“…” Lord Vatenger stared at his spy with a doubtful face. It was too unbelievable for one of his best to have retreated because of a mere threat. “Raine, are you sure it was not some sort of deception with magic?
“I am, my lord. There is no doubt that my life was in the palm of his hand, and I don’t believe the boy was bluffing either. If I may make a small suggestion, I implore you to take this up with the king once more.”
“That coward will not assist us. He refuses to even hear me out about it.” Lord Vatenger replied with a voice full of frustration.
“Then what should we do?” The man named Raine questioned, remembering what happened only two nights ago. “If not even his majesty will involve himself in our ordeal, then I see no option other than to stop. The next time, we might not be as fortunate…” A deathly chill ran down his back as his mind recalled the two pitiless eyes that stared back at him, along with a voice that demanded absolute obedience and left no room for negotiation.
“For now, put two men on his family at all times and watch the city gates for the boy’s return. If we cannot watch him, we shall observe his family and await our chance.”
“Wha- But my lord, but the boy–” Raine spoke up to remind his lord but was quickly silenced.
“If he is outside of Ferrent, what can he do?” Lord Vatenger countered.
“Now we’re going to watch his family?!” Another voice that had been silently listening on the side cut into the discussion.
“I did not allow you into this meeting to hear you talk. You will be quiet and listen.” Lord Vatenger quickly reprimanded his son.
“No father! I’ve been quiet long enough! What about me? What about what he did to me? You’re just going to let that go?! If he’s outside of Ferrent, wouldn’t that be better for us?!” Ralfus angrily exclaimed.
Three turns of doing nothing was beyond what he could take. He had waited long enough, and the stump on his shoulder ached for revenge.
“I will not repeat myself. Shut up.” Lord Vatenger coldly replied, rubbing the back of his hand. “Do not presume to think that the fault lies elsewhere for what happened to you. I know it was because of your arrogance and cocksure attitude that landed you in this mess. As your father, I will pursue the necessary punishment for what was done to you, but on my own terms.” Lord Vatenger glared at his son. “You will wait for as long as needed until I have sorted everything out.”
“My lord, I don’t think we–”
“I don’t pay you to think, Raine. I pay you for the information you bring in. Just do your duty, and make sure the men know what to look out for.”
“What are you looking at?!” He shouted at a few servants who looked in his direction as he walked past them. “Get back to work before I split your lips, you damned bitches!”
With a throbbing and swollen face, Ralfus quickly made his way back to his room.
“Each and every one of them! Looking down on me! Those bitches must be laughing right now!” He cried out angrily.
His father had pulled him out of the academy after losing his arm, opting for a private teacher instead. The pain of the lost had disappeared a long time ago, but the disgrace and indignity he suffered that day were still burning strongly within him. The stump was a constant reminder of the humiliation he suffered, and every time someone looked at him, he could see that they were sneering at him.
For three whole turns he had waited for his father to bring the boy to justice, but the old man was taking his sweet time.
His two older brothers were impartial to his problems, and neither of them had bothered to care. They were jealous of his awakening, and he knew it.
It was up to himself to exact his own revenge.
“Just you wait, you filthy peasant.”
Untethered by the laws of the world, Kaidus soared through the air under the cover of night.
It had been six nights since he left the caravan, and his destination was revealed to be somewhere in the swamplands of Eastern Darsus. Veiled in his gray cloak, a thin layer of mana swirled around him like a suit of armor, protecting him from the crushing force of the wind as he cut through the sky alongside Zion.
After six nights of travel, he had already passed the Frosted Peaks of the Tavalig Mountains and the stretch of inland sea that separated the Southeastern half of Darsus. His speed was beyond what it was before, and he reveled in the power that was coursing through him, slowly becoming more and more stable with each passing year as his physical body matured.
As dawn broke through the horizon, he began his descent into the forests to rest and reinvigorate his weary body. Before submerging himself beneath the covers of the trees, through the corner of his eyes, he spotted a large plume of smoke.
‘Tal’hrus.’ The word came to his mind, remembering that burning villages and towns were how they went about their businesses. Forgoing rest, he turned towards the direction of the smoke with haste.
Emerging through the forest, he noticed that many trees had been felled, yet all were left untouched with axes and lumbering tools lying on the ground next to them. As he neared the origin of the smoke, he saw that the surrounding forest had been harvested and new saplings were emerging in their place. It was obviously the work of a logging village and he was about to turn away, but the thick smell of blood and pitch black smoke kept his attention.
The houses had all been burnt to the ground as the village came into view, and patches of blood-soaked earth were everywhere. The sound of shouting and laughter entered his ears along with the smell of burning flesh.
“STOP!!” A voice shouted at him as he entered the outskirts of the village.
Turning to his right, a man wearing shabby leather armor and holding a bow emerged from the shadows of one of the burnt houses.
“Mister, what happened here?”
“Move and I put an arrow through you!” The man shouted, drawing his bow. “One of you idiots get over here and tie up this bastard before I bleed him with an arrow!”
Shortly after, two other men appeared. “Another? But I was sure we got everyone.”
“Kid must’ve been out of the village last night. It just means his luck has ran out fer him to be back so soon.” The other grinned.
“Shut up. Tie’m up and put him with the rest. The boss wants to leave as soon as we finish burning the bodies. Don’t want to have to add another body and prolong our stay.”
Bandits. Kaidus quickly understood. “Did you guys kill all the villagers?” He questioned, wondering why bandits were killing and burning villages.
“Shut yer face and don’t move if you don’t want to be gutted.” One of the man sneered, moving over to him with a rope. “Blame yerself fer coming back at such a bad time.”
“… Blame yourselves for having crossed my path.” He spoke, catching the man’s arm that moved to grab his. Flames immediately erupted from his fingertips and covered the man.
“Mage!” The bowman cried out, releasing the arrow he had been holding back.
The arrow aimed true, but before it could pierce Kaidus, a beam of light flashed towards the archer. Swallowing the arrow whole, the light tore out a large chunk of the archer’s right torso before vanishing.
The third man tried to scream. Seeing one of his comrades burst into flames, while the other was trying to hold onto the entrails that were sliding out of the gaping hole in his side, but a metal arm had taken hold of his face and lifted him off the ground.
“Crush him.” Kaidus commanded mercilessly, and Feziel obeyed.
The sound of bones cracking could be heard over the man’s muffled cries before a limp and lifeless body was dropped to the ground.
“Surround the village. Kill anyone that dares to flee.” A voice filled with anger and a cold unforgiving calm echoed through the air.
“At once.” “By Your Will.” “Massster.” The three spirits simultaneously obeyed.
Without any further words, he stepped over the lifeless body of the man that Feziel had crushed.
“Why the fuck is that little shit not tied up?!” A man shouted as he walked into the midst of the camp—within the center of the village.
As if noticing him for the first time, all the others turned to look in his direction.
“By the four gods! What in the world are Nabaras and them doing?!” A woman exclaimed, picking up a dagger and readying herself for an ambush.
While the bandits were clamoring about, Kaidus was calmly watching.
There were roughly about fifteen people, each with a weapon in their hand, and all of them were looking around for phantoms that didn’t exist. A large tent was set up by the edge of the village center, and another one almost as large right beside it.
In front of him, a bonfire was burning brightly with a pile of bodies next to it. His eyes fell upon an old woman who had been pierced through the neck: half of her body was in the pile, while the upper half hung on the side. The old lady was laying with her face up, and two glazed eyes were looking up at the sky. Anger flared within him, but he quickly held it down.
Looking at the pile of corpses, it comprised of mostly elders and men. A thought flashed through his mind, but he quickly cast it aside, refusing to think about the situation of the women and children.
Gritting his teeth, “Tell me what happened here and I shall grant the first person to do so a swift death.”
Instead of complying, “Tie him up before the boss comes out!” A woman shouted.
A group of armed men stalked towards him, jabbering about this and that and blaming those who had been on look out.
Before they could reach him, like a massive serpent moving in on its preys, a bolt of lightning zipped along the ground and engulfed the group of four men. Kaidus stepped over to one of the bandits. Grabbing the man’s throat, he lifted the man up. “Ordinary bandits don’t attack villages as big as this. Who are you people?”
“I- Guuu—- d-d… Nghhh–.” The man tried to speak, but his body was still contracting from the shock.
A concentration of mana could be felt from one of the tents, and Kaidus immediately dropped the man before jumping out of the way as three blades of water flew at where he had been standing.
“You useless rats can’t even handle a child!?” A half-naked man was standing at the entrance of one of the tents.
“But boss, the boy took out Millen and the others with magic!” Another man who was standing beside the half-naked man informed.
“Is the Mystiks Guild here already?” The man questioned, looking around before focusing back on Kaidus. “Doesn’t look like it… Hmm… A kid like you? A mage? Don’t tell me you’re with the guild?”
“So you’re the leader here? I WILL have you answer my questions.” Kaidus replied, turning and walking over to the man.
“Hahaha… you all hear this stupid kid? AHHAHAHA!!! Kill him.” The man commanded with an unamused face after making a show of his exaggerated laughter.
Yet nothing happened. Their camp was frozen, and he could no longer move his mouth or any part of his body. Looking at his men, they too had also stopped in their tracks. Even the raging pyre had been extinguished and was now revealing the charred bodies that had been burning.
“You will speak when I want you to.” Something spoke from beside him and he tried to move his head, but it too was locked in place. ‘No… A frost field like this… This can’t be… A Malizur? Here?!’ The question rang in his head, but no one else came out into the open. He could only watch as the young man walked towards him, and then past him into the tent.
As soon as Kaidus stepped into the tent, a burning rage tore at him, begging to be freed.
A naked woman was sprawled on the ground at the foot of a makeshift bed. Blood was oozing from her nostrils, mouth, stomach, and he could see that she was dead. A young lady barely older than him was huddling to the side of the tent holding her legs together and shuddering with fear. She too was naked, and her eyes looked like they had given up on the world. On the bed was another young lady who was also shuddering with fear, and like the previous, had one hand holding her knees to her chest while the other was on her swollen face. Taking a closer look at all three, there were cuts and bruises all over their bodies. Another look at the dead woman, and he saw that the blood around her stomach was because of a laceration originating from her crotch to her belly.
The woman suddenly burst into flames, and within moments, only ashes remained. Without any words, he turned around and left the tent.
Stepping up beside the frozen half-naked man, he looked towards the others. “You have all overstayed your welcome.” He spoke, and each of them began shattering into pieces. He then turned to the man. The mage. “The responsibility lies with the leader. The one who gave the commands. For you, death will not come so easily.”
His voice was no longer that of an adolescent child, but of a man who had seen the world burn before him and in turn, added to the very flames of destruction.
The sound of agony and pleas for the sweet release of death echoed through the scorched village.
In front of him, the man’s flesh was being flayed piece by piece before being put back together and healed. In the man’s chest were two small holes that he had punctured earlier as an incentive for the man to keep talking. Every time an answer was satisfactory, he would allow the man to bleed out a little more, quickening the embrace of death.
“Where is your base?” Kaidus sternly questioned.
He had been able to “persuade” the man of some vital information, but the man was proving to be quite stubborn.
As his luck would have it, the man was indeed a member of Tal’hrus.
From the info extracted, he understood that after his previous encounter with Tal’hrus, their manpower had dropped significantly when it came to Darsus.
The new group numbered only thirty mages, and had resorted to the forceful recruitment of brigands around Darsus to do their dirty work for them—burning and slaughtering villages and towns that refused to submit to their demands.
Instead of running with a team of only mages, they had separated themselves into teams consisting of: a Tal’hrus agent as leader, and bandits or mercenaries as their underlings. Each were free to raze Darsus on their own terms with none of them concentrating their efforts to a specific area. They were hitting quick and fast to throw off the Mystiks guild.
The plan was riskier, but from what he had heard and could see, it was very effective and would cost Tal’hrus less if their agents were ambushed.
“Ki-Kill Me!! GYUAAAAHH!!!!!!” The man screamed as his skin slowly ripped itself away from his flesh.
“Your base. Where is it?” He questioned again with a voice devoid of pity or emotions.
*Hah…Hah…* “You will never find it! GAAAAHHHH!!!”
“I will, for it is only a matter of time. When I do, they will wish they had never returned.” Kaidus glared at the man. “So talk. Your answers help no one else but yourself. Answer my questions, and I shall consider ending your miserable life.”
“You… You think you’ll get away with this? You think- *hahhh…* you think you’ll be safe after making an- an enemy out of us?!” The man took another deep breath. “Your family, your friends, *Kuh…* we will take everything! They will die a thousand deaths!”
Kaidus stepped forward to whisper into the man’s ear. “Wrong. You will take nothing from me. After I am through, the terror that was known as Tal’hrus will be nothing but a memory to those they have scarred; a nightmare that has finally come to an end. The world will wonder what became of you all, but none shall miss you, for you are all cowards hiding behind an idealistic hallucination of an age long past. An illusion that you mindlessly try to rectify by oppressing those too weak to fight back.” He stepped back and stared at the man.
“W-Who are you…?”
“You have yet to obtain that privilege.” His left hand shot forth and tore itself into the man’s right chest. “I will ask once more and you will answer me. If not, you will have wished you did. Where is your base?”
“Guh… I don’t know– *haaa…* it mo- it moved roughly thirty days ago… I- nghhh… *hah…* have… have yet to learn of its new position.”
“Is that so? One last question: you should have a ring that allows you to communicate with your master. Where is it?”
The man’s eyes lit up with surprise at his words.
“H-how do- Guhh!! *Hah…* How do you know of… the rings?”
“I am the one asking the questions.”
He twisted his hand.
“GRAAAAHH!!!! *haaaah… hah…* It… it was you… five years ago… *Hah…*”
He could see the change in the man’s eyes at the realization. “Correct. Now give me the ring. I wish to converse with your master.”
“Master Zavon… thwarted by a fledgling. Kahahah!! Guh!” *Haaa…* Taking deep breaths, the man’s face began to turn pale. “I do not have one… You are out of luck!”
“… And you have ran out of my mercy.”
Sealing the man’ mouth shut, he pulled out his hand and healed the gaping hole. “He’s all yours, Zion.” At his words, the wind swept in and grabbed the man, throwing him into the air.
“MMMMM!!!” The sound of muffled screams slowly faded as Zion launched the man further into the sky and began to slowly slice him apart.
Entering the tent with the two young ladies, he grabbed two sheets of cloth and covered them. With his knife, he cut open the side of the tent and moved to the other. He had sensed the presence of people from it earlier, but did not want them to see what he was doing to their captors.
As he cut open the second tent and peered inside. Eyes filled with fear stared back at him. Women and children that had been captured and were undoubtedly going to be used for some nefarious scheme or transported out of Darsus—to be sold to slavers—were huddled together.
“P-please don’t hurt us anymore.” A women prostrated herself on the ground and begged with tears in her eyes. Those around her started to cry, calling for their parents or loved ones.
“I am not here to hurt you.” He replied, looking back at them. “Forgive me, but might I enquire as to where I am? I have been lost in the woods for quite some time and luckily stumbled upon your village.”
“K-Kerkhill…” One of the woman managed to answer.
“I see. Thank you very much.” Kaidus politely replied. His ploy to distract them seemed to have worked. Instead of fear, they were looking at him nervously with eyes of curiosity. “Would all of you mind coming out? It looks very cramped in there.” A few of them shuffled and huddled closer together at his words. “My apologies. I will leave this open so that you may come out when you wish. There are another two young ladies in the other tent, so please check up on them as soon as you can.”
Without further actions, he walked back to the center of the village. By his will, his three spirits converged on his position. “Vishan. Stay here and make sure the village is safe. I will be back for you.” Searing the image of the pile of corpse and charred remains into his mind, he rose up off the ground and promptly left the vicinity of the village.