Dantega:Volume 7 Chapter 4
Chapter 65: Capital Attack
“You know, clingy girls aren’t really my thing.” Jeffrey said as he tries to shoo off the woman latching to his arm.
“I’ve always wanted to try public display of affection, I’ve only seen others do it around the castle to show off their lovers. It got me thinking, how nice would it be to show you off too?”
Diana said that with such a pretty smile that Jeffrey is thrown off his gaurd, but none the less he wants no part of being held like some kind of trophy, especially when everyone in town can see them.
“Selfish girls aren’t really my thing either.”
“Come on Jeff, live a little would you? This is probably our only chance to be like this out in the open, none of our soldiers can see us.” Diana said while resting her head on his shoulder, she has no intentions of letting him go no matter what how much he complains.
Jeffrey sighs, he looks around for a moment and sees that they are surrounded by random people walking about. The town they are in is small, but there are a lot of citizens gathered around this one area, a platform in the middle of a train station. They have all their luggage packed as though they are preparing to move far away for a very long time.
At this point in time, the human race has yet to develop trains and railways. But since Satan took over, he used the power of his demons and slave labor to build tracks at such a pace that the railway stretches from the Capital almost all the way to the southern border.
Using this allows his troops to move to and fro, and also allows him to draft citizens in the southern part of the country and force them to make their way up north.
The appearance of the train and tracks happened so fast that the citizens of Troy and even the soldiers of WORLD have gotten used to it. One would expect them to be overwhelmed by something like this, but after everything that's happened over the last couple months, humanity's sense of shock over such irregular things has definitely reached a heightened state of numbness.
The steam engine train is spewing smoke through the open aired roof and making a chugging sound as it idles. It’s an old looking black train, but there is an amazing attention to detail when it comes to the design. Little trinkets and art castings are imprinted into the walls and surround the windows, it almost overwhelms the design of the train itself.
“I doubt that.” he says, “Chances are there's quite a few of our soldiers in the crowd, we’re all heading to the same place after all. Our particular group's plan is to take the northbound train for a while.”
“O-Oh...” Diana mutters, “Then should I let go of you then?”
She looked horribly disappointed when she asked that.
“No, hang on to me.”
She blushes and asks, “Really?”
Not only are there people around, but there are demons as well, all of them dressed in black and grey uniform stitched with red, and gold cuff links and badges signifying which division of Hell’s army they’re a part of.
They surround the platform, checking the I.D’s and train passes of the people waiting to board. Jeffrey and Diana are in line and are only a few patrons away from being checked.
Jeffrey squeezes her a little closer and whispers, “We don’t have any form of Trojan identification, we were lucky enough to get our hands on the train pass but I hadn’t got to the point where I could acquire a fake I.D.”
There are two forms of identification needed to board the train, one is a green Trojan citizen's card for those wishing to join Satan's army of their own free will, and a red card for those drafted. Regular people can't board and head north for both security reasons and to save space, so Jeffrey and Diana will certainly be turned away and likely punished for even trying.
The other members of Jeffrey's 150 soldiers probably had similar problems, but he assumes they found a way to sneak on through different means like climbing on the side while it starts moving or by stuffing themselves in cargo boxes. Jeffrey didn't have that option however, having Diana with him makes sneaking onto train a lot more difficult, they surely would have been caught.
“Then what are we going to do??”
“Sshh, just stick to me and I’ll take care of it.”
The two reach the demon guard and Diana nervously looks away.
The demon with gleaming blood red eyes and jagged sharp teeth noticed that and asks, “What’s her problem?”
Jeffrey smiles and answers, “She’s just afraid of demon’s is all. Don’t you get that look quite often?”
The demon spits and replies, “I do, but usually I pluck the eyes out of the women who look at me like that.”
Diana’s shoulders jump and Jeffrey twists his body slightly so he’s standing in between her and the demon.
“Now now, we aren’t looking for any trouble.” Jeffrey says, keeping his fake smile. “We’re here to board the train, and you’re here to check our information. So let’s just keep it at that.”
Jeffrey hands the demon two train tickets and two blank pieces of paper. The demon looks down on it with skepticism at first until his vision becomes slightly blurry and the images he sees before him shift to that of two Trojan identification cards and two tickets.
The demon blinks and shakes his head before rubbing its temples, trying to relieve the numb feeling pulsating between his ears.
“Something wrong?” Jeffrey asks politely.
“No... Go on, get out of here.”
Jeffrey and Diana walk past the demon and stand in the line that leads directly inside the train.
“What did you do?” Diana asks, amazed that things worked out so well.
“Pretty simple really.” Jeffrey holds out his right hand and takes off the black positive magnetic ring from his finger, he puts it in his pocket and says, “When I wear my rings I’m constantly creating a magnetic field around me, with the demon that close he got caught up in it. There’s normally not a high enough concentration of iron in the human bloodstream to manipulate magnets towards it without using special calculations, but demons however, are chalk full of iron. Their blood is like metal. I just used my magnetic field to send waves into his brain that in turn sent electrical signals to the eyes, implanting a false image of I.D cards.”
“Wow that’s amazing!”
“It really isn’t though.”
“So is that why you normally don’t wear your rings around me?”
“Yeah, if I’m not careful, the rings can have a very negative affect on the people around me if they are exposed to my field for too long. If they can’t keep up with my calculations, their bodily functions would fail and they could die. But say they actually could do it, we’d probably be able to share memories and feelings, that’s even more frightening.”
“Stop saying that.”
The two finally enter the train and Jeffrey is instantly bombarded by a heavy air he hasn’t felt in a while.
Even the inside of this train is overrun with small details that almost overwhelm the senses. Red velvet sits with vine embroidery and walls with gold framed paintings, the tables in between the booth seats even have design on it.
“What’s up with this train anyway?” Jeffrey asked himself.
“It reminds me of Eiyalazo.”
“Ahh, that's it. I don’t think Troy would go through so much effort to put little designs and other commodities into a basic passenger train. Only Eiyalazo would do something so over the top. It really fits perfect now that you mention it.”
"Hey, how come I feel like that was directed towards me??”
Jeffrey ignores her as he nods his head as if he's stumbled upon the perfect answer. “The moment I came in here I instantly got that same stuffy feeling I had when I was staying at your castle.”
“Was it really that bad?”
“Absolutely, you guys totally suck.”
Diana puffs her cheeks and finally let’s go of his arm. She walks to their designated seat and plops down, folding her arms over her chest she glares at Jeffrey with a scowl.
He sighs, he knows exactly why she’s pouty and can only see the kid in her when she makes a face like that.
“Of course, I meant everyone but you.” he said as he takes his seat beside her.
“Humph!” she puffs again and looks out the window.
“Why do you have to be so difficult?”
“Because you’re inconsiderate.”
Diana quickly turns to him and gasps as though she were surprised at what he said.
“...What?” Jeffrey asks.
“If you know that you are, then you should make an effort not to be!”
“What good does being considerate do?”
Diana pushes him in the shoulder and shouts, “Your love life would go a lot smoother, that’s for sure!”
“My love life? Who says I care about that?”
Diana doesn’t say anything in return; she just glares at him halfway in shock.
He’s definitely angered, and the way he said that was so honest it took her breath away.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but love is the last thing on my mind. We’re in a war with the Devil and if we lose it’s all over, being considerate or politically correct about my words or actions is awfully low on my priority list.”
“...But we’ve, we’ve!”
“We’ve what? Slept together? Listen Diana, you’re a grown woman, you should know that something like that isn’t going to change my priorities around. You said it yourself, it was a distraction, nothing more.”
Diana bites her lip and turns away from him, staring down at her shaking hands she says, “You’re lying. There’s no way you could say something so cruel and actually mean it.”
“I mean everything I say, whether that offends you or if it makes me seem like a cold-hearted bastard doesn’t bother me at all. I’m here to do a job, not to worry about your feelings.”
“You’re not being honest.”
“This is me being on honest, the last time I worried about the feelings of a girl instead of doing my job, I was stabbed in the chest. I’m not trying to make the same mistake twice; I was really hoping you’d understand that.”
Diana quickly turns back to him and shows him a face that makes him slightly jump back. There are tears welling up in her eyes and her cheeks are flushed, she’s biting her lip as if she wants to say something but is holding herself back.
The train’s engine starts chug along faster and faster until they start moving. The two pay no mind to it and simply stare at each other as the sounds and vibrations of the train are felt by everyone else but them.
It is a surreal heart stopping moment, one he’s yet to experience.
Jeffrey’s never seen a face like that, it’s almost painful even for him, and it’s only now that he realizes that he may have gone too far. Just because he’s the way he is, doesn’t mean he has to bring his negative outlook to the people around him.
Especially not her.
He said he isn’t worried about her feelings, but in a sense that only reaches a certain extent. He doesn’t want to worry about her feelings for him, but he does care about how she feels in general.
He knows that nothing good could possibly come from telling her off in such a way, he just doesn’t want to get too close to her in fear that he might actually come to care for all of her.
He softly shifts his gaze away and says, “I’m sorry... I wasn’t thinking straight.”
When no reply comes, Jeffrey starts walking away, that is until his hand is grabbed by Diana.
Looking up at him, her eyebrows are raised and pressed together as though she is begging him to stay.
“Umm...” Diana looks like she’s struggling to say something and pauses for a moment before taking a deep breath in determination and asking, “What was she like?”
“Your girlfriend, what was she like?”
Jeffrey did not expect that question to be asked, nor does he know why. But one thing is for sure, he doesn’t want to answer it.
He’s done well to go a few years without even mentioning her, the last thing he wants to do is tell someone anything about her.
He frowns and pulls his hand away when he says, “She tried to kill me, that’s what she’s like. Now I have a job to do, if I’m not in position in less than an hour this whole invasion is fucked. Stay here until it’s over.”
Jeffrey walks away from the booth and disappears into the innards of the train after walking through a cabin door.
Diana, left alone with her hand still held out, takes a big sigh and sits back in her seat.
Looking out of the window she sees that the train they are on is making an ascent up a large incline and will soon enter a snow capped mountain range. Dark green trees grow from the base of these mountains and rise up almost to the snow before it gets too steep from them, so not only is this place a jagged range, it’s also a lush forest.
She can’t help but look out on the scenery and think of how pretty it is. But her thoughts quickly drift elsewhere when the image of Jeffrey pops in her mind.
Though he tries to hide it, it’s obvious that Jeffrey is still caught up on the girl that betrayed him. The pained expressions he shows when she’s even mentioned don’t go unnoticed by Diana, she can see that somewhere deep down, he still thinks about her. She can only imagine what kind of pain that must’ve caused him, and what’s worse is that he’s been forced to bottle it up ever since.
He’s forced himself into playing the role of a character strong enough to shrug such a thing off, and by doing that he’s become dishonest in the majority of things he says.
“I’ve really fallen for that guy huh?” She softly laughs at herself before finishing, “No matter what... I’m going to find a way to make him forget about her.”
Jeffrey is sitting outside on the top of the train paying no mind to the danger and staring out at the beautiful forest and mountain range in the distance. Since the train is going uphill, it’s not going too fast so the ride is relatively relaxing.
But there is one thing that has him on edge; it’s the cargo trailers that stretch almost a mile long being pulled by the train he’s on.
The trailers have windows to vent air in and are all different colors that don’t match the frilly design of the main cabin in the least, they look more like garbage trucks in comparison.
This is because each one of those cargo freights carries close to a hundred demon soldiers of Hell’s army. Stretching a mile long, there’s likely ten thousand troops making their way north towards the Capital.
And herein lies Jeffrey’s and the 150 soldier's mission.
Destroy the railroad leading to the Capital in order to keep reinforcements away.
He and his soldiers are to do whatever they could to get on, and do whatever they could to get off without being noticed at one of the many different stops from here to the Capital. From there, they'll continue their way to the Capital of foot so the rest of the thousand groups can catch up.
Jeffrey had certain groups make their way north as soon as they stepped foot in Troy, and handpicked all of the others to go in certain order and complete certain objectives. Jeffrey's group of 150 are to take this route and complete a certain mission. Obviously, Jeffrey had no idea about the railroad until he had already gotten to Troy, so he was forced to improvise knowing that this convenient transportation system must be demolished.
And so, the soldiers of WORLD are to work to destroy the tracks on their way north to essentially strand the demons stationed on the east side of Troy as far away from the castle as possible. If they don’t succeed, then they’d be flanked from behind by a large number of Hell’s reinforcements once they reached the Capital. There's no telling how many can come to the rescue of the Capital by train during WORLD's attack on Satan.
The key to any battle plan is to never end up fighting on two fronts. If this mission fails, not only would this happen, but they’d end up being the ones surrounded instead of Satan.
Everything rides on his and the other’s mission, if they don't succeed in destroying the railroad, the war is as good as lost.
Jeffrey is nervous about that fact, and also that there are so many demons just a couple cabins away from him, waiting to strike. It’s likely they are heading north to be relayed to a different part of the country to join the fight against WORLD’s other invading forces, if that turns out to be the case he simply cannot let that happen. He knows that those cargo freights must be kept from reaching their final destination at all costs.
“Man, the stakes just keep getting higher.” he said to himself with a sigh.
That’s when the door to the roof is opened from the inside and through it comes a man dressed casually in a suit.
“Captain.” The man says, “We’ve gotten word that the first set of charges have been armed and are ready to detonate 20 miles ahead of us.”
“Good. I'm glad that some of our guys were able to get so far ahead us so quickly.” Jeffrey replies, he lays his back down on the train's roof and orders, “Tell the rest of your group to prepare for battle. If I’m even just a little off in my calculations, a couple of those cargo boxes might make it past the initial blast. If that’s the case we’re going to have to use hand to hand combat to stop them.”
“Yes sir. I’ll inform the others.”
The man dives back into the train and shuts the latch behind him.
Jeffrey pulls one of his rings out of his pocket and puts it on, he then reaches for the other one and grabs it. While doing so something metallic falls out and starts rolling onto the roof’s surface.
Without so much as letting a split second pass, he slams his hand atop it and keeps it from rolling any further.
Picking it up and holding it in his palm, he brings it to his face and holds it between his fingers. The little object is a gold ring, completely different from the red and black metallic rings he uses as weapons. This one is embroidered with diamonds and sparkles under the sunlight.
Jeffrey’s face turns solemn as he looks at this ring, on the inside of it are the names of two people etched in.
Jeffrey, and Sena Durbin.
It’s his old engagement ring.
“You’ve sure been brought up a lot lately, Sena.” Jeffrey said, his gaze still fixed on the ring. “To think she’d even ask what kind of person you are... Kind of got me thinking, what would you be doing right now? Could it even be that we’re on the same team as members of WORLD?”
Jeffrey smiles and puts the gold ring back in his pocket, this time he secured it in a much safer spot.
“Of course we are, if you’d even try to kill your own fiance for Troy, there’s no way you’d side with the Devil.”
‘Knock Knock Knock’
Zurvick is startled to hear someone knocking at Ash’s door, he quickly rushes into the kitchen and grabs a knife before slowly inching his way towards the entrance.
It could be anyone, but since Heinrich and Ash have been gone for more than a week, he fears that they may have already been caught and someone has come to finish Zurvick off before he could start an uprising. These are the thoughts one must have in a war like this, nothing is out of the realm of possibility so he’d be foolish not to be overly cautious.
Zurvick looks through the peep hole and is disappointed not to see anyone; it’s likely the person is purposely standing away from it as to not be seen.
“Who is it?” he asks through the door.
“Who are you?”
An answer came back through the voice of a girl.
“Are you kidding? You’re at my door and you’re going to ask me who I am?”
“I was told that depending on your answer would decide whether I can trust you or not.”
“That’s supposed to be my line!”
“I don’t mind telling you, but you have to tell me your name first.”
“This isn’t gonna work! This door is never going to open unless you get your act straight. I’m not answering you until you answer me! It’s a win win for me whichever way it goes because you’re the one who’s here to see me!”
Zurvick can imagine the girl holding her chin and pondering from the other side of the door.
She gave in with just a little bit of reason.
“I have come to understand that you are in the process of leading a rebellion against Satan. But I’ve also come to understand that you have been recruiting people by lying about your identity. I want to know the truth before joining you, so if you lied to me by saying you’re someone you’re not, then I can’t join you.”
“So once again I humbly ask you, what is your name?”
“My name is Zurvick.”
He instantly knows he got swept up in her pace and totally lost the battle of wills between the two.
“That’s all I needed to hear, good day sir.” The girl said and her footsteps are heard leaving the stoop.
She obviously doesn’t believe that Zurvick is who he says he is. This has actually been a problem for him to recruit people to join, no one believes that he’s actually the King and are instantly skeptical. If anything they feel like he has a better chance of being an impostor looking to trap them than actually being the King. It’s not too tough to think that Satan would send out a man like that to weed out the traitors.
For the most part, people don’t know what Zurvick looks like, even during the rebellion against Sturgess, the newspapers with his picture on it was only sent out to a limited amount of the city on such a short notice.
It makes him wonder just how in the world London was able to recruit over four thousand people in just a couple weeks. He could really use his helping hand right now.
Zurvick is desperate for people to join him, so much so that he doesn’t even think that this girl could be an enemy and opens the door to give chase to her.
The heavy wooden door is viciously stopped halfway by something solid, and by the sound of the scream that followed it’s obvious what it was.
There’s a girl on her butt holding her head and rubbing it with tears in her eyes. She has almost transparent blue hair and bright emerald eyes, she's probably in her early twenties but the comically pained face she’s making at the moment makes her look much younger.
“What were you doing?” Zurvick asks, glaring down on her dejectedly.
“I-I had to look and see if you are really the King. I couldn’t just leave without knowing for sure.”
“Then why didn’t you just tell me your name!?”
“Because no one would believe someone saying he’s the King!”
“Uaahh, you make no sense!”
It’s only now that the girl looks up to see who it is she’s talking to, and the second she does her jaw instantly drops.
She bows to him in an absolutely serious fashion and shouts, “My King! Please allow me to be of service to you!”
“You recognize me?”
“Of course I do. You’re the King!”
“Hmm, maybe I am more famous than I thought I was?”
Zurvick wonders this to himself but quickly comes to the conclusion that this girl just happened to recognize him. Still, it hurts a little to know that the majority of Trojan people wouldn’t know he was the King even if he walked up and told them. Just goes to show how much more popular Lelaine was.
“Oh, you can stand up. I’m not someone who needs to be bowed to.”
“Umm... I can’t move.”
“My head was hit so hard that I can’t move my legs.”
“Are you serious?? Wait a second, isn’t that really bad!?”
“No no, I have an amazingly strong head, I just need to sit for a few moments.”
Fearing that this girl actually needs medical attention, he grabs her from under her arms and drags her inside.
“To be dragged by my King, such an honor.” she said with a blank smile on her face.
“There’s nothing honorable about being dragged!”
He tosses her onto the couch and quickly grabs some tea he happened to be making at the time.
“To be served tea by the King, such an honor.”
“Knock it off already would you!?”
“Ahh, to be scolded by the-- Oh, sorry sorry, I’m just a little overwhelmed is all.”
“There’s nothing to be so amazed about, I’m just a regular guy now.”
“No no, you are the glue that’s going to hold my rebellion together.”
The girl puts the tea cup to her face and explains, “I’ve gathered over three thousand citizens to join me and take up arms against Satan, but I fear that they might not be committed enough to pull the trigger when the time comes. That’s where you come in, with the King of Troy at my side, we’ll certainly find the will to fight.”
“Did you say three thousand?”
Zurvick racks his brain for how many people he’s recruited to join him and is brutally disappointed when he remembers that he only has gotten four people to join him since Ash left. Not only did London, a Knight of La’Juune gather so many people, but now this regular girl has dusted him in that regard as well.
“Why am I so unpopular!?” he cries to himself.
“It’s probably because you never spent much time in the castle and around the city. Being in the army pretty much full time has separated you from the people. But when it comes to the soldiers, we’d all recognize you right away.”
What she said makes sense, ever since he married Lelaine, he’s more or less spent most of his time abroad doing some kind of military work. Even in times of peace, he was out training soldiers or dealing with internal conflicts. So to say that the average citizen of the Capital wouldn't recognize someone working in the shadows of the government shouldn’t be all too surprising, even if he does have the title of King.
Zurvick sighs and says, “I guess you’re right... But hold on, did you say ‘we’? You were in the military?”
The girl salutes and shouts, “Yes sir!”
“You don’t look like a soldier, where were you stationed?”
“I was actually in La’Juune.”
“La’Juune?? That means that you’re a--“
“That’s right.” The girl interrupts, “I was a spy.”
Zurvick is very surprised, there actually aren’t many Trojian spies, at least not that he knows of. The reason for that is because the spies sent out are usually on missions that last for years. Unlike the Dravic branch of La’Juune, Trojan spies are to literally become a part of the enemy’s environment instead of just sneaking around or pretending to be for a short while.
This would take years of intelligence work before getting close enough to accomplish the original assignment. Most spies from Troy would start from the bottom and build their way up in the ranks with royals or nobles of either Eiyalazo or La’Juune, once there they’d do anything ranging from sabotage, money laundering, fraud, just about anything that can damage the country economically wise, but their main jobs mostly fell under the realm of assassinations. Sometimes the spies even stuck around afterwards to further lead the situation towards Troy's favor.
They’ve successfully pulled off a few assassinations and sabotaged large businesses that drastically changed the economical balance of raw materials being sold and bought throughout all three countries. During the last ten years of peace, that was exactly what they were used for.
So it was extremely important for them not to be caught, if they were, it’d lead to war. So the select few spies were severely trained, and an even fewer amount of them made the grade.
This odd girl being one of those select few is really perplexing to Zurvick, and not only that, she looks relatively young. If she had been on her mission for the usual amount of time, she must have been in her mid teens when she started.
“Amazing, I never would’ve thought... Did your mission just end?”
The girl’s expression turns solemn and she slightly shifts her gaze away before answering, “Actually no, it ended in failure a few years back. Because of that I chose to leave the military, a decision that I now regret. If I hadn’t left I’d have been here in the Capital when Sturgess took over, I could’ve done something to stop it.”
“No... There’s nothing you could’ve done, it was my fault.”
What he said looked to have made the girl feel even worse.
“A-Anyways.” Zurvick says loudly noticing the drop in the girl's body language, “We all have new things to worry about, let’s kick that bastard out of Troy!”
That seemed to pump up the girl, her face lights up and she clinches her fists together.
“Right right! We must fight!”
“That’s the spirit!”
The girl stands to her feet and points towards the door, with a triumphant pose she shouts, “Let’s go!”
Zurvick pauses and once again looks at her dejectedly, she obviously overreacted.
“Umm... Go where?”
The girl is still stuck in that ridiculous pose when her head tilts as though she had just realized something.
“Oh yeah, I haven’t even thought that far yet.”
He sighs and says, “Are you really a soldier?”
“Sorry sorry, I get carried away every once in a while.”
“It’s fine, let’s just take it one step at a time.” Zurvick then holds his hand out to her and says, “I'm Zurvick Niveusvenia. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The girl smiles and shakes his hand.
“My name is Sena Durbin. I’ll be in your care.”
Heinrich is walking through the innards of the Castle of Troy alongside one of his demon gatherers. The demon is fully clad in black and with its hood up over its head, its face cannot be seen. The two of them pay no mind to the walls still covered in blood from the rebellion a couple months back and coolly walk down the blood soaked rug on top of the stairs.
After walking to the bottom floor, the largest part of the castle, the two of them walk right on past the five main entrances and head down a narrow corridor until they reach a small door.
Heinrich opens it and leads the demon into a dark room, shutting the door behind him.
“I’m sure you’re probably wondering why I brought you here.” Heinrich said with his back turned to the demon.
The demon doesn’t reply, in a matter of fact, Heinrich has never even heard a word out of one of his gatherers. He doesn’t even know what they look like outside of their clothing, all he knows is that they come in all sizes, some small and some large. He even finds himself wondering what they look like and has thought about ordering one to take their hoods off, but that wouldn’t fit his role as someone who doesn’t care about anything else but his job.
“The truth is, I believe there is an intruder residing in this room.” He gestures to something behind him and says, “There’s been evidence left behind in here that might show signs of a human. I was hoping you could search this out and maybe pick up a scent, I assume you demons can sense these kind of things right?”
When the demon doesn’t respond, Heinrich points deeper into the darkness and says, “Take a look.”
The demon obliges and glares into the darkness.
After a few more moments of silence, shakes its head from left to right, signaling to him that it doesn’t see nor sense anything.
“Hmm,” Heinrich mumbles while holding his chin, “So you really can’t sense humans...”
All of the sudden, a very bright white light shines in front of the demon and temporarily blinds it. As a natural reaction, the demon turns its head away, and when it does, its met with a sharp blade piercing through its neck and out the back of its head.
Heinrich had used this moment of distraction to kill his gatherer with one of his two short blades he carries on his side. It only took one smooth motion to take out the demon in less than a second, he even did it so swiftly that he had time to wrap his arm around the back of the demon and let it down softly to the ground as to not make any noise.
“Well that takes care of that. Good work Captain Alworth.” Heinrich said as he pulls his blade out of the demon and turns towards the light.
Ash comes from the darkness behind the light and asks, “I thought I told you to call me Ash?”
“Sorry, I’m a creature of habit; a Captain is always a Captain to me, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind next time. Anyways, could you hand me the flashlight?”
Ash puffs and reluctantly hands him the large flashlight.
The flashlights used in this day and age are not very convenient at all, in fact, they’re downright useless most of the time. It’s very large, even bigger than a lantern and it is also very heavy, almost 25 pounds.
Electricity has yet to be mastered and is only used in the wealthiest spots of the world, naturally the castles of the three great countries use it, but even here they encounter some problems.
One of the many being the flashlight.
It was designed to be used in the wiring rooms of the castles, and its bulb shines extremely bright so the technician can see the complex wiring system that stretches through the entire structure. No one has thought far enough ahead to make it more compact so it could be used as anything else, so this is all they got.
But it’s technical flaws turned out to be a huge advantage, Heinrich was able to dispose of a strong demon so easily because of it.
“So that thing really couldn’t detect me huh?” Ash asks while looking over Heinrich’s shoulder and down at the demon.
“Yeah it’s just as I thought. And they also follow my orders almost mechanically, I bet if I asked it to tie my shoes it would have. This works out great for our plan, I’ll have you follow me around the castle in this thing’s uniform as one of my gatherers, since we now know that they can’t detect your presence, it’s the best way to keep you hidden.”
“Don’t you think we came up with this plan kind of quickly? What if something goes wrong?”
“I’m positive that this is the only way we can keep you here in the castle without being noticed, there’s always a chance that things might go wrong but hey, we don’t have any other options now do we?”
“...I guess you’re right. But where will I be staying? For the last few days I’ve been sleeping in random rooms of the castle, but that can’t continue forever right?”
“You’ll be staying with me in my room of course.”
Ash jumps back and asks, “Wha?? Isn’t there anywhere else? I don’t even know you, and you’re telling me that we’re pretty much going to live together?”
“It’s either that or I send you the gatherer barracks. I’m sure you want no part of that.” Heinrich sighs and shines the obnoxious flashlight at her. “Look, you need to realize that weighing your limited options in a situation like ours and making the proper decision means everything. By you taking this demon’s role as a gatherer, you can follow me to my room without having much attention drawn to us. If you were to simply wander around the castle at night hoping to find an empty room, you’re bound to be caught eventually.”
Heinrich then shifts the light back to the demon and finishes, “And also, I don’t bite.”
Ash has no choice but to agree. She understands that she’s being stubborn about something she has no control over.
“Y-You’re right... I’m sorry, I’m just not used to this kind of mission as a regular soldier.”
He looks to her and smiles, “You’ll get used to it the more you hang around me.”
He then sticks his hand in the small gap between the demon’s hood and starts to feel around.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m curious to find out what these things look like. It’s actually been bugging me since I started this job.”
“You don’t strike me as the curious type.”
“Well it also helps our mission, finding out what type of demon this is could tell us how you need to act to pass as one of these things.”
There’s a little latch connecting the demon’s hood to the chest area that Heinrich quickly undoes, he pulls the hood over its head and finds that it is wearing a black mask with slits in the eyes to look through.
He readies to pull the mask off from around its chin but halts when something catches his eye.
“I’m sure that I stabbed this thing through the neck, but there’s no blood.”
Ash looks closer and sees that the hole Heinrich stabbed through is only just that, a hole.
There’s no blood or even any signs of bruising.
“What do you think it means?”
“I have no clue, I was fully expecting to see green blood or something, this has even caught me off guard.”
Heinrich then pulls the black mask off from the demon and is quickly overcome with shock.
The demon is no demon at all, under the mask is the face of a regular human man staring back up at them blankly in death. His face is pale and his lips are blue, his eyes shine in a dull lifeless gray that really gives off the feeling that he’s been dead for a lot longer than just the couple minutes since Heinrich stabbed him through.
Shaking off his surprise, Heinrich puts his hand to the dead man's face and finds that he’s extremely cold, no sign of warmth reaches his fingertips. It’s just as it looks, this human Gatherer has been dead for a long time.
“Well then...” Heinrich says as he clears his throat. “That’d explain why he couldn’t sense you Captain, all of these things are humans themselves.”
“B-But, isn’t this impossible??”
“Nothing’s outside the realm of possibility with Hell involved... But still, I don’t quite get what’s going on.”
The genuine look of confusion on Heinrich’s face frightens Ash, he’s staying calm about this whole thing but it’s obvious that he’s worried. When someone like him who seemingly has so much control over everything gets that way, it’s a definite cause for concern. Especially for Ash, who’s completely new to this type of thing.
“We need to use this to our advantage.” Heinrich says as he starts undoing the belts and latches on the dead man’s clothes. “Since the Gatherers are dead humans, the real demons likely won’t think anything of your presence either, because of that we’re going to have to get a little more aggressive.”
“Yeah, there’s something telling me that there’s more to these Gatherers than meets the eye. Satan is planning something, I’m sure of it. We need to do whatever it takes to find out what it is so we can inform the rebellion of Troy and the forces of WORLD.”
After removing the clothes of the dead man, he finds that there is a brand of a pentagram burnt into the left side of his chest. The wound looks relatively fresh, it’s still red and there is a purple bruise around it as though the wound clotted up the moment the brand was burnt in. This adds to the mystery behind the origin of the Gatherers.
“Put this on.” Heinrich says as he hands the outfit to Ash. “We need to find out what’s going on right away.”
Ash hesitatingly grabs the dead man’s robe and is halfway disturbed at the thought of putting it on. Looking back, she remembers a time when Zurvick killed an Eiyalazonian soldier and had her put his armor on to disguise herself as well.
“How are we going to do that?” she asked.
“I’m going to talk to Satan, even though I can’t just flat out ask him, I’ll find a way to weasel him into spilling the beans.”
“What you’ll be doing is probably going to be the most difficult thing you’ll ever face. Are you prepared?”
Ash takes a deep breath in determination and replies, “I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to win.”
“Okay.” He stands to his feet, looks her square in the eye and says, “You’re to go into town under my orders with ten other Gatherers and commence the day’s draft.”
Ash’s shoulders jolted upon hearing that.
“Once you bring the drafted citizens back, you’re to take them to the designated recruitment center. I fear that this recruitment center isn’t what its name signifies, I fear that it’s something much darker than that.”
“Not only will you have to bear the burden of sacrificing the people you draft, you just might see a sight straight out of a nightmare once you get there... Is that something you think you have the resolve to do?”
Ash pauses for a few moments and then takes a deep inhale, upon her exhale, she shoots Heinrich a determined glare.
“I can... I will.”
“Okay. You must keep your composure out there Captain, if you stray from your role as a gatherer our whole mission is busted. You’ll be put under a lot of pressure by doing this.”
“Don’t worry about me.” she says while throwing the black hood of the heavy robe over her head. “I told you, I'm willing to do anything.”
“Good, I’ll believe in you then.”
Heinrich walks out of the room and Ash follows, fully cloaked in the uniform of a dreaded Gatherer. He locks the small door behind him, leaves the dark hallway and heads back into the lobby of the castle.
Judging by the way he guides her, no one will be able to tell that Ash is just a regular human.
She remains silent when Heinrich says, “The mission will begin immediately... Let’s go.”
A couple minutes after the two left, in the silence of the dark room, the dead Gatherer begins to move. The pentagram over its heart shines a bright purple and it robotically gets to its feet. Standing bare in the darkness, it glares towards the door and begins walking towards it.
One would think that it would try to open the door and make its way into the castle, however, it simply face-plants into the door and continues to push against it.
Going nowhere, and not stopping its legs because of it, the dead Gather mumbles in a deep tone.
Its pentagram shines bright, and its weight begins to crack the tough wooden door.
Even after being impaled through the head, the dead Gatherer still moves, awaiting its next order.
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