining this Revolution. This would see their faith and trust in one another rise, and allow them to fight with both ferocity of purpose and peace of mind at the same time knowing they all have each other's backs as one... Correct?”

General Sol was silently approached by a messenger and handed a piece of parchment.

”Exactly.”

”... I have to admit I’m impressed.”

”It doesn’t look like you have much time to act on this, Kyero. This report states that Egruus’ forces are soon to march on the city of Kruutzag, to the Northeast.”

”You’ve got to be kidding.”

”What’s the issue?”

”We occupied that city about a month ago. We knew he’d be back for it eventually, but we didn’t know he’d be preparing to move on it this soon. Our supplies there are meager due to the recent re-allocation of resources to Fort Hruitz on the Western front last week before your arrival. If we don’t perform an emergency deployment within the next few days, we’re not going to have enough supplies or manpower to protect the city.”

”... Is that right?”

”Unfortunately, yes... The troop aren’t going to like this. An emergency deployment is going to decrease morale.”

”Especially once they learn Egruus is going to send 1,000 men versus our four hundred, presuming we can spare everyone for the operation.”

”We’ll have to use everyone. The city isn’t laid out in a way that could serve as the difference maker.”

”This is not good. If we can’t maintain our pousition, we will lose moure than just the city.”

”We stand to lose an ally.”

”Who?”

”The Archbishop of Gweynura has family in the city. If even one of them comes to harm, he’s sworn to withdraw his support for our cause which includes a hefty sum of Gold and access to his personal trade caravan. We’ve kept that connection out of the public eye for now, but Egruus is shrewd enough to notice the drop off in our resources if we lose this connection.”

Kyero slowly looked away, and General Comet arched an eyebrow as she noticed his center of balance shifting away from his walking stick. Kyero was quick to make the correction, but it was too late. However, she maintained her silence as Kyero took a step away from them.

”... I don’t suppose we have any time to waste, then. Until the time of deployment, I will be starting each day with meditation followed by discussion and an impromptu training plan based on what we discuss. Our priority now is to maintain and build up their morale before deployment. And I may call on one or more of you to help. Agreed?”

Agreed. They all said in unison.

”Good. Then I will take my leave for the evening... I need to think.”

With that, Kyero limped off to his quarters as the Generals disbursed.

Later that night...


Kyero sat in his chair near the window, looking outside. His room was on the fourth floor of the building, above the rooftops of surrounding buildings. His bandanna was wrapped around his forehead, allowing him a brief, secret reprieve from its confining fabrics.

Knock, knock.

The bandanna was pulled down, and Kyero grabbed the walking stick and placed it closer to his chair.

”Enter.”

General Comet walked into the room, closing and locking the door behind her.

”Good evening, Kyero. I hope I’m not bothering you.”

”Not at all. What can I do for you, General Comet?”

She took up a seat in the empty chair next to him.

”... You’re not really crippled, are you?”

”What gives you that impression?”

”I noticed your center of gravity shifting today without the need for the stick. If you were really a cripple, you’d have moved the stick first to compensate for it.”

Kyero took a long, soft breath through his nose as he turned his head towards the window.

”You’re a better teacher than you thought.” She chuckled.

”Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. But it does make me wonder why you pretend to be crippled?”

”Would it serve anyone better if they knew I wasn’t?”

”It might. I mean, most of the troops weren’t all that enthusiastic about being taught by a blind cripple until you demonstrated how well your ears compensate for your lack of sight.”

”I see...”

”Are you even blind?”

”Yes.”

”Really?”

”Yes.”

”How can I be sure?”

”My sense of hearing would not be able to help me accomplish what I have if my sight hadn’t failed.”

”... I suppose that’s true. How did you go blind, anyway?”

”Scarlet Fever. But because my parents didn’t think it was anything other than a rash caused by allergies to new clothing they’d bought me, they didn’t take me to the doctors in time to stop the infection from spreading to my eyes which destroyed my retinas.”

”I see. That’s awful.”

”Well, I survived. So I wouldn’t call it “awful.” “Unfortunate,” yes. But if I hadn’t lost my sight my hearing wouldn’t have become as sensitive as it is. And I wouldn’t have become an instructor for the Revolution’s forces.”

General Comet chuckled softly, but shook her head.

”You know, you’re a bad liar, Kyero”

”Why do you say that? You don’t believe me?”

”It wasn’t much, but the lie about your crippled status now makes me question everything else about you. And I’m wondering what I would see if I took that bandanna off.”

”Nothing you’d like. My eyes aren’t a pretty sight.”

”Would you mind letting me be the judge of that?”

”I’m sorry, General Comet. But yes. I would mind.”

”... Very well. I’ll keep my word about not telling anyone you’re crippled. But whatever it is you’re hiding from us, you can’t hide it forever Kyero. Trust me.”

She stood up to leave, but paused short of gripping the door knob.

”You know... I like what you’re doing for our people. I really do. But until you come clean about what you’re hiding, I don’t think I can trust you on a personal level.” She began, glancing over her shoulder. ”And weren’t you the one saying we needed to build trust to become a unified group instead of a gaggle of individuals?”

Kyero remained silent.

”... Goodnight, Kyero. I hope that whatever you have planned for our people gives them the strength and courage to face what’s ahead.”

With that, she exited the room and closed the door quietly behind herself. And once he heard her footsteps trail off, Kyero took a deep breath as he removed his bandanna once again and looked outside.

The moon was almost full. It would be by the time of deployment. Kyero had until then to rally the Revolution’s forces on a personal level and build their confidence in what they’d learned, in each other, and in their leadership figures. If he couldn’t, this may very well be the Revolution’s final mission. Either they survived this coming assault, or they lose everything and need to start fresh... If they can.

And as he stared at the moon, his eyes began glowing brighter.

Kyero hissed and grabbed his chest as his heart began pounding like a hammer against his lungs. His breath was cut short, and he curled forward, knocking his stick over in the process, as he landed on his kneed and covered his mouth with his free hand. Slowly, blood leaked from between his fingers and his vision began to blur. And a deep, dark voice began resounding in his mind.

It came on a whisper.
Wwwwweeeee can stoooooop hiiiiiimmmmm...

Kyero violently shook his head, throwing droplets of blood across the floor as he doubled forward planting his forehead on the wooden planks.

Dooooon’t resiiiiiissssssst... It’s foooooorrrrr theeeeemmmmmmmmmmm...

Kyero lifted his head and slammed his forehead into the floor, almost knocking himself unconscious as he toppled over onto his side. His heart rate began falling, and the metallic taste of blood in his mouth waned as it stopped flowing freely. Slowly, Kyero pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, breathing heavily as the last few drops of blood fell from his lip to the floor.

Whhhyyyyy resiiiiisssssst?...

Through labored breathing, ”Because fuck you.” He growled.

The voice fell silent as Kyero’s heart settled and the pain in his chest faded. He stood up slowly, using the table for balance, as he wiped the blood from his mouth and caught his breath. And as he looked to the moon one last time before closing the blinds, Kyero sighed.

”Seems I’m running out of time in more ways than one.”

Kyero then replaced his bandana over his eyes and left the room. He needed to clean up his mess.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK


Revolution Base (Theta), Veilbrand

The Following Evening


"Seven groups. Seven meditation sessions. Seven discussions. Now it's number eight."

"Yes... I must say I'm conflicted."

"Why's that, Star?"

"... Something about Kyero's method of rallying them one group at a time makes me uneasy."

"I must admit I am alsou somewhat distourbed by Kyero's approach. He knous for sure what he's douing. But it feels... Artificial to me."

"Hmm."

"Troubling or not, we shouldn't pass judgement just yet."

A mere fifteen meters away, Kyero was in the middle of his discussion with the final group of the day. And...

"You're afraid?"

"Yeah. I mean, it's 1,000 to four hundred! More than two to one! You're not scared because you're not being deployed!"

"You're right. I'm not being deployed."

"And that's because you're more important, isn't it?! You need to stay alive so you can train anyone new! But we're all expendable!"

"That's not true."

"The hell it's not! You can't say any-"

In half a second, the near panicked sap was flat on his back with Kyero kneeling over him, keeping him pinned on the ground.

"Calm yourself, and listen. If we lose Kruutzag, the Revolution as a whole will fall. It's not about throwing all of you into the jaws of death. It's about sending you, our only hope, to battle Egruus's forces and keep that spark of hope alive."

Kyero gently let go of the man's lapel, and held out a hand to help him up.

"You're not expendable... You're our only hope."

The man reached out, and Kyero helped him to his feet.

"Trust yourself, trust each other, and you will prevail. They may have numbers, but the Revolution has something infinitely more valuable and worth fighting for. And that's why you all deserve to, and are going to survive. Do you understand me?"

The man gulped, but nodded.

"I want to hear an answer. Do you understand me?"

"... Yeah."

"What was that? You spoke too quietly."

"I understand."

"Then say it again. Louder."

"I understand!"

"How about you?" He asked, pointing to another person in the group. "Do you understand?"

"Y-yes, sir!"

"How about you?" He asked another. "And you? And you?" He asked while pointing to others around him. "Do you all understand?"

"Yes!" Those three said in unison.

"How about the rest of you? Do you understand?!" Kyero yelled.

"YES!!" They all cried.

"Then let the Egruus and his men hear you from here?! What are you going to do in Kruutzag?!"

"SURVIVE!!"

"Survive and what?! Conquer or Flee?!"

"CONQUER!!"

The group began cheering and jumping up and down giving each other confident and friendly glances, accompanied by fist bumps and hand shakes with promises of watching over each other when the battle arrived.

"You are the Revolution! You are our hope! Now take this time to create groups amongst yourselves and work through the combat drills we've all worked on this week together! You have one hour left before you adjourn for the night! So make good use of it!"

"YES, SIR!!"

The group immediately set to work. They gathered into groups of between four and eight, and started working on their drills together to watch each other's techniques and offer criticisms and positive reinforcement. Kyero, meanwhile, walked to the side and sat on a bench.

The Four Generals watched silently as Kyero seemed to take in a deep breath, almost as if he was tired.

General Comet broke from the herd and approached, sitting next to him.

"Need a break?"

"No."

"Kyero. We all saw that deep breath you took. I know you've been at this all day, but did shouting for them really take that much out of you?"

"I'm fine, General Comet."

"... You know, it's hard to trust someone who walls themselves off like this."

Kyero was about to speak, but she was already up and on the move, returning to the others as they discussed what they saw before going to help the groups work on their drills. And this left Kyero alone on the bench, listening calmly to what was happening around him. And then, a hand on his shoulder made his head come up slightly.

"Good evening, Kyero."

"Who are you?"

"Call me Shor. The Maiden would like a word."

"As you wish."

The two men stood up and departed the training grounds. And within minutes, Kyero sat in the same chair he'd received a beating in earlier in the week. The door was closed and locked, and Kyero's bandanna was pulled off his head by the Maiden who stood above Kyero in his seat, just like before.

She walked back a few steps, keeping her eyes glued to his while noting the lack of marks from the beating he'd taken a few days ago.

"You heal quickly."

"Not by choice."

"Irrelevant. My apologies." She said, turning away and moving to sit at her desk.

"I've received reports from the Generals. And it seems you're doing well with our forces... But there are concerns."

"Such as?"

"I believe she's already begun to suspect you. Would you deny this?"

"... General Comet."

"Yes. She's begun to suspect who you are, though I've backed up the story you came up with, courtesy of Shor's masterful eavesdropping."

Kyero glanced to Shor, a tall and slender man in his late 30's with short cut hair and a mischievous smirk glued to his lips. His angular jaw almost looked emaciated, reinforced by the slender neck lacking significant musculature, and the overall wiry frame. He wore a shirt and pants which were both a size too large and held in place by a belt around his slender waist. Kyero briefly wondered if he even ate or exercised. However... Kyero never detected him eavesdropping.

"I told her your eyes are grayed out from loss of pigmentation in the iris, as well as permanently being bloodshot, and quite the ugly sight. So if she asks, you know how to answer. Understood?"

"Yes... Now why am I really here?"

"Your discussions with the troops today has done good things for their morale and sense of camaraderie. In all honesty... I... Thank you, for that."

"So what do you want from me?"

"If I may?" Shor asked, receiving a wave of approval from the Maiden.

"You claimed that suicide missions wouldn't stop you, and that you'd always find a way to come back with success. So it's time to put that to the test. Come to this table, please."

Kyero stood and approached the table where Shor opened a map and pinned the corners down with tacks.

"This is where we are now," he began, circling a town just south of Lemnia's pinky finger. "This is Kruutzag," he added, circling a city on the opposite side of the mountain range. "You weren't wrong when you told everyone that if we lose that city, the Revolution is lost. Without the Archbishop's financial aid and trade access, we're finished. He's the backbone of our supply operation. So your job, effective immediately, is to make your way to Kruutzag and do what you do best: assassination."

"Who's the target?"

"Thresia Farland, one of Egruus' mistresses. She also serves as one of his personal confidants and has a lot of valuable information stored in her head about the infrastructure of his operations. If you can get anything out of her before killing her, consider that your priority. But once you've got what you need, kill her. If she's allowed to live when his forces arrive, we won't stand a chance."

"Why's that?"

"You'll understand when you find her."

"Shor, this is no time for games." The Maiden said, rising to her feet and approaching the table and stabbing Kuurtzag's circle with her knife.

"Thresia is the foremost authority of gunpowder and its practical application in modern weaponry in all of Veilbrand. Thanks to our Intelligence Leads and Scouts, we know she's recently finished development of several obscure weapons which utilize it. We don't know what they are, what they look like, or what they're capable of yet. But if you can find out before you end her life, then our odds will increase that much more."

"Do you understand the risks involved with this mission now?"

Kyero turned towards Shor with a silent, empty glare.

"Good."

"Kyero?"

His gaze shifted to the Maiden, who returned the edge of his glare with her own.

"You can't be seen. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Do you really?"

Kyero's eyes flashed briefly, and he slowly backed away towards the shadows of the room's darkest corner.

"Answer me, Kyero! Do you really understand the importance of not being seen!?"

Kyero backed into the darkness, disappearing completely save for the glow of his eyes piercing the shadows. And as the glow of his eyes faded, the Maiden quickly lit a candle and rushed after him only to be met by a solid wall.

"How the-?"

"Seems our Demon has a few tricks up his sleeve we were unaware of."

"He's insufferable... Gods help me."

"Perhaps. But on to another matter. Are you satisfied with the explanation of his disappearance we talked about before?"

"Yes. They'll believe it so long as it comes from me. Make sure they're in my office at sunup."

"As you wish, Maiden."

With that, Shor exited the room leaving the Maiden to lock it after him and slump into her chair, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Don't fuck this up, Kyero. Please." She said quietly.

The setting changes from Veilbrand to Kruutzag

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

0.00 INK

#, as written by KumoriRyuu

Outside the City of Kruutzag, Veilbrand

Two Days Later


As night began to fall on his second day of travel, Kyero sat on a cliff ledge overlooking the city of Kruutzag.

A city sprawling beneath a massive fortified mansion which could only belong to his target. At least seven stories tall and boasting a minimum of two hundred rooms for servants and any guests she may have. Surrounding it for 360 degrees was a wall made of steel bars around fifteen feet in height with what looked to be a form of serrated or barbed wire along the top. Guards patrolled almost every section of the exterior gardens which encircled the mansion, to say nothing of the fact that many of the windows were for decoration and clearly didn't open. Those which did open were under a secondary measure of security in the form of a pair of armed guards. And those on patrol regularly crossed paths with them.

"Impressive." He whispered.

Kyero scanned the area surrounding the mansion for any signs of gaps in the patrols. And much to his chagrin, there weren't any. Each patrol covered the blind spot of the next leaving no easy openings. And what made things worse was that there were no buildings anywhere around the mansion which were close enough to leap the fence. He'd have to find a point to leap the fence, quickly take out the guards, and get inside without being seen.

Kyero took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he relaxed his shoulders.

And right as he was preparing to move, he spotted something which made him smile.

"Time to work." He whispered, removing one of his Orichalcum daggers from behind his back and his eyes briefly flashed.

A few minutes later, at the Southeast side of the wall, a pair of patrolling guards paused at the end of their route and looked around cautiously.

"Hoi. I need to piss."

"Seriously?"

"Sorry. I haven't gone since before our shift started this afternoon."

"Ugh. Fine. Find a bush and hurry up."

The guard who required relief handed his weapon to his partner and quickly ducked behind one of the massive bushes closest to the bars in the wall. And as he unzipped, he felt something tap his left shoulder. Turning around to take a look, he was met with a brief flash of light reflecting off what looked like a metal surface before everything went white. A soft thump sound caught his partner's attention.

"Hoi! You finished yet?" He called.

Silence.

He put one of the weapons down and meandered into the bush, muttering to himself the entire way. When he found his partner's lifeless body, he was about to yell out before a flash of darkness rose up in front of him on the other side of the wall and another flash of light came his way. A sharp pain caught his throat, and he tried to yell. But it was no use. His vocal chords had just been slashed as his throat split and began spraying blood onto the grass as he fell forward and bled out silently, the only sounds being his meager attempts to halt the blood before his body went still.

Kyero carefully gripped the bars and, using the friction generated by his weight, pushed himself up higher and quickly threw his hands up above his head to grip them again. Lifting himself up, he threw his right hand over his left and quickly lifted himself up sideways, and then feet vertically until they caught the top of the wall through the wire. Using that as an anchor, he slowly, hand by hand, walked his body up to the top of the wall and carefully manipulated the wire to allow himself to slip through. On the way down, he landed softly and dragged the bloody body further into the bush and out of sight. He then stripped the clothing and armor from the other body and replaced it with his own clothing. Now dressed the part of a guard, he took up the man's weapon and returned to the end of the patrol route.

Having memorized the routes as he examined the mansion earlier, he knew where to walk and where to stop. And upon reaching the furthest point opposite, and having lowered the visor to hide his eye color, he was questioned by the others about where his partner had gone.

"He needed a piss break." He said, mimicking the man's voice almost perfectly.

"Again? That guy's got the weakest bladder I've ever seen."

"Damn straight. He's probably gonna pass out soon too from not eating all day. And if he does, I'm gonna drag his ass inside and ask for a new partner."

The others chuckled and gave him a fist bump before letting him on his way. And with that taken care of, Kyero moved along to the pair of guards blocking a window along his route. His route called for a pause a short distance away, so he casually waved to them. Upon receiving a head nod in response, he wandered over.

"Hoi. Another boring night, huh?"

"Yeah. Nothing ever happens to this place. It's kind of boring, really."

"It's reallu boring, you mean."

"Yeah. So much so letting my partner take a piss break was the highlight of my evening."

The two men laughed, and Kyero chuckled along with them for a moment. But as soon as he saw both of their eyes close while shaking their heads, Kyero dropped the weapon he'd taken from the other guard, lunged forward past the two before him, and slammed both fists, now carrying an Orichalcum dagger in each hand, backwards into their bodies. A dagger to the heart for each, splitting the organs in two and causing an explosion of blood in their torso's before pulling them free and spinning around to slash the gap between their helmets and chest armor, slicing their nervous systems and causing their bodies to crumple to the ground in heaps. Kyero then placed them in seated positions, as if they were asleep, with backs against the wall to hide the blood.

That done, Kyero opened the window and climbed inside carefully, closing it behind him as he did so.



Meanwhile, in her quarters, Thresia Forland sipped a glass of imported Gweynuran wine. And before her were three figures, all down on one knee with gazes locked on the floor with sweat slowly dripping from their temples.

"So, my shipment is going to be delayed?"

"Y-yes, ma'am. We're dreadfully-"

"Don't fret. I'm not going to kill you for this."

A breath of relief.

"Yet."

His breath hitched, and the color drained from his face as she rose from her chair, slowly tilting the wine glass too and fro to watch the liquid swish and sway in the glass. Stopping in front of him, she lifted his chin with her index fingertip and spoke calmly and softly.

"We need powder to fuel our weaponry. And we need our traders safe and confident in the routes we provide them so deliveries can be made on time. This war against the Revolution won't wait for us to be ready. And neither will Egruus. If he finds out about this, what do you think he'll do to us?"

Her icy gaze pierced the man's soul as each word fell from her tongue like drops of venom from the fangs of a snake.

"You, as the one responsible, at the very least will receive twenty lashings of the whip, potentially followed by incarceration on one of his torture dungeons. Do you want that?"

"N-no ma'am!"

She lifted his chin a bit higher by digging her nail into his flesh.

"Then be a dear and fix this. Send a carrier pigeon to inform them that this is now a rush the delivery. If you must, attach a few gold coins as incentive. We need that powder here in two days. No fewer. Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

She released her finger and smiled sweetly.

"Thank you, dear."

The man rose from his position and turned to leave, but as he reached the door a 'BANG' erupted from behind him. Looking down to his chest, he felt a surge of pain and a small red dot began growing and growing before the liquid beneath his shirt dripped to the carpet. Turning around holding his chest, he saw her pointing a finger at him. And as his vision began to blur he dropped to his knees before falling to the ground in a heap. The other two men didn't dare look up or look back. They kept their eyes glued to the floor as a beautiful young servant, blonde save for a hint of brown around the tips of her bangs, opened the door and bowed.

"My lady. Will you require this to be cleaned?"

"Yes, Hannah. Thank you, dear."

Hannah bowed and left the room.

Thresia looked to her finger and a tiny barrel extending from a contraption hidden beneath the sleeve of her dress. Pulling the sleeve back revealed the mechanism, similar to that of a pistol trigger, tucked comfortably against her flesh. A simple button released the barrel, and the pull of the trigger released the round. One shot only, but that was all she needed in close quarters. She reset the barrel and cocked the trigger before turning to the others.

"You heard what I said about the carrier pigeon, yes?"

"Yes ma'am!" They replied in unison.

"Good. Please get to work, and mind the blood when you walk over the body. I don't want bloody footprints trailing along my carpets."

"Yes ma'am!" They said before hurrying out of the room and, as carefully as possible, going around the body.

Thresia sat in her chair and drank the rest of her wine before setting the glass down and stretching her arms out above her head with a yawn. Hannah returned a moment later with several other servants who carefully lifted the body into a tub, wiped down the edge so it didn't drip, and hauled the body away. Hannah herself and one other servant remained to clean the bloodstains out of the carpet while Thresia looked on.

"Hannah, my dear. Please face away from me while you wipe. I don't want to see the blood."

"Of course, my lady." Hannah replied.

Hannah rotated around until she was facing the door on her hands and knees wiping the blood with the others. Thresia, meanwhile, watched Hannah intently with a calm smile on her face. Hannah's slender waist, modest yet perky bust, the curvature of her hips and thighs in her servant's dress. Thresia licked her lips and crossed her legs as she kept her eyes glued to Hannah's body while she worked. And as they finished and the carpets were clean, albeit damp, she nodded in satisfaction at their work. The servants all bowed and began to leave, Hannah leaving last, while Thresia took in a deep breath and leaned back in her chair.

"Is this how he feels when he looks at me?" She asked aloud.

Standing from her chair and moving behind her change screen, Thresia dropped her garments and donned a light night gown and moved to her window to gaze outside at the now full moon and the beautiful gardens surrounding her home.

"It's a beautiful night." She whispered.

A flash of Hannah on her hands and knees wiping the floor clean popped into her mind suddenly, making her gasp and her thighs clamp together as she panted and felt her flushed face warming up.

"It is a beautiful night, isn't it?... Best not waste it." She panted, going to the door and ringing a bell hanging near the side.

A moment later, a servant arrived.

"Yes, my lady?"

"Please summon Hannah to my chambers, immediately."

"Of course, my lady."

The door closed, and she leaned against it catching her breath and doing her best to relax herself. She walked over towards the bed and smoothed the covers out a bit. And as a knock came to the door she jumped a little and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Enter."

Hannah walked through the door with a bow.

"Please close and lock the door, Hannah."

She did as she was told, and approached.

"What can I do for you, my lady?"

Thresia eyes the young woman up and down and gave her best sultry smile.

"Come closer." She urged with a curled finger gesture.

Hannah came closer, and continued to do so until Thresia stopped her with a hand up.

"Thank you, my dear. Now, what I need from you is something I've not asked of anyone in a long time."

"I live to serve you, my lady. What do you desire?"

Thresia stood and pressed her chest to Hannah's, wrapping one arm around her waist and pulling her in close. Hannah gasped softly, and her eyes widened with uncertainty.

"I desire you, my dear. Now, please be kind to me. It's been a long time."

"M-... My lady. This is-Ah!" She was cut off as Thresia's hands began to wander. "This is not appropriate, my lady." She pleaded, face turning pink as she shut her eyes and struggled to maintain a steady breath.

"Relax, my dear. If anywhere in your mind you're worried that I'll hurt you, banish the thought." She cooed, licking Hannah's cheek.

Hannah couldn't relax. Her body was tense, eyes shut tight, and fists clenched at her sides as she trembled under Thresia's touch.


Elsewhere in the mansion, Kyero had ditched the guard outfit in an unoccupied room's closet and stolen a black shirt and pants from the dresser. He also found a pair of black boots in another room, which he quickly donned and acclimated himself to before proceeding through the building. All the rooms and hallways were confusing to navigate. But given her ties to Egruus, he figured her room would be somewhere on the top floor.

Moving as stealthily through the halls as possible, Kyero moved from room to room over the course of several minutes until he found the main stairwell. Waiting for a group of servants to pass, he made his way upstairs to the top level, dodging wandering servants as he went. Some of them far too close for comfort. And once he was almost seen, and had to hide in the rafters of a room to avoid someone coming to check. Thankfully, they chalked it up to seeing things and moved on. But it was far, far too close.

No more screw ups, Kyero. He thought.

Finally, he reached a hallway which ended with a door that could only lead to Thresia's chambers. Kyero carefully slinked along, dodging one final wandering servant as he made his way to the room. Leaning against the door, he pressed his ear to it and heard... Sounds he wasn't expecting to hear. Not quite sure what to make of it, Kyero found his way up into the ceiling through another room and made his way to Thresia's chambers where those sounds were ongoing.

Is that another girl I hear? He thought.

Kyero settled in the ceiling above Thresia's chambers, and patiently waited until the sounds became less frequent and, finally, came to an end... Almost an hour later.


In the room, Hannah slowly and shakily dressed herself with Thresia lying beneath the covers and her nightgown sprawled across the floor. Thresia breathed heavily with a wide grin on her face as Hannah quickly approached the door.

"Hannah."

She froze, hand on the door knob.

"Thank you, my dear. That was... Heavenly... I'll be calling on you again. Soon. Good night."

"... G-... Good night... My lady." She stammered.

Quickly, she left the room, closing the door a little harder than she'd intended and dashing through the halls with tears dripping from her cheeks. Thresia, meanwhile, rolled over onto her side pulling the covers with her so she was snuggled in nice and tight.

"By the Gods, it's been too long... If this is how good he feels when he calls upon me, I guess I can't exactly blame him for how he handles his urges." She whispered.

As she rested her eyes, she noticed the subtle hint that the light sources had gone out. Opening her eyes, the room had gone dark. All the candles were out, which was odd since none of the windows were open.

"What?"

Getting out of bed, she walked over to the nearest candle and inspected it. The wick was still hot, and the very tip looked like it had been pinched. And as she turned around, Thresia saw a pair of red eyes glowering at her from the shadows. She opened her mouth to scream, but a large hand clamped around her throat preventing her from calling out.

"Not a sound." Kyero growled, pulling her in close.

She tried to thrash out at him, but all of the hidden weapons she had were removed with her clothing earlier. She had nothing but her body to use, and it wasn't working. She was lifted up and forcefully set down in her chair. As she started to pass out, the grip around her throat slackened just enough for her to take a deep breath before it clamped down again.

"Not. A. Sound." He growled again, slowly releasing her.

She felt the edge of a blade against her throat as she struggled to catch her breath. And as she looked up, the moon peeked out from behind a cloud and partially illuminated the face of the Red-Eyed Demon.

"My... You're more handsome than I expected."

The blade pressed against her throat a bit harder, resulting in a soft gulp.

"Not interested in a naked woman, huh? Perhaps you prefer men?"

The blade moved laterally, slicing through a few layers of skin resulting in a hiss from Thresia as he leaned down towards her and narrowed his eyes.

"Fine. Fine. I know the game... Ask away."

"Newly developed weaponry."

Thresia scoffed.

"Look sweetheart. You're real scary with those eyes and all, but come on. You think I'd give up the secrets of my weapons just like that?"

The blade pushed against her throat, forcing her to lean all the way back in her chair and if she wanted to avoid another slice. Meanwhile, a second blade emerged and was placed horizontally across her right wrist.

"Weapons."

"There's more to be scared of in this world than you, dear. I can't give you that information."

"Very well."

Kyero's blade was retracted and an open hand was slammed into her throat. Kyero's blade then sliced along the flesh of her wrist before she could react to it, and as she pulled her hand back on instinct a moment later he kept the blade pressed down which forced the flesh to peel away from the muscle and bone beneath it. Effectively, she skinned a hefty portion of her own hand on his blade.

Thresia looked at her hand, trying to scream but unable to get more than a choked hoarse whisper out thanks to her paralyzed vocal cords as Kyero loomed over her. The sight of her flesh peeled away like an onion layer and seeing the bloody tendons, muscles, and bones beneath instantly brought her to nausea. She covered her mouth with her good hand and dry heaved over the side of the chair before her stomach at last let loose its contents. Kyero waited patiently for her to stop heaving, and then pushed her back up into her chair.

Sheathing his daggers, he brought a needle and thread out from a small pouch on his belt behind his back. As she sat there crying and trying to yell in pain, he held her wrist down and stitched the flesh back into its proper place. Following this, he brought out a bottle of salve and rubbed it over the wound which numbed it and gave her temporary relief as her voice slowly started coming back as her vocal cords recovered from the blow.

"That was my only salve, Thresia." He said in a low voice.

She looked up at him through her tears as she gripped her hand and nodded.

"Weapons... Now."

She cleared her throat and licked her lips a few times as she fought to catch her breath.

"We-... Hhh... We made miniature firearms... To conceal in clothing... Perfect for close combat surprises... My dress... Has one." She said, pointing to the changing curtain.

Kyero kept his eyes glued to her and walked back and sideways until he was at the changing wall. There, he grabbed the dress she was talking about and walked back to her before inspecting it, keeping her in his peripherals the whole time. And sure enough, he found the tiny contraption and ripped it free, tucking it into his pocket as he threw the dress to the side.

"What else?"

"We've developed a pistol with a rotating cylinder mechanism to fire multiple shots before the need to reload. We call it the Revolver. I have one in the drawer over there." She said, pointing to the small night stand near the bed behind her.

Kyero again kept his eyes on her as he walked over and retrieved the weapon, tucking it into his pants before returning to his position.

"I know better than to try anything. You can stop watching me like that." She panted.

"What else?"

"A one-shot mini pistol like the one you took from me that fits into a boot and fires when the trigger in the heel is pressed. You have to slam the heel down though if you want it to activate. And the failure rate on that one is around thirty percent. The device you took from me has a ten percent failure rate."

"Infrastructure."

"The revolver-wait. What?"

His blade was once again at her throat.

"The infrastructure of Egruus' forces. What do you know?"

"Why do you ca-"

The blade was turned down and slammed through her good hand, pinning it to the arm of the chair as he clamped his hand around her throat to stop the shriek which was inevitably to follow. Pulling the blade free, he kept her in his grip long enough for the adrenaline to numb the pain so she could speak properly without yelling.

"Now."

"All right! All right! Just no more! Please!" She cried, tears flowing like rivers as she held her hand to her chest.

"Egruus runs his military efforts like he runs almost anything else: Through fear. His five children all occupy high rankings in his army and each one is in charge of something specific. The only one whose business I know for sure though is my daughter, Felicia. She's his tactician, and the smartest of the lot. The others are in charge of his military field efforts, his population control efforts, the propaganda suppression effort, and his supply chains. I don't know which does which. I swear!"

Kyero leaned forward, getting face to face with Thresia whose eyes went wide as she leaned back and away in her chair.

"You're certain that's all you know?"

"Yes! That's all I know!"

"What about the means with which you manufacture the weapons? Where are your major facilities?"

"There's one in Valoc. One in the Gruut Mountain Range to the North. And one here beneath the city of Kruutzag. If you go to this mansion's first floor, beneath the central stairway you'll find double doors beneath the carpet at their base which lead down into the manufacturing chamber. The chimneys here are linked to them to make it seem like nothing out of the ordinary is going on."

Kyero slammed his hand down onto the spine of her chair next to her head, causing her to yelp.

"Please, let me go. I don't want to die, and I have no love for Egruus. I love only my daughter. I swear. If you let me go I'll disappear and you'll never see me again. The Revolution doesn't have to fear me. In fact, it could use my expertise! Please!" She sobbed.

Kyero's eyes searched her own, and a black aura gathered around him which then extended out and caressed her body. A few 'arms' from the aura wrapped around hers, while others wrapped around her forehead and waist. His eyes glowed more and more brightly, and finally the aura vanished as the glow receded.

"You really believe the Revolution would want you?"

"Not me. My expertise. I still have unfinished blueprints and designs the Revolution could use against him! I want Veilbrand to be free of this conflict as well, and of him. Please, spare my life and I'll join the Revolution without resistance."

Kyero slowly closed his eyes as she panted and sobbed. His mind searched for answers to questions yet unasked. But before long, his eyes snapped open and he stood up in front of her. He glared down at her silently, which eased her worries as she slowly stood up holding her impaled hand.

"So you'll let me live?"

Kyero's chin lowered, and his eyes flashed.

"No."

In an instant, she felt a pain in her chest as Kyero's blade was slammed through it, piercing her heart. Like the guard outside, it split into two halves and caused an explosion of blood inside her torso. A lot began leaking as he let her slip to the floor, covering her mouth to prevent any screams. He watched the light fade from her eyes and her chest went still, followed by her skin growing colder under his touch.

Kyero stood up slowly, glaring down at her, and closed his eyes while turning his head to the side.

"I would have spared you but..." He paused, his grip on his dagger tightening. "But... Orders." he muttered, lowering his head further.

Kyero moved to the wall and leaped into the ceiling from whence he'd come, and retraced his steps until he was outside the wall. Several minutes later, he was back on his cliff ledge looking back at the mansion. He brought out his blade and stared at it for a long time. And as a single drop of blood dripped from its tip to the dirt between his feet, he took a deep breath before sheathing it once again and lowering his head.

"I want to believe what you said, Thresia. But enough people know that I'm helping the Revolution as it is... Rest in peace." He whispered.

Kyero then disappeared into the darkness of the night.

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Kruutzag

Kruutzag by KumoriRyuu

The city of Kruutzag

Veilbrand

Veilbrand by KumoriRyuu

The Nation of Stone and Wealth

Caelen

Caelen by KumoriRyuu

The Town of Caelen

Orktusk

Orktusk by KumoriRyuu

The Village of Orktusk

Cre' Est

Cre' Est by KumoriRyuu

The Mother Nation

Triveila

Triveila by KumoriRyuu

The Nation of Water

Shaharan

Shaharan by KumoriRyuu

Nation of Sands

Gweynura

Gweynura by KumoriRyuu

Nation of Trees

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Kruutzag

Kruutzag by KumoriRyuu

The city of Kruutzag

Veilbrand

Veilbrand by KumoriRyuu

The Nation of Stone and Wealth

Caelen

Caelen by KumoriRyuu

The Town of Caelen

Orktusk

Orktusk by KumoriRyuu

The Village of Orktusk

Cre' Est

Cre' Est by KumoriRyuu

The Mother Nation

Triveila

Triveila by KumoriRyuu

The Nation of Water

Shaharan

Shaharan by KumoriRyuu

Nation of Sands

Gweynura

Gweynura by KumoriRyuu

Nation of Trees

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