Book One: Knights' Festival

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The Scout

Target acquired. Take the shot?

“That’s a negative, AK.” A voice crackled through the earpiece. “We’re here to scout, not to kill.”

Deactivating the laser sight, AK rested his cheek against his hybrid sniper-assault rifle. He stuck his eye against the sniper scope where he saw the cross-hairs focused at the middle of the sight. He could hear his heartbeat calmly pumping against his ribs. Despite his palms sweating inside his fingerless black gloves, he kept his hand firmly on the gun.

“AK, don’t pull the trigger, man,” He heard a voice tell him. “The Commander’s gonna fry your hide!”

AK chuckled and began typing on the QWERTY keyboard on his gauntlet. Relax Mio, my finger’s off the trigger.

Mio chuckled. “It better be.”

Mio Blaskovitch, a friend of AK, had always served as his eyes and ears all around the place. Although he was part of the military of Militaris, he preferred keeping himself off the battlefield. Mio kept himself in a dark room where he was surrounded by multiple screens and three keyboards. Whenever AK was out on the field, he always had eyes and ears everywhere. The security cameras in the castle and his drones would always have an eye out in every nook and cranny.

AK grumbled. A cramp crawled up his leg and nibbled at him. How long was he supposed to stay up there? He let out an annoyed sigh; it better not be the whole night! He had a whole night planned ahead! He had recently bought a new sniper scope and a new rifle butt-stock for his hybrid assault-sniper rifle. And he was supposed to install it tonight! So what exactly am I supposed to be reporting back? It was the only question that bugged him.

He swivelled his sniper scope around to take a better look around him. Nobles were drinking their wine and gossiping with one another. Loud, enthusiastic laughter from the children of the nobles reached his ears. The smell of the freshly roasted beef and turkey wafted into his nose as his stomach grumbled. He groaned; he now regretted not buying a bag of potato chips when he had the chance.

“– Maybe it’s gonna be some crazy weapon exhibition,” he heard someone say.

“How sure are you?” A voice he recognized distinctly as the princess’s. “They might be doing a play!”

“What kind of play has large battle-axes as props?!”

AK’s blood froze. Not because of the conversation’s content but the sound of the voice. Bewildered, he shifted his sniper scope and frantically searched for the princess. The moment his sniper scope focused on the princess, he got a good look at who she was talking to. His body shuddered at the sight. His heart stopped. The icy blue eyes, the pale white skin, the dark blonde hair – not many girls had that appearance!

“It can’t be,” AK murmured. He shook his head vehemently. “It... but... how?”

“Can’t be what?” Mio asked. “Dude, did you say something?”

Realizing that he said that a bit too loud, AK quickly flipped his armguard open and pressed the keys on the QWERTY keyboard. After opening up the menu, the scout quickly pressed a few buttons on the sniper scope and attached the file to the message. I’m sending you the image now.

He heard a soft ping from his ear pods. After awhile, he heard Mio clicking away on his own keyboard and mouse. “It’s the princess. So?”

Check the girl she’s talking to.

“Okay,” Mio zoomed in and shook his head. “Sorry man, I ain’t into Lollis.”

I know that! But look at her! She’s... she’s...!

“You do realize how easy it is to whiten one’s skin, dye one’s hair, and buy ice blue contact lenses?”

It’s natural! How the hell is that artificial?!

“The wonders of plastic surgery and advanced cosmetics?”

Really? You’re gonna pull that one on me now?!

“AK! That person is dead! She’s been dead for the last 400 years!”

AK groaned as a stabbing pain skewered through his skull. A screeching noise deafened out the laughter of the Xychosian citizens. His windpipe tightened and swelled up from within, causing him to choke. All the blood drained from his face and his throat ran dry. Instead of laughter, all he heard was loud roaring of fires. He clamped his hands over his ears and shook his head.

“Ugh,” AK shook his head. “Ow.”

Mio fell silent for a moment. “They still haunt you?”

“You try seeing your family get massacred. See how you can sleep at night.”

“No thanks, I’d rather not try.”

AK exhaled sharply, inwardly thanking for Mio’s sense of empathy. He was one of the few who knew what kind of horrors seized his friend at night. The times that he had tossed and turned in his sleep, only to wake up gasping for air and sweating profusely despite them staying in an air-conditioned room. AK even remembered having Mio tend to his swollen arms and large scratches after having one of his Night Terror episodes.

“Anyway AK, you in the mood for some infiltration?” Mio suddenly chuckled. He swivelled around in his chair, pressing some buttons. A loud hissing echoed in AK’s ear pods. “I do have some gear here you can use.”

AK raised an eyebrow. You do?

“Yes. Do you remember what the Commander once told you when he first picked you up?”

What?

Mio smirked. “Manners maketh man. Do you remember what that means?”

The moment he heard that, a rock dropped a dreadful feeling into his stomach. If there was one thing AK hated, it was doing that. He had been trained in everything – from tactical warfare, to sniping, to weapons assembly and disassembly, driving vehicles – be it military or not – and even demolition work! Yet nothing he trained for would ever prepare him for what those words meant.

This is gonna be horrible.


Princess Samantha however was having the time of her life.

With the free-flowing drinks and unlimited purple deserts, the princess gorged herself silly with all the delectable pastries. She nearly cried out the moment she took a bite out of the chocolate-coated strawberries and blueberries. The purple velvet cupcakes, moist and soft on the inside, melted in her mouth with the blueberry filling exploding in her mouth.

“Deus’ sake,” she heard Beatriz groan. “Didn’t you tell me that you were going on a diet?”

Samantha turned to her with her mouth full of pastries. “Mpf?”

“Geez, swallow your food!”

The princess swallowed and cocked her head. “What?”

“Weren’t you supposed to be on a diet?”

“I am! I’m on a see-food diet! I see food, I eat it!”

The lady-in-waiting shook her head and scowled. “Don’t come crying to me when you find out that you’ve expanded an inch on your stomach and your ass.”

The princess giggled until she heard a loud trumpet blare. Her eyes widened when she looked up. Fireworks hissed and exploded into multiple colours in the air, blooming into flowers. Samantha swooned at the sight of the blooming flowers as a barrier suddenly blocked off the centre of the courtyard. Coloured smoke exploded in the middle of the courtyard with female belly-dancers prancing around. The girls hypnotized the crowd with their colourful dancing sashes as they leapt and pranced around. Beaming in delight, Samantha rushed into the crowd.

“Come on, we’re gonna miss the show!” Samantha grabbed Beatriz by the wrist, dragging her along.

Beatriz yelped as she was dragged along. “Hey! Leggo!”

“It’s gonna be fun!”

“No it’s not! Weren’t they supposed to get male strippers?!”

“Eww no!”

“You say that now until they start snogging each other!”

Samantha ignored Beatriz’s pleas before forcing her way to the front. She shoved past the nobles until she finally reached the magic barrier. The belly dancers continued to prance before standing at one corner each of the box. They then swirled their sash before prostrating themselves on the ground. People gasped in surprise with Samantha stared in amazement. From their dance patterns, they formed a summoning circle in the ground that glowed a bright blue green colour. As the circle glowed brighter and brighter, Samantha clapped her hands in delight when purple circles shot out from the circle before exploding into multiple shades of purple gas.

“Wow!” Samantha giggled and jumped up and down, yanking Beatriz’s arm up and down. “So pretty!”

Beatriz yelped and growled. “Ow! What the fuck, Sam!?”

“It’s so pretty!”

“Stop pulling my arm! You’ll make me shorter!”

“It’s okay! You’re already short.”

“Sam, you bitch, stop!”

Samantha giggled gleefully and jumping up and down. Beatriz gave her a helpless sigh as her groans of agony fell on deaf ears. Despite being tugged left and right, the lady-in-waiting couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Samantha’s innocent expression. Her dark eyes would sparkle in glee and she suddenly would be jumping up and down with boundless energy.

Suddenly, Beatriz felt something stab at her sides. She quickly turned around and scanned the area. Her icy blue eyes darted back and forth as the laughter and cheers faded into a silent echo. An unsettling feeling twisted Beatriz’s stomach into knots; she could have sworn she felt something! Slowly, she detached herself from Samantha’s side and travelled through the sea of nobles. As her midnight blue gown trailed behind her, her hand slowly went towards her bracelet. The beads glowed with an ominous dark blue hue as her veins began to bulge. A sharp pain shot through her arm and burned through her very fibres as the power began to pulse inside her. She hissed for a moment before moaning softly. Although most would have considered her power downright demonic and dark, she couldn’t care less.

“Come out, come out wherever you are,” Beatriz sang softly. Her eyes darted to and fro until she finally got out of the crowd. The moment she emerged from the sea of people, all she saw were empty plates on a banquet table. “I could have sworn that I felt something...”


“Here’s my invite,” Daniel handed his envelope to the guard.

The custom’s guard eyed him suspiciously before looking up at him. “Daniel Iscariot...?”

“If I must prove it to you,” Daniel sighed. He then opened his black blazer to reveal a golden pin inside moulded into the shape of a crown with two sabres crossed. “Then, I believe this pin will give enough explanation.”

The guard gasped and shook his head profusely. “Oh, I-I’m so sorry! I didn’t know an agent from The Crusader was assigned today!”

Daniel smiled. “Oh, it’s okay. I understand. Especially with the situation now, it’s hard to trust people nowadays.”

And with that, he had charmed the customs and made his way in.

Daniel chuckled as he strode past the other guards without any problems. He raked his fingers through his gelled black hair with a hollow chuckle; so much for tightened security. With his black leather oxford brogues softly clapping against the marble, he then kept his hand tightly gripping his black umbrella while surveying around with his frameless oval glasses. He then stopped at the buffet table where he saw food still lined up. A small smirk curved up his lips as he subtly yet quickly swiped some slices of roast beef, roast turkey, and some rice onto his plate.

The bespectacled male snorted at the stench of tobacco. He hid his disgust as he passed the older noblemen puffing away on their cigars while keeping focused. It was what he was told – keep his eye on the princess and make sure nothing goes wrong.

“Alright, where are you...” His eyes trailed around the courtyard. He then heard a soft beep from his golden watch. Pressing the knob against the large face’s side, a digital clock gleamed before him.

Ten minutes.

He had only ten minutes before things got ugly. But, that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy a bit of dinner After all, the journey to Xychosia was rather taxing. Daniel slowly took a bite out of his food as he made his way to the banquet table. A smile curved up his lips as the juicy flavour of the roast beef coated in mushroom-tarragon gravy exploded in his mouth, with the slice of meat melting as he chewed on the slice. His lovely dinner however had been interrupted when he stopped dead in his tracks.

In front of him, a dark blonde woman with pale skin adorned in midnight blue silk stood before him.

Despite her petite stature, the dark blue tube gown accented her snow white skin with a creamy silhouette. The bodice had been laced up tightly to give her more of an alluring waist as made the hem of her skirt flare out more with the slit on both sides of her gown becoming more pronounced. Her narrow yet slender shoulders gleamed under the lantern lights as he slowly approached her.

He cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”

The young woman turned around. “Yes?”

He nearly staggered back at the sight of her. Icy blue eyes and blood red sultry lips – his blood jumped at the sight of her. He breathed deeply while trying to retain his composure.

“I,” he swallowed hard for a moment. “I wanted to ask for the easiest pathway to the seats near the orchestra pit.”

She turned around and pointed to the purple carpet. “Follow the purple carpet and make a right towards the end.”

“Thank you. You are most kind.”

“Nah, I’m not kind,” she waved her hand dismissively with a scoff. She looked at his cravat. “You have good taste yourself.”

Daniel, puzzled, then glanced at his royal blue cravat. “Ah, it is an heirloom from my grandfather...”

Well, it was sort of true. It being from his grandfather but not an heirloom exactly.

“I see. Whoever he was, he had good taste.”

“Thank you. It’s very kind of you to say so. By the way, I realize that I have not gotten your name...”

The woman’s lips quirked up with a sultry smile. “The name’s Bea. Beatriz Odissea.”

His expression nearly faltered. But he managed to catch himself before giving her a smile while nodding. “Ah an old name as well!”

Beatriz’s smile vanished. “Yeah, a name most feared too...”

“Just because it is a name feared now does not mean you should cling to that reputation.”

“I’m not the one running and screaming every time they hear the name.”

Daniel gave her an empathetic nod. For all those who knew the Era of Madness, it was a time that no one would utter the Odissea name in fear of attracting trouble. Despite the new era of peace, he knew those who still suffered the trauma of the past. The Odissea was a name everyone all knew too well. The name sent even the bravest of knights scampering in fear and that, even the dead had begun to writhe in their coffins.

“I suppose you’re right,” Beatriz shrugged. She then gave him a cheeky grin. “You? What’s your name?”

Daniel froze for a moment before nodding. “Ah how careless of me!” He chuckled sheepishly. “The name is Daniel. Daniel Iscariot.”

“Iscariot huh? That’s not a common name around these parts.”

“It’s a small name. I come from humble beginnings.”

“You certainly look well-dressed for someone from humble beginnings.”

“I worked hard to get this far. And I am proud that I am here now.”

Beatriz shook her head. “But hard work doesn’t always pay off.”

“Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t,” Daniel shrugged. “It doesn’t mean that one must not try.”

Before Beatriz could respond to him, a loud explosion shook the yard. Daniel staggered back and quickly popped open his umbrella, grabbed Beatriz, and hid each other behind. Beatriz yelped as she staggered and fell into Daniel’s arms. More explosions thundered as she covered her ears. Daniel shuddered from the shockwaves as he watched the smoke rise from behind his umbrella.

“The hell was that?!” Beatriz squawked. “Who the fuck threw a bomb in here?!”

Daniel shook his head, closing his umbrella. He then helped Beatriz to her feet as they began dusting off the dirt from their clothes. “I don’t know. But we’re about to find out.”

As the screams of terror tore through the air, Daniel cast his bespectacled gaze all over the place. His ears twitched when he heard something slimy slap on the ground. His head shot up as a tentacle suddenly peeked out of the black gas cloud. Slimy splattered on the floor as a gargled growl emerged from the smoke. As the dust began to clear, he saw seven more tentacles whipping in the air with suctions popping with its bodily fluids dripping from its pores. He shuddered from the screeching noise as its beak snapped in front of him.

“A Flesh Familiar,” Daniel growled. He then turned towards the table where he spotted a glass of Guinness. A smirk curved up his lips as he spun around, hooked the glass by the umbrella’s handle, and flung the glass at the creature. The creature screamed in agony as it stared at him.

“What are you just going to stand there all day or are we going to fight?” He jeered and twirled his umbrella, letting its tip tap the floor.

The Flesh Familiar roared and lunged at him with its beak snapping. Daniel ducked with his umbrella spinning, catching the beak with the umbrella’s hook. With a quick spin, he flung the creature aside before popping up his umbrella and revealing a hidden trigger. His fingers wrapped around the hook and twisted before the word “shot gun” appeared on the inner fabrics of the umbrella.

Beatriz gawked. “What the hell is a shot gun?!”

Daniel smirked. “You’ll see.”

With a squeeze of the trigger, a shot gun round exploded from the tip of his umbrella. The round flew straight into the Flesh Familiar’s mouth with it exploding and ripping through its flesh. Its bodily fluids splattered on the ground with its black blood staining the table cloths. Daniel smirked before folding up his black umbrella.

“That’s one down,” Daniel chuckled. However, he heard more snarls and screeches. “And then, there are probably a thousand more...”

At the sound of that, Beatriz’s eyes widened. “Sam...!”

Daniel raised an eyebrow.

“The princess of Sofiene!” Beatriz snapped. “She’s probably shrieking her brains off by now!”

As Beatriz lunged forward, Daniel stared at her back. Her icy blue eyes and her dark blonde hair – it was such an unusual combination. Something that he knew could only be passed genetically.

“Daniel, are you alright?” A voice asked him.

Daniel nodded. “Yeah,” – his voice trailed away. “It’s just...”

“Never knew an Odissea still existed?”

At that, Daniel remained silent. From what he remembered, the Odissea had been annihilated long ago. A frown marred his features as he shook his head. Meh, probably just bad luck in the genetic lottery.

With that thought, he then bolted after Beatriz.

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