Let Me Tell You A Little Story

Cover of Let Me Tell You A Little Story



Kids’ stuff



“Kids are a reflex of their environment. If you want to learn about a community, it’s enough to observe its younger population.”

-Master Akprop.

 

 

It’s noon in a, so to speak, population in the west of Exsy. Some kids are mocking another, making him cry.

― What is it, are you going to call your parents? ah, no, wait, you can´t. ―Refal said, in a mocking tone.

― You can tell why his real parents threw him away. ― Joro said scornfully.

― The only ones who he has managed to intimidate seem to be his parents. ― Coip Exclaimed.

When the latter ended, the group let out a thunderous laugh, while Phantom was crying heartbrokenly, sitting against a wall. The afternoon passed slowly between insults and blows until it was time to return home.

―Hi mom. ―Phantom greeted cheerfully, swallowing all the sadness, anger and helplessness caused by not being able to defend himself from those thugs.

―Hi Phan. ― His mother replied warmly. ― Your father is in a meeting with the neighbors, it seems that they want to try something to stop the soldiers in the patrol this week, but it will arrive at dinner time. ―Said his mother, with full confidence in the child.

― Isn't that a bad thing, or impossible? ―The boy asked in his innocence.

― Yes, although if they think about it so much, I don't think they don't realize it ―The mother answered while cleaning some utensils after finishing her son's meal.

The rest of the day was nothing too special to tell. A classic family talk around the table implied that Phantom's father had planned to do something against the homicides who called themselves righteous, as he always called them.

― We are going to change the course of history; you will see it; the neighbors support me. ―Said the man with a smile on his face.

― Won't they send reinforcements after the squad doesn't return? ― Asked his wife with some concern.

― They are just undead, even wizards without caste as we can against that. I want to do it, change the world, leave something good for the boy; for that and more, I will give it try. ― He settled the conversation with that, there was hope in his eyes, a hope that could not be just an illusion. And it was true.

The day of executions and taxes had arrived, and a group of peasants willing to change history waited in the shadows, ready to end any soulless being that entered the village.

The soldiers quietly entered the village, while the door guards welcomed them, ignoring what was coming. The captain, the only human, climbed onto the podium in the main square, while the town crowded around by order of the rest of the squad. The tension was tangible in the air while the captain looked silently at the villagers, prepared to choose the damned.

― You, the one with black hair and freckles; you, the lady in the green dress; and you, the brown-haired boy. ―He said with the calm of the routine, while pointing, paralyzing with fear those who knew their destiny was sealed. The other guards proceeded to charge the damned to the podium, before the executioner. At that moment an explosion and a voice crossed the air, breaking the suspense in which those present were.

―Not today! ― A man shouted as he fired a stream of fire at the executioner's head, knocking him down and roasting him inside his armor. After this, other men appeared from the crowd, using sword and magic in equal parts to kill the soldiers.

― Stop them! ― The captain shouted desperately as he threw himself into the fight.

A fight to the death was being fought in the square. While some fled and left the revolutionaries, others joined them, inspired by them. On the other hand, the soldiers fought fervently, knowing that they would not die in vain.

After a bloody battle, about ten soldiers lay inert on the ground, while all civilians rose victorious, stained with blood, and willing to repeat this sequence as many times as necessary, there was no plan for the next movement of these improvised liberators, but they knew that with the first step taken, the road was going to reveal itself little by little.

The following weeks went by slowly, for the tension was incredible. The revolutionaries were always sending people to patrol the outskirts. The entry and exit of people were constant, and the activity in the town had never had that intensity. There were always archers and guards on the walls watching the horizon, and they were always ready to receive recruits, as well as to train them. The alert was maximum, but the next attack was already planned and they just had to wait for the exact moment, for they made sure not to let loose out, or exposed vulnerability. Always agitated, the town was demonstrating a fighting spirit that had not been seen for a long time.

Despite their effort and care, the calm didn't last long. A few weeks later, the sound of a cannon firing towards the houses woke the villagers. It was an entire battalion, equipped with torches, portable rams, and others prepared to launch a siege against the village, as the protocol mandated. The archers and guards were dead since before the first cannon shot, the rebels could be cunning, but the guards were more. Before the majority realized, the town was on fire, and the dead on both sides were only increasing, it was the punishment they had earned by raising and protecting attempts of revolutionaries.

« It's cold, but I'm still burning; it's dark, but still the light burns my eyes; There is chaos around me, but I still feel calm, everything is calm for me. » Thought Phantom lying in the street, with ash on his face and some of his clothes scorched, in a place far from the flames, which he had reached by luck when he went out to see the origin of the noise caused by the cannon shots. He was starting to lack air and his thoughts were not clear. « The sky is black, it's going to rain, but a simple rain can't fix this. The town is doomed. » He mentally reviewed the situation while accepting his destiny.

―So… Son― A voice laboriously reached his ears, taking him out of his stupor.

―Dad? ― The boy replied, surprised to hear his father. He went to where he had heard the voice, and the scene he saw at that moment marked the beginning of a desire for revenge that was going to follow him for the rest of his life.

His father was buried from the waist down in the rubble of a building, and he could see his mother's hand sticking out. She had already reached eden.

―Son, come closer, p-please. ― His father told him, spending his last breaths in talking with his son. The boy approached, obeying what might be his father's last will, while tears fell from his eyes.

―Let me tell you something. ―The man started.

―B-but dad…―The boy replied.

―Shut up! ―The man shouted. ― I don't have much time left, but much to tell you, so just listen. ― The boy nodded silently. ― Listen, you know we are not your biological parents, but we love you the same. You know that despite everything, we were always looking to leave you something good for your future, but now you're alone. But ... above all, I want you to know one thing ... ― The man took a breath, preparing a long farewell. ― You are weak, clumsy and dumb; you have no talents, caste, clan, or any kind of gift; You are the perfect description of mediocre and average, nothing special, a disappointment as a magician, warrior or worker. ― The man stopped again, while the boy was crying bitterly with his eyes fixed on the floor. ―Look at me! ― The boy looked up. ― What I mean is that… Neither you nor your parents, whom I could meet, had special blood running through their veins, as I said, you are only an average child, or worse, since you do not even have decent magical abilities at your age. Do you know what that means? Do you know? That only means one thing ... ― he stopped again. ― It means that everything you are and will manage to become will be achieved by your own account and effort. ― Said the man, in a tone with which he tried to moralize his son. He continued. ― It means that nobody has given you anything; that you on your own have managed to be what you are at your young age; that without any support, no inheritance, or legacy you have become someone who learns fast, who strives and who likes new knowledge. I want you to know that no matter what, you must give your best. Beat the demons that stand in front of you. I don't know what you want to do with your life from now on, but what I do know is that I want to tell you that, no matter what, you will get to do it as the best if you don't give up. So ... Do you swear you'll never give up? ―

― I swear ―

― Do you swear to me that you will see destiny, life, and death in the eyes and say “I do not have the slightest fear”? ―

―I swear it! ―

― Do you swear that you will give more than all you have in everything you do? ―

―I swear it! ―

― Well, and finally, do you swear that you will never forget us and that you will always remember that we are supporting you from eden? ―

―I swear it! ―The boy shouted with the little air he could inhale because of the smoke.

―Ha, ha, ha, ha… That's my boy …― The man said with his last breath, as he fell inert to the ground. The boy was crying bitterly in front of the body of his parents, not knowing what fate would hold.

Shortly after, he left for a clear place, looking for air and some way to continue, because in a destroyed town he would find no better luck than his parents. While running he crashed into someone. He was an old man, the wise master of the town. At that moment he fell unconscious because the air around him was not breathable at that point in the fire. It started raining.

 

The old man continued walking calmly through the town, now turned into a giant campfire and found some children together, probably neighbors, in a kind of hug in search of protection.

― Calm down, everything will be fine, I promise. ― The old man said while patting their heads, talking with a smile on his face and a tone that tried to calm the orphans. ― Come with me, I will give you home and food. ― The children looked up. They saw a man with a smile on his face as if nothing happened around him.

―Mister Akprop? ― Said Refal, shyly and fearfully.

― Did you come to save us? ― Joro asked, with more confidence, because the master was friends with him and his deceased family.

―That's right, be calm children, everything will be fine ― Said the old man.

―Can you take care of us? ― Coip asked.

― Of course. Now, unless we want to roast ourselves, it is best to run away from here. ―

―Yes―The three said. And then they left for the house of the master, located on a mountain bordering on the town, so it was safe and hidden among the vegetation.

 

― This is your new home. ―Said the old man as he entered the door.

―Wow! it's bigger than I thought. ― Coip said with admiration. The children continued to walk around the house together, but when they entered the dining room, they saw something that left them stunned.

― Oh, hello, welcome. ―Phantom greeted indifferently as he drank some tea.

― It seems you have already met your new brother; I hope you get along. ― Said the old man, who was behind them, in the door frame.

―Y-yes ... of course, we will get along very well. ― Joro said with a feigned joy, and an awkward smile, a gesture that his friends also had.

―Well, come on, let's have a look at your rooms. ―

―Yes, master. ― Coip said as the four walked along with the old man to their rooms.

After dark, during bedtime, Refal was thinking, looking at the ceiling.

«This is nothing like we had planned, it's amazing how things changed so quickly. What does the future hold for us? Was it luck that the master found us? Fate? » The boy was meditating. «Bah, it's no use worrying now, very strong things have happened, but at least having the master, food and a bed calms the feeling of sadness a bit. » A tear escaped while he thought. «I wish I could at least have said goodbye. ». He reflected on that one last time and then tried to fall asleep. «I hope that my friends are not as affected as I am, if we are all sad, there will be no way to raise our spirits. » He thought, trying to raise his «What could Phantom be doing around here? I hope he will at least be able to forgive us over time. » He reviewed, before falling asleep. The uncertain fate that awaited them was just beginning.

 

 

― It's been a couple of weeks since you got here. ― The master said to his four guests. ―your wounds are already healed, so I would like to do something. Go all four to the room behind the sanctuary, in the courtyard. ― The boys started to walk.

―What do you think this is all about, Coip? ―Joro asked intrigued.

― I don't know, what do you think Refal? ―

― I can't think of anything, what do you think Phantom? ― He told the last. The weeks had caused the need to relate to each other, so old grudges were being forgotten.

―Well…― They were passing by the sanctuary at that time, so they were entering a huge room preceded by a door of equally prodigious size. ― This sanctuary is dedicated to the greater gods, so this has to be a kind of magical training room. ― Phantom said.

― Now that I think about it …― Joro said, changing the subject. ― Won't you tell us your real name? ― The other two were surprised at the question.

―This is. ― Phantom assured.

―Isn’t it a nickname? ― The other answered, intrigued.

―No. When my parents died shortly after my birth, they were already giving me up for dead; but my adoptive parents found out and decided to adopt me. Because there was no time to even name me, and the options considered by my parents were not known, this added to the fact that took me for dead; so, they decided to give me that name. It's kind of a joke. ―

― Curious at least. ― Inferred Refal. The master arrived shortly, to give them some news.

― Children, my presence may have been divine design, that I found you, or what I am going to teach you about yourselves, but without a doubt, the coincidence that exists between you is curious. ―The master said, intriguing them.

―What's the matter, master? ― Coip asked, with a great interest shown in his voice.

― Come closer, boy. ― He pointed it out and the boy obeyed. ― Stand in front of me and show me your back. ―

As soon as Coip was in position, the master began to move his arms in curved paths, while his hands lit up. The other three children looked between surprised and intrigued. The master put his knuckles together with clenched fists and hit Coip in the back. The boy fell.

―Why, master? ― The boy asked, sobbing in pain.

―Run, and throw yourself against that column. ―Ordered the master.

―But…―The boy hesitated

―Do it! ―The master shouted ― And you better do it with all your strength. ―

―Understood. ―Said the boy crestfallen.

He ran as fast as he could in the direction of a stone column, jumping looking to crash against it, as the master had ordered. His friends could only close their eyes as if they were going to feel the pain too. Silence, a silence that lasted little, or nothing. Rocks falling.

―Wait… ― Phantom opened his eyes, only to see Coip sitting, recovering from the impact, but he saw no pain in his expression. The pile of stones that was once a column revealed a change. Maybe more strength?

―What did you do, master? ―Joro asked, intrigued.

― I will explain it later. Now, imagine a figure about ten times your size above you. ―The master ordered Coip.

―Understood― He responded excitedly. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

An image of himself from the waist up appeared above him, it was huge.

― Excellent, now stretch your arm, as if you wanted to grab that other column. ― He did so. The titan moved with him, grabbing the column.

― I feel it, I feel the column between my fingers. ― He said, surprised.

―Press. ―The master said.

The column succumbed to the giant's force, while Coip did not show to be making the slightest effort.

― Perfect, now sit next to your mates. Joro, come here. ― Coip sat down while his friend stood in front of the master, ready to receive the blow. ―Very well. ― The master began to move his hands, while Joro closed his eyes, ready for impact. Being prepared allowed him to withstand the blow and just stagger, instead of falling.

― Well, now, think of a specific date from the past, any date, and touch the ground with the palms of both hands. ― The master gave instructions.

―Understood―When he acted as the master indicated, the room began to be illuminated with a strange bluish light, while a phantasmagoric image of the master traveled the entire sanctuary, sweeping and whistling. The moment he left contact with the ground, everything returned to normal.

― Perfect. Next, imagine a medium-sized dome around the rests of the column ―

―All Right. ― He focused in a dome around some rubble. Despite his effort, nobody saw nothing, not the slightest change. ―Did I do something wrong? ― Some concern in his voice revealed his insecurity about whatever had to happen.

― No, and stay focused. Now imagine that everything is going backward, time goes back inside that dome. ―

He focused again. Suddenly, the rubble began to settle, until the column was back on its feet as if nothing had happened.

―Wow! ― The surprise was remarkable in his voice and eyes.

The master took two stones from the other pile of rubble and walked away a couple of meters.

― Now, imagine the dome in that space. ― He said, pointing an empty spot on the center of the room with his index finger. ―Think of a slower time, everything goes very slowly. ―

Shortly after that, the master threw a stone, which began to fall very slowly, as if the air was denser.

― Now, that everything flows faster. ― He threw another stone, which fell very fast as if someone kept pushing it. The surprise in the children's eyes was growing; Refal and Phantom were every second more impatient to know what awaited them. ― Good. Now, Refal, in front of me. Joro, sit down. ―

―Understood. ―They said at the same time.

When Refal was in position, the master began to move his arms, and struck, as he had done with his classmates. Refal staggered and took a couple of steps forward, but regained his posture with a look full of hope.

― Take a stone and eat it. ― The master ordered. Refal approached the pile and bit the stone, confident. The stone broke inside his jaws as if it was just a carrot. ― Perfect, now imagine the stone in your hand. ―

The stone began to appear in his hand, forming from a mass that was secreted by his skin.

―Wow! ―

― Now something made of stone, anything. ― A small hammer formed in his hand, causing his astonishment to grow and expand to the spectators. ― Wonderful. Now sit down. ― He looked at Phantom for a second, hesitating. ― I'm sorry, but the blood in your veins does not correspond to any clan. ― Phantom's face went from being full of illusion to an afflicted smile as if trying to swallow his sadness to smile at the gifts of his friends. ― Children, in your veins flows blood from the ancient clans, so the spell on your back enlivens the flow, allowing you to use the skills of your ancestors. Coip, you belong to the delta clan, the force clan, the colossus clan; your skin is hard as steel, and the spiritual image you handle is your best weapon, train and it will become something that will be molded at your will. Joro, you are from the epsilon clan, the clan that plays with the temporal flow; you can show events of any date in the place where you are, and control the passage of time, train and you can create huge areas of effect, and choose what you want to affect and how you want to do it. Refal, you belong to the alpha clan, the clan that controls objects and mass in the universe; Your jaws can eat anything, even toxic materials, without any repercussion, and you can use everything you eat as a mass to create objects, but you can only create materials that you have already eaten. Phantom, you will have to study a lot, maybe you have talent with some kind of spell. ― He paused a moment, and at the intrigued look of the children said:― I tell you all this because you have to train hard, you have to be the best you can, and when I get to eden, make sure you do with your lives what you want. ― He smiled showing confidence. ― and, judging by the look you had when I rescued you, I imagine that it is a desire for revenge towards the tyrant who dominated the world so long ago. ― The children looked at him, giving him the reason; now they had a clear goal and a starting line, they just had to prepare to face whatever fate puts them in front of them.

While the Refal, Joro, and Coip trained daily, Phantom read and trained day and night. Time passed, and the latter was unable to find what made him special, he had not found anything that would give him a reason to be with those three gifted, as if he did not fit.

―You still can't find your gift? ― The master asked compassionately.

―No― The boy replied.

―Have you read the manuals? ―

― Each one, except those in runes; in the library, there is no book to learn how to read runic. ―

― Amazing. Aren’t you good with any spell? ―

― I haven't managed to dominate even one. ―

― I guess there is no choice but to try to enliven your blood, as I did with your teammates; maybe there is some vestige of talent from your ancestors. ― The master told the boy to stand before him. The boy stood up, but there was no hope within him. The master hit. As soon as the boy managed to regain his composure, the master was stunned to see how the kid had a gift, but it was better not to say anything.

―Well, it seems you don't have any legacy. ― He stuttered trying to hide his surprise.

―Understood. ― He didn't sound disappointed, but it was impossible not to hear the sadness in such a broken voice.

― Wait, you don't have a clan, but there are a couple of spells that you could do well. ― The master spoke to him in a trembling tone. ― Close your eyes, and imagine yourself over there. ―He said while pointing to an empty zone.

―Understood. ― The boy closed his eyes concentrating, and when he opened them, he had moved a short distance in direction to that point. ― Amazing. Thank you, master. ―His voice, now excited, overflowed with joy.

― This technique allows you to dodge attacks and cross obstacles, train it, and you will be able to do it even with open eyes. ―

―Very well. ― The desire to train with his teammates was eating him away.

―Wait. ―The boy turned to see him intrigued. ―Wait here for a moment. ―The boy complied with the order and sat down while the master left. After a while, the master came back with a knife and a piece of bread.

―What's that for, master? ―The boy asked.

― Extend your arm. ― The master sounded confident, so the boy did obediently. The master made him a cut on the arm.

―Ouch! ―The boy screamed in pain.

― I'm sorry, but you wouldn't notice it without any injury. ― He handed the piece of bread to the boy. ―Eat. ― He ordered him. The boy ate the bread, while he did it, he noticed how his wound was closing quickly.

―Impressive. ―

―It works with any kind of food, you also gain strength in your jaws, the ability to heal with the flesh of your enemies, and if that were not enough, by eating human flesh, tasting their blood, sweat or hair you will get the ability to use their abilities and you will copy their entire spell repertoire. You can also access their knowledge and memory. ―The master explained to the hopeful boy, then smiled at him. ―Go, train. ― The boy shot out to tell his new friends about his newly discovered abilities.

The master was left alone and thoughtful in the library. «So, demons, uh ...? » He reflected on what he had seen in his student. «If he has another experience that is too strong, it could cause him to break, and from that point on he will not be able to avoid contact with his inner demons. » He knew that fate would give him several bad experiences trying to break the boy. «The gods themselves let him live this kind of experience being someone who by their blood should be much more unstable than he is? Or he appears to be. » He doubted and prayed for to all that awaited him, it was him who rose victorious against those forces because at the moment when his instability caused a break, he would start a battle for control of his body, that few had won; but the master was scared, because, with so many bad experiences, it wouldn't be just one who will try to take control of his body. «You have a long road ahead…» he thought with sorrow about the fate that awaited that child.




First spark



“The smallest of the sparks is capable of causing the most destructive of the explosions. Chaos is called by scientists; butterfly effect by romantics.”

-Master Akprop

 

 

Time passed, and the town resurfaced from its ashes since they could not lose the mines of the mountain that was in the south of it.

Ten years had passed by, the children had already grown, developed their skills and were preparing to avenge their families, all the dead at the hands of the tyrant and his army.

Refal was tall, with slightly brown skin, being the palest among his companions. His hair was black, his eyes were brown, he was thin, with marked muscles and characterized by a cold head in all circumstances.

Coip was not so tall, with almond skin and eyes of the same color. With light brown hair and a thicker complexion, because his training had made him gain a lot of muscle mass.

Joro was slightly shorter than Coip, his skin was of a soft light apricot in a cold tone, and his eyes were honey-colored. He had dark hair, and his very thin complexion made it hard to believe the fact that the little body he had was almost all muscle.

Finally, Phantom was as tall as Coip, with a cold and clear coppery skin, black hair and thin build, nothing remarkable except his olive-colored eyes.

Time had already erased the grudges of childhood, and the four behaved like a family, with the master as the father. The town was as before, as if that fateful day had never happened. People had already forgotten that incident, and therefore, no one felt more fear than usual among the population.

With the help of the master they had managed to hide those memories in their memory, therefore their character was as if it had never happened, but they were present in some way to have a motivation, and in case some villain wanted to try to make fun of it.

Joro let out a long sigh, relaxing after a hard day of training.

―Too tired? ― Phantom asked sarcastically, exhausted by his day between gardening, hunting to bring meat, reading and some work in the master's workshop.

―Yes―Sweat ran down his forehead. Refal laughed calmly from the door frame, also exhausted.

―Where’s Coip? only he is missing. ―Phantom was intrigued.

― In the kitchen; the meat you brought will be enough for lunch and dinner, plus he wants to experiment with food. ―Refal spoke between breaths.

―Where did he get the like for cooking? ―Joro asked.

― If only we knew, maybe we could become equally skilled cooks. ―Phantom affirmed.

The days were calm, in spite of almost daily riots, because the training was the activity that consumed most of these. Their days were repetitive, but they were used to it, and they preferred it rather than having to witness another massacre. But there is no harm with a hundred years to last, and the same rule applies to calm. Destiny works curiously, and no one would be able to explain the divine whim that prompted that town to the revolution; for a second time, the villagers decided to reveal themselves on a grand scale.

―What’s with that noise?! ―Refal came out of surprise from the drowsiness caused by fatigue when he heard explosions in the town.

―Well, here we go again…― Joro, as if he didn't notice the seriousness of the matter, said till lying on the bed.

The town was complete chaos, with soldiers and wizards fighting everywhere.

―Who the hell started playing with advanced spells?! ―Coip appeared out of nowhere, between angry and surprised.

―Not us, something happened in town. ― Refal responded again calmly, after the initial surprise, as if he no longer cared about the possible repetition of that fateful, although distant, day.

―I was already getting angry at the fact that you didn't invite me. ―Coip replied, jokingly. The riots were more than common, so trying to calm down was the best option as soon as one started.

―This riot seems important. ―Phantom pointed out.

―Calm down, it's just another couple of graves in the graveyard. ― Joro replied.

―Do we not train precisely to avoid such things? ―Refal began to feel uneasy because the riot did not seem to ease.

―He’s right. Sometimes I think we are becoming more insensitive. ― Coip supported him, as he felt a special disavowal of suffering.

―I guess you are right, but the master gave us no starting line or something like that to know when to start but asked us not to intervene until he indicated it. ―Joro also felt some uneasiness and guilt.

― That is true, although today it seems especially stro…―A sudden quake stopped Phantom as he spoke.

―And now what?! ―Coip tried to prevent the greatest number of things from falling, and Joro was using kronofragmentation for the same purpose.

―This is not looking good. ―Phantom was fearful.

―The master! ―Shouted Refal, and as if it was planned from before, the four of them ran away, dropping everything, to enter the corridors of the house looking for the old man to protect him. ― Coip, the sanctuary; Joro, the garden; Phantom, the workshop and the library; I will look in the living room and the kitchen. ― He ordered, proving that he was not the squad captain for no reason.

―Yes, sir! ― The other three responded in unison, before separating to register the entire property.

 

―Master, master! master!... ― Phantom shouted louder and more desperate each time, looking for the master while the quake caused the fall of debris and tools. The was quake stronger and stronger every second that passed. ―Damn it! Is it that the gods have something against this village, or is it that we are not going to find true peace if it is not buried several meters underground? ― Phantom shouted angrily. «How could the others be? » He was asking himself.

 

― Woah! ― Joro had just dodged a falling piece of rubble and kept running in search of the master. « This is getting worse, and in the hurry, we don't even think of any sign to meet again! » Joro was crossing the door to the garden, so he could lower his guard by being in a space in which nothing could fall on him. ―Master? master?! ― He screamed hoping for an answer while searching in all possible places where the master could be.

 

― I still don't understand why the hell this is happening to us. ― He sighed with some discouragement while running and dodging all kinds of dangers. ―Have we won an enemy without even starting? ― Coip was already entering the sanctuary, which was crumbling over his head. «Joro has a huge reconstruction job ahead. ». He thought as the rocks fell.

 

― Master! ― Refal was looking inside the house, anywhere the master could be. « Who or what the hell started this earthquake? Is it a coincidence or a punishment from the gods? » He was becoming more nervous and losing hope of finding the master every second that passed. ―Wait for a moment…―He inhaled deeply. «Doesn't it smell like burning ?! » He thought to himself, much more alarmed. While that smell was spreading through the house, Coip had managed to find the master, but he had a broken leg.

― Master! ―He screamed with remarkable joy as tears began to go down his cheeks. «He’s unconscious. » He thought since the old man did not respond. He carried him on his shoulders and began to run, taking care of rocks not hitting the master with the help of his spiritual image. He arrived at the exit and was already in the glade that was in the outer part of the main door of the house, He left the master on the floor, in a place where he would be safe. This one regained consciousness.

―What’s happening?! ―The master asked Coip.

 ― Riots, an explosion, an earthquake, you were unconscious, the house falls. ― He babbled things nervous. ―There is no time, pretend to remain unconscious, master, it is for your sake; I'm going to look for the others. ―He came in again, because no one used to pass by, never, and that someone was going to do it at that time was unlikely, according to him. ―Guys! guys! ― He passed through the garden looking for Joro.

―Coip―Joro approached him from the center of the garden. ―Did you find the master yet? ―

― Yes, he is outside the house, in a safe place. ―

― Perfect, let's go find the others. ―Joro pointed down the hall.

―That’s what I was going to say. ― They went looking for Phantom in the workshop.

―Guys. ―Refal suddenly appeared, when they were in the middle of the hall, with Phantom by his side.

―We were looking for you. ―Phantom continued.

―And we for you. ―Joro answered.

― Anyway, let's go to the exit, the master is already in a safe place. ―Coip wanted to go out to check the master's status as soon as possible, and nobody was feeling safe in a structure that is falling apart.

―And there’s a fire somewhere, but I don't know where. ―Refal added.

― I have a lot of work ahead. ―Joro assured with some reluctance. They all went out to see the master, but the scene they found looked nothing like the one Coip had left: Everything was on fire, and some soldiers were just killing off some civilians who had reached the glade fleeing from the riots.

―Down! ―Joro exclaimed as he pushed them. They all crouched behind a bush.

― This time there is no mercy for anyone, even during an earthquake of these proportions. ― Refal was worried. ―Where did you leave the master? ―

―Here, behind the tree. ―He said while pointing to a place on the other side of the glade.

―This situation is getting pretty tricky. ― Phantom was carefully observing the behavior of the soldiers in the clearing, while the people fell inert to the floor. One of them headed to where the master was, startling the boys.

―It dares to just touch one of the master´s hairs and I leave it tucked into the wall. ― Coip was threatening, ready to use his spiritual image.

―Here’s an old man. ― One of the soldiers declared and then approached him as if wanting to check if he had not already died. ―He is unconscious. ―He told his companion.

― Remember the orders, there should not be a single soul left. ―The other soldier was looking in some bushes. His partner raised his weapon, and at that moment Coip jumped from the bushes and with the colossus struck the soldier, leaving him in a cavity, freshly made at measure, and broke his weapon. Joro and Refal attacked the other soldier, while Phantom used the jumps to get as soon as possible at the master’s side. What they did not count on was that Coip's blow broke the soldier's weapon, causing the tip to fall; by the time they could tell, the master had the tip of the spear stuck in the side of his stomach. He stopped pretending suddenly when he felt the pain.

The master writhed in pain. Joro and Refal arrived to see what had happened after killing the other soldier. ― You fought… you killed…―He spoke with effort, almost whispering.

―But master, we had to…―Refal was trying to defend the fact that they had killed two human soldiers.

―You did well, he…he…he…― The master laughed softly, proud, to the surprise of his pupils.

― Master, please resist. ― Phantom was trying not to cry, but tears escaped his eyes, and a very distressed voice revealed his state.

―Calm down…calm down…―The master was smiling. ― It's a sad thing to have to say goodbye like this. Don't give me those faces. At bad times, good face. I will pass on a better life. ― The boys were starting to cry inconsolably, despite trying to keep their tears and pain inside. ― There are some gifts that I wanted to give you, but I won't be able; so, each one of you go to your favorite room, there will be the gift. ― He was smiling softly before the sorrowful look of his students. ―Goodbye. ―

―No! please, master. ―The four exclaimed while breaking into tears

―Relax, let’s…― His hands began to shine, and he touched the forehead of his pupils. ― There, tomorrow, when you wake up, the pain and suffering will be a distant memory. ―

―Please. ―Coip was being consumed by a feeling of guilt, if he hadn't left the master alone, none of that would have happened.

― It's fine, everything is fine. You already have a starting point, your adventure starts now; I hope nothing less than your best, I will always be vigilant from eden. ― He seemed calm as if trying to calm the pain, panic, sadness, and affliction of his students; He didn't care in the least about his pain, as if he had been waiting for that moment throughout his long life.

―Yes, master. ―They were crying heartbroken, mentally and emotionally injured.

―That’s more like it…― He closed his eyes, set off for a better place. The boys spent a long time just crying, because the tremor didn't want to stop, and the place was safe. After a while, Refal got up with his eyes full of determination, but at the same time hurt and full of anger.

―Listen, we will free this world from this tyranny, as the master would have liked; we will honor his memory; we will be the fire of hope in the icy tundra; we are going to hold the head of that bastard among the four, and we will raise it victorious, even if it takes us a thousand years; let's get out of this. ― He said, motivating his grieving companions more than ever.

― Yes, captain! ―The three of them shouted.

They spent hidden at that point the time necessary for the tremor to stop. They entered the house to rescue as much as possible, and for those gifts that the master told them about.





Last farewell




“If a farewell does not provoke any emotion, it is not a farewell, it is something as simple as an act of courtesy; an empty act of courtesy”

-Master Akprop

 

 

When entering the corridors of that unstable structure, the smoke that came from the glade at the exit prevented them from thinking about spending a lot of time there. Each one went to their respective rooms, looking for their gifts, in addition to collecting everything they considered indispensable. After a while, everyone was gathered in the glade, when the fire had already faded; they were all holding bags of varied contents and somewhat strange weapons.

Refal held a bow, made of reinforced bone; Coip had a huge hammer, two meters of handle, and another meter from end to end of the head, made of steel, which was an ax on one end; Joro had a rod of about a meter and a half, with a steel blade at each end, each about forty centimeters; Phantom had steel cylinders on his forearms, of which two chains hung, which ended in scythes, with handles of about thirty centimeters, and blades of about forty.

In addition to this, Phantom carried many library books in his bag, Coip food, Joro some more books, all this in addition to some clothes, money, tools and personal belongings; like some Phantom notebooks, some of Joro´s special tools, Coip’s whistle, and Refal’s two-handed sword.

―Guys. ―Refal asked for their attention for a moment. ― I found these in my closet. ― He told them as he pulled out some large brown hooded robes from his bag, as well as gloves. All had their initials embroidered, in addition to being made, somehow, especially for them.

― Well, they are quite comfortable ―Joro moved freely with his robe on.

―There´s something more. ―He took out some masks, which were also marked ― it seems that we also have to wear masks. ―

― The face is an easy and fragile target. ― Phantom had a completely gray mask, in which the only thing that stood out were eyes with a strange purple glow.

―Yeah, you are right with that. ― Coip, with a mask also gray, which had drawn bull horns, and a ring that pretended to be piercing his nose.

―I guess all this is for protection. ― Joro had a white mask, which had a snake tongue drawn.

―I guess so. But, as a separate issue, from now on I am simply "R"; Coip, "C"; and so on. ― Refal had a white mask too, but he had a wolf's nose drawn.

― I guess if we are completely covered, screaming our names is not too logical. ― Phantom had supposed the reason for those code names.

―Hey, C― Joro touched his shoulder, wanting to get his attention.

―What happens? ―Coip replied.

―How heavy is it? ―Joro asked pointing at the mallet-ax.

―As light as a feather. ―Coip started playing with the mallet to prove its lack of weight.

―It does not seem like it. ―Phantom doubted his friend’s statement.

―Let me hold it. ―Joro was curious about the weight of that object. As soon as Coip passed it, Joro fell to the floor, along with the hammer. ― This thing weighs at least five tons. ― Despite his effort, he couldn't even move it, although then both Refal and Phantom helped him.

― I think it's light. ―He said while lifting the mallet with one hand, without any effort.

―Changing the subject…―Refal looked at the master's body. ―Let's bury him. ―

―It’ll be the best. ―Phantom got on his side.

―I’ll dig a grave. ―Coip had a shovel in his bag, so he started digging.

―Didn't the master give you any other gift? ―Phantom was intrigued because in Refal's closet he had left a couple more things.

―Yes, he gave me this scroll, although he says we can only use it in open spaces; It also brings another couple of instructions, but they are somewhat confusing now, it will be better to watch it calmly as soon as we use it. ―Refal took out a scroll and a sheet from his bag.

Realized the hole for the tomb of the master, they got some tables, with which they closed the door of the house, in addition to making an improvised tombstone to the master, in whose epitaph said: “Exceptional father and exemplary master, with his wise teachings and choices he began the end of the dictatorship ”.

―Come on, the longer we stay, it will be harder to leave. ―Refal was remarkably sad and nostalgic.

―It will be the best, but first, let's go to the town to discover what happened. ― Phantom began to walk along the path that led to the forest and ended up at the foot of the mountain. ―J, can you recreate the scene in such a large area? ―He asked because they still did not know the true limits of their abilities.

―I think so. ―Joro responded with a slight emotion to finally be able to test his skill seriously.

The descent was at a good pace because they wanted to know the reason for all that. When they reached the lowest part of the mountain, they found a destroyed town; the houses were scorched and broken, and the mine was completely blocked by rocks. They took advantage of the fallen trees of the forest to close the path to the glade, in addition to covering them with leaves.

―Let’s start. ―Joro said. He focused, closed his eyes and touched the ground with the palms of both hands. An area of considerable size began to react to it, as far as their sight could reach, as rubble, corpses, and buildings greatly limited the field of vision. The bluish light became hundreds of silhouettes that moved terrified by the tireless persecution of the guards, but the mine was still standing. After a while, a silhouette with armor, a soldier, stuck a seal on the wall of the entrance of the mine, his hands lit up and he touched the seal. Other seals scattered around the town began to explode until the mine exploded, stronger than the previous ones, unleashing a tremor caused by the destruction of several beams at the entrance of it. The rocks began to fall, causing an increase in the strength of the tremor, and sealing the mine. The four young boys watched those scenes stunned until Joro got up. ―Another reason to do this. ―

―Very well. ―Refal took a map from his backpack and marked with a cross the town where they were. ―Let’s head to the west. ―He pointed with his finger the town that was farther at the west, a town a few days away.

― Going through that sea would be the fastest route, but there is no port, and that town is at least a day-long walk from the coast. ―Joro analyzed the map carefully.

― We don't want to get there fast, in fact, that’s the last thing we want. ―Phantom refuted. ― We are but an attempt, and a bad one, of warriors; so it is best to lengthen the path to develop our skills, tanning ourselves with war, prepare us for a great fight; Therefore, we will start with that town, the one in the westernmost part of the world, and then we will go east, we will travel all over the world. ―Refal looked at him, Phantom had guessed exactly his motives.

―That's logical. ―Coip had grasped the idea.

―Well, leaving now will be best. ― Refal took the map and put it in his bag, put it on his shoulder, and then they left for that town, knowing that their destiny was beginning to manifest itself and that the road was going to be worse and worse; but that they were going to prepare themselves to receive it with their heads up.

They walked through everything that had once been their hometown, now just a shadow of that; It had become a pile of ashes and dust, everything had fallen, including the walls. They passed through the main door, the one that would have had vigilant guards before, now there were only two pieces of rock separated a couple of meters, not even the arch form had managed to stand. As soon as they took the first step in the valley outside the walls that had contained them all their lives, they knew that they would not cross them again in a long time, maybe never, so as if they were moved by one mind, they turned around and looked the huge construction. Phantom raised his fist and looked down; the others followed. A few seconds later, he looked up again and just said:

―Farewell, master. ― He said goodbye aloud to the master, and mentally to his father.

―Farewell, master. ―The others repeated after him.

They began to walk, they were going to surround the town to go to their first objective, the sun was falling on the horizon, the night would not take long to take over the sky. They had begun a legend that would remain engraved in the annals of history throughout eternity.




The last gift



“When you die, all the gifts you have given will extend your memory, and with it your legacy; which is the only thing left of you when you go to a better place”

-Master Akprop

 

 

By nightfall, the boys were preparing to camp.

―Don't you think it's time to use that scroll? ― Phantom was eager to know what the last of the gifts could make.

―Understood. ― Refal began to read the instructions, then put the scroll on the floor and touched it. At that moment a house appeared out of nowhere, surrounded by training fields, a garden and a strange circular perimeter drawn with runes.

―Wow! ―Joro was very impressed to see the structure.

―So, the master thought of everything. ― Coip entered the house, exploring every corner, the others did the same after getting out of the surprise. Upon entering Joro headed straight for the rooms, Refal checked the living room, Coip the kitchen and Phantom the small training camps that were located behind each of the rooms.

Coip was surprised to see a fully equipped kitchen with full pantries. Refal was in the living room, a room full of exploration gadgets and a large table in the center; It was intended to be a planning place. Joro checked the rooms, each one was different from the other, but all coincided in a closet, a chest, a desk, and a bed. Apart from this, Refal's had more tables and a couple of books, dictionaries, and maps of all kinds; in Coip's there was some exercise equipment, in addition to cookbooks and gardening ones; Phantom's had an extra table, with a couple of notebooks and pencils, a library with several history books and magic books; Finally, his had several tools, an extra chest full of raw materials and books on metallurgy and mechanics. Besides, there were two other rooms, one seemed to be a kind of forge, having everything necessary, from tables to carve wood and tanning skins, to others to sharpen and repair equipment; the other room had books and other materials, in addition to some tables, which seemed to be one for enchanting equipment, and another to create potions. Phantom checked the training camps, in addition to the garden. One of the fields was full of targets, the others had practice dolls. The garden had a well, in addition to some tools. All this without counting another room that only had a small table in the center and a dining room. After finishing the recognition of what was going to be their new house, the night had fallen several hours ago, so they decided to go to sleep as soon as possible.

― We will leave at dawn. The sooner we get to the first town, the better. ― Refal was meeting in the room with his teammates. At the end of the planning, everyone went to their room, waiting for the start of a new day.

When the sun came out, they prepared to leave, and when they were gone, Coip asked Refal:

―How will we hide the house? ―He was worried about how to hide or move that structure.

―Well…―He took a paper out of his backpack. ―Here says that you have to move the rune over there. ―He pointed to a rune somewhat larger than the rest. Phantom saw it, and first of all, he left a stone inside the house, then went out and moved the rune out of the circle. The house disappeared, and the scroll returned to where it had been placed at first.

―That’s useful. ―Joro pointed out.

― I know it seems like a waste of time, but please summon the house again. ― Phantom asked Refal, with a certain air of curiosity in his voice.

―No problem. ―Refal repeated the process, and the house reappeared. At that moment, Phantom entered the house and took out the stone he had left before. ―So, what we leave there stays there, huh? ―Refal immediately captured his idea. Phantom threw the stone in a random direction and moved the rune again; after the house disappeared, he took the scroll and gave it to Refal.

―Let’s go now, a town is waiting for us ―Joro began to walk, and the others decided to follow him. The rookie crew began to move towards the village, with forces renewed by that good night of sleep.




First steps



“The first steps are difficult, horrendous and incredibly difficult, but the only way to start something is to take the first step.”

-Master Akprop

 

 

They walked through several valleys and forests, in addition to passing near a couple of mountains. The days went by quickly with the walk. But, after four days had passed, a person approached them, with which everyone drew their weapons. Seeing someone outside the walls was weird, and it was even more so if they went alone.

― Calm down, calm down, I only come for what’s mine ―The stranger said with a smile on his face.

―I'm sorry, but we have nothing to do with you. ― Refal said, with the bow stretched and ready to shoot.

― Is that so? won't you know someone by the name of Phantom, an assa … ― He began to ask with a certain sarcasm in his voice. Phantom stepped forward and interrupted him.

―Shut up Syndem, I'm not in that kind of thing anymore! ―Phantom was remarkably irritated.

― The chief nailed it, who knows how he knew you would survive that attack, or how he knew you would be in this area, but I only come for what you owe us. ―The guy spoke confidently.

―Shut up, I already paid that debt! ―Phantom was getting more and more upset, while his teammates were watching from behind, amazed. They didn't know what was happening, or who that man was, or what debt he was talking about.

―Anyway, that is none of my business, I have orders to arrest you and give you as payment because the debt you left is worth the same as your life. ―He spoke with an indifferent gesture. ―So…―He took out a dagger and stuck it to Phantom in his arm, and he instantly fell unconscious.

―P! ―His companions wanted to attack the man, but they were shot from nowhere, and they too fell unconscious.

They woke up after a couple of hours, confused, but they lacked nothing, and even there were Phantom's bag, mask, hood, and belongings.

―They stole nothing from us. ―Joro said relaxed. ―But where is the warm-up time? ―

―It seems that we will start with everything. ―Coip said picking up Phantom's stuff.

―We are just going to look for him, we have already spent a lot of time together to leave him at the first difficulty. ―Refal Indicated. ―Do you think you can track them? ―Joro laughed slightly and touched the ground with the palms of both hands. The bluish glow appeared and showed the silhouettes, taking off the robe and mask from Phantom, leaving his things on the ground, and charging him, heading south. ―Let’s start. ―He said while they began to follow the silhouettes. Joro sighed reluctantly

―It seems that we will not have a grace period or anything similar. ― The group had to change course; for fate does not wait for anyone. They moved while looking for their friend.

 

―They can't be too far. ―Coip commented while they saw the silhouettes again, which were going the same path.

―No, but we will have to give them an advantage; It is already night, and the only thing we could get at this time would be to be attacked from the dark with no opportunity to respond, and if you add to that the fact that their weapons sleep the target…―Refal declared while summoning the house.

―Let's rest, in any case, what could they be doing now? ―Joro said with a somewhat uneasy voice.

―Also, if we can avoid carrying Phantom stuff, better. ―Refal added. They had dinner and went to sleep as soon as possible; they could not lose another second. At dawn, they were already walking. ―It seems that you were wrong C, the silhouettes continue straight to the south, and in the south, there is only a small city, the only one straight in that direction, which is at least two weeks from here; but according to some books that were in my room, this city is something ... special ... ―He said hesitantly.

―In which sense? ―Coip was feeling curious.

―Let's call it a town "away from the hand of the gods"―He said with an air of doubt.

―Why? ―Joro was also curious.

―The guards do not patrol there, that is, there is no law nor protection, but it has walls, it is a rather strange place as if they had been told “do nothing that is, in excess, against the law, and we will leave you without guards”, and it seems that they did. ― The other two were increasingly intrigued. ―For the places closest to the walls it is quite normal, a common city, but as you approach the center, you see robbery, clandestine experiments, mafia, etc. ―

―Maybe P got into something with the mafia? ―Joro had paid attention to that last part.

―I could say yes, that it’s obvious, but then we are left with more questions, how did he get into that? How did he contact them? Or how and why was he contacted? ― Coip replied.

―It will be better to wait and see if he wants to tell us, it is best not to press him. ―Refal commented. They kept walking. After fifteen days, they could see the walls of that city on the horizon as they left a forest, there was little left to get there. They had calculated advantage of almost eight days between the gangsters and them, between a surprisingly fast pace, and that they did not stop to eat or sleep, as if they were undead brought back by someone from the Zeta clan, but they were too intelligent to be.

They entered, and as Refal said, the exterior was quite good, a common town, although thanks to the information of some merchants, they knew that, without any doubt, they should go to the center. They advanced. A couple of kilometers later, the expression "away from the hand of the gods" took a meaning, a bit too, literal. They began to see terrified people sleeping on the street, dark alleys full of rats, buildings worn out by time, people running, with cuts and bites everywhere. They began to feel fear.

―Mister, what happened? ―Refal asked a man, whose eyes reflected having lived unimaginable things.

―A-a monster, a horrible creature, came out of the alysda building, and always goes back there, I don't know what it wants, b-but kil-kills everything that crosses its path, nobody has come ba-back from there, it’s better to not approach―It was very difficult for him to speak, but the expression of fear on his face was an explanation more than enough for that.

―That building where is it? ―Coip asked, ignoring the warning. ―Don't worry, we'll stop that thing. ―

― I-it’s the re-ed one, two kilometers from here, st-straight on this street. ―The man told them.

―Thanks. ―Joro said as they began to walk in that direction.

«Suicidals. » The man thought.

While they were running, the image was increasingly grotesque. They saw half-eaten bodies, with exposed bones, in some cases with some broken bones, or an open torso. The scene only got worse and worse as they advanced because each body had less meat than the previous one.

―What or who did this? ―Joro asked for himself

― Well, or P will be among the first bodies or…―Coip expressed with air between fear and sadness.

―Hopefully, it is none of those two options. ― Refal had deduced the other option. Suddenly, a roar broke the silence of the environment, its volume had been such that possibly the man who gave them the instructions was trembling with fear remembering those scenes. Suddenly, a person, or rather a creature, jumped before them, but still roaring and growling, wanting to warn them, wanting to avoid hurting them; but, despite skin whiter than sunlight itself, a hunched posture that had subtracted it at least half a meter of height, crimson red hair, perhaps stained with blood, and empty eyes of the same color, its silhouette was familiar.

―Don’t you think it’s a bit familiar? It's like it's …―Coip tried to recognize it.

―It’s P! ―Joro interrupted him, completely sure, but when he pronounced that nickname, the creature roared again and pounced on them, and with its claws attacked the group, but Coip defended. He jumped and stood on the other side of the room where they were, a huge, dark and neglected place, full of corpses of gangsters and clandestine scientists, all reduced almost completely to the bones. He attacked in such a way that he only showed what they were thinking, he didn't want to kill them, just scare them away, because he attacked the arm, not the neck.

―It is not attacking to kill, otherwise, it would have attacked my stomach or neck, as it did with the corpses of before. ―Coip said while the beast kept jumping to attack, and he kept blocking the attacks with the help of the colossus. ―Maybe we can reason with him, try to make him remember us. ―

―P, it is us, your friends, your family. ― Refal said while Coip was in charge of protecting them. Phantom began to act strangely as if there was a dispute within his own body, he shook his head, he seemed undecided, but returned to his state of aggression and continued attacking, without giving them a break, he was now furious; he jumped from side to side, but, no matter from which direction he would jump, he managed to hit them. While Phantom kept attacking, they kept talking to him, trying to get him to come into reason.

―At this pace, we will have to leave him here. ―Joro was beginning to lose hope that his friend would come back to himself.

―Come on, P, don't you remember us? It's us: C, J, and R, your brothers, right? ― Refal was still trying to get his friend back. When he said this, Phantom put his hands on his head, began to move meaninglessly, and when he was near a wall, he hit it with his head. Then he staggered across the room, constantly shaking his head.

―Maybe if…― Coip began to think and jumped to give Phantom a blow to the head, which left him unconscious. As soon as he was on the ground, the color returned to his skin, and his hair returned to its classic black color, with some bloodstains. They had recovered their dear friend, but for how long?

―Come on, let's get out of the city, we need to know if he will go back to that state, if something will drive him mad again, and what led him to get that way in the first place. ― Refal signaled Coip to pick up Phantom, and they began walking towards the exit. When they had already traveled at least a kilometer, Phantom woke up. He screamed; he was shocked to see dozens of corpses scattered everywhere. ―How the hell did we get here? ―He asked, still disturbed. ―And why are so many people dead? ―He didn't seem to have memories of what happened.

―You killed them, and you ate the most. ―Refal coldly reproached him.

― No, I haven't killed anyone! I ... I'm not a murderer, I’m not a monster... ― There was noticeable sadness in his eyes. ―Right? ―Although he did the question out loud, it seemed as if he had asked himself. Refal took a step forward, and struck him; Phantom was lying on the floor.

―You are, besides a cannibal, and a demon. ―He reproached him with hate for everything he had done, although just before he just wanted to talk to his friend again. Refal was not of such a changing personality. The other two watched, surprised and impartial.

―My hands are stained with blood. ―He spoke without moving. ―Could you forgive me? ―He asked, before sitting down and looking directly at them. He looked Refal in the eye, looking for a sign of forgiveness.

Refal sighed relaxed as if he had forgotten the tension of the moment. ―It seems that it was really anyone except you who was handling your body at that time. ―It was the same as always. The hate in his gaze was only a lie.

―But…―Phantom was still feeling guilty.

―If you are worried about the dead people, firstly, we will have to kill sooner or later; and secondly, most had something in common …―

―What? ―Joro asked, who only saw half-eaten bodies.

―The majority are either scientists or gangsters ―Coip replied.

―And even if you think scientists are innocent, this city is not particularly known for the way its science helps humanity. ― Refal topped. ―So, after all, you did nothing wrong; in fact, you purged this city, in addition to getting some work done earlier. ― Refal had a fairly calm tone in his voice. ―So, get up, there is still a long way to go. ― He made a sign to the group and began to walk. ―Also, with such a quiet start, I don't think we'll have too much time to rest. ―

When they got to where the survivors were, everyone was surprised to see them return alive, because it had been an hour since they passed by, but they were even more surprised to see that there was one of more.

―Did y-you finish with it already? ―Asked the same man who had told them where to go.

―Yes, it's all over. ―Joro said, calming people.

― Let's go, we will return to our first objective. ― Refal kept walking among the people, making a sign for the group to move.

At nightfall and after having already recovered the course, they decided to interrogate Phantom about those people.

― It's a very long story, for now, I don't want to tell it. ―This one was thinking about that.

―Okay, we're not going to push you. ―Refal felt some compassion for his friend. ―For now, let's just go to sleep, a long walk awaits us. ―

―Can't we go to a nearer town? ―Joro felt it was unnecessary to walk directly to that specific town.

―We could be risking encountering with some patrol or tax collectors. Also, we would mess up our course and make it harder to get to all the villages in the region, so I think it’s better to just stick to the plan. ―Refal clarified.

―Let's just go to sleep, no matter where we start, we will have to go everywhere ―Coip was already heading tired to his room. Everyone went to sleep and resumed the next day.

―Hey, R―Phantom approached to talk to Refal during the journey. The sun was shining brightly and the valley they were traveling seemed infinite.

―What’s the matter? ―

―I don't want to stain my hands any more than they already are. ― 

―Understood, we will look for the way you can contribute without killing anyone. ―He was comprehensive about his friend's situation.

―Thanks. ―

―Remember to tell us what happened when you feel comfortable. ―

―Sure. ―

They kept walking, at a pace with which it took them three weeks, as they arrived at the village during the morning of the twenty-first day.




The fire and the girl


“Fire is a beautiful and mysterious thing; so beautiful but so destructive; a symbol of heat and protection, but also death and destruction”

-Master Akprop

 

 

A girl was entering the village, passing through the guard hidden in a supply cart. She got out of the cart and started walking towards the square. Her hair was red like an apple, and she had an athletic body. She was tall, and in her brown eyes, there was impression and hope. The town was full of life, with people walking everywhere, and the sun was beginning its journey through the celestial vault.

 

―I don't think we can pass without an excuse; the guards are very strict on that. ―Joro was somewhat worried about how to enter the walls of that town.

―Calm down, I'll take care. ―Coip was confident and got a bit ahead.

―Do not call much attention, we do not want to be celebrities, we have enough with fulfilling our goal. ―Refal warned him seriously.

―But the more people know us… ―Coip tried to argue in favor of any decision that could be considered as "attracting attention".

―More will cost our heads, and that's not exactly good. ―Refal said that as if he was warning from past experiences. ―Acting from the shadows will be the wisest option. ―He stopped speaking just being a few meters from the doors.

―Going back to the main topic, how are we going to cross the doors? ―Joro asked again.

―Let's just pass, if they ask, we are merchants. ―Refal thought it would be the most credible option, and everyone sheathed their weapons. Their robes were especially enchanted; so, they just put them in like someone puts keys in a coat, and the weapons disappeared, so they didn't bother.

―Stop―One of the guards said while crossing spears with his partner to prevent the passage. The guard's voice was deep and serious, intimidating ― Why are you outside the walls? ―

―Trading. ― Joro replied, with feigned tranquility. The guards separated their spears and let them pass when they saw the bags they had behind them.

The girl was very calmly watching a stall where they sold bracelets when she saw four hooded, dark-looking, and crestfallen approach the stall and ask the seller something.

―When are they going to collect taxes? ―One of them asked in a voice that the girl judged as intimidating.

― It should be today at noon. ―The seller replied.

―Thanks. ―They walked away, carrying with them the same gloomy and frightening air.

«So weird. » The girl thought while watching them go away, and continued watching the bracelets.

― Well, let's wait, in the meantime, you do as you want, as long as you don't draw attention. ―Refal ordered, and the four separated, each in a different direction.

With little time left to noon, a patrol entered the town and began to walk towards the square. The girl was going to the square, when she met the hooded people again, hidden in a little alley.

«The weird ones from this morning. » She thought while seeing them meet. «What could they be up to? » She approached the group cautiously to hear what they were saying.

― Very well, gentlemen. ―One of them spoke with confidence. ―Let the function begin. ―He jumped, along with his group, and began to run across the roofs of the buildings, while summoning curious weapons. The girl was impressed to see that, so she started running towards the square.

―He talked about a function, and I don't plan to miss it. ―She said to herself with a smile on her face. The guards had already selected the people and were preparing to execute them when a cloud of smoke broke the characteristic tension of the moment. The girl had arrived just in time to see what was going to happen there. A hooded man appeared out of nowhere, took the three convicted and disappeared into a small cloud of black smoke.

―Who are you? ―Asked the woman who he had just rescued, already being in a safe place, on the outside of the crowd.

―I just know I’m not your executioner. ―The boy declared mockingly.

―That was incredible! ―The red-haired girl was flattering him with bright in her eyes.

―Just wait and see what’s next. ― He told her. The cloud of smoke had almost completely expanded, when another hooded man jumped from the rooftops and hit the platform where the guards stood with a huge mallet, making them fly through the air, then another shot them with a bow, while a fourth one was in charge of those at ground level, with a rod with blades at the ends.

―Wow! ―The glow in her eyes was getting more intense. ―Who are…? ―She had turned to see him, but he was gone. She saw him stopping those who tried to take more hostages, but unlike his teammates, he didn't kill anyone, he just sent them away hitting them with some accessories in his arms. Finished that vehement spectacle, the cloud of smoke disappeared, and with it the hooded. «Where did they go? » The girl was looking for them in the crowd, but they didn't appear anywhere. « I must find them. » She thought, as she watched the crowd cautiously, without results. She thought she had already lost them until she decided to look in the direction of the town gate, where she saw them retreating quietly.

―Hey R, now what? ―Joro asked while cleaning his weapon.

―What do you mean? ―He returned the question.

―Well, if we leave now, soon a squad will arrive to destroy the town. ―

―We will stay for a week, and we will start monitoring in three days; for now, let's just go out and summon the house in a safe place. ―

―There is a forest a few minutes from the gate, heading north. ―Coip added.

―Perfect, let’s go. ―

―Hey, you, stop! ―They heard a voice calling from behind, so they turned, and pointed weapons. When they realized there was a girl completely paralyzed by fear having a giant mallet, a bow and several blades pointing at her. They sheathed again.

―Who are you? ―Coip asked with some hostility.

―My name is Koimo, I am a nomadic magician. ―The girl declared proudly.

―Miss…―Refal looked away, along with his teammates. ―Don't you think you're going a little ... uncovered? ― They hadn't noticed the girl's clothes: A piece, quite tight, of black cloth that surrounded her chest, so short that it couldn't even be called top because it barely covered her chests; and beige pants that reach a little below the crotch. Apart from this, she had several bracelets of different types, in addition to a necklace with a small sun ornament. The girl blushed.

―It's because of the magic that I use. ―She murmured, embarrassed.

―What do you want? ―Joro asked, looking at her.

―Well…―The girl looked nervous. ―Can I join you? I also want to fight evil! ― She left the four amazed with that request.

―I'm sorry but we are already complete. ―Refal was rejecting her in the kindest way he could.

―But…―She seemed like she wanted to cry.

―I’m sorry. ―He said again. ―Let’s go. ― He ordered his companions. They walked on until they disappeared from the sight of the girl. The girl's brown eyes filled with tears. The next day they returned, but they tried to avoid her at all costs.

―Well, do as you have to, but always be alert, and if you see anything suspicious, alert the rest. ―Refal gave the order ―And try to avoid that girl at all costs, she doesn't seem to want to accept the fact that she can't come with us ―Then everyone separated again.

Phantom went to a store; he had planned to sell the weapons and armor of the guards of the previous day.

― Good morning, how may I help you? ―The shopkeeper spoke to him warmly.

― I’ve come to sell these things. ―Phantom said while pulling out the armors.

―Well! ―The shopkeeper exclaimed as he watched the armor. ―I can give you a gold and forty silver coin for each whole set, plus five silver, one copper and one pair of nickel for each spear since they are already somewhat worn. ―

―Seems right. ―He approached and then said softly ― Is there a problem if they are of… questionable origin? ―

―Relax, no matter where they are from, what matters is the metal and where they forged it. ―

―Thanks. ―He said, while the man took everything back and brought the pay. Phantom looked at the other objects in the store until he stared at a stone tablet, which had their code names engraved, which he could differentiate between a runic text.

―Do you like it? ―The man asked as he passed a bag.

―Do you know what does it says? ―He returned the question while counting the money.

―It is an ancient prophecy, but no one believes in it anymore. According to it a group of nine magicians will save us from this horrendous destiny. ―The man explained.

―Interesting… Does it say their names? ―

―No, just one letter of each, plus an acronym, or so I think, but I can read them if you want. ―

―It would be really helpful. ―He said while taking out a notebook and pencil.

―Take note: R, C, J, P, K, Z, T, A, V and AK. ―

―Thanks. ―

―You are welcome. ― The boy left the store, very interested in what he had written in his notebook, in addition to having renewed his spirits.

Nothing special happened during the following days, except for Koimo's futile attempts to speak to the hooded men again. Meanwhile, Refal collected maps and information; Joro was looking for materials; Coip food and ingredients, in addition to looking for the occasional new recipe; and Phantom was in charge of trading with whatever he could, especially the weapons and armor of the guards they killed. On the fifth day of their stay, during the early morning, they could see a squad approaching from the southeast. They had been in watch all night.

―There’s a squad. ―Joro said.

―They always attack before dawn, huh? ―Phantom reflected about that characteristic of punishment squads.

―Let’s wait, they don't bring cannons, so we can wait for them next to the wall. ― Refal was preparing some smoke bombs.

―Why do we have to wait for them to be so close? ―Coip thought that the sooner they were stopped, the better.

―The element of surprise. ―Refal explained. ―They are alert, but when they are a few meters from the wall, they will concentrate the attack on it when they think that nobody knows about the attack, so it is the perfect opportunity to attack. ―

―And with an attack from behind or from above, that opportunity is exploited to the fullest. ―Joro added, who had grasped the idea.

―Exactly. ―Said Refal. And with this the group began to move among the dying shadows of the night until they were on top of the wall, all with their weapons ready, and ready to jump as soon as Refal gave the order.

Once the attack was prepared, it was only a matter of time before they could attack. Everything was going as planned, until a light blinded them out of nowhere.

―Now, what the hell is going on? ― Coip asked, while the light reduced its intensity. When they could see again, they saw Koimo fighting alone against the guards, without using any spell.

―We should help her. ―Joro said.

―Let's see what she does. ― Phantom watched the girl's movements carefully, until the guards managed to beat her down, not without having a couple of casualties.

―They are going to kill her! ―Coip exclaimed when he saw one of the guards raising his spear above the neck of the girl, who was being held by other two.

―Not on my watch. ― Refal quickly shot his bow towards the guards, managing to hit the three in the head, killing them on the spot. When the other squad members managed to realize, Joro jumped from the walls, cutting and hitting with his weapon, while Phantom protected the girl by hitting those who tried to approach with the cylinders in his forearms. Finished the battle, the four approached the girl.

―What are you doing risking your life from so early? ―Joro reproached her.

―Well…―The girl hesitated for a moment ―The same as you! ―She responded with courage.

―Have you been waiting all night? ― Coip asked her.

― No, I've only been awake for a couple of hours. ―The girl answered.

―It seems that you try hard to enter the group, and you have courage, something I like. ―Refal said. ―But we are already complete. ―

―Please…― Again she had been saddened by the refusal of the group. ―I will do anything. ―

―What can you do? ―Phantom was curious about what her magic could be to take her to wear such revealing clothes, in addition to her name coinciding with one of the initials of the prophecy. ―Show us something interesting, and maybe we'll think about it. ―His friends were surprised at such an initiative.

―Well, first…―The girl walked away a little. ―Could you hold them please? ― Koimo took off her shoes and handed them to Phantom.

―Sure. ―He answered. The girl moved a little further, took a breath and concentrated. Without warning she turned and hit the ground, burning a large area of grass.

―Incredible. ―Refal was surprised.

―This is why I wear so little clothes; if it weren't because it is impossible for me to burn myself, I would already be completely burned out from the times I set my clothes on fire. ―She laughed embarrassed.

―What about your hair? ―Coip asked. Her hair was tied in a ponytail that reached to the middle of her back, in addition to a thick strand on each side of her face, which reached below the neck.

―It is also immune to fire. ―The young woman clarified.

―Well, we’re still …―Joro was not convinced.

―You can join us. ―Phantom interrupted. The girl's eyes lit up. ―He is R, he will take care of you. ―He said pointing his teammate.

―Wait, what? ―Refal was surprised. ―There is no place in the house for her to sleep. ―

― Well, she'll sleep in your room until we find a way to change the house. ― Phantom seemed sure of what he said. The girl blushed again. ―I am P, he is C and he, J ―

―Since when do you make the decisions? ―Coip asked with a smirk under the mask.

―It's a hunch. ―He said. ―And if R agrees, I see no problem. ―He looked Refal.

―Very well. ―He agreed to take care of the girl. ―Do not you have problem with preparing an extra ration? ―He asked looking at Coip. This one let out a sigh.

―No― He replied with the half smile on his face again, while shaking his head slightly from side to side.

―Well then, let’s go. ―Joro said.

―Wait, does the group have any name? ―Koimo asked.

― Well, we prefer to act from the shadows. ―Phantom replied.

―We are AK. ―Joro said, suddenly interested in the conversation.

―AK? ―The girl asked.

―Yes, that’s our name. ―Refal continued. ―From now on. ―He muttered almost inaudibly. Phantom had a big smile under his mask, because at each event, what the tablet said coincided more and more. They walked until they reached the forest, and after eating, and explaining to the girl where she was going to sleep, and where to store her things, everyone went to her room. Now the group was conformed by five people.

―Hey―Koimo spoke to Refal before going to sleep, because he had improvised a small bed for himself, and left the other to the girl.

―What’s the matter? ―The boy replied half asleep.

―Thank you for allowing me to be with you. ― The girl said. ―You are the captain, right? ―

―Sort of, although there is no established hierarchy. ―He replied. ―But if you want to thank your stay here, thank P. ―Koimo looked at him confused. ―It is a hunch of his that allows you to be here, and I trust in the instinct of my brothers. ―

―Are you brothers? ―The girl was surprised to hear that.

―Something like that, it's a rather long story, so let's go to sleep. ―He replied. ― In another matter, you are supposed to be in my care, so I hope we get along. ―

―I don't need anyone to take care of me. ― Said the girl doing a, somewhat childish, gesture of anger.

―Anyway, I hope we can get along. ―The boy said while a small mocking smile escaped him. The girl smiled, and they both became silent until they fell asleep. At noon the five met in the main room, to plan their next objective.

―Well, if we continue south, we will meet another town, and then there would only be two more left in this region; east of that, and another to the northeast. ―Refal pointed to three other marks on the map.

―The coastal region of Exsy is small, isn't it? ―Joro said.

―Don’t get excited, it is the smallest in the world, mainly because nobody wants to live near a town as dangerous as this was. ―Coip said as he pointed to the town that Phantom had destroyed. Koimo watched everything carefully.

―When do we leave? ―The girl asked excitedly.

―Tomorrow with the first beam of dawn. ―Refal answered. ―Today we will tie up loose ends in the village, and we will return at sunset. ―

―Well, I'm leaving. ―Joro said as he left.

―I’ll too. ―Coip also left the room.

―Goodbye. ― Phantom also left.

―Do you have something important to do? ―Refal asked Koimo.

―No―The girl answered.

―Well then let’s go, please come with me to do a couple of things. ―He said as he stood.

―Sure. ―The girl also got up, and followed Refal.

The day passed calmly, until the afternoon, with few hours left for the sunset. Phantom was able to spot another squad on the horizon, then he threw a smoke bomb to create a smoke column to alert his teammates, and went to stop them before they reached the wall.

«This is not good, not good at all. » He thought anxiously as he ran to meet the squad. «At dawn, we can wait until they are near the wall, now we can’t. ». He had hidden among some bushes near the place where the guards were going to pass. « But, another squad? How did they respond so quickly? » He looked down because he didn't know how long it would take for his friends to arrive. «I hope I won't have to use the blades …» He jumped into them when the patrol had already gone too far. «If I wait more, they will see them in the town. » He thought to motivate himself to attack.

He jumped on one of the guards and began using his weapons to break the formation. He threw guards through the air, trying not to kill them, hitting with the accessories on his arms, blocking everything he could. He held on until he felt a sting in his back. A guard had hit him with his spear. He dropped his mask. He flinched in pain. This pain could have been bearable, but at the moment he let his guard down, the other guards began to beat him without using his spears, so he wouldn't die so soon. Everything was starting to get blurry, between kicks and blows with the handles.

―Am I only going to get this far? ―He thought while losing his strength. His friends arrived after a couple of seconds; he knew it when a fireball threw the guards away.

―Just on time. ― He was hardly babbling with blood in his mouth after that beating, as soon as his friends killed the soldiers.

―Idiot, and then you want to keep that oath not to kill. ―Refal said while helping him to stand up. ―We ran as soon as we saw the smoke column. ―

―Your hair…―Joro pointed out when he saw that his hair had begun to turn red.

―A part of your hair is stained with blood. ―Koimo said.

―Yeah, sure, blood. ―Phantom replied while putting on his mask. ―I'll take a bath later ―

―Well, if you have finished received beatings, we better go home. ―Coip pointed in a mocking tone.

―Sure. ―Phantom said. When they were home, Refal approached him.

―The wound will not heal easily, you know? ―He told him while Phantom was sitting bandaging the wound on his back.

―It doesn’t matter. ―He replied.

―Try to stand by yourself. ―Phantom did it and instantly collapsed. ―Just as I thought, we will need a medic. ―

―Just pass me that piece of bread. ―He pointed to a table.

―Sure. ―He passed it, and Phantom ate it instantly. He then stood up with effort. ―Interesting. ―He was surprised to see how much he could heal himself with a simple piece of bread.

―It will be enough while dinner is ready. ―

―We will still need a doctor, not everyone has that ability. ―

―We can search for it in the next town. ―Phantom smiled. ―But didn't you say we were already complete? ―

―Ha, very funny. ―He smiled back. ―But you still let Koimo in, and you entrusted her to me. ―

―Good point. ―They left the room and ate. Later, Koimo approached Phantom.

―P―She called him from the door of his room.

―Come in. ―The boy replied while sitting on the bed.

―What was in your hair wasn’t blood, was it? ―The girl looked at his head. ―What was it? ―

―You are quite good at observing. ―The boy smiled. ―I'll tell you later, not even the others know. For now, just go to sleep, a good walk awaits us. ―

―Alright. ―The girl answered reluctantly. She then walked out and went to sleep.




Little forest anecdote



 “The forests are beautiful but dangerous; full of light but at the same time of darkness. They are the place for the best anecdotes and the best stories”

-Master Akprop

 

 

The next day, they started moving south. The town they were heading to was eight days from their location. Having already passed four, on the morning of the fifth, Refal ordered to change its course to the west.

―Why can't we follow this route? ―Coip asked.

―Patrols. ―Refal answered. ―If we are normally in danger of encountering one, surely now they have increased security, so tempting luck now is not something we can afford. ―

―We have already finished with several groups, what is special about these patrols? ―Koimo asked.

―They are not only larger groups, but they are also better equipped, in addition to the fact that the number of humans is also greater, and as if that were not enough, it is said that they have certain magicians specialized in nullifying magic; They are the best of the best, not for quantity, but quality. The vast majority of battalions of many more soldiers would fall without killing even one. ―Refal explained.

―Interesting. ―Phantom replied.

They continued walking for a couple more days, with the same forests adorning the landscape, valleys that seemed infinite and the mountains in the east, which reminded them of their home.

They were resting in a small forest because the sunset had caught them there.

―We are already just a couple of days from the town, the change in our course extended the route more than expected. ― Refal tried to lift the spirits of his teammates. He paused a moment to observe the landscape: Coip was gathering herbs and mushrooms for dinner, Joro was experimenting with his weapon, and Koimo was simply asleep under the shade of a tree. He smiled when he saw her, trying to appear adult and mature to fit in what she thought of the group, despite being more childish than Joro or Coip, but his smile was erased when he noticed that Phantom was nowhere to be seen. «Where did he go now? » He thought and looked for him until a roar broke the calm.

―What was that? ―Koimo exclaimed, who had woken up suddenly.

―For the first time in some time, I hope to be wrong. ―Refal replied to the confused girl, before just running away. ―Take care of her, and don't leave the area! ― He ordered Joro and Coip, who immediately took the girl by her arms. Despite her attempts to free herself, she could only give up and stare at Refal running towards the exit of the forest, accompanied by the reddish sunset in the sky. «Please, tell me I’m wrong. » He thought as he ran through the trees. When he got to the edge of the forest, he saw a half-transformed Phantom, full of wounds and with many bodies, finishing with the last soldiers, between bites and blows. Refal remained hidden among the vegetation while watching Phantom eat to recover from his wounds. As soon as he finished eating, he became the same as always and then collapsed. ―Could you explain what I just saw? ―He said just after he thought it safe to leave his hiding place.

―Oh, hi. ―He sat on the floor when he saw Refal. He was recomposing after all that had happened, but he said it in a somewhat sad voice. ―I was quietly collecting firewood when a patrol appeared from behind me and began to attack me, I didn't even have time to throw a smoke bomb to warn, I had to fight. Halfway through the fight, I started to feel better. Gradually, I felt more agile and strong, the pain of the wounds also diminished, but I also began to feel a desire for blood, a thirst. By the time I could tell, I was cutting throats without any control, but I had forgotten that feeling of guilt when I killed, I felt… good killing in cold blood, I was doing it with a smile on my face, but I swear I couldn't control myself, it was almost instinctive. ― He was emotionlessly narrating while watching his hands. He tried to explain his behavior.

―So, you become a beast again when fighting. ―Refal deducted.

―I guess, like a kind of bloodthirst. ―His voice felt broken, distressed, he felt bad for what he had done; but somehow, he had managed to speak fluently.

―Do you think you can explain to us what happened? ―He said, with a warm and understanding tone. ―You are speaking fluently about this. ―

―No, I’m sorry. ―

―No problem. For now, let's just go back to the camp. ― They started walking towards the camp, in silence. The silent forest enveloped them together with a reddish sky that was beginning to turn dark blue until they could see the camp and their companions again.

―What happened? ―The girl asked them, eager to know what had happened.

―A patrol cornered P but I arrived on time to save him. ―Refal answered.

―Could you fight alone against a patrol? ―The girl was amazed.

―No, we managed to lose them recently among the forest. ―

―What about the roar? ―Joro asked, having recognized the lie and wanting to dismantle the deception.

―A beast. ―Phantom replied.

―How did you get cornered? ―The girl did not believe much in what they said.

―I was collecting firewood, and they appeared on my back. ―Phantom replied. ―For now, I'm just going to sleep for a while. ―He said as he entered the house.

―Do you think the patrol could find us? ― The girl asked Refal, acting like she felt insecure.

―No, I don’t think so. ―He replied. «Especially when the luckiest one is missing a leg and several organs. » He thought to himself.

―But…―The girl was thinking.

«If she continues like this, she will end cornering me. » He said mentally, worried.

―Why P was not injured? ― The girl looked at him, she knew he was lying to her, but she wanted him to admit it.

― He is, but his cape covered the wounds. ―He replied calmly.

―Well, anyway, the food is ready. ―Coip said, changing the subject, wanting to release tension between his teammates. They sat to eat.

―Will P eat? ―Joro asked.

―I think he’s asleep. ―Coip replied. They kept eating calmly until it got dark. At night, everyone was inside the house, each one focused on their matters.





The willow and the aconite



“Life and death, two opposite things that are part of a whole. Life will always bring death, and death will always bring life. From the grass that a small animal eats, to the fungi that will take advantage of its corpse”

-Master Akprop

 

 

The walk continued at dawn, as always. After a few days, the group could see the walls in the east.

―We should start moving east. ―Coip suggested. ―With this direction, we will reach the town by the back. ―

―That is our goal, we will reach behind, and we will surround the walls ―Refal explained.

―I don't think so much prevention is necessary ―Joro said. ―We haven't been doing things for a long time ―

―It doesn't matter, it's a risk that it's better not to take. ―Refal replied. And so it was done. They surrounded the wall, to reach the door from the south. Again, they used the pretext of commerce. They did not find traders on their way to the central square, all buildings in that area were houses. But when they arrived at the square, they found a crowd gathered around a nomadic wagon.

―What’s happening? ―Joro asked a man.

―It is the nomadic wagon of the medics Thana and Zoi, today it arrived here. ― The man replied.

«If this is not divine design, it is a very strange and favorable coincidence. » Phantom thought while looking at his notebook. « Other two letters, two left. » He saw the initials he had written down.

―Medics, huh? ―Refal was thinking. ―Maybe they can help us with P's wounds ―He said while looking at Phantom.

―I do not think that it's necessary. ―He replied.

―I think it is. ―Koimo said as she gently tapped with her hand on the wound. Phantom moved a little because of the pain.

«Why hasn't it healed yet? » He thought. ―I guess it would be better if I resign myself to accept medical help. ―He voiced out loud.

―Anyway, we better wait for things to calm down. ―Coip said. Refal saw a shop on the edge of the square and headed to it.

―Let’s go. ―He ordered. The others obeyed.

―Good morning. When will they come to collect taxes? ―Joro asked the merchant when they arrived.

―Good morning, it should be tomorrow at noon. ―This one answered.

―Thanks. ―Coip replied. The group left the store and headed to the outskirts of the city. They decided to locate the house behind it, as there were no forests or mountains nearby.

―This position is the best there is, even if we can't see the guards coming ―Refal explained to his teammates. ―We will have to be watching the east. ―

―How do you know they will come that way? ―Koimo asked.

―From the previous town they are arriving from the southeast, so that leaves two options: either they will arrive from the east, or the northeast. It would be very weird if they did it from the southeast, as they would be too far away from other towns. And with that, we can discover the approximate location of the fortress of this region. ―Refal responded, pointing in the map the possible location of the fortress.

― Let's get ready, tomorrow will be a busy day. ―Coip said. The rest of the day developed normally.

― Aren’t you going to eat? ―Coip asked Phantom.

―No thanks. I'm not hungry. ―He replied, lying. «If I eat, maybe this time I will go get healed. Although up to now it hasn’t healed for some reason. It is better not to risk and that way I will have a pretext to see the medics

The next day they were prepared to receive the guards. Upon entering the village, they realized that the medics' wagon was away from the square, so Phantom decided to enter to receive help with his wounds, while the guards arrived and his friends prepared everything. Upon entering he found two girls, the medics, both were slightly shorter than Joro. One entered the back of the car. They hadn't seen him, but the sound of a bell at the door alerted them.

―What do you want? ―One of them asked with some hostility. That girl with purple hair and green eyes was in charge of receiving the patients.

―A wound, please help me. ―Phantom said blankly.

―Wait…―The girl watched him. ―There are rumors of a gang that is killing soldiers. ―She looked at him contemptuously. ―We're already in a pretty bad position with the guards for a murderer to come to ask us for help, so you better go away. ―She said in a mordant voice.

―I’m not a murderer. ―A shiver had run down his back. The fact that she had called him murderer, and the tone in which she said it reminded Phantom of all the blood spilled with his hands.

―That does not matter, if he is injured, we will have to help him, that’s for what we are medics. ―Said a voice in a tender tone from the back, which then came out. It was the other girl. ―Hello, my name is Zoi, and this bitter one is my sister Thana. I will be happy to help you. ―She smiled at Phantom. ―Now let me see the wound. ―Her voice was full of love and compassion. She was the opposite of her sister, even physically, because she had lime green hair and purple eyes. Both had their hair cut up a little below the shoulders

―Wait. ―The other took her by the arm. ―We are already in the sights of the guards, and now you want to help a criminal? ―She murmured so Phantom wouldn't hear them.

―It does not matter, he is a person and is injured, therefore it is necessary to help him. ―Zoi answered.

―Okay, but I'm going to charge him double the max. ―Thana whispered with some anger.

―Let me see your wound. ―Zoi gently ordered Phantom.

―All right. ―Phantom said as he took off his robe and the bandages he had put on. He had a large cut on the back of the torso, which had bruised due to lack of care.

―The wound is pretty bad, so stay still. ―She said while resting her hands on the wound, then she concentrated. The wound began to close, and the bruise slowly disappeared.

«Roh clan? » Phantom thought. «No wonder they are considered such good medics. » After a while, Zoi got up.

―There, there, as good as new. ―She said with a smile on her face.

―It will be forty silver coins. ―Thana interrupted. Phantom paid and left, there was little left for the guards to arrive, so he had decided to meet with his companions as soon as possible. Leaving, he heard a conversation from inside the wagon, so he stayed to listen.

―If the guards get to know this, we are doomed. ―

―Don’t worry. ―

―How do you want me not to worry if they now have a real reason to execute us? Hopefully, what I overcharged that guy will serve as a bribe. ―

―We are always paying for protection, that bribe makes no sense. ―

―But we had never done anything illegal, you idiot. ―

―Calm down, I don't think anyone has seen him come in, we're safe. ―

―I hope you are right ―

«Why do they pay protection? Are they threatened? » Phantom thought as he drove away from the wagon in the direction of his companions.

―Are you healed yet? ―Joro asked him as soon as he arrived.

―As if I had never been hurt, have the guards arrived yet? ―He returned the question as he looked towards the square.

―Yes, but so far, they are only starting to gather the people. ―Coip replied, staring at the ends of the city.

―As soon as they are about to execute, I will launch the smoke bomb and we will enter. Koimo, support J with the elimination of ground-level objectives. ―

―Sure. ―The girl replied.

―Try not to hurt anyone who doesn't deserve it. ―Joro said.

They waited patiently for the guards to be all together. When none were missing, they prepared to execute, just as always

―Let the function begin. ―Refal said with a confident smile on his face. The soldiers raised their weapons, ready to kill their victims when a smoke bomb surprised everyone. They repeated the same sequence, Phantom saved the hostages, and Coip sent the guards through the air with a heavy blow of his mallet on the podium. Refal fired his bow at those in the air, and Joro and Koimo took care of those in the crowd. When they finished with the soldiers, the cloud of smoke was just disappearing, and they had already done it.

 

―We will have to start the surveillance tomorrow, so rest well, we will get up before dawn. ―Ordered Refal during dinner. Everyone went to sleep and began watching before sunrise, but nothing happened.

 

«I got three gold and forty-seven silver coins, those armors really were expensive. » Phantom was glad while he was returning from selling the armor and weapons of the guards when he saw two of them standing near the nomadic wagon.

«Something is not right. » He jumped to the rooftops and approached the back of the wagon without being seen, so he could hear what was happening inside.

―Just five miserable gold coins! ―Shouted a guard, while hitting and breaking things, remarkably angry. ―I'll be back tomorrow, you better be able to get more money ―He exclaimed, and then it could be heard the sound of the bell at the door. As soon as Phantom saw the guards walk away, he entered. The bell alerted the scared girls.

―What happens? are you hurt again? ―Thana asked, sad, but also somewhat aggressive.

―No, but who were they? ―Phantom asked, annoyed.

―What does it matter to you? we are neither family nor friends of yours, so go away, this is none of your business. ―

―All right. ―He replied as he turned around and left something on the table without the girls noticing. After organizing, the girls noticed that someone had left a bag on the table.

―Whose is it? ―Zoi asked her sister.

―It sure is the dude that came just now, the one you healed. ―She replied while checking the bag.

―What does it contain? ―The other girl was impressed to see what the bag contained. ―What’s inside it?! ―The first was remarkably excited.

―A pair of gold coins, and a bunch of silver. ―She answered.

Phantom was coming home when he met Refal.

― You really took your time. ― Refal told him because the sun was already setting.

―Well, yes. ―He answered.

―Did you discover something interesting? ―

―I already have a place to watch tomorrow, by noon. ―

―Something to do. ―He said. ―Can I know what are we going to do? ―

―I want you to help me settle a debt. ―Phantom replied. Refal sighed.

―So, debts again, you don't learn, right? ―He told his teammate. ―But anyway, it is something to do. ―

―Thanks. ―They started moving towards the house, ate, talked about the surveillance of the nomadic wagon with the others, and went to sleep.

After another morning with nothing special, they decided to watch the wagon, they all climbed on the wall and began to watch from different directions. The sun shone brightly on their heads as they waited patiently for something to happen. Phantom was focused looking towards the horizon from the top of the wall when Joro approached him.

―Could you remind me why are we here? ―Joro asked.

―The people in the nomadic wagon, I owe them a favor. ―Phantom replied. Calm drowned out any feeling because it felt like nothing was ever going to happen. The car had moved from where it was the day before, now it was outside the walls. «Isn't it weird that the guards were here, even after we killed the tax collectors? » Phantom wondered.

―Eh… guys. ―Joro was looking east when he called his teammates with some fear. ―I see soldiers. ―Phantom looked back in that direction, his companions arrived after hearing Joro's call. Everyone was surprised to see dozens of soldiers, maybe they were enough to form a battalion.

―As we said before, we started at full strength. ―Coip said as a joke.

―Let the party begin. ―Refal said while tightening his bow. ―Are you going to keep your promise not to kill? ―He said quietly to Phantom, after getting next to him.

―Yes. ―This one answered.

―It doesn’t matter. ―He looked at the battalion again. ―As soon as I shoot, we will ... ―He stopped dead when he heard screaming coming from the nomad wagon.

―What was that? ―Coip exclaimed. They looked at the nomadic wagon just in time to see two riders kidnapping the medics.

―C, J, stop them! ―Ordered Refal while shooting at the horses.

―Sure! ―Both jumped into combat, right in front of the riders, and killed them. They put the hostages on the ground and stood in front of them, watching the soldiers. The others came down quickly to help. As soon as the colonel of the battalion realized what had happened, he gave the order and all his men began to run towards the group.

― Hundreds versus five? Why not? ―Coip was confident, defending Zoi.

―It’s better to not be too arrogant. ―Joro replied while defending Thana. The soldiers were a few meters away from them when they could see an arrow take down one.

―Defend the medics at all costs! ―Shouted Refal as he continued firing from the rear, accompanied by the igneous attacks of Koimo.

―Who are you? Why do you defend us? ―Thana asked.

―Because you are good people and are in danger, therefore it is necessary to help you. ―Phantom said with a smile under his mask, as he threw away some soldiers who had come too close. Zoi smiled in shock at that. Thana was surprised, with bright eyes, like wanting to cry.

―Thanks. ―She said softly, while she dried her tears.

―I'm just paying a debt. ―Phantom replied. The battle continued wildly, with guards flying through the air with the blows of Coip and Phantom, falling by the cuts of Joro or the arrows of Refal, and many others running wrapped in the flames of Koimo. After a while, a group of soldiers, in addition to several riders, attacked Joro and Coip, seeking to capture the medics. As soon as the rest of the team tried to approach to help, another group focused on them. When they could tell, Coip was holding several soldiers, already quite wounded, but it was still an imposing bulwark for Zoi; Meanwhile, Joro was hurt and exhausted, but he kept fighting against anyone who wanted to approach Thana.

The other group was the same, all injured, but still fighting passionately. The medics were inspired to see them endure all that for them, so they got up, took needles from their belts, positioned themselves back to back and joined the fight.

―So, you know how to fight? ―Phantom asked, with a joking tone, between gasps.

―We had to learn. ―Thana replied, throwing needles at the guards' necks.

―The more, the better! ―Coip exclaimed with renewed spirits and threw at least a dozen guards into the air.

―Let no one be left standing! ―Yelled Refal when he realized that they had reinforcements.

Zoi threw a needle at Joro as soon as he saw him weaken. When he felt the prick, he began to move with more energy, he was renewed. ―I take care that nobody faints! ―The girl exclaimed. She also threw needles at the soldiers, killing a few.

―This gets entertaining. ―Phantom said as he moved among the enemies, breaking the formation. He jumped from side to side, sending enemies to his allies. After another time of intense struggle, they stood victorious on a pile of corpses.

―Come closer; I'm going to cure you. ―Zoi said kindly while making signs for the others to get close to her.

―Thanks. ―Coip said while being healed.

―The same goes for you. ―The girl replied.

―Is there anything we can do to pay you? ―Thana asked while giving Joro some medicine.

―Join us. ―Refal said.

―I'm sorry, I don't think we can. ―Zoi replied.

―Why? ―Refal asked.

―We have to continue with our medical mission; there are many towns we have not been to. ―

―We will pass through each and every one of the towns and cities on the map. ―

―Which have you been through yet? ―

―Not counting this, the one that is eight days to the north, and the one that is two weeks to the east, we come from the one that is two and a half weeks to the northeast. ― Phantom replied.

―Well. ―Thana was thinking. ―Well, in that case, I think we could join you. ―

―Surely the nomadic wagon will be useful. ―Zoi added.

―I'm sorry, but you would also have to get rid of the wagon, we have no way to move it. ―Refal said.

―Well…―Zoi was hesitating. ―How long are you going to stay? ―

―Like five days. ―Joro replied.

―Give us that time to think. ―Zoi replied.

―If you accept the offer, wait for us at dawn at the door of the town in six days, standing and with everything you need to carry in shoulder bags. ―

―Understood. ―

The group left, leaving the medics alone.

 ―Do you think we should go? ―Zoi asked her sister.

―I don’t know. ―Thana thought the matter very carefully. ―It took us quite a while to get all this, leave it this way. ―

―I know, but…― Zoi was hesitant. ―What would dad say? ―She asked her sister.

―He would say we have to do what we like the most. ―She replied, remarkably saddened, it could be felt nostalgia in her voice.

―And what you want to do? It took me a while to convince you to do this about nomadic medics, and I am the first to think that nothing would be better than being able to continue doing it but accompanied and protected. ―

―But … the wagon, we had a hard time getting it. ―Thana replied.

―I know, and it's bad enough to have to get rid of it; but if we go, we will stop paying protection, because we will have friends who will protect us. ―She explained, before letting go a small laugh. ―Besides, they already tried to capture us, which means that not even all the money we can get will help us now, so what other options do we have? ―

―You are right. ―She was thinking that issue a lot. ―I guess you are right. ―Zoi let out a little laugh again.

―I'm going with them, are you going to accompany me? ―She asked her sister as she looked into her eyes.

―Even if you have to follow you to eden itself. ―She responded decisively.

The days passed without any shock, they did not know if they were waiting to attack with more strength; if they were collecting information on how they moved; or if, on the contrary, they believed that they were already on their way to their next objective; but it caused them unease to not know if they would have to face a greater number of soldiers, or when they would have to do it.

―Hey, R―Koimo spoke to Refal before going to sleep.

―What’s the matter? ―The boy replied as he turned so he could see her in the face.

―Do you think they will try to attack the town in which we met? ―

―I believed that, and in fact, I was afraid it would happen, but I feel they are looking for us because they consider us the problem; so as soon as we showed that we were in another place, that town stopped being a target. ―

―Why do we pass through all the towns, if with just a small squad they could undo everything we did? ―The girl began to question the way they acted.

―So, we can send a message. ―

―A message? ―The girl was confused with that simple answer.

―The population is tired of oppression and abuses. ―He stopped for a moment. ― Besides, we can try to locate the fortress of the region, since these do not appear on the maps; and we also train, we gain strength to enter the fortress, end it and liberate the entire region. If we went directly to the fortress, something that we could not, because it would be very difficult to find it, we would be too weak, besides that with the guards in the villages, they could either slow us down or rebuild what we destroyed. And with all this in mind, they will have to send more than a simple patrol to be able to reconquer the entire area, only if we can reach the fortress. ―He told her, before turning around and getting ready to sleep. ―I'll explain the rest later, with the rest of the team as soon as the time comes, for now just let's sleep. ―

―Sure. Good night. ―The girl also accommodated to sleep.

―The same to you. ―They closed their eyes and fell asleep.

The waiting days had passed without seeing more soldiers; the group was starting to move with the dawn. They were moving east to get to the door. By the time they arrived, they saw the two girls standing at the door. Both had white sleeveless dresses, with a small neckline, that reached down to the ankles; in addition to the belts in which they carried needles and medications.

―So, you decided to come? ―Refal asked them.

―Of course, it is the best way to continue with our mission. ―Zoi replied.

―And I simply have to take care of my sister. ―Thana added, in a joking tone.

―Perfect. ―Phantom approached the group. ―I am P and he is R; those over there are C, J, and Koimo. ―He explained while pointing. ―C is going to take care of you, Zoi, and J of you, Thana. ―

―Why do you decide for us again? ―Joro asked again.

―Calm down, let's trust him, he sure knows what he does; or at least it seems that R and Koimo have been getting along. ―Coip replied.

―So now we are seven? ―Koimo asked.

―And it is not known if P will get someone else in. ―Refal replied, jokingly.

―If I see someone who deserves it, I will not hesitate to recruit them. ―Phantom replied.

―That doesn't matter, for now, let's just start moving, a long journey awaits us ―Joro said.

―All right. ―Refal said. ―Shall we leave? ―He asked Thana and Zoi.

―Sure. ―Zoi exclaimed as she began to walk with a smile.

The squad had grown again, almost doubling its original size. Now with medics next to them, it would be easier to fulfill their mission.

―So, what is your goal? ―Thana asked Refal.

―Our, my friend, our. ―He replied.

―Okay, what is our goal? and what is our name? ―

―Our goal, being a group that moves under the name of "AK", is ... ―He did a little pause and smiled under his mask. ―Neither more nor less than free the entire world! ―He exclaimed.

―We have quite a long way ahead. ―The girl replied.

―With each step we take, we are closer. ―He replied. The sun appeared majestic on the horizon, giving heat and light to the group. They began to move more and more carefully because their heads were gradually earning a price.

Some days later, they were resting on the side of a mountain, when Thana approached Phantom.

―Hey―He said, while he was reading in the shade of a tree.

―What’s the matter? ―

―Sorry for everything I told you the first time we met. ―In her voice, it could be felt regret.

―I have to admit that it hurt when you called me a murderer, and more because of the tone in which you said it, but, calm down; Now we are a family, and among family members, it’s best to hold no grudges. ―He said with a kind tone.

―Are we a family? ―The girl asked.

―Just look. ―He pointed to the landscape. Coip cooked helped by Koimo; Joro and Zoi were chatting quietly; and Refal watched them all, leaning against one of the walls of the house. ―Does this seem like something else to you? ―

―No. ―The girl answered.

―And as a family we have to take care of ourselves, especially when we are the only thing we have; Do you think I could take care of you properly if I held a grudge for what you said when we were just strangers? ―

―If you say it that way it sounds like it was a long time ago. ―The girl said. ―And I don't need to be protected. ―

―We all need it, even me; that you can take care of yourself just means that you can also protect others. Also, you may not need it, maybe you can take care of yourself without problem, but that does not prevent us from helping you, nor that will prevent us from doing it. ―The girl smiled at him. ―And, the time people have been interacting is easier to measure in experiences, in events. You and I have known each other recently, but the things we lived in that little period were strong enough to form bonds between us; and if it were not so, why did you come to ask me for forgiveness in the first place? The look you gave me the first time we met was not friendly, it seemed that you hated me without even knowing me. And now that I think of it, you have not explained to me the reason behind this aggressiveness. ―

―You talk like an old man. ―She said jokingly. ―That aggressiveness was a necessity, I had to defend my sister at all costs, and her confident and kind personality was always a problem in this world. ―The girl looked down.

―In another subject…―

―Yes? ―The girl looked at him with interest.

―Why did they attack you? I think I gave you enough to calm those thugs. ―

―Because they discovered our relationship with your group. ―Phantom was impressed.

―So…―He looked down. ―Was it my fault? ―

―Not really. ―The girl looked at him cheerfully. ―They already had a hate for us, they called us witches, and they accused us of altering public order with our arrivals. The money we paid was a bribe for them to ignore what we were doing, and what we were. You arrived and gave them a reason to attack and imprison us. You just accelerated something inevitable. I could even say you did us a favor because we don't have to pay those expensive bribes anymore. ―She smiled at him again.

―Why did they call you witches? ―

―For being pureblood, and being able to perform advanced spells as a result. We are different from all half-breeds of these days. ―

―It's funny, you know? ―

―What? ―

― Only I was half-breed before Koimo arrived because the other three have pure blood. ―

―I guess you had to work hard not to be a burden to them. ―

―You can't imagine. ―He let out a small laugh.

―Are you scared of me? ―She asked, without warning, looking into his eyes.

―In the beginning, I did it, not anymore. ―

―Why? ―

―Not only have you helped me enough, but now you are part of my family. I feared you at the beginning, because the first time we met you weren't very friendly, so to speak, but you won my trust, as I had told you before; Would I be talking so calmly with you if I kept doing it? ―The medic smiled again.

The medics thought they had found a new home, and what Phantom had told Thana only helped her to be more and more sure of it. The group moved to their next destination, the last two towns being somewhat larger than the previous ones, which entailed more dangers, which they were prepared to face.



Cats go on their own, don't they?


 “Some animals seek protection in groups when they receive excessive abuse, changing their behavior to fit into it, despite this being, usually, lonely”

-Master Akprop

 

 

―You better not take it as a game. ―The colonel reminded her seriously.

―Calm down; Besides, have I ever failed? ―She replied as she settled on the couch as if she wanted to sleep there.

―This is more than just bandits. ―He told her, annoyed.

―They have only attacked two villages; it is not such a big deal. ―She settled while answering relaxed. She didn't feel the slightest importance or pressure on that task.

―Two towns, but they killed all the guards in those respective villages, in addition to the tax collectors, which gives about fifty fallen soldiers. ―He reminded her.

―That is not a very important achievement. ―She still didn't notice the importance of that assignment.

―Also, with the seventh battalion. ―

―Well, that's a bit impressive …―She was getting settled in the chair. It didn't seem so small anymore.

―And all this between five people. ―She was stunned by that fact.

―Finally, something interesting. ―She muttered.

―It’s not a game. ―

―Calm down, calm down, I know it isn’t. ―

―Remember what will happen if you fail. ―

―You don't need to threaten me. ―

―Then take seriously the fact that this may be the most dangerous criminal gang in a long time. ―

―I'll start moving tomorrow, where do I have to be? ―

―The town that is to the southeast, the fourth. ―

―It is measured clockwise, starting at twelve, right? ―

―That's right, how many times will I have to repeat it to you? ―

―Understood, I shall go. ―She responded reluctantly. She left the room and went to her room to begin the journey. « Finally, something really interesting. » She thought to herself.

 

After a week, the group sighted the town and tried to repeat the model of the previous ones.

―We are merchants. ―Refal spoke to the guards, who examined them cautiously.

―Rumors have been heard of a group of terrorists who enter the cities and kill the guards. ― The guard replied.

―Thanks for the warning. ―Refal started to walk, but the guards pushed him out.

―It is also said that they always act after a group of merchants arrives at the town. ―He had especially stressed the word "merchants".

―What are you implying? ―Refal asked with faux annoyance. Both looked into each other's eyes. «Surely the merchants deception will not work again, or maybe it will do it for the last time here. » Refal thought as he kept looking at the guard in the eye.

―You can pass. ―The guard spoke with some contempt; one could feel that he had given them the benefit of the doubt reluctantly.

―Thanks. ―Refal spoke with faux indignation and began to walk, with the group following. While inside they found a vegetable seller.

―Good morning. ―Coip greeted.

―Good morning. ―The seller replied. ―How may I help you? ―

―Do you know when they will come to collect taxes? ―Coip asked while watching the vegetables.

―It should be within five days. ―

―Thank you. By the way, could you give me a cabbage? ―

―Sure. ―He replied while taking the cabbage. ―It will be five nickel coins. ― They paid and left.

«Five days? we are late. » Phantom was thinking as he walked through the town. He was walking calmly until, out of nowhere, his head began to hurt. «This is strange. I will ask Zoi if it continues. » The pain was manageable, he kept walking when a cat began to meow to him. ―Hi friend. ―He looked at the cat and caressed it, then it rubed its forehead against Phantom's hand. ―I'm sorry, but now I have no food to give you ― He walked away from the cat. «It's too late, I should go home. » He thought as he watched the sun fall over the horizon. He began to walk, and already being near reaching the gates of the village, he met his friends. 

―Where are we going to summon the house? ―Joro asked.

―I saw a forest in the north when we were arriving. ―Zoi replied.

―How far from here? ―Refal asked.

―A couple of minutes. ―

―Let’s go. ― Refal started moving.

―Perfect. ―Phantom said. ―Let’s go. ―

―Are you going to take your little friend? ―Coip asked sarcastically.

―What are you talking about? ―Phantom asked. He turned to see Coip when he saw the cat, who was watching him while it purred.

―A cat? ―Joro asked.

―It's pretty cute. ―Koimo added.

―I guess I could take it with me; it has been following me all day. ― Phantom said as he took the cat in his arms. ―Do you want to come with us? ― The cat meowed him as if it understood. They headed towards the forest. When they had dinner, Phantom gave some of his dinner to the cat, and it received it delighted. Late at night, Refal approached Phantom.

―Where will our guest sleep? ―Refal asked mockingly.

―In my room. ― Phantom answered while stroking the cat, which he had in his arms.

―Very well. ―Refal said as he turned. ―Good night. ―He said as he raised his hand to the height of his head in sign of farewell.

―Rest. ―He entered his room, left the cat on the table and left the robe, gloves, mask and the accessories of his arms. ―I can see that your collar tightens you a little, I will take it off so you sleep more at ease. ―He told the cat, who had a black collar with a small bell that stood out in its completely white fur. He took the collar off the cat and left it on the table, next to his things. He lay on the bed, and the cat lay on his chest. Phantom could feel its purrs. He stroked its head one last time and settled down to sleep. ―Rest. ―He said to it. «My head still hurts; I would have to talk to Zoi tomorrow. » He thought before falling asleep.

Morning light broke through the windows when Phantom woke up.

«My chest is heavy, it's hard to breathe. » He thought before opening his eyes; when he opened them, the weight in his chest made sense. A girl was asleep on top of him, he could see a long white hair, from which two cat ears came out on the head, and a tail on the lower back. He was trying to move when the girl yawned.

―Do not move, you are comfortable and warm. ―She said as she rubbed her cheek against Phantom's chest. She said it with a certain tenderness in her voice, like a little girl, besides releasing a small meow as soon as she finished speaking. He could feel her purring.

―Could you get up? ―Phantom told her. His mind had told him that that was the best choice, for he could not know how that situation could end; but, even so, his body, which soon reacted to the situation, yelled at him to take advantage of it.

―It's funny, no other man would say that in these circumstances, in fact, he would try to take advantage of the fact that a beautiful woman is sleeping on him. The vast majority would try to reach as far as possible. ―Her voice had changed, now she was more stingy, sensual, lustful. She rubbed against Phantom's body. He looked down, and noticed why she said it: She was completely naked.

―Why don't you bring clothes? ― He asked after looking away. He could not let himself be tempted.

―You took it from me. ―She replied. Phantom could feel every little part of her body, every inch, every bend, and even her skin in some points where the shirt he was wearing separated from his pants. He looked at the table and realized that instead of the collar, there was a black robe. ―But does that matter? ―

―Please get up. ―Only a bad movement, or a loud noise, and everyone would go to his room, leaving him in a situation that was quite difficult to explain. The girl clicked her tongue showing discomfort, and then got up, although she did not strain to cover her body.

«This is the first time this has happened to me. » The girl was thinking while tidying her hair.

―Could you cover yourself please? ―Phantom kept looking away.

―What kind of man are you? ―It could be felt the annoyance in her voice. ―Or is it that you do not like what you are seeing? ―Her voice was once again seductive and tempting. She reached down and approached Phantom. If he hadn't been looking in another direction, he could have counted her eyelashes.

―Just cover yourself. ―Phantom stood still looking in the opposite direction to where the stranger was, took her clothes and passed them to her. The girl's annoyance could be felt again.

―Well, that doesn't matter. Farewell. ―The girl said very upset, as she walked out the door that led to the training camp of Phantom, after dressing. While alone, Phantom reflected on what happened.

«A spy maybe? » He thought what the girl's goal might have been. He just hoped that no one had seen or heard them. He also noticed that the headache was gone shortly after. «Under other circumstances, I would not have hesitated to take advantage of the situation. » He was smiling for himself with his eyes fixed on the floor.

After that, he went out and waited for his friends for breakfast. During the meal, the theme of the cat emerged.

―Where is your pet? ―Refal asked.

―I guess she went out of the window during the night. ―He replied.

―Maybe we will meet again. ―Zoi said.

«Frankly, I hope not. » Phantom was thinking.

―Well, what will we do today? ―Thana asked.

―Nothing special, scouting mostly. ―Refal replied.

When they finished eating, they gathered in the town square.

―Everyone do what you want, but keep a low profile; we will meet here at dusk ―Refal ordered.

―We will be here, healing people. ―Zoi said.

―Then we will stay to watch this area, right C? ―Joro asked.

―Sure. ―Coip answered.

―I'm leaving. ―Phantom said as he headed to the commercial district.

―So, do you come with me? ―Refal asked Koimo.

―Sure. ―The girl said. ―What are we going to do? ―

―We're just going to look for maps, books, information, things like that. ―He told the girl as they began to move.

It was time to meet. The medics had already finished attending to the people, and they were talking calmly with Joro and Coip; Refal and Koimo had already arrived, and Phantom was just getting there. As soon as everyone was together, they started walking to leave town. Soon, Phantom had a headache. They were crossing a street where there was no one when a voice called them from the rooftops.

―You! ―Shouted the stranger with white hair. She was lying on her back on a roof.

―What do you want? ―Coip had already drawn his mallet.

―I just wanted to warn you. ―Said the stranger.

―Warn us about what? ―Refal asked.

―Me. ―She said with an arrogant tone. ―I will let you go alive from this town if you promise to stop killing soldiers. ―

―What if we refuse? ―Coip asked a bit annoyed.

―You will force me to kill them. ―Her nails grew suddenly.

―I would like to see you trying. ―Coip replied with the same arrogance that the stranger showed.

―What do you think if we make a deal? ―She asked them. «If these fools accept, it will be more fun than conventionally killing them. » She thought.

―What deal? ―Refal returned the question.

―In the southern part of the town, there is a huge warehouse made of stone, it is empty and in disuse for years. I'll wait for you there tomorrow morning. ―

―A direct fight? ―Joro asked.

―Of course, and if you manage to, at least, get me tired; I will accept my defeat and let you go. ―She breathed deeply. ―But it is a deathmatch. ―Her voice was arrogant again, and she added a sinister tone to that last sentence.

―What if we don’t go? ―Thana asked.

―I will kill you without having a chance to respond. ―She said in an indifferent voice. ―After all, that's what I do. I’ll leave the proposal. ―She got up and went away.

Already at home, they were considering the offer.

―Are we going to accept the challenge? ―Zoi asked.

―I'm going to do it. Only me. ―Phantom said.

―Are you sure? she sounded pretty confident. ―Koimo didn't think Phantom could against the stranger.

―Yes. ―He replied.

―Why do you want to try to go alone? ―Refal asked.

―I have my reasons. ―Phantom was quite thoughtful about the encounter with the stranger.

―Remember that it is a deathmatch, at least for her. ―Joro reminded him.

―I just want to try. ― Phantom kept talking in a somewhat distant tone. ―Also, if I am overcome, I can escape with a jump, and return with you. ―

―We don't know if she will accept the escape so easily. ―Coip said.

―Even so, I want to try. ―Phantom said.

―All right. ―Refal said. ―We will continue to do the things we did today, after all, there are four days left before tax collectors arrive. ―

―Aren't we going to go with him? Not even to see him? ―Zoi asked worriedly.

―Knowing P, he would not like that, right? ―Coip asked.

―You are right. ―Phantom replied.

The next day they gathered in the square.

―Well, there isn't much to say, just remember to keep a low profile. ―Refal said, before starting to walk. He stopped, turned and looked at Phantom. ―And you, don't get yourself killed, would you? ―

―I’ll think about it. ―He replied as a joke.

Everyone separated, Refal and Koimo went to collect information again; Zoi, Thana, Coip, and Joro stayed in the square; and Phantom headed for the warehouse. Having arrived, he found a large dome-shaped structure. It was made of one, already worn, stone and had a huge and heavy door. Phantom entered. He met the stranger, standing in the center of the structure. The tunic she had reached to her ankles, was black and had a V-neck. Her hair reached below the waist.

―Did you come alone, or are you waiting for an attack for your teammates to appear? ―The stranger asked.

―I’ve come alone. ―Phantom was talking thoughtfully.

―Oh, yeah? ―The stranger let out a small laugh. ―You are very confident if you think you can against me by yourself. ―

―Can I ask you something? ―

―I guess respecting your last will in the least I can do. ―Her voice was arrogant.

―Can you tell me your name? ―

―It is rare for the executed person to want to know the name of his executioner. ―

―Please. ―

―All right, if that's your last will. My name is Agysuny. ―

«One after another. » He thought with a smile under the mask. The girl watched him carefully.

―Didn't you use something on your arms? ―She asked when she noticed the emptiness in his sleeves.

―They are weapons, and now I want to talk. ―

―And exactly what do you want to talk with me? ―

―I want you to join my group. ―

―Ha―She mocked Phantom's proposal. ―You better get ready to fight. ―

―I will not fight you. ―

―Then die. ―She said in a contemptuous tone. She jumped at him, wanting to hit him with her claws in the neck, but Phantom blocked with his arm. ―Let's see how much you can take. ―She pounced on him again, but Phantom blocked the attack again. Agysuny stood on a wall. Her feet emitted a small glow, neither her clothes nor her hair seemed to be affected by gravity, and she did not seem to be making any effort, despite standing almost horizontally.

―Walking on the walls? ―

―A spy and assassin must have many tricks of this style, don't you think? ―She jumped back to him, and again, and another time; but Phantom blocked them all, his arms were already quite hurt. Agysuny was now standing on the roof, in the center of the dome, just above him. She jumped towards Phantom, but he dodged. The girl attacked again, and as soon as the attack was over, she would jump again. There was less and less time between attacks. Now she also attacked his legs, and his torso, but Phantom continued bloking vulnerable places.

―Why don't you attack, you coward?! ―She shouted annoyed between attacks.

―I don't want to hurt you, I want you to come with me! ―

―Why do you insist on it?! There is no reason for you to be so determined to take me to your group! ―

―It is my instinct, and I will not change my mind! ―

―Very well. ―She was panting a little. ―Let's finish this fast. ―Her hands also began to emit a small glow, and her nails, already long, grew more. She began to jump frantically from one side of the room to the other, always managing to hit Phantom.

«It's strange, I feel like I've already been in this situation. » He was thinking while blocking the attacks that could hit important places.

The fight, or rather, the abuse, continued for much longer. Phantom was already quite battered, with cuts all over his body, but he was still standing; on the other hand, Agysuny was tired but intact. She was breathing with extreme difficulty.

―You don't give up, huh? ―Phantom was already tired, but not as much as she, besides soaked in his own blood.

―Sh… ut up…― Agysuny spoke between gasps. She stepped forward and tried to hit him again. Phantom dodged easily and the girl fell lying on the floor, almost unable to breathe. Her nails returned to normal size.

―Maybe you used too much of your energy with those spells. ―Phantom crouched and stared at her face. She had silver-colored irises, crossed vertically by thin, sharp pupils

―Come… on, kill… me―

―You don't even lose your pride in this situation, huh? ―He said sympathetically. ―Calm down. ― He began to caress her head, staining her hair with blood. ―I’m not going to kill you. ―

―Then… what are you going to do? ―The girl asked.

―I'll ask you again, do you want to join my group? ―The girl just turned her head. ―Understood. ―He stopped caressing her, got up, and, with effort, left.

Phantom arrived wounded to the square, before the calmed gaze of Refal, Joro and Coip; and the horrified one from Koimo, Thana and Zoi.

―How could you end up like this? ―Zoi ran worried to help him.

―You didn't carry your weapons, huh? ―Refal stared the wounds on his arms. ― At least you followed my orders. ―He paused from a moment. ―Did you kill her? ―

―No―

―I don't know why I sensed something like this was going to happen. ―Joro looked at him with some sorrow.

―And I sense that we will be eight soon. ―Coip had a mocking tone.

―She did not accept the offer. ―Phantom spoke as if the pain didn't matter to him, although it was painful even to breathe.

―Just shut up, you're so hurt that when you talk you get worse. ―Zoi was healing him.

―Thanks. ―

―What do you think will happen to her? ―Thana approached to talk to Phantom.

―I don't know, I asked a couple of things, but not who sent her. ―

 

―How is it you could not against them?! ―The colonel was shouting at her.

―I just couldn't, they are too strong. ―Agysuny spoke crestfallen and embarrassed.

―I told you not to take it as a game! ―

―I didn't take it as a game, he was really strong. ―Agysuny let it out.

― He was?! Was it just one?! ―The colonel was increasingly irritated. He took a deep breath. ―That means you're useless. ―The colonel was already speaking calmly, but with contempt. ―Execute her. ―He ordered indifferently.

―Wait, I can still be useful! ―The girl begged for her life.

―The agreement was that a single failure would cost you your life. ―The girl started running, but the guards surrounded her. She fought for her life, but as soon as she was overcome she had to escape, which she barely managed to do.

 

The group was walking towards the village gates when the noise of the soldiers running alerted them.

―It seems they come at full strength. ―Coip positioned at the forefront.

«The headache came back. » Phantom thought. «Surely they are accompanied by her. »

The group was prepared to attack when a wounded Agysuny appeared at the gates of the village. She ran with difficulty, before tripping and falling, in front of the group.

―Isn't she the assassin? ―Coip raised his guard when he saw her. Phantom walked towards her and crouched down so he could see her in the face.

―What happened to you? You're a good opponent. How did you end up like this? ―

―Do you even care? ―Asked the girl annoyed and tired. Phantom held out his hand.

―Sure I do. ―The girl's eyes filled with tears. She took Phantom's hand and stood up with effort. They approached Zoi. ―Please. ―Phantom begged.

―Sure. ―Zoi doubted whether to do it, but she trusted Phantom.

―Thanks. ―Agysuny whispered, almost crying. Phantom returned to Coip and Joro.

―At my sign. ―Refal had his bow prepared.

They saw the group of soldiers approaching, there were approximately thirty. They were approaching when Refal shot, hitting just in the forehead of one of the soldiers. Joro, Coip, and Phantom rushed towards the group of soldiers.

―How are you going to fight without your weapons? ―Coip was curious about Phantom's next move.

―Just watch. ―Phantom spoke confidently, when he disappeared, and appeared on the shoulders of one of the guards, to whom he took his spear. He started hitting guards with the handle of it.

―Astute, very astute. ―Joro cut the soldiers' necks as he approached Phantom.

They were done with the majority, so Phantom threw himself towards the last one, hit him and sent him to his friends when an arrow hit him on the shoulder. He screamed in pain. An archer had managed to hit him. He took out the arrow, disappeared and stood next to the archer, stuck the arrow in his shoulder, and sent him to the same destination as his partner.

Finished the battle, they approached Zoi, and she healed them.

―It would be better if you eat this. ―Thana gave him a medicament.

―Why? ―Phantom did not feel the need for medication.

―With so many wounds that you received today, there are chances that you get some disease. ―

―Thanks. ―He took the medications and approached Agysuny, who was already healthy. ―Are you going to accept my proposal now? ―

―Yes, I see you mean it. ―

―And what did you think I meant? ―

―Some people have told me that before, just to me let my guard down, and attack when I am comfortable. ―

―We are not going to do that here; you can be calm. ―Refal had noticed an air of sadness in her voice.

―I am P, they are C, J, R, Koimo, Zoi and Thana. ―He was pointing them out as he named them. ― And she is Agysuny. ―He presented her to his teammates. ―I will take care of you. ―

―Understood, thanks. ―

―No problem. ―

―I see that I was right when I said that we would soon be eight. ―Coip approached Phantom.

―And maybe she's not the last. ―Refal added.

When they were already heading home, Refal approached Phantom.

―I notice something weird in you since we arrived at this town. ―

―It’s nothing. ―Phantom replied.

―Are you sure? ―He looked Phantom in the eye. Even with masks, Refal’s look always took effect. Phantom let a sigh out.

―Since I first approached Agysuny, I’ve felt a headache. ―

―Even so, you prefer her to be with us and even forgive death threats. ―

―I know, but I have a feeling, something tells me that I can take it, and it will be worth it. ―

―Understood, should we leave this between you and me? ―

―Please. ―



Forgiveness


“There are enemies that you simply cannot hate, with whom you do not want to fight. Getting these to become your allies will sometimes be proof that you are a great warrior, but it will always be proof that you are a great person.”

-Master Akprop.

 

 

At nightfall, Phantom was preparing to sleep, and Agysuny was at his side.

―How are we going to sleep? ―The girl asked.

―Like the first time we met. ―

―Understood―The girl disappeared and, in her place, there was a small cat. Phantom settled down to sleep, and Agysuny lay on his chest.

 

The next day, they gathered in the square, to agree on what to do.

―Very well, as always, do what you have to do and keep a low profile. ― Refal indicated.

―Understood. ―The group answered.

―Do you have something to do? ―Phantom asked Agysuny.

―No longer. ―The girl answered.

―Would you like to accompany me? ―

―Sure, what will we do today? ―

―We will sell the equipment of the guards from yesterday. ―He started walking towards the commercial district.

―I don't think that will take us all day. ―The girl began to move beside him.

―Then we will look for books, we will wander a little. ―

―Understood. But… before…―She talked with some embarrassment, some fear.

―What’s the matter? ―Phantom asked without turning.

―Well… maybe you have already noticed that I am not like every magician. ―

―You’re pretty strong, I’ll admit it. ―

―Don't you notice anything weird about me? ―

―What? The fact that you are a demon? ―Agysuny got stunned when she heard this.

―How did you find out? ―She was the complete opposite of what she had shown in their first encounters, she was ashamed, fearful.

―I just did it, that before was just a guess. ―Agysuny lowered her head. ―And if you want to know how I assumed the fact that you are not human, I had begun to suspect as soon as I realized your ability to change shape at will; polymorphism is one of the most basic characteristics of demons. ―Agysuny was looking down and paralyzed by fear. ―What’s the matter? ―

―And w-hat are you go-oing to do about that? ―

―Nothing. ―

―Nothing? ―The girl was now surprised

―Why would I do something? ―

―The vast majority of people would react violently, or with extreme fear or rejection. ―

―I know, but I have my reasons for not doing so. ―

―The rest of the team knows? ―

―Yes, I told them my suspicions after our fight; but don't worry, they reacted the same way as me. ―He turned and looked at her directly. ―But you haven't told me what’s the matter. ―

―What do you mean? ―

―The Agysuny that almost killed me wouldn't have shrunk like that before something so trivial. ―

―The Agysuny that almost killed you didn't owe you her life, nor did her depend on you to have a roof, besides you already showed me that you are stronger than me. ―

―Are you telling me that fear of rejection for being a demon comes because now, in some way, you depend on me? ―Phantom asked in a tone that gave exaggeratedly to understand that it seemed like something trivial to him.

―That is. ―Agysuny was still somewhat crestfallen. Phantom approached her and put a hand on her head, between the cat ears standing out from her hair.

―I won't say that I like it when you're arrogant, or that I don't like the way you are behaving, but don't be afraid, I brought you with me, and I'm not going to throw you out for anything. It doesn't matter that you are a demon. ―He was looking at her in the eye. ―For now, let’s just go. And hide those ears, they could be problematic. ―

At nightfall, they gathered in the living room to plan the next day.

―All right, there is something we have to talk about. We are not completely sure that tomorrow they will come to collect the taxes since they know of our presence in this place. That leaves three possibilities: the first is that tomorrow a battalion or two will come, maybe even a patrol, if there were any nearby; the second is that they don't arrive tomorrow, but in a few days, but we would still be talking about a lot of soldiers, maybe too many; and finally, perhaps we have already finished most of the soldiers in this region, so they decided to gather in the fortress to wait for us, that means, no soldiers will come to this town nor the next. ―

― So? ―Coip asked.

―It means that if a squad does not arrive to collect taxes the day after tomorrow, we will leave. ―

―And what happens if they arrive later, waiting for that movement from us? ―Agysuny asked.

―It is a question that always accompanies me, even regarding the towns we have already visited, but we will know that the answer is “nothing” when we reach the fortress. ―

After the meeting, they had dinner and went to sleep. The next day, they were waiting at the top of the walls, looking north.

―The last town is in that direction, about two weeks from here, isn't it? ― Phantom asked Refal while pointing the northeast. Refal nodded.

―How's your pain going? ―Refal asked.

―Well, I know that Agysuny is the cause, that it has something to do with the fact that she is a demon, and that it makes me feel like a long battle to be with her for a long time. ―

―I think that all this goes back to what happened before reaching the first town, are you going to explain it now? ―

―Not yet, but I think I'll have to do it soon. ―

―I would just like to know what happened in those days that you were in the village. ―Phantom sighed.

―First of all, it was two weeks, these people had a spell that allowed them to travel instantly to some places if they know them well, and then leave an image of themselves that makes the journey, like ghosts. ―

―That explains the fact that they didn't sleep or eat. ―

―For now, I'll just say it was two weeks. ―

―With each passing moment, I am more curious to know what happened in that town. ― Phantom laughed a little.

―I cannot assure you that you will like what you will hear. ―

Surveillance continued for the rest of the day, but there was nothing. The next day was the same, an empty horizon.

They gathered in the living room during the night of the third day and began planning their next move.

―Tomorrow we will leave at dawn unless one of us has some loose end to tie. ― Refal looked at the group, which looked back at him in silence. ―Then tomorrow we will start the walk northeast. Sleep well. ―They all went to their rooms and went to sleep.



Rescue an outcast



“When everything has been lost, even the smallest gesture is taken as a great favor, because, for some strange reason, human nature tends to feel rejection towards those who need help the most.”

-Master Akprop

 

They began to move as planned, being careful not to meet patrols. Twelve days had passed, when they could see the town walls.

―They know about us; how will we get in now? ―Coip asked.

―Well, from what you just said, we can directly kill the guards. ―Refal answered.

―And then what will we do? ― Coip asked again.

―That is still in doubt, we have to find out when the tax collectors arrive, and then wait to see if they come. ―

―So how are we going to kill the guards? ― Koimo asked. Refal knelt and took out his bow. He did two accurate shots, killing the guards on the spot.

―Shall we enter? ―He asked looking at the group.

After arriving in town, they were looking for a merchant. They barely passed the gates when Phantom started coughing up blood.

―What’s happening? ―Refal asked him, to the surprise of the rest of the group. The cough was getting more intense, until Phantom collapsed and fell unconscious. ―Zoi―He looked at the girl.

―I will check on him, although I would rather be able to do it at home. ―

―Then come on, we can summon the house near the village gate, there is no one to hide from. ―Refal said while taking Phantom on his shoulders, with Coip's help.

Phantom woke up a couple of hours later, he was in his bed, Zoi and Agysuny were sitting next to him. Agysuny was asleep, leaning on the head of the bed.

―What happened? ―The boy asked, shocked.

―See? he did wake up. ―Zoi whispered to Agysuny in her sleep, without Phantom noticing. ―You collapsed after you started coughing, do you remember? ―

―Yes, but what happened after that? ―

―We just brought you here, the others recently arrived to collect information. ―

―And we were able to confirm some of my assumptions. ―Refal had arrived just in time.

―What did they tell you? ―Phantom asked.

―Tax collectors should have arrived two days ago, but they didn't come, which means they are waiting for us in the fortress. ―

―When are we leaving? ―

―Well, under other circumstances we would leave the day after tomorrow, but I want to know what or who did that to you, why it happened, and if the town has something to do or someone in it; so, we'll leave when we know. ―

―In other words, are you going to use me to find what left me unconscious? ―

―Is there any other way? ―Refal said with a smile.

―As a medic and friend, I can't let you do that. ―Zoi interrupted.

―I understand you, but it is something that must be done, besides, if P agrees …―He looked at Phantom.

―Could you keep me alive? ―Phantom asked Zoi.

―I barely could do it this time, I don't know if I will be able to do it the next. ― Phantom closed his eyes and thought for a while.

―Let’s do this. ―He said decided.

―What about the fear of death? ―Refal asked.

―I don't know, but I want to try; my instinct tells me that it is dangerous, but if I take the risk something good could happen, do you remember what the master used to say about the calculated risks? ―

―Yes, “When you take a risk if you take it correctly; you will get at least twice what you risked” ―

―And I plan to risk my life, can you imagine the reward, if we do it correctly? ―

―I would like to see it. ―

―I’ll start digging the grave. ―Zoi said with a certain sarcasm and a little disapointed.

Refal and Phantom went for a walk alone, looking for the origin of the incident.

― It's not that it bothers me to be near Agysuny, but stop feeling the headache is pretty nice. ―

―We are already a considerable distance from the house, how long ago you stopped feeling the pain? ―Refal asked.

―To be honest, a few minu…―Phantom stopped dead, looked down and smiled slightly. ―We’re getting closer. ―

―Another demon? ―Refal inferred.

―It is most likely ―Phantom continued walking. ―And now what? ―

―I don't know, let's just keep walking. ―It started raining.

They had been walking in the rain for quite some time.

―This seems useless. It will be better to continue tomorrow. ―Refal told him, worried about what might happen if they stayed too much in the rain.

―Go if you want, I want to keep looking. ―

―You are the only one looking for something that causes him pain, in the rain, at night on his heels, but still with excitement. ―

―If you use that logic, the more we search, the easier it will be. By removing certain variables, the longer we spend in the rain, the fewer people there will be, which increases the possibility that, if we find someone, it is who we are looking for. ―

―And how will you know that they are the right person? ―The light around them was dying little by little while they talked.

―The pain increases suddenly when I approach Agysuny, I suppose that with this person the same rule will apply. ―Refal let out a small laugh.

―Enduring pain like that, just for a hunch, I don't think it's something too smart ―Refal turned and started walking towards the house. ―Do not take too much. ―

―Sure. ―

Phantom kept wandering for a while longer. The night was rising over him when the pain increased.

―I must be close. ―He kept walking in that direction until he could hear crying. Guided by the sound, he reached an alley, where he could see a girl. She was crying, sitting and with her head hidden between her knees, soaked. She wore a hooded robe, like his, but hers was a red wine color. Phantom approached. The girl detected his presence, so she looked up.

―Stay away! ―She yelled at him in anger, but some fear could be felt in her voice. He could see the girl's face. She was hurt.

―It's bad to be in the rain for too much. ―He told the girl, with confidence in his voice. The girl looked at him.

―It seems that you have also been wandering in the rain for too long. ―She hid her head between her knees again.

―Why are you here? ―

―That is not of your incumbency. ―

―Looks like you're hungry, and cold, not counting the obvious sadness that can be seen on your face. ―Phantom approached, without the girl noticing. ―Do you want a roof? ―

―What is your intention with …? ―The girl had looked up a little annoyed, only to find that Phantom was extending his hand. He had taken off his mask and hood, so the girl could look him straight in the eye. Without saying anything, the girl took Phantom's hand, got up and began to walk beside him.

―What is your name? My name is P. ―He told the girl while covering her with his robe.

―My name is Vithea. ―The girl responded with some fear.

―Do not worry everything will be good. ―Phantom replied. «It's already nine, we're all. » He thought.

―Excuse me. ―The girl caught his attention.

―What’s the matter? ―

―You are bleeding. ―She said while pointing at the corner of her mouth. Phantom cleaned himself and saw the blood. He then laughed for himself.

―Don't worry it's normal. ―They kept walking until they were near the house. When they were a couple of meters away, Phantom started coughing, falling apart again. The girl was alarmed when she saw him collapse.

―What is happening? ―She asked full of anguish.

―Go to that house… and tell them… that P… is in a bad state…―The cough did not let him speak fluently, but he could finish the sentence seconds before falling unconscious. The girl ran to the house and gave the message. The others quickly understood, and without saying anything else, accompanied her to where Phantom was.

When they had already checked Phantom, Refal approached the girl.

―Who are you? ―

―My name is Vithea, P told me that here I could find a home. ―The girl responded timidly.

«Another one? » Refal was thinking. ―Understood. ―He said and then paused for a moment. ―How did you meet him? ―

―I was abandoned in the rain, he approached me, and convinced me to come. ― Refal smiled slightly

―Why were you abandoned? ―The girl looked down.

―Do you promise not to break the proposal of P? ―She looked at the floor, and spoke with fear.

―Yes. ―

―It is for what I am; I am half-demon. ―

«I guess he was right. » Refal thought as he watched the girl.

―Because of this, they chased me and hunted me. I had been living as a servant of a rich family, but I was found and attacked. ―The girl continued.

―Zoi can heal your wounds as soon as she finishes checking P. ―Refal said. «And she checks he still has a heartbeat. » He thought to himself.

After a while, Zoi entered the room, helping Phantom to stand.

―It's amazing, but this time he did out quite better than expected, even better than the other time. ― Zoi declared.

―Don't you have something to tell us? ―Coip told Phantom.

―Ha―He let out a small laugh and walked with effort until he was next to Vithea. ―She is Vithea, I think she could be the last member of our group. ―

―What does she have to offer? ―Koimo asked.

―Trust me. ―Phantom answered.

―Who will take care of her? ―Thana asked.

―I will. I'll take care of her and Agysuny. ―

«Suicidal. » Refal thought. ―Well, if it's the last one, I don't see a problem. Welcome to the group. ―He said.

―Thanks. ―The girl replied.

―Come, I'll show you where you're going to sleep, and with whom. ―Phantom told her as he began to move towards his room.

―Understood. ―The girl helped him move.

―Soon dinner will be ready, don't go too far. ―Coip said to them.

As soon as they reached the room, they saw Agysuny resting in the bed, she was reading a book.

―So, you finally awakened. ―

―Hi. ―Phantom was still moving with difficulty.

―Hi. ―Vithea also greeted.

―Who is she? ―Agysuny asked curiously.

―Her name is Vithea, she will live with us. ―

―Are you going to take care of us both? ―

―Yes. ―He responded while sitting on the bed.

―Are you sure you can? ―

―My master was able to take care of four small children; this should not be anything. ―

They had dinner and met in the living room. The stay in that town was going to be shorter than expected.

―We only have one thing left to do. ―Refal drew a circle on the map, where the fortress should be.

―It took us less time than expected to reach this point. ―Joro let out a small laugh.

―And the group grew more than expected. ―Coip added.

―Fighting a war without seeking allies is a direct path to defeat. ―Refal replied.

―I suppose it was inevitable. ―Phantom added.

―And what are we going to do as soon as we get to the fortress? ―Thana asked.

―Kill everything that moves and we do not recognize as an ally. ―Refal responded.

―And then? ―Koimo asked. Refal pointed to a town in another region, it had more villages than the region in which they were.

―We will repeat our movements, and then again, and another time, until we reach the fortress where Apolkyl is hidden. Soon we will begin the journey towards a decisive objective. The omen of victory, or a bitter defeat. ―

They all went to their rooms.

―Where will I sleep? ―Vithea asked.

―Here, by my side. ―Phantom lay on the bed.

―And where will the other girl sleep? ―At that time Agysuny became a cat.

―She is a demon, so she can become a little cat. ―He replied while caressing Agysuny. Vithea was surprised to see that another member was a demon, but she managed to hide it.



A bit of cave exploring



“Exploring is synonymous with learning, and this, in turn, to discover. You don't have to learn everything, but it never hurts to learn about something that, at least, seems interesting to you”

-Master Akprop

 

 

The next morning, they were gathered at the door of the house, next to the town walls.

―We will spend in the village today, Zoi and Thana have people to heal. ―Refal ordered. ―I will be with Koimo collecting information in the commercial district. It is not necessary to keep a low profile, but still, do not attract too much attention. ―He waved his hand and everyone scattered.

―What are we going to do? ―Agysuny asked Phantom. They had stood at the entrance of the village.

―Frankly, I don't know. ―He answered.

―How about some exploration? ―Vithea suggested.

―What do you mean by that? ―Phantom returned the question.

―There is a small cave in the mountains that are nearby, it is not more than half an hour away. ―

―How did you know about it? ―Agysuny asked, interested.

―I read about it in some books and maps that the family with whom I was hiding had. If my memory doesn't fail, there should be some treasures there. ―

―Guide us. ―Phantom told her. They started walking towards a nearby hill.

―How do you know that they have not already entered there? ―Agysuny asked her.

―The legends give it an air of terror that caused no one to have ever crossed the door; It is assumed that whoever enters there will never leave. ―

―And then it’s us, a bunch of misfits who are too brave or too lacking in brain and common sense, willing to enter only for a fantasy treasure. ―Phantom added in a comic tone. «I just hope we don't have to fight. » He thought as he followed Vithea.

After walking for a while, they reached the hill.

―Well, where is the cave? ―Phantom asked.

―Here. ―Vithea set aside some bushes after looking for a while, revealing a door, which was sealed with runic writings.

―Damn it! ―He was quite frustrated, despite believing there would be nothing there. ―I guess we'll have to leave. ―

―Wait, I know how to read runic. ―Vithea exclaimed.

―Really? ―Agysuny was still interested.

Vithea turned to the door and began to watch it.

―You just have to move the stone. ―She said, surprised at how simple it was to access the cave.

―Then let’s enter. ―Phantom spoke with confidence. He and Agysuny approached, and between the three began to move the stone that sealed the entrance.

―Did it say something more? ―Agysuny asked as soon as they finished moving the stone.

―Basically, it said that you had to move the stone and that knowing how to move in the dark is a vital skill. ―

― Moving through the darkness in an unknown space is something that few can do. ―

―That's why I always have torches inside my robe. ―Phantom added. He pulled a torch from his robe, next to flint and a small piece of iron. After lighting the torch, they entered the cave.

 

―There are many less injured and ill than normal. ―Zoi and Thana chatted calmly because there weren't too many people to cure.

―That is good. ―Zoi replied.

― I guess it is. Changing the subject, where are the others? ―

―R and Koimo are in the commercial district; J and C should be there too, they went to find food, and other things; of P, Agysuny and Vithea I don't know anything, I just hope they don't hurt themselves. ―

―I can't say anything about Agysuny and Vithea, but knowing P, he's going to come back lame and hurt. ―Thana added mockingly.

―Although I don't like to admit it, I guess you're right. ―Zoi spoke with some hopelessness.

 

―Don't you think this bracelet is cute? ―Koimo was buying excitedly while Refal talked to the merchants.

―It's pretty, but don't you think you already have too many? ―He finished the conversation with the seller and turned to the girl.

―It is in case I burn the ones I already have. ―

―That’s quite reasonable…―Refal stared blankly for a moment, thoughtful.

― Hey, is something happening to you? ―The girl asked.

―It's nothing, it’s only that I have a bad feeling. ―

―Of what? ―

―I don't know, but I feel like someone is going to give me bad news soon. ―

―Take it easy. Everyone is in a safe place, there is nothing to worry about. ―

―Even so, there is something I don't like. ―He thought for a moment. ―Well, that, for now, is not something we can deal with, let's continue. ―They paid and started walking towards another stall.

 

―And a two of tomatoes, please. ―Coip and Joro were wandering around another part of the commercial district.

―Without the pressure of the guards is a bit boring, don't you think? ―Joro asked Coip.

―Take it easy, knowing P, will bring something interesting. ―

―I don't know if you have little trust in him, or too much. ―Joro had a joking tone.

―Believe me, having him as a friend is very difficult to get bored. ―

―Hopefully yes, or until we reach the fortress there will be nothing interesting. ―

―Just trust, if he does not come back badly injured, he will do it with something that forces us to stay a couple more days, and without luck, he could arrive with both. ―

 

―I don’t have a good feeling about this. ―Agysuny walked in front of Phantom, who carried the torch, in the middle of dark stone corridors.

―Hopefully, that treasure is worth it. ―Vithea said.

―I think that treasure is the appreciation you take for life, seconds before something takes it away from you. ―Phantom said sarcastically.

―What great timing to say something like that. ―Agysuny answered a bit annoyed. ―Wait. ―She made a signal to stop. ―I smell corpses. ―

―You are definitely a box of surprises. ―Phantom signaled.

―You have no right to say that. ―She replied mockingly. ―But, jokes aside, we are close to whatever is here. ―

―So, let's move on. ―Phantom took a step forward, and as soon as he reached a wall, he turned and could see a huge room, full of treasures, with a human skeleton sitting on a throne, in the center of it.

―I've seen this situation millions of times. ―Vithea said.

―Where? ―Phantom asked.

―In the stories I have read. ―

―I was thinking something like that. ―

The three stood shoulder to shoulder, seeing how little they could of the room with the torchlight, and the light that was reflected in the gold.

―The skeleton, it’s stretching its hand. ―Agysuny said, slightly surprised.

―How do you know? ―

―I am a cat. I can see in the dark without any problem. ―

―Then I'll go shake that nice gentleman's hand. ―Phantom exclaimed as he took the first step. Agysuny stopped him immediately.

―Can I know what you are thinking? ―She claimed annoyed.

― He has been waiting for a long time, as I can see, with his hand stretched, I want to finish his wait. ―

―Didn't you say that you already know this scene? ―Vithea asked.

―Yes. ―

―And what always happens in these types of situations? ―

―A trap is activated, which hurts or kills some, or all present; or destroy the place, or the treasure, or both. ―

―And based on that, what do you think could happen if you shake hands with that "nice sir"? ―Agysuny asked, annoyed.

―I don’t know. ―

―But you just said it. ―The girl replied, with an air of disappointment.

―That usually happens when the treasure is stolen, or when they take something too valuable, or more than they can carry. A bit of courtesy could not go wrong. ―The two girls were left without words facing such reasoning.

«You should definitely not underestimate him. » Agysuny thought. Phantom went ahead and shook hands with the body. Nothing happened.

―What a disappointment. ―He spoke remarkably disappointed until he could see a note, in the lap of the skeleton.

―What does it say? ―Vithea asked him, as soon as she saw him pick up the note.

―It’s written in runic. ―

―Bring it. ―Phantom approached her and handed her the paper.

― “Congratulations, my brave or stupid friend. My treasure is yours, there are no traps, there are no tricks. All the fortune that I could knead during my life, is now yours, just because you knew how to look where others did not, or because you had more bravery than others; or because your head is more empty than normal. Haha. The courage you profess was the basis that allowed me to gather my fortune. I wish you good luck, but with that courage, you won't need it, ha, ha…―Vithea was silent for a moment. ―Sincerely, Enklim” ―She said slowly.

―That’s quite old. ―Phantom signaled.

―Do you know who he is? ―Agysuny asked.

―No, but if he calls someone who can read runic stupid, he has to be from long before the dictatorship. I spent a lot of my life reading, and I don't know how to read it. You may think I’m not intelligent, but at least I am moderately educated, and I could never learn it. I don't know how common this language should be so that you could call someone who can read it stupid. ―He clarified.

―Enklim was a criminal, known because, although his band was outnumbered, they had the courage that allowed them to win battles against several times larger defense groups. ―Vithea added, still surprised.

―Come on, help me to take a part of the treasure, please. ―Phantom said as he walked towards the mountain of gold coins and jewels that was the basis for that throne.

After having loaded everything their pockets could hold, they set out. Not without having left the note where it was, and having lowered the hand of the skeleton.

―I saw that you wrote something on the note before we left. ―Agysuny told Phantom as they walked again through those dark, frightening and narrow corridors.

―Nothing too important. ―

“AK were here.” Was written now at the bottom of the note.

They kept walking until Agysuny made a signal for them to stop.

She began to sniff the air until she felt the smell she was looking for.

―People. They’re outside the gate. ―

―It seems that they followed us, or that we have very bad luck. ―

―What should we do? ―Vithea asked.

―We will leave the teasaures here and check outside, and if they are hostile, we will fight. ―He looked down for a moment. ―Agysuny, do you think you can kill them? ―

―Without any remorse. ―The girl said with confidence.

―Vithea, do you know how to fight? ―

―I have no weapon. ―She answered.

―Take this. ―He approached a small dagger. ―Stay behind, use the dagger in case they try to attack you. ―

―Let’s go. ―Agysuny began to walk towards the door. They moved the rock, which they had closed as a precaution against this possibility. They came out with caution, but they didn't see anyone. ―I still feel the smell of people. ―

―Maybe they were just people who were passing by. ―Vithea said.

―It was probably that. ―Agysuny relaxed.

―Watch out! ―Phantom pounced on her and pushed her in the direction of Vithea.

―What’s happening?! ―Vithea asked alarmed, after catching Agysuny. She looked up only to see how someone was removing a dagger from Phantom's back. He fell to his knees, pressing with his hand on the wound.

―Everything was going so well. ―Vithea said as her eyes filled with tears.

―Such good reflexes. ―The stranger said. Agysuny pounced on him, attacking him enraged. They started a dance, between attacks and counterattacks. Vithea ran to Phantom and helped him up.

―Are you okay? ―She asked him.

―Yes, I’m. You go and help Agysuny. ―He answered with some difficulty.

―Understood. ―She replied, despite not believing him.

Agysuny was still fighting with the stranger, neither of them had managed to hit the other, until he managed to deflect one of Agysuny's attacks, leaving her in a vulnerable position.

―Too slow. ―He took her hand and threw a stab, but Vithea could block it with her dagger. The stranger turned and hit Vithea, launching her into the air. Then he stuck his dagger in Agysuny's arm and kicked her away. Phantom, seeing this, got up, and vanished, appeared behind the stranger.

―The slowest one here is you. ―He said in a cold voice, it could be felt great contempt for the stranger. He hit him with his accessories on his arms in the neck. He continued to apply force, wanting to take him to the ground.

― You are wrong! ―He exclaimed as he turned and kicked him. Phantom caught him with his hand, without much difficulty.

―Again, the wrong one here is you. ―He took him by the ankle, and moved him, wanting to stamp him against the ground. The stranger turned again, to kick him with the leg he had free. Phantom caught him again. He quickly stamped the stranger against the ground, remarkably enraged. ―Agysuny, give me the dagger. ―

―Sure. ―Agysuny had already taken the dagger out from her arm, so she threw it at Phantom.

―Thanks. ―He took the dagger and he stabbed the stranger in the arm as well, leaving him pinned to the ground. He let out a scream of pain. ―Who are you? ―To his still icy voice, an angry tone was added.

―It does not matter. ―The stranger said. Phantom started twisting the knife, opening the wound. ―All right, all right! ―He shouted between screams of pain. ―I am a bounty hunter. ―

―You came for us, right? ―

―What did you expect? The price for your heads is colossal, I don't think I'm the first. ―Phantom got up and looked at Agysuny.

―Would you do the honors? ―He asked her while pointing at the bounty hunter with both hands.

―Delighted. ―Agysuny approached, still bleeding, and looked the man in the eye. ―Sweet dreams. ―She extended her nails.

She attacked.

Agysuny got up and approached Phantom and Vithea.          

―Let’s go. ―Phantom said. His voice had been the same as ever, but he was still quite serious.

―Sure. ―They started walking towards the town, helping each other to stand.

They arrived at the square at dusk. The night sky began to plunge over them. The rest of the group was gathered, chatting when they saw them arrive.

―What did happen now? ―Refal asked in disbelief to see them get hurt.

―Just watch. ―Vithea said confidently, while the three emptied their pockets.

―Who did you rob? ―Joro asked sarcastically when he saw the piles of gold and jewels.

―No one, we found a treasure inside a cave. ―Agysuny clarified.

―And how did you find it? ―Thana asked.

―Vithea took us to there. ―Phantom replied.

―I am quite surprised that nobody has asked the most important questions. ―Zoi said disappointed. Then she took a deep breath. ―Could we know how did you end up like this?! ―She exclaimed annoyed.

―Let's just say that now we are a treasure. ―Phantom said.

―So, bounty hunters. ―Refal reflected.

―It was the first, but not the last. ―Coip added.

―You attract interesting things. ―Koimo said with mock jealousy.

―Problems go to fools like moths to the light. ―Phantom responded sarcastically.

―Just come closer, those wounds don't look good at all. ―Zoi said.

A few hours later, when they finished dinner, Refal spoke, taking advantage that everyone was around the table.

―Well, there isn't much to say. Rest well, tomorrow we will begin to move towards the fortress, and I don't think they will leave the assault easy for us. ―He looked at them all, smiled slightly, and went to sleep. ―Good night. ―He said goodbye with a hand signal.

It was dawn, as they walked towards the fortress. Refal and Koimo were talking as they walked, as well as Coip with Zoi and Joro with Thana. Vithea and Agysuny chatted, when Vithea asked Phantom something.

―Those chenyuri you have, where did you get them? ―

―What? ―Phantom was remarkably confused.

―The weapons you carry in your arms are called chenyuri, which means “chain and weight”. ―Vithea explained.

―They are a gift from my former master, but what else do you know about them? ―He felt interested in learning about his weapons.

―They are weapons that became popular in the delta clan, starting as heavy cylinders that were used to strike more effectively, which included a chain, usually finished in another smaller weight. Over the years, variations that could be used synergistically with magic began to be used, becoming a vital instrument for some advanced spells, such as the so-called "epicenter", one of the most lethal and destructive spells with these weapons After they were used in various combats, other clans began to create their own types of chenyuri, like the one you have, which is not so heavy, and ends in a scythe, used by assassins and by the zeta clan thanks to its versatility; it can be a weapon for silent murder or use weights as a weapon in more direct fighting, as they serve to block and attack. ―

―Interesting. ―Phantom saw his blades thoughtfully.



First assault



 “Do you know what happens to those within the fortresses? They feel a false sense of superiority and security, which, in the end, brings defeat”

-Master Akprop

 

 

After a couple of days of walking, they spotted the fortress on the horizon. It was getting dark. That structure, bulwark of the military forces of the region, was enormous, ten times the size of a normal town square. They met in the room because they had to be very careful with their next movements.

―We were lucky and found it quickly, but the chances of that luck running out here are ninety-seven percent. ―Refal spoke while the others watched him in silence.

―What will we do first? ―Koimo asked.

―We will look for the colonel of this fortress, killing everything that gets in our way. ―

―It is simpler than I imagined. ―Joro said.

―Of simple it has little to nothing. We will have to face common soldiers, trained humans, probably patrols too, and if that seems to be little, the colonel. ―

―I guess it's the best way to check how much we have improved. ―Coip said.

―Exactly. ―Refal looked at the group for a moment. ―The good thing is that now we are more than we had planned and that in addition to having different types of specialized magic in our favor, we have Zoi and Thana on our side. ―The medics blushed.

―In addition to your accuracy, J's agility, C's strength, Koimo's fire, Agysuny's stealth, and Vithea's mind. ―Phantom added. ―Although I have to admit that having medics on our side is quite too useful. ―

―You’re right. ―He looked at the group one last time. ―All right, sharpen your weapons, rest your bodies, prepare your minds, tomorrow is going to be a very entertaining day. ―

―Understood. ―They all said in unison. They all went to their rooms and went to sleep.

 

The sun was coming through the windows. The fortress was in relative calm. Soldiers walked from here to there without rest, the alert was maximum. The fortress was brimming with soldiers, as all the military forces in the region were gathered there as a last measure against those terrorists. Everything was going well until the sound of a cut in the wind was heard.

Destruction.

A huge mallet-shaped spiritual image had broken into the fortress, shattering the door and calm in the process.

―Watch out! Don't underestimate the strength of our enemies! ―Exclaimed Refal, as he began to shoot with his bow. ―And you be especially careful, there may be documents and other things here that we want to lose. ―He told Koimo.

―Understood. ―She said this as a girl who has heard the same speech for the umpteenth time.

―Keep the offensive! ―He exclaimed again in a commanding voice.

The battle continued commonly. Refal and Koimo gave support from behind. Coip, Joro, and Vithea were on the front line, defending the previous ones. Thana and Zoi were among these five, providing support and attack with their needles, remedies, and poisons. Agysuny was moving among the enemy ranks, killing without discretion, and Phantom was in charge of distracting and relocating enemies.

They kept fighting without showing any mercy. The battle was over quickly. The first of many.

―Well, we're done with this room. There is another one on this floor and two more floors. ―Refal said after gathering the group. They had a little moment of calm.

―What's in the other room? ―Thana asked.

―Probably more soldiers, including humans, in addition to the stairs, to access the second floor. ―

―How do you know it? ―Coip asked.

―One of the bodies is from someone important, or from a messenger who carried the plans of the fortress. ―

―That doesn't matter, let's just continue. ―Joro interrupted.

―That’s true. ―He made a little pause. ― C― He said while looking at him.

Coip turned to the door, then quickly turned his torso in the opposite direction, producing with his ax the sharp sound in the wind, and slammed the door with strength; making it collapse on the spot.

―Or you find some keys or this fortress will fall on our heads. ―Vithea warned.

―Let's continue, and hopefully, we can find someone who has some keys. ―Refal said as he tightened his bow. The cloud of smoke that the door caused while falling was dissipating, and they were entering the second room of the fortress.

They could see a small light, located at the back of the room.

―They prepared us a dark welcome. ―Coip said as he took the first step towards the enemies, but Refal stopped him.

―Stop! Everyone, take cover! ―Refal ordered, and then quickly made a move with one hand, palm up; so that a stone wall appeared in front of them. The others covered themselves behind walls that had not fallen; or they threw themselves body to earth, behind the wall that Refal had invoked. They did it just in time, because the next thing they saw was a huge cannon ball through the air, along with dozens of smaller projectiles. They would have ended up as strainers if it weren't for the quick order of Refal.

―What is this? ―Phantom asked for himself, who was sheltered behind the stone wall of Refal. He reached out and took a handful of the projectiles that had been shot at them, which had been stopped by the wall. In his hand he could see small balls of silver material, bathed in a fairly dense liquid.

―Let me see. ―Refal said, who was hiding behind the walls. Phantom handed him one of the balls. He lifted his mask and put it in his mouth. He tasted it for a moment, and then swallowed it. ―Well, based on their flavor and texture, I would say they are iron bullets, bathed in mercury. ―

―How do you know? ―Koimo asked him.

―During my training I had to test several materials, and learned to recognize them based on taste, density and texture. ―He explained.

―Mercury can cause serious poisoning if it reaches the bloodstream or if ingested. ―Zoi spoke thoughtfully.

―If it gets hot enough it emits equally harmful vapors. ―Thana added, also thoughtfully.

―The temperature at which these vapors are emitted is much lower than that at which the fuse of the cannon burns, and also at which the powder can reach. ―Vithea added.

―What does that mean? ―Joro asked.

―Simple, that in there is a toxic trap. ―Refal said sarcastically.

―So, what we do? ― Coip asked. At that moment another explosion was heard. Another cannonball. This hit the wall which was protecting Phantom. His body had received part of the force, so the wall did not fall, but it was seriously deformed. He let out a cry of pain, and was sent about half a meter away from the already rather weakened wall. The smaller projectiles were blocked without problem.

―They will continue shooting until we stop moving. ―Refal said. Zoi approached Phantom to check on him.

―I’m okay. ―He said, took a torch from his hood, lit it and took a huge mouthful of air.

―Idiot. ―Refal told him, then he quickly got into shooting position and tensed his bow. Phantom vanished in front of their eyes, and appeared behind the person responsible for that assault. He hit him with his chenyuri, destabilizing him; so that an arrow from Refal would hit him in the side of the head. He released the torch, took one of the cannonballs that were next to him, ready to be used. He grabbed it with both hands, turned quickly and threw it. It made an opening in the wall, and he vanished again. ―I have no idea how or why, but it went well, incredibly well. ―Refal congratulated him. Phantom let out a weak laugh, he lacked air. ―That shows that you lack neurons. ―Refal said sarcastically. ―Now it's a matter of time. They no longer have the protection of their cannon, and soon neither that of the poisons. ―

―Thana. ―Joro called. She turned to look at him. ―Is there any way to poison or make the undead sick? ―

―Generally, no, but certain magic diseases or poisons can affect them. Like for example the poison that we use. ―Thana explained.

―Understood. ―

―Why? ―

―Just curiosity. ―

―J―Refal called him. ―Can you speed up the process? ―

―I’ll try. ―

―Perfect, everyone take cover. ―Refal ordered, while Joro focused. Nothing seemed to change.

―Why don't they attack, or move, or something? ―Koimo asked.

―They have no orders for it, they did not expect us to reach the gunner from behind, so they did not attack P, but I bet that as soon as we take the first step inside the room, they will attack us with everything they have. ―

―And why didn't they expect something so obvious? ―The girl asked again.

―Simple, nobody has seen P do that, and has lived to tell the story. ―

―Why did they attack us only when they saw us open the doors? ―

―Perhaps they had the order to attack with the cannon as soon as they saw the door light when it opened, which would explain the absolute darkness of the room. They did not believe we could notice the soft light that emits the spark in the fuse of the cannon, so they did not expect us to dodge. The other guards are more for prevention than anything else. ―

―Could we enter now? ―Coip asked.

―I’ll check. ―Thana said.

―Wait! ―Joro said, who extended his hand to stop her, interrupting his spell. The girl smiled.

―Calm down, I have blood from the sigma clan. ―The girl said, while holding Joro's hand and gently pulling it away. She walked without fear until she was at a safe distance, and inhaled deeply. ―It’s clean now, you can enter. ―

―Incredible. ―Joro murmured impressed.

―You better come over here. ―Coip told her. The girl backed away, curious about what Coip was going to do. He took the cannonball that had been left against the wall, and threw it up. He prepared his mallet, and hit it, throwing it at the soldiers, breaking their formation, and deforming the massive iron ball.

―Good shot. ―Refal said. And as he had predicted, as soon as they could get up, the soldiers ran in their direction. A couple of these were about to give the first lunges, but Zoi and Thana prevented it. All ended up with needles in the neck.

―Shall we continue? ―Koimo asked, just after throwing a fireball in the direction of some soldiers.

―Sure. ―Refal said, and then he shot with his bow.

The fight was complete chaos because it was a rather dark room. There were no windows, the only lights were that of the soldiers running in flames from one side to the other, and that of the opening that Phantom had made in the wall. In that low light, soldiers could be seen falling through, beaten, impaled, full of needles or cuts, or simply pushed into vulnerable positions.

After another time of fighting, everything was over. There was peace.

―The next floor will be more difficult; it is almost certain that there will be humans. ―Refal said as he pointed to the diagram of the fortress, lit by a flame that Koimo held in her hand.

―Hey, I found this. ―Agysuny said after finishing registering the bodies. She was holding some keys.

―That would be pretty useful. ―Vithea said.

―Let’s continue. ―Refal said. They kept walking across the room. ―Where is P? ―He asked, noticing he was nowhere to be found. Agysuny narrowed her eyes, looking for him in the almost absolute darkness that surrounded them.

―I can’t see him. ―Agysuny said, between disappointed and worried. Koimo raised her hand and made the glow of her flame stronger, to the point that there were no dark corners; but there was nothing.

―He disappeared. ―Koimo said, still holding her hand up. Refal was thinking downcast for a moment.

―Let’s continue. ―He ordered, after raising his head. Confidence could be heard in his voice. Koimo had already lowered her hand and the brightness of her flame.

―But … we cannot leave him behind. ―Vithea said.

―Let's just continue. If my guess is correct, he will appear, and will do it carrying problems; Or, maybe, the next time we see him, we'll have to run like there's no tomorrow because if we don't, there probably won't be. ―He explained as he continued walking towards the stairs.

―What do you mean with that? ―Agysuny asked.

―Let's just walk, and if necessary, I'll explain it; if not, he will, at the time he deems appropriate. ―Refal almost disappeared into the darkness, the rest of the group began to walk.

They climbed the stairs and found nothing while doing it. No resistance, problem, surveillance.

―It was a fairly quiet climb. ―Joro said when they were all on the second floor.

―That just means that we better prepare for what is coming. ―Refal said. ―C, please. ―He handed the keys to his teammate.

―No problem. ―He approached the door and began to put the keys. After trying three, he could feel that he had already used the correct one. He turned to see the rest of the group, who were already prepared for the fight. Refal nodded with approval.

Coip opened the door, and instantly, a blast of fire from Koimo went through the air, attacking whatever was in the room. When they could see again, there were undead on fire, running desperately from side to side.

―Now! ―A voice shouted from the rear. At that moment, some spearmen charged against the team, but Coip could stop them with his spiritual image. He gave a little cry of pain at the moment the enemy's spears pierced the "skin" of the image; in addition to this, some holes appeared in his arm, it was as if they had stuck needles in the place where the spears hit the image.

―Ouch! ―He shouted as he moved his arm, throwing the riders and their horses through the air, killing them on the spot.

―Let’s go! ―Refal ordered, firing the first arrow. Another battle began, but this time luck ran against them. Phantom was missing, and Coip was a little injured. The fight continued until human soldiers appeared from behind. All were infantry, had sabers and chainmail armor. Coip, Joro, Agysuny, and Vithea were at a disadvantage of four for each. While Coip tried to retain them; Joro, Agysuny, and Vithea began to fight with those in the back of the formation.

―Are you done yet?! ―Coip was desperately asking Refal, Koimo, Thana, and Zoi; who were killing the undead.

―Move! ―Koimo shouted, to which Coip made a move with his arm, with which he pushed back slightly to the squad in front of him. Joro, Vithea and Agysuny also backed down as soon as possible. As soon as the soldiers were able to move forward again, a huge column of fire appeared under their feet, it rose to touch the ceiling, burning them.

―Very well. ―Refal said as he loosened up his bow. The girl let out a tired sigh.

―Thanks. ―She answered while drying the sweat on her forehead.

―Come over here, I have to heal those wounds. ―Zoi told Coip.

―Sure. Thanks. ―He approached her, and she began to heal him.

―Watch out! ―Refal exclaimed while shooting as quickly as possible. Everyone turned to see the reason for the shock. There was still an enemy, who got up badly wounded from the corpses, took a bow and shot at Zoi. Refal managed to hit him in the head, but he had also shot. The arrow was going to hit Zoi's head, but Coip managed to stop it with his arm. The arrow pierced Coip's arm. The tip jutted from the other side of it. Coip made a little noise, caused by the pain, and took out the arrow.

―Thanks. ―Zoi said.

―You are welcome. ―He answered, in a somewhat weak voice. Zoi healed his wounds, and after a while, they were ready to continue.

―On this floor, there is only one other room, which is a little smaller than this. ―Refal indicated. They started walking towards the door when he made a signal to stop. ―Wait. ―He went to the door and stuck his ear on the door. He let out a small laugh. After a few seconds, he spoke again. ― C, give me the keys. ―

―Sure. ―He gave them to him, intrigued by what he was going to do. Refal started testing keys. When he felt he had hit the right one, he opened the door slightly.

―Stay here until further notice. ―He ordered as he entered the room alone. The others waited in silence, patient, intrigued about what caused that reaction in Refal. After a while, the door began to open. The tension could be felt in the air. Refal came out of the door carrying a wounded Phantom on his shoulders, who was unconscious. He left him lying on the floor, and Zoi began to heal his wounds

―There are so many questions that I don't know where to start. ―Vithea said.

―The room is clean, we can pass. ―Refal said.

―He just took care of an entire room by himself?! ―Thana asked, amazed at that fact.

―Yes. ―Refal answered. ―I would like you to skip that. ―

―What do you mean? ―Vithea asked.

―If he asks, we did that. So, try to hide your surprise at what you will find there. ―

―Why? ―Thana asked.

―Just do it, please. ―Refal concluded the issue with that. ―Let's rest while he wakes up. ―

―What does that mean? ―Phantom asked, still a little sleepy. Zoi had already healed his wounds, and he had already awakened from his state of unconsciousness.

―It's ironic that it's you who asks that. ―Refal said, with some sarcasm in his voice.

―Why? ―Phantom went into alert status.

―Just get up, the colonel waiting for us. ―Refal said.

―What do you mean? ―Phantom asked.

―We already take care of the last room; therefore, there is only the last floor, which is, in broad strokes, a huge room in which the colonel is, where he plans his attacks, a war room to control the entire region. ―

―Which means that our next opponent is going to be the colonel, right? ―Coip asked.

―Exactly. ―Refal answered. ―Well, get up, and let's go. ―

―Sure. ―Phantom said. He got up without much effort, he was already recovered, which caused a remarkable surprise in Zoi.

Agysuny was chatting with Phantom as they walked.

―Now that I think about it, when we fought, not a day passed between that and when you came running away from the soldiers. ―

―That's because I didn't travel here, but a small camp where there was an object that allows long-distance communication. This object allows you to see the other person, and listen to what he says, but you must always carry it, or have a place where you can leave it. There is another variant that only allows you to hear the voice of the other person. ―She explained.

―Interesting. ―

Already being near the door, Refal opened it. The scene reminded the town that Phantom had destroyed; half-eaten bodies everywhere, corpses of humans and undead that had been the meal of something very wild. They crossed the scene in sepulchral silence, for everyone was completely terrified of that scenario. Zoi, Thana, Koimo, Agysuny, and Vithea looked at Phantom sideways, terrified to see how he had left the place; Coip and Joro felt no terror, but discomfort, they already knew that the scene was going to be something like that, they were already prepared; Refal, on the other hand, was completely calm, he was curious above all things, and Phantom felt confused.

«Did he thought I would not remember this? » Phantom thought as they were climbing the stairs.

They had already reached the door that led to the room where the colonel of that fortress was waiting for them. They crossed, hoping to see a huge garrison to face them, but no. There was only the colonel, a magician who deserved respect because to be able to command a fortress an impressive level of skill is needed.

He was a man in his forties, but his physical condition did not show the slightest trace of old age. He was tall, stocky, had a well-groomed beard. Brown eyes that showed authority. He had messy, black hair that proved not to have been fixed in a while. His attire consisted of an armor made in chainmail; this armor was decorated with details made in gold, in addition to many medals. Steel boots on the feet and a belt complemented the outfit.

―So… Are you the so-called terrorists who are killing my men? ―Asked the man, sitting in his chair. There was no answer. The man stood up and was still for a moment, then disappeared, to appear instantly near them. He was directing a punch towards Coip.

―How the hell?! ―Coip asked, barely managing to stop the attack just in time. He threw the man away.

―He is colonel Tachyta, a man recognized for having a speed that exceeds the eye, in addition to a force equal to that of one hundred men. ―Agysuny explained.

―It seems that your time at my service allowed you to learn, right, kitty? ― The man said, wanting to provoke Agysuny.

―Don’t let your guard down! ―Coip exclaimed, hitting him with his mallet. The man did not even flinch. He returned the hit to Coip, sending him back to his teammates.

―And now? ―Vithea asked.

―A couple of prayers and tombstones would come in handy. ―Joro said, in a sarcastic tone.

Phantom disappeared, appearing again behind the colonel, and hitting him with his chenyuri. This blow did not make even the slightest effect on the colonel, who returned the blow; but Phantom dodged. While swinging using the colonel's wrist as the axis of rotation, the man sent another blow, which Phantom also dodged.

―Now! ― He screamed as he held both colonel's hands. Refal shot with his bow, hitting the colonel in the back. The chainmail blocked the impact. The arrow fell to the ground. At that moment, Koimo reacted and threw a fireball at the colonel, which did nothing to him.

―This armor absorbs most spells, do not strain. If you resign yourselves to accept your defeat, your death will be quick and painless. ―

―That’s what you would like. ―Phantom said, while taking one of his gloves, and vanished, appearing next to his teammates again. He handed the glove to Refal, who took it, lifted his mask and ate it.

―This is going to be fun. ―Joro said.

―Attack. ―Refal said calmly, as he fired an arrow at the colonel's head. He caught it in flight.

―How predictable. ―The man said pejoratively.

―Predict this! ―Coip exclaimed as he hit him with his mallet. The man blocked.

―No problem. ―While saying that, Phantom appeared behind him, and struck him with his weapons. Agysuny also attacked, cutting with her claws; which cut the man as if the armor was not there. ―Get off. ―The man said in a voice full of contempt, as he quickly turned his torso, getting the attackers off from himself.

―He is invincible. ―Thana said, with some fear and hopelessness in her voice. The man appeared instantly next Phantom and Coip, who had fallen close to each other. He took Coip from the neck of his hood, and threw him angrily towards a wall, causing damage to it. He then punched Phantom, causing damage to the ground beneath him.

―Children should not play heroes, much less when they still do not have the capacity to face what they want to stop. ―The man said with contempt, as he lifted the wounded Phantom by the chest of his robe and threw it towards his companions.

«All right, this starts to be scary. » Zoi thought, although it could be known what she thought without much effort.

―Hey, give me a hand. ―Phantom told Joro, interrupted by a constant cough. His mouth was bleeding.

―Sure. ―He answered while helping him up. ―What do I do? ―

―Attack and make him raise any arm. ―Phantom said, and then looked at Refal.

―You're a fool with a lot of luck, so why not? ―Refal said confidently.

Joro launched into attack, and used his staff to stay away from the attacks until the colonel sent a down blow, which Joro dodged by jumping; but the colonel used the other hand to hit him in the air, even so, Joro could dodge leaning on his staff, which in turn did it on the man's arm. At that moment Phantom appeared below the arm he had raised, and without giving any reaction time, hit with all his strength the side of the man, using his weapons.

―Is it that can you not understand the fact that it is of no use? ―Tachyta said, somewhat irritated. He sent a fist toward Phantom, but he circled his wrist with the chains of his chenyuri and began to pull as hard as his battered body allowed him.

―Now! ―Phantom shouted. The colonel was in a fairly vulnerable position. Refal shot an arrow, which hit the man's cheek. Koimo also launched a sphere of fire, much smaller than the previous one, which impacted his eye. He let out a grunt of pain.

―Very well. ―The man said after a long sigh. ―I see that you are no joke. ― He violently waved his arms, sending Phantom and Joro to fly, who fell behind their friends.

―Now the good part begins. ―Refal said.

―Don’t forget about me! ―Coip shouted, throwing a punch. Tachyta was already quite angry, so he responded with another, hitting their fists. The military man just got bleeding knuckles, despite having suffered such a clash of forces; while Coip got thrown in the other direction, and broke his right hand.

―When did he recover? ―Joro asked.

―While we were attacking him, Zoi ran and got Coip back in a state of fighting. ―Refal explained.

―Anyway, he broke his hand. ―Agysuny said.

―It was not in vain. ―Phantom turned to see Thana. ―Do you have any debilitating poison? ―

―I'm offended that you ask something so obvious. ―The girl replied, with an ironic tone.

―Give me a couple of needles that have only one half poisoned. ―He told her. ― Agysuny, Vithea, J; you attack, I will support you in a moment. R, Koimo and Thana, stay tuned because we are going to give you a chance to quickly end this. ―

The three went out to attack Tachyta, who was still somewhat stunned after the direct flame to his eye.

―Aren't you supposed to be the leader? Why do you let him order? ―Koimo asked, full of curiosity.

―I'm not going to deny someone I trust the opportunity to do something bright just for something as silly as a hierarchy that isn't even well established. ―He replied. ― I'm just the "leader" because I generally know it's the best, but it doesn't hurt to trust your friends once in a while. ―He added while preparing his bow.

Agysuny, Vithea, and Joro had been attacking the colonel for a while, but he had failed to hit them. Joro had hit him in the chest with his rod, so the man took the opportunity to take the staff with one hand, and throw a kick at Joro. At that moment Phantom appeared, who blocked the kick with his hand, getting hurt.

―You like to grab the limbs of your enemies, don't you? ―The man said and then threw a punch in the direction of Phantom. He blocked with his other arm, but it was Tachyta who screamed in pain. ―What the hell?! ―The man shouted furiously. He was bleeding. As soon as he moved his hand away, it could be seen that Phantom had taken off his chenyuri, in addition to having stuck a total of seven needles in his arm; which also stuck in the hand of the man when he attacked, since he did it with his bare hand. Even so, Phantom had broken his arm. Tachyta stuck a needle in each finger, in addition to three others in the spaces between the knuckles. Phantom smiled beneath his mask.

«Something that no one would expect, a complete madness, something that is of questionable efficacy ... something worthy of Phantom. » Refal thought with a smile.

Phantom took the officer's armor, and pulled with strength, taking the entire upper part of it, and leaving the man bare-chested.

―That’s our chance! ―Refal shouted. At that moment he shot his bow, accompanied by several needles of Thana, and a flare of Koimo. There were also a couple of needles of Zoi, cuts from the claws of Agysuny, and Vithea took the opportunity to nail the dagger in the back of the man. Tachyta writhed in pain.

―But ... I am resistant to almost everything. ―He had fallen to his knees. He was thinking, but then he saw Phantom's arm. ―Poison?! These kids poisoned me?! ―He thought. He then tried to get up, full of anger, ready to kill Phantom. He appeared instantly beside him, but the boy dodged the attack and used the needles, which he had already taken out from his arm, to hurt the officer, sticking them in the man’s arm with his healthy hand; then he moved them, cutting deeply. Tachyta fell to his knees on the floor again, for the poison had weakened him too much. He then tried to stand up again, but Coip prevented it. He crushed the man’s legs with his mallet, which he was holding with his healthy hand.

―How does it feel? ―He asked sarcastically. Refal approached with a rope, which he used to prevent the movement of the man. After having him tied, he threw him to the ground. His hands were tied behind his back, so his only points of support were his knees and his chin.

―Any last word? ―Refal told him while summoning his sword. He then placed it gently on the back of the man's neck.

―So, that’s for what that it was. ―Joro said, after having resolved for himself the doubt about why Refal brought a sword, being something improper of him. Tachyta babbled incomprehensible things, for he had gone mad because of anger.

―Nothing? ―Refal asked incredulously.

―He was never a good loser. ―Agysuny clarified.

 Refal lifted the sword until it was above his head; and then he dropped it, also applying some of its own strength.

Clean cut.

―Well then, start checking everything that may seem interesting. We will leave as soon as we get out of here. ―Refal ordered while he stored the bloody sword. Zoi was just healing Coip and Phantom.

After a while, they gathered in the center of the room.

―What did you find? ―Refal asked.

―I could find some maps. ―Coip said.

―I found books, about history and magic, mainly. ―Joro added.

―I also found maps, but these indicate strategies and advances. ―Phantom added.

―I found food, quite too much if you ask me. ―Refal said. ―Where are the girls? ―He asked this when he noticed that they weren’t there.

―Maybe they are still looking, maybe we took all the good things. ―Coip said.

―You're right, maybe they don't want to arrive empty-handed. ―Phantom added.

―Who’s going to arrive empty-handed? ―Agysuny asked confidently. She had appeared out of nowhere, behind him.

―What did you bring? ―Refal asked her.

―Look. ―She took out small cubes, made of crystal.

―What is this? ―Joro asked.

―Take this, and get away a couple of steps. ―The girl handed him one of the cubes, and Joro walked away.

―Hi! ―Agysuny exclaimed from the cube.

―Incredible. ―Joro could see the girl's face, in addition to hearing what she said.

―These were the devices you were talking about? ―Phantom asked.

―Yes. ―The girl answered.

―This could be useful. ―Refal said.

―I also found some jewels. ―The girl added.

―What did we miss? ―Zoi and Thana asked as they were just arriving.

―Not too much. ―Refal answered. ―Did you find something interesting? ―

―A lot of medications, in addition to potion-making materials. ―Zoi answered.

―Also, a couple of medicine and botany books. ―Thana added.

―We also found many interesting things. ―Koimo said, who was arriving, accompanied by Vithea.

―What did you find? ―Refal asked.

―Jewels, money, some books, weapons, scrolls, some bandages, and medications. ―Koimo explained.

―Could it be known where you searched to find so many things? ―

―Tachyta’s bedroom. ―Koimo answered.

―I also found an encyclopedia of spells. ―Vithea added.

―That will be tremendously useful. ―Refal said.

―Let me see it. ―Joro said.

―Sure. ―The girl said as she handed him the book. Joro leafed through the pages.

―This is the encyclopedia of the ancients. ―The boy said after closing the book.

―And what is that? ―Koimo asked.

―The encyclopedia of the ancients, also called the book of sacrifices, is a compilation of the greatest spells that could be registered until before the first assembly. These spells are powerful, but generally, they bring with them a ritual, a sacrifice or several conditions and consequences that are beyond comprehension; hence its nickname. ―Vithea explained.

―Ergo, this could be quite useful, but we should know how to use them; Besides, it can be used to quickly learn from our enemies during combat; Also, we can plan strategies for future fighting. ―Refal added.

―Exactly. ―Joro said. Phantom was reviewing the book, then intervened.

―Not only does it have this kind of spells, but it also has a pair of normal spells, although quite advanced, in addition to some other special spells, and a bunch that appear to be a last resort or something that nobody in their right mind would use. Apart from this, it has descriptions of many things, such as some clan’s skills. ― Phantom said.

―Interesting. ―Refal said. ―Well, if you don't want to take anything else, we're leaving. ―

―To where? ―Agysuny asked. Refal took one of Coip's maps. Then he pointed a town near the border.

―Shall we leave? ―Refal asked, storing the map.

―Starting over? ―Joro asked.

―Starting over. ―Refal said.

They went through all that again. The girls felt the same terror when they passed by the room that Phantom had destroyed. They walked through the room where they had fought human soldiers, down the stairs, the completely dark room. At this point, Refal approached Phantom.

―Hey, why did you disappear as soon as we finished with this room? ―He asked.

―I don't know, I just remember the same thing that happened during my battle in the forest. The darkness intensified the sensation, I lost control of myself before I could realize. Because I didn't want to hurt you, I faded up, looking to calm down; but I only found a room full of soldiers. Poor bastards. They tried to attack me, but I blocked almost mechanically. From that point, there is only black. The next thing I remember is when I woke up among you all. The memories came to me little by little after waking up. ―The guy explained.

―Well, something else we know about that thing. It gains power over you in the dark, which is ironic if we take into account what happens when you fade away without protecting yourself from light―Refal was thinking. ―Any particular reason? ―He asked.

―I think so, but I'll tell you about that later. ―Phantom said.

―Such mystery. ―Refal said. ―As always it stays between us, right? ―

―Sure. ―

They kept walking. Through the large room on the first floor, until they had already left.

―C, would you do the honors? ―Refal asked, pointing to one of the columns at the door.

―Sure. ―The boy said, with a smile on his face, as he prepared his mallet, and summoned the colossus. He turned slightly on his torso, and easily crossed the rock from which the fortress was built. It collapsed slowly, giving way to a pile of rubble.

―It is almost poetic to see this fortress fall, with everything that has happened inside. ―Thana said quietly, with a certain air of satisfaction.

―And it is more when you know that it is the first of many. ―Added Vithea, also relaxed.

―I hope you haven't forgotten anything in there. ―Joro said, joking, while the fortress fell before them.

―Let's go, the next region is waiting for us. ―Refal said, starting to walk towards the next town, shortly after the fortress finished falling.

There was barely an hour or two of light left. The sun was falling on the horizon. The, already quite broad, group walked determined towards this.

Our heroes did not know what the future held for them, they did not even know that they were going to win that title, they only knew that they had a way to go and a goal to reach.

This story was just beginning to be written, but at this time it focused completely on nine silhouettes that walked towards the sunset.