Samantha gasped. “Ah!”
She nearly stumbled as a sharp pain hit her head. What was that all about, Samantha shuddered. However, her blood froze when she remembered the day she knighted Beatriz and Brandon. The princess remembered how the mana now connected them. Now that she thought about it, ever since she knighted them – she could feel a variety of things: their emotions, their pains, and to some extent even what t hey thought.
“That explains how I knew the plan somehow,” Samantha murmured and sank into her chair.
Kevyn raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about? Are you saying that you’re actually linked to your knights?”
“In a way. After I knighted them, somehow – my mana transferred to them and created a sort of link,” Samantha explained to the dragon-tamer. “To be honest, I have no idea how it works. I’m just assuming that it works that way.”
“It probably does. Mana Synchronization isn’t Rocket Science.” Kevyn scratched the back of her nape with a chuckle. “Wait a minute,” she realized and turned to Samantha. “This means you can track them!”
“Yeah, all you have to do is focus on their mana. Remember how you called the water to you?”
“It works similarly to that.”
Samantha nodded and closed her eyes. She focused on her mana, trying to find traces of it in the air. The princess remembered the sharp pain that struck her head. The moment she slipped into the darkness, she saw ribbons of mana floating before her. One of them was a light blue coloured one, another was dark blue. She stretched out towards it and grabbed the dark blue ribbon, feeling a chill bite into her hand. She gasped as the mana flashed a scene before her eyes where she saw a man dragging Beatriz by her hair. She gasped and saw the trail of blood painting the white marble.
“No!” She gasped and staggered back in horror.
Kevyn blinked. “What?”
“Bea! She’s hurt and in danger!”
“You found her?”
Samantha nodded, shuddering. “Sh… she was being dragged by some guy in a black trench coat. I didn’t get a good look at the face though…”
Kevyn bared her fangs with a deadly hiss. “Jeremiah.”
“Jeremiah’s one of the most sadistic bastards of the Machinos Gears. By tenure, he’s the eldest one because the others don’t have the gall to kill the way he does.”
The princess shivered at the thought. There was another one exactly like Reuben? She embraced her body to prevent herself from crumbling. The thought of someone who acted upon his sociopathic impulses terrified her. The worst part was that Beatriz was the one who came across him. She didn’t see Brandon and Daniel but she didn’t feel anything else. Dread filled her at the thought of Brandon and Daniel being dead. Had she been away for that long? She dashed over her to her staff and gathered the Sofiene pendant and the ring of Azaleth.
“We have to go now!” Samantha insisted.
Kevyn shook her head. “You haven’t even finished learning Fire and Air yet!”
Khanara pondered for a moment before smiling at the two girls. “Then perhaps you should be calling Kevyn your teacher from now on.”
Kevyn gawked. “What!?”
“You mastered Lightning which is a combination of both Air and Fire.”
“That doesn’t mean I can teach her!”
The Sorcerer Dragon frowned at the dragon-tamer. “Kevyn, have a little more confidence in yourself. You’ve progressed well under my tutelage.”
The dragon-tamer sighed and turned to Samantha. Disdain marred her features and pouted at Khanara. However, Samantha clearly saw that the Sorcerer Dragon would have none of the girl’s protests. Kevyn scowled at the firm glare that the dragon gave her. Giggling under her breath, she could see that the dragon-tamer wanted to explode and throw a tantrum. However, Kevyn instead took a deep breath and pivoted around to face her.
“Urgh, looks like I’m stuck with you,” Kevyn grumbled and began to gather her things. “We’re gonna head over to Machinos.”
Samantha beamed. “Really?”
“But we need a concrete plan.”
“Yes and we can start by sneaking in.”
“Wow, you actually condone sneaking?”
Samantha rolled her eyes. “We can’t exactly fight an army, can we?”
“Good that your head’s attached to your shoulders,” Kevyn chuckled. “I was testing you.”
“I’m certainly not that stupid!”
“I know. Just making sure you haven’t gone insane after I’ve kicked you into the rock.”
Samantha pouted and stuck a tongue at her. How rude, she thought to herself. Although she had to admit there were some similarities between the dragon-tamer and her lady-in-waiting, Kevyn had been more direct with her statements. A part of her admired her blunt honesty. She told her the things that she needed to hear instead of telling her what she wanted to hear.
“Kev? Can I call you that,” Samantha asked.
Kevyn shrugged. “Don’t really care.”
“Oh, so you don’t mind if I call you Kev?”
Samantha nodded, checked her things, and beamed at Kevyn. “Shall we go?”
The dragon-tamer nodded with Blitzkrieg suddenly purring on one side. “It’s okay,” the dragon-tamer reassured the Alastreus. “I’ll be back soon. I can’t bring you with me.”
The Alastreus crooned.
“If I do bring you then, we’ll give ourselves away and we’ll be fucked.”
Blitzkrieg snorted and grimaced.
“I’ll be fine, bud. I can fry those bastards. I learned from you remember?”
Blitzkrieg thrust its snout into Kevyn’s arms and began nuzzling her. Samantha giggled softly at the sight of the relationship between the dragon-tamer and the dragon. A warm feeling bubbled inside her. Kevyn spoke to the dragons on a completely different emotional plane. She listened to them, spoke to them, and understood them as if she was one of them. No wonder they’re like family to her, the princess thought to herself. A small smile curved up her lips with a hint of nostalgia flowing through her. It reminded her of how she was with her knights. Brandon would chuckle at her while Beatriz snickered and they would have petty but joking arguments. And Luke, he would lighten up the mood with his soft-spoken nature and reflections.
I hope they’re okay, Samantha mulled for a bit. Suddenly, something dropped on her shoulder. Samantha nearly jumped only to see Bubbles resting her head on her shoulder. It crooned and Samantha pat its nose gently.
“I can’t bring you,” Samantha sighed with a sad smile. “If I bring you with me, we’ll get caught and they’ll hurt you.”
Bubbles crooned with a sad look in her eyes.
“I know. I’ll miss you. But I’ll be back.”
The dragon gave her a hopeful look and nodded.
“Good girl. Besides, Kevyn will bring me home.”
Bubbles nodded and Samantha stroked her nose. The dragon then pulled away and strode towards Blitzkrieg who stood tall with an acknowledging nod. Smiling, the princess slung her bag over her shoulder while Kevyn followed right behind her. She looked at all the dragons who had watched her grow. She remembered how the earth-based dragons taught her how to dig. The water dragons taught her how to follow the flow of water. There were just two elements left: Fire and Air. And according to Khanara, Kevyn would teach her along the way.
“Shall we go,” Kevyn asked.
Samantha nodded. “Yeah, we can’t afford to waste more time.”
The princess and the dragon-tamer left the cavern and followed the mountain trail heading back to Machinos. Samantha exhaled sharply and looked at the pendant hanging on her neck. A sigh bubbled from her throat as she plucked pendant and tucked it under her clothes. She looked at the ring and sighed; the gem of Azaleth rivalled the size of a cherry tomato! How do I hide this, the princess asked herself. She stopped for a moment, causing Kevyn to stop in her tracks.
“Yo, what gives?” Kevyn peered over the princess’s shoulders.
Samantha frowned for a moment. “I’m trying to conceal the Ring of Azaleth. I can’t go around wavin this thing. And if Reuben uses it, it might makes things worse.”
“But you heard Khanara. He needs to have it his genes to use it.”
“We can’t be too careful.”
“True.” Kevyn pondered for a moment. “Stuff it in your breasts.”
Samantha gawked, appalled. “What!?”
“No sane idiot would shove his hand into a woman’s boobs unless he wants get a kick in the Nethers.”
“But Reuben isn’t sane! He’s a madman!”
“Oh right, he’s one fucked up sociopath. Stick it up your ass then.”
“I’m kidding! Geez, calm your tits!” Kevyn shook her head with a snicker. “Well, you can just remove it from its housing and transfer it to another kind of jewelry. After all, it’s the stone that matters. Who the fuck cares about the ring or the pendant? You just need the stone.”
Samantha nodded. “Maybe we can also buy something in Machinos that can house both the gems,” she offered wistfully.
Kevyn bobbed her head a bit. “It could work.”
“I’m sure that they have a jeweller somewhere there.”
“They better. Let’s hope none of them’s a snitch.”
Samantha blinked in surprise. “A snitch?”
“They’re the kind of people who can’t keep their big mouths shut.”
The princess nodded. However, was being covert really the best way? Then again, Samantha thought. If she went in covertly, they would have less problems to deal with. Until she met up with her knights, she considered themselves unable to handle an army. She remembered how Kevyn and she worked together to take out a squadron. But, it was a short burst. In the long run, she risked Kevyn and herself being captured. A sigh bubbled from her throat and looked at the ring in her hand before taking Kevyn’s advice. She dropped it right into her cleavage.
“Unless you want to pierce your nose and make it a nose ring,” Kevyn chuckled.
Samantha gawked. “Ew! No!”
“Hahaha, alright. No need to get so spooked.”
“I never understood why people liked piercing their nose.”
“Maybe they wanted a third nostril,” Kevyn chuckled dryly. “Anyway, do you have any idea where your knights could be?”
“Sort of. I’m guessing they’re at the citadel.”
“Probably a half-assed assassination or retrieval mission gone bad.”
Samantha nodded. “I do believe so. If anything, we were talking about at least securing a form of transport.”
“You mean like a car?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
Kevyn pondered for a moment. “That means that they would’ve headed to the hangar of the citadel. Reuben has an ox shitload of cars.”
“But doesn’t that place have heavy security?”
“Yeah but there’s one weak point.”
“Yeah, apparently the whole security system is run by a single computer that has an evolving algorithm.”
“An evolving what?”
Kevyn paused for a moment. “Think of it like how you learned how to expand your magic,” the dragon-tamer began to explain. “Before, I’m sure you were relying on incantations and chanting like some voodoo weirdo.”
Samantha snorted. You were teaching me voodoo weirdo stuff!
“Anyway, because I started training you,” Kevyn continued. “Now you can control shit by waving your hand. Right?”
The princess nodded.
“The algorithm does the same thing. It learns the longer you fight it. It can adapt.”
Samantha’s eyes widened. “That’s possible!? What kind of magic is that!?”
“It doesn’t have to be magic. All it takes is one smart bastard to build something like that,” Kevyn explained. She raised an eyebrow at the princess. “Doesn’t your kingdom have anything like that? Where the fuck have you been living? Under a rock!?”
Samantha shook her head. “Sofiene didn’t want to rely on technology but instead chose to focus on magic.”
“Now you say where you’re from!” Kevyn threw her hands in the air in frustration. “But yeah, I can see why you’re such an airhead.”
The princess pouted. “I’m not an airhead.”
“Says the one who doesn’t know what a car is.”
“We don’t have those in Sofiene! We have carriages!”
“What the hell are you guys in? The Golden Era!?”
Samantha shook her head. “Anyway, we have to get moving.”
Earning a nod from the dragon-tamer, Samantha proceeded on to head down the mountain. She kept her staff strapped to her back while rolling up her pants. The dust and rocks brushed against her skin as the winds tossed around her jet black hair. A sigh bubbled from her throat and looked beyond her to see the fading silhouette of the citadel of Machinos. She could see the afternoon sky looming above her with the clouds strolling along. They seemed to float towards the citadel. She took a deep breath and clenched her hands into a fist. But confusion washed over when she realized that it wasn’t Reuben she cared about but her knights. Their safety mattered to her. And she wasn’t going to just save them. She was going to show Reuben that he messed with the wrong princess.
Ugh, where am I?
Beatriz woke up with a start and looked around her. She tried to stretch out her arms only to find them restrained. A damp cloth wet the sides of her lips as she stomped on the ground. A loud metallic thud echoed through the darkness around her. And, the only source of light she had was a tiny blinking red light. She sighed and wriggled around a bit to make herself comfortable only to hear clinking sounds. Great so I’m in chains and in some sort of weird cloth, Beatriz scowled. Sweat poured on her fair skin in between her cleavage, her armpits, and her neck. She puffed her cheeks in annoyance and tried wrestling out of it.
Wait a minute, Beatriz frowned. She had magic! Beatriz took a deep breath and began to focus on her mana. She could feel her veins bulge from underneath her skin. An icy blue light illuminated the darkness and gave her a view of a few feet in front of her. However, she heard a loud beeping sound. The dark knight, puzzled, looked down only to have a surge of electricity rush through her body from the collar. She gasped and cried out in pain and pleasure. After the electricity faded, she gasped and moaned when the lights suddenly flashed on.
Beatriz sat in a white room covered with white leatherette cushions lining the wall. She looked down to see that her body was completely bound in some sort of jacket. Her ankles had metal shackles and she spotted a metal collar locked tightly around her neck. A scowl marred her features as she turned back to see that a chain extended from the shackles on her ankles.
“Well, well,” a mocking voice echoed around her. “The little demon’s awake.”
Beatriz snapped her head up to see a thick window in front of her. While she could see herself, the dark knight knew that there was someone beyond that mirror. Her ears twitched at the sound of blood rushing behind the window and also the terrified heartbeats. A slow smile curved up her lips with her long dark blonde hair falling over her face.
“Of course, you gave me a rather wonderful alarm clock.” She gave the mirror a sickeningly sweet smile. “I do like it! Really!” She began playing with the metal collar. “I’ve been looking for one of these.”
“You’re a fucking monster,” the voice said again.
“I know. Tell me something I don’t know.”
“You seem to be proud.”
“Well, after awhile – you just have to own it you know?”
A chuckle echoed all over the room. “You’re an amusing knight. What does your princess have to say about you?”
“She doesn’t mind. She knows who I am and accepts me for who I am.”
Behind the mirror, Reuben stared straight into the eyes of the Dark Knight. A small smirk curved up his lips. What he saw was not a demon unlike what others had said but a kindred soul. A soul that had bloodlust that rivalled his and the sense of apathy that matched his; it was something that he didn’t see everyday. A woman with that kind of personality – he had searched far and wide, thinking that there was a princess who had that kind of personality.
But apparently, he was wrong.
“You actually find the little bitch cute,” Jeremiah chuckled while flipping around his switchblade. “Hopefully, she doesn’t break like the last one.”
Reuben chortled lightly. “Well, it isn’t my fault the other one couldn’t run from the dogs.”
“Nice sight wasn’t it?”
“Yes it was. Seeing her guts and flesh being ripped apart by dogs satisfied me.”
Jeremiah raised an eyebrow. “What about the princess though? What happened to her?”
“Probably dead in a ditch somewhere like all those other whores.” Reuben shrugged and waved his hand dismissively. “I made sure I shocked her enough to paralyze her. She couldn’t have gotten far.”
“How’d it feel?”
“Fucking a princess?”
Reuben remained silent for a moment and smirked. “Tight. Clearly, she never fucked before.”
“Ah, a virgin?”
“That’s what made it more enjoyable.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s not my fault her breasts attract trouble.”
Jeremiah nodded. “But what are you going to do about the Dragoon? She’s been raiding Machinos and many of the Gears refuse to fight her.”
“Kill them,” the prince of Machinos said.
“The Gears. They’re useless.”
Jeremiah snorted with a fold of his arms. “Well, better them than some common thug.”
“True,” Reuben mused for a moment. “If I’m going to kill them off, we have to make it convincing.”
“A battle arena sounds nice.”
The prince thought for a moment, pondering on the idea. If he created a battle arena, not only could he eliminate the failed Machinos Gears legally while punishing them for their impudence but also garner attention. The people of Machinos were bored. The only thing that seemed to get them was this big explosive event. Even then, everything was on social media. A like, a share, an emotion – that’s how the people of Machinos were like. And if they wanted to watch something, it streamed on any video-streaming website.
But they need to see! The prince slammed his fist against the metal table. He wanted the people of Machinos to see his power! He was the prince of Machinos! And his snivelling, younger brother could do nothing about it! He was the true prince of Machinos! His name may be Gear but as long as he had it then, people would have to accept him! And his father’s word was law even if his mother was nothing more than a factory worker.
“Yes! Brilliant! A battle arena,” Reuben exclaimed. He turned to Jeremiah. “Tell the promotions team to set up and the logistics team better get it right this time.”
“And if they don’t?” Jeremiah raised an eyebrow.
“You know what to do.”
With that, Jeremiah walked away to leave Reuben in the room separated by the two way mirror. He could see the haunted look in Beatriz’s eyes. But despite the dark eye-bags beneath her icy blue eyes, her sultry red lips contained arrogance like no other. The prince shuddered and grabbed his crotch, trying to repress himself.
“Fuck’s sake, I didn’t know you were that desperate.” He heard the dark knight chuckle. “If you wanted to fuck, all you have to do is take off this stupid binding you have on me.”
Reuben smirked. “You’re a cunt not worth my time.”
“That’s okay. I wouldn’t want your wiener of a dick either.”
“Strong words for someone in a straight jacket.”
“Oh? That’s what you call this stupid thing binding me? Shouldn’t you be in one to then?”
Reuben chuckled and looked upon Beatriz’s bedraggled appearance. He however couldn’t hide his amazement at the sight of the bullet hole in between the dark knight’s eyes closing up. Her ratty hair hung limply at the sides of her face, coated with blood and sweat. A maniacal grin curved up her lips and matched his. This woman is worth keeping! Reuben beamed in delight with a clap of his hands. Although he couldn’t see her, he knew that she was someone worth his while.
“You’re going to tell me where my wife is,” Reuben threatened. “Or I will make you wish you were dead.”
“Already gone through that phase,” Beatriz sneered. “What are you going to do? Crucify me? Shove a wooden plank up my vagina? Been there, don’t have the documentation to prove that though.”
“I’ll make you regret that.”
“Trust me, you can hit me as much as you like. In fact, you’ll be doing both of us a favour.”
Reuben, puzzled, raised an eyebrow at her answer. “What do you mean?”
The young woman’s laughter filled the room. “Well, I get pleasure from getting hurt.”
“Oh don’t be such a prude. A sociopathic bastard like you would know what that is.”
“You’re a fucking masochist.”
“Your point being?”
“You’re no fun.”
“Yeah, I’m not very fun for sadists.”
Reuben clenched his fists tight and stared at the woman who sat on the chair with her arms and body bound in a straight jacket. Despite being threatened, she showed no sense of fear.
What is she?
He couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person would recruit someone as psychotic as her. Jeremiah at least thought his plans out and always won, no matter the cost. If anything, he preferred sociopaths over psychopaths. No sense of conscience meant less problems for him. However, another part of him wondered: what kind of person could take a bullet in between the eyes and survive? He shook his head. No regular human could survive that!
“I see,” Reuben chuckled. “So, I suppose you don’t care about the others with you.”
“If you mean the pirate and the jackass then, the pirate holds more weight than the jackass.”
“Is that so? I’m amused; you care for them?”
“I pretend to just so I can make the princess happy. Besides, if I don’t, I’ll be thrown back into a shittier cell than last time.”
Reuben guffawed at the woman. “I like your humour!” He clapped his hands in delight. “Therefore, I have a proposition for you.”
“If it means having sex with you then, no thanks. I don’t like wieners.”
“Oh it’s something that will amuse you and me.”
Beatriz raised an eyebrow. “I’m listening…”
Brandon kicked the shackles around his ankles, listening to the clunking sound. He had to admit; he didn’t expect Machinos to still resort to medieval style dungeons considering how technologically advanced the city was. He grunted and ran his fingers through his hair, grimacing at the sharp pain ebbing from his shoulders. The pirate could have sworn someone either bludgeoned him with something heavy or stabbed him in the shoulder. But what hurt more was his head. His head felt like it was being crushed by a ten tonne boulder with Beatriz stomping on that boulder again and again. And knowing her super-human strength, he knew the boulder would have smashed his skull.
He looked around his cell to see a bed hung up by chains. There was a moldy sink that was imbedded into the wall and a musty smell of water and rust wafting into the air. The metal walls surrounding him had different nuts and bolts that held it together. He shuffled his feet a bit to help him check how far the chains attached to the shackles could go. Fortunately, the chains were at least a foot long. He grabbed hold onto the bed and helped himself up before shuffling his way around the room.
Brandon looked past the steel bars, noticing only a few guards. He narrowed his eyes at the bars and stretched out his hand to touch it only to have sparks crackle. The pirate staggered back, wincing at the sharp pain before shaking his head.
“Plasma bars,” Brandon muttered.
Suddenly, the doors hissed open and revealed several guards.
“Well, well, the prince left us a toy to play with.” The guard pat his club on his hand with a dark sneer.
Brandon narrowed his eyes and readied his stance, only to hear the clinking sounds of the chains. Shit, he realized. His ankles were bound. He couldn’t kick the guards even if he tried! He looked at his hands only to spot handcuffs on both of them as well. Panic flooded through him as he looked up to see three guards with clubs and a phallic shaped toy in one of their hands. He didn’t have to be the smartest man of Zemlya to know what was coming for him!
“Back off,” Brandon hissed.
“Like your words matter, prisoner!” The guard swung his club.
Brandon raised his arms and caught the club with the chains. He winced at the weight as his knees threatened to buckle beneath him. Struggling, he slowly sank down to his knees until the guard slammed his knee straight into his gut. Brandon coughed and keeled over before crashing on the ground. Despite his groaning in pain, he gasped when one of the guards grabbed a fistful of his jet black hair and yanked his head up. Brandon grimaced but glared instead at the sneering guard.
“Well, look who we have here,” the guard jeered. “If it isn’t the famous Brandon Hawthorne of the Dancing Blades, who thought you’d show your pretty face here?”
Brandon glared. “Like I wanted to land my ass in this jail cell,” he hissed.
“Your luck finally ran out, pirate!”
“Oh fuck off, don’t you have anything better to say?”
The guard moved in close until their faces were mere inches apart. Brandon’s defiant lavender eyes met the guard’s mocking black ones before a club bludgeoned the pirate across the jaw. Brandon fell to the ground with a fresh, red swollen mark appeared on his cheek, lining his jaw. Hissing in pain, the pirate narrowed his eyes at the guard. Hs lungs and his throat burned from being parched. His ankles were swollen from the tight shackles and his body was sore.
“Leave him. He’s not gonna break that easy.” A familiar voice suddenly commanded them to stop.
Brandon froze when he saw someone familiar. His eyes widened when a familiar guard showed up. Flexing his beefy arms, the bald guard sneered at him with his jet black eyes. The pirate snorted from the scent of tobacco coming from the man’s greying beard and moustache.
“Well, well, if it isn’t my favourite pirate!” The guard clapped.
Brandon bared his teeth. “Diedrich…”
“I’m surprised you’re here. Fancy seeing you in Machinos.”
“The feeling’s mutual.”
The other prison guards turned to Diedrich. “You know this guy?”
“Of course I know this little shit. I’ve met him in Xychosia.”
Diedrich guffawed. “Yeah and how the mighty have fallen,” he sneered.
Brandon glared at the former soldier of Xychosia until Diedrich grabbed his jaw roughly.
“Oh how I’m going to have fun dishing out some pain today,” he sniggered at the pirate. “Actually, you should be thankful that it’s just me and not Jeremiah.”
“And how is that a good thing!?”
“It means you’re not going to end up dead, idiot.”
The pirate scowled at Diedrich before suddenly being kicked in the stomach. Brandon keeled over from the shock before getting kicked in his chin again. His head flipped over and his body crashed against steel floors. Brandon hissed and spat out the blood as it trickled down his lip. Anger flashed in his lavender eyes as Diedrich cracked his knuckles. He opened his palm towards one of the guards.
“Hand me that dildo. I know exactly where to put it.” A malicious grin appeared on Diedrich’s face.
Brandon shuddered and crawled back, pressing his back against the wall. “You wouldn’t.”
“You’re sick in the head, mate.”
“Maybe. But I would have preferred it to be that little weed of yours. All his whining and crying would have been nice to hear.”
The pirate clenched his fist tightly and inhaled deeply, looking at the guards around him. He fought the urge to lash out. But I don’t have the power, Brandon shook his head. It was a huge disadvantage. As long as his legs were clipped together, he couldn’t kick people or take them down fast enough. He could swing his fists but there were four of them. His upper teeth clamped hard on his lower lip and kept himself against the wall.
Damn it, I’m gonna have to think of a way fast!
“Drop his pants and slam his face into the ground,” Diedrich ordered. “And make sure his ass facing me.”
Daniel groaned and woke up, finding himself strapped to a chair. He tried to lift his wrists only to hear loud clanking sounds. His blood froze when looked down. Slowly lifting up his wrist, he felt something metal and cold press against his skin. His eyes narrowed as he investigated the darkness around him. A soft humming echoed around him with a cool breeze brushing the nape. The air was dry, burning his throat despite it being cold.
“Cold and dry,” Daniel muttered and shook his head. “That’s fun.”
Suddenly, the lights flashed and Daniel found himself strapped to a chair. In front of him, he found several men standing in front of him in white laboratory coats. Each of them had a facemask covering their mouths with surgical gloves on each of their hands. The agent inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, feeling his heart race. A part of him wanted to throw up and throw a fit. Another part of him wanted to freeze and stay in his chair.
“Good morning, Agent,” one of the doctors said. “You seem well.”
Daniel remained calm. “Of course.”
“Are the locks too harsh?”
“Good, that’s exactly what we wanted to hear.”
Keeping his eyes on the doctor, Daniel looked over the men’s shoulders to see a metal trolley being rolled towards him. His eyes squinted and winced, causing him to let out a slight growl. On the trolley, he saw multiple injections, a scalpel, something that looked similar to a drill, and other things. The white lights glared into his eyes as he winced at the sight of the shining stainless steel tools that lay on the tray.
“Don’t worry,” one of the doctors reassured him. “It won’t hurt.”
It won’t hurt.
Those words chilled Daniel to the bone. His whole body trembled with terror and despair filling every fibre in his body. He began to kick and struggle until one of the doctors casually pulled out a remote control to press a button. Suddenly, a strong electric current rushed into Daniel’s body as he gnashed his teeth. His lungs pumped hard and threatened to burst out of his ribcage with his voice clawing its way out of his throat.
I won’t cave. I won’t cave, he continuously chanted to himself. Despite the constant current of electricity coursing through his body, Daniel managed to keep his mouth shut. Sweat poured down his face as the doctors stood in front of him, clearly not moving a muscle to help him. He dug his nails into the chair and shut his eyes to block out the flashing light. His body vibrated and shuddered from the electricity rushing in his body. After a few minutes, the electricity died down and Daniel gasped for air. Dropping his head, the agent panted and swallowed whatever air he could get. His vision soon became blurry and his arms and legs barely had any feeling in them.
“Good,” one of the doctors said. “Now we can begin.”
Begin? Begin what, Daniel wondered to himself.
His eyes widened when he saw one of the doctors reveal a syringe with coloured liquid inside. A chill ran down his spine when they approached him.
“Don’t worry, this won’t hurt,” the doctor cooed.
While he sat on the chair, images flashed in his mind. His skin paled and his throat ran dry. He remembered being chained to a chair with a tattered, torn, and dirty baggy shirt hanging from his bony shoulders. He barely had anything to eat. His black hair was dishevelled and black. His body, covered with wounds, remained completely untreated and nearly ended up festering. It all stopped however when he went into a terrible rage and slaughtered all who dared to stop him. He rushed into the room where he found his mother and his brothers butchered in pieces. Something in him snapped. All his morals jumped out the window. Screw his ethics. Screw his virtues; they slaughtered his family! They slaughtered his mother! Several people in black cloaks stood over his family’s mutilated bodies while he, a small boy at that time, fell to his knees.
“Ah… ah,” Daniel gasped as the memories flooded into his mind.
Suddenly, something sharp snapped him out of his daze. His panting and gasps stopped midway as his head drooped over. Daniel squinted as his vision blurred. His heart stopped pounding and throbbing against his chest. He stopped struggling and limbs hung limply from where they were strapped on to. A sharp ringing sound filled his ears as he tried to raise his head with not much success. It felt like lead. His whole body felt as if it were weighted by heavy iron blocks with lead running through his blood. He tried to keep himself awake only for his strength to fail him and his eyes to shut. All he heard before he passed out was…
“Good, now we can begin.”
Night befell them when Samantha and Kevyn made their way to Machinos. The princess clutched her tattered cloak together as the cold night winds tossed her black tresses. A shiver travelled up her spine and her hairs on her arms stood on its ends. She glanced at Kevyn who hadn’t shown any signs of cold despite wearing a black tank top and black cloth arm-warmers with belts on them.
“Aren’t you feeling cold,” Samantha asked. “What you’re wearing is far skimpier than what I’m wearing.”
Kevyn shook her head. “I’m fine,” she said before making a blue flame in her hands. “You feeling cold?”
“Alright, most basic rule of using fire,” Kevyn explained. “Draw on the energy inside you. Feel the energy within yourself. It’s like how the sun makes its own heat.”
Samantha nodded before breathing deep.
“Remember how you used Earth magic. Same concept applies.”
Taking Kevyn’s words into consideration, Samantha let her mana flow. From her fingertips, red streams of mana roiled in her flames before a small ember burned above her palm. She opened her eyes and in astonishment, saw the little flame floating above her hand. She beamed in delight before looking at Kevyn who nodded in approval.
“Just keep feeding it a little juice before we get to the city.” Kevyn nodded at her before turning her attention back to the city. “Let’s go.”
Samantha followed after Kevyn as they slid down the mountain slope. Every footstep she took, she could feel vibrations from the Earth beneath her. The air, despite it being cold, whispered to her the many thoughts and voices of those from the city. She closed her eyes and listened. Ever since she went up to the mountains on that fateful day seeking refuge, she found more about magic. But there was something about herself she couldn’t understand. How was she able to use the summoning magic if it wasn’t even in her blood? Unless, her mind considered. She shook her head. As far as she was concerned, she was the princess of Sofiene. Nobody else.
“Although, I do have one question.” Samantha hauled herself up another cliff. “What do you intend to do when you come across Reuben?”
Kevyn shrugged. “I don’t know.
“You haven’t come up with a plan yet?”
“It’s not that I haven’t. But I’m not sure if I should.”
Samantha blinked in astonishment. She didn’t have a plan? “You usually come up with a plan before you attack.”
“I do have a plan,” Kevyn admitted mildly. “Find him, kick his ass, and leave his ass in the dungeon to rot.”
“Wow, you said that really casually…”
“Yeap, I know. But I don’t particularly care. He killed the dragons.”
“Vengeance isn’t the best way. Sometimes, one can answer injustice with mercy.”
Kevyn stopped dead in her tracks before turning to her with a icy glare. “I answer injustice with justice. And this is rich, coming from one of his rape victims.”
Stumped by Kevyn’s response, the princess kept quiet. She didn’t expect Kevyn to be that ruthless. But a part of her knew; it had to be that way. She once thought that people wouldn’t hurt little girls. They wouldn’t hurt a princess. But boy, were her assumptions wrong. She inhaled deeply and looked at her hand and then at her lower abdomen. While it no longer hurt, the burning sensation engraved itself deep in her memory. Shaking her head and clenching her fist, Samantha proceeded forward with Kevyn as they made their way down the hill.
“So your knights,” Kevyn suddenly asked. “What are they like?”
Samantha blinked. “I thought you already met them?”
“I did but I meant their personalities.”
The princess paused for a moment. “Brandon’s the more sensible one. He does have his daring moments and could be a bit roguish but, his heart is in the right place. No matter what happens, he seems to figure out how to solve the problem. He showed up with another knight,” she smiled fondly. “His name was Luke.”
“Luke? I only saw three of them and I know how Daniel looks like.”
“You know Daniel?”
Kevyn nodded. “His organization tried to get him to recruit me to their cause.”
“And how did that turn out?”
“Him nearly being barbecued and offered to the dragons up for dinner.”
Samantha chuckled and shook her head. “You really hate humans, don’t you?”
“It’s not the hate where I want to blow everyone to pieces.” Kevyn shrugged. “It’s the kind of hatred that I would prefer not to get involved since the problem started from their stupidity.”
The princess nodded as they made their way towards the toll gate. She spotted multiple guards and several spotlights swinging across the ground. She swallowed hard as Kevyn crept towards her, crouched behind the rock.
“Those spotlights are also transmitters.” Kevyn glanced and observed their swinging movement. “We have to take those out first if we want to sneak in properly.”
Samantha nodded. “Can’t you short it out with electricity?”
“I plan to. But I need someone to help me take out the guards.”
“Leave that to me.”
The dragon-tamer raised an eyebrow with a sceptical look. “You sure you want to do that?”
“Mm hm.” Samantha nodded and smiled with her hand glowing with a green stream of mana. “Don’t worry, I learned a few tricks of my own.”
The dragon-tamer, smirking, nodded and looked at the lights above. “The moment it gets dark, start.”
Samantha nodded. And in one flash, Kevyn transformed into a current of blue lightning before flashing straight towards the spotlights. As she filled the circuits, the bulbs suddenly exploded and shattered with crystalline dust raining from the air. She shot through to the other one before covering the entire field in darkness.
In a panic, one of the soldiers jumped in fright. “Hey who turned off the lights!?”
“Turn them on,” the other soldier screamed.
The moment the darkness covered the two soldiers, Samantha and Kevyn began her attack. Seeing that they weren’t accustomed to the darkness, the princess took advantage of their panicked state. Their footsteps tramped against the shifting sands as Samantha followed their movements. The vibrating waves of their footsteps brushed against her skin and her ears, allowing her where to find them. She slammed her palm into the ground and a stone stalagmite clobbered one straight under the chin while Kevyn leapt down from the tower before landing a chop against the other’s neck. Both guards went down, leaving Kevyn and Samantha to grab the card keys that were in the pockets of the soldiers.
“Good.” Kevyn slid the key against the slot, hearing a small beep. “Let’s make our way in. Do you know any transformation spells?”
Samantha nodded. “A few.”
“Any that can change our appearances or our clothes at least?”
“Like what? Anything I’ll choose will make us stand out.”
Kevyn looked around for a moment and spotted a clothes store. She looked at the clothes on the mannequin before pointing to it.
“Try this one,” she suggested.
Samantha looked up at the two mannequins. There was a male mannequin and a female mannequin standing at the window. She looked around for a bit, making sure nobody would spot them. After all, Machinos was a city that forbade magic and treated magic-users as if they were second-class citizens. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes before moulding her mana around Kevyn’s and her bodies. Suddenly, the clothes swapped between the two mannequins and them. Kevyn wore the male mannequin’s clothes while she wore the female mannequin’s clothes.
“Great,” Samantha dusted her skater skirt and straightened out her black leggings. “I guess we can go?”
Kevyn nodded while fixing her jacket. “Yeah, just keep a low profile. We might attract too much attention.”
Nodding, the princess followed the dragon-tamer into the district. The streets were empty and the homes of many had their night lights dying one by one. The streetlamps lit the streets with a dim white glow without a single being in sight. Samantha kept her pendant close to her and her ring. After all, it was one of her trademarks. She exhaled sharply until she saw something red glimmering in the dark.
“Kev!” She grabbed the dragon-tamer.
Ignoring the angry hisses of the dragon-tamer, Samantha dragged her behind a wall. Her heart pounded hard against her chest as she heard loud thumping on the ground. Her hair stood on all ends as the sound of metal crashing against the pavement echoed in her ears. The princess heard small whizzing and whining when she saw the Sentinels from the throne room where she faced Reuben.
“When did they start roaming the streets,” she whispered in terror.
Kevyn glowered at the sight of the metal humanoids. “Sentinels – Reuben upped the security.”
“We can’t fool those, can we?”
Kevyn nodded and created a small blue fire. “All we have to do is use a smokescreen.”
“Or let me try something.” Samantha put her hand in front of the dragon-tamer.
She closed her eyes and focused on the inner workings of the Sentinels. She had only seen it once in the throne room of Machinos. But, it was good enough for her to know what they were made of. She felt all the things inside the sheets of metal. Pieces of earth that had not been refined despite the pounding and running through the forge. The fires didn’t purify all the earth within the metal sheets. There were small amounts and they were good enough for her to lock onto. She focused her mana onto the metal and when she clenched her hand into a fist, the metal sheets caved in. A loud crunch echoed in the air as the Sentinels suddenly exploded and fizzed out, crumbling down into a pile of junk.
Samantha smiled and then turned to Kevyn who nodded.
“I learned that from watching the dragons.”
“Told ya, they’re the best teachers.”
The princess nodded until she heard something loud pop. Nearly jumping out of her skin, Samantha clung onto Kevyn as she spotted spotlights shining above. White beams of light cut through the midnight sky and she could hear the crowd, howling and chanting. A loud applause thundered all throughout the city from some sort of stadium in the middle of the city. It appeared to be cylindrical in shape with beams of light shining straight into the sky.
“What is that place?” Samantha looked up.
Kevyn frowned. “The stadium – that normally isn’t open unless something big is going to happen.”
“Something that Reuben can get his sick kicks out of.”
Samantha pondered for a moment and looked at the stadium up ahead. While the thought of crossing Reuben terrified her, another part of her wanted to go after him. She clenched her fists tight and looked up at the glowing stadium before her. The princess inhaled deeply and then looked at Kevyn, nodding.
“We can do this,” she said. Samantha looked up with a determined expression on her face. “We have to do this.”
Kevyn smirked. “Alright then,” she chuckled and turned to the stadium.”Let’s find a way in then.”
Seeing how the princess bucked up, Kevyn couldn’t help but smile at the progress. The first time she saw Samantha, the princess was so mousy that she barely had anything to say. In fact, she had no voice. But now, she could see the difference. The behaviour of Samantha’s mana had changed. It no longer flickered; she could see that the mana now stabilized and swooned around Samantha. However, what amazed her more was the mana around her seemed to move towards her instead of stay in its place.
She learned two elements in four days, Kevyn shook her head. How long had it been? People don’t normally learn elements in two weeks. Then again, the dragon-tamer mused. Samantha had a bit of a background on magic already. But a question still egged her. If Samantha were that strong, why didn’t she use her power? As is, most people would have feared her with the kind of power she had.
Fear was the reason why Samantha’s potential as a mage remained small. Fear of battle – she was a princess after all. As far as she knew, the princesses were raised to stay off the battlefield. Not get on it. She clenched her hand tight; that kind of world would soon grow old. There would come a day where princesses had to fight their own battles because the knights had grown weary and broken. There would be a day that the dragon would not be their enemy but, their ally. Or, the princess could become the dragon herself.
She followed after Samantha, keeping her eyes peeled for any Sentinels. A part of her was grateful that there were no humans patrolling the streets. No need to have a conscience, the dragon-tamer chuckled. Shoving her hands into her pockets, Kevyn strolled through the streets right next to Samantha while making their way to the stadium. She spared a few occasional glances back to the misty horizons of the Yartengar Mountains. A small smile curved up her lips as she turned back to follow Samantha.
The moment they reached the entrance of the stadium, Samantha smiled. “Hello.”
Looking up, the ticket seller gave her an annoyed scowl. “All sold out, get lost.”
Samantha frowned for a moment. How rude, the princess thought. She clenched her fists tightly and puffed her cheeks a bit, raising an eyebrow. She leaned on the table and rested her breasts on the table with a small smile on her face. The ticket seller, astonished, snapped out of his gaze and shook his head.
“Look lady –,” he began.
“—I don’t need much from you. I just want to know what’s happening inside the dome,” Samantha curtly said.
“No need to be shy.” Samantha leaned closer, giving him a full view of her cleavage. “I just want to know. How much harm could that be?”
The ticket seller’s face poured with bullets of sweat, immediately turning red. “N-not much, ma’am.”
“If that’s so then, what’s happening inside the dome?”
“It’s a Gladiator Battle. Prince Reuben sanctioned it just a few minutes ago.”
Samantha and Kevyn exchanged glances with one another. The knights might be inside the dome!
“I see,” Samantha pondered for a moment, nodding. “Thank you.”
She walked away with Kevyn following behind her. “The knights might be in there,” she whispered to the dragon-tamer.
“Are you suggesting we sneak in?” Kevyn raised an eyebrow at her.
“No, we need a better plan.”
“Sneaking in’s a pretty good plan.”
“Yes but, the last time I did that – Reuben was prepared.”
“That’s because you didn’t sneak in well enough,” Kevyn grumbled before folding her arms. “So, what’s your plan?”
Samantha pondered for a moment. Yeah, what is the plan? She thought to herself. The princess racked her mind for ideas, thinking what she could possibly do to get in.
I will take you as my wife!
The words of Reuben chilled her to the bone. Ugh! She shuddered at the thought. How could he suddenly claim to be her husband!? He took my virginity while he was at it, her mind screamed at her. She clenched her hands tightly into a fist until an idea hit her. With that, she walked straight to the ticket booth and planted her hands on both her hips. She stared down at the ticket booth manager with onyx coloured eyes focused straight at his beefy form.
“Can you please pass a message t o His Highness and tell him that Lady Samantha Machinos has returned,” Samantha ordered.
The moment the ticket master heard her name, his eyes widened. “R-right away!”
He quickly jumped out of the ticket stall and scampered off, leaving Kevyn to gawk.
“Are you fucking crazy!? You just gave us away,” Kevyn snapped moodily. “Now we’re going to have an army to deal with!”
Samantha grabbed the dragon-tamer’s wrist and dragged her, running past the ticket booth. “That’s only if they find us.”