[A/N: As I said, I will be writing this as part of my finals in one of my subjects as well. Two birds with one stone. :D]
Claravall, John Enri
A regal carriage of high quality wood, lined with silver on its joints, was being pulled off the beaten path by two horses with a breed comparable to large war horses. Even if it weren’t for the mud that sullied the surface, that also covered the emblem adorning the side of the carriage, one can easily tell that it was owned by a person or high standing, or perhaps of a high material need.
The driver of the carriage was the only person seen outside. They were garbed in leather armor, with few metal pieces of armor covering the vital parts. A cloak and hood draped over them, hiding their face.
Inside the carriage was a rotund man, wearing a regal red attire. On his chest was an emblem, the same with the one emblazoned on the outside of the carriage. Each of his fingers were adorned with a gold ring, each with a large jewel on it. His face showed clear irritation at the discomfort of the current journey.
“Is this person even real? This is just a waste of time.”
Though, despite his irate attitude, beads of sweat trickled down his round face. The violent shaking of the carriage hid the trembling of his fingers. There was a reason he had agreed to this plan in the first place.
“We have no other choice.”
Beside him was the head of his council, or rather, the only one left. A wise old man who had been the head councilor for three generations now. Just as he was going to retire, such a thing occurred.
Was it the insurrection or the invasion?
As if fitting into the stereotype, the current duke ruled quite horridly. It was not a surprise that a rebellion would take place. At the same time, an invasion from the neighboring country occurred. The old man guessed the insurrection was supported by this country as well. If only this noble did not do such foolish things. Taxes were raised yet the conditions of the citizens worsened. If there was one thing to sum it up, the current duke was full of greed and lust.
As he thought that, the old man turned to the woman in front of him.
She was a breath of fresh air on this journey. Long silver hair that was captivating, a sign of high magical potential. Red eyes that unintentionally added allure. Just a simple eye contact was often enough to leave one breathless. A fairly pale complexion that added a sense of fragility.
She was already the third wife. Her current husband was one to exercise their power to obtained anything and anyone he desired. She was the daughter of an earl that was pressured into an arranged marriage.
She still wore her wedding dress, as they had just escaped from the already crumbling territory. To think it would occur as they were doing their vows. She spoke nothing as she stared outside. One might wonder if she wished the chaos occurred before she had been tied to this… this creature that was supposedly her husband.
It wasn’t as if they were the only ones that escaped. The first and second wives, along with their children were able to escape as well. The old man arranged for it. However, they were going through this path because this stubborn noble refused to let things be and wanted to take back the territory. So here they are, following rumors, myths and legends. Whether it was true or night, they sought the help of the Order of the Seven Nights.
After a while, the carriage stopped. The old man and the noble heaved sighs of relief. The driver could be heard alighting outside and the carriage door was opened. What they saw was the end of the barely visible path they had taken. It was a strange sight but it did coincide with the rumors.
In front of them were rectangular blocks buried on the ground and arranged into a circular pattern. There were six pillars that lined the outer circumference of the circle. If one were to connect them all, they would be able to form a six-sided star.
The noble asked, though now that the carriage had stopped, the trembling in his voice was a bit more obvious. It was coupled with impatience and the worry that all of this was for naught.
“Place the gold pouch at the center as we stand on the platform.”
The noble sighed and nodded. Though greedy, he had agreed to that course of action. It was because this was no ordinary driver, but a personal bodyguard. He was a skilled person capable of gathering information. He was the key reason they were able to escape in the first place. He was not by any means an honorable person. His services always went to the highest bidder.
After stepping on the platform, the pouch that contained a hefty amount of gold coins was placed in the middle. The noble was ready to voice his dissatisfaction at the waste of money but before he could do so, the area around them was engulfed in a bright light. As the light faded, they saw the clear sky above them and clouds around them.
The driver walked towards the edge of the platform and carefully peered down. Fighting the sudden weakness in his knees, he stepped back and took in a deep breath. Noticing a path connected to the platform, his eyes followed where it led to.
As the rumors, myths and legends had foretold, he saw the fortress in the sky, Arkwyrsigel. A towering and impregnable fortress. Walls as high as one can strain their neck. Archers lined the top of those walls. Several towers can be seen, each with a ballista stationed on it. If this were instead on the land below them, it would already take a considerable force to even stand a chance of breaching its defenses. But it was above the clouds. It was even said to be capable of moving between one place to another.
Rumor has it that during the attempted siege of Idia, the castle itself went and landed on the enemy forces. Those were just rumors, of course. Anyone that saw a sight would think they have gone insane. There were no surviving enemy forces either. Even the court mages were unable to peer and use clairvoyance magic. It was as if the castle itself was protected against such things.
The driver beckoned to the three that were still in a bit of a shock. At least, the two of them were. The woman seemed to have no expression on her face. At the end of the path, huge metal gates opened, as if to welcome them inside.
The noble muttered under his breath as they had walked inside. It was almost inaudible. Almost. The old man heard it and he almost wanted to told off the foolish noble. Anthros, or demihumans, were a variety of races. From elves, to dwarves, to those with mixed animal traits with them. The term in itself was derogatory.
They were mostly considered to be lower beings by most higher ups, especially those with an ideology that humans are superior. Demihumans in the territory were mostly treated as slaves, and as objects.
The old man’s eye twitched a bit when he saw the noble’s look of disgust slowly turned into something malicious. Curious, he took a look around them as they walked along the path to the inner sanctum of the mythical castle. The demihumans were all female. Nearest them were troops of feline women. Behind them, lines troops of vulpine women. Along the walls were female elven archers.
However, the air they had around them were by no means inferior. They were each garbed with high quality outfits and armors. They were given weapons to fit their roles and were by no means subpar. Demihumans were often sent to the battlefield as meat shields or with the purpose of being left behind to slow down enemy troops. But this group was different.
Eyes that focused on the new visitors, armor that was battle damaged, showing off the experience in battle, and stances that were relaxed but void of openings. Even the driver felt like he would not be able to win against any one of them.
“Rumor has it,” he started to talk to ease his companions. “One member of this guild is equivalent to a hundred royal guard soldiers.”
The old man gulped upon hearing that. The royal guard were known to be the elite of the elite. They were trained to protect the king of the land at all costs. Each were deemed an army of one on their own. A hundred of those equivalent is… insane.
Waiting for them at the end of that path was a vulpine woman who had an aura about her beyond that of the demihumans they have come across so far. She had pure white hair and red eyes. Her allure was furthered by fluffy ears on top of her head. She wore a blue garb, similar to the regal outfits of those from the east. Her thighs and cleavage were given a generous amount of exposure, especially more so as she had bowed.
While the third wife remained expressionless, the others had already frozen in their spot. Only when she snapped her fingers did they snap back to reality. That gesture was not for them, however, and it was for those around them that bowed the same and went off to their own devices. The elven archers, however, remained vigilant.
They were led through the grounds and into the heart of the fortress. The old man could not help but be in awe. This place seemed to rival, no, it was leagues higher than the royal palace.
The driver’s attention flew elsewhere when they had passed the training grounds. Curious, he took a look at the fighting style of the demihumans. The feline women seemed to lean more on quick and melee combat. The troops were just about to begin. They paired off with each other and bowed before they began. The moment they did, he could not believe his eyes. No, his eyes could barely follow their movements in the first place. One hit already meant a loss for the receiving person. If they were using real weapons, that one hit already decided the difference between life and death, after all.
The noble stared at one thing during the whole time, the vulpine woman that led them.
After a while, they were led into a small office. The old man was expecting something like a throne room but it was more like a chamber for council. A large oval table surrounded by chairs. At the seat of honor was a young man. He had black hair and blue eyes. He leaned back on the chair as he had his feet up the table. He wore a similar leather outfit to those members outside, except his was in black and was trimmed with silver. The mysterious guild master fiddled with gold coins that came from a pouch on the table. It was the same pouch they had used in the beginning.
“Good work, Mio.”
“Thank you, Master.”
The vulpine woman who was now known to be named Mio, bowed and left the visitors. The gaze of the noble followed her until she had left.
“Take a seat.”
Upon being told so, they each took their seats. The noble seating himself opposite the man. The old man was to his right, with the wife to the left. The driver stood behind the noble. He was still employed, after all.
“I can pretty much tell what you’re here for,” the guild master said as he played with the gold coins that he arranged into a pile on the table. “So which is it? Protection as you start new lives? Or…”
He tossed a coin into the air and caught it nimbly without even looking at it. “…the more expensive option?”
That was, of course, to take back the territory. That notion in itself was absurd. But then again, have they not gone beyond the realm of common sense by now?
Upon the offer of taking back the territory, the noble seemed to have regained his senses. The old man was actually worried that this noble would suddenly want to obtain the woman from before.
“How much would it take to take it all back?” The noble’s voice trembled for a bit as he asked.
“There are various ways and the price is set for each.”
The young man placed a gold coin on the table. “Let this represent a thousand platinum coins.”
The driver and the old man gulped. A platinum coin was worth a thousand gold coins. It was enough for a man in his early twenties to live well until he retired at an old age. A thousand of that is equivalent to the coffers of a country.
“I can send in my guerrilla unit of a hundred to take them down from the inside,” he said placing a gold coin on the table.
“I can send my sniper unit of a hundred to take them out from afar,” he placed a gold coin beside the first one.
“I can send my mage unit of a hundred to bombard the place,” he placed another gold coin beside the first two. “But nothing might be left so it might be a problem.”
A hundred of those units which were each equivalent to a hundred royal guards that were each an army of one by themselves. The magnitude of this scale was difficult to comprehend.
The noble was about to complain about the unreasonable price. Only now did he comprehend the absurdity of such a price. However, the man took out more gold coins from the pile.
“I can send my three generals to take back the country with as minimal damage as possible,” he said and piled six gold coins on the table. Three generals were priced double than the entire units combined. That means that each general was twice as strong as a hundred of the unit they handled. That in itself sent a shiver down the spine of the driver.
“You’ve already met one of them a while ago.”
That vulpine woman was a general. The old man broke in cold sweat. What if the noble had done something foolish? Would have they been killed on the spot?
“Or,” he said as he piled twenty gold coins on the table. “I take back the territory myself and make sure the country prospers beyond how it is now.”
Himself. The man said he would take care of it himself. And yet the price was double than the previous offers combined. The absurdity of the offer made one guess if this was but a scam. Twenty gold coins that represented twenty thousand platinum coins. That would be rivaling the coffers of the kingdom itself.
“Impossible. No. That’s insane. How can one man take down an entire country by himself?!”
“I took down yours, didn’t I?”
The atmosphere became heavy upon those words. The young man took out a scroll from under the table.
“Nothing personal. It is business. My services are not biased. As long as you can pay, of course.”
“W-who?! Who was it? Who did this?!”
“Unfortunately, it is unprofessional to reveal my contract partner. But you know… a person’s head can be settled with a price as well.”
The noble trembled. His eyes looked at the pile of gold coins on the table and what they represent. He was being hinted that he can not only take back his country but also get his revenge. But at what cost?
“H-how much?” He said in a hesitating voice.
The young man pushed all the arranged coins back into the pile and took a single gold coin. He then tossed that coin in the air but at an arc. It landed in front of the noble’s wife.
“Her. I want her.”
The noble clenched his fist and trembled. Things got more and more absurd. While bound by his anger, he was also bound by greed and lust as well. His greed was a bit sated, as he didn’t seem to have to pay any monetary amount. However, in exchange was his newly wedded wife. A beautiful woman that he had yet to touch even. It infuriated him.
He schemed a bit. He conceded his wife to this young man. The woman remained expressionless as she looked towards the man that had gave her away before looking at the young man that she was given to.
The young man took a scroll from under the table and tossed it towards the other party. It stated that he, Reiku, would take the country back by himself and make it prosperous. He would also enact revenge against the ones that plotted for it in the first place. In exchange was ownership of the noble’s wife, Tisiphone.
Strange how it mentioned names that were never discussed in the first place. Along it was a quill ready to be used. As the noble was signing his name, he felt a slight pain on his wrist. There was no wound, but he noticed that the ink was of a red hue. He took note of the young man’s name and vowed never to forget it.
After it was signed, the contract rolled up and was sealed with an insignia that could only be assumed to be that of the guild’s. It moved on its own towards Tisiphone. She looked at it before looking at Reiku, to which he responded with a nod to beckon her to come over. She then took the contract and lowered her head as she stood up from her seat. She then went over to his side and offered the scroll but he did not take it.
“You may leave. I shall handle this affair accordingly. Mio.”
Upon calling for the vulpine woman, she entered the room and bowed, captivating once more the sights of the men.
“This way, gentlemen.”
Obviously, Tisiphone was to be left behind. The three men had no choice but to follow the woman’s lead. The noble remained silent. He was nervous but also frustrated. Looking at the behind of Mio that was leading them added to that. His wife was now owned by another person. He wondered if he was truly insane for going along all of this.
Meanwhile, the old man was nervous as well, but only because he could see the expression the noble was making. He had an ominous feeling that something terrible would occur.
Upon being led back to the platform, as it had to be activated differently, Mio had informed them that she will bring them back before going back herself. The driver assumed that it was of a magical nature and did not ask for any more. The noble himself, though, seemed to be relieved.
After the platform activated, they were once more greeted with the scenery that they left. The carriage was still there, empty, of course, as they had left it.
Suddenly the noble reached into his pockets and threw a vial at Mio. It shattered immediately. By instinct, the driver had pushed the old man back and covered his nose. It was a solution that was highly efficient at robbing one of consciousness.
“What have you done?!”
Realizing this, the old man shouted as Mio slumped onto the platform. The driver looked around, nervous, as if at any time they would end up dead.
“You bumbling fool!”
“Shut up old man! You, carry her to the carriage.”
However, the driver refused and shook his head.
“I’m not going to be involved with this any further.”
“You’re supposed to be a high ranking adventurer, are you not?”
“I am. I’ve survived all this time because I pick the best strategy for survival. Going against that man, no, that monster, is the complete opposite.”
During the time of the discussion, the driver had been eyeing the young man called Reiku. He seemed lax but there was an overwhelming feeling that he could not placed a finger on. Perhaps it was because he could not gauge this man’s strength. He concluded that it was beyond his own comprehension and left it at that.
Annoyed, the noble tried desperately to carry Mio by himself. The feeling of her limp body in his arms just made him excited and devoid him of all reason. It was his plotted revenge for being deprived of his wife. In turn, he himself would gain the more alluring and attractive woman. He already planned to turn her into a slave, using a collar imbued with magic and geass to restrain her.
Though he fumbled a bit, he managed to carry her into the carriage. He could not wait and immediately went in to close the door.
“T-that fool. May the gods have mercy on our soul.”
As the old man muttered such, the platform glowed. Petrified by fear, the two men froze and awaited their fate. Instead, what greeted them was the smiling expression of Tisiphone, still holding the contract. It was unusual for the woman to portray any sort of emotion on her face and the two were thus further crept out.
“I have come to pick up Mistress Mio,” she said with a bow.
At this time, the carriage door was blasted open by an explosive magic. Slowly, with an exposed leg first, Mio alighted from the carriage covered in blood. She exuded an overwhelmingly dangerous aura yet the blood that wet her clothes further accentuated her alluring figure.
“To be touched by a filthy creature, how disgusting. Surely, Master would reward me for this job.”
Her lips formed into a grin mixed with a thirst as she thought of her master, the young man and leader of the guild. She had an intoxicated expression as she let her imagination go wild, her cheeks further turning red despite the blood. She placed her hands on her cheeks and giggled as she turned from side to side.
“Fufufu~ I will have Master embrace me tonight~”
She walked passed the two men and onto the platform where Tisiphone stood waiting and smiling.
The inside of the carriage was covered in blood and the noble was nowhere to be seen. Although his fate could already be determined. Terrifying, was what the two men thought. The driver could not help but leak himself.
“I have taken the liberty to dissolve that disgusting pig. Ah, but I made sure his perception of time was slow enough so he’d probably experience the last few seconds of his life as an entire excruciatingly painful year.”
After Mio bowed, the platform glowed and the two women were no longer seen.
After getting back to the fortress, Mio decided to head to the bath. Tisiphone knew where she was to go. She made her way towards Reiku’s personal chambers. The members that saw paid her no mind. After all, they already knew who she was.
Upon reaching the door, she took it upon herself to knock.
She opened the door and bowed her head. She then handed over the scroll that was the contract.
“This contract states that you are to be mine and that I am to enact my judgment on that which had first hired me to take down your country.”
“Yes. You may do anything you want with my body as you wish, Master. You may kill me if you wish.”
“Are you satisfied with that?”
“Knowing that pig suffered is enough for me.”
“I will ask you again. Are you satisfied with that?”
Her lips trembled.
He opened the previous contract that started it all. The inciting of the rebellion. The invasion of the neighboring country. The downfall of the noble family. Even the deaths of some of the nobles were there.
The contract was signed by none other that Tisiphone herself.
“P-please… allow me to serve you with my life. Please embrace me once more. Once more, just like that night.”
It was during the time when he was visiting the small country. It was of course for his own pleasures. For him, there was always the request for information. That was how he made a living. He had no allies or enemies in the war between humans and their countries. He was but someone that provided services for the right fee.
Of course, that didn’t stop him from engaging in his own pleasures every now and then. If it wasn’t apparent already by the fact that his units were all female. However, that is for another story.
Moving on, it was this time that he was gathering information about the politics of the country. He never really likes these things. It was almost always the same thing. Faction against faction. But in these times, information was very valuable.
It was at that time that he caught of the news that the duke were to marry his third wife. He decided to investigate.
During one night, he entered her room with barely a sound. When she had seen him, she did not scream. She barely reacted.
“Are you here to kill me? Please do it swiftly.”
As he figured, there were those that were against the noble that would want such. Whether it was to thin the bloodline or cause some strife, it didn’t matter. It might not even be a surprise for him if the father of this woman would hire an assassin just to save his daughter from such a fate.
“I’m here because I’m curious.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Of course. Your house was pressured into this wedding, correct? Did you know it’s easy for the higher ups to manipulate things to threaten your family? Ah, of course you do. You’re a smart woman, after all.”
She smiled, albeit sadly.
“If you were an assassin, I would have welcomed you more.”
“Ah, but I am, among other things. But you know, even if I were hired to kill you, would that not be a waste?”
“I have an offer that you are unlikely to refuse.”
To take down this country. To remove all influences of the corrupt noble faction. To kill the noble that pressured her house. To ensure the safety of her family. That was what he offered. When she had asked for the price, he simply stated that it would come at a later date. She just had to endure until the wedding night.
As he turned to leave, she called out.
“What is it?”
“I might be able to endure but… the man betrothed to me is…”
“Ah, I see. Then, I shall consider this an advanced compensation.”
He was not a knight in shining armor that maidens might wish for. He even gave promises that seemed impossible to keep. But she let herself believe in his words greatly simply because of one thing.
So she gave herself to this man for that night. Whether those words of him would hold true in the future was of little value. At first she offered her body as a means of depriving the noble the opportunity to take her first. But as she ended up experiencing such pleasures for the first time, she took it upon herself to reminisce the night, and the promises, for whenever there was something she had to endure. So it came to pass that she was known to never show any expression on her face.
“I shall enact my judgment according to the contract. Tisiphone, you are hereby to serve me with your life.”
“Now, do call Mio or she might get jealous.”
“Erm… a-as you wish.”
A couple of days later, the old man and the driver made it back to the bordering villages. It seems that order was brought onto the country and a new duke was seated. Prosperity did indeed come to the country as reforms and reparations were made. The territory had changed since the rule of the noble, whose death was a mystery still.
Only two people knew of what happened, as the rumors say, of course. The now current head of the council, who was a wise man capable of making great decisions for the good of the country. He would laugh it all off as a rumor.
The captain of the duke’s guard would do the same. He was said to be a high ranking adventurer that was supposed to retire. However, he was scouted by the dukedom to serve. He was personally recommended by the head of the council himself. He said that the third wife of the previous duke might know something but she has been missing ever since.
Now that he thought about it, wasn’t she the one that suggested for them to follow that urban legend during that time?