Azhure: I just got off a cruise ship after college exams (last month was absolutely full), and I can’t believe how hard I tried to be dark and edgy in my high school years.
The next day came, and the Court Wizards decided to wait for Darc to return to deal with the assassin. However, that meant until he had returned, the poor bounded man had his skull bashed a few more times when he regained a bit of consciousness throughout the night. At least, that’s what Jonathan told them this morning, making Alicia question his sleeping habits.
A murky patch of black then entered the inn room before rising to reveal the dark elf. “You weren’t in the office,” Darc complained with his arms crossed. Then he looked down. “Is he an assassin?”
“Yes, he is an assassin,” Jonathan confirmed.
How many times was that mentioned? Alicia pondered internally.
“Have you checked his gear?” the dark elf continued.
“All of these.” Jonathan pointed to the assassin’s inventory lying on a tarp at the corner.
“All right then.” Darc went over the tarp and inspected it. Once done, he went to the unconscious assassin, crouched down, and…
Alicia can’t blame Voice for being grossed out at the Dark Guardian sticking his finger into the assassin’s mouth. “What are you doing?” she has to ask.
Darc, instead of answering, responded by pulling his hand off the assassin’s mouth and showing it to the others. Held between his fingers was a small glass vial that could fit inside a person’s jaw filled with a sick-looking liquid.
“Huh, poison,” William couldn’t help but mutter.
“Like the one used to commit suicide to avoid torture!?” Alicia exclaimed.
“He has that?” Owen looked at the Dark Guardian.
“As Alicia said, it is important for anyone who lurks in the shadows to be able to spare themselves of torture. You just need to look where it is,” Darc shrugged, tossing the vial to the softer part of the tarp before wiping his fingers. “Now then…”
“H-Huh? Wha?” the assassin groaned as having his mouth rummaged woke him up. After repeated head bashes, he pretty much sported a huge lump on his head.
“You’re awake,” Darc bluntly said, looking down at him.
“Damn!” the assassin quickly realized his situation and quickly tried to ingest the poison, only to find it missing. “W-Where is it!?” the assassin panicked as his tongue tried to find the poison formerly tucked in his teeth.
“It’s over there,” Darc impassively pointed his finger to the tarp, where the assassin quickly spotted the vial among his gear.
“How did you know that?” the assassin uttered in disbelief before taking a good look at his captor being tied up as he was. “Huh, never thought I’d see a dark elf being a fellow assassin. Figured I’d get captured by one.”
“He’s the one who caught you,” the dark elf, with his arms crossed, nudged his face towards Jonathan.
The assassin looked at Jonathan for a second for the pieces to fall into place. “The war hero…” was all he muttered.
“Looks like you know a lot,” Darc said to the assassin, who tensed up when he said it. “And you know what happens next.”
“Tch!” the assassin clicked his tongue. “Just because I’m not loyal to my employer doesn’t mean I’ll give you the satisfaction!”
“We know,” Darc shrugged as he kneeled and placed his hand on the assassin’s shoulder. Then, he turned back to look at the others. “I’ll put him in the Court; we’ll question him later. Go to the Bell Branch; it’s important.”
“What in the abyss are you talking ab- Aaaah!” the assassin screamed as Darc sunk with him into the shadows, leaving a murky patch of black that left the room.
“…What the heck was that all about!?”
As Voice aptly said, there were a lot of bombs being dropped left and right, and Alicia didn’t know where to start. She looked to Owen, who looked back at her, understanding she wanted answers.
“So… which one do you want to know first?” Owen asked with an unsure tone.
“Um, the assassin mentioning Master Darc being an assassin,” Alicia picked.
“Yeah, that’s because he is an assassin,” Owen confirmed with his head shifting to the left for a moment. “The killer-for-hire type.”
“Heard he does jobs for us even before he became Guardian,” Owen continued with a shrug. “For, you know, assassin stuff.”
“His services are that good the Court is willing to bend protocol to get things done,” William added with his arms crossed. “Well, none of that matters now that he’s a Guardian.”
“And because he’s a Guardian, he’s got to have decent morals,” Owen added. “Like, he wouldn’t assassinate a kid just to get paid.”
“Is that so?” Alicia muttered uneasily. She could see why the Otherworldly Court would hire his services, but even if Darcassan wasn’t the cold-hearted murderer that he had led himself to be, it didn’t make it any less bad. “Then, why does he say you are a war hero, Jonathan?” she then asked the Nature Court Wizard, deciding not to broach the topic further.
Jonathan had a hint of grimace on his face. Alicia would’ve almost missed. Regardless, he simply answered, “I participated in the war and became a war hero.”
It was a short reply as if he had wanted to hurry up and change the subject. That was the feeling Alicia got, and she felt not to pry any further. Even Voice got the memo sensing it was something the war hero didn’t want to get dragged on further.
“Then, what does Master Darc mean when he said he will put the assassin in the Otherworldly Court?” Alicia then asked Owen. “Is that even allowed?”
“Makes sense, I suppose,” Alicia remarked in understanding. “But why in the Otherworldly Court? Are there not places to keep him like in Beohar?”
“There are none here,” Jonathan shook his head.
“Why not in a place like the Bell Branches?” Alicia suggested. “Not that I would like it.”
“Yeah, because it would be morbid if Bell Branches have dungeons that we don’t do it. Besides, if someone found out, it’ll cause whole other problems,” Owen explained. “So if we don’t have a house nearby to stuff someone in, then the Court is the only choice.”
“Yeah, because it would be morbid if Bell Branches have dungeons that we don’t do it. Besides, if someone found out, it’ll cause whole other problems,” Owen explained. “So unless we got some other place to hold someone, the Court is the only choice.”
“I see, but would that not mean they will know about the Otherworldly Court?” Alicia then asked. “Do not tell me they are executed once we are done with them.”
“Nah, don’t worry, we aren’t that ruthless. We got ways to erase some guy’s memories of what they saw, the classic stuff,” Owen waved it off. “Well, we still don’t have the equipment to do it; it’s still a work in progress. We kinda rely on whoever has a Personal Skill for it, or a Court Wizard knows how to give the Order to mess someone’s brain without turning them into a vegetable.”
“…That is rather disappointing,” Alicia remarked. She’s not going to lie; he almost got her in the first half when he talked about the Otherworldly Court’s memory erasure tech before reminding her of the less-than-ideal state the Court has always been in.
“Eh, that’s how it is,” Owen shrugged with his hands up. “Now, about the Bell Branch, Master Darc did tell us there’s something important there.”
“Oh, what could it be?” Alicia wondered.
“It’s the dungeon from SaltWater’s mansion,” Jonathan interrupted. He had been leaning against the wall with his arms crossed while the Kaomagi Earth Court Wizards were doing their own thing. “Master Darc had broken out its captives.”
“What… happened to them!?” Alicia gasped in horror, both of her hands covering her mouth, looking at the horrible sight before her.
They were in the room behind the lobby that was entered through the door on the opposite side of the stairs with the counter in between, where the staff prepared refreshments for the visitors in the lobby. There Alicia saw three children wrapped in blankets sitting together on a bench tended by Maria and the staff.
One was a boy whose hair looked like it was losing its color, fading from brown to white. The same goes for his eyes, having lost their pigment and revealing the red blood vessels. He looked rather absent-minded as he stared into the cup of tea he clasped with his two trembling hands.
The other was a fox half-animal boy, and he did not fare any better. Alicia could see that his once vibrant orange hair, along with the ones covering his drooping fox ears, was lost. Even his tail sticking out of the blanket looked bare bones, its fur lost and withered like a twig.
The last one was a little girl with vibrant pink hair who could be described as a fish-half animal, having fin-like ears and gills on both sides of her neck. However, she looked… dry. Like a fish out of water, her skin was visibly rough, and the aforementioned ears and gills were all shriveled. Her tiny hands were flaky holding a cup of water she kept drinking to keep herself hydrated, with the staff replacing it every minute. If Alicia knew any better, they had half in mind to just dump a bucket of water on the poor girl just to keep her moist.
“Magic experiments. The reports from the bastard’s office say that much,” was all Darc had to tell, his arms crossed yet his hands visibly clenching. “I don’t need to spell out what, not in front of these kids.”
Despite only giving the barest of explanation, all three children flinched at what they heard, unpleasant memories resurfacing as they began to shiver in fright. It was a heartbreaking sight to see. Fortunately, there was a way to discuss it further without them hearing.
How the hell did they end up there!? (Owen)
They’re war orphans. Doug knew no one would look for them. (Jonathan)
Really? No one at all? (Alicia)
Yes, especially the fox folk child because his people are refugees from the neighboring kingdom. (Jonathan)
What is wrong with this country!? (Voice)
And what is Doug doing child experiments for? (William)
It has to do with what I found on his desk. Head upstairs; the staff knows how to care for these children better than we do. (Darc)
“The noble is staging a coup,” was the brief explanation Darc needed to say after trekking two flights of stairs.
“Why am I not surprised?” Owen groaned in annoyance.
“Oh my!” the manager gasped. “How horrible!”
“How do you know that?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah! Did the bozo write it down or something!?”
“He said it himself,” Darc explained with his arms crossed. “The noble was home, and he apparently has a habit of ranting out loud to himself.”
“The SaltWaters territory is right next to the capital,” Jonathan added, having forgotten to give the context earlier. “It’s only a few days’ ride on a carriage.”
The Court Wizards, of course, have the luxury of retreating into Manegia and returning to Qantasia to the desired location. Much faster than horseback.
“He ranted about how he should’ve abducted Alicia instead of assassinating her,” Darc continued. “All because someone told him to.”
“So the big meanie did want to hurt my Alicia!”
“This confirms that he has a third party backing his coup, if it wasn’t obvious already,” the dark elf suspected. “This also means these backers are onto the Bells being involved with the new king’s ascension.”
“Huh? What does that mean?” Alicia asked worriedly upon hearing her family was mentioned.
“The new king knows we supported him; that’s unavoidable,” Jonathan explained as a matter of fact. “But not everyone else.”
“The public either knew a ‘mysterious’ backer to the new king or that he had none and won the throne with the support of the people,” Darc added. “Of course, the arrogant nobility who lost refused to believe the common folk defeated them and are willing to believe the former. Admittedly, they were right that the support of the people wouldn’t be enough.”
“I see,” Alicia nodded. This country wasn’t at the stage where popular revolts could be pulled off. “So they are beginning to suspect us through the Bell Branches?”
“If it wasn’t, it would be a large coincidence this Bell Branch had only taken off after the new king won,” Darc said bluntly, which was all there was needed to know. “A more competent lord would know how rich your company is from the Bell Branches in the other kingdoms. Those that don’t would soon find out after stumbling into an establishment of yours.”
“When Doug entered the restaurant!” Alicia gasped in realization.
“Whether he knows or not changes nothing,” Darc shook his head.
“Yes, the nobility had always imposed ruinous taxes on merchants who are not in their hands to crush the competition,” the manager confirmed with his head down and a sigh. “It is only after the new king’s rise that those taxes were lifted, allowing us to prosper.”
“We did help the new king through the Bell Branches,” Jonathan confessed.
“There you have it, the plausible motive to suspect the Bell Conglomerate,” Darc concluded, presenting his arms lazily. “And a petty reason to retaliate against you, the heiress of the company, while causing chaos to the new king’s ‘key supporter’ at the same time.”
“But why kill me? …Would it not be better to kidnap me instead?” Alicia wondered, gritting through the last statement. Memories of her kidnapping still lingered.
“It will be inconvenient with his next plan,” Darc explained. “After he was done with his monologue, he rehashed to some guy the final plan to kidnap a princess Alyssa von CoastLine returning to the capital through the place called ‘Rocky Pass’ by tomorrow as we speak.”
“Ah,” the manager muttered. “Princess Alyssa would be his majesty’s elder sister.”
“What would he need to kidnap the king’s older sister for?” Alicia inquired, though, in hindsight, she should already have an idea.
“Considering he wants to be ruler himself,” Darc answered with his arms crossed. “He would need to tie himself into the royal family to do that.”
“Pretty sure he wouldn’t be king, just prince consort,” Owen interjected. “The princess would’ve been in charge if he did pull off the coup.”
“It wouldn’t matter to him,” William
commented with a raised eyebrow. “Guy thinks no one will do anything if he did take over.”
“I have all the plans for the operation: the numbers, the route, the logistics, everything,” Darc reported. Then, he pulled out a thin black box and fiddled it for a few seconds.
What is he doing? Alicia wondered what the Dark Guardian was doing. Is that some kind of magic device?
“All of it is in here,” Darc said, stretching his hand out and showing a photo of a parchment displayed on the screen.
It’s a smartphone.
“Eh, it’s not like we can take those papers without him noticing,” Owen shrugged at the jarring move. Then, his mood became somber. “…Well, we should probably talk about the kids. Doug’s going to find them missing sooner or later.”
“Oh, that is right,” Alicia muttered in realization. “What will happen to them?” she asked in concern.
“For now, we’ll need a Life Wizard to look over them,” Darc stated with a frown judging by his eyes. “We’ll also need a Death Wizard for whatever Doug did to them just to give him an edge in his rebellion.”
“Death Court Wizards are also healers?” Alicia muttered confusingly, tilting her head.
“Yeah, the name might sound like it should be the exact opposite, but it is the other side of the coin to Life,” Owen casually explained. “The Death Element’s whole concept is to reduce and take things away; Life’s concept is to grow and restore things.”
“…Oh!” Alicia realized. “Is it like if you are struck with a disease, you use Death Orders to cure it?”
“So it’s ‘death’ to stuffy noses!?”
“Exactly!” Owen smiled. “If it’s a paper cut, use a Life Order to regen faster. If it’s something like cancer, use Death to remove it – Life will just make it bigger.”
“It is horrible he did such a thing,” Alicia said in a somber tone.
“I’m surprised you didn’t just kill him then and there,” William said to his fellow Guardian.
“Believe me; I would have.” Darc huffed in an annoyed tone. “But then it will cause Doug’s co-conspirators to scatter. No, we need to take them out in one fell swoop.”
“Yeah, makes sense.”
“No matter, I already have written his name down.”
“Well, I’d be more surprised if you didn’t.”
Hearing the exchange, Alicia began to wonder. “Owen, what are they talking about?” she quietly asked her childhood friend.
“Master Darc isn’t your average assassin,” Owen whispered back, leaning closer to Alicia. “He keeps a notebook filled with the names of all the people he’s killed, all of them. He slices someone’s throat, and he’ll write his name down. You can ask him how many he’s killed, and he’ll probably have an exact answer.”
“That is…” Alicia muttered in confusion. “Why would he do that?”
“Eh, not sure,” Owen shrugged. “His sister, Master Ilezenya – she’s the Nature Guardian, by the way – says his teacher told him so to remember all of his murders. It’s to make sure he doesn’t become a mindless killing machine. Hell, I could’ve sworn I’ve seen him swat a mosquito and wrote it down.”
“Is that so?” Alicia chuckled lowly. “But what if he does not know their names?”
“Yeah! And how do you name the mosquito!?”
“…” Owen blinked at Voice being able to exclaim quietly. “If he doesn’t know, he’ll probably write a short description of them.”
“I see, then what does it mean when Master Darc writes someone’s name down before doing the deed?” Alicia then asked, taking the implication of what Owen told her before.
“Yeah, he usually writes down the names after he kills,” Owen started to explain. “But if it’s before, that means Master Darc really wants to kill that person. The noble is a textbook example of people who pisses him off enough to murder them.”
“Yeah,” Owen smiled. “Him writing down all of his victims like that pretty much made him the unofficial grim reaper of the Court.”
“If you’re done,” Darc spoke, jerking Alicia and Owen’s heads towards him. “We’re going to formulate our plan to foil Doug’s kidnapping plot.”
“We’ll have to be careful,” Jonathan added. “If Doug inherits anything from his father, he may have something up his sleeve.”
Both childhood friends can only stand there embarrassed.
A carriage painted gold as the sand rode among the piles of hard granite pulled by 2 horses bred to traverse the rough terrain. It bore an emblem of water and sand on its sides as well as on the banner it carried. Accompanying it were 35 gold armored knights and 5 gold cloaked on horseback, all equipped with its armor. The escorts also bore the same emblem on their guard.
One of the knights reined his horse near the carriage. “Your highness, we will reach the capital in about two hours,” he reported, peering his head into the open window.
“I see,” Alyssa von Coastline, the princess of Coastline and elder sister to the king in the carriage, nodded. “Thank you, Alfred.”
“Excuse me,” the knight named Alfred bowed from his horse. He pulled away from the carriage and back into formation.
“Mia, how long have we been away from the capital?” Alyssa turned to the only other occupant of the carriage and asked.
“About three months, princess,” Mia, a woman dressed in a yellow maid outfit, answered.
“Mia, you do not need to call me that when we are not in public,” the princess pouted. “Just say my name.”
“I know, Alyssa,” the maid chuckled. “But I just like saying ‘princess!'”
“Hah… you do you, Mia,” Alyssa sighed. Looking out to the window, she could see the capital walls over the distance, causing her to sigh again. “Why did mother not stay in the capital with us?”
“Well,” the maid cupped her cheek. “It was at the capital where the civil war started all those years ago.”
“Yes, it was a dangerous time to be alive,” Alyssa sighed. “All of my half-brothers and the nobility are trying to kill each other while the rest of us fear abduction or assassination when it serves them. I wished my father and eldest brother did not have to die like that; then, my little brother would have been spared of all the burden.”
No one knew why they died so suddenly. Officially, they both succumbed to an illness that was already suspicious. It could have simply been bad luck that the king and heir caught the same disease, but it was also plausible that one of the half-brothers had conspired to poison them as the healers were secretive about their illness. Whatever it was, the moment they died, it had sparked the civil war gripping CoastLine for years to come.
“That’s true, princess,” the maid nodded. “But if it weren’t for that, your brother wouldn’t have become king and made everything better for us.”
“Yes, my brother did, but he had to consign just as many to an early grave to achieve it,” Alyssa grimaced. Her little brother was just an innocent boy wishing to make the kingdom a better place. Years later, he sent many nobles and his half-siblings to the gallows to secure it. “At least, all the changes he brought made it worth it.”
“Yes,” Mia smiled. “We can rest easy knowing the nobility will never again oppress us, nor do they no longer rule us. All the people your brother appointed have done greater work than they would have in their lifetime.”
“Indeed, even Alfred can proudly stand as a knight and a fox folk,” Alyssa finished, her gaze turned towards the horizon. “And all of this was thanks to the Court Wizards aiding my brother.”
“It is still unbelievable that people like them exist,” Mia sighed.
When all hope seemed lost as her brother had no one to support his cause, these mysterious Court Wizards came wielding magic rivaling the best magicians. They seemed too good to be true, but their altruistic actions showed them as genuine. Barring the Bell Branches they control, they seemed to have no ulterior motive other than seeing CoastLine prosper.
“Yes. They not only helped my brother fight in the war but also kept us safe once my half-brothers stopped underestimating us,” Alyssa continued. “And-”
“Gaaah!” A loud voice interrupted the conversation between the princess and her maid.
“We’re being attacked!” one knight shouted. “Protect the princess!”
CLANG CLING CLANG
The knights drew their swords and got off their horses as bandits poured in from all sides. One of the knights dragged the knight who screamed after being struck by an arrow and fell from his horse before the others clashed against the bandits. While the knights were the finest of the kingdom, the bandits still outnumbered them.
“Dammit!” one of the knights grunted, seeing robed fireballs at them. “They got mages too?
Mages from the knight’s side tried to cast their magic against the opposing side. However, the bandits’ side had more of them, and their numbers were enough to balance out the stronger knight mages.
A few of the bandits broke through the formation and charged to the carriage. Five of the mage knights in the rear were not close enough to physically stop them, not that they could anyway. They were also still occupied with the enemy mages.
“Stop! Stay away from her highness!” Alfred shouted, chasing after the loose bandits after making sure not to break the formation.
“Grr..!” However, some of the bandits turned back to stop the beastfolk knight.
The carriage driver was slashed by the chest, still alive but gravely wounded as the bandits that got to the carriage proceeded to pry it open.
“No! Stay away!” The princess held onto the door tightly to not let the bandit through even though it was locked. Her maid held the other door.
Then, just as a bandit was about to hack the door away…
…the bandit was suddenly knocked to the ground, a sword struck through his heart, where a man in an unkempt cloak stood above the bandit. On his left arm was the sword that plunged the bandit.
Let it be known that the Wizards of the Otherworldly Court have nothing but pure intentions as the princess looked at him, “Y-You are…!” and gasped in surprise.
Name: Darcassan Erith Age: 223 Sex: Male Species: Elf (Dark Elf) World: Rakarok-Earth World Merge Element: Dark Element Color: Black Cherished Armament: ???, ??? Rank: Duke/Guardian
Name: Jonathan Age: 26 Sex: Male Species: Human World: Qantasia Element: Nature Element Color: Green Cherished Armament: ??? (sword), ???, ??? Rank: Duke
Azhure: Can’t cut it out entirely; the whole plot will fall apart. The best I can do is tone it down to something that makes better sense.
Azhure: So, what do you all think of this sub-chapter? Is it good? Are there any problems with it? Any reviews or feedback is appreciated as long as they’re not plain insults meant to blow off your stress.
Voice: Don’t do that to people! Not even on the internet!
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