Assassin's Pledge: Revolution

Veilbrand

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a part of Assassin's Pledge: Revolution, by KumoriRyuu.

The Nation of Stone and Wealth

KumoriRyuu holds sovereignty over Veilbrand, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Setting

The Southern Nation, West of the Central Mountain Range

Veilbrand

The Nation of Stone and Wealth

Minimap

Veilbrand is a part of Assassin's Pledge: Revolution.

3 Places in Veilbrand:


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyero

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???, 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

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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

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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

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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.