CHAPTER 44 - Shot Heard Around The World (1)
Alex slowly opened his eyes. His vision gradually came into focus and he found himself staring at a hurriedly patched roof with burnt cross beams.
“An unfamiliar ceiling…”
He felt a weight on his arm and looked over to see ALICE lain against his body.
“About time, you lazy ass.”
Alex smiled at her typical snark. He tried to sit up but collapsed back onto the bed as every inch of his bandaged body screamed in agony.
“Ow, shit! Right, how long have I been out this time?”
“Four days. You were pretty messed up.”
“Alright, so not as bad as that weapons facility raid. Good thing, too, I doubt this world has regen chambers. Give me a sitrep.”
“Ummm, excuse you? How about a please or something?”
“Ohh, pretty please with data chips on top?”
“That’s better. Good to see you still remember who the boss is, Fenrir.”
“Mhmm, whatever you think. Just remember who polishes you.”
“Whatever, ass. So, as you can probably tell, you’re in one of the houses that survived the fire. According to Celia, those four were the race known as ‘demons’ in this world. Seems she’s hiding more information, but I don’t possess the means to get it out of her. Quinn is helping to rebuild the town.
“Celia is working on sending letters to her father for some rebuilding assistance and funds to be sent here. Aundell has been going around exhausting her mana every time she can to heal the injuries sustained in the attack. She got you barely out of the danger zone before moving on, ’cause I told her you’d be fine.”
Alex nodded, forming his mental picture of their situation and trying to make a plan for their next move.
“Alright. I’m guessing Treya is with the wagon, then? Or maybe helping with security since those guards got slaughtered?”
“Yeah… About Treya.”
A knot formed in his stomach at the apprehensive tone ALICE suddenly took.
“What happened to her? Is she alright?”
“She’s fine, so calm down. Won’t do to get your heart rate up right now.”
“What aren’t you telling me, ALICE. Don’t make me pry it from you.”
“… Treya left, Alex.”
Zach sat on the throne, admittedly surprised by how comfortable it was.
Well, it probably would have been more comfortable if he wasn’t wearing this gaudy armor.
The glowing crown sat on his head, keeping his hair out of his eyes. Out of his bottom peripheral vision, he saw the shining silver armor with its white enamel depicting a dragon on the chestplate. The joints creaked and clinked every time he moved, which was fairly often as he tried to find a position he could stand for more than a minute or two at a time.
Jayna stood beside him, not having a throne of her own, and she placed her hand on his shoulder to calm him. He looked up and smiled to try and mask the worry pervading his mind. Several days had passed since the woman named Victa suddenly appeared in the courtyard, and Jayna was grooming him for more official matters rather than his previous focus on combat.
That wasn’t to say he didn’t still have his lessons with Morgana and the mages, though. Instead, he just had less time to sleep. And less time to talk to Jayna in private.
“You will get used to it, My King. It is to remind us that a leader’s job is not easy, and if you are comfortable, you have work yet to do.”
He nodded, looking back at the people standing in the grand hall. Rows and rows of neatly organized demons knelt, covering the entire room. They all wore the same black uniform with the white dragon of Jayna’s personal unit on their chests.
‘My personal unit,’ Zach reminded himself.
He tried to summon up his most commanding tone as he spoke to those before him. In particular, he was addressing the woman in the front.
“Rise. And tell us what happened.”
As one, the mass of soldiers stood, assuming a stiff standing position that reminded him of the military movies he watched as a kid. Victa stared straight forward, not meeting his gaze as she began to speak. At the back of his mind, Zach was amazed by how much she had recovered in such a short time. Having multiple healing mages on hand was a boon, indeed.
“Your Majesty, I was tasked with a mission to subdue a human settlement and granted three soldiers to accompany me.”
Zach nodded. He wasn’t sure of this mission’s particulars, but Jayna had given him a vague idea. Something about the humans hunting demons, so they were neutralizing a slave trader’s home base, as far as he understood.
“The mission was proceeding smoothly, aside from one soldier named Encis being belligerent. We were nearly finished when a demon attacked our unit.”
Zach leaned forward in his seat, the crown shifting slightly on his head. Jayna’s grip on his shoulder tightened as if urging him to remain calm.
“He wore odd clothing and carried a strange staff. He was able to strike us from a point so far away we almost couldn’t see him. Then he and Encis began to fight. I attempted to help him, despite his attitude, but the demon disposed of him with ice magic.”
Zach frowned but remained silent as Victa continued her story.
“Then something happened… I still don’t understand what. It might have been magic, but I don’t feel it was. He began to glow with dark flames, and he rushed us bare-handed. My guards… They tried to defend me, but their swords and my magic seemed to do nothing to this man. It was like he was a true demon from the fables, some specter come to seek revenge for our sins.”
Victa was starting to tremble, her knees shaking as she struggled to stand. Morgana moved forward from her position in the ranks and supported her comrade. As Victa’s story continued, her voice rose in pitch, becoming hysterical.
“He showed them no mercy. Even long after they were dead, he continued to assault them. Not even the mightiest mages could have saved them! I tried… I tried so hard, but he came after me. Those eyes… Your Majesty, you must believe me, I tried! Those eyes… Those eyes!”
She began to just repeat those last two words and Morgana hurriedly escorted her from the grand hall. Not a single person moved. They just stared ahead like the professionals they were. Zach was speechless as he watched the two women leave. It was Jayna who broke the silence.
“A single demon dispatched a highly-skilled unit comprised of Draco Albus members. Somewhere in the world, there is a traitor. If he has struck once, I have no doubt he shall do so again. You are all to receive new orders. Patrol the Outlands and the surrounding areas. Find this traitor.”
She scowled, and Zach got goosebumps from the cold tone she used when she finished her command.